Chapter 9

Suffering at sea.

The wind howled as the Edgar left port for the last time with Jack on board. Life on board was still routine, but the elements conspired to destroy. The Edgar was thrashed around by gale force winds, mountainous waves and lashing rain.

Amid the squall of storms, Jack and his shipmates had to attempt the boarding of suspect ships as they bobbed in filthy weather amid extreme danger. On November 4, they chased a Norwegian boat for six hours through choppy seas. Sister ship Endymion helped make the capture and a prize crew took over the helm.

Three days and several boardings later, the Edgar made another catch. A Norwegian steamer was trapped as it tried to slip through the blockade. It became the Edgar's first prize ship and it meant a bonus for all back at port-a fillip for all hands.

Harsh reality was just around the corner. November 11 1914 was a terrible day for those on the North Sea. The gales, which had been blowing for more than two days and nights, worsened into a violent storm – Admiral Dudley de Chair called it the worst gale he had ever seen and feared the flagship, Crescent, may not survive it.

Scrimgeour takes up the story by saying the chaos began at midnight when the Crescent sounded the alarm thinking there were German mine layers in the area. Everyone was at their guns within two minutes, but it was later found that the weather was so bad that the Germans had turned back to port.

The foul weather took centre stage for the rest of a terrifying day. The storm was blowing gale of more than force 10, making waves of up to 45 feet high along with driving rain and hailstorms. There were fears that the Edgar and many other ships would capsize as water swamped their bows. Jack was left clinging to the deck for dear life against the power of the storm and wrote of it in his diary. He watched a shipmate wash overboard. A sea boat splintered before his eyes while cranes and booms crashed around him; ammunition rolled dangerously around the slippery decks. Both the Edgar and the Thesus were to lose several hands in the storm. Jack clung on.

The Edgar limped in to Buscavow as the storm gave way to snow. Refueling began in freezing temperatures and was made more difficult by the fact that the coaling boat had been holed in the storm. It took all day to load 560 tons.

Work and stress in these bitter conditions had taken their toll on young Jack. The next day he went sick. His last diary entry on November 14 1914 said: “Still snowing, sick list.” He had less than eight weeks to live.

The Edgar was suffering too. It had started to break down under the pressure of hard steaming through stormy waters. It was to be taken temporarily out of service to be patched up. Jack saluted the flag of the Edgar for the last time on December 4.He spent a short time at HMS Victory shore base in Portsmouth and headed home to Worcestershire for a few days leave. What a story he had to tell by the fireside, but in his last few weeks of life he must have been very shaken by what he had seen so far on the high seas.


written by Chris Bishop