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Royal Navy em Lagos 1906

Grande presença da Royal Navy na Baía de Lagos em Fevereiro de 1906.

A baía de Lagos foi frequentemente visitada pela Mediterranean Fleet (activa entre c. 1665 até 1967), na rota da sua base em La Valletta - Malta (1814 - c. 1935). Aqui se abasteciam de provisões e procediam a exercícios navais, existindo provas documentais da sua presença em 1901, 1903, 1905, 1906 e 1907.

«Na manhã seguinte, 17 [Fev. 1906] todos os navios haviam reocupado as suas posições compondo sete linhas de vasos de guerra, a saber, quatro linhas de couraçados e três linhas de cruzadores de primeira classe. Nestas manobras os esquadrões eram comandados por dois almirantes, dois vice-almirantes e quatro contra-almirantes, enquanto o pessoal (oficiais e praças) excedia os 40 mil. Esta combinação de poder bélico exibia um impressionante espetáculo do poder naval da Inglaterra, com 31 couraçados de primeira classe, 16 cruzadores de primeira classe e 5 fragatas [scout cruiser] entrando na baía aberta de Lagos sob o comando supremo do almirante Sir A. K. Wilson, cujo pavilhão flutuava no "Exmouth".
O "Pathfinder" [scout cruiser], então já ancorado na baía de Lagos, informou via TSF que Sua Majestade o Rei de Portugal estava presente no seu iate "Amelia”, que ostentava o Estandarte Real, acompanhado pelo cruzador "Dom Carlos". Os navios içaram então a bandeira portuguesa no mastro principal e, ao ancorar, toda a frota saudou o monarca com 21 tiros enquanto as bandas dos navios tocavam o hino nacional português; o rei apreciou com interesse a chegada da magnífica frota britânica.»
trad. livre de excerto do Diário de Bordo do HMS “Drake”.

«On the 16th [February 1906] all ships close to within eight or ten miles apart, and both visual signalling and wireless were rigidly tested. At 8 p.m. ships were ordered to form up in line during the night, and it was 2 a.m. next morning when our squadron got into station off the starboard beam of the Atlantic Battle Fleet, steering for Lagos Bay.
Next morning, 17th all ships had rejoined and were in their correct stations, making seven lines of warships, viz, four of battleships and three of first class cruisers. Commanding squadrons in these manoeuvres were two admirals two vice admirals, and four rear admirals, whilst the personnel (officers and men) exceeded 40,000. Such a combination of war strength presented a striking spectacle of England’s sea power, as 31 first class battleships, 16 first class cruisers, and five scouts steamed into the open bay of Lagos under the supreme command of Admiral Sir A. K. Wilson, V.C., whose flag was flying in the “Exmouth.”
The “Pathfinder,” then anchored in Lagos, reported by wireless that His Majesty the King of Portugal was present in his yacht “Amelia, flying the Royal Standard of Portugal, accompanied by the cruiser “Don Carlos.” The ships were then dressed with the Portuguese flag flying at the main, and on anchoring the whole fleet thundered out a Royal Salute of 21 guns, while the ships band played the Portuguese National Anthem; the King viewing with interest the approach of Britain’s magnificent fleet.
The flag officers subsequently paid their respects to His Majesty.
Mooring ship was a keen competition, the “Drake” being fifth in order of merit.
The “Essex” rejoined some two hours before we anchored, making our squadron of six complete.
Midshipman Prince Alexander of Battenberg, late of the “Berwick,” took up his appointment in the “Drake,” and joined our gunroom mess this afternoon.
Our barge unfortunately came to grief this evening after dark (or at least two days fresh provisions did!), for a while returning from the provision steamer two picket boats ran into her and almost sank her; a few quarters of beef were lost and all the fresh bread spoilt.
The next day was Sunday, which was quietly spent in the customary naval manner.
Monday forenoon, 19th was devoted to general competitive drills. The British sailor revels in competition for there is something to work in trying to be first ship. Who cannot recall the eagerness with which he was awaited, often, anxiously, for the signal from the flagship? The boatswain’s mate’s shrill whistles and their hoarse shouts of “Out bower anchor” set a mass of humanity in motion hurrying off to their station or boat, all bent on seeing their own ship break the finishing pendant first. The 10 ton anchor and some two or three tons of chain cable has been placed into the launch and towed to the flagship or let go some 50 or 60 yards clear of the ship. Time-a few minutes and seconds only will decide which ship is first. The “Drake” was, on this general drill day, fifth ship, taking 13 min 50 secs to get out and let go sheet anchor. “Clear ship for action” followed and was quickly performed. Anchors were replaced and quarterdeck awnings spread when the finishing pendant hoisted in the flagship indicated drills had ceased.
In the afternoon [Monday, 19th - February 1906] a sailing regatta took place (service rig). Boats started in classes, and 194 boats completed. The course was almost a triangular one of 4 ½ miles, twice round. It was an unique sight to see the whole bay dotted with little sailing crafts. The wind was fresh at first, but gradually lulled, and most of the boats gave up the race and returned to their ships, the crews wet to the skin. The “Venerable’s” whaler came in first; “Canopus” galley second; “New Zealand” galley third. During the race all the flag officers had assembled onboard the “King Edward VII.” And discussed the coming strategically exercises.
That evening our wardroom officers dined the wardroom officers of the “Leviathan” (flagship, 3rd Cruiser Squadron).
The 6-inch loading tray practice has again come into favour. All guns crews are voluntarily putting in drills during the dogwatches.
All the admirals and captains met onboard the flagship on the 20th, no doubt to discuss the several problems they will have to face within the next few days.
The Mediterranean Battle Fleet, Atlantic Battle Fleet, the 2nd and 3rd Cruiser Squadrons, and the “Arrogant,” “Amethyst” and “Pathfinder” unmoored at 4 p.m. and proceeded to sea under the command of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford in the “Bulwark.” It was truly a grand sight as the four lines preceded, two of battleships and two of cruisers, inverting the column to allow the flagship to lead. On clearing the bay we separated, steaming in certain directions in accordance with the plan for carrying out these confidential exercises.
The “Arrogant,” “Amethyst” and “Pathfinder” were temporarily attached to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and the “Cumberland” was lent to the 3rdCruiser Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Hon H Lambton.
In the evening our captain gave a lecture to the officers, explaining the general idea of these strategically exercises.
The Channel Fleet and 1st Cruiser Squadron, commanded by admiral Sir A.K. Wilson, which leaves Lagos at 2 p.m. tomorrow, are to endeavour to prevent the Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets from uniting.
At 10 p.m. war was declared. Our squadron and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron were employed on patrol duty searching for the enemy. All lights in the ship, which could in anyway reflect outboard were extinguished, except the ordinary navigation lights. A vigilant look out kept all night, and at daylight some of the cruisers got in touch with the enemy. We also sighted some of them during the afternoon, and the “Cornwall” and “Berwick” gave chase, which resulted in the capture of one of the enemy’s first-class armoured cruisers.
Later we sighted the whole of Admiral Wilson’s battle fleet, and as we were getting dangerously close, we cleared off and joined up with admiral Beresford, while the Channel Fleet (the enemy) was following behind. At 7 p.m. this “exercise” was considered as finished, and both fleets steamed along quietly during the night for Lagos Bay again.
The “Cornwall,” “Berwick,” “Essex,” and “Cumberland” were sent to Gibraltar to fill up with coal.
Early on the 23rd all ships had rejoined and formed up in anchoring formation, anchoring at 5 p.m. The Atlantic Battle Fleet was already here to anchor. During the two days operations the “Good Hope” unfortunately ran down and sank a Portuguese barque, but saved all the crew except one.
A private rig sailing regatta was held this afternoon, 24th, when about 90 boats completed, and almost every flag officer and captain sailed a boat. A stiff northerly breeze was blowing off the shore, but during the race it lessened considerably. The “New Zealand’s” galley, sailed by her captain, came in first; “Suffolk’s” cutter second, and the “King Edward VII’s” gig third.
As eight bells was struck on Sunday morning, 25th the “Berwick” let fly her paying off pennant. Most of her crew has assembled on the forecastle to witness this long hoped for event.
In the evening Prince Louis had all the captains of the squadron to dine with him.
Next day at daylight the “Cornwall,” “Essex” and “Cumberland” rejoined from Gibraltar, their absence from the fleet being under “war conditions,” i.e., to coal both day and night and rejoin with all despatch.
“B” Fleet, consisting of the Mediterranean battleships (less “Bulwark”) and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Hon H Lambton, proceeded to sea at 10 a.m. on the 26th.
“A” Fleet, consisting of the Atlantic battleships (less “King Edward VII.”) the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and the “Arrogant,” “Amethyst” and “Pathfinder,” temporarily attached, and “C” fleet, consisting of the Channel battleships (less “Exmouth”) and 1st cruiser Squadron, all under the command of Vice Admiral the Hon Sir A. G. Curzon Howe, in the “Caesar,” proceeded to sea at 2p.m. to take part in the various strategically exercises against “B” Fleet; thus leaving the three Commanders in Chief in their flagships behind in Lagos Bay, and giving the second senior officer the command. Previous to leaving Admiral Prince Louis held a conference in his cabin with all his captains. Outside the bay the squadrons soon separated, and proceeded to carry out their allotted duties. The weather was now splendid and sea calm-a contrast to the English climate of this month of the year.
The results of the annual gun practices for 1905 was now posted up for general information; the “Drake’s” position being as here given. For battle practice, 68 ships competing, the 14th place in order in merit; heavy gun layers test 99 ships competing, 16th in order to merit; for 12 pounders the 5th place; but we did bad shooting with our 3 pounders, being fourth ship from the bottom. Better results are expected for 1900, as the deflection teacher is seldom still; gun layers, trainers, and sight setters are under constant instruction; while all guns crews exercise at the loading tray each evening, trying to establish a record.
War, according to the rules laid down, was declared at 7 a.m. in the morning and to terminate at the same time next day. All our cruisers were spread out some ten miles apart, watching for the enemy. The engines were stopped, but full speed had to be ready at fifteen minutes notice. The night set in very misty, just the kind of war weather favourable to the enemy. Extra men were placed on the look out and guns crews were ready at the guns; the ships being cleared for action.
At 1.15 a.m., the 28th, the order was given for full speed, and the “Drake” was soon ploughing the dark sea at 24 knots speed off to our rendezvous, where we arrived at 7a.m. Shortly after our arrival a wireless message was received from Vice-Admiral Curzon-Howe saying the exercise had finished. Our squadron then formed up and returned to Lagos, arriving there at 5 p.m., the battleships arriving later in the evening.
March 1st was the last day of this concentration of naval power. Orders were given to raise steam for 12 knots at 1.30 p.m. The Commander in Chief, admiral Sir A.K. Wilson gave a lecture onboard his flagship on the lessons to be derived from the manoeuvres. All flag officers, with their staffs, and the captains, and two executive officers from each ship attended.
Rear admiral the Hon H Lambton (of Ladysmith fame) gave a luncheon onboard his flagship to the petty officers, seamen and marines of the combined fleets who had served in the “Powerful’s” Naval Brigade in South Africa, and to those belonging to the relief forces, to commemorate those historic events, and over sixty sat down on the “Leviathan’s” quarterdeck. Ship’s Corporal smith and stoker Smith attended from the “Drake,” both of whom served in the “Powerful’s” Brigade.
At 1.30 p.m. all the battleships weighed, and shortly afterwards the cruiser squadrons followed them out. The battleships carried out some manoeuvres, the cruisers keeping three miles astern of the respective battle fleets. At 3.45 p.m. the combined fleets parted company. The Channel fleet proceeded to Berehaven, and the Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets to Gibraltar, where also the 2nd cruiser squadron, went except the “Essex” and “Berwick,” which whips proceeded to England to pay off.»

Excerto do Diário de Bordo do HMS “Drake”.

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