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be seen from a distance as an indication that it had stopped. As on the turning of the ship no American flags were to be seen painted on the sides, the commander was fully under the distinct impression that he had before him a ship like the Baralong, although the steamer was at first sighted without even any national flag. It is not correct that the commander had admitted that the steamer had stopped; on the contrary, it is stated in the above-mentioned note No. 807 in entire conformity with the facts that the steamer "apparently' stopped the engines, but then turned toward the submarine boat.
That, as a matter of fact, the Petrolite must have turned through more than 90° appears from the statement of the American naval constructor that the projectile which struck the steamer must have had an angle of impact of 45°. The submarine boat lay stopped astern of the steamer when the steamer was ordered to stop. It is not feasible to explain the angle of 45° by a maneuver of the submarine boat, for there was no reason for the latter to proceed to a dangerous position ahead of the steamer. The boat was obliged to endeavor to remain astern of the steamer, in order not to expose itself to the danger of being rammed. The commander can not concur in the opinion that an attempt at ramming could not be assumed for the reason that the steamer was 2 miles distant from the submarine boat, and that subsequently an attempt at ramming would appear as hopeless; for he holds that a submarine boat can not in a few moments submerge deep enough to escape an attack, so that the possibility of ramming a submarine boat is not to be excluded even when the boat is 2 miles or more from the steamer.
Finally, it is incorrect to assert that the maneuver executed by the Petrolite was the proper and reasonable mode of procedure. On the contrary, every steamer which is held up by a belligerent manof-war is obliged, as is generally known, to stop as quickly as possible without executing any maneuver. A captain of a merchant vessel must know that a maneuver such as that of the Petrolite, particularly in the case of being stopped by a submarine boat, subjects his vessel to suspicion, and therefore places it in serious danger. Moreover, there were not 12, but only 5, shots fired. As to the effect of these shots, the commander distinctly remembers that the captain stated that the damage caused on deck was insignificant.
After the captain had come on board of the submarine boat, the commander, in addition to calling his attention to the false maneuver
and to the Baralong case, also called his express attention to the absence of a neutral distinguishing mark.
The wound of the Danish sailor was a very slight one; there can obviously be no question of serious flesh wounds. The sailor came on board of the submarine with the captain and said, in the course of the conversation, that a fragment of a shell had grazed his left upper thigh. He was of good cheer and smiled when expressions of sympathy were extended to him. He was a member of the boat's crew and accepted cigarettes from the commander of the submarine boat.
The testimony of the captain in connection with the delivery of provisions does not conform with the facts. It was only a question of whether he could let the officers' mess have some fresh meat. The submarine boat was amply supplied with provisions; but inasmuch as at the time it had been 10 days at sea it is conceivable that fresh provisions would have been welcome.
The captain declared himself immediately ready to turn over such provisions and refused any compensation, with the remark that, being a seaman, he would gladly assist every other seaman. The captain let the submarine boat have a ham, 50 eggs, and about 20 pounds of mutton.
After the incident the boat remained at sea for some considerable time, which would have been impossible had it been dependent upon the provisions supplied by the Petrolite. There can be no question of compulsion, nor was any compulsion exercised in the case of the Danish sailor. When the captain and his men were about to leave the submarine boat to get the provisions, the commander asked him whether the member of his boat's crew who could speak German could remain on board the submarine for the time being, as it was intended to put a few questions to him concerning traffic in this region and sailing routes. The captain without further ado stated that he was willing to leave the sailor on board, and he himself returned in his boat to the steamer. Shortly thereafter the same rowboat, manned by two sailors and without the captain, came alongside of the submarine boat and one of the sailors delivered a small basket of provisions to the commander. The commander again had his thanks therefor transmitted, and handed the Dane, who now reëntered the boat, as a kind of return present a bottle of champagne and a box of cigars for the captain. The captain would surely have refused this present had the steamer and his crew been illegally or inconsiderately treated by the
submarine boat. He had, moreover, taken leave of the commander in the most friendly manner by shaking hands and lifting his hat.
At the end of the inquiry the commander of the submarine boat emphasized that it was as a matter of course far from his thoughts to offend a neutral flag. It was inconceivable to him that such a thing should be attributed to a naval officer. Moreover, no offense can be seen in the application of prize law. The firing upon the steamer under a neutral flag which does not stop, or does not comply with an order to stop in a regular manner, is founded on international lawto say nothing of the fact that the commander of the submarine boat was of the belief that the American flag had been fraudulently hoisted. The commander rejected, as devoid of any foundation, the assertion that he had submitted an incorrect report. He stated that he would leave the decision of the question whether he was guilty of a lack of judgment and self-control or indeed of any evil intention with entire composure to his superiors, who alone were competent to criticize his conduct.
After the commander had given his testimony, the second officer and the chief quartermaster of the submarine boat, who had been similarly informed of the matter under investigation, were heard under oath. They confirmed the testimony of the commander in all particulars. An examination of the other members of the crew was abstained from, because they had no knowledge of the incident from their own observation.
In the opinion of the Imperial and Royal Government, a comparison of the depositions of the officers of the submarine boat, herein reproduced, with the statements of the crew of the Petrolite, gives room to the possibility of easily explaining and clearing up the apparently existing contradictions as to the essential details of the incident in approximately the following manner:
The steamer did not intend to attack the man of war, but the improper, though well-meant, conduct of the captain necessarily awakened the suspicion of the submarine boat, so that its commander felt himself compelled, after firing warning shots, to fire a few shots at the steamer, the crew of which, in their surprise at the unexpected encounter, at once believed that they had been fired upon from the first. The delivery of the provisions and the detention of the Danish sailor were probably not in accordance with the wishes of the captain of the Petrolite, but he outwardly evinced his readiness, perhaps because he knew that he was confronted by a man of war with whose wishes he felt himself obliged to comply, so that he only had the impression of yielding to coercion, without the commander, however, having the slightest thought of exercising compulsion.
Be this as it may, in view of the sworn depositions of the officers of the submarine boat, herein reproduced, and which explain the incident in a plausible manner, the Imperial and Royal Government entertains the conviction that the commander acted entirely within the limits prescribed by international law, and that, therefore regrettably as it may be that an American ship suffered in the event, no responsibility is to be attached either to the commander or the Imperial and Royal Government.
It may finally be remarked that the Imperial and Royal Government is in possession of sworn statements of a number of members of the crew of the Petrolite which agree in important particulars with the statement of the commander of the submarine boat. The Imperial and Royal Chargé d'Affaires at Washington has already availed himself of the occasion of laying the contents of these protocols 1 before the Department of State.
The undersigned has now the honor to respectfully request his excellency the ambassador of the United States of America to kindly bring the foregoing to the cognizance of the Government of the United States, and at the same time avails himself, etc.,
THE TORPEDOING OF THE BRITISH STEAMSHIP "PERSIA."
Consul General Skinner to the Secretary of State.
London, January 1, 1916. First.
P. and 0. Liner Persia reported sunk, submarine, while approaching Alexandria.
Robert N. McNeely, American consul, Aden, going to post, left London as passenger. Nearly all on board perished.
SKINNER. * Not printed.
The Secretary of State to Consul Garrels."
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, January 1, 1916. P. and 0. liner Persia reported submarine while approaching Alexandria. McNeely, Consul, Aden, among passengers. Report promptly concerning him and other Americans with all obtainable details.
Consul Garrels to the Secretary of State.
Alexandria, January 1, 1916. P. and O. liner Persia carrying 4.7 gun sunk five minutes past one afternoon December thirtieth about three hundred miles northwest Alexandria. Presumably torpedo, no submarine was seen, second officer Bromley seeing torpedo track. Vessel sunk in about five minutes. Two American citizens aboard. Charles H. Grant, Manager Vacuum Oil Company, Calcutta, is safe Alexandria. Robert Ney McNeely, assigned Consul of the United States at Aden, most probably lost. Of a total four hundred passengers and crew one hundred fifty-five landed Alexandria January one. McNeely last seen in water. In view of the facts sunken vessel being armed does the Department desire the affidavits.
Diplomatic Agent Arnold to the Secretary of State.
Cairo, January 2, 1916. P and O steamer Persia torpedoed forty miles southeast of Crete Thursday 1.05 p. m., without warning. Nationality submarine unknown as not visible. Sank in five minutes. About 550 passengers and crew including many women and children. About 150 saved.
1 American consulat Alexandria.