It is an amazing thing that the English, who have the reputation of being a
practical nation, never saw the danger to which they were exposed. For many
years they had been spending nearly a hundred millions a year upon their army
and their fleet. Squadrons of Dreadnoughts costing two millions each had been
launched. They had spent enormous sums upon cruisers, and both their torpedo and
their submarine squadrons were exceptionally strong. They were also by no means
weak in their aerial power, especially in the matter of hydroplanes. Besides all
this, their army was very efficient, in spite of its limited numbers, and it was
the most expensive in Europe. Yet when the day of trial came, all this imposing
force was of no use whatever, and might as well have not existed. Their ruin
could not have been more complete or more rapid if they had not possessed an
ironclad or a regiment. And all this was accomplished by me, Captain John
Sirius, belonging to the navy of one of the smallest Powers in Europe, and
having under my command a flotilla of eight vessels, the collective cost of
which was eighteen hundred thousand pounds. No one has a better right to tell the story than I.
I will not trouble you about the dispute concerning the Colonial frontier,
embittered, as it was, by the subsequent death of the two missionaries. A naval
officer has nothing to do with politics. I only came upon the scene after the
ultimatum had been actually received. Admiral Horli had been summoned to the
Presence, and he asked that I should be allowed to accompany him, because he
happened to know that I had some clear ideas as to the weak points of England,
and also some schemes as to how to take advantage of them. There were only four
of us present at this meeting the King, the Foreign Secretary, Admiral Horli,
and myself. The time allowed by the ultimatum expired in forty-eight hours.
I am not breaking any confidence when I say that both the King and the
Minister were in favour of a surrender. They saw no possibility of standing up
against the colossal power of Great Britain. The Minister had drawn up an
acceptance of the British terms, and the King sat with it before him on the
table. I saw the tears of anger and humiliation run down his cheeks as he looked at it.
"I fear that there is no possible alternative, Sire," said the Minister. "Our
envoy in London has just sent this report, which shows that the public and the
Press are more united than he has ever known them. The feeling is intense,
especially since the rash act of Malort in desecrating the flag. We must give way."
The King looked sadly at Admiral Horli.
"What is your effective fleet, Admiral?" he asked.
"Two battleships, four cruisers, twenty torpedo-boats, and eight submarines," said the Admiral.
The King shook his head.
"It would be madness to resist," said he.
"And yet, Sire," said the Admiral, "before you come to a decision I should
wish you to hear Captain Sirius, who has a very definite plan of campaign against the English."
"Absurd!" said the King, impatiently. "What is the use? Do you imagine that
you could defeat their vast armada?"
"Sire," I answered, "I will stake my life that if you will follow my advice
you will, within a month or six weeks at the utmost, bring proud England to her knees."
There was an assurance in my voice which arrested the attention of the King.
"You seem self-confident, Captain Sirius."
"I have no doubt at all, Sire."
"What then would you advise?"
"I would advise, Sire, that the whole fleet be gathered under the forts of
Blankenberg and be protected from attack by booms and piles. There they can stay
till the war is over. The eight submarines, however, you will leave in my charge
to use as I think fit."
"Ah, you would attack the English battleships with submarines?"
"Sire, I would never go near an English battleship."
"And why not?"
"Because they might injure me, Sire."
"What, a sailor and afraid?"
"My life belongs to the country, Sire. It is nothing. But these eight ships
everything depends upon them. I could not risk them. Nothing would induce me to fight."
"Then what will you do?"
"I will tell you, Sire." And I did so. For half an hour I spoke. I was clear
and strong and definite, for many an hour on a lonely watch I had spent in
thinking out every detail. I held them enthralled. The King never took his eyes
from my face. The Minister sat as if turned to stone.
"Are you sure of all this?"
The King rose from the table.
"Send no answer to the ultimatum," said he. "Announce in both houses that we
stand firm in the face of menace. Admiral Horli, you will in all respects carry
out that which Captain Sirius may demand in furtherance of his plan. Captain
Sirius, the field is clear. Go forth and do as you have said. A grateful King
will know how to reward you."
I need not trouble you by telling you the measures which were taken at
Blankenberg, since, as you are aware, the fortress and the entire fleet were
destroyed by the British within a week of the declaration of war. I will confine
myself to my own plans, which had so glorious and final a result.
The fame of my eight submarines, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Theta, Delta, Epsilon,
Iota, and Kappa, have spread through the world to such an extent that people
have begun to think that there was something peculiar in their form and
capabilities. This is not so. Four of them, the Delta, Epsilon, Iota, and Kappa,
were, it is true, of the very latest model, but had their equals (though not
their superiors) in the navies of all the great Powers. As to Alpha, Beta,
Gamma, and Theta, they were by no means modern vessels, and found their
prototypes in the old F class of British boats, having a submerged displacement
of eight hundred tons, with heavy oil engines of sixteen hundred horse-power,
giving them a speed of eighteen knots on the surface and of twelve knots
submerged. Their length was one hundred and eighty-six and their breadth
twenty-four feet. They had a radius of action of four thousand miles and a
submerged endurance of nine hours. These were considered the latest word in
1915, but the four new boats exceeded them in all respects. Without troubling
you with precise figures, I may say that they represented roughly a twenty-five
per cent, advance upon the older boats, and were fitted with several auxiliary
engines which were wanting in the others. At my suggestion, instead of carrying
eight of the very large Bakdorf torpedoes, which are nineteen feet long, weigh
half a ton, and are charged with two hundred pounds of wet gun-cotton, we had
tubes designed for eighteen of less than half the size. It was my design to make
myself independent of my base. And yet it was clear that I must have a base, so
I made arrangements at once with that object. Blankenberg was the last place I
would have chosen. Why should I have a port of any kind? Ports would be watched
or occupied. Any place would do for me. I finally chose a small villa standing
alone nearly five miles from any village and thirty miles from any port. To this
I ordered them to convey, secretly by night, oil, spare parts, extra torpedoes,
storage batteries, reserve periscopes, and everything that I could need for
refitting. The little whitewashed villa of a retired confectioner that was the
base from which I operated against England.
The boats lay at Blankenberg, and thither I went. They were working
frantically at the defences, and they had only to look seawards to be spurred to
fresh exertions. The British fleet' was assembling. The ultimatum had not yet
expired, but it was evident that a blow would be struck the instant that it did.
Four of their aeroplanes, circling at an immense height, were surveying our
defences. From the top of the lighthouse I counted thirty battleships and
cruisers in the offing, with a number of the trawlers with which in the British
service they break through the mine-fields. The approaches were actually sown
with two hundred mines, half contact and half observation, but the result showed
that they were insufficient to hold off the enemy, since three days later both
town and fleet were speedily destroyed.
However, I am not here to tell you the incidents of the war, but--to explain
my own part in it, which had such a decisive effect upon the result. My first
action was to send my four second-class boats away instantly to the point which
I had chosen for my base. There they were to wait submerged, lying with negative
buoyancy upon the sands in twenty foot of water, and rising only at night. My
strict orders were that they were to attempt nothing upon the enemy, however
tempting the opportunity. All they had to do was to remain intact and unseen,
until they received further orders. Having made this clear to Commander Panza,
who had charge of this reserve flotilla, I shook him by the hand and bade him
farewell, leaving with him a sheet of notepaper upon which I had explained the
tactics to be used and given him certain general principles which he could apply
as circumstances demanded.
My whole attention was now given to my own flotilla, which I divided into two
divisions, keeping Iota and Kappa under my own command, while Captain Miriam had
Delta and Epsilon. He was to operate separately in the British Channel, while my
station was the Straits of Dover. I made the whole plan of campaign clear to
him. Then I saw that each ship was provided with all it could carry. Each had
forty tons of heavy oil for surface propulsion and charging the dynamo which
supplied the electric engines under water. Each had also eighteen torpedoes as
explained and five hundred rounds for the collapsible quick-firing
twelve-pounder which we carried on deck, and which, of course, disappeared into
a water-tight tank when we were submerged. We carried spare periscopes and a
wireless mast, which could be elevated above the conning-tower when necessary.
There were provisions for sixteen days for the ten men who manned each craft.
Such was the equipment of the four boats which were destined to bring to naught
all the navies and armies of Britain. At sundown that day it was April 10th we
set forth upon our historic voyage.
Miriam had got away in the afternoon, since he had so much farther to go to
reach his station. Stephan, of the Kappa, started with me; but, of course, we
realise that we must work independently, and that from that moment when we shut
the sliding hatches of our conning-towers on the still waters of Blankenberg
Harbour it was unlikely that we should ever see each other again, though
consorts in the same waters. I waved to Stephan from the side of my
conning-tower, and lie to me. Then I called through the tube to my engineer (our
water-tanks were already filled and all kingstons and vents closed) to put her
full speed ahead.
Just as we came abreast of the end of the pier and saw the white-capped waves
rolling in upon us, I put the horizontal rudder hard down and she slid under
water. Through my glass portholes I saw its light green change to a dark blue,
while the manometer in front of me indicated twenty feet. I let her go to forty,
because I should then be under the warships of the English, though I took the
chance of fouling the moorings of our own floating contact mines. Then I brought
her on an even keel, and it was music to my ear to hear the gentle, even ticking
of my electric engines and to know that I was speeding at twelve miles an hour
on my great task.
At that moment, as I stood controlling my levers in my tower, I could have
seen, had my cupola been of glass, the vast shadows of the British blockaders
hovering above me. I held my course due westward for ninety minutes, and then,
by shutting off the electric engine without blowing out the water-tanks, I
brought her to the surface. There was a rolling sea and the wind was freshening,
so I did not think it safe to keep my hatch open long, for so small is the
margin of buoyancy that one must run no risks. But from the crests of the
rollers I had a look backwards at Blankenberg, and saw the black funnels and
upper works of the enemy's fleet with the lighthouse and the castle behind them,
all flushed with the pink glow of the setting sun. Even as I looked there was
the boom of a great gun, and then another. I glanced at my watch. It was six
o'clock. The time of the ultimatum had expired. We were at war.
There was no craft near us, and our surface speed is nearly twice that of our
submerged, so I blew out the tanks and our whale-back came over the surface. All
night we were steering south-west, making an average of eighteen knots.
At about five in the morning, as I stood alone upon my tiny bridge, I saw,
low down in the west, the scattered lights of the Norfolk coast. "Ah, Johnny,
Johnny Bull," I said, as I looked at them, "you are going to have your lesson,
and I am to be your master. It is I who have been chosen to teach you that one
cannot live under artificial conditions and yet act as if they were natural
ones. More foresight, Johnny, and less party politics that is my lesson to you."
And then I had a wave of pity, too, when I thought of those vast droves of
helpless people, Yorkshire miners, Lancashire spinners, Birmingham
metal-workers, the dockers and workers of London, over whose little homes I
would bring the shadow of starvation. I seemed to see all those wasted eager
hands held out for food, and I, John Sirius, dashing it aside. Ah, well! war is
war, and if one is foolish one must pay the price. Just before daybreak I saw
the lights of a considerable town, which must have been Yarmouth, bearing about
ten miles west-south-west on our starboard bow. I took her farther out, for it
is a sandy, dangerous coast, with many shoals. At five-thirty we were abreast of
the Lowestoft lightship. A coast-guard was sending up flash signals which faded
into a pale twinkle as the white dawn crept over the water. There was a good
deal of shipping about, mostly fishing-boats and small coasting craft, with one
large steamer hull-down to the west, and a torpedo destroyer between us and the
land. It could not harm us, and yet I thought it as well that there should be no
word of our presence, so I filled my tanks again and went down to ten feet. I
was pleased to find that we got under in one hundred and fifty seconds. The life
of one's boat may depend on this when a swift craft comes suddenly upon you.
We were now within a few hours of our cruising ground, so I determined to
snatch a rest, leaving Vornal in charge. When he woke me at ten o'clock we were
running on the surface, and had reached the Essex coast off the Maplin Sands.
With that charming frankness which is one of their characteristics, our friends
of England had informed us by their Press that they had put a cordon of
torpedo-boats across the Straits of Dover to prevent the passage of submarines,
which is about as sensible as to lay a wooden plank across a stream to keep the
eels from passing. I knew that Stephan, whose station lay at the western end of
the Solent, would have no difficulty in reaching it. My own cruising ground was
to be at the mouth of the Thames, and here I was at the very spot with my tiny
Iota, my eighteen torpedoes, my quick-firing gun, and, above all, a brain that
knew what should be done and how to do it.
When I resumed my place in the conning-tower I saw in the periscope (for we
had dived) that a lightship was within a few hundred yards of us upon the port
bow. Two men were sitting on her bulwarks, but neither of them cast an eye upon
the little rod that clove the water so close to them. It was an ideal day for
submarine action, with enough ripple upon the surface to make us difficult to
detect, and yet smooth enough to give me a clear view. Each of my three
periscopes had an angle of sixty degrees so that between them I commanded a
complete semi-circle of the horizon. Two British cruisers were steaming north
from the Thames within half a mile of me. I could easily have cut them off and
attacked them had I allowed myself to be diverted from my great plan. Farther
south a destroyer was passing westwards to Sheerness. A dozen small steamers
were moving about. None of these were worthy of my notice. Great countries are
not provisioned by small steamers. I kept the engines running at the lowest pace
which would hold our position under water, and, moving slowly across the
estuary, I waited for what must assuredly come.
I had not long to wait. Shortly after one o'clock I perceived in the
periscope a cloud of smoke to the south. Half an hour later a large steamer
raised her hull, making for the mouth of the Thames. I ordered Vornal to stand
by the starboard torpedo-tube, having the other also loaded in case of a miss.
Then I advanced slowly, for though the steamer was going very swiftly we could
easily cut her off. Presently I laid the lot a in a position near which she must
pass, and would very gladly have lain to, but could not for fear of rising to
the surface. I therefore steered out in the direction from which she was coming.
She was a very large ship, fifteen thousand tons at the least, painted black
above and red below, with two cream-coloured funnels. She lay so low in the
water that it was clear she had a full cargo. At her bows were a cluster of men,
some of them looking, I dare say, for the first time at the mother country. How
little could they have guessed the welcome that was awaiting them!
On she came with the great plumes of smoke floating from her funnels, and two
white waves foaming from her cut-water. She was within a quarter of a mile. My
moment had arrived. I signalled full speed ahead and steered straight for her
course. My timing was exact. At a hundred yards I gave the signal, and heard the
clank and swish of the discharge. At the same instant I put the helm hard down
and flew off at an angle. There was a terrific lurch, which came from the
distant explosion. For a moment we were almost upon our side. Then, after
staggering and trembling, the Iota came on an even keel. I stopped the engines,
brought her to the surface, and opened the conning-tower, while all my excited
crew came crowding to the hatch to know what had happened.
The ship lay within two hundred yards of us, and it was easy to see that she
had her deathblow. She was already settling down by the stern. There was a sound
of shouting and people were running wildly about her decks. Her name was
visible, the Adela, of London, bound, as we afterwards learned, from New Zealand
with frozen mutton. Strange as it may seem to you, the notion of a submarine had
never even now occurred to her people, and all were convinced that they had
struck a floating mine. The starboard quarter had been blown in by the
explosion, and the ship was sinking rapidly. Their discipline was admirable. We
saw boat after boat slip down crowded with people as swiftly and quietly as if
it were part of their daily drill. And suddenly, as one of the boats lay off
waiting for the others, they caught a glimpse for the first time of my
conning-tower so close to them. I saw them shouting and pointing, while the men
in the other boats got up to have a better look at us. For my part, I cared
nothing, for I took it for granted that they already knew that a submarine had
destroyed them. One of them clambered back into the sinking ship. I was sure
that he was about to send a wireless message as to our presence. It mattered
nothing, since, in any case, it must be known; otherwise I could easily have
brought him down with a rifle. As it was, I waved my hand to them, and they
waved back to me. War is too big a thing to leave room for personal ill-feeling,
but it must be remorseless all the same.
I was still looking at the sinking Adela when Vornal, who was beside me, gave
a sudden cry of warning and surprise, gripping me by the shoulder and turning my
head. There behind us, coming up the fairway, was a huge black vessel with black
funnels, flying the well-known house-flag of the P. and O. Company. She was not
a mile distant, and I calculated in an instant that even if she had seen us she
would not have time to turn and get away before we could reach her. We went
straight for her, therefore, keeping awash just as we were. They saw the sinking
vessel in front of them and that little dark speck moving over the surface, and
they suddenly understood their danger. I saw a number of men rush to the bows,
and there was a rattle of rifle-fire. Two bullets were flattened upon our
four-inch armour. You might as well try to stop a charging bull with paper
pellets as the Iota with rifle-fire. I had learned my lesson from the Adda, and
this time I had the torpedo discharged at a safer distance two hundred and fifty
yards. We caught her amidships and the explosion was tremendous, but we were
well outside its area. She sank almost instantaneously. I am sorry for her
people, of whom I hear that more than two hundred, including seventy Lascars and
forty passengers, were drowned. Yes, I am sorry for them. But when I think of
the huge floating granary that went to the bottom, I rejoice as a man does who
has carried out that which he plans.
It was a bad afternoon that for the P. and O. Company. The second ship which
we destroyed was, as we have since learned, the Moldavia, of fifteen thousand
tons, one of their finest vessels; but about half-past three we blew up the
Cusco, of eight thousand, of the same line, also from Eastern ports, and laden
with corn. Why she came on in face of the wireless messages which must have
warned her of danger, I cannot imagine. The other two steamers which we blew up
that day, the Maid of Athens (Robson Line) and the Cormorant, were neither of
them provided with apparatus, and came blindly to their destruction. Both were
small boats of from five thousand to seven thousand tons. In the case of the
second, I had to rise to the surface and fire six twelve-pound shells under her
water-line before she would sink. In each case the crew took to the boats, and
so far as I know no casualties occurred.
After that no more steamers came along, nor did I expect them. Warnings must
by this time have been flying in all directions. But we had no reason to be
dissatisfied with our first day. Between the Maplin Sands and the Nore we had
sunk five ships of a total tonnage of about fifty thousand tons. Already the
London markets would begin to feel the pinch. And Lloyd's poor old Lloyd's what
a demented state it would be in! I could imagine the London evening papers and
the howling in Fleet Street. We saw the result of our actions, for it was quite
laughable to see the torpedo-boats buzzing like angry wasps out of Sheerness in
the evening. They were darting in every direction across the estuary, and the
aeroplanes and hydroplanes were like flights of crows, black dots against the
red western sky. They quartered the whole river mouth, until they discovered us
at last. Some sharp-sighted fellow with a telescope on board of a destroyer got
a sight of our periscope, and came for us full speed. No doubt he would very
gladly have rammed us, even if it had meant his own destruction, but that was
not part of our programme at all. I sank her and ran her east-south-east with an
occasional rise. Finally we brought her to, not very far from the Kentish coast,
and the search-lights of our pursuers were far on the western skyline. There we
lay quietly all night, for a submarine at night is nothing more than a very
third-rate surface torpedo-boat. Besides, we were all weary and needed rest. Do
not forget, you captains of men, when you grease and trim your pumps and
compressors and rotators, that the human machine needs some tending also.
I had put up the wireless mast above the conning-tower, and had no difficulty
in calling up Captain Stephan. He was lying, he said, off Ventnor and had been
unable to reach his station, on account of engine trouble, which he had now set
right. Next morning he proposed to block the Southampton approach. He had
destroyed one large Indian boat on his way down Channel. We exchanged good
wishes. Like myself, he needed rest. I was up at four in the morning, however,
and called all hands to overhaul the boat. She was somewhat up by the head,
owing to the forward torpedoes having been used, so we trimmed her by opening
the forward compensating tank, admitting as much water as the torpedoes had
weighed. We also overhauled the starboard air-compressor and one of the
periscope motors which had been jarred by the shock of the first explosion. We
had hardly got ourselves shipshape when the morning dawned.
I have no doubt that a good many ships which had taken refuge in the French
ports at the first alarm had run across and got safely up the river in the
night. Of course I could have attacked them, but I do not care to take risks and
there are always risks for a submarine at night. But one had miscalculated his
time, and there she was, just abreast of Warden Point, when the daylight
disclosed her to us. In an instant we were after her. It was a near thing, for
she was a flier, and could do two miles to our one; but we just reached her as
she went swashing by.
She saw us at the last moment, for I attacked her awash, since otherwise we
could not have had the pace to reach her. She swung away and the first torpedo
missed, but the second took her full under the counter. Heavens, what a smash!
The whole stern seemed to go aloft. I drew off and watched her sink. She went
down in seven minutes, leaving her masts and funnels over the water and a
cluster of her people holding on to them. She was the Virginia, of the Bibby
Line twelve thousand tons and laden, like the others, with foodstuffs from the
East. The whole surface of the sea was covered with the floating grain. "John
Bull will have to take up a hole or two of his belt if this goes on," said
Vornal, as we watched the scene.
And it was at that moment that the very worst danger occurred that could
befall us. I tremble now when I think how our glorious voyage might have been
nipped in the bud. I had freed the hatch of my tower, and was looking at the
boats of the Virginia with Vornal near me, when there was a swish and a terrific
splash in the water beside us, which covered us both with spray. We looked up,
and you can imagine our feelings when we saw an aeroplane hovering a few hundred
feet above us like a hawk. With its silencer, it was perfectly noiseless, and
had its bomb not fallen into the sea we should never have known what had
destroyed us. She was circling round in the hope of dropping a second one, but
we shoved on all speed ahead, crammed down the rudders, and vanished into the
side of a roller. I kept the deflection indicator falling until I had put fifty
good feet of water between the aeroplane and ourselves, for I knew well how
deeply they can see under the surface. However, we soon threw her off our track,
and when we came to the surface near Margate there was no sign of her, unless
she was one of several which we saw hovering over Herne Bay.
There was not a ship in the offing save a few small coasters and little
thousand-ton steamers, which were beneath my notice. For several hours I lay
submerged with a blank periscope. Then I had an inspiration. Orders had been
marconied to every food-ship to lie in French waters and dash across after dark.
I was as sure of it as if they had been recorded in our own receiver. Well, if
they were there, that was where I should be also. I blew out the tanks and rose,
for there was no sign of any warship near. They had some good system of
signalling from the shore, however, for I had not got to the North Foreland
before three destroyers came foaming after me, all converging from different
directions. They had about as good a chance of catching me as three spaniels
would have of overtaking a porpoise. Out of pure bravado I know it was very
wrong I waited until they were actually within gunshot. Then I sank and we saw
each other no more.
It is, as I have said, a shallow sandy coast, and submarine navigation is
very difficult. The worst mishap that can befall a boat is to bury its nose in
the side of a sand-drift and be held there. Such an accident might have been the
end of our boat, though with our Fleuss cylinders and electric lamps we should
have found no difficulty in getting out at the air-lock and in walking ashore
across the bed of the ocean. As it was, however, I was able, thanks to our
excellent charts, to keep the channel and so to gain the open straits. There we
rose about midday, but, observing a hydroplane at no great distance, we sank
again for half an hour. When we came up for the second time, all was peaceful
around us, and the English coast was lining the whole western horizon. We kept
outside the Goodwins and straight down Channel until we saw a line of black dots
in front of us, which I knew to be the Dover-Calais torpedo-boat cordon. When
two miles distant we dived and came up again seven miles to the southwest,
without one of them dreaming that we had been within thirty feet of their
When we rose, a large steamer flying the German flag was within half a mile
of us. It was the North German Lloyd Altona, from New York to Bremen. I raised
our whole hull and dipped our flag to her. It was amusing to see the amazement
of her people at what they must have regarded as our unparalleled impudence in
those English-swept waters. They cheered us heartily, and the tricolour flag was
dipped in greeting as they went roaring past us. Then I stood in to the French
It was exactly as I had expected. There were three great British steamers
lying at anchor in Boulogne outer harbour. They were the Caesar, the King of the
East, and the Pathfinder, none less than ten thousand tons. I suppose they
thought they were safe in French waters, but what did I care about three-mile
limits and international law! The view of my Government was that England was
blockaded, food contraband, and vessels carrying it to be destroyed. The lawyers
could argue about it afterwards. My business was to starve the enemy any way I
could. Within an hour the three ships were under the waves and the Iota was
steaming down the Picardy coast, looking for fresh victims. The Channel was
covered with English torpedo-boats buzzing and whirling like a cloud of midges.
How they thought they could hurt me I cannot imagine, unless by accident I were
to come up underneath one of them. More dangerous were the aeroplanes which
circled here and there.
The water being calm, I had several times to descend as deep as a hundred
feet before I was sure that I was out of their sight. After I had blown up the
three ships at Boulogne I saw two aeroplanes flying down Channel, and I knew
that they would head off any vessels which were coming up. There was one very
large white steamer lying off Havre, but she steamed west before I could reach
her. I dare say Stephan or one of the others would get her before long. But
those infernal aeroplanes spoiled our sport for that day. Not another steamer
did I see, save the never-ending torpedo-boats. I consoled myself with the
reflection, however, that no food was passing me on its way to London. That was
what I was there for, after all. If I could do it without spending my torpedoes,
all the better. Up to date I had fired ten of them and sunk nine steamers, so I
had not wasted my weapons. That night I came back to the Kent coast and lay upon
the bottom in shallow water near Dungeness.
We were all trimmed and ready at the first break of day, for I expected to
catch some ships which had tried to make the Thames in the darkness and had
miscalculated their time. Sure enough, there was a great steamer coming up
Channel and flying the American flag. It was all the same to me what flag she
flew so long as she was engaged in conveying contraband of war to the British
Isles. There were no torpedo-boats about at the moment, so I ran out on the
surface and fired a shot across her bows. She seemed inclined to go on so I put
a second one just above her water-line on her port bow. She stopped then and a
very angry man began to gesticulate from the bridge. I ran the Iota almost
"Are you the captain?" I asked.
"What the--" I won't attempt to reproduce his language.
"You have food-stuffs on board?" I said.
"It's an American ship, you blind beetle!" he cried. "Can't you see the flag?
It's the Vermondia, of Boston."
"Sorry, Captain," I answered. "I have really no time for words. Those shots
of mine will bring the torpedo-boats, and I dare say at this very moment your
wireless is making trouble for me. Get your people into the boats."
I had to show him I was not bluffing, so I drew off and began putting shells
into him just on the water-line. When I had knocked six holes in it he was very
busy on his boats. I fired twenty shots altogether, and no torpedo was needed,
for she was lying over with a terrible list to port, and presently came right on
to her side. There she lay for two or three minutes before she foundered. There
were eight boats crammed with people lying round her when she went down. I
believe everybody was saved, but I could not wait to inquire. From all quarters
the poor old panting, useless war-vessels were hurrying. I filled my tanks, ran
her bows under, and came up fifteen miles to the south. Of course, I knew there
would be a big row afterwards as there was but that did not help the starving
crowds round the London bakers, who only saved their skins, poor devils, by
explaining to the mob that they had nothing to bake.
By this time I was becoming rather anxious, as you can imagine, to know what
was going on in the world and what England was thinking about it all. I ran
alongside a fishing-boat, therefore, and ordered them to give up their papers.
Unfortunately they had none, except a rag of an evening paper, which was full of
nothing but betting news. In a second attempt I came alongside a small yachting
party from Eastbourne, who were frightened to death at our sudden appearance out
of the depths. From them we were lucky enough to get the London Courier of that
It was interesting reading so interesting that I had to announce it all to
the crew. Of course, you know the British style of headline, which gives you all
the news at a glance. It seemed to me that the whole paper was headlines, it was
in such a state of excitement. Hardly a word about me and my flotilla. We were
on the second page. The first one began something like this:
CAPTURE OF BLANKENBERG! DESTEUCTION OF ENEMY S FLEET BURNING OF TOWN TRAWLERS
DESTROY MINE FIELD LOSS OF TWO BATTLESHIPS IS IT THE END?
Of course, what I had foreseen had occurred. The town was actually occupied
by the British. And they thought it was the end! We would see about that.
On the round-the-corner page, at the back of the glorious resonant leaders,
there was a little column which read like this:
"Several of the enemy's submarines are at sea, and have inflicted some
appreciable damage upon our merchant ships. The danger-spots upon Monday and the
greater part of Tuesday appear to have been the month of the Thames and the
western entrance to the Solent. On Monday, between the Nore and Margate, there
were sunk five large steamers, the Adda, Moldavia, Cusco, Cormorant, and Maid of
Athens, particulars of which will be found below. Near Ventnor, on the same day,
was sunk the Verulam, from Bombay. On Tuesday the Virginia, Caesar, King of the
East, and Pathfinder were destroyed between the foreland and Boulogne. The
latter three were actually lying in French waters, and the most energetic
representations have been made by the Government of the Republic. On the same
day The Queen of Sheba, Orontes, Diana, and Atalanta were destroyed near the
Needles. Wireless messages have stopped all ingoing cargo-ships from coming up
Channel, but unfortunately there is evidence that at least two of the enemy's
submarines are in the West. Four cattle-ships from Dublin to Liverpool were sunk
yesterday evening, while three Bristol-bound steamers, The Hilda, Mercury, and
Maria Toser, were blown up in the neighbourhood of Lundy Island. Commerce has,
so far as possible, been diverted into safer channels, but in the meantime,
however vexatious these incidents may be, and however grievous the loss both to
the owners and to Lloyd's, we may console ourselves by the reflection that since
a submarine cannot keep the sea for more than ten days without refitting, and
since the base has been captured, there must come a speedy term to these
So much for the Courier's account of our proceedings. Another small paragraph
was, however, more eloquent:
"The price of wheat, which stood at thirty-five shillings a week before the
declaration of war, was quoted yesterday on the Baltic at fifty-two. Maize has
gone from twenty-one to thirty-seven, barley from nineteen to thirty-five, sugar
(foreign granulated) from eleven shillings and threepence to nineteen shillings
"Good, my lads!" said I, when I read it to the crew. "I can assure you that
those few lines will prove to mean more than the whole page about the Fall of
Blankenberg. Now let us get down Channel and send those prices up a little
All traffic had stopped for London not so bad for the little Iota and we did
not see a steamer that was worth a torpedo between Dungeness and the Isle of
Wight. There I called Stephan up by wireless, and by seven o'clock we were
actually lying side by side in a smooth rolling sea Hengistbury Head bearing
N.N.W. and about five miles distant. The two crews clustered on the whale-backs
and shouted their joy at seeing friendly faces once more. Stephan had done
extraordinarily well. I had, of course, read in the London paper of his four
ships on Tuesday, but he had sunk no fewer than seven since, for many of those
which should have come to the Thames had tried to make Southampton. Of the
seven, one was of twenty thousand tons, a grain-ship from America, a second was
a grain-ship from the Black Sea, and two others were great liners from South
Africa. I congratulated Stephan with all my heart upon his splendid achievement.
Then as we had been seen by a destroyer which was approaching at a great pace,
we both dived, coming up again off the Needles, where we spent the night in
company. We could not visit each other, since we had no boat, but we lay so
nearly alongside that we were able, Stephan and I, to talk from hatch to hatch
and so make our plans.
He had shot away more than half his torpedoes, and so had I, and yet we were
very averse from returning to our base so long as our oil held out. I told him
of my experience with the Boston steamer, and we mutually agreed to sink the
ships by gun-fire in future so far as possible. I remember old Horli saying,
"What use is a gun abroad a submarine?" We were about to show. I read the
English paper to Stephan by the light of my electric torch, and we both agreed
that few ships would now come up the Channel. That sentence about diverting
commerce to safer routes could only mean that the ships would go round the North
of Ireland and unload at Glasgow. Oh, for two more ships to stop that entrance!
Heavens, what would England have done against a foe with thirty or forty
submarines, since we only needed six instead of four to complete her
destruction! After much talk we decided that the best plan would be that I
should despatch a cipher telegram next morning from a French port to tell them
to send the four second-rate boats to cruise off the North of Ireland and West
of Scotland. Then when I had done this I should move down Channel with Stephan
and operate at the mouth, while the other two boats could work in the Irish Sea.
Having made these plans, I set off across the Channel in the early morning,
reaching the small village of Etretat, in Brittany. There I got off my telegram
and then laid my course for Falmouth, passing under the keels of two British
cruisers which were making eagerly for Etretat, having heard by wireless that we
Half-way down Channel we had trouble with a short circuit in our electric
engines, and were compelled to run on the surface for several hours while we
replaced one of the cam-shafts and renewed some washers. It was a ticklish time,
for had a torpedo-boat come upon us we could not have dived. The perfect
submarine of the future will surely have some alternative engines for such an
emergency. However by the skill of Engineer Morro, we got things going once
more. All the time we lay there I saw a hydroplane floating between us and the
British coast. I can understand how a mouse feels when it is in a tuft of grass
and sees a hawk high up in the heavens. However, all went well; the mouse became
a water-rat, it wagged its tail in derision at the poor blind old hawk, and it
dived down into a nice safe green, quiet world where there was nothing to injure
It was on the Wednesday night that the Iota crossed to Etretat. It was Friday
afternoon before we had reached our new cruising ground. Only one large steamer
did I see upon our way. The terror we had caused had cleared the Channel. This
big boat had a clever captain on board. His tactics were excellent and took him
in safety to the Thames. He came zigzagging up Channel at twenty-five knots,
shooting off from his course at all sorts of unexpected angles. With our slow
pace we could not catch him, nor could we calculate his line so as to cut him
off. Of course, he had never seen us, but he judged, and judged rightly, that
wherever we were those were the tactics by which he had the best chance of
getting past. He deserved his success.
But, of course, it is only in a wide Channel that such things can be done.
Had I met him in the mouth of the Thames there would have been a different story
to tell. As I approached Falmouth I destroyed a three-thousand-ton boat from
Cork, laden with butter and cheese. It was my only success for three days.
That night (Friday, April 16th) I called up Stephan, but received no reply.
As I was within a few miles of our rendezvous, and as he would not be cruising
after dark, I was puzzled to account for his silence. I could only imagine that
his wireless was deranged. But, alas! I was soon to find the true reason from a
copy of the Western Morning News, which I obtained from a Brixham trawler. The
Kappa, with her gallant commander and crew, were at the bottom of the English
It appeared from this account that after I had parted from him he had met and
sunk no fewer than five vessels. I gathered these to be his work, since all of
them were by gun fire, and all were on the south coast of Dorset or Devon. How
he met his fate was stated in a short telegram which was headed "Sinking of a
Hostile Submarine." It was marked "Falmouth," and ran thus:
The P. and O. mail steamer Macedonia came into this port last night with five
shell holes between wind and water. She reports having been attacked by a
hostile submarine ten miles to the south-east of the Lizard. Instead of using
her torpedoes, the submarine for some reason approached from the surface and
fired five shots from a semi-automatic twelve-pounder gun. She was evidently
under the impression that the Macedonia was unarmed. As a matter of fact, being
warned of the presence of submarines in the Channel, the Macedonia had mounted
her armament as an auxiliary cruiser. She opened fire with two quick-firers and
blew away the conning-tower of the submarine. It is probable that the shells
went right through her, as she sank at once with her hatches open. The Macedonia
was only kept afloat by her pumps.
Such was the end of the Kappa, and my gallant friend, Commander Stephan. His
best epitaph was in a corner of the same paper, and was headed "Mark Lane." It
"Wheat (average) 66, maize 48, barley 50." Well, if Stephan was gone there
was the more need for me to show energy. My plans were quickly taken, but they
were comprehensive. All that day (Saturday) I passed down the Cornish coast and
round Land's End, getting two steamers on the way. I had learned from Stephan's
fate that it was better to torpedo the large craft, but I was aware that the
auxiliary cruisers of the British Government were all over ten thousand tons, so
that for all ships under that size it was safe to use my gun. Both these craft,
the Yelland and the Playboy the latter an American ship were perfectly harmless,
so I came up within a hundred yards of them and speedily sank them, after
allowing their people to get into boats. Some other steamers lay farther out,
but I was so eager to make my new arrangements that I did not go out of my
course to molest them. Just before sunset, however, so magnificent a prey came
within my radius of action that I could not possibly refuse her. No sailor could
fail to recognise that glorious monarch of the sea, with her four cream funnels
tipped with black, her huge black sides, her red bilges, and her high white
top-hamper, roaring up Channel at twenty-three knots, and carrying her
forty-five thousand tons as lightly as if she were a five-ton motor-boat. It was
the queenly Olympic, of the White Star once the largest and still the comeliest
of liners. What a picture she made, with the blue Cornish sea creaming round her
giant fore-foot, and the pink western sky with one evening star forming the
background to her noble lines.
She was about five miles off when we dived to cut her off. My calculation was
exact. As we came abreast we loosed our torpedo and struck her fair. We swirled
round with the concussion of the water. I saw her in my periscope list over on
her side, and I knew that she had her deathblow. She settled down slowly, and
there was plenty of time to save her people. The sea was dotted with her boats.
When I got about three miles off I rose to the surface, and the whole crew
clustered up to see the wonderful sight. She dived bows foremost, and there was
a terrific explosion, which sent one of the funnels into the air. I suppose we
should have cheered somehow, none of us felt like cheering. We were all keen
sailors, and it went to our hearts to see such a ship go down like a broken
egg-shell. I gave a gruff order, and all were at their posts again while we
headed north-west. Once round the Land's End I called up my two consorts, and we
met next day at Hartland Point, the south end of Bideford Bay. For the moment
the Channel was clear, but the English could not know it, and I reckoned that
the loss of the Olympic would stop all ships for a day or two at least.
Having assembled the Delta and Epsilon, one on each side of me, I received
the report from Miriam and Var, the respective commanders. Each had expended
twelve torpedoes, and between them they had sunk twenty-two steamers. One man
had been killed by the machinery on board of the Delta, and two had been burned
by the ignition of some oil on the Epsilon. I took these injured men on board,
and I gave each of the boats one of my crew. I also divided my spare oil, my
provisions, and my torpedoes among them, though we had the greatest possible
difficulty in those crank vessels in transferring them from one to the other.
However, by ten o'clock it was done, and the two vessels were in condition to
keep the sea for another ten days. For my part, with only two torpedoes left, I
headed north up the Irish Sea. One of my torpedoes I expended that evening upon
a cattle-ship making for Milford Haven. Late at night, being abreast of
Holyhead, I called upon my four northern boats, but without reply. Their Marconi
range is very limited. About three in the afternoon of the next day I had a
feeble answer. It was a great relief to me to find that my telegraphic
instructions had reached them and that they were on their station. Before
evening we all assembled in the lee of Sanda Island, in the Mull of Kintyre. I
felt an admiral indeed when I saw my five whale-backs all in a row. Panza's
report was excellent. They had come round by the Pentland Firth and reached
their cruising ground on the fourth day. Already they had destroyed twenty
vessels without any mishap. I ordered the Beta to divide her oil and torpedoes
among the other three, so that they were in good condition to continue their
cruise. Then the Beta and I headed for home, reaching our base upon Sunday,
April 25th. Off Cape Wrath I picked up a paper from a small schooner.
"Wheat, 84; Maize, 60; Barley, 62." What were battles and bombardments
compared to that!
The whole coast of Norland was closely blockaded by cordon within cordon, and
every port, even the smallest, held by the British. But why should they suspect
my modest confectioner's villa more than any other of the ten thousand houses
that face the sea? I was glad when I picked up its homely white front in my
periscope. That night I landed and found my stores intact. Before morning the
Beta reported itself, for we had the windows lit as a guide.
It is not for me to recount the messages which I found waiting for me at my
humble headquarters. They shall ever remain as the patents of nobility of my
family. Among others was that never-to-be-forgotten salutation from my King. He
desired me to present myself at Hauptville, but for once I took it upon myself
to disobey his commands. It took me two days or rather two nights, for we sank
ourselves during the daylight hours to get all our stores on board, but my
presence was needful every minute of the time. On the third morning, at four
o'clock, the Beta and my own little flagship were at sea once more, bound for
our original station off the mouth of the Thames.
I had no time to read our papers whilst I was refitting, but I gathered the
news after we got under way. The British occupied all our ports, but otherwise
we had not suffered at all, since we have excellent railway communications with
Europe. Prices had altered little, and our industries continued as before. There
was talk of a British invasion, but this I knew to be absolute nonsense, for the
British must have learned by this time that it would be sheer murder to send
transports full of soldiers to sea in the face of submarines. When they have a
tunnel they can use their fine expeditionary force upon the Continent, but until
then it might just as well not exist so far as Europe is concerned. My own
country, therefore, was in good case and had nothing to fear. Great Britain,
however, was already feeling my grip upon her throat. As in normal times
four-fifths of her food is imported, prices were rising by leaps and bounds. The
supplies in the country were beginning to show signs of depletion, while little
was coming in to replace it. The insurances at Lloyd's had risen to a figure
which made the price of the food prohibitive to the mass of the people by the
time it had reached the market. The loaf, which under ordinary circumstances
stood at five-pence, was already at one and twopence. Beef was three shillings
and fourpence a pound, and mutton two shillings and nine-pence. Everything else
was in proportion. The Government had acted with energy and offered a big bounty
for corn to be planted at once. It could only be reaped five months hence,
however, and long before then, as the papers pointed out, half the island would
be dead from starvation. Strong appeals had been made to the patriotism of the
people, and they were assured that the interference with trade was temporary,
and that with a little patience all would be well. But already there was a
marked rise in the death-rate, especially among children, who suffered from want
of milk, the cattle being slaughtered for food. There was serious rioting in the
Lanarkshire coalfields and in the Midlands, together with a Socialistic upheaval
in the East of London, which had assumed the proportions of a civil war. Already
there were responsible papers which declared that England was in an impossible
position, and that an immediate peace was necessary to prevent one of the
greatest tragedies in history. It was my task now to prove to them that they
It was May 2nd when I found myself back at the Maplin Sands to the north of
the estuary of the Thames. The Beta was sent on to the Solent to block it and
take the place of the lamented Kappa. And now I was throttling Britain indeed
London, Southampton, the Bristol Channel, Liverpool, the North Channel, the
Glasgow approaches, each was guarded by my boats. Great liners were, as we
learned afterwards, pouring their supplies into Galway and the West of Ireland,
where provisions were cheaper than has ever been known. Tens of thousands were
embarking from Britain for Ireland in order to save themselves from starvation.
But you cannot transplant a whole dense population. The main body of the people,
by the middle of May, were actually starving. At that date wheat was at a
hundred, maize and barley at eighty. Even the most obstinate had begun to see
that the situation could not possibly continue.
In the great towns starving crowds clamoured for bread before the municipal
offices, and public officials everywhere were attacked and often murdered by
frantic mobs, composed largely of desperate women who had seen their infants
perish before their eyes. In the country, roots, bark, and weeds of every sort
were used as food. In London the private mansions of Ministers were guarded by
strong pickets of soldiers, while a battalion of Guards was camped permanently
round the Houses of Parliament. The lives of the Prime Minister and of the
Foreign Secretary were continually threatened and occasionally attempted. Yet
the Government had entered upon the war with the full assent of every party in
the State. The true culprits were those, be they politicians or journalists, who
had not the foresight to understand that unless Britain grew her own supplies,
or unless by means of a tunnel she had some way of conveying them into the
island, all her mighty expenditure upon her army and her fleet was a mere waste
of money so long as her antagonists had a few submarines and men who could use
them. England has often been stupid, but has got off scot-free. This time she
was stupid and had to pay the price. You can't expect Luck to be your saviour
It would be a mere repetition of what I have already described if I were to
recount all our proceedings during that first ten days after I resumed my
station. During my absence the ships had taken heart and had begun to come up
again. In the first day I got four. After that I had to go farther afield, and
again I picked up several in French waters. Once I had a narrow escape through
one of my kingston valves getting some grit into it and refusing to act when I
was below the surface. Our margin of buoyancy just carried us through. By the
end of that week the Channel was clear again, and both Beta and my own boat were
down West once more. There we had encouraging messages from our Bristol consort,
who in turn had heard from Delta at Liverpool. Our task was completely done. We
could not prevent all food from passing into the British Islands, but at least
we had raised what did get in to a price which put it far beyond the means of
the penniless, workless multitudes. In vain Government commandeered it all and
doled it out as a general feeds the garrison of a fortress. The task was too
great the responsibility too horrible. Even the proud and stubborn English could
not face it any longer.
I remember well how the news came to me. I was lying at the time off Selsey
Bill when I saw a small war-vessel coming down Channel. It had never been my
policy to attack any vessel coming down. My torpedoes and even my shells were
too precious for that. I could not help being attracted, however, by the
movements of this ship, which came slowly zigzagging in my direction.
"Looking for me," thought I. "What on earth does the foolish thing hope to do
if she could find me?"
I was lying awash at the time and got ready to go below in case she should
come for me. But at that moment she was about half a mile away she turned her
quarter, and there to my amazement was the red flag with the blue circle, our
own beloved flag, flying from her peak. For a moment I thought that this was
some clever dodge of the enemy to tempt me within range. I snatched up my
glasses and called on Vornal. Then we both recognised the vessel. It was the
Juno, the only one left intact of our own cruisers. What could she be doing
flying the flag in the enemy's waters? Then I understood it, and turning to
Vornal, we threw ourselves into each other's arms. It could only mean an
armistice or peace!
And it was peace. We learned the glad news when we had risen alongside the
Juno, and the ringing cheers which greeted us had at last died away. Our orders
were to report ourselves at once at Blankenberg. Then she passed on down Channel
to collect the others. We returned to port upon the surface, steaming through
the whole British fleet as we passed up the North Sea. The crews clustered thick
along the sides of the vessels to watch us. I can see now their sullen, angry
faces. Many shook their fists and cursed us as we went by. It was not that we
had damaged them I will do them the justice to say that the English, as the old
Boer War has proved, bear no resentment against a brave enemy but that they
thought us cowardly to attack merchant ships and avoid the warships. It is like
the Arabs who think that a flank attack is a mean, unmanly device. War is not a
big game, my English friends. It is a desperate business to gain the upper hand,
and one must use one's brain in order to find the weak spot of one's enemy. It
it not fair to blame me if I have found yours. It was my duty. Perhaps those
officers and sailors who scowled at the little Iota that May morning have by
this time done me justice when the first bitterness of undeserved defeat was
Let others describe my entrance into Blankenberg; the mad enthusiasm of the
crowds, and the magnificent public reception of each successive boat as it
arrived. Surely the men deserved the grant made them by the State which has
enabled each of them to be independent for life. As a feat of endurance, that
long residence in such a state of mental tension in cramped quarters, breathing
an unnatural atmosphere, will long remain as a record. The country may well be
proud of such sailors.
The terms of peace were not made onerous, for we were in no condition to make
Great Britain our permanent enemy. We knew well that we had won the war by
circumstances which would never be allowed to occur again, and that in a few
years the Island Power would be as strong as ever stronger, perhaps for the
lesson that she had learned. It would be madness to provoke such an antagonist.
A mutual salute of flags was arranged, the Colonial boundary was adjusted by
arbitration, and we claimed no indemnity beyond an undertaking on the part of
Britain that she would pay any damages which an International Court might award
to France or to the United States for injury received through the operations of
our submarines. So ended the war!
Of course, England will not be caught napping in such a fashion again! Her
foolish blindness is partly explained by her delusion that her enemy would not
torpedo merchant vessels. Common sense should have told her that her enemy will
play the game that suits them best that they will not inquire what they may do,
but they will do it first and talk about it afterwards. The opinion of the whole
world now is that if a blockade were proclaimed one may do what one can with
those who try to break it, and that it was as reasonable to prevent food from
reaching England in war time as it is for a besieger to prevent the victualling
of a beleaguered fortress.
"I cannot end this account better than by quoting the first few paragraphs of
a leader in the Times, which appeared shortly after the declaration of peace. It
may be taken to epitomise the saner public opinion of England upon the meaning
and lessons of the episode.
"In all this miserable business," said the writer, "which has cost us the
loss of a considerable portion of our merchant fleet and more than fifty
thousand civilian lives, there is just one consolation to be found. It lies in
the fact that our temporary conqueror is a Power which is not strong enough to
reap the fruits of her victory. Had we endured this humiliation at the hands of
any of the first-class Powers it would certainly have entailed the loss of all
our Crown Colonies and tropical possessions, besides the payment of a huge
indemnity. We were absolutely at the feet of our conqueror and had no possible
alternative but to submit to her terms, however onerous. Norland has had the
good sense to understand that she must not abuse her temporary advantage, and
has been generous in her dealings. In the grip of any other Power we should have
ceased to exist as an Empire.
"Even now we are not out of the wood. Some one may maliciously pick a quarrel
with us before we get our house in order, and use the easy weapon which has been
demonstrated. It is to meet such a contingency that the Government has rushed
enormous stores of food at the public expense into the country. In a very few
months the new harvest will have appeared. On the whole we can face the
immediate future without undue depression, though there remain some causes for
anxiety. These will no doubt be energetically handled by this new and efficient
Government, which has taken the place of those discredited politicians who led
us into a war without having foreseen how helpless we were against an obvious
form of attack.
"Already the lines of our reconstruction are evident. The first and most
important is that our Party men realise that there is something more vital than
their academic disputes about Free Trade or Protection, and that all theory must
give way to the fact that a country is in an artificial and dangerous condition
if she does not produce within her own borders sufficient food to at least keep
life in her population. Whether this should be brought about by a tax upon
foreign foodstuffs, or by a bounty upon home products, or by a combination of
the two, is now under discussion. But all Parties are combined upon the
principle, and, though it will undoubtedly entail either a rise in prices or a
deterioration in quality in the food of the working-classes, they will at least
be insured against so terrible a visitation as that which is fresh in our
memories. At any rate, we have got past the stage of argument. It must be so.
The increased prosperity of the farming interest, and, as we will hope, the
cessation of agricultural emigration, will be benefits to be counted against the
"The second lesson is the immediate construction of not one but two
double-lined railways under the Channel. We stand in a white sheet over the
matter, since the project has always been discouraged in these columns, but we
are prepared to admit that had such railway communication been combined with
adequate arrangements for forwarding supplies from Marseilles, we should have
avoided our recent surrender. We still insist that we cannot trust entirely to a
tunnel, since our enemy might have allies in the Mediterranean; but in a single
contest with any Power of the North of Europe it would certainly be of
inestimable benefit. There may be dangers attendant upon the existence of a
tunnel, but it must now be admitted that they are trivial compared to those
which come from its absence. As to the building of large fleets of merchant
submarines for the carriage of food, that is a new departure which will be an
additional insurance against the danger which has left so dark a page in the
history of our country."