Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Notes on Lowry and War: A Walk in Liverpool July 2014 Part 3

HMS Hyderabad at Bristol 1918
This is the final set of notes following a recent walk I led around Liverpool's Business Quarter and Riverfront organised by The Bluecoat, Liverpool.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2

Stop 5 Canning Dock

The character Geoffrey Firmin, the Consul in Lowry's Under The Volcano was a Lieutenant-Commander of the Q-Ship S.S. Samaritan during WW 1. In the novel, Firmin is haunted by his involvement in the deaths of a captured German U-Boat crew by placing them in the furnace of the Samaritan.

HMS  Baralong

Is the above based on fact? Possible sources:

Ronald Binns [MLN 8, 6] has tracked down the probable historical source of the Samaritan incident: the so-called "Baralong incident" of 19 August 1915, after the capture of the British ship, the SS Nicosian, by the German submarine U-27. A British Q-ship, the Baralong, appeared flying the American flag, let fall its false sides, and sank the submarine. The master, Lieutenant-Commander Godfrey Herbert (whose name and rank is similar to Geoffrey's), ordered his crew to give no quarter, and twelve German sailors were shot. See Baralong Incident for further details

The above was suppressed by British Government during and after war so how could Lowry know the details?

Source 1: Coles, Alan (1986). Slaughter at Sea: The Truth Behind a Naval War Crime - discusses the myth of German sailors being burnt in the furnaces of the SS Nicosian. See Pg 167 - Cole states several sources from Liverpool that this story was common in the docklands of Liverpool - could Lowry have heard these during 1927/28 when he sailed to the Far east and later haunted the dockland pubs?

Source 2: Lowry's brother Wilfrid was then a member of the Royal Naval Reserve based on H.M.S. Eagle (Eaglet) in Canning Dock during and shortly after WW1 - Some of the Q-ship commanders were in the RNR. e.g. Ronald Niel Stuart - he survived the war and was a local hero returning to service with the Canadian Pacific based in Liverpool. Stuart had been a member of the Royal Naval Reserve before the war and became a leading member when he returned.

It isn't impossible that Wilfrid may have heard stories/yarns or quite conceivably unpalatable truths of the Q-ship war, due to his access to sailors who had fought in the war. He may have related these stories to Lowry or Lowry may have heard them first hand and adapted them later from memories of an impressionable child in 1918/19.

S.S. Nicosian

Source 3: The SS Nicosian was owned by the Liverpool based Leyland line - crewed by local sailors - could one of them told Lowry what had happened? Lowry also sailed to the USA in 1928 aboard a Leyland ship SS Dorelian

Source 4: The Baralong Incident was widely reported outside the UK during the war including USA - many varied accounts were written including the furnace story - could Lowry have heard about this from a US source e.g. Conrad Aiken on Lowry's visit to Boston in 1928?

Bowker notes that Lowry wa taken by his bother Wilfrid to see a Q-ship in Liverpool in either late 1918 or 1919 (Bowker Pursued by Furies P16). The Lowry brothers saw a dummy run of the Q-ship drill, dropping the false bulkheads, exposing a gun, and firing a blank round.

The above visit was to see HMS Hyderabad - the ship was docked at Canning Dock in mid December 1918 (Liverpool Echo 27/11/18) as part of a nationwide tour to demonstrate how the ships operated against submarines. The photos below are part of a set made by Tierney's Studios of 6 Lord Street. Liverpool to record the event:


An unidentified U-Boat visited Canning Dock Liverpool around the same time as Hyderabad but full details are yet to be discovered. There is no evidence that Lowry visited the Uboat. Again the submarine was photographed by Tierney's - see photo below with caption "To the victors the spoils":


Lowry must have retained an interest in Q-ships as they appear in the short story 'Goya The Obscure' when Lowry notes an advert; "Mystery Ship VC Visits Wallasey" (Pg. 273). This relates to a lecture given by Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell at Wallasey Town Hall on Friday, January 10th 1930. The advert noted by Lowry appeared twice in the Wallasey News on December 21st 1929 and again on December 28th 1929. A short reminder also appeared inside the paper on December 28th as seen below:


Read more about the above lecture here

Leonard Campbell Taylor  Dazzle-painted ships, including Aquitania, in the Mersey off the Liverpool waterfront


See Edmund Gardner painted as a "dazzle ship"


Lowry refers to dazzle ships in Under The Volcano:

Hugh too was scrutinizing the Gothic writing beneath the photograph: Der englische Dampfer tragt Schutzfarben gegen deutsche U-boote. 'Only on the next page, I recall, was a picture of the Emden', the Consul went on, 'with "So verliess ich den Weltteil unserer Antipoden", something of that nature, under it...' – UTV, 184.

Chris Ackerley has discovered source:

Ger. "The English steamer carries camouflage against German U-boats." The American text corrects Lowry's error, ‘tragt’, which is perpetuated in the British text. In a letter to Albert Erskine [16 July 1946; CL 1, 611], Lowry says that he has lost the original, but that it depicted two photographs, the first a British Q-ship, and the second the Emden, as shown to him in a German restaurant in Mexico City, the captions in Gothic print. Despite this camouflage, his actual source was Felix Graf von Luckner's Seeteufel: Abenteuer aus meinem Leben [Sea Devil: adventures from my life] (K. F. Koehler, 1921), which, however, makes no mention of the Emden (von Luckner was in the South Pacific, the Emden in the Indian Ocean). The Malcolm Lowry Project

Chris Ackerely also notes:

In the Texas manuscript [TM VI, 45], Lowry is explicit about the connection between “Everything about the Samaritan was a fake” and Hugh’s like sense of himself; but in a marginal note wondered if it were not better to abandon the idea of fake altogether.

Lowry sailed back from USA in 1928 aboard the RMS Cedric which was painted in dazzle colours during WW1:
Sholto Johnstone Douglas SS 'Cedric', White Star Liner, Lying in the Mersey