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World War 1 at Sea - Contemporary Royal Navy Accounts

 

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 2, December 1914 to Spring 1915 (Part 2 of 2) by Sir Julian S Corbett

 

Published by Longmans, Green, London 1921

In honour of the French ships that took part in the Dardanelles campaign - battleship Bouvet , lost 18 March 1915 (Photo Ships, click to enlarge)

on to Naval Operations, Vol 3

or back to Vol 2, Part 1 of 2

 

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CONTENTS

(continued)

XIII. The Dardanelles — Failure of the Attack on the Narrows and the Change of Plan — March 18 to 24

XIV. Progress of the Oversea Expeditions and Commerce Defence In the Outer Seas During the First Quarter of 1915

XV. Home Waters in February and March, 1915 — the British " Blockade " and the German " War Zone "

XVI. The Dardanelles — Organisation of the Combined Attack — March 28 to April 25

XVII. The Dardanelles — Landing of the Expeditionary Force, April 25

XVIII. The Dardanelles — The Initial Advance April 26 to 28, and the First Battle of Krithia

XIX. The Dardanelles — the First Reinforcements and the Second Battle of Krithia — April 28 to May 8

XX. Progress of the Submarine Campaign and Loss of the Lusitania — the Italian Convention — Resignation of Lord Fisher and Mr. Churchill, and Formation of a Coalition Government

 

Appendix A. — Organisation of the Grand Fleet, January 24, 1915

Appendix B. — British War Vessels In the Mediterranean, Egyptian, and East Indian Waters, February 19, 1915

Appendix C. — Grand Fleet, Channel Fleet, and Oversea Squadrons Except Those Shown In Appendix B. February 22, 1915

 

Index (not included – you can use Search)

 

 

PLANS IN VOLUME

(continued)

 

The Dardanelles, the Attack on the Narrows ... 230

Gallipoli, the Southern Beaches ... 328, 329

Eastern Mediterranean ... 382

(In front and rear pockets of the Volume - continued)

4. The Dardanelles

5. The Search for, and Destruction of S.M.S. Dresden


 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

THE DARDANELLES — FAILURE OF THE ATTACK ON THE NARROWS AND THE CHANGE OF PLAN — MARCH 18-24



 

By the operation orders, which had been completed before Admiral Carden had to resign the command, the fleet had been reorganised in three divisions. In the first were the four modern ships, under Admiral de Robeck's immediate command, with his flag in the Queen Elizabeth; in the second were eight of the older British battleships, under Captain Hayes-Sadler of the Ocean, for whom the rank of Commodore had been asked; and in the third were the four French battleships and two British, under Admiral Guepratte.

 

This was designated the " Fourth Organisation." Its detail was as under: —

FIRST DIVISION

1st Sub-Division – Queen Elizabeth, Inflexible

2nd Sub-Division – Agamemnon, Lord Nelson

 

SECOND DIVISION

3rd Sub-Division – Ocean, Irresistible, Albion, Vengeance

4th Sub-Division – Swiftsure, Majestic

5th Sub-Division – Canopus, Cornwallis

 

THIRD DIVISION

6th Sub-Division – Suffren, Bouvet, Gaulois, Charlemagne

7th Sub-Division – Triumph, Prince George.

The " General Idea " was to silence the defences of the Narrows and of the minefields simultaneously. The destruction of the forts at 8,000 yards was not expected, but it was hoped to dominate them sufficiently to prevent their interfering with sweeping operations. The scheme of attack was based on two lines. In the first (known as Line A) were the four ships of the First Division. (See Plan, P.230 (below))

 

Plan - The Dardanelles, the Attack on the Narrows

(click plan for near original-sized image)

Taking station in line- abreast, 14,000 yards from the Narrows (that is, about opposite Eren Keui, and at the extreme range of the Narrows forts), they would engage the principal forts on both banks (that is, Nos. 16, 17, 13, 19 and 20) and carry out the long-range bombardment. The second line (known as Line B) was for closer action, and the honour of forming it in the first instance was accorded to Admiral Guepratte's division. The four French battleships were to take station astern of the First Division on the 16,000 yard line, while the two British battle- ships attached to them, Triumph and Prince George, would advance to the 15,000 yard line to act as covering force against the barrage guns. Taking station on either quarter of the First Division, they would first deal with the Messudieh battery (No. 7) and Yildiz (No. 9), and on the Asiatic side with Dardanos and the White Cliff battery, which had by this time received part of its intended armament. (Three 5.9" guns on the higher level of the battery at its left end, with a maximum range of 8,000 yards. Its official designation was Djevad Pasha.)

 

 


 

From Dardanelles Naval Campaign in Outline

includes British Despatches, Casualties and Gallantry Awards

 

Ranging from the European side to the Asiatic in line abreast, these were (ships in italic CAPITALS sunk, and italic lower case damaged. All images are Photo Ships, unless otherwise identified):

       

Line A, 1st Division - Queen Elizabeth, Agamemnon, Lord Nelson, Inflexible to go in first to bombard
 and dominate the Narrows forts.

HMS Queen Elizabeth,
Queen Elizabeth-class
 

HMS Agamemnon,
Lord Nelson-class
 

HMS Lord Nelson,
Lord Nelson-class
(Maritime Quest)

HMS Inflexible,
Invincible-class battlecruiser
 

 
 
       

Line B, 3rd Division - French ships Gaulois, Charlemagne, BOUVET, Suffren to pass through Line A
and engage the forts more closely; cover by Prince George on the European side and Triumph on the Asiatic

FS Gaulois,
Charlemagne-class

 

FS Charlemagne,
Charlemagne-class

 

FS Bouvet,
Bouvet-class
 

FS Suffren,
Suffren-class

 (Maritime Quest)

 

 

HMS Prince George,
Majestic-class (Pat Gariepy)

HMS Triumph,
Swiftsure-class

 

 
 
       

2nd Division ships Vengeance, IRRESISTIBLE, Albion, OCEAN to relieve the French Line;

Majestic & Swiftsure to take over from Prince George & Triumph.

HMS Vengeance,
Canopus-class

HMS Irresistible,
Formidable-class
(Maritime Quest/Robert W Green)

HMS Albion,
Canopus-class

HMS Ocean,
Canopus-class

 

 

HMS Majestic,
Majestic-class

 (Pat Gariepy)

HMS Swiftsure,
Swiftsure-class

 

 
 
       

Minesweeping cover - Canopus and Cornwallis reserved for that night

 

HMS Canopus,
Canopus-class

HMS Cornwallis,
Duncan-class

 (Maritime Quest)

 

 


 

 

If unable to silence them they were to be assisted by the wing ships of the French division, and afterwards to devote themselves to the concealed howitzers. As soon as the First Division began to dominate the main forts, the four French ships would pass through the intervals and engage the same targets, gradually advancing to the limit of the swept area, that is, 8,000 yards from Rumili. As they progressed the First Division would follow in support up to the 12,000 yard line, and when they had reached the limit of their advance the Inflexible would engage Fort Anadolu Medjidieh (No. 24), the main work beyond the Narrows, and if necessary close to decisive range. (No. 24 was a low-level work of old type armed with fourteen short-range Krupp guns—three 11", four 10.2", two 9.4", two 8.2", three 6.9". Being very conspicuous and open to enfilade from the south, it was regarded by the Turks as of little importance, and most of the guns were afterwards removed to strengthen the barrage, but it had, of course, to be destroyed before the passage could be freely used for transports, etc.)

 

The opposition, at any rate to begin with, was likely to be severe. Through the airmen and other sources it was now ascertained that the six main forts to be attacked contained forty-two guns of 8" and over, of which six were 14", besides the guns in the intermediate batteries and an increased number of mobile howitzers and field guns on both banks. It was possible therefore that the enemy's fire might prove too powerful for the second line to advance as arranged. An alternative method of attack was therefore provided, under which Admiral Guepratte's division was to keep circling round the first line, and attack in a series of runs at gradually

 

March 17-18, 1915

THE NEW PLAN OF ATTACK

 

decreasing ranges till the forts were sufficiently dominated for the first method to be resumed. In any case the final close work was not to be put upon the French division. After four hours it was to be relieved by Captain Hayes-Sadler with his 3rd and 4th Sub-Divisions, the two ships of his 5th Sub-Division being reserved for supporting the minesweepers during the night. As for the guns not in the forts, those defending the minefield were to be dealt with by the centre ships of the second line, while the dispersed howitzers and field guns were to be the business of the wing ships of both lines. By these arrangements it was hoped that sweeping could begin two hours after the bombardment commenced. The trawlers were then to be ready to clear a passage 900 yards broad past Kephez Point into Sari Sighlar Bay, and as the work proceeded the advanced line would move on into the bay and endeavour to complete the destruction of the forts at decisive range.

 

Finally, by way of diversion, and as a means of distracting the attention of the mobile guns on the European side, the Royal Naval Division, with seven transports, was to make a demonstration of landing on the western side of the peninsula. There also the Dartmouth would endeavour to silence any batteries that might be firing at the ships inside the Straits, and the Dublin would operate similarly in Bashika Bay and watch Yeni Shehr.

 

Observation of fire was left entirely to the airmen, and the Ark Royal was to arrange for one seaplane to go up every hour. To provide against the danger of floating mines an armed picket boat was to attend each battleship, ready to sink any that might be seen.

 

Such was the well-thought-out plan by which the great question of the fleet's capacity to achieve the work assigned to it was at last to be put to the test. In the afternoon of March 16 the whole scheme had been communicated and explained to all Commanding Officers at a conference on board the Queen Elizabeth, over which Admiral de Robeck presided, and which Admiral Guepratte attended, and on the evening of the 17th, as the weather promised well, the operation orders were issued to the fleet. Nor did the morning of the 18th belie the promise. Dawn came up with a warm southerly breeze and a cloudless sky in all the jewelled serenity for which the Aegean is famous at its best.

 

At an early hour the British minesweepers could report that during the night they had seen all clear between the White Cliff and Kephez Bay, that is, to within 8,000 yards of the Narrows forts, while the French had made good as far as the White Cliff. Nothing therefore stood in the way of the great effort being made. As the sun rose the haze over the land cleared, the southerly wind died away and at 8.15 the signal to carry on was flying from the flagship.

 

Shortly before 10.0 the fleet was approaching the entrance, and at 10.30 the Agamemnon began to lead the First Division into the Straits, with destroyers sweeping ahead and the Prince George and Triumph on either beam. Within half an hour they came under howitzer fire from the back of Kum Kale. The ships returned it, but the annoyance continued to increase as they advanced to their firing position. In another half-hour they had reached it, and as they proceeded to take up their assigned positions and opened fire (about 11.30) vessels could be seen moving in the Narrows off Chanak. There were one large merchant ship, two small tugs and a destroyer, but little notice was taken of them at the time, for as soon as the ships opened fire they made off hastily up the Straits and disappeared.

 

Attention was now absorbed with the scattered guns and howitzers, which seemed more numerous and better directed than ever, but in spite of the galling fire, the first half-hour of the bombardment gave good promise of success. The Queen Elizabeth, which was the wing ship on the European side, took for her first target the formidable Hamidieh I on the opposite shore, but, owing probably to the great range, its German garrison seems to have given no reply. Next to her was the Agamemnon on Rumili, the fort she had previously punished. Then came the Lord Nelson on the other main European fort, Namazieh, while the Inflexible, on the starboard wing, took the small battery between them, Hamidieh II.

 

Ten minutes after the flagship opened all the first line ships were in action, and seemed soon to be making good practice. From the forts there was little or no reply, but the barrage fire increased in volume and intensity. Hits, however, continued to be reported in spite of it, and about noon the Queen Elizabeth, who had just shifted to Chemenlik (No. 20), now a fine target against the sunlit houses of Chanak, saw a tremendous double explosion in that fort. At the same time the Triumph was putting shell after shell into Dardanos, the most formidable of the intermediate batteries, and using her secondary armament against the barrage guns. For some minutes longer the deliberate long-range fire continued, but with what precise effect it was difficult to see, for the light southerly breeze had freshened and was rolling the smoke straight down the range. Still it was clear that Chemenlik must have suffered badly by the explosion; the other forts had also sustained obvious damage, and by 12.6 enough seemed to have been done for Admiral

 

March 18, 1915

THE GREAT ATTACK

 

de Robeck to signal the French division to pass through the British line and begin closer work.

 

All this time the concealed guns and howitzers had been getting more and more troublesome. As yet, however, none of the ships had been badly hit, but the Agamemnon and Inflexible in Line A soon began to suffer. Ten minutes after the bombardment began, a battery of four 6" howitzers somewhere south of Eren Keui concentrated upon the former, and at 12.45 got her range. In the next twenty-five minutes she was hit twelve times, five times on the armour without injury and seven times above it. So much structural damage was done that Captain Fyler turned 32 points to throw out the range and then resumed his original position.

 

The Inflexible was also in serious trouble. Being the outermost ship of Line A on the Asiatic side, she had been receiving the main attention of the Eren Keui howitzers. At 12.20, as the French division was passing through the line, she was hit on the forebridge and had her wireless put out of action. Within the next ten minutes she was hit three times more and her picket boat was sunk alongside her. The first hit had set fire to her forebridge and it was burning fiercely. Twice again she was hit, but since the French were now closing the forts and required all the support Line A could give Captain Phillimore stuck to his target, Hamidieh II. The Admiral, however, seeing his plight, signalled him to shift his berth. About the same time it was seen that the flames had spread to the fore top. It was full of wounded, and in order to save them from being burnt alive Captain Phillimore, having silenced his battery, decided to fall out of the line.

 

This he could do with less scruple, for the French had ceased to advance. On receiving the signal Admiral Guepratte had steamed up the Asiatic coast with the Suffren and Bouvet, while the Gaulois and Charlemagne conformed on the opposite side, so as to leave an open field of fire for the British line in the middle of the Straits. Even before they reached their firing position they were received with a heavy fire both from the Narrows forts and the barrage. Still, with great gallantry. Admiral Guepratte led them in to 10,000 yards, concentrating on the forts with his heavy guns and making apparently good practice. For a time the struggle for mastery was very severe. It was evident that although the intermediate batteries were now silent, the Narrows forts had been far from dominated by the morning's bombardment.

 

A seaplane which had passed up the Straits reported that Dardanos and Chemenlik were no longer manned, but that the other principal targets were all firing. The bombardment of the eight battleships engaged now began to tell. By 1.45 the enemy's fire had so far slackened that Admiral de Robeck considered the time had come for calling up the minesweepers to clear a passage for closing to decisive range. To cover the operation he also ordered Captain Hayes-Sadler's division, which had not yet been engaged and was quite fresh, to relieve the French line, which had naturally been suffering. At the range to which they had closed — about 9,000 yards — the fire of the forts was fully effective. The ships had been hit again and again, and the Gaulois had just been so badly holed forward that Admiral Guepratte called to the Dublin to come inside and stand by her.

 

Still up to this time things had gone as well as could be expected, and there was good promise of the new scheme of attack proving a success. But before the relief had been carried out a startling incident suddenly gave the fortunes of the day an ugly turn. It was nearly two o'clock when the Suffren was coming out at high speed on the Asiatic side, with the Bouvet following. Admiral Guepratte's method of attack was for the ships of each pair to take alternately the most exposed position, and when the recall was made the Bouvet was engaging Namazieh. Early in the action she had suffered a good deal of damage, mainly from Messudieh (No. 7). Two of her casemates had been put out of action, and her bridge and steering compartment were on fire before she effectually silenced the battery.

 

On the other shore were the Charlemagne and Gaulois, the Gaulois, who had gamely declined the Dublin's offer of a tow, coming along as best she could with a list to starboard and down by the bows, and clearly unfit for further action. The French flagship had just passed through the British line, and the Bouvet was about to do so, when a huge column of reddish black smoke shot up from under her. Whether it was a shell or a mine could not be seen. It was followed almost immediately by another, higher and more dense, which seemed to tell a magazine had gone. As the smoke cleared she was seen to have taken a heavy list, and then in two minutes she turned turtle and went down. A rush to the spot was made by the nearest destroyers and the picket boats that were attending the British ships. The Agamemnon and the French ships also closed to the rescue, but so sudden and complete was the disaster that out of her whole complement little more than a score could be saved. As many more had been

 

March 18, 1915

LOSS OF THE BOUVET

 

left at Tenedos in charge of her boats, and of the rest over 600 must have perished.

 

Such was the tragic spectacle which greeted Captain Hayes-Sadler as he led his ships up to take the place of the retiring French. Sudden and terrible as was the disaster, it did nothing to check the British advance. Captain Hayes-Sadler, in the Ocean, was on the right of the line, that is, on the Asiatic side, the Vengeance (Captain Bertram Smith) on the left. Between them were the Albion (Captain Heneage) and the Irresistible (Captain Dent). In support were the Swiftsure (Captain Maxwell-Lefroy) and the majestic (Captain Talbot) who were coming up to relieve the Prince George and Triumph. At 2.39, when the range was 12,000 yards, they opened fire, and gradually closed to 10,600, using their secondary armament against guns that were firing on the boats rescuing the Bouvet's crew and at the mouth of the Soghanli Dere, for one of the torpedo tubes was reported to be there, and, as some thought, might have caused the Bouvet disaster. The reply from the forts was not formidable. The only one that was firing briskly was the German-manned Hamidieh I (No. 19), which, though the nearest of the Chanak group, had proved the most baffling target.

 

Though the Vengeance, whose target it was, kept dropping shells right into it, the seaplane, whieh was observing, reported that most of them fell into the centre of the fort and did no damage. Chemenlik, the fort behind it, was still not manned, and two of its guns were pointing at a sharp angle upwards. On the European side the Irresistible enraged Namazieh, which for the moment made no reply; the Ocean had five hits out of her first seven shots on Hamidieh II, and shortly after 3.0 the Vengeance set a large fire burning at the back of Rumili. A few minutes later Hamidieh II ceased fire. From that time it was silent, and the Ocean shifted to Rumili, which was still firing. It is difficult to state with certainty what effect our bombardment was producing.

 

Several commanding officers speak of forts which had been reduced to silence, but the Admiral asserts that at a quarter past three all forts were firing rapidly but inaccurately. It is quite clear, however, that Hamidieh I was undamaged. It was as active as when she first opened fire, and was concentrating salvoes of four on the Irresistible, in spite of line A, which was keeping up the bombcurdment from the 14,000 yard line. At 3.14 there was a heavy explosion alongside her, and then the Queen Elizabeth began to treat the obnoxious fort with salvoes in reply. A quarter of an hour later (3.32) it could be seen that the Irresistible had taken a slight list, and as the enemy's fire did not slacken the Admiral signalled the advanced line to open out the range.

 

Though the forts ceased firing from time to time, it was evident they were not really out of action, and obviously the projected attack on the minefield could not yet take place. (The Turks state that the periodical silence of the forts was mainly due to the need of cleaning the mechanism of their guns, which became choked with dust thrown up by shells exploding in front on the emplacements, Those which burst behind the guns did no harm.)

 

But danger had already been found. On reaching line A the trawlers had got out their sweeps and were proceeding up stream when they exploded three mines. For a time it seemed that the ships, though far short of Kephez, were themselves in the midst of mines, some of which at least were believed to be of the floating Léon type. (The Léon mine is one that is unmoored and oscillates between certain set depths below the surface.)

 

Between 3.30 and 4.0 the ships had from time to time to go astern to avoid them, the sweepers exploded one close to where the Bouvet went down and apparently brought two others, horned carbonite mines, to the surface, which the Ocean, Agamemnon and picket boats tried in vain to destroy. A floating mine was soon reported as far down as the Admiral's division, which was still on the 14,000 yard line, and at 4.5 the Lord Nelson's picket-boat thought she had destroyed one by gunfire. Immediately afterwards the Inflexible, which since 2.30 had resumed her station in Line A, struck a mine which took her on the starboard bow by the fore submerged flat, every man in it was killed, it flooded immediately and the ship began to list and settle by the head. She at once made for Tenedos, but it was doubtful whether she could reach it. The water continued to increase on her, her bulkheads were straining badly, and so critical was her condition that the wounded were got into the cutter.

 

Those on the spot had little doubt what had been the business of the vessels seen at work in the Narrows when the attack began, for in the opinion of the Admiral the time of the mines' appearance pointed to their having been released from Chanak after the ships entered the Straits. Shortly afterwards came another shock. About 4.15 the Irresistible, which, in opening out the range, had reached the 11,000 yards line, was drifting with engines stopped, when she was struck. At first her Captain was uncertain whether or not it was a torpedo, but he soon realised that it was a mine, and that it was moored. The results were disastrous.

 

March 18, 1915

REPULSE OF THE ATTACK

 

It took her under the bilge of the starboard engine-room, very near the centre line of the ship, and the engine-room flooded so quickly that only three of the men who were in it were able to escape. Then under the pressure of the water the midship bulkhead buckled, the port engine-room flooded in its turn and the engines were completely disabled.

 

With a list of 7 degrees to starboard and down by the stem, her condition was easily visible to the enemy, and their fire on her redoubled as the destroyer Wear and a picket boat hurried to her assistance. The Admiral, who was then ignorant of the extent of the damage or of its cause, ordered the Ocean to stand by and tow her out of action if necessary. The remaining vessels did all they could to keep down the new outburst of fire from the forts and batteries. By the time the Wear came up, Captain Dent, seeing it was impossible to save his ship, decided to abandon her. It was no easy matter; shells were raining on her deck, causing many casualties, but by a fine display of seamanship Captain Christopher Metcalfe of the Wear managed to take off 28 officers and 582 men. Only ten volunteers were left on board to get out a wire to the Ocean.

 

It was not till 4.50 that the Wear got back to the flagship with the rescued crew, and only then did Admiral de Robeck learn that it was a mine that had caused the trouble. He at once signalled the advanced line to fall back. At 5.10 the Irresistible's crew were disembarked from the Wear, which was then ordered to close on the Ocean and instruct her to withdraw if the Irresistible could not be towed. The Ocean had by this time approached the mined ship, and Captain Dent went on board to confer with Captain Hayes-Sadler, but the Irresistible' s list had increased so much, and she lay so awkwardly bows on to the Asiatic shore, that it soon became obvious this was impossible, and as the Ocean was under a considerable cross fire, it was decided to remove the remainder of the crew and carry out the Admiral's orders.

 

At 5.50 the ship was abandoned 10,000 yards from Rumili, the intention being to make an attempt to save her after dark with destroyers and minesweepers. As soon as he saw that the Irresistible had been abandoned the Admiral hoisted the " General Recall " and began to return to Tenedos for the night. It was clear, in view of the unexpected danger and the losses sustained, that battleships could not be left inside the Straits after dark to cover the minesweepers, so that all idea of clearing the Kephez minefield that night had to be abandoned.

 

How real the danger was was quickly demonstrated. The Ocean began to withdraw under a heavy fire from Dardanos and Suandere. At about five minutes past six she was a mile from the Irresistible, when a heavy explosion on her starboard side announced that she also had struck a mine. (Her exact position at the time could not be determined, as the standard compass and upper bridge had been completely destroyed (Captain's report March 24).)

 

The adjacent coal bunkers and fore and aft passages flooded and the helm jammed hard a-port. Almost at the same moment a shell got home on the same side aft and so flooded the tiller-room and starboard steering engine-room that they could not be reached and repairs were impossible. In spite of a prompt flooding of the port wing compartments the ship rapidly took a list of 15 degrees. So critical was the situation that Captain Hayes-Sadler signalled the destroyers, Colne, Jed and Chelmer, which were passing at the time, to close. With neat skill and pluck, under a crossfire from Dardanos and the barrage batteries on both sides, they removed the whole crew, and the Ocean, being well out in the channel, was abandoned to drift out of danger if she continued to float. Till dark Captain Hayes-Sadler lay off a mile away in the Jed, and then returned to the ship and was able to remove four men who had been left by accident on board. It was obvious, however, that nothing more could be done, and she was then finally abandoned about 7.30 p.m.

 

After reporting to the Admiral at Tenedos, Captains Hayes-Sadler and Dent went back to join the destroyers, which, with six minesweepers, had been ordered to go in and endeavour to tow the Irresistible into the current and prevent the Ocean drifting out of it. But though they searched till nearly midnight not a trace of either ship could be found. Their end was unseen. In the silence of the night they settled down quietly somewhere in deep water and no man knew their resting-place. (On Turkish information it was stated that the Ocean drifted into Morto Bay and sank there about 10.30 p.m. The Irresistible, they said, was caught in a cross current and carried back within range of the Narrows forts. After being fired on by them and by Dardanos she was believed to have sunk about 7.30.)

 

No other ship was lost. In spite of the Inflexible's perilous condition, thanks to the devotion of the engine-room, who had to work almost in the dark and with the ventilation fans stopped. Captain Phillimore succeeded in getting her to Tenedos, and an hour and a half after she was struck he anchored her safely on the north side of the island. But

 

March 18, 1915

THE COST AND RESULT

 

that was all that could be done. It was soon evident she would have to stay where she was till a coffer dam had been constructed to enable her to proceed to Malta. It was also found that both the Suffren and Gaulois would have to be docked before they were fit for further service. The Suffren had a bad leak forward caused by a shell, and the Gaulois, when she left the Straits, was in so serious a condition that for some time it was doubtful whether she could be saved, but eventually she was beached successfully on Drapano Island, in the south of the Rabbit group.

 

Not till long after was the real cause of the disasters ascertained. The truth was, that on the night of March 8, the Turks, unknown to us, had laid a line of twenty moored mines in Eren Keui Bay parallel to the shore, and our sweeping craft had missed them. They had been deliberately placed in our usual manoeuvring ground, and, in spite of all our precautions, they had achieved a staggering success. (See footnote, p. 225)

 

The great attempt to force the Narrows with the fleet had ended in what could only be regarded as a severe defeat. Out of the sixteen capital ships engaged three had gone down and three more, including the only battle cruiser, had been put out of action for an indefinite period. Of the whole Allied battle fleet, therefore, one-third was spent in the one day's operation. At such a rate of loss, with results apparently so meagre, it looked extremely doubtful whether the navy unaided could ever force a passage.

 

Long afterwards reports that were received from Constantinople went to show that the day's work had had as serious an effect on the Turks as on the Allies. So terrible was said to have been the havoc of the heavy ship guns, and so far spent the moral and ammunition of the garrisons, that further resistance seemed hopeless. The impression prevailed that, had the attack been renewed, nothing would have induced the men to stand to their guns, and all the forts must have been abandoned. Such reports are not unusual under similar conditions, and later inquiries made in quieter circumstances tended to show they were at least exaggerated.

 

The Turkish official returns admit that the fabric of all the main forts had been seriously damaged. In Hamidieh II the barracks were destroyed and both its guns knocked out, but Rumili, they say, had only one gun put temporarily out of action. Namazieh lost one gun, and its barracks were burnt. The barracks at Hamidieh I were also burnt, but it only lost one heavy gun. In Chemenlik a magazine was exploded. They insist, however, that the damage did little to destroy the general confidence. So little had the defences of the minefield been touched that the General Staff were confident it could not be cleared, and felt sure that, if the attempt to pass the Straits was repeated, the forts and the Turkish fleet could deal with any ships that might scrape through.

 

Their confidence was probably justified. It is now known that, before the ships could reach Sari Sighlar Bay, they would have to run the gauntlet of five lines of mines besides the new Eren Keui line. Once in Sari Sighlar Bay, the surviving ships would have been within 3,000 to 4,000 yards of the Narrows forts, whose ammunition, though much of it was of inferior quality, was by no means exhausted. Enough at least appears to have been available for continuing the resistance. (An impression seems to have prevailed in Constantinople that the ammunition was practically exhausted on March 18 (see Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosporus pp. 147, et aeq,). The official statement of the Turkish War Office, however, says " modern ammunition for heavy guns was very short, but there was a plentiful supply of older ammunition. Ammunition for medium and light guns was so plentiful that many attacks could have been repulsed." Possibly this was a sanguine view, but a further statement was furnished which purports to give the actual number of rounds per gun remaining after the action was over. This shows an average for the heavy guns of about seventy rounds; for 6-inch, 190 rounds; and for the smaller mine defence guns 160 rounds— a proportion which in view of our own shortage of ammunition was far from negligible. For the howitzers and barrage guns there is no return.)

 

Further, it must be borne in mind that only one of the fort guns had been permanently damaged. Some that had been put out of action were repaired during the night, and the volume of fire would have been as great as ever had the struggle been renewed. On the other hand, our own ships at so decisive a range would have had a fair chance of knocking out the fort guns without too much delay, although the barrage fire would probably have been little less difficult to deal with than before. Assuming, however, they could have avoided serious trouble from the guns by continuing the rush, there were still five more lines of mines to pass before they reached Nagara, where the Narrows and their defences end. It is true the Nagara group of forts was obsolete and practically negligible, but the chances against getting so far through the unswept minefields, which in all contained nearly 350 mines, are calculated to have been 15 to 1 — that is, out of sixteen ships only one could have hoped to reach the Sea of Marmara. Though the mines themselves were of inferior type, they had proved themselves capable of sinking the old type battleships

 

March 18, 1915

GENERAL HAMILTON'S VIEW

 

of which the fleet was mainly composed and of disabling a vessel so modern as the Inflexible. (Information furnished by the Turks after the Armistice leaves practically no doubt that the damage was done by the newly-laid mines in Eren Keui Bay and not by the floating mines. These were not of the Leon type, but " Ramis " mines attached to floats. Some forty of this type had been manufactured at Constantinople, and about a dozen of them had been let go from time to time during the afternoon operations, with no effect. On March 18 the steamer Bulair was ready below Nagara with twenty of them, but the Turks state that they were not dropped.)

 

The whole of these facts could not be known at the time, but enough had been seen to indicate that an immediate renewal of the attack was scarcely to be thought of. It was fully believed that the main mischief had been done by floating mines, and until some means had been found for dealing with them, another attempt to force the minefield in open daylight could scarcely be regarded as a fair risk of war. It seemed clear that if disaster were to be avoided, different methods must be tried, and even before the results of the day were known a radical change in the plan of operations was in contemplation.

 

On the eve of the attack General Sir Ian Hamilton reached Tenedos. On the same day the last group of the French division arrived, under General d'Amade, who had been selected for the command as being an officer experienced in oversea expeditions. During the South African war he had been Military Attache at the British headquarters, he had won a high reputation for his campaign in Morocco, and in the early days of the war he had had committed to him the difficult task of holding the line between Dunkirk and the British army with a group of Territorial divisions known as " L'Armee d'Amade." The British General's first conversation with the Admiral and a personal reconnaissance on March 18 impressed him with the difficulty which the mobile guns presented to the success of the fleet, and the impossibility of dealing with them without landing troops in strength.

 

Success, therefore, could not be looked for unless the force was reorganised for the operation. The French contingent was no better prepared for a contested landing than his own, and, after a conference with Admiral Wemyss, General d'Amade and other senior officers, he had come to the conclusion that the best and quickest way of reorganising was to send all the troops to Alexandria, since Mudros had no facilities for dealing with so large a force. This difficulty had been foreseen and reported by General Maxwell a week earlier. It had been referred to Admiral Wemyss, and, two days before the attack, he had pronounced in favour of the proposed change of base, but a final decision by the Government at home had been postponed till General Hamilton could see for himself.

 

When, therefore, the day after the attack on the Narrows, the War Council met, they had before them a momentous decision. That the base must be changed, in spite of the delay it would entail, was certain. It was further indisputable that if the troops were to be employed in forcing the passage of the Straits, instead of proceeding direct to their original objective in the wake of the fleet, the enterprise meant a much more serious commitment than had hitherto been contemplated. Naturally, therefore, there was a pronounced tendency to cling to the idea of forcing the passage with the fleet alone, and the main question was whether or not Admiral de Robeck should be instructed to make another attempt.

 

As yet there was nothing from him beyond an announcement of the defeat and loss he had sustained, but General Hamilton, in telegraphing his decision that the base must be changed, had stated that, while the Admiral did not minimise the difficulties of the task, he was clearly determined to exhaust every effort before calling for military assistance on a large scale. This was before the attack took place, and now, in view of the military appreciations on the spot — to say nothing of all previous experience — it was more than doubtful if a renewal of the naval operations could do any good. On the other hand, our information was that the Turks were short of ammunition and mines, and, until we knew better what damage had been done to the forts, it was impossible to say that another attempt would not be decisive. Furthermore the political reasons for carrying on were very strong.

 

To wait for the reorganisation of the army would involve probably a month's delay, and at the moment it was of crying importance not to admit even a check by suspending operations. In Italy especially the effect was likely to be very bad. It was only a fortnight since she had made her first overtures towards joining the Entente Powers, delicate negotiations were in progress, and Italian opinion seemed about equally divided on the desirability of breaking her neutrality. No less serious was the probable reaction on the Mohammedan world. In that quarter it seemed essential not to disturb the impression which had been produced by the defeat of the attempt on Egypt and our successes in Mesopotamia. Still, in view of the meagreness of the ascertained facts of the situation at the Dardanelles, it was impossible to send the Admiral a direct order to carry on. The man on the spot alone could judge, and

 

March 19-21, 1915

ADMIRAL DE ROBECK'S VIEW

 

the final resolution was that he should be authorised to continue the operations if he thought fit. (Dardanelles Commission Report I, p.38)

 

In order to give him at least a chance of doing this and at the same time create an impression that we did not mean to accept the rebuff, the Admiralty at once decided to make good his losses. The Queen and Implacable were already within a day's steaming of Malta, and an hour or two after the meeting, the last two ships of the 5th Battle Squadron, the Prince of Wales and London, were ordered to follow them. Thus the Channel Fleet finally disappeared. As Admiral Bethell was senior to Admiral de Robeck, they were sent out under Admiral Stuart Nicholson, who had been commanding the 6th Battle Squadron at Sheerness, and Admiral Bethell took his place. At the same time the French were asked, if only for the moral effect, to announce that they intended to replace the Bouvet and Gaulois, and their reply was to order the Henri IV, from the Suez Canal, to join Admiral Guepratte's flag.

 

In informing Admiral de Robeck of the resolution that had been come to and of the reinforcement he was to expect, the Admiralty impressed upon him the importance of not giving the enemy time to repair the forts or encouraging them by any apparent suspension of operations. It was entirely the Admiral's own view. What he wanted to do was to resume the bombardment over the land with the Queen Elizabeth. If she could be provided with proper air reconnaissance, he still believed he could dominate the forts sufficiently to allow of the minefield being swept. For this reason he was opposed to the change of base. Although he concurred that for military reasons it might be necessary, yet he believed that if the troops were used at once to make feints at various points, they would attract so much of the noxious mobile artillery that his sweepers would be able to work in spite of it. So eager indeed was the Admiral to carry on that had the heavens been propitious, this expedient might have been tried, but again the weather had the last word. Day after day it blew strong north-easterly gales, with a visibility so low that firing was out of the question. On the night of the 21st, torpedo-boat 064 was wrecked on the east side of Lemnos, and still the gale blew relentlessly. Nothing could be done, and, before the weather abated, the Admiral had reason to modify his views.

 

General Hamilton had come out with the idea that he was to land his force near Bulair, and that nothing but a feint was to be attempted at the south end of the peninsula. His main aim was to to cut off the Turkish army on the peninsula; but the General's first conference (March 17) with the Admiral had raised doubts in his mind as to the wisdom of the plan. It admittedly depended for its success on the fleet being able to force its way into the Sea of Marmara, and when the Admiral explained the unexpected difficulties of the mobile guns the General began to realise the practical impossibility of dealing with them, except by a landing in force on the peninsula. Clearly a landing at Bulair would not help. It would not lead to the occupation of the forts when they were dominated, nor would the seizure of the neck alone force an evacuation of the peninsula, since the main line of supply was by sea.

 

From a military point of view, a landing at Bulair was no less objectionable, since any force disembarked there would be in the precarious position of having to face two fronts—one towards the Bulair lines and one in the opposite direction against an attack from the mainland. As for a direct attack on the lines from the sea, it was obvious that precautions had been taken to render such an attempt extremely hazardous. Convinced, therefore, as General Hamilton was, that the fleet could not succeed by the help of mere demolition parties, he turned to the possibilities of landing all his force in the peninsula, and, whilst the great attack on the Narrows was in progress, made a close reconnaissance of the whole coast in the Phaeton accompanied by his French colleague. From Bulair to Suvla he found that the precipitous fall of the hills left no practicable beaches except at a few narrow gullies where deployment after landing was impossible. Beyond Suvla as far as Tekke Burnu, at the end of the peninsula, there were several serviceable landing-places, but all of them appeared to be heavily entrenched and wired. Only at the southern end of the peninsula, between Tekke Burnu and Morto Bay, did a disembarkation in force seem practicable. (See Plan No. 4. (below))



Plan No. 4 The Dardanelles
(click plan for near original-sized image - 9.5Mb)

As for a landing inside the Straits, the reception he met with when the Phaeton entered them put that out of the question, and if any doubt remained in his mind as to how he would have to employ his force, it was removed by what he saw of the results of the great attack. His view of the situation was not immediately conveyed to the Admiral. In the flagship it was still taken for granted that the main landing would be near Bulair, and feeling, as he and his staff did, how hopeless was such an operation if the German-Turkish fleet was left in command of the Sea of Marmara, they saw only a fresh necessity for repeating

 

March 22, 1915

SHIFT OF ARMY BASE

 

their effort to break through at all costs. There was a belief that it could still be done when the reinforcing ships arrived and the destroyers were equipped for sweeping, if only the General would make feints of landing to occupy some of the attention of the mobile guns, and for this purpose would postpone for a few days his change of base. It was a matter not to be settled in a moment, and it was arranged that a decision should be taken at a conference of the principal flag and general officers, to be held on March 22.

 

Meanwhile, as we have seen, the Admiral had informed the Admiralty that he intended to persevere with the fleet alone. But by the time the conference met, the few days that had elapsed since the attack on the Narrows had brought home the full significance of what had happened, and Admiral de Robeck now agreed with the General's view that the whole military force would have to be employed. Reluctant as he had been—in accordance with his instructions—to call for military assistance in force, he had felt from the first, like every one else, that the right way of doing the work was by combined operations. He now knew not only that the General was ready to employ his whole force in assisting the fleet to get through, but, after hearing the military views, he was convinced that the object of the campaign could only be attained by the continuous co-operation of the two services, the main reason being that even if the fleet got through, transports and supply ships could never follow it unless the Gallipoli peninsula was held. By this means alone could the mobile guns on the Asiatic side be held in check and the channel kept clear of mines.

 

The delay involved was greatly to be regretted, but the Admiral understood it would not extend beyond April 14, and to this he was reconciled by the bad weather; for it was now only too plain that it would be extremely hazardous to land any large body of troops before the spring was further advanced. Nor need it involve the fleet being idle. The ships could be well employed in searching out concealed batteries and sweeping the area in which they would have to manoeuvre. The aeroplanes had just arrived, a practicable aerodrome had been prepared at Tenedos, and as soon as the weather moderated he intended to begin. The Queen Elizabeth was also to resume her bombardment of the Narrows over the land. The French squadron would operate in the Gulf of Xeros and endeavour to attack Gallipoli and the Bulair camps with their aircraft, while his own seaplanes would, if possible, attack the Turkish depots at Maidos and some vessels, reported to be full of mines, which were lying above the Narrows. In this way he felt he could keep the enemy occupied till the middle of April, when the General expected the troops to be ready.

 

At home some disappointment was felt at the Admiral's change of attitude. The Admiralty pointed out how the delay might mean the appearance of enemy submarines on the scene, and expressed their unwillingness to call on the army for operations which must necessarily be costly. But, as the Admiral explained, the conditions of the case had now entirely changed. The General on the spot had confirmed his own view that troops were necessary to enable him to get through. Until March 18 experience had not conclusively revealed how inadequate were high-velocity guns for the destruction of forts at long range. Their own failure and recent reports from Tsingtau showed that the operation was far more difficult than had been thought. Not that he accepted the check of March 18 as decisive — he had been quite ready to try again. But when he found that General Hamilton regarded a landing in force as a sound operation, and that he was ready to co-operate in forcing the Narrows, there could no longer be any question of making another attempt with the fleet alone.

 

Nor was this all. For, as he pointed out in his appreciation, it was now clear that even if the fleet could force the passage into the Sea of Marmara, it could not maintain itself there unless its communications were secured by the occupation of the Gallipoli peninsula. It was only, therefore, by a combined operation that the ultimate object of the campaign could be attained. This being so, his obvious course was to husband his ships for the combined effort. His intention, therefore, till the troops were ready, was to confine himself to the preparatory work. To renew the attack on the Narrows single-handed could hardly lead to any decisive result, while it would certainly cripple his power of co-operating with the army and jeopardise the execution of the sounder and larger scheme.

 

So it was decided. All the troops, except the 3rd Australian Brigade and the Marines, began at once to leave for Egypt, the General sailed on March 24, and with the departure of army headquarters, the first stage of the ill-fated enterprise came to an end.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER XIV

 

PROGRESS OF THE OVERSEA EXPEDITIONS AND COMMERCE DEFENCE IN THE OUTER SEAS DURING THE FIRST QUARTER OF 1915

 

To appreciate justly all that was involved in the decision to change the plan of the Dardanelles campaign, the conflicting anxieties which led up to it must be seen in the light of the general naval situation. In the outer seas, as will appear directly, it had been cleared of its original embarrassments, but, although the battle of the Falklands had broken the back of the enemy's cruiser efforts against our commerce, the trouble had not been finally eradicated without prolonged operations and the occupation of a considerable proportion of our cruiser force. The difficulty had been increased by the needs of our combined expeditions against the German oversea possessions. Nowhere, except in the Pacific, had they attained their end. In Africa we had still three in hand — the Cameroons, German " South-West " and German " East "; all of them were causing a drain upon the navy, and in none had progress been as rapid as had been hoped.

 


Duala and the Cameroons Estuary (link to first use of Map)

 

In the Cameroons, since the beginning of December, when we had captured Baré and the railhead of the northern railway, no substantial advantage had been obtained. At the end of December General Dobell had pushed two columns forward from this point, and with the assistance of a naval gun party they had destroyed the German fort at Dschang, thirty miles north of Baré early in the new year, but owing to the difficulty of the communications, they were then ordered to fall back and establish themselves at Baré and the railhead. To the westward ot this point the forces in Southern Nigeria were in contact with the enemy, but could not advance, and in the north the troops acting with the French from Lake Chad could do no more than watch Garua and Lere. (See Map No. 16, Vol. I.)

 

The French were occupying the midland railway as far east as Edea, at the crossing of the Sanaga River, and in the south and south-east General Aymerich, assisted by Belgians, by continuous activity was preventing the enemy concentrating for operations in the main theatre. But the failure of the French to clear the coastal area south of Edea put a heavy strain on Captain C. T. M. Fuller and his slender blockading force, which consisted at this time of the light cruiser Challenger, the gunboat Dwarf, a picket boat and a steam pinnace which the Cumberland had left with him, and about a dozen vessels of the Nigerian Marine:

(Ivy, Government steamboat - 1-12 pdr., 1-7 pdr. M.L., 2-6 pdr., Q.F.

Alligator, Motor launch - 1 Maxim.

Crocodile, Motor launch - 1 Maxim.

Manatee, Motor launch - 1-3 pdr, 1 Maxim.

Remus, Paddle tug ­- 3-12 pdrs, & W/T.

Porpoise, Paddle tug - 2-12 pdrs, 1-3 pdr.

Vigilant, Steam launch - 1-3 pdr, 1 Maxim.

Moseley, Steam lifeboat - 1 Maxim.

Walrus, Steam tug (German prize) -1 Maxim.

Balbus, Steam tug - 3-37 mm.

Mole, Dredger - 1-6" B.L. & W/T.

Lighter (300 tons) - 1-6" B.L.

Also about half a dozen German ships, tugs and motor boats.)

Seventy miles south of Edea the French were holding the little port of Kribi. It was frequently attacked, and to assist in its defence the Ivy or Dwarf was constantly there, and Captain Charon's cruiser, the Pothuau, as well. Towards the end of January, as the French required more troops at Edea, part of the garrison was transferred there, and was replaced by four companies of our West African Regiment and a detachment of our Marines, that had been stationed at Kampo, in the extreme south, in order to control the passage of supplies to the enemy through the Spanish enclave.

 

Between Kribi and the Jabassi River the coast was open, and incessant activity was necessary to prevent supplies being thrown in from the Spanish island of Fernando Po. Posts had to be established at various points from which the flotilla patrols could work, nor was the work confined to the sea. The enemy were constantly appearing in small bodies on the coast, and whenever they did so landing-parties had to be organised to drive them off and prevent them establishing themselves. In this work the Dwarf (Commander F. E. K. Strong, R.N.) was especially active, and more than justified her existence. (She was completed in 1899 under the Naval Defence Act programme of 1889, 710 tons, 2-4", 4-12-pdrs, 6 Maxims.)

 

The whole position was very unsatisfactory and promised no visible conclusion. Although the Allies greatly outnumbered the Germans, the vast distances and the number of troops that were absorbed in maintaining necessary posts and defending the long lines of communication, made concerted

 

Feb. 1915

THE CAMEROONS

 

movements, such as a general offensive required, extremely difficult to arrange. In the middle of January the French Government proposed a conference for establishing a closer co-operation between the Allied forces, and by the end of the month this was agreed to, but as the commanders concerned were separated by the whole length of the Cameroons, it could not take place before March. Something, however, was done on our side. Colonel Cunliffe, commanding the forces in Nigeria, came down to Duala at the end of January to confer with General Dobell, and it was then decided to push on the northern operation against Garua in concert with the French and to send up another naval gun party to batter the place. Both the French and the British Generals received reinforcements early in February from West Africa, but nothing serious could be done till after the March conference.

 

During the period of inactivity ashore the work of the navy became more exacting than ever. It was of the utmost importance to intercept traffic from Fernando Po, where the Germans had succeeded in landing supplies, and owing to the Spanish Governor's lax interpretation of his responsibilities as a neutral they were practically establishing a base. When, therefore, on February 21 an intimation came that the Admiralty wanted to replace the Challenger by the Astraea from the Cape, General Dobell protested, as he had done before when the Cumberland was withdrawn. (Vol. I., p. 370)

 

The Challenger had, in fact, just been instrumental in preventing a land attack on Duala. Rumour was about that enemy ships were off the coast, and the Germans seem to have believed that a naval force had reoccupied the estuary of the Cameroon River and that Duala would be an easy prey. Their intention to attack was detected. On February 17 Captain Fuller sent ashore half a company of small-arm men with a 12-pounder and field-gun party, and at dark turned his searchlights on the approaches to the town. It was all that was necessary. The enemy quickly dispersed, and the attack never developed. There were, however, further causes of anxiety. In addition to the constant threats to our patrol bases, parties of Germans with native troops had begun to appear on the coast, evidently on the look-out for supplies.

 

In these circumstances General Dobell urged that the naval operations were more important than ever, and begged that Captain Fuller and his ship should remain till his own active operations were concluded. Reports were still being received of intercepted German wireless signals which seemed to be passing between the Karlsruhe, Kronprinz Wilhelm and Dresden. Fernando Po was very strictly watched by our patrol vessel, and Captain Charon, in the Pothuau was cruising on its northern approaches. Though Captain Fuller discredited the reports. Captain Charon thought it prudent to pick up a party of his marines whom he had landed at Kribi, and he left his patrol to proceed there.

 

The result was that the moment his back was turned a German supply ship came up and slipped into Fernando Po with a quantity of provisions and ammunition. The stoppage of this kind of work was obviously of the last importance, but the Admiralty did not alter their decision about the Challenger, though there was no suggestion of withdrawing Captain Fuller. It was even decided to increase his force in order to justify the declaration of a regular blockade. For this purpose the old light cruiser Sirius and the sloop Rinaldo, which since their work on the Belgian coast had been serving as guardships on our Eastern coast, were ordered to be prepared for foreign service (March 21), and the Astraea came up from the Cape and relieved the Challenger at the end of April.

 

There the operations against German South-West Africa had opened as early as September 1914 by the occupation of Luderitz Bay and the landing of the southern force at Port Nolloth in Namaqualand; but Walfisch Bay, which we had evacuated in September, had not been re-occupied, and the northern force had not commenced operations. Further development had been arrested, first by the rebellion, and secondly by the need of keeping Vice-Admiral H. G. King-Hall's squadron concentrated till Admiral von Spee was dealt with, and the consequent inability of our squadron to protect two bases so far apart as Walfisch Bay and Luderitz Bay. (The ships which Admiral King-Hall had with him were the cruisers Minotaur (flag) and Defence, the light cruiser Astraea, Hyacinth and Weymouth and the battleship Albion. The armed merchant cruiser Armadale Castle remained at Simon's Bay. After the battle of the Falklands the Minotaur and Defence were ordered home to join the Grand Fleet, the Admiral transferring his flag to the Hyacinth; the Weymouth after refitting was to relieve the Chatham for the operations against the Koenigsberg in the Rufiji River.)

 

It was possible, however, to begin preliminary operations at once, and as soon as the squadron was concentrated it left Table Bay for Luderitz Bay, escorting three transports with Union troops. They sailed while the Battle at the Falklands was being fought, and landed on December 10 as the news of the victory reached them. There was now no reason for not re-occupying Walfisch Bay; and a new plan was

 

Dec. 1914-Feb. 1915

GERMAN SOUTH-WEST

 

devised, the main idea of which was that the troops should operate in overwhelming force in four columns. The northern force, which was the main one, was intended to operate from Walfisch Bay and seize Swakopmund, the port from which started the northern railway and that to Windhuk. A central force was to operate from Luderitz Bay on the line of the southern railway. A southern force of mounted troops was to cross the frontier and seize Warmbad, while a small eastern force was to strike in from Rietsfontein in Bechuanaland and seize Keetmanshoop, the railhead of the Luderitz Bay line.

 

Accordingly Admiral King-Hall ordered the Albion to Walfisch Bay as guardship and returned himself to Table Bay, with the Hyacinth, Astraea and Weymouth, to fetch the advanced troops of the northern force, and on Christmas day 5,000 of them were landed at Walfisch Bay without opposition. The Albion, after docking at Simonstown, sailed to join the squadron that was being formed for the attack on the Dardanelles, while the troops advanced on Swakopmund, which they occupied on January 14. It was found to have been abandoned, but the wells had been poisoned and everything of use in the port and the railway terminus had been destroyed. We ourselves had destroyed the pier in the earlier days of the war, and as the place was consequently useless as a base, a railway had to be begun to connect it with Walfisch Bay.

 

All had now to stand fast till the northern force was complete, and during the next three weeks, while the last embers of the rebellion were being stamped out, troops were continually pushed up. Before the end of the first week in February all was ready, and on the 6th General Botha left Cape Town to take command. He was brought up by Admiral King-Hall in the Armadale Castle, and after arranging on the spot what was required of the navy, the Admiral returned to Simon's Bay. Now that all was in order for the operations to begin in earnest, the Admiralty considered his presence was more requisite at the other end of his station, where the Koenigsberg was still in being in spite of all attempts to destroy her. Accordingly, waiting only till the Goliath, which had arrived from Mombasa to refit, was ready for sea, he sailed in her on February 25 for German East Africa, whither the Hyacinth had preceded him; and Rear-Admiral O. F. Gillett, commanding the Armadale Castle, was left in charge at the Cape.

(Admiral Gillett's force was the Astraea, and the two armed merchant cruisers Armadale Castle and Laconia, The Laconia was a new Cunarder of 18,000 tons, and 16 knots speed, and armed with 8-6'' quick-firing guns. Armadale Castle was 13,000 tons— 17 knots— 8-4-7'' guns.)

Nov. 1914

DAR-ES-SALAAM

 

Of all the oversea attacks that had been planned, that against German East Africa had proved the most unsatisfactory. Since the ill-judged attempt on Tanga in November had met with so sharp a reverse, land operations had been at a standstill and the control of military operations had been transferred from the India Office to the War Office. It was obvious that the strength and preparedness of the enemy had been entirely miscalculated, and General Wapshare, who took over the command in December, was instructed to confine himself to a defensive attitude, with liberty to undertake such minor offensive operations as he might find practicable pending the provision of further force. Certain operations of this character were undertaken, and a post in German territory across the lower Umba — the frontier river — was occupied. The post had to be abandoned next month, and finally, at the end of January, we had retired to the line of the Umba itself.

 

Naval operations showed little better progress. The most active work was at Dar-es-Salaam. Towards the end of November there was reason to believe that the floating dock which had been sunk in the harbour no longer closed the exit, and there was danger that the ships inside might slip out and block our harbours at Mombasa and Kilindini. It was therefore decided to destroy them, and remove all coal lighters and small craft that could be used to supply the Koenigsberg. The idea was to do the work with a couple of small armed craft under threat of bombardment by the Fox and Goliath.

 

On November 28, when they appeared off the port, the white flag was flying on the flagstaff, and the acting Governor came off to the Fox. What was intended was explained to him. He returned without giving a definite reply, saying he must consult the military authorities. After waiting an hour and seeing the white flag had not been hauled down. Captain F. W. Caulfeild of the Fox, who was in command, ordered the boats to proceed. Three vessels and some harbour craft were disabled and their crews taken off without opposition, but as the boats were coming out they were fired on, though the white flag was still flying on the harbour flagstaff. The resulting casualties were one man killed, three officers and eleven men wounded and four officers and eight men missing. In reply to the treacherous attack the Fox and Goliath opened fire, and before dark the Governor's residence was burned to the ground and many other buildings demolished. Still in view of what had occurred further punishment seemed necessary. Having landed the wounded at Zanzibar the two ships returned on

 

Dec. 1914

THE KONIGSBERG BLOCKADE

 

and, after waiting all the morning flying a flag of trace without any reply, they began a systematic bombardment which so far as could be ascertained was of doubtful efficacy.

 

After the bombardment the Fox and the armed tugs Adjutant and Helmuth joined the Chatham in the blockade of the Koenigsberg, and the squadron was joined on December 8 by the Kinfauns Castle with another seaplane. Since there seemed no present possibility of getting at the Koenigsberg to destroy her, Captain S. Drury-Lowe's immediate object was to ascertain whether she was securely blocked in. For this a reconnaissance was necessary with his small craft or a seaplane. Our armed tugs were sent into the river, but were received with such heavy fire from hidden quick-firing and machine guns on the banks that they could not proceed. As for the seaplane, being unable to carry an observer, her work gave no very definite results, and finally, on December 10, she came down out of control in the estuary. Her pilot was taken prisoner, and though the machine was gallantly towed out under fire it was no longer serviceable. Enough, however, had been done to make it certain that besides the channel in which the Newbridge had been sunk there were two others by which the Koenigsberg could reach the sea. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to maintain the cruiser watch, and as the Admiralty wished to recall the Chatham for urgent service nearer home, they had to order the Weymouth up from the Cape to relieve her.

 

Nor was the Koenigsberg the only consideration. The deadlock ashore threw further burdens on the sea service. Thorny as was the situation, there was no thought of letting go when we had once taken hold. If assault was for the present out of the question, we could still fall back on investment. There was at least a hope that by establishing an effective blockade the 4,000 Germans in the colony could be starved into submission. This task the Admiralty agreed to undertake in the middle of December, but it was long before they could collect the necessary force. The coast to be watched extended for over 400 miles from our own East African territory to the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. The work of blockade, however, was facilitated by our possession of the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, off the northern section of the coast. Half-way down was another large island, Mafia, which was a German possession. As it lay off the mouth of the Rufiji it formed a convenient base for operations against the Koenigsberg, and as a first step Captain Drury-Lowe had suggested its occupation by a small combined expedition.

 

Jan.-Feb. 1915

THE KOENIGSBERG BLOCKADE

 

This was approved. General Wapshare furnished six companies of native troops (one half-battalion King's African Rifles, and a quarter battalion of ths 10lst Indian Grenadiers), and on January 10 they sailed from Mombasa in the Kinfauns Castle, escorted by the Fox. As the German garrison consisted of no more than six Europeans and forty native police, there was little opposition, and two days later the island surrendered.

 

For the present, however, no blockade could be declared, as the ships available were too few in number to make it effective. By the middle of January, when Captain W. D. Church of the Weymouth took over the duties of Senior Naval Officer, the Chatham, Kinfauns Castle and Fox had left for Bombay to refit, and there was nothing but the Weymouth watching the Rufiji, with the two armed tugs, Duplex and Adjutant, and the Pyramus of the old New Zealand squadron, which had arrived to relieve the Fox. At the end of the month, however, the Hyacinth joined from the Cape in time to take over the watch on the Ruflji from the Weymouth, who was wanted elsewhere.

 

So unhealthy had the posts on the Umba proved to be that in the first week in February it was decided to evacuate them, and the assistance of the Weymouth was required for withdrawing the troops. By February 10 the work was successfully carried out, and she was able to return to the Rufiji. In her absence the tugs had attempted another reconnaissance, during which the Adjutant had been lost. Coming under a severe fire which cut her steampipe she was obliged to surrender. Her crew were made prisoners, but she herself was destroyed later by the Pyramus. (She was salved by the Germans and taken to Lake Tanganyika).

 

It was clear nothing more could be done till the seaplanes arrived, which the Kinfauns Castle was to bring on her return. In their impatience to get rid of the burden of the obnoxious cruiser the Admiralty had offered to provide 2,000 Marines if the General thought with their assistance she could be cut out by means of a combined operation. But the General regarded the plan as impracticable, and the Marines went to the Dardanelles instead, to provide Admiral de Robeck with a demolition force.

 

It was the middle of February when this idea was abandoned, and by that time the blockading force was nearly complete. The Australian light cruiser Pioneer had arrived, and also four steam whalers which had been taken up at the Cape and armed.

(Pioneer was a " P " class cruiser, like the Pyramus. The whalers were two German prizes detained at the outbreak of war — Seeadler and Sturmvogel and two British vessels Barrowby and Norvegia - they had been renamed respectively Pickle, Fly, Echo and Childers and were each armed with two 3-pounders from the Goliath. They were from 160 to 180 tons.)

The Kinfauns Castle arrived shortly

 

March 1915

THE KONIGSBERG BLOCKADE

 

afterwards with the seaplanes, and the blockade was formally declared to begin on March 1.

 

Before it had been in operation a week it had to be modified. On March 7 Admiral King-Hall arrived at Mafia in the Goliath to find signs of so much activity in the Rufiji region as to indicate a probable attempt by the Koenigsberg to break out on the equinoctial tides. He therefore thought it prudent to proceed there himself, and to keep both the Weymouth and Hyacinth, as well as two of the whalers, off the river, and leave the rest of the ships to do the best they could with the blockade. His own hope was to have destroyed the hidden cruiser with the help of aerial reconnaissance or bombing, but the seaplanes proved unfit for the work, and the idea had to be abandoned. Both by sea and land, except for a short bombardment of Lindi by the Goliath, the operations remained at a standstill, and the Germans could enjoy the spectacle of their impotent ship holding up a battleship and two light cruisers. On March 25, however, orders came for the Admiral to shift his flag to the Hyacinth, and a week later the Goliath sailed for the Dardanelles.

 

Far more serious than the drain caused by the oversea expeditions during the first quarter of the year had been that caused by the German raiders still at large. Their existence, indeed, had been the chief cause why the cruisers engaged in protecting the South African and Cameroons expeditions could not be reduced in number. Fortunately, however, by the time it had become apparent that the Dardanelles enterprise must be conducted as a combined operation, sufficient progress had been made in clearing the outer seas to set free most of the ships originally devoted to the work for service elsewhere.

 

It will be recalled that after the Battle of the Falklanda three enemy cruisers were at large: the Dresden had escaped from the action, the Prinz Eitel Friedrich had been left behind in the Pacific, and the Kronprinz Wilhelm, another armed merchant cruiser, was beginning to make herself felt in the Pemambuco area, in which the Karlsruhe had done so much mischief. For practical purposes the Karlsruhe herself was still in existence. Her loss was still unknown; both by ourselves and the German cruisers she was believed to be somewhere in the North Atlantic. She had, indeed, become another " Flying Dutchman," being continually reported in various directions, and we have seen how the return of the

 

Dec. 1914

REMNANTS OF VON SPEE

 

Princess Royal to the Grand Fleet was consequently delayed by several weeks. (Within a week of her loss, on November 4, there had been a report in the Canaries that she had sunk, but it was not credited, and can only have been a rumour. After the arrival of her survivors in Norway, at the end of November, it was whispered in Germany that she too had reached a home port. These reports continued throughout January, but on February 17 Admiral von Koester announced that she was " continuing her activities in American waters, with success." It was not till about March 19 that our Admiralty had definite evidence that she had been sunk for over four months.)

 

Phantom as she was she could not be ignored, and directly after the battle the Admiralty set about providing a special squadron for dealing with her. The idea was to separate the West Indies Station from North America, and reconcentrate at Jamaica the original Australian squadron (that is, the Australia, Melbourne and Sydney) under Vice-Admiral Sir George Patey. (The Melbourne and Sydney had already been ordered to the Atlantic. See Vol. I., p. 401.) On its being represented to the Commonwealth Government that it was in the Atlantic the ships could be most effectively employed for the common good, they agreed with their usual readiness.

 

Admiral Patey, it will be recalled, had been on the west coast of America with the Newcastle and the Japanese ships on the look-out for Admiral von Spee; and he was now directed to leave the station under the command of Admiral Moriyama and proceed to Jamaica in the Australia by way of the Panama Canal. The instructions for the Japanese Admiral — now that Admiral von Spee was disposed of — were to sweep south in search of the Prinz Eitel Friedrich and the German supply ships which were known to be on the coast. But it was soon found that this arrangement could not be carried out. The Australia was too long to pass through the canal locks, and she was consequently ordered to make for the Atlantic by way of the Strait of Magellan. On her way, in concert with the Newcastle, she would do the sweep south as far as Valparaiso, where the Kent and Orama from Admiral Sturdee's squadron would meet her sweeping north.

 

Admiral Moriyama was to remain north to watch the coast of Equador and the Galapagos Islands, and maintain wireless touch with Jamaica. From Valparaiso Admiral Patey would make direct for his new station, but, until he arrived, the rearrangement of the North Atlantic area was not to take effect, and Rear-Admiral R. S. Phipps Hornby would continue to command the whole of it. This was on December 12, and next day the news came from our Consul at Punta Arenas that the Dresden had put in there on the 11th, three days after the battle. Admiral Sturdee's

 

Dec. 1914

THE DRESDEN

 

squadron was still at the Falklands, and the Bristol, which was the only ship ready for sea, was sent off at once. She arrived on the 14th, only to find the bird had flown. (See Plan No. 5. (below))



The Search for, and Destruction of S.M.S. Dresden

(click plan for near original-sized image - 8.9Mb)


As the Dresden was reported to have gone south from Punta Arenas, the Bristol carried on to the western entrance of the Straits, and with the Glasgow, who caught her up on the 15th, went up through Smyth's Channel and held on north to the Gulf of Penas. There on the 17th they met Captain Phillimore in the Inflexible, who had swept round the Horn. Having been placed in charge of the search, he intended to send the Kent and Orama to work up the coast while he himself made a cast out to the Juan Fernandez Islands, which the Germans had been using so freely as a rendezvous. But this same day the Admiralty sent out the peremptory recall of both battle cruisers, and Admiral Sturdee ordered Captain Phillimore to return to Port Stanley. He himself had started for home on the previous day.

 

The station was now left in the hands of Admiral Stoddart. By Admiral Sturdee's orders he had been searching the Patagonian coast in company with the Cornwall. On taking over the command he sent his consort to examine Staten Island in the extreme south, and went himself into the Straits. Besides his flagship, Carnarvon, he had at his disposal for the Magellan area only the Glasgow and Bristol. The Kent and Orama were definitely engaged upon the Chilean coast, while the Newcastle, after her sweep down to Valparaiso with the Australia, went north again on the lookout for the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, and the Cornwall, after her search of the Staten Island, was allotted, with the Otranto, to watch the Falkland Islands.

 

In the maze of half-charted channels and inlets that made Tierra del Fuego and its confusion of desolate islands an ideal hiding-place, his means were slender enough for finding a cunning enemy, and in default of any intelligence it was difficult to know how to disperse his ships. He began himself, while the Glasgow and Bristol were completing their examination of the Chilean islands outside the Straits, by making a thorough search of Admiralty Sound, the great fjord which opens from the Strait south-east of Punta Arenas. Thence he turned back and entered the next inlet to the westward. This was Magdalen Sound, whence the Cockburn Channel leads out into the Pacific. Some ten miles within the Sound was a small bight known as Sholl Bay. It was a well-known charted anchorage, and here on the night of December 10 the Dresden had anchored, for it was by

 

Dec. 11-26, 1915

THE DRESDEN

 

the Cockburn Channel she had made for Punta Arenas after rounding the Horn. On reaching Punta Arenas it is said the German Consul tried to persuade her commander. Captain Luedecke, to suffer internment, but to his high credit, though he had already learned he was the sole survivor of the squadron, he refused, and resolved to carry on. Unknown to the Government at Santiago, he was permitted by the local authorities, against all law, to take in a large supply of coal, and to remain over thirty hours in order to complete his arrangements for a regular flow of supplies. He then, after dark on the 18th, disappeared to the southward, and, as we have seen, the Glasgow and Bristol followed in his wake in the afternoon of the 14th. But he was not making for the Pacific, as they assumed, for instead of following the westward turn of the Straits he continued south, either by Magdalen Sound or the less-frequented Barbara Channel, the next passage to the westward which separates Santa Ines and Clarence Islands. In any case the hiding-place he chose was Hewett Bay, close to the southern end of this little-known passage. There he anchored on December 14, and began cleaning his ship and repairing his engines as best he could.

 

He was thus occupied when, a week later, the Carnarvon reached Sholl Bay on the 22nd. Admiral Stoddart, however, did not carry his search further south, but went out again into the Straits, and after making a cast to the eastern entrance he turned back to meet his two cruisers at the Pacific end. The movement brought him on the direct tracks of what he sought. In the afternoon of the 26th, as he was proceeding westward, he found in Snug Bay the Sierra Cordoba, which was known to be a German supply ship, for it was she who, a month earlier, had brought the crew of the Kronprinz Wilhelm's prize. La Correntina, into Montevideo. She was now actually engaged as tender to the Dresden, but he could not touch her. She was in a neutral anchorage, and as the Admiral found a Chilean destroyer was watching his proceedings, it was to be presumed that the Sierra Cordoba was equally under observation to prevent unneutral service. After boarding her, he therefore went on to Fortescue Bay, opposite the northern entrance of Barbara Channel, and anchored there for the night. At the same time, whether by accident or design, the Dresden, at the southern end, slipped out of Hewett Bay, and proceeded to a still more secluded anchorage to the westward, on the south shore of Santa Ines Island. It lay behind the little Pleiades group in Stokes Bay, in waters which, as far as we knew, were uncharted, and was known as Port Loberu.

 

Dec. 27, 1914-Jan. 5, 1915

THE DRESDEN

 

There it would seem the Sierra Cordoba proceeded to join her, when Admiral Stoddart's back was turned.

 

This she could do with impunity, for he now went on to the western end of the Straits. After meeting his two light cruisers he turned back, and, leaving the Bristol to examine Xaultegua Gulf, went on with the Glasgow to search Otway Water, the great inlet which opens out of the middle of the Straits to the northward. Finding nothing there he returned to Sholl Bay, and spent next day in a thorough search of the Cockbum Channel, in company with the Glasgow. Once more the scent was hot, for his search took him within fifty miles of the Dresden's new hiding-place, and within thirty of her old one. But again he turned back to Sholl Bay, and there the Bristol joined.

 

It was now the last day of the year, and his fortnight's search had led to nothing. Having thoroughly examined the Straits and all its main outlets, he decided to send away his light cruisers to the southward to work out the Beagle Channel and the coasts of Tierra del Fuego. He himself went on to Possession Bay, to guard the eastern outlet of the Straits, and on his way spoke Admiral Patey, who was then passing through the Straits in the Australia to take up his new station. After coaling at the Falklands he carried on north, keeping a sharp look-out for the Eleanore Woermann, a ship notorious for her activities in supplying German cruisers, which was known to have left Buenos Aires on December 1 renamed the Anna. On January 6, the first day out. Admiral Patey had the luck to fall in with her, and as the evidences of her guilt were plain, and he could neither spare a prize crew nor drag her along with him without great delay, she was sunk. The Australia then passed on her way, and on reaching the Abrolhos rocks to coal found orders to proceed to Gibraltar to dock.

 

Meanwhile the Glasgow and Bristol had rejoined Admiral Stoddart at Possession Bay on January 5 without having found a trace of the enemy to the southward, and leaving the Glasgow to patrol the eastern entrance, and sending the Bristol to the western end, he went to the Falklands to coal.

 

He was entirely baffled. The Dresden had covered her tracks apparently with complete success, but there was one man who had found her out. This was our Consul at Punta Arenas, Mr. Milward. After following the sea in his youth, he had been carrying on business there for seventeen years in partnership with a German. There was little he did not know of the region or of German ways, and his knowledge

 

Jan. 2-6, 1915

DRESDEN AND PRINZ EITEL

 

had enabled him to find out the locality to which the Dresden supplies were going. On January 2 a French hunter came into Punta Arenas and reported that on December 2 he had seen her, with a tender alongside, in a bay south of Santa Ines Island and north of the Pleiades, that is, in the inner recesses of Stokes Bay, while a second tender was in a bay fifteen miles away. There could be no doubt about her identity, for the Germans had boarded his boat. This information the Consul telegraphed to the Admiralty on January 4, and he also communicated it to the Admiral, but unfortunately it was discredited. (The telegram was not received by the Admiralty at the time.)

 

The region was uncharted, and moreover, being exposed, as the whole chain of the Patagonian Islands is, to incessant westerly gales and continuous storms of snow and sleet, no part of the world had a more forbidding reputation. Consequently the Consul's report was regarded as more than suspicious, it looked so much like the outcome of a German scheme to entice our ships into the dangers of remote and unknown waters in order to give the Dresden a chance of escaping, that the Admiral thought it unwise to act upon it, and, as we have seen, he went on to the Falklands without altering his dispositions.

 

A month had now elapsed since the battle had been fought, without any trace having been found either of the Dresden or the Prinz Eitel Friedrich. The latter ship had, indeed, quitted the area. As soon as she heard of Admiral von Spee's fate she realised it was impossible for her to keep the station, and decided to clear away from the coast before the British cruisers appeared. Her point of refuge was the remote and lonely Easter Island, and on the way she captured another British ship and also a French sailing vessel with 3,500 tons of Welsh coal. It was a godsend: after sinking the British ship, she towed her new prize to Easter Island, and there proceeded to establish herself in defiance of the Chilean authorities. She even went so far as to keep an armed look-out party ashore, apparently expecting supply ships to reach her there. But, exasperated by the German contempt for their neutrality, the Peruvian and Chilean authorities had interned every one of Admiral von Spee's tenders that had put into port, and were keeping so strict a watch on all German ships that their game was completely stopped. Accordingly, after spending about a fortnight at Easter Island, the Prinz Eitel Friedrich decided to attempt to reach a German port. It was on January 6 she put to sea, meaning to make a wide sweep round the Horn into the Atlantic. This was also the day that Admiral Stoddart left Possession

 

Jan. 9, 1915

THE KRONPRINZ WILHELM

 

Bay for the Falklands. As he put out he overhauled, in the mouth of the Straits, a Dutch collier, and finding her papers suspicious, he detained her, and took her on to his base. At the same time the Australia was capturing the Eleanore Woermann, thus, it would seem, dealing the last blow to the German coaling arrangements in the south.

 

The Prinz Eitel Friedrich was now as completely lost as the Dresden, and before the Admiral could renew the search for the hidden cruiser a fresh complication was introduced. When, on January 9, Admiral Stoddart reached the Falklands, he found that another raider had become active. On January 8 a Hamburg-Amerika liner, called the Otavi, had put into Las Palmas with the crews of two ships, which the Kronprinz Wilhelm had captured a month previously in the region of St. Paul Rocks. Ever since the Bristol and Macedonia had been called away from those waters to join Admiral Sturdee's squadron the whole of the Pernambuco focal area had been unguarded. Notwithstanding its importance, it had been decided, in order to secure a full concentration against Admiral von Spee, to leave it to take its chance, as Admiral Cradock had originally suggested, and after the battle the home-going ships were so constantly passing through or near the area that it had seemed hardly necessary to detail special cruisers to watch it. Now, however, it was obvious that further steps must be taken.

 

Admiral de Robeck, who at that time was still in command of the Canaries Station, was up at the Salvages, but returned to Las Palmas the day after the Otavi appeared. He quickly secured her internment, and as soon as he had ascertained the facts of the case, the Highflyer, with her two merchant cruiser consorts, Marmora and Empress of Britain, were sent from the Cape Verde Station to sweep the infected area. The Dartmouth (this light cruiser, after the defeat of Admiral von Spee, had been moved from St. Helena to the West Indies) also, which had been searching for the Karlsruhe on the Spanish Main, and was under orders for the Dardanelles, was to cross the area on the way to St Vincent (Cape Verde). But this area was not the only one threatened by the Kronprinz Wilhelm's reappearance Until the Otavi appeared the last that had been heard of her was when the Sierra Cordoba, on November 22, had put into Montevideo with the crews of the prizes she had taken during October, both of which had been captured off the River Plate. As Argentine maize and wool were now moving in vast quantities, and the no less important New Zealand meat trade was streaming through the area,

 

Jan. 15, 1915

THE DRESDEN

 

it could not be left unwatched. Admiral Stoddart's squadron had to be drawn upon, and he had little enough as it was. The Cornwall which had been watching the Falklands, had just been sent away to St. Helena, where the opening of the operations against German South-West Africa called for an increase of force, and there was nothing for it but to use the Glasgow. When therefore, on January 15, Admiral Stoddart was able to get back to the Straits, he sent her away up to Montevideo, with orders to search the anchorages along the Patagonian coast as she went.

 

It was likely enough the Dresden might be lurking in one of them, with the intention of striking the River Plate area or joining her consorts to the northward. But the Admiral, on his return to Punta Arenas, found the Consul more certain than ever that he knew where the chase was hiding. It appears that she had recently shifted her berth, and he had reason to believe she was at Kempe Island, the outermost of the group, that lies where the Cockburn and Barbara Channels meet. On this information the Admiral decided to act, and, after hiring a tug to search the more dangerous waters, he proceeded, on January 24, to Sholl Bay, in company with the Bristol, which had joined him from the western entrance of the Straits.

 

On January 27 Kempe Island was reached, but nothing was found there. The Consul had mentioned several other anchorages in the vicinity which she might be using, but, unwilling to venture further into those wild and uncharted waters, the Admiral turned back, as much at a loss as ever. Yet he had been very close. She was actually only a dozen miles from Kempe Island, in the southern end of the Gonzales Channel, an unsurveyed passage that led from the Barbara Channel to Stokes Bay. Had the tug been permitted to search for another day in the vicinity the chase might well have been located, but, unfortunately, the Admiral sent her south to examine the Beagle Channel once more, while he, with the Bristol, spent the last days of the month in making another cast round Admiralty Sound. Nothing was seen, but in the early hours he actually passed a small steamer which was taking provisions to the Sierra Cordoba. He was then on his way from Sholl Bay to Punta Arenas, and on January 31 he sailed again with both ships for the Falklands.

 

The effect of his second failure was to convince him that the local information was either tainted or worthless, though in point of fact it was neither one nor the other. Admiral Stoddart was now strongly of opinion that the Dresden had left the inhospitable labyrinth of crags and glaciers and

 

Feb. 1-March 3, 1915

THE DRESDEN

 

intended to work in the Atlantic. He therefore decided to give up the search of the Magellan area, and after cruising up the Patagonian coast as far as Montevideo, with the Bristol in company, to go north to Abrolhos Rocks. There he ordered the Otranto to escort his colliers, and the southern guard was left to Captain Luce, in the Glasgow, who had just returned from Montevideo.

 

The Consul, knowing provisions were still being sent to the Dresden, was sure she had not moved far away, but Captain John Luce did not feel justified in searching the locality again. The situation was undoubtedly difficult, and was made all the more so by the fact that the Germans, in order to get our ships out of the way, were secretly spreading rumours that the lost ship was hiding in one of the deep culs-de-sac which open out of the Straits to the northward. About February 10 one of these reports reached the Admiralty.

 

It stated that the Dresden was in Last Hope Inlet; this is the remotest recess of the maze of intricate and almost inaccessible fjords which spread north-eastward from Smyth's Channel, and nowhere would our ships be so completely out of the way. Unlikely as it was that the Dresden would venture into waters whence there was no escape, the rumour was believed, and orders were sent from the Admiralty for the Glasgow to proceed there and for the Kent or Orama to get charts from Valparaiso and search it if it proved to be navigable. Two days later they telegraphed that the Dresden was actually at Port Consuelo, a little trading station in Last Hope, and ordered the Bristol, which was at Montevideo, to return and assist in the search. In vain the Consul protested that it was a transparent ruse to get our ships out of the way. The Germans had succeeded in getting him suspected, and the false scent was followed, as ordered, by the Glasgow, Bristol and Kent. The only result was that the Bristol seriously damaged her rudder on an uncharted shoal, and that Captain Luce made up his mind the Consul was right, and that the Admiralty were being deceived.

 

At Punta Arenas there was fresh news that, on February 14, the Dresden had been at the south end of the Barbara Channel, and on the strength of it, by March 8, Captain Luce was back at Sholl Bay, with the Kent and a small steamer called the Galileo, which the Consul had chartered. Proceeding to the south end of the Barbara Channel, the two cruisers worked up it, while the Galileo was ordered to make a cast round Santa Ines Island and rejoin them at the top of Barbara Channel. But it was too late. On February 4, that is, a week after Kempe Island had been searched

 

March 4-7, 1915

THE DRESDEN FOUND

 

by Admiral Stoddart, she had put to sea. According to a German account, she had been found in the Gonzales Channel by a Chilean destroyer, and had been ordered to leave within twenty-four hours. Consequently, she moved westward to the Grafton Islands, and, after lingering there for ten days in the Wakefield Passage to coal from the Sierra Cordoba, made off into the Pacific. It may be that the rumours which the Germans had spread were to facilitate her escape, but, in fact, they hampered her. Her intuition, it seems, was to run up to Talcanuano, the port of La Concepcion in Northern Chile, there to intern herself, as her boilers were almost burnt out. But hearing the wireless of our cruisers that were coming down to search Last Hope, she changed her destination to Juan Fernandez.

 

In spite of the fact that the search had discovered nothing, the Admiralty still clung to the idea that she was in the northern cul-de-sac, and when, late on March 4, Captain Luce reached the head of Barbara Channel, he was surprised by an Admiralty order directing him to search Last Hope again. That they should be twice so easily deceived affords a striking instance of the danger of taking such operations out of the hands of the men on the spot, who have the best means of sifting local intelligence. But there was nothing to do but obey, and, leaving the Bristol behind, as she could now only steer with her engines, he went off to make the search with the Orama.

 

But already, before the order reached him, the Admiralty had other intdligence. It was that a collier called the Gotha was under orders to meet the Dresden on March 5 at a rendezvous 800 miles west of Coronel, and, without changing Captain Luce's orders, they told the Kent to go and capture her. The position indicated was actually one of the rendezvous which the Dresden had fixed for her colliers since the Sierra Cordoba was empty and had been dismissed; and on February 27, while hovering about it, she had captured and sunk the British sailing vessel, Conway Castle, transferring the crew later on to a Peruvian ship. It was not, however, till a week afterwards — that is, March 7 — that the Kent reached the spot. There was nothing there. Still she waited in the hope she was not too late. Next morning was too foggy to see anything, but in the afternoon the weather cleared, and she found not the Gotha, but the Dresden herself, about a dozen miles to the westward. Away she went in chase, working up to 21 ½ knots, but, for all she could do, she could not get within eight miles before nightfall, and then the

 

March 8-14, 1915

THE DRESDEN CAUGHT

 

Dresden disappeared. To continue the chase was impossible. The Kent had only 800 tons of coal left in her bunkers, and Captain J. D. Allan could do nothing but return to the rendezvous and send out a signal to report his encounter.

 

When Captain Luce got the message he was deep in the maze of the northern fjords, and it was impossible to pass through the narrow outlet till daylight. But on the 9th he hurried off to join the Kent, and sent the Orama away to Possession Bay to order the colliers to the rendezvous at Vallenar. The Bristol was, of course, useless till she had been docked. The Kent, however, had gone to Coronel to coal, and Captain Luce waited on the Dresden's rendezvous till the morning of the 13th, where the Orama joined up. His intention was to seek the chase at Mas a Fuera, the outermost of the little Juan Fernandez group, which he knew the Germans had used. It was a shrewd guess, and before he was ready to proceed he learned how nearly right it was. In the nick of time it was ascertained that a collier was to meet the Dresden at Mas a Tierra, the main island of the group. The Kent, which, after a smart spell of coaling, had just left Coronel, was at once directed to the same destination, and a combined raid was arranged for the following day.

 

To ensure that the enemy should not escape, the Glasgow and Orama were to approach from the westward and the Kent from, the eastward, and at daylight on March 14, precisely to time, all three ships were in position. Whether the chase was actually there or not was still uncertain, but, as the Glasgow closed in from seaward, she was gratified to see the long dance was at its end. There in Cumberland Bay, silhouetted against the precipitous cliffs, lay the Dresden at anchor, with her colours flying. She was clearly not interned, and smoke in increasing volume was coming from her funnels, as though she meant to make a run for it. Obviously there was no time to be lost.

 

The port was neutral, but the Chileans had been quite unable to assert the neutrality of their remote possession; the lonely group had been used by Germans, with notorious contempt for the Government; there was no one to enforce internment but the " Maritime Governor," and he was no more than the lighthouse-keeper. Captain Luce could not hesitate, and, waiting only till he brought the houses of the little settlement out of the line of fire, he gave her a salvo at 8,400 yards. It got home well on board her; the second struck all along her side. She replied at once as the Kent joined in with her 6" battery. The punishment was too severe to last, and in about three minutes she

 

March 14, 1915

END OF THE DRESDEN

 

hauled down her colours and flew what appeared to be a white flag. (Captain Luedecke in his declaration said his colours were shot away and rehoisted.)

 

Our ships then ceased fire and closed in. The enemy cruiser could be seen to be on fire, her crew were taking to the water and she was making a signal to communicate. In reply, a boat was sent off from the Glasgow with the Commander and Staff-Surgeon, but before they reached the burning ship the Dresden's steamboat was seen coming out under a flag of truce. On reaching the Glasgow the officer in charge stated he came from the captain to state that the ship was interned. This was certainly untrue, for she had refused to sail within twenty-four hours or to be interned.

 

Captain Luce's answer was — as the tradition of the service required — that he could treat on no basis but that of unconditional surrender. As the boat returned another came out, bearing the lighthouse-keeper in his capacity as Maritime Governor. He was naturally agitated over our breach of neutrality, particularly as he had put out to meet our ships when they first appeared, and, having forgotten his flag, had narrowly escaped being sunk by our fire. Though he protested against the action that had been taken, he had to confess he had no power of controlling the German ship, and that she had been there ever since the Kent first chased her. All he had done, by his own account, was to send a boat to Valparaiso asking for a ship of war, and he expected her that night or next morning. Captain Luce offered full and immediate compensation for all actual damage done, and at the request of the Maritime Governor was arranging measures for disabling the enemy's machinery when the Dresden was seen to blow up.

 

On the return of her flag of truce with Captain Luce's reply, Captain Luedecke had decided to put in action the preparations he had made for exploding her fore magazine. As the smoke of the explosion cleared she was seen to be slowly settling. In about an hour she was nearly gone, and, as she disappeared, her people lined up on shore and, led by the Captain, gave her dolefully " Deutschland uber alles " for a dirge. Twenty of them had been killed or drowned in leaving the ship, and on shore were a number of wounded. To assist them all the medical staff of the squadron were sent in, and, as there was no means of treating them on the spot, they were taken off to the Orama. Till the next morning Captain Luce waited for the Chilean warship to appear, but there was no sign of one, and, after settling the

 

March, 1915

APOLOGIES TO CHILE

 

Governor's claims for damage in full, he sailed away, leaving the islands to the age-long loneliness from which they had been so rudely awakened by the limitless spread of the war.

 

Chile, of course, lost no time in protesting against the whole proceeding, not only to our Government, but to that of Germany as well. They were glad enough to be rid of the obnoxious cruiser, but their honour was touched. So far as we were concerned there was little difficulty in meeting the complaint. For months the Dresden had been violating Chilean neutrality. She had coaled at Punta Arenas, and stayed there over twenty-four hours. From there she had been supplied by tugs owned by the German Consul; in Chilean waters she had prepared herself for a new cruise, and when she was ready had sunk another British ship. A week before her destruction we had formally asked for her internment, and given friendly notice that, if she sought to escape our cruisers by taking refuge on a part of the Chilean coast where the Government had no means of detaining her, then, on the accepted principle of " hot chase," our captains would have to sink her where she was.

 

On our Minister communicating this at Santiago, he was given to understand that our doctrine was accepted. On these lines, then, our reply was drawn, with a full expression of regret that in the circumstances there was no course for Captain Luce except to act as he did. The prompt apology was accepted as frank and courteous, and was in sharp contrast with the attitude of the Germans, who for at least six months did not even deign to reply. So far, then, from the incident having any evil effect, it rather increased the sympathy of the Chileans for the Allied cause as against that of the Central Powers.

 

In all our Staff studies of the question of commerce protection the moral effect of overriding the accepted principles of international law had always been regarded as a by no means negligible factor, and the surest guarantee that they would not be too flagrantly violated was that the failure to give them decent respect had always tended to raise up fresh enemies for the offending belligerent. We ourselves had learnt the lesson by bitter experience, and so had France, but Germany had not. It was not that she regarded neutral sentiment as amongst the imponderabilia that do not count. Indeed no more costly and elaborate efforts were ever spent than those she was lavishing on land to secure the goodwill of the American Republics. But she was too blind to see that they weighed little in the balance against what she was doing at sea.

 

Jan 1-16, 1915

KRONPRINZ WILHELM

 

In Brasil, which she had always regarded as specially subject to her influence, and where the ground had been most carefully prepared before the war, the same process was going on. Off the coast the Kronprinz Wilhelm was still active, and had been relying on supply ships from Brazilian ports. From Pemambuco had come the Otavi, which was now interned at Las Palmas. In another month a ship called the Holger was to follow. She had been detected in reporting departures of vessels to a German cruiser by wireless, and, finding herself under suspicion, had slipped out to sea on January 1 without clearance. The double violation of Brazilian regulations so irritated the Government that they resolved to refuse clearance to all the ships of any company that had once offended. They dismissed the captains of the port and guardship of Pernambuco, closed the Fernando Noronha wireless station and instituted an active search for secret and illicit installations ashore, and their neutrality became more warmly benevolent to the Allies than before.

 

The Holger, though narrowly escaping the Inflexible on her way homewards, succeeded in joining her cruiser. By that time the Kronprinz Wilhelm had captured another British vessel, the Hemisphere, 800 miles south of St. Paul Rocks, and well to the eastward of the usual tracks. She was a collier of 3,500 tons, a happy windfall, and from her the Kronprinz Wilhelm proceeded to coal. Where the Holger joined her is uncertain, but it was not at the rendezvous we had anticipated, for all that area was being thoroughly searched by the Highflyer and her two merchant consorts from Admiral de Robeck's squadron, without result. All we know is that she shifted her ground further north, and on January 10 captured the Royal Mail steamer Potaro of 4,400 tons, outward bound in ballast, and on the 14th the Highland Brae, a Nelson liner of 7,600 tons, with a general cargo and passengers for Buenos Aires. Both were carefully observing the latest Admiralty instructions about deviations of course. The same day she also captured and destroyed by ramming a small Nova Scotian schooner, the Wilfred M. The other two ships were retained. Being equipped with wireless, they were valuable auxiliaries, and with them she joined the Holger, apparently some eighty miles from where the Highflyer was searching.

 

This was on January 16, and the next fortnight was spent in gutting the Highland Brae and in disguising the Potaro and equipping her as an auxiliary. She was kept, but the Nelson liner was scuttled. During this period the raiders were in no little danger. British ships were all round them.

 

Jan. 17-Feb. 20, 1915

PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH

 

The last two captures were actually made within the area which the Highflyer was covering. On the 17th the Australia, on her homeward passage, passed close to the westward of them, and the Dartmouth did the same two days later. Still narrower was the escape from the Canopus, which, like the other battleships detached for support of cruiser squadrons, was on her way to the Dardanelles. As she proceeded she took in a signal from a merchantman saying that the Kronprinz Wilhelm and her consorts were off St. Paul Rocks. She therefore went out of her course to search the vicinity, but though she came across the waterlogged remains of the Wilfred M., no other trace of the raiders was found. So she passed on, and as she neared St Vincent, the Highflyer and her two consorts started for another sweep through the infected area. The Kronprinz Wilhelm was still working in it, and on February 8 had a narrow escape from the British cruisers close to the spot where she took the Highland Brae, and where she was scuttling the Norwegian barque Semantha, with wheat from Astoria (Oregon) to England.

 

By this time the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, after suffering terribly in the stormy seas south of the Horn, had reached the Atlantic, but, having no further hope of assistance, and being several knots slower than any British cruiser or armed liner, she did not dare to approach the fertile waters off the coast. She had to be content to cruise up the sailing track wide of the Plate, and here on the last days of January she had the luck to capture four ships. One was Russian, two were French and the fourth, the William P. Frye, a four-masted barque from Seattle to Queenstown, with wheat, was American. The first three were sunk out of hand. As the fourth was neutral, an attempt was made to jettison the cargo, but the work proved too difficult, and she too against all law was scuttled. (After a warm controversy over this ship with the United States Government, the Germans were forced to pay a large sum in compensation.)

 

A fortnight later, on February 12, she captured another British wheat ship from Oregon, the Invercoe, but by that time it was clear her coal would not suffer her to cruise any longer. She therefore determined to run for internment to a North American port, doing what harm she could on the way. And she was not without success. On February 18 she approached the main steamer track to Pernambuco, and on that and the two succeeding days sank three more ships. (Mary Ada Short, with 5,000 tons of maize, from the Plate to England; Floride, of the Cie. Generale Transatlantique; Willerby, outward bound from Havre to the Plate.) None of them was a collier,

 

Feb. 18-25, 1915

KRONPRINZ WILHELM

 

so she ran on across the track, passing between Fernando Noronha and St. Paul Rocks.

 

It was a hazardous movement, and it brought her within an ace of her end. On February 14 there had been a report that a German supply ship was proceeding to Lavandeira Reef, which lies at the east end of the north coast of Brazil. It was thought she was to meet there the Kronprinz Wilhelm and the Karlsruhe, which was still believed to be alive, and a combination was rapidly arranged for dealing with them. The Sydney, which had been watching German ships in Port San Juan, Porto Rico, and had just been relieved by the Condé, was directed to the spot. The Edinburgh Castle, which was bringing down two colliers fitted with wireless from St Vincent (Cape Verde), was directed to meet her there, and Admiral Stoddart was ordered to come up from Montevideo and take charge of the operations. The result was that, on February 21, the Edinburgh Castle, making for the reef, and the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, going north, crossed each other's track quite close, about 150 miles north-north-west of St. Paul Rocks, but neither saw the other.

 

The Sydney and Edinburgh Castle duly met at the suspected rendezvous on February 26, but the Admiral did not appear. On February 22 he had duly left Abrolhos Rocks for the north, but half an hour after weighing the Carnarvon struck an uncharted shoal and tore a rent 95 feet long in her bottom. She had to be beached, and was, of course, completely out of action. So there was nothing for it but for the Admiral to shift his flag to the Vindictive, which, since the Canopus had left for the Dardanelles, was guardship at the Abrolhos base. He was able, however, to patch up the Carnarvon sufficiently to send her into Rio, where, as she had suffered peril of the sea, the Brazilian authorities readily permitted her to dock.

 

The accident was the more annoying, for next day the Admiralty had information that the Karlsruhe, Dresden, Kronprinz Wilhelm and a supply ship were going to meet at some unknown rendezvous. Some anxiety was felt lest it might portend an effort to deal a blow for the relief of the Cameroons, where the Germans were then making their effort to regain some of the positions they had lost on the coast, and the Amphitrite and Laurentic were ordered with all speed to St Vincent (Cape Verde). In the Pernambuco area active steps were at once taken, and the Sydney and Edinburgh Castle made a cast to Rocas Island and Fernando Noronha. Nothing, however, was seen, and they carried on to join the Admiral at Abrolhos.

 

The Kronprinz Wilhelm was actually working at this

 

Feb. 22-March, 1915

PRINZ EITEL FRIEDRICH

 

time well off the track, about 300 miles south-east of Fernando Noronha. Like the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, she, too, was almost at the end of her tether, owing to the rigorous hold the Brazilian Government was keeping on suspicious ships. But on February 22 she captured two prizes that were keeping wide of the track. One was the Guadaloupe, of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, with clothing for the French army and 150 passengers, and the other the Chasehill, with nearly 3,000 tons of British coal for the Plate. By this stroke of luck her life was prolonged, and for the next fortnight she lay drifting while she cleared her prizes. It was not till March 9 that the work was complete. She then sank the Guadaloupe, and sent the Chasehill into Pernambuco with the prisoners, while she herself held away north, but only just in time to save her skin. For next day the merchant cruiser Macedonia, which, after being re-armed with 6" guns, was coming out to join Admiral Stoddart, ran over the spot where she had been gutting her prizes.

 

The general situation was now clearing. On the 9th the Prinz Eitel Friedrich had put into Newport News, and on the 12th the Chasehill arrived to reveal what the Kronprinz Wilhelm had been doing. Some difficulty was experienced in arranging further action against her. The West Indian squadron was fully engaged in watching German ships at Havana and Porto Rico, and the Prinz Eitel Friedrich had to be watched by the North American squadron, for the whole month passed away before the United States Government were satisfied that our demand for her internment was justified.

 

As this squadron had also to keep its ceaseless guard off New York, there was nothing to do the work but the reduced squadron of Admiral Stoddart. Having shifted his flag to the Sydney, he proceeded to sweep the area indicated with the Edinburgh Castle and two colliers, but at the same time suggested that the Liverpool and Gloucester, which had been detached from the Grand Fleet at the end of February to sweep down the African coast in quest of the Kronprinz Wilhelm, should now come direct to Rocas Island to meet him. They were under Captain Edward Reeves of the Liverpool, who at the moment was at Sierra Leone coaling. On March 19, in response to an order from the Admiralty, he put to sea in company with two colliers which, as was now the usual practice, were fitted with wireless, so that they could act as scouts.

 

His original orders were to sweep the two zones in the vicinity of St. Paid Rocks and Fernando Noronha, where the Kronprinz Wilhelm was known to have been operating, but

 

March 19-31, 1915

KRONPRINZ WILHELM

 

before he started it was possible to give him a more precise indication of where to find her. She was reported to be expecting two colliers. One of these was the Odenwald, which the Melbourne was now securely holding at Porto Rico. The other was the Hamburg-Amerika liner Macedonia. In the early days of the war she had run out of New Orleans to meet the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, but she was still far away when that ship was sunk by the Highflyer on the Morocco coast. For months the Macedonia hung about in the Canaries, where, for fear of hurting Spanish susceptibilities, our cruisers were not permitted to watch her closely, and she was comparatively free, until at Admiral de Robeck's instance, she was finally interned at Las Palmas. Her machinery was partly disabled by the Port authorities, but in the course of time she managed secretly to repair it, and on March 15 quietly slipped her anchor and made off to find the Kronprinz Wilhelm at a certain rendezvous. It became known that it lay approximately on the equator, north of Fernando Noronha, and for this point Captain Reeves was ordered to make.

 

The Kronprinz Wilhelm was still in the same area cruising to the southward of St. Paul Rocks, and there, on March 94, five days after Captain Reeves started, she captured the Royal Mail steamer Tamar, with a rich cargo of 4,000 tons of coffee. Three days later, having moved about 100 miles to the north-westward — that is, towards the Macedonian's rendezvous — she fell in with the Coleby, homeward bound with 5,500 tons of wheat. Not only was the ship of no use to her, but it brought her one of her moments of acutest danger. For, as she was sinking her prize. Captain Reeves' ships, sweeping on a wide front to the westward, passed to the northward, and without sighting her, carried on to the rendezvous which had been given him.

 

He had missed her by barely sixty miles, but he had hardly taken up his assigned position when he was able to put an end to her career. While the Gloucester (Captain Howard Kelly) was patrolling there on March 28, in company with the Liverpool, she chased and captured a suspicious ship, which, on being boarded, was found to be none other than the runaway Macedonia. This ship, which was indispensable to the Kronprinz Wilhelm's continued activity, was made a prize and fitted with a spare set of wireless, and with this addition to his squadron Captain Reeves continued to patrol the vicinity of the rendezvous, keeping rigid wireless silence and expecting any hour to have sight of the cruiser he sought. But nothing appeared, and, in fact, all danger was now over.

 

March 27-April 11, 1915

HER END

 

A week earlier the Admiralty had been able to announce that the Karlsruhe was believed to have been lost in the West Indies at the beginning of November, and that the survivors of her crew had reached Germany in one of her tenders. This fact Captain Kelly also ascertained from the Macedonia. As for the Kronprinz Wilhelm, she never appeared at the rendezvous. By this time she badly needed docking. She had been seriously damaged in ramming the Wilfred M. and by coaling at sea, and sickness was rife on board. Moreover, she had little coal or provisions left, and despaired of meeting the supply ships she was expecting. From such wireless messages as she could hear, she believed herself to be surrounded by at least eight cruisers, and, according to her commander, on March 27 he decided to give up the struggle and run for a United States port.

 

Even so she had another miraculous escape, for next day, as she went northward, she actually saw the Gloucester chasing the Macedonia, but she herself managed to get away before she was sighted. A few days later she intercepted a message saying that the Prinz Eitel Friedrich was in Newport News, and, as she had encountered no ship from which she could relieve her necessities, she eventually decided to join her there. By running in during the night without lights she avoided our watching cruiser and came to anchor safely on April 11. (Account given by her commander, Kapitanleutnant Thierfelder, Weser Zeitung, May 8, 1915.) Two days later orders were given for the squadron to disperse.

 

So ended the first phase of the German attack upon our seaborne trade. Never in the long history of our wars had the seas been so quickly and so effectually cleared of commerce destroyers, and in comparison with what had been anticipated, the whole campaign had been singularly ineffective. During the first eight months of the war the loss to British commerce in all seas was estimated at £6,691,000, and in that period the value of imports and exports to and from the United Kingdom alone amounted to £776,500,000. If we add to this the value of the tonnage employed we get a total actually risked at sea of not far short of a thousand million, so that the percentage of damage done was no more than two-thirds of one per cent. In so far as it could affect the issue of the war, so small an impression on the vast bulk of our seaborne trade was negligible, but already there had begun the new form of attack — the results of which were destined to surpass all previous experience, and to reach a total so formidable, that by comparison the losses of the first period, grave as they seemed at the time, and great

 

NEW MENACE TO TRADE

 

as was the naval energy and thought that their suppression exacted, are now only remembered as a pin-prick. By the time the original attack had been mastered and no raider was left upon the High Seas the new one had been already launched in Home waters. The submarine as a commerce destroyer was threatening to become one of the most formidable factors in the war at sea, and what it might achieve if brought to bear upon a large combined expedition, such as the Dardanelles venture was becoming, could only be regarded with grave concern.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER XV

 

HOME WATERS IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH, 1915 — THE BRITISH " BLOCKADE " AND THE GERMAN " WAR ZONE "

 

February 18, the day before the attack on the Dardanelles opened, was the day on which, in accordance with a notice issued by the Germans a fortnight earlier, their new departure in commerce warfare was to begin. The decision to adopt it had not been reached without misgiving. Admiral von Tirpitz, the Minister of Marine, though he looked forward eventually to a rigorous submarine attack on our seaborne trade, regarded the declaration of a war zone round the British Isles as an impolitic extension of legitimate naval warfare, mainly because it was premature. At the moment Germany had not enough submarines to blockade the whole of the British coasts effectively, and unless a blockade was effective under the terms of the Declaration of Paris it was not lawful, and neutrals would be placed in a position to resent it.

 

His view was that the submarine blockade should be for the present confined to the Thames. It could then be defended as a legitimate extension of naval practice to meet the new conditions on all fours with our own extension of the doctrines of blockade and continuous voyage which neutrals seemed inclined to condone. Admiral von Pohl, however, who was Chief of the Admiralty Staff, took the opposite view. It was he who had fathered the policy for which the country was clamouring more and more loudly, and it was he who had the ear of the highest quarters. The result of the Dodger Bank action had completed in the Kaiser's mind the impression which Heligoland had begun. He was resolved more than ever to keep in being the fleet he had created, and his impatience to see his submarines at work increased with his stiffening determination to deny the fleet all offensive action. (Von Tirpitz, My Memoirs, Chap. XIX., et passim, Eng. Ed.)

 

The precise step which the new departure marked in the degradation of German policy at sea must be clearly apprehended. Hitherto, apart from sowing mines in the open sea, they had fairly well observed the accepted limitations of naval warfare. On the high seas, beyond the fact that in one or two cases they had availed themselves too freely of the right to sink neutral prizes in case of necessity there had been little to be ashamed of. In Home waters, as we have seen, there had recently been some inexcusable cases of destruction of merchant ships without warning, and with no attempt to save life, and one shameless attack on a hospital ship, but their offences had been sporadic — explainable possibly by the perverted zeal of individual officers who had lost their heads.

(Up to February 18 the following losses by German mines and submarines had occurred: —

 

Sunk by submarines – 11 British and 1 Allied merchant vessels

Sunk by mines – 15 British merchant, 18 British fishing, 4 Allied, 38 neutral merchant vessels

Damaged by submarine – 1 Allied merchant vessel

Damaged by mines – 6 British and 3 neutral merchant vessels.)

 

N.B. — Of the British ships sunk by submarines four were torpedoed without warning, as was the Allied ship damaged. Of six British ships which escaped two appear to have been attacked without waning. One of these was the hospital ship Asturias)

Until all their cruisers had been swept from the sea, and our command according to accepted standards was fully established, there had been no indication of deliberate and organised lawlessness. Now, however, when they saw their trade completely paralysed and our own enjoying full freedom of movement, they threw off all disguise. Following the semi-official warnings to neutrals — already referred to— the German Admiralty, on February 4, issued their declaration forbidding all traffic in British waters. Though lacking in definiteness, its intention was not in doubt, and at last our eyes were opened to the fact that Germany did not mean to shrink from extending to the sea the lawlessness of which she had from the first been guilty on land. The text of the official notice was as follows: —

" All the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a war zone. From February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel found within this war zone will be destroyed without its being always possible to avoid danger to the crews and passengers.

 

'' Neutral ships will also be exposed to danger in the war zone, as, in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered on January 31 by the British Government, and owing to unforeseen incidents to which naval warfare is liable, it is impossible

Feb. 4, 1915

GERMAN "WAR ZONE"

to avoid attacks being made on neutral ships in mistake for those of the enemy.

 

'' Navigation to the north of the Shetlands, in the eastern parts of the North Sea and through a zone at least thirty nautical miles wide along the Dutch coast is not exposed to danger." (Translated from the Reichsanzeiger, February 4, 1915.)

This notice was accompanied by a long memorandum justifying the action of the German Government on the ground that we had been carrying on war against their commerce in defiance of all the principles of international law. In particular, it alleged that we had added to the list of contraband various articles not useful for military purposes, and in applying the doctrine of ultimate destination had actually abolished the distinction between conditional and absolute contraband. Not content with overriding the rules of the Declaration of London, which they themselves, so they claimed, had strictly observed, we had violated the Declaration of Paris by seizing in neutral vessels German property which was not contraband.

 

They further charged that '" in violation of our own decrees concerning the Declaration of London," we had also removed from neutral ships German subjects liable to military service and made them prisoners of war. (The allusion is presumably to the Order in Council of August 20, 1914, adopting the Declaration with certain modifications. The article referred to is No. 47, which provides that " any individual embodied in the armed forces of the enemy who is found on board a neutral merchant vessel may be made a prisoner of war." This article was not amongst those modified by the Order in Council.)

 

Their final point was that we had declared the whole North Sea a military area, and thereby set up a blockade of neutral coasts. By thus seeking to paralyse legitimate neutral trade, our obvious object was not only to strike at German military strength, but also at their economic life, and ultimately by starvation to doom the population to destruction.

 

Were it not that the world had become used to the effrontery of similar German declarations, it was scarcely to be believed such a defence was put forward seriously. So far from strictly observing the Declaration of London, Germany had consistently ignored it in her treatment of neutral prizes. As a mere matter of convenience, her cruisers had made a practice of sinking them even in cases where the ship was not liable to condemnation in a Prize Court, and where it was impossible to pretend that sparing the ship would involve danger to the safety of the cruiser and to the success of her operations. The Declaration provided expressly that to justify occasional departures from the rule the captor must show that he had acted "in the face of an exceptional necessity" and the report explained that "danger" meant a danger that existed ''at the actual moment of the capture."

 

In seven carefully guarded articles, the Declaration had made all this clear, yet in spite of them, the German cruisers had consistently made the exception the rule. (There were three known cases of German cruisers capturing neutrals bound to belligerent ports with contraband, and they had sank them all. The Maria (Dutch), sunk by the Karlsruhe, September 21, 1914; the William P. Frye (American), sunk by the Prinz Eitel Friedrich on January 28; and the Semantha (Norwegian), sunk by the Kronprinz Wilhelm, February 3. In none of these cases was there exceptional danger to the ship, nor could releasing the prizes have endangered the success of the operations, which were to harass enemy trade.)

 

Moreover, it was untrue that we had put on our list of contraband articles not useful in war. The accusation was presumably made to cover their own irregularity in the matter. On November 17 they had declared all ordinary wood and lumber unworked or only roughly worked to be contraband, as being capable of being used as fuel within the meaning of the 24th Article of the Declaration of London. Mining timber and paper wood were expressly included, and under this order they proceeded to detain in the Baltic neutral vessels laden with pit-props and similar cargo. By a supplementary notice of November 23, they had declared that the order extended to all woods hewn, sawn, planed or grooved, so that all timber except certain hard foreign woods like mahogany were constituted contraband as being fit for fuel. In no case had our orders so perversely strained the doctrine of contraband.

 

Their contention that we had gone far to abolish the distinction between absolute and conditional contraband had more justification, but they had also done the same, as in the case of the Maria. (The Dutch ship Maria, which the Karlsruhe had sunk, was bound for Belfast and Dublin with wheat, and although at that time, September 21, 1914, Dublin at least was not a naval port, the action of the cruiser was upheld by the German Prize Court on the plea that although the cargo was consigned to civilians it might be requisitioned by the Government.) This, however, was a minor point. The speciousness of the German case is not fully revealed till we come to the accusation that we had made prisoners of men not embodied, but only liable to military service, found in neutral ships. We had certainty done so, and had thereby violated the letter of one article in the Declaration of London which we had not repudiated. But to our declared reasons for doing so, the German memorandum did not venture to refer.

 

Feb, 1915

THE GERMAN CASE

 

Those reasons were her flagrant breaches not only of the letter, but also of the spirit of the Hague Conventions. On these conventions she was silent. Yet the Hague Conventions were solemnly ratified acts that had passed into the written Law of Nations, and the Declaration of London was unratified and bound nobody. From the outset, they had trodden the conventions underfoot as it pleased them. They had begun by sowing mines of illicit type broadcast in the open sea, and not content with seizing British ships in their ports at the outbreak of war without conceding the usual Days of Grace, they had imprisoned the crew of one that was sunk by a mine in the Elbe before war was declared. (San Wilfrido, a tank steamer returning empty from Hamburg.)

 

On land their violations had been still more flagrant and numerous. The special offence in point was that in France and Belgium they had made prisoners of war of all male inhabitants who were of military age. It was in retaliation for this, that we had declared our intention of extending to all men of military age our right to arrest from neutral ships men embodied in the enemy forces. Though the German memorandum was guiltily silent on the point, the evidence was conclusive enough, for the Prime Minister had announced it in Parliament on November 17, 1914. Compared with the magnitude of the provocation, the retaliation fell far short of an equal adjustment of account, and could by no means warrant further steps by the enemy.

 

As to their accusation that in breach of the Declaration of Paris we had confiscated enemy goods in neutral ships, it was not true; and if it had been, it did not lie in their mouth to make it. For though by the Declaration innocent neutral goods were free under an enemy flag, they claimed the right to sink enemy merchant ships without paying indemnity for neutral cargo they carried. (The claim by Norwegian owners for compensation in the case of the British ship Glitra (Grangemonth to Stavanger), the first ship sunk by a submarine, was dismissed on appeal, apparently on the ground that if indemnity had to be paid for neutral cargoes, enemy ships would often have to be released.)

 

 The real German grievance was, as the memorandum clearly suggests, that we were endeavouring to paralyse the economic life of the nation. We certainly were, and with perfect justice, for this is the ultimate object of all war, and it is to give a belligerent the power of exerting such pressure that he seeks to destroy the enemy's armed forces.

(This view in regard to foodstuffs had been officially recognised thirty years previously by the Germans themselves. In 1885, at the time when His Majesty's Government were discussing with the French Government this question of the right to declare foodstuffs not intended for the military forces to be contraband, and when public attention had been drawn to the matter, the Kiel Chamber of Commerce applied to the German Government for an official statement of their views on the subject. Prince Bismarck's answer was as follows: —

" In answer to their representation of the 1st instant, I reply to the Chamber of Commerce that any disadvantage our commercial and carrying interests may suffer by the treatment of rice as contraband of war does not justify our opposing a measure which it has been thought fit to take in carrying on a foreign war. Every war is a calamity, which entails evil consequences not only on the combatants, but also on neutrals. These evils may easily be increased by the interference of a neutral Power with the way in which a third carries on the war, to the disadvantage of the subjects of the interfering Power, and by this means German commerce might be weighted with a heavier losses than a transitory prohibition of the rice trade in Chinese waters. The measure in question has for its object the shortening of the war by increasing the difficulties of the enemy, and is a justifiable step in war if impartially enforced against all neutral ships."— Correspondence Relating to the Rights of Belligerents, Cd. 7816 (1915), p. 15.)

Otherwise their destruction would bring the hope of peace no nearer. We had already acquired the power by having established a domination over the enemy's naval forces, such as they could not venture to dispute by any means that had hitherto been regarded as legitimate. Equally untenable was the excuse of our having abused neutral flags. It was not even true that the alleged order had been given. But on January 31, after the publication by an American journalist of an interview with Admiral von Tirpitz, in which a sub-marine war on commerce was adumbrated, and after three British merchant ships had been torpedoed without warning, the Admiralty did issue a confidential instruction advising merchantmen to keep a sharp look-out for submarines, and when near the British Isles to show either neutral colours or none at all.

 

It was a well-established ruse of war, which all nations had practised as a matter of course. By no means could it justify a revolution in the code of civilised warfare, and in any case it was issued after the new German policy had been sanctioned. (It seems clear that our alleged abuse of the neutral flag was not regarded by the Germans themselves as a serious point in their case. The clause was added at the last moment at the instigation of Admiral von Tirpitz, after the policy had been decided in spite of his opposition and behind his back. His fear was that the new departure would alienate neutrals, and his proposal was probably no more than a last effort to avert the worst of their resentment. (See Von Tirpitz, My Memoirs, Vol. II., p. 398.)

 

On the other hand, the firm conviction which we then held that they themselves had been abusing the neutral flag in a wholly unprecedented manner, was regarded as the main justification of our own war zone.

 

 It will be remembered that on November 2, 1914, just

 

Feb. 1915

THE BRITISH CASE

 

after the Audacious and the Manchester Commerce had been lost on the minefield which the Berlin had laid, as was then believed, under neutral colours, we had issued a notice that as secret minelaying in the open sea under a neutral flag had become the common practice of the Germans, countermeasures had become necessary which would render the North Sea unsafe for navigation, and that all ships passing between Iceland and the Hebrides would do so at their peril. Traders to and from Scandinavia, the Baltic or Holland, were therefore advised to proceed by the Channel, between which and their destination a safe route would be given them.

 

Clearly, then, the measure did not amount to a blockade of neutral ports, and though an extension of former practice, it was not without precedent. During the Russo-Japanese war, the right to declare an area of active operation a prohibited zone had been exercised without question, and it could not be pretended that the narrow waters of the North Sea, lying as they did between the coasts of the opposed belligerents, was not an area of active operation. The waters we closed were actually those which lay between our own and the High Seas Fleet. But granted that the German extension of the precedent was legitimate, it was not this which we reprobated, so much as their claim to destroy at sight, without visit or identification, without thought of innocent life, every ship that entered the vaguely defined area.

(Admiral Ton Tirpitz seems to have taken a similar view. When the plan of the war zone was submitted to him by Admiral von Pohl he wrote in his reply (December 16): " The reference to the measures taken by the English, in proclaiming navigation in the North Sea dangerous, does not seem to me apt. The English have not declared these waters to be dangerous simply as a result of their own action, but on the ground of their allegation (false, I agree) that we had laid minefields there and that neutral ships were exposed to the danger of being mistaken for German minelayers and treated as such." From this and other passages in his book it is noteworthy that he does not seem to have known that German minelayers had laid mines in the open sea. Presumably he believed they had carried out the declared intention of laying them in the entrances of our ports (My Memoirs, Vol. n., p. 394).)

The threat to neutrals was undisguised, but it is possible that to the German Government the atmosphere seemed favourable, and that this was why they would not listen to Admiral von Tirpitz's warning. The only neutral they had to fear was America, and at the moment the relations between the United States Government and our own appeared to be strained. In the cotton districts of the South, where lay the President's chief political support, the shrinkage of available tonnage for exporting the crops was being severely felt, and to relieve it the President was pressing a bill authorising the purchase by the State of German ships held up in American ports. The admissibility of such a transfer of flag in war-time was more than doubtful, even if the purchase was made by a neutral Government, but the situation had been intensified just before the new year by the announcement that the German ship Dacia had been sold to a New York firm, and had been given an American register to enable her to take a cargo of cotton from Texas to Germany. We at once intimated that we must reserve our rights as to recognition of the transfer. (Such transfers had been disallowed by the Declaration of London and the German Prize Manual. Previous to the Declaration France and Russia had held them to be illegal in any circumstances, while Great Britain and the United States of America held them illegal unless made bone fide.)

 

It was clearly a test case, for options had been secured on a number of other German vessels. Negotiations followed during January, but as each side fully sympathised with the other's embarrassments, they were of a very friendly character. The outcome was, that as there was no question of principle between us, but only the question of bane fides, the ship, if captured, would have to go into the Prize Court; but we agreed, in order that the shippers should suffer no loss, that we would pre-empt the cargo at the price the Germans had agreed to pay. On this understanding, so far as we were concerned, things were left to take their course, but our arrangement could not bind France, whose view of the law was severer than our own.

 

For her there could be no doubt, and, in fact, on January 24, while the matter was still under consideration in London, the Ministry of Marine informed us that orders had been given to the Admiral of their Western Patrol to capture the Dacia if she was sighted by one of his ships. This decision did much to ease the situation, for as at this time the Western Patrol consisted of six French cruisers and only three of ours, the probability was that the Dacia would fall into French hands. In the end this was what happened. It was a French ship that captured her. As between ourselves and the American Government, the main result of the affair was further to impress them with our earnest desire to make things as easy for neutrals as possible, and if the incident did anything to affect the American attitude to the German war zone, it was certainly not what the Germans wished or appeared to expect.

 

As was only natural, a protest from Washington against the German declaration was neither slow in coming nor wanting in precision. In a note of February 12 the United States Government reminded Berlin that the sole right of belligerents in

 

Feb. 12-17, 1915

THE AMERICAN PROTEST

 

dealing with neutral vessels on the high seas was limited to visit and search, unless blockade was not only proclaimed, but effectively maintained. To declare or exercise the right to attack and destroy any vessel entering a prescribed area of the high seas without first establishing her belligerent nationality or the contraband nature of her cargo, would be an act so unprecedented that they were reluctant to believe that Germany really contemplated putting the declaration in force. Should such acts be committed, they added, the American Government could only regard them as an indefensible violation of neutral rights, which would be very hard to reconcile with a continuation of friendly relations between the two countries.

 

In their reply, which was dated February 17 — the day before the war zone was to be put in operation — the Germans avoided meeting the American case in so far as it rested on established law. To confuse the issue they made play with their afterthought as to the abuse of neutral flags, and introduced the question of our arming of merchantmen, which, as they contended, made visit and search impracticable — that is, impracticable for submarines, the only means they had left. Their real defence was implicitly based on two contentions, both of which were new. One was that neutral traffic in contraband was not legitimate trade, and the other that an attempt to starve an enemy into submission was not legitimate warfare. So long therefore as neutrals submitted to our interference with their import of foodstuffs, they intended to stop contraband trade by all means in their power, fair or foul.

 

The chief flaw in the German case, as thus presented, was that we were not treating foodstuffs as contraband. It is true that on August 20, when it was reported that the German Government had assumed control of foodstuffs, orders had been issued to the fleet that such cargoes were to be detained. (This order was issued to the fleet with the Order in Council of the same date by which we adopted the Declaration of London with certain modifications. The chief of them was that conditional contraband was subject to the doctrine of continuous voyage.) That order had not been cancelled, but as it was ascertained that the report was erroneous, foodstuffs, except when consigned to an enemy's naval port, had never been put in the Prize Court; they were dealt with by pre-emption or agreement by a special committee set up for the purpose. The trade was simply diverted to our own ports, so that while it failed to reach the enemy, neutrals suffered little or no loss, and gained a nearer and more convenient market.

 

It was a method not without precedent, for we had used it freely with America during the war of the French Revolution. At that time the settlement of the vexed question of whether food could be made contraband or not was thus avoided by a compromise, and as between ourselves and America the plan had worked with full contentment. France, of course, had not been appeased, indeed she had protested so vehemently, and the United States had so warmly resented dictation as to where they were to sell their goods, that the two countries came to the brink of war, just as Germany and America seemed to be approaching it now. From all points of view, therefore, the system on which we had been acting promised well, and particularly as our power of inducing the compromise in the present war was much greater than before; for, owing to our control of the Marine Insurance market, it was very difficult for neutrals to obtain war risk policies for voyages across the mine-infested North Sea.

 

So securely, indeed, had the Germans blockaded themselves by minefields, that direct voyages of neutrals, except within the Baltic, were so few as hardly to come into the question. (No ship is recorded in Lloyd's List as having reached a United States port from Germany since the war began. The first arrival listed is that of the Swedish s.s. Ran on February 19, 1915, from Lubeck to Boston.) The trouble arose almost entirely over goods consigned to Dutch ports, and these imports were becoming so far above normal as to raise by their very volume a presumption of enemy destination. However, on October 1 we had so far relaxed the strict orders to the fleet as to exempt from detention all cargoes of foodstuffs not exceeding a hundred tons, and in November, in concert with our Allies, we offered to let all pass if the Dutch Government would constitute themselves sole consignees of foodstuffs, as they had already done with copper and petroleum, with a guarantee that they would not reach the enemy. To this compromise the Dutch Government agreed early in December.

 

American trade was no less seriously affected, and at the end of the month the United States Government presented a note protesting against our proceedings in treating foodstuffs consigned to neutral ports as contraband on mere suspicion that they might reach the enemy. But Sir E. Grey was able to reply that we had not, in fact, done so. Fully admitting the principle on which the United States of America insisted, he pointed out that we had never detained and put into the Prize Court foodstuffs in the absence of presumption that they were intended for an enemy Government, and to this rule it was still our intention to adhere, but no unconditional undertaking could be given in view of the enemy's

 

Feb. 1915

FOODSTUFFS AS CONTRABAND

 

progressive violation of the hitherto accepted rules of civilised warfare.

 

So matters stood, till on January 25 the German Government announced its intention of taking over the control of all foodstuffs as from February 1. This measure, on the doctrine of their own Prize Court, entitled us to treat such cargoes as contraband, and the United States' ship Wilhelmina with wheat consigned to an American firm in Hamburg was seized at Falmouth and put into the Prize Court. The American Government objected on the ground that the cargo was intended for the civil population, and that the ship had sailed before the recent German food order. To this we replied that if Scarborough was a fortified place, as the Germans contended, Hamburg was certainly in the same category. Eventually the case was settled out of court. But by this time Germany had issued her declaration of the war zone, and in replying to the American protest Sir E. Grey, in accordance with his previous intimation, had indicated that the time seemed now to have come when we should be forced to treat all foodstuffs as contraband in retaliation for Germany's persistent breaches of International Law.

 

Till the eleventh hour we, no less than the Americans, were " reluctant to believe " that she would put her threat in force. During February there had been very few attacks. On the 15th the Dulwich was torpedoed without warning off Havre, and the French steamer Ville de Lille was sunk off Cape Barfleur by U.16. The most notable attack was that on the Laertes, a Holt liner bound from Liverpool to Amsterdam on her way to Java. About 4.0 in the afternoon of February 10, some twelve miles from the Schouwen bank light-vessel, off the estuary of the Schelde, her commander. Captain Propert, sighted a submarine about three miles on his starboard bow. As he altered a little to avoid her she summoned him to heave to, but instead of complying he ordered the engines to be opened out to the full and made all ready for abandoning ship. Seeing his intention to escape, the submarine, U.2, made straight for him at top speed, while he manoeuvred to bring her right astern. The submarine quickly closed, and at about three-quarters of a mile opened fire with machine-guns and rifles.

 

The Laertes was unarmed and could do little more than 11 knots at best, so as the chase went on the enemy gained, firing briskly all the time. Still, though a good deal of damage was done to the bridge, boats and upper works, no one was hit. By 5.15, that is, after an hour's chase, the submarine was within a quarter of a mile and there seemed little chance of escape. Then suddenly she slowed down, but the danger was not yet over, for now she fired a torpedo. Its track was seen, and by a smart change of helm avoided by a few yards. The submarine, which seemed to be in difficulty, then gave up the chase, and Captain Propert was able to bring his riddled ship safely into Ymuiden without a single casualty. For this fine perfonnance he was given a commission as Lieutenant R.N.R. and the D.S.C., while all his officers and crew received suitable recognition.

 

The resource and spirit displayed by all concerned was very timely. For as an example it gave hope that even if the Germans did proceed to extremities the worst they could do would have no appreciable effect on our trade, so long as it kept moving. This important consideration was put clearly forward by the First Lord in introducing the Naval Estimates on February 16. Without disguising the fact that losses must be expected, the Admiralty believed that no vital impression could be made if traders put to sea regularly with proper precaution and acted in the spirit of the Laertes. The response of the shipowners and the Mercantile Marine was all that could be desired. During the first week after the war zone had come into force, although owners had been warned that the enemy would probably begin with a supreme effort in order to make a paralysing impression, there was no diminution of sailings or arrivals that could be traced to the threat. The little fall that occurred was almost entirely in coasting vessels, and this was due to the ports being specially congested at the time.

 

But for all the confidence of the shipowners, the prospect of the coming attack could only weigh heavily on those who were responsible for meeting it. The German declaration had been made at a moment when our still incomplete patrol system was in a state of disturbance, owing to the appearance of the submarines off Liverpool bar in the last days of January. At the same time information had been received from our Legation at Copenhagen that in a week's time the Germans intended to begin an organised submarine attack on the cross-channel communications of the army. The announcement was all the more serious, since in the second week of the month the Canadian division was due to sail for France, and in order to deal with submarines in the Irish Sea a whole flotilla of destroyers had been detached to that area. If the enemy's operations off Liverpool were intended to confuse our control of the Channel and its approaches, they could scarcely have been more cleverly designed, but from the first alarm the Admiralty had been taking energetic and comprehensive measures to counter the German move.

 

Feb. 1915

ANTI-SUBMARINE DEVICES

 

As a first step, it was finally decided to withdraw the slow old cruisers of our Western Patrol and to assign Portland as a coaling base for the faster French merchant cruisers which had been acting with them, leaving on the station no ships of our own beyond a few boarding steamers. Our own share of the work was, in fact, to be done by the Devonport Patrol, whose area (No. XIV) covered the home side of the Western Patrol area, and measures were taken to increase its force, as well as that of other areas, by ordering no less than a hundred more trawlers to be armed with guns. At the other and more important end of the Channel a plan for blocking the eastern entrance to the Straits of Dover with a new minefield south-west of our existing one had been settled. At the end of January it was communicated to the French, and with a slight modification approved by them. The work was commenced at once and completed by February 16. By this means, and the new device of indicator nets, it was hoped to render the passage of the Dover Straits at least highly dangerous for submarines. (See foot-note (1), p. 18.)

 

Experiments with these nets had been in active operation for some time, and gear had been devised by which they could be run out with great rapidity. They were to be operated by special flotillas of net drifters, which, being unarmed, were to be attended by patrol yachts or other vessels furnished with guns and explosive sweeps. By February 18 seventeen miles of these nets had been laid across the Dover Straits; other flotillas were ready for St. George's and the North Channels, and next day an order was issued establishing net bases all round the coasts.

(The first instituted were as follows:

 

for Scotland — Scapa, Cromarty, Peterhead, Firth of Forth;

for the East Coast— Yarmouth, Harwich, the Nore and Dover;

for the Channel — Portsmouth, Poole, Portland, Devonport and Falmouth;

others for the Irish Sea and West Coast were to be established as soon as possible at Larne, Milford Haven, Queenstown, the Clyde and Liverpool.

 

Nets were being supplied as fast as possible, and on February 24 a number were sent out to the Dardanelles.)

As a further precaution, it was now decided to extend the principle of defensive armament to vessels engaged in Home waters. Fifty were to be armed at once and two marines allotted to each to work the guns; half of these ships were to be Admiralty colliers or storeships working to France, and half west coast and Channel traders not going north of the Clyde or the Thames.

 

All these measures, extensive as they were, could be taken without any disturbance of the general strategic distribution of the fleet, but they were not enough. There still remained the question of escort for important navy ships and liners entering or leaving dockyard or commercial ports, as well as for transports and special munition ships. For this a radical redistribution of destroyers was found necessary. The eight destroyers originally assigned to the defence of Scapa were ordered south, to join the Dover Patrol, and to escort transports sailing from Plymouth and Avonmouth. A flotilla of twelve coastal destroyers (now classed as torpedo-boats) which had been under the Admiral of Patrols on the east coast, were also assigned for Channel escort, and the area for which he was responsible was reduced, so that Area X, south of Winterton Ness, came under Harwich. Provision for Channel escort was completed by abandoning the idea of absorbing the eight '' Beagles '' at Portsmouth into a new 10th Flotilla. They were to remain under Admiral Meux, and the 10th Flotilla was confined to the Aurora and " M " class destroyers.

 

Finally, on the day the war zone came into force, the Western Auxiliary Patrol areas were reorganised in accordance with their increased importance by making them flag officers' commands. The Larne, or North Channel area, was given to Admiral Barlow; the Kingstown, or Irish Channel area, to Rear-Admiral E. R. Le Marchant; and the Milford area, which included the St. George's and Bristol Channels, to Vice-Admiral C. H. Dare. Liverpool, at the same time, was constituted a separate area, like the Clyde, and entrusted to Rear-Admiral H. H. Stileman, who was established there in charge of the 10th Cruiser Squadron base. An independent squadron of six armed yachts was also established at Belfast for service wherever it was needed.

 

Before these arrangements were complete the Canadian division had crossed, but not by the usual route to Havre. Though its base depots and other advance units had gone to Channel ports, the division proceeded from Avonmouth to St. Nazaire, thus keeping clear of the Channel altogether. They sailed in groups between February 9 and 12, escorted by the two divisions of destroyers which had been working in the Irish Sea under the orders of the Undaunted since the enemy's submarines had appeared there, and which now went back to Harwich. The whole movement was completed without interference, but the German submarine blockade had not then begun. After it had been in operation a week, another division was due to cross. This was the North Midland Territorials. They were to go by the regular route from Southampton to Havre, and it was a much more serious undertaking, for it was already clear that the measures taken

 

Feb. 1915

THE CHANNEL LINE OF PASSAGE

 

to bar the Straits of Dover to submarines were not entirely effective.

 

On February 18 the war zone was inaugurated by the torpedoing of a ship off Dieppe; on the 20th, a submarine, which had passed through the minefield, was caught in the nets to the south of it near the Varne, but though two of the watching destroyers followed the buoys and exploded charges the submarine seems to have torn through and escaped. Keen disappointment was felt at the failure, but the nets were still incomplete. No satisfactory detachable clip for joining them had yet been supplied, and better success could be hoped for in the future. On the other hand, new difficulties were making themselves felt. That ancient highway, through which the traffic of the seas had thronged for ages, was strewn with wrecks, and in their forgotten resting-places they were obstructing the fight against the new peril which they had never known. Owing to them and the bad weather that prevailed, nearly ninety nets had already been lost, but the Admiralty only ordered more — enough to cover the whole twenty-five miles of the Straits — and gave directions that they should be shot by night as well as by day.

 

On February 22, two days after the disappointment off the Vame, the North Midland Division began to cross. That night two troopers and one storeship left, each escorted by a destroyer. Next night eight troopers left, similarly escorted, although, in spite of the Dover nets, two ships had been lost off Beachy Head. Next day three more were lost in the same waters, and neither the patrol nor specially detached destroyers could find trace of an enemy. Four transports were to sail that night, but as they were slow ships and there was a bright moon the Admiralty ordered that none of them was to leave without three destroyers for escort, and Admiral Meux had to detain two of them.

 

No less than eleven transports were now waiting to start, three of 19 knots and the rest 18 or under, and there were only eight destroyers for escort. To Admiral Meux's request for instruction the Admiralty replied that the fast ships could sail without escort, and slow ones, for which no escort was available, must be detained. As the fast ships were paddle steamers the system, as Admiral Meux pointed out, was not without hazard, for the beat of the paddles could be heard at a long distance. But it was the best that could be done, and in this way the whole division, as well as the usual drafts and stores, was got across during the week without loss. What it meant for the overworked destroyers must never be forgotten. The Beagle had had her fires alight for no less than twenty-six days in February . But the system had to be continued. On March 3 instructions were given to Admiral Meux that slow ships carrying vehicles, horses, or a small number of men, should be escorted by two destroyers. Fast transports carrying troops must also have one when the moon was bright. Some risks, it was pointed out, must be taken to get troops across in sufficient numbers, and to relieve the pressure on his destroyers the four Newhaven torpedo-boats, which were good for fair weather, were placed at his disposal.

 

On this system the work of keeping up the flow of men and stores for the army — from which the navy, with all its other preoccupations, was never free for a day — went on uninterruptedly, and not without hope of success. The experience of the first week was distinctly encouraging. How many submarines were out it is impossible to say, but out of 1,881 arrivals and departures only eleven British ships were attacked, and of these four escaped. Five were sunk in the eastern part of the Channel and two in the Irish Sea. A French vessel was also damaged, but was able to make Dieppe. The most sinister feature of the week's work was that a Norwegian steamer, the Belridge, was torpedoed without warning in the approach to the Dover Straits. Though she succeeded in getting into Thameshaven, the case, which was the first of its kind, was peculiarly flagrant, for she was bound from America with oil for the Dutch Government. (The Germans state that only one boat, U.8, was ready to sail when the war zone was inaugurated. U.30 was then on her way north-about. On February 25 two more started, U.20 for the Irish Sea, north of the Isle of Man, and U.27 by way of the Channel for the Irish Sea, south of the Isle of Man. (See Gayer, Vol II., p. 14.) )

 

So far the rate of damage was less than what had been caused by the cruisers, and the next week only increased the ineffective impression of the attack. Only three ships were molested and all of them escaped. One was the St. Andrew, another hospital ship, which was attacked off Boulogne. Another was the Thordis, whose escape was entirely due to the spirit and readiness with which her master. Captain John W. Bell, acted on the instructions of the Admiralty. They had been issued confidentially on February 14, and were designed to instruct masters as to the best means of eluding submarine attack. There was no suggestion that they should attempt to destroy an assailant — nothing, indeed, which could be used by the enemy to prejudice their status of non-combatants. If a submarine was sighted at a distance they were advised to turn their stern towards her, as Captain Propert had done, and make off at full speed, if possible, into shoal water. If, however, a

 

Feb.-March 1915

SUBMARINE ENCOUNTERS

 

submarine came up close ahead, so that a turn would only expose them to effective attack, they should steer direct for her so as to force her to dive. By carrying on and passing over her they would thus be able to bring her astern and make off as before. It was the latter situation with which Captain Bell had to deal. On February 28, as he was passing down Channel, he saw off Beachy Head a periscope on his starboard bow. The submarine was crossing athwart his course, and when she was only thirty to forty yards off on his port beam she fired a torpedo without warning. It apparently passed under the ship, and Captain Bell, when he saw its wake to starboard, immediately put his helm hard over and ran at his assailant. As he passed over the periscope a jar and a crash told that he had hit her, and oil was seen on the water, but nothing more of the submarine. Whether she was destroyed or not is uncertain.

 

The Germans claimed she returned to port, but when the Thordis was docked for examination it was found that her keel plate was torn and dented and that she had lost a blade of her propeller. Clearly, then, the submarine must have been badly damaged, and a reward was granted in recognition of his skilful conduct in saving his ship. The activity the enemy was displaying against our cross-Channel communications brought no relief in the North Sea, and here we fared badly. Owing to the heavy call for destroyers elsewhere the floating defences of the east coast were seriously reduced in strength. Though submarines were being reported almost daily, and though many ships were attacked and several lost, only one success, due to an accident, was claimed. On February 23, a hundred miles east-north-east of the Farn Islands, a fishing trawler, the Alex Hastie, reported she had capsized and destroyed another submarine by getting her foul of her trawl hawsers, and the claim was allowed, though it was ascertained later that the submarine reached port.

 

In the Channel zone March opened well with news from the Devonport area. Start Bay, by Dartmouth, was suspected of being a resting-place for the submarines which were operating in the Channel, and a net was shot across it. On March 1 part of the nets were seen to sink and begin to move to the inner part of the bay. They were found to be foul, violent pulls and vibrations were seen and the lead gave only 6 fathoms when the chart showed 9 ½ . Next day an explosive sweep was obtained and exploded over the spot, with the result that such quantities of oil came to the surface as to leave little doubt the submarine had been destroyed.

 

On March 4 there was another success about which there could be no doubt. This time it was the turn of the Dover nets and destroyers. At 1.15 p.m. the destroyer Viking signalled a submarine near the Varne buoy and followed the tracks paying out her explosive sweep. On receipt of the signal the rest of the division, under Captain C. D. Johnson, was ordered to close. A little after 2.0 an indicator buoy, moving fast to the eastward, gave the chase's position away, and presently her periscope came to the surface again as though she was in trouble with the nets. The Viking ran up to the spot and exploded her sweep. There was no result, except that for a moment the periscope reappeared. An hour later it was seen again by the Maori further to the westward. The submarine was clearly moving down Channel, and Captain Johnson directed the Ghurka to work her sweep across the track. At 5.0 it was exploded and with complete success. The submarine shot up to the surface nearly vertically and stem first. A few shots at her conning-tower finished her. Her crew of four officers and twenty-five men surrendered, and ten minutes later she sank.

 

She proved to be U.8, the first boat that had started from Heligoland to enforce the war zone. After a week's cruise in the Channel she had returned to Zeebrugge for repairs and was now about to resume her work of destruction. To the hard-worked Dover Patrol the success was a great encouragement after their disappointments, but to the enemy it was no deterrent. In hope of making it so the Admiralty ordered that the crew were to be segregated in detention barracks and treated not as prisoners of war, but as pirates awaiting trial. But it was an attitude that could not be maintained.

 

The Germans replied with reprisals on military officers, and the order was soon after rescinded. Still we could congratulate ourselves on having found one means of dealing with the pest, and as a result of these two incidents an order was issued, at Admiral Hood's suggestion, that one drifter in every four should be furnished with an explosive sweep. Other means were also being prepared; chief among them were decoy ships with concealed guns; the hydrophone for locating submarines by sound, and depth or lance bombs for destroying them when located beneath the surface, but the latter two were still in an experimental stage.

 

The weak point of our defence was the inadequate number of destroyers. A large number had been ordered, but they would not be coming forward till the summer, and during March the considerable movements of troops which had to take place made the shortage a special cause for anxiety. In

 

March 1-11, 1915

TRANSPORTS AND SUBMARINES

 

the first week of the month the Royal Naval Division began to sail for the Dardanelles. Their port of departure was Avonmouth, and they had to be escorted clear of the danger zone. On March 1, 3,400 men of the Marine brigade were to leave in three transports, but as the weather was too bad for even the " L " class destroyers to keep up with them they were sent away without escort. Three days later three ships, under escort of the Essex, arrived at Queenstown with reinforcements for the Canadian division, and had to be brought over to Avonmouth by destroyers. In the following week a London Territorial division was to cross to Havre, and on March 9, the day the movement began, a collier was sunk by a U-boat off Dungeness and a French trawler twenty miles west-south-west of Beachy Head.

 

Other submarines were reported in the Channel, and before the transport of the division was complete they were busy again in the Bristol and North Channel. On the 9th, in spite of the eighty drifters and two patrol units which Admiral Barlow now had at Larne, a ship was torpedoed off Liverpool Bar, and on the 11th one of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, H.M.S. Bayano, on her way to coal at Liverpool, met the same fate in the North Channel. She had slowed down so as not to pass the net line before daylight and was an easy prey. The same afternoon another ship of the squadron, H.M.S. Ambrose, also coming in to coal, was attacked three times as she approached the Channel, but keeping up her speed, she escaped, and at the third attack was able to get in some shots at her enemy, which, whether damaged or not, did not reappear. Another submarine attacked two ships off Liverpool and was driven off by the Dee, one of the two destroyers attached to the port. Later in the evening another steamer, the Florazan, was sunk off the entrance to the Bristol Channel. (According to Gayer, all this work was done by U.20 and U.27. Vol. II., p. 14.)

 

In view of the force that was being devoted to the area these results were very disappointing, but, as Admiral Barlow explained, the strength of the tides made it impossible to keep the nets athwart the Channel, and none of his armed patrol vessels were fast enough to deal with submarines that were sighted. Apart from actual losses it was a serious interference with the working of the Northern Cruiser Patrol on which our blockade mainly depended. Four other ships of the squadron had to be detained in the Clyde, till, at Admiral Jellicoe's suggestion, he was authorised to detach half of one of his flotillas to patrol the approach to the North Channel. For this purpose he placed the Faulknor and six other destroyers at Admiral Barlow's disposal, mainly for the protection of the ships of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, but, as will appear directly, so widespread and determined was the effort the Germans were now making that they had to be recalled in four days.

 

Following the bad day in the North Channel two other areas became infected. On March 12 U.29 was attacking ships off the Scillies. (She was commanded by Lieut-Commander Otto Weddigen, the hero of the " Cressys " episode. It was he also who had sunk the Hawke.) The local patrol, though on the spot, proved too slow or too inexpert to interfere with her, and during the morning she torpedoed three steamers. Next day another was lost off the Irish Coast opposite the Isle of Man, and it was specially disconcerting that on the same day (the 13th) H.M.S. Partridge, attached to the West Coast of Ireland squadron, which was still patrolling, found and engaged, without success, a submarine off the Fastnet (south-west point of Ireland). This was the first time that one had appeared in that quarter, and the indication it gave of the intensification and reach of the submarine campaign was the more serious, for the time had come for the XXIXth Division to leave for the Dardanelles.

 

All the week before it was due to sail, the submarines had been specially active all round our coasts. On March 16, when the first group of four transports left, one was operating in the mouth of the Bristol Channel, but she was so persistently harried by an unarmed drifter that she was forced to dive. Each ship was escorted by two destroyers, and sailing daily in small groups, as escort was available, the transports and storeships were all away by the eighth day and not one was attacked. The submarine activity had, indeed, subsided everywhere except in the North Sea and the eastern end of the Channel, where more ships were lost off Beachy Head, in spite of an increase in the patrol. (Gayer states that there were three more submarines operating in the Channel during March 1916, U.34, U.35 and U.37, the last of which never returned. Vol. II., p. 20.) But in these areas the enemy had not had things all their own way.

 

About sunset on March 6 a submarine, which proved to be U.12, the boat which claimed to have sunk the Niger off Deal in November, was sighted twenty-five miles south-east of Aberdeen by the Duster, a trawler of the local patrol (Area V). The submarine was steering west-north-west, as though just arriving from the Bight. The Duster gave chase, but only to lose her as she dived, nor was it till next morning

 

March 6-10, 1915

THE HUNT FOR U.12

 

when she fell in with the yacht Portia, that she was able to pass the news to the Rosyth naval centre. Then ensued a hunt which affords a fine example of how our then existing anti-submarine system worked, as organised by Rear-Admiral Sir R. S. Lowry for the coast of Scotland. The Peterhead Admiral at once got to sea every available unit of his patrol, but it was not till next morning that the enemy was sighted again. She was then seen off Cruden Bay, south of Buchan Ness, by a minesweeping trawler. She must then have moved south, for in the evening a trawler picked her up seventeen miles east by north of Girdle Ness, that is, Aberdeen, but lost her again. Next morning, the 9th, however, she was found again by the trawler Martin and was chased down to Stonehaven, when she dived and got away.

 

All day the hunt went on, and at 8.0 p.m. she was seen by the trawler Chester between Montrose and Red Head, but again she escaped by diving. Meanwhile another submarine had appeared on Aberdeen, and all these reports were being rapidly passed to the naval centres and war signal stations by the patrol yachts, and Admiral Sir Robert Lowry at noon had ordered out Captain W. F. Blunt in the Fearless, with thirteen destroyers of the 4th Flotilla from Rosyth, to sweep northward. U.12 was now in great danger. She must have been actually making for the estuary of the Forth, for at 5.30 she was near the Bell Rock, which the Leviathan was about to pass, having just been ordered to Rosyth, on the suppression of the 6th Cruiser Squadron, to hoist Admiral Patey's flag for the North American Station.

(In the course of the cruiser re-distribution that was going on, the North American and West Indies Station was being strengthened by newer and more powerful ships. Admiral Patey, who had been commanding the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, had been appointed to command it, with Admiral Phipps Hornby, who was then in charge of it, as his Second in Command. Admiral Pakenham from the 3rd Cruiser Squadron succeeded Admiral Patey in the Battle Cruiser Fleet, and Rear-Admiral W. L. Grant took the 3rd Cruiser Squadron.)

Apparently before the Leviathan saw her she fired a torpedo, but as the cruiser was zigzagging it missed. The submarine was preparing another attack when a trawler came up, opened fire and forced her to dive. The inference from this was that the flotilla must have passed over her and they were at once recalled to sweep south.

 

The following morning (the 10th) from various trawlers Captain Blunt ascertained positions off the Forth where a submarine had been seen, and distributed his force accordingly. One of these positions, reported by the fishing trawler May Island, was twenty-five miles east of Fife Ness, and thither he despatched Commander B. M. Money with the Acheron, Attack and Ariel. Making for the spot in line abreast at one mile intervals, they sighted her at 10.10 a.m. about a mile and a half ahead. Putting on full speed they all converged upon her, a most delicate manoeuvre, that required the coolest and most skilful steering to avoid collision. The Attack (Lieutenant-Commander Cyril Callaghan), which was nearest and had seen her first, opened fire.

 

The submarine dived and the Attack rushed over the boil of water without feeling anything. For a minute or two the enemy was lost, but then the Ariel saw her periscope about 200 yards four points on her starboard bow. With both engines at full speed and helm hard over, Lieutenant-Commander J. V. Creagh dashed for her conning-tower, which was just coming awash, and rammed her fair amidships. She then came to the surface and the destroyers opened fire. One of the first shots hurled her gun overboard, and then the crew were seen scrambling on deck holding up their hands. The destroyers ceased fire, but before the boats could get to her she was sinking, and only ten survivors of her crew could be rescued. So ended a hunt which had lasted nearly four davs and had covered at least 120 miles. Every one concerned in the operation was highly commended by the Admiralty, for success was due not only to the organisation, but to the smart way every man did his part, from the signal stations to the fishing trawlers.

(Five hundred pounds was allotted to the fishing trawler May Island, and lesser money rewards to the other fishing trawlers, the armed yacht Portia and to the patrol trawlers Duster, Coote, Chester and Martin.)

Elsewhere there were similar indications of the enemy's activity. On the same day the Dover destroyers and drifters came upon another submarine, again near the Varne. After a three hours' hunt the Ghurka got her sweep home and exploded it with the result that a " probable loss " was allowed, though we now know the submarine escaped. The following evening the second submarine, which had been sighted during the hunt for U.12, attempted to attack the Indomitable off Montrose. She was on her way from Scapa to Rosyth, when, in the last of the light, she sighted a submarine getting into position to fire, but turning promptly towards it she forced it to dive under her and it was seen no more.

 

From this and other incidents it seemed evident that an organised attack was being made on the Grand Fleet as well as upon our commerce. From March 15 microphones were constantly detecting the presence of submarines in and near the Firth of Forth area. All sailings from Rosyth had to be stopped, and though neither indicator nets nor the Patrol

 

March 18, 1915

THE DREADNOUGHT AND U.29

 

destroyers could catch one of the intruders, the defence was active enough to prevent any ship being attacked during the four days the alarm lasted . It was not till the 18th, when the weather was too bad for submarines to lie on the bottom, that the indications ceased and the port could be opened again.

 

It was on this day the Faulknor and her six destroyers, which had been detached from Scapa to the Lame area, were recalled. Simultaneously there was another attempt on the Grand Fleet. Admiral Jellicoe had taken out the battle squadrons for a few days' tactical exercises with his cruisers east of Scapa, but owing to the numerous reports of submarines in the area, he had cut the programme short, and on the morning of March 18 the fleet was zigzagging west-north-west for the Pentland Firth with the divisions in line ahead disposed abeam — northernmost were the two divisions of the 4th Squadron and southernmost those of the 1st Squadron, with his flagship and the 2nd Squadron in the centre. By noon they were within fifty miles of the Firth, and signal was made to Admiral Sturdee to turn the 4th Battle Squadron to the southward and proceed to Cromarty, passing under the stem of the other two squadrons. He was just doing so when, at 12.15, the Marlborough, flagship of the 1st and southernmost squadron, signalled there was a submarine ahead.

 

A torpedo had just been seen to pass astern of the Neptune, the Marlborough's second astern, and the enemy was clearly bent on another shot. But as Admiral Sturdee had just started to swing to starboard upon his new course he could not turn away, as laid down in the standing orders. The Dreadnought was outermost ship to port, the submarine's periscope was on her port bow, and increasing to full speed Captain W. J. S. Alderson made directly for it; the Temeraire, which was next in the line, did the same. In vain the submarine doubled this way and that; the Dreadnought, handled as she was by Commander H. W. C. Hughes, the navigating officer, was too nimble for her, and after a breathless ten minutes the famous battleship crashed over her. For a minute her bows reared out of the water astern of the Dreadnought, there was just time to read her number " 29," and then she slowly settled by the stem and that was her end. Nothing but oil and a little wreckage came to the surface; every man went down with her, including Captain Weddigen, her commander, and thus was avenged the loss of the three " Cressy's " and the Hawke.

 

Whether or not the incident was part of the organised attack on the Grand Fleet, it would seem that Captain Weddigen was returning north-about after his recent depredations off the Scillies. It was from one of his victims in that area we learnt who the commander was. Possibly he had reserved his last torpedoes to use on the way home. In any case, the end of this intrepid commander marked the completion of the first month of the new campaign, and some idea could be formed of what it meant. During the period we had lost one armed merchant cruiser, and twenty merchant vessels. On the other hand, twenty-two merchant vessels had been attacked and escaped, and we had destroyed at least three submarines. Though our losses were disquieting, the navy could be congratulated on having kept open the communications of the army, as well as the vital home terminals of our trade routes. Since the beginning of the war there had been conveyed to France alone about 600,000 men and 150,000 horses, with all their stores and munitions, and the merchantship sailings and arrivals showed no diminution.

 

But our efforts did not stop at prevention. In view of the lawless course the enemy was taking, more drastic retaliatory measures were deemed justifiable, even at the cost of a further stretch of belligerent rights. In effect, Germany, in setting up her war zone, had declared a blockade of the British Isles, which her opening had shown she was unable to make effective according to time-honoured standards. Moreover a blockade must not only be effective, it must be maintained, but owing to the limited sea endurance of the submarine, and the insufficient number Germany possessed, she had periodically to withdraw the blockading force. Under the Declaration of Paris such a blockade was illegal, and on this ground alone we claimed the right to enforce measures of retaliation.

 

To declare a blockade of German ports without also closing those of adjacent neutral countries was clearly useless, and, as the Declaration of London had reasserted, the blockade of neutral ports was inadmissible. What was done, therefore, as the method which would involve least loss of legitimate trade to neutrals, was to declare that no ship bound to or from a German port would be allowed to proceed on her voyage. Her cargo would have to be discharged at a British port, and so far as the goods consigned to a German port were not contraband or were not requisitioned by the Government, they would be restored to the owners on such terms as the Prize Court deemed just. Goods coming from a German port would all be seized subject to neutral claims of ownership. As to voyages to or from adjacent neutral ports, goods with an

 

March 1, 1915

RETALIATORY " BLOCKADE"

 

enemy destination, or which were enemy owned, might be similarly treated. The Declaration was issued on March 11 by Order in Council, and was to apply to all ships that had sailed after March 1. In so far as it amounted to a blockade of neutral ports it was irregular, but in that neither ships nor innocent cargoes were to be confiscated it was much less severe than a blockade, and seeing that it did not involve the destruction of life or property, it fell far short of the ruthless system that had provoked it.

 

That system continued to be pressed so far as German means allowed, and although it was falling far short of producing the interruption of our supplies which the Germans had so confidently promised, it remained a heavy weight on the Admiralty, and one which they did not doubt would increase. With the measures that were being taken to prevent the submarines reaching the army's line of communications they could not be content. It was clear that our Dover minefield was not stopping the submarines, for two at least were known to have got through. Many explosions were heard in the barrage minefield, but it was probable they were due to the defects of the mines themselves. The pattern then in use was proving very unsatisfactory and they were constantly breaking adrift.

 

Nor were the indicator nets yet giving the results that had been hoped for— owing to defective clips, floats and buoys and the insuperable trouble of tides and wrecks. It was even found impossible to keep them out at night, and the Admiralty had to rescind the order to that effect. Seeing therefore that the time was nearing when the new armies would be passing to France in ever-increasing numbers and offering a more enticing objective to the enemy's submarines, more drastic measures had to be taken. They were already on foot.

 

Towards the end of February it had been decided to attempt the herculean task of throwing a boom right across the Straits of Dover. The plan was to run an anti- submarine steel net, suspended from buoys, from a point just east of Folkestone, across the Varne Shoal to Cape Gris Nez, with a " gate " at either end. Such devices were already in use to protect our chief fleet anchorages, but as yet they had not been used for the open sea. The difficulties in the way of the new scheme were, of course, enormous, especially in a locality where tides were so strong and complicated as in the Dover Straits. From the first it was doubtful whether such a boom would stand the inevitable strains, but the attempt seemed worthwhile, and the work of design and collecting material was tackled at once with promptitude and energy. In view of all the other calls that were pressing on our power of production it was a stupendous task. The distance to be covered was twenty nautical miles, and as a result of the change of plan at the Dardanelles much of the gear that was first collected had to be diverted to the Mediterranean for the defence of the new base at Mudros, so that the work of laying the boom could not begin till April.

 

Still, in the last two weeks of March only five British, one French and two neutral ships were sunk, while masters were growing so skilful in acting on the Admiralty instructions that no less than ten British ships foiled attempts to attack them. Nor had the enemy any success against military objectives. In the last days of the month another division of the new army (the South Midland Territorials) was transported by way of Boulogne and Havre without loss. The main trouble was in the Bristol Channel, where U.28 was now active.

 

Taking up a position where the tracks to the Bristol and the St. George's Channel diverge, she destroyed on March 27 three steamers, and next day chased three more and sunk a fourth. In two cases of the ships destroyed the behaviour of the submarine commander, Lieut.-Commander Freiherr von Foerstner, was characterised by wanton brutality. One of them was the Falaba, and her destruction became specially notorious, for she was full of passengers. Not only was this the first instance of such a ship being sunk, but the German captain, after ordering her to be abandoned, fired a torpedo while the boats were being got out, and before passengers or crew could leave the ship, with the result that over a hundred lives were lost. The Aquila was treated with like savagery, and the bitterness which the incident engendered was increased by reports from signal stations that S.O.S. calls were being used to lure ships to destruction.

 

If such conduct, of which Captain von Foerstner set the example, was not dictated by mere wanton cruelty, it may have been part of a deliberate design to deter mariners from going to sea. If this was so it had no effect. The Mercantile Marine was not so easily intimidated. Both in owners and mariners the old spirit burnt as steadily as ever, and in sturdy defiance of the new terrors arrivals and departures went on as though nothing unusual were happening. The confidence of courage proved well founded, for the percentage even of ships attacked was very small. During the four weeks ending March 31 the total movement of British shipping in and out amounted to over 6,000 vessels, while the losses numbered

 

March, 1915

OUR "DIVING PATROL"

 

only twenty-one, and the tonnage destroyed was less than 65,000. During the same period twenty-nine other ships were molested, of which only five were damaged and the rest escaped.

 

But the Germans were now well started on the downward road of intimidation, and how far they were ready to go in ignoring the established customs of the sea by which the hardships of commerce warfare had been mitigated, further appeared this month in attacks by aircraft on merchant vessels. Eight British ships were attacked in this way off the estuary of the Thames, but in all cases without result. On the other hand, losses from mines almost ceased during March. The increasing number and efficiency of our patrols had doubtless much to do with the immunity, but it would also seem that the Germans at the same time temporarily restricted their minelaying in the open sea, so as not to hamper unduly the action of their submarines.

 

The offensive work of our own submarines, though equally persistent and daring, was necessarily more restricted, targets were few and difficult to reach. Only in the Bight and the Baltic were they to be found, and in those perilous waters was the main scene of operations. Inside Heligoland and off the mouths of German rivers the Harwich submarines of the " diving patrol " kept the enemy continually on the alert. In the whole area of their guard the enemy swarmed about them, under the water, upon it and in the air. In every direction were lines of patrol trawlers to be dived under, all kinds of aircraft to be avoided and groups of well-handled destroyers hunting like hounds. Conflicts were frequent, but with small material gain. But it was not in material gain that much was to be hoped for. The significance of the diving patrol submarines was more subtle. They were, in fact, the tentacles of the Grand Fleet. Though apparently inert in its lair, its reach was long, and at the mouths of the enemy's ports it was feeling — always feeling — for its opportunity.

 

Nor was it only in the North Sea that the enemy was smarting under its stings. E.1 and E.9 were still in the Baltic, under Lieutenant-Commanders N. F. Laurence and M. K. Horton. At the end of October 1914, after their first raids, we have seen how they came definitely under the orders of Admiral von Essen. All through the winter, with short intervals in port, he kept them busy, mostly in the approaches to the Sound which the Chief of the German Naval Staff had not permitted to be mined. It was watched by a force under Rear-Admiral Jasper, consisting

 

Oct.-Nov. 1915

THE BALTIC

 

of four old light cruisers and some destroyers operating from Kiel, and it was one of these light cruisers, Victoria Luise, which Lieutenant-Commander Laurence had attacked on October 18, and not the Furst Bismarck, as he had conjectured. (See Vol. I, p. 237.)

 

To the eastward, keeping observation on the Russian fleet, was another force under Rear-Admiral Behring, consisting of the cruiser Friedrich Carl (flag), a few light cruisers and about half a flotilla of destroyers. It was based at Neufahrwasser, where Lieutenant-Commander Laurence had seen the cruisers when he looked into the Gulf of Dantzig. As soon as it was known that the British submarines had gone to the eastward. Admiral Behring, reinforced by Admiral Jasper's light cruisers, was ordered to attack Libau to prevent its being used as a base by the unwelcome intruders. It seems that the Germans were unaware of the extent to which the Russians had dismantled the port, and his orders were to close the entrances with blockships and to destroy the place by bombardment.

 

Owing to adverse weather it was not till November 16 that the expedition was able to leave Dantzig, and in the small hours of the 17th, as the Friedrich Carl was proceeding to her covering position, she was twice struck by a mine about thirty miles off Memel, and later on another ship was blown up nearer the coast. Clearly it was Russian work, and about ten days previously several mysterious ships had been sighted in this vicinity by a German light cruiser, who neglected to attack them. By a fine effort the flagship was kept afloat, and, further north, the operations against Libau went on in a heavy snowstorm. Though the entrances were found to have been already partially obstructed, the blockships were sunk to complete the work, while the Augsburg, which had been supporting two submarines in the Gulf of Finland, came hurrying down to the rescue of the Friedrich Carl, and by 6.30 a.m. the crew of the flagship had been taken off and she was left to sink.

 

This was the price the Germans paid for an operation which was quite unnecessary, since, as we know, our submarines had long given up the idea of using Libau. To add to the disturbance they were creating, it was felt that Dantzig was now no longer a fit base for Admiral Behring's detached squadron, and it was withdrawn to Swinemunde, with the heavy cruiser Prinz Adalbert for flagship in place of the lost Friedrich Carl. How deep was the impression made by our appearance in the Baltic is seen in a General Instruction issued by Prince Henry to the German submarines of the

 

Dec. 1914-Jan. 1915

E.l AND E.9 IN THE BALTIC

 

Gulf of Finland patrol when it was known where our submarines were based. In warning them against wasting effort on the local surface patrol, he said, '' I consider the destruction of a Russian submarine will be a great success, but I regard the destruction of a British submarine as being at least as valuable as that of a Russian armoured cruiser. (The above account of the German operations is from the Official History Der Krieg zur Sea (Baltic Sea, Vol. I.), pp. 205-52.)

 

During the winter the German Baltic forces were mainly employed in efforts to control the flood of contraband from Sweden to Russia across the Gulf of Bothnia and in an expedition to the Aland Islands, where they suspected an advance base was being formed for operations in the southern Baltic. Nothing was found, and again the price paid was severe. In the course of the various operations the Augsburg struck a mine east of Bornholm, and the Prinz Adalbert ran aground off Steinort, near Libau, where E.9 proceeded in order to destroy her, but found her gone. Both ships were out of action for about three months, and besides these mishaps, the Gazelle, one of the old light cruisers of the Sound Patrol, was also mined and injured past repair.

 

During this period our submarines had been operating with the Russian fleet between Bornholm and Gothland. Several attacks on the patrols were made till they had to go into dock for a refit. Towards the end of January they were again active, and on the 29th Lieutenant-Commander Horton reported having torpedoed a destroyer off Moen on the Danish coast, and believed he had sunk her. The work was beyond measure strenuous, and demanded endurance almost past bearing. When on the surface the spray froze on the bridge and hands had to be continually employed keeping the conning-tower hatch free from ice; even so it sometimes became im