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Malta as an example.While a navy depends for its power of operating in distant waters very largely on coaling stations, the existence of the latter depends absolutely on the power of the fleet to protect them. No local defence, whether in fortifications or men, will preserve them to a power which has lost the command of the sea. The history of Malta during the great war affords an admirable instance of the interdependence of fleets and coaling stations, though it must be admitted that the lesson to be drawn is to some extent weakened by the need of modern ships for coal. Many people consider that the possession of Malta is indispensable to the maintenance of British influence in the Mediterranean. How far this is true may be judged from the fact that Nelson won the battle of the Nile when Malta was in the hands of the French, and that Malta fell into our hands, though not for some time, as the direct consequence of that battle which gave us the command of the Mediterranean. Captain Mahan summarises the conclusions which should be drawn in these words:—'Its fate, when in the hands of France … gives warning that the fleet depends less upon Malta than Malta on the fleet.' If this be true of Malta, it is still more true of other coaling stations which do not lie in such proximity to the ports of foreign countries. We have acted wisely in giving to our coaling stations sufficient defence against one or two hostile cruisers. More than this is not required,
she could deliver a blow and return to her port—he certainly did not underestimate her powers. The country which possesses the most numerous coaling stations and the best situated as regards trade routes will have a great advantage in a future war. In this respect the British Empire is without a rival.