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   Chapter 8 THROUGH THE CANAL TO THE BALTIC

To Kiel in the 'Hercules' By Lewis R. Freeman Characters: 33689

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The Hercules and her four escorting destroyers (the latter having been scattered during the last few days to various ports and air stations in connection with the inspection being pushed all along the German North Sea coast) were to have rendezvoused at Brunsbüttel by dark of the 10th, in order to be ready to start through the Kiel Canal at daybreak the following morning. At the appointed time, however, only the Viceroy, which had pushed through that morning with the "air" party en route to the Zeppelin station at Tondern, was on hand. The Hercules, which had got under weigh from Wilhelmshaven during the forenoon, reported that she had been compelled to anchor off the Elbe estuary on account of the thickness of the fog, and the Verdun, coming on from her visit to Borkum and Heligoland, had been delayed from a similar cause. The Vidette and Venetia, which were helping the "shipping" and "warship" parties get around the harbours of Bremen and Hamburg, signalled that their work was still uncompleted and that they would have to proceed later to Kiel "on their own."

Returning to Brunsbüttel from the Tondern visit well along toward midnight, the absence of the Hercules compelled the four of us who had made that arduous journey in the Viceroy (the accommodations in the "V's" appear to be as elastic as the good nature of their officers is boundless), to spend the night aboard, and the impossibility of rejoining our own ships in the morning was responsible for the fact that we continued with her-the first British destroyer to pass through the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal-on to Kiel. It was a passage as memorable as historic.

An improving visibility toward morning enabled the Hercules to get under weigh again before daybreak, and in the first grey light of the winter dawn she came nosing past us and on up to the entrance of the canal. At each end of the latter there are two locks-lying side by side-for both "outgoing" and "incoming" ships. The right-side one of the "incoming" pair was reserved for the Hercules, while the other was kept clear for the Regensburg-flying Admiral Goette's flag-and the two British destroyers. The difference in level between the canal and the waters of the Elbe, varying considerably with the tide, is only a few feet at most, and the locking through, as a consequence, only the matter of minutes.

The Hercules and Regensburg were already in their respective locks as the Viceroy, with the Verdun half a cable's length astern, came gliding up out of the fog, the former already beginning to show her great bulk above the side as she lifted with the in-pouring water. The attention of the score or so of Germans standing on the wall between the locks was centred, not on the Hercules, as one might have expected, but on the Regensburg, the most of them being gathered in a gesticulative group abreast the latter's bow. The reason for this we saw presently.

H. M. S. "VICEROY" ENTERING KIEL CANAL LOCK AT BRUNSBüTTEL

The handling of the British destroyers on this occasion was one of the smartest things of the kind I ever saw. Indeed, under the circumstances, "spectacular" is a fitter word to describe it than "smart." Without reducing the speed of her engines by a revolution, the Viceroy continued right on into the narrow water-lane of the lock at the same pace as she had approached its entrance. Certainly she was doing ten knots, and probably a good bit over that. On into the still more restricted space between the Regensburg and the right side of the dock she drove, while the waterside loafers-scenting a smash-grinned broadly in anticipation of the humiliation of the Englanders. Straight at the loftily looming lock gate she drove, and I remember distinctly seeing men who were crossing the canal on the bridge made by the folded flaps break into a run to avoid the imminent crash. And she never did slow down; she stopped. While there was still a score of yards to go the captain threw the engine-room telegraph over to "Stop!" and "Half-Speed Astern!" and, straining like a dog in leash as the reversed propellers killed her headway, stop she did. The superlative finesse of the thing (for they had seen something before of the handling of ships in narrow places) fairly swept the gathering dock-side vultures off their feet with astonishment, and one little knot of sailors all but broke into a cheer. Then the Verdun came dashing up and repeated the same spectacular man?uvre in our wake; only, instead of bringing up a few feet short of the lock gates, it was the stern of the Viceroy, with its festoon of poised depth-charges, that her axe-like bow backed away from after nosing up close enough to sniff, if not to scratch, the paint.

"You've impressed the Huns right enough, sir," I remarked to the captain as he rang down, "Finished with the Engines," and turned to descend the ladder of the bridge; "but wasn't it just a bit-"

"Yes, it was rather slow," he cut in apologetically in answer to what he thought I was going to say; "but I didn't dare to take any chances of coming a cropper in strange waters. Now, if it had been the 'Pen' at Rosyth, we might have shown them what one of the little old 'V's' can do when it comes to a pinch."

At the time I thought he was joking-that I had seen the extreme limit that morning of the "handiness" of the modern destroyer. But the Viceroy, astonishing as that performance had been, still had something up her sleeve. A week later, in the fog-shrouded entrance to Kiel Fiord, where a slip would have been a good deal more serious matter than the telescoping of a bow on a lock gate, I saw how much.

From the vantage of the bridge I saw, just before descending for breakfast, what it had been that had deflected the attention of the lock-side loafers from the Hercules to the Regensburg. That most graceful of light cruisers had paid the penalty of being left with a most disgraceful crew. She had rammed the lock gate full and square, and-from the look of her bows-while she still had a good deal of way on. We had remarked especially the trim lissomeness of those bows when she met us off the Jade on the day the Hercules arrived in German waters. And now the sharp stem was bent several feet to port, while all back along her "flare" the buckled plating heaved in undulant corrugations like the hide on the neck of an old bull rhino. As it was the kind of repair that would take a month or more in dock to effect, there was nothing for the Germans to do but go on using her as she was. Luckily, she did not appear to be making much water. She followed us through the canal without difficulty, and-as the days when she would be called on to shake out her thirty knots were gone for ever-it is probable that she served Admiral Goette as well for a flagship as any other of her undamaged sisters would have. But they were never able to smooth out her "brow of care" during all our stay in German waters; indeed, I shall be greatly surprised if (to use the expressive term I heard a bluejacket in the Viceroy apply to it that morning) she does not come poking that "cauliflower nose" in front of her when she is finally handed over for internment at Scapa.

Although they would be dwarfed beside such great structures as the Pedro Miguel or Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, the locks at Brunsbüttel are fine solid works, displaying on every hand evidences of the great attention which had been given to providing for their rapid operation under pressure, as when the High Sea Fleet was being rushed through from the Baltic to the North Sea. Having been enlarged primarily to "double the strength of the German Fleet," expense had not mattered in the way it would have had the canal been expected to justify itself commercially. The merchant traffic of the waterway for many years to come would not have demanded the double locks at either end; but naval exigencies called for speedy operation at any cost, and they were built.

Everything about the locks was in extremely good repair. Even the great agate and onyx mosaic of the name Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal, set between the double-headed eagles of the Imperial arms, was swept and polished to display it to best advantage. The locks were only the front window display, however, for the badly eroded banks of the canal itself testified to the same lack of maintenance as the railways were suffering from. As our pilot reported that the revolutionists had spent the night obliterating all the Imperial names-such as Kaiserstrasse and Kronprintzstrasse-in Brunsbüttel, one felt safe in assuming that the gaudy mosaic on the lock wall had been furbished as a decoration, not as a symbol.

The Hercules, having been raised to the proper level, was locked out into the canal, along which she proceeded at the steady six-knot speed laid down as the limit not to be exceeded by ships of her size. Although of considerably less displacement than a number of the largest of the German capital ships, she was of greater draught than any of these, and even the burning of several hundred tons of coal in the voyage from Rosyth still left her drawing slightly more than the thirty odd feet that the German naval command had set as the limit. This had been figured out in advance, however, and an oiling all round of the destroyers before leaving Wilhelmshaven had brought her up just the few inches necessary to making the passage without inflicting injury to herself or to the canal.

The Hercules had traversed about a mile of the canal before the Viceroy was locked out to follow in her wake, and something like that interval was preserved throughout most of the passage. The Verdun kept about a quarter of a mile astern of the Viceroy, with the Regensburg-but so far back as to be out of sight-bringing up the rear. Two squat patrol launches-one on either quarter, a couple of hundred yards astern-followed the Hercules all the way, but for just what purpose we could not make out.

For the first few miles the country on either side of the canal was of the same low-lying nature as that through which all of our railway journeys from Wilhelmshaven had been made. Ditched and dyked marshland alternated with stretches of bog and broad sheets of stagnant water where the drainage system had proved unequal to carrying off the overflow in the inundations following the winter rains. Cultivation was at a standstill here, probably until the water-logged soil dried out in the spring. Like the East Frisian peninsula, the region was essentially a grazing rather than an agricultural one, and the farmers were paying the penalty of having broken up grassland that was only dry enough for cultivation during a few months of the year. Cattle were scarce, sheep scarcer, and such of the inhabitants as were visible around the dismal farmsteads had the dull, purposeless air of people with nothing to do and plenty of time to do it in.

SEMAPHORE STATION ON KIEL CANAL, FROM "HERCULES"

As we fared inland only the gradually heightening banks told that the country was increasing in elevation. Ponds and bogs were still frequent, and it was not until the first low hills were reached that there appeared to be enough drainage for the land to shake itself free of water. Here the country took on a more cheerful aspect, due principally to the fact that the people, many of whom were working, seemed less "bogged down"-mentally and physically-than their countrymen in the water-logged areas near the sea. Most of them were capable of recognizing us as Allied warships (something which few of the others appeared to have done), and when this had sunk home they usually hurried down to the bank of the canal for a closer view. Most of these isolated farming people were undemonstrative, and it was not until the more sophisticated inhabitants of the villages and towns were encountered that women and children were seen to wave their hands and men to doff their hats and bow. Most of the population, both agricultural and industrial, is found toward the Kiel rather than the Brunsbüttel end of the canal.

At one point we came upon two men and a girl feverishly engaged in skinning a horse, which appeared to have dropped dead in the furrow. Or rather, they had already skinned it and were busy cutting up the carcass. Watching through my glass from the bridge of the Viceroy, I saw all three of them rush helter-skelter over a hill and out of sight as the Hercules came abreast of them, only to hurry back and resume their grisly work when she had disappeared around a bend just ahead. When they again took to their heels on sighting the Viceroy, I asked the pilot what they were afraid of. The law required, he replied, that the authorities should be notified of the death of any head of live stock in order that the meat (in case it was deemed fit for human consumption) should be distributed through the regular rationing channels. These people, he thought, were in the act of stealing their own dead horse, and doubtless their guilty consciences made them fear they would be reported and delivered up to justice.

Since witnessing this incident I have found myself rather less inclined to dwell in retrospect on that huge, juicy "beefsteak" I had devoured with such gusto when it was the pièce de résistance on the menu of our luncheon at the Nordholz Zeppelin station a couple of days previously.

Through the low country the construction of the canal had evidently been only a matter of dredging, but the multiplication in size and number of the "dumps" as the elevation increased showed that there had been places where digging on an extensive scale had been necessary, especially in connection with the widening and deepening operations. The fact that most of the "dumps" appeared to consist of earth of a very loose and sandy nature, some of them so much so that they had been planted thickly with young trees to prevent their being shifted by the winds, showed that the excavation problem had been a comparatively simple one, more of the nature of that at Suez than Panama, where so much of the way had to be blasted through solid rock.

The looseness of the earth had made it necessary to cut the banks at as low an angle as forty-five degrees in places to prevent caving, and at these points the under-water part of the channel was faced with roughly cut stone to minimize erosion. As this work was only carried a few feet above the surface of the water, it required but slight speed on the part of a large ship to produce a wave high enough to splash over on to the unprotected earth and bring it down in slides. This had doubtless happened very often in the course of the frequent shuttling to and fro of the High Sea Fleet, for the stonework was heavily undermined in many places, with few signs to indicate that much had been done in the way of repairs.

Except in the locks (and even there the concrete was cracking badly in places, particularly at the Kiel end), the canal shows many evidences of the haste of its construction and the serious deterioration it has suffered from heavy use and poor maintenance. It will require much money and labour to put it in proper condition, and neither of these is likely to be over plentiful in Germany for some years to come.

Our first glimpse of Allied prisoners in their "natural habitat" occurred at a point about twenty miles inland from Brunsbüttel, where a new and very lofty railway viaduct was being thrown across the canal. The extensive groups of huts along the bank in the shadow of the half-completed final span of steel looked, from the distance, like ordinary workmen's quarters. As we drew nearer, however, broad belts of barbed wire surrounding those on the right side suggested that they were used as a prison camp even before our glasses had revealed the motley clad group on the bank waving to the Hercules. As the Viceroy came abreast the excited and constantly augmenting crowd, we saw that the uniforms were mostly French and Russian, though there were three or four men in the grey of Italy and at least one with the unmistakable cap of the Serbs. A hulking chap in khaki, whom I was making the object of an especially close scrutiny on the chance that he might be British or American, put an end to doubt by slapping his chest resoundingly and announcing proudly, "Je suis Belge!" From the fact that they were all in good spirits, we took it that they were getting enough to eat and that prospects for repatriation were favourable.

We had quite given up hope of sighting any British when suddenly, from behind a barbed-wire barrier fencing off the last groups of huts, rang out a cry of "'Ow's ol'Blighty?" Sweeping my glass round to the quarter from whence the query came, I focussed on a phiz which, despite its mask of lather, I should have recognized as Cockney just

as surely in Korea or Katmandu as on the banks of the Kiel Canal. Waving his brush jauntily in response to the salvo of delighted howls boomed out by the bluejackets lining the starboard rail, he turned back to the little pocket mirror on the side of the hut and resumed his interrupted shave.

"Can you beat that, I ask you?" gasped an American Flying officer who had just clambered up to the bridge. "Here it is the first time that 'Tommy' has seen his country's flag in anywhere from one to four years; and yet, even when he must know he could get a lift home for the asking, all he does is to-go on scraping his face! I say, can you beat it?"

The captain did not reply, but his indulgent grin indicated a sympathetic understanding of "British repressiveness."

But if this particular "Tommy" had been somewhat casual in his greeting, there was nothing to complain of on that score in the reception given us by the next British prisoners we encountered, a few miles further along. The incident-one of the most dramatic of the visit-occurred just after the Hercules had passed under the great railway viaduct which crosses the canal almost midway between Brunsbüttel and Kiel. Wherever practicable, I might explain, all railways have been carried across the canal at a height sufficient to allow even the lofty topmasts of the German warships to pass under by a comfortable margin. Not one of the several viaducts runs much under two hundred feet above the canal, and to attain this height at an easy grade long approaches have been necessary. Some of these-partly steel trestle, partly embankment-stretched beyond eyescope to left and right; but at the viaduct in question the ascent was made by means of two great spiral loops at either end.

A segment of the loop on the left ran close beside the canal in the form of a steep embankment, and as the Hercules glided under the viaduct I saw (we had closed up to within a few hundred yards of her at the time) a long train of passenger cars, drawn by two puffing engines, just beginning the heavy climb. Suddenly I caught the flash of what I took to be a red flag being wildly waved from one of the car windows, and I was just starting to tell the captain that we were about to pass a trainload of revolutionaries when the gust of a mighty cheer swept along the waters to us and set the radio aerials ringing above my head.

"You can't tell me that's a 'Bolshie' yell," observed the American officer decisively. "Nothing but Yanks or Tommies could cough up a roar like that, believe me."

Then I saw that all the canal-ward sides of the dozen or more coaches were wriggling with khaki arms and shoulders (for all the world as though a great two-hundred-yard-long centipede had been pinned up there and left to squirm), and that what I had taken for the red flag of anarchy was only the mass effect of a number of fluttering bandannas. Again and again they cheered the Hercules and the White Ensign, with a fresh salvo for the Viceroy, which they sighted just before the curve of the loop the train was ascending cut off their view of the canal. That was all we ever heard or saw of them. We were never even sure whether they were British or American. We felt certain, however, that the fact that most of them were still in khaki indicated that their stay in the "Land of Kultur" had not been a long one, and, moreover, that they were already on the first leg of their journey home.

Prisoners working on the land-mostly Russian-were more and more in evidence as we neared the Kiel end of the canal. The majority of them still wore their army uniforms, but otherwise there was little to differentiate them-a short distance away at least-from the native peasant labour. None of them appeared to be under guard, and in many places they were working side by side with German farm hands of both sexes. At a number of points I saw Russians lounging indolently in groups consisting mostly of Germans (several of which included women) that had gathered along the banks of the canal to watch us pass, and two or three times I observed unmistakable Russian prisoners (or perhaps ex-prisoners) walking arm-in-arm and apparently in animated conversation with German girls. They seem quite to have taken root in the country. Indeed, the pilot of the Viceroy for the first half of the passage through the canal-he was a Schleswig man, strongly Danish in appearance and probably in sympathies-assured me that the Germans had had the greatest difficulty in getting Russian prisoners to leave the country at all, and that there had been frequent "desertions" from trains and boats whenever it had been attempted. This may well have been true, though-with labour in Germany as much in demand as it was throughout the war-I doubt very much if a great deal in the way of repatriation of Russians had ever been attempted.

KIEL DOCKYARD FROM THE HARBOR

With the towns and villages increasing in size and number as we came to the fertile rolling country toward the Baltic end of the canal, evidences multiplied that the population expected our coming and that, directly or indirectly, they had been instructed to adopt a "conciliatory" bearing. In the farming region toward the North Sea end their bearing had been more suggestive of indifference than anything else; but in the crowds that came down to line the railed "promenades" along the banks an ingratiating attitude was at once apparent. Some of these people, of course, were of Danish extraction and probably sincere, especially a number who waved their hands from well inside their doorways, as though to avoid being observed by their neighbours; but for the most part it was the same nauseating exhibition we had already seen repeated so often at railway stations all over the North Sea littoral.

The only individual we saw in the whole passage who thoroughly convinced me of his sincerity was a bloated ruffian who hailed us from the stern of the barge he had edged into a ferry slip to give us room to pass. "Go back to England, you English swine!" he roared to the accompaniment of a lewd gesture. We learned later that he gave both the Hercules and Verdun the same peremptory orders. Yes, he was quite sincere, that old bargee, and for that reason I have always thought more kindly of him than of all the rest of his grimacing brethren and sistern we saw along the canal that day. A spectacled student (though it is quite possible he was trying to put the same sentiment in politer language) was rather less convincing. "English gentlemen," he cried, drawing his loose-jointed frame up to its full height and glaring at the bridge of the Viceroy from under his peaked cap, "why do you come here?" That may have been intended for a protest, or, again, he may merely have been "swanking" his linguistic accomplishments.

The bluejackets were splendid. There were places-notably at several industrial establishments where crowds of rather "on-coming" girls in trousers exerted their blonde witcheries to the full in endeavours to "start something"-when the least sign of friendliness from the ship would have undoubtedly been met with loud acclaim. But not a British hand did I see lifted in response to the hundreds waved from the banks, while many a simpering grin died out as the moon-face behind it passed under the steady stare of the imperturbable matelots lining the rails of the steadily steaming warships.

The length of the Kiel Canal is just under a hundred kilometres (about sixty miles), so that-at the speed of ten kilometres an hour to which we were limited-the passage required about ten hours, exclusive of the time spent in locking in and out. As it was an hour after dawn when we began the passage at Brunsbüttel, the short winter day was not long enough to make it possible to reach the other end in daylight. By five o'clock darkness had begun to settle over the waters, and the grey mists, piling ever thicker in the narrow notch between the hills, deepened through violet to purple before taking on the black opacity of the curtain of the night. Then the lights came on-parallel rows of incandescents narrowing to mist-softened wedges of blurred brightness ahead and astern-and we continued cleaving our easy effortless way through the ebony water.

The blank squares of lighted villa windows heralded the approach to Kiel; then factories, black, still, and stagnant, with the tracery of overhead cranes and the bulk of tall chimneys showing dimly through the mists; then the locks. As the difference between the canal level and the almost tideless Baltic is only a matter of inches, locking-out was even a more expeditious operation than locking in from the Elbe at the other end. There was just time to note that the "Kaiser Wilhelm" mosaic, there as at Brunsbüttel, had been scrubbed up bright and clean, when the gates ahead folded inward and the way into the Baltic was open. Half an hour later, after steaming slowly across a harbour past many moored warships, we were tying up alongside the Hercules, where she had come to anchor a mile off Kiel dockyard.

*****

The fog lifted during the night, and for an hour or two the following morning there were even signs that our long-lost friend, the sun, was struggling to show his face through the sinister shoals of cumulo-nimbus banked frowningly across the south-eastern heavens. It was evident dirty weather was brewing, but for the moment Kiel and its harbour were revealed in all their loveliness. Completely land-locked from the open Baltic, the beautiful little fiord disclosed a different prospect in whichever direction one turned his eyes. The famous Kaiserliche Yacht Club was close at hand over the port quarter of the Hercules, with a villa-bordered strand opening away to the right. The airy filagree of lofty cranes revealed the location of what had been Europe's greatest naval dockyard, while masses of red roofs disclosed the heart of Kiel itself. Heavily wooded hills, still green, rippled along the skyline on the opposite side of the fiord, with snug little bays running back into them at frequent intervals as they billowed away toward the Baltic entrance. Singularly attractive even in winter, it must have been a veritable yachtsman's paradise in summer. Recalling the marshes and bogs of the Jade, I marvelled at the restraint of the German naval officer whom I had heard say that he and his wife "much preferred Kiel to Wilhelmshaven."

The warships in the harbour proved far less impressive by daylight than at night. Looming up through the mists in the darkness, they had suggested the presence of a formidable fleet. Now they appeared as obsolete hulks, from several of which even the guns had been removed. There was not a modern capital ship left in Kiel; in fact, the only warship of any class which could fairly lay claim to that designation was the Regensburg, which had managed to push her broken nose through the canal and was now lying inshore of us, apparently alongside some sort of quay or dock. The most interesting naval craft (if such a term could be applied to it) in sight was a floating submarine dock, anchored a cable's length on the port beam of the Hercules, but even that-as was proved on inspection-was far from being the latest thing of its kind.

The British ships were the object of a good deal of interest, especially during the first few hours of the day while the fog held off. Various and sundry small craft put off with parties to size us up at close range, amongst these-significant commentary on the fact that at every one of the conferences, including the one held that very day, the Germans had advanced "petrol shortage" as the reason why cars could not be provided to reach this or that station-being a number of motor launches. As all of these seemed to be in the hands of white-banded sailors or dockyard "mateys," the inference might have been drawn that the petrol used was not under the control of the naval authorities; but so many of the other "reasons," advanced to discourage, if not to obstruct, inspections which the Germans, for one reason or another, did not want to have made turned out to be fictitious, that one was tempted to believe that "the absolute lack of petrol" was on all fours with them.

Most of these excursion parties kept at a respectful distance, but there was one launch-load of men and girls from the docks, which persisted in circling close to the ships, and even in coming up under the stern of the Hercules, and offering to exchange cap ribbons. The two-word reply of one of the bluejackets to these overtures would hardly do to print, but its effect was crushing. Nothing but poor steering prevented that launch from taking the shortest course back to the dockyard landing.

FORESHORE OF KIEL HARBOR WITH THE KAISERLICH YACHT CLUB AT LEFT OF GROVE OF TREES

The German Naval Armistice Commission which came off to the Hercules at Kiel to discuss arrangements for inspection in the Baltic differed from that at Wilhelmshaven only in a few of the subordinate members. Rear-Admiral Goette continued to preside, with the tall, blonde Von Müller, of the first Emden, and the shifty, pasty-faced Hinzmann, of the General Staff at Berlin, as his chief advisers. Commander Lohmann still presided over the German sub-commission for shipping, but there was a new officer in charge of "air" arrangements. This latter individual, who proved to be one of the most "Hunnish" Huns we encountered anywhere, I shall have something to say of in the next chapter.

That the German Commission had been "stiffened" under the influence of new forces in Kiel was evident from the opening of the conference; in fact, a good part of this opening Baltic sitting was devoted to reducing them to the same state of "sweet reasonableness" in which they had risen from the closing sitting at Wilhelmshaven. One of the most astonishing of their contentions arose in connection with three unsurrendered U-boats, which had been discovered in the course of warship inspection at Wilhelmshaven. Asked when these might be expected ready to proceed to Harwich, Admiral Goette replied that his Government did not consider themselves under obligation to deliver the boats at all. The justification advanced for this remarkable stand constituted one of the most delightful instances of characteristic Hun reasoning that developed in the course of the visit. This was the gist of it: "We agreed to deliver all U-boats in condition to proceed to sea in the first fourteen days of the armistice," contended the Germans; "but-although we don't deny that they should have been delivered in that period-the fact that they were not so delivered releases us from our obligation to deliver them now. As evidence of our good faith, however, we propose that the vessels in question be disarmed and remain in German ports."

The Germans had so thoroughly convinced themselves that this fantastic interpretation would be accepted by the Allied Commission that Admiral Goette did not consider himself able to concede Admiral Browning's demand (that the three submarines should be surrendered at once) without referring the matter back to Berlin. Definite settlement, indeed, was not arrived at until the final conference nearly a week later, and in that time news had been brought of several score U-boats completed, or nearing completion, in the yards of the Elbe and the Weser.

There was no phase of the Allied Commission's activities which some endeavour was not made to obstruct or circumscribe in the course of this opening session at Kiel. The German sub-commission for shipping reported that their Government did not feel called upon to grant the claim of the Allies for the return of vessels seized as prizes; the inability to arrange for special trains and the lack of petrol would make it impossible to reach certain air stations by land, while, so far as the experiment station at Warnemünde was concerned, the armistice did not give the Allies the right to visit it at all; as for the Great Belt forts, they were already disarmed, and really not worth the trouble of inspecting anyway.

And so it went through some hours, the upshot of it being that the Germans, as at Wilhelmshaven, "vowing they would ne'er consent, consented." Merchant ship inspection began that afternoon, continuing throughout the remainder of the stay at Kiel as one steamer after another came in from this or that Baltic port and dropped anchor. The following day search of the numerous old warships was started, and the day after that word came that the way had even been cleared for the inspection of the great experimental seaplane station at Warnemünde. For the first time there was promise that the work of the Commission would be completed within the period of the original armistice.

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