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3498 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

plot, of which more will be said in a future

chapter.

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

Allies dear.

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