I have so far discussed

I have so far discussed

the German Admiral’s alternatives as if they had been debated at the time when war became certain. But it can be taken for granted that the principles on which he acted were not solely his own, but had determined German policy in this matter long before. And, in the main, the decisive arguments probably arose from the character of his force.

Writing in 1905, Admiral Sir Reginald Custance exposed the whole tissue of fallacies on which the policy of building armoured cruisers had been based. The main duties of cruising ships are, first, to assist in winning and maintaining command of the sea, by acting as scouts and connecting links between the battle squadrons, and, secondly, to exercise command, once it has been established by the attack on and defence of trade. For the successful discharge of these functions the essential element is that the cruisers should be numerous. So long as their speed is equal, or superior, to that of the enemy cruisers, there is no reason why their individual strength should be greatly170 or at all superior. The armoured variety represents, roughly speaking, the value of three cruisers of ordinary type, and is manned by a crew almost proportionately larger. When first designed, it was possible to build these large cruisers of a speed superior to that of the smaller vessels, and having this monopoly, the French invented the type in pursuance of the idea that a sea war that consisted chiefly of attacks on commerce, promised brighter prospects than one which could not succeed unless based on battle-fleet supremacy. But this monopoly vanished nearly twenty years ago. For cruising purposes proper, then, this bastard type, while individually enormously more powerful than the light cruiser, was slower and so could not cover even one-third of the ground of its equivalent value in the smaller vessels. Over nine-tenths of the field of cruising, then, it represents a loss of between 60 and 70 per cent. of war efficiency, and this merely from its size.

But because size means cost and because cost has certain definite influences on the human appreciation of values, it was confidently prophesied that no one in command of a number of units of this value could fail to give an undue consideration to the importance of conserving them. Armoured cruisers, in short, would never be treated as cruisers at all, but would be kept in squadrons, just as capital ships are kept, partly to ensure a blow of the maximum strength, if to strike came within the possibilities of the situation, much more, however, for the protective value of mutual support, for fear of an encounter with superior force. This protective tendency would obviously have a further and much more disastrous effect upon the cruising value of such vessels. It would simply mean that, instead of each doing one-third of what three smaller171 cruisers of the same value might have done, they would really do no cruising, properly so called, at all; and not only this, but would probably monopolize the work of two or three small cruisers to act as special scouts of a squadron so composed, so diverting these units in turn from their proper duties. If any one will take the trouble to read the chapter in Barfleur’s “Naval Policy” dealing with this topic, he will find in Von Spee’s conduct an exact exemplification of what that accomplished and gallant author suggested must happen. Von Spee’s policy, in other words, was probably settled for him by the logic of the situation and the doctrine which prevailed to create it.

Von Spee actually did, then, what it was fully anticipated he would do. He kept his ships together and travelled slowly eastward, maintaining himself in absolute secrecy from the outbreak of war until November 1. What were his exact hopes in the policy pursued, and what the consideration that led him to adopt it? His hopes of achieving any definite strategic result can only have been slender. The composition of his force was so well known that he could hardly have supposed it possible that he would ever meet a squadron of inferior strength. He cannot, then, primarily have contemplated the possibility of any sort of naval victory. Failing this, he may have had various not very precisely defined ideas in his mind The moment Von Spee found himself under the effective. .

There was to begin with the possibility of picking up a sufficient number of German reservists off the South American coast to have made it possible, not only to attack and seize the Falkland Islands, but actually to have occupied them by an extemporized military force. This, as we know, he did attempt. He might further have contemplated crossing the South Atlantic to the Cape, with a view to supporting an insurrection of the Boers, if that172 materialized, or in any event of backing up the German colonists, who would be open to attack. Or, having struck a blow at the Falkland Islands, he might have sent his ships on a final mission in raiding the Atlantic trade. So long as his squadron was afloat, there were many possibilities—and always a certainty that it would force counter concentration on his opponents and thereby embarrass them in the task of searching for him.

But one thing was certain. He could not combine squadron war with commercial war. Emden he detached in August to attack the trade in the Indian Ocean. But the only support he could lend her was such immunity from pursuit as would result from the concentration he forced upon the British forces. It is highly probable that, had he sent all his ships on the same mission, he would have had at least a month’s run before effective measures could be taken, if only for the fact, possibly unknown to him, that so large a part of the Allied forces were being devoted to convoying the Australian troops.











HUNDRED STAY Tokyo Shinjuku



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