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Surko SW, Aug-2012. At Sea in The Great War, Naval History Vol. 26 No. 4

Surko SW, Aug-2012. At Sea in The Great War, Naval History Vol. 26 No. 4

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Published by: Foro Militar General on May 07, 2013
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54
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE
ou may send my new camera to me, without the tripod, as Iam allowed to use it.” So wrote Frederick Richard Foulkes ina letter home on 17 April 1917, just four days after enlisting inthe U.S. Coast Guard. Seaman Foulkes, the son of a Presbyte-rian minister, very quickly had acquired the nickname “Parson.”When the United States declared war on Germany on 6 April1917, the Coast Guard had been transferred from the TreasuryDepartment to the Navy Department. Veteran crews were aug-mented with fresh recruits; Foulkes was assigned to the cutter
Manning 
. Asmall warship by today’s standards, she was 205 feet long and displaced 1,155tons. Commissioned on 8 January 1898, the
Manning 
was a veteran of theSpanish-American War, one of the last class of U.S. revenue cutters rigged forsail, and the first to carry electric generators.Powered by one steam engine, she could attain 17 knots and boasted two3-inch gun mounts and two 6-pounder rapid-fire guns. Filled out to a full comple-ment of 8 officers, 4 warrant officers, and 100 crew, the
Manning 
was deployedo Gibraltar. She escorted her first convoy out through the danger zone, some15 miles, on 19 September 1917.oulkes frequently wrote to his family in Philadelphia and made ample use of theamera he had requested—the result being a rich trove of letters and photographs.he excerpts from his letters reproduced here, along with a sampling of his dozensf potographs, provide an up-close look—nearly a century later—at wartime dutyn board a heralded cutter of Squadron 2, Division 6, Atlantic Fleet Patrol Forces.
( ( ( ( (
 30 September 1917:
I cannot tell much because of censorship, but I will do myest. To begin with, I am well now but have been seasick. . . . We don’t thinkbout getting the Germans near so much as we think about getting home.
54
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE
 
 NAVAL HISTORY
r 
AUGUST 2012
55
 
 NAVAL HISTORY
r 
AUGUST 2012
55
9 February 1918:
This is the sixth day out and I havenot written before because of the restless waves. The seais still rolling but not rough.The first thing we saw, after leaving port, was a torpe-doed tramp. The stern was under water. Fritz did not gether though, as she was heading for land, under her ownpower. Believe me, we kept some lookout. While lookingat her, the crew’s attention was called back to our ship bya fire on board. We soon had it out as every man knewhis place.As soon as we were away from the sheltering shoreswe had rough weather
again
. The weather was not nearas rough as some we have had, but the waves were veryhigh, making the ship roll and pitch a great deal. We didnot use tables to eat on but used bowls.I do not swing [use a hammock] but sleep on the deck.In good weather it seems crowded below, but when the fel-lows on deck are driven below by bad weather, it sure lookslike a cattle car, or better yet, a chicken car, as there areabout three layers of us. First come the gents who swing.All hooks are used and everything else that a hammockcan be swung on.On the sides of the berth deck are benches used for lock-ers and seats. They are about a foot and a half wide; thoseare used next. Fellows lashing themselves on them so thatthey will not roll off. Then the benches used to eat from arenext in order for beds. Much the same procedure used forthe other benches except that the benches must be lashedto something to keep them from sliding around the room.Last of all come the men in Freddy’s class; we sleep onthe deck. I prefer to sleep on deck as it is cooler and moreconvenient. The men on deck sleep in a scrambled eggfashion. Some will be using my feet for a pillow and I willvery likely be using somebody’s back or other portion of hisbody, for my pillow. We must not show a light so a littleshaded light is all we have down there. I will describe onenight’s sleep. . . . I turned in around seven thirty. I had the
11 October:
 
I am now signalman; there are four of us,and every other day we are off. At sea, I turn to again asan O.S. [Ordinary Seaman]In case my other letter did not reach you, I am goingto repeat a request for some stuff—Durham Duplex [razor]blades, vest pocket Kodak film, and a box of Wrigley’s JuicyFruit Gum, also newspapers.
11 November:
Your Freddie has seen a real GermanU Boat, but would much rather see the Statue of Libertyloom up before his gaze, still I am not homesick, althoughI surely do miss home. It’s funny, one day I think of homeas a means of getting a certain dish that I liked and thenext day it will be some music I would like to play on thepiano and so it goes.
6 December:
Uncle Sam has given us free postage as aChristmas gift. It is welcome more because of the conve-nience it gives than the money saved. Stamps sure werescarce articles, but now we can write and mail a letterwhenever we wish.About the fellows on the ship. There are some mightyfine boys on board and I get along very well with them.The crew runs from one “gob” who has taken postgradu-ate work at Yale, to one who claims that he has been inpractically every jail in the States, so you see I have plentyof companions to choose from. There is very, very littleswiping among the crew. In fact, things I have lost havebeen returned to me. Of course, unmarked clothing is notowned by any one, so if a fellow fails to mark his clothes,he has to take a chance.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY THE AUTHOR
Ordinary Seaman Frederick R. Foulkes poses proudly in fulluniform. This photo most likely was taken at Fort Trumbell, New London, Connecticut, in April 1917, the same monthhe enlisted in the Coast Guard. Four days after his enlistmenthe wrote home requesting his camera, and used it frequently tochronicle his wartime service.
 
56
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE
 
four to eight in the morning. I tried toget asleep as soon as possible (O yes, Ihad all my clothing on, just my shoeswere off) so that I would not get sea-sick. I went to sleep alright.The next thing I knew a fellow sleep-ing on a bench fell off, overturning thebench on me. I just told him what Ithought of him and went to sleep again.The next thing to happen—someonegoing on watch steps on my head, tryingto navigate through the crowd. I don’tblame him for I have done the same my-self. It is hardly possible to get aroundwithout walking on some one’s hand orfoot. I prefer walking on their stomachsas I hate to hear the bones crunch.O! the wonders of my Navy sleep!A man swinging above me fell out of his hammock. He hardly woke up andin his fall he received a black eye. My“fat” has done some good. I alwayswake up with a bad taste in my mouth,but help is in sight, we are having bet-ter weather and a lot of us are sleepingon deck. I should add that the remain-ing cat always sleeps with me, or onmy bunk. Why I don’t know. We hada number of cats. One was sat on, oneclimbed in a hammock and was lashedup, the rest fell or jumped overboard.What used to be the chart room isnow used by the captain as living quar-ters, while at sea. . . . In front of the chart room is the old pilothouse. The ship is now steeredfrom the bridge. In the pilot housethe signal flags are kept, so thatallows the signalman and quarter-master freedom of that room. Asthe pilot house is high above thewater-line, we can get fresh air andlight from the lee side. . . .There has been some complaintabout the food lately, so the Captaincalled me into the chart room, day be-fore yesterday, and had a half hour talkwith me about food, liberty, etc. He saidhe would try and let us have pie twicea week and all night liberty. The foodhas improved and for the last two dayswe have eaten well. When the captaincalled me I thought he was going to tellme to wash but he did not, he usuallydoes about once every trip. So I washedyesterday for the first time since leavingport. I have not shaved, though. Really,for a young chap, I have quite a vigor-ous fringe.I am getting to be quite a person onboard here. I have charge of a life raftwhen we abandon ship. I am in a ma-chine gun crew, also. We use both theColt and the Lewis.I remember when I was youngerreading about a hero who captured agun that broke loose on a man-of-war.I did not understand it then, but I cannow. A vinegar barrel broke loose whenthe ship was hitting the high seas. Talkabout your “bull in a T shop.” We are avery modest bunch and no one
wanted
 to
be a hero
, but at last it was captured.Yesterday was the first day since leav-ing port that the decks were dry. So I de-cided to sleep on deck. I had the 4 to 8this morning and I was mighty glad I didfor it started to rain this morning at 3:15.I made up my mind not to get up ’till Iwent on watch. I was just a little damp atfour but if I had slept through until seven,I would have had a bath. Water does notseem to hurt one though.Today is wonderful, a blue sea, nocaps, hardly any wind and a white sky.But O the sea is deeply moved. Go tothe bathroom (I could spend a day inthe shower now and need it), fill thetub and greatly disturb the water, put a
56
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE
“Earning my bread and butter,” was Foulkes’caption for this. He wrote of climbing up “to senda signal when a large wave broke over the wholebridge. I was soaked [and] finished my watch inthe wet clothes . . . and never even sneezed.” Note the pattern of light and dark tones that are part of the ship's camouflage.The USS
Manning
at sea. This image of the aft deck gives a sense of the cutter gentlyrolling on the Atlantic. Seaman Foulkes noted in a letter home, however, that when inrough weather the ship would “roll and pitch a great deal.”

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