Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

things," which are actually of greater displacement than some destroyers and far larger than many above-water torpedo boats. He notices as he digs into this or that reference book that the material for the sophistication of statistics for popular consumption is so plentiful, and the dividing line between this type of ship and that so ill-defined, that it is extremely difficult to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion if calculations of naval strength are confined to a mere rule-of-thumb enumeration of ships and men.

If the strength of navies is to be judged with any approach to accuracy, something more must be taken into account than the numbers of ships in the various loosely defined classes, of men, and of guns. These efforts in the "rule of three" may serve as a foundation, but inquiry must be pressed further. The material for such an investigation, it will be found, is at once scanty and confusing. The only readily accessible basis for a comparison of naval power is supplied by the proportion of the ships and personnel which are associated constantly in preparation for war-in other words, in the number of ships kept permanently in commission. Other factors may also enter into the calculation, such as the degree to which this or that race has the fighting edge, the ef ficiency of the direction and organization, and the period during which officers and men serve, always less under conscription than under a voluntary system of national service. In Great Britain, for instance, the average time that a seaman serves is over ten years, and in the German fleet it is three years-a factor of no mean importance.

But for the present purpose attention may well be confined to the active peace standing of the European navies as a guide to their value as fighting machines. Thus we come face to face

with the most remarkable development of naval policy of the past century.

If the German people are scientific and methodical, they are also severely practical, and from the moment that the new standard of naval strength had been legally established by the Navy Bill, Germany turned her attention to the realization of her high ideals. Side by side with the matériel expansion has proceeded a movement of even more significance-namely, the consistent and persistent training of the personnel for the new navy. In proportion to her strength in ships Germany maintains on a war footing a larger numerical force than any other country, not excepting Great Britain. Her strength in ships is still inconsiderable. She possesses to-day only ten vessels which can legitimately be described as battleships. These ten vessels are of 13,000 tons displacement only, and each carries four 11-inch guns in association with fourteen 6.6-inch quickfirers. Well armored, judged by the pre-Dreadnought standard, and of admirable design, in fighting power they undoubtedly represent good value for the sums spent upon their construction. They are, however, the only ships under the German flag which can be regarded as battleships, and they are not now of the first class. Germany possesses fourteen other "battleships" less than twenty-five years old, but in these days of large displacements and great concentration of fighting power, they are little better than coast-defence vessels. Indeed, they belong to the period when the German Fleet was a coastdefence force. Their main armament is considerably inferior to that which is carried by the best British cruisers. All these ships are the antithesis to the Dreadnought. The German naval authorities in their design sacrificed the primary armament in order to obtain a heavy secondary armament.

To-day Germany, in common with ing, while of trained direction at headother navy departments, is eliminating -or perhaps it is better put as subordinating the secondary guns in order to obtain a heavier concentration of big-gun fire in accordance with the allbig-gun principle.

quarters there was none. In Germany naval expansion has proceeded on definite, well-calculated lines. In such ships as she possesses Germany is teaching her officers the higher art of naval warfare. As new ships are completed this personnel will be drafted into them, and thus the naval power of Germany may prove to be greater actually than the mere tabular enumeration of her new matériel resources would suggest.

The inferiority of existing German matériel becomes a matter of striking significance when it is considered in direct contrast to the present organization of the German Navy. The naval authorities at the Wilhelmstrasse are, and have for some time past been, cognizant of the existing inferiority of their armored ships; hence the decision to build Dreadnoughts. But nevertheless the existing fleet is being tuned up to a higher note of efficiency. Though Germany possesses only ten ships which are worthy of being regarded as battleships, she fills out her active fleet to-day with smaller vessels, and keeps a force of sixteen of these battleships and coast defence ships in commission and actively employed-on a war footing.1 By this means she is to-day training the officers and the men who will be required for manning the large vessels of the first class which are now under construction. German policy is the direct opposite to that which was formerly followed in England and the defects of which were glaringly illustrated in the downall of the Russian Fleet. Russia scoured the whole world for ships and neglected to train her personnel. In a relatively short time she acquired an immense amount of war matériel, and then when the crisis in her history arrived it was found that the resources in officers and men were inadequate, and tillers of the soil were suddenly pressed into the naval service, with little or no train

This work of building up the German Navy has been in progress for upwards of ten years, and now a further development of her naval policy has become apparent. In the Navy Act of 1900 it was admitted that Germany could not hope to rival the greatest naval Power-Great Britain-in her marine resources. This inferiority was to be compensated for "by the individual training of the crews and by tactical training by practice in large bodies." At the time when these words were dictated to the German nation, then unwilling converts to the big navy idea, Great Britain possessed in British waters one poorly organized and inadequately trained naval force only, and that consisted of eight battleships and four cruisers largely manned by youths and boys, and without any auxiliary vessels or torpedo craft in association with it. In the meantime the efficiency of the British Fleet has been increased, the temper of the British people has been roused, and Germany's original hopes and ambitions are further from realization today than they were ten years ago.

What could Germany do in such circumstances? In consequence of various limitations financial and industrial, she could not hope to realize her early ambitions and gain the advantage from them which had been anticipated. Thus arose the new and startling development of German pol

1 It should be added that from October to March the German High Sea Fleet is manned with practically only nucleus crews, as in the former month nearly one-third of the men go into reserve, and their places are taken by newly entered conscripts-men entirely fresh to the sea routine.

icy. Month by month Germany and Austria have been drawing closer together. They already possess armies on a war footing of over seven million men. Germany's Fleet is rapidly growing, while Austria's Fleet to-day is one of the most insignificant in matériel strength in Europe; it has not yet begun to grow. Whether at the direct suggestion of Germany or not, Austria is now about to embark upon a policy of naval expansion which will eventually raise her to a first-class naval Power. This is an event of the first magnitude. Austria-Hungary has only a small coastline and no colonies, and her trade has never for a moment been threatened. Austria has no need for a defensive Navy. Her new Navy will be an offensive agent.

The

The importance of the existing naval defence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire may be judged from the fact that the total outlay on the fleet amounts to a little over two and a half millions sterling annually, which is equivalent to less than half the expenditure of Italy, about one-fifth that of France, and one-eighth that of Germany. expenditure has been increasing for the past two or three years, but the Austrian Navy remains one of the smallest in Europe. In these circumstances it is curious to read the wonderful stories which have lately appeared in the Press as to Austrian Dreadnoughts as though they were a fait accompli. It is said that three of these ships will be completed by 1912. It is suggested that in this period of three years Austria will develop into a powerful ally of Germany. All these fanciful imaginings arise from ignorance of the fundamental facts.

To-day Austria has not a single vessel which can be legitimately designated a battleship. The fleet includes three modern vessels of 10,500 tons, the biggest gun in which is a 9.4 weapon of 40 calibres-they are really

large,

well-armored

approaching

cruisers with

twenty knots.

speeds Apart from these three vessels, Austria possesses six other ships carrying the same calibre heavy gun, but of considerably smaller displacement, three being of 8300 tons only and the remainder of only 5500 tons. The Austrian Navy also includes two armored cruisers and five protected cruisers. The authorities have now under construction three ships which merit the designation of battleships. They displace 14,500 tons and will mount four 12-inch and eight 9.4-inch guns-they are virtually small Lord Nelsons and their fighting power can be judged from their displacement. Two of these ships, it is officially hoped, will be completed in 1911 and the third in 1912. Thus three years hence Austria will possess a number of coast-defence ships and protected cruisers with three battleships of the second class. This will be the standard of Austrian strength three years hence. In Austria it has hitherto taken four or five years to build even a battleship of moderate displacement owing to the modest facilities construction which exist and the large dependence of the Navy upon Krupp's establishment for its armaments. It is possible, indeed probable, that next year Austria will lay down one ship of the Dreadnought type and another in 1911, with a third in 1912, and it will occasion little surprise if, with a doubling of her naval expenditure, these ships are completed in three years. That German yards will assist by building for Austria is an unlikely contingency in view of the pressure of work they are now experiencing.

for.

The dominating fact is that Austria is preparing, as Germany has been preparing, for the birth of the great fleet of to-morrow. Austria is proceeding on the same lines as Germany. While the plans for the expansion of

the fleet are being completed, the Austrian authorities are devoting their attention to the utilization of the existing resources for the training of officers and men who will be drafted to the new ships of maximum power which are about to be built. No incident of recent date illustrates more conclusively the character of the Austrian naval organization than the incidents of last spring. When the annexation of Herzegovina and Bosnia was decided upon, Austria not only mobilized a large military force, but her existing Navy was placed upon a war footing. The order for mobilization was received at Pola on the 15th of March: 10,000 reservists were called upon suddenly to join the fleet in the shortest possible time. It was anticipated that about 20 per cent. would fail to respond. The actual defection amounted to only 5 per cent., and this small margin was further reduced by the large number of volunteers who came in. Within twenty-four hours of the order being issued by the Marine Department of the Ministry of War, the reserve squadron of Austria was completely manned, and within four days the whole Austrian Navy was organized as for war, from the largest vessels down to the comparatively small ships which are employed in the defence of the Danube. This successful mobilization of the Austrian Navy marks the beginning of a new era in the Adriatic and in distant waters.

Patiently, economically, and maybe slowly the Austrian Fleet is rising to the new aspirations, and the day is now not very far distant when Austria will stand beside Germany as one of the great Naval Powers of Europe. She has adopted the German standard of naval efficiency. She stands to-day where Germany stood ten years ago when the first of the Navy Acts passed the Reichstag; but she has the advantage of the bitter experience which

Germany has in the meantime garnered. The German naval authorities were compelled to spend their limited resources upon comparatively small ships and to build up the whole naval organization on a cramped scale. The result is that in Germany a great deal of the work which was done in the past ten years, particularly in respect of dock construction, harbor development, and the building of the Kiel Canal-the essential strategic link between the North Sea and the Baltichas to be done over again on a larger, a Dreadnought, plan, at a colossal expenditure. Austria will undoubtedly avoid these errors. The temper in which the new problems are being faced is shown by the decision to advance at one step from the construction of small battleships of 14,500 tons to Dreadnought vessels of the first class displacing 19,000 to 20,000 tons, and not inferior in armament, speed, or radius of action to the vessels now being designed for the British Navy. It is true that only the preliminaries in connection with the new programme of expansion have yet been settled, but next year the execution of these plans will be commenced. Whatever may be the feelings of Italy, her neighbor and ally but something less than friend, Austria-Hungary is about to enter the lists as a first-class naval Power.

It is the very gravity of the situa tion from the British point of view which condemns exaggeration. Today Austria is of little account as a naval Power; not a single Dreadnought has been laid down, but she is getting ready for the to-morrow, big with promise if only Germany remains faithful and Italy can be wooed, cajoled or forced into a line of common action. The trend of events is indicated by the exclusive exchange of courtesies between the Austrian and German Fleets at Kiel. As a sequel

having shown the way, Italy, with halting step, is following. She intended to lay down two Dreadnoughts; in the past few weeks she has decided to double this number and embark on an ambitious programme. It will occupy six or ten years probably, unless some way out of the present financial difficulties is discovered; in Germany salvation has been found in loans. But the main fact is that the Italian Navy is to be larger and that Italy is one of the three allies.

to the recent events in the Near East when Germany stood behind Austria, an Austrian squadron, it is reported, is about to visit the Baltic. Whatever the size of the actual force which visits Kiel, the fact to be realized is that Austria is now maintaining in full commission in proportion to her existing strength a larger force than any other continental Navy, and, as events have shown, the machinery for mobilization is well designed and in good working order. Austria may not complete a Dreadnought for three or four years. But the fact to be insisted upon is that she is treading the same road as Germany. While the House of Commons is discussing a mathematically accurate two-Power standard, and debating whether the United States does or does not come into the calculations, the significant develop ment is almost at our doors where Germany, Austria, and-less cordially, it is true-Italy are clasping hands and combining to form a naval combination, not of to-day, but in this generation, which must powerfully influence British naval policy.

Italy is the sixth naval Power of the world, ranking now after Japan in matériel strength. Her Navy has been the victim of financial stringency, but though the funds for shipbuilding are restricted and the coal available for cruising is limited, a large proportion of her resources are in training during the summer months. Nine battleships and four armored cruisers form the active force, fully manned for seven months in the year, with a reserve squadron which comprises three older battleships. A fair proportion of torpedo craft are also fully manned during the summer. In proportion to her existing matériel strength and her financial resources, Italy, though as a naval Power she has receded of late years, is not neglecting the war training of her fleet. Austria

In parenthesis and as a fitting part in any consideration of the standing of the navies of Europe, reference may be made to the Russian and French Fleets. The first named can for the present be ignored. Little progress in putting the Navy in order has been made since the close of the disastrous struggle in the Far East, and even if there were a fleet there is no machinery for organizing victory-no directing brain. The French Navy is passing through a crisis. The fleet, such as it is, is struggling against adversity of fortune and perversity of Ministers. Recent revelations have shown the nation that the administration in Paris and at the ports is unsound, that a large proportion of the money annually voted for the fleet is wasted, and that the matériel-ships of all classes-is neglected and defective. Six battleships form the Active Squadron, with six older ones in reserve, in the Mediterranean, and there are six armored cruisers and some coast-defence ships in the Channel. In proportion to her nominal strength, France is not maintaining a fleet comparable with that of Germany, and her fitness to win must deteriorate year by year.

It is one of the unhappy chances of diplomacy that Great Britain should be a party to a triple entente in which she herself has to bear practically all the naval burden. The Russian Navy is still in the slough of despond, and

« AnkstesnisTęsti »