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A Naval Venture:The War Story of an Armoured Cruiser

The War Story of an Armoured Cruiser

Library of Alexandria
On one miserably wet and cheerless afternoon of February, 1915, the picket-boat of H.M.S. Achates lay alongside the King’s Stairs at Portsmouth Dockyard, whilst her crew, with their boat-hooks, kept her from bumping herself against the lowest steps. The rain trickled down their glistening oilskins, and dark, angry clouds sweeping up from behind Gosport Town on the opposite side of the harbour, and scudding overhead, one after the other, in endless battalions, made it certain that a south-westerly gale was raging in the Channel. At the top of the steps, with his back to the wind and rain, his feet wide apart, and his hands in his pockets, was the midshipman of the boat, in oilskin, sou'wester, and sea-boots. This was Mr. Vincent Orpen—commonly known as the Orphan—not very tall, but sturdy and broad-shouldered in his bulky oilskins. Between the brim of his dripping sou'wester and his turned-up collar showed a pair of very humorous eyes, a determined-looking nose and mouth, and a pair of large ears reddened by the cold and rain. He was waiting to take the Captain—Captain Donald Macfarlane—off to Spithead, where the Achates lay, ready for sea, but this absent-minded officer had very probably forgotten the time or place where the boat was to meet him.