HC Deb 23 February 1922 vol 150 cc2098-9
56. Rear-Admiral SUETER

asked the Lord President of the Council whether an explanation can be given of the alleged misleading quotation of Captain Castex's article in the "Revue Maritime" of January, 1920, on submarine warefare, by the First Lord of the Admiralty at the sitting of the Committee on Limitation of Armaments on 30th December at Washington; and whether this misleading quotation, if made, affected adversely the proposals to reduce the submarine tonnage of the leading naval Powers?


Though I somewhat regret that Captain Castex's articles should not now be permitted to fall into oblivion, it may be convenient if, in answer to my gallant Friend's question, I enumerate the points to be borne in mind by those who would rightly estimate their bearing on the submarine discussion at Washington. These points seem to me to be the following:

  1. 1. It is clear, in the first place, that his statements did not commit the French Admiralty, still less the French Government, least of all the French people. He spoke only for himself; but none the less his views could not be ignored. The articles themselves were ably written, they occupied the place of honour in a French technical journal of authority published under the direction of the French naval staff, and their author is, or was, an instructor of French naval officers.
  2. 2. An important part of the first article is occupied with an exposition of German views on the proper use of submarines in war. It is in the course of this exposition that the notorious passage occurs respecting the unique value of this weapon for the purpose of accomplishing the final ruin of British sea power. But it has to be observed that though this statement is embedded in a statement of German opinions with which Captain Castex is in general agreement, he is entitled to plead 2099 that this agreement does not extend to every sentence which the statement contains. We cannot therefore conclude that he desires the destruction of England, but only that if he did, unrestricted submarine warfare would be the maritime weapon upon which he would probably rely.
  3. 3. It is true that Captain Castex, while approving German principles, sees blemishes in German practice. He thinks, as we all think, that they too often conducted submarine warfare with a cruelty which was both useless and stupid, useless because it did not further the military objects they had in view, stupid because, in addition to being useless, it outraged the consciences of civilised mankind. But for submarine warfare properly conducted he has nothing but approval.
  4. 4. The question then arises, what in Captain Castex's opinion is submarine war properly conducted? For present purposes it suffices to reply that it certainly permits the destruction without warning and without examination of merchant vessels, the sinking of liners with their crew, their passengers and their cargo. Now it was these very operations, originally devised, as he proudly claims, by French ingenuity, which came under review at the Washington Conference. It was these operations which, under Mr. Root's guidance, the Governments of France, of Italy, of Japan, of the United States and of the British Empire unanimously declared to be grossly immoral; it was the perpetrators of them who were pronounced liable to be punished as pirates.