Reply To: Anchor work in the Grand Fleet

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Malcolm Lewis

    Thank you, Frank, for clearing up the mystery. When I enlarge the Dreadnought picture I can now see two cables disappearing below the water line. These cables are presumably attached to a swivel close to the starboard hawse pipe. My 1951 edition of the Seamanship Manual is not very helpful with illustrations of this procedure (page 200), do you have a clearer diagram by any chance?
    One tends to forget that ships at single anchor yaw in any sort of a wind and swing quite rapidly over a substantial distance. Mooring with two anchors allows more ships to be in an anchorage and no doubt essential in, say Scapa Flow, which is subject to constant gales. I am not aware there were mooring buoys there in early WW1.
    Clearing harbour rapidly would have been more complicated dealing with the swivel, something the Grand Fleet had to do often when there were frequent submarine threats early in the war.
    On one occasion mooring our little Algerine minesweeper in a very long tanker berth in Port Said we had to drop both bow anchors and then go astern onto a buoy. After the anchors had been let go the port pilot said, “I think you have dropped one on top of the other, Captain”.
    Come our departure time to lead the midnight convoy down the Suez Canal, as we weighed the anchors sure enough up they came horribly entangled. No time to waste so the poor cable party spent the night with men over the bows securing and heaving on wire cables endeavouring to get the anchors apart whilst we were underway. The Buffer’s comments on the damage to his precious paint work were unrepeatable!