§ The recent raid on the Dover Straits patrol is, in a way, one of the more satisfactory incidents of the War in recent months, and the situation there is one upon which I am glad to be able to give fuller information to the House. I am told that it is commonly believed that the passage of submarines through the Dover Straits has been prevented by nets or other obstructions from the early days of the War. That is not the case, and undoubtedly a considerable number passed through the Straits towards the end of last year. A more vigorous policy was adopted quite recently. A surface barrage has been maintained across the Channel in order to obstruct the passage 1868 of enemy submarines. By day and night this barrage is maintained, and at night the patrolling craft—which number over 100—burn flares, so that any submarine attempting the passage on the surface has a reasonable chance of being engaged. It was to raid this barrage and destroy the drifters which ceaselessly maintain the patrol that the enemy came out on the night of 14th February. He succeeded in passing the covering forces guarding the drifters in both directions. I cannot comment further upon this incident, because the Vice-Admiral at Dover has ordered courts-martial to elucidate the incident, and obviously it would be improper for me to say more. I would like, however, in passing, to pay a tribute to the heroism and devotion to duty of the officers and crews of the drifters and other craft, who, after being hammered as they were by war vessels, have maintained their patrol, and went out again early on the following morning, and ever since. Everything possible was done and is being done to afford protection to those gallant men in the extremely useful work which they are doing, and the House will learn with pleasure that His Majesty has been pleased to confer on them a number of decorations in accordance with the recommendations of the Vice-Admiral, Dover.
§ The sympathy of the House will, I know, go out to the relations of those who lost their lives in the work which they were conducting with such success —
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The action of the hon. Member is extremely ungracious. I have to exercise my own judgment.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
On the point of Order. Are we to understand that the right of reading speeches is only reserved to inexperienced Members on the Front Bench?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
A great deal depends on the nature of the speech. If the character of the speech is such that it is likely to be read, not only throughout this country, but by our Allies and enemies, it is quite obvious that special pains must be taken in the composition of such a speech, and I think the House must judge these matters according to the importance and value of the speech.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Sir E. GEDDES
It will, perhaps, be recalled that in my previous statements in the House I dealt chiefly with the naval situation in Home waters. This was not due to any lack of appreciation of the importance of other theatres of war and foreign naval stations—especially the Mediterranean—but because the main activities of the British Fleet, after driving the enemy's cruisers and trade from the Seven Seas, have necessarily been centred in waters around our own shores, which have become the enemy's chief field for submarine operations. It is in these waters that the greatest successes against the submarine have so far been obtained, latterly with the help of United States naval forces. On the other hand, the Mediterranean itself accounts for some 30 per cent. of the loss of merchant shipping, and there the conditions have been more difficult to meet; the resources have been less adequate; and the success against the enemy submarine has been correspondingly less satisfactory. It became increasingly evident that, as our resources improved, and as our scientific research developed, we would be able to turn our attention more to the Mediterranean. It will. I think, be within the knowledge of the House that the Naval Command in the Mediterranean rests with the French and in the Adriatic with the Italians, British naval forces in both seas acting under the French and Italian Admirals. This matter of anti-submarine warfare in the Mediterranean was referred by the Allied 1870 Naval Council—to whose deliberations reference will be made later—to a Committee to meet at Borne. This decision merely extended the principle of "one Allied Front" which has been adopted in military matters.