FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM
The procurement of ships in which to transport food was no less important than the procurement of funds with which to buy it. And more than any other department of the C.R.B.'s activities shipping was directly affected by the course of military events. Shipping problems began in the last days of October 1914, when Hoover secured, not without difficulty, British permits for the dispatch of the "Iris" and "Coblenz" from London to Rotterdam; they continued in growing complexity until five months before the Armistice in 1918, when the Allies and the United States authorities having decided to regard relief as a "war measure," agreed to furnish sufficient tonnage for the needs of the work. No question --- unless it were finance --- was more persistently difficult than ships, and none was more vital to Belgian relief.
As is well known the shortage of ships very nearly caused the Allies to lose the war. The great crisis did not come until 1917, but long before that time the mounting needs of the Allies and the steadily diminishing tonnage available were reflected in the troubles of the C.R.B. These troubles, which shippers everywhere experienced to a greater or less degree, were augmented for the Commission because its tonnage requirements were so great and because its ships, to reach their destination at Rotterdam, had to cross the narrow seas where the naval war, carried on largely under water, was most intense. The hazards of mine and submarine were great, and owners, reasonably enough, preferred to employ their ships elsewhere on equally profitable and less dangerous voyages. Moreover, since the C.R.B. ships crossed and recrossed both the British and German blockade lines, complicated regulations were established and frequently revised by the blockade officials. Notable among these requirements were: the C.R.B. flag; special markings; safe-conduct passes; and special sailing routes.
The first phase of the shipping story concerns British and German permits, regulations, and guarantees and successful efforts of the Commission to secure immunity to non-neutral vessels under its flag. The second, the effects of the German "War Zone" decree of 1915. The third, Hoover's various projects in 1915-16 to secure ships for relief service, i.e., the use of interned German ships; the employment of United States naval colliers; negotiations leading to the acquisition by the Commission of ships under the Belgian flag as an inadequate but permanent relief fleet, and the plans to purchase additional vessels. Then came the great crisis: the German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917, its disastrous effects on relief shipping, and Hoover's and Poland's efforts in America and London to prevent drastic curtailment of the C.R.B. requirements, and finally, the successful negotiations with Allied and American authorities in 1918 for the provision of sufficient ships for relief.
1. The C.R.B. Flag. November-December 1914
On the 20th October 1914 the British Foreign Office informed Ambassador Page(114) that the Government was not stopping the shipment of food supplies for the civil population of Belgium from neutral countries in neutral ships. This negative and limited acquiescence to the penetration of the blockade quickly proved inadequate to the needs of the Commission, which aimed at the necessary program of 80,000 tons of provisions each month calling for the employment of forty ocean steamers under continuous charter. There was no huge volume of neutral shipping, and that procurable was extremely expensive. Hoover, recognizing that transportation was a major problem, at once approached the British Foreign Office for further concessions. On the 5th November 1914 he asked Sir Edward Grey(115) to give special privileges to relief cargoes, and suggested that the real solution to the shipping troubles was to permit the Commission to charter ships flying the British flag. In addition to his request for permission to use non-neutral vessels in the relief service Hoover asked that Government Insurance(116) be made available for British ships in the C.R.B. service. As far as the Commission was concerned these two concessions were closely connected as owners would not charter their vessels to make the hazardous passage across the North Sea to Rotterdam without this insurance.
Before granting these concessions the British demanded further guarantees from the German Government not to interfere with any ships in the Commission's service. This assurance the Germans promptly gave. Out of these negotiations came the Commission's own flag on the seas, the special markings of its vessels, and the rigid system of British and German safe-conduct passes for each relief voyage.
DOCUMENT NO. 185
HOOVER TO PERCY, regarding British safe-conduct passes for C.R.B. ships
LONDON, 8 November 1914
Lord Eustace Percy,
Foreign Office, London
DEAR LORD PERCY:
Presuming on your kind offer to give us occasional advice in our struggles I should be glad to know if it would be a possible thing for us to approach the Foreign Office through the proper channels to obtain the following scheme, viz.: that some kind of document should be issued by the Foreign Office which would serve as a pass for our complete cargoes consigned to the Commission for Relief in Belgium care of the American and/or Spanish Ministers, Rotterdam; these passes to be sent by us to the ports where we have ships being despatched and to be there viséd by the British Consul and to be attached to the bill of lading and taken up with the bill of lading when the ship arrives. Such a document asking immunity from all British Naval Authorities would be of great encouragement to the people who are contributing free gift ships---as there is some alarm in their minds that the ships may be lost.
(Signed) H. C. HOOVER
Fig. 6. Letter, 8 March 1915, Sir Edward Grey to Hoover.
DOCUMENT NO. 186
by HOOVER, concerning British Government insurance for C.R.B. ships
LONDON, 10 November 1914
Had a discussion with Ambassador Page in the matter of the statement by Sir Edward Grey on the question of the British Government insuring the ships of this Commission, Sir Edward having made the statement that the British Government would be a great deal influenced in this matter if the German Government would undertake to interfere in no way with the Commission's shipping. I drafted a cablegram to Mr. Gerard setting out the position to him and asking him to interest himself in securing from the German Government a series of passports for our ships leaving the United States. This cablegram was dispatched through the American Embassy to Mr. Gerard, via Washington.
DOCUMENT NO. 187
GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE TO AMERICAN AMBASSADOR AT BERLIN, giving Ding consent to the C.R.B. to use non-neutral ships for relief shipments into Rotterdam
BERLIN, 23 November 1914
TO THE EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The Department of Foreign Affairs has the honor to reply to the Embassy relative to the "Note Verbale" of November 14th F.O. 1105, that the Imperial Government is entirely in sympathy with the efforts of the American Commission in Brussels, designed to supply food to the population.
For this reason the Imperial Government would consent willingly, at least for the present, reserving the right to revoke this consent should it become necessary, that foodstuffs should be sent to Dutch ports even in other than neutral vessels, and would grant, in such a case, for the use of those foodstuffs, the same guarantee as if the delivery were made in neutral ships.
In order to avoid seizure by German warships, it is recommended that these non-neutral ships be provided with a certificate by the proper American authority in which it shall be declared that these ships carry foodstuffs which are being transported by the American Relief Committee, with the consent of the German Government, to Belgium through Dutch ports for the purpose of feeding the Belgian population. Further, these non-neutral ships should have a passport drawn up in the form given below and issued by the Imperial German Embassy in Washington.
DOCUMENT NO. 188
BRITISH ADMIRALTY TO THE COMMISSION, giving permission to a British ship with C.R.B. cargo to proceed to Rotterdam, but withholding insurance
LONDON, 27 November 1914
John Beaver White, Esq.
The Commission for Relief in Belgium, London
In further reply to your letter of the 25th instant, I am now in a position to inform you that the proposed voyage of the S.S. "Badminton" has been carefully considered.
It has been decided, so far as the Admiralty are concerned, that the vessel may undertake the voyage to Rotterdam, but will not be held covered against War Risks under the Government Insurance scheme.
I feel convinced that you will realize that owing to the inevitable risk which a vessel must run on such a voyage it would be inequitable to expose shipowners, subscribing to a system of mutual insurance, to risk of pecuniary loss on a voyage which the Admiralty cannot recommend.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant
(Signed) RICHARD WEBB
Director of Trade Division
DOCUMENT NO. 189
ADMIRALTY TRADE DIVISION TO BRITISH WAR RISK CLUBS, suggesting that shipowners decline to carry cargoes to Dutch ports
ADMIRALTY WAR STAFF,
LONDON 2 December 1914
Cases are constantly occurring of applications being made by British Shipowners as to the safety or otherwise of the route to Dutch ports.
Quite apart from the safety or otherwise of the routes, it is pointed out that the Admiralty considers it most undesirable that any British vessels should be employed in adding to the already very large supplies of grain, etc., which are flowing into Holland.
As you are aware, the Admiralty do not put an absolute prohibition on such voyage, but merely rule it out of the permissible voyages under the Insurance Scheme.
At the same time, it is hoped that British Shipowners will in future decline to carry any such cargoes, and I should be much obliged if you would circularize the members of your club accordingly.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant
(Signed) RICHARD WEBB
Director of Trade Division
DOCUMENT NO. 190
PERCY TO HOOVER, regarding the policy of the Admiralty in connection with shipments to Rotterdam
FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
6 December 1914
DEAR MR. HOOVER:
I have just got your letter and have represented the position strongly to Captain Webb. I think you will now be sure that the circular(117) referred to matters totally different from the trade in which you are engaged, and that all we now have to do is to make it clear to shipowners that this circular does not supersede or alter in any way the policy expressed in Captain Webb's letters to Mr. White. I will push this matter with all the force I can.
The last paragraph of your letter does not exactly represent what I understand to be the position. The question of the employment of British ships by you, with or without an assurance from the German Government, was received by Sir Edward, together with all the other questions you raised at that interview, for the decision of the Cabinet. Such a decision has never been come to, but I have let this matter drop because you were able to settle the question direct with the Admiralty, who are responsible. The question of amount of risk involved to British shipping by a voyage to Rotterdam is one which can be better and more expeditiously settled direct between you and the Admiralty---it is far better in such business matters to deal with the officials concerned direct than with Cabinet Ministers! That is the only question which the Admiralty have to decide; the question of the desirability of facilitating your business in every way which is compatible with the interests of the people of this country has already been settled long ago by the Cabinet. That decision stands and you must not let the momentary difficulties created by the action of overworked officials at the Admiralty or elsewhere dishearten you. Neither must you feel hurt if I put up to you from time to time the unfounded rumors we hear about what is happening in Belgium. I want to nail lies as they come up, but you mustn't take any such enquiry as indicating that our sympathy with you in your work is slackening in any way. Whatever appearances may be, please accept my word of honour that we only desire to help, not to interfere.
(Signed) EUSTACE PERCY
DOCUMENT NO. 191
ADMIRALTY TRADE DIVISION TO HOOVER, concerning C.R.B. ships for Rotterdam, enclosing second circular letter to War Risk Clubs
ADMIRALTY WAR STAFF, LONDON
7 December 1914
DEAR MR. HOOVER:
Lord Eustace Percy has told me of your letter to him concerning trade to Rotterdam, and in this connection I beg to enclose copy of letter which has been sent to the War Risk Clubs in regard to the vessels which you are proposing specially to charter to take foodstuffs for the Belgian refugees.
I need hardly point out that the circular asking British shipowners not to trade to Holland was in no way intended to hamper the work of your Commission, but was dictated by other considerations in connection with the war in which Great Britain is engaged.
(Signed) RICHARD WEBB
Director of Trade Division
TO BRITISH WAR RISK CLUBS:
In reference to my letter of the 2d instant, respecting voyages of British vessels to Dutch ports, I beg to state that the desire expressed therein was not intended to apply to ships carrying supplies for the Belgian Relief Commission.
The Admiralty, while unable to allow such voyages to be made under cover of the Government Insurance Scheme, are anxious not to hinder the work of the Relief Commission.
Will you be good enough to inform those members of the London group of War Risk Associations who are concerned in the matter.
The list of vessels probably chartered for this purpose is attached.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant
(Signed) RICHARD WEBB
Director of Trade Division
DOCUMENT NO. 192
Extract of letter,
HOOVER TO RUNCIMAN, requesting extension of British Government insurance to cover C.R.B. ships to Rotterdam
LONDON, 10 December 1914
The Right Honorable Walter Runciman, M.P.
Board of Trade, London
. . . . . . . . . . . ..
The second matter is one of great importance to us---and that is the question of British Government Insurance on cargoes and vessels going to Rotterdam for our purpose.
Although the circular issued by the Trade Division of the Admiralty to British owners suggesting that they should refrain from going to Rotterdam was amended to the extent that the wishes of the Government did not extend to our ships, the amended circular stated that the British Government Insurance would not apply.
It appears that it had been the impression of the Protective Clubs that British Government Insurance did apply to their ships engaged on this mission and the owners with whom we now have charters are compelled to take out independent insurance at Lloyd's. Furthermore, the moral effect upon the shipping world has been so great as to make it almost impossible for us to secure ships at all at any price. The rates have been advanced in an extraordinary manner for Rotterdam, and this combined with the insurance put upon us bids fair to cost us something like £30,000 to £40,000 extra over what could be done if the British Government Insurance applied to our ships as far as Rotterdam.
I have taken the matter up with the Belgian Government and they have agreed that they will undertake to guarantee the British Government against any loss which might be incurred on that section of the voyage from British waters to Rotterdam and return, and I understand they are prepared to do this without receiving any proportion of the premium, so that if the British Government could see its way to extend the Government Insurance to all our vessels to Rotterdam the effect would not only be actual in facilitating insurance but would be of the greatest moral and material benefit to us in inducing the British shipowners to give us their help.
Some time since, in an interview with Sir Edward Grey, he suggested that if an undertaking could be obtained from the German Government that ships engaged on our work would not be interfered with, it might facilitate the views of the British Government as to the extension of insurance, although he could give no undertaking in the matter. We have obtained this assurance from the German Government so that so far as the risk extends to naval action, that has been eliminated not only for the portion of the voyage from British waters to Rotterdam but also throughout the ship's whole voyage, thus to some extent possibly reducing the total risk.
I would therefore greatly appreciate it if you could reconsider the whole insurance question and see if the Government could manage to meet our difficulty to this extent. As you are perhaps aware, we had originally hoped to receive some subsidy from the British Government in this work, but I understand that the Government is not inclined to participate to this extent, and you can quite readily appreciate our anxiety to reduce expenditure at any point so that such funds as we have may produce the maximum results in the way of foodstuffs introduced to the civil population in Belgium. Such a concession as the above would not represent any direct outlay on the part of the Government but would represent to us a material subsidy.
(Signed) H. C. HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 193
HOOVER TO RUNCIMAN, concerning the benefits of the Government War Risk Insurance to C.R.B. ships
LONDON, 21 December 1914
The Right Honorable Walter Runciman, M.P.
Board of Trade, London
DEAR MR. RUNCIMAN:
We beg to acknowledge the receipt of your valued favor of the 19th instant.
It is quite right that the ships that I wrote you about on the 10th instant are conveying only foodstuffs for the relief of the civil population of Belgium, all of which are shipped and distributed under the auspices of this Commission. Such being the case we understand from your letter that your Board will give such ships the benefit of the Government War Risk Insurance Scheme, and we will therefore be obliged if you will be good enough to notify the Shipowners Protective Associations so that the matter will be made clear to all concerned. We have received from the Admiralty general consent for the steamers proceeding and they have advised that they win give special consent for each ship if required.
We thank you most sincerely for what you have done for us in this matter.
(Signed) H. C. HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 194
PAGE TO U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE, regarding ships with whole cargoes for Belgian relief
LONDON, 28 December 1914
SECRETARY OF STATE, WASHINGTON
The Foreign Office informs me that the British naval authorities will undertake in the future to facilitate the voyage only of such charity ships to Rotterdam as contain whole cargoes of food for Belgian relief. It is important therefore that such ships should not contain other cargo, and to secure this protection all ships for Belgium relief must be reported by Lindon Bates, the Commission's representative in New York, to the British Ambassador in Washington. After conferring with Sir Cecil Spring Rice it might be advantageous to give this arrangement wide publicity because certain societies and committees continue to ship contributions of food on ships that carry other cargo.
AMERICAN AMBASSADOR, LONDON
DOCUMENT NO. 195
Example of statement
required of masters of ships using the C.R.B. flag
ROTTERDAM, 27 January 1915
I undersigned, J. Hutcheon, Master of the British Steamer "Polvarth," do hereby solemnly promise and declare not to use the flag entrusted to me by The Commission for Relief in Belgium for any purpose whereby any of the belligerent nations have an advantage.
I further promise not to take any cargo on my homeward trip, whilst flying the Commission's flag, and undertake to deliver this flag immediately on arrival at the first port of call in the U.K.
(Signed) J. HUTCHEON, Master
DOCUMENT NO. 196
GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE TO AMERICAN AMBASSADOR AT BERLIN, stating certification required for non-neutral ships carrying C.R.B. cargoes
BERLIN, 24 December 1914
TO THE EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, BERLIN
In supplement of its "Note Verbale" of 23d November 1914, No. II WK Be 179, relative to the supply of food for the population of Belgium, the Foreign Office has the honor to inform the Embassy of the United States of America that it appears desirable that the following statements should be included in the certificates with which nonneutral vessels are to be provided:
a) The express declaration:
1. That the ship contains solely food (and clothing) for the population of Belgium to be unloaded in a Dutch port;
2. An undertaking of the master of the vessel on his word of honor to abstain from any and all actions on the outward or return voyage, involving assistance to our opponents.
b) It is further desired that the following should be pointed out in the certificates:
3. That certificate and pass are valid only for the single outward voyage, and are to be delivered to the German Consul upon arrival at the Dutch port of destination, or to the German Minister at The Hague if there is no such consul. Similar papers for the return voyage will be issued by the Imperial German Legation at The Hague;
4. That the papers do not bar a search of the vessel and the cargo must be stowed so that search can be conducted quickly and easily;
5. That the date of departure from the United States is to be communicated to the Imperial German Ambassador at Washington, the date of departure from the Netherlands on the return voyage is to be communicated to the Imperial German Minister at The Hague;
6. That an offence against these provisions or against the obligations assumed works forfeiture of all rights to preferential treatment.
The Foreign Office begs to request the Embassy of the United States of America to be good enough to take the necessary steps in order that the certificates may be worded in accordance with what has been stated above.
DOCUMENT NO. 197
German safe-conduct pass issued to ships used by the C.R.B.
The undersigned Imperial Minister hereby certifies on the strength of the arrangement concluded between the Imperial Government and the Government of the United States of America that the
British Steamer "John Hardie"
Master James Walker
has on board exclusively goods of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium intended for the suffering civil population in Belgium.
1. It is valid only for the present homeward voyage via Cardiff or Barry and must be delivered immediately upon arrival in an American port to the local Imperial German General-Consul or to the Imperial German Ambassador at Washington.
2. The Master has undertaken upon his word of honor to abstain during the outward and return voyages from any or all actions that may involve assistance to Germany's enemies.
3. Vessels of the Imperial Navy have the right to search the ship.
4. In case of non-compliance with the above conditions the ships lose all right to preferential treatment.
THE HAGUE, February 6th, 1915
The German Minister
(Signed) VON MUELLER
2. The German "War Zone" of 1915. February-April 1915
The German "War Zone" specified in the declaration of the 4th February 1915 included all the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland and the English Channel. After the 18th February every enemy merchant ship met in these waters was to be destroyed and neutrals were warned that it might not be possible to prevent attacks on their ships since the British were alleged to be using neutral flags. Although paragraph 6 of the German Admiralty's instructions of the 18th February 1915 to U-boat commanders provided that the Commission's ships should be spared, the C.R.B. was advised to direct its vessels to avoid the war zone and to follow a course designated by the German Admiralty around the north of Scotland and thence down the eastern part of the North Sea and through a lane twenty miles wide along the Dutch coast. For many reasons, not unknown to the German Government, it was impossible for the Commission to follow the German stipulations and maintain the program of imports into Belgium. Some of these reasons are given in the following documents.
The Commission's oversea purchases came largely from North America where the vessels were supplied with German safe-conducts at the time of departure. Important supplements to these shipments were cargoes of maize from South America and of rice from India. Following the trade custom the Commission bought many of these cargoes afloat as they were en route to England. The vessels with these cargoes could not be ordered to Rotterdam without entering the war zone since the British required that all relief cargoes which included those from North America report at a British port for Admiralty inspection. Moreover these vessels had to be furnished with a German safe-conduct which could not be provided if the vessels did not put in at a British port. The Commission also bought large quantities of supplies in the London market and shipped these in small cross-channel boats which had to traverse the war zone to reach Rotterdam. All these vessels, after discharging at Rotterdam and receiving a new German safe-conduct, were obliged to put in at some British port for bunker coal, thus braving the war zone again. It was not until April 1915 that the German Government, as a result of Hoover's energetic protests, agreed to permit relief steamers to call at British ports and to cross the English Channel immune from attack. In the meantime the relief steamer "Harpalyce," outward bound in ballast from Rotterdam, was torpedoed in the North Sea.
DOCUMENT NO. 198
GERMAN EMBASSY, WASHINGTON, TO C.R.B., NEW YORK, recommending that in view of the German "war zone" declaration, C.R.B. ships take the northern route to Rotterdam
GERMAN EMBASSY, WASHINGTON
15 February 1915
Lindon W. Bates, Esq., New York City
DEAR MR. BATES,
With reference to the recent declaration of a war zone around the English coast I beg to draw your attention to the fact that, though of course the German commanders will do their best to avoid any mistake, every ship entering the war zone will be in danger. Also the letters of safe-conduct which this Embassy gives to the relief ships will not remove this danger as an examination of these papers by submarines will probably not be feasible inside the war zone. I can therefore only very strongly recommend that the relief ships take the course north of Scotland indicated by the German Admiralty.
Yours very truly
(Signed) E. v. HANIEL
DOCUMENT NO. 199
HOOVER TO C.R.B., NEW YORK, protesting against German requirements that C.R.B. ships take northern route
LONDON, 17 February 1915
RELIEF COMMISSION, NEW YORK
Please inform German Ambassador our British Admiralty and Board of Trade regulations and all our charter parties require all our ships call Falmouth for orders and necessitate proceeding direct Rotterdam through Straits, otherwise all charter parties break down and will be impossible enforce delivery. Last Monday in Berlin I discussed matter with Secretary Foreign Affairs who assured me as ships are marked and can cross Channel in daylight Germans would give instructions they not be interfered with in accordance their previous undertaking with us. Unless we can proceed as usual route entire supply to Belgium will break down.(118)
DOCUMENT NO. 200
C.R.B., ROTTERDAM, TO HOOVER, advising that German Minister at The Hague refuses safe-conduct passes except to Relief vessels returning direct to America via northern route
ROTTERDAM, 25 February 1915
We have just been advised by local German Consul that German Ambassador Hague refuses to give return passes to steamers employed by our Commission, except those holding papers from American ports, and these passes are only good for return via northern route. German Consul unable advise at what port steamer can call in England when proceeding by northern route. Have taken up with American Legation Hague, and they are now asking for definite statement from German Minister there, and will also take up with Gerard in Berlin. German Legation Hague refuses any kind of pass on steamers purchased en route. Are you guaranteeing safe return of all steamers from Rotterdam to United Kingdom ports? Will advise result of Hague negotiations as soon as possible. Three steamers have left Rotterdam for England without passes but are using Commission flag, namely: "Treneglos," "Ariel" "Rockabill."
DOCUMENT NO. 201
HOOVER TO C.R.B., ROTTERDAM, protesting against German regulations outlined in preceding document
LONDON, 26 February 1915
RELIEF COMMISSION, ROTTERDAM
Please telegraph Whitlock and Gerard fully result your negotiations and also forward each of them following telegram from me and I am sending it direct to Van Dyke. Begins: Utterly impossible for us to procure sufficient food supplies for Belgium exclusively from North American ports and are therefore compelled to buy floating cargoes and to engage foodstuffs from other quarters of the world, some of which are transshipped from British ports. Furthermore utterly impossible for us to deliver one pound of foodstuff in Rotterdam if ships required to go or come north of British Islands as shipping cannot be engaged under this condition, and unless German Government is prepared to give instructions that the markings on our ships, which are visible for miles, and our flag, are to be respected in the passage of ships to and from British ports to Rotterdam engaged solely on our work, the whole business becomes absolutely hopeless. No ships will use our markings unless on our mission. We are only securing the passage of these ships by virtue of the insistence on our part that our flag will be respected under the agreements which we have with the German Government and the assurances given to me personally by His Excellency von Jagow, and if the German Government is no longer prepared to respect our flag and their undertakings to us it appears to us that our efforts must come to an end. I cannot believe that there is any intention on the part of the German Government to otherwise than assist in every way in their power this humanitarian effort. Ends.
DOCUMENT NO. 202
VON JAGOW TO GERARD, granting permission to C.R.B. ships to use the Channel route
FOREIGN OFFICE, BERLIN
5 March 1915
MY DEAR EXCELLENCY:
Many thanks for your kind letter of the 1st instant enclosing a copy of the telegram of Mr. Hoover. Herr von Bethmann Hollweg and I retain the most pleasing remembrance of Mr. Hoover and both he and Your Excellency may rest assured that the Imperial Government maintains its former attitude to afford the humanitarian work of the Relief Commission on the part of Germany every possible support.
We had also been informed of Mr. Hoover's anxiety through our Legation at The Hague, and I had thereupon ascertained at once through the Imperial Admiralty that ships of the Relief Commission should also proceed undisturbed by the English Channel route provided that they be recognizable by the customary insignia, which should also be illuminated so as to be plainly visible at night. The German submarines have been instructed accordingly. Herr von Mueller at The Hague will in the meantime have advised Mr. Hoover of this fact through the American Minister at The Hague.
In this connection we must naturally assume that all means will be taken to exclude the possibility of a misuse of the insignia of the Relief Commission. To this end the Imperial Foreign Office will invoke again in an official communication the kind mediation of Your Excellency to obtain from the British Government a declaration containing the assurance that only those ships that are actually in the service of the Relief Commission may carry the insignia of the Commission.
As Your Excellency will easily understand, we were unable, in view of the existing danger from mines in the war zone, to refrain from declining to issue safe-conducts to the ships of the Commission for the journey to and from England. On the other hand, we will gladly issue safe-conducts, as heretofore, to those ships of the Commission which do not touch at English points, and at the same time urgently recommend them, precisely on account of the danger from mines, to choose the northern route around Scotland indicated in the "Nachrichten für Seefahrer," No. 3161, 1914.
We believe that in this manner all the wishes of the Relief Commission, whose efforts cannot too highly be appreciated, have been met as regards sea traffic.
I am happy to avail myself of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the assurance of my highest consideration.
(Signed) VON JAGOW
DOCUMENT NO. 203
PAGE TO GERARD, protesting against German refusal to grant passes to British ports
LONDON, 18 April 1915
AMBASSADOR GERARD, BERLIN
The refusal German Minister Hague to issue safe-conduct passes to relief ships from Rotterdam to British ports amounts in effect to withdrawal of German undertaking Not to interfere with ships engaged in this humanitarian task and whole problem this shipping needs renewed understanding with German Government. In order to get matters clear they should understand: first, that while relief cargoes from America bear safe-conduct to Rotterdam from German Ambassador, yet they are compelled to call at Falmouth to secure permission from British Admiralty to proceed, thus are compelled touch British ports; second, owing high prices American food supplies, nearly one-half relief cargoes are now River Plate and Indian cargoes bought afloat, which come into Falmouth for orders and only at this point come under control Commission, and at Falmouth they receive Commission markings and British permit to proceed, therefore the Commission should be supplied from The Hague with German safe-conduct passes which they can hand to captains at Falmouth to carry them to Rotterdam; third, practically all the Commission's ships are engaged for only one single voyage, and ships leave Commission's service not when they have discharged at Rotterdam but when they have returned in ballast to their next loading port, which is almost universally United Kingdom; also even when engaged for second voyage they must under British orders call at United Kingdom port and in any event usually must do so for coal. Commission totally unable induce ships go Rotterdam unless they can assure them safe-conduct return.
In conclusion Commission must have right to secure from German Minister Hague, upon application and usual declarations undertakings and markings safe-conduct passes from United Kingdom ports to Rotterdam and likewise on application at Hague must receive passes for ships from Rotterdam to United Kingdom or other port where she is proceeding in ballast. Otherwise British Admiralty will refuse issue any permits for British ships proceed to Rotterdam and as there are practically only British ships available whole business comes to an end.(119) All these ships carry vivid markings of the Commission and the Commission puts every ship under bond to surrender markings upon reaching destination of her service; moreover British Government has entered widest undertaking not to use and to prevent use these markings for any other purpose than the Commission's work. The whole requires most energetic solution as the irritation growing here over sinking of "Harpalyce" is developing the hand of that party opposed on military grounds to feeding the Belgians; and if German Government is desirous Commission should be able to continue it requires complete agreement by them with these moderate requests and better precautions that Commission's markings shall be respected. Moreover if it develops that sinking "Harpalyce" was done by torpedo in broad daylight without warning while carrying Commission markings and safe-conduct pass it appears that German Government to preserve its good name and faith should take some appropriate action.
DOCUMENT NO. 204
Extract of telegram,
C.R.B. ROTTERDAM TO HOOVER, reporting refusal of German Minister at The Hague to grant safe-conduct passes to C.R.B. ships touching England for coal or otherwise
ROTTERDAM, 16 April 1915
German Embassy Hague has refused to issue safe-conduct passes to any ships touching England for coal or otherwise. German Embassy states that they only agreed issue safe-conduct passes back direct to America. White seeing Legation today and will wire further details later. First ship refused is "Dowgate," who have put responsibility up to us .....
DOCUMENT NO. 205
Extract of Telegram,
HOOVER TO WHITE, C.R.B. ROTTERDAM, quoting message sent to Washington urging the President to press German Government to resume issue of passes to C.R.B. ships
LONDON, 16 April 1915
RELIEF COMMISSION, ROTTERDAM
Have asked Page telegraph Washington following import tonight:
"Commission informs me German Minister at Hague refuses grant further safe-conduct passes ships unless they proceed direct United States for further cargoes for Commission without calling at United Kingdom ports. This is direct contravention of original undertakings to safe-conduct all Commission ships whether going or coming Rotterdam. Most their ships chartered for single voyage and return and leave service of Commission when they have returned in ballast to United Kingdom port after discharging cargo in Rotterdam. In any event all ships which intend make second voyage on behalf Commission must call English port for coal. This gross violation agreements may make work impossible particularly as insurance and charters are undertaken in cognizance of agreement of non-interference. While it is possible they can secure continued service by offering extra payment and cash guarantees it makes their already overtaxed funds totally inadequate as they have today sixty large ships under charter. In this matter the Germans are not only violating their undertaking but are rendering the work almost impossible as it is nonsense to assume Commission can charter ships go Rotterdam without provision for their return. Doubt arises in minds Commission as to whether Germans endeavoring to break down Commission's work by this action and anxious to know whether or not German Government wishes them discontinue feeding Belgian civil population. Ask President name humanity and interest ten million noncombatants dependent on Commission for daily bread use his influence through Ambassador Gerard obtain amelioration of this impasse and provide for safety of Commission and people who serve it."
Seems to me Mr. Ballin would be glad assist you in Berlin get this whole pass business straightened out and you could also take up "Harpalyce."(120) If proves to have been torpedoed they should contribute our funds £150,000 as some compensation for increase on insurance rates. War risk concessions are already agitating on this matter of passes and proper attitude of German Government is more importance to us than(121) interned ships unless we could get interned ships out at once and unless the Germans themselves would insure them.
DOCUMENT NO. 206
VON JAGOW TO GERARD, stating that the German Government had issued instructions to its Minister at The Hague to resume the issue of passes to C.R.B. ships
FOREIGN OFFICE, BERLIN
18 April 1915
In reply to your two kind communications of 17th April, I would emphasize anew that the philanthropic work of the Relief Commission for Belgium is fully appreciated as far as Germany is concerned, and that every support will gladly be lent it. Accordingly, the German submarines have now been directed to allow the ships of the Relief Commission to proceed unmolested, if they are recognizable by their marks of identification, so that a special letter of safe-conduct would not really be necessary.
However, the Imperial Legation at The Hague has now been authorized by me, by telegraph, to issue to the vessels of the Relief Commission letters of escort not only for the return voyage to America, but also for the trip to England, provided that the ships in question are required by the terms of their charter to return to England and that they take no cargo for England.
For their safety, however, and in order to avoid errors in identification, the ships in question must be strongly urged to carry by day and by night clearly recognizable marks of identification.
Furthermore, it is to be recommended to the Commission's ships, should they wish to return to America, not to call at English ports solely for the purpose of coaling, but rather to provide themselves with coal at Rotterdam.
To make this possible, we shall gladly lend our assistance that they may be able to purchase German coal in Rotterdam
I gladly avail myself of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the assurance of my highest respect.
(Signed) VON JAGOW
3. A Relief Fleet. March 1915-May 1917
By the time the Commission had won the right to use nonneutral ships, a new problem had to be faced. Within a few months after the outbreak of the war the demands of governments and private commerce for ships drove charter rates to unprecedented heights. Obliged to compete in this rising market, the Commission found itself forced to spend an ominously increasing proportion of its inadequate funds for transport instead of supplies. Hoover realized that this condition would get worse rather than better, and in December 1914 he instituted various projects with the object of securing a permanent relief fleet which would make the Commission virtually independent of the market. His first proposal concerned German interned ships.
There were at this time a great many merchant ships flying the German flag which, on the outbreak of the war, in order to escape capture, had taken refuge in neutral ports in various parts of the world. There they had been interned and there they remained. Early in 1915 Hoover had discussed informally with officers of the Hamburg-American line(122) the question of using some of these vessels. According to preliminary discussions of the project a neutral Dutch shipping company was to operate the vessels at low rates for the Commission. As the documents which follow show, Hoover began negotiations with the British Foreign Office on the 13th January(123) and secured British Government approval with many restrictive stipulations. He then received the approval of the German Government and finally completed contracts with actual shipowners under the very difficult conditions imposed. At this point, though the contracts had the support of the British Government (who realized the impending ship shortage), the French Government peremptorily refused to approve the transaction. Months afterward when the French became desperate for shipping they requested the Commission to revive the question, but the German Government on this occasion refused. The failure of the French Government to approve the plan probably cost the Allied Governments hundreds of millions in freight charges before the war was over. The negotiations themselves were spread continuously over sixteen months and bring out many angles of the war mind.
DOCUMENT NO. 207
GREY TO HOOVER, concerning conditions under which the British Government would permit the C.R.B. to use German interned ships
FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
16 March 1915
DEAR MR. HOOVER:
I have carefully considered your letter of the 13th January(124) regarding your desire to employ certain German ships now in neutral ports to carry foodstuffs for your Commission.
I enclose a memorandum showing the general conditions on which we should feel obliged to insist in regard to any such transaction. If you can negotiate an arrangement which fulfils these conditions we shall, I think, be able to give you an undertaking to respect these ships in the same way as we now respect the ships employed by you.
The temporary transfer of these ships to a neutral flag would, however, have to form the subject of a special informal arrangement between His Majesty's Government and the neutral Government concerned, before we could consent to its coming into force.
As regards the limit fixed for the payment you are to make to the neutral firm, the object of this limit is of course to secure that the German owners shall at most receive merely a nominal profit on the transaction. It is understood that you will do your best to secure the necessary tonnage at a price as far as possible below that limit, and as near as possible to the minimum which would afford a reasonable profit to the neutral company without leaving any share whatever to the German owners. We feel that you should be able to negotiate on this basis with the German owners, since the latter will benefit to a considerable extent by the mere fact that they are relieved from the heavy upkeep expenses and from the deterioration which must result from the present enforced idleness of these vessels.
(Signed) E. GREY
EMPLOYMENT OF GERMAN SHIPS BY THE COMMISSION FOR RELIEF IN BELGIUM
1. The title to these ships must be transferred to a firm in some neutral country. The transfer must be made in a form which would not normally entitle the ships to a change of register or to fly the flag of the neutral country concerned; and the ships must either revert to the German owners as soon as they cease to be exclusively employed by the Commission, or must in any case be recognised to be liable to be treated as German ships so soon as they cease to be so employed. A special arrangement must be made between His Majesty's Government and the neutral Government concerned by which the ships shall, for the period of their employment, be permitted to fly the neutral flag.
2. These ships shall be operated by, and the entire crew composed of, neutrals.
3. The Commission shall charter the ships from the neutral firm who shall operate them.
4. The Commission shall submit the name of the neutral firm in question to His Majesty's Government before the transaction is finally concluded.
5. The ships shall, after His Majesty's Government have finally approved the transaction and have made the necessary agreement with the neutral Government, be immune from interference on the part of His Majesty's Government to the same extent and in the same way as the ships at present employed by the Commission, so long as they are employed solely and absolutely in carrying foodstuffs on behalf of the Commission, and the Commission shall notify His Majesty's Government immediately it ceases to employ any particular ship.
6. A list of such ships in the employ of the Commission shall be furnished to His Majesty's Government and any change in the list of ships immediately communicated.
7. The Commission shall not pay for more than 4s. per ton deadweight per month as charter money to the neutral Company and no other payment outside this sum shall be made by the Commission to the German owners. The Commission shall inform His Majesty's Government of the terms of the whole transaction before it is finally put into force.
DOCUMENT NO. 208
WHITE TO HOOVER, concerning negotiations in Berlin with officials of the Hamburg Line and the Royal Dutch Lloyd Line relative to the use of interned German ships
ROTTERDAM, 17 April 1915
H. C. Hoover, Esq.
Commission for Relief in Belgium, London
GERMAN INTERNED SHIPS
In connection with the negotiations for the above, Mr. Hulse was in Berlin and saw Mr. Ballin, arranging for a meeting at Amsterdam yesterday with Mr. Loezer, Director of the Hamburg America Line, and Mr. Wilmink, President of the Royal Dutch Lloyd. We enclose, herewith, preliminary contract agreed to at that meeting. This will be subject to some changes at a further meeting which we hope to have as soon as we learn from you whether or not the Royal Dutch Lloyd will be acceptable to the British Government.
The Hamburg Line have vessels in all parts of the world and will be able to supply us with any possible number of vessels we may require.
There may be some difficulty in regard to securing crews. It is proposed to make an arrangement for ten boats as soon as they can be got ready and for more boats to be taken on as fast as crews can be arranged for them and as soon as they can be used by the Commission. Under these conditions it seems to me that it would be a mistake for the moment to take any further charters, especially in view of the very considerable stores now on hand in Belgium and the large tonnage arrivals for next month.
It seems to me that there will unquestionably be complications in regard to the nominal transfer to the Dutch flag of these vessels, and there may be difficulties in getting the agreement of the British Government to the contract on the terms proposed.
In connection with the arranged rate of 4/- per ton, you may be interested in knowing that the idea which the Hamburg America people had when Mr. Hulse was in Berlin was 8/-; they then stated that it would be impossible for them to find anything under 6/-, and Mr. Hulse finally laid on the table an agreement under which we are working with the British Admiralty, from which they were able to see that it was impossible to secure a better price than 4/-. As to whether we shall be able to get under this figure I do not know, but I have the feeling that unless the people here have an opportunity of making some profit out of the business, and that the German owners can at least make a nominal profit, we shall have difficulty in getting the business through.
On account of the sinking of the Dutch boats, the wages of the crews will be largely increased, and in any case it will be very difficult to secure crews at all. In regard to the question of an engineer of the Hamburg American Line of German citizenship above military age, going as a passenger or supercargo on each vessel, you will understand the wishes of the German owners for this requirement. They would be willing to undertake that this engineer should not be allowed on deck on passing through the English channel or otherwise in accordance with any regulations that it might be necessary for the British Government to make. In the interests of the operation of the boats, it would be desirable to have an engineer who thoroughly understands all the machinery, to be available, and it may be possible that this point will be the one on which our negotiations will fall down, especially if a cut in the price is insisted on. You can understand that if the owners of the vessels can be assured that the machinery will be well looked after, they would be willing to have the vessels operated at a price less than if this point were left uncertain. Director Loezer stated the case of a ship which they had chartered some time ago where their engineers were not in charge and where the machinery of the vessel was badly damaged by an engineer who did not know thoroughly the mechanical working of the boat. You can easily see that an engineer might do more damage in operating boats for several months than any possible profit that could be made out of the figure mentioned in the contract plus the actual cost of keeping the boat lying in port as at the present time.
We believe that the present contract is. sufficiently accurate for you to place before the necessary authorities for their approval.
Immediately on hearing from you that the Dutch Lloyd is satisfactory,(125) we shall take the necessary steps here to have them approach the Dutch Government, also to have the matter placed before the Dutch Government by the Legation.
There is another question raised which we shall be obliged if you will take up, by cable, with the Government at Washington or through the office at New York as seems best. This has to do with the sending of the crews to the United States for the vessels now interned there. We understand that the law dealing with the bringing in of neutral crews to join vessels is uncertain, and the Dutch Lloyd would not be willing to go on with the agreement until this point is cleared up. The German crews, or at least the important members of the same, are still at New York or in South American ports, and it is the intention to send out Dutch crews from here to take over the vessels. Under the immigration laws of the United States it is uncertain whether this would be allowed. It seems to us, however, that it should be possible to overcome this point and to get the necessary permission from the authorities in New York or Washington through our New York office, who would probably know the proper authorities to approach in the matter. As this may take some time we think it would be advantageous if they get on with it immediately.
(Signed) J. BEAVER WHITE
DOCUMENT NO. 209
HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, asking for the consent of the French Government to the project of use of German interned ships by the C.R.B.
LONDON, 8 September 1915
L. Chevrillon,(126) Esq., Paris
I think I informed you from time to time that we were negotiating to try and get the right to use German interned ships for this trade. These negotiations have been going on since last December and we have finally formulated contracts, of which you will find enclosed two copies. The British Government has approved, and has asked for the approval of the other Allies, which I understand they have received with the exception of the French, and the whole matter is now held up at that point.
In a general way the price which we pay for these ships works out at about 40 per cent of the price at which we have to charter ships in the market. It will make a difference of about 4 centimes per kilo in the price of bread in Northern France. Aside from the fact that it will save us from £100,000 to £150,000 a month and thereby decreases the cost of the ravitaillement in Northern France very appreciably, it also has an important bearing from the point of view of the Allies. At the present moment we are the largest shippers outside of governments, and our entrance into the shipping market maintains the price of transatlantic shipping at fully 10 per cent above what it would be if we got out of it, and it affects the price of bread in both England and France in just about that proportion of their transport costs. Under the arrangements made the sums of money going to the Germans for the use of their ships is infinitesimal. Four shillings per ton deadweight on a 5,000 ton ship would represent £1,250 per month, and out of this practically the whole operating expenses of the ship have to be paid, and it is estimated by our shipping experts that the margin over operating expenses will not exceed £500 a month. Of this margin one-half goes to the Dutch firm which operates the ships, and one-half to the Germans, so that on a ship of this size the Germans would only be getting a revenue of £250 a month. They of course have the benefit of being relieved of the cost of maintaining their idle ships, which is the principal thing which has influenced them. They have also been greatly influenced by the humanitarian aspects of the enterprise, and we had strong support from the humanitarian elements in the German Government in our different negotiations with Herr Ballin.
I was wondering if it would be possible for you to stir up the French Foreign Office a little, in view of the above, and see if you could get them to signify their approval to the English Government.
The matter is one of pressing importance as we are having the greatest possible difficulty in securing enough shipping for our work, and, in any event, the freight that we lose represents a considerable sum of money in which the French people are directly interested.
(Signed) H. C. HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 210
CHEVRILLON TO HOOVER, outlining the objections of the French Government to the use of German interned ships by the C.R.B.
PARIS, 6 October 1915
H. C. Hoover, Esq.,
President The Commission for Relief in Belgium, London
I have had several long conversations yesterday at the French Foreign Office with the outcome that the ship question is decidedly taking a bad turn. There was a note in the handwriting of Mr. Delcassé himself giving his opinion as inclined to be adverse, and, curiously enough, a very long letter from Mr. Klobukowski, the French Minister to Belgium, very strongly giving his arguments against the proposed combination.
I immediately saw one of the very high officials of the Department, but found that his conviction was also made and strongly opposed to our proposal. A note will be presented to the English Government setting out the objections of the French Government, more or less in the manner formulated by Mr. Klobukowski.
For your information, I will now present the case as set forth in this letter and such as I remember it from having had it read to me rapidly:
"In the first place it is a known fact that the Hamburg-America Company is on the verge of failure and the proposed combination might just save it. The upkeep of the boats in New York(127) is a very considerable expense, of which that Company would be relieved.
"The boats having a neutral crew, many German sympathizers might be employed in the service, which might lead later to deplorable consequences. Also, at the close of hostilities, the boats would be scattered in such a way that many of them would be probably in home waters and therefore in a position to be immediately utilized by Germany to start at once on a career of industrial competition instead of lying in New York until they can be put in service again.
"A further reason is that the hostile press would not fail to say that the German submarine war has been so active and so successful that the Allies are obliged to take this course as the only temporary remedy to a very grave difficulty.
"Finally, the proposed combination is nothing else but 'dealing with the enemy.' The Allied Governments still consider that the work of the Commission is only tolerated under the plea of humanitarianism. The duty of provisioning and victualing the populations in a territory occupied by German troops is incumbent upon the German Government; the work is performed at the expense of the Allied nations under protest, and the idea of chartering a German fleet, of paying a German company, of relieving it from an enormous expense, of guaranteeing its ships from any attack, of putting them in perfect train for immediate action after the war is over, all this for a service which Germany should perform, cannot for a moment be entertained. No Allied Government could accept such a paradoxical position as that of a German fleet of steamers circulating freely, the only steamers of any of the belligerent governments immune from war risks or capture."
Such will be the reasons presented by the French Government in answer to the English suggestion, and I am afraid that the Foreign Office here will refuse to budge from its position unless some profound modification of the proposed arrangements is agreed upon.
I will add that it is the opinion of the French Foreign Office that, at the time when the English consent was given, no adequate idea was formed of the important tonnage involved. I have it from the British Embassy here that the figure of tonnage came as a surprise when the matter was discussed for approval by the French Government. I do not quite understand how our French Minister at Havre came to be consulted, but it is certainly a fact that his communication came at a moment when the Foreign Office here was hesitating and clinched a decision.
I will be glad to have your suggestions on any further steps on this side, but I believe that, for the present, the only action to be taken is with the English Government.
(Signed) L. CHEVRILLON
DOCUMENT NO. 211
Extract of letter,
HOOVER TO C.R.B., ROTTERDAM, anticipating consent of British and French Governments as to the use of interned German ships for carrying relief
LONDON, 6 March 1916
Mr. C. A. Young, Rotterdam
DEAR MR. YOUNG:
I understand that you will receive formal permission from the British Government during this week to complete the contract for the use of the German ships. I hope to be able to telegraph to you in a day or two that you can take the matter up with Mr. Wilmink.
The French Government seems to have seen some light in the matter as a result of my visit.(128)
As to publication of the amount of shipments into Belgium, there is not the slightest objection to this . . . .
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 212
HOOVER TO C.R.B., ROTTERDAM, stating final consent of British Government and authorizing resumption of negotiations with Royal Dutch Lloyd
LONDON, 15 March 1916
RELIEF COMMISSION, ROTTERDAM
Have now received final authorization from British Government to conclude contracts regarding use of interned German ships in the terms of the original agreements. You will please take the matter up with Wilmink and others as may be necessary to determine what is the present position.
DOCUMENT NO. 213
WILMINK TO HOOVER, reporting the refusal of the German Government to permit the use of the interned ships
AMSTERDAM, 1 July 1916
Herbert Hoover, Esq.
Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, London
I have received today a letter from Mr. Ballin asking me to inform you that a favorable decision in the question of tonnage for your Commission is not to be expected for the moment. According to Mr. Ballin the opinion in Berlin seems to be that with the Belgian ships at your disposal you can provide sufficiently for the feeding of the Belgian population, and for this reason apparently they will not allow---at least not for the moment---the use of German tonnage for this purpose.
For your guidance, I expect to be in London some time during the latter half of July and will not fail to make an appointment, in case you might wish to see me.
I am, dear Mr. Hoover
The German decision not to permit the C.R.B. to use interned ships was closely related to the growth of the influence in Germany of the naval party which demanded unrestricted submarine warfare. To those in Berlin who supported this policy the humanitarian aspect of the Commission's plan was presumably less important than the realization that to permit the C.R.B. to use the interned ships would relieve the Allies of an equivalent tonnage burden. During the course of these negotiations the shipping situation had been getting steadily worse. In 1915 the Commission had lost six ships by mines or torpedoes in the North Sea. In the spring of 1916 Germans began a more aggressive naval policy(129) in the war zone; the available tonnage considerably diminished, while shipping rates mounted. The refusal of the Germans to allow the use of interned ships for .relief would have left the Commission in much more desperate straits than was actually the case had not Hoover some months before the final German decision undertaken negotiations in other directions to find the needed tonnage. A scheme to establish a shipowning company as a part of the Commission was discussed but had to be abandoned. An appeal to the United States Government to permit naval colliers to be used by the Commission failed for the reasons shown in the documents which immediately follow.
DOCUMENT NO. 214
H.R. 79, 64th Congress, 1st Session, in the House of Representatives, by Mr. Loud, relative to the use of navy colliers, etc., for the transfer of relief supplies
WASHINGTON, 6 January 1916
Mr. Loud submitted the following resolution,(130) which was referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs and ordered to be printed.
WHEREAS the people of the United States, through various relief organizations, in compassion for the destitution of needy people of Europe, caused by the war now raging there, have contributed and are contributing large amounts of money, materials, and supplies for their relief; and
WHEREAS for the ocean transportation of such relief materials and supplies a large portion of the amounts so generously contributed has heretofore been paid: Therefore be it
Resolved, That such materials and supplies shall, during the present calendar year be transported in the auxiliary ships, to wit, colliers and supply ships, of the Navy, without cost to the relief organizations:
Provided, That such materials and supplies shall be in suitable cargo lots, and that the loading and discharge of such cargoes shall conform to such regulations as the Secretary of the Navy shall deem necessary to carry out the intent of this resolution:
Provided further, That not more than one-fourth of the tonnage of all such auxiliary ships of the Navy shall be used at any one time in such service.
DOCUMENT NO. 215
U.S. SECRETARY OF THE NAVY TO HOOVER, declining to authorize the use of naval colliers in relief work
NAVY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON
14 February 1916
Mr. Herbert C. Hoover,
Chairman Commission for Relief in Belgium, New York City
I have given careful consideration(131) to the subject of transportation for Belgian relief supplies in Navy colliers. to Belgium, as requested in your letter of 10 February and a telegram of 11 February from Mr. Bertron.
After consultation with regard to the matter, and after due deliberation, we have decided that it is impracticable to authorize the use of Navy colliers for this purpose.
I regret exceedingly that conditions make it impossible for us to aid you in your deserving work.
(Signed) JOSEPHUS DANIELS
Secretary of the Navy
In addition to the proposals already noted, Hoover presented still another which, in spite of obstacles, was in part accepted by the governments concerned.
Among the vessels which the Commission had secured for relief service were a number which were Belgian owned. In general these had been bargained for by the Commission for each trip in the same manner as the British and neutral charters. In January 1916 Hoover proposed to bring all these vessels to the service of the Commission on a permanent basis. Some of these Belgian owned boats were flying the Belgian flag and the remainder had been transferred to British registry early in the war. The acquisition by the Commission of these ships for relief service would have meant a real contribution to the Commission's shipping program, but difficulties were immediately encountered with the Shipping Control Committee,(132) which opposed releasing Belgian ships under the British flag to the exclusive use of the Commission. Nevertheless with the assistance of the Belgian Government the Commission did secure most of the vessels under the Belgian flag and was thus assured of the permanent service of some nineteen vessels at a reasonable charter rate, and it could look ahead with some confidence toward successfully meeting part of its program each month. Though Hoover continued to press the Allied Governments for those Belgian vessels under British flag, the decision was finally adverse and the Commission was obliged to find the additional tonnage required in the open market as heretofore.
DOCUMENT NO. 216
HOOVER TO MINISTER HYMANS, describing the shipping difficulties of the Commission and requesting the assistance of the Belgian Government in securing Belgian owned ships for relief service
LONDON, 12 January 1916
MINISTER HYMANS, Care of Prime Minister de Broqueville
Commission Relief in Belgium has been unable secure any British charters since 12th December and all our British ships en route Rotterdam have been detained here since 23rd December owing to Admiralty refusing permission to proceed until North Sea more free from mines. Situation is extremely serious and the outlook very alarming. We are endeavoring to arrange for all available Belgian-owned ships to enter our service but find that many are under the English flag and therefore liable to be prohibited from proceeding to Rotterdam. Please discuss situation with Minister Segers and raise question whether ships under Belgian flag which have been requisitioned could be released for our service and replaced in so far as required by Belgian-owned ships under British flag.
DOCUMENT NO. 217
HOOVER TO PRIME MINISTER DE BROQUEVILLE AND MINISTER SEGERS OF THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT, urging that the Belgian Government pass the necessary legislation making it legal to requisition Belgian ships
LONDON, 26 January 1916
PRIME MINISTER DE BROQUEVILLE, AND MINISTER SEGERS, HAVRE
According information received from representatives of English Marine it is probable that friendly arrangements can be made between the Belgian shipowners and ourselves for the chartering of Belgian vessels for the Commission. In order to allow the Belgian owners to break their existing contracts, it is urgent that a bill should be passed making it legal to requisition Belgian ships without a moment's delay. Each day's delay means one day for Belgium without bread. The security of the boats themselves makes it necessary to place them under requisition. Whilst waiting this step no charters can be definitely fixed.
DOCUMENT NO. 218
HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, describing the relief-shipping situation and outlining proposals for using Belgian ships
LONDON, 19 January 1916
Louis Chevrillon, Esq., Paris
We have been investigating and discussing Belgian-owned ships and we find that there are about twenty-five Belgian ships flying the English flag which would be suitable for our purposes, and there are about twenty-six Belgian ships flying the Belgian flag besides those already in the services of the Belgian Government which would also be suitable. Belgian-owned ships which fly the British flag are necessarily subject to English law and ten of them are at present requisitioned by the British Admiralty. Through the Belgian Legation here we have put up an urgent request that the English Government should requisition the remaining fifteen such ships, in order that they might terminate legally all their outstanding contracts and charters, and that immediately afterwards they be released (the whole twenty-five ships) on condition that they enter into our service at a reasonable rate. Furthermore, we have telegraphed this morning to the Belgian Government at Havre, urging them strongly to requisition, on their own account, the twenty-five ships which fly the Belgian flag, and are therefore subject to Belgian law, that they should then release the ships from requisition, subject to the owners entering into a reasonable contract with us, we undertaking that if the Belgian Government should require any of them for military purposes we would hand them over at once. This amount of shipping, together with such neutral ships as we could engage, would solve our whole problem, and this looks to be the only immediate solution. Even if we obtained the German refugee ships, there are not enough of them, under our present agreement, to serve our whole needs, and at any rate it would be at least three months before a single cargo would be delivered into Rotterdam by this means, which would mean that Belgium and Northern France would have been without food for a period of from thirty to forty-five days. If it should eventuate that we obtain the Belgian ships and also the German, we could release the Belgian ships for the general traffic of the Allies. I do not, of course, know whether we shall succeed on this Belgian line, or not, but in any event, it is no real solution of the shipping position from the Allied Governments' point of view, because all this Belgian tonnage is already in the service of the Allies and in some capacity or another, either private or public.
(Signed) H. C. HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 219
CHEVRILLON TO HOOVER, discussing French attitude to the plan to use Belgian ships
PARIS, 29 January 1916
H. C. Hoover, Esq., President
The Commission for Relief in Belgium, London
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your telegram of the 26th instant suggesting that I should seek support from the French Government of the Belgian scheme. I have, within the last two days, called at the various ministries, Admiralty, War, Foreign Office, Public Works; and although I find all earnestly interested in the question of a prompt solution of our difficulties, I find no inclination to give a blind support without more information than that which I possess. I have therefore cabled you yesterday as follows:
"Belgian scheme favorably considered, but Government will not recommend blindly, without knowing to what extent will affect military necessities. Insists on full list of ships in order to examine which can possibly be spared, as even those under British flag may be working for French military account."
You must, of course, consider that when I apply to the French Government I have in reality to take up the matter with a number of officials of various departments, each of which must be covered as to responsibility and refuses to recommend a measure unless he feels that he may consistently do so without prejudice to his other responsibilities, which are, of course, very numerous, very urgent, and very large.
I thoroughly realize that having cleared the matter in London and come to an understanding you may be under the justified impression that the French assent amounts to a mere approval of what the British Government considers proper to do.
Quite unfortunately this is not at all the case, and I am convinced here that negotiations to convince the Government that a certain measure is urgent will take more time and worry here than it does in more practical England.
I have, however, the positive assurance that in the instant I can lay before them a list of the ships to be requisitioned, with the particulars of each, and the exact number of ships needed by the Commission to complete its fleet, our matters will be attended to with prompt despatch. However, I am meanwhile trying to obtain a recommendation from the French Government of the requisition of Belgian ships by the Belgian Government provided that as each ship is requisitioned the French Government is allowed to accept or refuse requisition according to military necessities. This is the best I can do at present and I will not fail to write you further developments.
(Signed) Louis CHEVRILLON
DOCUMENT NO. 220
HOOVER TO CHEVRILLON, notifying him that the adverse decision of the Shipping Control Committee in London left the Commission with the few ships under Belgian flag which might have to be confined to the service solely of the Belgian population
LONDON, 3 February 1916
Am informed that decision here has been adverse to use by Commission of Belgian-owned ships flying British flag, which forces us back practically solely on Belgian ships flying Belgian flag. These at best could deliver only about 300 grams food per diem to Belgian population alone, and I fear we shall have to take decision these ships be confined to service of Belgians and full responsibility providing shipping for French population must rest on French Government who primarily Government most concerned.
DOCUMENT NO. 221
HOOVER TO A. SHIRLEY BENN, describing the urgency of the shipping problem
LONDON, 4 February 1916
A. Shirley Benn, Esq., London
MY DEAR BENN:
I have a feeling that perhaps I have not effectively stated the necessities of our case. The Belgian and French people themselves made certain demands upon us as representing the absolute minimum of food on which they could continue to keep their populations alive. We, on the other hand, in a desire that there should be no over-representation to the Allied Governments in the present critical shortage of ships, have most seriously reduced in its quantities the demand made upon us, down to a point representing what we consider an absolute minimum on which these populations can be kept going. I have the feeling that the Committee(133) must have taken the attitude that we were probably asking for twice what we could get along with and thereby reduced us one-half.
In round numbers, we have ten million people to deal with. Cutting us down to a carrying capacity of, say 60,000 tons per month of, shipping under the Belgian flag, means 200 grams per capita per diem of food to these people. It is our obligation to furnish them with practically their entire supplies of bread, bacon, lard, rice, peas, beans, maize, condensed milk, soap, and supplies to some portions of the country of sugar, coffee, etc., etc. You can realize what this reduction in tonnage means when I tell you that the British people alone consume over 400 grams of flour per diem, to say nothing of all the other commodities. In other words, the effect of our position will be simply that the Allies are saying to their kindred in Belgium and Northern France, "We, of course, must have 400 grams of bread for our own people; we must have the bacon, lard, peas, beans, rice, potatoes, etc., which they require; but you, on the other hand, being prisoners in hands of the Germans, shall be further penalized by having your foodstuffs reduced to a quantity on which a human being cannot survive."
Therefore, do you not think it would be a square deal to these people that the whole of the breadstuffs of the Allied Nations should be pooled and that Belgium and Northern France should get their share? Is there any reason why we should not have our share of the ships to provide practically our share in such a pool? A reduction of 20 grams per day---that is, less than three-fourths ounce per day---in the bread consumption of the United Kingdom, would give us more tonnage than we want.
There is a deeper question involved than the above. It is not my position as neutral to point out political results. My sole job is to advocate on humane grounds the feeding of these people, and I think it would be desirable for you and other friends of the Belgians to point out to the Government the seriousness of the political mistake of reducing the foodstuff of these people to a point where they can justly say they have been deserted by the Allies, who are hogging after the food for their own people.
Now, after all this violence, I wish to make a constructive suggestion. In the first place, of the Belgian-owned ships under the British flag, some twelve or fourteen are at present requisitioned by the Admiralty. On the other hand, some ten or twelve of these ships are free and engaged in general trade. It cannot therefore concern the Admiralty particularly if the ships which are free from requisition at present are handed over to us, and in order to enable the owners to cancel their outstanding charters it is necessary that these ships should be requisitioned. This, I believe, could be accomplished by the Food Committee without bothering the Admiralty. Furthermore, we have fourteen voyage charters of English ships arranged for future dates, carried over some four months, and if we could have an assurance that these charters would not be requisitioned away from us this would also help.
Again, I may mention that on this general question there are a good many British ships plying in the Pacific between neutral ports, and there are even some ships on the list we asked for, which are trading between neutral ports, and it does seem to me that, in all these circumstances, it must be of some interest to the Allies to feed their own people rather than facilitate outside trade.
The Belgian people have a feeling that if they requisition the entire shipping flying the Belgian flag for our purpose, this shipping could be devoted to feeding the Belgian population; but this leaves the French population of two and a half million people dependent on a few British charters which we have and such neutral charters as we may pick up, and of course the Belgian shipping does not provide enough tonnage for even a minimum bread supply for the Belgians alone. My only right of complaint in this matter is not personal but purely on behalf of the ten million people whose very existence is imperilled and the last I want to do is to give offense in the advocacy of their interests. So do not allow any one to take my sentiments as being in the slightest of an unfriendly character to the interests of the situation as a whole.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 222
HOOVER TO CAPTAIN BULTINCK OF THE ADMINISTRATION DE LA MARINE BELGE, requesting the use for the C.R.B. of certain ships of the Royal Belgian Lloyd
LONDON, 18 August 1916
Capitaine Commandant Bultinck
Administration de la Marine Belge, London
DEAR CAPTAIN BULTINCK:
With regard to our conversation of today on the needs of the Relief Commission in shipping, I beg to say that although we have taken a sufficient number of neutral charters to supplement the Belgian ships during the third quarter of the year, we have as yet been unable to secure the necessary supplement to the Belgian fleet for the fourth quarter and from thence forward it seems to us that the only solution of the needs of the Relief Commission is to obtain from the Belgian Lloyd further ships for our regular employ, beginning with the fourth quarter of this year and from thence forward.
We are receiving complaints from the Bunker Committee that we are disorganizing the neutral chartering market by our extravagant bidding for shipping, and we are quite unable to do otherwise as we must have the ships and the only way to prevent this disorganization by having our independent bidding on the market, is to put into our hands sufficient regular shipping from the Belgian Lloyd. We simply cannot take the responsibility of leaving Belgium and Northern France without food supply so long as we can obtain neutral ships at any price, and therefore we are constantly under pressure to bid against the Government for such shipping. We have repeatedly tried to lower prices by holding back lower bids, etc., until delays have threatened our supplies. It seems to us therefore that it is in the interests of all parties that we should have the Belgian Lloyd ships, in order to guarantee us a regular supply of food and at the same time to reduce our pressure on the neutral shipping market.
Unless we can obtain some assurance that we shall have a regular line of shipping for the fourth quarter we are compelled at once to begin a campaign for more neutral ships for this quarter and possibly disrupt things again in the same way as during the third quarter of the year. A few weeks ago we were without sufficient shipping for this quarter and we were compelled to go out and obtain ships at some price, and the result is the very reasonable complaint of the Bunker Committee which it is beyond our capacity to remedy. It appears to us that a common sense view of the situation is that there are so many ships in the world that we have got to have our proportion and that unless our energies die out we shall get them some way, but it is much better that we should be put beyond the necessity of being a disturbing factor to the whole shipping world.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
DOCUMENT NO. 223
HOOVER TO WHITLOCK, outlining the progress of negotiations for the use of Belgian ships
LONDON, 8 February 1916
MINISTER WHITLOCK, BRUSSELS
The Belgian Government completed the Law of Requisition last Sunday and it is now in force. The necessary requisition orders are going out today for all the ships flying the Belgian flag, of which there are nineteen. They are badly scattered all over the world, and it will take at least two months to get the whole fleet into action on our behalf. We shall, however, be able to get deliveries from some of the ships within the next thirty days.
This fleet will give us about 60,000 tons per month in Rotterdam and with a certain number of neutral charters, which we can no doubt get at some price, we shall be able to deliver at least an undercurrent of food supply. Our position has become considerably brighter the last few days because of this success with the Belgian ships and because of our having been able to secure a few more neutral charters. Also, what is more, we have had only one ship sunk in the last fifteen days. The shipping we have arranged seems to assure us normal deliveries in Rotterdam until the end of March and we have about one-third of our requirements arranged for April, all of this being entirely aside from the Belgian shipping.
The second part of our shipping program, that is, the securing of Belgian-owned ships which fly the British flag, has met a curt refusal from the Control Committee. I enclose herewith a letter written to Mr. Shirley Benn for this committee before the refusal and another written immediately after.
I may mention that Lord Curzon is chairman of this committee and is at present with the King of the Belgians, who has been asked by Mr. Hymans to take the matter up with Lord Curzon.
Furthermore, I have informed the French Government formally, that shipping under the Belgian flag will be unable to entirely supply the Belgian people, and that reluctantly we have been compelled to take the decision that we cannot ask the Belgian people to starve in favor of the French, and that the responsibility for the people in Northern France is primarily that of the French Government and that unless they can furnish us shipping we have to decline to continue. This attitude has produced a perfect storm in Paris, and I am going tomorrow to see if I can direct the hurricane so as to secure the second stage in our shipping program.
DOCUMENT NO. 224
BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE TO MINISTER HYMANS, describing the shipping difficulties which impelled the Government to requisition another vessel under charter to the Commission
FOREIGN OFFICE, LONDON
22 February 1916
Monsieur Paul Hymans
Belgian Minister, London
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 10th instant (No. 1463) regarding the requisitioning of the S.S. "Flandrier" chartered by the Commission for Relief in Belgium.
I have laid this whole question before the competent authorities and I have the honour to assure you that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to give to the Commission for Relief in Belgium such facilities for obtaining tonnage as are possible in present circumstances. But I wish to lay before you, for the consideration of the Belgian Government, the very great difficulties, and indeed dangers, to which the Allied Governments are exposed by the present extreme shortage of shipping. His Majesty's Government are in the position of having in large measure to supply the urgent needs of the other Allies, and they are therefore responsible in that measure for the due and proper allotment of resources on which the ability of the Allies to give effect to the guarantees just solemnly renewed to the Belgian Government must largely depend.
While, therefore, I welcome the representations you have recently been good enough to make in this matter, as tending to bring to a clear issue the question of relief to which your Government naturally attach such supreme importance, and while everything possible will be done to meet these representations with a favourable response, I trust you will represent to your Government the great difficulties in which His Majesty's Government are placed and will make it clear to them that the conflict, which so frequently takes place between the military requirements of the Allies on the one hand and those of the Belgian Government in connection with the work of relief on the other, is not to be construed as throwing doubt on the good will repeatedly expressed by His Majesty's Government towards that work. I have the honour to be, with the highest consideration, Sir,
Your most obedient, humble Servant
(For the Secretary of State)
(Signed) MAURICE DE BUNSEN
DOCUMENT NO. 225
HOOVER TO PERCY, stating the shipping requirements of the Commission
LONDON, 8 September 1916
Lord Eustace Percy
Foreign Office, London
DEAR LORD EUSTACE:
With regard to the shipping situation, I can only reiterate that the actual tonnage which we now want to deliver into Belgium and Northern France is 101,000 tons, actual weight. The tonnage required by virtue of space measurements and the necessity for the provision of some small margin for delays is another 24,000 tons, or, say, a total of 125,000 tons. Out of this as long as we can ship rice, beans, and some other commodities from this country, we do not need overseas for approximately more than 16,000 tons, leaving a balance of overseas tonnage required of 109,000 tons. The twenty ships we have in our constant employment flying the Belgian flag, should deliver approximately 60,000 tons per month, leaving 44,000 to be provided. If we obtained this tonnage from the States we should be able to handle it with ten voyage charters, or, in our regular employ, with an additional twenty average steamers per month. All this of course depends upon our being able to continue shipping supplies of beans from this country and upon our being able to obtain commodities in the States without having to go to the Argentine. Our position is that we have enough tonnage arranged to the end of October and we have about 50,000 tons of arrivals arranged for November. If we could get the twelve Belgian Lloyd ship's which fly the British flag, which are under discussion, to add to our regular fleet, we would only need to go into the neutral market to secure about four or five voyage charters per month. I believe this would be a much more satisfactory arrangement, as it seems to us obvious that there would be a drop in neutral rates by removing our competition, and the same neutral ships would be available to the Allied Governments that are available to us.
(Signed) HERBERT HOOVER
The refusal of the British authorities to turn over to the Commission the remaining Belgian vessels under British registry and the great difficulty of procuring charters in the open market led Hoover to revive the project of buying ships outright for the use of the C.R.B. In early 1917 plans were in hand to buy eleven ships of the American Transatlantic Steamship Company-the so-called Wagner fleet. These vessels were "blacklisted" by the Allies, for the reason that though they were of American registry, they were suspected of being German owned. The total cost of such a purchase involved some $10,000,000. Several of the vessels were already in British and French Prize Courts, and the ensuing diplomatic and legal complications held up the project. Another plan of a similar nature which involved the purchase of vessels just constructed in American shipyards proceeded to the actual signing of the contracts of sale. Both plans were dropped in May 1917 when the Commission learned that the Allied and American Governments proposed to requisition all steamers under their flags and pool their shipping resources.
DOCUMENT NO. 226
HOOVER TO COMMISSION'S LONDON OFFICE, cancelling arrangements for ship purchases
NEW YORK, 3 May 1917
RELIEF COMMISSION, LONDON
Cancel all arrangements with White and others regarding purchase ships. Pool to include all Allied shipping will probably be formed to control purchase and assignment of tonnage and even should we purchase ships now it would only mean that we would have that much less tonnage assigned us later on.
Chapter 5, continued (section 4)
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