Page 3502

3502 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

Consequently he would only have had to

deal with the comparatively light forces

based in southern waters. On the other

hand, if our fleet arrived on the scene without destroyers, the Germans would have

possessed no mean advantage."

German forethought and preparation

gave Germany control over the Baltic

Sea. The Kiel Canal, dug in the '90s

and greatly enlarged and deepened just

before the outbreak of the war, proved

of vast strategic value in this connection.

Let us suppose, for example, that the

British decided to send their whole fleet

into the Baltic through the straits lying

between Denmark and Sweden. They

could probably pass through these straits possibly after some losses from mines

and submarines-but the moment they

entered the Baltic, the German fleet

would issue from the west end of the Kiel

Canal and harry the coasts of England

and sweep Allied commerce from the seas.

If, on the other hand, the British should

decide to send only part of their fleet into

the Baltic, the Germans could attack either

that portion in the Baltic or that portion

which remained in the North Sea, as seemed

best to them, and the British would be

exposed to the grave danger of being

defeated and destroyed in detail.

The Kiel Canal, therefore, gave the

Germans control of the Baltic, and the

fact was to prove of great significance

in the war. The Germans were not only

enabled to conduct a considerable commerce with Norway and Sweden but were

also able to blockade Russian Baltic ports,

assist German military operations against

Russia, and hamper Russian military

operations against Germany. Had the

Baltic been open to ships of the Allies,

the spectacular campaigns in Galicia and

Poland during the spring and summer of

1915 would probably not have occurred,

for Russia could then have obtained sufficient supplies of ammunition-her vital

lack-to have enabled her to hurl the

invaders back. The Kiel Canal was one

of the many factors that helped to give the

Great War its wonderful complexity.

At a signal from the Admiralty the

great British fleet weighed anchor and

most of it suddenly vanished from the

sight of the world, remaining shrouded

by the mists of obscurity for months and

months. Had the German battle fleet

ventured out into the open sea, the existence of the British fleet would no doubt

soon have proved a concrete reality of

the most impressive sort, but this was

no part of the plan of Admiral von Tirpitz

and his officers. They believed that in

a pitched battle the German fleet would

be hopelessly outmatched, and they, therefore, had long since decided to hold the

fleet in safety on the wait for a favorable

opportunity. The German battleships withdrew to harbors about the Kiel Canal, where

they were safe not only from the British

High Fleet but also from prying British

submarines. It was the German hope

that by a gradual process of "whittling,"

that is, by drawing the British vessels to

destruction against their fortresses, by sinking others by mines or submarines or by