This is a loose amalgam of several old sailors ditties.
My family had many members serve in the Royal Navy in both World Wars.
Most of the tales about that time I got from old women as a child. The men rarely spoke about what they had been through.
(Men actually survived this, but not many)
U331 – Beneath the sea
Hans Diedrich gained his iron cross,
We all do what we can.
Strangers to him would face a loss:
Oh, how they’d hate this man!
Men do what they are trained to do
They do the best they may.
That periscope it showed a view
That’s with him to this day.
Three plumes of white rose up midships
Upon that close up foe.
With silent prayer upon his lips
He saw that deadly blow.
The forward tubes stood empty now
Torpedoes were away.
Hans Diedrich made a silent vow:
He’d not forget this day.
His boat had shuddered with each boom
That echoed through the hull.
And right there in that murky gloom
His brain seemed tired and dull.
A lack of sleep can slow things down
Or weaken deep emotion.
As struggling men sought not to drown
Mid terror and commotion.
U331 would slink away
The battleship would sink.
That was to be a fatal day
Amid an acrid stink.
Beside the turret near the bow
Two seamen felt each blast,
They struggled to the side somehow
But she went down so fast.
Soon they were swimming in a sea
That frothed and bubbled so.
There were so few that now swam free
Most had been dragged below.
Below the sea beneath the waves
Dragged down there in their ship.
Good friends gone to their early graves,
One sailor bit his lip.
For silence seemed to settle then
The sea became quite still.
It chilled the bones of swimming men
These waves would slowly kill.
Young Frank he wore a lifebelt though
So rested for a while.
The injured first would sink below
Shock makes the soul docile.
The water was not all that cold
So Death would not come fast.
Events they could so slow unfold,
Some things seemed meant to last.
Now Frank and James they both could swim
James had no lifebelt so,
He knew his chances would be slim;
Time would drag on so slow.
Frank’s lifebelt could support these two,
Frank helped James take a rest.
It was the natural thing to do;
The sun sank to the west.
A periscope then glided past,
Some beasts await their prey.
It turned towards the north at last
Before the break of day.
Some beasts are strong and charge head on,
With guile some pull prey down.
While fishes here could feed upon
Each victim who would drown.
Yet all night long they drifted there
And all the next day too.
The weather was quite calm and fair
The sky the clearest blue.
That second night sleep nagged at them
They fought hard not to sleep.
Each star seemed like a diadem
Above the hungry deep.
Beneath their feet the fish swam by
Some gorged on human flesh.
Though neither man would choose to die
Sleep caught them in its mesh.
And James he sank below the waves
Sometime through that long night.
Sailors may go to dark deep graves,
James sank without a fight.
Deep in his sleep within a dream
He met his dead Granddad .
That old man’s face it seemed to beam,
So, James did not feel sad.
He sank there to a fateful death,
His dream made him content.
He did not struggle to take breath
And soon his life was spent.
Asleep Frank drifted on along
The currents of the sea.
His fit young body was still strong,
So, Death was not to be.
He felt a tug upon his hair
A bowman yanked his head
He was the last man rescued there
Now all the rest were dead
He puzzled at where James had gone,
James had been in his dream.
This last survivor seemed so wan
Then he began to scream.
But morphine soon made him slump down
There in the rescue boat.
It never was his fate to drown
Sobs whimpered in his throat.
That boat it rode the gentle swells
They searched for sometime more.
Long gone now were the acrid smells
That Frank had smelt before.
In future years those smells would be
With him both night and day.
A tortured soul is never free
Some things don’t go away!
Dedicated to kind old Uncle Frank
This is a part of a series of verses about the sea.