Notes from a photo album containing photos taken by Cecil Dunscombe during his naval service, circa 1918. The album was largely destroyed in a fire circa 2002.
These pictures were taken at odd times during the second and third cruises of the USS Houston. As the majority were taken on the third cruise they are all classed under that head.
The picture of all officers excepting one, on the other page shows as rough a looking bunch as can be imagined. I don't blame the "chief" for not wanting to get in it when he saw "Dutch" Swars face, it a lone queers the picture. Wildy is trying to camouflage as a naval officer but his dungarees give him up. A good pressing would do us all good.
In picture number two I assure you Mr. King is seeing things for their is no fair maiden in the vicinity that can call forth such a display of New Orleans goo-goos as he is seen making. He may be practicing for business when we reach the beach. "Dutch" still has his face and has added the pose -- some one will slap him yet. Spiers is assuming a very stiff military bearing but it (sic) lost in that bunch. Fogt is still looking for the forty five dollars and Burns for Portuguese man-o-war?
No mention need be made of the last picture but the "old man likes to show his remaining pair of silk (?) and Case is trying to hide his black (?) in the shadow of the (?). One half of the crew is in the next picture the other half is on watch.
The middle picture is already marked and I'll further state that Wales is one place whereto every man and officer of the ship would be glad to return. No where, of the many places we've been, has such courtesy, good will, and such wonderful times been given us as we received from the people of Swansea, Barry, and Cardiff. Their kindnesses are the bright spot of our (post?) which, (assured?) all of us, (?) (highly?) recall and will always remember.
A small (?) of the top picture. Conway with his shining black face is the most conspicuous one in the group.
The trips back and forth across the western ocean are most monotonous with no excitement to break them. There is a subconscious sense of being in the war (game?) but which is only actually felt upon reaching port, and no one outwardly worries over it. At sea we want to get to port and in port we want to get back to sea. Such is human nature.
This picture is the boat deck looking forward from the main mast lookout station. Our own motor boat, which never (motored?), is lashed secure by (?) deck and a little (leisurely?) four foot motor sailor for the (?) is swung out over the davits. It was a God send for the short time we had it. On this trip we had five hundred depth charges on hand in # four hold with the boxes of detonators floating around loose amongst these. There would have been a glorious display of fireworks if anything had happened. Fortunately they were found after a (?) diligent search and put in a place (?) could do no harm.
As Al Jolson say "you aint seen nuffin." Seas like this break over every few minutes and often you can't see the hatches and winches in the left hand edge of this picture due to there (sic) being several feet under water. In really bad weather some of the big babies break over the boat deck and come down the ventilators. A great life.
Here are four of the thirty ships in the third convoy. As four take up as much space imagine the vast amount of ocean covered by thirty. This is the position kept night and day, good or bad, and clear and fogy weather. Lo (sic) lights show and many times it is purely guess work that the ships keep in position. Of course you zig zag this way as well. A fellow (batting?) along (?) by himself with (darker?) ship (stand?) little chance of getting thru with a whole skin if he ever (?) (?) in a (bunch?) like this.
On this trip, one evening, a fog shot in about eight oclock. About eight forty five we heard danger signals blowing and crashes on the starboard side. Such such (sic) a thing happen (sic). A ship west bound, darkened, and by itself hit the leading ship in the column next to ours a glancing blow. Before the fellow had time to think the next ship in column hit him, and so on down the line until the last one rammed him amid ships and sunk him. All hands were saved and a good deal of the gear as it was some time before she foundered. It is a wonder that such things don't happen more often than they do. There is however a very few accidents like this. In (?) there is more danger of being rammed by one of your own ships than there is of a submarine attack.
Soup, meat hound, useless, or Wiggles a carnivour (sic) our dog of Heinz's 57 varieties picked up on day, when a weeny pup, as he was swimming for his life in the big basin at St. Mazaire, France. Tho only a cur he displayed more sense and intelligence than many people. It was impossible to spoil his good nature no matter how much he was banged around he always came back for more. He (sic) Chiefs post was to jump on top of the hatches and winches where he would sleep for hours or play with the cats. Twice he jumped on a hatch where there was no cover on it and just kept on going down into the hold of the ship. Both times he was very badly scared but not hurt in the least, tho the first time he nearly drowned as he landed in the icy waters of the mid ship (trimming?) tank and one of the men had to dive in and bring him out. Under no manner of inducements could he be persuaded to go into the crews galley but would stand (talk?) in the door way until he got what he wanted. He deserted from the ship in the Philadelphia Yard July 1918.
This is not a gas mask used in the "trenches " but a rescue helmet in case a fire should start aboard ship and the burning hold entered. Compress (sic) air is carried in flasks strapped around the helmet.
The forecastle, the house of the First Division and the galley. The forward main battery is trained (?) over the side and anti-aircraft (?) pointed skyward. The latter is seen between the Charlie Nobles.
On the number one hatch are some of the life rafts in case of emergency and on deck & the number two hatch are crates of airplanes the first naval machines to be landed in France. The ship carried eight as an additional cargo and also six complete (?) hollow or sausage equipment. There was two foot free board when we left New York.
A French dirigible which escorted us down the coast. This one was bright yellow with a shiny aluminum body. He carried the Tri colors at his stern and also had these painted on his rudder. The body carried (?) (?) and was fully equipped with signal flags and blinker lights. As the dirigible was leaving us when the picture was taken, he has a three flag hoist on his signal yards T.D.H. which, in International code, means "wish you a pleasant voyage."
With this dirigible were four French sea boats. The fellows were certainly on the job. Sometimes they would come down a line of the convoy it seemed, just to see how close they could come to the ships. This fellow, just after the picture was taken, came so close to us that he had to duck to keep his wing tip from hitting our outrigged boats. Each time they would pass the men would yell and wave frantically.
Last but not least the U.S. D. Smith in her present war dress. There is nothing more welcome than the sight of these boats the (morning?) they're picked up off the French coast. They are painted in the brightest of colors and many times are invisible in the brightest day light except from the smoke from their stacks. The first group of nigger stivedors (sic) that crossed called them "the butter fly" boats, and the name has stuck ever since.
Many times with a convoy there will be, beside our destroyers, English and French boats. The latter (?) with a hurrah and I think we have it on the English.
On this trip I went up the foremast lookout station to pick up the destroyers as soon as they would come over the horizon. Just as the sun was coming up six British boats appeared as if by magic signaling to the commodore with their powerful signal search lights and bore down upon us with the speed of a race horse. Our destroyers with a couple of French boats came up a couple of hours later.
Just riding at sea sounds nutty and it was only everyone, as well as those that went, enjoyed it. The bunch as seen in the picture spent one entire morning pretending they were motoring. To stand by and hear the remarks that were passed about the scenery and certain individuals as they haved (sic) in sight were rich.
The morning after our first arrival in France the captain decided to hold mast. Mast in the Navy originated back in the days of sailing ships. When a man did something he shouldn't have done and was caught he was placed upon report. On certain days, generally Sunday, all men who were on report were assembled by the main mast where the captain heard their cases and dealt out the punishments.
It is the same today except the men are assembled on the quarter deck or any other suitable place. In the picture the men are lined up on the forward well deck. There is another double row on the port side that can't be seen. The officers were mostly late and absent (or on?) liberty and the punishment confined indefinitely to the ship with twenty to (sic) hundred hours extra duty. Needless to say there has been very little leavebreaking or late returns from liberty since then.
Here are a few of the German prisoners that unloaded the ship at the coal docks in Brest. There were a wonderful (?) lot of men physically, and seemed to be in excellent spirits. Several I spoke to were very glad to be prisoners. They were worked hard and had plenty to eat, a comfortable place to sleep and were paid. If I remember rightly about eight cent a day for their labor. The French treat them very well. When it comes to work they are hustlers and it doesn't take them long to empty a ship.
The French instead of using coal in its natural state, pulverize it, mix in certain other ingredients, and press it into blocks or briquettes, which are ready as fuel. Enormous piles of these blocks were stacked on the docks. They reminded me of the piles of paving block seen in the country.
A French sub on her way out of the breakwaters at Brest for patrol duty along the coast. The America is unloading troops and stores the latter onto big (?) that are lying alongside. Two of the yachts of the (?) Fleet are moored out near the breakwater. Brest is one of the big French submarine bases and also one of the big torpedo schools located there. The school is shown in the bottom picture.
More pictures of the French sub base, Brest, France. (?) observation balloon in the distance is getting ready for a trip to see what she can find. In the foreground is a small dirigible about one half the size of the one shown on a previous page. It is yellow and similar in looks to it (sic) big sister. Two French battle ships are at anchor (?) in the breakwater.
Brest was the first port this ship made in France. She arrived just after the first fleet of yachts under Admiral Fletcher and when Americans were still a novelty. In France do as the French man does. We did. A wild three weeks of wine woman and song. The women would stop an American in the street and kiss him at that time. The both have learnt better since The former to kiss an American the latter to be kissed by a French woman of that class. -- Then it was new.
Brest is a miserable town of narrow, dirty street (sic) and frightful odors the latter you are aware of before you get any where near the beach. There was an awfully attractive girl who we use (sic) to play (?) a great deal with. Mademoiselle (?) whose father was commandant of the Navy Yard. She however was half English which accounts for the attractiveness. Johnston Carey and myself used to enjoy greatly playing bridge with the Admiral as well as (?) Mademoiselle with as she called it "our quaint American ways." Imagine an American being quaint.
The best thing to Brest is the first ship that sails the the (sic) Brasserie was fairly good fun until the officials closed it.
The coal docks at Brest where we hung out for two weeks. There are two traveling hydraulic cranes at the lower end of the dock. This type of crane seems to be use (sic) entirely on this side of the ocean. Along side of the crane truck the thing that look (sic) like range finder posts are (bins?) for measuring coal.
Our observation balloon or "sausage." These are attached to (arrived?) trawlers and towed around while the observers (sic) look for mines and enemy subs. In this picture the outfit is just starting out and the cable to which the balloon is attached to the ship and by which means it is lowered or allowed to rise, has not been even (?) from the (drums?).
We were the first American Naval ship to reach Nantes so American Naval men were at a premium. It was some wild town, anything you wanted could be gotten for practically nothing. Our vice counsel there, a Virginian from the Embassy at Paris, by the name of Ives, was a corker. We had some wild times the short time I was there. I saw really very little of the place for most of the time I was in Paris or (?) around France. It was here that the celebrated truck ride happened where the lamp post was torn down and the truck backed through a cafe window. The story goes that it was a wild party, tho I wasn't there at the time. I know the truth of the thing to be that (Seaward?) and his (?) were the only ones in the machine and when he tried to back he could stop until he ended up in the cafe. It was all thrashed out when the bills came in thanks to (mongrel?).
Women or civilian prisoners work with ships here and some of them are shown in the picture on the next page. What looks like cord wood is pit props for export to (?) where they are use (sic) to strengthen the mine tunnels.
There are numerous large industrial plants all along the Loire from St. (Nazaire?) to Nantes. These pictures show one of these.
Every few miles along the river are seen a church. In fact I told the pilot that there were lots of churches and he said "Oui to (sic) damn many church." This picture is of the largest and most attractive. It is a little town of just a few houses about five miles below Nantes.
To return to the pilots remark of "to (sic) damn many church" I find that it is the attitude of a great many of the French people. This war has gone on so long, has done such destruction, and caused so much misery which is just the opposite of the teachings of the Church, that the people are beginning to feel there is no God or Church, and to look upon it as a farce.
It is wonderful to see how the women and girls of Great Britain have turned to and are doing the work of men. Street car motor women & conductresses on the railways, dock workers every where that men worked, in a majority of the positions, a woman is working now - and working good at it to (sic). Girls who have never done a thing in there (sic) lives until the war started, are nursing in hospitals or cooking there, all voluntary on their part, driving motor lorries, making munitions and similar work. It is
The notes by Cecil end here in mid-sentence.