THE INTIMATE LIFE STORY of KING GEORGE V
Continuing the narrative of His Majesty's naval career as midshipman and junior officer
IN 1880, the two young Princes started their longer and more important voyage in H. M. S. Bacchante. It was arranged that the Bacchante was to be one of a flying squadron to the Pacific, visiting among other places, the coast of South America, proceeding thence to the Sandwich Islands, Australia, South Africa, Japan, and China. It was an ambitious programme, and Prince George especially welcomed this extensive itinerary, for he had thoroughly enjoyed his previous voyage.
Queen Victoria had by this time become very much interested in her grandsons’ adventures at sea. The Queen had a very soft spot in her heart for Prince George and liked to hear about what he was doing. But she could not forget the fact that the two boys were Royal Princes, one of them an heir apparent and she considered that their lives should be if possible devoid of all danger.
Therefore, when she heard that they were going to Cape Town, she became at once terribly anxious and wrote to her daughter-in-law in her customary decisive fashion. It may be interesting to quote Queen Victoria’s letter, because it shows how different her outlook on life was from that of her son. She wrote:
*Note: This was a reference to the first Boer War which was then giving anxiety to the Queen and her Ministers.
Many loving thanks for your last dear letter just received at Osborne. I am very sorry Bertie (the Prince of Wales) should have been sore about the boys; but I think he must have forgotten the arrangements and conditions and instructions respecting their going to sea. I, and even Bertie and you, only consented to their both going to sea for their education and moral training; and Eddy was specially not to go aloft or command a boat, as he was not to remain in the Navy.
“This being the case, the Bacchante going to the Cape—which was done in a hurry without due consultation with me (I disapprove)—and feeling how valuable these two young lives are to the whole nation, I felt bound to protect them against useless and unnecessary exposure, in a cruel civil war, for so it is, the Boers being my subjects, and it being a rule that the Princes of the Royal Family ought not to be mixed in it.* In any other war, should in time there be one (when Georgie is older), and his ship be obliged necessarily to take part in it.
I would quite agree with Bertie.
“Pray show this to him, as I am sure he and everyone would agree to this being the right course.”
It is a letter of an autocrat, but it is also, if we look deeper, the letter of an over-anxious grandmother. However, the plans for the Princes’ voyage were not modified.
Life on the Bacchante
TT IS unnecessary in A an article -of this description to attempt to give every detail of the Bacchante’s voyage to foreign shores. The journey interests us much more from the point of view of how it affected the life and character of Prince George than from the point of view of a sea voyage. To have seen most of the world before he was seventeen is no small experience for any boy; and that this voyage broadened and developed tremendously the outlook of our future King, it is impossible to deny.
In many respects, shipboard life was hard and rough, a life which Prince George could appreciate more than his brother. Everyone worked and played hard. “George’s” endless vitality and energy were calculated to win for him a good deal of popularity. The two brothers were devoted to each other, and would often be seen going down to their cabin arm-in-arm to write up their diary for the dayfor they maintained this habit all through the voyageIt seems almost impossible that two boys could have seen and remembered so much, but Mr. Dalton, their tutor, who accompanied them, says that their interest regarding everything was one of the most attractive things on board. Both wrote the diary together, but it is fairly easy to see where George took a hand, owing to his sense of fun and humor.
The Prince of Wales went to see his sons off at Spithead on September 14. He did not stay long, however, but went on board the Osborne in order to return to London. At that minute, a fierce squall came up, with heavy rain which completely hid everybody from view. The Princes caught a glimpse of the royal yacht before she disappeared finally into the mist, flying the signal “Farewell and God speed !”
Life on the Bacchante was similai to that of the first cruise, with a good deal of study when at sea, and a good deal of fun when ashore. The ship made good way to Ferrol, thence on to Madeira, Monte Video, the Falkland Islands, and thence to the Cape of Good Hope, where the first stage of her journey was accomplished. George, observant as ever, thoroughly enjoyed Spain “Wages are low,” he writes in one place. “One Englishman will do more in one day than ten natives.” At Ferrol, he went fishing with the captain. “Often three or four dozen trout were caught in one afternoon to one rod,” he wrote jubilantly in his diary. At Vigo, the poetical side of his nature was roused by the sight of some seagulls. It was an aspect of his character that he did not often display, but his description of the birds at Vigo is a surprisingly good piece of writing:
“Lots of them were swooping over the water over the garbage adrift. Their curious fidgety ways and silly looks, as they hang in the air, appear as if they were timid of swooping for the white filth; one comes down and picks up a piece in his beak, fluttering the whole time, and not touching the water. And then another, instead of helping himself, flies screaming after the first, flutter, flutter! And then down comes another, half-hopping, half-flying, with his feet tucked up under him, the very image of silly indecision, but manages to snip up a morsel, which he swallows on the wing with difficulty, for, apparently, to move the muscles of the throat, while those of the wings are in full play, is not easy; and so they wheel and wheel in very graceful curves.”
But Prince George was not by any means always poetical. He was very much a boy, and was probably the sleeping, if not active, partner in a hoax which was circulated in the English newspapers to the effect that both the brothers had been tattooed on the nose with an anchor while at Fiji! This report was believed for a long time at home, and the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria were in a state of consternation, until at last a cablegram reassured them. It informed them that the Princes’ noses were free from all marks.
King George’s love of birds has always been well known. He often wrote about them in his diary. At Vigo Bay, he mentioned that the robins were singing and “their faint, quiet note reminded us again of England.”
At Madeira he saw three pretty little birds with black spots on white breasts like starlings which settled in the mizzen rigging. He wrote: “They were quite exhausted and very tame. We chopped up some raw mutton in thin strips to look like worms, and put it here »and there on the poop; after eyeing it wistfully for a short time, they hopped down and devoured it eagerly, and then went off to sleep, and woke an hour or so afterward, chirping merrily.”
Sports on board and on shore were very much enjoyed by both boys. George played cricket a good deal. He has retained to this day his keen enjoyment of the game and has often witnessed matches at Lord’s. A favorite game of the middies was to set a quart bottle on deck, sit on it, holding a lighted candle in one hand, and an unlighted one in the other. The thing to do was to try and kindle the second candle from the first, without toppling over. Prince George managed to accomplish this feat and it made him a hero to his shipmates.
Prince George obtained a fair amount of shooting when ashore. At Vigo, he mentioned humorously, he and a party took an old man as a guide with excellent recommendation and six “smell dogs.” They had a happy day, he mentions, but shot next to nothing. The old man said it was their fault, but they thought it was his! At Daraguo the Princes saw lassoing and bolassing practised for the first time, and were interested, although not anxious to try it themselves.
Prince George’s humor springs out everywhere. At Wynburg, near Cape Town, he was very dissatisfied with the sport: “The total bag obtained during our two months’ sojourn here was a single hare of the lopeared species, which was shot today by one of our indefatigable shipmates, who had been out after him for many days.” Here is another incident he related: “One afternoon three senior and sedate members of the wardroom went away in a dinghy, fishing; and, as it came on squally, they got adrift, and were in an awful position, and a cutter had to be sent after them to tow them back. As she came alongside, they sat bolt up in the stern sheets, looking as dignified as they could, and made believe to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves.” We pity the officers if Prince George’s sparkling eyes were fixed upon them !
While at Collingwood, the Prince was amused by a cavalcade of Oddfellows who came to meet them with sashes and bows. He says: “One of them was brandishing his red banner on high, which operation, as neither he nor his horse were used to it, caused the two to part company—the man being shot in one direction and the banner in the other.”
There were in the diary plenty of more serious comments. Africa he alluded to as “that ill-starred land,” and showed real concern for its welfare. Australia was a land which, in his own words, “after England, will always occupy the warmest corner of my heart.”
In the diary he revealed the soul of a kindly boy.
None of the birthdays of his family ever fail to be recorded, and Britain is often in his thoughts. At Corfu, the Prince wrote:
“The little coves are just like those on the Devonshire coast,” and one little one reminded him very much of Black Pool, near Dartmouth. He records that when in Australia, one morning, Mrs.
Young, his hostess, laid a small wreath of rosebuds round each of their plates: “for Sunday morning and in memory of England.”
The Bacchante in a Storm
V\ 7”HEN they visited Cape Town, the Princes, accompanied by Lord Charles Scott, went to see Cetewayo, the Zulu King, at the farm where he was in captivity, a few miles outside Cape Town. Prince George seems to have been very much struck with his size, and apparently found out full details, for he wrote that Cetewayo weighed eighteen stone, was nearly six feet tall, and was large-boned, with enormous legs and thighs.
Going from the Cape to Australia, the Bacchante ran into a terrible storm, which not only smashed the steering gear of the ship, but left the cabins and the mess rooms in a condition of considerable discomfort. The mess room used by the midshipmen, including the Princes, was reduced, as regards its crockery, to two or three teacups and a very limited number of plates. The Princes had to rough it like the rest. Among other things that were carried away in the storm was the stanchion of one of the cots, which sent Prince George rolling on to the deck, amid all the other things that were scattered there. “I think something must have happened,” said the bewildered Prince, amid the laughter of his mates.
The storm continued for several days, and left the Bacchante practically rudderless and the other ships of the squadron out of sight. At last, however, her head was got round with extemporized steering-gear, and she made for the nearest port, King George’s Sound, 380 miles distant. At Melbourne, the Princes left the Bacchante for the Inconstant while repairs were being made to the Bacchante’s rudder, rejoining the ship before leaving New South Wales.
Both Princes enjoyed Australia thoroughly and were very sorry to leave it. They stayed there for about three months, and told Sir Arthur and Miss Kennedy, their last host and hostess on Australian soil, that during their stay in Australia they had enjoyed themselves more than at any other place since they left England. Among many other things which they did in Australia was kangaroo hunting. They took two wallabies with them as pets, and presented them later to the Empress of Japan.
On August 21, the Bacchante set sail for Fiji. From Fiji she went on to Japan, and the Princes were from the first fascinated with customs and scenes in that picturesque country. They were presented to the Mikado, who received them in full uniform. The Empress Haruko was, according to Prince George, “very small, and would be very pretty, if she was not painted up so much.” A ceremonial dinner was given to the two Princes by the Mikado, and both Prince Eddy and Prince George used chopsticks for the first time. They were much amused next day, when two little boxes arrived for them, containing the chopsticks used by them on the previous evening, as mementoes of the banquet.
Some of the Prince’s descriptions of Japan are particularly original and entertaining, as, for example, his account of an incident which occurred at a review of the troops by the Emperor of Japan: “The wiry Japanese little ponies were very skittish,” we are t.old. “The officers of the squadron were offered ponies to ride round with the Mikado and his staff. They mounted, wearing their naval cocked hats and swords, and the little ponies kicked and sky-rocketed all over the place, and there was a likelihood of a general capsize of naval officers in one direction and their paraphernalia in another. One of the medical officers from the squadron, who was most eager to mount, was, however, no sooner in the saddle than he opened the fray by sending the heels of his steed full into the stomach of the polite little Japanese who helped him up; and then, without waiting to prescribe, went careering away like a skyrocket to the other side of the field, after which he spent the best part of the time on the horse’s neck. The brave little steed meanwhile shot about in all directions, and after nearly cannoning against several magnates, who tried to keep out of his way and formed a ring to watch his erratic gyrations, lashed out at a naval captain as he sat bolt upright on his horse, struck and nearly smashed his leg; then, leaving the print of the hoofs on his trousers, broke away through the crowd and came up again on the other side, to the admiration and wonder of all who beheld him. His rider, although he had discarded his reins, hung on manfully to the pommel, and, with his cocked hat over his nose, was like nothing so much as a rat looking out through a bunch of scarlet geraniums; and with his sword waving up in the air, like the stuffed tail of a tawny lion, continued his equestrian exercises until it was time to dismount and light a cigar, and over that to profess that he never enjoyed anything so much in his life before.”
Shiga-in, which the Princes visited, had a little museum of antiquities, to which several country gentlemen had lent suits of old armor for the day. Prince George arrayed himself in one of these suits as a young knight, and, curiously enough, all the pieces from the helmet to the greaves fitted him exactly. It is a pity there was no photographer at hand, as the Prince must have looked a striking figure in his Japanese armor.
A Ball at Colombo
2\FTER leaving Japan, China, Singapore, and ^ Ceylon were in turn visited. The Bacchante was in Chinese waters on Christmas day, 1882. The Princes gave all the men on the ship Christmas cards, and at noon went around the men’s messes and admired the decorations of evergreens, flags, Chinese lanterns, oranges, and bananas. “Rather a medley,” Prince George remarked afterward, “but quite a good attempt, considering where we were!” All the between-decks, both fore and aft, were lit up in the evening, and the effect was—again to quote Prince George— “most Christmassy.”
While they were at Colombo, a ball was given in honor of the Princes, and an amusing account of it was given the other day by Mrs. Fred Maturin, who was one of the guests. The young lady had promised dances to a certain midshipman, who may be known as “M.”
“We were resting from the waltz, I still standing gazing at the Princes, who were being introduced to all the big-wigs and a lot of bowing and scraping going on, when in a pause the two royal boys took a glance round on their own account, and the next minute we saw Lady Lagden, the wife of the Governor, sailing across the room in a lovely flame-colored dress, Prince Edward and Prince George following her, and I could hardly believe my ears when she informed me, smiling, that “Their Royal Highnesses wish to be introduced to you, Miss —.” “M” at the young lady’s elbow whispered in an agonized tone, “Remember you are full up.” So when Prince Eddy and then Prince George requested the pleasure of a dance, she could only reply, “I’m so sorry, but all my dances have been promised.” At this point Lady Lagden pulled my sleeve in horror, and whispered to me: ‘My dear child, a royal request is a command. Hand them your card.’ I did so; first, of course, to the HeirApparent, who looked overjoyed at finding the name of his rival all down my programme. “Sorry, “M”, said he, ‘but I’m top dog tonight, you know,’ and he calmly scratched four of the six hieroglyphics which “M” had made on my card and scribbled over them “Edward,” remarking to his enraged fellow middie, ‘Left you two, old chap.’ He then bowed to me, and our present Gracious Majesty the King came up, then a laughing, rosy-cheeked boy, broad and fat and full of fun, and as he and “M” got on all right and never had rows, Prince George annexed some one else’s dances, and I found myself booked for as glorious an evening as the heart of any young girl, at her first ball, could wish.”
Mrs. Maturin, drawing on her recollections of the eventful evening, says that Prince Eddy impressed her by his devotion to his mother whom he called “The sweetest mother a boy ever had.” Prince George, she says, was never disconcerted. “Nothing offended him. Nothing upset him. While we were sitting resting in the ballroom, a man came up whom he had never seen before, and who, I think, must have been imbibing too much champagne in the supper room. He gave Prince George a resounding smack on his shoulder and shouted, “Well, Géorgie' and how’s your royal Ma?” “She’s AÍ,” replied the Prince, “how’s yours?”
“I asked Prince George if he was sorry he was not heir to the British throne, and he said, ‘Oh, lor’, no! I’m jolly glad! Eddy has to lay all the foundation stones and ‘open’ everything, and receive all the kowtowing on this tour round the world, while I lark round and enjoy myself.’
The Princes went to see an elephant hunt from the grand stand. “We had just got to the Princes’ stand when the elephant tried to pull it down,” says Mrs. Maturin. “Of course there was one mad rush to get off it, everyone shouting ‘Get the Princes on shore!’ forgetting we were not on a sinking ship. Mr. Dalton, the royal tutor, dashed up to us, and said: ‘Come at once, I beg you,’ and dragged Prince George along by an arm in a fearful stew. What consternation in England there would have been, had a catastrophe occurred to those two boys, the hopes of the nation. Mr. Dalton turned white as a sheet, and I beheld Admiral Gore-Jones being hurriedly carried off the stand on men’s shoulders. The angry elephant was secured, and when everything was deemed safe again we returned to the stand and watched the final securing of each elephant, a most exciting sight.”
FROM Ceylon they began their return journey. During the voyage upon the Red Sea, “Chung,” Prince George’s little Canton puppy, died. The Prince was very upset, for he had loved the little fellow very much, and had longed to bring him home to show his parents.
During their stay in Egypt the boys climbed the Great Pyramid and inscribed their initials on the southwest corner, next to those of their father. After a tour through Palestine and a short stay in Syria, the boys paid a flying visit to Athens, where they had lunch with the King and Queen of Greece.
Soon H. M. S.Bacchante was ploughing the Mediterranean homeward bound. Both boys by this time spoke quite freely of the Bacchante as their “home.”
On August 5 they reached Swanage Bay, and were met by the Osborne, with the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three daughters on board. It was a happy reunion after all the months of absence.
Directly the Princes landed after their long and adventurous journey, they went to Osborne with their parents to see Queen Victoria. The Queen, interested as always in everything which concerned her family, asked the Princes so many questions that Prince George owns that he was “awfully muddled.” Their grandmother, however, was very pleased with them both and was delighted with the souvenirs which they brought for her acceptance.
The Prince in Switzerland
AFTER their second voyage in H. M. S. Bacchante the two Princes spent six months in Switzerland with Mr. Lawless, who was with them on the Britannia and the Bacchante, and M. Hua, who became later the French master at Eton.
In Switzerland Prince George threw himself into all the sports; skiing parties, skating, and tobogganing were the order of the day. Once, during a long expedition, he slipped and twisted his foot rather badly. As it was at the beginning of the expedition and everyone was happy and jolly, the Prince determined to say nothing about it, and endured a day of agony without anyone suspecting anything was wrong. He had to spend several days with his foot up afterward, but made very light of the whole thing and insisted that none of the others should stay indoors with him.
From Switzerland Prince George went on to Heidelberg, living with Professor Ihne on the banks of the Neckar. Heidelberg fascinated the young man, and he was never tired of exploring it and its buildings. It was a familiar sight to see his boyish figure in knickerbockers striding about Heidelberg, with a walkingstick, and always with a dog at his heels. The Prince’s sense of humor did not desert him. One day he happened to overhear the conversation of two elderly English ladies, obviously residents.
“I can’t bear tourists,” one of them remarked, “and that young man is certainly one.”
“Do tourists have dogs, dear?” the other asked.
Prince George, turning, raised his cap and said: “You are quite right, madam, they do not,” and walked on smiling. The ladies found out later who the “tourist” was, and she who had observed the dog and had evoked Prince George’s remark felt very pleased with herself.
After these few months of relaxation, Prince George returned to England. Prince Eddy went to Cambridge University, and it was decided by his father that he should enter the Army after his university career.
The Canada Commission
IN 1863, Midshipman Prince George was appointed to H. M. S. Canada, which was due for service at a North American and West Indies station. Captain Durrant was the commander of the Canada. He was a fine man and a keen officer, and soon found out that Prince George had a knowledge of seamanship above the average. From that day forward he became a good friend to the young Prince.
Work was “rather hard,” as he wrote to Prince Eddy, for now he was studying for his seamanship examination. No advantages were to be given to Prince George in this examination, and he had to pass like other midshipmen on merit alone. There were so many things to know: the rule of the road at sea, signals, anchor work, rigging, the handling of ships and boats, interior organization, and ship construction and fittings. The Prince owned that he was in a “blue funk” about it, and determined to forego recreations until the examination was over successfully. Then he and his comrades could exchange their “snotty’s” patches for the single gold stripes of acting sub-lieutenants.
On this voyage an American visited the Canada, and remarked sadly that he was sorry not to have seen Prince George, but supposed he was kept well out of the way while coaling was carried on. He was amazed when he learned that his grimy guide over the ship had been Prince George himself!
On his nineteenth birthday Prince George went up for his seamanship examination together with several other middies, all of them carrying their logs, journals and certificates. Although very nervous, Prince George obtained a firstclass in seamanship and thus became a sub-lieutenant.
Greenwich and Portsmouth
'“THE West Indies, with their color and life, appealed to the Prince as strongly when he saw them the second time as on the first occasion. He said good-by with regret to the blue sky and the bluer sea, which had been the setting for so many “larks” and so much hard work. He returned home to undergo a course of instruction at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and to have gunnery, torpedo and pilotage practice on H. M. S. Excellent and Vernon at Portsmouth. This instruction came under the rather terrifying name of “Navigation”—but most of the work had been learnt by Prince George in the Britannia days; in fact, Greenwich was, in his opinion, “excellent fun.”
The rules and regulations for the conduct and discipline of the young officers were moderately strict. Late nights, or absence after 10 p. m., were discouraged, and permission could only be obtained upon application. After this time the gate was shut for the night and guarded by police. Certain daring spirits, however—Prince George among them—found it possible, if they had been shut out—which was often the case and brought a penalty, to scramble over the tall spiked railings. The spice of danger was the most delightful part, especially to Prince George, for the police were always prowling about the ground to prevent such unauthorized entrance.
The Prince’s coach on the Excellent was Lieutenant, afterward Captain, Percy Scott, C. B. The acting-subs were housed in the old Naval College and the routine was more or less the same as at Greenwich. Each morning, after breakfast at eight o’clock, he hurried through the dockyard to the Excellent. Punctually at nine o’clock, all officers and men under instruction fell in for half-an-hour’s physical drill, the acting-subs, with Prince George, forming a company of their own. After this, they broke off into classes for the morning’s work. There was an hour’s break for lunch in the middle of the day, and two hours instruction in the afternoon. At four o’clock the acting-subs returned to the College, and were free for the rest of the day.
Prince George, after one exhausting day’s work, was heard to remark that he thought his brother had an easier life in the Army. But he loved the life and passed first-class in four out of the five subjects, seamanship, torpedo, gunnery, navigation and pilotage.
F~^\N OCTOBER 8, 1885, he was pro-
' moted lieutenant, and in January, 1886, was appointed to H. M. S. Thunderer under Captain Stephenson on the Mediterranean Station.
In this year he had a little change from naval work by being sent to represent Queen Victoria at the marriage of the Crown Prince of Portugal to the Princess Marie Amelie of Orleans. At the wedding Prince George saw a man to whom he had been introduced once when in Australia. He recognized him immediately, remembering his name and what he had been doing. As he shook hands with him, he enquired about his wife who had been very ill when the Prince was in Australia. The Australian was greatly touched, and remarked afterward to a friend in his bluff way, “The Old Country won’t go to the dogs when there are men like that to rule it.”
At the age of twenty-one Prince George was a good-looking, well-set up young man, and every inch a naval officer. His eyes were blue, and sparkled when he was amused, which was often. He had a habit of clasping his hands round his knee and leaning slightly forward, when listening to a conversation. “He was an excellent listener,” said one of his brother officers. “He didn’t talk very much, but when he did he always had something worth hearing. There was not much he didn’t know about the sea, and if you once got him yarning, he couldn’t leave off. His interest in everything made us all as keen as mustard, and I think we were a very cheery crew.”
"pROM that time until 1891, Prince
George continued his naval service practically unbroken. In 188C he was transferred to H. M. S. Dreadnought, and, later in the same year, to the Alexandra, the flagship of his uncle, the Duke of Edinburgh, then in command of the Mediterranean Fleet. During his time on the Alexandra, Prince George showed a promptitude of action which averted what might have been a terrible tragedy. He was coming back to the ship in the cutter, after an afternoon spent on shore. It was nearly dusk, and suddenly Prince George, looking ahead, saw a man plunge over the Alexandra’s side into the water. He shouted: “Man overboard!” but apparently no one in the flagship had seen the man. He had disappeared, but, quick as lightning, Prince George threw off his coat and dived into the water at the spot where he had seen the man go down. With almost miraculous luck he found him, and swam with him to the cutter. It appeared that the man had tried to commit suicide after having received some very bad news from home. He recovered, and the next day the Prince sent for him in his cabin. What passed between the two was never told, but the man came away very cheered and to a great extent comforted. The only remark he would make, when asked about the interview was: “’E’s one of the best, God bless ’im.”
Another story which shows the Prince’s complete understanding of ordinary men and his sensitiveness as to hurting people’s feelings in any way, is the following: The Prince, ever since he had been a little boy, had been keen on stampcollecting. By this time, owing to his wide travels, he had a large and rare collection which he kept in his cabin. Most of the men on board knew of this hobby, and one day an able seaman humbly asked the Prince whether he might speak to him for a moment. The Prince said “Yes,” and the sailor drew carefully from his trousers pocket a solitary soiled stamp. “This ’ere stamp,” he said, “is a rare ’un. I thought it might come in ’andy foi your collection.” The man was quite sincere, and the Prince took the stamp, after cordially thanking him, promising to stick it in his album. This he did, for he never failed to keep a promise, although the stamp was utterly worthless.
T. B. No. 79
T-FIS next appointment was to H. M. S.
Northumberland, and about the same time he was commissioned to the torpedoboat No. 79 for summer manoeuvres. Prince George was extremely pleased when he heard the news, for to get on to a torpedo-boat was then the ambition of every officer. There was little chance of the appointment unless an officer had done very well in his torpedo examination.
Life on a torpedo-boat had its exciting moments. One night three torpedo-boats were sent out, including Prince George’s, No. 79. One of them, when they were a long way out, broke down. Another one returned to report, while No. 79 tried to rescue the damaged vessel. Prince George and his crew struggled for hours in the cold and damp to get the boat in tow, but at last had to return with a broken hawser. The Prince, however, was not to be outdone; he was given a new hawser, and returned to the damaged boat. There followed several more hours of dogged perseverance, before he returned with the boat in tow. It had been work which required pluck and good seamanship, and the exploit gained for him command of the first-class gunboat Thrush.
Although Prince George was, of course, greatly pleased on hearing of his advancement, he was sorry indeed to leave No. 79. This small vessel of about seventy tons displacement, manned by about fifteen men and carrying a couple of machine-guns and four small torpedo tubes, had been the first boat which he had commanded. Although miserable to live in, and rocking violently when at sea, nothing could suppress the supreme joy of seeing the white pennant flying at the masthead of one’s first command.
The gunboat Thrush was again due for the North American and West Indies Station. It was a great responsibility for the young commander, but no single mishap occurred to the Thrush either on its outward or return journey.
During this voyage to the West Indies the Prince opened the Industrial Exhibition in Jamaica in the name of Queen Victoria. Kingston Harbor and Port Royal were familiar to him by this time, and he also had many friends on the island, so he enjoyed his time ashore and managed to obtain a certain amount of shooting.