|Mr. Cecil H. H. Adnitt, a “wireless” officer on one of H.M.R. Mail ships, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Adnitt of Beaconsfield Terrace Rushden, has sent home a most interesting letter. Mr. Adnitt formerly of the Edinburgh Castle, writes as follows (received Oct. 13th)
300 miles N.E. Barbados
Sept 20th 1914
Dear Father and Mother,
At last I am able to send you a letter telling you how I am getting on, and all the thrilling adventures through which I have passed since I wrote you last from Durban.
In the first place we left Durban at scheduled time and had a lovely passage as far as the weather was concerned, although the skipper was in a funk that we should be caught by German cruisers. We had no lights at night or anything.
All went well till we got within one day’s sail of the Gibraltar latitude, then we were called by wireless by H.M.S. Vindictive, who ordered us to alter our course and bear up for Gibraltar, which we did. We were wanted to bring home troops. We took 1000 men on board, together with horses, ammunition, stores, wagons etc. We were not allowed to land, although we could see that “Gib” is a fine place. The fortifications on the rocks are marvellous.
I was 50 hours on my feet without a slip over that business, (all for the good of the country). We were escorted home by H.M.S. Minerva and now comes the most exciting bit.
Off the Portuguese coast, about 30 miles abeam of Vigo, we got into a mist and, as it lifted, we sighted an Austrian vessel trying to get away from our escort. We fired three shells wide to make her stop, and, choosing discretion, she did so. A couple of boat loads of sailors boarded her to find out who she was.
They found out she had been out with coals for the Kronprissen Cecilie, the German armed ship which has been doing so much damage so it was decided to sink her for her sins, as she had not enough coal on board to take her to England, and we were in a hurry. You should have heard the cheering when the Austrian flag was hauled down and the good old white duster put up in its place. Her crew were ordered to pack their belongings and come on board the Edinburgh Castle, which they did.
As soon as they were off, the cruiser drew away from the doomed ship about two miles and then proceeded to put 13 shells into her.
It was a grand sight. The shells have awful power. The first went right through her; the second went right into the engine room, and the engine boilers, funnel bridge and deck went up into the air in little bits. You can bet she did not last long. I would not have missed seeing it for the world. You should have heard the soldiers and sailors cheer!
The captured crew were guarded by three soldiers with fixed bayonets all the way. We also had a Major of the Prussian Imperial Guard as prisoner on board. He belonged to the German General Staff and was a big bug, but didn’t look so formidable with a couple of Tommies guarding him.
We arrived at Southampton safely to disembark our troops and passengers although we were stopped about six different times and searched by British cruisers on the look out for captures.
Then we were ordered to London to be handed over to the Admiralty to be made into an armed merchantman, where we arrived safely.
The defences of the channel are marvellous and no enemy could get up either Channel or Thames.
Of course, as she is now a naval boat, we all had to clear out of her. I went to 47, Stockwell Road, for the weekend and reported at head office on Monday morning, where I was given my promotion to chief-in-charge at sea in about half-an-hour after arriving and ordered to join this ship, sailing that same night before I could find out whether I could volunteer or anything. It was a rush, I can tell you. My box did not arrive from the Edinburgh Castle till nearly time to sail and after considerable trouble.
I was complimented by the company on the quickness I got the instruments ready for sea, which was pretty good, eh? Now we go to Barbadoes, Trinidad, Port Colombia, Sevanella, Cartagena, Colon, Jamaica, Antila, and New York. We shall be home about the middle of October if all goes well.
We had a narrow escape this time in coming out. We ran through a field of mines and missed every one, so that is a good omen.
Well I think that is my adventure this time in a concise form up-to-date. I shall have to do the filling in of the yarn when I get home. You see, though I am seeing a bit of the war, and it is fun, we have heard no news since leaving, and are longing to hear that the Germans have been wiped out.
Well I trust that you are both in the best of health and are not suffering by the war. I shall write again at different ports, although I do not know whether they will get to their destination. I hope so.
Well goodbye, and much love to you, from your affectionate son,