Page 3517

3517 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

any great war hitherto; and, outside European waters, the merchant ships of the

Allies were virtually as safe as in times

of peace. The task of the grand fleets

had resolved itself into ceaseless waiting

for an enemy that never appeared and

into warfare upon the pestiferous submarines.

So far as the warships themselves were

concerned the submarine menace soon

greatly diminished in peril. Except in

the Dardanelles, the number of large warships sunk by German submarines after

the first five months of warfare was very

small. This was due to a number of

reasons. For one thing the big vessels

remained safely in harbor much of the

time, and when they did go on a cruise,

they were usually accompanied by a screen

of small craft and by hydro-aeroplanes

which made the task of attacking them a

very precarious one. Subsequent to the

opening of 1915 the main activities of the

under-water boats were devoted to the

more inglorious but safer work of sinking

passenger ships and merchant vessels.

It had by this time become apparent

that the capital ships, the big dreadnoughts and giant cruisers, still retained

the dominion of the seas. The submarines

had made the reign of the above-water

boats hazardous, but they had not supplanted them. And gradually devices for

restraining the activities of the wasps and

destroying them were developed.

The losses of all kinds suffered by the

British fleet were considerable, though

the sinking of the dreadnought Audacious

was the only diminution of actual first line fighting strength. In the meantime,

British shipyards were busy, and additions

were made to the navy so rapidly that by

the end of 1915 it was decidedly stronger

in every way, notwithstanding its losses,

than it was at the outbreak of the war.

The German policy of attrition-of "whittling"-had failed so completely that the

relative strength of the two navies at the

beginning of 1916 was much less favorable

to the Germans than in August, 1914.

This was true notwithstanding the fact

that the total tonnage in warships lost

by the British was considerably in excess

of that lost by the Germans. This was,

of course, due to the fact that the British

continued to keep their vessels upon the

high seas, while the Germans, after the

first few weeks of war, practically confined

their efforts to a sort of guerilla warfare

beneath the waves. It was the price