Objective Prescriptions, and Other Essays

By R. M. Hare | Go to book overview

15
LOYALTY AND OBEDIENCE

15.1. I HAD better start with an example in which the problem arises of when we have a duty to obey, and when loyalty is a virtue. I choose a British example, because I have no wish to cast aspersions on any American officers. Actually, the incident happened in the American theatre of the South Pacific, and the Americans were highly indignant about it. The British officer concerned came in the end to no harm, though there was an inquiry. He later had a successful career and obtained the Distinguished Service Cross and bar. So at any rate we British have to ask ourselves whether he did right on that occasion. My information comes from the London Times of 7 May 1988.

Briefly, the story is this. On 25 November 1944 His Majesty's Submarine Sturdy, commander Lieutenant William St. George Anderson, was operating, under control of the US fleet, against Japanese shipping in waters off Northern Australia. She encountered a 350-ton Indonesian coastal vessel which Lieut. Anderson suspected (rightly as it turned out) of being a supply ship for the Japanese. The vessel was stopped by shell fire but did not sink. Sturdy was brought alongside and the vessel was boarded. Fifty crewmen had abandoned her in lifeboats, leaving behind the same number of women and children, possibly the families of the crew, or possibly being transported between islands. In the words of Lieut. Anderson, 'Owing to the nature of the cargo (oil) and the use of this type of vessel to the enemy, I disregarded the humanitarian side of the question . . . Having no means at my disposal of saving the lives of the remaining passengers, I placed demolition charges which exploded four minutes later.'

They were actually laid, with the help of a torpedo petty officer and others, by a junior officer, Sub-Lieutenant Ronald Hardman, who said recently to The Times, 'There was no chance of anyone surviving. He knew what he was doing'. Captain Launcelot Shadwell, the British commander of the submarine flotilla at the time, who was later asked to examine the affair, said 'This was an inhuman action, utterly con-

____________________
"'Loyalty and Obedience.'" Not published before. Excerpt from a lecture given at West Point Military Academy, 1989.

-168-

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