HMS ARLANZA 1915-16
Leading Signalman Jerry Driscoll and Peter Down
Here is an extract from the book concerning HMS Glasgow;
Following their adventure in Russia, Hubert and Jerry were drafted to HMS GLASGOW, a light cruiser launched in September 1909, so a modern warship, armed with two six-inch guns in single mountings, forward and aft, ten four-inch guns in barbettes, five on each side, 4 x 3-pound light guns and two 18 inch torpedo tubes. She was powered by a combination of coal and oil in 12 boilers and the four shafts of her turbine engines developed 22,000 horsepower, giving a maximum speed of 25 knots. She displaced 5,300 tons and had a complement of 480 men.
GLASGOW had been present at the defeat of Vice Admiral Craddock in HMS GOOD HOPE by a superior force of German Admiral Graf Spee in Scharnhorst at the battle of Coronel off the coast of central Chile on 1 November 1914 and also at the avenging battle of the Falklands on 7 December 1914, when Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee with the battle cruisers INVINCIBLE and INFLEXIBLE sank Von Spee’s ships, except for Dresden, which escaped.
GLASGOW and KENT caught up with Dresden on 14 March 1915 at Juan Fernandez islands, 370 miles off the coast of Chile and, without asking permission, entered neutral Chilean waters to finish her off. Dresden was out of coal and ammunition and hoisted a white flag, while the crew scuttled their ship. The crew were interned in Chile for the rest of the war and most elected to remain there afterwards as settlers. Leutnant Wilhelm Canarias had been sent to attempt to negotiate with the British cruisers, effectively to buy time for the scuttling. He later became Admiral Canarias and in WW II was Chief of German Intelligence, the Abwehr.
All this excitement happened a year or more before Hubert and Jerry joined GLASGOW but postcards of the encounter with Dresden were still on sale in the ship’s canteen and Jerry sent some home to his wife and daughters.
GLASGOW remained on the South Atlantic station following the action with Dresden. Jerry Driscoll and Hubert Volsteedt were among a draft of sailors who joined GLASGOW in the Cape Verde Islands, 350 miles off the coast of West Africa, from HMS Edinburgh Castle on 17th January 1916.
This ship was another Royal Mail Ship that had been requisitioned into RN service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser, so the pair would have been accustomed to the feel of RMS comfort, as opposed to the more Spartan conditions on a warship to which they were heading.
It appears probable that EDINBURGH CASTLE had only recently been pressed into naval service and that Admiralty was taking advantage of her passage to her new station to transport relief crew members for GLASGOW and perhaps other warships in the South Atlantic.
The decklogs indicate that GLASGOW appears to have spent a lot of time patrolling around Abrolhos: the bump on the coast of Brazil. Ships sailing from the South Atlantic would have closed the coast here to get a good landfall – a fix on the chart to give them a firm departure point before heading into the broad waters of the North Atlantic for Europe or for coasting northwards into the Caribbean.
It would be a natural point for German commerce raiders to lurk in order to catch allied shipping, especially given how dependent Britain was on beef supplies coming from Argentina and Uruguay at that time. This also held true in WW II. The German battleship Scheer and the commerce raider Atlantis prowled in this area.
The Abrolhos are an archipelago of five islands with coral reefs off the southern coast of Bahia state in the northeast of Brazil. The area is now a Marine National Park famed for diving and watching migrating birds and Hump Backed Whales mating.
It is warm and sunny. One can think of less pleasant places to see out a war, but with no opportunity to go ashore and no habitation, apart from the lighthouse, and certainly no pub, GLASGOW’s sailors may not have been very impressed.
The log also reveals where the photo of the barque Pestalozzi came from (intercepted on 28 May 1916). This photo was the basis for the painting of ARLANZA intercepting a blockade runner that appears on the cover of this book.
It is interesting that they encountered Sir Earnest Shackleton in Port Stanley on 26 May 1916. He did not achieve real fame until a year later after the failure of his polar expedition and his hike across Elephant Island.
GLASGOW visited South Africa in October – December 1916, refitting in Simonstown and calling at Cape Town on 27 December but it is not known whether Hubert Volsteedt asked for local leave to visit his parents.
In January 1917 GLASGOW called at St Helena but does not appear to have made any link with Napoleon
The ship returned to Portsmouth on 26 Feb 1918, where she paid off and the ship’s company dispersed to other jobs and ships. It is probable that the ship went into refit , as would have been usual practice at that time for a ship that had been away from her home port for three or four years.
Typically a major refit, with repairs and replacements to engines, boilers and guns, would take about three months. She would have ample time to re-commission with a new crew, work up to fighting effectiveness and sail to the Mediterranean by September. GLASGOW was part of an international squadron of warships that took part in the bombardment of the Austro-Hungarian naval base of Durazzo, in Albania on 2nd October 1918.
One final sobering statistic; despite what one might consider the pleasurable locations of Abrolhos, Bahia and Rio, the Punishment Book for the ship in January 1915 had recorded only five serious cases (“warrants” in RN jargon, which would earn a miscreant jail in the brig aboard ship or, in Britain, being sent ashore to a military prison – usually for fighting or disobeying an order). However, by the time they got back to Portsmouth there had been over 100 Warrant punishments, which is an average of one a week over two years for a complement of about 480 sailors! Pretty bad; so either the ship was a hard one, or there may have been some exciting runs ashore which resulted in several sailors being disciplined for the same incident, such as breaking up a bar and fisticuffs with the local constabulary.
By Robby G… HMS Glasgow’s Logs between March 1914 and February 1918, shows that there were 152 Warrants read….good runs ashore or just a unhappy ship?
It is possible that among this number was Jerry Driscoll. He was deprived of his second Good Conduct badge following some incident while the ship was in South Africa. It was restored a year later and he managed to keep it until the end of his service.
Leading Signalman Jerry Driscoll
and Peter Down
A fast refrigerated cargo liner, iconic of the South American trade, requisitioned by the Royal Navy for the blockade of Germany, detached on a secret diplomatic mission to Russia, then mined and frozen in thick ice for several months.
Repaired thanks to the ingenuity of her officers and crew, with unparalleled co-operation from the Imperial Russian Navy. Returned to Britain under her own steam and back to her war duties within six months.
A heroic true tale of adventure in the First World War, told in the words of an eye witness and brought up to date by his grandson, himself a former Royal Navy officer who served in minesweepers.
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