From here I was able to make a pretty accurate sketch of the fort and its gun emplacements on the inside of the lining of my hat, and when I had replaced this I went on as hurriedly as possible with my sketch to show that I had been fully occupied during the guide’s absence.
Presently I saw him returning, but as he was only accompanied by one other man, I crept down again to my original position and received them smiling.
The gunner was most communicative, and told me all about his guns and their sizes and what were their powers as regards range and accuracy. He told me that once a year an old vessel that was about to be broken up was towed along behind a steamer down the straits to afford a target to the defence forts as she passed on. He said regretfully:—
“We are number three fort, and so far, no vessel has ever successfully passed one and two—they always get sunk before they reach us”—and he gave me the exact range and the number of rounds fired, which showed that their shooting was pretty good.
Many other details I found out as to the number of the men, their feeding and hospital arrangements; and a few days later I was able to take myself home with a good stock of valuable information and the good wishes and hopes of my various friends that I some day would return to shoot the partridges. But I am certain that one man was not taken in by my professions, either as an artist or as a sportsman, and that was the muleteer.
On another occasion I wanted to ascertain what value there was in the musketry training of a foreign infantry. Also it had been reported that they had recently acquired a new form of machine gun which was a particularly rapid firer and very accurate in its effects. Its calibre was known, and its general pattern (from photographs), but its actual capabilities were still a matter of conjecture.
On this occasion I thought the simplest way would be to go undisguised. Without any concealment I went to stay in garrison towns where I happened to know one or two officers. I obtained introductions to other officers, and gradually became their companion at meals and at their evening entertainments. They mounted me on their horses, I rode with them on their rounds of duty, and I came to be an attendant at their field days and manoeuvres; but whenever we approached the rifle ranges I was always politely but firmly requested to go no further, but to await their return, since the practice was absolutely confidential. I could gain no information from them as to what went on within the enclosure where the rifle range was hidden.
Two of my English friends one day incautiously stopped at the entrance gate to one of the ranges, and were promptly arrested and kept in the guard-room for some hours, and finally requested to leave the place, without getting much satisfaction out of it. So I saw that caution was necessary. Little by little, especially after some very cheerful evenings, I elicited a certain amount of information from my friends as to what the new machine gun did and was likely to do, and how their soldiers could of course never hit a running target, since it was with the greatest difficulty they hit the standing one at all. But more than this it was impossible to get.