"And Wipe Your Feet"
Frederick the Great reportedly once traveled incognito to the Netherlands. Arriving in Amsterdam, he sought out a banker who had been alerted of his coming, in order to arrange a considerable loan. Arriving unattended at the banker’s house, Frederick learned from the banker’s wife that he was out, but expected back shortly. The lady of the house then suggested that the gentleman might await her husband in the parlor. Frederick found this agreeable, but as he attempted to enter the house, the lady commanded him to leave his muddy boots at the door.
Although Frederick tried to clean his boots, he failed and was forced to submit to the lady’s wishes. Showing the visitor into the parlor, the lady of the house excused herself, leaving him quite alone.
Naturally, when the banker returned, he was astonished to see the king, and in his stocking feet no less. He naturally offered greetings, and then asked Frederick why he was not wearing boots. Told the reason, he made apologies for his wife’s action, and exclaimed, “Heavens! why did your Majesty not discover yourself?”
“That was the very thing I wished to avoid,” replied the king, "for I saw plainly that the King of Prussia himself could not release me from this little ceremony.”
Meanwhile, the lady of the house put in an appearance. Announcing the identity of their visitor, the banker told her, “Down on your knees, and beg pardon for your rudeness.”
To this she replied, “I am very sorry, but kings and queens should be cleanly —don't you see that I always pull off my own shoes, although the mistress of my own house.”
At that, Frederick said, “You are perfectly right, madam,” and, turning to the banker, went on, “Now, my dear sir, are you convinced I was certain that keeping incognito and submitting, was my only chance of keeping the King of Prussia from disgrace.”
During the Battle of the Atlantic, there were three tools with which convoy escorts could attack submerged submarines, depth charges, Hedgehogs, and Squids.
A depth charge was, of course, the familiar “ash can,” essentially a barrel filled with explosives and fitted with a pressure-sensitive fuze that would detonate it at a preset depth. They worked by being dropped – “rolled” – in a varying pattern as an escort passed over a submarine, the idea being that some of them were likely to detonate at a depth and in a proximity suitable to damage the sub, either sinking it or forcing it to the surface where it could be dispatched by gunfire. The principal limitation of the depth charge was that as the escort came close to the submarine it would lose sonar contact, so in the last minutes of her approach, the u-boot could try to take evasive action.
The Hedgehog was a kind-of mortar that fired 24 contact bombs forward of the escort as she approached a possible submarine. When fired, the contact bombs would land in a 30-yard circle about 215 yards ahead of the ship, and thus the Hedgehog could be fired when the escort still had sonar contact with the submarine. There were two drawbacks to the Hedgehog; both due to the fact that the contact bombs wouldn’t explode unless they hit something, a near-miss yielded no damage to the submarine, and the absence of an explosion did nothing to hearten the crews the escorts and merchant ships.
The Squid was similar to the Hedgehog, but fired three depth charges forward, and proved particularly effective in action.
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There were several different models of depth charge. An escort would usually carry a mix of “heavy” and “light” ash cans, these both had 290 pounds of explosive, initially amatol and later minol, but the “heavy” ones weighed more, so that they would sink faster. These would be dropped in intricate patterns – diamonds, stars, etc. – as the ship passed over the target, set to explode at depths varying from 50 to 700 feet. Rolling depth charges was a tricky business, since they had to be dropped so as to go off after the stern of the escort had cleared their explosive radius.
Hedgehog bombs were much smaller than depth charges, holding only 35 pounds of explosive. When first introduced, they were only marginally superior to the depth charge in effectiveness, largely due to poor training and the need to develop optimal tactics. Ultimately it was determined that Hedgehogs were most effective when the escort began its attack run from about 1,200 yards, and at speeds between 8- and 12-knots, preferably the lower.
The Squid used modified versions of the standard depth charge. It was found that by mounting two Squids side-by-side on the ship’s forward deck, their effectiveness rose to 40-percent.