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114   DAYS OF PREPARATION

for patrol work, and the instant she reached Hong Kong her magnificent fittings were torn out and replaced by coal bunkers, while her Chinese crew were paid off and replaced by British naval reservists and French gun crews. She captured the Turkish fort of Kamaran in the Red Sea. For nearly a month she and her sister ship, the Empress of Asia, guarded the British port at Aden, one of the focal points of the world's waterways—her guns keeping the Turks at a respectful distance until British warships relieved her. She then bombarded the Arabian port of Salif on the Red Sea. Early in the summer of 1915 she steamed into the harbour of Hodeidah, where the British and French consuls had been kidnapped and taken into the interior, and the Turks were notified that unless the captured officials were speedily brought back Hodeidah would be blown into fragments; they were brought back. Passing another point on the Red Sea coast, her gunners with their third shell located an immense oil reservoir concealed behind the coast hills, and set it on fire by their artillery practice while remaining three miles out at sea. She was meanwhile constantly running down dhows containing slaves, rifles and munitions, and other contraband for the Turks, from one of which she rescued a whole load of women and children slaves in a terrible state of suffering. She then participated in watching the port of Manila, and helped prevent some fifteen German tramp steamers from emerging and delivering their cargoes of supplies to German war vessels. Finally, after a year of war service, she was ordered back to Hong Kong and went out of commission; her fittings were restored as speedily as possible by an army of workmen, and early in 1916 she was again in her old service, and again ranking as the finest passenger ship on the Pacific Ocean. The Odyssey of many other far-famed vessels of the same fleet cannot yet be written, because they are still (May 1918) going about the business of the Admiralty; but the experience of the swift and beautiful Empress of Russia is far from being unique.


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