Although Mr. Lloyd George’s message to mankind on New Year’s Day, 1914, was that “Anglo-German relations were far more friendly than for years past," and that there was therefore no need to strengthen the British Navy, it may be doubted, with the knowledge we now possess, whether the German Government would have been greatly incensed at the idea of a cargo of firearms finding its way from Hamburg to Ireland in the spring of that year without the knowledge of the British Government. But if that were the case Fred Crawford had no reason to suspect it. German surveillance was always both efficient and obtrusive, and he had to make his preparations under a vigilance by the authorities which showed no signs of laxity. Those preparations involved the assembling and the packing of 20,000 modern rifles, 15,000 of which had to be brought from a factory in Austria; 10,000 Italian rifles previously purchased, which B.S. had in store; bayonets for all the firearms; and upwards of 3,000,000 rounds of small-arm ammunition. The packing of the arms was a matter to which Crawford gave particular attention. He kept in mind the circumstances under which he expected them to be landed in Ulster. Avoidance of confusion and rapidity of handling were of the first importance. Rifles, bayonets, and ammunition must be not separated in bulk, requiring to be laboriously reassembled at their destination. He therefore insisted that parcels should be made up containing five rifles in each, with bayonets to match, and 100 rounds of ammunition per rifle, each parcel weighing about 75 lbs. He attached so much importance to this system of packing that he adhered to it even after discovering that it would cost about L2,000, and would take more than a month to complete.
While the work of packing was going on, Crawford, who found he was exciting the curiosity of the Hamburg police, kept out of sight as much as possible, and he paid more than one visit to the Committee in Belfast, leaving the supervision to the skipper and packer, whom he had found he could trust. In the meantime, by advertisements in the Scandinavian countries, he was looking out for a suitable steamer to carry the cargo. For a crew his thoughts turned to his old friend, Andrew Agnew, skipper in the employment of the Antrim Iron Ore Company. Happily he was not only able to secure the services of Agnew himself, but Agnew brought with him his mate and his chief and second engineers. This was a great gain; for they were not only splendid men at their job, but were men willing to risk their liberty or their lives for the Ulster cause. Deck-hands and firemen would be procurable at whatever port a steamer was to be bought.