And here I take a few words from a journal written at the time:
It is nearly dawn. A red light in the northeast is coming up over the snowy hills. The water, steely grey—the tide rising. What strange moving bodies are those, scudding along over the dim surface, like the ghosts of sea planes? Dense flocks of duck apparently, rising and falling along the shallows of the shore. Now they are gone. Nothing moves. The morning is calm, and the water still. And on it lie, first a cruiser squadron, and then a line of Dreadnoughts stretching out of sight. No lights anywhere, except the green lights on a hospital ship far away. The great ships lie dark and silent, and I sit and watch them, in the cold dawn, thinking that but for them, and the multitude of their comrades that guard these seas and shores, England would be as Belgium or as Northern France, ravaged and destroyed by a barbarian enemy. My heart goes out to you, great ships, and you, gallant unwearied men, who keep your watch upon them! That watch has been kept for generations. Never has there been such need for it as now....
But the day has risen, and the sun with it. As I leave the shore in the Vice-Admiral’s boat, the sunlight comes dancing over a low line of hill, lighting up the harbour, the mighty ships, with their guns, and, scattered out to sea along the distance, the destroyers, the trawlers, the mine-sweepers, the small auxiliary craft of all kinds—those “fringes of the fleet”—which Kipling has caught and photographed as none but he can.
The barge stops beside the Flag-ship, and the Admiral descends into it. What is the stamp, the peculiar stamp that these naval men bear?—as of a force trained and disciplined to its utmost capacity, and then held lightly in check—till wanted. You see it in so many of their faces, even in eyes hollow for want of sleep. It is always there—the same strength, the same self-control, the same humanity. Is it produced by the testing weight of responsibility, the silent sense of ever-present danger, both from the forces of nature and the enmity of man, the high, scientific training, and last but not least, that marvellous comradeship of the Navy, whether between officer and officer, or between officers and men, which is constantly present indeed in the Army, but is necessarily closer and more intimate here, in the confined world of the ship, where all live together day after day, and week after week, and where—if disaster comes—all may perish together?
But on this bright winter morning, as we pass under and round the ships, and the Admiral points out what a landswoman can understand, in the equipment and the power of these famous monsters with their pointing guns, there was for the moment no thought of the perils of the Navy, but only of the glory of it. And afterwards in the Admiral’s pleasant drawing-room on board the Flag-ship, with its gathering of naval officers, Admirals, Captains, Commanders, how good