Coaling proceeded without cessation till the morning of the 17th, when the Wolf moved off a short distance. Passengers on mail-boats familiar with the process of coaling ship at Port Said, Colombo, or any other port, can imagine the condition of these ships, after three or four days' incessant coaling day and night. The appearance of the Igotz Mendi was meanwhile undergoing another change. When captured she was painted white and had a buff funnel with her company's distinguishing mark. She was now painted the Allied grey colour, and when her sides and funnel had been transformed the two ships sailed away, and on the evening of the 17th, after final orders and instructions had been given, parted company. For some days after this, painting was the order of the day on the Spanish ship, which was now grey on every part visible.
The Captain of the Spanish ship was now relieved of his duties—and also of his cabin, which the German Captain had annexed, leaving the owner thereof the chartroom to sleep in—and was naturally very chagrined at the course events had taken, especially as he said he had been informed by the Consul at Lourenco Marques that the course between there and Colombo was quite clear, and had not even been informed of the disappearance of the Hitachi, though she had been overdue at Delagoa Bay about a month. Consequently he had been showing his navigation lights at sea, and without them the Wolf would probably not have seen him, as it was about 1 a.m. when the Wolf picked him up.
The remaining Spanish officers took their watch on the bridge, always with a member of the prize crew in attendance; the Spanish engineers remained in charge of the engine-room, again with a German always present; and the Spanish crew remained on duty as before. There was a prize crew of nine Germans on board; the Captain, Lieutenant Rose, who had also been in charge of the Hitachi after her capture, and the First Officer, who had also filled that post on the Hitachi, being the only officers. Lieutenant Rose spoke Spanish in addition to English and French, and the Spanish Captain also spoke very good English. Some of the Spanish officers also spoke English, but the knowledge of it was not so general as it was on the Wolf, where every officer we met spoke our language, and most of the prize crew spoke quite enough to get on with.
The Spanish Captain, a charming gentleman, and in appearance anything but a seafaring man, was, however, frankly puzzled by some current English slang. One of the passenger prisoners—the hero of the kerosene porridge—was known among us as the "hot-air merchant." This was simple enough, but when we said he also suffered from cold feet, the Spanish Captain admitted defeat. Such a contradictory combination seemed inconceivable. "If a man were full of hot air, how could he have cold feet?" he said. Lieutenant Rose, however, was au fait with the latest English slang, and always used it correctly.
The Igotz Mendi, 4,600 tons, had been completed in 1916, and was a ship admirably fitted for her purpose, which, however, was not that of carrying passengers. Ordinarily she was a collier, or carried iron ore. Her decks were of iron, scorchingly hot in the tropics and icy cold in northern latitudes. There was no place sheltered from the sun in which to sit on the small deck space, and the small awnings which were spasmodically rigged up were quite insufficient for the purpose. There were now twenty-one "passenger" prisoners on board, including the Japanese stewardess, and five Asiatics. There were no cabins except those provided for the officers, who generously gave them up to the married couples on board, the officers taking quarters much more crowded and much less desirable. The Germans installed a small electric fan, taken from the Hitachi, in each cabin, and also one in the saloon. The cabins were quite suitable for one occupant each, but very cramped for two; the one occupied by my wife and myself being only seven and a half feet square. Each contained one bunk and one settee, the latter being a sleeping-place far from comfortable, as it was only five and a half feet long by about twenty inches wide, the bunk being the same width, but longer, and the floor space was very narrow and restricted. Our light baggage had to be kept on the bunk all day, being deposited on the washstand and floor every night. Our first duty every morning was to replace the baggage on the bunk, so that we could have room to stand on the floor! There were four cabins, two on each side of a narrow alley-way about two feet wide, while one married couple occupied the Chief Engineer's cabin further aft on the starboard side, quite a roomy apartment. The port cabin opposite to it was occupied by an old Mauritius-Indian woman and her little granddaughter (who was often very naughty and got many "lickings" from her grandmother, whom she frequently implored the Captain to throw overboard), the Japanese stewardess, the Australian stewardess already mentioned, and a coloured man going to South Africa with his Chinese wife. Rather crowded quarters, not to mention somewhat unseemly conditions! The Asiatic passengers had been "intermediate" passengers on the Hitachi, i.e. between the second-class and deck passengers. The four men above mentioned occupied a space under the poop—it could not be dignified with the name of cabin. It was very small, only one occupant could dress at a time, and immediately in front of it was a reeking pigsty with three full-sized occupants. The passage to it from the saloon on the upper deck was often a perilous one in rough weather and on dark nights, for there was never any light showing on board at night during the whole cruise. Occasionally a lifeline was rigged along the well deck to the poop quarters, a by no means unnecessary precaution. The prize crew had quarters on the starboard side under the poop; they were exceedingly small, cramped, and in every way inconvenient and uncomfortable. Our heavy baggage was also stored under the poop.
This, then, was to be our home, possibly for the next few months. We did not know for how long, but we regarded the prospect with a certain amount of equanimity, as the ship was unarmed, and we knew we should not be fired on by a hostile cruiser, as might have been the case if we had remained on the Wolf.
When we arrived on the Spanish boat we were served with meals at the same time to which the Spanish officers had been accustomed, i.e. breakfast at 9 and supper at 4, but these times were soon afterwards changed to breakfast at 8.30, tiffin 12.30, and supper 5.30. We were lucky to get fresh food for some days. But this soon came to an end, though the stock of muscatels, a quince preserve—called membrillo—and Spanish wine lasted very much longer. It would have lasted much longer still but for the stupidity of the German sailor who "managed" the canteen. He allowed stores to be eaten in plenty while there were any, instead of arranging to spread their consumption over a much longer period.
There was on board a certain amount of live stock; some chickens, which seemed to thrive quite well on coal-dust, and a couple of cows, each of which had a calf born on board; these all met the usual fate of such things on appropriate occasions. There were also a few cats and kittens, which later on were joined by a couple of mongrel dachshund pups born on the Wolf. The Spanish carpenter had a sporting hen, which had some lively scraps with the dogs, the latter always coming off second best.
For many days after we parted company with the Wolf we ambled and dawdled through the sea on a south-westerly course, sometimes going back on our tracks for half a day, sometimes stopping altogether for an hour or two, sometimes for half a day, sometimes for a whole day. The monotony of this performance was deadly beyond words. On one of these days the Captain offered to land us at Mauritius on the following morning and give himself up with the crew and ship if we could raise L100,000 for him. Unfortunately, we couldn't!
On the afternoon of the 23rd the Germans became very agitated at the sight of smoke on the horizon. At first we all thought it was the Wolf, but before long we could see two columns of smoke, evidently coming from two steamers travelling together. The prisoners then became very agitated also, as help might be at hand. But the Germans at once changed the course, and manoeuvred at full speed in such a way that we soon got out of sight of the smoke, when we resumed our original course again, after having boxed the compass more than once, and the German Captain came down from the bridge and told us there was no relief for us yet. We all felt that if the Hitachi had only avoided distant smoke as the German Captain had done we need never have made the acquaintance of the Wolf.
On the 24th we again met the Wolf in the evening. Whenever the Wolf had an appointment to meet her prize at a certain time and place, the prize always hoisted recognition signals directly she saw the Wolf on the horizon. These were made of wicker, and varied in shape on different occasions.
We were now well to the south of Africa, in the roaring forties, and we saw many schools of whales, and albatrosses accompanied us for many days. A Spanish officer shot one one day—we told him this would bring us bad luck, as the souls of lost sea captains are said to inhabit these majestic birds. And one day we saw a dead whale floating along not far from the ship—it was smothered with a huge flock of seabirds, gorging themselves on it. By December 1st we had begun to steer north-west, and on the 3rd the Captain informed us we were the nearest we should ever be to Cape Town, the port to which I had set out. On this morning the Captain said to me, "Mr. Trayes, didn't you say you were going to Cape Town?" "Yes," I replied. "Come out on deck with me," he answered. I went with him. He took my arm, and said, "There it is," pointing in its direction. We were then 150 miles off! We met the Wolf again on the 5th, and travelled in her company during the remainder of that day and the next two, stopping as usual for communication and the sending of stores to us in the evenings just before sunset. Often when the ship stopped Lieutenant Rose would go aboard the Wolf, another Lieutenant boarding us and remaining in charge during his absence. The Wolf on this occasion told us she had sunk the American sailing vessel John H. Kirby from America to East London with a cargo of four hundred motor-cars on board, when two days from her destination, the officers and crew being taken on board the Wolf. Many people in South Africa would have to dispense with their motor joy-rides at Christmas in consequence.
The evening of December 7th was the last occasion we saw the Wolf for many days. The two ships now shaped a course for the Brazilian Island of Trinidad, where it was understood the Wolf would coal from her prize, and with her spend the Christmas holidays.
CHRISTMAS ON THE "IGOTZ MENDI"
It must not be supposed that the life of the prisoners on the Igotz Mendi in any way approximated to that of passengers on an ordinary passenger ship. To begin with, there were no ship's servants to wait on us with the exception of the Spanish steward, a youth who "waited" at table and excelled in breaking ship's crockery. Often he poured the coffee over us, or into our pockets, instead of into our cups, and on one occasion, during a heavier roll than usual, he fell down in the middle of the saloon while carrying a tureen full of soup. It went flying over the saloon and some of its occupants, so our soup ration was short that day.
If the cabins were to be kept clean, we had to do it ourselves. Every morning saw the occupants sweeping out and cleaning up their cabins, as no ship's servant ever entered them. The water supply was very limited, and had to be fetched by ourselves—no matter what the weather—sometimes from the fore peak and sometimes from a pump near the ship's galley. Washing water and drinking water were served out twice a day, at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., an ordinary water-can being the allowance of the former, and a water-bottle that of the latter. The supply of washing water was very inadequate, and no hot water was ever available. After washing ourselves, we had to wash our clothes in the same water—for there was of course no laundry on board—and then the cabin floor after that. By this time the water was mud. It was impossible to have a proper bath all the time we were on board, for there was no water supply in the bathroom, and it was kept in an extremely dirty condition. "Laundry work" was usually done by the prisoners after breakfast, and lines were rigged on any available part of the ship to dry the clothes. It was a sight for the gods to see the military officers presiding at their washtubs on deck, and then hanging out their washing. On fine days with a big wash the array of drying garments in various parts of the ship was quite imposing.
My wife managed to borrow some irons from the Australian stewardess, which she heated on the stove in the cook's galley. With these she ironed her blouses and my shirts and soft collars, while I helped with the hankeys. The ironing space was not ideal, being the cover, about twenty inches square, of the cabin washstand. But the result was highly creditable!
The saloon, about eighteen feet square, in which all the meals were served in two sittings, was very rarely clean, and the habits of the Captain's mongrel pup, born on the Wolf, did not improve matters. Something connected with the expedition had to be called "Luchs," so, failing the Hitachi, the pup rejoiced in this name, and as he frequently made the saloon so exclusively his own, it was often appropriately named the "Salon de luxe." Poor Luchs! Every man's hand, or rather foot—with the exception of the Captain's—was against him (when the Captain was not looking!) on account of his reprehensible behaviour. Many a sly kick was aimed at him, and when a yelp assured us that the blow had struck home, one of us would exclaim, "Hooray for our side!"; "our side" being all who suffered from his bad conduct. The table "appointments" were often disgusting. The tablecloth was filthy after the first meal or so, thanks to the rolling of the ship and consequent upsetting of soup, tea, and coffee, but was only changed twice, sometimes only once, a week. Cups were used without saucers, and spoons gradually disappeared, so that towards the end one had to suffice between four or five persons.
The ship, generally speaking, was filthy—she was never properly clean. I remember on one occasion a large bottle of castor-oil was smashed just outside the saloon door. The stuff remained there for hours before being cleaned up. The crew certainly was not large, but a great deal more could have been done in the direction of keeping the ship clean, and her condition was never a credit to her Captain. This was a surprise to those of us who had previously travelled on German ships.
We got thoroughly sick of the food provided, but the German officers and crew had just the same. The Hitachi had been carrying ten thousand cases of Japanese canned crab to England. A great part of this was saved, and divided between the Wolf and her prize. None of us ever want to see or hear of this commodity again; we were fed on it till most of us loathed it, but as there was nothing else to eat when it was served, we perforce had to eat that or dry bread, and several of us chose the latter. How we groaned when we saw any more crab being brought over from the Wolf! Bully beef, every variety of bean, dried vegetables, dried fish that audibly announced its advent to the table, bean soup, and pea soup (maggot soup would often have been a more correct description), we got just as sick of, till, long before the end, all the food served nauseated us. Tea, sometimes made in a coffee-pot, sometimes even with salt water, was the usual hot drink provided, but coffee was for some time available once a day. We owe a great debt to one of our fellow-prisoners, a ship's cook, captured from one of the other ships, who in return for his offer to work as baker was promised his liberty, which fortunately he has now secured, though no thanks to the Germans. He baked, under the most difficult conditions, extraordinarily good bread, and over and over again we should have gone without food but for this. We were often very hungry, for there was nothing to eat between "supper" at 5.30 and breakfast next morning at 8.30. The Captain had given each lady a large box of biscuits from the Hitachi, and my wife and I used to eat a quarter of a biscuit each before turning in for the night. We could not afford more—the box might have to last us for many months.
We could not buy much on board. The only thing of which there seemed to be plenty was whisky, all stolen from the captured ships. When our ship ran short of this, more was sent over from the Wolf. We could buy this at reasonable rates, but the supply was always supposed to be rationed. Soap and toilet requisites became very scarce or failed altogether as time went on. We could buy an infinitesimal piece of stolen toilet soap for a not infinitesimal price, and were rationed as to washing soap and matches. The currency on board was a very mixed one, consisting of Japanese yen, both in silver and paper money, English, Spanish, and German silver, and German canteen tokens—all marked S.M.S. Victoria Louise—ranging in value from 2 marks to 5 pfennig.
Mention has been made of the ship's rolling. Her capacity for this was incredible—in the smoothest sea, whether stopped or under steam, she rolled heavily from side to side, and caused great discomfort, inconvenience, and often alarm to all on board. The remark, "The Mendi roll, fresh every day for every meal, for breakfast, dinner, and tea," was made by some one at almost every mealtime, as we clutched at our food, gliding or jumping from end to end of the saloon table, accompanied by the smashing of crockery and upsetting of liquids and soup. We were hardly ever able to sit still at mealtimes, but were always rocking and rolling about, usually with our plates in our hands, as leaving them on the table meant we might lose the contents. Even the Captain was astonished at the rolling of the ship, as he well might have been, when one night he, in common with most of us, was flung out of his berth. No ship ever rolled like it—the bath in the bathroom even got loose and slid about in its socket, adding to the great din on board.
As may be imagined, there was not much to do on board. The few books we had between us were passed round and read over and over again. Some were also sent over from the Wolf for us. Card games of various kinds also helped to pass the time, and the Captain and some of the prisoners held a "poker school" morning, afternoon, and evening in the saloon. But time, nevertheless, dragged very heavily. Some of us had occasionally to carry our mattresses and beds out on to the deck, to hunt for bugs, which were very numerous in some cabins. But the pastime was hardly one to be recommended! And, it must regretfully be admitted, we all managed to do nothing quite comfortably!
We were at liberty to go practically where we liked on board, but we were never able to get far away from the German sailors, who always appeared to be listening to our conversation, no matter where we were. As on the Wolf, they were sometimes caught spying on us, and listening at the portholes or ventilators of our cabins.
We next picked up the Wolf on the afternoon of December 19th, and heard that since we had last seen her she had sunk a French sailing vessel, the Marechal Davout, loaded with grain for Europe. The Wolf usually sent us over a budget of wireless news when she had been away from us any length of time. I remember an item of news on one occasion, in which Mr. Lloyd George in a speech said we were getting on the track of the submarines and that we had sunk five in one day. This gave great mirth to the Germans, who naturally refused to believe it—they said they had lost only a dozen since the war began! On one occasion the Captain informed us of a "great British victory. Joy-bells are ringing all over England. The British have captured a trench and have advanced ten yards!" This was the victory at Cambrai!
The two ships proceeded on parallel courses for Trinidad, but about 8 p.m. both ships turned sharply round and doubled on their tracks, proceeding on a south-easterly course at full speed. We learnt the reason for this the next day. German raiders had previously coaled and hidden at Trinidad; but Brazil was now in the war, so that hole was stopped, and the Wolf had intercepted a wireless from the Commander of a Brazilian cruiser to the garrison on Trinidad. Hence her rapid flight! But for that wireless message, the Wolf would have walked right into the trap, and we should have been free within twelve hours from the time the Wolf picked up the message.
Once again wireless had been our undoing. The Hitachi had wirelessed the hour of her arrival at and departure from Singapore and Colombo; the Wolf, of course, had picked up the messages and was ready waiting for her. One other ship, if not more, was caught in just the same way. The Matunga had wirelessed, not even in code, her departure, with the nature of her cargo, from Sydney to New Guinea, and she wirelessed again when within a few hours of her destination. The Wolf waited for her, informed her that she had on board just the cargo the Wolf needed, captured, and afterwards sunk her. The Wolf's success in capturing ships and evading hostile cruisers was certainly due to her intercepting apparently indiscriminate wirelessing between ships, and between ships and shore—at one time in the Indian Ocean the Wolf was picking up news in four languages—and to her seaplane, which enabled her to scout thoroughly and to spot an enemy ship long before she could have been seen by the enemy. Thus the Wolf's procedure when hunting for her prey was simplicity itself. Even without wireless her seaplane was of enormous assistance to her. If her "bird" had revealed the presence of a ship more heavily armed than the Wolf chose to tackle, she could easily make herself scarce, while if the ship seen was not at all, or but lightly armed, all that the Wolf had to do was to wait for her on the course she was taking.
Soon after leaving the Indian Ocean the seaplane had been taken to pieces and placed in the 'tween decks, so that if the Wolf had been seen by another steamer, her possession of a seaplane would not have been revealed.
The two ships proceeded on their new course at full speed for the next two days. On the 21st they slowed down, hoping to coal in the open sea. The next day both ships stopped, but the condition of the sea would not admit of coaling; we were then said to be about 700 miles E. of Monte Video. It was a great disappointment to the Germans that they were prevented from coaling and spending their Christmas under the shelter of Trinidad, but it became quite clear that all the holes for German raiders in this part of the ocean had now been stopped, and that they would have to coal in the open sea or not at all. Some of us thought the Germans might go back to Tristan da Cunha, or even to Gough Island—both British possessions in the South Atlantic—but the Germans would not risk this. Even St. Helena was mentioned as a possible coaling place, but the Germans said that was impracticable, as it would mean an attack on an unfortified place: as if this would have been a new procedure for German armed forces! The fact that they knew St. Helena to be fortified probably had a great deal more to do with their decision not to proceed there!
But the disappointment about Trinidad was mitigated by other wireless news received. The Commander of the Wolf called all his men together and harangued them to the effect that the latest news was that Russia and Roumania were now out of the war, having given in to Germany, that the Italian disasters had knocked Italy out in addition, that the war would certainly be over in six months, and that the Wolf would then go home in safety to a victorious, grateful, and appreciative Fatherland. Some such spur as this was very necessary to the men, who were getting very discontented with the length of the cruise and conditions prevailing, notably the monotony of the cruise and threatened shortage of food and drink and tobacco.
(The Wolf had brought out from Germany enormous stores of provisions for the cruise, which was expected to last about a year. In fact, her cargo from Germany consisted of coal, stores, ammunition, and mines only. She replenished her stores solely from the prizes she took.)
The Germans were thoroughly confident of victory, and very cock-a-hoop now that Russia and Roumania were knocked out, and Italy, so they said, so thoroughly defeated as to be quite a negligible factor in the future. Our enemies could not conceal their joy at the good news their wireless brought them. They crowed over us, and at mealtimes the Captain explained how, with the "three and a half millions" of their troops released from the Russian fronts, defeat for the Allies was inevitable in a very few months. A German victory was now as sure as to-morrow's sunrise. "But, of course," he said, "there will first be an armistice to discuss terms." We asked him what he meant by an armistice. He replied that the troops on the front would cease fighting. "And your submarines?" we asked. "Oh! they will go on with their work," he replied. "Why should they stop?" Why, indeed? It was to be a German armistice, graciously permitted by our enemies, in which they were to continue the use of a deadly weapon, but we were to lay down our arms! Generally speaking, however, we refused to be drawn into discussion of the war, its causes and issues. The enemy was "top dog" for the time being, we were in his power: we did not know what was in store for us; we did not wish to prejudice any chances we might have, and it would not pay to lose our tempers or be indiscreet.
Christmas Eve was still too rough for the ships to tie up alongside, and our Christmas the next day was the reverse of merry. The Germans had held a Christmas service on the Wolf on Christmas Eve, and sounds of the band and singing were wafted to us over the waters. We could have no music on the Igotz Mendi, as we had no piano, but our friends on the Wolf, so we heard afterwards, gathered together in the 'tween decks and joined in some Christmas music.
I went out on deck early on Christmas morning, and there met the Spanish Chief Mate chewing a bun. He asked me to share half with him—a great sacrifice! Such was the commencement of our Christmas festivities. Later in the morning the Spanish Captain regaled the ladies with some choice brand of Spanish wine, and offered first-class cigars to the men prisoners (rather better than the "Stinkadoros" sometimes offered us by the crew), German officers on the ships exchanged visits, and we all tried to feel the day was not quite ordinary.
Our thoughts and wishes on this sad Christmas Day turned to our friends and relations at home who would be mourning us as dead, and may perhaps be "better imagined than described," and with the bad news from the various seats of war we all felt fairly blue.
The German officers had a great feast and a jolly time on the Wolf. One cow and three pigs had been killed for the Christmas feast, but they did not go far between eight hundred people. The day before we had been served with some of the "in'ards," or, as the American said, the "machinery" of the poor beasts cut up into small pieces, even the lungs being used. Some of us turned up our noses at this, but the Captain assured us that if we ever did get to America or England we should find that the U boats had reduced our countries to such straits that even such "machinery" would be welcome food!
With Christmas Day came to an end for us a quarter of a year's captivity, and all the prisoners, at least, were glad when the dismal farce of Christmas under such conditions was over.
"This is the life," said the German sailor who supplied us with water twice daily. He was a very hardworked member of the prize crew, doing all sorts of odd jobs and always willing to help, and was said to be the black sheep of a high German family, which numbered among its members officers holding high commands in the German army and navy. If he thought it "was the life," we didn't!
The Germans showed us the "Second Christmas Annual of the Wolf." It was very well got up, with well-drawn and clever illustrations of their exploits, and caricatures of some of their officers and prisoners. One picture illustrated the Wolf running the blockade on her outward voyage. If the picture represented anything like the truth, she must have got through by the very skin of her teeth! The covers of both "Annuals" were very striking and very cleverly done.
The weather on Boxing Day was only a little more favourable than that on Christmas Day, but the Germans decided to wait no longer to coal the Wolf. They had previously conveyed water to our ship from the Wolf in boats. The same method of transferring coal was discussed, but that idea was abandoned. At 5 p.m. she tied up alongside us. She bumped into us with considerable force when she came up, and not many of us on board the Igotz Mendi will ever forget that night of terror. Both ships were rolling heavily, and repeatedly bumping into each other, each ship quivering from end to end, and the funnel of the Igotz Mendi was visibly shaking at every fresh collision. Sleep was impossible for any one on our boat; in fact, many feared to turn in at all, as they thought some of the plates of the boats might be stove in. We wandered about from cabin to deck, and from deck to cabin, trying in vain to get to sleep. The Spanish Chief Engineer came to us on the deck about 4 a.m. and did his best in his broken English to assure us everything was all right. "Go sleep tranquil," he said: "I see this ship built—very strong." But the whole performance was a horrid nightmare.
The next day was no better, but rather worse. About 6 p.m. there was a great crash, which alarmed all; it was due to the Wolf crashing into and completely smashing part of the bridge of our ship. This was enough for the Germans. They decided to suspend operations, and at 7 p.m. the Wolf sheered off, only just narrowly escaping cutting off the poop of the Igotz Mendi in the process. She had coaled six hundred tons in twenty-five hours, her decks, torpedo tubes, and guns being buried under great mounds of coal, as all hands were busy in the transference of coal from her prize to the Wolf. Shifting the coal to her bunkers had to be done after the ships had separated. If by good luck an Allied cruiser had appeared at this time, the Wolf would have been an easy prey. The coaling process had severely damaged the Wolf, many of whose plates were badly dented. We had lost eighteen large fenders between the ships, and the Wolf was leaking to the extent of twelve tons an hour. The Igotz Mendi had come off better. None of her plates were dented, she was making no water, and the only visible signs of damage to her were many twisted and bent stanchions on the port side that met the Wolf.
We had been allowed to send letters for Christmas—censored, of course, by the Germans—to our Hitachi friends on the Wolf, and when the two ships were alongside we were allowed to speak to them, though conversation under such conditions was very difficult, as one minute our friends would be several feet above us and the next below us with the rolling of the ships; and the noise of the coaling, shouting of orders, and roaring of the water between the ships was deafening. There did not seem much point in censoring letters, as the prisoners on the Igotz Mendi and the Wolf were allowed to talk to each other a day or so after the letters were sent, and although a German sentry was on guard while these conversations were going on, it was possible for the prisoners to say what they liked to each other, as the sentry could only have caught an occasional word or two.
I have since been asked why the prisoners and Spaniards on the Spanish ship did not attack the prize crew and seize the ship when we were not in company with the Wolf. It sounds quite simple, but it must be remembered that although the prize crew was certainly a small one, they were well supplied with arms, bombs, and hand grenades, while the prisoners and Spaniards had no arms at all, as they had all been taken away by the Germans. Further, an attack of this kind would have been far worse than useless unless its absolute success could have been definitely assured. There were very few young and able men among the prisoners, while the German prize crew were all picked men, young and powerful. The working crew of the ship was composed of Spaniards and other neutrals, including a Greek and a Chilian. It would have been absolutely necessary to have secured the allegiance and support of every one of these. The plan of seizing the ship, which sounds so simple, was discussed among us many a time, but it was in reality quite impracticable. What would our fate have been if we had tried—and failed? And what of the women and children on board?
RUMOURS AND PLANS
We had been encouraged by the Germans to think—they had in fact definitely told us—that the Igotz Mendi with us on board was to be sent to Spain when the Germans released her. This news greatly rejoiced the Spaniards, who had naturally become very depressed, more especially as they knew that if no news were received of them for six weeks after the date on which they were due at Colombo a requiem mass would, according to Spanish custom, be said for them at their churches at home.
On December 29th, all of which and the previous day, together with many succeeding days, were spent in transferring our cargo coal to our bunkers, the Germans on our ship and on the Wolf ostentatiously bade each other good-bye, and letters from prisoners on the Wolf were brought to us to post in Spain when we landed. The idea of the Wolf remaining out till the war was over in six months was abandoned, and we were told the Wolf would now go home to Germany. Why we were told this—the first time we had been informed of the Wolf's plans—we never knew, except that it might have been an excuse to keep dragging us over the seas, for the Wolf would never have allowed us to get ashore before she reached Germany. Now that we know that the Germans always intended taking us to Germany, it is obvious that it was quite immaterial to them if they told us their plans. They wished to keep us, and having told us of their future plans, it is plain they could not afford to release us.
But at that time we really began to think we were going to be landed in Spain, and the news raised the spirits of all of us. I remember Lieutenant Rose telling the American Captain one day during a meal that he could now keep his eyes directed to a Spanish port! Those who had been learning Spanish before now did so with redoubled energy, and some of us even marked out on a pocket atlas our railway route from Bilbao or Cadiz—for the Spanish Captain thought it most likely we should be landed at one of those ports—through Spain and France. We even got information from the Spaniards as to hotels, and railways, and sights to see in Spain. It seemed as if the end of our cruise, with our freedom, were really in sight, especially as the Captain had told some of us on December 16th that in six weeks our captivity would be over. Some of us, however, still inclined to the belief that the Germans would release the ship and order her back to Java or Colombo or Calcutta; while others believed we should ultimately be landed in Dutch Guiana or Mexico, two of the few neutral countries left.
On the last day of the year a rumour went round the ship that we should be taken far north—about 60 deg. N.—to a point from which the Wolf could get to Germany before we could reach Spain. That, in the opinion of most of us, put an end to the prospect of landing in Spain. The Germans would run no risks of our giving information about the Wolf. But this scheme would have left uneliminated one very important risk. After the ships would have separated, there was still a chance of the prize being intercepted by an Allied cruiser before the Wolf got home, and if that had happened the Wolf's goose would have been cooked indeed. So that Spain looked very improbable. I approached the Captain on the last day of the year and spoke to him on the point. He confirmed the rumour, and said we should be sent back and landed at a Spanish island, most probably Las Palmas. I made a vigorous, though I knew it would be quite a useless, protest against this scheme. I pointed out that the ship, which by then would be almost empty, was not a suitable one in which to carry women and children into the North Atlantic in mid-winter gales, and that people who had spent many years in the tropics would not be able to stand such weather, unprovided as they were with winter clothing (although the Commander of the Wolf had certainly sent over some rolls of flannelette—stolen from the Hitachi—for the ladies to make themselves warm garments!). Also that in case of distress we could call for no help, as our wireless would only receive and not send messages. The Captain brushed these complaints aside, saying the ship was in good trim and could stand any weather, that it would only be intensely cold on a very few days, that arrangements would be made that we should suffer as little from the cold as possible, and that there was very little likelihood of our being in distress.
I then pointed out to him that our own Government prohibited our women from travelling through the submarine zone at all, but that he proposed to send them through it twice and to give us a double dose of the North Atlantic at the very worst time of the year. He replied that going north we should go nowhere near the submarine zone, that he was just as anxious to avoid submarines as we were, and that when we parted far up in the North Atlantic, the Igotz Mendi would be given a "submarine pass," guaranteeing her safety from attack by the U boats, and special lights to burn at nights. I replied that I failed to see the use of a "submarine pass," as U boats torpedoed at sight, and would not trouble to ask for a pass. He replied by asking me if I had ever heard of a neutral boat being torpedoed without warning. I answered that I had heard of such being done many times, and reminded him that the Igotz Mendi was painted the Allied grey colour and therefore would not be recognized as a neutral, but regarded by the U boats as an enemy ship. The Captain became very angry—the only time he ever lost his temper with me—and ended the interview by saying that he was carrying out the orders of the Wolf's Commander, and had no choice but to obey. This was undoubtedly true, and though Lieutenant Rose told us many lies concerning our destination, we always felt he was acting in accordance with instructions from his senior officer in so doing. We all recognized that we were lucky in that he, and not the Commander of the Wolf or any other officer of the Imperial Navy, was in charge of us. He admitted, however, that it was particularly hard luck on my wife and myself being captured like this, just as we had retired from a long period of work and residence in the Far East. This news of the Wolf's intentions angered us all, and we all felt that there was very little chance of ever seeing land again, unless an Allied cruiser came to our aid. We regarded this plan of the Germans as a deliberate one to sink us and the ship when they had got all they wanted out of her, and I told the Captain that my wife and I would prefer to be shot that day rather than face such a prospect of absolute misery, with every chance of death alone putting an end to it.
New Year's Day! With the dawn of 1918 we looked back on the last few months of its predecessor and what they had meant and brought to us all. What would the New Year bring forth? Liberty, or continued captivity; life, or death at sea? On New Year's morning we wished each other good luck and a Happy New Year, but with the news of our captors' intentions given us on the preceding day our prospects were the reverse of rosy.
The two ships had parted on the evening of the 30th, both going north, and we did not see the Wolf again till the morning of January 4th. She was then seen to be overhauling a ship on the horizon. We followed at a short distance, and before long saw a ship in full sail. The Wolf approached her, spoke to her, and, to our intense astonishment, released her. It seemed too good to be true that the Wolf would leave any ship she met quite unmolested, but so it was—for a short time. It was between ten and eleven when the Wolf and her prize proceeded on their original course and the sailing ship crossed our course astern. About 1.30 p.m., however, we changed our course and turned about. We were all mystified as to what was going to happen, until we saw a sail on the horizon. The Wolf's purpose was evident then. She was going back to destroy the ship whose existence she had forgiven in the morning. Imagine the feelings of the crew of her prey; seeing the Wolf bearing down on her in the morning, their suspense as to their fate and that of their ship, their joy at their release, and—here was the Wolf again! What would their fate be now? The Wolf did not leave them long in doubt. She came up to her prize about 5 p.m. She was a four-masted barque in full sail, in ballast from the Cape to South America, and made a beautiful picture as she lay bathed in floods of golden light from the setting sun. Before dark, however, preparations had begun to remove her officers and crew and provisions, and this was completed in a few hours. We were invited by the Germans to stay up and see the end. They told us a searchlight would be thrown on the ship, that we might better see her go down. Stage effects, with a vengeance! But they were not carried out—it was a too dangerous proceeding, as the enemy regretfully realized. We waited up till past eleven and saw lights flitting about the doomed ship, as the Germans sailors were removing some things, making fast others, and placing the bombs to blow her up. But none waited up for the end, which we heard took place after midnight. The ship first canted over, her sails resting on the water, righted herself and then slowly disappeared. It was a beautiful moonlight night for the commission of so dark a deed. The Germans afterwards told us that when the Wolf first spoke the barque she gave her name Storobrore and said she was a Norwegian ship, and so was released. The Germans had afterwards discovered from the Wolf's shipping register that she was the Alec Fawn and British owned before the war, and therefore to be destroyed.
The Germans told us that on the barque they had seen some English newspapers, and in them was some news of the two men who had escaped from the Wolf near Sunday Island. One of them had died while swimming ashore; the other, after some weeks alone on the island, had been picked up by a Japanese cruiser. The news this man was able to give was the first that the outside world had known about the Wolf for many months, and the Germans realized that their enemies would be looking out for them and trying to prevent their return to Germany. This man would also be able to give an exact description of the Wolf, the names of the ships she had captured before his escape, and the probable fate of other vessels since missing. This, we felt, would bring at least a little comfort to our relatives, who might conclude we were on the raider and not hopelessly lost, as they must have feared.
We had hoped our captors might have put us all on the sailing ship and sent us off on her to South America, as the Wolf would have been well away and out of danger before we could have got ashore. But they did not entertain any such idea. Some of us requested that the lifeboats of the sailing ship might be sent over to our ship, as we had only two lifeboats, a couple of small dinghies, and an improvised raft made of barrels and planks lashed together and surrounded by iron uprights and ropes—not sufficient for sixty-five people; but the Germans would not send us these lifeboats, as they said they were leaky!
The question of baggage had to be again reconsidered. It was evident we should be able to save very little, perhaps not even a handbag, if the ship were sunk by the Germans and the prisoners put into the lifeboats. However, we ourselves packed in a handbag our most precious treasures we had brought from Siam. But in case it was impossible to save even so little, we collected the most valuable of our letters and papers and had them sewn up in sailcloth by a German sailor to put in our pockets. The King of Siam had conferred a decoration on me before I left; this was carefully packed and sewn up. I was determined to save this, if nothing else, though it seemed hopeless to expect to save some much-treasured parting presents and addresses presented to me by my Siamese friends. Earlier in my service the King of Siam had conferred another decoration on me, and I was carrying with me His Majesty's Royal Licence for this, signed by him, and also King George V.'s Royal Licence with his Sign-Manual, giving me permission to accept and wear the decoration. Both of these documents, together with others highly valued which I was also determined to save, were secured in water-tight cases, ready to be put in my pockets at the last moment.
On January 8th, when the two ships stopped, the Captain went on to the Wolf and brought back with him charts of the North Atlantic and North Sea. We wondered if this would be his farewell visit to and our farewell acquaintance with the Wolf, but we remained in company of the Wolf for the next few days, and at 7 p.m. on the 10th she again came alongside in the open sea and coaled from us till 4 p.m. on the next day. Conditions were slightly better than on the previous occasion, and the Commander of the Wolf was evidently of opinion that they would never again be more favourable, but they were still quite sufficiently unpleasant. More fenders were lost and the Wolf was further damaged, and this time our ship also sustained some damage. Some of her plates had been badly dented and she was leaking about a ton and a half an hour. The great uproar caused by the winches going all night, the periodic emptying of ashes dragged in iron buckets over the iron decks, the shifting of coal from the bunkers immediately underneath our cabins, and the constant bumping of the ships made sleep quite out of the question once more, and we were very glad indeed when the Wolf sheered off. On this occasion the way in which she came alongside and sheered off was a beautiful piece of seamanship. Not many landsmen, I imagine, have seen this done in absolutely mid-ocean, and not many have been on a ship so lashed alongside another. It was a wonderful experience—would that some friendly hydroplane had seen us from aloft! The two ships lashed together would certainly have presented a strange scene, and could have meant only one thing—a raider and her prize.
On the 11th we again saw and spoke to our Hitachi friends on the Wolf—the last opportunity we had of speaking to them. They all looked well, but thin. They told us they had been informed that we were going to Spain, and that the Wolf with them on board was not going to Germany. Some of them believed this, and were comparatively joyful in consequence. But it was only another case of German lies. On the next day we crossed the Equator, and then for some days we saw the Wolf no more.
About this time I experienced a little trouble with one of the German sailors. Most of them were courteous and kindly disposed, but one, a boorish, loutish bully, who served us with drinks at table, was a painful exception to this. His name was Fuchs: we sometimes called him Luchs, by mistake, of course! But Fuchs did not think so—he strongly objected to the other name! He had only one eye, and a black shade where the other one should have been. To train his moustache to resemble that of the All-Highest, he wore some apparatus plastered over it, reaching nearly to his eyes and secured behind his ears, so that his appearance was the reverse of prepossessing! I complained to him once about not serving me properly. He waited outside the saloon and cursed me afterwards. "I a German soldier," he said, "not your steward!" I told him that if he had any reason to complain of what I had said or done he should report me to his Captain, and that if he had not done so by six that evening I should report him for insolence. Needless to say, he said nothing to the Captain, so I reported him. The Captain at once thanked me for doing so, called him up at once, and gave him a good wigging. I had no more trouble with him afterwards.
On January 14th I approached the Captain and asked him if the Germans on the Wolf, when they got to Germany, would have any means of finding out whether we on the Igotz Mendi had safely arrived in Spain. He replied that they would. I then asked him whether, if we were all lost on the Igotz Mendi on her return voyage to Spain, the German Government would inform the British Government of our fate. He replied that would certainly be done. I further asked him whether we might send letters to the Wolf to have them posted in Germany in the event of our not arriving in Spain. Most of us had to settle up our affairs in some way, in case we might be lost at sea, and wished to write farewell letters to our home people. Some of us, it will be remembered, had already taken some steps in this direction before we were sent on to the Wolf, as we thought it possible the Wolf might become engaged with a hostile cruiser. We ourselves had to write a farewell letter, among others, to our daughter, born in Siam, from whom we had been separated except for short periods of furlough spent in England, for twelve years. It seemed very hard that after this long separation, and just when we were looking forward to a joyful and fairly speedy reunion, we should perhaps never see her again.
The Captain said we might write these letters, which would not be posted if the Igotz Mendi with us on board got back safely to Spain. "But," he added, "we have changed our plans, and now intend that you should be landed in Norway. It will be safer for you all, and you will not have to risk meeting our submarines in the Atlantic again. When we arrive in Norwegian waters the German prize crew will be taken off the ship after the Wolf has got home, the ship will be handed over to the Spaniards, and you will all be landed in Norway, from where you can easily make your way to England." Here was quite a new plan—how much truth there was in this declaration will be seen hereafter. From now onwards definite promises began to be made to us concerning the end of our captivity: "In a month you will be free," "The next full moon will be the last you will see at sea," etc., etc.
We were now proceeding north every day, keeping in mid-Atlantic—always well off the trade routes, though of course we crossed some on our way north. The Wolf, naturally, was not looking for trouble, and had no intention of putting up a fight if she could avoid it. She was not looking for British warships; what we were anxious to know was whether the British warships were looking for her! On the 19th the Captain again thought he saw distant smoke on the horizon, and we careered about to avoid it as before. But on this occasion we were running away from a cloud! The next day we left the tropics, and with favourable weather were making an average of about 180 knots daily. On several days about this time, we passed through large masses of seaweed drifting from the Sargasso Sea. We did not meet the Wolf on the 22nd as our Captain evidently expected to do, and we waited about for her several hours. But next day we did meet her, and we were then told that in eighteen days we should be ashore. We wondered where! We were then about 30 deg. N., and we parted from the Wolf the same afternoon. It was always a great relief to us all when we parted from her, keeping our ship's company of prisoners intact. For the men amongst us feared we might all be put upon the Wolf to be taken to Germany, leaving our wives on the Igotz Mendi. This, so we had been told, had been the intention of the Wolf's Commander when the prisoners were first put on the Spanish boat. He had ordered that only women, and prisoners above sixty and under sixteen should be put on the Igotz Mendi, but the German doctor, a humane and kindly man, would have nothing to do with this plan and declared he would not be responsible for the health of the women if this were done. So that we owe it to him that wives were not separated from their husbands during this anxious time, as the Commander of the Wolf had inhumanly suggested.
EN ROUTE FOR RUHLEBEN—VIA ICELAND
A last effort was made to persuade the Captain to ask the Wolf's Commander to release the Spanish ship here, take all the prize crew off, and send us back to Cape Town (which would have suited the plans of every one of us), for a suspicion began to grow in our minds that Germany, and nowhere else, was the destination intended for us. But our Captain would not listen to this suggestion, and said he was sure the Spanish Captain would not go back to Cape Town even if he promised to do so.
On the next day, January 24th, relief seemed nearer than it had done since our capture four months before. I was sitting on the starboard deck, when suddenly, about 3.30 p.m., I saw coming up out of the mist, close to our starboard bow, what looked like a cruiser with four funnels. The Spanish officer on the bridge had apparently not seen it, or did not want to! Neither, apparently, had the German sailor, if, indeed, he was even on the bridge at that moment. I rushed to inform the American sailing ship Captain of my discovery, and he confirmed my opinion that it was a four-funnelled warship. The Germans were by this time fully alarmed, and the ship slowed down a little; the Captain, evidently also thinking that the vessel was a cruiser, went to his cabin to dispose of the ship's papers, the crew got into their best uniform to surrender, and it looked as if help were at hand at last. We got our precious packages together, put them in our pockets, and got everything ready to leave the ship. We were all out on deck, delighted beyond words (our elation can be imagined), and saw the ship—it must be remembered that it was a very misty day—resolve itself into two two-funnelled ships, apparently transports, one seemingly in distress and very much camouflaged, and the other standing by. Soon, however, they proceeded on their course and crossed our bows fairly close. We were then all ordered to our cabins, and we saw the two ships steam off to the westward, without having spoken us or given any evidence of having seen us at all.
It was a most bitter disappointment to us, comparable to that of shipwrecked sailors on a desert island watching a ship expected to deliver them pass out of sight. Our hopes, raised to such a high pitch, were indeed dashed—we felt very low after this. Would help never come? Better we had not seen the ships than to be deceived and disappointed in this way. But it was a great relief to the Germans. We never discovered what ships they were, but the American said he believed them to be American transports and that each mounted a gun. If only we had seen them the day before, when we were in company with the Wolf, they might have been suspicious, and probably have been of some help to us. The Captain was very worried by their appearance, and did not feel that all danger was passed even when the ships disappeared. He feared they might communicate with some armed vessel met with, and give them a description and the position of his ship. Also, had these two ships seen the Wolf, from which we had parted only twenty-four hours before?
In the middle of the excitement the Spanish chief mate had rushed on to the bridge into the wireless room, and while the wireless operator was out of the room, or his attention had been diverted, he took from their place all the six or eight bombs on board and threw them overboard. They fell into the sea with a great splash just near where I was standing, but I did not then know it was the bombs which were being got rid of. It was a plucky act, for had he been discovered by the armed sentry while doing it he would have undoubtedly been shot on the spot. On the next day, on the morning of which we saw two sailing ships far distant, an inquiry was held as to the disappearance of the bombs, which would, of course, have been used to sink the ship, and the chief mate owned up. He said that he did it for the sake of the women and children on board; as the sea was rough, their lives would have been in danger if they had been put in the lifeboats when the ship was bombed. He was confined to his cabin for the rest of the voyage, but we managed to see and talk to him from time to time, and thanked him for his bravery. Later he was sentenced by the Commander of the Wolf to three years' imprisonment in Germany and a fine of 2,000 marks. From this time all the Spanish officers were relieved of their duties.
The Germans had told us that, in the event of the prize being captured while the weather was rough, the ship would not be bombed or sunk, as they had no desire to endanger the lives of the women or children amongst us. In fact, so they said, the ship would not be bombed under any conditions when once the Wolf had got all the coal she wanted. It was indeed difficult to see what purpose would be served by the Germans sinking the Spanish ship, if she were overhauled by an Allied cruiser. The Allies could not keep her, as she would have to be restored to Spain; the Germans said they would not keep her, but return her to her owners. To have deliberately sunk her would only have meant a gratuitous offence to Spain. Nevertheless, the next time we met the Wolf a new supply of bombs and hand grenades was put on board our ship. At the same time an extra Lieutenant came on board, additional neutrals were sent over to help work the ship, and the prize crew was increased from nine to nineteen. All the prize crew now wore caps with the words "S.M.S. Otter" inscribed thereon. Somewhere about this time the American Captain and the second mate of one of the captured ships had returned to them their instruments which had been taken from them at the time of their capture.
The Kaiser's birthday, which fell on a Sunday, was honoured by the sacrifice of the last calf, and was marked by a most terrific storm. The wind was raging for hours at a hurricane force between eleven and twelve, the seas were between thirty and forty feet high, and it seemed impossible that the ship could live in such a sea. It seemed that she must inevitably founder. But notwithstanding terrible rolling, she shipped very little water, but all of the prisoners were alarmed at the rough weather and the rolling of the ship. The wireless aerials were brought down by the storm, and any seas that did come on board smashed whatever deck hamper had been left about.
From this day onwards we lived in a condition of great misery, and death stared us in the face many times. The prospect was a gloomy one: just when my wife and I had reached the time to which we had been looking forward for many years it seemed daily increasingly unlikely that our lives could escape a violent and brutal ending. Such thoughts inevitably occurred to our minds during these dark and anxious days. But there was still to come even worse than we had yet experienced. It got colder and colder every day for a considerable time; the food got worse and worse, and we were on short rations; the ship became more and more dirty, smokes ran short—only some ancient dusty shag brought from Germany by the Wolf and some virulent native tobacco from New Guinea remained—and conditions generally became almost beyond endurance. Darkness fell very early in these far northern latitudes, and the long nights were very dreary and miserable. What wretched nights we spent in that crowded saloon—crushed round the table attempting to read or play cards! It was too dismal and uncomfortable for words, but we had either to endure that or our cold, wet cabins. Sundays seemed to be the days on which the worst storms occurred, though on very few of the days from this time onwards did we have anything but very dirty weather. The Australian stewardess became very ill with asthma, and with no adequate medicine supply on board, no suitable food, and no warm or dry cabin for her, it is indeed a miracle that she lived through these last few weeks. She owes her life to the devotion of the Australian Major of the A.M.C. on board and the lady prisoners who assisted in nursing her.
On February 5th we again met the Wolf—we had sighted her on the evening of the 4th, but it was too rough then to communicate, and, it was said, the Wolf did not recognize our rocket signals. With the Wolf's usual luck, the weather moderated next day, and the ships stopped. Just as the Germans on land always seemed to get the weather they wanted, so they were equally favoured at sea. This was noticed over and over again, and the Hitachi passengers had very good reason to be sick about this. The two days previous to her capture the sea had been so rough that the "bird" could not go up, but on the actual day of the capture the sea had very much calmed down, enabling the seaplane to go up and spot the Hitachi's position.
Those who had written letters to be sent on the Wolf sent them over on this day, and the Spanish chief mate expected to be sent on the Wolf, as we might not meet her again. Luckily for him, however, for some reason or other he was not transferred that day, and neither he nor we ever saw the Wolf again after the morning of February 6th. Doubtless the Wolf expected to meet us again before the final separation occurred, when the transference of the officer would have been effected.
We heard from the Wolf that she was getting very short of food, and that there was much sickness, including many cases of scurvy, on board. The pigeons must have gone the way of all flesh by this time, and perhaps the dachshunds had too—in the form of German sausages! Some of the prisoners, we knew, had very little clothing, and positively none for cold weather, and our hearts were sore at the thought of so many of our fellow-countrymen, many of whom we had known, in good and ill fortune, being taken into captivity in Germany.
The next day we entered the Arctic Circle. The cold was intense, the cabins were icy, the temperature falling as low as 14 deg. F. in some of them. There was no heating apparatus on the ship, with the exception of a couple of small heating pipes in the saloon. These were usually covered with the officers' thick clothes, and some of the passengers' garments drying. The cabin curtains froze to the ports; all the cabin roofs leaked, and it was impossible to keep the floors and bedding dry; and in our cabin, in addition, we had water constantly flowing and swishing backwards and forwards between the iron deck of the ship and the wooden floor of the cabin. This oozed up through the floor and accumulated under the settee, and on many nights we emptied five or six buckets full of icy water from under the settee, which had also to be used as a bed. At last I persuaded the Captain to allow one of the sailors to drill a hole in the side of the cabin so that the water could have an outlet on to the deck. I had asked that this might be done directly the water appeared in our cabin, but was told it was against the regulations of the Board of Trade! Quoting the Board of Trade under such conditions—was this a sample of German humour? We managed to secure a piece of matting for our cabin floor—it was soaked through every day, but we had it dried daily in the engine-room. Since the great storm on the Kaiser's birthday our feet had never been dry or warm, and were in this condition till some hours after we got ashore.
The ports of the cabins had all long ago been painted black in order that no light might show through, and the darkness at night, especially in these stormy seas, was always very sinister and ugly, not to say dangerous—not a spark of light showing on deck. We had to sit in these cold and dark cabins during the day. The weather prevented us from being on deck, which was often covered with frost and snow, and often there was nowhere else to sit. The electric light was on for only a limited time each day, so, as the ports could not be opened, it being far too cold, we asked and obtained permission to scratch a little of the paint off the ports in our cabin. This made things a little more bearable, but it can easily be imagined how people who had been living in tropical climates for many years fared under such conditions. As for our own case, my wife had spent only two winters out of Siam during the last twenty years, while I had spent none during the last twenty-one, and it is no exaggeration to say that we suffered agonies with the cold. It was nothing short of cruel to expose women and children to this after they had been dragged in captivity over the seas for many months. The Captain had ordered a part of the bunkers to be cleared, so that the prisoners might sit there in the cold weather. But the place was so dirty and uncomfortable, and difficult of access, in addition to it being in darkness, and quite unprovided with seats, that most of the prisoners preferred the crowded little saloon. Luchs was provided with a swanky kennel for the cold weather. The Spanish carpenter contrived it, and it looked like a small model of a Norwegian church—painted the Allied grey! Even the Captain's dog was more comfortable than we were!
On the morning of February 7th we for the first time encountered icefloes, when attempting the northern passage between Greenland and Iceland. About 11 a.m. we stopped and hooted for the Wolf, as a fog had come on—the first time we had heard a steamer's siren since the day of our capture. We waited for some hours in the ice, but no answering signal came, so the Captain decided to turn back, as he thought it impossible to force his way through the ice. We therefore went back again on our course, the Captain hoping that the wind would change and cease blowing the icefloes from off the shores of Greenland.
That morning is unforgettable. The cold fog, the great bergs of ice floating by the ship and sometimes crashing into her, the dreary sea, the cold, filthy, miserable ship, our hopeless condition, all helped to lower our spirits, and we felt we had plumbed the very depths of misery.
After a day or two slow steaming on this course and occasional stopping altogether—what dreary, miserable, hopeless days!—we resumed our attempt to go to the north of Iceland, evidently to escape the attention of the British ships which the Germans expected to encounter between the south of Iceland and the Faroes. But before long it became evident that ice was still about, and in the darkness of the early morning of February 11th we bumped heavily against icebergs several times. This threw some of us out of our bunks; once again there was no more sleep during the night. This time the Captain abandoned his attempt to go through the northern passage, and turned the ship round to try his luck in the passage he did not expect to be so free from British attentions.
We thought perhaps that as we were on short rations and even drinking water was running short, and the case of us all really desperate, the Captain would land us and give up the ship at Reykjavik, leaving us there to be rescued. Even a stay in Iceland would be better than one in Germany, for which country we now all suspected we were bound. The uncertainty concerning our ultimate destination added to our miseries, and these were not lessened when on February 11th the Captain told us, for the first time that it was, and always had been, the intention to take us on the Igotz Mendi to Germany, there to be interned in civilian prisoners' camps. He told us, too, that the women and those of the men over military age would be released at once, but we all declined to believe anything else our captors told us, as they had deliberately and repeatedly deceived us by assuring us at various times they were going to land us in Spain, or Norway, or some other neutral country. The string of German lies must surely by now be ended. But no! There were still more to come, as will be seen later on.
At daylight on the 11th we were still among icefloes, but going away from instead of meeting them, and on that morning we saw in the distance the coast of Iceland, which the Germans tried to persuade us was the sails of fishing boats, as they did not wish us to think we were so near the Icelandic coast, the first land that we had seen since the Maldive Islands, a week after our capture, i.e. more than four months before. We also saw a few fishing boats off the coast.
We now shaped a course for the coast of Norway, keeping to the north of the Faroes. On Sunday, the 17th, we again ran into a very heavy storm. Ever since the storm on January 27th the propeller had been constantly racing and sending shudders through the ship from stem to stern. On this day this feature, which was always disconcerting and to a certain extent alarming, became more marked, and the thud with which the ship met the seas more and more loud, so loud indeed that on one occasion the Captain thought we had struck a mine, and rushed from the saloon to the bridge to ascertain what damage had been done. Luckily for us, the engines were British made. No inferior workmanship could possibly have stood the terrific strain put on these engines during these weeks of terrible storms. The Captain and crew had by this time become very anxious as to the fate of the Wolf, as no news had been received concerning her. Day after day the Captain told us he expected news, but they went by without any being received. But on the evening of the 19th the Captain informed us that he had received a wireless message announcing the safe arrival of the Wolf at a German port. The Germans seemed singularly little elated at the news, and hardly ever mentioned the subject again after that evening. This was so different from what we had expected that most of the prisoners did not believe the Wolf had got home. We hoped that she had been intercepted and captured by a British cruiser, and that with any luck a similar fate might be in store for us.
The Wolf had certainly made a wonderful cruise, and the Germans were naturally very proud of it—almost the only exploit of their navy of which they reasonably could be proud. They had successfully evaded the enemy for fifteen months, and had kept their ship in good repair, for they had first-class mechanics and engineers on board. But she must have been very weather-worn and partly crippled before she arrived at a home port. She had touched at no port or no shore from the day she left Germany till the day she returned to the Fatherland. She was, too, the only German raider which had extended her operations beyond the Atlantic. The Wolf had cruised and raided in the Indian and Pacific Oceans as well. She had sunk seven steamers and seven sailing ships, and claimed many more ships sunk as a result of her mine-laying. Besides the prizes already named, she had captured and sunk the Turritella, Wordsworth, Jumna, Dee, Winslow, and Encore, the last three of which were sailing vessels. Her first prize, the Turritella, taken in February 1917 in the Indian Ocean, was originally a German ship, a sister of the Wolf, captured by the British. On her recapture by the Germans, she was equipped as a raider and mine-layer, and sent off on an expedition by herself. But soon afterwards near Aden she encountered a British warship, when the prize crew scuttled her and surrendered.
SAVED BY SHIPWRECK
The Germans were now getting very anxious as they approached the blockade zone. They affected, however, to believe that there was no blockade, and that there was no need of one now that America was in the war. "No one will trade with us," they said; "accordingly there is no need of a blockade." But, as some of the passengers remarked to the Captain, "If there is no blockade, as the Germans say, why haven't you more raiders out, instead of only one, and why have so few been able to come out?" There was, of course, no answer to this! The Captain further remarked that even if there were a blockade it would always be possible to get through it at the week-end, as all the British blockading fleet returned to port for that time! The Wolf, he said, came out and got home through the blockade at the week-end. It was quite simple; we were to do the same, and we should be escorted by submarines, as the Wolf had been on both occasions.
Nevertheless, the Germans were at great pains to keep as far as possible from any place in which British ships might appear. But unfortunately not one did appear, here or anywhere else, to rescue us, although we felt certain in our own minds that some of our ships would be present and save us in these parts of the seas, which we believed were regularly patrolled. What meetings, discussions, and consultations we had in our wretched tiny cabin during these dreadful days and nights! We had cheered ourselves up for a long time past that the Wolf would never get through the British blockade, and that some friendly vessel would surely be the means of our salvation. The Spanish officers who had had experience of the blockade also assured us that no vessel could possibly get through unchallenged; and we, in our turn, had assured the American captives among us of the same thing. There was no fog to help the enemy, the condition of the moon was favourable to us, and we had pointed out to each other on maps various places where there must be British ships on the watch. It was a bitter disappointment to us that we saw none. It was heartbreaking. We had built so much on our hopes; it was galling beyond words for the enemy to be in the right and ourselves mistaken. But, after all, we reflected, what is one ship in this vast expanse of stormy seas? In vain we tried to derive some comfort from this. But, alas! we were on that one ship, which fact made all the difference! We had been "hanging our hats" on the British Navy for so long—surely we were not mistaken! Surely, to change the metaphor, we were not going to be let down after all! The British Navy, we knew, never let anybody down; but in our condition of protracted physical and nervous depression, it was not to be wondered at that thoughts of hopelessness were often present in our minds.
On the 20th we were off Bergen, and saw the coast in the distance. I suggested to the Captain that it would save much trouble if he would land us there. He replied that he would very much like to, but was afraid it was quite impossible! I further asked him whether, if we were ultimately rescued, he would give us a pass conferring further immunity from capture at sea by the enemy, as we felt we had had more than our share of captivity at sea. He said he was afraid that would be against regulations! The next day we were nearer the coast and saw a couple of suspicious steam trawlers which gave the Germans a few anxious moments, and on that night we encountered the greatest storm we experienced on the cruise. The wind was terrific, huge seas broke over the ship, the alley-way outside the cabins was awash all the night, and the water even invaded the saloon to a small extent. Articles and receptacles for water that had not been made absolutely fast in the cabins were tossed about; many cabins were drenched and running with water. The noise of the wind howling and the seas breaking on the deck was so alarming to those in the outside cabins that they left the cabins, waded up the alley-way, and assembled in the saloon, though sleep that night was utterly impossible there or anywhere else on the ship. The German officers when coming off watch came to the saloon and assured us that things were all right and that there was no danger, but the Spanish Captain was very concerned as to the treatment his ship was receiving both at the hands of the elements and those of the Germans, who frankly said they cared nothing about the condition of the ship provided they got her into Germany. The ship, though steaming full speed, made no progress that night, but went back, and in three days, the 19th, 20th, and 21st, made only 100 knots.
After such stormy nights, and in such bitter cold weather, a breakfast of cold canned crab, or dry bread with sugar, or rice and hot water plus a very little gravy, or bread and much watered condensed milk, was not very nourishing or satisfying, but very often that was all we had. The food we had was just sufficient to keep us alive, and that was all. This weather of course pleased the German Captain, who said that no enemy ship would or could board him under such conditions. In fact, he said no enemy vessel would be out of port in such weather! Only those supermariners, the Germans, could manage a ship under similar conditions! He told us we were much safer on the Igotz Mendi than we should be on a British cruiser, which might at any time be attacked by a German armed ship. "I would rather die on a British cruiser to-night," my wife retorted, "than be a prisoner in Germany," an opinion we all endorsed. The weather alone was sufficiently terrifying to the landsmen amongst us; the prospect of having to take to the lifeboats at any moment if the Germans took it in into their heads to sink the ship if she were sighted by an enemy ship added to the fears of all of us. None of us dared undress thoroughly before turning in—when we did turn in, lifebelts were always kept handy, and we had to be ready for any emergency at any moment. And, as will be readily understood, our imaginations had been working horribly during the last few months, especially since we began to encounter the rough weather and the winter gales in the grey and cheerless wastes of the North Atlantic. The natural conditions were bad enough in all conscience. But, in addition, we had the knowledge that if we survived them we were going into German captivity. Could anything be worse?
There had been no boat drill, and the lifeboat accommodation was hopelessly inadequate for more than eighty people now on board. It is certain, with the mixed crew on board, that there would have been a savage fight for the boats. The prospect, looked at from any point of view, was alarming, and one of the greatest anxiety for us all. Physical distress and discomfort were not the only things we had to contend with—the nervous strain was also very great, and seemed endless.
On February 22nd we rounded the Naze. Here, we thought, we should certainly come across some British vessel. But that day and the next passed—it seemed as if we too were to get in during the week-end!—and hope of rescue disappeared. Many messages had been dropped overboard in bottles and attached to spars, etc., during the voyage, but all, apparently, in vain. The bearing of the Germans towards us became markedly changed, discipline more rigid, and still greater care was taken that no vestige of light showed anywhere at night. We were almost in their clutches now, the arrival at Kiel and transference to Ruhleben were openly talked of, and our captors showed decided inclination to jeer at us and our misfortunes. We were told that all diaries, if we had kept them, must be destroyed, or we should be severely punished when we arrived in Germany. Accordingly, those of us who had kept diaries made ready to destroy them, but fortunately did not do so. I cut the incriminating leaves out of mine, ready to be torn up and thrown overboard. I had written my diary in Siamese characters during the whole time, so the Germans could not have gained much information from it.
Sunday, February 24th, dawned, a cold, cheerless day. "I suppose this time next week we shall be going to church in Kiel," said one of the prisoners to the chief mate at breakfast. "Or," the latter replied, "I might be going to church with my brother, who is already a prisoner in the Isle of Man!" We were now in the comparatively narrow waters of the Skager-Rack, and we saw only one vessel here, a Dutch fishing boat. Our last chance had nearly gone. Most of us were now resigned to our fate and saw no hope—in fact, I had written in my diary the day before, "There is no hope left, no boat of ours to save us"—but some said we still might see a British war vessel when we rounded the Skaw. At mid-day the sailor on the look-out came into the saloon and reported to the Captain that a fog was coming on. "Just the weather I want," he exclaimed, rubbing his hands. "With this lovely fog we shall round the Skaw and get into German waters unobserved." It looked, indeed, as if our arrival in Germany were now a dead certainty.
But the fog that the Captain welcomed was just a little too much for him; it was to prove his undoing rather than his salvation. The "Good old German God," about whom we had heard so much, was not going to see them through this time. For once, we were to be favoured. The white fog thickened after the mid-day meal, and, luckily for us, it was impossible to see far ahead. Soon after two we passed a floating mine, and we knew that before long we should be going through a minefield—not a very cheerful prospect with floating mines round us in a fog, especially as the Captain admitted that the position of the mines might have been altered since he last had knowledge of their exact situation! But we were all too far gone to care now; and some of us gathered together in our cold and gloomy cabin were discussing the prospects and conditions of imprisonment in Germany and attempting to console ourselves with the reflection that even internment at Ruhleben could not be worse than the captivity we had experienced on the high seas, when, at 3.30 on that Sunday afternoon, we felt a slight bump, as if the ship had touched bottom. Then another bump, and then still one more! We were fast! Were we really to be saved at the very last minute? It began to look like it, like the beginning of the end, but it would not do to build too much on this slender foundation. The engines continued working, but no progress was made; they were reversed—still no movement.
One of the men amongst us was so overjoyed that he attempted a very premature somersault in the saloon. He was sure it was to be a case of "Hooray for our side" this time! What thoughts of freedom, what hopes flashed through our minds! The fog was fairly thick, but we could just make out through it the line of the shore and the waves breaking on it some distance away, and two sirens were going at full blast, one from a lightship and one from a lighthouse. The Captain, luckily from our point of view, had mistaken one for the other, and so had run aground. The German officers became agitated; with great difficulty a boat was got out—what chance should we have had if we had had to leave the ship in haste at any time?—soundings made, and various means adopted to work the ship off, but all were of no avail. The Captain admitted that his charts of this particular spot were not new and not good. Again how lucky for us! It was impossible to tell the state of the tide at this moment; we all hoped it might be high tide, for then our rescue would be certain. The engines were set to work from time to time, but no movement could be made. Darkness fell, and found us still stuck fast. Our spirits had begun to rise, the prospect was distinctly brighter, and soon after six o'clock the Assistant Lieutenant went ashore in mufti to telephone to the nearest port, Frederikshavn, for help. What reply he received we never heard, but we did hear that he reported he was on a German ship from Bergen to Kiel and wanted help. Lourenco Marques to Kiel, via Iceland, would have been nearer the truth!
About eight o'clock we heard from one of the neutrals among the crew that the Captain of a salvage tug was shortly coming aboard to inquire into matters. The ladies among us decided to stay in the saloon while the Captain of the tug interviewed the German Captain in the chartroom above it. On the arrival of the tug Captain on the bridge, the ladies in the saloon created a veritable pandemonium, singing, shrieking, and laughing at the top of their voices. It sounded more like a Christmas party than one of desperate prisoners in distress. The Danish Captain departed; what had been the result of his visit we did not know, but at any rate he knew there were women on board. The German Captain came down into the saloon, asked pleasantly enough what all the noise was about, and said, "I have offered the salvage people L5,000 to tow the ship off; money is nothing to us Germans. This will be done at four to-morrow morning, and we shall then proceed on our way to Kiel."
Some of us had talked over a plan suggested by the second mate of a captured ship, by which one of the neutrals among the crew should contrive to go ashore in one of the tug's boats in the darkness, communicate with the nearest British Consul, and inform him of the situation and the desperate case we were in. We promised him L500, to be raised among the "saloon passengers," if by so doing our rescue should be accomplished.
We remained in the saloon talking over developments when we heard that a Danish gunboat had come nearly alongside, and that her Commander was coming on board. He had presumably received a report from the Captain of the tug. We heard afterwards that he had his suspicions about the ship, and had brought with him on board one of his own men to make inquiries of the crew, among whom were Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes, while he kept the German Commander busy in the saloon. The previous mistake of taking the Danish Captain on to the bridge was not to be repeated. The Commander of the gunboat was to come into the saloon. So the ladies could not remain there and make their presence known. But some of them contrived to leave some of their garments on the table and settee in the saloon—a muff, hats, gloves, etc. These the Danish Commander must have seen; and not only that, for he saw some ladies who had stood in one door of the saloon before they were sent to their cabins, when he entered at the other one. He also saw the Australian Major of the A.M.C., in khaki, and other passengers standing with the ladies in the alley-way. If he had entertained any suspicions as to the correct character of the ship, which the Germans were of course trying to conceal, they must have been strongly confirmed by now. It was now too late for us to be sent to our cabins, as a German sailor came and ordered. We had achieved our object.
It was a night of great unrest, but finally most of us lay down in our clothes. For very many nights we had been unable to rest properly owing to the violence of the weather, the possibility of having to leave the ship at any moment, and our general anxiety concerning our desperate condition. We had not had our clothes off for many days. At 4 a.m. we heard the engines working, as the Captain had told us they would, but still no movement of the ship could be felt. How we prayed that the ship might refuse to budge! She did refuse, and soon the engines ceased working; it was evident then that the attempt to get the ship off must for the present be given up. The wind was rising and the sea getting rougher, and at 6 a.m. a German sailor came and knocked at the doors of all the cabins, saying, "Get up, and pack your baggage and go ashore." We were to go ashore? We, who had not seen the shore for months, and had never expected to land on any, much less a free one, were to go ashore? Were we dreaming? No, it was true, though it seemed too good to be believed. Never was order more willingly and gladly obeyed! But first we had to see how the ship stood with regard to the shore; we went out on deck to look—there was the blessed green shore less than half a mile away, the first really solid earth we had seen close at hand since we left Colombo exactly five months before. Only those who have seen nothing but the sea for many months can imagine with what a thrill of joy we saw the shore and realized that we were saved at last. We had seen the sea under nearly every aspect possible, from the Equator to the Arctic regions, and we had appreciated more than ever before its vastness. And yet in all these months, travelling these thousands of miles, we had, besides the few vessels already mentioned, seen hardly any ships! We had been under shell-fire, taken prisoner, had lived on board a German raider and in her evil company many months, had been in lifeboats once in the open sea, were about to go in once more, in a rough sea, to be rescued from captivity, had seen our ship sunk and another one captured and scuttled, had been through terrific wintry weather in the North Atlantic, among icebergs, in the submarine zone, and on the very borders of an enemy minefield!—experiences that perhaps no other landsmen have passed through! Not many of us wish for sea travel again.
Lieutenant Rose came along and told us to hurry, or we might not be able to get off, as the sea was getting rougher every minute. We did hurry indeed, and it did not take us long to dress and throw our things into our bags. When we had done so and were ready to go to the lifeboats, we were told that we might take no baggage whatever, as the lifeboat was from a shore station and could save lives only, not baggage.
The German Captain took his bad luck in good part, but he was, of course, as sick as we were rejoiced at the turn events had taken. He had known the night before he could get no help from the Danish authorities, as they refused towing assistance till all the passengers had been taken off the ship. But he had hoped to get off unaided at four in the morning, and he was not going to admit defeat and loss till they were absolutely certain. He professed great anger with the Danes, saying that if they had only helped as he requested, the ship could have been towed off in the night, and we with all our baggage could have been landed at a Danish port alongside a pier the next morning, instead of having to leave all our baggage behind on the ship. I fancy not many of us believed this; if the ship had been got off we should have brought up at Kiel, and not at any Danish port. And, as the tug Captain said afterwards, if he had towed the ship off the Germans would have most likely cut the hawser directly afterwards, he would have received no pay for his work, and we certainly should not have landed in Denmark.
It was a terrible blow for Lieutenant Rose; enough to put an end to his prospects in the Imperial German Navy. Let us pay a tribute to a fallen enemy, for such he now became. It is pleasing to be able to record, in a German-made war which has crowded into its four years such heartbreaking sorrow, misery, horror, and destruction as has surely never been known in a similar period in the world's history, and with Germany's unparalleled record of wickedness and calculated cruelty to her captives and those she wished to terrorize on land and sea, that there were still remaining some Germans who had retained some idea of more humane treatment towards those who had the misfortune to fall into their hands. Fortunately for us, Lieutenant Rose was one of these—a striking contrast to the devils in his country's U boats. He had succeeded in maintaining not unfriendly relations with his captives, and had on the whole done his best for them under the conditions prevailing. He had evaded capture for fifteen months, and had skilfully carried his ship through terrible storms and many other perils—almost to port. Now, just at the very last moment when it seemed absolutely certain he would get his prize home and reap his reward, his hopes were dashed, and failure, blank and utter failure, was the result. But the death of his hopes meant for us the resurrection of ours, and his failure, freedom for us all.
FREE AT LAST
A fine lifeboat, manned by sturdy Danish sailors, was alongside the ship; the sea was very rough, but our ship steady, firmly embedded in the sandy bottom, and driven farther in since she stranded. The packages we had decided to save at any cost were put in our pockets, lifebelts and life-saving waistcoats once more put on, and once more we all climbed a ship's ladder, but as the lifeboat was rising and falling almost the height of the ship with the heavy seas, descent into it was not easy. One by one we dropped into the outstretched arms of the sailors as the boat rose on the crest of a wave to the bottom of the ladder. It was a trying moment, but nothing mattered now; once over the side of the ship, we were no longer in German hands, and were free! The waves dashed over and drenched us as we sat in the lifeboat; we were sitting in icy water, all of us more or less wet through. At last the lifeboat crew pulled for the shore, the high seas sweeping over us all the way. We grounded on the beach, the sturdy sailors carried some, others jumped into the water and waded ashore, and we were all on terra firma, free at last, after weary months of waiting and captivity. Groups of villagers were waiting on the beach to welcome us even at this early hour. They plied us with questions as far as they could, and great was their wonder at what we had to tell.
We had been saved at the eleventh hour, almost the fifty-ninth minute of it; we were almost in German waters, at the very gates of Germany, being due at Kiel the very next day. It was a miraculous escape if ever there was one, and came at a moment when all hope had gone. Would that the Wolf had gone ashore in the same place! All our fellow-countrymen on board her would then have been free, and they could have given information and saved us as well.
What emotions surged within us as we trod the free earth once more! What we had gone through since we were last on shore! Then it was on British soil; now it was on that of a friendly neutral country. It seemed strange to be treading land again after five months on shipboard. How welcome to see the green fields, the horses at work on the beach, the people in the village, the village itself! How good it all was! We had escaped imprisonment with the enemy, escaped making acquaintance with the notorious Ruhleben of evil fame. The more we reflected on it—and we did so every minute—the more wonderful did our escape appear. But our thoughts also turned to our friends on the Wolf who were doomed to meet the cruel fate from which we had so mercifully been delivered.
Once on dry land, and escorted by the villagers, we walked over the sandhills to the lighthouse, about half a mile away. There we were received with open arms. The kindly Danes could not do enough for us. We had only what we stood up in; we dried our clothes, other dry garments were offered us, hot drinks and food were supplied liberally, and we were generally made much of. We had come back to life and warmth once more. The lighthouse staff and villagers vied with each other in their efforts to make us feel at home and comfortable. Some of the sailors and fishermen even offered us part of their own breakfasts and dinners, which were wrapped up in handkerchiefs, ready to take to their work. The bonny rosy-cheeked Danish girls aired all the English they knew, and wanted to hear all about it; the jolly children danced round with joy when they heard the wonderful story of our deliverance. Every one, from the charming and dignified head of police who heard our story and examined our passports, to the humblest village child, rejoiced at our escape. The good motherly folk at the lighthouse fairly bubbled over with joy as they chattered and poured out sympathy and busied themselves with attending to our creature comforts.
After interviews with some Danish Government officials we were taken to hotels in Skagen, the nearest town, a small summer bathing resort, just to the south of the Skaw. It was a gloriously clear, bright, and sunny day, though very windy and cold, and the condition of the fields showed that "February fill dyke" had been living up to its reputation. Some of us walked into Skagen, and on the way heard the most enchanting sounds we had heard for months—the songs of skylarks—music which we certainly had never expected to hear again. Our spirits were as bright as the larks' on that day, and the birds seemed to be putting into music for us the joy and gratitude we felt in our hearts. The ladies were, of course, too exhausted to walk, and my wife got a lift in a cart in which a Danish girl and a man were proceeding to Skagen. They asked her endless questions, and she expressed her opinions very strongly on the German treatment of their prisoners, and of the endless lies they had told us. On arrival at Skagen we discovered that the man was the German Consul at that town! So, for once in his life, he heard the truth about his countrymen!
After lunch, the first square meal we had had for months, we set off to telegraph to our relatives and friends, to announce we were still in the world. It was one of our greatest anxieties on board that we could not communicate with our friends, who we knew would be grieving over our disappearance and, we feared, would have given us up for lost, for we had been out of communication with the outside world for five months. Never daring to hope that an opportunity to despatch it might ever occur, I had many a time mentally framed a cablegram which, in the fewest possible words, should tell our friends of our adventures since we disappeared from human ken. But the long-delayed opportunity had at last arrived, and our wildest hopes and dreams were realized. They had become solid fact, and the words flashed over the wires from Denmark to friends in Siam and relatives in England were: "Captured September 26th—proceeding Germany—ashore Denmark—lifeboat rescue—both well." The last two words were not, of course, strictly true, but they would at least serve to reassure our friends that we had been less unfortunate than only too many British captives in German hands.