The Great War Part 108, September 9th 1916

202 The Great War In other words only two ships were left to do the work for which five were previously available and with the withdrawal also from the worlds carrying trade of large proportions of the French Italian and Russian mercantile fleets and the entire suppression of the German and Austrian each ship Remaining in ordinary service repre­sented a correspondingly more important factor in Jthe economic structure. The operation of the law of supply and demand sent freights up to a staggering height— over 5 a ton was asked and paid for carrying coal from the T yn toe Genoa as against a normal peace quotation of 4s. 6d. or 5s. Ships earning insufficient a couple of voyages to pay for their cost and provide their owners with a profit changed hands at fabulous prices the ultimate burden falling of course Upon the purchasers of the goods which the ships carried. It was upon a mercantile marine thus already depleted of three-fifths of its ships that the Germans turned with their methods of barbarism in order to frighten the re­mainder out of their legitimate business. The more lessor cleanly-played game of the Em den and her fellow- corsairs on the high seas had failed completely and when the German Naval Staff found that the military effective­ness of their submarines was undergoing a similar process of strangulation it determined to change its objective and see whether the U boats could not be employed successfully to scare the British merchant seamen off the seas. The full story of the “submarine blockade ”is told elsewhere in this work. It had no effect whatever on the British mercantile marine beyond the bare record of ships sunk. Never after the first week of the The German “blockades ”existence was there the U boat bogey slightest trace of the moral of our merchant seamen being affected. Ships entered and left our ports with their old regularity and subject to the demands of the Government in their old numbers. Many were sunk for the threat of the German Naval Staff was far from being an empty one many when attacked b y hostile submarines were handled with such skill b y their captains that they succeeded in escaping even after rapid-fire guns as well as torpedoes had been brought to bear on them. Such cases were usually rewarded b they Admiralty with a gold watch for the captain together with an expression on vellum of their appreciation of his seamanship while the owners usually liquidated their indebtedness to the officers and ships company in coin of the realm. A times went on the authorities extended very largely the practice —begun as a modern measure a few months before the opening of the war— of giving our merchant ships one or two light guns with a competent gun-layer for each as an additional means of defence against submarine attack and in many cases these were used with considerable effect. The practice of the Admiralty in withholding all informa­tion relating to the destruction of U boats prevents us for the time being from appreciating as fully as we otherwise would do the useful part which the merchant service has played in this direction. The nonchalance with which the British merchant service pursued its normal courses in spite of the fiercest and most barbarous efforts of the Germans to drive it off the seas roused the enemy to a pitch of frenzy which led them into the commission Running the gauntlet of perhaps the most dastardly crime that to Rotterdam lies even to their discredit. Nothing in the whole war story of the mercantile marine can have been more galling to Germany than the continuance of the British steamship service between our own East Coast ports and Rotterdam .The nearest German naval base to the north of the River Maas on which Rotterdam stands is only one hundred and fifty miles distant while Zeebruggc to the south is only fifty miles away. Both Emden and Zeebrugge were bases for German torpedo craft both surface and submarine and yet in spite of their proximity to the line of route steamship communica­tion with the Dutch port was maintained— -not indeed, regularly but with sufficient frequency to expose the impotence of the Germans and the absolute failure of their methods of “frightfulness ”as aimed at our merchant seamen. Captain Charles Fry a tt had been running the Great Eastern Railway steamer Brussels on this route since the outbreak of war and the Germans had made many attempts to intercept and destroy his ship. In the month of March 1915— -a month in which 110 fewer than nine mer­chantmen were torpedoed b Germany submarines without the slightest warning being given— two separate and determined attempts were made b they enemy to get rid of the obnoxious Brussels. On the 3rd of the month Captain F rya tt successfully dodged an attack and brought his ship safely into port and was presented b y his owners with a gold watch in appreciation of his seamanship. On the 28th a further attempt was made to sink the vessel MOTOR-BOAT PATROL RETURNING TO THE DEPOT SHIP FOR ORpERS. The motor-boat patrol was anew branch of the Service organised to deal with any emergency as naval initiative and resourcefulness'might suggest. This illustration shows two of the boats returning to the depot ship for orders.
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