The memoir of George H. J. Hanks, S.B.A. covers a very wide range of events and themes. Rather than focusing on his medical duties, Grandfather presents an everyman's view of the Carnarvon's voyage. He describes the tension that existed just before the formal declaration of war in 1914 and then the Carnarvon's voyage into the South Atlantic to hunt for German commerce raiders and cruisers. In so doing, his memoir also discusses: crew morale, visits to tropical ports, coaling operations, meeting ships carrying French troops at sea (who serenaded them with patriotic songs), and the Carnarvon's capture of a German ship, the "Professor Woermann". The highlight of the memoir is a vivid description of the destruction of Admiral von Spee's cruiser squadron in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914. Because Grandfather worked in the sickbay, he had the opportunity to meet some German sailors who were rescued from the ocean (though of course communication was limited because of the language barrier). The last 25% of the memoir deals with the Carnarvon's unsuccessful hunt for the Dresden in the Straits of Magellan, a description of a miserable Christmas which the Carnarvon spent coaling at sea, the collision with the reef near Abrolhos Rocks, the crew's successful effort to save the ship, and finally the crew's voyage to Canada for repairs. It is interesting to note that Grandfather says nothing about German submarines, which of course, reflects the nature of submarine operations in 1914. It is also interesting to note he had great respect for the Germans - there is no little to no propaganda-induced hatred in the memoir in spite of the officers' concerns about German spies in the ports that they visited. Unfortunately, because he evidently ran out of space in his exercise book, Grandfather says little about his stay in Montreal. Overall, this memoir sheds light upon the conditions experienced on board a cruiser in the Royal Navy in 1914-15.
Return to Index