Obrázky stránek

there was always a possibility of eluding the enemy's main forces, while he would be obliged to keep his fleet massed, so as to have a superiority in any naval engagement that might ensue.

He was a pleasant and interesting talker, but leading questions he swept aside. He chose his own line of argument and no amount of facts could turn him from it. I asked him what had become of their exports and their colonies ? In what manner had the German fleet fulfilled its mission to protect our overseas possessions, as Tirpitz expressed it when he demanded an increased Naval Budget? But it takes more than mere facts to shake a German's colossal confidence in the ruling powers. Wir werden sehen' (we shall see) was always his final retort.

The country that igreeted us next morning was quite different and a very pleasant change from the dull marshy flats of the day before. The Canal, after having turned east, now passed through a country of many small lakes, sprinkled with miniature islands. The surrounding hills varied in height from 50 to 300 feet and were covered with pine or beech woods. At Quarnbeck, about ten miles from the eastern entrance to the Canal, we passed through Flemhuder Lake, which forms turningbasin No. 1. Shortly before noon we reached the Baltic locks at Holtenau-Wick. As our cargo was destined for the Imperial Wharf, we had to go through a new series of examinations, before the necessary permits were issued. It took us the best part of two hours to clear ; and, during that time, there was no kind and cultured' official to take me on a personally conducted tour of the locks. Still, as they are exactly of the same type as those at the North Sea entrance, I did not lose much.


It was a most imposing spectacle that greeted us, when, after leaving the approaches to the locks, we turned south, entering Kiel Harbour proper. There before us lay the great Fleet in Being. We passed close by the ‘Lothringen,' the “Markgraf,' the • Nassau,' the

Wittelsbach,'etc. Torpedo-boats, pinnaces, motor-boats, yawls, launches, boats of all kinds and descriptions,

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed]

twined their way in and out between the big ships. The Imperial yacht Hohenzollern' showed up very conspicuous in its coat of white paint, among the dark-grey monsters. Close by her lay the armoured cruiser Von der Tann,' with steam up. Soon after we had passed her she slowly moved down the line towards the Baltic. • Maneuvres,' I suppose !

The distance from the Canal mouth to the Imperial Dockyards is about four miles as the crow flies. On our left, as we went up the harbour, we passed the huge shipbuilding yards of the Howaldts Works. Another half mile or so further brought us to the Imperial Wharf. The air reverberated with a hundred different noises and sounds. The electric steel-hammers from the dockyards mingled with the warning notes of the torpedo-boat sirens. There was whistling, shouting, cursing. It was, as at Wilhelmshaven-bustle, activity, life, all around. One felt surcharged with the electricity of one's surroundings and swept away by the exhilarating atmosphere.

The large battleships, all cleared for action, appeared less out of place here than those I had seen the day before in the Canal. The defying angles of their guns, their towering walls of steel plate, the giant bridges and solid gun-turrets, seemed to throw a challenge to all the world. Yet, did they? Their main occupation seemed to be playing hide-and-seek with each other in the Canal. The ships have every appearance of being most perfect fighting units. The sight of them warms the heart of any lover of sea-power. Yet, while the sister organisation, the German Army, on the two occasions wben I have attended its manceuvres, and also during my recent trip to the eastern front, where I saw it overcome almost insurmountable obstacles, could arouse my enthusiasm, these big over-armed monsters left me cold. The more I saw of the German fleet, and talked to its officers and its men, the more I became convinced that this war is not going to see a naval battle fought out to the bitter end. My trips have proved to me that, in the widest sense of the term, the Germans spoke the truth when they said, 'We are not going to take any chances with our fleet.'

Not the least interesting thing about Kiel is its name. It is one of the few places I know of that have been

appropriately christened. The name · Kiel' appears as early as the tenth century, and is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Kille,' which means a safe place for ships. As to Kiel itself I am not going to swamp you with statistics. If you want to know how many dockyards there are in Kiel, how many ships are building, etc., take a British Year Book giving information about Germany, multiply its figures by two, and you have a fairly accurate estimate. Though the whole bay is about eleven miles long, the · Kiel’ begins only about five miles from its head, where the two shores approach each other to within three-quarters of a mile. The Narrows are surrounded by forts of the very latest construction, armed with large-calibre guns (most of them, it is said, 15 inch), protected by armour-plates of the famous Gruson steel. The most important forts are Friedrichsort (which protects the Baltic entrance of the Canal), Fort Herwarth, and Fort Falkenstein on the western shore. On the eastern side there are Forts Stosch, Korügen, UnterJägersberg, Möltenort, and several others (see map).

The day after my arrival in Kiel, I was invited (my 'guest’ had obtained the invitation for me) to see some of the German warships in action-in Kiel Bay. My naval friend and another officer called for me at my hotel in a huge grey car with Germany's coat-of-arms painted all over it. The car was a German “Mercedes and certainly built for speed. An orderly was seated next to the driver and frequently blew a long horn of a peculiar but not unpleasant sound. Whenever the man sounded his Ta-ri-ta-ta,' man, woman, child and beast, within half a mile, ran for cover. Through the suburb of Gaarden we flew, then north through the People's Park, past the Imperial Wharf, and through Elterbeck and Wellingdorf. At the Howaldts Dock Yards we were ferried across the Schwentine, and then turned northwest again to reach the shore-road. Just north of the Naval Artillery depôt (ammunition magazines) we stopped, and our guide invited us to leave the car and follow him to a promontory for a view of the harbour.

It was indeed well worth while. The sight was superb. In front of us, to left, to right, wherever our eyes travelled, we saw nothing but warships, of all types

On closer inspection I noticed, first, four

and ages.

« PředchozíPokračovat »