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Section II.—Naval clauses (Art. 181 to 197)

Notes to Part V, Section II, Articles 181 to 197

The naval clauses of the treaty of peace eliminated Germany from the competition in naval armament which had prevailed before the war of 1914–18. In that period, Great Britain had tried to keep a “two-power standard”. On March 17, 1920 the First Lord of the Admiralty announced a “one-power standard” (House of Commons, Debates, 5th series, 126, col. 2301). In that address he said:

“We are very fortunate in the fact that the only navy approximating in strength to our own is that of the United States of America, with whom we are associated in such a way that the idea of competition in armaments between us is one that is, to put it mildly, repugnant to us all; and we here—and I speak now, not merely for the Board of Admiralty, but for the Government—hope and believe that if there is to be an emulation between the United States of America and ourselves, it is likely to be in the direction of reducing that ample margin of naval strength which we each alike possess over all other nations. That is the foundation of the naval policy of His Majesty’s Government.”

On March 12, 1921 in a memorandum on naval policy the First Lord of the Admiralty stated:

“Estimates can only be based upon policy, and the naval policy of the Government, as announced by my predecessor, in the House of [Page 338]Commons, on March 17, 1920, is to maintain a “one-power standard”—i.e., that our navy should not be inferior in strength to that of any other power.”

The great expansion of navies during the war left a heritage of matériel in excess of post-war needs. In the United States there was a keen disposition to reduce expenses by limiting armament, which was evidenced by the passage of congressional resolutions and by the expression of public opinion. The President called the Conference for the Limitation of Naval Armament, which resulted in striking a 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 ratio for the capital ships and aircraft carriers in the fleets of the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy respectively. This treaty for the limitation of naval armament, signed at Washington on February 6, 1922 (Treaty Series 671; 43 Stat. 1655; Treaties, Conventions, etc., 1923–37, iv, 4889), entered into force on August 17, 1923 and was stipulated to remain in force until December 31, 1936.

In 1922 meetings held at Rome, under the auspices of the League of Nations, attempted without result to apply the principles of the Washington treaty to naval armament in general. In 1925 the League of Nations established the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference and in 1927 the President of the United States convened at Geneva the Conference for the Limitation of Naval Armament, which was intended to apply the principles of the Washington treaty to other categories of war vessels. That conference closed on August 24, 1927 without accomplishing its purpose.

In continuation of this effort, a treaty for the limitation and reduction of naval armament was signed at London on April 22, 1930 and entered into force for the United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Empire, and Japan, on October 27, 1930 (Treaty Series 830; 46 Stat. 2858; Treaties, Conventions, etc., 1923–37, iv, 5268). This treaty provided for replacements and established rules for determining standard displacement, and provided for disposal of war vessels. It fixed limitations for cruisers, destroyers, and submarines, varying somewhat from the ratios adopted in 1922. The treaty, except for part IV, terminated December 31, 1936. France and Italy did not become parties to it. Japan, which had become dissatisfied with the 5:3 ratio, gave the requisite two years’ notice of intention to terminate both the 1922 and 1930 treaties.

In the meantime, the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmamerit [Page 339]Conference at Geneva had been developing the draft disarmament convention, which was completed on December 9, 1930 for the consideration of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, which opened on February 2, 1932. In this draft, the principles agreed upon in the 1922 and 1930 treaties were the basis of the part devoted to naval armament. Those two treaties controlled the ratios between approximately nine tenths of the naval armament of the world, and the adjustment of the principles involved to the naval craft of all the 59 participating states was not regarded as an essentially difficult problem, though many technical and complex questions respecting naval armament were raised. The inherent difficulties encountered by the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments related to European land armament.

The Japanese denunciation of the 1922 and 1930 treaties in December 1934, to take effect on December 31, 1936, created a new situationi In March 1935 Germany added to the complications of the armament problem by its unilateral action in introducing military conscription and in embarking upon a program of air armament. On June 18, 1935 the United Kingdom concluded an agreement with Germany which permanently fixed the future strength of the German Navy at 35 per cent of the aggregate naval strength of the British Commonwealth of Nations, applied by categories of war vessels, except for submarines, which were not to exceed 45 per cent of the British tonnage unless previous notice to, and discussions with, the United Kingdom Government had occurred (United Kingdom, Treaty Series No. 22 (1935), Cmd. 4953).

With a view to reconstructing the system of control for naval armament laid down in the 1922 and 1930 treaties, a conference was convened in London, from which Japan withdrew. The ensuing treaty for the limitation of naval armament was there signed on March 25, 1936 and entered into force until December 31, 1942 for the United States, France, and the British Commonwealth of Nations (except the Union of South Africa and Ireland) on July 29, 1937 (Treaty Series No. 919; 50 Stat. 1363; Treaties, Conventions, etc., 1923–37, iv, 5548). An agreement between the United Kingdom and Italy consisting of a protocol and annexed exchanges of notes, signed at Rome April 16, 1938, dealt with several phases of the relations of the two states, among which was Italian accession to the treaty of March 25, 1936 (United Kingdom, Treaty Series No. 31 (1938), Cmd. 5726), effective December 2, 1938.

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The treaty of 1936 was built on the principle of qualitative limitation and limited the maximum tonnage and gun caliber of the several categories of vessels in accordance with agreed definitions of displacement, categories, and age of vessels. It did not provide for quantitative limitation as did the expiring treaties of 1922 and 1930, but it did provide for advance notification and exchange of information in regard to building and acquisition programs.

On July 17, 1937 the United Kingdom signed agreements with the Governments of Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics providing for the limitation of naval armament and the exchange of information concerning naval construction based on the treaty of 1936, with certain reservations arising out of special German and Soviet circumstances (United Kingdom, Treaty Series Nos. 2 and 17 (1938), Cmd. 5637, 5679). Both entered into force on November 4, 1937 and were stipulated to remain in force until December 31, 1942. On April 27, 1938 the United Kingdom signed with Poland a similar agreement, which entered into force on November 22, 1938 (United Kingdom, Treaty Series No. 1 (1939), Cmd. 5916). On December 21, 1938 a similar agreement was signed by the United Kingdom with Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden (United Kingdom, Misc. No. 6 (1939), Cmd. 5999) but did not enter into force.

In 1938 the naval authorities of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom reached the conclusion that the Japanese Government, which had absented itself from all naval agreements since 1934, was building capital ships exceeding the limit of 35,000 tons fixed by the 1936 treaty. The three Governments, therefore, concluded a protocol on June 30, 1938 which modified article 4 of the treaty of March 25, 1936 by fixing a limit for capital ships of 45,000 tons (45,750 metric tons) and confirming a maximum caliber for guns of 16 inches (Executive Agreement Series 127; United Kingdom, Treaty Series No. 43 (1938), Cmd. 5781). Identic protocols were signed by the United Kingdom with Germany on June 30, 1938 (United Kingdom, Treaty Series No. 56 (1938), Cmd. 5834), with the Soviet Union on July 6, 1938 (ibid., No. 39 (1939), Cmd. 6074), and with Poland on July 22, 1938 (ibid., No. 2, (1939), Cmd. 5917), while the change was incorporated in the unratified agreement signed in December with Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

Article 25 of the treaty of March 25, 1936 provided for “escalation”, [Page 341]that is, the right to depart from the limitations and restrictions of the treaty “if, and to the extent to which” a contracting party “considers such departure necessary in order to meet the requirements of his national security”. The United States gave the requisite notice to benefit by this provision on March 31, 1938, in view of the fact that “the Japanese Government did not choose to furnish information with regard to its present naval construction or its plans for future construction” upon inquiry concerning reports of construction not in conformity with the limitations and restrictions of the treaty. The British and French Governments acceded to this protocol for themselves.

On April 28, 1939 Germany denounced the agreement of April 17, 1938 and the protocol of June 30, 1938 with the United Kingdom. The German Führer in an address to the Reichstag, as well as in the memorandum denouncing the agreement, held forth the future desirability of “a clear and categorical understanding on a sure basis”. The British reply of June 23 closed with a desire “to know how the German Government would propose to ensure that any action in the shape of denunciation or modification of the new agreement during the terms of its validity should carry the consent of both parties”. (Germany, Auswärtiges Amt, 1939, No. 2, Documents on the Origin of the War, Nos. 294, 295; United Kingdom, Documents Concerning German-Polish Relations and the Outbreak of Hostilities Between Great Britain and Germany on September 3, 1939, Nos. 21, 22, 24, Misc. No. 9 (1939), Cmd. 6106).

On the outbreak of the war notification was given to Poland and the Soviet Union of the suspension, so far as the United Kingdom was concerned, of all obligations under the agreements.

Article 181.

After the expiration of a period of two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the German naval’ forces in commission must not exceed:

  • 6 battleships of the Deutschland or Lothringen type,
  • 6 light cruisers,
  • 12 destroyers,
  • 12 torpedo boats,

or an equal number of ships constructed to replace them as provided in Article 190.

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No submarines are to be included.

All other warships, except where there is provision to the contrary in the present Treaty, must be placed in reserve or devoted to commercial purposes.

Note to V, 181

On June 18, 1935 the United Kingdom and Germany concluded an agreement which, so far as they were concerned, nullified articles 181–197 of the treaty and authorized a level of German naval armament inconsistent with those provisions as they remained technically in force for other parties to the treaty of peace. Actually, Germany had been building a navy for several years, regardless of the treaty. The agreement established a “permanent relationship” between the total tonnage of the German fleet and the aggregate tonnage of the naval forces of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the ratio of 35:100, the submarine ratio being fixed at 45:100 (161 League of Nations Treaty Series, p. 9). The agreement by relating the German fleet to the current treaty limiting naval armament was the first of several by which the United Kingdom sought to bring European states within the existing system of naval limitation (see ante, p. 339). Germany, however, denounced the whole arrangement on April 28, 1939.

Article 182.

Until the completion of the mines weeping prescribed by Article 193 Germany will keep in commission such number of minesweeping vessels as may be fixed by the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

Article 183.

After the expiration of a period of two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the total personnel of the German Navy, including the manning of the fleet, coast defences, signal stations, administration and other land services, must not exceed fifteen thousand, including officers and men of all grades and corps.

The total strength of officers and warrant officers must not exceed fifteen hundred.

Within two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the personnel in excess of the above strength shall be demobilized.

No naval or military corps or reserve force in connection with the Navy may be organised in Germany without being included in the above strength.

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Note to V, 183

The German law of March 23, 1921 embodied the provisions of the treaty with respect to size of the fleet.

Article 184.

From the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty all the German surface warships which are not in German ports cease to belong to Germany, who renounces all rights over them.

Vessels which, in compliance with the Armistice of November 11, 1918, are now interned in the ports of the Allied and Associated Powers are declared to be finally surrendered.

Vessels which are now interned in neutral ports will be there surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. The German Government must address a notification to that effect to the neutral Powers on the coming into force of the present Treaty.

Article 185.

Within a period of two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the German surface warships enumerated below will be surrendered to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers in such Allied ports as the said Powers may direct.

Text of May 7:

Within a period of two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the German surface warships enumerated below will be surrendered to the Principal Allied and Associated Powers in such Allied ports as the said Powers may direct.

These warships will have been disarmed as provided in Article XXIII of the Armistice of November 11, 1918. Nevertheless they must have all their guns on board.

battleships.

Oldenburg. Posen.
Thuringen. Westfalen.
Ostfriesland. Rheinland.
Helgoland. Nassau.

light cruisers.

Stettin. Stralsund.
Danzig. Augsburg.
München. Kolberg.
Lübeck. Stuttgart.
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and, in addition, forty-two modern destroyers and fifty modern torpedo boats, as chosen by the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

Note to V, 185

Germany was “ready, with the reservation of the necessary financial measures, to deliver not only the surface ships as required by Article 185, but also all ships of the line” (Foreign Relations, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vi, 821).

The Allies refused to entertain the German proposals (ibid., p. 956).

By section XXIII of the armistice of November 11, 1918 Germany was to turn over 6 battle cruisers, 10 battleships, 8 light cruisers, and 50 modern-type destroyers, to remain under the surveillance of the Allies and the United States. The great roadstead of Scapa Flow was designated as the place of internment, and the ships were anchored there with skeleton crews under the immediate charge of a German admiral.

On June 21, 1919 the German sailors aboard the ships opened the seacocks under orders of the German admiral in command, and all the hulks were scuttled. The German admiral alleged that he acted in the belief that the armistice expired at noon on June 21. That belief was without any foundation since the convention of February 16, 1919 prolonging the armistice distinctly avoided naming a date for its expiration and reserved to the Allied and Associated Powers themselves the right to terminate the period of prolongation at three days’ notice, which had not been given.

The President of the peace conference on June 25 called the attention of the German Government to this outright violation of the armistice terms and, while not exercising the consequent right of resuming hostilities, informed Germany that the Allied and Associated Governments would take such measures as they deemed appropriate.

The matter was given a solution by the protocol signed on behalf of Germany at the deposit of ratifications of the treaty of January 10, 1920. The relevant terms of that protocol are as follows (United Kingdom, Protocols and Correspondence Between the Supreme Council and the Conference of Ambassadors and the German Government and the German Peace Delegation Between January 10, 1920, and July 17, 1920, Respecting the Execution of the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919, Misc. No. 15, Cmd. 1325, p. 7):

“Finally, as the Allied and Associated Powers could not allow to pass without penalty the other failures to execute the armistice conventions [Page 345]and violations so serious as the destruction of the German fleet at Scapa Flow, the destruction of U.C. 48 off Ferrol and the destruction in the North Sea of certain submarines on their way to England for surrender, Germany undertakes—

“1.—A. To hand over as reparation for the destruction of the German fleet at Scapa Flow:—

(a.)
Within sixty days from the date of the signature of the present protocol and in the conditions laid down in the second paragraph of article 185 of the Treaty of Peace the five following light cruisers:—
  • Königsberg.
  • Pillau.
  • Graudenz.
  • Regensburg.
  • Strassburg.
(b.)
Within ninety days from the date of the signature of the present protocol, and in good condition and ready for service in every respect, such a number of floating docks, floating cranes, tugs and dredgers, equivalent to a total displacement of 400,000 tons, as the Principal Allied and Associated Powers may require. As regards the docks, the lifting power will be considered as the displacement. In the number of docks referred to above there will be about 75 per cent, of docks over 10,000 tons. The whole of this material will be handed over on the spot.

“B. To deliver within ten days from the signature of the present protocol a complete list of all floating docks, floating cranes, tugs and dredgers which are German property. This list, which will be delivered to the Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control referred to in article 209 of the Treaty of Peace, will specify the material which on the 11th November, 1918, belonged to the German Government or in which the German Government had at that date an important interest.

“C. The officers and men who formed the crews of the warships sunk at Scapa Flow and who are at present detained by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers will, with the exception of those whose surrender is provided for by article 228 of the Treaty of Peace, be repatriated at latest when Germany has carried out the provisions of paragraphs A and B above.

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“D. The destroyer B.98 will be considered as one of the forty-two destroyers whose delivery is provided for by article 185 of the Treaty of Peace.

“2. To hand over within ten days from the signature of the present protocol the engines and motors of the submarines U.137 and U.138 as compensation for the destruction of U.C. 48.

“3. To pay to the Allied and Associated Governments before the 31st January, 1920, the value of the aeronautical material exported, in accordance with the decision which will be given and the valuation which will be made and notified by the Aeronautical Inter-Allied Commission of Control referred to in article 210 of the Treaty of Peace”.

Article 186.

On the coming into force of the present Treaty the German Government must undertake, under the supervision of the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, the breaking-up of all the German surface warships now under construction.

Article 187.

The German auxiliary cruisers and fleet auxiliaries enumerated below will be disarmed and treated as merchant ships.

interned in neutral countries:

Berlin. Seydlitz.
Santa Fé. Yorck.

in germany:

Amnion. Fürst Bülow.
Answald. Gertrud.
Bosnia. Kigoma.
Cordoba. Rugia.
Cassel. Santa Elena.
Dania. Schleswig.
Rio Negro. Möwe.
Rio Pardo. Sierra Ventana.
Santa Cruz. Chemnitz.
Sehwaben. Emil Georg von Strauss.
Solingen. Habsburg.
Steigerwald. Meteor.
Franken. Waltraute.
Gundomar. Scharnhorst.

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Note to V, 187

DISPOSITION OF THE GERMAN FLEET1

Sunk at Scapa Flow Great Britain France Italy Japan United States Other Total
Battleships 10 5 1 2 1 19
Battle cruisers 5 5
Light cruisers 5 6 5 3 1 1 21
Leaders and destroyers 39 12 3 4 3 61
Torpedo boats 38 12 50

The ships sunk at Scapa Flow were eventually raised. All the battleships and battle cruisers were broken up. Of the light cruisers France incorporated the Königsberg (Metz), Regensburg (Strasbourg), Stralsund (Mulhouse), and Kolberg (Colmar) in its fleet, and Italy incorporated the Pillau, Graudenz (Ancona), and Strassburg. France and Italy each retained one flotilla leader. France incorporated eight destroyers and Italy two. Brazil and Poland each received six torpedo boats for police purposes.

Article 188.

On the expiration of one month from the coming into force of the present Treaty all German submarines, submarine salvage vessels and docks for submarines, including the tubular dock, must have been handed over to the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

Such of these submarines, vessels and docks as are considered by the said Governments to be fit to proceed under their own power or to be towed shall be taken by the German Government into such Allied ports as have been indicated.

The remainder, and also those in course of construction, shall be broken up entirely by the German Government under the supervision of the said Governments. The breaking-up must be completed within three months at the most after the coming into force of the present Treaty.

Article 189.

Articles, machinery and material arising from the breaking-up of German warships of all kinds, whether surface vessels or submarines, [Page 348]marines, may not be used except for purely industrial or commercial purposes.

They may not be sold or disposed of to foreign countries.

Article 190.

Germany is forbidden to construct or acquire any warships other than those intended to replace the units in commission provided for in Article 181 of the present Treaty.

The warships intended for replacement purposes as above shall not exceed the following displacement:

Armoured ships 10,000 tons,
Light cruisers 6,000 tons,
Destroyers 800 tons,
Torpedo boats 200 tons.

Except where a ship has been lost, units of the different classes shall only be replaced at the end of a period of twenty years in the case of battleships and cruisers, and fifteen years in the case of destroyers and torpedo boats, counting from the launching of the ship.

Note to V, 190

In June 1928 Germany laid down the first of its Panzerschiffe, which came to be known as “pocket battleships” because, within the tonnage limit of 10,000 tons, special types of construction such as an electrically welded hull and methods of saving weight enabled the designers to increase the armor and armament to an extent that rendered the striking power comparable to that of a battleship. The first armored ship of the type was launched in 1931.

Article 191.

The construction or acquisition of any submarine, even for commercial purposes, shall be forbidden in Germany.

Text of May 7:

The construction and acquisition of any submarine, even for commercial purposes, shall be forbidden in Germany.

Article 192.

The warships in commission of the German fleet must have on board or in reserve only the allowance of arms, munitions and war material fixed by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

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Text of May 7:

The warships in commission of the German fleet must only have on board or in reserve the allowance of arms, munitions and war material fixed by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

Within a month from the fixing of the quantities as above, arms, munitions and war material of all kinds, including mines and torpedoes, now in the hands of the German Government and in excess of the said quantities, shall be surrendered to the Governments of the said Powers at places to be indicated by them. Such arms, munitions and war material will be destroyed or rendered useless.

All other stocks, depots or reserves of arms, munitions or naval war material of all kinds are forbidden.

The manufacture of these articles in German territory for, and their export to, foreign countries shall be forbidden.

Text of May 7:

The manufacture in German territory and the export of these articles to foreign countries shall be forbidden.

Article 193.

On the coming into force of the present Treaty Germany will forthwith sweep up the mines in the following areas in the North Sea to the eastward of longitude 4°00′ E. of Greenwich:

(1) Between parallels of latitude 53°00′ N. and 59°00′ N.; (2) To the northward of latitude 60°30′ N.

Germany must keep these areas free from mines.

Germany must also sweep and keep free from mines such areas in the Baltic as may ultimately be notified by the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers.

Article 194.

The personnel of the German Navy shall be recruited entirely by voluntary engagements entered into for a minimum period of twenty-five consecutive years for officers and warrant officers; twelve consecutive years for petty officers and men.

The number engaged to replace those discharged for any reason before the expiration of their term of service must not exceed five per cent, per annum of the totals laid down in this Section (Article 183).

The personnel discharged from the Navy must not receive any kind of naval or military training or undertake any further service in the Navy or Army.

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Officers belonging to the German Navy and not demobilised must engage to serve till the age of forty-five, unless discharged for sufficient reasons.

No officer or man of the German mercantile marine shall receive any training in the Navy.

Article 195.

In order to ensure free passage into the Baltic to all nations, Germany shall not erect any fortifications in the area comprised between latitudes 55°27′ N. and 54°00′ N. and longitudes 9°00′ E. and 16°00′ E. of the meridian of Greenwich, nor instal any guns commanding the maritime routes between the North Sea and the Baltic. The fortifications now existing in this area shall be demolished and the guns removed under the supervision of the Allied Governments and in periods to be fixed by them.

The German Government shall place at the disposal of the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers all hydrographical information now in its possession concerning the channels and adjoining waters between the Baltic and the North Sea.

Article 196.

All fortified works and fortifications, other than those mentioned in Section XIII (Heligoland) of Part III (Political Clauses for Europe) and in Article 195, now established within fifty kilometres of the German coast or on German islands off that coast shall be considered as of a defensive nature and may remain in their existing condition.

No new fortifications shall be constructed within these limits. The armament of these defences shall not exceed, as regards the number and calibre of guns, those in position at the date of the coming into force of the present Treaty. The German Government shall communicate forthwith particulars thereof to all the European Governments.

On the expiration of a period of two months from the coming into force of the present Treaty the stocks of ammunition for these guns shall be reduced to and maintained at a maximum figure of fifteen hundred rounds per piece for calibres of 4.1-inch and under, and five hundred rounds per piece for higher calibres.

Note to V, 196

An arrangement between the German, Finnish, and Swedish Governments concerning the demolition of fortifications on the Aaland [Page 351]Islands and other military installations was signed at Stockholm on December 30, 1918 and in force March 28, 1919 (113 British and Foreign State Papers, p. 993).

For a description of the line of the permitted fortifications, see note to article 180.

Article 197.

During the three months following the coming into force of the present Treaty the German high-power wireless telegraphy stations at Nauen, Hanover and Berlin shall not be used for the transmission of messages concerning naval, military or political questions of interest to Germany or any State which has been allied to Germany in the war, without the assent of the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. These stations may be used for commercial purposes, but only under the supervision of the said Governments, who will decide the wave-length to be used.

During the same period Germany shall not build any more high-power wireless telegraphy stations in her own territory or that of Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria or Turkey.

  1. Adapted from Brassey’s Naval and Shipping Annual, 1920–21, p. 132.