Page 3527

3527 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

seemed already to have failed as a decisive

factor.

As we have seen, the relative strength

of the opposing navies was now more

unequal than that at the outbreak of

the war. It was true that the attacks

upon merchant ships had been enormously

destructive. In the first twenty months

of war, the Germans claimed to have

sunk or captured more than 800 merchant

ships with a total tonnage of over 1,400,000.

In so doing they had destroyed the lives

of three or four thousand non-combatants.

Yet these losses made comparatively little

impression on the vast merchant fleets of

the Allies. Great Britain alone had many

thousands of merchant vessels, and in

more than a year's time had lost only a

few hundred. Even the Germans claimed

to have destroyed only five per cent of

the total tonnage, while the British asserted

that they had more than made the loss

good. According to Chancellor of the

Exchequer Reginald McKenna, the net

British mercantile tonnage at the end of

1915 was 12,416,408, against 12,119,891 at

the end of 1913.

The money losses inflicted on ships

and cargoes were, of course, enormous,

but they were made up by insurance;

and the owners were able to pay the high

insurance rates out of their enormous

profits in the carrying trade. Still it

must not be inferred that there had been

no loss; the loss had fallen upon the Allied

peoples and upon the peoples for whom

their ships carried goods.

In the waters about the British Isles

the first submarine campaign was defeated

by the capture or destruction of many

of the submarines. The methods by

which this result was accomplished took

various forms. A large part of the

British Channel, including the sea lanes

to France, was rendered reasonably safe

from submarines by the planting of mines

and by the use of enormous floating nets

of wire, and the same was true of the Irish

Sea. Mines and nets had been established in other places, and had accounted

for some of the German wasps. Others

were sunk by being rammed by merchant

ships. Yet others were run down by

destroyers or by small swift motor boats,