The First World War and Beyond

21st, 2012
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Where I left off in Part 5 was when the Discovery set sail for New York on the 25th of April 1915, under the continued ownership and management of the Hudson Bay Company in Canada, who were acting as Agents for the French Government.

The voyage across the Atlantic was not without incident, bad weather dominated the journey and it was not until the 9th of June, 45 days after leaving Falmouth, that she eventually arrived in New York, having made a brief stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for coal. That outward voyage took its toll since her rigging had to be renewed or repaired, her decks re-caulked and repairs made in the engine room before she departed New York on the 21st of June 1915 with a cargo of caustic soda, corduroy and empty bags. She was bound for La Rochelle in France where she discharged her cargo and returned to Falmouth on the 30th of July 1915. Her hull again leaked badly and was again repaired before she set off on a supply mission to Archangel in Northern Russia. On that voyage she carried munitions from Brest, arriving at Archangel on the 22nd of October 1915, returned to Brest and discharged 557 barrels of white spirit before returning to London.

Ernest Shackleton and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

The ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition from 1914 is a story in itself but I mention it here for two reasons. The first is that Earnest Shackleton was a member of Scott’s expedition between 1901 and 1904 and was later to become a legend in his own right. Second, Shackleton’s ship Endurance was trapped in the Antarctic ice, crushed and sank on the 21st of November 1916. No-one knew of the whereabouts of Shackelton and his men and on the 19th of May 1916, despite the War, the Government approved sending a ship to search forShackleton. Discovery was that ship! She was borrowed from the Hudson Bay Company, who provided the ship free of charge. Refitted at Devonport and equipped for a six month voyage she finally started her voyage South on the 16th of August 1916, initially towed by the SS ‘Polesey’. The plan was that she would be towed to the Falkland Islands to preserve coal, then proceed under her own power to the Antarctic to begin the search. When the tow reached Montivideo on the journey South, a message awaited telling them that Shackleton and his crew had been rescued, and that had happened on the 30th of August 1916.

Discovery then went to Buenos Aires and loaded a cargo of grain and returned to Plymouth on the 29th of November 1916, discharged and was handed back to the Hudson Bay Company at Devonport on the 18th of December 1916.

The above diagram shows the track taken by the Discovery during her time in the Black Sea during late 1919 and early 1920. I am indebted to Dundee Heritage Trust, Dundee. Scotland., for allowing me to use the above historical diagram.The First World War continued and Discoveryplayed her part by serving in a series of convoys transporting grain and other supplies to the smaller ports in France. It was in 1918 she was to make her very last voyage to Hudson Bay and Newfoundland, something she had begun in 1905.

Now comes a period in her life when she actually was in Turkey, albeit briefly. Nevertheless, it is worth recording. In 1919 the powers that be decided that she should take part in a goodwill trade mission to the Black Sea. She left Hull on the 25th of July 1919 accompanied by a ship called Pelican and they both sailed to Novorossiysk. On arrival Discovery discharged over 100 tons of boots, clothing and linen. The Civil War in Russia was raging at this time and Novorossiysk was one of the main headquarters of Denekin’s White Army, so again Discovery was doing her duty, but this time in a different part of the world, and not the safest of parts either. She loaded again and left for Rostov on the Sea of Azov but discharged  in Taganrog nearby, on the 9th of October 1919. Back to Novorossiysk she went where she loaded 3,936 barrels of cement, this took five days before she sailed for Constantinople (Istanbul) on the 15th of November 1919.

Whatever happened on her arrival in Constantinople, or shortly before her arrival is vague. The result was that she did not discharge in Constantinople but was sent to Piraeus, the Port for Athens, and arrived there on the 1st of December 1919 where she discharged the cement. She returned to Constantinople empty and between the 26th of January and the 8th of February, 1920, loaded a general cargo of nuts, rugs, carpets, copper, caviar, mohair and other goods, which were scarce in Britain due to the ravishes of war.She departed from Constantinople on the 11thof February and arrived back in East India Dock in London on the 11th of March 1920.

After her return to London in March 1920,  the Hudson Bay Company tried to find work for her to no avail. She was laid up in West India Dock in London and remained there until 1923 when she would be resurrected again to lead a full life doing what she was designed to do.

That is yet another story. It is a story that will involve countries on the opposite side of the world but with the same purpose, Antarctic Exploration. Watch this space!!

©         Captain John J Watson OBE         November 2011         Fethiye

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