Wasted Material

HERE is a digression suggested by the sight of a man I had known in other scenes, despatch-riding round a fleet in a petrol-launch. There are many of his type, yachtsmen of sorts accustomed to take chances, who do not hold masters” certificates and cannot be given sea-going commands. Like my friend, they do general utility—often in their own boats. This is a waste of good material. Nobody wants amateur navigators, the traffic lanes are none too wide as it is. But these gentlemen ought to be distributed among the Trawler Fleet as strictly combatant officers. A trawler skipper may be an excellent seaman, but slow with a submarine shelling and diving, or in cutting out enemy trawlers. The young ones who can master Q.F. work in a very short time would, though there might be friction, a court-martial or two, and probably losses at first, pay for their keep. Even a hundred or so of amateurs, more or less controlled by their squadron commanders, would make a happy beginning, and I am sure they would all be extremely grateful.

Where the East wind is brewed fresh and fresh every morning,
    And the balmy night-breezes blow straight from the Pole,
I heard a destroyer sing: “What an enjoya-
    ble life does one lead on the North Sea Patrol!

“To blow things to bits is our business (and Fritz’s),
    Which means there are mine-fields wherever you stroll.
Unless you’ve particular wish to die quick
    you’ll a-void steering close to the North Sea Patrol.

“We warn from disaster the mercantile master
    Who takes in high dudgeon our life-saving rôle,
For every one’s grousing at docking and dowsing
    The marks and the lights on the North Sea Patrol.”

[Twelve verses omitted.]

So swept but surviving, half drowned but still driving,
    I watched her head out through the swell off the shoal,
And I heard her propellers roar: “Write to poor fellers
    Who run such a Hell as the North Sea Patrol!”