HC Deb 05 March 1918 vol 103 cc1866-7

During the past three months the War at sea has continued very much on the same lines as during the whole twelve months since the last Naval Estimates were introduced by my distinguished predecessor in office, but I think I may say that, on the whole, naval warfare has proceeded increasingly in our favour. It has continued to be chiefly a trial of strength between the enemy submarine and the measures of ourselves and our Allies for countering that menace. There have been occasional interludes of which the country has heard—the raids upon the Lerwick convoys, the exit of the "Goeben" and the "Breslau" from the Dardanelles, and the recent raids by enemy destroyers upon our patrol craft in the Straits of Dover—and there have been other incidents. I am referring to such a one as was notified in the papers of Saturday last in which a report was published, coming from a neutral country, of the loss of a German torpedo boat and two mine-sweepers off the Frisian Islands.

It is only when a neutral country obtains information of these incidents that we know for certain of the success of our enterprises, but the incident reported on Saturday is certainly by no means an isolated case, having regard to the bodies of German sailors picked up from time to time, and the tales of survivors of other enemy disasters who land in neutral countries.

The occasional raids on our convoys and on the East Coast are the natural outcome of a blockaded enemy trying to harass the blockading Fleet. The exit of the "Goeben" and "Breslau" from the Dardanelles was, we believe, a raid of a similar character. The "Goeben," after she stranded on Nagara Point, was refloated, and while the earlier reports of her appearance justified the belief that she was damaged, we cannot at the present time trust to that, and must treat her as still being an efficient engine of war. The loss of the "Breslau" is a serious one to the enemy in that area, and more than outweighs, from a military point of view, the loss of the monitor "Raglan" and M. 28, which were stationed in Kusu Bay, as a known and recognised risk against raids of this kind. The loss of life on this occasion and in Submarine E 14 is a matter of deep regret, and our sympathy is, I can fissure their relatives and friends, invariably with those who are thus bereaved.

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