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   Chapter 10 JUTLAND AS A GERMAN SAW IT

To Kiel in the 'Hercules' By Lewis R. Freeman Characters: 36207

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It must have been the unspeakable position of humiliation he found himself in as a consequence of being ignored, flouted, and even openly insulted by the men he had once treated as no more worthy of consideration than the deck beneath his feet that was responsible for the fact that the German naval officer with whom the members of the staff of the Allied Naval Armistice Commission were thrown in contact almost invariably assumed an air of injured martyrdom, missing no opportunity to draw attention to, and endeavour to awaken sympathy in, his sad plight. He took advantage of any kind of a pretext to "tell his troubles," and when nothing occurred in the natural course of events to provide an excuse, he invented one. Thus, a Korvettenkapit?n in one of the ships searched at Wilhelmshaven took advantage of the fact that a man to whom he gave an order about opening a water-tight door in a bulkhead slouched over and started discussing with the white-banded representative of the Workmen's and Soldiers' Council, to speak at some length of the "terrible situation" with which he had been faced at the time when the High Sea Fleet had been ordered out last November for a decisive naval battle. The filthy condition his ship was in furnished the inspiration for another officer to tell at some length of how he had hung his head with shame since the day he had been baulked of "The Day." An ex-submarine officer-acting as pilot in one of the British destroyers in the Baltic-did not feel that he could leave the ship without setting right some comments on German naval gunnery, which he had found in a London paper left in his cabin.

And so it went. Now and then one of them, after volunteering an account of something in his own naval experience, would counter with some more or less shrewdly interpolated query calculated to draw a "revealing" reply; but for the most part they were content with a passive listener. That fact relieved considerably the embarrassment this action on the part of the Germans placed Allied officers, who were under orders to hold no "unnecessary conversation" in the course of their tours of inspection. A "monologue" could in no way be construed as a "conversation," and when, as was almost invariably the case, it was up on a subject in which the "audience" was deeply interested, it was felt that there was no contravention of the spirit of the order in listening to it. The statements and comment I am setting down in this article were heard in the course of such "monologues" delivered by this or that German naval officer with whom I was thrown-often for as long as two or three days at stretch-in connection with the journeys and inspection routine of the party to which I chanced to be attached at the moment. In only two or three instances-notably in the case of an officer in the flying service who endeavoured to dissuade us from visiting the Zeppelin station at Tondern by giving a false account of the damage inflicted in the course of the British bombing raid of last summer-did statements made under these circumstances turn out to be deliberate untruths. On the contrary, indeed, much that I first heard in this way I have later been able to confirm from other sources, and to this-statements which there is good reason to believe are quite true-I am endeavouring to confine myself here. In matter of opinions expressed, the German naval officer has, of course, the same right to his own as has anybody else, and, as one of the few things remaining to him at the end of the war that he did have a right to, I did not, and shall not, try to dispute them.

Perhaps the one most interesting fact brought out in connection with all I heard in this way-it is confirmed, directly and indirectly, from so many different sources that I should consider it as definitely established beyond all doubt-was that at no time from August, 1914, to November, 1918, did the German seriously plan for a stand-up, give-and-take fight to a finish with the British Fleet. Never, not in the flush of his opening triumphs on land, nor yet even in the desperation of final defeat, did the hottest heads on the General Naval Staff at Berlin believe that there was sufficient chance of a victory in a gunnery duel to make it worth while trying under any conditions whatever. The way a number of officers referred to their final attempt to take the High Sea Fleet to sea after it became apparent that Ludendorff was beaten beyond all hope of recovery in France, gave the impression at first that an "all out" action was contemplated, that all was to be hazarded on a single throw, win or lose. It is probable, even, that the great majority of the officers afloat, and certainly all of the men (for fear of the results of such an action is the reason ascribed by all for the series of mutinies which finally put the navy out of the reckoning as a fighting force) believed this to be the case. But those officers who, either before or after the event, were in a position to know the details of the real plans, were in substantial agreement that it was not intended to bring the High Sea Fleet into action with the Grand Fleet, but rather to use it as a bait to expose the latter to a submarine "ambush" on a scale ten times greater than anything of the kind attempted before, and then to lure such ships as survived the U-boat attack into a minefield trap. Should a sufficiently heavy toll have been taken of the capital ships of the Grand Fleet in this way, then-but not until then-would the question of a general fleet action have been seriously considered.

VIEW OF KIEL CANAL FROM NEARMOST TURRET OF THE "HERCULES"

But although the General Naval Staff, and doubtless most of the senior officers of the German navy, realized from the outset that the High Sea Fleet would certainly be hopelessly outmatched in a gunnery battle and that their only chance of victory would have to come through a reduction of the strength of the Grand Fleet in capital ships by mine or torpedo, the greatest efforts were made to prevent any such comprehension of the situation finding its way to the lower decks. The men were constantly assured that their fleet was quite capable of winning a decisive victory at any time that the necessity arose, and there is not doubt that they believed this implicitly-until the day after Jutland. Then they knew the truth, and they never recovered from the effects of it. That was where Jutland marked very much more of an epoch for the German navy than it did for the British. The latter, cheated out of a victory which was all but within its grasp, was more eager than ever to renew the fight at the first opportunity. The several very salutary lessons learned at a heavy cost-and not the least of these was a very wholesome respect for German gunnery-were not forgotten. Structural defects were corrected in completed ships and avoided in those building. Technical equipment, which had been found unequal to the occasion, was replaced. New systems were evolved where the old had proved wanting. Great as was the Grand Fleet increase in size from Jutland down to the end of the war, its increase of efficiency was even greater.

With the High Sea Fleet, though several notable units were added to its strength during the last two years of the war, in every other respect it deteriorated steadily from Jutland right down to the mutinies which were the forerunners of the great surrender. This was due, far more than to anything else, to the fact that the real hopelessness of opposing the Grand Fleet in a give-and-take fight began to sink home to the Germans from the moment the first opening salvoes of the latter smothered the helpless and disorganized units of the High Sea Fleet in that last half-hour before the shifting North Sea mists and the deepening[260]

[261] twilight saved them from the annihilation they had invited in trying to destroy Beatty's battle-cruisers before Jellicoe arrived. What the most of their higher officers had always known, the men knew from that day on, and, cowed by that knowledge, were never willing to go into battle again. From what I gathered from a number of sources I have no hesitation in affirming that, up to Jutland, the men of the High Sea Fleet would have taken it out in the full knowledge that it was to meet the massed naval might of Britain, and, moreover, that they would have gone into action confidently and bravely, just as they did at Jutland. But it is equally clear that, after Jutland, any move which the men themselves knew was likely to bring them into action with the British battle fleet would instantly have precipitated the same kind of revolt as that which started at Kiel last November and culminated in the surrender. It was the increasing "jumpiness" of the men, causing them to suspect that every sally out of harbour might be preliminary to the action which they had been living in increasing dread of every day and night for the preceding two years and a half, which finally made it practically impossible for the Germans to get out into the Bight sufficient forces to protect even their mine-sweeping craft. As a consequence, it is by no means unlikely that the continuation of the war for another few months might well have found the German navy, U-boats and all, effectually immobilized in harbour behind ever-widening barriers of mines.

By long odds the most reasoned and illuminative discussion I heard of German naval policy, from first to last, was that of an officer who was Gunnery Lieutenant of the Deutschland at Jutland, and whom I met through his having had charge of the arrangements of the visits of the airship party of the Allied Naval Commission to the various Zeppelin stations in the North Sea littoral. Of a prominent militarist family-he claimed that his father was a director of Krupps-and a great admirer of the Kaiser (whom I once heard him refer to as an "idealist who did all that he could to prevent the war"), he was extremely well informed on naval matters, both those of his own country and-so far as German information went-the Allies. Harbouring a very natural bitterness against the revolution, and especially against the mutinous sailors of the navy, he spoke the more freely because he felt that he had no future to look forward to in Germany, which (as he told me on a number of occasions) he intended to leave as soon as the way was open for him to go to South America or the Far East. Also, where he confined himself to statements of fact rather than opinion or conjecture, he spoke truly. I have yet to find an instance in which he made an intentional endeavour to create a false impression.

It was in the course of our lengthy and somewhat tedious railway journey to the Zeppelin station at Nordholz that Korvettenkapit?n C-- first alluded to his life in the High Sea Fleet. "I was the gunnery officer of the Deutschland during the first two years of the war," he volunteered as he joined me at the window of the corridor of our special car, from which I was trying to catch a glimpse of the suburban area of stagnant Bremerhaven; "but I transferred to the Zeppelin service as soon as I could after the battle of Horn Reef because I felt certain-from the depression of the men, which seemed to get worse rather than better as time went on-that there would never be another naval battle. Although we lost few ships (less than you did by a considerable margin, I think I am correct in saying), yet the terrible battering we received from only a part of the English fleet, and especially the way in which we were utterly smothered during the short period your main battle fleet was in action, convinced the men that they were very lucky to have got away at all, and seemed to make them determined never to take chances against such odds again. I knew that if we ever got them into action again, it would have to be by tricking them-making them think they were going out for something else-and that is why I felt sure the day of our surface navy was over, and why I went into the Zeppelin service to get beyond contact with the terrible dry-rot that began eating at the hearts of the High Sea Fleet from the day they came home from the battle of Horn Reef. What has happened since then has proved my fears were well founded, for the men, becoming more and more suspicious every time preparations were made to go to sea, finally refused to go out at all. And that was the end."

Commander C-- (to give his equivalent British rank) volunteered a good deal more about Jutland on this occasion, as well as of the strategy in connection with those final plans which went awry through the failure of men, but it will be best, perhaps, to let this appear in its proper sequence in a connected account of what he told, in the course of the several days we were thrown together, of the German naval problems generally, and his own experiences and observations at Horn Reef in particular.

"We were greatly disappointed when England came into the war," he said, "but hardly dismayed. We had built all our ships on the theory that it was the English fleet they were to fight against, and we felt confident that we had plans that had a good chance of ultimately proving successful. But those plans did not contemplate-either at the outset, or at any subsequent stage of the war down to the very end-a gunnery battle to a finish. The best proof of that fact is the way the guns were mounted in our capital ships, with four aft and only two forward. That meant that their r?le was to inflict what damage they could in swift attacks, and that they were expected to do their heaviest fighting while being chased back to harbour. Since the British fleet had something like a three-to-two advantage over us in modern capital ships, and about two-to-one in weight of broadside, I think you will agree that this was not only the best plan for us to follow, but practically the only one.

"I think it will hardly surprise you when I say that, up to the outbreak of the war, we knew a great deal more about your navy than you did about ours. To offset that-and of much greater importance-is the fact that your knowledge of our navy and its plans during the war was far better than ours of yours. You always seem to score in the end. But at the outset, as I have said, we were the better informed, and, among other things, we knew that we had better mines than you had, and (as I think was fully demonstrated during the first two years) we had a far better conception in advance of the possibilities of using them-both offensively and defensively-than you had. During the first two years and a half your mines turned out to be even worse than we had expected, and it is an actual fact that some of the more reckless of our U-boat commanders used to fish them up and tow them back to base to make punchbowls of. In the last twenty months you not only had two or three types of mine (one of them American, I think) that were better than anything we ever had, but you were also using them on a scale, and with an effectiveness, we had never dreamed of.

"We also thought we had a better torpedo than you had-that it would run farther, straighter, keep depth better, and do more damage when it struck. I still think we have something of the best of it on that score, though at no time was our superiority so great as we reckoned. Your torpedoes ran better than they detonated, and-especially in the first two years-a very large number of fair hits on all classes of our lighter craft were spoiled by 'duds.' This, I am sorry to say, was not reported nearly so frequently during the last year and a half.

"HERCULES," WITH THREE V-CLASS DESTROYERS IN KIEL HARBOR

"But it was on the torpedo that we counted to wear down the British margin of strength in capital ships to a point where the High Sea Fleet would have a fair chance of success in opposing it. We expected that our submarines would take a large and steady toll of any warships you endeavoured to blockade us with, and that they would even make the risk of patrol greater than you would think it worth while to take. Although we made an encouraging beginning by sinking three cruisers, we were doomed to heavy disappointment over the U-boat as a destroyer of warships. We failed to reckon on the almost complete immunity the speed of destroyers, light cruisers, battle-cruisers, and even battleships would give them from submarine attack, and we never dreamed how terrible an enemy of the U-boat the destroyer-especially after the invention of the depth-charge-would develop into. As for the use of the submarine against merchant shipping, to our eternal regret we never saw what it could do until after we had tried it. If any German had had the imagination to have realized this in advance, so that we could have had a fleet of a hundred and fifty U-boats ready to launch on an unrestricted campaign against merchant shipping the day war was declared, I think you will not deny that England would have had to surrender within two months.

"We also made the torpedo a relatively more important feature of the armament of all of our ships-from destroyers to battleships-than you did. They were to be our "last ditch" defence in the event of our being drawn into a general fleet action-just such an action, in fact, as the battle of Horn Reef was. We knew all about your gunnery up to the outbreak of the war, and the fact that the big-gun target practices were only at moderate ranges-mostly under 16,000 metres-told us that you were not expecting to engage us at greater ranges. But all the time we were meeting with good success in shooting at ranges up to, and even a good deal over, 20,000 metres, and so we felt sure of having all the best of a fight at such ranges. We knew that our 11-inch guns would greatly out-range your 12-inch (perhaps you already know that even the 8.2-inch guns of the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau out-ranged the 12-inch guns of the Invincible and Indefatigable at the Falkland battle), and we hoped they might even have the best of your 13.5's. We als

o knew that our ships were better built than yours to withstand the plunging fall of long-distance shots, and we felt sure that our explosive was more powerful than your lyddite. I am not sure that this proved to be the case, though there is no question that our hits generally did more harm than yours because more of them penetrated decks and armour.

"Feeling confident, then, of having the best of a long-range action, our plan was, as I have said, to use the torpedo as a 'last ditch' defence in case the English fleet tried to reduce the range to one at which it could be sure of securing a higher percentage of hits and thus making the greater weight of its broadside decisively felt. In such a contingency we planned to literally fill the sea with torpedoes, on the theory that enough of them must find their targets to damage the enemy fleet sufficiently to force it to open out the range again, and perhaps to cripple it to an extent that would open the way for us to win a decisive victory. Theoretically, this plan was quite sound, for it was based on the generally recognized fact that from three to five torpedoes-the number varying according to the range and the interval between the targets-launched one after the other at a line of ships cannot fail to hit at least one of them, providing, of course, that they all run properly.

"Well, almost the identical conditions under which we had planned and practised to run our torpedo barrage were reproduced at Horn Reef when the British battle fleet came into action near the end of the day, but it failed because the English Admiral anticipated it-probably because he knew in advance, as you always seemed to know everything we were doing or intended to do, what to expect-by turning away while still at the extreme limit of effective torpedo range. Most of our spare torpedoes went for almost nothing, so far as damage to the enemy was concerned, in that 'barrage,' and it would have gone hard with us had there been enough daylight remaining for the English fleet to have continued the action. Its superior speed would have allowed it to make the range whatever its commander desired, and-even before half of the battleships of it were firing-we were absolutely crushed by sheer weight of metal, and it would not have been long before every one of our ships would have been incapable of replying. You will see, then, that, in the sense that it postponed the brunt of the attack of the English battle fleet attack until it was too late for it to be effective, our torpedo barrage undoubtedly saved the High Sea Fleet from complete destruction.

"Our lavish expenditure of torpedoes at that juncture, though, compelled us to forgo the great opportunity which was now presented to us to do your fleet heavy damage in a night action. Darkness, as you know, goes far to equalize the difference in numbers of opposing fleets, and makes an action very largely a series of disjointed duels between ship and ship. In these duels the odds are all in favour of the ship with the best system of recognition, the most powerful searchlights, and the most effective searchlight control. We believed that we had much the best of you in all of these particulars, and (although it was our plan to avoid contact as far as possible on account of our shortage of torpedoes) such encounters as could not be avoided proved this to be true beyond any doubt. You seemed to have no star shells at all (so far as any of our ships reported), and our searchlights were not only more powerful than yours, but seemed also to be controlled in a way to bring them on to the target quicker. It may be that the fact that our special night-glasses were better than anything of the kind you had contributed to this result. In any case, in almost every clash in the darkness it was the German's guns which opened fire first. Practically every one of our surviving ships reported this to have been the case, but with those that were lost, of course, it is likely the English opened up first. Another way in which we scored decisively in this phase of the action was through solving the reply to your night recognition signal, or at least a part of it. One of our cruisers managed to bluff one of your destroyers into revealing this, and then passed it on to as many of our own ships as she could get in touch with. We only had the first two or three letters of the reply to your challenge, but the showing of even these is known to have been enough to make more than one of your destroyer commanders hesitate a few seconds in launching a torpedo, only to realize his mistake after he had been swept with a broadside from the secondary armament of a cruiser or battleship which left him in a sinking condition. It was an English destroyer that hesitated at torpedoing the Deutschland until I almost blew it out of the water with my guns, that afterwards launched a torpedo, even while it was just about to go down, that finished the Pommern, the flagship of my squadron."

Commander C--'s account of his personal observations at Jutland threw light on a number of points that the Allied public-and even those to whom the best information on the subject was available-were never able to make up their mind upon.

"The English people," he said, "to judge from what I read in your papers, always deceived themselves about two things in connection with the battle you call Jutland. One of them was that the High Sea Fleet came out with the purpose of offering battle to the English fleet, or at least endeavouring to cut off and destroy its battle-cruiser squadron. This is not the case. Quite to the contrary, indeed; it was the English fleet that went out to catch us. We had been planning for some time a cruiser raid on the shipping between England and Norway-which was not so well protected then, or even for a year and a half more, as it was the last year-and the High Sea Fleet and Von Hipper's battle-cruisers were out to back up the raiding craft. As usual, your Intelligence Bureau learned of this plan, and the English fleet came out to spoil it. It was Von Hipper, not Beatty, who was surprised when the battle-cruisers sighted each other. Beatty's surprise came a few minutes later, when two of his ships were blown up almost before they had fired a shot. That seemed to vindicate, right then and there, our belief in our superior gunnery and the inferior construction of the English ships. Unfortunately, there was nothing quite so striking occurred after that to support that vindication. The other English battle-cruiser, and the several armoured cruisers, sunk were destroyed as a consequence of exposing themselves to overwhelming fire. It was the chance of finishing off all the English battle-cruisers before the battle fleet came to their rescue that tempted Von Scheer to follow Beatty north, and as a consequence he was all but drawn into the general action that it was his desire to avoid above anything else.

"The other thing that the English naval critics (although I think your Intelligence Bureau must have had the real facts before very long) deceived themselves and the public about was in the matter of Zeppelin reconnaissance during, and previous to, the Horn Reef battle. They have continued to state from that day right down to the end of the war that it was the German airships which warned Von Scheer of the approach of Jellicoe, and so enabled the High Sea Fleet to escape. Perhaps the most conclusive evidence that we did not have airship reconnaissance was the fact that Von Scheer was not only drawn into action with Jellicoe, but that he even got into a position where he could not prevent the English ships from passing to the east of him-that is, between him and his bases. I will hardly need to tell you that neither of these things would have happened if we had had airships to keep us advised of the whereabouts of your battle fleet. It was our intention to have had Zeppelin scouts preceding us into the North Sea on this occasion-as we always have done when practicable-but the weather conditions were not favourable. We did have Zeppelins out on the following day, and these, I have read, were sighted by the English. But if any were reported on the day of the battle, I can only say it was a mistake. It is very easy to mistake a small round cloud, moving with the wind, for a foreshortened Zeppelin, especially if you are expecting an airship to appear in that quarter of the sky."

Of the opening phases of the Jutland battle Commander C-- did not see a great deal personally. "We were steaming at a moderate speed," he said, "when Von Hipper's signal was received stating he was engaging enemy battle-cruisers and leading them south-that is, in the direction from which we were approaching. As there were a number of pre-dreadnoughts in the fleet, its speed-as long as it kept together-was limited to the speed of these. In knots we were doing perhaps sixteen when the first signal was received, and even after forming battle line this speed was not materially increased for some time. I understood the reason for this when I heard that the engine-room had been ordered to make no more smoke than was positively necessary. We had given much attention to regulating draught, and on this occasion it was only a few minutes before there was hardly more than a light grey cloud issuing from every funnel the whole length of the line. The idea, of course, was to prevent the English ships from finding out any sooner than could be helped that they were being led into an 'ambush.' As long as we did not increase speed it was easy to keep down the smoke, and I am sure that the first evidence the enemy had of the presence of the High Sea Fleet was when they saw our masts and funnels. But we saw them before that-we saw the two great towers of smoke that went high up into the sky when two of them blew up, and we saw the smoke from their funnels half an hour before their topmasts came above the horizon. At this time, although all of the ships of the High Sea Fleet were coal burners, they were making less smoke than the four oil-burning ships of the Queen Elizabeth class, which we sighted not long after the English battle-cruisers. As soon as we began to increase speed, of course, we made more smoke than they did.

"The four remaining English battle-cruisers turned north as soon as they sighted us, and I do not think the fire of the High Sea Fleet did them much harm. They drew away from us very rapidly, of course, so that our 'ambush' plan did not come to anything after all. A squadron of English light cruisers, which were leading the battle-cruisers when we first sighted them, almost fell into the trap, though, or, at any rate, their very brave (or very foolish) action in standing on until they were but little over 10,000 metres from the head of our line gave us the best kind of a chance to sink the lot of them. That we did not do this was partly due to the fact that most of the ships of our line were still endeavouring to reach the English battle-cruisers with long-range fire, and partly (I must admit it, though my own guns were among those that failed to find their mark) to poor shooting. These light cruisers did not turn until we opened fire at something over 10,000 metres; but although all our squadron concentrated upon them during the hour and more before the great speed they put on took them out of range, none of them were sunk, and I am not even sure that any was badly hit.

"When the four ships of the Queen Elizabeth class came into action there was a while when they were receiving the concentrated fire of practically the whole High Sea Fleet, and possibly some of that of our battle-cruisers as well. Yet it did not appear that-beyond putting one of them (which we later learned was the Warspite) out of control for a while-we did them much damage. The weight of our fire seemed to affect theirs a good deal, though, and at this stage of the fight they did not score many hits upon those of our ships-it was upon the squadron of K?nigs that they seemed trying to concentrate-that they gave their attention to. Later, when the effort to destroy several of the newly arrived squadron of English battle-cruisers and armoured cruisers drew a part of our fire, their heavy shells did much damage.

"The High Sea Fleet's line became considerably broken and extended in the course of the pursuit of the English battle-cruisers and the Queen Elizabeths, the swifter K?nigs steaming out well in advance in an effort to destroy some of the English ships before their battle fleet came into action, and my own squadron dropping a good way astern. That was the reason that my ship neither gave nor received much punishment in the daylight action. It was our battle-cruisers and the more modern battleships of the High Sea Fleet-principally the latter-which, tricked by the bad visibility, suddenly found themselves well inside the range of the deployed battleships of the main English fleet. I can only say that I am thankful that I did not have to experience at first hand the example they received of what it meant to face the full fire of that fleet. The English shooting, which opened a little wild on account of the mists, soon steadied down, and I have heard officers of four or five of our ships say that it was becoming impossible to make reply with their guns when darkness broke off the action. I have already told you how our torpedo 'barrage'-in forcing the English fleet to sheer off until it was too late for decisive action-saved a large part, if not all, of our fleet from destruction. What would have happened in the event that the attack had been pressed, no one can say. It would all have depended upon the extent of the damage inflicted by our torpedoes. I can only say that-as it was a contingency we had prepared for by long practice-Jellicoe would only have been playing into our hands in taking his whole fleet inside effective torpedo range, and I have confidence enough in the plan to wish that he had tried it. It would have meant a shorter war whatever happened, and, what is more, anything would have been better for us than what did come to pass-two years of gradual paralysis of the German navy, with a disgraceful surrender at the end.

"As I have said, we were anxious to avoid a night action on account of our shortage of torpedoes, however much such an action would have been to our advantage had not our supply of these been so nearly exhausted. So we were a good deal relieved when it became apparent that the enemy were not making any special effort to get in touch with us again after darkness fell. As a consequence of this disinclination of both sides to seek an engagement, such clashes as did occur were the sequel to chance encounters in the dark, and in most cases they seem to have been broken off by the common desire of both parties. Some of your destroyers persisted in their attacks whenever they got in touch with one of our ships, but we usually made them pay a very heavy price for the damage inflicted.

"Von Scheer took the High Sea Fleet back to harbour by passing astern of the English battle fleet, which had continued on to the south. I think I am correct in saying that none of the capital ships of either fleet were in action with those of the other after dark. There were two or three brushes between cruisers and a good many between destroyers and various classes of heavier ships. In fact, our principal difficulties arose through running into several flotillas of destroyers which seemed to have straggled from the squadrons to which they had been attached. My squadron, with a division of cruisers, ran right through a flotilla of about a dozen large English destroyers, and it would be hard to say which had the worst of it. We lost the Pommern (it would have been my ship, the Deutschland, had not the line been reversed a few minutes previously) and a cruiser, and had two other cruisers badly damaged, one from being rammed by a little fighting-cock of a destroyer which must have committed suicide in doing it. We sank two or three of the destroyers by gun-fire, and left two or three more stopped and looking about to blow up. Two of them were seen to be in collision, and there was also a report that they were firing at each other in the mêlée, but that was not corroborated. This fight only lasted a few minutes, and we saw no more English ships of any kind on our way back to harbour.

"In the matter of the losses at Horn Reef, we have never had any doubt that those of the English were much heavier than ours, even on your own admissions. And since we inflicted those losses with a fleet of not much over half the size of yours, we have always felt justified in claiming the battle to have been a German victory. The Lützow was our only really serious loss, though the other battle-cruisers-especially the Derfflinger and Seydlitz-were of little use for many months, so badly had they been battered by gun-fire. The battleship and cruisers sunk were out of date, and we lost only one modern light cruiser. We may have lost as many destroyers as you did, though yours would have footed up to a greater tonnage, as they average larger than ours. We made a great mistake in concealing the loss of the Lützow for several days, for, after that, the people never stopped thinking that there were other and greater losses not announced.

"But although the English losses must have been much greater than ours, I am not sure that they were enough greater to offset the loss of morale in the men of the German fleet. As I have said, I do not think-unless we had tricked them into it, as we tried so hard to do at the end-that we could ever again have got them to take their ships out in the full knowledge that they were in for a fight to a finish with the English battle fleet. It would have been better that they had all been lost fighting at Horn Reef than that they should have survived to bring upon themselves and their officers a disgrace the like of which has never been known in naval history."

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