“It is of course unnecessary to remind the German Government that the sole right of a belligerent in dealing with neutral vessels on the high seas is limited to visit and search, unless a blockade is proclaimed and effectively maintained, which the Government of the United States does not understand to be proposed in this case. To declare and exercise the right to attack and destroy any vessel entering a prescribed area of the high seas without first accurately determining its belligerent nationality and the contraband character of its cargo, would be an act so unprecedented in naval warfare that this Government is reluctant to believe that the Imperial German Government in this case contemplates it as possible.”
I sailed from New York February 13th, 1915, on the first American passenger liner to run the von Tirpitz blockade. On February 20th we passed Queenstown and entered the Irish Sea at night. Although it was moonlight and we could see for miles about us, every light on the ship, except the green and red port and starboard lanterns, was extinguished. As we sailed across the Irish Sea, silently and cautiously as a muskrat swims on a moonlight night, we received a wireless message that a submarine, operating off the mouth of the Mersey River, had sunk an English freighter. The captain was asked by the British Admiralty to stop the engines and await orders. Within an hour a patrol boat approached and escorted us until the pilot came aboard early the next morning. No one aboard ship slept. Few expected to reach Liverpool alive, but the next afternoon we were safe in one of the numerous snug wharves of that great port.
A few days later I arrived in London. As I walked through Fleet street newsboys were hurrying from the press rooms carrying orange-coloured placards with the words in big black type: “Pirates Sink Another Neutral Ship.”
Until the middle of March I remained in London, where the wildest rumours were afloat about the dangers off the coast of England, and where every one was excited and expectant over the reports that Germany was starving. I was urged by friends and physicians not to go to Germany because it was universally believed in Great Britain that the war would be over in a very short time. On the 15th of March I crossed from Tilbury to Rotterdam. At Tilbury I saw pontoon bridges across the Thames, patrol boats and submarine chasers rushing back and forth watching for U-boats, which might attempt to come up the river. I boarded the Batavia IV late at night and left Gravesend at daylight the next morning for Holland. Every one was on deck looking for submarines and mines. The channel that day was as smooth as a small lake, but the terrible expectation that submarines might sight the Dutch ship made every passenger feel that the submarine war was as real as it was horrible.