But one thing perhaps they had not foreseen—that by a combination of mishaps in the first reporting of the battle, the great action, which has really demonstrated, once and for all, the invincible supremacy of Great Britain at sea, which has reduced the German Fleet to months of impotence, put the invasion of these islands finally out of the question, and enabled the British blockade to be drawn round Germany with a yet closer and sterner hand, was made to appear, in the first announcements of it, almost a defeat. The news of our losses—our heavy losses—came first—came almost alone. The Admiralty, with the stern conscience of the British official mind, announced them as they came in—bluntly—with little or no qualification. A shock of alarm went through England! For what had we paid so sore a price? Was the return adequate, and not only to our safety, but to our prestige?
There were a few hours when both Great Britain—outside the handful of men who knew—and her friends throughout the world, hung on the answer. Meanwhile the German lie, which converted a defeat for Germany into a “victory,” got at least twenty-four hours’ start, and the Imperial Chancellor made quick and sturdy use of it when he extracted a War Loan of L600,000,000 from a deluded and jubilant Reichstag. Then the news came in from one quarter after another of the six-mile battle-line, from one unit after another of the greatest sea-battle Britain had ever fought, and by the 3rd or 4th of June, England, drawing half-ironic breath over her own momentary misgiving, had realised the truth—first—that the German Fleet on the 31st had only escaped total destruction by the narrowest margin, and by the help of mist and darkness; secondly—that its losses were, relatively far greater, and in all probability, absolutely, greater than our own; thirdly—that after the British battle-fleet had severed the German navy from its base, the latter had been just able, under cover of darkness, to break round the British ships, and fly hard to shelter, pursued by our submarines and destroyers through the night, till it arrived at Wilhelmshaven a battered and broken host, incapable at least for months to come of any offensive action against Great Britain or her Allies. Impossible henceforth—for months to come—to send a German squadron sufficiently strong to harass Russia in the Baltic! Impossible to interfere successfully with the passage of Britain’s new armies across the seas! Impossible to dream any longer of invading English coasts! The British Fleet holds the North Sea more strongly than it has ever held it; and behind the barbed wire defences of Wilhelmshaven or Heligoland the German Fleet has been nursing its wounds.