|Chapter Number||XXVII (Continued)|
|Chapter Title||How Padre Grenville Won the Great Naval Battle.|
|Newspaper Title||The Canberra Times|
|Trove Title||From Windjammer to Battleship|
FROM WINDJAMMER TO BATTLESHIP
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
BY S. G. FIELDING
Left to himself Jack hardly knew to go. He was, of course, aware that the cock-pit was his station at the time of action, but the crisis had come upon him so suddenly that he only had a vague idea of where it was. The doc- tor had said something about the ward- room being used. He had intended to ask Wilson when he went on the bridge. He must get hold of him again and find out. Descending from the bridge, he was walking toward the turret, when he was startled by a peculiar whistling shriek overhead, which was followed by a terrific explosion. The shell struck the foreward part of the ship. He started, and looking round saw a great column of white water rise up on the port bow, and fall in a glittering shower
"By jove! not a bad shot," exclaimed Wilson from the door of his turret; but wait until we get the range, then the fun will begin. Hullo, Padre, looking for a job?"
"Yes sir, could I speak to you for a
Certainly, come in here; it's safer," he said, with a laugh.
He climbed up the short stair lead- ing to the interior of the turret.
"It's close quarters," said Wilson,
"but we'll find room for you."
"Thanks very much, I'm just looking for my own little nook; where is it?"
"In the ward-room, I believe; have you seen the doctor?"
"He ought to have told you; just wait a few minutes and I'll show you
"You see," said Jack, "I have never been in action before."
"Neither have I," returned the Lieu-
Within the turret he saw a number of his shipmates stripped to the waist, two of them were lifting an enormous shell out of a loading tray; they pushed it into the open breech of a great gun, where it vanished with a click and a thud; another moved a lever, the gun was charged and the steel breech block swung down with a sharp metallic clang.
"Starboard gun loaded," one of the men called out.
And the gun's crew stood ready to discharge the mighty projectile at the now rapidly advancing enemy, as soon as the word of command was given.
The turret moved slowly to the right, then stopped.
"Stand by," said the officer in com-
Some of their guns were now begin- ning to bark savagely, when suddenly a terrible crash sounded just outside the
"By jove! close hit that," said Wil- son; "it will be our turn next."
As he spoke a midshipman appeared at the opening and, saluting, said:——
"Captain wishes to see you at once, sir, in the conning tower."
"Anything wrong ?"
"Commander seriously wounded, sir; they've just carried him into the ward
"You had better go round there at once, Padre," suggested the Lieutenant; you may be wanted."
"Ay, ay, sir."
When Jack reached the wardroom, he found that several men had already been wounded by the first shell that had exploded on board, amongst them the Commander as he was descending from the conning tower. He was uncon- scious, and it seemed a bad case. Jack did what he could to minister to the wounded and dying, and help the doctor and his assistants. Suddenly the doc- tor turned to him and said, "Padre, would you mind running up to the con- ning tower and telling the captain that the Commander's condition is very seri- ous; in fact, hopeless. I promised to
let him know. It's not your job really, but I have no one else to send just
"Ay, ay, sir, only too glad to be of
Jack arrived at the conning tower in
safety and delivered his message. He was about lo descend again, when the captain said:—
"Just wait a few minutes, Padre, the telephone is out of order, and Midship- man Hardie is not back yet. I may want you to carry a message to Lieu- tenant Wilson, I have received a sig- nal from the Admiral."
"Yes sir," said Jack saluting.
"He is anxious that we should adopt a certain formation, in order to hold up the enemy until the main body of the fleet comes into action. The "Revenge" has been allotted a post of great honour; all this I have already explained to Lieutenant-Commander Wilson. The
enemy ships outnumber ours. You don't mind waiting here for a short
"Not at all, sir. It is a great privilege to be of some service."
For some minutes. Captain Seymour was absorbed in watching the rapid ap- proach of the enemy. Then, suddenly he gave an order.
"Rapid—independent firing! Starboard guns——!"
Boom I crash—crash! boom!—boom
The explosions were terrific, the great ship vibrated from stem to stern. The air trembled and shook with the con- cussion of ear-splitting sounds. Then came the howling and shrieking music overhead again; followed every now and then by a dull thud and explosion, indicating that some at least of the enemy shells were striking their own ship. The sea around them was lashed into a white tempest of spurting and streaming sprays.
"Fore-top; number one; all correct; number two, all correct," came the droning voice of the telephonist report- ing his respective part of the ship as undamaged.
Suddenly the voice was interrupted.
"Something wrong with that telephone again; I shall want you in a moment,
Again for some minutes the captain was engaged watching keenly the move- ments of the German squadron, then turning hastily to Jack, he said:—
"Now, l3adre, if you. will bo good enough to carry this message to Lieu- tenant Wilson—"
He never finished the sentence. There was a thunderous crash throughout the conning tower. The whole fabric shook, and seemed to be tumbling to
pieces. A shell had penetrated the tower and burst in their midst.
For a few minutes Jack was stunned
by the shock, but otherwise he was un-
hurt. He staggered to his feet wonder- ing what had happened.
"What was that you said, Captain?" he enquired, looking around still half- dazed by the concussion.
There was no reply; Captain Sey-
mour, the navigator helmsman and
signalmen, all lay dead at his feet. A moment's glance at the ghastly wounds in their recent and torn bodies was sufficient to indicate this fact. They had been killed instantly by the ex- plosion. Jack Grenville was left alone in the conning lower. The suddenness of the tragedy staggered him. He gaz- ed helplessly around for a few moments. What was he to do. What was the message the captain wished him to carry to the Lieutenant-Commander. He knew that both Wilson and the Tor- pedo Lieutenant would be anxiously awaiting their instructions, and that any delay in communicating with them might mean defeat. But by the time he reached Wilson, and informed him of the captain's death, it would be too late. The battle would have been lost and the British squadron defeated. Then it was that a sudden inspiration took
possession of him.
Jack Grenville had come of a long line of sea heroes. He remembered the exploit of his great ancestor who, with one little ship, the "Revenge," had fought for eight hours, fifty-three huge Spanish galleons, off the Azores, and dying there had left the name of Eng- land and the valour of English seamen a heritage to those who came after him. Strange that he should now be on board another "Revenge" immensely superior
in size, structure and armament to that
first little ship. What would Sir Rich- ard do if he had command of this great modern fighting machine, under the present circumstances. Was he still alive? And if so, could he see and hear Jack? Almost unconsciously he breathed a prayer to God and his great ancestor for guidance and inspiration. As already mentioned, he had also the advantage of a splendid training in the Mercantile Marine, having served over five years in that branch of the service before he took Orders in the Anglican Church; indeed that was one of the rea- sons of his oppointment as Naval Chaplain.
The spirit of the sea was in his blood. Given the occasion, he felt that he could do things. That occasion had suddenly and unexpectedly arrived. He glanced at the position of the enemy fleet; then at the white ensigns of the British ships.
"God help me!" he exclaimed, "to keep the old flag flying." The words of Tennyson's great ballad rang in his
"For half of their fleet to the right and
half to the left were seen,
And the little "Revenge" ran on thro'
the long sea-lane between."
How like it was to the old sea fight. "God," he prayed, "help me to do the same thing to-day."
If he could only dispose of those two German battleships on his starboard bow, or even hold them up until the
Admiral arrived, the victory would be
In a moment he had made up his mind to assume command of the ship It was an extreme course to pursue. But then the circumstances were ex- treme. To communicate with Wilson,
who was now in command was, of course, impossible. Yes! by the living God who made him he would do it, or die in the attempt.
Touching the telegraph, he gave rapid orders, which were, of course, received as coming from Captain Seymour. The ship's course was altered, and in a few minutes he was steaming full speed between two shadowy grey masses, half hidden in smoke and spray. In a moment the thunder and flame of battle was all about him. From the sides of the enemy ship, wicked red flashes streamed and spurted through the dense wreathing masses of smoke. He could feel his own vessel throb, and tremble with the shocks as shell after shell struck her. Looking down for a few moments he saw a sight, which, though blurred and indistinct, through wreath- ing smoke and flying sprays, strained his heart with a fierce and terrible emotion
—a sight that few men have seen and
lived to come out of. His own brave men reeling and staggering; some of
whom hurled skyward, through smoke and flame, others with their limbs torn from their bodies.
"God!" he cried, in agonising prayer "help me to hold on a few minute; longer!"
Then the lust of battle came upon him; his recent life as a cleryman drop- ped from him like a flimsy garment. It seemed as though the sight he saw had hurled him back into some further state of existence, and that he was fighting for his life with fellow savages. He saw a long snake-like galley crowded with
naked savages. It was about to ram
him on his starboard bow. As he look- ed the galley changed into a German battleship.
(To be Continued.)