Obrázky stránek

and burst against the foremast, bringing it down. Two minutes afterward this vessel also was on fire and heeling over, with the Warspite still pounding her and ripping great gashes in her starboard side and bottom. The last we saw of her was nothing more than a broken hulk. The Warrior was towed for ten hours and then sank."

This, the greatest sea-battle of the war, and the most sanguinary engagement in naval history, was commonly described at the time in neutral circles as a draw. The contrary was not definitely accepted until the war was over and a confession came from Germany. With equal weight given to German and British claims at the time of the battle, Dutch papers, as neutral onlookers, made an estimate of the result as a “Pyrrhic victory” for England. The Amsterdam Telegraaf and the Handelsblad indorsed this view, but both argued that the battle had to be considered a British victory because the Germans had failed to accomplish what they set out to do, and the British blockade remained unbroken. “Nothing will be changed in this respect,” said the Telegraaf, “even if the Germans make more hunger-sorties.To Great Britain the battle, however, was a “Pyrrhic victory” because the immense losses in ships and men could hardly have been surpassed in defeat. The Amsterdam Tijd said Spencer Churchill's “råts” had finally “come out of their hole and bitten Britannia badly."

The British claim was that the German losses were as great as, if not greater than, their own, and the claim, tho officially denied by German authorities, was reiterated more strongly after a German admission was made that certain losses had been concealed by Berlin for "military reasons." A belief was encouraged, and became generally prevalent, in Germany that British supremacy on the sea had been broken. The Munich Neueste Nachrichten said it was catastrophic defeat for England and the beginning of “a new era in naval warfare,” for it had “completely dissipated the idea that the British Navy was superior to all others.” The Leipzig Neueste Nachr chten said “England's invincibility on the seas was broken," and the German fleet had "torn the venerable Trafalgar legend into shreds." In the Austrian capital, the Neues Wiener Journal added that


“such a crushing defeat as the English suffered would place a doubt upon their whole supremacy on the seas and deal a decisive blow to their desire to continue that supremacy." The official Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung was not quite so sanguine, but was supremely satisfied with the results:

"From the beginning of the war the officers and crews of our fleet longed for an opportunity to measure their strength against their chief enemy. They have been able to show on a great scale how well founded were the expectations which all Germany attached to their efficiency, heroism, and determination. The first great seabattle has ably demonstrated the excellent quality of the German naval forces."

An official statement from Berlin on June 3 gave the total loss of the German High Sea forces as one battlecruiser, one ship of the line of older construction, four small cruisers, and five torpedo-boats. The statement added that of these losses the battleship Pommern was launched in 1905. While the loss of the cruisers Wiesbaden, Elbing, Frauenlob, and five torpedo-boats had already been reported in official statements, "for military reasons,' said the statement further, “we refrained until now from making public the loss of the battle-cruiser Lützow and the cruiser Rostock.These were declared to be all the losses sustained by the Germans. The losses of the British were again said in Berlin to have been heavier than had been admitted, including the dreadnought Warspite, the battle-cruiser Princess Royal, the cruiser Birmingham, and probably the dreadnought Marlborough. Berlin added that many official and semi-official reports from the British side had been spread abroad “in order to deny the greatness of the British defeat, and create an impression that the battle was a victory for British arms." Another Berlin statement from an "authoritative" source, on June 8, gave the respective strength of the two fleets at the high tide of battle, as follows: British-At least twenty-five dreadnoughts, six battle-cruisers, and at least four armored cruisers. GermanSixteen dreadnoughts, five battle-cruisers, six older German battleships, and no armored cruisers. In addition, “numerous light warships were engaged."

This Berlin statement contained the first mention of the loss of the cruiser Rostock. None of the British claims had included it. Final admission by Berlin of the loss of the Lützow and Rostock brought the total admitted German loss to twelve ships, 58,000 tons. Before the admission, it stood at 32,515 tons, as against admitted British losses of about 105,000 tons. The Lützow was a battle-cruiser of the Derfflinger type, of 28,000 tons displacement, length 718 feet and speed 30 knots. Her armament was eight 12-inch guns and twelve 5.9-inch guns. The Rostock was a small cruiser of the type of the famous sea-raider Karlsruhe. Her displacement was 4,822 tons, length 456 feet and speed 27 knots. Her chief armament was twelve 4.1-inch guns. She

[graphic][merged small]

carried 373 officers and men. As the Germans had fought near home, they had a greater chance than the British of getting their damaged ships safe into home ports. They were only about 100 miles from the shelter of Heligoland, and probably less from the mine-fields in the neighborhood of the Bight, when the battle was finished, whereas Jellicoe's bases were 400 miles away.

Both the jubilation in Germany and the depression in Great Britain which greeted the first news of the sea-fight were materially modified in the light of later and fuller information, with the result that, while neither side admitted a defeat, neutral observers were inclined to agree

that it was impossible for either side to claim a great victory. In first-class fighting ships the British admitted the loss of three battle-cruisers, and claimed to have sunk one German super-dreadnought and two or three battle-cruisers. The Germans admitted the loss of one battle-cruiser and one small battleship and claimed to have sunk two British super-dreadnoughts and four battle-cruisers. The Kaiser, addressing the sailors of the fleet at Wilhelmshaven nearly a week after the battle, announced that "the English fleet was beaten” and its “tyrannical supremacy shattered” and that the result “will cause fear to creep into the bones of the enemy." Enthusiastic German editors acclaimed the German ruler as “Admiral of the Atlantic,” but the New

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

York World retorted that “an Admiral of the Atlantic Ocean who has not a single ship afloat on the Atlantic Ocean and can not get a ship there should have hesitated somewhat before assuming the title." If Great Britain's seapower had been shattered, the same paper asked, “why were the North German-Lloyd and Hamburg-American ships rusting at their Hoboken docks?“The German Navy," it concluded, “was still a navy in jail, which could assault its keeper now and then with great fury, but remained in jail nevertheless." Popular rejoicing in Germany would be succeeded by disillusionment, said the New York Times, when the people found "the hateful blockade no less rigor

ous, and food no more plentiful in Berlin." The Evening World summed up the results for the two nations as “materially a minor loss for England, but a serious moral setback; for Germany, a very costly matter, but a stimulating moral victory."

In England public opinion rallied quickly from the consternation caused by the first news of the loss of fourteen ships and thousands of brave sailors when the second report from the Admiralty claimed the result as a British victory. King George, in a message to Jellicoe, exprest regret that “the German High Seas Fleet, in spite of its heavy losses, was enabled by misty weather to evade the full consequences of the encounter,” thereby “robbing us of the opportunity of gaining a decisive victory." It was nevertheless a “British victory,” declared Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, retired, who summed up his version of the result as follows: “We lost cruisers which we can afford to lose; the Germans lost battleships which they can not afford to lose.'

The British Admiralty, in a later statement, admitted the loss of fourteen ships, including three battle-cruisers, three cruisers, and eight destroyers, with a tonnage of about 114,000. As many of these went down with virtually all on board, the loss in personnel was admittedly heavy, available estimates placing it at about five thousand. The casualty list gave the names of 333 British officers killed, among them Rear Admirals Hood and Arbuthnot. The British ships admitted sunk were the Queen Mary, Indefatigable, and Invincible, battle-cruisers; the Defense, Black Prince, and Warrior, cruisers; the Tipperary, Turbulent, Fortune, Sparrowhawk, Ardent, Nomad, Nestor, and Shark, destroyers.

Against these Germany admitted the loss of eleven shipsthe battle-cruiser Lützow, the battleship Pommern, the cruisers Wiesbaden, Elbing, Frauenlob and Rostock, and gave unnamed torpedo-boats-representing a total of 60,720 tons. Additional German losses claimed by the British were the super-dreadnought Hindenburg, the battle-cruisers Derfflinger and Seydlitz, two battle-cruisers of the Kaiser class, a light cruiser, five destroyers, and a submarinewhich would have increased the German loss in tonnage by

« PředchozíPokračovat »