For those that don't know, the ships in the poem weren't warships. In both the first and second world wars, the principal minesweeping effort was by trawlers and steam drifters of the fishing fleet (STUFT (ships taken up from trade) in todays paralance). These ships retained their civilain crews. The skipper of one of the flotilla of converted Lowestoft drifters based in Dover in the first world war was billeted with my grandparents.
I've never felt this poem was Kipling at his best, it just doesn't capture the essence of the job in the way so many of his army poems do. There is another poem of the same era, which I think is far better, unfortunately I can't find it, or remember it all now. I think it may have been by de la Mare. The line that sticks in my mind is
"....of a sudden, the fishery ended."
Anyone know the rest?