There are still submariners around whom, at one time or another and much against our will, were exposed to gunnery and parade-ground drills of the type exemplified at full volume by the Royal Navy’s Gunnery School HMS EXCELLENT at Whale Island. Here, deafened by their own excesses, leather-lunged gunnery officers and gunnery instructors (known as Gls, but definitely not from the New World) had their own way of phrasing orders connected with the noisier kinds of weaponry.
Only three submarines, anywhere, we’re equipped with really big guns of the type beloved by Whale Island-HMS Ml, M2, and M3; and, of those, Ml alone, completed in 1918, retained her 12 inch Mk IX monster taken from an obsolete battleship and sawn-off short. Her sisters were converted, with almost indecent haste, to a seaplane carrier (thereby inspiring the Japanese Navy) and an experimental minelayer respectively.
Gun drill by the book (CB 1475) onboard Ml was everything a pukka gunnery officer could desire: At the order ‘Test safety and loading gear~ No. 1 opens the loading door and orders “Out tray~ No. 2 should. find this impossible and respond accordingly.
And so on. Anything wrong should be impossible in gunnery language. Gun action in a submarine equipped with one-quarter of a 19th-century pre-DREADNAUGHT’s main armament must have been wonderful to watch from a distance. There were sundry mishaps, some of them verging on vaudeville comedy.
For example, during a practice off Portland the able seaman director-layer, his mind fully occupied with the forthcoming seduction of a young lady at the ship’s company dance that night at Weymouth, neglected to check the hinged tampion open before firing. And (although this should have been impossible of course) the firing-switch interlock failed to do its job.
The gun was wire-bound, meaning that it had an inner rifle-tube strengthened by massive wire binding, the whole being encased by the visible barrel, and the sleeve of the tampion was connected to the business end of the wire binding. When the layer pressed the trigger the tampion opened alright, closely pursued by an 863-pound shell; but after the tampion went the wire, fathom after fathom of it.
In a moment the submarine found itself securely anchored by its own gun. There was no tool on board that could cut the wire quickly, and it was many hours before Ml was free. The able seaman gamer evidenced no shame for destroying his ship’s main armament, but he was devastated by the blame laid on him, by crew and girlfriend alike, for the submarine returning to harbor too late for the dance.
HM Submarine Ml was the subject of many good-natured jests which were not entirely dispelled-such as the necessarily greyish nature of submariners’ humor-when she sank with all hands after being accidentally rammed on 12 November 1925. Anyway, the Gunnery Branch, in general, was a legitimate butt: after all, a prime reason for joining submarines at Gosport at the beginning, in the early 1900s, was to distance oneself from Whale Island at the opposite end of Portsmouth Harbour.
It was also allowable for submarines officers to chivvy the local chaplain from time to time if he was deemed sufficiently resilient. Thus arose, from the submarine depot ship HMS TITANIA on the China station in 1928, the following version of Drill for a Church Mk.
Drill for a Church Mk 1
The Church’s crew consists of 17 men:
2 Church Wardens
The Organist, assisted by a body of men numbering 12 who, for drill purposes, will be known as The Choir.
On the Order “Number”:
The Vicar will call 110ne”; the Verger will call “Two”; the Organist will call “Three”, and so on in succession to the left.
On the Order “Close Up”
The Vicar only, moving at the double, will repair to the Vestry, where he will provide himself with a surplice and cassock, and the necessary gear of office, on completion of which he will return to the church and place himself in the rear of the lectern.
The order “Close up” having been given, the remaining numbers will close up as follows: the Verger, providing himself with a cassock, will place himself at the west end of the aisle. The Churchwardens will take a position in the pews as detailed. The Organist will provide himself with the necessary music, and place himself, or take up his position, in the rear of the organ. The Choir, having provided themselves with cassocks and surplices, will take a position in the choir pews-six on each side, facing inboard.
Duties of the Church’s Crew
The Vicar, who is responsible for the correct working of the church, inside and out, will conduct himself in a priest-like manner.
The Verger is directly responsible for the correct working of the church, inside and out, also for the prayer books, etc. He should acquaint himself with the various members of the congregation and their positions when closed up for service.
The Organist will be responsible for the correct working of the organ, and is directly responsible to the Vicar for the training and singing of the Choir.
The Choir, under the Organist, are responsible for the harmony of the church, and should make it their duty to sing in tune as well as in a loud and audible manner.
At the Order “cast Loose”
All Members will first clear away any obstruction in the way of working the church.
The Vicar will double into the Vestry and see all his gear handy, should he require it at any time. He will see his altar clear, book markers correct, lectern and pulpit. When called on for his report, he will report: u Altar ready. Lectern and pulpit cleared away. Vicar’s clock in hand.”
The Organist will double down below, and open up the pressure to the organ, at the same time giving the caution: “Stand clear of the stops.” He will then see that his power is adjusted, and will run his organ through the full limits of the scales, both treble, and bass, and, in conjunction with the vicar, will test all church communications. When called upon for his report, he will report: organ cleared away and in power. Air pressure opened. Mirrors focused, power adjusted. Music ready. Communications correct.”
The Verger will first go outside the church, see the tombstones cleared away and upright, and clear away any obstruction in the way of the congregation. He will then return to the church, see everything in the cleared away position, a font full and Hymn Tell-Tales correct. When called upon for his report he will report: •Outside cleared away. Tombstones upright. Inside cleared away. Font full. Hymn Tell-Tales correct.”
The Churchwardens will provide themselves with bags or plates and side-arms for collecting the offering.
At the Order “Test Safety and Interlocking Gear”
The Organist will try to play his organ with all the stops in. This should be impossible. He will then endeavor to play without the Choir or Congregation. This should also be impossible.
The Vicar, in conjunction with his crew, will endeavor to sing the Te Deum before the Psalms. This should also be impossible.
At the Caution “Hymn Number … “
The Congregation will seize their hymn books, and the Choir only, rising as one man and glancing at the Hymn Tell-Tales, will open their books at the right place.
The Organist will now perform the first two bars of the tune upon the organ, upon the conclusion of which the Congregation will rise.
Taking the lead from the Vicar, the Choir will sing the hymn as before detailed, the Congregation joining in as convenient.
The Service will be carried out as per drill book, the Vicar completing the same with a Sermon or address in accordance with the Regulations and Instructions for the Clergy.
At the Order “Cease Fire”
The Vicar will at once adopt the quickest possible method of concluding his sermon, at the same time stopping his Vicar’s clock.
The Service having been completed, the “secure” will be sounded by the Organist.
The Vicar, leaning his body slightly forward, will then step off with his left foot and lead the Choir out to the Vestry to a suitable accompaniment by the Organist. Whereupon the Congregation will rise, collect their impediments and, in an orderly manner, will leave the church by the shortest possible route.
The Organist will then shut off pressure to his organ and see that it is left In Hand. He will then proceed to the Vestry, muster the Crew, and report to the Vicar, who will give the order for them to be dismissed.