On board was my paternal Grandfather, Bill - Gunner, accordion-player, crack-shot and cross-country champion (albeit with the aid of a rickshaw, but that's another story for another time)!
On the ship's return to port (Tangku, now known as Tianjin, in North China, which was then under Japanese control), a mysterious letter was handed in on board, and copies were promptly made and pinned up in the respective ship's messes:
"27th July 1939
You Kindest Sailor of Britain,
Perhaps you don't know why you came here. And the reason why your coming here shall prevent the Tokyo Conference entirely is out of your question. Mr Chamberlain (do you know, the Prime Minister of Britain Cabinet) never order such a Navy action. In Swatow a captain and a counsellor have been changed by the reason of his neglecting his (Chamberlain) order and desire. If you have some capacity to think you must think in this living news. If you are only brutal barbarian no need of words to you Sir. We declare we derive you Anglo-Saxon from Asia. We are very sorry you belong to this category. We have warned your friend here to go back to his native village of Britain. The Same Warning Message shall be also to you. That comes from our kindness to Anglo-Saxon as a human existence (is Anglo-Saxon a human existence or a brutal Shylock or Vampire? This will be other question).
We politely teach you for first great. Do you know sacrifice Armada (fleet)? This is the name given to you Far East Fleet of Britain by your Admiral not by Foreign Authority.
Your Admiral wisely and justly named fleet you belong thus. Do you challenge us? Perhaps you can kill us as free as you want. Because we have no arms. But do you do it glory to kill unarmed people in your unjust reason as your same deed in Arabia? God never be a word.
We Advise you that you had better not forget this territory belongs to the Order of Japanese Military Orders. Do you challenge the furious 'Invincible Armada of World' of Japanese Navy Force?
Perhaps you never be such a Dung like foolish boy from any kind of view. If you challenge we will be glad to throw back your grave and we elect the Glorious way of death but you shall be known the meaning of the Sacrifice Fleet.
You had best know the fish of China Sea is thirsty to blood.
So, even before Pearl Harbour, Japan (having invaded China two years previously) was flexing her muscles in our direction. Whilst the letter above is amusing to read, in 1941 the Japanese took out Force Z: The Battleships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, so perhaps the threat wasn't an empty one.
|Sinking of Force Z as seen from a Japanese aircraft|
(Roy - does this post qualify for Naval November?!)
Until next time........