Here is a very rare 1916 poem written by Bertrand Lawrence Twinn (born August 27, 1887 near London, England – died: 1972) who served as a clerk in the Canadian Navy during WWI. The poem appeared inside a 1916 Greetings card from the ship. He had previously served in the Royal Navy from 1902 and marrying in 1909 with a daughter born in 1910 and a son in 1912 he probably was one of the huge wave of British immigrants in the few years just before WWI broke out to Canada. This is the first maritime / naval Canadian war poem to appear on this blog and it is fortuitously from a distinctively interesting ship history. HMCS Grilse was a donated American yacht bought by one of Canada’s wealthiest men from Montreal, Quebec and given to the Canadian Navy in July 1915. She served until decommissioned on December 10, 1918. What makes this 1916 dated in print poem quite interesting is that it was written probably whilst the ship was still in Canadian waters and before she departed Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 11, 1916 for the Caribbean Sea and the West Indies (given her structure which with an open bridge and deck was considered a more suitable cruising area for her). Steaming in a major winter North Atlantic storm in mid-December 1916 she was actually reported lost at sea though she entered Shelburne, Nova Scotia 3 days after leaving Halifax (though losing 6 men who had been swept overboard).
Out on the deep when the waves roll high,
When storm clouds scurry o’er sombre sky,
Plunging and rolling this way and that,
Scanning the seas for periscope’s cap.
Steaming along when folks are at rest,
Scorning each danger with many a jest,
Searching for mine or submarine’s lair.
By darkest night and the noonday glare.
Patrolling our beat on trembling keel,
With cheerful hearts and our nerves like steel,
Raging storm or foe — fear there is none;
Our duty’s clear and it SHALL BE DONE.
We dream of our loved ones so far away,
‘Tis them we’re guarding each night and day,
Our glorious Empire to Britons dear,
Her honour’s at stake, we’ll show no fear.
We’ll stick to our task till Vic’trys won,
Bring to his knees the treacherous hun,
Singing songs of the free and the Brave;
Britannia ever shall rule the wave.
Bertrand L. Twinn / 1916″
The Canadian War museum have an excellent collection of contemporary WWI artifacts including even a very unusual cap tally or ribbon for the sailor’s hats of the GRILSE online.
Arthur Lismer one of the Group of Seven and an official Canadian War Artist in WWI also did an often reproduced 1919 dated lithograph of the GRILSE :