Cary, John Pitt MID; Lieutenant/Commander; RN/RAN

Lieutenant John (Jack) Cary was third officer of the AE2. Unlike other members of the submarine crew he was not a specialist submariner, but a naval hydrographer, map-maker and draughtsman. He was assigned to AE2 from the Admiralty because of the lack of accurate charts and maps of the Dardanelles region, a factor which was impeding the Allied cause in general, and naval strategy in particular.

Cary was born in Donegal, Ireland, the son of an Anglo-Irish family originally from Devonshire. His father Arthur sent him and his brother Joyce (later to become a famous novelist) to an English boarding school, Hurstleigh Preparatory School in Kent. On arrival at the school, the brothers had strong Irish accents which at first made them figures of fun. They soon adjusted however, and Jack went on to win prizes, although Joyce didn’t. At age 14, Jack was interviewed at the Admiralty and accepted for officer training at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, fulfilling his boyhood ambition.

Joyce, a slight and physically weak boy, was unable to get in to the navy. As he wrote: ‘It was my brother who became the sailor … his first appearance … in blue and gold, made him my hero.’ Surprisingly, perhaps, they always remained friends. Joyce Cary later wrote to his wife about Jack: ‘He’s shy, you know, and has no great fun of conversation, but [is] a dear boy, unselfish and affectionate … I never knew him to make an enemy in his life.’ By 17, midshipman Jack Cary was serving aboard the Albemarle. Then followed tours of duty aboard the London, Venus, Agamemnon and the Endeavour, when he was promoted to sub-lieutenant. He served on the Thunder, Daisy and the surveying ship Fanborne until 1913 when he became a lieutenant, a skilled hydrographer.

He was lent to the RAN in 1913, but did not sail on the AE2 for her voyage to Australia. He was assigned instead to the Berrima, the submarine escort ship. Cary joined AE2 as third officer only in January 1915.

At Afion Kara Hissar prison camp, Cary was interned with a group including his fellow officers Stoker and Haggard. He was able to cope with the years of deprivation both physically and mentally, and produced some sketches and paintings. His laconic personality was shown in a letter to Miss Chomley of the Red Cross in 1918:

Dear Miss Chomley, I have just received your letter of May 28th. I regret to state that I was not wounded. In my prolonged visit to this country I have put my knee out once, I don’t know the medical term, but it’s my left knee and something to do with a semi-lunar cartilege. I am also at this moment recovering from a serious attack of the Spanish Grip, and in consequence am slightly deaf: this I think will yield to treatment. If you can get me exchanged, please do, but it is no good my being medically examined as they only laugh at me. Home sickness and incipient lunacy are really my main illnesses.

Cary was known in the camp for his dry wit. He found a tortoise which he made his pet, and began to race it against all challengers for appropriate odds. Apparently his tortoise proved spectacularly unsuccessful as a speedster, because a letter to his half-sister Shiela reported that he had eventually roasted and eaten the poor animal. The meat, he wrote, ‘was quite acceptable, rather tasteless but quite tender’.

After his release from Afion Kara Hissar and return to London, he was fit enough to re-enlist in the RN and returned that same year to the Australia Station on the Merlin, a survey vessel. He then spent several years charting the Torres Strait region in particular. His brother Joyce wrote with some pride that Jack had discovered a small island there that he named Cary Island. But later he informed Joyce ‘with mock dismay, that it had been renamed Kareng Si Ajar … he was slightly peeved considering he had buckled the rudder of a motor boat on it, and so thought it most unfair’.

Jack returned to England in 1922, served in the Shetland Islands, then in West Africa. Promoted to commander in 1924 he served in Scotland before accepting a posting to the Admiralty’s hydrographic department. In 1935 he retired to live with his father and Shiela at their home in Somerset. He never married.

Cary came out of retirement to serve again in World War II from 1939 to 1945. He died in 1953 of a heart attack while on the golf course.