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HE British losses as reported officially, and no doubt truthfully, are as follows:
17,250 790 Indefatigable .
The reported German losses are as follows. The actual losses may be much greater:
Total Tonnage Lost
Total Personnel Lost
When the losses above given are analyzed they are found to be much less favorable to the German side than they appear to be on the surface. To begin with, we may eliminate the three armored cruisers on the British side as of no military value whatever. This reduces the effective tonnage lost on the British side by more than 40,000 tons.
The Queen Mary and the Lützow offset each other.
If we accept the German claim that the Pommern, which was lost, was actually the old predreadnought of that name, it is fair to say that she offsets the Invincible. There is, however, very good reason for believing that she was a new and very powerful dreadnought. If this is the case, her loss easily, offsets that of both the Invincible and the Indefatigable. Accepting the German statement, however, as we have done at all other points, we may say that so far as effective capital ships are concerned, the British lost one more than the Germans. This, after all, is not a very great difference, and it is to a large extent offset by the loss of four light cruisers which the German admiralty admit. In destroyers the advantage is with the Germans.
With regard to the armored cruisers already referred to, it is interesting to note the fact that these three ships were practically
G-War St. 5
presented to the Germans, thus paralleling the fate of their sister ships, the Cressy, Hogue, and Aboukir, which, as will be remembered, were destroyed by a submarine in September, 1914, under conditions of inexplicable carelessness. The military loss represented by all six of these ships was small (disregarding the loss of personnel), but they all selected a fate which was so timed, and in its character so spectacular, as to contribute enormously to the lessening of the prestige with which the British navy had entered upon the war.
As bearing still further upon the comparative losses of the battle, account must be taken of ships seriously injured. Of these, reports from sources apparently unprejudiced insist that the German fleet has a large number and that the number includes several of the most powerful ships that took part in the battle. It is known that the Seydlitz, one of the latest and largest of the German battle cruisers, was so badly damaged that it will be many months before she can take the sea' again. There are stories of two other large ships which reached port in such a condition that it was necessary to dock them at once to keep them from sinking. Contrasted with this is the fact that the British ships which reached port were but little injured. This gives an air of probability to the story that the German fire tactics provided for concentrating the fire of several of their ships on some one ship of the enemy's line until she was destroyed. This would explain the otherwise inexplicable fact that, while the Indefatigable and the Queen Mary were being overwhelmed, the ships ahead and astern of them were hardly struck at all.
It may well be that the total damage done the German ships by the steady pounding of the whole line vastly exceeds the total received by the British ships. Something will be known on this subject when it becomes clear that the Germans are, or are not, ready to take the sea again. If their losses and their injuries were as unimportant as they would have the world believe, if their victory was as great as they claim that it was, they should be ready at an early date to challenge the British again, this time with a fleet practically intact as to ships, and with a personnel fired with enthusiastic confidence in its own superiority. If, instead of this, they resume the attitude of evasion which they have maintained so long, the inference will be plain that they have not given the world the truth with regard to what the battle of May 31, 1916, meant to them.
A significant fact in this connection is that, regardless of what others may say on the subject, the officers and men of the British navy are convinced that the victory was with them, and are eager for another chance at the enemy, which they fully believe they would have destroyed if night and fog had not intervened to stay their hand.
The net result of the battle as seen by the world, after careful appraisement of the claims and counterclaims on both sides, is that England retains the full command of the sea, with every prospect of retaining it indefinitely, but that the British navy has, for the moment, lost something of the prestige which it has enjoyed since the days of Nelson and Jervis. There is nothing to support the belief that the control of the North Sea or of any other sea has passed, or by any conceivable combination of circumstances can pass, into the hands of Germany during the present war, or as a result of the war.
All accounts of the battle by those who participated in it represent the weather as capricious. The afternoon came in with a smooth sea, a light wind, and a clear, though somewhat hazy, atmosphere. The smoke of the German ships was made out at a distance which must have been close to twenty miles, and the range-finding as Beatty and Von Hipper closed must have been almost perfect, as is proved by the promptness with which the Germans began making hits on the Queen Mary and the Indefatigable. But this did not continue long. Little wisps of fog began to gather here and there, drifting about, rising from time to time and then settling down and gathering in clouds that at times cut off the view even close at hand.
As the sun dropped toward the horizon it lighted up the western sky with a glow against which the British ships were clearly outlined, forming a perfect target, while the dark-colored German ships to the eastward were projected against a background of fog as gray as themselves. It is interesting to recall the fact that these are exactly the conditions which existed when the British and German squadrons in the Pacific met off Coronel. In that case, as in the present one, the British fleet was to the westward, clearly silhouetted against the twilight sky. And the fate of the Indefatigable and the Queen Mary was not more sudden or more tragic than that of the Good Hope and the Monmouth. It may be that the unfavorable conditions were a matter of luck in both cases. But it may be also that the Germans chose the time of day for fighting in each case to accord with the position which they expected to occupy.
The British complain much of their bad luck, but there are well-recognized advantages of position with regard to light and wind and sea, and the Germans seem to have the luck, if luck it be, to find these advantages habitually on their side.
The British call it luck that both in the battle off Horn Reef and that off Dogger Bank the Germans escaped destruction through the coming on of night. But how would this claim look if it were shown that the Germans timed their movements with direct regard for this
allowing themselves time for a decided thrust, to be followed by withdrawal under cover of night before they could be brought to a final reckoning? A careful study of the operations of the present war shows, on both sea and land, a painstaking attention on the German side to every detail, however small; and instances are not rare in which they have benefited from this in ways which could hardly have been anticipated.
There has been much discussion of the tactics of the battle. And critics, not in foreign countries alone, but in England, have pointed out errors of Beatty and Jellicoe, while many more have come to their defense and shown conclusively that everything done was wisely done, and that the escape of the German fleet and the losses by the British fleet were due not to bad management but to bad luck.
The first point selected for criticism by those who venture to criticize is the initial separation of Beatty's force from Jellicoe's