“In order that there should be no mistake about the ensigns flown by British merchant vessels, the Admiralty ordered after war had been declared that only the red ensign, a square red flag with the union jack in the corner, should be shown at the stern of a merchantman, and the white St. George’s ensign by all war vessels, whether armored or unarmored. These are the only two flags that are hoisted on British ships today, with the exception of the company’s house flag, when they are entering port or passing at sea, and the mail flag on the foremast, which every steamship flies coming in to denote that she has mails on board.
“Before the war both the Lusitania and the Mauretania flew the blue ensign of the Royal Naval Reserve, which any British merchant vessel is allowed to do if her commander and officers and two-thirds of the crew belong to the reserve.”
[German Foreign Office Note.]
[Special to The New York Times.]
WASHINGTON, May 11.—Secretary Bryan received from Ambassador Gerard at Berlin today the text of an official declaration by the German Government of its policy with respect to American and other neutral ships meeting German submarines in the naval war zone around the British Isles and in the North Sea. This declaration was handed to Mr. Gerard by the German Foreign Office which explained that it was being issued as a “circular statement” in regard to “mistaken attacks by German submarines on commerce vessels of neutral nations."
First—The Imperial German Government has naturally no intention of causing to be attacked by submarines or aircraft such neutral ships of commerce in the zone of naval warfare, more definitely described in the notice of the German Admiralty staff of Feb. 4 last, as have been guilty of no hostile act. On the contrary, the most definite instructions have repeatedly been issued to German war vessels to avoid attacks on such ships under all circumstances. Even when such ships have contraband of war on board they are dealt with by submarines solely according to the rules of international law applying to prize warfare.
Second—Should a neutral ship nevertheless come to harm through German submarines or aircraft on account of an unfortunate (X) [mistake?] in the above-mentioned zone of naval warfare, the German Government will unreservedly recognize its responsibility therefor. In such a case it will express its regrets and afford damages without first instituting a prize court action.