A Line of Destroyers, 1917

by Caroline Lodge

A Line of Destroyers, 1917

How brightly the light reflects off the sea this morning! Even with my hand flat above my
eyes I can scarcely make out the ships, shimmering against the early light, fractured,
unresolved. I can’t count them, six, seven, eight or more giants, their line disappearing into
the mist. I could imagine that they had been abandoned for I see no crew. What are they
doing here—refitting? hiding? resting? There is no movement aboard. Only the small boats,
as attentive as fleas, heave and drop around them on the swell.

The sun flashes on a fragment of glass or metal on the deck nearest to the shore. A message
in Morse? What do I know of naval signals? Hard to starboard! Battle formations! Action
stations! What do I know of the war?

I can’t discern the markings of the sea birds, rocking in the water, impervious to the great
metal shapes. They too ride the swell. The dark grey hulls, U-boats, torpedoes are natural
hazards to them, like the waves, winds and high seas.

From far off, pushed by the wind and waves, the rolling explosions of the battle line reach
me and I am counting as I do with thunder – one, two, three . . . trying to hold the deep
notes, but they rumble away and my ears boom with the strain of listening.

The wind carries a dark companion, the stench of cordite and destruction and death. It burns
my nose. A battle –

But today the clouds are high, soon the sun will burn through the mist and it will be a perfect
day for a picnic. The dog can chase the knots of dry grass across the beach. The children can
make their castles. And I can read in my deck chair or watch the silent departure of the

I walk home to call the children to collect their spades. I see the bicycle of the telegram boy
by the door, fallen in the gravel, its wheels still turning.

“A line of Destroyers” by Muirhead Bone (1876 – 1953)
Lithograph, published by Country Life Ltd, 1917

(RAMM workshop September 2014)








The Short Story

In September 2014, RAMM held a creative writing workshop open to community members interested in engaging with pieces from their collection. During the workshop, participants produced creative writing based on their inspiration. The work of short fiction, “A Line of Destroyers, 1917,” by Caroline Lodge, came from this workshop. It was inspired by the lithograph “Line of Destroyers” by Muirhead Bone.


About the Author

Caroline Lodge is currently working on a novel, writing short stories, blogging about books on her blog, Bookword, reading, and writing non-fiction. She recently published Retiring with Attitude: approaching and relishing your retirement with co-author Eileen Carnell. They are working on their next book, Ageing Now (working title), with contributor Marianne Coleman. Caroline lives in a village in Devon, UK, belongs to several writing groups, and attends local writing workshops.