America and West Indies Station
1930 – 1932
South American Cruise
( July 1931 – April 1932 )
Map and dates/places visited on South American Cruise
In a speech to the officers and men of the ship before leaving Bermuda the Commander-in-Chief said that due to the ever increasing British trade interests in South America, the Admiralty had decided to form a South American Division from the America and West Indies Station. For this purpose H.M.S. Durban and Dauntless had been selected and a Commodore flying his broad pennant in the former ship would command the Division. Actually we should not meet the Durban until about the middle of December, when both ships would be at the Falkland Islands.
Admiral Haggard wished us all success and a pleasant cruise, which although lasting for approximately 9 months would be our last before paying off in July 1932.
On the 7th July 1931, we steamed out of Bermuda Dockyard.
The first part of the 1931-1932 Southern Cruise was among the Lesser Antilles, the southern of the two groups of islands, which constitute the West Indies. Most of the islands are mountainous and many show signs of volcanic activity, past or present. The Pitch Lake and Mud Springs of Trinidad are forms of volcanic activity. The islands lie in the track of the North East Trade Winds. Consequently, in almost every case there is constant heavy surf on the East Coast.
Historically, the islands are very interesting. Most of them were discovered by Columbus on his four voyages between 1492 and 1503, and by him were given the names of various Saints: St. Christopher (St. Kitts), St. Lucia, etc. Trinidad is named after the Holy Trinity. Columbus called the original inhabitants Caribs (or cannibals), but they do not appear to have been particularly savage. They were of Red Indian descent and are not to be confused with the present Negro population, which is largely derived from African immigrants and from liberated slaves originally imported from Africa.
The West Islands owed their great importance to the fact that Europe was practically dependent on them for sugar, and during the sailing ship era they were known colloquially as the ‘Sugar Islands,’ and as such were a source of great wealth to the countries owning them. Beet sugar and the sugar from the Dutch East Indies have now very largely discounted their value in that respect.
During the war of American Independence, many engagements were fought amongst the islands against the French, who had joined the American Colonials in the hope of plunder. Some of the islands changed hands more than once. The British Base was at St. Lucia. The Saintes, scene of Rodney’s great victory are a group of islands north of Dominica.
Nelson in 1805 chased the French and Spanish fleets from Europe to Martinique and back again, and had it not been for the incorrect information supplied by an official at St. Lucia, Trafalgar might have been a second Battle of the Saintes, fought among the islands.
“The West Indies,” wrote Nelson “is the station of honour.”
Our first port of call was Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts, where we embarked Sir Sydney Armitage-Smith, who had been sent out from England on a financial mission to the Leeward Islands and St. Lucia. We conveyed Sir Sydney to Tortola and Bermuda. This was our second visit to the former place, and we found the enthusiasm for cricket just as keen. The water was too warm for pleasant bathing and one had to keep an eye open for coral and sea eggs. The latter cannot be hatched out by sitting on them. It has been tried.
We arrived at Antigua on 14th July, the only item of interest during the passage being a most instructive talk on Reparations by Sir Sydney.
At Antigua a trip to the Dockyard was arranged and the following account was written by one of the ship’s company.
It is seldom that officers and men of H.M. Navy get more than one opportunity of visiting such an interesting and historical place as Antigua Dockyard. Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Dominica and the Virgin Islands comprise what are known as the Leeward Islands.
Needless to say, they came under the squadron’s jurisdiction ‘Hurricane Duties.’ Nelson refitted his ships in 1805 at Antigua Dockyard. Columbus first discovered the island itself, in 1494 on his second voyage of discovery. It was not colonised by England until 1632. Antigua has been visited by hurricanes of great severity on several occasions, notably in 1681, 1740, 1752, 1849 and 1899.
Obviously a trip to the Dockyard would appeal to the majority of us, therefore, when the opportunity offered itself, although the numbers permitted were restricted owing to the exigencies of the Service there were more than enough volunteers. Private cars and char à bancs were placed at the disposal of the party by H. E. the Governor. We arrived at Antigua early, but things had to be rushed, as we were due to get under way again p.m. the same day, and also the distance from St. John’s Harbour to English Harbour, wherein is situated the Dockyard is approximately eight miles.
The journey was made in glorious weather, through after leaving the more modern St. Johns, the whole country seemed primitive. The majority of dwelling places, one could not call them houses, consisted of mud shacks, i.e. houses built of mud, dried off by the sun, one roomed affairs, thatched after the style of old English thatching. The natives appear to be the most primitive that could be found in all our West Indies. In the last mile before reaching English Harbour, we passed the ruins of little stone and brick houses dotted here and there, the former quarters of the Naval and Military forces once stationed in the vicinity.
About a ¼ of a mile before we reached the entrance gates of the dockyard, there was, on the right, a large cemented water catchment; the low surrounding wall of which is carved with hundreds of names of 17th and 18th century sailors, often with the names of their ships, home towns and the dates. Included amongst these names are those of seamen on Nelson’s ship, the Boreas 1784 - 87. Before proceeding into the Dockyard itself, these few details may be of interest to the reader. The first part of the Dockyard, known as St. Helens, was built in 1726. Later, in 1746, wharves and buildings were erected. Captain Nelson’s ship was H.M.S. Boreas - 617 tons; 28 guns; beam 33 ½ feet.
The names of the ships carved on the walls of the water catchments are:
H.M.S. Roebuck 1739
H.M.S. Anglesea 1740
H.M.S. Hind 1746
H.M.S. Tavistock 1751
H.M.S. Dragon 1760
H.M.S. Boreas 1786
On entering the Dockyard gates, on the right is the Guard House. In the immediate vicinity are the following buildings; Painters’ Shop, Mast House and Joiners’ Loft, Engineers’ Workshop, Blacksmith’s Shop, and Master Shipwright’s House. Immediately beyond these is a most interesting building, namely, Admiral’s House. Pyramids of old cannon ball guard the portals, while above the entrance is a very old painted wooden bust of Nelson.
Facing Admiral’s House is the Mast House, also Cordage, Canvas and Clothing Store. In this latter store are to be seen lying on their sides, some of the original immense wooden capstans which were used in hauling down the ships for careening purposes, two centuries ago. A few paces northeast is the old pay office of enormous proportions, viz. 8 feet by 4 feet, obviously not built to be occupied by corpulent persons. At the head of English Harbour is situated the old Powder Magazine, Hospital, and conveniently near the latter, the Naval Cemetery. A few tombstones to Naval ratings are still decipherable here.
Ships now very rarely visit English Harbour, and the dockyard with its group of yellow, two storied barracks and red roofed stores, is deserted. The Admiralty transferred the yard with its lands and outbuildings, tanks and cemetery, to the Colonial Government in 1906, the Navy having ceased to use it as far back as 1889. His Majesty, King George V, in 1883, then Prince George, visited Antigua in H.M.S. Canada and painted an inscription on the walls of the barracks. It consisted of a greeting: “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all,” and remains there to this day. Needless to say we regretted having to rush our investigations owing to pressure of time, but it was with feelings of pride for our predecessors, that we left behind us what was once a busy hive of Naval activity and also that which is a milestone in the history of our Empire. We returned onboard after a very pleasant and interesting forenoon.
Barbuda, our next port of call, is a dependency of Antigua, and our objective in going to the island, was to convey the governor, Colonel Sir T. St. Johnstone, there. During the short time we spent there, a swarm of flying ants, perfect pests, invaded the ship. The island was once the property of the Codrington family, who used it as a breeding place for slaves and deer - the slaves for profit, the deer for sport. The name Barbuda is Portuguese and means ‘Island of bearded men.’
The ship stayed at Montserrat for 24 hours, during which period the officers were entertained at the local club, and then preceded to Dominica, where we disembarked Sir Sydney Armitage-Smith. On the way to St. Lucia, we passed the French island of Martinique, and observed that the volcano, Mount Pacaya, was slightly active.
The Island of St. Lucia is the chief one of the Windward Group of islands and was discovered by Columbus in 1502. During our stay the atmosphere was very humid and heavy rainstorms were frequent. The success of our cricket team against the locals was a notable achievement, as a ship’s team had not defeated them for a number of years. Bathing picnics were a popular feature of our stay and the ship’s band, particularly with the native population. When we landed for Church Parade, crowds ran dancing in front of the band and shouted with delight at the evolutions of the Drum Major.
The Acting Governor of the Windward Islands and Mrs. Doorly gave a reception for the officers at Government House. The officers were made honorary members of the Golf Club and succeeded in beating a local team in a match over nine holes.
From St. Lucia, we proceeded to Bequia, which is the largest island in the Grenadines Group, known as the ‘Spice Islands of the West.’ The natives have a reputation for being indolent. Nature provides them with most of the necessities of life with a minimum of effort on their part. There is a buccaneer strain amongst them and this probably accounts for the fact that we found four men building a 130 ton schooner entirely from native cedar.
The chief diversions at Bequia were sailing, bathing and fishing but there were no fish caught. A cricket match was played on a pitch, which resembled the skin of a rhinoceros with knobs on. This game was more dangerous than a game of ‘hurly’ between two teams of Irishmen.
A most interesting personality at Bequia was Father Frederick, who apparently, has spent a lifetime in the West Indies. His hobby in life seems to be giving away everything he possesses and living from hand to mouth. We certainly appreciated a cake he presented to the officers.
St. Georges, Grenada was our next port of call. It is an attractive little town, with well-kept streets and a land locked harbour. On August Bank Holiday we attended the local races, in which horses from Grenada and Trinidad competed. Captain Vivian drew the favourite in one race sweep, but his horse was left at the post.
Racing at St Georges, Grenada
We were compensated to a certain extent for our financial losses by the beautiful drive through the mountains to the racecourse. What the native chauffeur lacks in finesse he makes up for in vigour. An interesting fact at Grenada is that the coloured population is on an equal footing with the white population.
We arrived once again at Point-a-Pierre, oiled and proceeded to Port of Spain, Trinidad. No time was wasted in seeking out old friends.
Despite the damp heat and tropical rainstorms several games of football, rugby and cricket were played. We saw less of our friends the jellyfish, who so persistently choked our condenser inlets on previous visits.
On Tuesday 11th August Commander Onslow, who had been promoted in June, sailed for England in S.S. Coronada. We gave him a hearty send off and wished him the best of luck in the future. Lieutenant-Commander Skinner relieved Commander Onslow, both as First Lieutenant and as Captain of the cricket team.
Several of the ship’s company took the opportunity to visit the Maracas Waterfall, 312 feet high, and the famous Pitch Lake, which is situated near Brea, on the southwest coast. The following is an account of a visit to the lake. The Negro spiritual “My Lord! Didn’t it rain” must I thought, have originated in Trinidad. It most certainly rained on the morning of our outing to the Pitch Lake at La Brea; so much so that when we entrained at Port of Spain, at 0726, we were very damp externally and had to take a wee spot internally to balance things up.
The journey through wonderful tropical scenery soon took our minds off our distress. At times it even took our minds off the restaurant car. 40 miles by train brought us to San Fernando, whence we continued the journey by motor bus 16 miles over asphalt roads to the source of the asphalt.
The actual lake is almost circular and nearly three miles in circumference. In spite of the amount of pitch removed, the level hardly alters from year to year. The pitch is hard enough in most places to carry carts and even a light railway, yet the holes from which the pitch is dug fill up in the course of a few days. All over the lake are little channels of water which never fill up with pitch, though on one occasion when there was a fire at the works thousands of tons of molten pitch was run into them. In the water are many little fish, which do good work by eating up the larvae of the malarial mosquito.
Pitch Lake at La Brea
In the centre of the lake is a small area where the pitch is so soft and spongy that one sinks knee deep in a few seconds. This area is known as the ‘Mother of the Lake.’ Sulphurous fumes rise from the pitch, as the heat is intense. The lake has the reputation of being the hottest spot in the world; its atmosphere suggests a more remote spot! The estimated depth is about 50 feet in the average, with about 150 ft maximum. During boring operations one of the test drills broke and fragments of it were found months later in totally different parts of the lake. The origin of the pitch is a matter of conjecture, one theory being that it is formed by the action of sulphur on the petroleum deposits of the locality.
The plant adjacent to the lake comprises pumping machinery and packing plant. The pitch is brought up from the lake in trucks, heated sufficiently to make it flow, then run into tubs for export. Oil for operating the plant is obtained from wells near the lake.
The lake is government property, but at present an American Company operates the plant. Though it has been exploited for 40 years there is no sign of any diminution of supply.
After our tour of inspection we visited the village and played a game of cricket against the natives. We returned to San Fernando in time to catch the 5 o’clock train and reached Port of Spain about 6.30 p.m.
Depth Charge Fishing
Boatloads of fish
Before leaving Trinidad we re-embarked Sir Sydney Armitage-Smith and also the son of the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago. Shortly after we were clear of the ‘Dragon’s Mouth’ we dropped two depth charges with deep settings. The explosion was not spectacular, owing to the depth of the water, but results were most amazing. The charges must have dropped right in the midst of a shoal of fish, which were stunned by the shock and appeared in thousands, floating on their backs.
Both whalers were lowered and fish were also captured by a variety of means. From the ship’s side gaffs, lines armed with sharp hooks, waste paper baskets which had to be weighted to make them sink, and buckets were all brought into play. Most of the fish were of the mackerel species, while the largest was a 20-pound snapper. Some 1,500 fish were returned to the sea for want of stowage room. When we left the vicinity, the sea still glistened with thousands of floating fish.
20 lb snapper
We anchored in Rockly Bay, off Scarborough, the capital of Tobago. The heavy swell made boat running rather difficult. Tobago is 21 miles northeast of Trinidad, of which it is a dependency. It was discovered by Columbus in 1498, and has in turn been Dutch, French and British (1814).
The population is mainly Negro.
During our stay, games of football and cricket were organised, as well as picnics and bathing parties. The last named pastime was somewhat hampered by the presence of jellyfish, some of which sting unpleasantly.
After four days stay we returned to Trinidad to prepare for our long Southern Cruise.
Here we met our old friend, the R.F.A. Serbol which brought us some much needed stores, among which was a pattern VI target, which we stowed on the upper deck. To the time of writing that target has served only one useful purpose, namely, to provide convenient seating accommodation for the ship’s company all the way to the Falkland Islands. Here it was solemnly and with much labour put together, and even towed a very little way to sea, to be fired at. Unfortunately, the Southern Ocean seldom allows such comparatively flimsy things as pattern VI targets to be towed on its bosom with impunity, so our friend had to be towed back into harbour, still unfired at. With more labour we took it all to pieces, and it is now on its way to Punta del Este, Uruguay, where we hope the next commission will shoot it into lots of little pieces. Good luck to you, oh much travelled target!!!
The Arrival Of The Dornier X At Trinidad, 19th August 1913.
A sailor’s account
Flyin’ machines? Yes, my boy, I’ve seed flyin’ machines as big as yonder pier and bristling with ‘ingins like a sea egg with spikes.
When I was in the Dauntless down the ‘Islands’ I seed the Dornier X come into Port o’ Spain. Don’t I remember the day too. Serbol come
alongside fore ‘twas hardly light, wi’ oil an stores an a brand new pattern VI target. Cap’n of the top says to me, ‘Bill, you’d better give these
chaps a hand, or we shan’t be ready for sea tomorrer.’ ‘Well, Cap,’ says I, ‘I had got a little job a paintin’ (me being submerged flat sweeper in
them days) but, seeing as you puts it that way, I don’t mind lending a hand.’ I won’t tell how me and Wiggy Bennett got in that Pattern VI
target ’fore ever the Serbol’s noticed it was gone - that is part of another yarn; but I may tell you all them stores was in before middle day and
‘Ands to make and mend clothes’ was the pipe.
‘Make and mend’ and ‘dhobying’
Well, I was busy makin and a mendin and takin no notice o’ nobody when about 2 o’clock I gets a sort of buzzin’ in my ears like when
somebody is thinking about yer. Just then along comes Wiggy with a bucket o’ soap suds (him having eleven kids at home and runnin a
dhobying firm). Fore you could say ‘knife’ he trips over my cotton and shoots the soapsuds all over me, and the brand new suit I was just
pressing. I was just going to tell him a bit of his family history and ask him why he couldn’t look where he was going instead of gawping up at
the sky when somebody shouts out ‘There she goes.’
Me thinking it might be my party from the ’Merican Bar jumps up and looks round, and right over the hills I see the D. O. X., just like a great
albatross with all twelve ingins a roarin like Dandy’s infernal. Circling round the hills she goes again looking for a spot to land, then head to
wind glides down on the water just abreast the Pang ’Merican Airways slips. There were crowds waiting to see her and soon out goes boats to
her, just like tenders to a liner. Now every story’s got a moral my boy, and the moral o’ this story is as how if I had got me head down, as the
saying goes, instead of making an doin’ me clothes on a Wednesday afternoon I might never have seen this great flying ship takin’ the water at
We suggest viewing the following youtube clip. (Courtesy of Air Hansa) It contains original film footage of the aircraft’s flight across the Atlantic.
To view just click the following photo:
Photo Source: via Wikimedia Commons
Click photo to view
Aviation history! On November 5, 1930 the Do X 1929, built by Claude Dornier, took off for its first Atlantic crossing.
The world's largest flying boat provided more than 70 passengers with the superb service and luxury of an ocean liner.
More film footage may be viewed at:
During the flight to South America the aircraft over-flies a passenger liner. We believe this is the S.S. Atlantique on her maiden voyage.
The Officers of H.M.S. Dauntless accepted an invitation to a dance held aboard her while in Rio de Janeiro.
A disastrous fire in January 1933 ended her career.
Click photo to view
Trinidad To Port Natal
We left Trinidad at 6 a.m. on 20th August for Port Natal in Northern Brazil. How nice to think that at last we were actually starting our South American Cruise, having completed those monotonous hurricane duties, which we commenced on the 7th of July.
At last a day at sea and no land in sight, for we kept well clear of the coast to avoid the Equatorial currents. During the seven days trip we exercised and carried out general drills and evolutions to maintain our standard of efficiency.
We were now nearing the Equator, and all arrangements were being made for the time-honoured ceremony of Crossing the Line. The ‘Old Shellbacks’ were busy making all kinds of weird costumes; it is really remarkable what can be produced from the very small amount of material available in a ship; whiskers, etc, were produced from old rope, fish scales from empty tobacco tins, and even Amphitrite’s crown had its jewels!
‘Old Shellback’- a man who has crossed the equator. ‘Polliwog’ – one who has not.
For this purpose a certain well-known brand of clear gums was obtained from the canteen and the effect was remarkable. Still more remarkable is the fact that at the end of the day, when the show was all over; the ‘jewels’ were still there.
The ceremony, of which a full account follows, was considered a huge success, and everyone enjoyed himself immensely. No doubt when the ‘Novices’ cross the line again in another ship, they will think of the enjoyable time they had when being initiated in H.M.S. Dauntless.
Approaching The Equator
25th August 1931
The Equatorial Times
Edited by Davy Jones. Registered in the depths as a Paper.
Circulation, Millions. Copy number 999999999999999999
Head Office, ‘Down Under.’ Tel. 4865 ‘You ’Eard.’
Today is the day we welcome the visit of His Watery Majesty, King Neptune, and His court. We hope that He will have a most enjoyable time whilst in our midst, and that everyone will do his utmost to make the visit a most enjoyable and memorable one. Let our welcome be befitting such an Auspicious Personage. Remember the Novices of today will be ‘Old Sea Dogs’ next time they meet King Neptune.
If you have any remarkable ills,
Be sure they’ll be cured by remarkable pills.
If you have any hair on your face,
Look at the Barber and watch his grimace.
Advice to Novices.
Don’t swallow all the Old Salts tell you, or give you.
Wear your best suit - it will improve it.
Don’t have any breakfast; it is inadvisable to bathe on a full stomach.
Mortgage your Tot, or have a double whisky - people going to the Scaffold always have a stimulant.
Don’t swear at the Bears, they may not like it.
Be docile, it pays.
Stop Press News
It is regretted that Sir Harry Grippo will not be present.
He is recovering from the severe strangling he received at Mobile and Tampa.
But it is hoped he will be amongst us again at Port Natal, Pernambuco and all South America.
Things we would like to know.
Who was the person who said: “The Police will have to fetch me, because every time I’ve had a summons before they’ve had to fetch me?”
Who were the boat’s crew detailed to fetch the Herald? Who detailed them? And who swallowed it?
Remember the date; it is a day in your lifetime. They have Harps in Heaven, and Shovels in Hell.
On the day before we reached the Equator, the following signals were exhibited on the ship’s notice boards:
FROM: Neptune TO: Dauntless
A mermaid has come down to say
That Dauntless now is on her way
To visit my domain:
Welcome to these sunny climes
Where we have met so many times,
It’s nice to meet again.
And when I told my darling Queen
That she might meet a Royal Marine,
She was quite elated.
The Barber laughed, the Doctor smiled,
The Bears all growled, the pills are piled
For the uninitiated.
FROM: Dauntless TO: Neptune
Your message of welcome has come to me,
I thank you, King Neptune, for Your kind words,
Which You send to me by fishes and birds.
But she I should really like to know
Is the mermaid who took the news below,
For as she was spying this Northern Sea,
A kiss is the toll she should pay to me.
My novices’ knees all shake with fear
At thought of the Doctor, the Barber, the Bear,
But good King Neptune they long to see
All hands were now looking forward to Crossing the Line and at 2040 the lower deck was cleared and all hands mustered on the fo’cs’le to watch King Neptune’s emissaries come aboard.
2040. Pipe: ‘Clear Lower Deck. Hands to cross Equator.’
2045. Foretop lookout: ‘Southern Hemisphere ahead Sir.’
Ship is stopped. Herald appears from Paintshop with six bears. Hoses rigged playing upwards through hawser pipes. Verey’s light, fanfare, etc.
Green beams from searchlights on Herald.
Herald (from before breakwater) Ship Ahoy! What ship is this?
Captain (from Bridge) His Britannic Majesty’s Ship Dauntless. And who are you?
Herald (from fo’cs’le) I am the Herald of His Watery Majesty King Neptune, Emperor of All the Seas.
Captain Welcome Herald. Pray advance. (Herald goes up to No.2 Gun Deck).
Captain I have sighted the dominion of your Royal Master and have stopped my ship until I receive permission to proceed.
Herald My Royal Master down below has been expecting you, sir,
And sends his Royal Greetings to you and to your crew, sir.
He instructs me to instruct you that he gives you his permission.
To proceed until tomorrow on your Southward expedition.
Captain Our very humble greetings to His Majesty, your Master,
We know we cannot enter his domain without disaster
Until we pay him homage; so we beg to be allowed
To receive him in the morning and his Court. We’ll have a crowd.
To receive initiation in the very solemn rite
Of crossing the Equator on this happy Monday night.
Herald I have a parcel from my liege, which now I give to you,
Containing Neptune’s summonses for many of your crew.
Our police and bears are large and fierce; I thought I’d give you a warning.
I’ll take your message down below; farewell until the morning.
Captain Farewell until the morning.
Neptune, Amphitrite and court proceed aft along port battery. Guard of Royal Marines fallen in on port side of Quarter Deck. Neptune and Amphitrite met by Captain at port foremost end of the Quarterdeck.
‘Guard’ of Royal Marines
Captain I have much pleasure, honoured Sire, to welcome you onboard,
Together with your royal spouse and all your humid horde.
And now I pray your Majesty inspect your Guard of Honour,
Do bring the Queen, for they would like to cast their eyes upon her.
Neptune, Amphitrite and Captain inspect Royal Marines.
Neptune (to Amphitrite) Come here.
Please forgive the domestic scenes,
But the Queen is too fond of the Royal Marines.
Come along now. No loitering.
At end of inspection:
Neptune (to Captain R.M.)
I’m always impressed by this elegant pose
Assumed when in doubt by His Majesty’s Joes.
Congrats. Captain Gumm. A splendid collection,
Their motto, you know, is ‘Per Mare Perfection.’
I’m ’specially impressed by the splendid parque
Of this elderly, dignified Royal Jerook. (To a tall R.M. here with a wig of some sort).
After inspection of Guard, Captain, Neptune and Amphitrite take up position on stage on quarter Deck.
Queen Amphitrite and King Neptune
Neptune Of all the ships upon the sea
It gives me greatest pleasure
To welcome here the Royal Navee.
I always greatly treasure
My indestructible friendship
With George R.I., your King,
Who under me, is King of the Sea,
An extremely natural thing.
Captain, we seem to have met before,
I think it was during the course of the War.
Captain I have been to fair New Zealand;
I have visited Cathay;
I have seen the rollers breaking
On the shores of Table Bay;
I have met you, Father Neptune,
More times than I can tell;
Once more you kindly welcome me,
I pray that you keep well.
To some of those whom I command,
Your word’s already law,
But many there be who sail with me
Who’ve never been South before.
I pray you to take them as sacrifice
In accordance with ancient tradition,
And allow us to enter your Southerly sea
With a blessing on this commission.
Neptune I must thank you indeed
For the courteous way
In which I have been received,
The joy of our Court, when they saw you approach,
Should be seen to be really believed.
I have brought all my doctors and barbers and bears
To apply the traditional rites,
And I’m sure that we’ll have an enjoyable day
With some really remarkable sights,
And I hope that the Novices feel, as they should,
It’s a most satisfactory thing,
To be given the chance, which many have not,
To be subject to Neptune, the King.
And now Captain V as I think you’ll agree,
It’s a thing for which many are frantic
I appoint you today in the time honoured way
As the Duke of the Southern Atlantic.
Commander Bruce, Commander Bruce,
I’m glad to see you again,
After twenty one years of hail and snow
And sunshine and tropical rain.
It’s terrible thing how the years go by
And my figure grows wider and wider,
Allow me to give you the order now
Of the ‘Scottish Amphibious Spider.’
Captain Gumm, Captain Gumm,
With your ‘stand at ease’
And your thunderous ‘Shun,’
I’m sorry you’ve taken so long to come
To visit me South of the line.
But now you are here
It is perfectly clear
That the Doctor and Barber and Bears
Will be ever so keen
To turn on the steam
And force you to sample their wares.
But in view of the fact
That, with infinite tact,
You command such a comic platoon,
With the greatest of glee
I confer this degree
Of the ‘Maritime Mounted Dragoon.’
Captain By the words of your mouth
I am Duke of the South,
But subject always to you,
So please make use
Of my ship as you wish
And instruct your watery crew,
To supply with pills
To cure the ills
Of my Novices so they may
As your subjects should,
In a decently seamanly way.
I earnestly hope
That the razor and soap
Of the Barber will raise many hairs,
So policemen go to it
And see they go through it
Then heave them into the bears.
Neptune Old Shellbacks and Scribe
And the rest of my tribe,
Are you ready to act as you ought?
Is everything ready?
Chorus Ready, Aye, Ready.
Neptune Then open ye King Neptune’s Court.
The Court of King Neptune
The following are the charges and sentences made against some of the officers:
In that he, the said Sub-Lieutenant Hardman-Jones,
Did on many occasions say ‘I say, how perfectly splendid’ when it was nothing of the sort;
He is hereby sentenced to have two pills, one before and one after entering the bath.
In that he, the said Midshipman Manton,
Did wear his hair longer than is customary in H.M. Service;
He is hereby sentenced to be shaved, not only on his face but also on his head, and with white shaving soap.
In that he, the said Midshipman Hodgkinson,
Did talk like a babbling brook;
He is hereby sentenced to have the shaving brush shoved in his mouth.
In that he, the said Midshipman Prowse,
Did wish to emulate Chandim;
He is hereby sentenced to be ducked four separate times, two times with his North end up and two times with his South end up.
In that he, the said Midshipman Crothers,
Did sleep on every possible occasion;
He is hereby sentenced to be ducked many times, but softly and in a horizontal position for fear that he should wake up.
In that he, the said Midshipman Vincent-Jones,
Was on every possible occasion intolerably clumsy;
He is hereby sentenced to be shaved very carefully with black soap and, should he spill any water out of the bath, to be ducked again.
Surgeon Commander Woodhouse
In that he, the said Surgeon Commander Woodhouse,
Did give pills to diverse people;
He is hereby sentenced to be dosed with three pills.
Instructor Lieutenant Commander Taylor
In that he, the said Lieutenant Commander Taylor,
Did run a bookstall to the benefit of his own purse and to the retirement of space in the recreation space;
He is hereby sentenced to be shaved all over, and with soap of two colours.
Captain Gumm, R.N.
In that he, the said Captain Gumm,
Did go to sea for many years without visiting King Neptune;
He is hereby sentenced to be thrown on the mercy, or otherwise of the bears.
In that he, the said Mr. Pike,
Did grow very round at the expense of the Service;
He is hereby sentenced to have two pills and, should he float in the bath, to be sunk.
Commander (E) Grethed
In that he, the said Commander Grethed,
Did on all occasions make black smoke;
He is hereby sentenced to be shaved good and hearty and with black soap.
Time did not permit for charges to be made against all the Novices, but some of the ship’s company were picked out for extra duckings, or otherwise. Names have been omitted in most cases for obvious reasons.
Hello here’s old Brum come to pay his first call,
Pleased to meet you and you so well.
First time in tropics - h’m that’s rather tall,
My head bear’s called Harry Dipwell.
R.P.O. Whiteside - you’re next to go through,
And when they have finished, you’ll feel pretty blue.
It’s reported to me that instead of mails
You’ve always preferred a hammer and nails;
And the Shipwrights and others that sleep in their mess.
Look forward a lot to a morning caress,
When you bang the hammer and say ‘Get up, please,’
I’m told they retaliate by shooting grey peas.
A serious crime, and what’s more, not the first,
Doc, Barber and Bears, come on, do your worst.
Here we have a Royal Marine,
The finest corps that ever was seen.
Now then Royal, just you listen to me,
I am the recognised King of the Sea.
‘Per mare per terram’ may be your motto,
Mine’s ‘Per thousands of fathoms down to my grotto.’
Down in my locker I record all the fights
I remember Gibraltar where the Royals stormed the heights.
The courage of the Royals has never been bested
But now I can say it’s going to be tested.
My bears, whom you see there, want to begin
(After the Barber takes hair from your chin)
So if they should duck you and duck you the limit,
Behave as a Royal, there’s a scrap - and you’re in it.
I say Queen Amphitrite, here’s a nice young O.D.
And in his first ship, he’s come to see me.
Doctor, Barber, Bears, all treat him well,
We’ll meet again - you never can tell.
It’s always a very great pleasure to me
To meet once again a son of the sea.
Hello my hearties, who have we now?
Someone who’s fond of music I vow
I hear that you are in charge of the Band
I’ve often heard you and thought it was grand;
I’ve a charge against you; and I must say it’s big,
One evening they found you ‘Out of the rig,’
You were playing Tombola and sauced the Chief Writer
Cos he happened to call you a lucky old blighter.
The sentence for that, if down in the deep,
Would be play on for-ever ‘Sing me to sleep.’
But bears treat him lightly and maybe next year
The Band Trophy will be again aboard here.
Ho, Ho, Queen Amphitrite, just look who’s here,
It’s reported to me that he never drinks beer,
Somebody’s darling, did I hear you say
Neptune have mercy on a poor E.R.A.?
You’ve been a long time calling on me,
Maybe because I only drink tea,
I’ve told my Court of all your bad ways
And they all agree, that you don’t deserve praise.
My Doctor and Barber will do their job proper,
If troubled by you I shall call then a Copper.
Just look at my bears - Oh won’t they play
When they get in the water with a poor E.R.A.
(Go on my hearties, do your worst).
I’m informed that one day at Bermuda
You once borrowed a bike and said you’d return it
Alright the very next day.
But a horse and cart got in the way.
Unlucky for you that you had that skid,
But the bike was yours next day for five quid.
So the bike became yours, yes, your very own
And you looked after it well so it’s said
For one night you walked to the ship all alone
For you’d left your bike in a bed.
Now you I believe are a jolly good sport.
Bears let his stay in the water be short.
Now then here’s a Royal Marine
Who’s trying to dodge my bears.
He surely must think that we are all green
For he absolutely swears
That he crossed the line some time ago,
In nineteen nought eight, he’s precise
And would his homage to me forego
Which no doubt, would be very nice.
In looking at my freedom roll
Which I know is up to date
You must be completely up the pole
To say you crossed in oh - 8.
Now that is quite a long time back
And then you were not a Marine
So Bears give him a double whack
For he didn’t join till thirteen.
Ah, here is one of the Stoker P.O.’s
Come to pay homage I see.
If I remember aright there’s not many of these
Who have previously been before me.
I’ve received a letter from one J.L.
Who says he at times calls you Bunny
But states that you’ve always looked after him well
When his head came a bit over funny.
Which proves that you are a jolly good sort
And I hear you can swim like a spaniel,
Bears let his stay in the water be short
Toodle oo - same to you - dear old flannel.
Hello Brad, young fellow my lad
Had a pretty good time in Trinidad?
I’ve heard that you have plenty of mirth
One of the finest possessions on earth.
When down below we heard your laughter
The bears said ‘This is the lad that we’re after.’
What they intend to do I cannot think
They’re all feeling well and in the pink
So whether you will be alive or dead
I couldn’t say; but they’re sure to see ‘red.’
Here’s a man without a doubt
Who I can see is a Rover Scout.
Here is a message for your section
In drill I hope they will reach perfection’
And may they continue fond of the sea
And perhaps one day they’ll come to see me.
Now one of the pleasures in life should be
That as a First Class Boy you came before me;
When you’re Able Seaman then you can swank
That as a Boy first class you passed through the tank.
I’m told that one day when all looked serene
The R.P.O. found the bright-work not clean.
Now in the R.N. ’tis a serious crime,
Brass should be polished - you ought to see mine.
You as a novice will have to go through it
And somehow I don’t think you ever will rue it.
Perhaps Doctor, Barber or Bear you might be
When I meet you again in the Royal Navee.
Here we have the Canteen first Hand
Who up to now has been mostly on land.
I’ve been told by all my Mermaids and Whales
They think you muck about with the scales.
My Barber and Bears deal with him as you wish
He said he had ‘liver’ when he only had ‘fish’
The court is ended; our work is done,
We hope you’ve all enjoyed the fun.
We’re leaving now for the watery deep
Where the Mermaids, Whales and Fishes sleep.
Old subjects all and new ones too
We wish good luck to all of you
A pleasant sojourn in the South
A quick return to old Portsmouth.
When you get back to Pompey Yard
And meet your loved ones near the Hard
Remember Neptune’s wish is this
‘A life of long, unending bliss.’
Crossing The Line -The Impressions Of A Novice
I am a young O.D. on the new side still, and have, what I consider, quite a prepossessing appearance, when compared with some of the older men with whom I work. This in no way detracts from my net value as a ‘Good Hand’, although, I must confess this is my first ship, as I was drafted direct from the Boys Training Establishment at Pompey, H.M.S. St. Vincent.
Now that I have sufficiently introduced myself, it will be simple for you to understand how very bucked I felt when an old three badge leading hand came along to me and pleaded (yes it’s quite true) actually pleaded and I’m not quite sure that he didn’t have tears in his eyes with me, to record in writing my impressions of the initiation ceremony as carried out on the occasion of our ‘Crossing the Line’. Last year on our way to Port Natal he had the sauce to call me a ‘Greenhorn,’ but as he said, the younger members of the Navy are far better educated than the older ones, hence his earnest appeal to me for help and my reply to it.
As soon as we left Bermuda in July for our cruise in South American waters, dark mutterings were heard between the older members of the ship’s company, which were abruptly discontinued when any of us junior ratings (I think this sounds much better than the term O.D., don’t you?)
approached within hearing, or else we were greeted with “Hello townie” or “Here’s Queenie,” or still worse in my opinion, ribald remarks as to what toilet articles are used to preserve the ‘schoolgirl complexion.’
However, to continue, one often came across these secret societies and in time it dawned upon me that it had something to do with a ceremony of which only the very oldest and saltiest members of the R.N. could possibly know anything about, namely the inevitable visit of King Neptune to the ship when she arrived at the Equator. One heard such remarks as “I bet he didn’t, she was in England from 1906 till 1910” and again in a voice full of meaning, “Where’s his certificate then?” and other confusing snatches of conversation.
Well, although young, I was determined to show these ancients an example of what a modern Navy really could do, by getting to the bottom of these mysterious mutterings.
Have determined thus, the first thing to do was to gain the confidence of one of those Old Salts who appeared to me, after being closely watched for a while, one of the Leaders of the Movement. This proved fairly easy to one, who as I have mentioned before, is of pleasing appearance. Actually, one or two appeals to ‘Stripey’s’ vast store of knowledge, as to details of such an incident which threatened to upset all my carefully arranged plans, to say nothing of my personal feelings. However, after a little dallying on this manner, Stripey, after extracting from me a most solemn vow of secrecy, told me that on the arrival of any ship at the Equator, or ‘Line,’ as he termed it, a certain time honoured traditional ceremony was carried out in which only those who had crossed the line on some previous occasion were allowed to participate.
Everyone else in the ship, from the Captain downwards, provided they had not arrived in Neptune’s waters before, had to be initiated into these rites, which ordeal was calculated to test the stoutest of hearts, involving as it did, much dosing with unpleasant medicines, shaving with the most obnoxious mixtures and a severe ducking. In fact, such was the ordeal, according to Stripey, that one had to be examined by a doctor, specially detailed, before being allowed to undergo it.
Well, the secret was out at last. My scheming had succeeded too well for my peace of mind. I remembered during my uneasy musings that one of my Instructors in the Training Establishment had impressed upon me when he bid us goodbye, not to believe all the Old Sailor’s yarns, and I can assure you I derived no little comfort from that, while waiting for the fateful day of my initiation.
During the afternoon of the 24th August, there appeared on the notice board, quite suddenly and mysteriously, a signal purporting to have come from King Neptune himself, challenging our progress further south, without his permission being asked, and informing us that a visit would be paid to the ship at a later hour in the day for the purpose of granting this permission. Need I say that I read the message with feelings difficult to describe? What was to happen under the cover of darkness? Damn the mutterings! What were these ‘bears’ one heard so much about? Would it hurt? These, and a million other thoughts, echoed through my mind from then on as the appointed hour drew near.
After supper, whilst I was talking to my friend Stripey in his caboose, a shrill whistle was heard, followed by the Bosun’s Mate calling “Hands muster on the fo’cs’le to cross the Equator”. It had come; we were actually on the Equator. Now what? Old Stripey, doubtless aware of my feelings at the time, said “You ‘eard, we’d better get up there,” and taking me sympathetically by the arm, he led me to the fo’cs’le where all the ship’s company, except those on watch, had assembled and looked expectantly towards the bows of the ship. We had hardly gained a decent viewpoint, before we were startled by an awful sounding voice hailing us from the bows, telling us to stop the ship and asking who we were.
The Captain replied from the bridge to the effect that the ship was H.M.S. Dauntless, and permission was requested from King Neptune to enter the Southern Hemisphere. A weird looking creature came forward emitting a kind of green halo, amid spouting of water, and declared itself to be a Herald of King Neptune, who had sent a message to say that we were to prepare for a visit from His Watery Majesty on the morrow at 0930, when all Novices would have to be presented to him.
My relief at hearing that the dread ceremony was not to take place until the next day can be imagined, especially as we could discern in the dim light huge forms covered with hair, making terrifying noises and wandering restlessly about in the fore part of the ship. With a gesture of farewell and a promise to take our message down below, the herald, after delivering a package, which we learned contained our summonses to Court, walked or crawled for’d exuding a frightful smell, found to be caused by bad eggs thrown at him by some of the ship’s company as a token of friendship.
However, with a final flourish of trumpets, the fo’cs’le became deserted and the only thing to do was to wait until the next morning.
That night I received my summons to attend the Court of King Neptune on the morrow at 0930, failing which, I was to answer at my peril and to the delight of Neptune’s Trusty Bodyguard.
Early next morning I found a copy of the Equatorial Times on the breakfast table, and read, marked, learned and inwardly digested the paragraph headed ‘Advice to Novices.’
Needless to say the Captain arranged the routine in accordance with the orders of King Neptune, and at the appointed time on 25th August all was in readiness to receive the Royal visitor and his retinue.
Stripey had advised me to get aft early, to get a good view, so I chose No. 5 Gun Deck, which I considered an ideal place to view proceedings in ‘safety.’
I discovered to my amazement and amusement that our Marine Detachment had all donned some really ferocious looking sets of whiskers, and were decorated with medals of every description, while the Captain of Royal Marines looked too funny for words with his Captain Kettle beard, which I noticed he had some difficulty in keeping fixed.
Oh come, Captain Gumm,
Was the oakum tickle-some?
Or maybe what’s more rummy
Perhaps it wasn’t Gummy?
Then came King Neptune. What a salty, venerable, stately and well-proportioned figure to be sure, and on his arm, Queen Amphitrite. An inspiration; Venus personified I thought her.
What of the others? There were some with terrible looking knives and things, one with a tall hat and an overall like a doctor uses. Stripey had been right, here was a Doctor.
Another with something... Oh save us! It’s a large razor. What a gathering! However, after inspection of the Guard and lots of speeches, the whole Court took seats around a huge tank and the ceremony began. One of the Court, wearing the sort of hat that one sees college kids wearing, raised his voice and demanded the presence of the first of the novices, who happened to be the Commander (E.) After a charge had been made against him for making black smoke, King Neptune sentenced him to slathered with black soap and shaved all over.
Being well out of the way, I laughed very much at this, but damn near cried when I saw the ugly bears deal with him in the bath. My turn was still to come! In due course I appeared before the Court, but by now, at the expense of others, I had overcome a great deal of my nervousness and so managed to put on an air of unconcern on being seated in the Barber’s chair. The Doctor chap pushed the neck of a bottle half way down my throat and I swallowed some most shocking stuff - salt water. Then the Barber filled my mouth with lather - what a concoction on his brush; I had hardly recovered my breath, when they tipped up the seat and backwards into the bath I went and was terribly mauled by the bears, those grimy hordes of King Neptune.
Well, it’s over. Good fun watching others goes through it after I’d been through it myself. It was really good fun Stripey, you old devil! I have in my possession, dear reader, a certificate of this important event of my life, and now rank with Old Salts and Stripeys and am truly a ‘Son of the Sea’.
Believe me, my next Station if possible, will have the Equator as part of it, so that I may take advantage of the right to participate in the ceremony, and I think, with my fair skin I’ll try my hand at the role of Queen Amphitrite. “You ’eard.”
The Certificate awarded to Able Seaman W. Fox
On the 27th August the Brazilian coast was sighted, and we soon dropped anchor outside the breakwater at Port Natal, and awaited a favourable tide to enter. In the afternoon we embarked a pilot who took us over the bar at the mouth of the Rio Grande del Norte at 12 knots. Quite a crowd witnessed our arrival alongside.
The town is situated at the mouth of the river. The buildings are well constructed and quite modern, but the streets, with the exception of the High Street, which is constructed of cobbles, are very bad. The principal industry and export is cotton; there is also a trade in lizard and snake skins for the manufacture of ladies shoes.
The number of British people at Port Natal is small. The natives maintain a very low standard of civilisation; they can live, in what they consider comfort, on 10d. a day.
One satisfying feature to many of us was the fairly cheap and plentiful lager beer (10d. per litre bottle). Something of a charge after paying anything from a shilling to two shillings per pint in the West Indies. Life in general was very quiet; no cabarets, and most people in bed by 10.30 p.m.
Large crowds on the jetty daily were greatly interested in our routine habits. On Sunday 30th, 5,500 inhabitants paid us a visit during the course of the afternoon. How very awkward trying to point out the items if interest to them by gestures only. Our band’s performance on the upper deck in the evening drew large crowds of listeners alongside, who enthusiastically applauded every selection.
A dance in honour of our visit was given at the Aero Club, the principal meeting place of Natal society.
Portuguese is the language spoken throughout Brazil, whereas Spanish is spoken in all other South American countries. We left on the 2nd of September, when the pilot carefully took us over the bar, and after dropping him, we carried on for the next port in Brazil.
At Bom Fim, some 25 miles N.W. of Natal, is a group of lakes where bathing in fresh water amid picturesque surroundings may be indulged in.
When a couple of friends from the Natal Power Station suggested a picnic in such an alluring spot, volunteers to provide ballast for cars were not lacking. A store of sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs was laid in, and a call at the local wine store supplied the (very necessary) liquid refreshment in the form of sundry bottles of beer neatly packed in ice and sawdust. The sharp edges of the box were a little hard to the shins, but nobody minded that.
The streets of Natal were soon left behind and we swept in fine style up the hill, past the cemetery, and on the main road for Bom Fim. Now main roads in the Province of Rio Grande del Norte do not at all resemble the Kingston by-pass. The ‘Carriage way’ is deep sand and the wheel tracks are so deep, that it is almost impossible to leave them. When two vehicles have to pass, one has to edge into the thick bush, which bounds the road on both sides, while the other squeezes past in low gear. Originally the tracks may have been straight, but sooner or later one car skids and all others have to follow the skid, which in consequence gets exaggerated until sections of the road would break a snake’s back should he try to follow it.
Talking of snakes, our host pointed out the spot where on a previous journey they came across an 18ft python, asleep in the middle of the road.
Disturbed from his siesta, he made off into the bush, but was pursued and killed with sticks.
About six miles from Natal we passed the French airmail station, where mails from all over South America are collected for shipment to Dakar, on the West African coast, in special fast mail boats.
After an hour’s ride we made a halt for lunch, and at the same time investigated a nest of termites or white ants. These terrible pests have a passion for wood, and starting at the bottom of a tree or any wooden article they fancy, they eat their way to the interior, until nothing is left except a hollow shell. Their nest is a wonderful piece of architecture with storehouse, royal chamber, nurseries, and even an attic at the top for ventilation. The queen is an enormous creature with a body so distended with eggs that she cannot move from her apartments or even feed herself. The soldiers are distinguished by their colossal heads, which are armed with formidable jaws. We soon wished that we had left the nest alone, for in a short time there were termites everywhere. We left them to repair their nest and continued our journey. Just before reaching our destination we entered the little town of San Juan and had a look round the square, with the church on one side and the prison on the other.
Some prisoners were looking through a grating across the deserted square.
The last half-mile to the lake selected for our bathe was covered on foot, through a thick growth of wild pineapples, down to a sandy shore with its fringe of coconut palms. The lake was almost circular, and two miles in diameter. The temperature of the water was about 70 degrees, and it was so clear that the sandy white bottom was perfectly visible. One member of the party caused some surprise by diving to the bottom and re-appearing wearing a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles, dropped by some previous bather. A rest on the warm sand a spell of rugby practice with a coconut for a ball, another dip, and then thoughts turned towards the last surviving bottle of beer. Alas there is many a slip - the ice had now melted, and the bottle was thick with damp sawdust. There was a bang and the delectable golden beverage was quenching the thirsty ground. ‘Just wiping the muck off and the neck came off in me ’and’, explained the culprit. The coon might have known that a bottle of beer that has been well shaken on a Brazilian road, on a hot day, is as sensitive as a No. 9 detonator.
The return journey soon took our minds off the painful incident. Our host explained that he would like to lower the record for the trip, which then stood at one hour and ten minutes. He succeeded! We got back in three minutes under the hour. The speed does not sound much, but that hour provided enough thrills to last the most hardened road-hog a twelve month. The frame of the car whipped so much that the doors would not stay shut, and the open exhaust kept up a deafening roar. We were given a demonstration of how the car would keep to the ruts, skids and all, without a hand on the wheel. The bridges made of loose planks - rattled horribly. We were not a little relieved when we arrived back safe and sound after a most enjoyable picnic and a very thrilling experience of motoring in Brazil.
One sees few British cars in Brazil. Not many British makers test their models under such conditions as exist there; consequently, the ground
clearance is very small, the turning circle too large for many of the bends, and the gear ratios too high. An efficient service of spare parts is also very necessary, for breakages and wear take a heavy toll.
We anchored off Pernambuco on the evening of the day of our departure from Port Natal. When about eight miles from our anchorage, we came across two very primitive sailing rafts, consisting of a few logs lashed together, with a mast and triangular sail. The occupants sit on boxes and spend the day fishing. These rafts spend about six hours a day going right out to sea, usually out of sight of land, but they always find their way back.
Europeans have attempted fishing out on these rafts, but they have always returned suffering agony due to the action of the salt and blazing sun on the exposed portions of their bodies. The usual result is two months in hospital.
The R.M.S.P. Pilot who took us into harbour next morning was an interesting character for he had taken ships in and out of the harbour for 40 years and had a son who is being educated at Harrow in England.
Pernambuco harbour consists of modern well built quays and breakwaters, bridges and warehouses; all of which are fitted with the latest models of cranes, light railways, etc., largely of British manufacture. The protection against the Atlantic rollers is formed by a long reef, which has been surmounted by a concrete wall. The space between this reef, and Recife, as it is called, has been dredged and the wharves constructed. This port is the first Brazilian harbour to be touched by south-bound traffic from Europe, and there always seemed to be some type of vessel entering or leaving the harbour. The S.S. Arlanza, flying the flag of the British Ambassador to Brazil, who resides in Rio de Janeiro, followed us into harbour.
Sao Antonio contains the Cathedral and the Municipal Buildings; the latter section being separated from Boa Vista by a further stretch of water. Boa Vista is the residential quarter of the upper classes and foreign population. The English colony had its headquarters at the English Country Club.
It was fortunate that Brazilian Independence Day (17th Sept), fell during our visit, and we were able to join in the celebrations. We dressed ship in honour of the occasion and Captain Vivian inspected the School of Cadets. In the afternoon we joined in the Annual Sports of the English colony, held at the beautiful Country Club. Our athletes could hardly be expected to compete on equal terms in events, for which their opponents had trained for months, but they gave a very good account of themselves in the ‘all comers’ events and the tug-o-war resolved itself into a demonstration by two ship’s teams.
For a couple of days, per orders, our ‘Human Harkers’ had been listening patiently for the Graf Zeppelin, which was crossing the Atlantic to Pernambuco, our next port of call. She was heard talking to a merchant ship and her base at Friedrichshaven, and we hoped to be at Pernambuco before her to witness her arrival, but she made such good progress that she beat us by a few hours. Our disappointment was short lived, for during the afternoon of our arrival on 3rd September, we received an invitation from Dr. Eckner to visit his great airship.
Tramcars conveyed a large party of officers and men from the ship for a distance of about 4 miles through the three parts of the City, viz, Recife, San Antonio and Boa Vista, over several bridges, out into the suburbs, to the field where the ‘Graf’ was secured to a short mooring mast, with her foremost observation and control car, almost touching the ground.
Control and Observation Compartments One of the engines
We were impressed by the huge size of her cigar shaped envelope and marvelled at the smallness of the five gondolas, two on each quarter and one under the tail; these five contain the engines and propellers to drive her through the air at a cruising speed of about 80 m.p.h.
Under her forepart was a fairly large car, containing the control cabins, dining and observation compartments for the passengers and crew. We had a good look round her from the outside; several were fortunate enough to go through the inside and had yarns with most of her officers and crew. One of the W/T operators, there were three, spoke perfect English. The underside of the envelope was covered with English names and addresses; in fact the ‘Zep’s’ visit to England seems to have been most popular. Perhaps the personality of her Captain, Dr. Eckner, was partly responsible.
She had a complement of 45 and 10 passengers were booked for her return trip to Germany at about £400 per head. She was due to leave at 8 p.m. and was filled with Hydrogen and Blue gas, carried by pipe, up the mooring mast and through a connection on her nose.
Preparations for flight and ‘re-gassing’ from the mooring mast
For history and photographs of the airships interior we recommend:
Graf Zeppelin interior photos
Click photo to view
Owing to unforeseen delay, she did not leave until 2 a.m. and we had a good view of her by moonlight as she hovered over the city and Dauntless, before shaping her course across the Atlantic to Germany. She took mail for us and it would be undoubtedly safe to say here, that this is the first British Warship’s mail carried across the Atlantic by air, for even the commercial airway routes include fast steamers on part of their journey, e.g. Natal to Dakar (Africa). To Dr. Eckner, we wirelessed the following at 0305 on 4th September:
From Dauntless to Dr. Eckner, Graf Zeppelin.
Captain, Officers, and Ship’s Company of Dauntless
wish to thank you and your staff for the great courtesy you extended to them today.
They wish you Bon Voyage, fine weather, and many more successful trips.
Graf Zeppelin at Pernambuco
Broadcasting At Pernambuco
Tuesday, 8th September
Don’t you believe it folks, it’s all bunkum. What I mean to say is, when you open your Radio Review or Broadcasting Weekly and read professional paragraphs eulogising those mysterious individuals whose voices come to you over the ether uttering such profundities as ‘Fat stock prices today, Lean cattle 63/-, or 400 cigarette coupons,’ don’t start thinking they are mystic beings, medicine men or anything like that - they’re not. Except for occasionally pronouncing quite –‘quate’ and emphasising the ‘P’ in sausages, they are as human as we are; be assured on that point.
What d’ye say? How do I know?
Well - you see, five of us members of the Ship’s Concert Party met the broadcasting people and were initiated into all the mysteries of the procedure, when we broadcasted from the studio of the Radio Co. de Pernambuco during the visit of the Dauntless to the city.
This is how it all came about.
Two of us were in the dressing room of the English Country Club, discarding the clowns rig, in which we had been entertaining the children of the members, during their annual sports in the club grounds, when our companion in crime, a club member garbed as a policeman - Keystone type, returned from answering a telephone call and threw himself despondently into a chair. The gentleman who acted so, normally a gay individual, was a Mr. Seely, an energetic worker on the British Community’s Entertainment Committee, and as it transpired, the established announcer for all British items broadcast in the town.
“What’s the matter?” We asked.
“I’m done in the eye,” was the reply.
“Well, I had hoped to get your ship’s Band to broadcast tonight, but they can’t manage it. I wanted them for the British Hour.”
During this hour, which is from 8 till 9 every Tuesday evening, an all-British programme is broadcasted for the benefit of the English-speaking subscribers in the area.
Not being very clever in the sympathetic line, we maintained a discreet silence, but our ‘civvy’ chum did not retain his despondent mood long.
“I say,” he exclaimed suddenly, “what about you chaps doing a turn?”
“Eh! What? Who? Us Broadcast?”
“Yes. Why not? Do the stuff you did at the Concert here last night. We’ll get some more of the Concert Party to assist. There’s nothing in it.”
He ended on a wave of enthusiasm.
Nothing in it! Visions beset us of standing before an unresponsive microphone, talking and singing to an invisible audience, possibly numbering thousands, with no opportunity, so to speak, of feeling their pulse. Well I ask you.
Still, it’s a short life and a gay one, and they can’t throw bad eggs or hit one with the soft side of a hard brick through the microphone. We can try anything once.
“All right,” we said, “we’ll chance it.”
“Good! That’s the spirit. Now we’ll get some of the others on the phone.”
In response to our telephone messages and explanations three more of the Concert Party started from the ship and, coming by taxi, soon joined us at the Club.
We required our Captain’s permission to broadcast and were fortunate not only in the readiness with which permission was granted, but also in the expediency with which it was obtained; the Captain being then present at the Club. On hearing that this would be our first essay at blinding the ‘mic’ with science, he kindly gave us some hints, culled from his own experience, which we found very helpful in practice.
The six of us taxied to the studio, arriving there at five minutes to eight. The management cordially received us and also a number of Brazilian actors and actresses, who were on the premises; then we sat listening to a pianoforte duet, which was in progress, watching the players through the observation windows of the cabinet. We were reminded of the necessity for absolute silence in the cabinet, when not actually performing.
Then: Eight o’clock! Zero hour. Like so many conspiring members of the Black Hand Gang, we tiptoed into the cabinet to do or die. The door closed behind us and lo! we were in a region of silence as of the tomb.
Have you ever been inside a broadcasting studio? This is what the one at Pernambuco is like.
The room was about 20 feet long and 12 feet across. The walls were 18 inches thick and made of sound proof fibre and mill boarding, with three observation windows let in. Suspended at intervals were framed and autographed photographs of Brazilian theatrical celebrities. At one end of the room, 2 feet from the wall and five feet from the floor, the microphone was suspended and in one corner nearby was a table containing the signal lights and switch panels. High up on the wall, within easy sight of the artists, was an electrical signal box. It was similar to the electrically illuminated indicators one sees on platforms in the stations of the London Underground. You know what I mean, those, which light at intervals and indicate, ‘The next train goes to Wimbledon’ or ‘Crystal Palace’ or ‘Scotland Yard’ or any station except the one to which you particularly want to go. The box in the studio was divided into panels, and in each section was a word or phrase in Portuguese (of course), for the guidance of the artists.
In English they would probably read ‘Too loud’ - ‘Too soft ’- ‘Harsh’ - ‘Weak’ - ‘Too quick’ - ‘Too slow’ - and ‘The Goods - O.K.’ - Or something like that. The signals could be illuminated at will, by a chap in the ‘listening-in’ cabinet, where he could be seen at work through one of the afore-
mentioned observation windows. Half a dozen chairs and a decorative aspidistra completed the furnishings of the cabinet.
Mr Seely started the ball rolling by announcing us. Then we had a go. Not being conversant with the language of the country, we were a bit at sea at first over the positioning and enunciation signals but by dint of much pushing and frantic use of deaf and dumb language, they soon got us where they wanted us, and we did our stuff. Our programme consisted of piano and dulcimer solos, patter, cross talk and songs. Things went swimmingly. Our time was up and we were singing our final chorus, as it seemed, before we had got properly started.
Again the red light flickered, the switch was broken and the ordeal was over. The announcer and two or three of the Brazilian professionals, who spoke English, congratulated us.
Had we really put up a good show? Or were they just being nice and polite? From the spontaneity of their praise we deemed the former to be the case, and so emerged from the cabinet with firm tread and uplifted heads to receive further congratulations, over the phone this time, from the British Consul and others.
Broadcasting! Huh! It’s a gift.
We were told of a letter from a chap in Tooting, London, S.E., who some weeks previously had ‘got’ Pernambuco during the British hour. I wonder if anybody in the British Isles was listening in to Pernambuco on the night of our efforts.
We were also told of numerous letters from British and U.S. Merchant Ships crews, who had enjoyed the hour’s programme at various times. We left the premises swathed in a mantle of complacency - a cloak which seldom rests comfortably upon the shoulders of ‘we shy sailors’ in these precocious days of jazz and wireless - and so to bed.
We are now changing over to the next page, where you will find much better reading matter.
Goodnight, everybody - Goodnight!
Clownship As Seen At The Children’s Sports
Some people are born clowns, some achieve clownship; but those of whom we now write, had clownship thrust upon them. On the evening of our concert at the Country Club, one of our hosts, an active social worker, suggested that on the morrow we should play the clown at the kiddies sports.
I looked anxiously to my partner, but he had fainted at the shock and almost spilled his beer. A timely application of smelling salts revived him somewhat, and as our host would take no refusal, and himself undertook the role of policeman, clowns we were doomed to be.
On the afternoon of the 8th August 1931, we repaired to the club to ‘do our stuff.’ The Clerk of the Weather had been in a rather aggressive mood, but the thought of the kiddies must have softened his heart. It was a gay scene, which met our gaze. The excellent and well-kept grounds at the club were bedecked with flags, but gayer still were the laughter and chatter of the young guests. All were intent on doing full justice to the varied programme of events, and old King Sol had now come out of his temporary retirement to beam brightly on the animated scene.
Our turn was to be a complete surprise, so to avoid interfering with the scheduled programme; we waited until the afternoon was well advanced.
Having donned our costumes and disguised ourselves with grease paint, we sallied forth to our great adventure. Our appearance was the signal for a combined attack from the youngsters, and my word what a time they gave us! One would have thought that they would be tired out with all the running and jumping they had indulged in during the afternoon, but no, they simply charged us all over the place. On one occasion, the clowns were making an attack on the policeman, but were themselves attacked by the children in such force, that soon there was a gigantic scrum, with clowns and policeman at the bottom. When the ground cleared a bit, there appeared the clowns receiving a good dressing down from a wee maid of about six for assaulting the police, while the somewhat bedraggled ‘Bobby’ (policeman) was consoled with sweets by other young sympathisers.
The prize-giving came as a welcome relief, especially as special prizes had been provided for the clowns and policeman. This consisted of three bottles of beer. One of the ship’s company accepted these on our behalf and would have escaped gaily with all three, but with the aid of the children, was soon recaptured. We should have been clowns indeed had we let him get away.
Our visit to Pernambuco seems to have been popular. The Church Parade with the band aroused great enthusiasm and many favourable comments on the marching of the ship’s company were heard.
At the time of our visit the political situation in Brazil was somewhat uncertain, to put it mildly, there having been a first class revolution 6 months before and the Army appeared to dislike the political regime we found in force. I doubt whether the Captain very much relished his experience of Independence Day when the Governor of the Province had asked him to attend a march past of the troops in the morning. On arrival at the palace, the Captain found the Governor and his entourage in a large drawing room, outside the window of which was a balcony overlooking the main square.
Just before the march-past started, the Governor told the Captain that he had been rather doubtful about holding this ceremony, as he thought someone might take the opportunity to have a shot at him, and then invited the Captain to stand beside him on the balcony. “Eh?” said the Captain, “Oh yes, certainly, certainly.” Luckily no shots were fired, but it was not an envious position to be in.
We had a wonderful send off as we slipped away from the jetty, ringing cheers from a vast crowd of British and Brazilians came floating across the water. Soon we were rolling down to Rio but many will remember Pernambuco as the ‘Matelot’s Paradise.’
H.M.S. Dauntless at Rio
A heavy morning mist still hung over the rugged mountainous coast as we approached Rio on the 14th September. This may have robbed the world-renowned view of some of its distinctness, but it also emphasised the mystique of the weird mountains which surround the Brazilian capital. Soon we distinguished the shape of the famous ‘Sugar Loaf’ and knew that we were at the entrance of one of the world’s finest harbours.
The entrance is but three-quarters of a mile wide but the bay stretches northwards for about 15 miles and varies in width between two and seven miles. It is dotted with islands and flanked on all sides by mountains. Behind the city rises the Tijuca range, spurs of which jut out towards the bay and divide the city into sections. The entrance is fortified and we noticed the Fort of Santa Cruz which, when we were standing by at Trinidad during the Brazilian Revolution of 1930, caused a mild sensation by firing on a German liner.
On the way to our berth alongside the R.M.S.P. jetty, at the foot of the ‘Anoite’ building, we fired salutes to the Republic, to the President and to the Senior Brazilian Naval flag. The island fort at Villegagnon replied to these. Rio is the principal Brazilian naval port and we were interested in the ships. We noted the battleship Minas Geraes, built by Armstrongs in 1908. She is a powerful ship with twelve 12-inch guns and a speed of 21 knots, but she looked her age. Another interesting ship was the Ceara, with her brood of submarines; as well as acting as parent ship she has facilities for the salvage and docking of submarines.
We are unable to identify this building but W. Fox’s Album places it in Rio.
Petropolis is the ‘Simla’ of Rio and is a favourite weekend resort in summer. It is 2,600 ft above sea level and some 35 miles from the Capital. The Leopoldina Railway owned by a British Company serves the town, whose guests we were on the day of our visit.
The first part of the journey was fairly level. We noticed that many of the locomotives used wood for fuel and had large wire baskets in the funnels to prevent hot cinders from escaping. To our right lay the harbour, with its countless islands, and ahead the curious shapes of the Organ Mountains. One peak quite regular in shape, except for a couple of excrescences, was pointed out to us. It is 1,500 feet high and as slender in proportion as a finger. When we arrived at the foot of the mountains, ‘Raiz da Serra’, the train was split into three sections and three rack locomotives, burning special compound fuel imported from Cardiff, panted up the gradient of 1 to 4 with two coaches each. The mountain scenery is most beautiful and the air grows progressively more stimulating. Our hosts must have been well aware of the latter fact, for though it was but 11 a.m. when we arrived at Petropolis they immediately set before us a first class luncheon, to which we did full justice.
Thus fortified we set out to view the town, which combines manufacturing industry with floral beauty and majestic mountain scenery. From Independencia, a little way out of the town, one can look back on Rio, over 30 miles away. We were favoured with a clear day, and with the aid of glasses could pick out the familiar landmarks of the city.
An interesting half hour was spent looking over one of the up-to-date cotton mills. After this we were entertained to tea. The air of Petropolis is good for the appetite! We saw some interesting examples of Brazilian furniture. Brazil is famous for its fine timbers, and the craftsmanship is worthy of the material.
The return journey was made on the new concrete motor-road. The first part of this winds down the mountain slopes like a giant snake. The gradient has been carefully worked out so that the average car need not change down to make the ascent. In places the road is cut out of the Cliffside, and in others it is built out on supports and actually overhangs a sheer precipice.
We brought back with us some of the flowers we had so much admired, and also some very pleasant memories. Amongst the latter we shall never forget one of our hosts who had travelled to most parts of this little globe! He told us anecdotes of practically all the places mentioned in this book, and a great many more besides. When asked if there were any places he had not visited, he considered a moment, and then said, “Yes, South Africa,” then half to himself, “I must remedy that!”
Navy dockyard - Ilha das Cobras
Rio De Janeiro
The Corcovado Monument
The colossal ‘Christus’ on the summit of Corcovado, the hunchback mountain which towers 2,600 feet above Rio De Janeiro and its bay, is now world famous. During our stay at Rio, in September 1931, preparations were being made for the dedication of the statue a few weeks later.
Two parties from the ship’s company visited the monument on different days. The second party was fortunate in having a clear day and had a wonderful view of the city and harbour from this unique standpoint.
On our arrival at the tramway depot in the Avenida Rio Branco (one of the world’s finest streets) we were met by guides and ushered into a special tram, placed at our disposal to take us to the foot of the mountain.
Cheers and hearty greetings met us everywhere. An hour’s ride through Rio’s artistic avenidas and along the sea front brought us to the mountain railway. The ascent was made on an electric rack railway, 2 ½ miles in length, with two intermediate stations. The cars each carry 60 passengers.
All the way there is a profusion of tropical flowers and vegetation, while the air teems with the gorgeously coloured butterflies and birds for which Rio is famous. There is a curious sense of unreality about the scene. Rio looks like a toy town with a toy harbour and toy ships. The fantastic shapes of the surrounding mountains remind one of some picture in a fairy tale book.
The statue is after a model by the sculptor Paul Landowski, stands 98ft. high and was carved out of reinforced concrete by the Brazilian architect,
H. da Silva Costa. The summit of Corcovado forms a platform about 30ft broad, 2,600ft above the bay. Here a small chapel has been built from which the statue rears itself. The modelling of the figure follows the original minutely and is covered with a mosaic of grey stone, which gives it the appearance of having been cut from rock. The monument took five years to complete, weighs 1,700 tons and cost £180,000. The heard alone measures some 12ft in height, and the outstretched hands are 98ft apart. Powerful lights, one on the head and one in each palm, will make the monument a conspicuous landmark by night as well as by day. The text, “Lead, Kindly Light,” is inscribed on the base of the monument. At the time of our visit most of the scaffolding had been taken down in preparation for the dedication.
In spite of persistent rain the dedication ceremonies on 12th October assumed impressive proportions. In the forenoon an open air Mass was celebrated at the Fluminense Stadium, after which a procession, which included the President, Dom Getúlio Vargas, and members of the Provisional Government, ascended to the top, where the Papal Nuncio said another Mass before the monument. The statue was solemnly dedicated in the presence of 50 bishops, assembled from all parts of America. Further official ceremonies took place at Botafogo in the afternoon. At 6.15 p.m. (9.15 p.m. English time), 15 minutes before the normal lighting of Rio’s wonderful lights, the flood lightning of the statue marked a link with Europe, for the relays operating the switches of the floodlights were energised from Rome when the Marchese Marconi transmitted a wireless signal which bridged the gulf between the two continents.
Those of us who visited the monument can never forget our experience. The awe-inspiring beauty of the natural surroundings, the bold application of modern materials and engineering science to a great work of art and the mute invitation to the weary to enter the lovely land it commands, make the Corcovado monument impressive beyond description.
The following is from a tourist luring pamphlet entitled ‘Rio the Beautiful.’
The gigantic shaft of rock that guards the entrance of the harbour, rising out of the sea to a height of 13,000 feet and called “Sugar Loaf,” is to
“Rio” what the Statue of Liberty is to New York. To come to Rio de Janeiro and not ascend this famous ‘Pao de Assucar’ would be as great a
piece of stupidity as visiting Agra and missing the Taj Mahal. Brazilian engineers finally conquered this, for years, unscaleable peak, and now
an aerial line in two sections brings one safely and rapidly to the top.
The first stop is Urea, the summit of Urea cliff, where one can lunch or dine very well at an Italian restaurant, and stroll about through
miniature paths and gardens that some enterprising citizen has laid out, resembling a tiny village. The second section of this aerial railway
brings one in five minutes time to the top of Sugar Loaf, and plans should be made to make the trip about five in the afternoon, when the
gorgeous sunset can be enjoyed, and to await the time when the lights of the city are turned on, a sight that will always be remembered; simply
The above really tells you all you want to know about the Sugar Loaf at Rio, but it lacks the personal touch. To begin with it is essential that persons ascending this rock should be courageous. To swing in a quaint railway carriage, with the wheels on top instead of underneath, about 1,000 feet above the ground, is apt to bring on an attack at vertigo which can only be combated by a lively conversation on this and that with one’s fellow passengers.
The first stage of the journey, when one can see the Military Barracks and other buildings so far below, gives the impression of being in a flying machine. Urea, the half way house, is all that the pamphlet says.
The second half of the journey is over trees. On reaching the top excitement runs high, due to the railway carriage stopping with a click and then running back along its wire for a few yards. This gives the impression that the catch retaining the vehicle to Sugar Loaf has failed, and that one is about to return to earth ‘Au pas gymnastique.’ Having made certain that the vehicle is actually made fast, one alights.
What a View! One enthuses. The only snag is that one has to dodge passing clouds in order to see anything.
Assuming that the party has arrived at the top of the Sugar Loaf at the right time of day, a grand spectacle is presented. A description of the view of the harbour is quite beyond me. It is magnificent and very beautiful. Having gazed at it for a while, and having made suitable remarks, such as “Look at that ship coming in,” and “Look at that aeroplane down there,” one plays games. The best game to play is to try and get people tired of watching and waiting for the lights of the city to be turned on; they then go into a small house and occupy themselves with the buying of postcards and photographs of the local scenery, others buy beer. At convenient intervals one says, “Coo--er, look at that,” whereupon the buyers of postcards and beer come rushing out in fear that they have missed something, only to be met by a particularly dense bunch of clouds. It’s a poor game but one must do something.
If the party is lucky the electricity will fail. When I say ‘lucky’ I mean that there is a pretty good thrill to be got out of being plunged into darkness with the prospect of spending the night on this lofty oubliette. Again, when the electricity has ceased to fail, there is also a kick to be got out of embarking in the railway carriage for the return journey. While slithering down the wire there is the delightful thought that the power, having failed once, may fail again, in which case it may be assumed that the return to Urea would be precipitate.
Of course these fears are absurd, as I accept there is an efficient safety and interlocking gear fitted; but the power actually did fail for a short time while a party from the Dauntless was at the top, and it is difficult not to allow one’s imagination to be a little bit active.
We were not slow to avail ourselves of the offer of the proprietors of the Anoite Newspaper to view the city from the top of their new skyscraper.
This building cannot claim to rank high among the beauties of Rio - a city of beautiful buildings - but is wonderfully fitted out, and from its flat top one can see almost the whole of Rio.
Rio De Janeiro 1930
Across the bay is Nictheroy, where many British and American families reside. There is a Country Club, with an excellent field adaptable for most games. We played rugby and cricket matches on succeeding days. Rio in September is not unbearably hot after one has been acclimatised by a
voyage in the West Indies.
The Church Hall proved a popular resort and there was dancing every night. As a local paper remarked, ‘The nice girls love a sailor.’ The ship had ample opportunity to display its talent for musical and other entertainment. To those who enjoy ‘a quiet pint,’ the German Bar proved a veritable haven, and of all the nationalities that people South America the German seemed most akin to us.
The Brazilian Minister of Marine arranged for a fleet of twelve cars, each containing two or three Brazilian naval officers, to be alongside the ship on 25th September to pick up officers from Dauntless and take them for a sight-seeing trip through Rio and its surroundings. My company was two submarine officers – Lieutenants. One, a middle-aged man, could speak English perfectly. He had spent six months with the Channel Fleet in H.M.S. Hindustan before the War. The Prince of Wales, who was serving in that ship at the time, recognised his old shipmate when visiting Rio last March, and decorated him with the O.B.E.
Rio de Janeiro harbour views
The drive took us down the Rio Branco, along the spacious front, and then through Copacabana and along the marine drive to Gavea. At Gavea is situated the English Country Club, which boasts a really first class golf course, polo grounds, swimming pool and tennis courts while nearby is a world famous surf bathing beach. Beyond Gavea and above the beach we stopped for cocktails at about 1030.
We then followed a road, which took us further inland, passing through wonderful semi-tropical scenery, stopping at times to admire a waterfall or exceptional view. Once we attained a height of about 2,000 feet, and it seemed doubtful whether the car would take the gradients, not only because of their steepness, but also because of the hairpin bends. At one place we stopped at about 1,500 feet and over the parapet, saw the whole of Rio de Janeiro spread out below us like a map, and also the whole harbour with an area of approximately 100 square miles. The view was terminated by the higher mountains in the hinterland rising to a height of 6,000 feet. At noon we arrived at a hotel, which is nearly 300 feet below the summit of Corcovado. We all entered the car of the mountain railway, which takes passengers to the top of Corcovado from the valley, 2,200 feet below. The railway works on the cog and ratchet principle and moves little faster than walking pace.
The party then descended to the hotel again and enjoyed an excellent dinner, with dancing, which had been made possible by inviting members of the fairer sex to journey up from the city.
Rio by night
During our stay at Rio our dance club gave a dance, which was held at the Leme Club, a club used chiefly by the English people from the outskirts of the city. The dance, which was quite a success, gave the people some idea of how jovial sailors can be. It was during this dance that we introduced the
Brazilians to the Boston Two Step. After the first try it was asked for three times, and everyone quite enjoyed it. At 1 a.m. we all wended our way back to the ship, feeling tired but happy to think we had helped to cheer someone up as well as to make quite a lot of friends. It was in Rio that our favourite saying “You ‘eard” became known all over the British Community.
Our first night was spent at the Church Hall, where dancing was held, and after that we had similar entertainment every night at the same place, excepting the one at the Leme Club. On our last night in Rio the Concert Party gave a show at the Church Hall, which was much appreciated and then we danced until 1 a.m. Amid much cheering we left Rio de Janeiro for Maldonado on the evening of the 16th September.
Maldonado (Punta Del Este)
After twelve glorious days at Rio the heavy swell met outside on the evening of Saturday, 26th September, was rather unwelcome. A couple of hours after sailing from Rio we left the Tropics behind, for the Brazilian Capital is only a very little north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Our trip to Punta del Este was uneventful, except that on the 28th we easily maintained our designed horse-power during a steam trial. ‘Ginger’, the ship’s cat was lost overboard. It is believed that he was trying to stalk an albatross. Numbers of these birds followed the ship and their graceful effortless flight was marvellous to watch.
Uruguay is the smallest of the South American republics. Its name is apparently of Indian origin and several derivations have been suggested. The best received is that which ascribes it to three Tupi words: ‘Ura’ (bird), ‘Haf’ (Hollow), ‘Y’ (River); River of the Birds. The Republic actually took its name from the river.
The Lighthouse of Punta Del Este
Punta del Este is a fashionable Atlantic watering place about 100 miles from Montevideo, which is reached in five hours by rail. Steamers ply to and from the capital in summer.
The principal industry of the district is seal farming on the Lobos and Castelles Islands. The industry is under government control. For two years previous to our visit the seals had been left unmolested, as the numbers were rapidly diminishing. Shortly after our arrival, a dark object was observed bobbing about, which soon resolved itself into the head of a fair sized seal. He gave us a display of aquatic tricks, which earned him much applause and caused him to be dubbed ‘Charlie’ after the famous film star. Finding an appreciative audience, he tried to come onboard via the jumping ladder and the lower boom. He met with little success, so attempted to swim away. Some ‘Witty Old Salt’ suggested whistling him back, a suggestion which was met with derision but which, when tried, proved a complete success much to the surprise of the assembled company and the gratification of the W.O.S.
A visit was made to Lobos Island (Lobos is Spanish for fur seal). The seals congregate in great herds on the rocks, and when a kill is to be made they are herded into a pen and the selected animals are clubbed. Only the female skins are used for fur; the male skins are used for making army boots. The curing process entails great care and takes five months. A steam process to extract the oil, which is used for lubricating clocks and delicate machinery, treats the flesh. The smaller tusks are used for making cigarette holders. In normal times 3,000 seals are killed annually, all in one week. During the day the seals spend much time asleep on the rocks and can then be approached quite closely. When disturbed they make for the water with amazing speed, negotiating the rocks with great agility.
We stayed here for a week and thoroughly appreciated a complete rest from all social activities. After a few days at Buenos Aeries, our next port of call, we fully realised how necessary that rest had been.
The following is a short history of the Argentine. Juan Diaz de Solis sailed up the estuary of La Plata - the Mar Dulce in 1508, and in 1516, having returned with certain fixed resolve was treacherously murdered by the Indians. Sebastian Cabot and Diego Garcia also made colonising and exploring efforts with some measure of success, the former building the Fort of the Sancti on the spot where Rosario now stands. Silver ornaments were worn by the Indians, hence the name given to the river.
In 1535 Don Pedro de Mendoza, one of the Spanish King Charles’ officers, set sail for the country with 14 vessels and 2,000 men. His private wealth enabled him to make this display, but in return he exacted the condition that he should be governor of all lands within 200 leagues of the sea. To him has been given the honour of founding Buenos Aires, while his able lieutenant, Ayolas, navigated the waters of the river Paraguay and founded the town of Asuncion (now capital of Paraguay) in 1536. Then, for a space of about 20 years, Mendoza and Ayolas being dead, no one of prominence appears.
Crossing the Andes, in the teeth of all-out opposition from the Indians, the victorious Spaniards, who had thrived in Chile, founded such towns as Santiago del Estero, Mendoza, Tucuman, Cordoba, Salta and Tujuy. This all happened in the years 1552-1592.
Glancing eastward it is noted that Juan de Garay built Sante Fe on the river Parana in 1573, and on the 11th July the same soldier christened and reoccupied Buenos Aires, styling it Cuidad de La Trinidad Y Puerto de Santa Maria de Buenos Aires, which when interpreted reads ‘The City of the Trinity and the Haven of the Holy Mary of the Fair Winds.’
By the middle of the 18th century the leading Argentine towns of today had been established. Spain must also be given the kudos for founding Montevideo, now capital of Uruguay in 1726.
In 1776 Argentina was freed from the vexatious thraldom to Peru, Buenos Aires being created the capital of the Vice-royalty of La Plata. The month of May will always be remembered with great satisfaction by the people of Argentina, for on the 25th of that month, in 1810 it became an independent country. During the next 17 years there was war with Peru, which ended in the Argentine troops being expelled from the country.
To the westwards General San Martin had crossed the Andes and captured Lima in 1814-21. During the ship’s stay at San Nicolas our Ward Room was presented with a medal commemorating the victory of San Martin. Wars and civil wars were waged with varying success, but the total sum of the actual and astounding things won and accomplished was ‘The Great Argentine Republic’ of today, in extent representing 1,112,743 square miles, or equivalent to 29% of the area of Europe and containing such great rivers as the Parana, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Argentina today has the eyes of all the great industrial centres of England and other countries upon her as the Republic is a rapidly developing market for exploitation. The inauguration of the railways in the latter half of the 19th Century did much to open up the interior of the country, and it is interesting to note that, whereas in 1860 there were only six miles of railroads in existence, there are now railroads from Argentina to all parts of South America, covering a distance of some 24,000 miles (1931) on which run luxuriously appointed trains of the most modern type. The greater part of the railroads, rolling stock, etc., is owned by British Companies and to those companies is due the credit of making Argentina the best served country in South America for railroads.
We arrived at Buenos Aires on 9th October in no little state of curiosity.
Our quiet life at Maldonado came to an end on 8th October, when we left for Buenos Aires. Once outside Maldonado we entered the renowned Rio de La Plata, or River Plate, which so astounded that intrepid Spanish navigator De Solis, in 1508, by its vastness. The mouth is 56 miles wide and the width of the inner end 23 miles. In length it provides a passage for shipping for about 100 miles and forms a huge basin into which the rivers Paraguay and Uruguay empty themselves. Passing ship after ship in the river Plate, we eventually arrived at Buenos Aires.
Our arrival was described in a Buenos Aires newspaper as follows:
Looking her part as a sweeper of the seas, painted light grey H.M.S. Dauntless arrived yesterday punctual to the minute at 1.30 p.m.,
at which time she touched the quayside at Newport, where members of the British colony awaited her.
In the meantime the British S.S. Bilbury was on her way outward bound from the dock. Rather than take any risks, with three blasts of her
steam whistle she signalled that she would stop and give way to the visiting cruiser. Then it was that British seamanship and efficiency became
apparent. Dauntless swung gracefully to starboard and found a passage between the outgoing tramp steamer and the breakwater.
Swinging to port in her own length and ‘spinning like a top’ as an onlooker expressed it, the first real glimpse of her slender and trim lines was
obtained and as she entered the dock, one could not help but compare her with the two new Argentine cruisers, Almirante Brown and
Veinticinco de Mayo, the contrast in both colour and lines being very startling. The latter two ships were painted a dark grey, in fact, almost
black, which made the British vessel look white and frail but, nevertheless, businesslike.
Most of the crews of the two Argentine ships, who were off duty, lined the sides and watched proceedings with interest and no little admiration
at the smart way in which the visiting ship was handled. She never moved an inch out of her course and came alongside the quay exactly in
position to a matter of inches. Throughout this operation the ship’s band had been playing a selection of airs which was music in both senses of
the word to the ears of the British listeners onshore. Such old favourites as ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Life on the Ocean Wave’, ‘The Bay of Biscay’,
‘Home Sweet Home’, etc. As soon as a gangway was lowered, Captain Vivian and his officers received onboard officers of the Argentine
cruisers and a number of prominent British residents and officials.
Buenos Aires, the Capital, 6,121 miles from Southampton, is the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere, and, when viewed from its seaward side, offers very little in the way of scenery beyond a huge line of docks and wharves, alongside which may be seen ships of every sea trading nation, all busily engaged loading and unloading.
Buenos Aires – View of the port
We were very fortunate in being berthed just ahead of the above-mentioned cruisers and alongside a wharf, which was used solely for embarkation.
Having no warehouses the centre of the jetty was tastefully laid out in gardens and lawns plentifully sprinkled with garden seats and shady trees. A short walk brought one to the main thoroughfare. Our stay was one of 12 days duration, and most of the time was devoted to seeing the sights, which were many and varied, so much so, in fact, that one was left with the feeling that there was time to see only half of them. The most unappreciative of persons cannot visit the city without noticing the fine taste of the Argentine nation, which is shown in the way the town is laid out, and although laid down in the 16th century, has been almost rebuilt since 1900.
On every hand one comes across shady plazas, the most important being that in the Avenida de Mayo, where the Government House or ‘La Casa Rosado’, so called because of the pink coloured stone used in its construction, occupies the place of honour. This is the official residence of the President.
Other fine buildings in this plaza are the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s residence, which is built on the site of the first church in Buenos Aires, dating back to 1600, Congress Halls, the Mint and various Museums. Running at right angles to the Avenida down to the wharves are the wide busy thoroughfares, where most of the principal European firms and banks have their branches.
Buenos Aires 1930
Visits were paid to several of the Picture Theatres, of which there are about 140, and many of which show English or American ‘Talkies’ of the latest type.
An invitation was extended to us by the Anglo Frigorifico Company to visit its factory, where every phase of the work of a modern ‘meat’ factory was seen. It is the largest of 178 factories in the Argentine, of which 13 are on the river Plate and at Bahia Blanca and five in Patagonia.
The Anglo Frigorifico At Buenos Aires
Through the mediation of Mr. Burton of the Missions to Seamen, and the courtesy of the Anglo Frigorifico, a party of 100 ratings from the ship was entertained at the factory on 18th October. Transport in the form of two char à bancs was provided by the company and the drive by way of the beautiful Marine Parade, was an outing in itself.
On arrival, the party was split up and taken on a tour of the entire establishment by different routes. Let us attach ourselves to one of these parties and follow the route, which the cattle take from corral to chilling room.
We noted the fine quality and good condition of the animals; Herefords, Shorthorns and Angus offspring of some of the finest English pedigree stocks. When all the beef exported from Argentina was ‘canned,’ the quality was not so important, but in these days of ‘chilling’ the beef may be on the table at home three weeks after entering the Frigorifico. It must therefore compete with the home killed product.
The animals are first thoroughly washed, passing through a bath about 20 yards long, and then remain for at least five minutes under a shower. The killing floor is at the very top of the building, and to reach it the animals walk up a slipway, 200 yards long. If necessary, they are urged forward with a touch of an ‘electric stick,’ which supplies the necessary stimulus without marking the hide or flesh.
The killing pens are in two sections - three animals in each. Each animal in turn is despatched by perforating the skull with a single blow from a long handled hammer. The method is quite humane in the hands of an expert. The carcase is immediately slung by the hind legs to an overhead railway and passes on to the various workers and inspectors. After bleeding, the hide is removed - not by one man, but by several operating in turn. Those who skin the flanks have the most difficult job and are the best paid; heads come next and so on. The whole process is wonderfully rapid and efficient.
The standard of cleanliness is most commendable. Government inspectors take certain glands, etc., for inspection, and any carcase condemned as unfit for human consumption is immediately destroyed by fire. Those that are passed are stamped accordingly.
The carcase is ‘split’ by means of an electric saw, an operation, which takes just a few minutes but was a long and laborious task with the old fashioned cleaver.
The quarters of beef pass on to the chilling room, where they are thoroughly cooled. They do not again come to the open atmosphere till they reach Europe. The temperature is carefully controlled both here and on the voyage, so that the meat is not frozen, yet is kept cool enough to prevent deterioration.
A great factory like the ‘Anglo’ naturally has many side shows - there is a whole department for the manufacture of tins, packing cases and barrels by the most up-to-date methods. Hides receive preliminary treatment before export. The power station and refrigerating plant are marvels of
engineering efficiency. To adequately describe all these departments would take more space than the editor can allow.
When the tour of inspection was ended, all the parties assembled in the large dining hall, where tea was laid. The refreshments were all products of the company, and their excellence can be vouched for.
The Manager, Mr. Stella, expressed the pleasure of the company at being able to entertain British Naval visitors, and gave a brief outline of the history of the company. The ‘Anglo’ is controlled by Lord Vestey and is (justly) accounted a monument to British enterprise in Argentina.
The party carried a vote of thanks to the Company, Management and Guides with acclamation, and an impromptu singsong. This followed by the drive home via a different route, concluded one of the best outings of the commission.
Some of our readers may have a fondness for statistics. Here are a few from the Anglo Frigorifico:
5,000 cattle killed per day
10,000 sheep killed per day
2,000 pigs killed per day (at certain seasons)
1,500 turkeys killed per day (for three months)
300,000 eggs graded and packed per week
10,000 tons of water used per day
These figures may be little bewildering so let us try to get a mental picture of what they mean. If all the tails were placed end to end they would reach from here to ------ (deleted). If the hides were placed side-by-side and carefully sewn together with sail maker’s twine, they would make a hearth rug for the place at the other end of that trail of trails. If all the moos, baas, grunts and gobbles could be gathered together in one place and made into one big Moobaagruntgobble, the Dauntless radio gramophone would sound like the end of the unfinished symphony by comparison.
Ginger - Financier
The smash must have been heard all over Buenos Aires. It was when trying to steer a course across the slippery surface of the dancing part of the Humdrum Cabaret floor, fortunately unoccupied at the moment, that disaster overtook me and I involuntarily performed a spectacular somersault which ended in the crushing of a recently vacated table, the folding up for inspection of a number of glasses and ‘putting the wind up’ a waiter in the act of gathering in empties.
It was quite early - about midnight - in that city of laughter and tears, when, Ginger and I entered the cabaret. This happened, and the place - a particularly bright spot, situated amidst the high lights, in a quarter where night is very effectively turned into day - was comparatively full.
As my feet left the floor and described an arc in space, a kaleidoscopic view of the Cabaret’s pillared interior flashed before me. The orchestra platform at one end of the room, the lines of small tables placed between the pillars and the smooth hand painted walls (decorated by an artist with a penchant for the nude), the polished dancing space in the centre - all passed in turn before my line of vision.
I painfully pulled myself into a sitting position, on the completion of the evolution and found Ginger bending over me, whispering sweet words of sympathy. “Lumme,” he was saying, “Some mothers do have ‘em, you’re a handy built blighter, and you are. Can’t I take you anywhere?” and so on, but I am afraid that the ensuing lecture from Ginger on ‘How not to kick a table over’ was wasted for it was at that moment I spotted the vision coming towards me.
She (capital Ess for She) was a cabaret girl, a slim creature of twenty summers, of that pattern which is retained to minister to the recreation of tired business men when they are ‘Detained at the Office.’ She was the sort of fairy who is beautiful at midnight, and at 2 a.m. as you carry on imbibing, she becomes Wonderful, an Angel at 4, and at 8 a.m., when you are absent over leave. She never ought to be on this earth at all - the part of it where you are stationed anyway.
She gracefully assisted me to my feet, and as we wended our way to a table I saw Ginger dolefully paying out pesos for the damage done. When we were seated I noticed the girl’s eyes were like those of a dying gazelle, languorous in their gaze, and she could use them with disastrous effect. She gave me one emotional glance and I’d been ‘smitten.’ I was easy and bought sundry one peso drinks at a cost of two pesos each. She was worth it.
It was when I momentarily disentangled myself from the absorbing interest of her charms that I noticed Ginger had not joined us and a stranger was standing at my side, studying me intently.
He was a swarthy individual of doubtful nationality. From the moment of seeing him I disliked the cut of his jib. “My friend,” said the girl. Her voice was as silvery as a bell as she waved her hand in introduction.
His handclasp was like his appearance; flabby and uninspiring. When greeting the newcomer I saw Ginger some tables away, in earnest conversation with a gentleman, obviously English, who frequently indicated the stranger at my side. Ginger came back to our table as the newcomer drew his chair in.
“I spikit Ingles ver good,” said the latter, “haf a drink”.
He called the waiter and waved his hand magnificently towards the depleted glasses. The replenished glasses came back and the girl stood up.
“Excuse. Una momento. I come back,” and she was gone.
Light of my life. Curse the intruder. I’d like to blow the froth off his beer right in his eye. But he wasn’t worried over the girl’s departure, he was all for conversation. He could see I was still moony-eyed, so he addressed himself to Ginger.
“You have the fall of money, very bad-eh?” (He was evidently referring to the recent reduction in pay).
“The reduction in pay, you mean. Oh, that wasn’t bad. We are quite happy about it,” said Ginger.
“But you not have plenties now?”
“Oh, tons - lots,” lied Ginger, with an ease that made me stare at him to see if he was drunk.
“But you like mores - lot mores,” insisted the stranger.
“You bet you, we would. Nobody has too much money.” Ginger reads a lot of books with clever things like that in them.
“Well, listen,” the flabby individual grew quite confidential. “I am beeg beezness man. What you call F-fan-fancier.”
“Dog fancier,” I said, trying to assist.
“Financier,” suggested Ginger.
“Si! Si! Yes. I make lot of money. I like you boys. I like ze British. I gif you plenty pesos.”
“Hand ‘em over,” said Ginger, nonchalantly.
“Eh? - No. No. Listen, I have ze scheme.” (I knew there was a catch in it).
“I make the moneys for you. You haf the English pounds? Here,” he shrugged disdainfully as he indicated the Cabaret manager, “they gif you
fifteen pesos for one pound. Me you bring plenty of pounds, I give you 40 pesos for every pound, I make the deal in the city - beezness.”
He leaned back, trying to look benevolent
“Forty to the quid!” said Ginger. “How do you get that?”
“Very easy. You bring me moneys one day, next day I what you call invest and make plenty pesos to gif you. It is good I tell you.
I prove. You being me small sum say diez - ten pounds first. When you get pesos for that and see it is what you call square, then next time
you bring plenties - hundreds of pounds.”
I wonder who let that bloke out without a keeper, talking in hundreds like a playboy.
“All right,” said Ginger, so readily that I nearly choke over my beer, “I’ll bring ten pounds here tomorrow night at ten o’clock.”
“Yes, and next time, how much?” asked the flabby one, eagerly.
A Thousand pounds! We’re sitting there with about twenty pesos between us and Ginger cackling on about a thousand pounds. Who was it said you couldn’t get canned on B.A. Beer?
“A Thousand”, shouted the stranger, excitedly.
“Yes,” murmured Ginger, quietly, “Sthat too much?”
“Not too much,” said the other happily. “More if please. Tomorrow you bring ten pounds and I prove it is good beezness. Now I go.”
The flabby individual shook hands and departed beaming. Then my angel of Mons reappeared, strolling towards us with a sinuous grace and seductiveness, which swept all other thoughts from my mind. Before she reached our table, however, Ginger was pulling me gently but firmly towards the door. I wanted to stay, but Ginger was adamant. Life is hard sometimes. She had a beautiful smile, and she blew me a kiss too.
“What was the big idea taking a bloke out for a trot like that?” I asked Ginger when we were outside.
“Out for a trot? I was never more serious in my life.” answered Ginger, indignantly.
I looked at him closely. For all he looks easy enough Ginger is the kind of individual you can’t do over.
“You ain’t round the bend, are you?” I asked politely. “Anybody with half an eye could see Burglar written all over that bloke’s song.”
“Leave it to your Uncle,” said Ginger soothingly, “All we’ve got to do is to borrow ten quid somewhere and we’re made for life. The money’s
as safe as houses.” He talked convincingly.
“You’ve got something up your sleeve?” I asserted.
“Yes,” he agreed quickly, “but I’m going to keep it there for the time being. You cackle so much that if I told you now it would be all over
B. A. tomorrow and the deal would be off.”
I ran over the affair in my mind again. We were to take ten pounds to the flabby bloke. He would invest it and repay us at the rate of forty pesos to the pound. When we got that and were satisfied that it was genuine, we were to take a thousand pounds (I didn’t know there was so much money in the world) and the bloke would do the same with that. Trying to work it out got me soupy. There was a catch in it somewhere, but I couldn’t spot it.
Ginger seemed sure of him, but he can be as conversational as a shut clam when he likes, and he wasn’t telling yet. I would have to be content and await developments. Then I thought of the Englishman I had seen Ginger talking to in the Cabaret.
“Who was that bloke?” I asked.
“He comes from Kent - a decent chap,” answered Ginger. “He beckoned me over to his table. I’ll introduce you when we go back.”
“Oh, he’s going to be there too?”
“Yes, he’s in this - on our side. I wonder where we can borrow the money?”
This promised to be no easy task, but by putting the ‘fluence’ on a couple of Nouveau Rich ratings - Photo and Jewing (loans) firms onboard - we managed to relieve them of a section of their wads.
We arrived at the Humdrum with the dough, in good time for the appointment. Early as we were, the flabby individual was waiting for us all primed for biz, and She - the Princess of B.A. - was there too, smiling as divinely as ever. I noticed the gentleman from Kent at the same table as before, watching proceedings closely.
The alleged financier greeted us effusively and got straight to it.
“You have ze moneys?”
“Yes,” replied Ginger, pulling the ten pounds from his pocket. “And I’ve made arrangements to get the other when I can prove the deal is
genuine.” You are a lyin’ tamer, Ginger.
“Good,” said the flabby one. He produced a bundle of pesos and continued “I haf decided to gif you this from my private moneys. Tomorrow
I make deal with your ten pounds and get my moneys back.”
The exchange of notes was made. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw Ginger count the 400 pesos. A sudden thought disturbed my peace of mind.
“Ginger!” I shouted suddenly, “Make sure it’s not spoof money he’s giving you.”
“You will find the money quite good,” a voice behind me assured us.
We all looked up in surprise to see the gentleman from Kent standing there.
“Now put it in your pocket and leave this to me.”
Ginger pocketed the pesos.
“What’s it all about?” I asked, hazily.
“Briefly,” explained the Englishman, “this fellow is a confidence trickster - the girl is the decoy. She finds the mugs and introduces them
to her confederate.” Very complimentary - she had found me.
An illuminating flash passed across my feeble brain and I saw the whole scheme then. The ten pounds business was a sprat to catch a mackerel. The confidence bloke changed that, but if we took a larger sum afterwards we would never see him, the girl, or our money again. Very nifty, but, my ‘Angel of Mons’ a decoy? That innocent child luring victims into her toils? Oh! Surely not.
As the gentleman from Kent was speaking, the confidence man rose from his seat. A look of fear flashed across his eyes, then he started to speak rapidly in a blustering tone, but the Englishman interrupted and levelled a flow of the confidence bloke’s own lingo at his head.
We did not savvy one word of what was said, but under the verbal attack of our friend the confidence bloke gradually wilted and after two futile attempts at self-assertion, slunk away from the table like a dog with its tail between its legs.
Not so the girl, she jumped to her feet and, after hurling some rapid and, doubtless, uncomplimentary remarks at the retreating figure of her confederate, she turned on our friend.
It gave me a shock to see her as she looked then. Her lips were twisted in a sneer and her eyes were flashing hate. In her excitement, a part of her hair had tumbled down and hung awry over her face. With her arms akimbo and her head tossing, she flamed off with her tongue like a veritable girl of the streets. I don’t know what she was saying, but I’ll bet it wasn’t Bible Class stuff. She was awful.
I never could understand what Ginger saw in her to go crackers over, anyway.
The gentleman from Kent entirely ignored her. Finally, in a state bordering on hysteria, she departed in the wake of her confederate, the cynosure of all eyes.
“You are well out of that,” remarked our friend, as the girl disappeared from sight. “Now we will have a drink together. Just one, as I must go.”
“That bloke was properly afraid of you,” I remembered when the drinks had arrived.
“Yes,” the Englishman laughed, “I know him of old. I have threatened to jail him before. He preys mostly on Seamen-chaps who are here today
and gone tomorrow. I don’t like to see my own countrymen done over, you know. Well, I must be going. No, no thanks. Oh, don’t mention it,
happy to have been of assistance. Goodbye. Happy Days and he was gone.
“Lucky we met him, Ginger - eh?” I said.
“Yes,” agreed Ginger. “When you slipped that time and he saw the girl coming to help you up he called me over and gave me the works.”
We didn’t meet the gentleman from Kent again and never really found out who he was, but anyway, he was a useful chap to know.
Imagine that beautiful girl being in on a swindle like that. I learned about women from her. Ginger and I went to the Cabaret Royal to spend some of our ill-gotten gains (Ginger read that in a book) and oh! There was a lovely bit of skirt at the Royal. She was a peach - but that’s another story and anyway it’s none of your business.
Eh? I said it’s none of your - but you ‘eard! First time.
Plaza Francia - Buenos Aires
A pleasant day was spent at Hurlingham Club, some 16 miles out of Buenos Aires, the British colony’s sports club and reputed to be the richest in South America. After a fine lunch all forms of sport were indulged in and prizes presented to the winners. The scenery of the club, with its beautifully laid out gardens and playing pitches, would be difficult to match anywhere.
Many dinners and functions were arranged in honour of Captain Vivian and the officers.
A visit was undertaken by a number of the ship’s company to Miguelete, where, as guests of the Argentine Southern Railway employees, many of them Englishmen, a good afternoon’s sport was provided under ideal weather conditions. Outings were also arranged for the ship’s company as guests of the other Argentine Railways. In fact, great thanks are due to all the railway companies for endeavouring to make our visit a pleasure in which, we say, they succeeded splendidly.
Many enjoyable games of football were played between British merchant vessels on this route, the most outstanding being those with the Highland Chieftain and Alcantara. The farewell night onboard Alcantara provides a fine example of the good feeling prevailing between the R.N. and Merchant Navies. By kind permission of Captain Vivian, our Bluejacket Band gave that ship’s company a programme. The occasion also afforded a send off for Commodore Wakeman, Captain of that worthy vessel, who was making the return trip his last voyage before retiring. He immediately placed the 3rd class saloon at the disposal of both ships’ companies for the evening, which was greatly appreciated, in view of the fact that she was putting to sea the next day and passengers’ luggage and the cargo had to be finally settled down for the return journey to England.
A football match was played against the Anglo-American Banks for a cup, which we won, but after inscribing the name of Dauntless on it the cup was returned to its headquarters for future competitions.
Church of England Parade
On the first Sunday in port the majority of the ship’s company, of all denominations, landed for church and were entertained to lunch afterwards.
The Church of England parade, headed by the band, marched from the ship, through crowded streets, to St. John’s Cathedral. After a bright service, conducted by Archdeacon Hodges, all who attended were entertained to luncheon in the adjoining church hall. Our band rendered selections appropriate to the occasion throughout the afternoon.
Tea was served, and we must heartily thank those hard working ladies who waited on us and chatted about the missionaries’ work inland.
Photographs taken among the half civilised natives were of a most interesting nature. The renowned Canon Brady is attached to this Cathedral. The Victoria Sailor’s Home extended a hearty welcome to officers and men of the Dauntless to use the home as their ‘Home Away From Home’ during their stay in port.
Some of the ship’s company were guests of the Compania Nacional de Tabacos at their club, where they were entertained to a short boxing programme and a lunch.
Captain Vivian, speaking at a reception given to him and the officers at the Empire and Services Club, said he wished to thank members for the kindness which had been shown himself, his officers and petty officers, particularly on behalf of the latter, as having had the club placed at their disposal, it gave them a home onshore which was something very much appreciated when in foreign lands. Further, he said that while the visit of the ship might remind people in Argentina a little of home, the Empire and Services Club, with their warm welcome, certainly made him, his officers and men also think of home. He then spoke briefly of the work of the Navy and its units in maintaining international relations, and how necessary it is for us to know as much as possible about the countries visited by H.M. Ships.
Buenos Aires Central Post Office on Leandro N. Alem Avenue
Arrangements were made for our entertainment and comfort while at Buenos Aires by the English colony, assisted so ably by Mr. Burton and Mr. Wyatt of the local branch of Seamen’s Missions and Victoria Sailors Home. We will long remember these two hard working persons. We found them real friends, and their capacity for arranging entertainments seemed limitless. We well remember, on our arrival, their coming onboard and talking to us outside the Sick Bay and Recreation Space, giving us the necessary information about the place and inspiring us to attend the various outings and parties they had arranged and were still arranging. Should they read this book we offer them our most heartfelt thanks.
The ship was thrown open to visitors and general public six days out of the twelve weekends, and the remaining days were reserved for special parties of school children, girl guides, boy scouts, etc., who judging by the numerous questions with which they piled their guides, were fully determined to become ‘authorities’ on naval matters. On every occasion the number of visitors testified to the eagerness of the inhabitants of the Argentine to get more fully acquainted with the Dauntless and her crew.
Every morning of our stay strings of char à bancs loaded with cheering school children, passed the ship at slow speed on what appeared to be a
While we were at Buenos Aires the new 40,000 ton French liner Atlantique arrived on her maiden voyage from Bordeaux, having maintained a speed of 24 knots. The River Plate Channel and harbour had to be specially dredged for her. On the 15th she gave a dance onboard in commemoration of this voyage, to which our officers were invited.
We learnt that the British Exhibition in the March previous to our visit was a great success, and that the Prince of Wales had made a profound impression.
Unfortunately we suffered the loss of our pet parrot, ‘Archie,’ here. In spite of all our advertising in local newspapers we left without him. English newspapers commented on the fact as follows:
Portsmouth Cruiser Loses Its Pet.
Has anyone seen Archibald?
‘Archie,’ the pet parrot of H.M.S. Dauntless, has flown away, says Reuter’s Buenos Aires correspondent.
Instead of proceeding in an orderly manner to the officers’ quarters when he was relieved from his night cage,
as was his habit, the wayward bird one day flew ashore and has not been seen since.
The officers and men of the Dauntless are much concerned by the loss of their pet,
who had been a ‘Big Noise’ in the wardroom for the past 18 months.
Another English newspaper waxed poetic:
Only return Archibald
All is forgiven.
Oh! Archibald, Archibald Dear,
We’ve lost you forever, we fear!
Oh! Why did you roam?
Away from your home,
And leave us disconsolate here?
Say! Did you get sick of your cage,
And settle to leave it in rage?
But even if so,
‘Twas foolish, you know!
We’re shocked, sir! A bird of your age!
To whom will you turn in your need?
Who’ll give you your water and seed?
Oh! Archie! Return!
We will not be stern,
If only our message you’ll heed!
We regret to say that our stay came to an end all too soon, and 2 p.m. on 21st October saw us proceeding reluctantly away from a well thronged jetty to the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ played by our band, amid the waving of many handkerchiefs, of which quite a number were put to another use as the ship drew away, which was probably due to the dusty nature of the roads at the time.
Everyone agreed that Buenos Aires was ‘top hole’ and, judging by the many flattering newspaper cuttings which have been received, the local folk had taken the ‘Dauntlessites’ to their hearts, much to the gratification of all concerned.
Here is one newspaper extract:
She will take with her the best wishes of all sections of the community. The crew, by their conduct and friendliness during their stay, have
upheld the best traditions of the Service, especially in their relations with the Argentine Navy, and thus they have still further strengthened
the friendly ties between the two nations. The British community are proud of the men of the Dauntless and wish them bon voyage.
Having embarked a river pilot, we soon steamed clear of the river Plate, and at 8.30 p.m. we dropped anchor for the night near the junction of the rivers Parana and Uruguay. Early next morning we commenced our trip up the 2,500 miles Parana River.
To most of us the trip up the river came as a welcome change from the usual deep sea voyage and we can assure those who have never travelled on one of these South American rivers that it is a unique experience which rarely falls to the lot of seafarers.
The river at some places half-a-mile wide, flows between stretches of marshy ground and proved for the first part monotonous and uninteresting.
Here and there cattle could be seen grazing in large numbers. The channel up the whole of the river is of a most intricate nature, necessitating the crossing from one side to the other as the shifting shallows dictate. Occasionally a steamer was passed on the downward journey, or we caught a glimpse of one through the tall grasses. At first sight she appeared to the inexperienced eye as sailing elegantly through a field so erratic is the course of the river.
The setting sun provided a magnificent spectacle over this flat landscape, and scarcely died away before being replaced by unusually brilliant moonlight. Early morning was ushered in with (to us) the unusual sound of excited twittering of hundreds of small birds of the linnet species, which flew from bank to bank across the ship. 215 miles of the river was covered in this manner before we reached our first stopping place, San Nicolas.
The town, quite small as towns go, owes its importance, such as it is, to its maize-exporting industry which links up the hinterland with the river.
We received a much-appreciated welcome, such as we had never previously nor have we since experienced, namely, that of the local town band playing us alongside. As we were the first British Man of War to visit this place since 1921, the population arrived en masse to witness our arrival.
The town was some three miles away from our berth, so the local railway authorities placed a special train at our disposal, which was run according to our requirements. This was very much appreciated.
Despite the scattered population hereabouts, and the very indifferent methods of transportation, it was a great surprise to us to see a large number arrive on visiting day, some of whom had travelled on horseback for 40-50 hours.
For the size of the town the programme arranged for our entertainment must have taxed its hospitality to the utmost. The only other ship encountered here was a German vessel, S.S. Bauldur, the crew of which were at great pains to prove friendship for us by many little acts of courtesy, which were greatly appreciated.
On the first day we experienced a type of storm peculiar to this neighbourhood, namely, the Pampero. This is a terrific wind, accompanied by a thunderstorm that is equal in its intensity to about ten of the average thunder storms one meets in England, and one of these storms was also responsible for the cancelling of what should have been an interesting visit to an Estancia (ranch). The good folk responsible for the arrangements, however, were not to be denied and provided a substantial feast, in Asado style, for the party at the railway station buffet. Beer and ‘big eats’ were the order of the day. Whilst alongside at San Nicholas the vast amount of traffic up and down the river, mostly to and from Rosario, was noticeable.
Leaving here after a five days stay, a further 130 miles journey was negotiated to bring us to the small town of Diamante, passing, en route, the town of Rosario, 40 miles above San Nicolas. The size of this town is well indicated by the vast amount of shipping berthed alongside its wharves. San Lorenzo, one of the oldest towns of South America, was passed after about one hour’s run from Rosario, and we berthed finally alongside at Diamante on the evening of 29th October.
This town, situated in rather pretty surroundings, perched upon some small cliffs, in the Province of Entre Rios, owes its existence to the grain export trade. Our first introduction to this place was a massed attack of millions of flying insects of all sizes and species, which quickly proved the value of the ‘Place Sceeter Netting’ drill, which had been insisted on throughout our river sojourn. Large numbers of frogs serenaded us from the riverbanks, and the wharves provided us with the sight of some hefty looking rats.
A small army establishment is situated here, but at the time of our visit was unoccupied. The 24 officers and 700 men of the Horse Artillery,
normally billeted here, were away at manoeuvres. Despite the prevalence of Bolshevism in the river valley, it was noticed that the men’s quarters were well provided with literature of an anti-Bolshevist nature.
River fishing became a pleasant pastime amongst the ship’s company. Several large river fish were caught, and the largest fell to the wily hook of an ardent follower of Izaak Walton. It weighed 22 ½ pounds and provided a succulent morsel for quite a large number of his messmates.
Santa Fe and Parana should have been our last two ports of call up the Parana, but, owing to the state of the river, it was considered inadvisable to proceed further up than Diamante. Consequently, our visit to these two ports was cancelled, much to the disappointment of the townsfolk and ourselves.
The British Colony at Parana, however, were determined not to be deprived of the pleasure of seeing at least some of us, and they made arrangements to transport a portion of the ship’s company from Diamante to Parana. Two char-a-bancs provided us with many thrills and much amusement, especially when the leading one burst an inner tube, causing the following bus to swerve and come to rest in a miniature bog on the road side. It was only by the combined efforts of all the party that the vehicle was dragged out of the mud. Repairs were carried out on the damaged char-a-banc; the other one went ahead and informed our hosts of the misfortune. Some of them drove in cars towards the scene of the accident to see if they could help, but met the second party on their way to Parana. As many ratings as possible were transferred to the cars, leaving only a few passengers to carry on in the char-a-banc to their destination.
The scenery passed en route was of a pleasant countryside type, the fields of linseed, with millions of small blue flowers, presented a scene that was at first sight mistaken for an inland lake, so even and close was the formation. We may also mention that for some years past Argentina has produced half the world’s supply of linseed.
Midday saw us at the English Colony’s grounds, which were laid out in readiness for our visit. After such a journey all had acquired a thirst, and our hosts proved fully equal to the occasion by serving liquid refreshments under the shade of trees. Luncheon was served in Asado style. This entails the cooking of large joints of meat in the shortest space of time, with the minimum loss of flavour. Carcases were roasted whole over smouldering embers of eucalyptus wood. It is a matter of individual taste whether the skin is removed from the beast previous to roasting or not. When cooked, lumps of about two to three pounds are removed and eaten while hot in much the same manner as one sees English kiddies eating toffee apples.
A certain amount of dexterity is required to avoid a calamity, but the pleasant flavour obtained from meat cooked in this fashion must be actually tasted to be fully realised. As a testimony to the popularity of this novel dish, the party - 50 in number - managed to demolish the carcases of 4 lambs and 4 calves.
After lunch, an exhibition game of football was played between members of the party for the benefit of our friends and great amusement was caused by one of the most corpulent of the party in his efforts to outwit one who was noticeably lacking in inches. Tennis was played and competitive sports arranged, purely for amusement. Great fun was caused by the three-legged and obstacle races which provided the audience with some really remarkable sights. The ladies of the Colony participated in many events.
Later tea was served and the evening was spent in a general homely gathering at which several members of the party sang such songs as were thought to be appropriate. Dancing also took place on the lawn to the strains of a gramophone.
Prizes were presented to the successful competitors in the events of the afternoon. At 9 p.m. a reluctant halt was called. We finally managed to leave with the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ ringing in our ears and a feeling of pride for such sturdy examples of our country folk, who do so much to uphold the prestige of the Mother Country, despite the atmosphere of foreign influence with which they are surrounded. The journey back was enlivened by the rendering of songs of every type. We arrived back onboard at midnight, after a day which will long provide us with a host of pleasant memories.
So successful and hospitable was this outing, that by kind permission of the Captain, the Quarter Deck was decorated for a return ‘At Home’ given by the party who had journeyed to Parana. A very enjoyable time was spent, showing our former hosts round the ship. Tea and refreshments of all sorts were served while the brass band kindly provided the music. Dance music was rendered by means of the ship’s company radio gramophone. The colony departed, we hope, realising the pleasure it gave the ship’s company as a whole to be able to return, in some measure, the kindness extended to us at Parana. We wish them all success.
Early next morning, 5 November we left Diamante for Rosario.
We berthed alongside at Rosario on the afternoon of Guy Fawke’s Day.
This city is in the Province of Santa Fe, and is accessible to steamers of 10,000 tons. It ranks, in commercial importance, second to Buenos Aires, grain being its chief export. Flour milling, tanning and sugar refining are also feature on a considerable scale. The great firm of Swifts has a frigorifico here. Rosario, with its miles of wharves, as seen from a commercial standpoint, is a most inspiring sight. Imposing grain elevators rear their chutes high in the air and warehouses with railway sidings, all combine to make a very striking picture of industry. Berthed alongside, were ships working cargo, which will be carried eventually to every corner of the earth.
It was very pleasing to note, in passing up the river on the 29th October that of the 40 ships alongside at Rosario, 22, representing 106,860 tons, were British.
The spires of churches and the high buildings of the town, provide a fine background. Once away from the wharves, the town quickly opens before one. It is well served with trams, buses and taxis, all of which are fairly cheap. The main street, wider than any Buenos Aires street, reminds one of an English town, so well are the shops stocked with goods and illuminated with huge electric signs and advertisements.
There is a large British colony here. These fellow countrymen of ours have a very fine club at which every kind of sport can be indulged in. Around the town the cafes and restaurants are well laid out, and many of us remember the Salonica Bar.
On our arrival, it was found that a large programme of entertainment and sports had been arranged. In fact the programme was of such dimensions that it was found impossible to fulfil many of the engagements as conscientiously as we desired. Our stay being one of only five days, there was little time for anything but the merest glimpse of the large and prosperous town, which might well be called the Liverpool of the Argentine. Time was found, however, to visit the splendid park at Palermo, where the ornamental grounds, lily ponds, and rose gardens, are one of the most wonderful sights in the country when illuminated at night.
Lago de Palermo
The Seamen’s Mission Hall was placed at our convenience, and several social functions were held there. The British community invited as many as possible to their club ground at Perez. This ground was really a huge park, complete with football, hockey and tennis pitches, and a race course with stables adjoining it. Unfortunately, owing to the exigencies of the Service, only 50 instead of the proposed 300 of us were able to accept the invitation, and the disappointment of the members of the club, especially the ladies, who had turned up in full force for the occasion, was intense.
However, a football match was soon arranged, some made up sets for tennis, while others walked over to the stables to try their hand at ‘Bronco Busting.’ As regards the latter, the peculiar gait assumed by the novices, who thought horse riding a simple matter, led one to understand that, although it was an enjoyable and novel experience, it was also accompanied by a certain amount of discomfort.
Light refreshments were served throughout the afternoon, and at the conclusion of the football match, a decisive win for the club team, teas were served under a huge permanent marquee. Everyone, despite the fact that owing to our small numbers, we were unable to cope with all the sports items that had been planned, enjoyed the outing tremendously. The majority of the members of the club accompanied us back as far as Rosario, and all were voted jolly good fellows.
On Sunday, due to the Argentine Presidential election being held, there was no leave, and arrangements, which had been made for a church parade, had to be cancelled. It is rumoured that this election was one of the most orderly on record. Nevertheless, the British community were pleased that we were there.
The officers held an ‘At Home’ and the guests included the captains of all British merchant vessels in port.
In general, we found Rosario and the people with whom we came into contact, very charming, and it was with feelings of regret that we left on 10th November for Mar del Plata.
Echo Of ‘At Home’ At Rosario
Extract from the Liverpool journal of commerce, Saturday 9th January 1932:
Royal And Merchant Navy Officers
A very interesting and gratifying development, especially since the war, has been the courtesy displayed on the part of officers of the Royal
Navy towards their brothers in the Merchant Navy. A number of instances of this kind have been reported to the Imperial Merchant Service
Guild during recent years, and the remarks which have accompanied them, have shown in no uncertain way, how very welcome these
incidents have been to the officers of the Merchant Navy concerned.
A recent example is referred to in the following extract from a letter received from a Captain member:
“I desire to report the following incident, which gives expression to the good feeling which exists between His Majesty’s Navy and the
Merchant Navy. During my stay in the port of Rosario, H.M.S. Dauntless visited the port. An invitation was received by all the British
Shipmasters in the port, to attend an ‘At Home’ onboard the Dauntless. It was very gratifying, and stimulates a warm regard and interest
towards our brothers in the Navy.”
Seventeen hours steaming brought us to the point on the river Plate where pilots are changed. Bidding goodbye to Senor Ramirez, the very capable Parana pilot, who had so skilfully piloted the ship since leaving Buenos Aires, anchor was dropped for the night off La Plata, which could be discerned by the brilliant reflections of its lights.
Next morning 11th November, having embarked another river pilot, the journey through the river Plate was resumed. At 10.45 a.m., Lower Deck was cleared and hands fallen in on the Quarter Deck to take part in a most impressive Armistice Day Service.
While we were waiting for 11 o’clock to strike, Captain Vivian read the Armistice Day Lesson, the one read by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the first Anniversary in 1919, and followed this by reading out Pericles’ speech in memory of those fallen in battle, and in encouragement of survivors.
This magnificent speech so impressed the ship’s company that the editor was asked to reproduce it in this book.
Here it is:
Indeed we have not left our power without witness, but have shown it by mighty proofs. We have forced every sea and land to be the highway
of our daring; and everywhere, whether we have won or lost the day, we have left imperishable monuments behind us. Such is the country for
which these men, strong in their resolve to save her, nobly fought and died; and well may every one of their survivors be ready to suffer in the
In truth our Empire is only what the heroism of these and their like have made her, men who are truly worthy of their fame. For if a test of
worth be wanted, it is to be found in their death - not only when death sets the final seal upon their merit, but when their merit, without their
death, would have remained unknown.
None of these men allowed the pleasures wealth can give to unnerve his spirit, or the hope of gain to keep him from the field. No, holding that
the welfare of their country was more to be desired than personal blessings, and reckoned more in her defence, to be the most glorious of
hazards, they willingly determined to except the risks; to do their duty and let their wishes wait; and they went resolutely forward with their
business before them, leaving the event to fate. Thus choosing death before submission they fled but from dishonour and met danger face to
face and after one brief moment, while at the summit of their destiny, went nobly to their account.
So died these men. You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it has a
happier issue. Do not be content with the knowledge that in saving your country you will save yourselves, but seek to realise in your soul, her
glory; feed your minds upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then when all her greatness shall break upon you, you
must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no
personal failure in an enterprise could make them content to deprive their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the most
glorious contribution they could offer. For the offering of their lives, made in common by them all, they each of them individually received
that renown which never grows old, and for a sepulchre, not so much that in which their bones have been deposited, but that noblest of shrines
wherein their glory is laid up, to be eternally remembered upon every occasion on which deed or story shall call for its commemoration.
For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph proclaims it, there is
enshrined in every breast a record unwritten, with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart. These take as your model and judging
happiness to be the fruit of freedom and freedom of valour, never decline the dangers of war. For it is not the miserable that would most justly
be unsparing of their lives; these have nothing to hope for; it is rather they to whom continued life may bring reverses as yet unknown, and to
whom a fall, if it came, would be more tremendous in its consequences. And surely, to a man of spirit must be immeasurably more grievous
than the unfelt death which strokes him in the midst of his strength and patriotism.
At 11 a.m. all engines and machinery, within a margin of safety, were stopped. Everyone observed the two minutes silence, in memory and in honour of those who had made the great sacrifice for their country. The Royal Marine Guard then presented arms while two buglers sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
The same evening we arrived off Montevideo, where we disembarked the pilot.
Mar del Plata, the ‘Brighton’ of the Argentine, was reached on the 12th November. The harbour at present under construction, is of fairly large dimensions and will be, when finished, completely sheltered from the open sea by huge breakwaters. According to the local newspapers the completion of this harbour project will shorten the journey between England and the Argentine, by some 48 hours, and as the whole of the harbour will be adapted to shipping Mar del Plata bids fair to become a very important seaport.
Situated about three miles to the northward of the harbour lies the town of Mar del Plata, which is easily reached by tram. It is a residential town and contains many handsome buildings. The most palatial is the promenade building, which contains the Casino, concert hall, restaurant, and winter gardens, set in well laid out lawns and flower gardens. A large proportion of Argentine society makes this town its summer holiday resort - the season being December to Easter - when the town is generally well packed. Our stay unfortunately coincided with the ‘closed season,’ consequently things appeared to be rather flat. However, after the hectic times we had experienced at Buenos Aires and up the Parana, a general easing down to a quiet life was the order of the day. Nothing in the way of entertainment was available, beyond a certain amount of golf, indulged in by Captain Vivian and the officers on the magnificent and well-kept links.
Here, as in all Argentine ports visited, the Argentine Navy provided sentries for the jetty.
We left on the evening of 18th November. Feeling the benefit of our week’s spell in this quiet spot, there was much conjecture as to what the next port of call would provide in the way of variation.
I am not going to advertise a patent medicine, nor point out the latest in chest expanders or chain braking vests, but am just going to discuss lightly the gentle art of ‘Grippo.’ What is a Grippo? Come, come. If you don’t know what a Grippo is do you know nothing? The word is derived from the verb ‘to grip’ and the disciples of this cult seek and grip tightly onto anybody or anything that costs them nothing. Their motto is ‘It’s better to receive than to give.’
In his memoirs on “Tough Cases I Have Met” (Wiggy & Co.: 7/6 nett), Grippo ‘X’ reveals the secret of his success and he is the finest living exponent of the game. The essential qualities required, he says, are originality, tact and a certain degree of low cunning. When you sight your prospective victim, approach cautiously taking great care to use all available cover, until you have him or her cornered. Have your introduction ready, and (remember) something original. Never talk politics if you can help it. Keep an open mind on every subject until you can see which way the land lies. If the opening subject is left to you, casually mention that Baby Austins are not as tight under the armpits as they used to be, or that the depression north of Iceland, which has been causing some alarm, has now been discovered in the vicinity of Wigan. When he rises to bite, play him for all you’re worth and when he begs you to accept his invitation to accompany him, give the matter due consideration before condescending to accept.
If you should come in contact with a man from North of the Tweed, avoid him like you would the plague. Retire from the scene as gracefully as you can, or you will bitterly regret it. It will be a case of the ‘biter bit’ or rather the ‘Grippo gripped.’
The increasing popularity of the League (there is a League), has resulted in the organisation of a trade union to protect its members. To prevent overcrowding, it has been suggested that a prospective member should first pass the test of being dropped in Aberdeen, with no visible means of support. If he can exist there in comfort, for a month, he will have won his spurs.
We understand there is much scope for Grippo in the South American Division. As yet we do not know who the ‘King Grippo.’ is.
Two days of beam seas, which gave the ship that ‘lullaby’ movement, brought us to Pyramideo. The bay has the reputation of being a dangerous anchorage on the Argentine coast.
The town proved to be a collection of huts and shanties, all that was left of what had once been a fairly prosperous place. Its origin was due to the discovery of a salt mine, about twenty miles inland. This mine has now fallen into disuse and the town is gradually becoming deserted.
On the opposite side of the bay lies Puerto Madryn, which, in common with Pyramideo, was founded by a Welsh colonist named Sir Love Jones Parry, Baronet of Madryn in 1865. A regular steamer service is run from Puerto Madryn to Buenos Aires and this links up the capital with the Patagonian State Railway, since Madryn is the railway terminus. Instructor Lt.- Cdr. Taylor gave us a lecture on Falkland Islands, Magellan Straits and ‘The Thirty Foot Scot’ during our sojourn here, and, apart from winning a couple of boatloads of sand and watching the seals frolicking at the foot of the Pyramid Rock, this provided the only bit of excitement during our stay.
We left Pyramideo on Friday 27th November, and arrived at Port Stanley on Monday 30th. Our arrival was described in the Falkland’s typewritten newspaper Penguin of 1st December, as follows:
In glorious sunshine H.M.S. Dauntless steamed through the Narrows yesterday morning at 10.15 o’clock to anchor well up the harbour, where
she settled for her sojourn in the Colony until 2nd January 1932. As the ship took up her position, the Cathedral bells rang out a welcome, white
flags were to be seen fluttering in the light breeze from flagstaffs in the town. Messages of welcome were also run up on Victory and the
Colonial Secretary’s greens.
It was truly a haven of rest that awaited her after her buffeting the previous night, when heavy weather was encountered. We understand that
the Dauntless will remain in Stanley for the whole of her stay and will not visit any outlying part of the colony or the dependencies.
Heavy Weather approaching the Falkland Islands
Emergency life rafts
The Falkland Islands are not unlike the Scottish Hebrides in appearance. They have a rocky coastline, are mostly moorland, and, save for a coarse grass on which sheep feed and a kind of heather have little in the way of vegetation. There are no trees whatsoever. The principal industries are sheep farming and the exporting of wool. Many of the inhabitants are of Scottish descent.
Stanley, upon East Falkland, the largest island of the group, is the only town of importance and has a population of about 1,000. We found the harbour to be in fact a ‘Haven of Peace,’ though the presence of long streamers of kelp and quantities of minute creatures known as ‘Whale Food,’ caused the Engine Room Department some anxiety for their condensers. Among the hulks used to store produce, we noticed the Great Britain, the first screw driven steamship.
The ground rises sharply from the shore and from our anchorage, almost every detail was visible. The little Cathedral, the Falkland Island
Company’s warehouse, the Town Hall, Government House and the Falkland Battle Monument were conspicuous. The last named, proved, on closer inspection, to be a particularly fine work in granite and bronze. The bleakness of the island, the wooden houses with their yellow walls and red roofs and the undulating country, reminded one of the scenery along the Norwegian coast.
We soon got to know the people of Stanley very well. They are intensely loyal in a natural and unassuming way, and their hospitality seems limitless. Football matches were arranged daily, whilst golf and riding proved popular. The dances held in the Town Hall were very jolly affairs. In normal times, the Islanders hold one or two dances a week, but with the arrival of the Navy, both the number of the dances and the attendance increased.
French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc
The French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc, which was on a cruise round South America, arrived on 3rd December. In appearance she is more like a luxurious liner than a warship, for her upper works are constructed for the accommodation of a large number of cadets under training. It was interesting to notice that she carried a large Thornycroft 30-knot speedboat. She has two small flying boats, which aroused much interest, as they were the first aircraft to fly over the Falklands. Her four six-inch turrets are named Lorraine, Rouen, Rheims and Orleans after Jeanne d’Arc’s victories.
On December 8th, the anniversary of the Battle of Falklands, a memorial service was held in the Cathedral. Detachments from Jeanne d’Arc, Local Defence Force, Scouts and Dauntless were present. After the service H.E. the governor, Sir James O’Grady, accompanied by the captains of both visiting cruisers, took the salute at a march past of all detachments. The French cruiser left next day for Toulon, via Magellanes and Panama. Shortly after her departure, she wirelessed the following:
To Dauntless: From Jeanne d’Arc
“We shall retain very pleasant recollections of the anniversary of the British victory which we spent with you.
Please receive our sincere thanks and please convey also, our respectful regards to the Governor.”
To Jean d’Arc: From Dauntless
“Thank you for your kind message. We shall never forget the real pleasure which your visit to Stanley gave us.
I know that the participation of a representative of the French Navy in the celebration on the anniversary of the Falkland Islands Battle,
was not only a source of great satisfaction to the Dauntless, representing the British Navy, but also to the whole colony.”
On December 18th the South American Division was united for the first time, for the Durban arrived, flying the broad pendant of Commodore Lane-Poole, O.B.E. On making our rendezvous with the Durban off Fort William, we fired a Commodore’s salute. The weather was as rough as that which had heralded our own arrival off the Falklands. This was unfortunate, because our first Divisional Gunnery Exercises had to be curtailed, as it was found to be impracticable to use the pattern VI target that we had brought from Bermuda and assembled in readiness for the shoot. The first Monday in company saw the dawn of competitive General Drill.
The Children’s Party was held onboard on the 22nd, a general invitation having been issued through the ‘Penguin.’ We had specially bought stocks of toys as prizes and gifts from England for this occasion.
The M.A.A. filled the role of Father Christmas with great success. A hectic forenoon was spent by all hands in trying to convert the ship into a ‘Kiddies Paradise’ and considerable ingenuity was shown in the rigging of a round-about, chutes, swings, sea-saws, slides, Aunt Sally’s, electric ponds and many other diverting side shows. The band and the radio gramophone also did their stuff. 290 children arrived, escorted by about 50 adults. The latter entered into the spirit of the party with as much zest as the kiddies themselves, much to the amusement of the ship’s company. The Chief Cook and staff on No. 5 Gun Deck prepared tea, and as the numbers attending were nearly double those expected, the catering department was kept busy. Here ‘Jack’ was in his element, serving tea, a bun, and still more buns, until he threatened to disturb the peace of mind of the parents and the tummies of the children. To the huge delight of our visitors a distribution of toys and sweets followed. By 5 p.m. the kiddies, tired and happy, started for home.
In 1914, for the defence of the islands, a six inch gun was landed from a warship and hauled up to Mount Low, one of the highest peaks in the island. On Christmas Eve, H.M.S. Durban and Dauntless were detailed to haul this gun down from Mount Low to the beach at Sparrow Cove. Both ships moved into Fort William Roads, and at 8 a.m. about 200 men were landed. It was a long pull and a strong one, but the work was enlivened by the cheerful strains of the band and by the thoughts of the morrow’s festivities.
Christmas Day onboard was celebrated in the traditional Navy way. Officers and men entered heartily into spirit of the festivities and uniforms were exchanged freely. Able Seaman Pearce relieved Captain Vivian in command of Dauntless, while Able Seaman Hunt assumed the duties of
Commander Bruce. Lieutenant Alison took unto himself the onerous duties of the Paymaster Commander. Instructor Lieutenant-Commander Taylor took over command of the Royal Marines from Captain Gumm, but later appeared as ‘Stripey’ of the detachment. Midshipman Hodgkinson blossomed forth as a Marine Bugler.
It is suggested that Midshipman Prowse would have made a more popular postman if his mail bag had contained ‘live Marines’ instead of ‘dead’ ones and we wondered whether he emptied them single handed. ‘Michael’ Leary looked resplendent in his regalia as Bugler-in-Chief of Sea Scouts and Rovers Afloat. The Captain and officers, accompanied by their temporary reliefs, toured the Mess Decks about 11 a.m. H.E. the Governor was our honoured guest for the occasion.
About this time the following signals were exchanged with Durban.
To C.S.A. From Dauntless
“It is understood that you have been relieved as I have been.
If this is so, would it be convenient if ‘Captain’ Pearce and some of his officers called upon the new Commodore at 11.45.”
To Dauntless From C.S.A.
“I am still holding the fort.
But by the time ‘Captain’ Pearce comes onboard, my relief will, I am sure, receive him with the customary honours.”
‘Captain’ Pearce, with his pendant flying at the ensign staff of the motorboat, accompanied by ‘Commander’ Hunt, proceeded alongside the Commodore’s gangway amid ear-piercing screeches from the buglers. Commodore Lane-Poole and his relief welcomed them onboard. After customary toasts and rounds, ‘Captain’ Pearce presented Lieutenant-Commander Taylor of Durban with the Honorary Gunnery Badge, in recognition of his services in moving the ‘wee gun’ on the previous day.
On Boxing Day the Falkland Islands annual race meeting was held. There are few people in the island who cannot ride a horse and there are many of both sexes who ride very well. Furthermore there are no bad horses; the conditions under which they live are such that the weakling soon goes under. The saddle generally used is the sheep’s skin, but Spanish pattern saddles are also in evidence. Stirrups are usually dispensed with and the bridle is of rawhide. The course is well laid out and boasts two small grand stands and a ‘tote.’ S.P.O. Guest who is an ex-Royal Artilleryman proved that he had not forgotten his horsemanship and won the sailor’s race, Marine Lauder being second. The first two places in the officers race went to the Durban but Lieutenant Robertson came in third, though his mount parted with him after passing the post.
It is recorded that when Captain Strong made the first landing on the island in 1690, he obtained geese and ducks, and that his men diverted themselves by playing with the penguins, which were quite tame and showed no fear of men. Our experiences differed somewhat from his. Geese were certainly plentiful, but the ‘loggerheaded’ ducks are protected by law, while the penguins showed by sturdy pecks that they resented human interference. This may have been due to the fact that it was their nesting season, or they may have become distrustful of men since Strong’s day. On land, these birds look very comical; they stand bolt upright with their flippers hanging awkwardly at their sides. The flippers have no quills and bend at the shoulders only. In the water they are used effectively as paddles. The rookeries where the birds were nesting were half a mile from the sea, and brooding over the eggs was done in two ‘watches’ - one watch sitting while the other went down to the sea for a meal. In no case did we see more than two eggs in one nest. These eggs resembled ducks eggs in appearance and size and although rich, are quite good eating.
During our stay in the Falklands, the Inter-port Football League Competition which was commenced in Bermuda was completed. The Stokers were the victors, with the Communication Branch, runners up. Other matches were played against teams from the Durban, Stanley Town and the Falkland Volunteer Defence Force.
The Defence Force is a flourishing and efficient organisation. A rifle team, drawn from its members, won the Kalapore Cup at Bisley last year in the face of competition from all parts of the empire.
Views of Falkland Islands
30 Nov to 28 Dec 1931
Views of Falkland Islands
We left suddenly. A small ‘cloud’ was seen in the Engine Room. The cloud gathered density and on Christmas Day it became known that our feed tanks were leaking due to slackness on the part of certain rivets. Signals were exchanged with the Commander-in-Chief, with the result that it was decided that we should sail for Talcahuano, the Chilean Naval Base, and dock as soon as possible. On the 28th we completed with oil fuel, special farewell leave was granted and we sailed for Punta Arenas, in the straits of Magellan, to pick up mails and obtain the latest hydrographical information before passing through the tortuous Patagonian Channels on our way to Talcahuano.
Sailors are used to bidding ‘goodbye,’ but the farewells on the jetty were particularly touching, for during our month’s stay we had learnt to appreciate these loyal and great-hearted islanders.
On parting company with Durban, C.S.A. signalled:
“I would like to congratulate your concert party on their magnificent performance. We will take you on at weighing by hand, next time we meet.”
“Officers and ship’s company very much appreciate your kind signal. We will take you on at ’uckers by hand, after weighing.”
Another warm farewell message, was that of H.E. the Governor:
“Goodbye and good luck to you all. Your visit to Stanley will ever be recalled in our happiest memories.”
The following reply was made to the Colonial Secretary:
“Please convey to H.E. the Governor, the deep appreciation of all ranks and ratings in H.M.S. Dauntless for his kind message.”
None of us will ever forget the kindness and hospitality we received from His Excellency and from all we met in the colony.
Though the narrative does not mention it Dauntless paid a visit to South Georgia on this cruise which was recorded by A.B. W Fox in his album.
Whaling factory Seal colony
About 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday 29th December, we sighted Cape Virgins, at the eastern entrance to the Straits of Magellan, but did not enter the Straits until 7 p.m. At daybreak next day we anchored off the southernmost town in the world, Magellanes or Punta Arenas, to give it its old name, or Sandy Point to give it its English name. Here were several old hulks, which had obviously seen better days as wool clippers between Australia and England by way of the Horn.
The territory of Magellanes includes the region embracing the Straits of Magellan and the Patagonian Channels westward of it with the mainland and its islands bordering them. Mountainous and rocky, intersected by deep and tortuous fiords of a complexity unsurpassed elsewhere and with a climate more continuously tempestuous and rainy than any other part of the world, the greater part of the area is inhabited by savages of the lowest civilisation and offers but few inducements to Europeans. Eastwards of Cape Froward, the southernmost point of the mainland of South America, the vastly improved soil and climate enables a certain amount of agriculture and sheep farming to be carried on.
Punta Arenas, the capital of the territory, founded in 1850, is now a town of considerable importance. It is the principal distributing centre for the territory, exporting wool, frozen meat, tallow, skins and gold. During the summer months a strong west wind springs up at about 10 a.m. and lasts throughout the day, making it impossible for lighters to work alongside, so that the work has to be carried on at night. A river (Rio de las Minas), in which gold washing operations take place, runs through the town with great force in seasons of heavy rain.
Having gathered the latest hydrographical information about the Patagonian Channels and dropped a mail, we were soon under way again, and at 2.45 p.m. H.M.S. Dauntless passed the southernmost point of her commission, i.e. Cape Froward.
The Magellan Straits separate the mainland of South America from the great archipelago which clusters round the southern and western shores of Patagonia. The Strait is so named after the discoverer, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese, who passed through in the year 1520, with a squadron of discovery fitted out by Charles I, King of Spain.
The distance across, as the crow flies, does not exceed 240 miles, but by water is about 310 miles. The Strait, with its well-known reputation, requires vigilance and caution, but it is in all respects safe passage for a steam vessel. At no season of the year, however is it advisable for a sailing vessel to attempt the passage from East to West. A summary of our passage through the channels follows:
The Straits of Magellan
The panoramas were superb and the coastlines on either side of the channel were very irregular and often penetrated for about 4 miles inland, with precipices clearly defining their limits. Showers of rain and mist often obscured the views. The rainfall for this part of the world is estimated at 182 inches per annum. The water everywhere is exceedingly deep, in some places reaching 600 fathoms. Most of the inlets would make ideal harbours for whole fleets were it not for the fact that usually it is impracticable to anchor.
The first recognised stopping place for the night was Fortescue Bay, 108 miles from Magellanes. Early next morning we proceeded on our way North through even finer scenery than we had hitherto encountered. The showpieces of the day were three glaciers and the gigantic rocks behind them. The Wharton and Wyndham glaciers commenced at 3,000 feet and extended downwards to 2,000 feet on the face of the mountains. We were lucky
enough to find the sun shining on these ice fields, showing them up to their best advantage in their wonderful brilliance of green and blue.
The Straits of Magellan
The first glacier seen was the Fields Glacier at the western end of English Reach, where it flows from the top of a hill about 1,000 feet high, until it reaches a point about 50 feet above sea level. There it finishes abruptly. We were able to close within a half mile of it, which enabled a large number of cameras to click, for a souvenir of this memorable sight.
The Straits of Magellan were left behind at 4 p.m. and we anchored on Otter Ridge, situated at the commencement of the Patagonian Channels, for the night. Soon after anchoring, we met our first natives, who came alongside the ship in two crude canoes. The natives of this part are Patagonian and Feugian Indians who, since the advent of the missionaries, have been rapidly decreasing in numbers till today only a few hundred survive.
The boats they use are simple planks tied together with fibre, without the slightest regard to form. One boat contained two Chileans, one of whom informed us that he had previously served in the Chilean Navy and had visited England. Being ‘wanted’ by the Chilean Police authorities he had absconded to this mountainous and desolate region.
The other boat contained two young lads and a young woman, full-blooded Patagonians, and what a sight they presented; practically naked. The woman’s hair looked like a mop heap, as it hung matted together. There was a fire in the bottom of the boat, a couple of dogs and a wee baby amongst the boxes and tins they had collected from our chute. In all, they well earned their reputation of being amongst the lowest form of civilisation in the world.
The women apparently care less about their clothing than the men, who are usually harmless and inoffensive as long as their women are not interfered with, but can be treacherous. They live in small huts in the forest, feed chiefly on seal meat and clothe themselves in skins or any old clothing they might be lucky enough to collect through the medium of their native tongue or begging gestures. Those we came into contact with during our passage through the Channels were extremely lucky through the liberality of the ship’s company, who showed their sympathy in many ways.
Midnight ushered in the New Year 1932. Just before 5 a.m. we were under way again and owing to the long distance to our next safe anchorage, extra speed was maintained throughout the day. Skilful navigation was required, due to the lack of up to date information and weather conditions, rarely met with elsewhere. An instance of this was experienced when one of H.M. Ships, passing through Crooked Reach (Paso Tortuoso) in 1923, was forced to burn searchlights during the forenoon due to the 2,000 feet of cliff on either side and a ceiling of thick clouds obscuring the daylight.
Anchor was dropped for the night in Eden Harbour.
Next morning we continued our journey through the narrow channels, the most tortuous being the English Narrows, hemmed in by colossal masses of rocks. Owing to the sharp ‘S’ bend, this channel was thought to be the most treacherous of the trip.
On the 3rd we arrived off Chiloe. This island is situated in the ‘Roaring Forties’ and our expectations of bad weather, usually encountered there, were not realised. From this point onwards a complete change of weather was experienced.
The whole of Chile as far south as Concepción formed part of the Inca Empire. It was conquered for Spain by Almagro, one of the original band of adventurers, who accompanied Pizarro during the conquest of Peru. Pedro Valdivia, founder of Santiago and Concepción, consolidated the conquest.
At first there were fierce conflicts with the native Araucanian Indians, but they were gradually conquered and absorbed. The Chileans of today are proud of their Araucanian ancestry.
In 1817 Chile obtained its independence. The Chilean patriot, O’Higgins, joined with the Argentine general, San Martin and the Spanish forces were defeated at Chacabuco and Maipo. The independence thus won was secured by the invasion of Peru by San Martin and Lord Cochrane.
1879 saw the outbreak of the Chile-Peruvian War to decide the possession of the nitrate deposits which were mainly in Bolivian and Peruvian territory, but which the Chileans had begun to develop. The Peruvians were better prepared for war, but Chilean Naval power proved the deciding factor. Each combatant had two ironclads, but the Chilean ships were more modern. Lima was occupied and the Treaty of Ancon ceded the Peruvian Provinces of Tacna and Arica to Chile for ten years. Bolivia lost the Province of Antofagasta and her only access to the sea. The ultimate fate of Tacna and Arica was to be decided by a plebiscite, but this was never held.
In 1929, when the nitrate industry had ceased to pay, it was decided that Tacna should return to Peru, while Chile retained Arica and paid a sum of £6,000,000 to Peru.
On the afternoon of 5th January we reached Talcahuano, the Chilean Naval and Military centre. This town owes its importance to the Naval Dockyard, and to its export trade. The harbour is the safest and best on this coast, being protected from all winds. The town is poorly built, but is in close proximity to Concepción, capital of the Province, to which train, tram and bus connect it.
Immediately on our arrival de-ammunition began, in readiness for docking on the morrow. At 8 p.m. next day the ship was dry-docked, much interest being displayed by the Chileans at our method of docking and scraping the ship’s bottom as the dock was pumped out.
Dry dock at Tulcahuano
The dockyard appeared old fashioned and its conveniences left much to be desired. Many Chilean naval units, both old and new, were to be seen in and around the dockyard. The new destroyers built at Cowes, Isle of Wight, and the up-to-date submarine built at Barrow-in-Furness formed a striking contrast to several old ships such as the Huascar and Cochrane. Owing to the state of political unrest prevalent at the time, the dockyard was under military supervision. Searchlights and machine guns were very prominent.
The three submarines moored nearest the camera are numbered 3, 2 and 6.
The larger submarine in the background (left) may be the Almirante Simpson.
For original footage of its launching see:
Captain Vivian cleared lower deck and explained the situation and conditions, which then existed in Chile. He said the revolution that occurred three months previously was the work of Communists, who traded on the depression in the nitrate industry. The movement failed. There were 1,000 men discharged from the navy and 97 officers court-martialled, while 100 officers and men were killed. The ‘Reds’ also made another attempt on Xmas Day, but this was quickly quelled. The navy as a whole is loyal, but uneasiness still prevails due to ‘Red’ activities. 25% of the population are unemployed.
All night leave was enjoyed, special facilities, which were greatly appreciated, being given by the Captain to enable us to visit Concepción. The local branch of the Toc H, realising the lack of accommodation at Talcahuano, provided a temporary clubroom for us, which was much patronised by us and by Durban on her arrival.
The British Colony placed their grounds at our disposal for cricket matches and the Chilean naval grounds were made available for us. Several interesting outings were organised. Torpedo and Communication divisions spent a pleasant day at the British Colony’s cricket ground. Many of us took the opportunity to visit the Huascar and the Cochrane, both alongside
Lying At Talcahauno, Chile
Laird Brothers built the ironclad monitor Hauscar, mounting two 8-inch guns in an armoured turret, in 1865 at Birkenhead for the Republic of Peru.
She first came into prominence in 1877, when as a Peruvian rebel ship; she was engaged by the British ships Shah and Amethyst under Admiral de Horsey for interfering with mail ships. The action was inconclusive owing to the fact that the British ships did wish to close the range, as, being wooden, they would have stood no chance against an ironclad. Shortly after the action the Hauscar proceeded into Callao and surrendered.
A Court of Inquiry into Admiral de Horsey’s action was held in London, but he was exonerated and the Huascar’s deeds deemed piratical. Admiral de Horsey was also commended for breaking off the action before his ships sustained any damage.
During the war between Peru and Chile, in 1879, the Huascar and Independencia went to the relief of the port of Iquique, which was being blockaded by the Chilean ships Esmeralda and Covadonga. The latter was driven off, while the Huascar sank the former. Captain Arturo Prat of the Esmeralda and 6 men who had boarded Huascar were killed fighting on deck. The Peruvian ships eventually entered Iquique and the blockade was raised. Before the action, Captain Prat addressed his ship’s company in the following terms:
“My brave men, the contest before us is most unequal, but, as you know, our Flag has never been lowered before an enemy and I confidently
hope this will not be the occasion to do it. Whilst I live, this Flag will fly in its accustomed place, and, if I die, my officers will know how to
fulfil their duty.”
Some months later, on the 8th October, the Chilean fleet off Mejillones captured Huascar after a six hour gallant fight in which the Peruvian Admiral Grau and many officers were killed. She is now lying in the Chilean Naval Dockyard at Talcahuano and is well worth a visit.
The spots on deck where Admiral Grau, Captain Prat, and one of his boarding party were killed are suitably marked. Also, there are many tablets of interest, commemorating their heroic deeds, the one to the Peruvian Admiral being placed by the Chilean Navy as a mark of esteem to a gallant foe.
Huascar had steam power as well as sails and in her day was a formidable antagonist. Besides her turret she mounted several smaller guns, breechloaders of the cam lever type. She also had an armoured conning tower on her bridge.
Captain Arturo Prat Memorial at Valparaiso
For more information regarding the 19th Century War between Bolivia, Chile and Peru 1879 -1883 see:
And for information regarding Admiral Miguel Grau including a copy of the letter he sent to Captain Prat’s widow see:
Chilean Navy seamen
During our stay at Talcahuano, an invitation was received for a party to visit the mining community at Coronel. The journey was made by bus to Concepción and thence 17 miles by train to Coronel. Shortly after leaving Concepción we crossed the famous Bio Bridge, the longest in South America. The country we passed through was very arid and until we approached Coronel the vegetation consisted mainly of stunted bushes.
The wealth of Coronel is its coal, which is worked by a self-contained community of about 9,000. We were taken by car round this settlement, which is as much like a garden city as one can expect a mining town to be. The health, recreation and general welfare of the workers are well looked after.
The company has its own forests of eucalyptus trees, of which it plants two million annually to maintain the supply of pit props.
The actual coal workings are entirely under the sea, and the seams are inclined downwards under the bed of the Pacific. Originally they were worked from a vertical shaft close to the shore. But in 1881 the whole of the workings were flooded. Fortunately it was a public holiday and there were no men in the mine at the time. The reason for the disaster was that the seams had been worked backwards and upwards towards the shore until they were dangerously near the sea bed.
New workings were opened in 1895. This time a sloping shaft was excavated well below the seabed. This shaft was carried beyond the old workings and care has been taken not to approach too near to the seabed. The present workings are remarkably dry.
Electric and pneumatic machinery of the most modern type is used. The coal is on the soft side and burns very rapidly with a fierce heat. When it was used in the ship’s galley, the oven doors had to be kept open to keep the temperature down.
After we had viewed the mines we were given an excellent lunch and our hosts toasted us with the chorus, ‘They are jolly good fellows,’ rendered in Spanish. We responded with the English version. Thus it arose that our team was in no condition to show its true form in the football match, which followed. The game was characterised by good sportsmanship on both sides. As soon as it was over we had to hurry to the station to catch the last train back to Concepción. The ringing cheers, which echoed through Coronel as we left, caused our fellow passengers some astonishment and testified to the enjoyable day we had spent.
One can hardly write of Coronel without mention of the action fought in the vicinity on 1st November 1914, when Admiral Craddock engaged Von Spee’s powerful China Squadron. So unequal a contest could have but one result, and of the British cruisers only the Glasgow escaped. She took part a few weeks later in the Battle of the Falklands when Von Spee’s Squadron was destroyed.
The Island of Santa Maria, off which the Coronel action took place, is visible from the town. Our hosts remembered the Glasgow and her men quite well as she came into Coronel to coal shortly before the action.
On Sunday 10th due to the Government deciding to tax the employed to provide funds for the unemployed, a general strike of 48 hours was declared. This resulted in our leave being cancelled. Normal life in Talcahuano was not affected and usual leave was resumed on Tuesday.
The fresh vegetables and fruit available here were greatly appreciated.
On the 18th the ship was undocked when ammunition proceeded apace and marks of our recent docking were obliterated. The following day the Chilean battleship Almirante Latorre arrived from Valparaiso. Much interest was taken in this ship since she had served in the Grand Fleet during the Great War as H.M.S. Canada. She was being built in England for the Chilean navy when war broke out and was recently refitted in Devonport.
The towers of the Cathedral of Concepción Immaculate gardens in the same area
This was demolished after an earthquake in 1939
The statue stands in the centre of a fountain:
Pileta en la Plaza de la Independencia
Our Bluejacket Band’s display at Concepción on the 20th received a great ovation as shown in the following report:
By far the most popular incident thus far in the stay of H.M.S. Dauntless at Talcahuano has been the playing of the ship’s band in the Plaza
Concepción on Wednesday evening 13th January. Unheralded by any puff, the simple announcement in the newspapers proved sufficient to fill
the Plaza with a crowd such as you only see when there are revolutions or elections afoot.
Nor was the audience disappointed in any way. It is no disparagement to the local regimental bands whose competence and goodwill in
providing music whenever and wherever called upon is most appreciated, to say our countrymen’s performance was far ahead of anything they
can do. The programme was perhaps more appropriate to a concert room than the open spaces, but there were some pieces in the second half
more attuned to the popular ear, and the great demonstration of approval must have been very gratifying to the bandsmen.
We understand the band has been trained onboard out of ratings during the past 20 months, and their excellent playing is a fine testimony to
their abilities and that of their electrician bandmaster.
H.M.S. Durban arrived on the 21st and official calls were paid.
The timely arrival of S.S. Orduna on 23rd ended the shortage of Naval and Canteen Stores, which was becoming acute.
A game of cricket between the Division and Concepción Cricket Club resulted in a win for the Division by 6 wickets and 28 runs. The local boxing clubs of Concepción and Talcahuano met the Divisional representatives, and after a splendid evening the points were evenly shared. The proceeds of this meeting were for charities and were divided between local Boy Scouts and St. Dunstan’s. Our stay made so pleasant by the friendliness of our Chilean colleagues, was reluctantly terminated on 26th of January, when we left in company with Durban for Valparaiso.
The following signals were exchanged:
From Talcahuano to Durban and Dauntless
Commander-in-Chief, officers and men of the Apostadero Naval de Talcahuano,
wish Commodore Lane-Poole, Captain Vivian, officers and men of Durban and Dauntless
a pleasant voyage and a speedy return to these waters.
The Commodore replied as follows:
The officers and the ships companies of Durban and Dauntless are leaving Talcahuano with the greatest regret.
We shall never forget the welcome given to us by our comrades of the Chilean Navy.
1000 on 27th January saw the arrival of the Division at Valparaiso. This is the principal port in Chile and the most important commercial centre on the West Coast of South America. Valparaiso, known poetically as ‘The Pearl of the South Pacific,’ is 9,000 miles from England via Panama Canal or 11,000 via Magellanes. Viewed from the ocean it presents a majestic panorama due to its geographical conformation. At nightfall myriads of electric lights extending over hill and dale enthral persons of artistic temperament.
HMS Dauntless at Valparaiso The Division – Dauntless and Durban far right.
Despite war, revolution, earthquakes, fires and storms, between 1730 and 1906, Valparaiso today presents a prosperous appearance with its magnificent modern buildings and commercial facilities.
The ‘ascensors’ or inclined railways, leading to the upper part of the town, remind one of some of the familiar English seaside resorts where similar lifts are seen.
Vina del Mar, some 15 minutes tram ride from Valparaiso, is the aristocratic residential suburb. A comprehensive programme of entertainment, arranged previous to our arrival, unfortunately had to be cancelled owing to the tragedy, which befell H.M. Submarine M2 off Portland, England, about this time. The British Colony at Santiago however, entertained a party.
Memorial Arch Valparaiso
Santiago is as beautifully situated as any of the great cities of South America. Consequently, there was a ready response to the invitation given by the British Colony for 100 ratings from Durban and Dauntless to pay a visit to the Chilean Capital. The party, which included the Band of the Durban, left Valparaiso station at 8 a.m. First-class accommodation in the electric train had been reserved and the three-hour trip of 116 miles was the essence of comfort. Full advantage was taken of the close proximity of the restaurant car.
We passed through Vina del Mar, the pleasant residential suburb of Valparaiso. On one side was the harbour with its well laid out bathing beaches, on the other attractive dwellings ranging from bungalows to the President’s summer palace.
The railway crosses the Coast Range, which lies between the snow-capped Andes and the Pacific. The gradients are heavy, but the powerful electric locomotives sweep up the winding track with apparent ease. The mountain slopes are rocky and barren and the only living creature which inhabits them, is the white mountain goat.
After leaving the Coast Range we entered a great fertile valley, well watered and cultivated from end to end. A stop was made at Las Vegas, much to the satisfaction of the vendors of fruit who did a brisk trade. Workmen on the line waved their greetings to us with their picks and shovels
On the last lap of our journey the train again began to climb, for Santiago is nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. One was filled with admiration for the engineers who built the track, blasting through volcanic rock of flinty hardness and building up marshy ground. At last we arrived at Santiago Central Station and disembarked under fire from a battery of cameras.
From the station we marched to the Plaza, where the Presidential palace is situated. A cordon of police escorted us and thankful we were for their presence, otherwise the eager attentions of the crowd might have become quite embarrassing. In the Plaza the band played ceremonial marches while the President reviewed the party. The Chilean National Anthem was played, followed by our own. Though unrehearsed, the whole ceremony was very impressive and the enthusiasm of the crowd reached its height when the President was hailed with three rousing British cheers. It is remarkable that though a South American crowd can work itself into a perfect frenzy of excitement, it never becomes vocal in the way that a British crowd does.
After a short march we arrived at the British Club, where sandwiches and very welcome liquid refreshments were served. A half hour’s journey by char-a-banc brought us to the British Country Club. As at the corresponding institution at Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, this club has facilities for most outdoor sports and is a delightful spot. The swimming pool was particularly popular, for Santiago can be unmercifully hot. On each side of the pool are shady arbours, and here lunch was served with plenty of cerveza (beer). The ‘camera corps’ made another descent upon us. One little man, with a few days’ growth adorning his dusky features, gesticulated wildly to persuade us to bear with him for a moment. He got his picture - all smiles!
After lunch various sports were indulged in. The less energetic just found a cool spot for meditation. All too soon it was time to return to Santiago. Another good meal at the British club, more cerveza and then back to the station. Our hosts appeared reluctant to let us go, but that is usual with our country folk in foreign lands. I suppose the sight of so many English faces and the sound of their mother tongue brings a longing for home. They all think of the old country.
The return journey through the mountains in the darkness was impressive. A great lamp on the locomotive cast a beam like a searchlight far ahead, and the swish-swish of the overhead cable is weird compared with the homely chugging of a steam engine. Many resigned themselves into the arms of Morpheus. The countryside and little towns, so lively by day, were asleep too. Soon the lights of Vina del Mar appeared. This gay spot seemed far from sleep, but we were too tired to be attracted by its lures; for us Valparaiso, the boat and ‘kip.’
Noel Coward, the wealthy playwright and author of ‘Bitter Sweet,’ etc., and Lord Amherst, who were both touring South America, were the guests of the Wardroom Officers on Sunday 31st. On this day, 150 men from each ship, accompanied by their respective bands, attended Divine Service at the Cathedral. The Bishop of the Falkland Islands preached the Sermon. The Cathedral, built in 1831 and partly rebuilt in 1901, bears the Royal Insignia V.R.I. (Queen Victoria)
During our stay we were very sorry to hear of the Revolution in Salvador. Press reports stated that the trouble was of Communist origin and emanated from Mexico. About 5,000 persons had already been killed.
Opportunity was taken while we were at Valparaiso to renovate the graves of Naval personnel interred here, among whom were the late Captain Bevan, of H.M.S. Dragon, 1930, and A.B. Gregg of H.M.S. Caradoc 1930. Members of our ship’s company, who had served in the Caradoc with Gregg, subscribed a sum of money for the provision of flowers and the preservation of their late shipmate’s grave. The Chaplain of the local branch of the Toc H kindly undertook the duties of trustee for this fund. The graves in general presented a well-kept appearance, due to the care bestowed upon them by the British residents. These kindly folk observe a yearly pilgrimage to the graves on All Saints Day.
The division played Valparaiso at cricket and won by 99 runs. Two games of water polo were arranged between the Division and Deportivo Club, the latter winning both games by 9-0 and 5-1.
While at Valparaiso some of our ship’s company spent many happy evenings ashore with their opposite numbers in the Durban. The following letter received onboard speaks for itself:
This is just a short note to ask you if you will oblige me by finding out all the information concerning my only pair of No. 6 trousers
in which I played Cricket on that beery day of Wednesday last. I gave them to an A.B., and he said that he would send them off, which he
probably has done but I cannot trace them and would like further particulars.
I am sorry to put you to all this trouble, but just think of the time when we were little boys together and when I always carried you round on
that good ship Renown. A pair of white shoes was also with the trousers, but they are of little account.
Reference our date for next week - I shall not be able to keep the appointment, but I find consolation in knowing that better men than me have
had their leave stopped. Somehow I can also hear those beautiful words - Not entitled - coming to me at the end of the month.
At Vina Del Mar is a sumptuous Casino, where one can dine, drink, dance, see talking pictures, take a pleasant walk on the roof, play miniature golf and - pardon me for bringing back unpleasant memories - gamble at Roulette. We were told that the building itself had not been paid for at the time of our arrival but learnt that soon after our departure a large instalment had been forwarded to the contractors. Most of us discovered an infallible system - namely, to gamble until a reasonable sum had been won and then to put both winnings and capital on Black. The system never failed as Red always turned up.
Sea bathing and dancing helped to pass a most pleasant time at Valparaiso. Oh, yes we were able to compete with all the types of dances peculiar to South America. Our experiences at Rio, Buenos Aires, and up the Parana River, and the tuition, we had, under the guidance of the local ladies, soon made us experts in the art of dancing the Tango, Marchese and Ranchera.
Broadcasting At Valparaiso
As the opportunities for listening to broadcasting in English are none too frequent to South America, it can be imagined what great pleasure it gave us when we accidentally intercepted an English programme whilst the ship was on passage from Talcahuano to Valparaiso.
This reminded us of the possibility of relaying radio, when obtainable, by means of our radio-gramophone amplifier, for the benefit of the ship’s company. With minor modifications it was proved that this was possible when stations within reasonable proximity of the ship were operating.
On our arrival at Valparaiso enquiries were made with regard to particulars of the radio service there. Letters were interchanged between Station CMAJ of Radio Wallace and ourselves, which led to very satisfactory results. On learning of our interest in radio programmes, this company - the pioneers of radio broadcasting in Chile - arranged a special programme for H.M. Ships Durban and Dauntless, which was successfully relayed to both ships through the medium of our loud speakers.
On the eve of our departure, as a mark of appreciation for the courtesy shown to us by Radio Wallace, the Captain’s permission was obtained for members of the ship’s concert party to broadcast from the firm’s studio. Prior to the actual concert the Captain made the under-mentioned speech to the people of Chile. This speech was relayed to other stations in various parts of the country. It seemed strange to many of us to hear familiar voices, coming in over the air, rendering familiar songs, etc. Judging from the many messages of congratulations received by telephone at the studio this novel performance must have proved a great success.
10th February 1932
Captain’s Broadcasted Speech To The People of Chile
The Commodore of the South American Division is at sea in H.M.S. Durban and has asked me to express to you his very real regret at being
denied the privilege of personally thanking Chile for her welcome. This very pleasant duty therefore falls on me, and I am indeed grateful to
Radio Wallace for this opportunity of saying a few words to you tonight.
This is my first visit to Chile, and when I say that I earnestly hope that it will not be my last, I am convinced that I echo the wish of every
officer and man in H.M. Ships Durban and Dauntless.
From the moment of our arrival in Chile we have experienced a welcome, the warmth of which has been unsurpassed in the many countries
visited by the Dauntless in the last two years. Our only regret is that, through unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to meet the people of
Magellanes, and that regret is all the keener after hearing from the Commodore about the wonderful week the Durban spent there.
Mere words cannot express our thanks for the hospitality we have received at Talcahuano, at Concepción, at Valparaiso and at Santiago, and
above all for the very real friendship which has been extended to us; a friendship which again expresses that long and intimate connection
which links together Chile and Great Britain.
We shall leave Valparaiso tomorrow with memories of many personal friendships made in Chile and with the hope of meeting those friends
again in the near future; with memories of kindnesses without number and of unlimited hospitality.
On behalf of myself and all who sail with me in H.M.S. Dauntless and on behalf of the Commodore and officers and men in H.M.S. Durban,
I wish you every happiness and prosperity and ask you to accept our very sincere thanks.
Early on the morning of 11th February we proceeded to Salinas to oil from the submerged pipeline of the Shell Mex Company and the same afternoon we left for Taltal. The Durban had left the previous day for Antofagasta.
We anchored off Taltal on the forenoon of Saturday 13th. The ocean swell, which is always found up this coast, caused the ship to roll almost as much at anchor as at sea, but fortunately this swell was never so bad as to make boat work impossible.
The scenery on this part of the coast is very desolate. Not a blade of grass is to be seen. From the coast to the Andes the barren hills rise higher and it seemed remarkable to us that these hills have for years been the chief source of the wealth in Chile. Taltal is situated at the southern extremity of the nitrate fields. Before the depression in the Chilean nitrate industry it was a flourishing port and had a large British colony, but at the time of our visit the colony had decreased to about 30 persons, most of who were associated with the Taltal Railway, which is a British concern.
The railway company provides the town with its water supply, which is conveyed by a pipeline from the lower slopes of the Andes, nearly 100 miles away. There are some small copper mines in the hills and these with the single nitrate factory now working provide the railway with its only traffic.
Mails and supplies for the town are brought by sea from Valparaiso.
In spite of bad times the colony kept their troubles to themselves and entertained us well. A very good smoking concert was held at the ‘Mechanic’s Club.’ A hundred of the ship’s company and almost the whole of the British colony attended it. Our water polo team played three matches against local teams. The first on Sunday was won 5-0; the other two on Tuesday resulted in a win 2-1 and a draw; there was ten minutes interval between these last games. At football we beat the local team by 2-1.
Some useful regatta practice was put in while we were at Taltal. Fishing enthusiasts enjoyed some good sport with the shoals of bonito which came round the ship. These fish weighed from 10 to 15 pounds and when hooked put up a good fight.
We left for Arica about 2 p.m. on Wednesday 17th .
The Nitrate Industry Of Chile
Nitrogen in the form of its compounds is a constituent of all living matter and is essential to the modern explosives, dying and chemical industries. Until recent years the only source of combined nitrogen other than living matter was the Chilean deposits of nitrate of soda.
During the War and in the years that followed, various processes making atmospheric nitrogen (gas) combine with other elements were developed with such success that the Chilean nitrate industry has been practically strangled. The industry which was formerly the main source of Chilean revenue is still burdened with a 30 percent export duty. At present not 10 percent of the plant is working and there is a two years supply awaiting export.
During our stay at Taltal, by courtesy of the Taltal Railway Company, which serves one of the nitrate areas, a visit was paid to one of the few ‘officinas’ (works), still working. The nitrate lands are about 50 miles inland and from 5,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. The presence of iodine in the ‘caliche’ or nitrate soil and the abundance of shells suggest that the deposits are of marine origin. They are invariably found on sloping ground, which may once have formed part of the seashore. Possibly they originated from Guano deposits such as those now found off these coasts, which are very rich in nitrogen. The absence of rain has prevented the nitrate from being dissolved and carried down the sea.
The process of extraction is simple. The nitrate rock (soil is a better name) is first crushed, then conveyed to tanks and covered with water which is brought to the boil by steam heating. The hot solution is run off from the earthy matter and as it cools, the white crystals of sodium nitrate separate out. The liquor, which remains, contains iodine in the form of sodium iodate. It is drained off and the solid mass of the nitrate is dug out of the crystallising tanks and bagged up in 2 cwt bags for export. When iodine is required the liquor drawn off from the tank is treated with a ‘reducing agent’ such as sodium sulphite and the iodine is driven off as vapour and finally condensed into crystals of a purple metallic appearance. The output of iodine is restricted in order to keep up the price and thousands of tons of iodine liquor water the Chilean desert every year.
The effect of nitrates in promoting combustion is well known and great precautions are taken against fire. When fire occurs everything combustible in contact with the nitrate will burn fiercely. Bags for instance are consumed to an ash. When the fire has burnt out the remaining nitrate is returned to the ‘officinas’ and is re-extracted with comparatively little loss.
The game of Uckers provided many pleasant evenings at sea for both officers and men. A coalscuttle or bucket was used to toss the six-inch dice.
The board was placed on the deck and each team provided two markers who were chosen for their low cunning.
For the information of those not acquainted with the word ‘Uckers’ - It is the Naval version of that well-known game, Ludo.
The following is typical of the several challenges and acceptances.
We, the ‘Greysox,’ challenge the ‘Oilburners’ onboard this ‘Royal Ark’ to mortal combat on the Ucker pitch,
between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m., under the auspices of the ‘Naval Ucker Union.’
The Origin Of The Game-“Uckers”
To the uninitiated the name ‘Uckers’ conveys nothing. Although renowned historians have failed even to mention the game, our Dauntless
historian, after years and years of research, has succeeded in obtaining the origin of the game ‘Uckers.’ The following version we challenge
anyone to contradict if he thinks he has sufficient authority to do so:
Julius Caesar landed at Margate in the summer of 44 B.C. and was met the local reception committee, who showed in no uncertain manner that
his absence was preferable to his company. The ceaseless way in which they handled their weapons and the constant repetition of the word
Uck! Uck! Uck! had Julius at a loss.
‘Uck’ in the language of the Ancient Briton, whose vocabulary was limited, meant, ‘Go! Get back! Beat it!’ Caesar, being a peace loving man
consulted his generals, but none of them could explain the behaviour of the locals until one bold centurion suggested that it might be a game
the Britons wanted to play. Always willing to oblige, Julius ‘Ucked’ with them and always got his men home first. The stakes were five feet
of macaroni against a stag’s horn of wood. When the Britons had no more wood left Julius went back to Rome.
Caesar returned to Rome after his successful tour with several captives chained to his chariot wheels, his intention being to introduce this new
game to his countrymen. He succeeded beyond doubt in his intention.
The sport of Emperors at that time was ‘Christians to the Lions.’ The game required one Christian and one lion, or two Christians and two
lions. They faced each other across the arena, and at the word ‘go’ the lion made a beeline for the Christian, who in turn ran the same way as
the lion. By coincidence the lion always won, and because people would back the lion every time that game was too one sided. So the public
adopted the new game.
Proof cannot be found as to the manner in which the Romans played ‘Uckers,’ but it can be assumed that it was played in a more ferocious and
downright manner. Gibbon, in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” fails to mention the game, but Mark Anthony, when eulogising
over the body of Caesar, said that the good were often interred with their ‘bones.’ We all know that ‘bones’ is an endearing term used by
players of Crap and Uckers when exhorting the dice to roll the way they want them, and it is also known that dead warriors were buried with
their favourite weapons.
Little is heard of the game through the ages, but Napoleon was supposed to have planned and won his campaigns on the Ucker Board.
We arrived at Arica on 19th February and anchored near Alacran Island. The town is the most northerly in Chile and is connected by rail with La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. The river San Jose enters the sea at Arica, and in the valley there was a fair amount of vegetation. Castor-oil plants were seen growing wild. Sahama, (22,350 feet) the second highest peak in the Andes, could be seen in the distance in clear weather.
Hotel Pacifico and Arica
It was hoped to make Arica a pleasure resort for Bolivian society, and with that object in view the palatial Hotel Pacifico was built two years ago, but it is reported that since that time the only large party of Bolivian visitors slept on the train. The climate is reputed to be very healthy, but the smell of the guano on Alacran Island makes that claim a little unconvincing. A coast road passes round the Morro Headland to the principal bathing beach.
The road passes through an old Indian burial ground. Most of the graves, which were shallow holes in the sand, have been opened up and advertisements have been written in human bones on the sand hills in the background.
The Hotel Pacifico was closed when we arrived, but at the request of a prominent British resident it was specially opened and a dance, to which officers of the ship were invited, was held.
On Sunday 21st aquatic sports were held in the vicinity of the pier, which was crowded with enthusiastic spectators. The Communications whaler was beaten by two strokes in an exciting race against a local crew. Half-way down the course the coxswain of the Chilean boat dropped his tiller and assisted by pushing lustily on the stroke oar for the remainder of the race. Our regatta committee permits only vocal encouragement from the cox!
The seamen’s whaler won their race by about 10 lengths, the Chilean coxswain sticking to his tiller in this race. Two games of water polo were played, the local teams winning in each case.
The local garrison entertained both officers and ship’s company and their hospitality was returned when a party of 24 Chilean non-commissioned officers were the guests of the ship’s company onboard on Wednesday 24th. A searchlight display was given the same evening.
We left for Port San Juan at 6 a.m. on 25th and rendezvoused with the Durban, with whom exercises were carried out on the following day. Many whales were seen ‘blowing’ on this trip.
Our Ray And Shark, Arica
Up to the time we arrived at Arica, Chile, the record fish caught on a line from the ship during our South American Cruise was one of 22 ½ lbs, taken out of the River Parana, at Diamante.
The book of words says that the fishing at Arica is not much good. The local inhabitants are convinced that there are no big fish in harbour. Well, these were sufficient reasons to convince the ship’s company that it was worthwhile having a few lines out.
At 8.30 p.m. it was noticed that there was a little excitement around the Royal’s line. We’ll call him Tubby for short.
There were cries of “Let gew.” “Haul in.” “Let gew.” “He’s diving.” This went on for a considerable time and the crowd around wondered what on earth had been hooked - obviously a big fish. At last the capture broke surface. What was it? After it had been gaffed and brought onboard, we discovered it was a 95 lbs ray.
The holder of the 22 ½ lbs record looked a bit glum. The fish was cleaned, cut up and floured for the detachment’s breakfast. Tubby chucked a chest and tried to look like a famous deep-sea fisherman as he threw the refuse over the side, hoping it would attract other fish. The previous holder of the record went back to his line and sulked.
Sometime later there was more excitement, this time round the line of the record loser. What’s up? Cries of “Play him.” “Let go the line there - I’m near the end of my line.” “Bet it’s another one of those rays.” “He’s eased up now.” “No he hasn’t, he’s diving again.” “More line.” “Let’s pull up, Harry, and have a blink at him.”
The crowd stood by and wondered. We didn’t get a blink at him for a long time. Then:”Come on, Harry, let’s have another go and try to land him.
Heave ho! Heave ho! ’Ain’t he heavy? Here he comes - Blimey!! A Shark!!
And a shark it was: caught on a cod hook and mackerel line. It was some time before he could be persuaded to remain at the surface long enough for Captain Gumm to put a shot through him. Eventually a strop was fastened around the shark and he was hauled on deck, but still alive. At this point a query arose “What shall we do with him now?” A humorist supplied the answer. “Give it to Weddle.” Another suggested “Put it in the book.”
Actually the fish was dangled over the side for the night.
The Commanding Officer of the day asked who had caught the shark.
“I,” said the fisherman (mimicking the tale of ‘Who shot Cock Robin?’) “With my little cod hook and mackerel line, I caught the shark.”
“Very well,” replied the Commanding Officer, “you can now mop up the mess on the deck.” Amid much laughter the crowd dispersed.
The following morning the fish was cut up. The jawbone with teeth complete, the backbone and tail were kept and the remainder heaved overboard.
Natives pinched the liver: apparently for its oil.
The jawbone Rendering the shark
Particulars of shark caught by A.B. Backhouse:
Type - Shovel Nose.
Weight - 338 lbs.
Length - 9ft 2 ins
Teeth - 3 rows.
Age - roughly 9 years.
Circumference - 4 ft.
Width of Mouth -13ins.
The islands off the coast of Peru yield great quantities of this valuable fertiliser, which actually consists of the droppings of the countless sea birds which inhabit this rainless coast. The deposits are often several yards deep, but when their existence became known to European nations about the middle of last century, a ‘guano rush’ took place and many of the islands were denuded of their deposits. It takes two or three years for a workable deposit to form.
The guano birds look like penguins when on land but differ from them in being able to fly, though they look extremely awkward on the wing.
Numerous cormorants, gulls and pelicans also visit the islands. The estimated bird population of some of these islands is 40,000 to the acre. The fish on which they feed are very plentiful, owing to the cold Humboldt Current.
During our stay at Arica we anchored near the island of Alacran, and few of us will ever forget the smell of it. It was interesting to watch the birds take off from the island and return in great flocks from the fishing grounds. Each bird took a bath before setting out and the collective splashing was a wonderful sight.
The advent of cheap synthetic fertilisers has been a heavy blow to the guano industry, but there is still a fair sale for horticultural purposes.
Historically Peru is the most interesting of the South American Republics. Modern research has produced evidence that the country was in fair state of civilisation from 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. Knowledge of the geographical features is essential to the intelligent study of the chequered history of Peru.
The country falls into three natural regions. The coastal region between the Andes and the Pacific is rainless, rocky and sandy and would be an absolute desert but for the numerous swift rivers which descend from the mountains and provide the means of irrigation. The river valleys have been rendered fertile by this means from very early times.
The Sierra region of the Andes consists of the three parallel ranges of the Cordilleras, separated by great gorges occupied by the rivers Maranon, Huallaga and Ucayali - tributaries of the Amazon. The three ranges unite at Cerro de Pasco and again at Lake Titicaca, areas that very early became centres of civilisation. The Sierra averages 12,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level, has a modest rainfall and is very cold in winter.
The Montana is the region to the east of the Andes and is the basin of the Upper Amazon. It is intensely hot and has an enormous rainfall. It consists of partially explored tropical jungle naturally rich but almost completely undeveloped. We may divide the history of Peru into four periods; Pre-Inca, Inca, Spanish and Republican.
The Pre-Inca period has been the subject of recent researches, which are still far from complete. The chief relics of it are huge stone monuments (megaliths) and ancient tombs in the form of pyramids. This ancient civilisation has a resemblance to that of Egypt - possibly both had a common origin. The religion was Sun worship. The dead were mummified. There was a system of picture writing (hieroglyphics).
The Incas held sway from about 1100 A.D. till the Spanish conquest, by which time they had extended their Empire from Quito in Ecuador to Concepcion in Chile. The Inca (Lord or Ruler) was an absolute despot. All the political and religious life of the community centred round him.
Every adult was compelled to work, to marry and to render neighbourly assistance when required. Agriculture was the chief industry, potatoes being a staple crop. The Llama was the chief domestic animal. Gold, silver and copper were mined and were very plentiful.
Francisco Pizarro and a band of adventurers, who at first numbered less than 200, accomplished the Spanish Conquest. The Inca Empire was at the time divided, and no scruples of conscience hampered the Spanish methods. The Spanish rule must have been a sad change after the kindly though despotic regime of the Incas. Spain grew rich through the slavery of the Peruvian Indians. Lima, the splendid capital built by Pizarro, became the stronghold of Spanish tyranny in South America.
The liberation of Peru was the completion of the liberation of South America. Chile and Argentine were already free when Lord Cochrane with a Chilean fleet landed the Argentine General San Martin in Peru in 1821. The final overthrow of Spanish power was due to Bolivar and his army of Colombians. Bolivar remained as Dictator till 1826. Bolivia he made into an independent republic in 1825. The efforts of Peru at self-government have not been very happy. The population consists mainly of Indians whom tradition has always given a despotic government, seen at its best under the Incas and at its worst under the Spaniards. As recently as 1930 there was a revolution and during our own visit (1932) an attempted assassination of the President showed that the country was and still is far from settled.
Our first call on the Peruvian coast gave us a vivid impression of this rainless area. To landward there were no signs of life; just stretches of undulating sand interspersed with rocks; not a blade of grass, no human habitation, the only building being an automatic lighthouse. The sea, however, was teeming with life. Thousands of seals and seabirds told of the rich fishing grounds.
The ship’s company spent some very pleasant afternoons bathing from the sandy beaches, but the sea was distinctly cold, due to the presence of the Humboldt Current. Long walks over the sands, which were strewn with the skeletons of birds, helped to pass the time. Many pleasant moments were also spent in watching the guano birds and pelicans and the antics of the seals in the water and on the rocks.
The family life of the seal is most interesting. The male (bull) seals guard their wives and offspring and have a fearsome bellow though they are actually timid of the approach of man. The babies are like lambs and are just as playful. They clamber on the parent’s backs to take a ride or even a dive.
Any symptoms there may have been of life becoming dull at Port San Juan disappeared when the Division received a visit from ‘General Drill’. The ‘General’, we may remark, is not a military man, in fact, so far as we are aware, he is unknown outside Naval circles where he has been, since the days of Noah, the acknowledged authority on evolutions. With regard to the theory of evolution(s) consult Darwin - just watch the grim faces and listen to the strange utterances of any ship’s company about to evolute, evolution or having evoluted and you will know that Darwin was right. For the practical side consult ‘General Drill.’
Although so old the ‘General’ is astonishingly active; he will arrange a nice little collision aft and before you can look round he is conducting physical jerks on the fo’cs’le. If he takes a dislike to anything he shouts “Away with it!”
The Division’s boats were among the first things to arouse his wrath. “Away all boats!” was the order, and the crews did not wait for “Women and children first.” The stream anchor was another victim - “Away stream anchor!” - the poor thing was so scared that it lost its stock and was reported for returning onboard improperly dressed. “Out collision mat!” and the offending mat was promptly cast over the side. The guns did not escape. One was picked up for not having saluted the ‘General’ on his arrival and ‘fired’ on the spot after nearly 40 years of faithful service.
Luckily the ‘General’ relented or we might have been ordered to “Abandon ship!” Think of our beautiful ship like an abandoned bridge off the desolate coast of Peru. Think, too, of her crew with their rations of corned beef, biscuits and water!
One by one the boats came back. The collision mat, looking very bedraggled, was hauled inboard for the ‘General’ was now appeased and left whistling the air of “I was only teasing you.”
It remained to replace gear. Every eyebolt seemed to have grown a block and fathoms of rope, in fact everything moveable in the ship, seemed to have been moved. The ‘General’ had had his little joke, for say what you will of him he is never dull. He also has a remarkable system for working out the times taken over evolutions, a system which he alone understands, and if he says you took so many minutes over “Furling Quarter Deck Awning,” well - it is no use arguing.
HMS Dauntless and Durban in the distance
While at San Juan we carried out gunnery and torpedo practices and general drill. We left on Thursday, 3rd March, for Callao.
A Railway Trip Up The Andes
To Rio Blanco
During our stay at Callao several parties accepted the invitation of the Peruvian Corporation, which operates the Central Peruvian Railway, to make the trip up the Andes. A short description of the railway will make it easier to understand how wonderful the trip is.
The railway is 108 miles long, ascends from sea level to an altitude of 15,806 feet, has 61 bridges, 66 tunnels and 21 V’s or switchbacks. Mr. Henry Meiggs, an American engineer, began its construction in 1870 and by the time of the outbreak of the Chile-Peruvian War in 1877 he had reached Chicla and completed the most difficult part of the undertaking. Construction was suspended during this war; meanwhile, Mr Meiggs died and the Peruvian Corporation was formed in 1890 to continue the work. This Company is largely British.
The railway follows the gorge down which the river Rimac rushes to the sea. The track is standard gauge and does not make use of the rack principle at any point. The gradients are much steeper than one is accustomed to elsewhere, and in order to negotiate them oil fired locomotives, with a large number of small diameter driving wheels are used. Some of the Garratt articulated engines now used have 16 coupled wheels and can haul 400 tons up the gradients.
On the downward trip no less than three complete sets of brake blocks are worn out. The V’s or zigzags are a notable feature of this railway and are used whenever it is undesirable to continue the railroad straight ahead. With a view to avoiding heavy tunnelling, squeezing round sharp curves or resorting to heavy grades to be climbed only by cogwheels, the line is simply backed up the side of the mountain, afterwards continuing in the original direction on a much higher level.
About 120 of the ship’s company made the trip I am about to describe. The train left Callao punctually at 8 a.m. Stores in the shape of well-stocked luncheon baskets and four barrels of beer were embarked at the first stopping place. As far as Chosica the line is not exceptionally steep, though this pleasant health resort is actually 2,800 feet above sea level. We passed through fields of cotton, maize, sugar cane and bananas all grown on irrigated land, for this part of Peru is rainless and the mountains in the background are void of vegetation.
The real climb began after we left San Bartolome a village, which has earned and deserves the title of ‘The Fruit Garden of Lima.’ The mountainside now began to show signs of vegetation in the form of various weird looking cacti. A little further on we crossed the longest and mostly lofty bridge on the railway, called Verrugas; this bridge is 575 feet long and 252 feet above the valley. The original viaduct was swept away by an avalanche of rock, following a cloudburst. The name is taken from a mysterious disease, which renders the district unhealthy to live in.
Bridges and tunnels now came thick and fast and we entered the little village of Surco, which is mainly dependent on the sale of violets of large size and lovely scent. Colossal quantities of these flowers are sold to passengers and sent to Lima daily. Soon we reached Viso and negotiated our first zigzag.
One of many railway tunnels
The scenery now became very wild; we ran along the edge of high cliffs, over lofty bridges and through numerous tunnels. The work of construction took a heavy toll of life. From Chaupichaca Bridge one can see the debris of a derrick car with which a runaway engine collided. When the rails are wet the greatest care has to be exercised to keep the trains under control. Just after passing Infiernillo Bridge (Little Hell) we noticed an opening through which the river runs. This we were told is an artificial tunnel constructed to divert the river from its original course, which is now occupied by the railway. Our upward journey ended at Chicla - 12, 250 feet, where we waited for the down train.
Views from the train
The temperature was decidedly low and one noticed that deep breathing was a necessity, owing to the rarity of the atmosphere. Rain fell heavily, but this did not prevent some hardy spirits from making the descent by ‘gravity car,’ a mode of travel even more thrilling than the train.
Views from the train
The natives of the mountains are practically all Indians and they cultivate patches of the mountainsides where most people would have difficulty in standing. Their Inca ancestors did the like centuries before them.
Our thanks are due to the managers and staff of the railway, not only for making this trip possible, but for many kindnesses which doubled our enjoyment, to the firm of Backus & Johnson for beer and minerals, and to the British Colony for luncheon baskets. They must have known what the air of the Andes can do in the way of creating an appetite!!
This is the chief port of Peru and is eight miles from Lima, the capital, to which it is linked by a good service of trains, trams and buses. The more prominent buildings of Lima can be distinguished from the harbour, and at night the capital and the roads leading to it are a blaze of light. The city is a fine monument to the Spanish conqueror, Pizarro, whose remains repose in the cathedral in a glass fronted coffin.
Callao – HMS Dauntless and Durban centre (right hand photo)
On Sunday March 6th we attended a Parade Service at the English Church, Lima. We marched through the streets, headed by the band of the Durban. The church was filled to overflowing. On our way back to the station we saluted the President of Peru, Sanchez Cerro, who was in his car. We were shocked to hear later that within half-an-hour of our greeting an attempt had been made to assassinate him. It appears that after the president had taken the salute he proceeded to the suburb of Mira Flores to attend Divine Service and whilst he was kneeling in prayer he was shot through the shoulder. Bullets also injured his aide-de-camp and two women. The assailant narrowly escaped lynching. When we left Callao the President’s condition was reported to be still serious, though not critical.
A word of warning to the next commission would be appropriate here. Never go to sleep in the Plaza at Callao, because if you do you will have your boots and cap pinched while you are sleeping. This happened to one of us, and it was indeed an ordeal to tell the true story to the Commander with a straight face.
Lima – Capital of Peru
Monument to Miguel Grau Government Palace
A peculiarity in Peru was that anybody found using matches other than the local product was heavily fined, and an informer received remuneration.
It was rumoured that all the Scotsmen onboard went ashore purely to track individuals with the hope of finding some poor boob who was breaking the law. Even cigarette lighters are forbidden.
We left Callao on 12th March for Talara Bay. The Peruvian Fleet wished us a happy voyage. Shortly after leaving we had a wonderful view of guano birds in flight. The sea and sky were black with them as they passed just ahead of us.
Guano birds off Peru
On Sunday we increased speed, as we had an urgent medical case requiring hospital attention, and anchored at Talara on Monday morning. A. B. Adlam, a typhoid case, was immediately conveyed to the local hospital and, during our stay at Talara, seemed to be progressing favourably, but on the day of our arrival at Balboa we received the sad news that he had died.
H.M.S. Dauntless off the coast of Peru
Talara is the chief centre of the petroleum industry of Northern Peru and owes its development chiefly to Canadian initiative. We had heard that Talara was a very small town and expected to pass a quiet time, similar to that at Pyramideo, where there were no white people and no form of entertainment apart from sea bathing.
What a pleasant surprise awaited us! The people of Talara could not do too much for the ship. They organised aquatic sports for the ship’s company
in the very fine swimming pool below the club, they conducted parties round the oil fields at Negritos, they held smoking concerts for us and provided their guests liberally with beer. In fact their hospitality could not be surpassed. Unfortunately the game of football arranged had to be cancelled, owing to heavy rain.
The officers will not quickly forget the cheery dinner and dance given for them at the Club. The dinner was indeed musical, songs being sung by almost everybody present. During the course of the dance we discovered that the Talara ladies possessed considerable amateur theatrical talent and we hope they enjoyed our efforts at ‘We don’t want to march like the infantry”, etc. and the ‘Policeman’s Walk’ as much as we appreciated their cabaret dances and songs.
The officers held an ‘At Home’ on Friday 18th, and the ship’s concert party performed in the local theatre. Judging by the applause and enthusiasm
of the audience, we gathered they were pleased. Several of the inhabitants visited and were shown over the ship.
Extraction plant and oil fields at Negritos
The oil field, as at present developed, centres round Negritos - about seven miles from Talara - and there are about 2,500 wells. Some of these
‘blow’ spontaneously, others are given an artificial pressure by pumping gas into them, and yet others are pumped mechanically. By an interesting process the natural gas is made to yield petrol, then the ‘dry’ gas is returned to the wells, where it serves to force the oil before it again returns to
the extraction plant as ‘wet’ gas. Surplus gas is used for domestic purposes and/or working the power plant. Gas and electricity are supplied free to the employees of the company.
We left Talara with many regrets and look forward to another visit there. Meanwhile we wish the inhabitants the best of luck and prosperity.
After meeting the Durban we proceeded in company for Balboa, crossing the Equator Saturday 19th March, but except for a large school of dolphins we saw nothing of the Court of His Watery Majesty, King Neptune. On the night of the 21st we received an S.O.S. from the American steamship
San Angelo, which was on fire, 400 miles away. We increased speed and proceeded in her direction, but later received information that the fire was under control.
We arrived at Balboa on 22nd March and oiled before passing through the Panama Canal next morning, en route to Bermuda where we expect to remain until the ship pays off.
The Pacific entrance to Miraflores Locks Towing mule
Pedro Miguel Locks heading east Westward bound vessel from previous photo
U.S. owned ‘Tusitala’ passing through the canal
Tusitala was one of the last square-riggers to carry cargo.
She was decommissioned in 1932
For her Captain’s account of a voyage to Hawaii in 1929 we recommend the following site:
The following letter was received by one of our lounge lizards soon after our visit to Chile.
If you think cruising in foreign countries does not have embarrassing, conscience smiting and frightening moments, carry on reading.
The remarks in colour were put in by the lounge lizard. (heartless cad!)
Dear amigo mine, Oh yeah!! I’m holding tight
My luf for me to you is plenty I betcher - too late
and for me I wrote you in Ingles becos your not was no the Chilean speak. you said a mouthful
Deir I was mess you We left yesterday
and I was wish your back some more now. I knew her three days
When I think What with?
of the day that I met you Swindle she got that out of the song book I gave her
when I look to you on the Plaza Yes she smiled as I passed
and you look back so charm Why bring that up? I know I winked
and you speak for me, oh amigo, amigo!! Steady now, take your time
You are so beeg, so strong. Ajax defying his mother-in-law
You Ingles sailors are so - what you call-splendid. Head up, chin in, chest out
When your leef me that night myself I cry for you. Shame
Then you come again next night and I laugh. Were you laughing at me Miss?
When I hear the footprints coming to the casa - No it wasn’t, it was a house
at the time you tell me, thirteen and fourteen o’clock, I want for to kick up - what you say - peace and quietness. Been reading about the Silent Navy.
I am so happy for me to have you. Chase me girls
Then amigo mine I am so sorrow. Sob stuff coming
Your wonderful ship she go Yes, that happened when they started the engines.
and I am alone If the Admiralty only knew.
my heart she go chuckity chuck Missing on one cylinder.
for you and my eyes they are tears. Sniff!
I want you, I mees you and I come for to Inglaterra for you The hell you will.
becos I want for to kees you - kees you - and kees you.
Here I must tear this up. My sweetie in England weighs sixteen stone and reads “Health and Strength” every week!
The 1932 Regatta - Bermuda
The 1932 regatta was held at Bermuda on the 11th and 13th April. The 12th was one of those jolly Bermuda days when the wind blows one’s eyebrows off and the rain comes down at the rate of about one inch per hour.
Unfortunately the Dragon was suddenly ordered to Newfoundland, owing to political disturbances in that colony, on the 9th April, on which day Danae won the Open Cutter’s Race and we saw our Open Gig win their race by several lengths. This initial success appeared to augur well for the regatta proper, but we reckoned without the intense objection of the second whaler to move through the water quickly, however hard or well the crews pulled. Our sympathies are with the gallant crews - especially with the Signalmen who managed to dead heat with the Durban’s Signalmen for first place, even though they broke an oar towards the finish. Some say that the Captain displayed a lamentable lack of foresight in not losing that wretched boat in the wild wastes of the Southern Ocean.
On the first day the Stoker’s Cutter won their race in great style, but the points obtained towards the ‘Cock’ at the end of the day were somewhat depressing, namely, Danae 55, Durban 51, Delhi 46 and Dauntless 38.
Wednesday 13th was a perfect day with little wind and we hoped to do better. The results justified our hopes for the points for the day were Danae 55, Delhi 53, Dauntless 52 and Durban 51. Our first real success was the commissioned officers gig, which won by at least two lengths from Durban
with a lot to spare, although Lieutenant Alison was unable to ride a bicycle for a week afterwards. The Seamen’s Cutter, coxed by Petty Officer Senior, then won their race by a stroke from Durban. Petty Officer Senior was immediately transferred to the starting line by a rapid motorboat and pulled a great race in the Petty Officers Gig, which won from Durban. In the All Comers Race our gig secured second place; on the whole a satisfactory day. At the end of the regatta Dauntless was bottom with 90 points, the ‘Cock’ being won by Danae with 109 points.
The destination of the ‘Cock’ was in doubt until the Danae’s Artisans won the last race but one. Durban was second with 102 points and Delhi next with 99.
We shall see to it that the next commission has a ‘new’ pattern whaler. Anyway we managed to retrieve some, if not all, of the money we lost last
year on the tote.
We have been in Bermuda three weeks, during which period we went into Dry Dock to discover the exact extent of leakage in our tanks. Rumours have been flying about as to the date of leaving for Portsmouth and as to how we shall proceed home. The former is uncertain, but as regards the latter - after much debate - three feasible suggestion have put forward:
A tow home by the Delhi,
A tow home in and with the Dry Dock.
All go home in the Graf Zeppelin.
No matter which method is adopted all we say is:
Roll on the day when we steam out of Bermuda Dockyard with our ‘Paying Off’ pennant flying
and the ship’s band playing ‘Rolling Home to Merry England.’