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100 Years Ago - Armenia


Erzerum and After

February 19, 1916

The Grand Duke Nicholas knew what he was about when, while deftly veiling his preparations, he struck in mid-winter. Erzerum was partly shielded by marshes, and an attack when they were frozen hard and deep left the city at the mercy of the assailants after the forts had been taken.

The news of the fall of Erzerum continues to echo around the world, although details are still scanty. The Turkish official bulletin blandly observes that on the Caucasus front there is “no news of importance”. The Germans are less reticent, and do not conceal their fury. The Cologne Gazette, obviously under official inspiration, has published an article which endeavours to prove that the disaster is all the fault of the Turks. We doubt whether Enver Pasha will quite relish the way in which his new masters cheerfully seek to throw him to the wolves the moment that anything goes wrong.

It was always obvious to those who know German methods that Enver would instantly be made the scapegoat by his Prussian friends in the event of reverses, but no one expected to see him treated quite so callously. Moreover, the accusation is manifestly entirely unjust. The real culprits who were the cause of Turkey’s loss of Erzerum were the ultra-clever Prussian officers who now dominate Constantinople, and are leading Turkey to her doom. They were so clever that they entirely forgot the long arm of the Grand Duke Nicholas. They insisted on making a Prussian colonel Governor of Erzerum, and assumed that all would be well.

The great Marshal Von Der Goltz so miscalculated the situation that even after the Russians began to move he continued to jog on his way to Baghdad. The Germans loudly advertised the wonderful things they were going to do in every part of the Turkish Empire and beyond, save only on the unimportant frontier of Transcaucasia. They were going, not exactly themselves, but through their Bulgarian and Turkish dupes, to drive the Franco-British forces at Salonika into the sea. They were going to lead a Turkish host across the Suez Canal and through the streets of Cairo. They were going, again by Turkish deputies, to hurl the intruding British out of Mesopotamia into the muddy waters of the Persian Gulf. They were going to do a great many other military miracles, but the net result of four months of bombastic declarations is that they have lost Erzerum, the greatest military base in Asia Minor. We hope the Turks, and especially Enver, appreciate this remarkable demonstration of the Prussian mastery of the art of war by advertisement.

The more the Russian victory is contemplated, the more admirable and well-timed it appears. The Grand Duke Nicholas knew what he was about when, while deftly veiling his preparations, he struck in mid-winter. Erzerum was partly shielded by marshes, and an attack when they were frozen hard and deep left the city at the mercy of the assailants after the forts had been taken. A remarkable feature of the exploit was that fort after fort appears to have fallen to direct assault. The Turks were admittedly badly demoralized before the final attack began, and the closing scenes were evidently marked by a general panic. In one respect the victory represents a just, though most inadequate, retribution.

Erzerum is the capital of Turkish Armenia, and its streets are said to have witnessed some of the worst massacres in the barbarous process of exterminating the unhappy Armenians. Even as the Russians approached the city the Kurds had one last orgy of slaughter. The task of avenging these unprecedented crimes has now been fitly begun, and there is some hope that portions of Armenia may be quickly freed from Turkish oppression.

One of the most conspicuous characteristics of the Russian victory was the wide range of the operations. By their great sweeping movement on their left flank, which extended as far as Lake Van, our Russian Allies were able to cut off the garrison of Erzerum from such reinforcements as were within reach, and thus the city was practically isolated. The problem of reinforcements should now puzzle the Turks very considerably. It is one thing to send reinforcements to a strong base like Erzerum, and quite another thing to advance with the only organized base in the hands of the foe. The Black Sea is barred to Turkish transports by Russian naval activity. The nearest railhead is Ras-el-Ain, on the Baghdad Railway, more than 250 miles away, with the mighty range of the Armenian Taurus intervening. Angora, the nearest railhead on another line, is more than 450 miles away, The Russians at Erzerum, on the other hand, are only 75 miles from their railhead at Sarikamish, with a reasonably good road for the rest of the distance. The first great episode of the new campaigning season will therefore give the Turks much to think about.

While we have already joined fully in the felicitations which the whole of this country, from King George downwards, is expressing to the Tsar and the brave Russian Army, we must deprecate the foolish transports into which certain English newspapers are falling. The familiar practice of offering treacle to the British public is again beginning. Articles have been published which might almost lead ingenuous people to believe that the war is nearly over because Erzerum has fallen. The triumph is great and far-reaching, but it must be regarded in due perspective. Its first result is that it terminates all Turkish hopes of a further campaign against Transcaucasia. With Erzerum in Russian hands, the Turkish forces on this front are more or less paralysed; but as they have never shown any real disposition to advance since Enver Pasha’s disastrous defeat on the frontier a year ago, the Caucasus has long been practically safe.

The next result is that it puts an end for the present to any menace in the direction of Egypt. For some weeks, however, it has been reasonably obvious that the projected great advance against the Suez Canal had been abandoned, if indeed it was ever seriously intended. A further result is that it will probably make the Turks more disinclined than ever to listen to any suggestions of joining in an assault upon the now impregnable Franco-British lines before Salonika. It is possible, however, that under German guidance they may be stimulated to increase their activity in Mesopotamia, though they will doubtless have to rely on such forces and supplies as they have already accumulated in that area.

Against any such decision may be set the fact that British strength on the Tigris is steadily increasing, while the problem of supplies and munitions worries us far less than it does the Turk. An examination of the whole situation leads to the conclusion that the Russians have dealt the Turks a great and disconcerting blow, that they have probably checked the eastern drift of the war, but that they will need to consolidate their victory before basing any fresh movements upon it. On the other hand, it must be recognized that the fall of Erzerum is of far greater military importance, and is therefore a far bigger material blow to the Turk, than the fall of Baghdad would have been. Baghdad, by reason of its ancient fame and its modem association with German ambitions, may enjoy greater prestige both in East and West; but Erzerum was Turkey’s principal fortress beyond the Bosphorus.

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100 Years Ago


Heroes of the motor ambulance

April 17, 1916

At the beginning of the war there was no mention in any regulations of motor ambulances. We found that a better means of transport for the wounded was needed. That had only to be voiced in the columns of The Times and the response was forthcoming at once.

The fifth annual Bohemia concert arranged by The Times Chapel, which took place at the Grand Hall of the Hotel Cecil (generously lent free of charge) on Saturday night, was held in aid of The Times Fund on behalf of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John. Mr Geoffrey Robinson, Editor of The Times, was in the chair, and the Hon. Arthur Stanley, gave an interesting account of the work which the Red Cross Society is doing in the several theatres of war. Mr Stanley said he felt that they were trying to fulfil a very sacred task. However good any Government Department might be, and all our Government Departments were perfectly excellent (laughter), there must be a certain amount of room for a voluntary society such as the Red Cross Society and the Order.

“I will give you one instance (he continued) of the way in which we have been able to be of use, simply and solely through the backing of The Times. At the beginning of the war there was no mention in any regulations of motor ambulances. We found that a better means of transport for the wounded was needed. That had only to be voiced in the columns of The Times and the response was forthcoming at once. We have now provided transport for the wounded for every country that is fighting with us. We have today something like 1,600 ambulances abroad, and 300 to 400 cars for ourselves. We have four convoys for the Italian front, and we are sending cars to Russia. We heard there was need in Mesopotamia, and a convoy is on its way now. In Egypt, in Malta - wherever an ambulance is necessary - it is sent by the Red Cross Society and the Order of St John, thanks to The Times, for the relief of the sick and suffering.

“Here is an example of their work. At the time of the battle on the hill which is now known as Hill 60 volunteers were called for to take up ambulances. It was sending them to what looked like certain death, but when 10 volunteers were called for they were forthcoming at once. They had to drive along a narrow road, practically a cattle track, which was being shelled. They had to pass a place which the soldiers, with their remarkable aptitude for names, had nicknamed “Hell’s Corner,” because it was well within range of the German guns, which got it every time. They worked without food and drink for 56 hours on end, driving backward and forward through Ypres, which was being shelled at the rate of 60 a minute, rescued all who had to be rescued, and came out, thank God, without injury to themselves. It is a curious coincidence that one of a good many brothers I have got out there happened to see it, and he said, ‘I have seen a good many brave men, but I will give the palm to the ambulance drivers who drove backward and forward through that town.’”


“On the Italian front the ambulances have carried in the first weeks 24,000 wounded. The leader there, Mr Trevelyan, has received a medal at the bands of the King, given as a tribute to the bravery of all the workers. There was a house in which there were 400 typhoid patients. The Austrians got the range and began shelling the house, and it became necessary, if lives were to be saved, that the ambulances should go. They went without hesitation. They brought out the patients - one man alone in his ambulance brought out 85 of them - and they saved every man. As they were carrying out the last one a shell burst on the roof and blew up the whole building. Some of the soldiers already wounded were wounded again, but every one of our ambulance men escaped.

One hopes that men who have done such gallant work live to do equally good work, and we know that in the work they are doing they have behind them the heart of the great British nation. It is difficult to give you an idea of the work you are enabling us to do, but we could not possibly do any work of this kind unless we had The Times and The Times Fund behind us. To paraphrase a song we have heard tonight, “I was a poor little boy till I knew you.” When we began we had no money and we had no position. Thanks to you, if anything is to be done for the sick and suffering soldiers and sailors in any part of the world we are able to do it, and do it at the shortest possible notice.

“Before I sit down may I take the opportunity of expressing through a representative of Holland, Mr Van der Veer, who is one of our best friends on the Continent of Europe, our deep sense of gratitude to the Dutch Red Cross. You know that exchanges of prisoners take place. German prisoners are taken over and English prisoners brought back. We have had many prisoners brought back, though not so many as I could wish, and they one and all speak with the greatest gratitude of the care and attendance shown to them by members of the Dutch Red Cross, who received them on the German frontier and brought them over to this country. When the war is over there will be many debts of gratitude we shall have to try to pay, but there is no country to which we shall owe a greater debt of gratitude than we owe now to Holland.”

In conclusion, Mr Stanley said that if they of the Red Cross had been able to do anything in alleviating the position of the sick and suffering it was due to the great support given to them by the grandest newspaper in the whole of the world.

An excellent programme had been arranged for the concert and the entertainment was thoroughly enjoyed by a large audience.

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100 Years Ago



Showing construction.

TYPICAL EXAMPLES OF THE WORK OF THE ZEPPELINS. In the house represented in the lower illustration a woman, a girl and a boy were killed, and several. persons were injured near by.49.jpg





Zeppelin destroyed - inexorable pursuit of spotlights

September 4, 1916

So tremendous was the blaze and so intense the light that she seemed to be an immense incandescent mantle at white heat and enveloped in flame, falling, falling, and illuminating the country for miles round

A correspondent in East Anglia writes: We knew shortly after 11 o’clock on Saturday night that two, and possibly more, Zeppelins had reached the coast and were supposed to be making their way inland, and the expectation of their arrival was confirmed when, about half-past 11, the searchlights began their work. It would not be advisable to explain the manner of their use. It is sufficient to say that no quarter of the sky from which an aerial raider could possibly under existing conditions hope to approach the London area was left unexplored or was not swept again and again with a wonderful trellis-work of subdued but penetrating beams. Gradually one group of lights was concentrated on a particular area of the sky, at first in an irregular and broken circle, but as the circle narrowed the gaps between the lights were filled. The circle remained almost stationary, but other lights flashed round about it incessantly.

It was then seen what an ideal night it was from the raider’s point of view. There was very little wind, only enough, indeed, to cause the patches of mist, with occasional but not very large clouds, to drift slowly overhead, leaving the sky clear at intervals and the stars shining brilliantly. Above the clouds an enemy could easily have lurked. Unfortunately for the enemy, the clouds drifted in the wrong direction for him, and this gave the searchlight team the opportunity of which they were not slow to avail themselves. Steadily round the edges of one large cloudbank the circle rested. If there were any Zeppelin behind it, its only hope of remaining undetected was to stay and drift with it. Suddenly the cloud parted, and through the gap and at a great height the gleaming outline of the airship was descried.

The cry of “There she is” was followed by the boom of a gun, and an instant later a shell burst in what appeared to be close proximity to the raider. Then every gun within range spoke, and the din created by the rapid discharges, the scream of the shells, and the noise of the explosions was something to be remembered.


The people, most of them roused from their beds, flocked into the streets to see the spectacle. The revelation of the extensive measures taken for the protection of outer London must have been as great a surprise to the people themselves as to tho raiders, for alike in in fire and searchlights the experiences of previous raids were far surpassed.

Evidently the airship found it too warm to be pleasant. It was then heading due west, but turning round to the north-west and lost no time in rising to a still higher altitude. But the inexorable circle of light rose too, and the Zeppelin was more clearly outlined than ever, the firing, if anything, increasing in intensity. Then it appeared to drift almost broadside to the wind in an easterly direction, and after being nearly stationary for a few seconds turned rapidly towards almost every point of the compass, as though seeking some way out from the terrible circle of light which surrounded it with a sort of halo.

Try as it would, it could not escape. Then it seemed as though it was coming lower, and it approached so closely over the high ground where I and others were standing that it was possible in the strong glare of the searchlights to detect the gondolas beneath the great body and to discern faintly the outlines of its frame. Then the airship turned its head towards the east and continued until it was unpleasantly close to being right overhead, and, rising quickly as it gained speed, changed its course again and fled to the north-east. And the surrounding circle of light went with it. Its minutes were numbered. Suddenly flames broke out from, apparently, one of the gondolas, and an instant later one end of the body of the raider was seen to be on fire.


The blazing airship swing round for an instant, broadside on, as though unmanageable then the burning end dipped, the flames ran up the whole structure as her petrol tanks one after another caught fire. In another second or two the Zeppelin, now perpendicular, was falling headlong to earth from a height not much short of a couple of miles, a mass of roaring flame.

So tremendous was the blaze and so intense the light that she seemed to be an immense incandescent mantle at white heat and enveloped in flame, falling, falling, and illuminating the country for miles round. In her descent there was a series of explosions, due perhaps to her petrol tanks blowing up. With ever-increasing momentum she sped down, until at last she struck the earth with a crash that could be heard for miles. A dull red glow brightened the heavens for a few seconds, and a distant mass of still burning wreckage was all that was left. The people watched the attack on the Zeppelin in silence, but when she was seen to be on fire cheer on cheer was raised and repeated again and again.


A family who live about a hundred yards from where the Zeppelin fell in flames recounted their experiences to me. They said that they were first warned of the approach of hostile aircraft at 2.30 this morning, when they heard distant gun firing. They immediately got out of bed, called up two boys who were sleeping in an adjoining room, and hurried downstairs, the last to come down being an old lady, assisted by one of the family. While they were downstairs they saw from the window facing the north a sheet of flame, followed immediately by another sheet.

They next saw a huge mass of fire descending from the skies, and now and again pieces of burning material falling from it. There was no explosion when they saw the two flashes, but all they heard was a hissing sound like air being forced out of a ball, a terrible noise like falling rocks, and an uncanny crackling of burning wood. The huge mass of flame fell lower and lower, coming from north to the west, and crashed into the field opposite, narrowly missing a farmer’s house. While it was on the ground there were a series of minor explosions of the bursting machine-gun and revolver cartridges caused by the heat.

The sight of the burning airship was terrible, and they expected every minute that the house in which they were would be fired by the excessive heat. Had it not been for the recent rains they were sure that this would have happened. The two boys told me that very soon after the airship landed they ran into the field in which was only the farmer, to whom the field belonged. The debris was then smouldering, and now and again there were small explosions. The smell of burning petrol was very strong, but it was a long time before they would go very near to the wreckage for fear of suffocation from escaping gas. When they did get near they saw two charred remains of human beings.

Many soldiers arrived in motor omnibuses, followed by Government lorries, and the men in these proceeded to clear the wreckage. Shortly afterwards the fire brigade arrived, and a strong detachment of special constables. As soon as it was light the boys said they looked around for souvenirs of the wreckage and found among other things pieces of the silk covering of the airship and some charred rubber and wood. During the morning the field was visited by a great crowd of sightseers who busied themselves in looking for pieces of the wreckage.

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The Russian offensive, an eye-witness description

July 7, 1916

About midnight the hurricane of fire of our batteries converted the German trenches into a veritable inferno

(From Our Petrograd Correspondent.)

By the courtesy of General Headquarters, I have been privileged to witness the initial stages of the offensive which was begun yesterday by General Evert’s armies, and am proceeding to join the Army Corps to which I am to be attached during the ensuing operations.

The front immediately involved extends, roughly speaking, from the positions facing Baranovitchi to those to the east of Vilna. The names of these places are eloquent enough in themselves. They recall memories of the heroic retreat of our armies a year ago. The gallant corps which then fought against most frightful odds has now started on the journey back, filled with the greatest ardour and determination to drive the foe beyond the Niemen and the borders. Baranovitchi and Vilna are now the watchwords of our advancing infantry. Along the historic highways which traverse this land of rolling plains and wooded heights, notably the great broad route which carried Napoleon’s legions in the surge and ebb of invasion, likewise along the newly constructed railways, huge masses of men, guns, and transport have been moving to take up their appointed places in the second act of the great war - an act in which the Allies are striking the foe simultaneously on all sides, giving him no opportunity to shuttlecock his troops from front to front or to wrest the initiative from General Brusiloff. Henceforth he must fight as and where he stands.

From a convenient height in advance of our batteries I observed the artillery preparation of our offensive. Speaking only for what I noted personally, I can bear witness to the efficacy of the Russian system of cutting lanes through the consecutive lines of barbed wire. The system is as effective as it is economical.


The German gunners were strangely silent. Presumably much of their artillery has gone south and is not so plentiful as formerly. As it was, we almost monopolized the gunnery proceedings of the day. About midnight the hurricane of fire of our batteries converted the German trenches into a veritable inferno.

From my point of vantage I could see the horizon from Smorgon to Krevo almost uninterruptedly illuminated by the flashes of our pieces, while the din and roar of the batteries which were sending shell and shrapnel over my head were indescribable. Under the curtain of fire which held the German reserves in their shelters our men reached the enemy’s first iines, securing prisoners and demolishing the defences. At this stage word came to the artillery observers that the enemy was counter-attacking an outlying section, and asking for help. Within a few seconds an order was telephoned to the batteries, and immediately afterwards shells began tearing on their way towards the German skirmishing lines, quickly causing them to retreat.

We have outfought the enemy and taken several thousand prisoners and some guns. It is a good beginning.

Such brilliant results are unattainable without losses, and the Army mourns four gallant colonels, who fell leading their men. Unbounded satisfaction is expressed over the news of the British and French offensive.

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100 Years Ago - East Africa






General Smuts in East Africa

March 18, 1916

The main attack on the hills lasted from morning until midnight on March 11, and there was evidently some severe hand-to-hand fighting. The German native troops broke next morning and retreated to the railway, after having suffered heavy loss

General Smuts has begun his East African campaign with characteristic vigour and with welcome success. There can be little doubt that he has already joined issue with the main forces of the enemy.

The Germans themselves are not in great strength in East Africa and should now be greatly outnumbered by the British, South African, and Indian troops. They have raised a swarm of tribal auxiliaries, including Arabs and Masai, but the fate of Germany’s last African colony was sealed from the moment General Smuts left railhead.

All last year the operations in East Africa languished from a variety of reasons. There was some fighting on the Lakes, and we made a successful raid on the German port of Bukoba, on the Victoria Nyanza, and on another minor German stronghold on Lake Nyasa. The Germans, on their part, were in the main content to remain on the defensive, though they made occasional raids.

The decision to conquer German East Africa, and not to allow the German flag to float over a single square yard of African soil, marked the beginning of the end. The enemy, unable any longer to advance, had concentrated between Voi and the Kitovo hills, on the eastern side of the great mountain of Kilimanjaro.

There were several reasons why they chose this position. According to General Smuts, the hills were a formidable obstacle, being steep and thickly wooded. They were about fifteen miles from the important town of Moshi, near the terminus of the northern German railway. They formed a natural protection to the rich German plantations on the uplands south of Kilimanjaro; for the enemy have tried to develop their colony by means of plantations, and this was their most valuable district.

The British have made a branch light railway from Voi, on the Uganda line, towards the Kitovo hills, and it was always reasonably obvious that their principal advance would be along this line. The enemy had responded by holding the British town of Taveta, and other points east of the Kitovo Hills, as outposts.

Careful though their plans had been, the Germans were evidently not prepared for an ingenious development of British strategy. General Smuts advanced with his main force, as they expected, from the branch railway, took Taveta on March 9, and drove the enemy’s advanced troops back on the Kitovo Hills. He had columns cooperating on his right and left flanks, and the right of these columns cut off some German troops by a rapid advance. But the essence of the plan was a surprise attack on the German rear.

The British held a German frontier fort called Longido, fifty miles north-west of Kilimanjaro and due south of Nairobi. A mounted column, under Major-General J M Stewart, started from Longido, swept right round the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro, and appeared in rear of the Germans just as the Kitovo Hills were being attacked by General Smuts’s main body. The main attack on the hills lasted from morning until midnight on March 11, and there was evidently some severe hand-to-hand fighting. The German native troops broke next morning and retreated to the railway, after having suffered heavy loss. Moshi fell on March 13, and the adjacent town of Arusha is believed to have been evacuated.

The German forces are apparently retreating down the railway towards the coast at Tanga, but they will find no shelter by the sea. We have an account to settle at Tanga, where, a British attack failed somewhat disastrously in November 1914. The new East African campaign has begun most auspiciously, but our forces are still a long way from the capital, Dar-es-Salaam, and from the trunk railway which connects that city with Tabora and Lake Tanganyika. The Germans may quickly realize that the game is up, or they may develop a wearisome variety of guerrilla warfare. In either case the end is certain.

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100 Years Ago - Royal Navy


Captain Fryatt’s action, the encounter with the submarine

July 29, 1916

Those who were guilty of the wicked slaying of Miss Cavell would certainly have no compunction in doing to death the captain of a merchantman on little more than mere suspicion

The cold-blooded murder of Captain Charles Fryatt, of the Great Eastern Railway steamer Brussels, so callously announced in the German official news of yesterday, is calculated to rouse the indignation of the world as nothing else has done since the assassination of Miss Cavell. It is stated that the captain was executed after trial by Court-martial, not because he had actually sunk a submarine of the enemy, but merely because he tried to do so. Even, however, if he had succeeded, he would have been within his rights by the law and custom of the seas.

It was pointed out in The Times on February 12 last that the right of a merchant ship to resist capture, and to carry an armament for self-defence, has been established both by law and precedent. Her crew, in so doing, as long as they conform to the rules of war, are accorded the rights of combatants. Captain Fryatt, therefore, appears to have been perfectly justified if he attempted to sink a submarine which might otherwise have sunk him.

It is a little over a month ago since the Brussels, of which Captain Fryatt was the master, was captured during a night raid into the North Sea by a flotilla of German torpedo craft. The vessel was at the time on her regular voyage from the Hook of Holland to Tilbury. On being seized, the captain was placed under arrest and the ship taken to Zeebrugge, where the neutrals on board her were released and the cargo commandeered.


It was stated at this time that Captain Fryatt had been noted by the Admiralty about a year earlier for coolness and resource in the face of a submarine attack, which he frustrated by skilful manoeuvring. This statement was probably founded on a reply which Dr Macnamara gave to Lord Beresford in the House of Commons on April 29, 1915, when he was asked if a list of the names of the captains of merchant vessels who had baffled German submarines by their bravery and resource could be given to the House. In his reply, the Parliamentary Secretary said that many vessels had behaved well in the face of this new form of attack, and among some half-dozen names of merchant captains who had been noted by the Admiralty for their conduct in this respect was that of Captain Charles Fryatt, of the Brussels.

A few days after the vessel had been captured by the Germans it was reported that Captain Fryatt was in prison awaiting trial on a charge of sinking a submarine. The charge was said to have been founded on an inscription in a gold watch alleged to have been found on the captain.

As to the incident to which the charge referred, this was variously reported at the time. According to one story, the Brussels, when bound for Rotterdam, sighted off the Maas Lightship a submarine proceeding in the same direction as the steamer. The submarine signalled to the Brussels to stop, but Captain Fryatt, instead of obeying this injunction, rang down to the engine-room for full speed, and the ship made 17 knots. The submarine then passed across the bows of the Brussels and dived, apparently for the purpose of firing a torpedo. It was at this time that the firemen reported having felt a shock, and as the submarine did not again appear it was suggested that she might have been rammed. On the other hand, a statement was published in the Amsterdam Telegraaf regarding this alleged encounter, in which it was stated that when the Brussels put on her highest speed, and fired rocket signals, the submarine dived and was not seen again.


The statement that Captain Fryatt was commended by the Admiralty for frustrating a submarine attack by the skilful handling of his ship seems, on the published statements, to be the more correct. What sort of a trial is likely to have been given in Belgium under the military governorship of General von Bissing there have already been several examples to show. It may well be doubted if there was sufficient evidence to show that Captain Fryatt had tried to sink a submarine. The law as made in Germany, however, takes no account of such matters as justice and humanity. Those who were guilty of the wicked slaying of Miss Cavell would certainly have no compunction in doing to death the captain of a merchantman on little more than mere suspicion.

The German nation, which applauded such an atrocious act as the wholesale slaughter of innocent people on a great Atlantic liner, cannot be expected to do anything but tamely approve this later cruel act. If, however, it is intended to intimidate the merchant seamen of this country, who have performed their daily duties so nobly in spite of all the efforts of a crafty and unscrupulous foe, the Germans will find themselves completely mistaken. On the contrary, the abhorrence and indignation felt at such a crime will strengthen their determination to resist and oppose their under-water enemies, knowing as they do that they cannot fail to be supported by the authorities, since the law of the sea is on their side. They will naturally look to the Government to take action for their justification, and, if possible, for their protection against such a wrongful fate as has unhappily befallen the gallant Captain Fryatt.


The Foreign Office has issued for publication correspondence relating to the capture of the Brussels. On June 28, five days after the capture, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs wrote as follows to the American Ambassador in London asking him to ascertain the names of British subjects on board the steamer Immediate. “The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to the United States Ambassador and has the honour to state that he would be much obliged if the United States Ambassador at Berlin could be requested by telegraph to ascertain the names of the British subjects who were on board the steam.ship Brussels when she was recently captured by German warships and taken to Zeebrugge. Sir E Grey understands that there were six British Stewardesses on board, and he trusts that they will be repatriated at an early date.”

In reply to the above the American Ambassador wrote on July 1: “The American Ambassador presents his compliments to his Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and, in reply to the Note Sir Edward Grey was good enough to address to him on June 28 (No. 1218/16) concerning the British subjects who were on board the steamship Brussels when that vessel was captured by German warships, has the honour to state that he is now in receipt of a telegraphic communication from the Ambassador at Berlin to the effect that the officers and crew of the Harwich steamer Brussels are safe and well, and are now interned at Ruhleben. The master of the vessel desires that his wife may be informed, and it is requested that parcels may be sent from England to these prisoners. It appears that the flve stewardesses were separated from the crew at Cologne, and Mr Gerard is inquiring of the German Government as to their present whereabouts and urging their prompt repatriation.”

On learning through a Dutch newspaper that Captain Fryatt was to be tried by Court-martial of attempting to ram a German submarine the Foreign Secretary wrote on July 18 to the American Ambassador as follows: “The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to the United States Ambassador and has the honour to refer to his Excellency’s Note of the lst instant, relative to the situation of the officers and crew of the captured SS Brussels. His Majesty’s Government are now in receipt of information to the effect that it is stated in the Telegraaf of the 16th instant that Captain Fryatt, of that vessel, is to be tried by Court-martial at Ghent on the charge of ramming a German submarine, and Sir E Grey will be greatly obliged if the United States Ambassador at Berlin can be requested by telegraph to be good enough to inquire whether this report is correct. Sir E Grey will be grateful if Mr Gerard’s reply can also be communicated by telegraph.”

The above was followed by another letter from the Foreign Office on July 20 asking that Captain Fryatt should be legally defended. “The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to the United States Ambassador and has the honour to refer to Sir E Grey’s note of the 1st instant respecting the report of the pending trial of Captain Fryatt of the SS Brussels for ramming a German submarine. Sir E Grey would be greatly obliged if the United States Ambassador at Berlin could be requested by telegraph to take all possible steps to secure the proper defence of Captain Fryatt in the event of the Court-martial, being held, and if his Excellency could be informed confidentially that his Majesty’s Government are satisfied that, in committing the act impugned, Captain Fryatt acted legitimately in self-defence for the purpose of evading capture or destruction.”

Again, on July 25, a further Note was sent to the American Ambassador expressing the view of his Majesty’s Government that the action for which Captain Fryatt was to be tried was perfectly legitimate: “Immediate. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to the United States Ambassador and has the honour to refer to Sir E Grey’s Note of the 20th inst respecting the reported trial of Captain Fryatt, of the SS Brussels. Sir E Grey would be greatly obliged if the United States Ambassador at Berlin could be informed that should the allegations on which the charge against Captain Fryatt is understood to be based be established by evidence, his Majesty’s Government are of opinion that hIs action was perfectly legitimate. His Majesty’s Government consider that the act of a merchant ship in steering for an enemy submarine and forcing her to dive is essentially defensive, and precisely on the same footing as the use by a defensively-armed vessel of her defensive armament in order to resist capture, which both the United States Government and his Majesty’s Government hold to be the exercise of an undoubted right.”


Speaking in the House of Commons on April 27, 1915, on the subject of the treatment of British prisoners in Germany, Mr Asquith said: I say it with all emphasis and with all deliberation. When we come to the end of this war — which please God we may — we shall not forget, and we ought not to forget, this horrible record of calculated cruelty and crime, and we shall hold it to be our duty to exact such reparation against those who are proved to have been the guilty agents and actors in the matter as it may be possible for us to do.

On June 9, 1915, Mr Balfour, in announcing to the House of Commons that the German submarine prisoners should have the same treatment as other prisoners, said: It must be remembered that submarine attacks on defenceless vessels are very far from being the only violation of law and humanity of which the Germans have been guilty. The Government are, therefore of opinion that the submarine problem cannot be treated in isolation, and that the general question of personal responsibility shall be reserved until the end of the war.


The Continental traffic manager of the Great Eastern Railway last night described Captain Fryatt to a representative of The Times as a very fine seaman. He had long been in the company’s service, and had made a great many passages between Harwich and Rotterdam. Captain Fryatt, says a news agency, had lived all his life at Parkeston, Harwich. He was married to an East Anglian woman, and leaves several children. A friend of many years’ standing said there was no man in the Great Eastern service who was held in higher esteem. He was the soul of honour, and a cool, level-headed man. Captain Fryatt was nicknamed locally “the Pirate Dodger,” because of the skilful fashion in which he had more than once eluded the U-boats.

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