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and Serb alike, flitted the immaculately-attired waiters-in evening dress, no less; whilst from without came the everlasting ories of the street gamins, shaven of head and pert of manner; and by looking through the windows into the wonderfully moonlit night could be seen the towering spire of a chaste minaret. Yes, it was an incongruous stage-set enough; and we of Brig X, attired as befitted our ostensible occupation, must have presented a discordant note in the general colourful mise en scène.

It may be that long weeks of narrow environment and somewhat rough conditions had given the contrast an added value, but to my mind that boiling, bubbling café in Bizerta is one of the most pioturesque sights I have ever


It made me wonder somewhat why our own British social life could not be arranged on similar lines. The habitués of the café were quite content to sit and watch the colour and movement: two glasses of thin beer as innocuous as soda-water amply satisfied their hankerings for refreshment. Our own men, when they trooped in-a nondescript horde enough-fitted themselves into the picture with that remarkable adaptability possessed by the British seaman, and seemed thoroughly contented with their lot. There was not the smallest suspicion of drunkenness anywhere, there was no unseemly brawling. But I remembered

a night in Devonport of a very different oast, with the naval piquets extremely busy in rounding up intoxicated bluejaokets, with the Flagstaff Steps crowded with a blasphemous fighting assortment of drink-mad humanity, who were blind and deaf to all ideas of reason or decency. Lacking the brightness of the café, the crews of various warships had been compelled to seek relaxation in the only places where it might be found, the unattractive publichouse bar, where drinking was the only business encouraged, and 8 man was welcomed more for the length of his purse than for for any other



They closed the café at an early hour. There were French piquets to shepherd the Legionaries to their big gaunt barracks on the hillside; the men walked straightly home, and the streets did not echo to yelled choruses of indecency.

"We think we're the salt of the earth," we told ourselves; "but there's quite a lot we could learn yet-in spots.

Here in Bizerta we happened upon the French conception of a "Q" boat. It differed somewhat from ours. This "Q" was merely a fishing-boat, of some twenty tons may be, officered and manned by a petty officer and half a dozen matelots. By way of armament she carried & sawnoff soixante-quinze amidships, roughly camouflaged by a ragged tarpaulin, But she had already two Fritzes to

by close-range gun-fire after heated and gallant actions. We envied whilst we wondered. Hearing the Frenchmen's stories, we felt much the same as does the angler, with his expensive, ultraperfect outfit, who fishes for a week without result, whilst watching the country urchin pull two-pound trout in monotonous succession from a stream with no better aids than a willow wand and a bent pin!

her eredit, definitely souppered was about midnight, and white water was roaming aboard us with maddening persistency. But we were so utterly fed-up with our ill-luck that we quite determined to engage, even if we had to make a muzzle-tomuzzle matter of it. We even discussed the possibility of carrying Fritz by the board. On account of the darkness there was no particular reason for us to remain under cover; we of the afterguard clustered aft by the wheel, watching the slowly approaching shadow, that was hump-backed, and very obviously carrying a wireless mast. We got the guns up very quietly, and trained them on the approaching bulk, and were on the point of opening fire and chancing it when it swung its broadside to us and revealed itself to be an antiquated French gunboat returning from patrol-a diminutive, whale-backed craft that might have passed muster for a submarine on the surface even in broad daylight.

The weather breke, and Brig X promptly dragged her moorings in the blackness of a howling night of storm. We decided we were getting fed-up with port life, and as soon as opportunity offered went to interview the S.N.O. of the port for permission to proceed to sea. He gave us orders to return to the Base as best we thought fit, but he also mentioned that a hostile submarine had been reported as active on the Skerki Bank. It was far from being suitable weather for naval action in a small ship; but our longings were keener than ever, especially after our yarns with the French "Q's" people, and as the wind, though violent, was fair for leaving port,

bustled about, filled up with stores and water, and eventually weighed anchor one evening and proceeded to sea.

For many a day we oruised in the vicinity of Skerki; only once was the alarm sounded. It was still blowing fresh, and the ship was wallowing under much-shortened canvas. It

There was nothing to do but mentally to congratulate the Frenchmen on their exceedingly narrow escape from annihilation: another minute or two must have seen our entire armament in action, even to the depth-charge-thrower; and as the range was short, it is extremely probable that the gunboat would have been blown sky-high.

Without so much as hailing us, he passed, swirling and fussing on, throwing big water over his scooping bows, and vanished into the howl

ing blackness that was all present in certain indicated


Two evenings later our wireless operator reported confused wireless signals coming along which failed to answer to any of his codes and ciphers. Our wireless was not directional; but we made it directional by the simple process of steering various courses until we discerned the signals coming with increased strength. Only an enemy submarine, we decided, could produce those incoherent signals, and we maintained a most careful look-out for long after the signals had ceased to trouble our receiving telephones.

We found proof during the ensuing day that our suspicions had been more or less correct. At first, when the object was reported, we named it for a floating oil-drum; but as we drew nearer we realised our mistake. It W88 an ugly German mine bobbing nastily in the 'scend of the seas-quite obviously an enemy mine-laying oraft had been active laying a sinister barrier across the track of the expected Bizerta convoy. No question about it: the German secret service picked up a lot of information one way and another. But of the submarine author of the mine. laying there was nothing whatever to be seen. Our duty was obvious: we proceeded to risk our camouflage and sank the offending mine by riflefire; after which we waited for darkness to close down again, and transmitted a wireless signal to all concerned that mines were as likely as not

positions, and advising all oraft to give that neighbourhood a wide berth. Whether our signals were heard and acted on we never learnt, but we had done our best to safeguard the friendly shipping that was expected.

Then, after beating about the vicinity for a little while further, more or less haphazard, just in case Fritz returned, tigerwise, to his expected kill, we shaped course by way of Pantellaria for the Base, at which we were already overdue.

The whole cruise had been fruitless: we were dejected men. "Q" boating, we deoided, was a very much overrated form of amusement. Fritz, was our fervent declaration, had all his teeth in their sockets, and was too old a bird to be caught with such chaff as we were spreading for his gratification.

So far as the C.O. was concerned, he was desperately determined to attempt another brand of seafaring. After his many months in Brig X he yearned for the lost comforts of big ships. He told me that the nerve-strain was telling, and I believed him. For there was an undoubted tension on the nerves during all the time we were at sea. Actual action was less affrighting than the endless suspense and the ecoasional feeling of sheer helplessness when the elements were massed together in conspiracy against us. We could fight, yes; but we could neither compel action nor avoid it,

we had to take whatever was coming. And we knew that Brig X must sooner or later be outolassed. All the stories and reports we heard went to prove that enemy submarines operating in the Mediterranean were adopting a much heavier armament than anything we carried.

Consequently, on reaching the Base and making his report, the C.O. asked to be relieved from his command. This request was granted, and I was appointed to provisional command of the brig. Allan had done good work, he had been in close action far oftener than most naval officers had been during the entire course of the war, and the D.S.C. that he had earned had been well earned. Indeed, certain judges, who knew what they were talking about, declared that a Victoria Cross would have been none too small a reward for his excellent work in outwitting the wily Hun.

We found much stir and bustle at the Base. A project was afoot to administer a knock-out blow to the Turks, who, now that Bulgaria had definitely thrown in her hand, were wavering, and apparently wondering what benefit was to accrue to them from their participation in the World War. There was talk of a dramatic landing at Dedeagatoh, a forlorn-hope sort of affair, and Allan, our late C.O., was promptly roped in for this adventure, so that his hopes of ease were doomed to disappointment.

Came next the news that Brig X's career of usefulness was finished. She was underarmed, and altogether unfitted to cope with the powerful submarines that were known to be operating in the waters of the Mediterranean; she was not suitable for the fitting of a heavier armament; and-there was a general feeling everywhere that the war was drawing near to its close. Our little ship, aboard which we had encountered such vicissitudes, was to be paid off, reconditioned, and returned to her original owners. The major part of her crew was to join Allan in the Dedeagatch enterprise, since well-tried were necessary for the project; and it was deemed at Headquarters that men who had voluntarily taken upon themselves the onerous work of "Q” boating, would not be lacking when it came to desperate work ashore.


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naval traditions-was curtailed to an extent that rendered it unnoticeable.

One final question arises to the mind after living over these not so distant days: were the "Q" boats worth while?

I think they were. The main fault about them all was that they came into being too late, almost at the same time as 8 defensive armament was granted to merchant ships. The inevitable result of this concession to a gallant and hitherto undefended service was to drive enemy U-boats under water; instead of attacking by gun-fire on the surface, they resorted to the more deadly and less answerable method of torpedo attack. Bat H.M.S. Privet, one of the most lowly of "Q's," after a long career of usefulness, during which she was in action many times and successful more than once, sank an enemy submarine two days before the Armistice was declared,-which went to show that it was occasionally possible to lure Fritz to his well-deserved doom,

In the North Sea and Atlantio "Q"boats justified their existence remarkably well, when once the slow-thinking powers realised the varying qualities of seafaring. There was a disposition at one time to send ships into waters where similar ships never worked. To find an obvious coaster zigzagging away in mid-Atlantic was sufficient to arouse the suspicions of even the most lethargic and obtuse of submarine commanders. That "Q's" were often in

hot action, and that they were fought well, let the long list of naval V.C.'s tell.

So far as the Mediterranean "Q"brigs were concerned, they certainly justified their coming into being, although they would have been infinitely more effective had they embarked earlier on their camouflaged career. But one, and perhaps the main, result of their activities was, that, the Italian sailing coasting trade, previously completely paralysed by the ruthless depredations of enemy under-water craft, was enabled to resume; and what that meant to Italy-a country but ill-supplied with railways -history will probably tell at a future date, when all things are weighed fairly in the balance and honour is given where honour is due.

So wary of Italian coasting oraft did German submarines become, that the masters of such vessels lost any hesitancy they might have had, and proceeded to sea with the utmost regularity. Every sailing-brig was a potential submarinekiller in enemy eyes; and so fleet after fleet won through the danger-zone, and kept Italy supplied with the material and stores required to snatch victory out of the jaws of impending defeat.

True, the tale of destruction was not a long one: Brig X was actually the only brig that could claim a definite victory; but the worth of a thing is estimated more by its general effect on the war as a whole than on its individual distinctions.

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