Chapter 10

Before my time up as Naval Attaché, the Admiralty offered me the position of Director of Torpedoes. Before I finished my time in this appointment, the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Station, Sir Michael Culme Seymour’s Flag-Captain, Bridgeman, was invalided; Sir Frederick Richards, the First Sea Lord, proposed that I should fill the vacancy as Flag-Captain and Chief of the Staff, a post which I gladly accepted.

H.M.S Ranillies
H.M.S Ranillies

Sir Michael’s Flagship was the Ramillies, supposed to be our finest battleship; the Commander of the ship was Jellicoe, and the lieutenants are now, 1930, all Admirals, and many have been Commanders-in-Chief, such as Arthur Leveson, Alexander Sinclair, Osmond de V. Brock, now Admiral of the Fleet, and Heath, who was the Torpedo Lieutenant. All these officers did very well in the Great War. Admiral Seymour was a delightful man to serve with, sometimes rather brusque and off-hand, but he never meant any thing by it. I went to Malta by mail steamer and reported myself to him at Admiralty House; his first words were, “I thought you were much fatter than you are,” and then turned with more interest to tandem driving; he did not say anything about my duties.

Sir Michael was very good at manoeuvring a fleet by the right-angle movements; he was quite one of the old school and no believer in the modern system of tactics. I continually pressed him to tell me what formation he would probably adopt in an action, and his answer always was, “I shall know what to do when I see the enemy.” I never could get him to discuss the question of battle action; no doubt he would have done well, as he was both quick and practical.

During Sir Michael’s time the first destroyers were sent out to the Mediterranean (six of them under the command of Lieutenant Munday), and the opportunity was taken of exercising them with the fleet. Firing the small guns at targets towed by other ships was started; this was a great innovation and many of the captains did not like it. One captain, in his report, remarked that there would be an accident some day; not a wise remark, as when dealing with war material it is most difficult to avoid accidents. We had several good cruises in the Mediterranean and were often at Lemnos and Salonica. One winter we were at the latter place, as our relations with Turkey were strained, and it was possible that we might have to force the Dardanelles and take the forts. This was all organized and practically ready, but I do not think we should have been successful with the small landing force we had at our disposal.

The Admiral and I took long walks and often went shooting, especially at Salonica. He was keen on all sports for officers and men. When at Malta he challenged me to run 100 yards. I felt sure he would win; and so instead, I challenged him to run 100 yards while I ran 50 yards carrying Captain Robinson, who weighed fourteen stone. I won, and he was quite annoyed; he did not know the result was almost a certainty for me at 50 yards. Riding and golf at Malta were my chief amusements. I started golf, at the age of 45, at Lemnos; and also played in the ditches surrounding the fortifications at Malta.

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