Harry Collingwood: Under the Ensign of the Rising Sun

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Harry Collingwood Under the Ensign of the Rising Sun
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    Under the Ensign of the Rising Sun
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The Russo-Japanese War grew out of the rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea. Harry Collingwood (William Joseph Cosens Lancaster (M: 1851 May 28 — 1922 Jun 10)) provides a personal narrative of this conflict, that served as a prelude for the following two World Wars of the Twentieth Century.

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Harry Collingwood


A Story of the Russo-Japanese War

Chapter One.


“Well, good-bye, old chap; keep a stiff upper lip, and hope for the best; the truth is pretty sure to come out some day, somehow, and then they will be bound to reinstate you. And be sure you call on the Pater, and tell him the whole yarn. I’ll bet he will be able to give you some advice worth having. Also give my love to the Mater, and tell her that I’m looking forward to Christmas. Perhaps I may see you then. Good-bye again, and good luck to you.”

The speaker was young Ronald Gordon, one of the midshipmen belonging to H.M.S. Terrible, and my particular chum; and the words were spoken as we parted company on the platform of Portland railway station, Gordon to return to his ship, while I, an outcast, was bound for London to seek my fortune.

Yes; after doing splendidly at Dartmouth, heading the list at the passing-out exam, and so at once gaining the rating of midshipman; doing equally well afloat during the subsequent three years and a half, qualifying for Gunnery, Torpedo, and Navigating duties, serving for six months aboard a destroyer, and everywhere gaining the esteem and goodwill of my superiors, here was I, Paul Swinburne, at the age of seventeen and a half, an outcast kicked out of the Navy with ignominy and my career ruined, through the machinations of another, and he my cousin!

He, Bob Carr,—like myself, a midshipman aboard the Terrible,—had committed a crime of a particularly mean and disgraceful character—there is no need for me to specify its precise nature—and with diabolical ingenuity, knowing that discovery was inevitable, had succeeded in diverting suspicion so strongly toward me that I had been accused, court martialled, and—although I had pleaded not guilty—found guilty and dismissed the Service.

Now, it is necessary for me to say here just a word or two in self-defence; for there is no reason whatever why the reader should be allowed to believe me guilty, although, for certain reasons of my own, I permitted the officers who tried me to think so.

I am an orphan, both my parents having died within a few months of each other when I was less than three years old, leaving me to the mercy of the world. My nearest relation was Aunt Betsy Carr, my father’s only sister, and at my mother’s death she and Uncle Bob adopted me as their own, although they had a baby boy of their own, at that time nearly two years old—the Cousin Bob who was responsible for my present trouble. They took me not only into their home but also into their hearts; they made not the slightest difference in their treatment of Bob and me; I was as much a son to them as he was; and the result was that I soon grew to love them both as much as though they had been my own parents.

At first, as children, Bob and I got on splendidly together; but later on, when we were respectively about seven and eight years of age, my cousin gradually developed a feeling of jealousy that at length became inordinate—although he was very careful to conceal the fact from his parents; so that when, in my second year at Dartmouth, the matter of sending him there also was mooted, I was exceedingly sorry, although I of course gladly promised to help him to the utmost, in the event of his being entered. And when in due time he turned up there, I redeemed my promise, so far as Bob would let me; and it cost me a good deal to do so, for he soon became exceedingly unpopular. But he managed to scrape through his final, and, some six months before the opening of this story, was appointed to the Terrible—to my great chagrin, for I had a presentiment that his coming meant trouble for me.

And now the trouble had come, with a vengeance. It was really Bob, and not I, who had committed the crime of which I was accused; and clever as the young rascal had been in diverting suspicion from himself to me, I could have cleared myself, had I so chosen, but only by fixing the guilt upon him. And that I could not bring myself to do, after all the kindness which I—had received at the hands of my aunt and uncle; for they not only idolised the lad but believed in him implicitly, and I knew that disillusion would simply break their hearts—they would never again be able to hold up their heads and look others in the face. Therefore when I was summoned to be tried by court martial, I simply pleaded Not Guilty—which was regarded as an aggravation of my offence—and did not attempt to defend myself, with the result that I was found guilty, and expelled.

Of course I knew that this would be a bitter blow to my uncle and aunt; but it would not be nearly so bitter as it would have been had the guilt been fixed upon Bob, therefore of the two evils I chose what I considered the least, although it involved the ruin of my career—a career which I loved and of which I was intensely proud.

And now I was not only without a career, but also without a home; for I simply could not endure the idea of going back to my aunt and uncle, and witnessing their grief as well as enduring their reproaches. I therefore wrote them a brief letter informing them of the misfortune which had befallen me, assuring them of my innocence, and announcing my determination to start afresh, fight my own battle, and rehabilitate myself as best I could.

In making my plans I was greatly helped by my chum, Gordon. He had been with me at Dartmouth, after that in the Vengeance, and now again in the Terrible; he therefore knew me well enough to implicitly believe me when I assured him upon my word of honour that I was innocent. He was a good chum; not only did he believe in my innocence but he also stoutly maintained it to others, whenever the matter was referred to, although the evidence so cunningly woven was strong enough to secure my conviction. And when the result of the court martial was known, he not only sat down and wrote a long account of the affair to his parents, but insisted—taking no denial—that, before doing anything else, I should call upon his parents and consult with his father, Sir Robert. And this I at length, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to do, although I was by no means sure that his people would be so ready as he was to take me upon trust. Yet, apart from my uncle and aunt, Sir Robert and Lady Gordon were the only friends I had; and now was the time when of all others I most urgently needed the help of friends. At first I permitted myself to entertain certain high-flown ideas of going out into the world and fighting my battle alone and unaided; but Gordon was a level-headed youngster, and although he was a year younger than myself I was fain to admit the wisdom of his assertion that no fellow is sufficiently independent to ignore the advice and help of friends. Besides, I had already met Sir Robert and his wife—had indeed on one occasion spent ten days’ leave with Ronald under their roof; and more genial, kindly, warmer-hearted people it would be impossible to imagine; so I felt hopeful that, with Ronald for my sponsor and advocate, Sir Robert would not refuse to give me his best advice and assistance.

It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at Waterloo—too late, I knew, to catch Sir Robert Gordon at his office; I therefore slung my chest on top of a cab, and ordered the driver to take me to a certain quiet and unassuming but comfortable hotel near the Embankment, where I proposed to take up my quarters until I could see my way a little more clearly. Here I dined, took a walk along the Embankment afterwards, and turned in early, not feeling in cue for amusement of any kind.

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