[From How the Manx Fleet helped in the Great War, 1923]
DURING the whole of the war time the Tynwald was engaged on the Home service, and was invaluable in maintaining communication with the mainland, and in doing a few "odd jobs" as well.
Perhaps the most important of these was the rescue of some fifty to sixty passengers from the torpedoed American liner New York on Easter Monday afternoon, April 9th, 1917. The Tynwald left Douglas soon after four oclock with mails and some six hundred passengers. When four or five miles off the Liverpool Bar Ship they sighted the Liner ; soon after this a cloud of smoke was seen to come from her side, and the vessel was evidently in distress.
Captain Cojeen, who was in command of the Tynwald, quickly turned her round, and went to the New Yorks assistance. The weather at the time was far from good, a strong wind blowing with showers of snow at intervals. The passengers were conveyed in the liners own lifeboats, which came alongside of the Tynwald, and, although the sea was distinctly lumpy, causing a considerable rise and fall of the lifeboats, all were safely taken on board, including Admiral Sims of the U.S. Navy.
During the transferring of the passengers, three or four patrol steamers and tug-boats came to the liners assistance. The damage to the New York was in the fore part of the vessel, and, as the bulkhead abaft where she was struck remained intact, the ship was able to float, although the forward compartments were full of water.
The Tynwald, having landed her passengers at the Liverpool Landing Stage, left again at 11.50 the same night, and, when off New Brighton, passed the New York in charge of tugs, making her way to Liverpool, where she was docked.
I saw the liner in a dry dock afterwards, and the hole in her-side was quite large enough to take a full-sized horse-and-cart.
The Tynwald on her return journey to Douglas that night had to encounter a whole North-West gale, but came safely through, and was able to take the sailing next morning at nine oclock, the scheduled time, as if nothing had happened.
Easter-Time seems to have been memorable during the War for providing extra work for the Tynwald. On another of these occasions she left Douglas at 2 p.m., landed her passengers and mails at Liverpool, returned to Douglas light,. and sailed again the next morning at 9 oclock. On arrival at Liverpool, having completed three trips and taken in coal, she was told to return to the Landing Stage with all speed in order to take a full load of troops to Ireland, which she did, sailing at 7.30 p.m.
Enemy submarines were very busy at that time in these-waters, and would, no doubt, have been glad to have a shot at a troop-ship, but the Tynwald landed her men safely at Kingston the next morning. Having cleaned a portion of the fires, they started on the return journey to Douglas, the men. almost tired out, some even falling asleep in the stokeholds. However they made a fairly good passage, arriving safely in Douglas, where they all enjoyed a well-earned rest until the next morning.
This was a great piece of work to accomplish between Easter Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, three trips. between Douglas and Liverpool, one from Liverpool to Kingston, and one from Kingston to Douglas.
But we have not yet done with these Easter time specials for, on another occasion, after doing her ordinary work (sailing from Douglas at 4 p.m. on the Monday) she returned there the same night to be ready for the mornings sailing at 9 oclock. She left at the scheduled time on Tuesday, and, on arriving at Liverpool Landing Stage, was ordered, after discharging mails and passengers, to take in the coal as speedily as possible. return to the stage, take aboard the Mersey Docks and Harbour Boards divers and other workmen with their equipment, and go right back to the Island. News had come through that the White Star steamer Celtic had been torpedoed, with the loss of many lives, off the Calf of Man, and was then anchored off Peel, carefully guarded by destroyers. With all speed the Tynwald proceeded to Peel Breakwater, and there landed the men and their gear. The result was that the Celtic was speedily patched up, and taken to Harland and Wolffs works at Belfast.
The Tynwald, having carried out her part of the work, returned to Liverpool the same night, took in coal, and sailed the next morning shortly after 11.30, the ordinary sailing, a very smart piece of work. On this occasion she had, between Easter Monday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, performed three ordinary trips, and, in addition, made the journey from Liverpool to Peel and back.
During all the War time there was the constant danger of striking a floating mine, and on one occasion the Tynwald came very near to doing this. When about mid-channel, Those on the bridge espied a small object ahead, and just had time to alter the course to avoid striking it. Indeed, they passed so close to it that the wash from the Tynwalds propellers turned it over, so that they could distinctly see the mine with its horns showing. To have struck this would probably have meant destruction.
There was sometimes, however, a humorous side to these experiences. One stormy day, before leaving Liverpool, a message was received from Douglas saying that, if there was no change in the wind, which was South-East, the Tynwald was to proceed direct to Peel. A course was therefore set for the Calf of Man and, when she was about mid channel, what appeared to be a submarine was seen right ahead. There was the conning-tower and the periscope, but a heavy sea was running and it was difficult to obtain a proper view of the object. By sheering the ship off, the steersman widened the distance from the supposed submarine, and while, doing this, those on board obtained a better view of the enemy. Then they had a pleasant surprise. The submarine turned out to be No. 2 Black Buoy from the entrance to the Mersey, that had gone adrift, and was being carried by tide and wind towards the Island. The lamp on top of the buoy had been mistaken for a periscope on the conning-tower of a submarine.
Many times the Tynwalds sailings had to be postponed, owing to special danger from mines, and a sad proof of the need of these precautions was soon furnished. One of the Liverpool pilot-boats struck a mine just outside the Formby Lightship. The boat was blown to pieces, and some forty lives were lost, including twenty-six first-class Liverpool pilots. The Tynwald probably passed this mine several times in the course of her usual work.
On another occasion, a large steamer was rounding the Crosby Lightship, inward bound, when she struck a mine, receiving great damage forward, but her watertight bulkhead held good, and she was towed into dock.
The avoidance of danger from floating mines was largely due to the careful watchfulness of those whose duty it was to be on the look-out. One evening, on the Tynwalds arrival from Liverpool, local fishermen reported a floating mine off the Calf of Man. The three Government motorboats stationed at Douglas went out in search of it, but came back without success. The next day it was found, and exploded by gunfire from one of the motorboats, the shock of the explosion being clearly felt in Douglas and Laxey.
On another occasion. owing to the port being closed when the Tynwald arrived at the Bar (about 6.45 p.m.), she had to dodge about with her passengers aboard all that night, and until 7 p.m. the next day, with the constant danger of striking a mine, or of encountering a submarine.
The Tynwald continued on service, summer and winter, right through the War, except when undergoing survey and repairs. She came through unscathed, a striking tribute to the watchful care of all those concerned. She carried no guns, was never camouflaged, but was painted as usual, black with red funnels.
One cannot close here without reference to the truly magnificent work of protection carried out by the fleet of mine sweepers. But for their services the Tynwald might now be lying at the bottom of the Irish Sea, instead of proudly sailing the waves as of yore.