Tuesday, April 22, 2014

By Guess and By God

In the introductory note to his account of British submarine actions in World War I, William Guy Carr explained the title as follows: 

““By Guess and By God” was a phrase coined during the war by navigating officers of British submarines to describe the manner of their navigating. A surface ship in peace time proceeding on her way without celestial or other aids to navigation goes “by dead reckoning.” A submarine in war time, with all artificial aids to navigation removed, with no chance to take a sight for days on end, harassed by the enemy, with compasses often acting queerly, went “by guess and by God.” Blind as bats, we guessed and prayed inwardly that we guessed right: the rest was in the hands of Providence.”

During my own time in submarines, fifty years after the events described by Carr, there were many occasions when I “prayed inwardly.” Needless to say, a predicted landfall or confirming change in the depth of the ocean below us allowed us to breathe a little easier.

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