De recente bezuinigingen op de Nederlandse strijdkrachten nopen tot ongewone maatregelen. Behulpzaam als ik ben, verwijs ik de commandanten van de Koninklijke Marine graag naar de onderstaande gebeurtenis uit de Uruguayaanse Burgeroorlog.
It was in South America. The officer was Commodore Coe of the Montevidean navy, in an engagement with Admiral Brown of the Buenos Ayrean service. The commodore’s ship had exhausted her ammunition, and the first lieutenant came excitedly to the commodore asking, ‘What are we to do, sir? The lockers are empty.’
‘All empty?’ asked the commodore.
‘Every one of them,’ said the lieutenant — ‘round shot, grape, canister, double-head, all gone!’
‘Is the powder done?’ asked the commodore.
‘No, sir, we’ve plenty powder.’
‘Well,’ said the commodore, ‘we had a darned hard Dutch cheese at dinner to-day; do you remember?’
‘I ought to,’ said the other, ‘I broke the carving-knife trying to cut it.’
‘Are there any more aboard?’
‘About six dozen; we took them from a droger.’
‘Will they go into the 18-pounders?’
‘By thunder! commodore,’ cried the lieutenant, ‘that’s an idea. I’ll go and try ’em.’
Presently the guns of their ship, the ‘Santa Maria,’ re-opened fire. Admiral Brown, on the opposing ship, found shot after shot flying over his head. Presently one of them struck his mainmast, and as it did so, shattered and flew in every direction. ‘What, in all creation, is that the enemy is firing?’ exclaimed the startled admiral.
Before any answer was possible, another shot came in through a port, killed two men who were near him, and, striking the opposite bulwarks, burst into flinders. ‘By Jove, this is too much!’ cried the admiral. ‘This is some new infernal Paixhan or other. I don’t half like ’em.’
And, as four or five more of them came slap through the sails, he gave the order to fill away, and actually backed out of the fight, receiving a parting broadside of Dutch cheeses.