3498 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
plot, of which more will be said in a future
The British commander who was responsible for the escape of the German cruisers
from Messina was certainly guilty of a grave
blunder. He was brought to trial before
a court-martial and was exonerated, but
the evil consequences of his failure cost the
Much greater interest centered at this
time about the naval situation in the North
Sea. It so happened that on the 18th
of July the British navy had assembled
at Spithead for summer maneuvers and
to be inspected by the King. The international situation became so threatening
that the fleet was kept together to await
the outcome of the diplomatic battle.
The fleet consisted of 24 dreadnoughts,
35 pre-dreadnoughts, 18 armored cruisers,
and over 100 protected cruisers, destroyers,
and other vessels, and was the most powerful combination ever assembled up to
that time under one flag. The fact that
most of the British fighting strength was
thus gathered into one great unit was
exceedingly opportune, for it removed all
chance of the Germans fighting the British
navy and destroying it in detail. The
Germans had either to fight against tremendous odds or seek safety in their
harbors, and they chose the latter course.
Many short-sighted people supposed
that the British fleet would proceed to
attack the German vessels in their harbors
and would bombard the German coast.
The truth was, however, that any such
attempts would have been sheer madness.
The German coast and harbors were
protected by mine fields and an elaborate