Learn from a first-hand record of naval life in the early twentieth century
In a Royal Canadian Navy career that spanned nearly four decades and led him to ports of call and engagements around the globe, John Crispo Inglis “Dutchy” Edwards rose from cadet to Commodore in a career rich in adventure and service to his country.
This carefully researched and faithfully reproduced volume of his journals begins with Dutchy’s early naval experiences in the theatre of battle during the First World War, then follows his peacetime progress on the west and east coasts of Canada in the “Roaring Twenties.” It continues in a return to the Mediterranean aboard HMS Valiant and concludes with North American patrols in command of HMCS Champlain.
Found with family papers years after Dutchy’s death, the true value became evident from the first reading. They present an almost daily record of naval and personal activities over 13 years and provide insight into the life of a young naval officer.
Dutchy may have had only a Grade 8 education, but he was well schooled in handwriting, which in his case was precise, elegant and legible, and a pleasure to read. Interestingly, in the early part of his diaries, coinciding with his earliest years in the navy, his handwriting sloped to the right, the way he was undoubtedly taught at school. As the years progressed, Dutchy’s cursive handwriting, though still perfectly legible, became noticeably more upright—a reflection, perhaps, not only of his growing older but also of the increasing stress he was under as routine naval training gave way to increasing risk of enemy engagement and, consequently, to the necessity of hurried tasks.
On February 20, 1918, Dutchy played a game of rugby in the morning and when he got back on board HMS Archer, discovered that he had to join HMS Lychnis. He joined her the next morning. A Q-ship, she had only been commissioned in October 1917.
Introduced towards the close of 1914 by the British and French, Q-Ships were deployed as an initially although decreasingly successful anti-submarine weapon. The purpose of Q-Ships was straightforward: to trap enemy (usually German) submarines. Their codename referred to the vessels’ homeport, Queenstown, in Ireland. The Germans knew these as a U-Boot-Falle (“U-boat trap”). A Q-ship would appear to be an easy target, but in fact carried hidden armaments. A typical Q-ship might resemble a tramp steamer sailing alone in an area where a U-boat was reported to be operating. By seeming to be a suitable target for the U-boat’s deck gun, a Q-ship might encourage the U-boat captain to make a surface attack rather than use one of his limited number of torpedoes.
The Q-ships’ cargoes were light wood (balsa or cork) or wooden caskets, and even if torpedoed they would remain afloat, encouraging the U-boat to surface and sink them with a deck gun. The crew might even pretend to “abandon ship.” Once the U- boat was vulnerable, the Q-ship’s panels would drop to reveal the deck guns, which would immediately open fire. At the same time, the White Ensign (Royal Navy flag) would be raised. With the element of surprise, a U-boat could be quickly overwhelmed. Dutchy told his family stories of being dressed in women’s clothing as camouflage.
Of interest is his sporting prowess. He was a natural athlete, excelling in several sports, particularly tennis and rugby. He recorded his tennis matches with details of his opponent and the eventual score. While based in Malta, he played against the King of Sweden and world-ranked players, holding his own.
HELEN EDWARDS’ extensive research skills and knowledge of family history have immeasurably enriched Dutchy’s journals, bringing his words to life for a worldwide audience and enhancing our understanding of one of the most notable periods in Canada’s emergence onto the world stage.