A Survivor's Poem

The Last Moments of HMS Natal
By Bert Payne, A.B. – one of the survivors of the Natal

Thirteen thousand tons she weighed, a cruiser smart and trim,
Yet she didn’t look it in her light grey coat, she seemed so slim;
Eight hundred lads, both staunch and true,
Neatly dressed in their uniforms of blue
She carried where’er she went,
Always willing to take her load without the least comment.


We had learned to love our ship, because we know that she could slip
O’er the oceans far and wide, without her sister ships being by her side.
What happy times we had sometimes in USA,
Then a pleasure trip to Russia and a cruise to fair Norway.
Or perhaps we’d have a few days of tactics way up north,
And once again we’d have a rest in the Moray Firth.


Always to the fore, the cruiser Natal would be top score,
Whether it be coaling, gunnery or sports.
“T’was all the same to the 'Burial Ship', she was one of the good old sorts.
And  Kaiser Bill had learned that oft times she steamed,
Scooped up his merchant shipping and over her triumph gleamed.
Again a submarine would show itself and try to dip,
But where the “Nats” had to take a hand, t’was always too late to slip.


A grinding noise, a crash, a bang and then the pangs of death
Crept o’er those merciless murderers as they drew their last drawn breath;
Then as though some inwards spirit had suddenly appeared,
We always gave vent to our feeling and cheered and cheered,
As we watched the floating blood and oil, or maybe a tiny piece of wreck,
Which told us our duty we were doing to holds the Huns in check.


The dying “Blucher” saw her through the foggy mist,
While many a shell from the good old “Natal” tore its way clear and kissed
The floating mass of cemented steel, tearing away her bilges and laying bare her massive keel,
O’er thousands of miles of ocean she travelled for duty’s cause,
And whenever she came into harbour she was met with loud applause;
Then to think that such a ship as she should meet so cruel a doom
Without a fighting chance, draws us all to a state of gloom.


It was just after three p. m. when the terrible shock was felt,
The flames burst forth from aft in a cruel scorching belt,
Flames and fumes that threatened to loosen the staunchest hearts
And bring memories of the dear old faces from whom we had to part,
To fight for our King and Country and retain our homes and beauty.


But could there in all this world be found a more glorious body of men,
Than those o’er whom the icy waters swirled, and then,
Thanks to the help our gallant comrades gave,
God bless them all! And keep watch o’er those whom they tried so hard to save,
The lads whose last resting place was an icy cold and watery grave.


Four hundred of Britain’s bravest gave their lives, whilst waiting to crush those “Huns”,
Four hundred of her staunchest sailors lost their lives within reach of our guns.
God bless those widows and orphans! And where’er this tale may be told
Just take off your hats to those brave lads of the “Nats”, who died like Britishers bold.

Bert Payne
18th January 1916

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