Obrázky stránek

more than 100,000. The Hindenburg, Derfflinger and Seydlitz may have been seriously crippled, and even put out of action altogether, but they survived the battle, and were not sunk until the Germans themselves sunk them at Scapa Flow in June, 1919. An early unofficial estimate of the German loss in personnel was as follows: 800 dead, 1,400 wounded, 4,600 missing. Each side insisted that the other was concealing losses and each officially denied the charge. The British Admiralty stated positively that the Warspite, Marlborough, Princess Royal, and Birmingham were safe in British ports, with the Acasta and Euryalus, all of which the Germans claimed to have sunk, and that no English submarines took part in the battle, so that, if the German fleet sank a craft of this type, it must have been one of its own. What the naval situation remained was best revealed by examining the relative standing of the British and German fleets afterward, as compared with their standing at the outbreak of the war. On this point the New York Evening Post said:

"England began the war with 215,000 tons in battle-cruisers, against Germany's 208,000 tons. We have no data for adding anything to the British tonnage, and must subtract 63,000 tons lost last Wednesday, leaving a total of 152,000 tons. From the German side we must subtract the Goeben, of 23,000 tons, unavailable for North Sea fighting, and add probably four cruisers of 112,000 tons, giving a total of about 300,000 tons; so that in battle-cruisers Germany to-day is twice as strong as Great Britain.

“In older battleships Great Britain began with 556,000 tons and has lost 115,000 tons, and Germany began with 213,000 tons and has lost 13,000. In heavy cruisers Great Britain began with 450,000 tons and has lost 134,000 tons, and Germany began with 94,000 tons and has lost 64,000 tons. Thus in dreadnought strength the ratio remains the same as at the beginning of the war. In old battleships England's advantage has declined from 214 to 2, and in heavy cruisers it has increased from about five times the German strength to ten times. In battle-cruisers, on the other hand, it has apparently fallen from an equality with Germany to one-half.”

As to what was the real object of the German fleet in going out, no definite information was obtained. The first official German report of the battle merely stated that it was engaged in "an enterprise directed to the northward”

when the encounter occurred. The Paris Temps made the suggestion that this northward dash was aimed to cut off Russian communications at Archangel, which was now free of ice and was Russia's chief means of communication with the outside world. Another theory was that the Germans were deliberately seeking to join battle with Admiral Beatty's battle-cruiser fleet. Other views were that their objective was the British coast, or that the Germans were trying to turn some of their fast commerce-destroyers loose in the Atlantic. Whatever the German purpose, British commentators predicted that it “would be many a long day before the German fleet showed itself again in the North Sea" -a true prediction, as it never again came out except to surrender in 1918. As a result of this battle, said Mr. Balfour, first Lord of the Admiralty, “the German dream of an invasion of England has been dissipated."

In Great Britain the public was a long time in recovering from its astonishment at the manner in which the Admiralty had first announced the battle, which was in terms as if it were a complete British defeat. The London Morning Post afterward remarked : We are a strange people. Our navy wins a great victory with incomparable strategic skill, faultless tactics, and magnificent fighting, and the Admiralty announces it a defeat.The British view that nothing had been changed by the battle was not admitted by their opponents. The Berlin correspondent of the Budapest Az Ujsag said:

“The old saying that the British fleet is invincible has been contradicted by the battle in the Skagerrak, where the mightiest fleet in the world suffered a terrible defeat, and with it the proud leviathans of the sea, each of them worth $40,000,000, wounded to death by the German torpedoes, sank to the bottom of the sea, taking with them the ancient glory of the British domination of the seas. The British Aleet evaded the battle with German might on the sea as long as possible. Hiding in their bases, they never dared to come out whenever the German fleet went out to search for them. This time they were trapt, and had to give battle. The greatest blow at English prestige will open a new phase in the history of the word.”

What was called “a gain in solidarity” was depicted by the Hamburger Fremdenblatt in telling how the news was received in one of the remoter villages of northern Germany. Describing the celebration that followed, the Fremdenblatt said:

“There was not a man who did not have one or two glasses to drink to the health of our boys in blue. We have celebrated many victories, but never have I seen such unmixed joy among our soldiers as on that day. They speak of the Russians with a laugh, and to be transferred to the Eastern Front is regarded as a holiday. For the French they feel pity, even tho the French artillery ‘shoots damned well." But their eyes flash and their fists are clenched unconsciously when somebody speaks of the Britons. And now comes this glorious German victory on the element which the English thought to be their eternal heritage. That is something for our soldiers on the Verdun front. In quiet joy we welcomed the victories of our comrades over the Italians, and the constant advance of our infantry before Verdun was no surprize. But this unhoped-for victory of our sailors over haughty Albion we have celebrated like none before."

In discussing the political effect, Count Ernst zu Reventlow argued in the Berlin Deutsche Tageszeitung that those who favored an understanding with Great Britain, on the ground that Germany could never rival her in seapower, had been silenced. Before the war there was a small but influential party which favored a rapprochement with England and opposed the policy of naval expansion upon the grounds that Germany could never equal Britain on the sea, and that constant additions to the navy were a source of international irritation. Count zu Reventlow said that fallacy was now exposed :

"Great Britain's power and reputation, her political and economic life, have been based upon her navy, or, rather, her naval prestige. Great Britain, therefore, can not possibly acquiesce in her defeat, either for her own sake or for that of her Allies. The consequence is that the idea of an Anglo-German understanding is now relegated to limbo—a fact which we greet with a feeling of relief. The fight will now be continued with the utmost energy, and will necessarily lead to the employment of every possible weapon.”

Notwithstanding all this bombast one fact stood out clearly —that control of the seas remained as securely British as it had ever been since the war began. The real questions were whether British transports were less safe than they were on May 30; whether the arrival of supplies and food in Great Britain had been in any way hampered; whether the seas were any nearer being open to German commerce; whether the blockade against Germany had been weakened. The answer to all was obvious, but a further question had to be answered. Admitting that the German fleet was still confessedly inferior to a full trial of strength for mastery of the seas, how many such exploits as that of May 31 would be necessary to reduce the British fleet to a point where Germans might be in a position to try-out full conclusions ? The final evidence was that the British had not been as badly outwitted as had appeared from the first reports. Beatty's cruisers were not caught in a trap. Rather, he chose to take a great risk in the hope of winning a great victory. He failed in that, but he did not stumble into defeat.

That the battle was essentially inconclusive was admitted by Jellicoe in a later official report. He cheerfully and generously bore witness to the courage of his foe, in accordance with the best English tradition. “fought with the gallantry that was expected of him, said he. He particularly admired the conduct of a German light cruiser which passed down the British line firing from the only gun it was able to use. All this coming from Jellicoe, was the handsomer, in view of what must have been to him great disappointment that the naval part of the war could not have been ended that day, just because an evening mist and fading light robbed the British fleet of the complete success it had striven for. How the fog interfered was shown by Beatty's report which said that at 6.52 P.M. the British lost all sight of the enemy for 20 minutes and again at 7.45 for 35 minutes, while at 8.40 the Germans had disappeared. During intervals when they were sighted Beatty had to fire at a range of 15,000 yards, which was a far cry from the old days when, at the coming of darkness ships hauled off and watched each other as

The enemy

they lighted battle-lanterns before politely renewing the action at arms' length.

In the use of new devices, the most dramatic, said Jellicoe, was the launching of a seaplane from the British auxiliary Engadine. To identify four enemy cruisers, the aircraft flew at a height of only 900 feet within 3,000 yards of these vessels which fired with every gun that they carried. Twentytwo minutes after this plane arose the Engadine was receiving wireless reports from the observers flying above that terrific fire. Next in interest were the attacks of the de stroyer flotillasraids in unison by these “cavalry of the seas” being attempted, without, however, producing decisive results. As they sought to torpedo German battlecruisers, eight British destroyers ran into a flotilla of fifteen enemy destroyers and a light cruiser, with the result that the fiercest kind of action at close range took place. Jellicoe gave several instances of the sighting of submarines during the action, but their presence was denied by the Germans. They said the speed of the fleet was so great that no submarine could have kept up with it. As for Zeppelins, Jellicoe had nothing to say that bore out the early English reports that the Germans were helped by the presence of several of them. The Germans themselves-one eye-witness in particular-seemed positive that they were without this new type of fighting craft.

The general impression made by Admiral Jellicoe in the book he published in March, 1919,11 was one of superior, farther-sighted preparation for a naval war on the part of the Germans. Their fire-control was better, especially at night; and their armor, projectiles, and shells more effective. Relatively, the British Navy had been unprepared. Jellicoe's volume showed how serious might have been the German menace had the Germans realized their opportunity in the earlier nine months of the war, but the book semed to be in the main an effort to explain why Jutland was not a decisive British victory. It aroused wonder as to why, if the British Grand Fleet was so inferior in destroyers, range-finding appliances, armor-piercing projectiles, direct-firing gear for secondary batteries, and searchlights, the Germans were

11 "The Grand Fleet, 1914-1916" (George H. Doran Co.).

« PředchozíPokračovat »