100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Germany Declares Britain A War Zone

Germany has been attacking British merchant ships since October 1914 which saw the first submarine to attack an unarmed merchant ship without warning when the steamship Admiral Ganteaume was torpedoed with 2,500 Belgian refugees aboard. This has caused some British ships like RMS Lusitania to switch national flags which is against international law and caused protests from Germany. Britain contends that this use of the American flag is legitimate in war and cited the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 by which states use of a British flag by a foreign vessel was prohibited “unless the assumption had been made for the purpose of escaping capture by the enemy, or by a foreign ship of war in an exercise of belligerent rights.”


On February 4, 1915 Germany made the announcement forbidding all merchant shipping traffic in British waters, and all such shipping would be subjected to “unrestricted” submarine warfare. All the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a war zone. From February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel found within this war zone will be destroyed without it always being possible to avoid danger to the crews and passengers. Neutral ships will also be exposed to danger in the war zone, as, in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered on January 31 by the British Government, and owing to unforeseen incidents to which naval warfare is liable, it is impossible to avoid attacks being made on neutral ships in mistake for those of the enemy.



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