A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 85

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DEFECTIVE NAVAL BASES


interests in African and American waters. A further squadron was provided by the warships maintained by Australia and New Zealand. Cruisers were sent out to watch the main trade routes, for it was known that fast German warships, some (the Goeben, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau, for example) of considerable strength, were somewhere on the seven seas.

A task nearer home was to guard the narrow seas across which transports must continually pass and on which attacks must certainly be expected. This was done by forming patrols of destroyers and submarines that were continually on the watch from their bases on the east coast of England. The chief of these guarded the Straits of Dover, working from Harwich and Dover. Others were stationed at the mouths of the Forth, Tyne and Humber, and behind them all was the powerful shield of the Grand fleet. Attached to the fleet was a flying arm, the Royal Naval Air Service.

The British fleet was thoroughly efficient, while behind it was a tradition of victorious service that no other force in the world, save perhaps the French army, could equal. Its personnel was of the best, and all that careful training and long experience could do to fit officers and men for the day of battle had been done. But one or two matters had been overlooked, or rather one or two developments had not been foreseen. The most serious defect revealed in the early days of the conflict was that the naval bases on the east coast, Rosyth and Scapa Flow, were not properly protected against submarine attack. The consequence was that only a few weeks of war had passed before, in October, the Grand fleet was forced to leave Scapa Flow, its headquarters in the Orkneys, in order to find safe anchorage in harbours on the islands of Mull and Skye and in Lough Swilly on the north coast of Ireland. Experience of another kind showed that the gunnery of the Germans was extremely good, better in some respects than that of the British, and that the design of some of the newest British ships made them more vulnerable to gunfire than were those of the enemy.

In the last week of July all the national dockyards and the private shipbuilding establishments began to work with redoubled haste upon ships nearing completion, so that they might be added to the fleet at sea with the least possible delay. Further, on the day following the declaration of war the Admiralty announced that they had taken over four ships which

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