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March 12 , 2009

The British Navy Book


It is a grey morning out on the North Sea, with but little wind. There is no swell, but considerable movement on the surface of the waters, with here and there an occasional tossing of the white manes of the sea-horses. Swimming majestically through the sea comes one of our monster slate-grey battle-cruisers. She is "stripped to a gantline", and in complete and instant readiness for action. The red cross of St. George flutters bravely at her fore-topmast head, for she is the flagship of the squadron of three or four towering grey ships that are following in her wake. Aft flies the well-known White Ensign, the "meteor flag of England" blazing in the corner. Far away on either bow, but dimly discernible on the wide horizon, are the shadows of other smaller ships, the light cruisers, which are moving ahead and on the flanks of the squadron like cavalry covering the advance of an army. On board is an almost Sabbath-day stillness, save for the wash of the sea, the dull steady whirr of the giant turbines far down below the armour deck, the periodical clang of the ship's bell, marking the flight of time. Now and again comes a whiff of cooking from the galley. As the day advances the light grows stronger; gleams of sunshine send the purple shadows of masts and rigging dancing fitfully over the wide deck, which is practically deserted. There is the marine sentry over the life-buoy aft, look-outs aloft and at various corners of the superstructures, and the figures of the officer of the watch, signalmen and others are seen in movement up in the triangular platform dignified by the name of the "fore-bridge". Who would imagine that there are seven or eight hundred souls on board, seamen, marines, stokers, and many other ratings of whose existence and duties the "man in the street" is profoundly ignorant?
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