Chapter 1216562

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Chapter NumberXXVII (Continued) & XXVIII
Chapter TitleHow Padre Grenville Won the Great Naval Battle & How the Revenge Went Down
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1216562
Full Date1927-08-23
Page Number6
Corrections4
Word Count2091
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-12-18
Newspaper TitleThe Canberra Times
Trove TitleFrom Windjammer to Battleship
article text

SERIAL STORY

FROM WINDJAMMER TO BATTLESHIP

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

BY S. G. FIELDING

(Continued)

The moment for action had arrived. "Clang" went the telegraph, and Jack gave rapid orders to the Torpedo Lieu-

tenant.

"Starboard Tube!" he shouted through the voice pipe, "stand by! Fire!

Fire!"

The German never reached him, for her stern rose high in the air, with the screw madly revolving. Slowly she turned over, her guns pointing upward for a few minutes, like the fingers of ia drowning giant, trying to clutch at the wreaths of mist and smoke that twist- ed between them.

A terrific explosion followed. Jets and

tongues of flames leaped skyward and for a while coiled like fiery serpents in

and out of the dense volumes of black smoke that had now rolled over the ocean. When the smoke lifted the Ger- man had disappeared.

Again he sprang to the telegraph and again his order rang out:—

"Port Tube! Stand By! Fire! Fire! His second torpedo also took effect.

Then he suddenly changed his course to avoid the enemy's torpedo fire and rammed an oncoming battle cruiser on the starboard bow as she attempted to scuttle away. As he swept past her, Jack looked down and for a moment caught a glimpse of the wreckage strewn deck of his enemy heaped up in places with the wounded and dead. An- other German he managed to hold up until a shell and torpedo from the now advancing British squadron struck her amidships, and she blew up with a thunderous roar that made his own ship tremble like a living thing.

By this time the "Revenge" was her- self a shattered wreck, with masts and funnels gone, her port turret a mass of blackened and twisted metal.

Jack thought that it was now high time to resume his duties in the cock- pit, so he left the conning tower, sought out the Lieutenant, and explained to him the position of things.

"What!" exclaimed Wilson, "Captain Seymour and the others dead! I can hardly believe it!—But how the bla---— ——"

"They were killed by the first shell that struck the conning tower," inter- rupted Jack, "how I escaped is a mir-

acle."

At first he thought that Wilson was angry with him, but when he recovered from his surprise, the Lieutenant slap- ped him on the back enthusiastically,

and exclaimed:—

"You pious old fraud! Well, I'm damned! ' So it was you all the time was it? You know thought there was

something unusual about the skipper's orders. Once or twice I thought the old man had gone stark mad. But

when I saw the Germans go down one after another before our fire, 'by jove!' I said, 'we'll do it; we'll lick 'em, we'll wipe the d—d Boches clean off the sea!—' and it was really you all the time, Padre?"

"Hope I have not done anything very wrong," said Jack humbly.

"Wrong"! Taking command of His

Majesty's Ship the "Revenge," without any authority! Why, the Admiralty will court-martial you and have you shot, or hanged from the main yard arm as a warning to all aspiring naval chap- lains, otherwise they might try to fol- low your example, then what a mess the Navy would be in!"

"Sorry," said "Jack, "I could not get to you in time. I tried to, but——"

"Sorry! Why it's the best thing that ever happened. Wait until the British public hears of your exploit. Of course, some of 'em will want to hang you; but others, the large majority, will de- mand that you be made First Sea Lord, and given a peerage forthwith. You did well, old man; in fact, nothing else, so far as I can judge, could have saved the squadron from defeat.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

HOW THE "REVENGE" WENT

DOWN

The Germans did not wait for the whole British Fleet to come up, but fled southward. Some were sunk in the running fight, but a few escaped to their home ports, followed as far as it was considered safe by the victorious

British.

The sun went down and the stars came out. A deep silence now reigned over the ocean, so lately the scene of roaring guns and desperate conflict. The

"Revenge," like her namesake, was left alone, a shattered wreck, walloping helplesly in the now rising seas, for en- gines and steering gear had been seri- ously, if not hopelessly, damaged.

Jack Grenville stood with the new Commander on the bridge, waiting for a report from the engine-room. Wilson still had hopes of saving his ship, and

reaching some part of the Essex coast in safety, if they could only get the en-

gines patched or keep her afloat until a tow turned up. He had already sent up distress signals. While they waited, she took a sudden list to port, plunging

that side of her lower deck almost un-

der water.

"It's all up, Padre," he said sorrow- fully, and, seizing a megaphone from a bracket at hand, went to the bridge rail and gave the order to abandon ship.

"Pass the word to all hands below," he shouted. The command was passed along, and in a few minutes engineers,

stokers and their assistants came tumbling up on deck. The order was given to lower the pinnace, the only boat left. Even that was so badly in- jured that it was doubtful if it would

float.

"Save yourselves, men!" he shouted, "there's no time to lose. Overboard, lads! it's the only chance we have now!"

Some with life belts, others with swimming collars, at once plunged into the sea and struck out so as to put as great a distance as possible between themselves and the sinking ship.

"Here, Padre, put this on," said

Wilson, handing Jack a life belt.

"What about yourself, sir?"

"Oh, never mind me, I have a swim-

ming collar if I want one. You had better get down on the main deck be- fore she takes her final plunge; it can't be far off now. Rotten night for a swim, old man, isn't it?"

"Not too pleasant," replied Jack, glancing down at the dark welter of water beneath them, flecked with patches of foam. "It reminds me of a night I passed through years ago on the China coast. The ship I was in went down in a typhoon; I don't think I ever told you."

"No, old man, but we'll have the yarn some other time if you don't mind; we must get a move on now, if we want to save our lives."

"Ay, ay, sir! Goodbye Wilson, God bless you," he said, grasping the Lieu- tenant warmly by the hand.

"Goodbye and good luck, Padre, and," he added, with a slight catch in his voice, "if you are picked up, or get ashore, tell them how we beat the Ger-

mans, but mind, that was your trick, Padre; and that I stood by my first

and last command to the last moment. Bear a hand! there she goes! Britannia rules the waves!"

As he spoke, Jack, who was descend- ing the ladder, felt the ship give a violent lurch to port; he held on to the man-rope for a few moments, then went bumping down the steps until he reached the main deck. He turned to

look back, but Wilson had disappeared.

He saw the stern of the cruiser slowly

rise in the air, and felt himself sliding along the now almost perpendicular deck. Suddenly he struck the rail and plunged overboard. He was falling through space, then the waters closed over him, and he felt himself carried down, down, through the darkness, in the swirl and eddy of the sinking ship. There was a rushing and roaring of waters in his ears like the sound of the recent cannonade, and for a few moments he experienced a stifling and suffocating sensation, then, his life belt helped him, and with a swift upward rush he was borne to the surface.

A large quarter-deck grating touched him as it drifted past, instinctively he grasped and clung to it; then struck out to get as far as possible away from the floating wreckage, the bobbing heads and struggling bodies that sur- rounded him on every side.

He seemed to have been swimming

for hours; his weary legs were almost incapable of further motion, and his numbed hands could scarcely cling to their slender support. He wondered what had become of the other ships of

the squadron. "Surely," he thought, "some of them must have seen our dis- tress signals before the "Revenge" went

down. Ah! What was that? " His grating had struck, and partially glided over something round and smooth. At the same moment he felt the loose end of a thin rope dangling about his legs. Grasping the rope and hauling in on it, he found that it was a piece of rattling stuff, about two fathoms in length at- tached to a spar. Gradually he hauled the spar close to him, and after some

difficulty managed to pass the end of

the rope through one of the squares in the grating, and so draw spar and grat- ing close together. This he repeated, until he had improvised a sort of raft. The spar added considerably to the buoyancy of the grating, so much so that he was now able to drag himself on top of it, and float with his head and shoulders well above the water, which afforded him great relief. He had not been long in this position when his eye was attracted by what appeared to be a ray of light, or tiny star on the dis- tant horizon . For some minutes he con- tinued to gaze at it until he became aware that It was approaching him, rising and falling on the ocean waves. At times he seemed to be dreaming and could hardly distinguish between vision and reality. He tried to shout, but felt too weak. The star seemed to go out, then it reappeared, and he at last rea- lised that it was a ship's lantern in the bow of a boat. It drew alongside his grating, and he had a vague recollection of being lifted on board. A confused murmur of voices surrounded him, and then he lost consciousness.

"See any more of them about, cox-s swain?" enquired the officer in com- mand of the boat peering anxiously into

the darkness.

"I think we've got all that's left of 'em sir," replied the coxswain.

"Can any of you chaps, coo-ee?" he

asked.

"I can, sir," replied one of the men who had been picked up early in the

evening.

A wild, weird cry, such as is often heard in the Australian bush, rang

out over the North Sea waters.

"Coo—ee—ee! Coo—ee—ee—" but there was no response.

"Where did you learn to do that?" asked the boat lieutenant.

"I was brought up on a sheep station in Australia, sir."

"What's your name?"

"Rogers sir, Tom Rogers."

"You did that well; you have a good tenor voice. You say you were on the "Revenge" when she went down?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did these men belong to her?"

"Yes, sir; one was the Lieutenant- Commander, the other the Padre."

"What became of the Captain ?"

"Don't know, sir; he must have been

killed early in the battle. " So was the

Commander. The First-Lieutenant had charge when she went down. I heard him give the order to abandon ship."

"All right." Then, addressing the boats crew, "Give way, lads," he said, "we must get these poor fellows aboard as soon as possible."

The men bent to their oars, and half- an-hour later the cutter was rising and falling in a heavy sea beneath the gangway of the battle cruiser "Aus-

tralia."

"Stand by the falls!" rang out the order from the bridge overhead.

"All ready below there?"

"All ready—vast hauling a moment!" After several ineffectual efforts, ac- companied by some smothered curses, the boat falls were at length hooked on, and the command given to hoist away.

As the cutter came dripping and swaying up to the davits, a white beam from the searchlight passed over it, and shone upon the pale faces of the men who were being lifted out."

(To be Continued.)