The Soemba Docket
|Of all the remarkable papers which have at one time or another circulated through the Admiralty, it is doubtful if there has been anything to compare with the Soemba Docket. It stands alone as the only one - so far as is known - in which all the comments are in verse, and thanks to Rear Admiral A.D. Nicholl, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., who obtained its release from archival oblivion, it can now see the light of publication.|
Rear-Admiral Nicholl writes: "The matter of the Soemba's gun was raised in the first instance by a signal from the ship to the Admiralty, reporting the damage to the gun and requesting that a new one should be fitted or the damaged one repaired.
As Director of Operations Division (Foreign), I was responsible for bringing the matter to the attention of those Departments in the Admiralty who would examine the question, and, if thought appropriate, propose action to meet the Soemba's request. Soemba's signal was received about a month before D-day, 1944, a period of as great activity as the dockyards and ship-fitting firms of the country have ever experienced. I therefore knew that the Soemba had little chance of being ready in time to take part in th D-Day bombardments unless she were given special priority. Purely from the point of view of the bombardment operation, the Soemba was not of outstanding importance; but as one of the few Netherlands ships available for Operation ,,Overlord" she was most important from the political point of view. It would mean a great deal to Dutch morale that one of their warships should be in front line of the allied forces on the Great Day. So, as I have often found that a few lines of doggerel will ring a bell where prose knocks in vain, I started the docket off with a Limerick.
Everyone played. The docket went round to the various Departments in the orthodox way, the First Sea Lord approved action being taken, the Soemba got her new gun and was there on D-day.
The Dutch themselves regarded the whole thing with delighted astonishment. They marvelled that, at such a time, Heads of Departments and members of the Board of Admiralty should amuse themselves writing rhymes and deal with a serious matter in such an apparently frivolous way. One of the Dutch officers commented, "No wonder the English win wars"!
As regards the rhymes themselves, Soemba is, of course pronounced "Soomba"; the Emergency "Despair Section" is the Emergency Repair Section; and "E-Loemba" is Captain Evans-Lombe (now Rear Admiral), the Director of Gunnery. Admiral Cunningham's reference to "accommodation" is due to the fact that ships unable to take an active part in operations were in many cases allocated as "Accommodation Ships" - a necessary but undistinguished role".
That their salvoes go off like a Rhumba,
Two guns, they sound fine,
But the third five point nine,
He am bust and refuse to go boomba.
D.D.O.D.(M) added to the marking as a mark of courtesy.
Director of Operations Division (Foreign)
Whose guns are all needed to go boomba,
On a fast nearing day -
Though we cannot say
When exactly will rise the balloonba.
Director of Plans.
Remote from worldly cares
And leaves to skilled Division its Administry affairs
(With apologies to Oriel College)
Director of Plans (Q)
D.G.D. has said times without numbers,
If OPS want nice pops,
At the Huns, then these guns,
Must be changed for some British made Boombas.
Gunnery and Anti-Aircraft Warfare
That to get results you oughter,
Make the boomba under water.
As Gun-Boombas aren't my line
I suggest she tries a Mine.
Director of Operations Division (Mining)
We've searched from the Clyde to the Hoomba
But we haven't got room
For Van Tromp's ruddy Broom
Much less for this useless old Loomba
For Director of Dockyards
Is really too hard for a "Plumber"
Referred with a laugh
Straight back to the Staff
for the personal care of E-Loemba.
Director of Naval Ordnance
In no uncertain way
That my personal cares
Are as few as my hairs.
With some satisfaction
I note proposed action
And pass for notation
Director of Gunnery and Anti-Aircraft Warfare
I am amazed, all the same, that they do not propose
To allocate Soemba with modification
(Soft velvet chairs the one stipulation)
To the "Overlord" plan for accommodation
Though some of the minutes are just on the verge
I note with regret no proposals emerge.
I can only assume that the Staff and Soemba
Have returned with with relief to their usual Sloemba.
First Sea Lord
Which imply she is now a back Noemba
You must pay no regard, For she's got to bombard
(As is very well known to E-Loemba).
Vice-Chief of Naval Staff.
That Soemba should join in this fight
Because she loves very much
To be rude too, and in Dutch.
So no one can read it, serve you right!
Waarom wordt nog niet begonnen
Met verwisselen der kanonnen?
Rijmpjes maken helpt geen zier
Want met pen, inkt en papier
Werd geen oorlog ooit gewonnen
Dutch Naval Liaison Officer in Defence of H.N.M.S. "Soemba"
Temporary interpreter in Double Dutch (unpaid)
Oh why have you not yet begun
The exchange of (above-mentioned) gun?
How can rhymes help you when,
No ink, paper or pen
Have ever a (bally) war won.
--- end of article ---
This article is a reproduction of the entire original article published in The Navy of March, 1952. Alterations of the original article have only been made with regards to the lay-out, the contents above are otherwise original.
And the story continues ...
The Marine Museum in Den Helder has a printed poster in its collection, a gift from the British Admiralty in 1947, with all the rhymes of the article. See image below.
I did not know that the Final solution of Soemba's guns had been as to remove them alltogether.
|May 12, 2014||Added poster and Stork story.|