1932 - 1935
WITH THE MEDITERRANEAN FLEET
The Mediterranean – Places visited
Everyone was pleased when at last we dropped anchor just off the entrance to Gibraltar Harbour on the evening of Friday 23rd February, 1934. Of the twenty-six days that had elapsed since leaving Punta del Este, twenty-two had been spent at sea, and, in spite of all we hear of the romance of the ‘wild, wild, waves,’ we welcomed the opportunity of a run ashore with open arms.
Not the least among our tribulations had been the fact that our stocks of anything other than tinned foods had become very depleted. Memories of the Neptune Bar at Valparaiso, with its four course dinners were cherished even more than previously, and many of us began to dream about it. No doubt, the following scrap of conversation, overheard on the mess deck, can be thus accounted for:
“Hey, Townie! What are you on for supper?"
“Oh, we don't get nothing in our mess!”
“Huh! That's just what we do get.”
In addition to this, during our passage from St. Vincent to Gibraltar, we encountered a phenomenon that we at first thought to be thick fog, but which, judging from its effect on the paint-work, was actually moisture heavily laden with particles of fine sand, no doubt blown from the Sahara. It led to an interesting revelation by one of our Chief Petty Officers, during a discussion concerning the exact position of the ship, that we were off the ‘west coast of South Africa.’
We found very little altered at Gibraltar since we had last seen it except for the new faces among the ladies’ orchestras in the various cafes. (Perhaps to be more explicit, we should have said that the instrumentalists and not merely their faces were new). However, this did not deter us from drinking the first glass of beer with the fullest appreciation for we found the music they gave us quite good - or bad, according to one's taste - as of old. For many of us, that first night ashore was a memorable occasion.
On Saturday morning we entered the harbour, feeling a little conscious - but secretly rather proud - of our travel-stained appearance, as we passed the darker-hued ships of the Home Fleet and went straight into the dock wherein we were to undergo those discomforts already experienced at Bermuda. But on this occasion, there was a difference. Instead of being perched high above the sea level, we were engulfed far below it, while the well remembered ‘Flaming Chariot’ was replaced - for a very short time - by a relic of Drake's fireships. We say ‘for a very short time,’ because the floating galley was not a success. It simply would not keep still and when eventually one member of the cook staff was sea-sick, it was decided that we should use a galley on terra firma.
The period of being in dry dock passed quickly in the fever of work and invasion of dockyard maties. We became entangled in a web of pipes and cables and out of breath from climbing the steps to the world above. For some of us returning from shore was enlivened by its element of danger and the navigating of those steps presented a certain amount of difficulty.
At last came the day when the dock was re-flooded, and the ship floated to a level whence it was possible to see more of the outside world. Some difficulty was caused by the brow, when lowered into position by a dockyard crane, for it was found to be too short. Consternation was apparent among the dockyard ‘maties,’ until they hit upon the idea of turning it round. Their astonishment was even greater when they found that still it wasn't long enough. Finally, since the brow would not go to the ship, the ship was brought into the brow, and we were, at last, able to reach the galley and ‘wet the tea.’
THE COMBINED FLEET MANOEUVRES
On Saturday 10th March, we left the dock and anchored outside the harbour in Gibraltar Bay, in readiness for manoeuvres with the Mediterranean Fleet, which had arrived at Gibraltar on the 7th. During the day, the remaining ships of the fleet took up their positions in the Bay, and we all settled down to wait for ‘Zero Hour.’ Just after midnight the signal to proceed was given, and the fleet left - left Gibraltar and the Dauntless. The ship, after having disappointed all the pessimists by travelling over 28,000 miles without mishap, gave them a momentary triumph by bursting a condenser tube.
On the following morning, Dauntless was towed back into harbour, to the delight of our squadron-mates of the Despatch, also suffering from
‘condenseritis,’ and was moored alongside for repair operations. The Engine Room Staff immediately commenced to ‘do their stuff,’ and after working at top speed during the whole of the day and night, and for the greater part of the next day, had the ship ready to sail by Monday night; for which they deserve great credit.
At 11.15 p.m. we cast off and left the harbour, immediately setting out, at about eighteen knots, to pick up the rest of the Fleet and to prove that we were still ‘Dauntless’ and meant to have a rub at the ‘enemy.’ Of the actual exercises, we can say very little because unless one is really ‘in the know,’ one can only surmise.
The general idea of the manoeuvres was this:
Our enemies, the Blue Fleet, represented by the Home Fleet, sailing from ‘Atlantis,’ somewhere near the Azores, were endeavouring to establish a base in Europe between Gibraltar and England thus being in a position to hold up our supplies and place England in a very precarious state. The object of the Red Fleet was to prevent this, and also to capture a Blue convoy, carrying supplies to the new Blue base, when established. We were to be assisted by another imaginary fleet from England, which, in the case of actual war, would have been the Home Fleet.
When Dauntless left Gibraltar the exercises had already been in progress for forty-eight hours, so it was necessary to proceed under war conditions with all lights darkened and the hands at cruising stations. During the whole of Tuesday, we met with nothing but our full share of discomfort, on account of the roughest seas we had experienced up to that part of the commission.
On Wednesday morning (it was rumoured) that we had met and turned the Blue convoy during the night, thus enabling the rest of the fleet to effect its capture. However, we cannot be certain on that point. On Wednesday afternoon, we stopped off the coast of Portugal, and the sea boat was lowered to take the Doctor to the destroyer Acasta, one of whose crew had sustained injuries during the very rough time they must have had.
Thursday morning found us with the rest of the fleet, in a battle with the Blue Forces. Quite early in the engagement Dauntless was compelled to hoist the ‘sunk’ pennant, having been attacked by two of the newest class of cruisers. However, it is understood that we ‘died game,’ contriving to
‘sink’ one of them before ‘committing ourselves to the deep.’
The combined exercises terminated with the ‘battle,’ when, the Red Fleet having defeated the Blue Fleet and saved the threatened starvation of England, both of them formed into line and steamed back to Gibraltar, where we arrived on Friday morning. We’d had a most uncomfortable time at sea, and many messes were sadly in need of new crockery. ‘Tin gear’ falling to the deck with terrific crashes had become quite common, and we had all become accustomed to inches of water on the mess decks.
Some idea of what one can experience at sea may be learnt from the following, which was related by a Leading Seaman of ‘dhobi-ing’ fame:
It was during the last part of the first watch, and we were closed up at stations round the tubes. The bloomin’ seas kept coming over, and we
were cold and fed up, when suddenly I saw a light in the lamp room. Knowing it was ‘darken ship’ I went to put it out, and found the bloomin’
lamps on fire, - so I dashed down to the Engineers' Office for a Pyrene, but they hadn't got one! When I came up again, there was me in a
dilemma - how to put it out without opening the door and giving our position away to the enemy. I managed to get inside with a bucket of sand,
and put the darned fire out.
Bloomin' near gassed myself too, doing it, so I couldn't help feeling a bit queer.
Then I went for’ard to see how things were on the mess deck, and as I stepped out of the Sick Bay Flat, the ship rolled and all the bread barges
came out into the gangway in ‘line abreast.’ After I'd dodged all the tin gear, I went down to the lower mess deck and the blinkin’ lockers fell
over on me. I pushed them back and cleared out. Then I thought I'd better see how things were aft. Before I got there a bloomin’ rifle rack
nearly crowned me, and on the way back one of the chests in the Middies' Flat fell over and missed me by inches!
And then they say “Give me the boats!”
The last week of our sojourn at Gibraltar passed quietly until the final night when our motor cutter was rammed by the Malaya’s launch, and had to be beached. Liberty men were brought back to the ship in the cutter and whaler, towed by the motor boat, while the Chief and Petty Officers found they had to pull the whaler off to the ship themselves. At about half-past one in the morning lower deck was cleared, and the motor cutter, having been temporarily patched up and towed off to the ship, was hoisted.
After the combined Fleet manoeuvres – March 1934
On Friday 23rd March, both Fleets left Gibraltar, the one to return to England, and the other to proceed to Malta, after calling at various ports along the Riviera Coast. Before dispersing, however, we carried out a few final exercises, and having completed these, the two fleets formed into line, passed and saluted each other, and went their various ways.
Exercises at Gibraltar. 937.7
Left Gibraltar 23rd March 1934 899.6
La Ciotat 26th March - 10th April 100.7
Golfe Juan 10th April - 24th April 811.4
Arrived Malta 27th April, 1934
Total number of miles covered during Fourth Cruise: 2749.4
THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
After a week-end spent at sea which passed with little event, by Monday afternoon we found ourselves entering the sheltered bay at La Ciotat, a small town, some twenty miles from Marseille. From the ship, the place presented a very pretty aspect. On one side, dark and forbidding rocks, among them ‘Le Bee de l'Aigle’ or ‘Eagle's Beak’ (which as its name implies had its point) and immediately before us, the shipbuilding yard, flanked by the township. On the other side, the coast stretched out in a large and attractive, green-covered semi-circle.
Although most of the older ones among us, and quite a few of the ‘young ’uns’ had already visited the South of France, for many of us it was the first time, and we all felt that, now, we had really and truly begun our service in the Mediterranean. La Ciotat itself, did not promise a great deal in the way of amusement, but we soon discovered that it was quite a simple matter to reach Marseille. Accordingly, the majority, when ashore, went thither, and if some appeared in the morning looking a shade on the ‘seedy side,’ we put it down to the fact that they had to get up very early in order to catch the first bus back.
Others, however, found plenty to do in La Ciotat! We did hear that, on the first night ashore three of our ‘passengers’ made the acquaintance of M. le Maire, the ‘Father’ of the town, a jolly white-haired old gentleman, who seemed to know, personally, every man, woman, or child who saluted him in the street, and took great pains to enquire after their welfare and that of all their relations.
For anyone wishing to get away from the hurry and bustle of a big city to the peace and quietness of a little town, La Ciotat would be an ideal holiday resort. In fact, many business men, and others who have their work in Marseille, take advantage of week-ends and other holidays and spend them in La Ciotat. But this does not mean that an atmosphere of sleepiness and idleness pervades the place always.
One had only to look about, while waiting for the seven o'clock boat in the morning, to see the hundreds of men on their way to work, for the little town has a flourishing shipbuilding yard, and while most of the inhabitants are engaged in this industry, those who are not, are fishermen. That these are the two main occupations can be seen from a study of the war memorial, a stone monument having on either side, the figure of a man, one depicting a dockyard labourer holding a small ship’s screw, and the other, a fisherman with his nets.
A frequent motor bus service connects La Ciotat with Marseille, and this proved very popular with liberty-men. The buses cover the twenty-mile run in under an hour, and follow an interesting, if somewhat circuitous, route through the hills which surround the bay, passing through one or two villages and the town of Aubagne, and finally stopping in the centre of the city at a very short distance from the canabière. This long thoroughfare would appear to be the favourite promenade of the townsfolk and, on Sundays presents a very interesting spectacle. The pavements are lined with cafes and shops, and the tired pedestrian can obtain rest and refreshment without the slightest trouble.
Liberty-men found in Marseille plenty of amusement. Perhaps the most popular resorts were the British-American and Newcastle bars, while picture houses were at a premium. However, we found that amusement could be very expensive and on one or two occasions there were those who forgot to bring back their watches or their cigarette cases until the next time.
Nevertheless, by the time that our stay was drawing to a close, many attachments had been made, both in La Ciotat and Marseille, and a few of us, at least, were sorry when one morning we watched the little town with its grey Mairie, (town hall) its white villas, and its sheltering ‘Green Isle,’ receding in the distance as the ship headed for the rendezvous with the Delhi and the Despatch before proceeding to Golfe Juan, where we arrived the same day.
We were now at the more widely known part of the ‘Cote d’Azur.’ Golfe Juan, with its near neighbours, Juan les-Pins and Cap d'Antibes is situated between Nice and Cannes. Those who had found La Ciotat rather bereft of excitement, looked forward to trips to these latter places, and, judging from the number of liberty-men ashore each night, we imagine that they found them to their liking. Tours were arranged to various well-known localities, among them the ‘Gorge du Loup,’ Grasse, with its famous scent factories, and Monte Carlo. Perhaps the most inclusive of these tours was that of the Chief and Petty Officers, of which the following account will probably be of interest.
By the time that Dauntless reached Golfe Juan, we had almost forgotten that our Chief and Petty Officers' Social Club existed, our previous outing having been from Punta del Este to Montevideo, in far away South America - a station which was fast becoming a memory. The ship was really en route for Malta, but it is a far cry from the ‘flesh pots’ of South America to the ‘gash bins’ of Malta, and after a protracted and somewhat uneventful stay at Gibraltar, we were all agreed that another outing on the lines of the previous one would not come amiss.
Golfe Juan, where we were given the choice of two tours, presented the first favourable opportunity, and after some discussion it was agreed that we should incorporate the two, making a full day.
The chosen day dawned looking anything but hopeful, a thick sea mist obscuring everything beyond a radius of a hundred yards, and this bid fair to rob us of some, if not all, of the magnificent views for which this particular part of the country is so justly famed. However, we set off hopefully enough and were soon speeding along the coast road by way of Juan-les-Pins and Cap d'Antibes, through Nice and then on to Monte Carlo, where we had arranged to make our first stop.
Those of us who had omitted to provide ourselves with Macintoshes and other protective covering were soon bitterly regretting the fact, the famous ‘frog in the icebound pool’ being warm by comparison. Coming from the tropics we had all been suffering from a surfeit of sunshine, but never was Old Sol more welcome than when he made his first gallant attempt to break through the mist on that particular morning. After several ‘misfires,’ he at last succeeded, and we were at once rewarded by a glorious view of Villefranche, as it lay nestling in its little bay, looking like the overworked jewel of the novel writers.
We were all trying to forget things nautical for a day, hut the sight of the Queen Elizabeth anchored a few yards from the shore brought us back with a bump. As we passed, the buglers sounded ‘Quarters, clean guns,’ and it was noticed that the seamen members of our party instinctively made a slashing attack on the brass-work of our motor coach.
Arriving at Monte we made a bee-line for the famous Casino, and the hour we spent looking over the place, far from being wasted, was both interesting and instructive. We decided that one has an exceedingly poor chance of emulating the central figure of Charles Coborn's famous song, the odds appearing to be far too great against.
The theatre kept us occupied for quite a while and we can only say that if the shows put on there are in keeping with the interior decoration, an evening there would be something to be remembered. It couldn't of course, satisfy everybody, and one voice was heard raised in protest, apparently because there were no ‘fruit’ or ‘diddler’ machines.
After sending off the inevitable post cards - the married members of the party with a ‘Better get it over quickly, I suppose!’ expression, the single ones with a not-so-resigned expression, but evidently perplexed as to who was to be the lucky recipient - we left for Mentone, a city peopled by Italians but belonging to France. Hereabouts we could see the snow-covered Italian Alps together with the bridge of San Luis Rey, forming the border-line between Italy and France.
Time being short and the journey long, we were soon speeding towards the famous Gorge de Loup by way of the Grande Corniche. The country is extremely interesting at this particular part, every mountain top being crowned with either church or fortress - remnants of a forgotten civilisation. Spanning the great Gorge du Loup is a viaduct carrying the narrow-gauge railway, which was built, regardless of expense, time and labour, and which was originally the principal means of transport between Nice and Grasse. With the coming of the motor coach and better roads, it has now fallen practically into disuse and no longer justifies the enormous outlay required to create it.
At this point lunch was taken, and thankful we were that the organizers of the trip had previously arranged a fixed price for it. The proprietor visibly wilted as twenty ravenously hungry sailors invaded his restaurant, and it afterwards seemed to good purpose, for a swarm of locusts on a plantation would have left far more. We left him, still conscious, and continued on our way to Grasse.
A waterfall issuing from the bare face of the rock next attracted our attention, and it was observed that a sort of spiral stairway had been hewn out of the rock face to enable tourists to climb behind the fall. No one of our party seemed particularly anxious to attempt the climb until a party of midinettes suddenly arrived and commenced to climb the stairway. Instantly everyone was seized with a desire to view the waterfall from the rear.
Our motor coach was quickly deserted and the whole party were soon toiling slowly up the rock face. Half blinded, partly by the spray and partly because of the fact that the girls were climbing directly above us, we staggered up. The stairway finished abruptly at the sheer edge of the precipice, and we were rewarded for our climb by a magnificent view of the gorge hundreds of feet below us, the river at its bottom looking like a silver ribbon stretching away as far as the eye could see.
Came the return climb, and with it a change of wind. This latter didn't seem of importance until we arrived at the waterfall, only to find the stairway totally obscured by a curtain of falling water. The only thing to be done was to rush through it, so the gallant (?) sailors abandoned the ladies, whom they had been carefully leading down, and made a wild dash for safety. We arrived at the bottom, fairly wet and thoroughly happy, to be followed by the ladies, thoroughly wet and not so happy. Surprising how quickly spray causes a permanent wave to subside to a flat calm!
Now commenced the long climb to Grasse, the road being built on the mountain side with many tortuous twists and turns. It seems to be the chief amusement of the drivers about here, to see how closely they can approach the edge of the road without actually toppling over. Rather too many thrills were packed into this particular part of the drive and when the party were shown, a few hundred feet below us, the remains of a coach whose driver apparently went a little too close, they were quite bucked.
The scent factory at Grasse was rather disappointing insufficient flowers being available at the time to warrant the machinery being run, so we had to content ourselves with listening to a description of how the scent was obtained. Since the girl describing it knew as much English as we knew French, we came away knowing a little less about it than when we entered.
We stayed at Grasse for tea and after a drive around the town, left for Cannes. Here we ‘paid off’ our motor coach, and brought our outing to an end with dinner, after which we each went our own way, some returning to the ship and others - well, why bring that up?
All agreed, however, that the tour had been very enjoyable, and, though it had been long, not one minute of the day had been dull.
The following is an extract from a letter written by one of the ship's company, with whom it seems, there still lingered memories of Marseille and La Ciotat:
On Sunday, Bill and I obtained early leave, and went to Marseille to visit our friends, whom we met at La Ciotat. It was a long journey from Golfe Juan, a distance of about one hundred and twenty-five miles, and took three and a half hours by train. This being my first experience of French trains, I can't say I was terribly impressed. They have a nasty habit of pitching and tossing worse than any ship at sea and it seems a common occurrence for them to develop a list to either port or starboard, to such a degree that at times, I was certain we were heading for disaster. This, together with the speed at which we travelled, furnished us with all the thrills that we could wish for, and I can quite understand now how it is that the French seem to have more, and at the same time, more serious railway accidents than we do.
However, the weather was perfect and the scenery made up in full for the discomfort of the journey. For the first hour or so we kept to the coast line, passing through Cannes, St. Raphael and several other Riviera towns, whose names I can't remember, and being all the time within sight of the sea. At times, we seemed to be right on the edge of the cliffs. I really can't do justice to the beauty of it all - the sea, just that shade of blue that one can find in no other part of the world but the Mediterranean, a blue that is accentuated by its contrast with the red sandstone of the rocks and the golden yellow of the sand.
The coast is a series of pretty little bays, each one sheltered, and more or less isolated from its neighbours, by green wooded hills, dotted here and there with white villas, red-roofed, and with their shutters of varying hues of yellow, green and blue.
Soon after leaving St. Raphael, where, incidentally we saw lying at anchor, one of the battleships and a flotilla of destroyers, the railroad turns inland, and so gave us a chance of catching a glimpse of French ‘paysan’ (peasant) life. We passed through acres of vineyards and well cultivated land, and saw many pretty little hamlets. As it was Sunday and in addition, a very fine day, many people were out, and the kids, dressed in their Sunday best - checked pinafores and velvet knickers - emulated each other in shouting and waving as the train went by.
Very shortly we drew near to Toulon, the French naval base in the Mediterranean, and came upon grim-looking old fortresses and ‘chateaus’ built in seemingly inaccessible spots, crowning the wooded hills. I could not help recalling d'Artagnan and other famous heroes of Royalist days in France.
At Toulon, an old gentleman and his wife got into our carriage, and I soon discovered that a French family ‘en voyage’ is very much the same as the English variety. The old chap went through his time table at least half-a-dozen times to make sure where he had to change, while his good lady made the usual numerous enquiries about things which had, or had not, been left behind.
Before reaching Marseille, we had another look at La Ciotat, for although there is no station, the train passes the outskirts of the town. I would have liked to have stopped there - I'm rather fond of the place and at least one of its inhabitants - but we swept by the town and shot into a tunnel. Finally, after threading our way through the rather uninteresting purlieus of Marseille, we arrived at the home of the Catalans. (Shades of Monte Cristo!).
I was disappointed not to have seen the Chateau d’If, but saw in every girl along the canabière a possible Mercedes. As time was short, we did not have an opportunity for looking round, though from our slight visit we could see much that pointed to an interesting town. I was filled with admiration for a very elaborate and fine-looking fountain at the entrance to the ‘Jardin des Plantes’ - but we were both tired after the journey, and so were pleased to arrive at the home of our friends.
Unfortunately, all things must come to an end (even a month's pay!) and on the 24th April the 3rd Cruiser Squadron and, for that matter, the Mediterranean Fleet, left the sunny shores of France and set out for Malta. Ourselves and the Delhi carried out a speed trial en route, the Despatch being unable to do so, and we had the satisfaction of ‘showing a clean pair of heels,’ or, should we say, a clean quarter deck, to the flagship, thus proving that the calumnies concerning our ability to remain whole when doing anything over ten knots (or was it five?) were quite unfounded.
Compared with the rest of the British Empire, Malta is but a recent acquisition. The island, occupying an important strategic position in the Mediterranean, is 17 miles in length, with an area of 91 ½ square miles and a population of 220,000. The history of Malta dates back as early as the 16th century B.C., when it was first colonised and made into a trading centre by the Phoenicians. Since then, the island has been in the hands of the Greeks, the Carthaginians and the Romans under the name of Melita, and it was here that St. Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome in A.D. 58.
In the 9th century the island was seized by the Moors and used as a base for their piracies, but they were expelled, the following century, by Count Roger of Sicily, and Malta passed with remainder of his possessions to the House of Hohenstaufen. In 1250, it was secured by the King of Aragon and remained a Spanish dependency until in 1530, Charles V of Spain gave the island to the Knights of St. John, who fortified it against the attacks of the Turks. It was taken by Napoleon in 1798 and blockaded by the British until the French surrendered in 1800. Although its restoration to the Knights was promised it was retained on account of further hostility in France and was finally ceded to the British in 1814.
At the present time Malta is as every sailor knows, the base of the Mediterranean Fleet, and we, after a three day trip from Golfe Juan, arrived off the island on the morning of the 27th April. To the majority of sailors in the possession of a Good Conduct badge, Malta has very little new to offer, but, even so, there were a few of us who had never before visited the island, and as many of those who had, had friends ashore, quite a lot of interest was shown as we entered the Grand Harbour and moored in Calcara Creek. We were immediately surrounded by dghaisas (some already marked with the ship's name) and invaded by ‘gash kings.’ (Dghaisa - a small boat resembling a gondola that is common in Malta.)
People have been heard to say that Malta is a ‘matelot's paradise.’ The Maltese certainly seem to cater for every man's taste. One can obtain beer, (or lime and lemon) one can dance, if so inclined, restaurants are numerous, cinemas plentiful, and there are ideal facilities for swimming. In addition, for sportsmen, there are plenty of cricket pitches, football pitches, tennis courts, and a very well-laid out running track and athletic sports ground at Corradino. Even an historian or an archaeologist should be happy at Malta, for the island contains many relics of its varied history and of the days of the early Christians.
However, one could hardly call Malta beautiful. The drabness of the buildings and the glaring colour of the earth itself prevent that, and we, being fresh from the Riviera coast, and before that from South America, were not very favourably impressed by our first glimpse of Malta. It is true that certain parts of the island have their own particular charm, but there is nothing about them that would merit a special mention, except, perhaps, the San Antonio Gardens, and taken in its entirety, Malta looked, literally, a ‘bake.’
H.M.S. Dauntless at Malta
Nevertheless, our two months’ stay was full of interest and we were kept very busy. Having recently joined the Mediterranean Fleet from a ‘callio’ station, we felt that we had to prove our worth and show that we had not been holiday-making all the time. We therefore, set out to make a name for ourselves, and have nothing against us of which we need be ashamed. At evolutions, we held our own with the rest of the squadron - our gunnery was absolutely up to standard while in the field of sport we met with a surprising amount of success. It was decidedly unfortunate that our arrival at Malta was too late in the year for the football team really to make a show, but the cricket team remained undefeated during the whole of our stay, while the two tug-of-war teams put up a splendid performance, carrying all before them in the squadron sports and both reaching the finals in the fleet events.
Before our arrival at Malta we had not had an opportunity of exhibiting our prowess at gunnery, but here we carried out two shoots, one of which was at the target-ship Centurion. It is almost uncanny to see the way in which this huge old battleship can be controlled by wireless, and manoeuvred without a soul aboard her. As we were closed up at action stations, many of us could not watch the actual shoot, but we all had an opportunity of seeing the Centurion under fire when acting as illuminating ship during the battleships’ shoot. This took place at night, and was especially interesting to watch. The big ships were firing night-tracer shells, and one could follow the flight of a projectile across the sky until it struck the target or entered the sea.
But, to return to our own gunnery! Owing to an accidental and unavoidable defect, which developed in the fire control mechanism, our first shoot at the Centurion was a horrible failure. Yes, the gunnery ship of the America and West Indies Station was made to look like a blind man at a coconut shy, and, of course, we felt the tragedy very much. However, the Rear Admiral, Commanding 3rd Cruiser Squadron, obtained the Commander-in-Chief’s permission for us to repeat our run, and we justified his confidence in us, and won hack our laurels by carrying out the best shoot of the squadron.
We might add that on one occasion, one of our shoots almost resulted in a fatal accident. ‘Jixer’ the cat, who, by the way, had given himself a draft chit to the ‘Beagle’ while we were at Gibraltar, thereby nearly breaking Butch’s heart and making him turn grey with worry, and who was returned to us at Malta, was found with his ‘head down’ in the blast-cover of No. 3 gun, just three minutes before the gun was fired. Still, they do say that a cat has nine lives!
In addition to gunnery we carried out several other exercises while at Malta. Our marines spent a week at the camp at Ghain Tuffiena (pronounced, according to a quarterdeck man, Hydro-phobia), and it was rumoured that they created a new record for the march thither. One marine will certainly deny this, quoting the last time he went there, but, we believe that a motor bus had something to do with it. We understand that the ‘Royals’ found only one fault about which they could complain, this being that they were not at the camp long enough. We do not find this hard to believe, for we discovered Ghain Tuffiena to have one of the best bathing beaches in Malta!
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay Malta
The Marines also carried out a series of exercises in conjunction with the Army, in which they landed ‘in darkest hour of midnight’ or thereabouts, together with Marines from other ships and attacked the forces on shore. It was reported that the motor-cutter’s well-known ‘chug-chug’ rather spoilt the effect but they stayed ashore for the day and returned the following night, tired, muddy - one had converted his trousers into shorts - but still cheerful. That they had almost had enough however. We gathered from the remarks passed by one ‘Royal,’ who, on asking an A.B. where the marines had fallen in, met with the somewhat tactless reply that "they had gone to water their horses!"
Our time, however, was not completely taken up with exercises and work. One must always remember the old adage ‘All work and no play,’ and, observing that the numerous Jacks on board were by no means dull, it is obvious that we had our recreation.
Water polo team in action
For instance, we, together with the Despatch, were allotted the pleasant duty of acting as hosts to the two Japanese warships, Iwate and Asama under Vice-Admiral H. Matsushita, when they called at Malta for a few days on their way home. They had carried out an extensive world cruise, during which, while his ships were at Marseille, the Admiral visited England and was present at the unveiling of a memorial to the first Englishman who landed in Japan. Parties of Japanese sailors were entertained at the cinema at Corradino, and in return, members of our ship’s company and that of the Despatch, were invited to an ‘At Home’ held on the two Japanese ships, while a display of ju-jitsu was staged at the Empire Stadium. The Japanese were given a rousing send-off as they left the Grand Harbour at the close of their visit.
To return to our own affairs - at the well-known ‘Armstrong Gun,’ the tug-of-war teams held a celebration of victory, after winning the Squadron Cup, and of consolation, after having been defeated in the finals against the Royal Sovereign and the Queen Elizabeth.
Tug-of-war team in action
These celebrations took the form of a dinner, followed by a smoking concert, the whole accompanied by a liberal supply of ‘Blues.’ Perhaps it would be wiser not to enter into too many details concerning the concert, but we must say that the songs and recitations rendered by our stalwart Marines -with a special mention of that sung by their doughty Sergeant - were very enjoyable.
Little else, worthy of mention, happened during our stay at Malta, and after a short but busy time alongside the wall, we left for the First Summer Cruise, better described as the ‘Regatta Cruise,’ on 27th June, together with the rest of the Fleet.
FIRST SUMMER CRUISE 1934
Exercises at Malta. 642.1
Left Malta 27th June.
Dragamesti 29th June - 9th July 682.2
Zante 9th July - 20th July 184.7
Argostoli. 20th July - 27th July 46.0
Corfu 27th July - 5th August 149.3
Navarin Bay 6th August -13th August 203.3
Malta 15th August 518.3
Total number of miles covered during First Summer Cruise: 2425.9
FIRST SUMMER CRUISE, 1934, AND REGATTA
Two days after having left Malta, during which we had carried out a series of exercises, we entered the long bay at Dragamesti, on the evening of Friday 29th June, and anchored off the little town of Astokos. With us were the Delhi, Despatch and Durban, the latter having lately re-commissioned and arrived at Malta to complete the complement of The 4th Cruiser Squadron. She was ultimately to become the flagship of the squadron, when the Delhi went home to pay-off.
One cannot find much to relate about Astokos, nor, for that matter, about most of the places visited during this cruise, for leave was somewhat restricted and everybody was chiefly concerned with the coming regatta. Viewed from the ship, the town presented quite a pleasant appearance - a group of white houses, nestling on a hill-side at the end of the bay, with a distant background of blue mountains.
Apart from boat-pulling activities, which will be dealt with farther on in this chapter, our main amusements were bathing picnics. We carried out the same routine as had previously been followed at such places as Ilha Grande and Punta del Este, landing on ‘make and mend’ days shortly after dinner and returning on board just before supper time. We found that the beaches did not offer such good facilities for enjoyable swimming as did those of South America, but nevertheless we managed to enjoy ourselves and were in no way deterred from landing at every opportunity.
Early on Monday, 9th July, the squadron left Dragamesti, and Dauntless separated from the rest to act as target ship for a ‘shoot’ by the First Cruiser Squadron. Owing to bad visibility, this did not take place until late in the afternoon, but was successfully carried out at last and after having turned over the records of the shoot to the London, flagship of the 1st C.S., we proceeded on our way to Zante, where we arrived that night.
Zante proved to be a larger and more interesting place than Astokos, and many of the ship's company ventured ashore. The island has a certain connection with British history, having been held by Great Britain from 1809 till 1815. In that year were constituted the United States of the Ionian Islands, under the protectorate of Great Britain, and this lasted till 1863, when Zante, together with the other islands, were incorporated in Greece. The remains of British fortifications are still visible, though damaged by a great earthquake in 1893.
Owing to the fact that numerous submerged rocks rendered it unsafe for power boats to approach too near the beaches, regular bathing parties were not landed, but groups of us obtained permission to use the whalers and skiffs whenever possible, and either sailed or rowed to favourable spots, for bathing.
Our next call was at Argostoli, a place somewhat similar in appearance to Dragamesti, though considerably larger. Here, again, we were able to land for bathing, and, on one day in particular - Relaxation Sunday - parties left the ship as early as 9.30 in the morning.
At Argostoli we learnt also of the existence of the ‘Sea Mills’ - two holes in the rocky coast, into which the sea pours with a force sufficient to drive two mills. It has never yet been discovered where the water re-enters the sea.
Leaving Argostoli on July 27th we re-joined the squadron and proceeded to Corfu, the largest of the Ionian Islands, dropping anchor off the town of the same name. Here it came as a welcomed change to be given all night leave, and many took advantage of it, finding the town and surrounding country more interesting than other places visited during this cruise. Several of us went out to Achillion, the one-time holiday residence of the ex-Kaiser, and did not regret it. That the trip was enjoyable can be judged from the account related here:
We had been at Corfu for five days when at dinnertime, someone apathetically remarked that it was Wednesday, which we all knew, and added,
as an afterthought, that it was also a ‘make and break,’ which, again, was surprising news. However, that remark caused me to do a little
thinking - I do sometimes - and I suggested to Buster and George that we should take a trip up to the ex-Kaiser's palace, about which we had
heard so much.
Of course, by the time we had deliberated on the matter, we’d missed the first boat ashore, but we decided to catch the next, and, accordingly,
at half-past four the O.O.W. found us lined up for inspection. Quarter-of-an-hour afterwards we were dodging through money-changers and
fruit-sellers, in search of a taxi-driver who could understand us, and, fortunately finding one with whom we could talk quite comfortably in a
mixture of English and French, we arranged for him to pick up us after the ‘first one’ at the Alaska Bar.
The taxi was not exactly a limousine; in fact, the driver himself, was quite frank about it and told us it was ‘no bon.’ We, rather unsuccessfully,
pointed out that we weren't blind, proceeded to squeeze into the back seat, and off we went. We weren't long in getting away from the town,
and everything was going ‘merry as a marriage bell’ - (which simile is a matter of opinion!) - when we sprang a leak in the after starboard tyre.
This, said our worthy Jehu, didn't usually happen, but would we mind hopping out for a minute while he ‘found out the cause of the bother.’
After a very protracted minute he suggested that we should all get aboard again and return to the town to get some more air. So, back we went,
and, in about another quarter of an hour, once more set out for the palace, this time without mishap.
Our chauffeur was a very obliging chap and appointed himself a sort of talking Bradshaw. Indeed, he was rather a gay fellow, altogether!
Blithely, he gave a member of the canine species palpitations of the heart; smilingly, he charged a posse of chickens, cursing a cockerel with
suicidal intentions as it dived beneath the radiator; then, as we shot past a couple of wandering cows, he pointed out the cemetery. We thanked
him - a little insincerely, I'm afraid -wondering if he did it by accident or design.
Apart from such little distractions, the trip was very interesting. We gazed upon grapes hanging in purple bunches from shady vines (George
said we wouldn't be eating them as muscatels this Christmas, at any rate!) and speculated upon the probable use of some weird-looking
contraptions we could see all along the road. These consisted of two poles stuck into the ground, and meeting at the top with a third and longer
pole, resting on them in something after the style of three piled rifles. At the end of the long pole hung a rope, attached to which was a hook. I
surmised - wrongly, of course, that they were enlarged rat-gins, but George hit the nail on the head when he said they had something to do with
the water supply. Afterwards we saw peasant women using them for drawing water from wells. The poles were actually fixed levers to hoist up
buckets quickly and easily. But then, of course, George had been out this way before!
Some distance out we left the coast road and commenced to climb the hills. We noticed that most of the peasants seemed to be wearing the
national costume, especially the women, some of whom were strikingly good looking in their skirts of coarse material - after the style of small
farthingales - tight bodices and gaily-coloured kerchiefs. Soon, we turned into the old drive leading to the palace, and after a short climb,
affording a lovely view of the surrounding country we drew up at the entrance to the grounds.
Once again, our intrepid coxswain lent a helping hand and obtained for us an able cicerone (visitor’s guide) in the person of a groundsman with
a smattering of French. Immediately we set off and wandered round the grounds, admiring the many fine statues and listening with interest as
our guide told us - somewhat vaguely, it's true - of how they came there and what they were. It seems that all the bronze statues were placed
there by the ex-Kaiser, while the marble ones were the contribution of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria.
After having seen the grounds we were led into the building itself. It was quite obvious that it had once been a sumptuous residence, though
much of its beauty had faded. We strolled through the suite of the Empress Elizabeth, seeing her bedroom, bathroom and boudoir, all of which
are still wonderfully furnished, though stripped of a great deal of their former glory. Our conductor told us that the Serbian, French and Italian
troops had been mainly responsible for he said: “French soldats is no good; Italian soldats is no good; English soldats is very good.” Buster
was rather curious to know what he told French and Italian visitors, but he was met with an enigmatic silence.
We saw the dining room and the private chapel of the Empress, and going downstairs passed through the ex-Kaiser's suite. Here all the
furniture was decorated in white, whereas that of the Empress had been green. We examined the bathroom and bedroom, the room in which
Affairs of State were seen to - George wondered audibly if the Kaiser had been in the habit of seeing defaulters and request-men at the writing
desk raised on a Dias - and finally inspected his private study.
Of course, I've only given a cursory description of the place. We didn't just rush through the rooms, murmuring “Yes, that’s very nice, I’m
sure!” We took our time over it. There were many pictures to see, busts and statues to look at, and much beautifully inlaid woodwork that
claimed attention. The real ‘tit-bit’ was the big wall-painting, done by an Austrian, at the head of the stairs, depicting the ‘Triumph of
Achilles.’ In the centre of the picture is Achilles in his chariot. Dragging behind on the ground is the body of Hector, the general of the
defeated Trojans, while following comes the chariot of Agamemnon and the Grecian army. The background shows the crowded walls of Troy.
Triumph of Achilles in Corfu – Achilleion
It rather looks as though the Kaiser was fond of Achilles, for we had already seen a magnificent bronze statue of ‘Achilles ready for battle,’ and
another of marble showing him at his death, with the fatal arrow in his heel, while even the name of the residence is ‘Achillion.’
We came away from the palace feeling that it had been well worth the visit, and, collecting our driver, adjourned to the beer garden across the
road. Here we passed an interesting hour, for he turned out to be a brilliant conversationalist, and entertained us with his reminiscences. He
appeared to have travelled extensively, always as a stowaway on convenient ships, with “No passe-port, no manger.” He told us proudly that
he had only once paid his passage, and at that with Government money, on the occasion of his two years' service in the army. We heard his
opinions of Hitler, Dollfuss and Mussolini, and had pointed out to us the window of the room which used to be occupied by Hindenburg. In
short, he entertained us amazingly.
Instead of returning by the way we had come, we dropped down a steep hill by a series of startling hair-pin bends to the sea-road, soon
afterwards passing the spot where the Kaiser invariably bathed when at Corfu. As darkness was descending we sped along the narrow winding
way, glimpsing islets and coves, bewitching in the twilight. Finally, we came out on to the wide promenade of the town, and were brought
safely to the ‘Phoenikas.’ Bidding ‘au revoir’ to our interesting chauffeur, we entered and over an iced beer all three of us agreed that the trip
had indeed been an enjoyable one.
Although we do not wish to encroach on the preserves of the Sports Chronicler, we should like to make some mention of the two cricket matches played against the Gymnastic Club at Corfu, describing them from a spectator's point of view. The results can be briefly stated - we lost the first, but retrieved our honour in the second.
Cricket at Corfu appeared to be somewhat different from that to which we had been accustomed. The games were played on a pitch, which left much to be desired, the ground being actually the village square. It was flanked on one side by a shady avenue where one could sit and refresh oneself with beer or other drinks and watch the progress of the cricket match at one's leisure. There were no boundaries and every run was earned at the cost of much energy and perspiration. When the ball was hit into the crowd - which, incidentally, was considerably large - the fieldsman was compelled to dive under chairs, tables and legs to find it, unless some good-natured spectator felt inclined to throw it back into the field again. This, in its turn, was dependent upon which side was batting at the time.
There was an amusing incident during the second match, when Lieutenant White puzzled one of our opponents by first, hitting hard and making him field deep, and, then, just tapping the hall and sneaking a single. The gesticulations of that fieldsman, when asking advice from his captain, were well worth seeing.
Our visit was brought to a close after a stay of nine days and we left Corfu on the evening of the 5th August, arriving at Navarin on the following day. Here, we found the rest of the Fleet assembled for the regatta, in preparation for which we had spent the greater part of our time since leaving Malta.
NAVARIN BAY AND THE REGATTA
Navarino Bay, which had already been the scene of two great sea fights - firstly, when the Athenians defeated the Spartans in the year 425 B.C., and, secondly, when the Turkish and Egyptian navies were completely wiped out by the English, French, and Russians in 1827 (Battle of Navarino) - was destined to be the setting for yet another battle, this time of a vastly different nature; for here, during the second week of August, 1934, the Mediterranean Fleet held their Annual Regatta.
Preparations had begun while we were still at Malta, crews being got together and going away for preliminary trials, but we did not start intensive training until the commencement of the cruise. Up to that time we had been going away once a day, during the dog watches, but when we arrived at Dragamesti, a definite programme was mapped out and crews went away regularly morning and evening. At Zante, mile and half-mile buoys were laid out - (the former, incidentally, disappeared mysteriously one night, to be later traced to the hut of a local fisherman) - and practice races were arranged. These gave us some idea of our progress and at the same time made us more familiar with the ‘atmosphere’ of actual competition. At Argostoli and Corfu, the same routine was continued and by the time we arrived at Navarin Bay for the actual Regatta we felt confident of doing well and had especially great expectations of the Stokers’ and Boys’ Cutters and the Seamen’s Whaler.
Remembering that we had obtained a very good second place in the 1933 Regatta at Bermuda we saw no reason why we should not do equally well in 1934, despite the fact that we had ten ships to compete against, (three of which were 10,000-tonners) whereas last year there were only four.
Ideal weather conditions prevailed at the opening of the Cruiser Regatta on Tuesday, 7th August, when the boats lined up for the first race at 9 o'clock in the morning. Guardrails of all ships were well lined with spectators ready to cheer their respective crews as they passed down the course, each striving for the lead.
It will be understood that a long and detailed account of the events cannot be given, but it can be seen from the following table of results that our confidence in ourselves was not misplaced, and that the majority of our crews were mostly in the picture:
Our total of 325 points at the end of the day found us occupying second position in the Regatta, H.M.S. Coventry being first with 332 points. An unfortunate accident at the commencement of the third race (that of the Racing Whalers) in which a broken oar caused us to run afoul of the Despatch's boat, with consequent disqualification, cost us 27 points. Had we not lost these points we should have been in the lead. As it was, at the finish of the 10th event, we had gained first position, but reverses sustained by the Daymen's Whaler and the Veteran's Skiff brought us down to second place. Really speaking, however, it was still ‘anybody's regatta, for H.M.S. Despatch was a mere three points behind us, while H.M. Ships London and Shropshire had 308 and 305 points respectively.
On the second day of the Regatta the weather was equally promising, and we took up our positions expectantly along the guardrails hoping to witness many Dauntless victories. Once again, we must dispense with details, but the following list of the second day's results will show that, although our crews did their utmost, we were not so successful as on the previous day:
The boy’s cutter which won our only “first” of the regatta
The further 177 points gained for these events brought our total for the Regatta to 502, and this, being 8 points behind London and 49 behind Coventry, placed us third. Once again, we feel compelled to point out that, but for our loss of 27 points, we should have attained a very good second place.
The final results of the Cruisers’ Regatta were as follows:
A most important regatta item – The Tote
One and all agreed that the Coventry had really deserved to win - though to show them what we could do we ‘walked away’ with the All Corners' Race, the first cutter and the first whaler to cross the finishing line both flying Dauntless colours - and we gave them a wholehearted ‘chuck up’ when they paraded the ‘Cock’ round the Fleet. It is pleasing to be able to point out that the first four ships all belonged to Pompey.
For the majority of us training was now at an end, but those crews who were to compete in the Fleet events on Saturday, 11th August, still continued to ‘do their stuff.’
The hopes we had entertained of winning the ‘Renown’ and ‘Orion’ Cups were, however, dashed to the ground by the seemingly invincible Stokers' Cutter of the Cyclops. The battleships' Regatta was won by the Queen Elizabeth, flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, while, of the destroyers, another Portsmouth ship, the Active, came out on top. The 3rd Destroyer Flotilla appropriately celebrated the occasion by inviting the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ to visit the Fleet and this huge beast - constructed from eight whalers, a motor boat, and much wood and canvas - thoroughly enjoyed itself cruising around the various ships. We imagine, however, that the excitement must have gone to its head for, after darkness had fallen, it was observed to blow smoke out of its nostrils and to blink wickedly bright eyes.
The Regatta over, the Fleet left Navarin Bay on Monday, 13th August, arriving at Malta two days later.
SECOND SUMMER CRUISE 1934
Total number of miles covered: 3651.8
Returning from the Regatta cruise, we spent a busy three weeks at Malta, remaining behind for ten days after the rest of the Fleet had sailed for the Second Summer Cruise. Of these three weeks, very little can be said, for we passed the greater part of our time in dry dock. Once more we were invaded by a swarm of dock-yardmen. Once more we were compelled to make long treks to the galley and other places, and once more the calmness of our lives was disturbed by corticene removers, compressed air pipes and Fire Quarters.
Corticene was a mid-brown linoleum type decking used on small ships in areas where the crew required a good foot grip as timber would have been too heavy. Corticene was also used on larger ships as an alternative to wood on high areas such as the bridge and bridge wings, where men had to stand for long hours on watch. This was to protect their feet from the cold of metal decks.
Refloated soon after the Fleet had sailed, we left the dock and ‘took command of the harbour,’ mooring in the billet usually occupied by the Queen Elizabeth, flagship of the Fleet. The ten days we had on our own served to endear us in the hearts of tradesmen and publicans ashore, and we proved our popularity to be as great in Malta as it had been in Callao or Valparaiso, for, when we left on the 7th September, we had an escort - for only a short distance, it's true! - of a dghaisa-load of fair damsels. According to many old ‘shell-backs,’ this was the first time they had experienced such an occurrence in Malta.
Early on Monday, 10th September, we arrived at our first port of call, Abazzia, a popular holiday resort in Italy, close to the frontier of Jugo-Slavia. Here we found awaiting us, the Durban - now flagship of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in place of the Delhi - and our thoughts immediately turned towards Admiral's Inspection. This was to take place on Friday 14th and we therefore busily commenced to prepare for it. Really, of course, we had started our preparations some time previously, but now that ‘Der Tag’ was getting very near, we redoubled our efforts.
The weather at the beginning of the week had been very unpropitious, and it was a matter of speculation whether we should have a repetition of the torrential down-pours of rain, that we had experienced during last year's inspection at Bermuda. However, though Friday dawned with more than a suspicion of dampness in the air, by the time that the Rear Admiral Commanding, 3rd Cruiser Squadron, came on board at half-past nine, the sun was shining, and everyone but the ‘side and dodging party’ were fallen in at Divisions, spick and span in clean white suits.
For the majority of us, the Admiral's inspection differed very little from ordinary Sunday Divisions - except in that, on Sunday, one does not have the sword of ‘muster bag’ hanging over one's head - and, after the Officers had been presented, the Chief and Petty Officers mustered by the ledger and the ‘troops’ inspected, our chief concern was in keeping out of the way during the inspection of the ship. Those who had the most exciting time were, we imagine, the before-mentioned ‘side and dodging party,’ and we often wonder whether the Admiral, having once noticed the decorations round the waste chute, during the inspection of the Accountant Division, felt very surprised to find them gone when he passed that way again.
On the following day, during the fore-noon we carried out General Drill, also in connection with Inspection, and on sending full landing parties to the Durban, (representing a town demolished by an earthquake), had the satisfaction of knowing that our evolution had been ‘uncannily premeditated’ (to quote the Admiral!). Some of us are still wondering what exactly that meant!
"THE STUFFED ARMADILLO."
A short interlude in two scenes, inspired by the reading of "King John" during the period of preparation for Admiral's Inspection.
Lieut. John King, Mess-deck Officer.
Hubert, Mess-deck Petty Officer.
Arthur Prince, Ordinary Seaman.
Scene I. The Mess-deck.
Enter Lt. King and P.O. Hubert.
Lt. King: Good Hubert, Hubert, Hubert, throw thine eye, on yon stuffed armadillo;
I'll tell thee what, my man It is a very eyesore in my way;
And whensoe'er this foot of mine doth tread the mess-deck, it lies before me. Thou art to have it moved.
Hubert: And do it, sir. That it shall not offend the Admiral.
Scene II. The same
Enter P.O. Hubert and Arthur Prince O.D.
Hubert: Ditch me this curio quick; and look thou stow It not in thy caboose!
Arth: I hope your warrant will bear out the deed.
Hubert: Young lad, come forth, and look upon the notice board. Canst thou not read it? Is it not fair writ?
Arth: Too fairly, Hubert, for so foul effect. Must you with hard heart ditch my curio?
Hubert: Young boy, I must.
Arth: And will you?
Hubert: And I will.
Arth: Have you the heart? After a run ashore I knit my handkerchief about your brows. The best I had, my party wrought it me.
And I did never ask it you again. Must I really lose my souvenir?
Hubert: I have sworn to have it moved and 'gainst my will must see it ditched.
Arth: Oh save it, Hubert, save it! - Spare my curio, which I did buy to decorate the top of the piano that my sweetheart plays.
Hubert: Silence - no more; go, hide it carefully. Much danger do I undergo for thee.
(S.A.) F. W. Adcock
Leaving inspections and such necessary evils aside, let us go for a short run ashore. Abazzia is a very pretty, well-kept town, surrounded by delightful country, and has a strong resemblance to those places we had visited in the South of France. Had we not known that this was Italy, it would have been quite pardonable to have imagined that we had returned to the Cote d'Azur, for both vistas present the same green wooded hills, the same blue water, and the same white villas. Abazzia, and its surrounding country, at one time belonged to Austria and still remains a popular holiday resort for Austrians and Germans. Resembling Mar del Plata in its style, it has a promenade, pleasure beaches and many imposing hotels, while one can go for delightful walks in its parks and in the vicinity of the town.
The exchange rate being very much against us, and prices, at the same time, being extremely high, we found that a really exciting run ashore could he very expensive. Some preferred to take a bus or ferry to Fiume, a town of considerable size, some eight miles away, and here it was a simple matter to walk into Jugo-Slavia, by merely crossing a short bridge, over a canal, into Susak. It was rather a unique experience to be in Italy at one minute, and, the next, to find oneself nodding to an affably-smiling policeman in Jugo-Slavia. However, in neither Fiume nor Susak could one find very much amusement, and those who did venture ashore were content to enjoy themselves quietly in Abazzia.
During the forenoon of Tuesday 18th September, we left for Pola, arriving at that Italian Naval Base on the afternoon of the same day. We now settled down to prepare for the Gunnery Efficiency Test, working up by a series of practice runs to attain that speed and precision necessary to make a good show. Naturally, some of these runs had their funny side - it is a well-known aptitude of the Navy to find amusement in even some of their most serious undertakings - and we recall the incident in which one of our Maltese cooks, zealously carrying out his duty as a member of the Ammunition Supply Party in No. 6 Shell Room, forgot to leave go of the whip when a projectile was being hoisted and shot up through the steel-sprung safety flaps like a Jack-in-the-box. His remarks were un-translatable!
However, let us once more turn our attention shore-wise.
Regarding the place from the ship, Pola looked exactly what it is - a naval base. An almost circular bay, sheltered from the sea by an island, forms an ideal harbour for the purpose, and we, tied up to a buoy in the stream could see Italian destroyers, patrol boats, and various other ships alongside the quays on one side, and, on the other, the slip-ways and building-yards, where, it is said, during the Great War, when Pola was Austrian territory, German submarines were assembled and launched into the Mediterranean.
The town itself has none of the beauty that was apparent at Abazzia, appearing, rather, drab and unattractive, but it contains some interesting Roman remains, including a coliseum or amphitheatre of considerable size, which is so well preserved that it still remains in use. The unfavourable exchange again caused many to stay on board who would otherwise have ventured ashore, and those who did go, found little to do apart from looking round the town, and contenting themselves with a few quiet - or not so quiet! - drinks.
A slight insight of life in the Italian Navy was gained by a few of us who landed for church on the Sunday during our stay. We were to be met on the jetty by an Italian Petty Officer, who, it transpired, knew English ‘as she is spoke,’ and, having waited for ten minutes or so, we espied our guide making all speed through the dockyard towards us. He arrived, somewhat out of breath, and, after the senior rating had wished him "Good evening " - why, we don't know, since it was just 10.30 a.m. - and asked him how he was, he told us that the church was "only a little far, but not so much," and we set off.
It was not long before we entered the premises of the Italian Naval Barracks and found ourselves confronted with all manner of uniforms, suggestive of Field-Marshalls, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and Napoleon on board the Bellerophon. To salute - or not to salute! That was the question, and after having performed ‘Eyes left’ for the benefit of a couple of policemen, we decided to be more discriminating and to salute only those who looked as though they really expected it, for, since our guide had fallen back to take charge of a company of Italian sailors, we could not take our cue from him. However, we marched along through the barracks, passing the fire station and the galleys, and glimpsing long mess-rooms and storehouses, and all the usual buildings that one associates with a naval establishment, until finally we arrived at the doors of the church.
Here we were conducted by a resplendent commissionaire to the centre of the aisle, the church being already practically full, Italian sailors fallen in on either side while armed guards stood at the altar-rails. Not quite understanding that we were expected to remain standing during the entire service, we ‘gate crashed’ into the seats (we afterwards found that they were reserved for ladies), and as there was no one to point out our mistake, there we stayed. The service, apart from sundry bugle calls and presenting of arms, followed its usual course (though we must say the sermon left us cold), and all went well until the end, when we were startled by a concerted shout of what sounded to us like "Whoopee!" but which, we think, was really Italian for "Long live the King."
The service over, we returned by the way we had come, and by the time that our guide had sadly told us that he was married and had done a commission in China, the ship's boat arrived alongside and, bidding him ‘au revoir,’ we returned on board.
PALESTINE, EGYPT AND CYPRUS
Leaving Pola on 25th September, we set out on a five-day passage to Haifa in Palestine, and, soon after we left the harbour we passed close to Brioni Island, thus obtaining a glimpse of that very pretty holiday place.
Settling down to a lengthy period at sea reminded us somewhat of our South American trips, though this one was of but short duration compared with our experiences of anything up to sixteen days at sea. As we were accompanied by the other two ships of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, time did not hang heavily on our hands and, when we were not carrying out combined exercises, we were preparing for the rapidly approaching Efficiency Test. Lower deck was cleared for a record number of times during so short a period, and everyone of us learnt exactly what had to be done in any emergency during action. Each had his own particular instructions; some were deputised to administer first aid; others were to deal with gas; fire and repair parties assumed a surprising alertness, while ammunition supply sections abandoned the occupation of killing cockroaches in the magazines and shell rooms to comply with the exorbitant demands of the guns' crews.
We learnt what to say when we smelt gas - (though, we believe, one of our artisans missed his cue during a trial run and endangered the olfactory nerves of all in his vicinity, to say nothing of startling the Commander, by shouting: "Paper - Evening News - Paper," instead of: "Local - Gas - Local").
In short, everyone put in all they knew towards making a good show. Not content with merely hearing the instructions of the officers, the ship's company themselves helped, those, who were able to do so, explaining little details that may not have been quite clear to mess-mates or members of their own particular groups.
To quote an example we have in mind the case of a Leading Seaman who impressed upon his gun's crew that, should any of them come into contact with mustard gas, he was on no account to be touched by anyone else ‘until the demolition party’ had had a go at him" (sic.). The decontamination party was also known by other names, even less complimentary.
Our preparations terminated with a dress rehearsal, in which the Captain took the part of the Inspecting Officer; and did we have fun? It is harrowing to think of the number of dead and wounded; of the havoc wrought about the ship; of bulkheads blown away and of fiercely raging fires. We can only be thankful that the tragedy and horror of the whole terrible action was mercifully alleviated by one or two incidents that enabled us to keep smiling.
For instance, a mythical explosion had wiped out a magazine's crew and had necessitated the flooding (also mythical) of the magazine in question. Unfortunately, one of the Maltese stewards in the supply party did not have time to get clear before the doors were fastened. On his attempting to undo the clips, he was informed that it was impossible for him to get out since he, and all his companions were supposed to be dead. To which he made answer:
"That's right! You die for bloomin' skylark out there - I nearly dead in here for sure!"
It does get warm in a place like that with the doors securely clamped down!
Then again, the Captain called down a shell room hatchway to say that there had been an explosion in the flat above, and what were the occupants doing about it? He must have been somewhat startled by the reply: "Sorry, sir, but we didn't hear it!"
On the whole, however, the dress rehearsal served a very good purpose, for it showed where mistakes could be made and prepared us for the real test.
It would appear that we have rather ‘got ahead’ of ourselves in relating the foregoing incidents, for our final preparations for the Efficiency Test did not take place until the day after we arrived at Haifa.
We sighted the Promised Land on the morning of Sunday 30th September and by midday had entered the harbour and secured, stern to the breakwater. At first glance Haifa and its surroundings appeared but a poor conception of a land ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ but on reflection we concluded that the milk referred to must be that of goats, which, judging from those we had seen at Malta, thrive on nothing, while bees are of such an industrious nature that they can probably gather honey from sand dunes. In no other way can we explain the allusion.
However, Palestine is certainly a land of promise, at least, as far as Haifa is concerned. From remarks passed by those who had visited the place before, we gathered that rapid strides towards its development have taken place during the last few years, and, indeed, the surprising amount of shipping to be seen in the port gave ample evidence of considerable trade. A pipe line in course of construction at the time of our visit, across the miles of desert country between Palestine and the oil fields of Iraq, will convert Haifa into an important fuelling station and thus, one has every reason to believe that it will eventually become one of the most important sea ports of the Mediterranean.
For some of us, Palestine, as we saw it, was a disappointment. Having learned as children something of its history, and still retaining those impressions that had been instilled into us, it appeared incongruous to see products of civilisation and modern progress, such as well-kept macadamised roads and motor transport, in a country that we had always imagined as being more or less devoid of all modernity. It would have seemed more in keeping with biblical traditions to have been confronted with sandy tracks, along which one had either to travel on foot or with the help of camels or asses.
Liberty men found that there was quite a lot of attraction ashore and were soon on the very best of terms with the Gordon Highlanders, stationed in the town. Indeed, the ‘Scotties’ entertained us right royally and were responsible for many outbreaks of the ‘morning after the night before’ feeling. Cricket and football matches were arranged with the soldiers, and with units of the Palestine Police Force at Haifa and Nazareth, while those who wished were able to take advantage of trips arranged by the British Sailors' Society to all the neighbouring places of biblical interest. Altogether, we found that our nine days' stay was all too short - the time at our disposal did not allow of our doing all that we would have wished.
One fortunate party were however able to take advantage of three days' leave to go on a tour of Jerusalem and other places of interest in connection with biblical traditions and we ourselves were fortunate in obtaining the following description of the trip from one of those who went.
On Wednesday 2nd October, a party of about forty left Haifa on a three-day tour of Jerusalem and other places of biblical interest. Our two motor buses soon ran out of the town and on to the long winding road for Nazareth, for some time, following the road around Mount Carmel, where we were shown Elijah's place of sacrifice and the spot where he was fed by the ravens. Mount Carmel is fourteen miles long, and nine miles wide at its broadest part.
After another hour's travel, we dismounted to look at the country, and were rewarded with an excellent view of the Plains of Galilee, Mount Gilboa, Little Hermon, Mount Endor, Mount Tabor, Nain, the Mountains of Moab, and, at the foot of the mountain on which we stood, the plain called Armageddon. Here, there grew in abundance, a small scrub, called camel-thorn, of which many of us gathered small pieces, as it is said that of this scrub the Crown of Thorns was made.
Our next stop was at Nazareth where we were first conducted to the Church of the Annunciation, and also shown the tomb of St. Joseph. A short step from there was the Church of St. Joseph, which is built over the site of the Carpenter's Shop and the original home of the Holy Family. We saw the original mosaic floor and steps of the old Fourth Century Church (only discovered two months previously), and looked down into the cave or grotto which is said to be the ‘Shop.’ Everyone was much taken by a large painting of the Holy Family, the work of a French monk; the wonderful expression depicted on the faces is beyond description, and the painting is the finest that many of us had seen. The present church was built some forty-five years ago, and is looked after by Roman Catholic monks.
Ten minutes' walking brought us to Mary's Well which was vouched for as authentic by our guide, it being the only water supply in the whole of the Nazareth district. We all drank at the well and then left for Nablus - or ancient Shechem. On the journey, we passed by Jezreel, recalling Ahab and the Witch of Endor, and also Samaria, and finally pulled into Nablus just after mid-day.
Here, the only thing of interest was Jacob's Well, the shaft of which is some sixty to seventy feet in depth, and a bare eighteen inches wide. Over the whole site a church was started many years ago, but has never been completed.
On the road, once more, we passed a diminutive shepherd boy playing on his pipe to the flock of sheep and goats, following behind him without anyone to drive them. Farther on we passed through Beroth - or Bethel, the place where the Boy Jesus was missed by His parents, causing them to return to Jerusalem, where they found Him with the doctors and elders in the Temple.
Entering the city, we drove past the War Graves Cemetery and the Ex-Kaiser's Palace, which was intended by him to be the place from whence he would govern the world. We were later shown the large gap in the city wall, next to Jaffa Gate, which was made at the Ex-Kaiser's order when he rode into Jerusalem. In consequence of this, when Lord Allenby entered the city after the British had driven out the Turks, he (Allenby) purposely dismounted from his horse and walked through the gates on foot in order to show his respect for the Holy City. An earthquake, a few years ago, badly damaged the palace, to the extent of some £20,000 and the masonry surrounding a huge portrait of the Kaiser fell in, damaging the face portion beyond repair.
Another eight miles or so brought us to Bethlehem, to the Church of the Nativity, and here, again, we were fortunate in seeing the original mosaic floor, the wonderful design, in several places, being nearly perfect. This floor was only discovered by accident, when a builder's engineer was sounding the depth of the pillars.
Each of us being supplied with a candle, we descended the steps to the grotto or cave which was the outer portion of the ‘Inn,’ and where a shrine is built over the place where Christ was born, the exact spot being marked with a French silver cross. The original position of the manger is also shown and the various religious sects have their altars, etc., all round. The place was burnt several years ago, and many valuable tapestries destroyed, and since then a native policeman is constantly on watch.
Passing a few paces along a narrow passage, we entered a small shrine erected over the spot, where the bodies of all the children were laid after the massacre ordered by King Herod, while another chamber contains the tomb of the first man to translate the Bible from Hebrew to Latin and Greek. We then passed through the Roman Catholic Church and out into the road just above the spot from which ‘the shepherds watched their flocks by night.’
Driving back to Jerusalem, we parked ourselves in the hotel, having completed our first day's travels.
Next morning found us astir quite early and we started out at 8.30 with two R.A.F. Toc H members acting as our voluntary guides. We passed down King David Street, a narrow thoroughfare absolutely packed with little stores selling everything and anything from meat and vegetables to clothing and jewellery - and filled with a smell far from the odour of sanctity. Our first stop was at the ‘Wailing Wall,’ and we were all rather surprised to see Jews of all ages wailing and rocking to and fro as if carried away with the sincerity of their mission. Our guides explained that the Jews are not allowed in the Temple area, as it is in the hands of the Moslems, and consequently they are wailing for the day when they will be allowed to go into the Temple again. Farther, back from the Wall we found the women wailers, though these (to us) didn't seem half so fervent. We then passed on to the Temple area and the Mosque of Omar, more correctly called the Dome of the Rock. The Mosque is built over the site of the Temple and is a fine example of Moslem art, the mosaic work in colours being particularly striking. Before we were allowed to enter, specially provided slippers had to be donned, so that we should not defile the sanctity of the place.
On the steps of the Mosque of Omar inside the Temple Area - Jerusalem
In the centre of the building is a huge rock on which is said to have taken place, Abraham's sacrifice, and also, Elisha's ascension. On one corner of it is the mark left by the hand of the Angel Gabriel, when, according to legend, he stayed the rock from following Elisha to Heaven.
We also saw the Holy of Holies and the place occupied by the Ark of the Covenant, and, in addition, an urn containing two hairs from the beard of Mohammed. We were told that some of the pillars in the present building were the original pillars of the ‘Temple of Venus,’ which was erected over the site after the Temple was first destroyed.
In the courtyard stands a smaller edition of the Mosque, the model from which the main building was copied, and this once contained a chain suspended from the centre of the roof, about which an amusing story is told.
Legend has it that anyone who told a lie while holding the chain was beaten by it, but those speaking the truth were unharmed. The story goes on to say that a certain man owed another a sum of money but said he had repaid it, so to settle the matter it was decided that they should consult the ‘Chain of Truth.’
The man who had lent the money therefore approached the chain and, placing his hand upon it, said:
"I lent some money to this man, and he has not repaid me."
In response to this the chain remained perfectly still.
It was then the turn of the borrower who, handing to his creditor a stick in which he had concealed the money in question, stepped up to the chain and said: "I have repaid the money."
The chain is said to have been so disgusted by the trickery that it vanished up to Heaven and has never been seen since.
Leaving the Dome of the Rock and crossing the Temple area, we passed down the Steps of Judgment into the Mosque of El Aska, this latter being a good example of modern Moslem work. At the far end of the Mosque, two pillars stand close together, and it is said that whoever can pass between these pillars is sure of a passage to Heaven. Naturally we all booked our passage, except for one member of the party, who intends to return after going through a course for slimming. We were told that in 1891 a man actually died through trying to achieve the impossible - was he any relation to the Fat Boy of Peckham, we wonder?
A walk of a hundred yards brought us to the city wall, and looking over we found ourselves directly above the Garden of Gethsemane. We next descended into a huge vault-like chamber known as Solomon's stables, finding everywhere signs of Roman workmanship. Here the Moslems claim that Christ was born, and a shrine has been erected over the supposed spot.
After a short walk along the city wall, we found ourselves at the Golden Gate, which is now closed and blocked up, but, through which, it is said, on the Day of Judgment, we shall all pass, going up the Steps of Judgment to the Temple. A further ten minutes brought us to the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, built on the site of the Judgment Hall, where Our Lord was brought before Pontius Pilate, scourged, and taken away to be crucified, and we were conducted round by one of the Sisters. A particularly fine painting, the work of one of the Sisters, depicts Our Lord bearing the Cross and marks the road along which He passed on His way to Calvary. The beautiful little chapel, known as the Church of Ecce Homo, has the original Roman arch of the Judgment Hall built into the altar, while parts of the walls and courtyard still bear signs of Roman origin.
Our next visit was to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is said to be built on the site of Calvary. Here we saw a plate marking the exact spot where Our Lord is believed to have been crucified, and the sepulchre where He is said to have been laid.
Many of the various religious sects have their shrines and altars in the church, but the sepulchre and the area surrounding it are common holy ground and are looked after by each in turn. There is also a statue of the Virgin Mary close to the place of crucifixion, and this is covered almost entirely with jewels and jewellery - the entire lot is said to be valued at something over £1,000,000 - the presents of pilgrims from all over the world. Under the same roof, also, the three crosses, that of Our Lord and those of the two thieves, were discovered by Queen Helen, the wife of Constantine, in the year A.D. 70.
In the afternoon, we went out to Jericho, where we found very little of interest and then on to the river Jordan, which also proved rather disappointing, being only about fifty yards or so wide, and appearing very dirty. Two or three of us went over into Transjordan while the remainder visited the spot where Our Lord is said to have been baptised.
Re-assembled once more we next journeyed to the Dead Sea, which furnished us with some amusement. We found that it was nearly impossible to swim owing to the extreme buoyancy of the water. In addition, its taste was vile, and those of the party who ignored the notices to "keep your head clear of the water" found out that they could hardly open their eyes for an hour or so. Having floated about for half an hour or more, we had something to take the ‘nasty taste out of our mouths’ and started back for Jerusalem.
The drive back took over two and a half hours and we arrived back with just sufficient time to clean up for dinner.
At least two of the party were very much attracted by the only young lady staying at the hotel, but when discreet enquiries from the waiter brought to light that she was an American millionairess - well - we believe they withdrew their intended attentions.
Most of the party went out to see Jerusalem by night, but found it rather disappointing, although we know of at least one place that was brightened up.
The last morning was very quiet. Breakfast had been arranged for 9.30 and even then, we believe, at least three missed it in favour of another ten minutes in bed! Most of us set out in small groups to see the shops and get swindled, whilst others wrote letters in the hotel. After an early lunch, followed by a quick packing, we found ourselves in the cars and away before 2 p.m.
We left Jerusalem by Damascus Gate, and set off to our last port of call, the Garden Tomb. This is given as the final resting place of Our Lord and has only recently been discovered and excavated. In many details, it fits exactly the biblical description, and the hill nearby, which is called Golgotha, does indeed bear a striking resemblance to a skull. Entering the tomb, we had its details pointed out to us by our guide, who thoroughly convinced the majority of us that this spot has far more authenticity as the place where Our Lord was buried than the Tomb of the Holy Sepulchre.
Embarking, once more, we started back on our journey to Haifa, arriving there at about 7 p.m., thoroughly satisfied with our three days' tour.
(Warrant Shipwright W. Sharpe)
On Sunday 7th October, a ship's company cricket team, accompanied by some twenty supporters, travelled to Nazareth for a friendly game with the Nazareth Unit of the Palestine Police Force.
We will not concern ourselves with an account of the match. Suffice it is to say that it was a very enjoyable one, with a thrilling finish - ending as it did, to everyone's satisfaction, in a draw. Neither do we intend to describe the journey thither, nor the uproarious smoking concert which followed the very excellent dinner provided for us after the game for those who were present that evening will retain pleasant memories enough, without requiring our descriptive efforts to recall them. We are concerned merely with one small incident, the explanation of which is of some interest.
As we were passing through the main street of Nazareth, on our way from the Police quarters to the cricket ground, we came upon a procession of sorts which immediately claimed our attention. From the crowd of excited people - gaily dressed in long flowing robes of various hues, obviously those reserved for ceremonial occasions - we concluded that practically the whole of the townsfolk had assembled to take part. Leading the main body, which was in no sort of order, were two small bands, each numbering about forty persons. The foremost of these was comprised entirely of men, singing and performing the steps of some kind of dance, while behind them came a similar number of women, these also singing and clapping their hands to the rhythm of tom-toms. Naturally these demonstrations served to arouse our curiosity and on making enquiries, one of the friendly policemen, who were our hosts, told us that it was a Mohammedan or Arab wedding, and proceeded to explain the ceremony at some length.
We gathered that we had witnessed only the commencement of the proceedings - the ceremonial procession around the town. He explained that an Arab considers his womenfolk to be decidedly inferior to himself, hence the leaders of this happy throng were the bridegroom and all his male friends and relations. Following them came the bride whose left hand was attached to her forehead by a band, to signify that she was about to become the property of the bridegroom, and who was accompanied by all her friends, loudly chanting their congratulations. Behind came everyone and anyone who wished to join in.
This much we had seen. For the rest, we had to content ourselves with the explanations of our genial host.
It appears that the wedding procession continues on its way until it arrives at the house, or tent, whichever the case may be - of the headman or sheikh, who then performs a short ceremony conforming somewhat to that carried out by a Registrar in our own land. The bride and bridegroom are then conducted to the special tent which is to become their home, and here the real nuptials take place while the crowd anxiously awaits outside. On their reappearance, the sheikh enquires of the bridegroom if the bride is a good wife, while the lady answers a similar question about her husband. If the answers are favourable, in each case the happy couple are declared truly married.
The fact that Mohammedans marry at a very early age is the explanation of these searching enquiries for, should the sheikh consider that either the bride or the bridegroom has not reached a state of sufficient maturity, their ‘married life’ is postponed until, in his opinion, they can be allowed to live together.
* * * *
Picnic – Summer 1934
During the late afternoon of Monday, 8th October, we left the shelter of the breakwater at Haifa and anchored outside in the Bay of Acre on the southern shores of which the town is built. Early on the following morning we put to sea to join up with the Durban and Despatch having before us the prospect of a very busy day - our minds centred on a single thought - the Efficiency Test. At 7 a.m. we commenced to prepare for General Quarters, and soon after 8 o'clock, when the Admiral arrived on board, we were closed up at action stations.
There followed a forenoon such as we had experienced just a week previously though we are of the opinion that the ‘dummy run’ with the Captain as the Inspecting Officer, was perhaps the more arduous of the two. As Dauntless was the first ship to be put through her paces, as far as the majority were concerned, the test was virtually over by about 10.30, when the Admiral left the ship and went to the Despatch, but men who had been detailed to act as recorders, etc. on the other ships still had plenty of work before them. However, once the Despatch and the Durban had completed their operations, the squadron again separated and we headed south for Port Said.
Arriving early on the following morning we passed through the harbour and went alongside the oiling jetty at the entrance to the Suez Canal, to refuel. Here we spent the forenoon but shortly before noon we cast off and moored in the harbour opposite the water front of Port Said. It was not long before we were invaded by vendors of all manner of curios and throughout our stay, during the dinner hour and the dog watches, the upper deck presented a spectacle more in keeping with an oriental bazaar than a warship. In addition, our leisure hours were enlivened by the performances of ‘ghili-ghili boys - so named from the manner in which they attract attention to themselves - which must be seen to be believed. However, we will do our best to convey some idea of what these performances are like.
Ghili, ghili, ghili, ghili, ghili, ghili! Come and see the ghili-ghili boy! Watch the ghili.ghili boy! Ghili, ghili, ghili, ghili, ghili!
Now see tree cups - nozzing in 'em - empty! Tappem with stick, nozzing tha ire! Now see, tree corks - puttem under cups, tappem with ma stick - now watch! Pickem all up, puttem all under one cup - move de cup so, round and round and round! Brrrrrrrr, brrrrrrrr! Now, you, Lofty, you tellem which cup got corks. You say de middle? No, sir! I tink you wrong, ain't no corks there at all!
Now look! I do same ting again. Puttem under cup, move 'im round and round. Brrrrrrrr, brrrrrrrr! Now which, you, big marine? All gone again? No, sir, I tink you liar! They'se all back one under each cup.
But that's easy! You watch! Takem chicken outa ma pocket! See, one little chicken! Look! I wringem 'is neck! Him dead? No, sir, him two chickens now! Look! I gettem 'nother chicken, wringem 'is neck again! Him dead? No, dis time chicken am duck, him not chicken any more, chicken am duck! Not the duck what fly, the duck you make serge suits wid, the chicken wid the canvas between his toes!
Now look, sir, you lendem me two bob? All right, McGregor, I askem someone else. He come from Auchtermuchty. Och, awa' mon! Now, you Chief, you lendem me two bob? You good sport! You want to see me mak it disappear? All right, I puttem in ma pocket.
Ashore in Port Said we found plenty to do, there being numerous bars, cafes and cabarets, etc. where we could amuse ourselves. Of these, the Liverpool Bar, the Continental, the Modern, The Eastern and La Cigale, were the most popular, though in view of the fact that at the two last-named places one could obtain a dancing partner, and was treated to an excellent cabaret show, one found that drinks were more expensive.
At the Peace Memorial Hall entertainments were arranged for every night of our stay, and these included whist drives, dances and social evenings. Some of the ship's company, who had been members of the concert party while in South America, together with one or two local people, were able to stage a short concert, two days before the ship left, and we believe that their efforts were appreciated.
Apart from these amusements, the town itself is full of interest, and one can find, in the course of a stroll, an infinite variety of ‘types.’ Port Said - the Key of the Gateway to the East - is literally a blending of the Orient and the Occident. Shops and bazaars contain all manner of things from Egyptian rugs to Japanese tea sets, Indian brass work to trinkets from Birmingham - curios and curiosities from all parts of the world. One is invited to step into a scent shop to see something that one has never seen before. One declines, to be asked by the next shop keeper to buy silks or satins, calico or canvas. One is offered newspapers in all languages - English, French, Italian, German, Arabic - and pestered by hawkers of photographs, collar studs, fountain pens and pencils, who also offer to tell one's fortune.
One can sit in a wicker chair outside a cafe, enjoying an ice-cold drink, in the same way that one can sit outside the Brahma on the Avenida Rio Branco in Rio de Janeiro, or the cafes on the Boulevards of Paris. And yet, the buildings across the road, despite their bright lights, still retain the subtly mysterious ‘atmosphere’ associated with the East. One can watch dark-skinned, tarbooshed policemen (A man’s cap similar to a fez, typically of red felt with a tassel at the top) manipulating traffic lights for the guidance of magnificent cars - and humble asses. One can see European or American tourists seeing the sights and dark Egyptians dressed with the impeccability of Savile Row; Arabs with their long flowing robes, and, occasionally, a weary-looking Bedouin, with every appearance of having just completed days of travel across the wastes of the desert. The number of ships that pass through the Suez Canal, contribute towards this human cocktail for many of them stay for a few hours at Port Said, and their passengers are allowed to land. Thus, one can see people of practically every nation under the sun - all adding interest to the scene, in the same way that, perhaps, one is oneself an object of interest for them.
During our stay two parties were able to go on trips to Cairo, while some of our ‘crack shots,’ in preparation for the Rifle Meeting at Malta, travelled to the Royal Scots Fusiliers' range at Ismailia, where they spent a day or two. We understand that the soldiers had the best of it in the rifle and revolver shooting, and also at billiards, but the Dauntless contingent showed that they were, at least, deadly shots at a dart board.
A quiet game of Mah-Jong
8 a.m. on Sunday 14th October and sixty-two eager excursionists are waiting on the departure platform of Port Said railway station. The train appears, and after settling into our seats, occupying the whole of a second-class carriage, we start within a few minutes of the hour. The track runs alongside of the bank of the Suez Canal, about thirty yards distant on our left, while away to our right is a wide stretch of sand reaching to the coast.
Our first stop is at Ras El Esh, and our first interruption, by the train attendant with beer and lemonade. We politely reply "No thanks, come back later," to which he says "No, beer and lemonade only." Holy smoke! Who wants beer at 8.30 a.m.?
We leave again, accompanied by thousands of small birds, presumably sand-martins, as they are on the coastal side, and away beyond the Canal we can see countless sand dunes which look like low-flying air ships, due to the fact that our eye-level is but a few feet from Mother Earth. Soon we pull into El Cab, which is a small station and outpost camp. Here, in the Canal, are numerous dredgers and sand-suckers waiting to carry on with the everlasting task of keeping the Canal navigable.
Off again, and we leave the coast, which is replaced by a vast expanse of sandy waste, broken only by an occasional species of palm and patches of shrub. Our fourth stop is at 9 a.m. having reached El Qantara, where a few notice that rare occurrence, a ‘Q’ used without a ‘U’. This is a much busier and far better equipped station, having a refreshment bar, waiting room and all the usual offices, not forgetting the ‘Inspector's Rest Room’ (!). Leaving here, in another ten minutes we pass H.M.S. Emerald which had left Port Said at 6 a.m., slowly making her way through the Canal at about six knots. Loud cheers from the Navy in the train with the waving of beer bottles, we, having taken in supplies at our last stop and we get a few waves in return. And probably mutterings of "Jam Navy, and Jammy Med. Fleet." Onwards we go to our fifth stop, at Ballha, and after leaving here we travel through barren desert spotted with cactus and a few palms. A breeze has stirred and, with the speed of the train, we are taking in sand, which smothers everything. Throats are dust-dried and our mouths feel as if we had accidentally chewed and crunched eggshells.
Our next stop is at El Ferda, where we embark and disembark natives and their merchandise, and then on again to Ismailia. Here, we stay for about ten minutes, it being a very busy place, with scurrying porters and passengers, and refreshment vendors with their lemonade, bread and eggs, these being of course, hard boiled. They call their wares in English (?) and it sounds like: "Lemonabre danegs."
Leaving here we slowly pass through the native quarter, which appears to be a dirty-smelling hole, but it is amusing to see the native male element riding bicycles, in their long flowing dresses, minus foot wear, and using the flat of one foot on the front tyre, as a brake.
The train gathers speed and away we go, leaving the Canal and branching off into the heart of the desert, passing Nifisha, a small wayside village composed of adobe or mud huts, a cemetery with its curious graves, and on through the vast maize or Indian corn plantations which are irrigated by a series of sub canals and waterways.
We stop again for the eighth time at Abu Suweir, a small village which boasts an E.S.R. Elementary School, marked in plain English. The scholars appear more interested in the train, with all the naval heads hanging out of the windows. By 10.30 we have reached El-Mahsama, and our tenth stop is at Kassassine, where we find very dense crops of Indian corn and what appears to be cabbage. Baalwa is the next halt, and here we see hundreds of natives scurrying here and there with big sacks of goods. Imagine two natives, each with a huge sack, trying to get into a carriage and neither giving way to the other. This we see at every doorway as they take their loads into the third-class coaches with them.
On we go again until we reach Tel El Kebir, the story of which is found in history books. We are given a passing glance at the big cemetery which contains the bodies of those who were killed in the battle.
Shortly after we pass a camel caravan, about forty strong, well laden with merchandise, while on our left we still have the sub-canal, where several boats are lying, waiting for sufficient wind. One energetic bargee is actually towing two boats by himself, and is promptly designated as a “tired xxxxx” by the naval passengers.
Stopping again at Abu Hammud, where we see a native barber on the platform, squatting on his haunches and shaving a customer amidst all the bustle, we next pass through a small halt called Sawa, and arrive at our fifteenth stop, Abu El Akhbar at 11.30. Here, we see no desert at all, but plantations of every description. By 11.40 we find ourselves at Zaqazig - or Zigzag for simplicity - which is a fairly large station, moderately clean, and very busy. Mina El Kamh is similar, and so, on to Binha, our eighteenth and last stop before reaching Cairo. This town is on the banks of the River Nile and irrigation is more plentiful as the river feeds all the surrounding paddy-fields.
Toukh and Calicut are passed without stopping and we arrive at Cairo, dusty and dry, at 1 p.m.
Here we are met by four military lorries, which whisk us off to the Kasr El Nil Barracks, the headquarters of the 3rd Battalion of Grenadier Guards. Cairo station and the town appears typically modern and up to date, with its trams, taxis, buses, and traffic lights, etc. in fact - an ultra modern city in the middle of the desert.
After a swill - both internal and external - lunch and a short rest three of us wander out of the barracks, turning to the right and along the street until we come to the Kasr El Nil Bridge, a very wide and magnificent work of art spanning the Nile. A section of it swings open diagonally to allow the passage of large craft. We cross the bridge, and, turning to the right again, enter the Lemon Gardens, where we find the trees, plants and shrubs wonderfully kept, the latter clipped and trimmed to represent the weirdest and grotesque shapes.
Having seen the gardens, we return by the same route to the barracks, for tea at 5 o'clock, and after a bath and a change of clothes we arrange for the barracks' dragoman or guide to get three seats for the Egyptian Cabaret. As this does not start until about 10.30 p.m. we decide to while away the time at the Cinema Triomphe, a most clean and well-ventilated theatre, being, we believe, under French control.
Our guide is waiting for us after the show, and away we go for a drink at a small cafe, before going inside the cabaret as we have great objections to being deliberately stung. The guide imbibes beer also, though he openly boasts that it is against his religion. We walk on and skirt the fish market. At a hundred yards' distance the smell is vile, and we hear that two of our officers were almost asphyxiated by it the previous night. It seems a great joke to our dragoman, who was their guide on that occasion. We traverse the Shakhe Ibrihim Pasha, passing Shepheard's Hotel, which has been closed until the beginning of the season, and along to the Ezbekiyya Gardens, containing a statue of the Great Pasha, dated 1789-1848.
Finally, we reach the Egyptian Bas-far Cabaret, where we partake of coffee only, and are invited to smoke a ‘hubble-bubble’ or water-pipe. We don't think so as the mouthpiece appears to be communal and we would rather be safe than sorry. The artistes give exhibitions of various types of old Egyptian dances, some of them almost daring, and a couple dance the Spanish Rumba and Fandango. When the lights go up we gaze around and find that we are the only naval element present. However, one must visit and see these places in order to get inside knowledge and local colour for such compositions as these.
The next number depicts a native farmer with nine wives, each giving the calls and chants for the different vegetables she is selling, but, being in the Egyptian language, it sounds like so much jargon to us. This is followed by a ladies' boxing match, in which the opponents are perfectly matched (?) A blonde of twelve stones versus a brunette of no more than eight. The rounds are accompanied by singing, each being terminated by a pushing blow from either side. ‘Poor humour,’ say we and make our exit thence by taxi to the barracks and so to bed at the end of our first day.
At about 9 o'clock on Monday nine of us start out for a visit to the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Zoo. We are accompanied by our guide, and after changing from the bus into a tram, reach the terminus shortly after ten o'clock. Opposite the tram stop is a compound for about forty camels, and mounted on nine of these, we set off, led by the guide on a donkey. Mounting a camel presents no difficulty, for the camel is lying on the ground, and as soon as one is in position, it regains its ‘ready position’ in about four movements, very similar to two backward and forward motions of a rocking horse, on one of which surely the reader has ridden.
We set off up-hill with a rolling gait and after some fifteen minutes arrive at the first and largest of a group of three pyramids, known as the Gizeh.
Actually, there are nine in number, but the other six are some distance away. Our dragoman tells us that it would take any one of us one hour to climb to the apex and descend again, but a native offers to do it, up and down, in eight minutes for the small sum of sixpence each. Thinking this impossible, we start him off by the watch, and he is waving to us from the top in four minutes, and collecting his sixpences at the end of a further three minutes, twenty-five seconds. Considering that the stone blocks are on an average, breast high, and the distance from the base to the apex is four hundred and fifty feet, this feat is remarkable. The area of the base of the Pyramid is the square of the height and thirty years were taken in building it; the first ten, to bring the stone from Matkam Hill, a further ten to lay the foundations after shaping, and the last ten years to complete it. It is believed that the last were finished by King Khufi, the second king of the Fourth Dynasty. The alabaster casing was removed by Ali Ahmed, and taken to the Mosque of Sultan Hassan in the Citadel.
Near the Pyramids of Gizeh - Cairo
Leaving the Pyramid another ten minutes' camel ride brings us to the Sphinx, and we are all more than surprised when we reach it, being almost on top of it before we see it. The sand was previously on a level with its neck, but after excavations it seems that it lies in a huge pit. It is made of solid stone and has the head of a woman, the face of a man and the body of a lion. No definite history can we get as its age is unknown, and it is not certain which is the elder, the Pyramid or the Sphinx. The face, at one time was coloured a reddish brown, but the colour has almost gone, while the nose is broken, believed to have been done by either Napoleon or the Arabs. The Sphinx was originally built for worship as a god by Harkmaces.
We leave the Sphinx and walk to the Temple of the Sphinx, which is built of three different kinds of stone; the flooring of alabaster from Luxor, the sixteen pillars and surrounding walls of granite brought from Aswan, and the roofing and recesses of limestone.
Rejoining our camels, we find a band of about thirty mounted sailors, these being most of the remainder of our party, and a wag promptly christens the gathering ‘The Dauntless Camel Corps.’
After being photographed our party of nine starts on the return trip by a roundabout route to the Pyramids. Here we dismount and, after parting with a little baksheesh to the camel drivers, we climb up to the doorway of the tomb in the Pyramid, where we have to leave out hats and cameras before starting an ascent up a ‘duckboard,’ inclined at an angle of about forty-five degrees. This is dimly lit by electricity, and considering that the passage is but a bare four feet high, and that there is some hundred feet to climb, we are very thankful when we reach the Queen's Chamber, a huge vault about fifteen feet square and twenty feet high. An aperture in one wall shows where the Queen was buried in an upright position, and behind this is a large cavity, where her jewels were also buried with her.
We return to the gallery and commence a similar climb of a further hundred and twenty feet to the King's Chamber, in the heart of the Pyramid, which is similar, but larger than that of the Queen, and contains the sarcophagus, hewn from solid black granite, in which was found his mummified remains in a golden coffin. A cavity in the floor reveals the late hiding place of his jewels, the Royal Crown having been found in a niche, some twenty feet up in one of the walls. Some of the granite blocks in the walls of this tomb are reputed to weigh twenty tons, and the raising of these to a height of over two hundred feet without machinery was an achievement at which one still marvels. It leaves one guessing, ‘Just how?’
Several of us test our lungs with a loud ‘whoopee,’ and the echo lasts for over a minute. We return to descend the low tunnel to broad daylight with a sigh of relief and wet through with perspiration. And no, it is quite cool inside. This was caused by the exertion of the ascent and descent.
We must now render apologies for our inability to give dates and the names of kings and queens, but attribute it to our guide's poor ‘English,’ and the insufficiency of the light making it impossible to take notes of what we do understand.
We walk along the path back to the camel compound, and dive into the Pyramid Cafe to slake a terrible thirst – ‘a well-earned slake,’ say we!
And now by tramcar to the Zoological Gardens where we find animals and birds of all descriptions. The gardens and enclosures are very similar to those in London, but on a much smaller scale. After passing the Monkey House we all manage to pass the test and are allowed to come out again.
Thence once more by tramcar back to barracks, arriving shortly before two o'clock, to have dinner and just a short siesta to rest the eyes - and the feet. Then ablutions and tea, after which we exchange experiences with the Sergeants in the Mess.
Sight-seeing being over for the day, we set off for the town, where we have supper and adjourn to the Cinema Royal, finding it most soothing to sit in a comfortable cinema seat after camel-riding. The show over, we return to barracks, and so to bed early (liar! - Ed.) in readiness for another day's tour on the morrow.
At about 9.30 on the following morning we nine once more start out for our second and last tour. Splitting into three parties of three for the purpose of conveyance by pair-horse carriages and taking two guides, we drive through the town in grand style, and the words of that well-known song come to mind, "While the rich man rides by in his carriage and pair!"
We have not gone very far before one of the horses objects to hauling sea-farers about, and stops - likewise his partner, but after a great deal of coaxing, with whip and Egyptian swearing, we arrive at King Fouad’s Palace. This is a low-built structure, not unlike Buckingham Palace in appearance, but seemingly much larger. The King is not in residence so we see no ceremonial parades - or the like, and pass on to the Royal School of Hygiene, but unfortunately, we have chosen the wrong day, as a notice on the door states ‘LADIES ONLY.’ We are very disappointed as this Museum is noted for its wonderful exhibits, collected during medical and surgical research work.
From here we go on to the Mosque of the Sultan Hassan, experiencing further trouble with our ‘fiery steed.’ This Mosque is a wonderful building, built by Ahmed in 1358, and in it he utilised the alabaster casing from the Gizeh Pyramid for the decorations. Before being allowed to enter we have to don canvas overshoes, in keeping with the religious rites. The interior carvings of alabaster, marble and wood, and also the mosaics are indeed a work of art, both wonderful and beautiful, when one considers the more or less crude tools with which they were done. We are shown the high pulpits from which the Koran is read, and also the altar at which the Moslems pray, facing towards Mecca. The floors are covered with rich carpets, and there is a special entrance and enclosure for the King in which is buried the body of Sultan Hassan.
We next go on to the Citadel, at the top of which stands the Mosque of Mehemet Ali, but are unable to enter, as the roof is undergoing repairs and considered dangerous. However, we go into his palace - or the remains of it - and see several smaller mosques, tombs and sarcophagi, the resting places of his nearer relatives, all of which are beautifully carved and in a fine state of preservation. One of them is such a marvellous piece of work, that it is reputed that the sculptor had his hands chopped off to prevent him from producing a similar or even better one.
From here we visit the ‘Mosque of the Seaforth Highlanders,’ or, rather, the Sergeants' Beer Bar and pay our due respects. On our return, we stop at the Mosque of the Mamelukes, a band of mounted Egyptian soldiers, originally Circassian slaves, who were invited to feast with Mehemet Ali and were slain one by one on entry to the Palace. This slaughter took place in 1811, but the actual number of slain is unknown.
On our return down-hill, the spirited horse again refuses duty and breaks his girth and trace and the centre pole of the carriage, thus causing the three occupants to return to town by taxi. We eventually reach the Egyptian Museum without further mishap, and find this to be a fine two-storied building erected in 1900 adjoining the Qasr el-Nil Military Barracks. The collection of antiquities was formerly housed in the Palace of Giza, in 1890, and previously to that at Bulk, in 1858. A Frenchman, named Auguste Marriette, was the founder, and his statue and tomb are to be found at the end of the Museum garden. At the present time 6,217 exhibits are shown, and in the upper north-west wing are a further 1,637 exhibits, all belonging to the era of King Tutankhamun. It is impossible to describe all that we see, in this short article, but a few words might be said about some of the objects, found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, by the Earl of Carnarvon and Doctor Howard Carter, in 1922.
The King's body lay in three mummiform coffins enclosed in a sandstone sarcophagus, the inner coffin being of solid gold, weighing about 110 kilograms or approximately 240 pounds. This contained the mummified body of young King, covered with jewellery. The mummy remains in the tomb at Luxor, but all the exhibits, save for a few duplicates, are on view in the Museum. One item of interest, apart from the coffin and jewellery, etc., is a small basket containing cosmetic pots, powder bowl, lipstick, eyebrow pencil, combs and hair slides. These, presumably, belonged to his Queen, Ankhesenamun, and show that modern facial decoration is not so modern after all.
The throne is of carved wood, coated with gold, and with inlaid decorations in faience, glass, stones, gems and silver, and it rests on four feline legs, surmounted with superb lions' heads. One would need a whole week to see all the exhibits, and as this is the last of our tours and time is drawing on we bid the Museum farewell, adjourning next door to the barracks for dinner, after which a scratch team from the naval visitors engage the Battalion Water Polo Team to combat. We are beaten 5-3, but we must make excuses for our team, who played well, but found difficulty in swimming in fresh water, after being accustomed to the ‘briny.’
After tea, we pack and set off for Cairo Station, catching the 6 p.m. train out, all more or less satisfied with a very pleasant and interesting visit.
* * * *
We left Port Said, with much regret, on Friday 19th October, arriving at Famagusta in Cyprus, on the following day, after a short and uneventful trip.
Having had pleasant and busy sojourns, both at Haifa and Port Said, we hoped to indulge in something of a rest-cure at Famagusta, but we found, on our arrival, that it was not to be. The Durban and Despatch had both, previously, spent a few days in the port, and had exerted themselves to entertain the shore-folk. This they had done so well that we, instead, found a full programme of entertainments arranged for our benefit ashore. ‘Beer and bathing’ parties were proposed for practically every afternoon of our stay while the mukhtars, or mayors, of neighbouring villages held luncheon parties, to which we were invited in batches of anything from six to eighteen persons. In fact, so many and so varied were the invitations received, that the supply was not always equal to the demand and on occasions, the utmost difficulty was encountered in mustering sufficient men to fill each party
Famagusta, when one sees it for the first time, immediately turns one's thoughts towards medieval days for the town is surrounded by a castellated wall, marked at intervals by watch towers. The quay at which liberty men were landed is actually outside the walls and one enters the town through an archway. Even then one's impression of the Moyen Age (Middle Ages) is enhanced rather than diminished, for the buildings have little of modernity about them. Built for the most part of crudely made bricks in which the straw is still visible, the dwellings are laid out in a manner which in no way resembles the stereotyped method of modern towns. Instead they are scattered at random and only occasionally does one find anything resembling a street. The roads though well laid are merely the joining-up of the spaces between the houses.
The country-side, surrounding the town, appears bleak, but is actually very productive and practically every little village is entirely self-supporting. Along the coast lies a fertile plain, changing as one progresses inland to picturesque mountainous districts, hazy when viewed from the sea, and appearing much more distant than they really are.
However, we can give no better description of Cyprus and the Cypriots than the following which tells of the journeys - and adventures - of a member of one of the luncheon parties, we have already mentioned.
* * * *
An invitation to a luncheon party having been received from one Christophis Stanch, Mukhtar of Tricorn, a party of six left the ship just after half-past ten on Saturday 27th October. We found, waiting for us on the jetty, a conveyance, which at a push could accommodate nine persons, and into this we climbed, accompanied by an English-speaking Cypriot, who was to act as interpreter.
The engine commenced to purr like an out-of-breath elephant, and tooting merrily on the horn, we swung under an arch-way through the walls of the town, to repeat the performance, a few minutes later, under another arch-way out on to the open road.
Once clear of the town we shot ahead along a good road on a journey reminiscent of a previous one at Corfu. Our driver ‘stayed not on the order of his going’ - he just went - and his foot stayed on the accelerator. The way led through orange groves which later gave place to pomegranate trees and potato plantations, each plot of land being neatly fenced from its neighbour by growing bamboo plants, which, in some cases so effectively screened the land in question, that we could not tell what was behind them.
Soon, we were traversing a plain and the road was no longer fenced on either side. Here, we saw people at work - women as well as men - loading hay, in the fields, and at one spot engaged in mending the road, while a little farther on we passed a ploughman toiling behind his team of oxen, with a crude and primitive wooden plough.
A little later at the suggestion of our guide, we stopped to examine a ‘one donkey power’ pump, an apparatus that was of a Heath Robinson pattern, yet effective enough to keep up a continuous flow of crystal-clear water from a well some twenty feet deep. The water was brought up in small semi-cylindrical buckets attached to an endless chain and each bucket, as it was reversed at the top of the well, emptied its contents into a trough, from which ran a conduit pipe. The chain of buckets was kept in motion by the donkey, operating a large double wheel, of which the two rims were connected by small iron bars. These, in turn, while the wheel was rotating, by pushing against small iron teeth, turned the spindle controlling the chain of buckets. The donkey was ingeniously harnessed to the central wheel by two long poles, one in front and one behind, and pulling on the pole astern, it turned the wheel, at the same time causing a tension on the pole in front. This, explained our interpreter, by keeping taut a short rope attached to the bridle, deceived the donkey into thinking that it was being led. Needless to say, the animal was blindfolded, and thus walked round and round in a circle, maintaining a steady flow of water.
Having thoroughly mastered the intricacies of the pump, we once more boarded the ‘vehicle,’ and soon afterwards arrived at the village of Tricomo. Here we found the roads so narrow that it was almost impossible to proceed, and so rough that if our car had any springs they would surely have been broken. We progressed in state through the village saluted by each and every person that we passed. It was not long before the ‘buzz’ got around. When, on turning a corner we found our way blocked by a camel which had sat down in the middle of the road the resulting delay, while the obstruction was removed, gave time for the villagers to assemble en masse to have a look at us.
A few yards further on we stopped at the gate of the Mukhtar's residence where we found the Mukhtar himself, a man of healthy middle age dressed in black kilted breeches and wearing his badge of office, waiting to receive us. Shaking hands with each of us in turn, he, with the help of the interpreter, expressed his pleasure at seeing us, extended to us a hearty welcome, and then led the way into the house.
The building which in common with all the others in the village appeared from the outside crude and almost dirty was surrounded by outhouses and sheds in which were housed chickens, geese and pigs. However, the appearance of the exterior entirely belied that of the interior, for crossing a veranda, we were ushered into a reception room, spotlessly clean and well furnished. The stone floor was scrubbed white while the loftiness of the ceiling, together with the whiteness of the walls, at once gave an impression of airiness and coolness. Immediately opposite the door by which we entered, stood a large cabinet containing ornaments and bric-a-brac. To the right were a sofa and a large wardrobe, and to the left a ‘four-poster’ bed, covered with red silk, and a smaller cabinet containing china and glass ware. Arranged in a semi-circle, having as its centre a small table, were chairs, and on these we were invited to sit while our host brought in his family to be introduced.
Then we had our first insight into the customs of the country. The daughter of the Mukhtar entered with a tray on which was a plate of crystallised apricots and glasses of water, on top of which were balanced silver fruit forks. Acting under hurried instructions from our interpreter we each speared an apricot and, having eaten it, drank a little water, replacing the glasses and forks on the tray. This was followed by a plate containing small pieces of cheese and celery, accompanied by glasses of cognac. The Mukhtar proudly told us that everything we had was of local production, adding that the Cypriots produce everything for their own needs, the only commodity which has to be imported, being beer. While he was telling us this, the lady of the house brought round a small vessel or stoup in which was burning incense, and we, as it was brought to us, followed the lead of our interpreter and crossed ourselves. Though we were not told the meaning of this last custom, we surmised that, thus, the guest calls down the blessing of the Almighty on the home of his host.
Feeling now a little more at our ease we lit cigarettes, these also having been made in Cyprus, and found them very much to our liking though rather different from the blend of tobacco to which we were accustomed. Once more, the Mukhtar told us how pleased he was to see us and then asked if we would prefer to look around the village or to have lunch first. As it was not yet midday, we elected to see the village before lunch, and accordingly set out.
Our tour of inspection lasted for half an hour or so, during which we saw a variety of interesting things. We watched men and women at work in the local flour mills, grinding wheat by a simple process, and storing the meal in sacks. Here, also, was a machine for weaving cotton, but, unfortunately, it was not in operation at the time of our visit.
Passing on through the village we came to the school, a fairly up-to-date building, set a little way back from the road in the midst of a plantation of mulberry trees. Here, we were told, silk worms were being reared. School had evidently finished for the day, and the children, all of whom were boys, were just leaving. However, having sighted us they followed us around as we looked into the clean and well-kept classrooms, and afterwards walked through the grounds to the schoolboys' gardens. These reminded us of England for they contained, among other plants, a quantity of lavender, the whole appearing extremely well -tended.
Leaving the school grounds, we returned to the home of the Mukhtar, learning on our way thither that the Commissioner of the town had prepared six donkeys on which we could, if we so wished, take a ride after lunch. Cheerfully, we assented; little knowing what was in store for us. That was to come later on. Meanwhile, back at the Mukhtar's house we sat down to lunch, after having toasted His Majesty, the King.
If we may judge from the repast with which we were regaled, we can say with no fear of contradiction that the Cypriots hold the world's record for eating and drinking. We commenced with beer; then followed hors d'oeuvres of olives, small pieces of ham, liver and cucumber, all served in communal dishes, from which we abstracted tit-bits with our forks. Then was brought in roast turkey, roast potatoes, and a salad of celery and tomatoes, which was very enjoyable. The Mukhtar insisted that we should all have a second helping, and at the same time complained that we were not drinking sufficient beer. We, having already disposed of one bottle each and being half-way through a second, began to feel a little disturbed. However, remembering that it was a unique occasion we continued, feeling, when we had finished our second helping of turkey and our second bottle of beer, that life was worth living, and that we had had a very good lunch.
We were wrong – apparently, we had only begun for along came a large dish of lamb cutlets, cooked to a turn, accompanied by more potatoes and more salad. In addition, the empty beer bottles had disappeared and full ones had taken their place. Manfully we finished as much of the lamb as was humanly possible and at last succeeded in convincing our host that, much as we appreciated his fare, we could not eat any more.
"Right!" said the Mukhtar, "Finish your beer and we'll have some wine."
"My God!" said we irreverently and somehow managed to comply with his request.
Less than a minute later we found ourselves each supplied with a clean tumbler and a bottle of wine while the table was replenished with plates and dishes of walnuts, almonds, melons, oranges, figs and cigarettes. Our host then rose to address us, his words being translated by the interpreter. He told us that it was the first time that any member of His Majesty's Navy had honoured his home, and that he was extremely pleased and happy to see us at his table. He asked us to inform our Captain - (and we take this opportunity of doing so) - that he was very grateful to him for allowing us to visit him and that he truly appreciated the hospitality and entertainment he, and his fellow-Mukhtars had received at the hands of the officers and men of His Majesty's Ships Durban and Despatch, when, he said, they had been shown things that they had never before witnessed. He concluded by saying that the people of Cyprus felt a great friendship for the British, and that he proposed to drink to the health of His Majesty's Navy.
The senior member of our party then responded, thanking the Mukhtar for the hospitality which he had extended towards us, and assuring him of our warm appreciation. We, he continued, had seen and visited many countries, and had received invitations to similar functions from people of many nations, but never before had we met with such warm-hearted friendship, nor had we enjoyed ourselves so much. We in our turn, drank to the health of the Muhhtar of Tricomo and to the prosperity of the land of Cyprus.
At the conclusion of these toasts a gramophone was produced, and we were treated to a recital of native Cypriot melodies, which we found to resemble, in tempo, a slow rumba. For some time, we sat there, chatting as well as we could, and keeping our interpreter hard at it. By this time more wine had made its appearance and remembering our projected donkey ride we began to feel a little apprehensive. However, it was postponed for a while, owing to a downpour of rain which quickly converted the dust of the yard - and as we later discovered that of the streets - into thick yellow mud. So, we sat on, our host proposing that we should drink a toast to His Royal Highness, Prince George, and to the success of his marriage with Princess Marina. Other toasts were proposed and drunk and eventually when the rain had ceased and we sallied forth to tackle the donkeys we had seriously depleted the stock of our host's wine cellar.
Standing on the steps of the veranda we saw before us six donkeys, saddled in the local style, having two bamboo rods, running fore and aft and covered with a shawl. With some trepidation, we mounted our steeds and, trotting out into the road, set off in single file through the village.
Here, perforce, the narrator continues with his own personal experiences, for his donkey, the last of the caravan, decided to ‘seek pastures new’ at the first cross-roads and when the five others turned one way he set off in the opposite direction. The events of the next half-hour we give in his own words:
Despairingly I saw my five companions disappearing around a corner, as my donkey - I'll call him Moses for simplicity - trotted down a small hill. In vain did I try to stop him or turn him round for there were no reins; merely a piece of chain attached to his nose, and although I shortened it in to half a shackle, I could not check his progress. So, I resigned myself to my fate, realising that I would have to go where Moses decided. Evidently, he knew where he wanted to go.
Trotting along quite happily, he took me down the hill, turned left into a small open space, where he curvetted jauntily before an interested gathering, and then followed the road in the direction of a little farmhouse. Before long I was getting quite used to him, and began to enjoy myself, for had I not dined well, and was I not being borne along as on the wings of a - of an emu, so to speak?
However, my joy was short-lived - Moses must have had a sweetheart in the next village for he headed on to the main road and increased his speed by a couple of knots. Glancing over my shoulder I saw Tricomo rapidly disappearing in the distance and gave myself up for lost. Fortunately, a friendly farmer whom we - Moses and I - met on the way, quickly grasped the situation and persuaded Moses to stop and turn around. Joyful once more, I thanked my rescuer, saying ‘Kallai nikta,’ the sum total of my knowledge of Greek, which, I believe means' Good night'.
Now, I assured myself, all I have to do is to keep a look out for the rest of the party - but Moses thought otherwise. As we drew level with the little farmhouse we'd passed on the way out, Moses remembered that he had another lady friend there. So, trying to take a short cut into the farm-yard, he walked through the wrong door into the kitchen.
“Well," thought I, "what do we do now?"
I was feeling just a little out of place. After all it's not quite the thing to barge in on someone you don't know, especially if you happen to be sitting on a donkey. Still, there I was, halfway through the kitchen door, with Moses undecided as to whether he should go full astern and look for another way in, or whether he should carry on across the room and out through the door on the other side. It was a nice room too, with a fire burning brightly, a baby in a cradle, and a startled young woman, clutching knitting needles and wool, and looking as if she had seen a ghost.
The sight of beauty in distress affected me strangely, for I am nothing if not a gentleman, so I bowed in as dignified a manner as I could manage from Moses' back and said ‘Kallai nikta'.
Her reply was lost on me, for at that moment Moses, who was not at all romantically minded, decided to carry on, and took me out of the other door. Arrived in the yard, we found that we had it to ourselves, and Moses commenced to dine off a bundle of hay. After five minutes or so I grew tired of this and persuaded him to get a move on by prodding him behind the ear. Unfortunately, we could find no way out, other than that by which we had entered, so back we went through the kitchen - the lady by this time had gone to tell the neighbours all about it - and out on to the road again.
I managed to persuade Moses to turn towards the village, in fact I was getting quite a way with him, and for some time we wandered around looking for the others. Every person I met - and there were many - looked at me in an enquiring sort of manner, so I wished them all ‘Kallai nikta' and carried on. Then it suddenly dawned on me that I was seeing the same people again and again and that they seemed amused about something. Moses was taking me round and round the same roads, till eventually, as soon as we appeared round a corner every man, woman and child in sight shouted ‘Kallai nikta'.
I was getting popular! I felt proud of myself! I even forgot for the moment that pride cometh before a fall!
I had, by this time, quite a large following - in fact, I think I can truthfully say that the entire juvenile population of Tricorn was joyfully marching behind my steed.
“Kallai nikta,” shouted my little army.
“Kallai nikta,” cried I, with the joy of leadership.
"Hee haw!" yelled Moses, and kicked up his hind legs.
I don't know which of us was the more surprised, Moses or I - nor can I explain how it happened. All I do know is that when the mists cleared away, I was sitting in one puddle, and Moses, with one ear pointing north and the other ear pointing south, was sitting in another. He regarded me with a pained expression, while around us there gathered a ring of awestruck youthful faces."
"How now.” gasped I."
"And how!” replied Moses."
Painfully he struggled to his feet; equally painful I followed suit and while a sympathetic but grinning village lad held the lazy painter, I rearranged the saddle and climbed on again. I began to long for the sight of the 'old familiar faces '.
Moses too, had lost a lot of his enthusiasm, so that, having once more toured the village, he stopped to review the situation, while I sorrowfully reviewed my nice clean white suit. As far as I could see I was now clothed from head to foot in a close-fitting tunic of sticky yellow mud. Manfully I remonstrated with Moses and he consented to move again. Shortly afterwards I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving for I saw in the distance our interpreter, who had set out to look for me.
I dismounted - properly this time - and Moses was led away - though I'm sure he grinned when he saw my suit - while I, with difficulty walked back to the Mukhtar' s house. Here were gathered the rest of the party, most of whom had not suffered as I had, though one had become closely acquainted with the village horse-pond.
It was now almost time for us to return to Famagusta so, after partaking of coffee and smoking a final cigarette, we bid adieu to our kindly host, giving him three hearty cheers, and telling the world that he was a ‘jolly good fellow.' Thanking him again for a very enjoyable time, we embarked once more in our 'super-sports,' driving away amidst the cheers of the populace.
As we left the village the very mountains seemed to re-echo the words ‘Kallai nikta'.
* * * *
A Few of the “Enemy” at the Battle of Pembroke Camp - December 1934
Owing to the numerous entertainments, our stay at Famagusta seemed to come to an end very quickly. We felt, however, that we should endeavour to make some return for the hospitality shown to us, so on the day before we sailed, parties of shore-folk were entertained on board. During the early part of the forenoon we prepared ourselves for a visit from Cypriot school-boys, who were to come on hoard at ten o'clock. When they arrived, we were shocked to find that their average age was somewhere around forty. It seemed rather as though ‘someone had blundered’ nevertheless, nothing daunted, five Leading Seamen conducted the visitors round the ship in batches of twenty or so.
At eleven o'clock they were given a short display of fighting methods in the Navy, during which they saw a torpedo fired, smoke-burst and high explosive rounds fired from the H.A. guns, and a full-calibre round fired from No. 1 six-inch gun. In addition, a ‘mine’ was sighted and exploded by Lewis-gun fire, resulting in a most convincing upheaval. Their visit ended after they had partaken of sandwiches and ice-cream.
During the afternoon, a children's party was held on a smaller but similar scale to that which was given at the Falkland Islands. The children, after having enjoyed themselves at one or two sideshows about the ship were given tea on the quarter deck.
In the evening for the entertainment of the ship's company a boxing contest was staged between the Port and Starboard watches of the Training Division. A series of extremely good fights, each with a duration of two rounds, resulted in a victory for the Starboard Watch by fifteen points to eleven, and though the winners deserve our congratulations, the losers must also be commended for their performance.
At nightfall next day, Sunday 28th October, we left Cyprus to return to Malta, on the following morning carrying out a speed trial in ideal weather conditions, and joining up with the rest of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, shortly after midday on Tuesday.
We arrived off Malta in the early hours on Thursday. As we were to carry out the Commander-in-Chief’s ‘shoot’ during the forenoon, the two power boats, together with the cutter, galley, and dghaisa were sent inshore, and at about eight o'clock we were again well away from the land.
Dauntless was the last of the squadron to shoot, so that we were able to watch the performances of the Despatch and Durban, each ship firing eighteen full-calibre rounds with full charge from each six-inch gun, at a battle-practice target. Then followed our turn; General Quarters were sounded and we closed up at our stations. The actual firing lasted for merely a few minutes though, as is usually the case, some time was taken in manoeuvring into position. However, once the shoot was over, we commenced to prepare for entering harbour, rearranging everything that had been taken down for the firing, or that had fallen down during it.
Finally, we entered Grand Harbour, and, a little before noon, moored once more in Calcara Creek.
“Funny Party” Christmas 1934