The Diary of a U-boat Commander
Part 3 out of 3
After hours of nosing about, during which my heart was in my mouth, as
I quite expected to fetch up on a pinnacle rock, items which are
officially described in the Handbook as being "very numerous," we
rounded a bluff and got into a place which seems to answer the
description of S. Landholm. At any rate, it is a snug anchorage, and
here I intend to remain for a few days, and hope for my store-ship to
I've posted a daylight look-out on top of the bluff; it would be very
awkward to be caught unawares in this place, which is only about 150
metres wide in places.
I'm taking advantage of the rest to give the crew some exercises and
execute various minor repairs to the Diesels.
* * * * *
Yesterday we fought what must be one of the most remarkable single-ship
actions of the war.
At 9 a.m. the look-out on the cliffs reported smoke to the northward.
I got the anchor up and made ready to push off, but still kept the
look-out ashore. At 9.30 he reported a destroyer in sight, which seemed
serious if she chose to look into my particular nook.
At any rate, I thought, I wouldn't be caught like a rat, so I got my
look-out on board--a matter of ten minutes--and then proceeded out,
trimmed down and ready for diving.
When I drew clear of the entrance I saw the enemy distant about a
thousand metres. I at once recognized her as being one of the oldest
type of Russian torpedo boats afloat. When I established this fact, a
devil entered into my mind, and did a most foolhardy act.
I decided that I would not retreat beneath the sea, but that I would
fight her as one service ship to another.
When I make up my mind, I do so in no uncertain manner--indecision is
abhorrent to me--and I sharply ordered, "Gun's Crew--Action."
I can still see the comical look of wonderment which passed over my
First Lieutenant's face, but he knows me, and did not hesitate an
instant. We drilled like a battleship, and in sixty-five seconds--I
timed it as a matter of interest--from my order we fired the first
shot. It fell short.
Extraordinary to relate, the torpedo boat, without firing a gun, put
her helm hard over, and started to steam away at her full speed, which
I suppose was about seventeen knots.
I actually began to chase her--a submarine chasing a torpedo boat! It
With broad smiles on their faces, my good gun's crew rapidly fired the
gun, and we had the satisfaction of striking her once, near her after
funnel, but it did no vital damage, as a few minutes afterwards she
drew out of range! What a pack of incompetent cowards!
They never fired a shot at us. I suppose half of them were drunk or
else in a state of semi-mutiny, for one hears strange tales of affairs
in Russia these days.
The whole incident was quite humorous, but I realized that I had hardly
been wise, as without doubt the English will hear of this, and these
trawlers of theirs will turn up, and I'm certainly not going to try any
heroics with John Bull, who is as tough a fighter as we are.
Meanwhile, what of the supply ship, for I'm supposed to meet her here,
and it's already twenty-four hours since yesterday's epoch-making
battle and I expect the English any moment.
* * * * *
My doubts were removed for me since I received special orders at noon
by high-power wireless from Nordreich, and on decoding them found that,
for some reason or other, we are ordered to proceed to Muckle Flugga
Cape, and thence down the coast of Shetlands to the Fair Island
Channel, where we are directed to cruise till further orders. Special
warning is included as to encountering friendly submarines.
It appears to me that a special concentration of U-boats is being
ordered round about the Orkneys, and that some big scheme is on hand.
We are now steering south-westerly to make Muckle Flugga, which I hope
to do in four days' time if the weather holds.
These Northern waters have proved very barren of shipping in the last
few weeks, and this fact, coupled with the approaching winter weather,
which must be fiendish in these latitudes, makes me quite ready to
exchange the Archangel billet for the work round the Orkneys and
Shetlands, though this is damnable enough in the winter, in all
There is only one fly in the ointment, and that is that this premature
return to North Sea waters might conceivably mean a visit to Zeebrugge,
though this class are not likely to be sent there.
Though it is many weeks since I left Zoe, I have not been able to
forget her. I continually wonder what she is doing, and often when I am
not on my guard she wanders into my thoughts.
Whilst I am up here, it does not matter much, except that it causes me
unhappiness, but if I found myself at Bruges it would be very hard.
However, I don't suppose I shall ever see her again.
* * * * *
Sighted Muckle Flugga this morning, and shaped course for Fair Island.
* * * * *
Oh! what a hell I have passed through. I can hardly realize that I am
alive, but I am, though whether I shall be to-morrow morning is
doubtful--it all depends on the weather, and who would willingly stake
their life on North Sea weather at this time of the year?
Curses on the man who sent us to the Fair Island Channel. Where the
devil is our Intelligence Service? If we make Flanders I have a story
to tell that will open their eyes, blind bats that they are,
luxuriating in the comfort of their fat staff jobs ashore.
The Fair Island Channel is an English death-trap; it stinks with death.
By cursed luck we arrived there just as the English were trying one of
their new devices, and it is the devil. Exactly what the system is, I
don't quite know, and I hope never again to have to investigate it.
For forty-seven, hours we have been hunted like a rat, and now, with
the pressure hull leaking in three places, and the boat half full of
chlorine, we are struggling back on the surface, practically incapable
of diving at least for more than ten minutes at a time. Even on the
surface, with all the fans working, one must wear a gas mask to
penetrate the fore compartment. Oh! these English, what devils they
Here is what happened:
Fair Island was away on our port beam when we sighted a large English
trawler, which I suspected of being a patrol. To be on the safe side, I
dived and proceeded at twenty metres for about an hour.
At 5 p.m. (approximately) I came up to periscope depth to have a look
round, but quickly dived again as I discovered a trawler, steering on
the same course as myself, about a thousand metres astern of me. This
was the more disconcerting, as in the short time at my disposal it
seemed to me that she was remarkably similar to the craft I had seen in
the afternoon, and yet this hardly seemed likely, as I did not think
she could have sighted me then.
On diving, I altered course ninety degrees, and proceeded for half an
hour at full speed, then altered another ninety degrees, in the same
direction as the previous alteration, and diving to thirty metres I
proceeded at dead slow. By midnight I had been diving so much that I
decided to get a charge on the batteries before dawn; I also wanted to
be up at 1 a.m. to make my position report.
I surfaced after a good look round through the right periscope, which,
as usual, revealed nothing. I had hardly got on the bridge, when a
flash of flame stabbed the night on the starboard beam and a shell
moaned just overhead.
I crash-dived at once, but could not get under before the enemy fired a
second shot at us, which fortunately missed us. As we dived I ordered
the helm hard a starboard, to counteract the expected depth-charge
attack. We must have been a hundred and fifty metres from the first
charge and a little below it, five others followed in rapid succession,
but were further away, and we suffered no damage beyond a couple of
broken lights. The situation was now extremely unpleasant. I did not
dare venture to the surface, and thus missed my 1 a.m. signal from
Headquarters. I wanted a charge badly, and so proceeded at the lowest
possible speed. At regular intervals our enemy dropped one depth-charge
somewhere astern of us, but these reports always seemed the same
At dawn I very cautiously came up to periscope depth, and had a look.
To my consternation I discovered our relentless pursuer about 1,500
metres away on the port quarter. In some extraordinary manner he had
tracked us during the night.
I dived and altered course through ninety degrees to south.
At 9 a.m. a tremendous explosion shook the boat from stem to stern,
smashing several lights, and giving her a big inclination up by the
As I was only at twenty metres I feared the boat would break surface,
and our enemy was evidently very nearly right over us. I at once
ordered hard to dive, and went down to the great depth of ninety-five
A series of shattering explosions somewhere above us showed that we
were marked down, and we were only saved from destruction by our great
depth, the English charges being set apparently to about thirty metres.
At noon the situation was critical in the extreme. My battery density
was down to 1,150, the few lamps that I had burning were glowing with a
faint, dull red appearance, which eloquently told of the falling
voltage and the dying struggles of the battery.
The motors with all fields out were just going round. The faces of the
crew, pallid with exhaustion, seemed of an ivory whiteness in the dusky
gloom of the boat, which never resembled a gigantic and fantastically
ornamental coffin so closely as she did at that time.
The air was fetid. I struck a match; it went out in my fingers. The
slightest effort was an agony. I bent down to take off my sea-boots,
and cold sweat dropped off my forehead, and my pulse rose with a kind
of jerk to a rapid beating, like a hammer.
I left one sea-boot on.
At 1 p.m. a deputation of the crew came aft, and in whispered voices
implored me to surface the boat and make a last effort on the surface.
A muffled report, as our implacable enemy dropped a depth-charge
somewhere astern of us, added point to the conversation, and showed me
that our appearance on the surface could have but one end.
At 3 p.m. the second coxswain, who was working the hydroplanes, fell
off his stool in a dead faint.
At 3.30 p.m. the supreme crisis was reached: two more men fainted, and
I realized that if I did not surface at once I might find the crew
incapable of starting the Diesels.
At the order "Surface," a feeble cheer came from the men.
We surfaced, and I dragged myself-up to the conning tower. Luckily we
started the Diesels with ease, and in a few minutes gusts of beautiful
air were circulating through the boat.
Meanwhile, what of the enemy? I had half expected a shell as soon as we
came up, and it was with great anxiety that I looked round. We had been
slightly favoured by fortune in that the only thing in sight was a
trawler away on the port beam. It was our hunter.
I trimmed right down, hoping to avoid being seen, as it was essential
to stay on the surface and get some amperes into the battery. I also
altered course away from him.
It was about 5 p.m. that I saw two trawlers ahead, one on each bow. By
this time the boat's crew had quite recovered, but I did not wish to
dive, as the battery was still pitiably low. I gradually altered course
to north-east, but after half an hour's run I almost ran on top of a
group of patrols in the dusk.
I crash-dived, and they must have seen me go down, as a few minutes
later the boat was violently shaken by a depth-charge.
We were at twenty metres, still diving at the time. I consulted the
chart, but could find no bottoming ground within fifty miles, a
distance which was quite beyond my powers.
At 11 p.m. I simply had to come up again and get a charge on the
From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., at regular half-hourly intervals, a
depth-charge had gone off somewhere within a radius of two miles of me.
Needless to say, I was only crawling along at about one knot and
altering course frequently. What was so terrible was the patent fact
that the patrols in this area had evidently got some device which
enabled them to keep in continual touch with me to a certain extent.
These monotonous and regular depth-charges seemed to say: "We know, Oh!
U-boat, that we are somewhere near you, and here is a depth-charge just
to tell you that we haven't lost you yet." 
[Footnote 1: Karl was quite right; it is evident that he had the
misfortune to encounter one of our new hydrophone-hunting groups, just
started In the Fair Island Channel. The incident of the depth-charges
every half-hour was known as "Tickling up." Probably the patrol only
heard faint noises from him.--ETIENNE.]
As an hour had elapsed since the last depth-charge, I felt fairly happy
at coming up, and on making the surface I was delighted to find a
pitch-black night and a considerable sea. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. I
actually had three hours of peace, and in this period I managed to cram
a considerable amount of stuff into the batteries. The densities were
rising nicely and all seemed well, when I did what I now see was a very
I made my 1 a.m. wireless report to Nordreich, in which I requested
orders at 3 a.m. and reported my position, together with the fact that
I had been badly hunted.
In twenty-five minutes they were on me again! I had most idiotically
assumed that the English had no directional wireless in these parts.
They have. They've got everything that they have ever tried up there;
it was concentrated in that infernal Fair Island Channel.
I was only saved by seeing a destroyer coming straight at me,
silhouetted against, the low-lying crescent of a new moon. When I dived
she was about six hundred metres away. As I have confessed to doing a
foolish thing, I give myself the pleasure of recording a cleverer move
on my part. I anticipated depth-charge attack as a matter of course,
but instead of going down to twenty-five metres, I kept her at twelve.
The depth-charges came all right, seven smashing explosions, but, as I
had calculated, they were set to go off at about thirty metres, and so
were well below me.
The boat was thrown bodily up by one, and I think the top of the
conning tower must have broken surface, but there was little danger of
this being seen in the prevailing water conditions.
* * * * *
I have just had to stop recording my experiences of the past
forty-eight hours, as the Navigator, who is on watch, sent down a
message to say that smoke was in sight.
The next hour was full of anxiety, but by hauling off to port we
managed to lose it. I then had a little food, and I will now conclude
my account before trying again to get some sleep.
_The account continued._
All my hopes of getting up again that night, both for the purpose of
charging and of getting the 3 a.m. signal, were doomed to be
disappointed, as the hydrophone operator kept on reporting the noise of
destroyers overhead. Occasional distant thuds seemed to indicate a
never-ending supply of depth-charges, but they were about four or five
miles from me. Perhaps some other unfortunate devil was going through
the fires of hell.
At daylight on the second day my position was still miserable. The
battery was getting low again, the sea had gone down, and when I put my
periscope up at 9 a.m. the horizon seemed to be ringed with patrols. I
felt as if I was in an invisible net, and though I endeavoured to
conceal my apprehension from the crew, I could see from the listless
way they went about their duties that they realized that once again we
were near the end of our resources.
All the forenoon we crept along at thirty metres, until the tension was
broken at 1 p.m. by a furious depth-charge attack. In some
extraordinary way they had located me again and closed in upon me. The
first charges were some little distance off, and as they got closer a
feeling of desperation overcame me, and I seriously contemplated ending
the agony by surfacing and fighting to the last with my gun.
Curiously enough, the procedure that I adopted was the exact opposite.
I decided to dive deep. I went down to 114 metres. At this exceptional
depth, three rivets in the pressure hull began to leak, and jets of
water with the rigidity of bars of iron shot into the boat. I held on
for five minutes, which was sufficient to save me from the depth-charge
attack, though two which went off almost above me broke some lamps. I
then came up to twenty metres and slowly crawled on. Throughout the
long afternoon, though we were not directly attacked again, I heard
depth-charges on several occasions sufficiently close to me to
demonstrate that these implacable and tireless devils had an idea of
the area I was in.
By a supreme effort, working one motor at the only speed it would go,
viz., "Dead slow," I managed to squeeze out the battery until I
estimated it must be dusk.
There was only one thing to do--I surfaced. It was not as dark as I had
hoped, and I saw a fairly large sloop-like vessel, about eight thousand
metres away, on the port beam. She must have seen me simultaneously, as
the flash of a gun darted from her, the shell falling short.
I couldn't dive; there seemed only one thing to do: fight and then die.
I ordered the gun's crew up, and the unequal duel began. We were going
full speed on the Diesels, and my course was east by north. A good deal
of water and spray was flying over the gun, and my crew had little hope
of doing much accurate shooting, but I have often found that when one
is being fired at there is nothing so comforting as the sound of one's
Our enemy was armed with two large guns, fifteen centimetres or over,
but had no speed, a discovery which raised my hopes again. It was soon
evident that, provided we were not heading for another patrol, if we
could survive ten minutes' shelling, we should be saved for the time
being by the fading light, which was evidently causing our enemy
increasing difficulties, as his shots alternated between very short and
very much over.
I was actually congratulating the Navigator on our escape, and I had
just told the gun's crew to cease firing at the blurred outlines on the
port quarter from which the random shells still came, when there was a
sheet of yellow flame and a jar which threw me against the signalman.
The latter had been standing near the conning-tower hatch, and
unfortunately I knocked him off his balance, and he fell with a thud
into the upper conning tower. He had the good fortune to escape with a
couple of ribs broken, but when I recovered myself and got to my feet,
far worse consequences met my eyes.
By the worst of ill-luck, a shell which must have been fired
practically at random had hit the gun just below the port trunnion.
The result of the explosion was very severe. Four of the seven men at
the gun had been blown overboard, the breech worker was uninjured,
though from the way he swayed about it was evident that he was dazed,
and I expected to see him fall over the side at any moment. The
remaining two men were as dead as horse-flesh.
The material damage was even more serious. The gun had been practically
thrown out of its cradle, but in the main the trunnion blocks had held
firm, and the whole pedestal had been carried over to starboard.
The really terrible effects of this injury were not apparent at first
sight, but I soon realized them, for an hour later (we had shaken off
the sloop) I saw red flame on the horizon, which plainly indicated
flaming at the funnel from some destroyer doubtless looking for us at
I dived, intending to surface again as soon as possible. With this
intention in my head, I did not go below the upper conning tower. We
had barely got to ten metres, when loud cries from below and the
disquieting noise of rushing water told me that something was wrong. I
blew all tanks, surfaced, left the First Lieutenant on watch and went
There were five centimetres of water on the battery boards, and I
understood at once that we could never dive again.
For the pedestal of the gun, in being forced over, had strained the
longitudinal seam of the pressure hull, to which it is bolted, and a
shower of water had come through as soon as we got under.
It might have been hoped that this was enough, but no! our cup was not
yet full. Chlorine gas suddenly began to fill the fore-end. The salt
water running down into the battery tanks had found acid, and though I
ordered quantities of soda to be put down into the tank, it became, and
still is at the moment of writing, impossible to move forward of the
conning tower without putting on a gas mask and oxygen helmet. So we
are helpless, and at the mercy of any little trawler, or even the
We have no gun; we cannot dive. The English must know that they have
hit us, and every hour I expect to see the hull of a destroyer climb
over the horizon astern.
We are fortunate in two respects: in that for the time being the
weather seems to promise well, and our Diesels are thoroughly sound.
We are ordered to Zeebrugge--I could have wished elsewhere for many
reasons, but it does not matter, as I cannot believe we are intended to
I feel I would almost welcome an enemy ship, it would soon be over; but
this uncertainty and anxiety drags on for hour after hour--and now I
cannot sleep, though I haven't slept properly for over seventy hours. I
am so worn out that my body screams for sleep, but it is denied to me,
and so, lest I go mad, I write; it is better to do this, though my eyes
ache and the letters seem to wriggle, than to stand up on the bridge
looking for the smoke of our enemies, or to lie in my bunk and count
the revolutions of the Diesels; thousands of thousands of thudding
beats, one after the other, relentless hammer strokes.
I have endured much.
_NOTE BY ETIENNE_
_A break occurs in Karl von Schenk's diary at this juncture. Fortunately
the main outlines of the story are preserved owing to Zoe's long
letter, which was in a small packet inside the cover of the second
notebook. Zoe's letter will be reproduced in this book in its proper
chronological position, but in order to save the reader the trouble of
reading the book from the letter back to this point, a brief summary of
what took place is given here. The entries in his diary which follow
the words "I have endured much," are very meagre for a period which
seems to have been about a month in length. There is no further mention
of the latter stages of Karl's passage in the wrecked boat to
Zeebrugge, so it is presumed that he made that port without further
adventure. He was evidently on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and
appears to have been suffering from very severe insomnia. He had been
hunted for two days, during which he was perpetually on the verge of
destruction, and the cumulative effect of such an experience is bound
to leave its mark on the strongest man. When he got back to Zeebrugge
he must have been at the end of his tether, and whether by chance or
design it was when Karl was, as he would have said, "at a low mental
ebb" that Zoe made her last and successful attack upon his resolution
not to see her again unless she consented to marry him. It is plain
from her letter that when he left her after the stormy interview in
which he vowed never to see her again, Zoe did not lose hope. She seems
to have kept herself _au courant _with his movements, and actually to
have known when he was expected in.
We know that she had many friends amongst the officers, and it is
probable that from one of these she was able to get information about
Bruges was probably a hot-bed of U-boat gossip, and, not unlike the
conditions at certain other Naval ports during the war, the ladies were
often too well informed. At any rate it appears that Zoe rushed to see
Karl directly he arrived at Bruges, and found him a mental and physical
wreck, suffering from acute insomnia.
With the impetuous vigour which evidently guided most of her actions,
she took complete charge of Karl, and, as he was due for four days'
leave, she whisked him off to the forest.
Karl may have protested, but was probably in no state to wish to do so.
At her shooting-box in the forest Zoe achieved her desire, and the
stubborn struggle between the lovers ended in victory for the woman.
There is an entry in Karl's diary which may refer to this period; he
simply says, "Slept at last! Oh, what a joy!"
If this entry was written in the forest, it seemed as if Karl had been
unable to sleep until Zoe carried him off to the forest peace of her
shooting-box and surrounded him with the atmosphere of her tender
There is no evidence of the light in which Karl viewed his defeat,
when, having regained his strength, he was able to take stock of the
changed situation. It is reasonable to suppose that his silence upon
this matter in the pages of his diary is evidence that he was ashamed
of what he must have considered a great act of weakness on his part.
At all events he realized that he had crossed the Rubicon and that he
had better acquiesce in the_ fait accompli.
_He seems to have been in harbour for about six weeks, during which he
lived with Zoe, and the lovers enjoyed a brief spell of happiness
before Karl set out on his next trip.
Karl seems to have found those six weeks very pleasant ones, though his
diary merely contains brief references, such as: "A. day in the country
with Z."; "Z. and I went to the Cavalry dance," and other trivial
entries--of his thoughts there is not a word.
About the end of 1917 Karl's boat was repaired, and he left for the
Atlantic; and once more resumed full entries in his diary._
_Karl's Diary resumed_.
Sailed at 9 p.m. last night, and we are now seventeen miles off Beachy
Head. The Straits of Dover were frightful; the glare of the acetylene
flares on the barrage showed for miles. Seen from a distance it gave me
the impression of the gates of hell, through which we had to pass.
I dived, ten miles away, and went through with the tide at a depth of
Two hours and three quarters of suspense, and at dawn we came up,
having passed safely through the great deathtrap. At the moment there
is nothing in sight, except a little smoke on the horizon. I am going
to dive again till dusk.
We are thrashing down the Channel with a south-westerly wind right
ahead. My instructions are to work for two days between the Lizard and
Kinsale Head, and then proceed far out in the Atlantic, where the
convoys are supposed to meet the destroyers.
That Fair Island Channel experience was enough for a lifetime. Death,
quick, short and sudden, this I am ready for. But torture, slow, long
and drawn-out, is not in the bargain which in this year of grace every
civilized man and half the savages of the world seem to have had to
make with the god Mars.
As I sit in this steel, cigar-shaped mass of machinery, the question
rings incessantly in my ears: "To what object is all this war directed,
when analysed from the point of view of the individual?"
It does not satisfy any longing of mine. I have not got a lust for
battle: no one who fights has a lust for battle. Editors of newspapers
and people on General Staffs, possibly also Cabinet Ministers, have
lusts for battles, as long as they arrange the battle and talk about
it afterwards--curse them!
The only thing I want is to be with Zoe. I want to live and spend long
years with her, enjoying life--this life of which I have spent half
already, and now perhaps it will be taken from me by some other man:
some Englishman who doesn't really want to take my life, reckoned as an
Around me in the darkness are the patrol boats, manned by the
Englishmen who are seeking my life. Seeking it, not to gratify their
private emotions, but because we are all in the whirlpool of War and
Like an avalanche, it seems to gather strength and speed as it rolls
on, this War of Nations. The world must be mad! I cannot see how it can
ever stop. England will never be defeated at sea. We shall conquer on
An inconclusive peace.
Even if we smash this island Empire and gain the dominion of the world,
how will it advantage me? I can see no way in which I can gain.
It would be said, if any one should read this: _Gott_! what a selfish
point of view--he thinks only of his personal gain, not of his country.
But, confound it all, I reply, answer me this:
Do I exist for my country, or does my country exist for me?
For example, does man live for the sake of the Church, or was the
Church created for man?
Does not my country exist for my benefit?
Surely it is so.
Then again, I am risking my all, my life; I live in danger,
apprehension and great discomfort; I do all these things, and yet if as
a reasonable man I ponder what advantage I am to gain from all these
sacrifices I am adjudged selfish.
It is all madness; I cannot fathom the meaning of these things.
* * * * *
In position on the Bristol line of approach, the weather is bad.
_At twenty metres._
Once again Death has stretched forth his bony fingers to catch me by
the throat, and only by a chance have I wriggled free.
Yesterday afternoon at 5 p.m. we sighted a small steamer flying Spanish
colours and steering for Cardiff. The weather was choppy, but not too
bad, and I decided to exercise the gun's crew, though I did not think
there would be much doing, as the Spaniards soon give in.
I opened fire at six thousand metres, and pitched a shell ahead of her
and ran up the signal to heave-to. The wretched little craft paid no
attention, and continued on her lumbering course. I suspected the
presence of an Englishman on her bridge, and determined to hit.
This we did with our sixth shot, and she stopped dead and wallowed in
the trough, with clouds of steam pouring out of her engine-room; we had
evidently got the engine-room.
As we closed her, it was evident that a tremendous panic was taking
place on board. The port sea boat was being launched, but one fall
broke and the occupants fell into the water. My Navigator begged me to
give her another, which I did, and hit her right aft. Two boatloads of
gesticulating individuals now appeared from the shelter of her lee side
and began pulling wildly away from the ship.
The Navigator, whose eyes were dancing with excitement, was very keen
to play with them by spraying the water with machine-gun bullets; but
it seemed to me to be waste of ammunition, and I would not permit it.
Meanwhile we had approached to within about four hundred metres of her
port bow. I was debating whether to accelerate her sinking, when I
noticed that a fire had broken out aft, and I became possessed with a
childish curiosity to see the fire being put out as she sank. It was a
kind of contest between the elements.
As I watched her, I was startled to hear three or four reports from the
region of the fire.
"Ammunition!" shouted the pilot, with wide-opened eyes.
In an instant I pressed the diving alarm as I realized our deadly
peril. Fool that I had been, she was a decoy-ship. They must have
realized on board that I had seen through their disguise, for as we
began to move forward, under the motors, a trap-door near her bows fell
down, the white ensign was broken at the fore, and a 4-inch gun opened
fire from the embrasure that was revealed on her side.
We were fortunate in that our conning tower was already right ahead of
the enemy, and as I dropped down into the conning tower, I saw that as
she could not turn we were safe.
A few shells plunged harmlessly into the water near our stern, and then
we were under.
We came up to a periscope depth, and I surveyed her from a position off
her stern. She was sinking fast, but I felt so furious at being nearly
trapped that I could not resist giving her a torpedo; detonation was
complete, and a mass of wreckage shot into the air as the hull of the
ship disappeared. As to the two boats, I left them to make the best
course to land that they could.
As they were fifty miles off the shore when I left them and it blew
force six a few hours afterwards, I rather think they have joined the
list of "Missing." We are now steering due west to our second position.
* * * * *
Received orders last night to return to base forthwith on the north
about route. 
[Footnote 1: This means into the North Sea round Scotland.--]
I have shaped course to pass fifty miles north of Muckle Flugga; no
more Fair Island Channel for me.
* * * * *
Statlandlet in sight, with the Norwegian coast looking very lovely
under the snow--we never saw a ship from north of the Shetlands to this
place, when we saw a light cruiser of the town class steaming
south-west at high speed.
She had probably been on patrol off this place, where the Inner and
Outer Leads join up and ships have to leave the three-mile limit.
She was well away from me, and an attack would have been useless. I did
not shed any tears; I have lost much of the fire-eating ideas which
filled my mind when I first joined this service.
* * * * *
We are due off the mole at 8 p.m. tonight, and my heart leaps with joy
at the thought of seeing my Zoe; already I can almost imagine her
lovely arms round my neck, her face raised to mine, and all the other
wonderful things that make her so glorious in my eyes.
_NOTE BY ETIENNE_
Before quoting the next entry in Karl's journal it is necessary to
explain the situation which confronted him when he arrived in
Zeebrugge. In his absence, his beloved Zoe had been arrested as an
Allied Agent, and she was tried for espionage within a day or two of
his arrival. There is no record of how he heard the news, and the blow
he sustained was probably so terrible that whilst there was yet hope he
felt no desire to write; but, as will be seen, there came a time when
he turned to his journal as the last friend that remained to him. It is
a curious fact that, with the exception of an entry at the beginning of
this journal, Karl makes little mention of his mother and home at
Frankfurt. Though he does not say so, it seems possible that his mother
had heard of his entanglement with Zoe, and a barrier had risen between
them; this suggestion gains strength from the fact that in his blackest
moments of despair he never seems to consider the question of turning
to Frankfurt for sympathy. Interest is naturally aroused as to the
details of Zoe's trial. The available material consists solely of the
long letter she wrote to him from Bruges jail. It may be that one day
the German archives of the period of occupation will reveal further
details. Information on the subject is possibly at the disposal of the
British Intelligence Service, but this would be kept secret. All we
know on the matter is derived from the letter, which has been preserved
inside the second volume of Karl's diary.
There seems no doubt that she was caught red-handed, but to say more
would be to anticipate her own words.
It was a matter of some difficulty to know where best to introduce
Zoe's letter, but with a view to securing as much continuity of thought
in the story as possible it has been decided to quote it at this
juncture, although he did not receive it until after he had made the
entry in the journal which will be quoted directly after the letter.
I would like to appeal to any reader who may happen to be engaged in
administrative or reconstructive work in Belgium, to communicate with
me, care of Messrs. Hutchinson, should he handle any papers dealing
with Zoe's trial.
MY BEST BELOVED,
When you get this letter cease to sorrow for what will have happened,
for I shall be at rest, and in peace at last, freed from a world in
which I have known bitter sorrow and, until you came into my life, but
For these past months I am grateful to God, if such a being exists and
regulates the conduct of a world gone mad.
For in a few hours I am to die.
It is harder for you than for me; one moment of agony I suffered, a
moment that seemed to last a century, when, amidst the sea of faces
that swam in a confused mass before me at the trial, I saw your eyes
and the torture that you were suffering. When I saw your eyes I knew
that the President had said I must die. I am glad that I was told this
by you, the only one amongst all these men who loved me. I suppose the
President spoke; I never heard him, but I saw your eyes and I knew.
My darling, it was cruel of you to come, cruel to me and cruel to
yourself, but I loved you for being there; it showed me that up till
the last you would stand by me, and until you read this you cannot know
all the facts. That to you, as to the others, I must have seemed a
woman spy and that nevertheless you stood by me, is to me a
recollection of unsurpassable sweetness, compared with which all other
thoughts of you fade into insignificance.
Know now, oh, well beloved, that I was not unworthy of your love.
I have a story to tell you, and I have such a little time left that I
must write quickly. The priest who has been with me comes again an hour
before the dawn, and he has promised to deliver these my last words of
love into your hands.
My real name is Zoe Xenia Olga Sbeiliez, and I was born twenty-nine
years ago at my father's country house at Inkovano, near Koniesfol. I
am Polish; at least, my father was, and my mother comes from the Don
country. There was a day when my father's ancestors were Princes in
Poland. Poor Poland was torn by the vultures of Europe, just as your
countrymen, my Karl, are tearing poor Belgium and France, and so my
family lost estates year by year, and my grandfather is buried
somewhere in the dreary steppes of Siberia because he dared to be a
My father bowed before the storm, and under my mother's influence he
never became mixed up with politics. Thus he lived on his estates at
Inkovano, and nursed them for my younger brother, Alexandrovitch, the
child of his old age. Alex would be nineteen now, had he lived. The
estates were large as these things go in Western Europe, but they were
but a garden as compared with the lands held by my great-grandfather,
My father had a dream, and he dreamed this dream from the day Alex was
born to the day they both died in each other's arms.
My father dreamt that one day the Tsars would soften their heart to
Poland, and raise her up from the dust to a place amongst the nations,
and my father dreamt that Alexandrovitch Sbeiliez would become a leader
of Poland, as his ancestors had been before him. And so my father
nursed his estates and pinched and saved, in preparation for the day
when his beautiful dream should come true.
[Illustration: "A trapdoor near her bows fell down, the White Ensign
was broken at the fore, and a 4-inch gun opened fire from the embrasure
that was revealed on her side."]
[ILLUSTRATION: "I sighted two convoys, but there were destroyers
My poor idealistic father never realized, oh, my Karl, that when one
wants a thing one must fight--to the death. Alex was the apple of his
eye, but I was much loved by my mother; perhaps she dreamed a dream
about me--I know not, but she determined that I should have all that
was necessary. Paris, Berlin, Munich, Dresden, and a season in London,
then I came home at twenty-one, perfectly educated according to the
world, beautiful according to men, and dressed according to Paris. But
I was only to find out how little I knew. My mother and I used to take
a house in Warsaw for the season, and I met many notable men and women.
In these days I, also, thought I could do something for Poland, but
after two or three seasons I found that I, too, was only dreaming idle
dreams. Oh! my beloved, beware of dreaming idle dreams.
Listen! I once met the Prime Minister of all Russia at a reception. I
captivated him, and thought, now! now! I shall do something.
I sat next to him at dinner; I talked of Poland--and I knew my
subject--I talked brilliantly; he listened, he hung on my words, and
he, the Prime Minister of all Russia, the Tsar's right-hand man, asked
me to drive with him next day in his sledge. I, an almost unknown
When I accepted, I was in the seventh heaven of delight.
Next day he called and we set forth; at a deserted spot in the woods
near Warsaw he tried to kiss me--I struck him in the face with the butt
of his own whip.
That was why he had hung on my words, that was why he had taken me for
my drive; it was my Polish body that interested _him_--not Poland.
The Prime Minister of Russia was confined to his room for two days,
"owing to an indisposition." How I laughed when I saw the bulletin in
the paper, signed by two doctors, but it taught me a lesson; I never
dreamt idle dreams again.
No, I am wrong, my beloved. I dreamt an idle dream, a lovely dream
about you and I. An after-the-war dream, if this war should ever end,
but like other dreams it has ended--in dreams.
But I must hurry, for my little watch tells me that one hour of my five
has gone, and I have much to say.
I could have married, and married brilliantly, but Poland held me back.
I did not know what I could do for my country, it all seemed so
hopeless, and yet I felt that perhaps one day ... and I felt I ought to
be single when that day came.
It was not easy, my Karl, sometimes it was hard; one man there was,
Sergius was his Christian name; he loved me madly, and sometimes I
thought--but no matter, he is dead now, killed at Tannenberg, and
I--well, I will tell you more of my story.
When the war broke out and clouded over that last beautiful summer in
1914 (I wonder will there ever be another like it in your lifetime, my
Karl? No, I don't think it can ever be quite the same after all this!),
we were all in the country. Alex was back from his school in Petrograd,
and my father kept him at home for the autumn term.
How well I remember the excitement, the mobilization, the blessing of
the colours, the wave of patriotism which swept over the country; even
I, under the influence of the specious proclamations that were issued
broadcast by the Government, with their promises of reform, and redress
for Poland after the war was over, felt more Russian than Polish. Lies!
Lies! Lies! that was what the Government promises were, my Karl.
Under the stress of war the rottenness of that great whited sepulchre,
Russia, feared the revival of the Polish spirit; it might have been
awkward, and so they lied with their tongues in their cheeks, and we
simple Poles believed them; the peasantry flocked to their depots,
little knowing whom they fought, but the proclamations which were read
to them told them they fought for Poland, and we women worked and
prayed for the success of Russian arms.
Then the tide of war swept westward, and all day long and every day the
troops, and the guns and the motor-cars and the wagons rolled through
the village to the west.
Guarded hints in the papers seemed to say that all was not well in
France, but France was so far away, and all the time the Russians were
going west through our village. Mighty Russia was putting forth her
strength, and the Austrian debacle was in full swing; these were great
days, my Karl, for a Russian!
Then one day the long columns of men and all the traffic seemed to
hesitate in the sluggish westward flow, and then it stopped, and then
it began to go east. The weeks went on, and one day, very, very
faintly, there was a rumbling like a distant thunderstorm. It was the
guns! The front was coming back.
Have you ever seen forest fires, my Karl? We had them every autumn in
our woods. If you have, then you know how all the small animals and the
birds, the rabbits and the foxes, and perhaps a wolf or two, and the
deer, and the thrushes and the linnets come out from the shelter of the
trees, fleeing blindly from the great peril, anxious only to save their
lives. So it was when the front came back. Herds of moujiks, the old
men, the women, the children, the poor little babies, struggled blindly
eastwards through the village.
Pushing their miserable household gods on handcarts, or staggering
along with loads on their backs, and weary children dragging at their
arms, the human tide flowed eastwards, round our house, begged perhaps
a drink of water, and then wandered feverishly onwards.
They knew not in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred where they were
going; their only destination was summed up in the words, "Away from
the Front"--away from the ominous rumbling which began to get louder,
away from that western horizon which was beginning to have a lurid glow
at nights, like a sunset prolonged to dawn.
Then, as the Germans advanced more and more, the character of the tide
changed, the civilian element was outnumbered by the military.
Companies, battalions, brigades, sometimes in good order, sometimes in
no order, marched through the village. They would often halt for a
short time, and the officers would come up to the house, where my
mother and I gave them what we could. My father lived amongst his books
and accounts, and bemoaned the extravagance of the war. Then there were
the deserters, the stragglers, the walking wounded, the--but you know,
my Karl, what an army in retreat means.
I must proceed with my story, for time moves relentlessly on.
One day a desperately wounded officer, a young Lieutenant of the Guard,
a boy of twenty-five, was taken out of a motor ambulance to die.
The ambulance had stopped opposite our gates, and lying on his
stretcher he had seen our garden, my garden. He knew he was to die, and
he had begged with tears in his eyes to the doctor that he might be
left in the garden.
Who could refuse him?
He died within two hours, amongst our flowers, with Alex and I at his
Before he died, he begged us, implored us, almost ordered us, to move
east before it was too late.
We repeated his arguments to my father, but the latter was obdurate,
and he swore that a regiment of angels would not move him from his
ancestral home. So we made up our minds to stay.
Things got worse and worse, and one day shells fell in the grounds and
we hid in the cellars. That night all our servants ran away, and my
father cursed them for cowards. Next day in the early morning we heard
machine guns fire outside the village, and then all was still.
At six o'clock Alex, white-faced, came running into the house. He had
been down to the gates and he had seen the enemy. They were drunk, he
said, and going down the street firing the houses and shooting the
people as they came out.
It seemed impossible and yet it was true. It was growing dark, when we
heard shouts and saw lights, and from the top of the house I saw a
crowd of singing and shouting soldiers, with pine torches, half
running, half walking up the drive.
They massed in a body opposite the house. Paralysed with terror, I
looked down on the scene, and shuddered to see that every second man
seemed to have a bottle. One of them fired a shot at the house, and
next I remember a flood of light on the drive, and, in the circle of
light, my father standing with hand raised. What my father intended can
never be known, for, as he paused and faced the mob, a solitary shot
rang out, and he fell in a huddled heap.
As he fell, a boyish voice from the door shouted "Murderers!" It was
Alex. With his little pistol I had given him for a birthday present in
his hand, he ran forward and, standing over my father's body, head
thrown back, he pointed his pistol at the mob and fired twice. A man
dropped, there was a flash of steel, the crowd surged forward,
and--and, oh! my Karl, they had murdered my beloved brother, my darling
The next moment they were in the house. I escaped from my window on to
the roof of the dairy, and from there down a water-pipe, across the
yard to an old hay-loft. For a long time they ran in and out of the
house, like ants, looting and pillaging; then there was a great shout,
and for some time not a soul came out of the house. I guessed they had
got into the cellars. At about midnight I saw that the house was on
fire. In a few minutes it was an inferno and the drunken soldiers came
pouring out, firing their rifles in all directions.
I had found a piece of rope in the loft. One end I placed on a hook and
the other round my neck. I was close to the upper doors of the loft,
with a drop to the courtyard, and thus I stayed, for I feared that some
soldier, more sober than the rest, might explore the outhouses and find
me. I was watching this unearthly spectacle, and never, my best
beloved, did I conceive that man could become lower than the beasts,
but before my eyes it was so, when I noticed that the great gates at
the southern end of the courtyard were opening. As they opened I saw
that beyond them were drawn up a line of men. An officer gave an order,
and two machine guns were placed in position in the gate entrance;
round the guns lay their crews, and the seething mass of revellers saw
nothing. I felt that a fearful tragedy was impending, and as I held my
breath with anxiety the officer gave a short, sharp movement with his
hand and a hideous rattle rose above all noises. The pandemonium that
ensued was indescribable. Some ran helplessly into the burning house,
others ran round and round in circles, others tried to get into the
dairy; one man got upon its roof and fell back dead as soon as his head
appeared above the outer wall. The place was surrounded. It was
horrible. A few tried to rush for the gate, they melted away like snow
before the sun, as their bodies met the pitiless stream of bullets. I
suppose two hundred men were killed in as many seconds. The machine
guns ceased fire. Ambulance parties came into the yard, collected the
dead and living, and within half an hour there was not a soul save
myself in the place. Discipline had received its oblation of men's
As an example, it was one of the most wonderful things I have ever
known in your wonderful army, my Karl, but it was terrible--terribly
I never knew what became of my mother, though I feel she is
dead--murdered, perhaps, like my father and my darling Alex, or perhaps
she hid somewhere in the house and remained petrified with terror till
the flames came. Next morning I left my hiding-place and walked about.
Not a German was to be seen, but in the wood was a huge newly-made
grave. It was all open warfare then, and this flying column, which was
miles in advance of the main body, had moved on. The house was a
smoking mass of ruins, but the farm buildings had been spared, and I
let out all the poor animals and turned them into the woods, so that
they might have their chance.
All day I searched for my father and brother, but not a sign was to be
seen, and at dusk I stood alone, faint and broken, amongst the ruins of
my ancestors' home. As I looked at this scene of desolation and I
contrasted what had been my life twenty-four hours before and what it
was then, something seemed to snap in my brain, and for the first time
I cried. Oh! the blessed relief of those tears, my Karl, for I was a
poor weak, helpless girl, and alone with death and bitterness all round
me. Late that night I hid once more in my hay-loft and next morning I
left Inkovano for ever. Before I left, I made a vow. It is because of
this vow, my beloved, that I am to die. For I vowed by the body of our
Saviour and the murdered bodies of my family that, whilst life was in
me and the war was maintained, for so long would I work unceasingly for
the Allies against Germany. As the war ran its fiery course, I have
seen more and more that the Allies are the only ones who will do
anything for Poland, my beloved country, so have I been strengthened in
I struck south on my feet, as a poor girl--I, the daughter of a
princely family of Poland! No hardships were too great for me, provided
I could reach Allied territory. I travelled from village to village as
a singing girl, and once I was driven away with stones by villagers set
upon me by a fanatical priest. I came by Cracow, and across the
Carpathians, helped to pass the lines by a Hungarian Lieutenant--but I
tricked him of his reward; I was not ready for that sacrifice. Then
across the Hungarian plains to Buda-Pesth, where I remained three weeks,
singing in a third-rate cafe, to make some money for my next stage. But
I had to leave too soon--the old story!--this time it was the
proprietor's son. What beasts men are, my Karl! And yet to me you are
above all other men, a prince amongst your fellows, and never did I
love you so distractedly as that first night at the shooting-box, when
I read the scorn in your eyes as you rejected me. I have no shame in
telling you this. Am I not already in the grave? And then I must be
silent and can only await your coming. After many struggles, wearisome
to relate, I came to Hermanstadt, and there, whilst pushing my trade as
a dancer, came into touch with a Hungarian band of smugglers, working
across the mountain passes between Eastern Hungary and Roumania. I did
certain work for these men, and in return crossed with them one bitter
night in a thunderstorm into Roumania. At Bukharest I got a good
engagement, and when I had saved a thousand marks, I bought a passport
for five hundred, and came to Serbia, then staggering beneath the great
Once again I was in the horrors of a retreat, but I escaped, reaching
Valona, and crossed to Brindisi, by the aid of a French officer to whom
I told my story and who believed me. His name is Pierre Lemansour, and
he lives at Bordeaux.
If fortune places him in your power, be kind to him, my Karl, for your
I came to Rome; and thence to Paris. I stayed here three weeks, singing
in a cabaret. Whilst here I tried to advance my plans in vain! What
could I, a poor girl, do for the Allies? The Embassy laughed at me, all
except one young attache who tried to make love to me.
Then I thought of England--England, and her cold, hard islanders,
phlegmatic in movements, slow to hate, slow to move, but once
roused--ah! they never let go, these islanders!
One of their poets has said: "The mills of God grind slowly, but they
grind exceeding small."
That, my Karl, is like England.
They are your most terrible enemies, and you know it.
Do not be angry with me when you read this.
For me it is Poland, for you Germany.
Where I am going in a few hours there is no Poland, no Germany, no
England, no war. And perhaps, perhaps, no love.
You and I, Karl, have loved, too well, perchance, but our love was
above even the love of countries.
God made the love of men and women, then men and women created their
I see the future before me, Karl, and I foresee that the struggle will
be at the end of all things, between England and Germany. One will be
in the dust.
Thus, I crossed to England and was swallowed up in the great city of
London. England has always had a corner of her calculating heart for
the small nations, and in London there is a Polish organization. I
applied there, and one day I was taken to the Foreign Office, and found
myself alone with a great Englishman. His name was--No, I promised, and
it will not matter to you, for though he gave me my chance, I have no
love for him, and he will never be in your power. Even as I write these
words, he has probably taken a list from a locked safe and neatly ruled
a red line through the name Zoe Sbeiliez. I tell you they know
everything, these Englishmen. I told him my story, and then he asked me
whether I was prepared to do all things for the Allies. I told him I
was. He then said that I could go as agent for a back area in Belgium,
and my centre would be Bruges. I agreed, and asked him innocently
enough how I was to live in Bruges. He looked up from his desk and
"You will be given facilities to cross the Belgium-Holland frontier, as
a German singer."
"And then?" I asked.
"You will go to Bruges and make friends with an Army officer; he must
be high up on the staff."
I guessed what he meant, but hoped against hope, and I said: "How?"
I can still see his fish-like face, hair brushed back with scrupulous
care, as without a shadow of emotion he looked up, puffed his pipe, and
said in matter-of-fact tones:
"You have a pretty face and an excellent figure. Need I say more?"
I could have struck him in the face. I was speechless, my mind a whirl
of conflicting emotions. I was roused by the level tones again.
"Is it too much--for Poland?"
Oh! the cunning of the man; he knew my weakness. Mechanically, I
agreed. Certain details were settled, and he pressed a bell. Within
five minutes I was walking back to my lodgings.
Thanks to a marvellous organization, which your police will never
discover, my Karl, within _three weeks_ I was singing on the Bruges
music-hall stage, and accepted without question as being what I was
not, a German artist from Dantzig. The men were soon round me, but I
had no use for youngsters with money. I wanted a man with information.
At last I found my man--the Colonel. He was on the Headquarters staff
of the XIth Army, the army of occupation in Belgium, when I first met
him. Subsequently he went back to regimental work; but by the time he
was killed (and to realize what a release that meant for me, you would
have had to have lived with him) I had established regular sources of
information concerning which I will say no more. Let your country's
agents find them if they can. This must I say for the Colonel: he was a
brute and a drunkard, but in his own gross way he loved me, and he
licked my boots at my desire, but I had to pay the price. You are a
man, and with all your loving sympathy you can but dimly realize what
this costs a woman. To me it was a dual sacrifice of honour and life,
but it was for Poland, and the memories of my parents and Alex steeled
me and strengthened my resolution, and so, and so, my Karl, I paid the
My special work was on the military side, and consisted in making
quarterly reports on the general dispositions of large bodies of
troops, the massing of corps for spring offensives, and big pushes and
Then you came into my life! When the Colonel used to go away it was my
habit to mix in the demi-mondaine society of Bruges, to try and live a
few hours in which I could forget--oh! don't think the worst! _That_
sort of thing had no attraction for me. I didn't seek oblivion in that
direction! I had never even kissed anyone in Bruges until I kissed you
that first night we met at dinner--I was attracted to you from the very
first; the Colonel was due back in a few days, and I suddenly felt mad,
and kissed you. I suppose you put me down as one of the usual kind, out
to sell myself at a price varying between a good dinner and the rent of
a flat! You will now know that I had already mortgaged my body to
Then a few days later you will remember we went down for that wonderful
day in the forest, and for the first time, Karl, I began to see that I
was really caring for you, and a faint realization of the dangers and
impossibilities towards which we were drifting crossed my mind.
Do you remember how silent I was on the drive back? In a fashion, my
Karl, I could foresee dimly a little of what was going to happen. I had
a presentiment that the end would be disaster, but I thrust the idea
away from me. Then came the day, just before one of your trips--oh! the
agony, my darling, of those days, each an age in length, when you were
at sea--when you told me at the flat that you loved me.
How I longed to throw my arms round your neck and abandon myself to
your embraces, but I was still strong enough in those days to hold back
for both our sakes.
Each time we were together I loved you more and more, and each time
when you had gone I seemed to see with clearer vision the fatal and
But I refused to give up the first real happiness that had been mine in
my short and stormy life, and so I clung desperately to my idle dream.
I prayed, I prayed for hours, Karl, that the war might end, for I felt
that in this lay our only hope--but what are one woman's prayers, a
sinful woman's prayers, to the Creator of all things, and the war
ground on in its endless agony just as it does to-night--Karl! Karl!
will this torture ever end?
But I must hurry, there is still much to tell you, and Time goes on
relentlessly just like the war; it is only life that ends. Then came
the days I took you to the shooting-box for the first time, and that
night I broke down and, unashamed, offered you myself. Think not too
badly of your Zoe, my Karl; when a woman loves as I do, what is
convention? A nothing, a straw on the waters of life. I wanted you for
my own, passionately and desperately, for I feared that any moment the
end might come, and to die without having felt your arms around me
would have added a thousand tortures to death. Though I could have
welcomed death with joy when I saw the look of sorrowful contempt which
you cast upon me that night. Heavens above! but you were strong, my
Karl. I am not ugly, and yet you resisted, and I hated and loved you at
the same time--oh! I know that sounds impossible, but it isn't for a
woman. I slept little that night and, feeling that I could not look you
in the face in the morning, I left for Bruges before you got up.
I felt that I could trust you not to try and find out the secret of the
What a relief it is to be able to tell you everything frankly, and how
I hated the perpetual game of deception which I had to play.
I used to rack my brains for answers to your perpetual question, "Why
won't you marry me?" It was a desperate risk taking you down to the
forest, but you loved me so much that you never questioned the reasons
I gave you for my secrecy. I can tell you now, Karl, that in the early
days when I used to disappear from Bruges, it was to the shooting-box
that I went.
But I will write more of that later.
Did you suffer the same agony as I did before you left for Kiel, and
your pride would not allow you to come to me? You understand now, my
darling, why I could never marry you, and when the Colonel was killed
it became harder than ever. Once during that terrible interview before
you went up the Russian coast, I nearly gave way and promised to marry
you. But how could I? I had sworn my vow, and even to-night, though I
stand in the shadow of death, I do not regret my vow.
It is inconceivable that I could have married you and carried on my
work--a spy on my husband's country--and if I ever thought of trying to
do this impossible thing, a vision which has partially come true always
I saw a submarine officer disgraced and perhaps sentenced to death,
because his wife had been convicted as a spy!
No! it was impossible.
But if I could not marry you, I still wanted your love.
Then you went up the Russian coast, and I heard of your return in a
submarine terribly wrecked. I guessed what you must have gone through,
and determined to see you, but when I entered your room and saw you
lying open-eyed on your bed, with no one but a clumsy soldier to nurse
you, I could have wept. You know the rest; you can perhaps hardly
remember how I led you to my car and took you down to the forest. Oh,
Karl, are you angry with me for what happened? Do you sometimes think
that I took an unfair advantage of your weakness? Please! Please
forgive me, you were so helpless, and I loved you so.
Then came those unforgettable weeks whilst your boat was being
repaired, weeks which opened to me the door of the paradise I was never
to enter. Oh! Karl, I pray that all those memories may remain sweet and
unclouded all your life. Think of those days when you think of your
Zoe. Alas! they came to an end too soon, and you left for the Atlantic.
When you came back all was over; I had been caught at last.
The evidence at the trial was clear enough. I have no complaints. I was
fairly caught. You remember the big open space in front of the
shooting-box? I do not mind saying now that five times have I been
taken up from there in an English aeroplane, and landed there again
after two days. Each time I took over a full report on military
affairs. Not a word of naval news, my Karl; you will remember I never
tried to find out U-boat information. I even warned you to be cautious.
Well, they caught me as I landed; the English boy who had flown me back
tried hard to save me, but it only cost him his own life.
My first thought was of you, and there is not a jot of evidence against
you, save only your friendship for me. Remember this fact, if they
persecute you. Admit nothing, believe nothing they tell you, deny
everything; they have no evidence; but they are certain to try and trap
It was noble of you, Karl, to engage Monsieur Labordin in my defence,
but it was useless and may do you harm.
I also know of your efforts with the Governor. I hoped nothing from
him, but what you did has made me ready to die; I tremble lest you are
If only I could feel absolutely certain that I have not dragged you
down in my ruin I should face the rifles with a smile.
For my sake be careful, Karl.
When it is all over, cause a few little flowers to cover my
resting-place, if this is permitted for a spy. Order them, do not place
them yourself; you _must not_ be compromised.
I have told my story, and the end is very near. What else is there to
Mere words are empty husks when I try to express my thoughts of you.
Do not sorrow for your Zoe, to whom you have given such happiness.
I am not afraid to die and cross into the unknown, which, however
terrible it is, cannot be much worse than this awful war.
Karl! Karl! how I long to kiss you and feel your strong arms crushing
the breath from this body of mine which has caused so much sorrow.
Oh, Mother Mary, support me in this hour of trial.
I cannot leave you!
May the Saints guard you and keep you through all the perils of war,
and grant that we meet again in the perfect peace of eternity.
For ever, Your devoted and adoring ZOE.
_Karl's Diary resumed._
She is dead!
They have killed her, my Zoe, my adorable darling, and I am still
alive--under close arrest. Perhaps they will shoot me too, in their
insatiable thirst for blood. Oh! if they would! Perhaps, my Zoe, if I
could only die and leave this useless world behind, I might find you in
the mysterious regions where your spirit now dwells.
Oh! is it well with you, Zoe? Give me a sign--a little sign--that all
is well. I have knelt in prayer and asked for a sign, but nothing
comes--all is a blank, forbidding and mysterious. Is God angry with us,
my Zoe, that we sinned before Him? Surely, surely He understands. He
must have mercy on me if He is going to make me go on living. If this
is my punishment, I can bear it; I will live without you happily if
only I may know that all is well with you.
* * * * *
Your letter, Zoe! Can you read these words as I write; can you sense my
thoughts? Speak! Ah! I thought I heard your voice, and it was only the
laughter of a woman in the street. Your letter has filled me with joy
and sorrow. I read and re-read the wonderful words in which you say you
loved me from the beginning, but when you plead that I shall not turn
in loathing from your memory--with these words you smash me to the
Most glorious woman, I never loved you so well and so passionately as
the day you stood at the trial, ringed round with the wolves, the
clever lawyers, the stolid witnesses, the ponderous books, the cynical
air of religious solemnity with which the machinery of the law thinly
cloaks its lust for blood--for a life.
Even when my ears heard the sentence, I could not believe it would be
carried out. The firing party, the chair, the bandage. Oh, God! spare
me these awful thoughts. To think of your breasts lacerated by
the----Oh! this is unendurable! Stop, madman that I am!
* * * * *
I am calmer now; I have read your letter again and rescued the journal
from the grate into which I flung it.
The fire was out; I am not sorry; my journal is all I have left, and in
its pages are enshrined small, feeble word-pictures of paradise on
earth. To read them is to catch an echo of the music we both loved so
well. Music! you were all music to me, my Zoe. Your voice, your
movements, your caresses all seemed to me to speak of music.
I ask myself, I shall always ask myself until the last hour, whether
all that could be done to save you was done. I tried to telegraph to
the Kaiser for you, Zoe, but the wire never got further than Bruges
post office; they stopped it, and put me under arrest. It was only open
arrest, my darling, and on that last awful night I forced them to let
me see the Governor. I, Karl Von Schenk, knelt at his feet and begged
for your life. He simply said, "You are mad." I left the Palace under
Was ever woman's nobleness of character so exemplified as in your life?
Be comforted, Zoe, that in all my black sorrow I cling desperately to
my pride in your strength. I long to shout abroad what you did and why
you would never marry me, to tell all the gaping world that when you
died a martyr to duty was killed. I am so unworthy of what you did for
me, my darling, and it tortures me with mental rendings to think that
whilst I prided myself in my strength of mind, I was dragging you
through the fires of hell. When I think of those six weeks we had
together, my brain says, "And they might have been months had you not
spurned her in the forest."
Oh, Zoe! if the priests say truth and all things are now revealed to
you, forgive me for this act of mine. Come to me in spirit and give me
[Illustration: "...when there was a blinding flash and the air
seemed filled with moaning fragments."]
[Illustration: "When I put up my periscope at 9 a.m. the horizon seemed
to be ringed with patrols."]
As I write like this, as if it was a letter that you might read, I am
comforted a little; I rely utterly on the hope, which I struggle to
change into belief, that you can read this and know my thoughts.
For when I think that had things been otherwise you might have been
leaning over my chair at this moment, and running your cool fingers
through my stiff hair; when I think of this, my darling, the full
realization comes to me of the gulf which must divide us for some
uncertain period, and the lines of this page run mistily before my
Zoe, my Zoe, strange things have happened in this war; wives declare
they have seen their husbands, mothers have felt the presence of their
sons; if the powers permit, come to me once again, I implore you, and
give me strength to live my life alone.
* * * * *
Examined before the Court of Inquiry to-day. Fools! can't they realize
that I don't care if they do shoot me?
In the Mess, people avoid me. What do I care? Not one of them is worthy
to stand on the same soil that holds her beloved body. They have buried
her in the Castle grounds. In accordance with her wishes, I have
arranged for flowers. Perhaps one day when all this is over I may be
able to live here and tend the place where she sleeps, free at last
from all her cares.
* * * * *
At the Court of Inquiry they tried to cross-examine me on our life
together. Dolts! what do they aim at proving? That I loved you? I
hardly listened. When they finished the evidence, the President asked
me if I had anything to say! Anything to say! I felt like telling them
they were cogs in the most monstrous machine for manufacturing sorrow
and destruction that mankind had ever devised. I could have shaken my
fist in their solemn faces and shouted "Beasts! you murdered her! You
destroyed that most wonderful woman who lowered herself to love me."
Actually there was a long silence, and then the Vice-President, Captain
Fruhlingsohn, said, "Speak; we wish you well."
It was the first touch of sympathy, the only sign of humanity I had
received in all these awful days, and it touched my stubborn heart and
the longed-for tears flowed at last.
I murmured: "Gentlemen, I am no traitor; but I loved her as my own
"Dissolve the Court. Remove the prisoner." Like the clash of iron
gates, officialdom came into its own again.
* * * * *
So I am not to be shot! Not even imprisoned! "Don't fall in love with
enemy agents again!"--that summarized their verdict.
Ha! Ha! Ha! It is all horribly funny. The real reason is that they need
me. I am a trained and skilful slaughterer on the seas; I am an
essential part of the great machine. And they haven't got any spares! I
was in the Mess yesterday when the English papers we get from Amsterdam
arrived. Oh! a pretty surprise awaited the first man who opened _The
Times_. These English had published the names of 150 U-boat commanders
they had caught. There they all were. Christian names and all complete.
The only thing missing was a blank space in which to fill in our names
when the time comes.
Dinner was a silent meal last night, and next morning some rat of a
Belgian had posted the list on the gatepost of the Mess. The machine
has offered five hundred marks for his apprehension--how foolish; as if
by shooting him they would take any names off the long list.
* * * * *
I am to sail at dawn tomorrow. I shall not be sorry to get away for a
space from this place with its mingled memories of delight and death.
* * * * *
Back again, and I haven't written a word for three weeks.
My billet last trip was off Finisterre. I sighted two convoys, but
there were destroyers there; they are so black and swift I don't go
I don't want to die in a U-boat. It's not worth while. It is easy to
avoid these convoys. I dive and make a great fuss of attacking, then I
steer divergently. Nobody knows where the enemy is except me; I am the
only one who looks through the periscope--I take good care of that. And
then how I curse and swear when I announce that the convoy has altered
course, and there is no chance of getting in to attack. None of them
are so disappointed as I am!
The mines get on my nerves, there is no way of dodging them, and Lord!
how they sprout on the Flanders coast.
I am to go out in six days. It is very little rest. I believe they want
to kill me. But I won't die! Not I.
I went to her grave yesterday for the first time. I had thought I
should weep, but I did not; in fact it left me quite unmoved. I feel
she's not really dead; she comes to me sometimes, always at night when
I am alone and when we are at sea. There's nothing very tangible, but I
catch an echo of her voice in the surge of the sea along the casing, or
the sound of the breeze as it plays along the aerial. And so I will not
die until she calls me, for up to the present her messages have told me
to live and endure.
* * * * *
A very awkward incident took place last night. We were off the Naze and
saw a steamer some distance away.
We dived to attack. When we were about a mile away I had a look at her,
and something about her put me off. I half thought she was a decoy
ship, and I privately determined I would not attack. I steered a course
which brought me well on her quarter, and as soon as I saw that it was
impossible to get into position to fire I increased speed on the
engines and shook the whole boat in efforts which were ostensibly
directed to getting her into position. At length I eased speed and
bitterly exclaimed that my luck was out.
The First Lieutenant suggested that we should give her gunfire, but I
pointed out that I had good reason to suspect her of being a wolf in
sheep's clothing, and as he had not seen her he could hardly question
my judgment. I was going forward, when I accidentally overheard the
Navigator and the Engineer talking in the wardroom. I listened.
The Engineer said: "The Captain doesn't seem to have the luck he used
"Or else he has lost skill!" replied Ebert. "We never fired a torpedo
at all last trip, and it looks as if we are following that precedent
I had heard enough, and, without their realizing my presence, I
returned to the control room. I considered the situation, and came to
the conclusion that they suspected nothing, but it was evident that
their minds were running on lines of thought which might be dangerous.
I looked at my watch and saw that there was still two hours of daylight
left, and then decided to play a trick on them all. I relieved the
First Lieutenant at the periscope, and when a decent interval of about
half an hour had elapsed I saw a ship. This vessel of my imagination, a
veritable Flying Dutchman in fact, I proceeded to attack, and, after
about twenty minutes of frequent alterations of speed and course, I
electrified the boat by bringing the bow tubes to the ready.
The usual delay was most artistically arranged, and then I fired. With
secret amusement I watched the two expensive weapons of war rushing
along, but destined to sink ingloriously in the ocean, instead of
burying themselves in the vitals of a ship. An oath from myself and an
order to take the boat to twenty metres.
With gloomy countenance I curtly remarked: "The port torpedo broke
surface and then dived underneath her, the starboard one missed
So far all had gone well, but ten minutes later I nearly made a fatal
error. We had been diving for several hours, the atmosphere was bad,
and as it was dusk I decided to come up, ventilate, and put a charge on
the batteries. I gave the necessary orders, and was on my way up the
conning tower to open the outer hatch. The coxswain had just announced
that the boat was on the surface, when a terrible thought paralysed me,
and I clung helplessly to the ladder trying to think out the situation.
It had just occurred to me that as soon as the officers and crew came
on deck they would naturally look for the steamer we had recently fired
at; this ship in the time interval which had elapsed would still be in
As I came down, the First Lieutenant was at the periscope, looking
round the horizon. Quickly I thrust the youth from the eyepiece, and,
as calmly as I could, said: "I thought I heard propellers."
Half an hour later we surfaced for the night. I have been wondering
ever since whether they suspect, for the three of them were talking in
the wardroom after dinner and stopped suddenly when I came in.
I must be careful in future.
* * * * *
I was sent for this morning by the Commodore's office, and handed my
appointment as Senior Lieutenant at the barracks Wilhelmshafen.
No explanation, though I suspected something of the sort was coming, as
three days after we got in from my last trip I was examined by the
medical board attached to the flotilla.
So I am to leave the U-boat service, and leave it under a cloud! It is
a sad come-down from Captain of a U-boat to Lieutenant in barracks, a
job reserved for the medically unfit for sea service.
Am I sorry? No, I think I am glad. Life here at Bruges is one long
painful episode. No one speaks to me in the Mess. I am left severely
alone with my memories. The night before last I found a revolver in my
room, and attached to it was a piece of paper bearing the words: "From
Perhaps at Wilhelmshafen it will be different, and yet, when I went
down to the boat at noon and collected my personal affairs and stepped
over her side for the last time, I could not check a feeling of great
sadness. We had endured much together, my boat and I, and the parting
As I suspected when I was appointed here, my job is deadly to a degree,
and my main duty is to sign leave passes.
Our great effort in France has failed, and now the Allies react
furiously. The great war machine is strained to its utmost capacity;
can it endure the load?
Our proper move is to paralyse the Allied offensive by striking with
all our naval weight at his cross-channel communications. The U-boat
war is too slow, and time is not on our side, whilst a hammer blow down
the Channel might do great things. But we have no naval imagination,
and who am I, that I should advance an opinion?
A discredited Lieutenant in barracks--that's all.
Worse and worse--there are rumours of troubles in the Fleet taking
place under certain conditions.
It is the beginning of the end!
Last night the High Seas Fleet were ordered to weigh at 8 a.m. this
A mutiny broke out in the _Koenig_ and quickly spread.
By 9 a.m. half a dozen ships were flying the red flag, and to-day
Wilhelmshafen is being administered by the Council of Soldiers and
There has been little disorder; the men have been unanimous in
declaring that they would not go to sea for a last useless massacre, a
last oblation on the bloodstained altars of war.
Can they be blamed? Of what use would such sacrifice be?
Yet to an officer it is all very sad and disheartening.
I have seen enough to sicken me of the whole German system of making
war, and yet if the call came I know I would gladly go forth and die
when _tout est perdu fors l'honneur_.
Such instincts are bred deep into the men of families such as mine.
We approach the culmination of events. To-day Germany has called for an
armistice. It has been inevitable since our Allies began falling away
from us like rotten print.
The terms will doubtless be hard.
* * * * *
Heavens above! but the terms are crushing!
All the U-boats to be surrendered, the High Seas Fleet interned; why
not say "surrendered" straight out, it will come to that, unless we
blow them up in German ports.
The end of Kaiserdom has come; we are virtually a republic; it is all
like a dream.
* * * * *
We have signed, and the last shot of the world-war has been fired.
Here everything is confusion; the saner elements are trying to keep
order, the roughs are going round the dockyard and ships, looting
"Better we should steal them than the English," and "There is no
Government, so all is free," are two of their cries.
There has been a little shooting in the streets, and it is not safe for
officers to move about in uniform, though, on the whole, I have
experienced little difficulty.
I was summoned to-day before the Local Council, which is run by a man
who was a Petty Officer of signals in the _Koenig_. He recognized me and
I was instructed to take U.122 over to Harwich for surrender to the
I made no difficulty; some one has got to do it, and I verily believe I
am indifferent to all emotions.
We sail in convoy on the day after tomorrow; that is to say, if the
crew condescend to fuel the boat in time. Three looters were executed
to-day in the dockyard and this has had a steadying effect on the worst
* * * * *
I went on board 122 to-day, and on showing my authority which was
signed by the Council (which has now become the Council of Soldiers,
Sailors and Workmen), the crew of the boat held a meeting at which I
was not invited to be present.
At its conclusion the coxswain came up to me and informed me that a
resolution had been carried by seventeen votes to ten, to the effect
that I was to be obeyed as Captain of the boat.
I begged him to convey to the crew my gratification, and expressed the
hope that I should give satisfaction.
I am afraid the sarcasm was quite lost on them.
* * * * *
We are within sixty miles of Harwich and I expect to sight the English
cruisers any moment.
I wrote some days ago that I was incapable of any emotion.
I was wrong, as I have been so often during the last two years.
In fact, I have come to the conclusion that I am no psychologist--I
don't believe we Germans are any good at psychology, and that's the
root reason why we've failed.
I do feel emotion--it's terrible; the shame--the humiliation is
I wonder how the English will behave? What a day of triumph for them.
The signalman has just come down and reported British cruisers right
ahead; it will soon be over. I must go up on deck and exercise my
functions as elected Captain of U.122, and representative of Germany in
defeat. One last effort is demanded, and then----
_This is the last sentence in the diary. It is probable that he suddenly
had to hurry on deck and in the subsequent confusion forgot to rescue
his diary from the locker in which he had thrust it_.
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