On June 5, 1915, the reserve troops were taken from the Tout Vent ravine for reenforcements. Their places were occupied then by other German troops. The French artillery bombarded the fort at the peak of the salient, and all of the trenches and defenses of the Germans in that neighborhood and the French infantry kept up a rifle and machine-gun fire which was an aid in preventing the Germans from repairing the damage done their defenses. The bombardment continued all day and all night and increased in volume and intensity on the morning of June 6, 1915. Then it was continued intermittently. A mine under the fort at the peak of the salient blew up. The Germans who sought refuge in their dugouts found them unavailing. The shells had blown the roofs from those places of supposed safety. In many instances their occupants had been buried in the debris and suffocated. The French artillery lengthened its range and made a curtain of fire between the Germans on the front and the German supports in the rear. Then the French infantry charged. The men had dispensed with knapsack that they might not be hampered with unnecessary weight. All had three rations and two hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition. They were also provided with two hand grenades and a sack. The last was to be filled with earth. The filled sacks were sufficient to form breastworks with which any place taken might be held. With a cheer the French infantry ran across the two hundred yards between the two lines. The German infantry's nerves had been so badly shaken by the bombardment that only a scattering fire, badly directed, greeted the French. It was but the work of minutes to take the first line of German trenches. The two hundred and fifty survivors of two German battalions were made prisoners. The German reserves in the ravine on the Tout Vent farm made a dash to aid their fire line; but the French artillery shells accounted for them before the reserves ever reached those whom they would have relieved. Thus in less than an hour 2,000 Germans were put out of the fight. The French who had been selected for this work included Bretons, Zouaves, and chasseurs.
The Zouaves then made a dash for the ravine on the Tout Vent front. There they came upon a field work equipped with three guns. This work was protected by wire entanglements. The German artillerymen retreated to their dugouts, but the Zouaves captured them and their fortification. At that stage of the fighting the French aviators saw German reenforcements on their way to take part in the battle. The aviators signaled to their troops this information. Two German battalions were being hurried in motor cars from Roye to the east of the Oise; but before they reached the scene of the fighting the Germans managed to mass for a counterattack. It was ill-planned and executed. French shrapnel and machine guns annihilated those making the counterattack. In the meantime the French sappers were fortifying with sacks of earth the ends of the salient, so that by night the French were in a position to hold what they had gained. The precautions which the French had made were shown to be extremely timely, for that night the reenforcements from Roye made eight desperate attacks.
The lack of success throughout the night did not prevent the Germans from making a reckless attack on the French works at both ends of the salient on the morning of June 7. The Germans made their advance along the lines of the communicating trenches. They were greeted with a shower of hand grenades. By nightfall the Germans seemed to have wearied of the attacks. The total German loss in killed in this engagement was three thousand. The French had lost only two hundred and fifty killed and fifteen hundred wounded. They captured a large amount of equipage and ammunition, besides twenty machine guns.
The French front south of Pont-a-Mousson, on the Moselle, through the gap of Nancy to the tops of the Vosges experienced only slight changes during the spring and summer of 1915. The Germans assumed the offensive in the region of La Fontenelle, in the Ban-de-Sapt, in April and June. The French engineers had built a redoubt to the east of La Fontenelle on Hill 627. The Germans found they could not take it by an assault; so their sappers went to work to tunnel under it; but they had to bore through very hard rock and the work was necessarily slow. The French, learning of the mining operations of their foes, started a countereffort with the result that there was a succession of fierce skirmishes under the surface of the earth. Finally the German sappers were lured into a communicating tunnel which had been mined for the purpose and they all perished. The greatest activity of the sappers was between April 6 and April 13, 1915. On the night of the latter date the officers of the Germans tried to rally their men for further operations, but their soldiers had had enough and refused to renew their work.
The Germans, however, did not give up in their attempts to take Hill 627, which they called Ban-de-Sapt, and in an assault they made upon it on June 22 they took the hill. Thereupon the general in command of the Thirtieth Bavarian Division made the following announcement:
"I have confidence that the height of Ban-de-Sapt will be transformed with the least possible delay into an impregnable fortification and that the efforts of the French to retake it will be bloodily repulsed."
On the night of July 8 the French began a bombardment which was followed by an infantry charge which forced its way through five lines of trenches and gained the redoubt on the top of the hill, in spite of its corrugated iron and gun-shield defenses to which had been added logs and tree trunks. At the same time the French made an attack on the German trenches on the left and surrounded the hill from the eastward. The Germans on the right flank of the French were kept busy by another attack. In this battle two battalions of the Fifth Bavarian Ersatz Brigade were taken from the German ranks either by death or as prisoners. The French captured eight hundred and eighty-one, of whom twenty-one were officers, who, for the most part, were men of more than ordinary education.
The principal work of the French troops at this time was in the valley of the Fecht and the neighboring mountains. They planned to go down through the valley to Muenster and take the railroad to which the mountain railroads were tributaries. In connection with this campaign in the mountains the achievement of a company of French Chasseurs serves to illustrate, the heroic and hardy character of these men. They were surrounded by German troops on June 14, 1915, but refused to surrender. Instead they built a square camp which they prepared to hold as long as one of them remained alive. When their ammunition began to give out, they rolled rocks down on their enemy and hurled large stones at the advancing foe. At the same time the French artillery aided them by raining shells on the Germans, though the artillery was miles from the scene of action. Thus the Chasseurs were able to hold their position until they were relieved on June 17, 1915. In the meantime the French proceeded down the valley of the Fecht and up the mountains overlooking the valley. An assault was made on the top of Braunkopf and an attack was made on Anlass on June 15 and 16, 1915. The French captured Metzeral on June 19, 1915, the Germans having set fire to it before being driven out. The soldiers of the republic then began to bombard Muenster with such success that they destroyed a German ammunition depot there. The Sondernach ridge was held by the French about the middle of July, 1915, and they continued to gain ground so that they were near Muenster by the end of July, 1915. In these actions the French mountaineers were pitting their skill against the mountaineers from Bavaria.
By midsummer the lines on both sides of the western front were an elaborate series of field fortifications. The shallow trenches of the preceding fall were practically things of the past. And these fortifications extended from the Vosges to the North Sea. They naturally varied with the nature of the region in which they were built. The marshy character of the soil along the Yser and about the Ypres salient made it impossible to go down very deep. Hence it was necessary to build up parapets which were easy marks for the artillery. The Germans had the better places on the higher levels from Ypres to Armentieres; but the British line opposing them showed remarkable engineering skill. The advances of the Allies had resulted in making the first line of trenches somewhat temporary in character in the sections about Festubert, La Bassee, and the Artois; but in these regions there were strong fortifications in the rear of both lines. The condition of the ground from Arras to Compiegne was excellent for fortification purposes. The Teutons had the better position in the chalky region along the Aisne, though the chalk formation did not add to the comfort of the men. In the northern part of Champagne trench life was more bearable. The forests in the Argonne, the Woevre, and the Vosges made the trenches the best of all on the western front. The greater part of these so-called trenches, the like of which had never before been constructed, could not be taken without a bombardment by heavy artillery. And, in the rear of each line there was a series of other fortifications quite as impregnable. This condition was a gradual growth which had developed as a result of the increasingly new methods of attack. As new means of taking life were invented, new means of protection came into existence, until, for the present, the inventive genius of man seemed to be at a standstill. But all this activity and preparation at the front meant a greater activity in the rear of the opposing lines. Fighting men were a necessity; but, under existing conditions of warfare, they were useless unless they were kept supplied by an army of artisans and another army or men to transport munitions to the soldiers on the firing line. In fact it was being forced on the minds of the commanding officers that the war could be won in the workshop and laboratory rather than on the battle field.
* * * * *
For the most part the activity of the Belgian army in February, 1915, consisted of a continuous succession of advanced-post encounters, in which detachments of from thirty to forty soldiers fought with the Germans on the narrow strips of land which remained inundated, while the artillery of the contending forces bombarded the trenches and the machine-gun forts. The intermittent artillery duel continued through the forepart of February, 1915, and on February 14, 1915, the Germans bombarded Nieuport, Bains and the Dune trenches, and continued the bombardment on February 15, 1915, and again on February 20, 1915.
Near Dixmude on February 28, 1915, the Belgian artillery demolished two of the German trenches, and their infantry occupied a farm on the right bank of the Yser. One of their aviators dropped bombs on the harbor station at Ostend.
By the beginning of March, 1915, strips of dry land began to be seen in the flooded region; and, along these, the Belgians advanced at Dixmude and the bend of the Yser. They won additional bridgeheads on the northern bank of the river. By the middle of the month, March, 1915, the Belgians had obtained a strategical point by possessing Oudstuyvenkerke on the Schoorbakke highway. From there they could force the Germans back until they were in a position that would prevent any German action against the Dixmude bridgehead.
On March 18, 1915, the Belgian army continued its progress on the Yser, and on March 23, 1915, the artillery destroyed several German observation points. A division of the Belgian army made some progress on the right bank of the Yser on March 24, 1915; while another was taking a German trench on the left bank. The almost continuous artillery fighting was more active in the Nieuport region on March 26, 1915; and farther south a farm north of St. Georges in advance of the allied lines was taken and held.
But the Belgian army was unable to take any decisive action against the left wing of the German army during the spring and summer of 1915, both on account of the wetness of the land and the activity of the German artillery. Yet it harassed the Germans by so much activity that the Teutons continued to add to their heavy howitzers and large caliber naval guns. Nevertheless the Belgian strategy gained for its little army many advantages of tactical importance. It seemed to be a part of the plan of the Belgian generals to give their new troops, which were filling up the previously thinned ranks, a training under heavy bombardments without risking the lives or liberty of many of their men. They held the old cobbled roads which remained about the waters, using an almost innumerable number of trenches for that purpose.
The Germans sought to obviate this check to their activities by approaching on rafts on which were machine guns, from which attempts were made to pour an enfilading fire on the trenches. Thereupon the Belgian sharpshooters became especially active and exterminated the machine-gun crews before the Germans could take advantage of the position they had gained by using the rafts.
Finally the waters subsided and the mud which remained dried. As soon as the ground became firm enough to support troops the Belgians became so active that the Germans desired more men, but their soldiers were also needed in many other sections of the western front, and for the time being none could be sent against the Belgians. Hence King Albert's troops continued to make progress.
The Germans made an attack between Nieuport and the sea on May 9, 1915, but were repulsed. To the north of Dixmude the Belgians were violently attacked during the night of May 10, 1915, by three German battalions. They were repulsed and suffered large losses.
On the night of May 16, 1915, the Germans threatened with complete envelopment by the successful attacks of preceding days, evacuated the positions which they had occupied to the west of the Yser Canal, and they gained nothing on the eastern bank. The Germans left about two thousand dead and many rifles when they were forced from the western bank. On the following night, May 17, 1915, the positions on the eastern bank were consolidated, and a German counterattack, which was preceded by a bombardment, was repulsed. The Germans gained a footing in the trenches to the east of the Yser Canal in an attack made on the night of May 20, 1915, but they were driven out and lost some of the ground they had held before making the attack.
The Germans made a violent attack on the edge of the Belgian front at Nieuport in order to prevent the Belgians from aiding in the defense of Ypres, but the Belgians defended Nieuport with one army corps and made an advance on Dixmude with another corps, with the result that they assisted the Zouaves in taking the German bridgeheads on the western bank of the canal above Ypres. These bridgeheads were protected by forts manned by machine guns, and the approaches were commanded by heavy artillery fire, but defense was destroyed in the middle of May, 1915.
The Germans concentrated their efforts against the Belgians at one point between Ypres and Dixmude. They bombarded the trenches, using bombs filled with poisonous gas. When they believed the Belgians had been overcome by the gas the German infantry charged. The Belgians, however, had kept their faces close to the ground, thus escaping most of the fumes from the shells. When the Germans arrived within easy range they were greeted with machine-gun fire to such an extent that the companies leading the charge were slain.
A battalion of Belgian troops on June 14, 1915, gained the east bank of the Yser south of the Dixmude railroad bridge, and established themselves there. The Belgians also destroyed a German blockhouse in the vicinity of the Chateau of Dixmude. The Belgian troops, south of St. Georges, captured a German trench, all the defenders of which were killed or made prisoners on June 22, 1915.
After the canal line was won, and the Belgians were in position to hold it, they could make little headway eastward. Their advance was checked by a series of batteries which were concealed in the Forest of Houthulst. These batteries, containing many guns of large caliber, continued to shell the Belgian trenches to such an extent that it was necessary for their inhabitants to keep close to the bomb-proof chambers with which the trenches were liberally supplied. But the Belgians kept so many of the German troops occupied that, in this way, they gave great aid to their allies, and enabled the French and British to regain much of the territory which was lost in the first attack which the Germans made with poisonous gas. The remainder of the summer was occupied with intermittent artillery duels and minor engagements between the opposing trench lines. In the meantime the Belgian army was adding to the number of its troops and gathering munitions for an aggressive movement.
PART II—NAVAL OPERATIONS
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THE WAR ZONE
The war on the seas, with the long-expected battle between the fleets of the great nations, developed during the second six months of the war into a strange series of adventures. The fleets of the British and the Germans stood like huge phantoms—the first enshrouded in mystery somewhere in the Irish and North Seas; the second held in leash behind the Kiel Canal, awaiting the opportune moment to make its escape.
These tense, waiting days were broken by sensational and spectacular incidents—not so much through the sea fights of great modern warships as through the adventures of the raiders on the seven seas, the exploits of the submarines, and the daring attempt of the allied fleets to batter down the mighty forts in the Dardanelles and bombard their way toward Constantinople—the coveted stronghold of the Ottoman Empire. The several phases of these naval operations are described in special chapters in this volume, therefore we will now confine ourselves to the general naval developments.
In the spring of 1915 the threat made by Admiral von Tirpitz that Germany would carry on war against British and allied shipping by sinking their vessels with submarines, was made effective. The submersible craft began to appear on all the coasts of the British Isles. It infested the Irish Sea to such an extent that shipping between England and Ireland was seriously menaced.
A particularly daring raid took place on the night of February 1, 1915, when a number of submarines tried to scuttle ships lying at Dover. The attack failed, but drew fire from the guns of the fort here.[*]
[Footnote *: See chapter on "Exploits of the Submarines."]
On the 5th of February, 1915, the German Naval Staff announced that beginning February 18, 1915, the waters around Great Britain would be considered a "war zone." This was in retaliation for the blockade maintained against Germany by the British navy. The proclamation read as follows:
"The waters round Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are herewith proclaimed a war region.
"On and after February 18, 1915, every enemy merchant vessel found in this war region will be destroyed without its always being possible to warn the crew or passengers of the dangers threatening.
"Neutral ships will also incur danger in the war region, where, in view of the misuse of the neutral flags ordered by the British Government and incidents inevitable in sea warfare, attacks intended for hostile ships may affect neutral ships also.
"The sea passage to the north of the Shetland Islands and the eastern region of the North Sea in a zone of at least thirty miles along the Netherlands coast is not menaced by any danger.
"(Signed) Berlin, February 4, 1915, Chief of Naval Staff, VON POHL."
The effect of this proclamation, which was in truth nothing more than official sanction for the work that the submarines had been doing for some weeks, and which they continued to do, was to bring Germany into diplomatic controversy with neutral countries, particularly the United States; such controversy is taken up in a different chapter of this history. In connection with the naval history of the Great War it suffices to say that such a proclamation constituted a precedent in naval history. The submarine had heretofore been an untried form of war craft. The rule had formerly been that a merchantman stopped by an enemy's warship was subject to search and seizure, and, if it offered no resistance, was taken to one of the enemy's ports as a prize. If it offered resistance it might be summarily sunk. But it was impossible for submarines to take ships into port on account of the patrols of allied warships; and the limited quarters of submarines made it impossible to take aboard them the crews of ships which they sank.
Reference made to the use of neutral flags quoted in the German proclamation had been induced by the fact that certain of the British merchant ships, after Germany had begun to send them to the bottom whenever one of its submarines caught up with them had gone through the waters where the submarines operated flying the flag of the United States and other neutral powers in order to deceive the commanders of the submarines. The latter had little time to do more than take a brief observation of merchantmen which they sank, and one of the first things they sought was the nationality of the flag that the intended victims carried; unless they could be sure of the identity of a ship through familiarity with the lines of her hull, they ran the risk, in attacking a ship flying a neutral flag, of sinking a vessel belonging to a neutral power.
Here was another matter that opened up diplomatic exchanges between Germany and the United States, and between the United States and England. It suffices here to give not only the controversy or the points involved, but the record of events. The first use of the flag of a neutral country by a ship belonging to one of the belligerents in the Great War occurred on January 31, 1915, when the Cunard liner Orduna carried the American flag at her forepeak in journeying from Liverpool to Queenstown. She again did so on February 1, 1915, when she left the latter port for New York. And another notable instance was on February 11, 1915, when the Lusitania, another Cunard liner, arrived at Liverpool flying the American flag in obedience to orders issued by the British admiralty. It was only the prominence of these vessels which gave them notoriety in this regard; the same practice was indulged in by many smaller ships.
"What will happen after the 18th?" was the one important question asked during February, 1915, by the public of the neutral as well as belligerent countries.
February 18, 1915, arrived and saw Von Pohl's proclamation go into effect, and from that date onward the toll of ships sunk, both of neutral and belligerent countries, grew longer daily.
But before the German submarines could begin the new campaign, those of the British navy became active, and it was admitted in Berlin on February 15, 1915, that British submarines had made their way into the Baltic, through the sound between Sweden and Denmark, where they attacked the German cruiser Gazelle unsuccessfully.
Nor was the British navy inactive in other ways, though it had been greatly discredited by the fact that the German submarines were playing havoc with British shipping right at England's door. A fleet of two battleships and several cruisers drew up off Westende and bombarded the German trenches on the 4th of February, 1915.
Only one day after the war-zone proclamation went into effect the Allies brought out their trump card for the spring of 1915.
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ATTACK ON THE DARDANELLES
By the middle of February, 1915, the Allies completed the arrangement for the naval attack on the Dardanelles. The military part of the campaign in these regions is treated in the chapter on the "Campaign in the Dardanelles"; hence we must confine ourselves at present to the general naval affairs. The naval operations began with the concentration in the adjacent waters of a powerful fleet consisting of both French and British ships.
The ships engaged were the Queen Elizabeth, with her main battery of 15-inch guns, the Inflexible, veteran of the fight off the Falkland Islands, the Agamemnon, Cornwallis, Triumph, and Vengeance. In addition to these British ships there were the French battleships Suffren, Gaulois, and Bouvet, and a fleet of destroyers. The senior British officer was Vice Admiral Sackville Carden, and the French commander was Admiral Guepratte. A new "mother ship" for a squadron of seaplanes was also part of the naval force; this was the ship Ark Royal. At eight in the morning on February 19, 1915, this powerful fleet started "The Great Attempt."
After bombarding the Turkish forts till three in the afternoon without receiving a single reply from the guns of the forts, the warships ceased firing and went in closer to the shore, the allied commanders believing that the forts had not replied because they all had been put out of action. The fallacy of this belief was discovered when, at the shortened range, shells began to fall about the ships. None was hit; when dusk came on they retired.
Stormy weather prevented further action on the part of the warships for almost a week, but on February 25, 1915, they resumed their bombardment. The Irresistible and Albion had by then joined the other British ships, and the Charlemagne had augmented the French force.
At ten o'clock in the morning of February 25, 1915, the Queen Elizabeth, Gaulois, Irresistible, and Agamemnon began to fire on the forts Sedd-el-Bahr, Orkanieh, Kum Kale, and Cape Hellas—the outer forts—at long range, and drew replies from the Turkish guns. It was out of all compliance with naval tradition for warships to stand and engage land fortifications, for lessons learned by naval authorities from the Spanish-American and Russo-Japanese wars had established precedents which prohibited it. But here the larger warships were carrying heavier guns than those in the forts. Whereas the Queen Elizabeth carried 15-inch guns, the largest of the Turkish guns measured only 10.2 inches.
At 11.30 o'clock in the morning of February 25, 1915, the Agamemnon was hit with a shell which had traveled six miles, but it did not damage her beyond repair. Meanwhile the Queen Elizabeth had silenced Cape Hellas, firing from a distance far beyond the range of the forts' guns. And then, just before noon, and after the larger ship had silenced the main battery at Cape Hellas, the ships Vengeance and Cornwallis dashed in at shorter range and destroyed the minor batteries there. The Suffren and Charlemagne also took part in this phase of the engagement, and later, in the afternoon, the Triumph and Albion concentrated fire on Sedd-el-Bahr, silencing its last guns by five o'clock in the evening.
The larger ships needed the respite during the night of February 25, 1915, while trawlers, which had been brought down from the North Sea for the purpose, began to sweep the entrance to the forts for mines, and cleared enough of them out by the morning of the 26th to enable the Majestic—which had by then joined the fleet—and the Albion and Vengeance to steam in between the flanking shores and fire at the forts on the Asiatic side. It was known by the allied commanders that they might expect return fire from Fort Dardanos, but this they did not fear, for they knew that its heaviest gun measured but 5.9 inches. But they had a surprise when concealed batteries near by, the presence of which had not been suspected, suddenly began to fire. Believing now that the Turks were abandoning the forts at the entrance, the allied ships covered the landing of parties of marines.
Long-range firing had by the end of February 26, 1915, enabled the allied fleets to silence the outer forts and to clear their way to the straits. They now had to take up the task of destroying the real defenses of the Dardanelles—the forts at the Narrows, and this was a harder task, for long-range firing was no longer possible. The guns of the forts and those of the ships would be meeting on a more equal basis.
But this was not to be essayed at once, for more rough weather kept the fleets from using their guns effectively, their trawlers continued to sweep the waters for mines near the Narrows. By March 3, 1915, however, the commanders were ready to resume operations. The Lord Nelson and the Ocean had by then also arrived on the scene, and in the subsequent operations were hit a number of times by the Turkish guns; and the Canopus, Swiftsure, Prince George, and Sapphire, though they did not report being hit, were also known to have been present.
The new "eyes" of the fleets located new and concealed batteries placed in position by the Turks, and at two o'clock in the afternoon of February 3, 1915, they ascended to direct the fire of the ships' guns by signal. The bombardment was kept up till darkness fell, but it was resumed on the next day.
On March 4, 1915, the Queen Elizabeth, so great was the range of her guns, was able to reach the forts Hamadieh I, Tabia, and Hamadieh II, firing across the Gallipoli Peninsula. Three times she was hit by shells from field pieces lying between her and her target, but no great damage was done to her. While her guns roared out, the Suffren, Albion, Prince George, Vengeance, and Majestic went inside the straits and had attacked the forts at Soundere, Mount Dardanos, and Rumili Medjidieh Tabia, and were fired upon by Turkish guns from the forts and from concealed batteries which struck these ships, but not a man was killed or a ship put out of action.
March 7, 1915, the Agamemnon and Lord Nelson attacked the forts at the Narrows, their bombardment being covered by the four French battleships. All of the ships were struck, but again none of them was put out of action. After heavy shelling forts Rumili Medjidieh Tabia and Hamadieh I were silenced.
While these operations were going on, another British fleet, consisting of battleships and cruisers, on March 5, 1915, began an attack on Smyrna. For two hours, and in fine, clear weather, Fort Yeni Kale was damaged after being subjected to heavy bombardment, but it was not silenced when dusk interrupted the attack.
Little was accomplished for some days afterward. Some of the forts which had been reported silenced were getting ready to resume firing; their silence had been due to the fact that the defenders often had to leave their guns while the gases generated by the firing cleared off, and they had also thought it wiser to conserve ammunition rather than fire-ineffective shots. Sedd-el-Bahr and Kum Kale were able to resume firing in a few days, for though the shells of the allied fleets had damaged the structural parts of these defenses, they had not landed troops out to occupy them, with the result that the Turks were enabled to intrench near the ruins and there reset their guns.
On the morning of March 15, 1915, the small British cruiser Amethyst made a dash into the Narrows, which when reported led the British and French public to believe that the defense had been forced, but, as a matter of fact, this exploit was a bit of stratagem, being only designed to draw the fire of concealed batteries.
On March 18, 1915, "The Great Effort" was made to force the defenses with naval operations, all previous work having been preliminary. The battleships Agamemnon, Prince George, Queen Elizabeth, Lord Nelson, Triumph, and Inflexible steamed right up to the Narrows. Four of them bombarded Chanak and a battery which lay opposite it, and the forts at Saghandere, Kephez Point, and Dardanos were kept busy by the Triumph and the Prince George. After the fleet had been at it for an hour and a half they received the support of the four French ships which steamed in close and attacked the forts at a shorter range. When the forts ceased firing the six battleships Ocean, Swiftsure, Majestic, Albion, Irresistible, and Vengeance came in and tried to carry the attack further. While the French squadron maneuvered to allow freedom of action for this newer British squadron the Turkish guns resumed fire. Then came the first of a series of disasters. Three shells struck the Bouvet, and she soon began to keel over. When the underwater part of her hull came into view it was seen that she had been hit underneath, probably by one of the mines which the Turks had floated toward the crowded ships. She sank almost immediately, carrying the greater part of her crew down with her. Only two hours later another mine did damage to the Irresistible, and she left the line, listing heavily. While she floated and while she was under heavy fire from Turkish guns a destroyer took off her crew. She sank just before six o'clock. Not fifteen minutes later the Ocean became the third victim of a floating mine, and she also went to the bottom. Destroyers rescued many of her crew from the water. The guns from the forts were also able to do damage; the Gaulois had been hit again and again, with the result that she had a hole in her hull and her upper works were damaged badly. Fire had broken out on the Inflexible, and a number of her officers and crew had been either killed or wounded. The day ended with the forts still able to return a lively fire to all attacks, and "The Great Attempt" on the part of the allied fleets had failed.
On the other end of the passage there had also been some naval operations, when, on March 28, 1915, the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian navy had bombarded the forts on the Bosphorous. Smyrna was again attacked on April 6, 1915. The operations of allied submarines were the next phases of the attack on the Dardanelles to be reported. The E-5 grounded near Kephez Point on April 17, 1915, but before she could be captured by the Turks picket boats from the allied fleet rescued her crew and then destroyed her. It was just two months now since the naval operations had begun at the Dardanelles; it was seen then that all attempts to take them by naval operations alone must fail as did the attack of March 18, 1915.
* * * * *
GERMAN RAIDERS AND SUBMARINES
The next important event in the naval history of the war occurred in far-distant waters. On March 10, 1915, there ended the wonderful career of the German auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich, Captain Thierichens, which on that date put in at the American port of Newport News, Va., for repairs, after making the harbor in spite of the watch kept on it by British cruisers. She brought with her more than 500 persons, 200 of them being her own crew, and the remainder being passengers and crews of French, British, Russian, and American ships that had been her victims in her roving over 30,000 miles of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans since leaving Tsing-tau seven months before.
She had sent eight merchant ships to the bottom, one of them being the William P. Frye, an American vessel carrying wheat, three British ships, three flying the French flag, and one Russian ship. Their total tonnage came to 18,245. The fact that she had sunk an American ship on the high seas opened up still another diplomatic controversy between Germany and the United States, which cannot be treated here.
When she left Tsing-tau she took as her crew the men from the German gunboats Tiger and Luchs, and had their four 4.1-inch and some of their one-pounder guns as her armament. Soon afterward she stopped the British ship Schargost and expected to refill her coal bunkers from those of the merchantman, but in this she was disappointed, for those of the latter were almost empty. Her next victim was a French sailing vessel, Jean, and on board this was found a pleasant surprise for the German raider, for the vessel was laden with coal. Captain Thierichens had her towed 1,500 miles, to Easter Island, where the coal was transferred to the bunkers of the Eitel Friedrich, and the crews of her first three victims were put ashore. These marooned men were burdens to the white inhabitants of the island, for there was not too much food for the extra forty-eight mouths. Finally, on February 26, 1915, the Swedish ship Nordic saw them signaling from the island and took them off, landing them at Panama on the day after the Prinz Eitel Friedrich entered Newport News.
By the beginning of December, 1914, the German raider was in the South Atlantic, and while there heard wireless messages exchanged between the ships of the British fleet that took part in the battle off the Falkland Islands. The bark Isabella Browne, flying the Russian flag, was the next ship overtaken by the Eitel Friedrich, on January 26, 1915. She was boarded and all of her provisions and stores were removed to the German ship; after her crew and their personal effects were taken aboard the German ship she was dynamited and sank. On that same morning the French ship Pierre Loti was sighted, and while the Prinz Eitel Friedrich put an end to her, after first taking off her crew, the captive crew of the Isabella Browne was sent below, but was allowed to come on deck to watch the sinking of the French ship. The American ship William P. Frye was sunk soon afterward, and her crew, also, was made part of the party on board the raider. After sinking the French bark Jacobsen the Prinz Eitel Friedrich stopped the Thalasia on February 8, 1915, and let her go on her way, but on February 18 the British ships Cindracoe and Mary Ada Scott were sunk. On the 19th the French steamer Floride was overtaken off the coast of Brazil; all persons aboard her were transferred to the German ship and most of her provisions were also taken aboard the latter; the Floride, the largest steamer destroyed by the German ship, was set afire and left to burn. On February 20, 1915, the British ship Willerby was overtaken and nearly sank the Prinz Eitel Friedrich before being boarded. As the German ship passed across the stern of the other at a short distance the British captain, knowing that the end of his own ship was near, decided to take his captor down with him. He tried to ram the German ship with the stern of his ship, but failed in the attempt.
On the evening of February 20, 1915, the wireless operator of the Prinz Eitel Friedrich heard British cruisers "talking" with each other, one of them being the Berwick. The German captain now saw that his long raiding cruise was up, for though he could replenish his stores and bunkers from captured ships he could not make the many repairs which his vessel needed. To put them off at a neutral port or to let them go in one of the ships he captured would mean that his position would be reported to British ships within a week. He therefore decided to end his raiding and put in at Newport News. His vessel was interned in the American port.
We may now return to the story of the blockade against Germany and the retaliation she sought. The Allies were now stopping as much shipping on its way to Germany as they dared without bringing on trouble with neutral powers. The Dacia, formerly a German merchantman, was taken over, after the outbreak of the war, by an American citizen and sailed from New Orleans for Rotterdam with a cargo of cotton on February 12, 1915. She was stopped by a French warship and taken to a French port February 27, 1915, and there held till the matter of the validity of her transfer of registry could be settled.
On the other hand the German submarine exploits continued and found among their victims a British warship, along with the many merchantmen. On March 11, 1915, the British auxiliary cruiser Bayano, while on patrol duty became the victim of a German torpedo off the Scotch coast. She went down almost immediately, carrying with her the greater part of her crew.
But not always were the submarines immune. Only the day before the British destroyer Ariel rammed the German submarine U-12 and sent her to the bottom, after rescuing her crew. She was of an older type, built in 1911, of submarine, and had played an active part in the raiding in British waters. On February 21, 1915, she had sunk the Irish coasting steamer Downshire in the Irish Sea, and her destruction was particularly welcome in British shipping circles.
Once more an incident in the naval warfare of the Great War was to involve diplomatic exchanges between the belligerents and the United States. The African liner Falaba, a British ship on her way from Liverpool to Lisbon, was torpedoed in St. George's Channel on the afternoon of March 28, 1915. She had as one of her passengers an American, L. C. Thrasher, who lost his life when the ship sank.
The naval warfare was proceeding like a game of checkers. When on March 14, 1915, there came the end of still another of the German raiding cruisers, the Dresden. She was a cruiser built in 1907 and having a displacement of 3,544 tons. Her speed was good—24.5 knots—and her armament of ten 4.1-inch guns and eight 5-pounder guns made her quite a match for enemy warships of her class and superior as for merchantmen. She was a sister ship to that other famous raider the Emden. In 1909 she had taken her place among the other foreign warships in the line in the Hudson River, participating in the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. In the spring of 1914 she was in the neighborhood of Central America and rescued a number of foreign refugees who fled from Mexico, and also took Senor Huerta from Puerto Mexico.
She was still in that neighborhood when the war broke out, and was immediately sought after by British and French warships which were near by. She managed to get away from these pursuers and sank the British steamers Hyades and Holmwood off the Brazilian coast during the latter part of August, 1914. She then went south, rounded the Horn and joined the other ships under command of Admiral Von Spee, taking part in the battle off Coronel, on November 1, 1914.
She remained with that squadron and took part in a second battle—that off the Falkland Islands—on December 8, 1914. When Admiral von Spee saw that he had little chance of winning the battle he gave orders that the lighter ships should leave the line and seek safety in flight. The Dresden was one of the ships which escaped, to the chagrin of the British Admiral. She then turned "raider."
Five days later, on December 13, 1914, she had appeared off Punta Arenas, in the Straits of Magellan, stopped at that port long enough to take on some provisions and put to sea again, with British and Japanese warships on her trail. She was too closely hunted to be able to sink many ships, but during the week of March 12, 1915, she sank the British steamer Conway Castle, off the coast of Chile, and took coal and provisions from the two German steamers Alda and Sierra Cordoba.
On March 14, 1915, she was sighted by the British cruisers Glasgow, Kent and Orama near Juan Fernandez Island. What then ensued is in doubt, owing to conflicting reports made by the senior British officer and by the captain of the German cruiser. The latter insisted that, seeing his ship was at the end of her career, he ordered his men to leave her and then blew her up. The former declared that shots were exchanged, that she was set afire and was otherwise badly damaged by the British fire. At any rate, she was destroyed, and all of her men were saved. It was estimated that the amount of damage she inflicted on allied trade amounted to $1,250,000.
Thus at the end of March, 1915, only the Karlsruhe and Kronprinz Wilhelm, of the eleven German warships that were detached from the main German fleet in the North Sea at the outbreak of the war, and of the few ships which slipped out of various ports as converted auxiliary cruisers, were still at large on the high seas.
Naval activity in the northern waters of Europe did not abate. The British admiralty on March 25, 1915, had announced that the German submarine U-29, one of the most improved craft of the type in use, had been sunk. This loss was admitted by the German admiralty on April 7, 1915. It was a serious loss to the German navy, for its commander was Otto von Weddigen, he who in the U-9, had sent the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue to the bottom in September, 1914.
The naval warfare at the Dardanelles proceeded in the same desultory fashion. A Turkish torpedo boat caught up with the British transport Manitou, and opened fire on her, killing some twenty of the soldiers on board.
In answer to calls for help from the Manitou the British cruiser Minerva and some torpedo boats went to the scene and attacked the Turkish craft on April 7, 1915, driving it ashore off Chios and destroyed it as it lay beached. But during April, 1915, it seemed as though there would be another pitched fight between British and German warships in the North Sea. On April 23, 1915, the German admiralty announced that "the German High Sea Fleet has recently cruised repeatedly in the North Sea, advancing into English waters without meeting the sea forces of Great Britain." The British admiralty had undoubtedly been aware of this activity on the part of their enemy, but for reasons of their own did not choose to send British ships to meet the German fleet, and the expected battle did not take place.
France, on April 26, 1915, was to sustain a severe loss to her navy; she had up to this time not lost as many ships as her ally, England, or her enemy, Germany, but her navy was so much smaller than either of them that the sinking of the Leon Gambetta on that date was a matter of weight. The Gambetta was an armored cruiser, built in 1904, and carrying four 7.6-inch guns, sixteen 6.4-inch guns and a number of smaller caliber. She had a speed of twenty-three knots. While doing patrol duty in the Strait of Otranto she was made the victim of the Austrian submarine U-5, and sank, carrying with her 552 men.
On April 28, 1915, there occurred another incident which gave rise to diplomatic exchanges between Germany and the United States. On that date a German seaplane attacked the American merchantman in broad daylight in the North Sea, but fortunately for its crew the ship was not sent to the bottom. The first American ship to be struck by a torpedo in the war zone established by the German admiralty's proclamation of February 5, 1915, was the Gulflight. This tank steamer was hit by a torpedo fired by a German submarine off the Scilly Islands, on the 1st of May, 1915.
But of more importance, because of the number of American lives lost, the standing of the matter in international law and the prominence of the vessel, was the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania, on May 7, 1915. This is fully described in the chapter on submarines, and in the diplomatic developments discussed in the chapter on the United States and the War. The Lusitania had left New York for Liverpool on the 1st of May, 1915. She was one of the fastest ships plying between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Larger than any warship afloat at the time, she was able to make the trip from Liverpool to New York in a little under five days. On her last crossing she carried 2,160 persons, including passengers and crew, many of the former being Americans, some of them of great prominence. While off Old Head of Kinsale, on the southeastern end of Ireland, at about half past two, on the afternoon of May 7, 1915, with a calm sea and no wind, she was hit by one or more torpedoes from a German submarine without warning.
Those on board immediately went to the life boats, but it was only twenty minutes after she had first been hit that she sank, and not enough of the small craft could be gotten over her side in that time to rescue all those on board. Out of the 2,160 souls aboard at least 1,398 were lost. Of these 107 were American citizens. Small boats in the neighborhood of the disaster hurried to the scene and rescued those whom they could reach in the water and brought them to Queenstown. The sacks of mail which the liner carried and which went down with her were the first American mail sacks ever lost at sea as a result of war. The controversies which this disaster gave rise to between England, Germany and the United States are given elsewhere.
Against British warships the submarine warfare was also effective during the month of May, 1915. On the 1st day of that month the old British destroyer Recruit was sent to the bottom of the North Sea by a German submarine, but the two German destroyers which had accompanied the submarine that did this were pursued immediately by British destroyers and were sunk. On the same day that the Lusitania went down a German mine ended the career of the British destroyer Maori.
* * * * *
ITALIAN PARTICIPATION—OPERATIONS IN MANY WATERS
The month of May, 1915, saw new characters enter the theatres of naval warfare. Italy had now entered the war and brought to the naval strength of the Allies a minor naval unit.
At the time Italy entered the war she possessed six dreadnoughts, the Caio Duilio and the Andrea Doria, completed in 1915, the Conte di Cavour, Giulio Cesare, and Leonardo da Vinci, completed in 1914, and the Dante Alighieri, completed in 1912. Each of these dreadnoughts had a speed of 23 knots. The Dante Alighieri displaced 19,400 tons and had a main battery of twelve 12-inch guns, and a complement of 987 men. Each of the other five had thirteen 12-inch guns and a complement of 1,000 men. The displacement of vessels of the 1914 type was 22,340 tons; that of the 1915 type 23,025 tons. There were many lesser craft flying the Italian flag, but these larger ships were the most important additions to the naval forces of the Allies in southern waters.
The chief operations of the Italian navy were directed against Austria. On May 28, 1915, the Italian admiralty announced the damage inflicted on Austrian maritime strength up to that date. On May 24, 1915, the Austrian torpedo boat S-20 approached the canal at Porto Corsini, but drew a very heavy fire from concealed and unsuspected batteries which forced her to leave immediately. The Austrian torpedo boat destroyer Scharfschuetze, the scout ship Novara and the destroyer Ozepel, all of the Austrian navy, came to the assistance of the S-20 and also received salvos from the Italian land batteries. But on the same day the Italian destroyer Turbine, while scouting gave chase to an Austrian destroyer and the Austrian cruiser Helgoland. The strength of these Austrian ships was too much for the Turbine and she put on speed with the intention of escaping from their fire, but she was severely damaged by Austrian shells, and not having enough ammunition aboard to give a good account of herself, she was scuttled by her own crew.
It is now necessary to take up again the story of the German raiding ships at large on the high seas. As has been told above, after the Prinz Eitel Friedrich ended her career by putting in at Newport News the only German ships of the kind remaining at large were the Karlsruhe and Kronprinz Wilhelm. But on the 1st of April, 1915, the Macedonia, a converted liner which since November, 1914, had been interned at Las Palmas, Canary Islands, succeeded in slipping out of the harbor laden with provisions and supplies for use of warships and made her way to South American waters in spite of the fact that she had run through lines patrolled by British cruisers.
The Kronprinz Wilhelm's career as a raider ended on April 11, 1915, when, like the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, she succeeded in getting past the British cruisers and slipped into Newport News, Virginia. How this former Hamburg-American liner had slipped out of the harbor of New York on the night of August 3, 1914, with her bunkers and even her cabins filled with coal and provisions, with all lights out and with canvas covering her port holes has already been told. From that date until she again put in at an American port she captured numerous merchant ships, taking 960 prisoners and doing damage amounting to more than $7,000,000. She kept herself provisioned from her captives, and it was only the poor condition of her plates and boilers that made her captain give up raiding when he did. Her movements had been mysterious during all the time she was at large. She was known to have reprovisioned the cruiser Dresden and to have taken an almost stationary position in the South Atlantic in order to act as a "wireless station" for the squadron of Admiral von Spee. But when the latter was defeated off the Falkland Islands, she resumed operations as a raider of commerce. When she came into Newport News more than 60 per cent of her crew were suffering from what was thought to be beri-beri; she had but twenty-one tons of coal in her bunkers and almost no ammunition.
The total damage inflicted on the commerce of the Allies by the Emden, Karlsruhe, Kronprinz Wilhelm, Prinz Eitel Friedrich, Koenigsberg, Dresden and Leipzig amounted, by the end of May, 1915, to $35,000,000. Sixty-seven vessels had been captured and sunk by them.
In the Dardanelles the naval operations were resumed, to some extent, during the month of May, 1915. For a number of weeks after the allied fleet had made the great attempt to force the Dardanelles on March 19, 1915, their commanders attempted no maneuvers with the larger ships, but the submarines were given work to do. On April 27, 1915, the British submarine E-14, under command of Lieutenant Commander Boyle, dived and went under the Turkish mine fields, reaching the waters of the Sea of Marmora. In spite of the fact that Turkish destroyers knew of its presence and hourly watched for it in the hope of sinking it, this submarine was able to operate brilliantly for some days, sinking two Turkish gunboats and a laden transport. Similar exploits were performed by Lieutenant Commander Nasmith with the British submarine E-11, which even damaged wharves at the Turkish capital.
But when the military operations were getting under way during May, 1915, the larger ships of the fleets were again used. The Germans realizing that these great ships, moving as they did slowly and deliberately while they fired on the land forts, would be good targets for torpedoes, sent some of their newest submarines from the bases in the North Sea, down along the coasts of France and Spain, through the passage at Gibraltar and to the Dardanelles. Destroyers accompanying the allied fleets kept diligent watch for attacks from them. The Goeben, one of the German battle cruisers that had escaped British and French fleets in the Mediterranean during the first weeks of the war, and which was now a part of the Turkish navy, was brought to the scene and aided the Turkish forts in their bombardment of the hostile warships.
On May 12, 1915, the British battleship Goliath, of old design and displacing some 12,000 tons, was sunk by a torpedo. This ship had been protecting a part of the French fleet from flank attack inside the straits, and under the cover of darkness had been approached by a Turkish destroyer which fired the fatal torpedo. It sank almost immediately.
The submarines of the German navy which had made the long journey to participate in the action near the Dardanelles got in their first work on May 26, 1915, when a torpedo fired by one of them struck the British battleship Triumph and sent her to the bottom. Of interest to naval authorities all over the world was the fact that this ship at the time she was struck had out torpedo nets which were supposed to be torpedo-proof; but the German missile tore through them and reached the hull. A hunt was made for the hostile submarine by the British destroyers, but she was found by the British battleship Majestic; but before the British ship could fire a shot at the German submarine, the latter fired a torpedo that caught the battleship near her stern and sank her immediately. Apprehension was now felt for the more formidable ships such as the Queen Elizabeth and others of her class which were in those waters; inasmuch as the operations at the Dardanelles assumed more and more a military rather than a naval character, the British admiralty thought it wiser to keep the Queen Elizabeth in safer waters; she was consequently called back to England. Only old battleships and cruisers were left to cooperate with the troops operating on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Naval warfare in southern waters was continued against British warships by the Austrian navy. On June 9, 1915, the Austrian admiralty announced that a cruiser of the type of the Liverpool had been struck by a torpedo fired by an Austrian submarine while the former was off San Giovanni di Medua, near the Albanian coast. Reports of the incident issued by the Austrian and British naval authorities differed, the former claiming that the cruiser had sunk, and the latter that it had remained afloat and had been towed to an Adriatic port.
Most unique was an engagement between the Italian submarine Medusa and a similar craft flying the Austrian flag on June 17, 1915. This was the first time that two submarines had ever fought with each other. On that day the two submarines, the presence of each unknown to the other, lay submerged, not a great distance apart. The Medusa, after some hours, came up, allowing only her periscope to show; seeing no enemy about, her commander brought the rest of her out of the water. She had not emerged many moments before the Austrian vessel also came up for a look around and the commander of the latter espied the Italian submarine through his periscope. He immediately ordered a torpedo fired; it found a mark in the hull of the Medusa and she was sent to the bottom. One of her officers and four of her men were rescued by the Austrian submarine and made prisoners.
Italy's navy was not to continue to act as a separate naval unit in the southern naval theatre of war, for on June 18, 1915, the Minister of Marine of France announced that the "Anglo-French forces in the Mediterranean were cooperating with the Italian fleet, whose participation made possible a more effective patrol of the Adriatic. Warships of the Allies were engaged in finding and destroying oil depots from which the enemy's submarines had been replenishing their supplies." This effective patrol did not, however, prevent an Austrian submarine from sinking an Italian torpedo boat on June 27, 1915.
In the Baltic Sea the naval activity had at no time during the first year of the war been great, but during the month of June, 1915, there was a minor naval engagement at the mouth of the Gulf of Riga, during which the Germans lost a transport and the Russians an auxiliary cruiser. In the other northern waters the Germans lost the submarine U-14, which was sunk on June 9, 1915. The crew were brought to England as prisoners. Three days later the British admiralty admitted that two torpedo boats, the No. 10 and the No. 12 had been lost. The loss of two such small boats did not worry Britain as much as did the loss of many merchant ships in the war zone right through the spring and summer of 1915, and to show that British warships were not immune from submarine attack, in spite of the fact that many of the underwater craft of Germany were meeting with disaster, the British cruiser Roxburgh was struck by a torpedo on June 20, 1915, but was able to get away under her own steam. The rest of the month saw small losses to nearly all of the fleets engaged in the war, but none of these were of importance.
The twelfth month of the first year of war was not particularly eventful in so far as naval history was concerned. On July 1, 1915, the Germans maneuvered in the Baltic Sea with a small fleet which accompanied transports bearing men who were to try to land on the northern shores of Russia. The port of Windau was the point at which the German bombardment was directed, but Russian torpedo boats and destroyers fought off the invading German fleet—which must have been small—and succeeded in chasing the German mine-layer Albatross, making it necessary for her captain to beach her on the Swedish island of Gothland, where the crew was interned on July 2, 1915. On the same, day a German predreadnought battleship, believed to have been the Pommern, was sunk at the mouth of Danzig Bay by a torpedo from a British submarine.
In the Adriatic Austria lost a submarine, the U-11, through a unique action. The submersible was sighted on July 1, 1915, by a French aeroplane. The aviator dropped two bombs which found their mark on the deck of the submarine and sank her. Austria had, during that month, made an attempt to capture the Austrian island of Pelagosa, which had been occupied by the Italians on July 26, 1915. But July 29, 1915, the fleet of Austrian cruisers and destroyers, which made the attack, was driven off by unnamed units of the Italian navy. But a loss by the latter had been incurred on July 7, 1915, when the armored cruiser Amalfi, while scouting in the upper waters of the Adriatic Sea, was sighted and torpedoed by an Austrian submarine. She sank, but most of her men were saved. Another Austrian submarine had the same success on July 17, 1915, when it fired a torpedo at the Italian cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi, and saw her go down fifteen minutes later. Italy endeavored to imitate the actions of Germany when, on July 6, 1915, she proclaimed that the entire Adriatic Sea was a war zone and that the Strait of Otranto was in a state of blockade. All the ports of Dalmatia were closed to every kind of commerce.
Near the coasts of Turkey, toward the end of the first year of war, there was fought the second duel between submarines. This time the vanquished vessel was the French submarine Mariotte, which, on July 26, 1915, was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine in the waters right near the entrance to the Dardanelles. Britain ended the first year of naval warfare by destroying the German cruiser Koenigsberg, which, since the fall of the year before, had been lying up the Rufiji River in German East Africa, after having been chased thence by a British cruiser. It was decided to destroy her in order that she might not get by the sunken hulls that the British had placed at the mouth of the river in order to "bottle her up." Consequently, on the morning of July 4, 1915, after her position had been noted by an aviator, two British river monitors, Severn and Mersey, aided by a cruiser and minor vessels, began to fire upon the stationary vessel. Their fire was directed by the aviator who had discovered her, but it was at first almost ineffective because she lay so well concealed by the vegetation of the surrounding jungle. She answered their fire and succeeded in damaging the Mersey, but after being bombarded for six hours she was set on fire. When the British monitors had finished with her she was a total wreck.
* * * * *
STORY OF THE "EMDEN"
We now return to the exploits of the Emden, its mysterious disappearance and the narrative of its heroes—a great epic of the sea.
When in Volume III the story of the sinking of the German cruiser Emden was related, mention was made of the escape of the landing party belonging to that ship from Cocos Island. This party consisted of fifty men, headed by Captain Muecke, and from the time their ship went down on November 9, 1914, until they reported for duty again at Damascus, Syria, in May, 1915, they had a series of adventures as thrilling as those encountered by the heroes in any of the Renaissance epics.
Before the Emden met the Australian cruiser Sydney, and had been sunk by the latter, she had picked up three officers from German steamers which she had met. This proved to be a piece of good fortune, for extra officers were needed to board and command the prize crews of captured vessels. The story of the raiding of the Emden has already been given; but here the story of the landing party is given as told by Captain Muecke himself on May 10, 1915, at Damascus:
"On November 9, 1914," he said, "I left the Emden in order to destroy the wireless plant on Cocos Island. I had fifty men, four machine guns, about thirty rifles. Just as we were about to destroy the apparatus it reported, 'Careful; Emden near.' The work of destruction went smoothly. The wireless operators said: 'Thank God. It's been like being under arrest day and night lately.' Presently the Emden signaled us, 'Hurry up.' I packed up, but simultaneously the Emden's siren wailed. I hurried to the bridge and saw the flag 'Anna' go up. That meant 'Weigh anchor.' We ran like mad to our boat, but already the Emden's pennant was up, the battle flag was raised, and they began to fire from the starboard."
"The enemy," explained Captain Muecke, "was concealed by the island and therefore not to be seen, but I saw the shells strike the water. To follow and catch the Emden was out of the question, as she was going at twenty knots, and I only four with my steam pinnace. Therefore I turned back to land, raised the flag, declared German laws of war in force, seized all arms, set up my machine guns on shore in order to guard against a hostile landing. Then I ran out again in order to observe the fight. From the splash of the shells it looked as though the enemy had 15-centimeter guns, bigger, therefore, than the Emden's. He fired rapidly but poorly. It was the Australian cruiser Sydney."
According to the account of the Englishmen who saw the first part of the engagement from the shore, the Emden was cut up rapidly. Her forward smokestack lay across the deck, and was already burning fiercely aft. Behind the mainmast several shells struck home.
"We saw the high flame," continued Captain Muecke, "whether circular fighting or a running fight now followed, I don't know, because I again had to look to my land defenses. Later, I looked on from the roof of a house. Now the Emden again stood out to sea about 4,000 to 5,000 yards, still burning. As she again turned toward the enemy, the forward mast was shot away. On the enemy no outward damage was apparent, but columns of smoke showed where shots had struck home. Then the Emden took a northerly course, likewise the enemy, and I had to stand there helpless, gritting my teeth and thinking; 'Damn it; the Emden is burning and you aren't aboard!'"
Captain Muecke, in relating his thrilling adventure, then explained: "The ships, still fighting, disappeared behind the horizon. I thought that an unlucky outcome for the Emden was possible, also a landing by the enemy on the Keeling Island, at least for the purpose of landing the wounded and taking on provisions. As there were other ships in the neighborhood, according to the statements of the Englishmen, I saw myself faced with the certainty of having soon to surrender because of a lack of ammunition. But for no price did I and my men want to get into English imprisonment. As I was thinking about all this, the masts again appeared on the horizon, the Emden steaming easterly, but very much slower. All at once the enemy, at high speed, shot by, apparently quite close to the Emden. A high white waterspout showed amidst the black smoke of the enemy. That was a torpedo. I saw how the two opponents withdrew, the distance growing greater and greater between them; how they separated, till they disappeared in the darkness. The fight had lasted ten hours.
"I had made up my mind to leave the island as quickly as possible. The Emden was gone; the danger for us growing. In the harbor I had noticed a three-master, the schooner Ayesha. Mr. Ross, the owner of the ship and of the island, had warned me that the boat was leaky, but I found it quite a seaworthy tub. Now provisions for eight weeks, and water for four, were quickly taken on board. The Englishmen very kindly showed us the best water and gave us clothing and utensils. They declared this was their thanks for our 'moderation' and 'generosity.' Then they collected the autographs of our men, photographed them and gave three cheers as our last boat put off. It was evening, nearly dark, when we sailed away.
"The Ayesha proved to be a really splendid boat. We had only one sextant and two chronometers on board, but a chronometer journal was lacking. Luckily I found an 'Old Indian Ocean Directory' of 1882 on board; its information went back to the year 1780.
"I had said: 'We are going to East Africa.' Therefore I sailed at first westward, then northward. There followed the monsoons, but then also, long periods of dead calm. Only two neutral ports came seriously under consideration; Batavia and Padang. At Keeling I had cautiously asked about Tsing-tau, of which I had naturally thought first, and so quite by chance I learned that it had fallen. Now I decided for Padang, because I knew I would be more apt to meet the Emden there, also because there was a German consul there, because my schooner was unknown there and because I hoped to find German ships there, and learn some news. 'It'll take you six to eight days to reach Batavia' a captain had told me at Keeling. Now we needed eighteen days to reach Padang, the weather was so rottenly still."
The suffering of the crew of the Emden on their perilous voyage is here told in the captain's words: "We had an excellent cook aboard; he had deserted from the French Foreign Legion. We had to go sparingly with our water; each man received but three glasses daily. When it rained, all possible receptacles were placed on deck and the main sail was spread over the cabin roof to catch the rain.
"At length as we came in the neighborhood of Padang, on the 26th of November, 1915, a ship appeared for the first time and looked for our name. But the name had been painted over, because it was the former English name. As I thought, 'You're rid of the fellow' the ship came up again in the evening, and steamed within a hundred yards of us. I sent all my men below deck, and I promenaded the deck as the solitary skipper. Through Morse signals the stranger gave her identity. She proved to be the Hollandish torpedo boat Lynx. I asked by signals, 'Why do you follow me?' No answer. The next morning I found myself in Hollandish waters, so I raised pennant and war flag. Now the Lynx came at top speed past us. As it passed I had my men line up on deck, and gave a greeting. The greeting was answered. Then, before the harbor at Padang, I went aboard the Lynx in my well and carefully preserved uniform and declared my intentions. The commandant opined that I could run into the harbor, but whether I might come out again was doubtful.
"Three German ships were in the harbor at Padang," continues Captain Muecke. "The harbor authorities demanded the certification for pennant and war flag, also papers to prove that I was the commander of this warship. For that, I answered, I was only responsible to my superior officer. Now they advised me most insistently to allow ourselves to be interned peacefully. They said it wasn't at all pleasant in the neighborhood. We'd fall into the hands of the Japanese or the English. As a matter of fact, we again had great luck. On the day before a Japanese warship had been cruising around here. Naturally, I rejected all the well-meant and kindly advice, and did this in the presence of my lieutenants. I demanded provisions, water, sails, tackle, and clothing. They replied we could take on board everything which we had formerly had on board, but nothing which would mean an increase in our naval strength.
"First thing, I wanted to improve our wardrobe, for I had only one sock, a pair of shoes, and one clean shirt, which had become rather threadbare. My comrades had even less. But the master of the port declined to let us have, not only charts, but also clothing and toothbrushes, on the ground that these would be an increase in armament. Nobody could come aboard, nobody could leave the ship without permission. I requested that the consul be allowed to come aboard. The consul, Herr Schild, as also did the brothers Baeumer, gave us assistance in the friendliest fashion. From the German steamers boats could come alongside and talk with us. Finally, we were allowed to have German papers. They were, to be sure, from August only. From then until March, 1915, we saw no papers.
"Hardly had we been towed out of the harbor again after twenty-four hours, on the evening of the 28th of November, 1914, when a searchlight flashed before us. I thought, 'Better interned than prisoner.' I put out all lights and withdrew to the shelter of the island. But they were Hollanders and didn't do anything to us. Then for two weeks more we drifted around, lying still for days. The weather was alternately still, rainy, and blowy. At length a ship, a freighter, came in sight. It saw us and made a big curve around us. I made everything hastily 'clear for battle.' Then one of our officers recognized her for the Choising. She showed the German flag. I sent up light rockets, although it was broad day, and went with all sails set, that were still setable, toward her. The Choising was a coaster from Hongkong to Siam. She was at Singapore when the war broke out, then went to Batavia, was chartered, loaded with coal for the enemy, and had put into Padang in need, because the coal in the hold had caught fire. There we had met her.
"Great was our joy now. I had an my men come on deck and line up for review. The fellows hadn't a rag on. Thus, in nature's garb, we gave three cheers for the German flag on the Choising. The men of the Choising told us afterward 'We couldn't make out what that meant, those stark-naked fellows all cheering.' The sea was too high, and we had to wait two days before we could board the Choising on December 16, 1914. We took very little with us; the schooner was taken in tow. In the afternoon we sank the Ayesha and were all very sad. The good old Ayesha had served us faithfully for six weeks. The log showed that we had made 1,709 sea miles under sail since leaving Keeling. She wasn't at all rotten and unseaworthy, as they had told me, but nice and white and dry inside. I had grown fond of the boat, on which I could practice my old sailing maneuvers. The only trouble was that the sails would go to pieces every now and then, because they were so old.
"But anyway, she went down quite properly. We had bored a hole in her; she filled slowly and then all of a sudden disappeared. That was the saddest day of the whole month. We gave her three cheers, and my next yacht at Kiel will be named Ayesha, that is sure.
"To the captain of the Choising I had said, when I hailed him, 'I do not know what will happen to the ship. The war situation may make it necessary for me to strand it.' He did not want to undertake the responsibility. I proposed that we work together, and I would take the responsibility. Then we traveled together for three weeks, from Padang to Hodeida. The Choising was some ninety meters long, and had a speed of nine miles, though sometimes only four. If she had not accidentally arrived I had intended to cruise along the west coast of Sumatra to the region of the northern monsoon. I came about six degrees north, then over toward Aden to the Arabian coast. In the Red Sea the northeastern monsoon, which here blows southeast, could bring us to Djidda. I had heard in Padang that Turkey was still allied with Germany, so we would be able to get safely through Arabia to Germany.
"I next waited for information through ships, but the Choising did not know anything definite, either. By way of the Luchs, the Koenigsberg and Kormoran the reports were uncertain. Besides, according to newspapers at Aden, the Arabs were said to have fought with the English; therein there seemed to be offered an opportunity near at hand to damage the enemy. I therefore sailed with the Choising in the direction of Aden. Lieutenant Cordts of the Choising had heard that the Arabian railway already went almost to Hodeida, near the Perin Strait. The ship's surgeon there, Docounlang, found confirmation of this in Meyer's Traveling Handbook. This railway could not have been taken over by the Englishmen, who always dreamt of it. By doing this they would have further and completely wrought up the Mohammedans by making more difficult the journey to Mecca. Best of all, we thought, 'We'll simply step into the express train and whizz nicely away to the North Sea.' Certainly there would be safe journeying homeward through Arabia. To be sure, we had maps of the Red Sea; but it was the shortest way to the foe whether in Aden or in Germany.
"On the 7th of January, 1915, between nine and ten o'clock in the evening, we sneaked through the Strait of Perin. It lay swarming full of Englishmen. We steered along the African coast, close past an English cable layer. That was my greatest delight—how the Englishmen will be vexed when they learn that we passed safely by Perin. On the next evening we saw on the coast a few lights near the water. We thought that must be the pier of Hodeida. But when we measured the distance by night, three thousand meters, I began to think that must be something else. At dawn I made out two masts and four smokestacks; that was an enemy ship and, what is more, an armored French cruiser. I therefore ordered the Choising to put to sea, and to return at night.
"The next day and night the same; then we put out four boats—these we pulled to shore at sunrise under the eyes of the unsuspecting Frenchmen. The sea reeds were thick. A few Arabs came close to us; then there ensued a difficult negotiation with the Arabian coast guards. For we did not even know whether Hodeida was in English or French hands. We waved to them, laid aside our arms, and made signs to them. The Arabs, gathering together, began to rub two fingers together; that means 'We are friends.' We thought it meant 'We are going to rub against you and are hostile.' I therefore said: 'Boom-boom' and pointed to the warship. At all events, I set up my machine guns and made preparations for a skirmish. But, thank God, one of the Arabs understood the word 'Germans'; that was good.
"Soon a hundred Arabs came and helped us and as we marched into Hodeida the Turkish soldiers who had been called out against us saluted us as Allies and friends. To be sure, there was not a trace of a railway, but we were received very well and they assured us we could get through by land. Therefore, I gave red-star signals at night, telling the Choising to sail away, since the enemy was near by. Inquiries and deliberations concerning a safe journey by land proceeded. I also heard that in the interior about six days' journey away, there was healthy highland where our fever invalids could recuperate. I therefore determined to journey next to Sana. On the kaiser's birthday we held a great parade in common with the Turkish troops—all this under the noses of the Frenchmen. On the same day we marched away from Hodeida to the highland.
"Two months later we again put to sea. The time spent in the highland of Sana passed in lengthy inquiries and discussions that finally resulted in our foregoing the journey by land through Arabia, for religious reasons. But the time was not altogether lost. The men who were sick with malaria had, for most part, recuperated in the highland air.
"The Turkish Government placed at our disposal two sambuks (sailing ships), of about twenty-five tons, fifteen meters long and four wide. But, in fear of English spies, we sailed from Jebaua, ten miles north of Hodeida. That was on March 14, 1915. At first we sailed at a considerable distance apart, so that we would not both be captured if an English gunboat caught us. Therefore, we always had to sail in coastal water. That is full of coral reefs, however."
Captain Muecke had charge of the first sambuk. Everything went well for three days. On the third day the order was given for the sambuks to keep near together because the pilot of the first one was sailing less skillfully than the other. Suddenly, in the twilight the men in the second sambuk felt a shock, then another, and a third. The water poured into it rapidly. It had run upon the reef of a small island, where the smaller sambuk had been able to pass on account of its lighter draft. Soon the stranded boat began to list over, and the twenty-eight men aboard had to sit on the gunwale.
"We could scarcely move," narrated Lieutenant Gerdts, who commanded the stranded boat. "The other boat was nowhere in sight. Now it grew dark. At this stage I began to build a raft of spars and old pieces of wood that might keep us afloat. But soon the first boat came into sight again. The commander turned about and sent over his little canoe; in this and in our own canoe, in which two men could sit at each trip, we first transferred the sick. Now the Arabs began to help us. But just then the tropical helmet of our doctor suddenly appeared above the water in which he was standing up to his ears. Thereupon the Arabs withdrew: We were Christians, and they did not know that we were friends. Now the other sambuk was so near that we could have swum to it in half an hour, but the seas were too high. At each trip a good swimmer trailed along, hanging to the painter of the canoe. When it became altogether dark we could not see the boat any more, for over there they were prevented by the wind from keeping any light burning. My men asked: 'In what direction shall we swim?' I answered: 'Swim in the direction of this or that star; that must be about the direction of the boat.' Finally a torch flared up over there—one of the torches that was still left from the Emden. But we had suffered considerably through submersion. One sailor cried out: 'Oh, psha! It's all up with us now, that's a searchlight.' About ten o'clock we were all safe aboard, but one of our typhus patients wore himself out completely by exertion and died a week later. On the next morning we went over again to the wreck in order to seek the weapons that had fallen into the water. You see, the Arabs dive so well; they fetched up a considerable lot—both machine guns, all but ten of the rifles, though these were, to be sure, all full of water. Later they frequently failed to go off when they were used in firing.
"Now we numbered, together with the Arabs, seventy men on the little boat. Then we anchored before Konfida and met Sami Bey. He had shown himself useful, even before, in the service of the Turkish Government, and had done good service as a guide in the last months of the adventure. He procured for us a larger boat of fifty-four tons. We sailed from the 20th of March, 1915, to the 24th, unmolested to Lith. There Sami Bey announced that three English ships were cruising about in order to intercept us. I therefore advised traveling a bit overland. I disliked leaving the sea a second time, but it had to be done."
Captain Muecke explained that Lith is nothing but desert, and therefore it was very difficult to get up a caravan at once. They marched away on March 28, 1915, with only a vague suspicion that the English might have agents here also. They could travel only at night, and when they slept or camped around a spring, there was only a tent for the sick men. Two days' march from Jeddah, the Turkish Government having received word about the crew, sent sixteen good camels.
"Suddenly, on the night of April 1, 1915, things became uneasy," said Captain Muecke. "I was riding at the head of the column. All our shooting implements were cleared for action, because there was danger of an attack from Bedouins, whom the English had bribed. When it began to grow a bit light I thought: 'We're through for to-day'; for we were tired—had been riding eighteen hours. Suddenly I saw a line flash up before me, and shots whizzed over our heads. Down from the camels! We formed a fighting line. You know how quickly it becomes daylight there. The whole space around the desert hillock was occupied. Now we had to take up our guns. We rushed at the enemy. They fled, but returned again, this time from all sides. Several of the gendarmes that had been given to us as an escort were wounded; the machine-gun operator fell, killed by a shot through the heart; another was wounded. Lieutenant Schmidt was mortally wounded. He received a bullet in the chest and another in the abdomen.
"Suddenly, they waved white cloths. The sheik, to whom a part of our camels belonged, went over to them to negotiate, then Sami Bey and his wife. In the interim we quickly built a sort of wagon barricade, a circular camp of camel saddles, of rice and coffee sacks, all of which we filled with sand. We had no shovels, and had to dig with our bayonets, plates, and hands. The whole barricade had a diameter of fifty meters. Behind it were dug trenches, which we deepened even during the skirmish. The camels inside had to lie down, and thus served very well as cover for the rear of the trenches. Then an inner wall was constructed, behind which we carried the sick men. In the very center we buried two jars of water, to guard us against thirst. In addition we had ten petroleum cans full of water; all told, a supply for four days. Late in the evening Sami's wife came back from the futile negotiations, alone. She had unveiled for the first and only time on this day of the skirmish, had distributed cartridges and had acted faultlessly.
"Soon we were able to ascertain the number of the enemy. There were about 300 men; we numbered fifty, with twenty-nine machine guns. In the night Lieutenant Schmidt died. We had to dig his grave with our hands and with our bayonets, and to eliminate every trace above it, in order to protect the body. Rademacher had been buried immediately after the skirmish with all honors.
"The wounded had a hard time of it. We had lost our medicine chest in the wreck; we had only little packages of bandages for skirmishes; but no probing instrument, no scissors, were at hand. On the next day our men came up with thick tongues, feverish, and crying: 'Water, water!' But each one received only a little cupful three times each day. If our water supply became exhausted we would have to sally forth from our camp and fight our way through. At night we always dragged out the dead camels that had served as cover and had been shot.
"This continued about three days. On the third day there were new negotiations. Now the Bedouins demanded arms no longer, but only money. This time the negotiations took place across the camp wall. When I declined the Bedouin said, 'Lots of fight.' I said, 'Please go to it.'
"We had only a little ammunition left, and very little water. Now it really looked as if we would soon be dispatched. The mood of the men was pretty dismal. Suddenly, at about ten o'clock in the morning, there bobbed up in the north two riders on camels, waving white cloths. Soon afterward there appeared, coming from the same direction, far back, a long row of camel troops, about a hundred; they drew rapidly nearer, rode singing toward us, in a picturesque train. They were the messengers and the troops of the Emir of Mecca.
"Sami Bey's wife, it developed, had in the course of the first negotiations, dispatched an Arab boy to Jeddah. From that place the governor had telegraphed to the emir. The latter at once sent camel troops with his two sons and his personal surgeon; the elder, Abdullah, conducted the negotiations, and the surgeon acted as interpreter in French. Now things proceeded in one-two-three order, and the whole Bedouin band speedily disappeared. From what I learned later I know definitely that they had been corrupted with bribes by the English. They knew when and where we would pass, and they had made all preparations. Now our first act was a rush for water; then we cleared up our camp, but had to harness our camels ourselves, for the camel drivers had fled at the very beginning of the skirmish.
"Then, under the safe protection of Turkish troops, we got to Jeddah. There the authorities and the populace received us very well. From there we proceeded in nineteen days by sail boat to Elwesh, and under abundant guard with the Suleiman Pasha, in a five-day caravan journeyed to El Ula."
"Have I received the Iron Cross?" was the first question Captain Muecke asked when he got to that place, and old newspapers which he found there told him that he had. A few days later the party was on train, riding toward Germany.
* * * * *
SUMMARY OF THE FIRST YEAR OF NAVAL WARFARE
The first year of the war came to an end in August, 1915, with the naval situation much the same as it stood at the end of the first six months. The navy of practically every belligerent was intact; the Allies enjoyed the freedom of the seas, but the fact that a German fleet lay intact in the North Sea, and an Austrian fleet lay intact in the Adriatic Sea, indicated only the naval supremacy of the Allies, but not that they had won decisive naval victories.
As there had been no victory there had been no defeat, yet there had been losses to all concerned. The mine and the submarine had changed somewhat the methods of naval warfare—the enemies "nibbled" at their opponents' fleets. Battleships were lost, though the first year of the Great War had seen no pitched battle between ships of that class.
During the second six months of the war England lost the five old battleships Irresistible, Ocean, Goliath, Triumph, and Majestic; the destroyers Recruit and Maori; and the submarine E-15 and another unidentified; and the auxiliary cruisers Clan McNaughton, Bayano, and Princess Irene. Her ally France had lost, during the same period, the old battleship Bouvet, the cruiser Leon Gambetta, the destroyer Dague, and the submarines Joule, Mariotte, and one unidentified.
The losses on the other side were confined to the German navy, with the exception of the Turkish cruiser Medjidieh. Germany lost the battleship Pommern; the cruisers Dresden and Koenigsberg; the submarines U-12, U-29, U-8, one of the type of the U-2, and another unidentified; two unidentified torpedo boats; and the auxiliary cruisers Prinz Eitel Friedrich (interned), Holger, Kronprinz Wilhelm (interned), and Macedonia. Also the destroyer G-196, the mine layer Albatross, and the auxiliary cruise Meteor.
In retaliation for having her flag swept from the seas, Germany's submarines, during the second six months of the war, had sunk a total of 153 merchant ships, including those belonging to neutral countries as well as to her enemies. The total tonnage of these was about 500,000 tons; 1,643 persons died in going down with these ships.
Not of the least importance were the precedents that were established, or attempted to be established, by Germany in conducting naval warfare with her submarine craft. In a note delivered to the United States Government, the German Government declared that British merchant vessels were not only armed and instructed to resist or even attack submarines, but often disguised as to nationality. Under such circumstances it was assumed to be impossible for a submarine commander to conform to the established custom of visit and search. Accordingly, vessels of neutral nations were urgently warned not to enter the submarine war zone. The war zone which she proclaimed about Great Britain had no precedent in history, and it immediately brought to her door a number of controversies with neutrals, particularly the United States. The sinking of liners carrying passengers claiming citizenship in neutral countries was another precedent, which had the same effect with regard to diplomatic exchanges.
Predictions that had been made long before the war came were found to be worthless; there were those who had predicted that Germany in the event of war with England would give immediate battle with her largest ships; but twelve months went by without an actual battle between superdreadnoughts. "Der Tag" had not come. There were those who had predicted that the British navy would force the German ships out of their protected harbors. "We shall dig the rats out of their holes," said Mr. Winston Churchill, British Secretary of State for the Navy in the early months of the war. Mr. Churchill was removed from his position, and twelve months passed by with the German ships still in their "holes."
Certain lessons had been taught naval authorities of all nations through the actual use of the modern battleship in war. The first year showed that the largest ships must have very high speed and long gun range. To some extent the fact that the fighting ships of nearly all of the belligerent countries were thus equipped changed battle tactics.
When the allied fleets had started their bombardment of the Turkish forts at the Dardanelles they were breaking certain well-defined rules which had been axiomatic with naval authorities. The greatest of modern battleships were designed to fight with craft of their like, but not to take issue with land fortifications. For weeks, while the fleets succeeded in silencing for a time some of the Turkish forts, it was thought that this rule no longer held good. But when, after March 19, 1915, the fleets ceased attempting to take the passage without military cooperation, the worth of the rule was reestablished. The ease with which the bombarding ships were made victims of hostile submarines was greatly instrumental in making the rule again an axiom.
The naval supremacy of the allied powers brought them certain advantages—advantages which they had without winning a decisive victory. Germany and Austria were cut off from the Western Hemisphere, and were troubled, in consequence, by shortage in food for their civilian populations to a greater or lesser degree. This was perhaps a negative benefit derived by the Allies from their naval supremacy; the affirmative benefit was that their own communications with the Western Hemisphere were maintained, enabling them not only to get food for their civilian populations, but arms and munitions for their armies; and even financial arrangements, which, if their emissaries could not pass back and forth freely could not have been made, depended on their control of the high seas.
They were able to keep the Channel clear of submarines long enough to permit the passage of the troops, which England from time to time during the first year of the war sent to the Continent, and permitted the participation of the troops of the British overseas dominions, the troops from Canada joining those in France, and the troops from New Zealand and Australia taking their places in the trenches along the Suez Canal and on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Thus, to a certain extent, the advantage of continuous railroad communication which was enjoyed by the Teutonic allies "inside" the arena of military operations was offset by the naval communication maintained by the Entente Powers "outside" the arena of military operations.
* * * * *
FIGHTS OF THE SUBMARINES
When, on the 5th of February, 1915, the German admiralty proclaimed a "war zone" around the British Isles and announced that it would fight the sea power of the Allies with submarines, a new era in naval warfare had opened. In all previous wars, and in the earlier months of the Great War, submarines were employed as auxiliaries to the larger naval units. The Germans were the first to use them as separate units. The idea of sending a fleet of submarines out on to the high seas was a new one, and had been impossible in the last war in which they had been used—that between Russia and Japan. But the improvements which had been made in their design and equipment since then had made an actual cruising submarine possible, and made possible the new phase of naval warfare inaugurated by the German admiralty.
While Germany was the last great sea power to adopt the submarine as a weapon, both England and Germany, in the years immediately preceding the war, had spent the same amounts of money on this sort of craft—about $18,000,000—but while the Germans had later given as much attention to them as to any other sort of naval craft, the British authorities did not figure on employing the submarine as a separate offensive tactical unit being sufficiently equipped in large ships carrying large guns. And being weaker in capital ships Germany was compelled to rely upon underwater warfare in her campaign of attrition. Not only were the naval authorities of the rest of the world uninformed about the improvements that German submarines carried, but they were fooled even as to the actual number which Germany had built.
The most modern of the German submarines at the time had a length of 213 feet and a beam of twenty feet, these dimensions giving them sufficient deck space to mount thereon two rapid-fire guns, one of 3.5 inches and another of 1.4 inches. Their displacement was 900 tons, and they could make a speed of 18 knots when traveling "light" (above water), and 12 knots when traveling submerged. These speeds made it possible for them to overtake all but the fastest merchantmen, though not fast enough to run away from destroyers, gunboats, and fast cruisers. Their range of operation was 2,000 miles, and in the early months of 1915, it was possible for Germany to send two or three of them from their base in the North Sea to the Mediterranean. Germany was at the same time experimenting with a larger type, with a displacement of 1,200 tons and an operating distance of 5,000 miles.
The ordinary submarine in service at the beginning of the war could remain below the surface for twenty-four hours at least. Reserve amounts of air for breathing were carried in tanks under pressure, and in the German type there were also chemical improvements for regenerating air. Contrary to the opinion of laymen, submerging was accomplished both by letting water into ballast tanks, and also by properly deflecting a set of rudders; every submarine had two sets of rudders, one of which worked in vertical planes and pointed the prow of the ship either to the left or the right; the other pair worked in horizontal planes and turned the prow either upward or downward. A pair of fins on the sides of the hull assisted action in both rising and diving. The action of water against the fins and rudders when the ship was in motion was exactly the same as that of the air against the planes of a kite; to submerge one of the craft it was necessary to have it in motion and to have its horizontal rudders so placed that the resistance of the water would drive the ship downward; the reverse operation drove it upward. And here lay a danger, for if the engines of a diving submarine stopped she was bound to come to the surface. Her presence, while moving entirely submerged could be detected by a peculiar swell which traveled on the water above; if submerged only so much as to leave the tip of her periscope still showing, the latter left an easily discernible wake.