Britain’s War at Sea, 1914-1918: The War They Thought and the War They Fought 1472426274, 9781472426277

In Britain, memory of the First World War remains dominated by the trench warfare of the Western Front. Yet, in 1914 whe

1,130 56 1MB

English Pages vi+232 [239] Year 2016

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Britain’s War at Sea, 1914-1918: The War They Thought and the War They Fought
 1472426274, 9781472426277

Citation preview

Britain’s War at Sea, 1914–1918

In Britain, memory of the First World War remains dominated by the trench warfare of the Western Front. Yet, in 1914 when the country declared war, the overwhelming expectation was that Britain’s efforts would be primarily focussed on the sea. As such, this volume is a welcome corrective to what is arguably an historical neglect of the naval aspect of the Great War. As well as reassessing Britain’s war at sea between 1914 and 1918, underlining the oft neglected contribution of the blockade of the Central Powers to the ending of the war, the book also offers a case study in ideas about military planning for the next war. Questions about how next wars are thought about, planned for and conceptualised, and then how reality actually influences that thinking, have long been – and remain – key concerns for governments and military strategists. The essays in this volume show what realities there are to think about and how significant or not the change from pre-war to war was. This is important not only for historians trying to understand events in the past, but also has lessons for contemporary strategic thinkers who are responsible for planning and preparing for possible future conflict. Britain’s pre-war naval planning provides a perfect example of just how complex and uncertain that process is. Building upon and advancing recent scholarship concerning the role of the navy in the First World War, this collection brings to full light the dominance of the maritime environment, for Britain, in that war and the lessons that has for historians and military planners. Greg Kennedy is Professor of Strategic Foreign Policy at King’s College London and joined the Defence Studies Department in June 2000. He has taught at the Royal Military College of Canada, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, for both the History and War Studies Departments. He is an adjunct Professor of that university. His PhD is from the University of Alberta, with an MA in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada, and a BA (Hons) in History from the University of Saskatchewan. He has published internationally on strategic foreign policy issues, maritime defence, disarmament, diplomacy and intelligence.

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series Series editors: Professor Greg Kennedy, Dr Tim Benbow and Dr Jon Robb-Webb Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College, UK

The Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series is the publishing platform of the Corbett Centre. Drawing on the expertise and wider networks of the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London, and based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the UK Defence Academy, the Corbett Centre is already a leading centre for academic expertise and education in maritime and naval studies. It enjoys close links with several other institutions, both academic and governmental, that have an interest in maritime matters, including the Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), the Naval Staff of the Ministry of Defence and the Naval Historical Branch. The centre and its publishing output aims to promote the understanding and analysis of maritime history and policy and to provide a forum for the interaction of academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Books published under the eagis of the Corbett Centre series reflect these aims and provide an opportunity to stimulate research and debate into a broad range of maritime related themes. The core subject matter for the series is maritime strategy and policy, conceived broadly to include theory, history and practice, military and civil, historical and contemporary, British and international aspects. As a result this series offers a unique opportunity to examine key issues such as maritime security, the future of naval power, and the commercial uses of the sea, from an exceptionally broad chronological, geographical and thematic range. Truly interdisciplinary in its approach, the series welcomes books from across the humanities, social sciences and professional worlds, providing an unrivalled opportunity for authors and readers to enhance the national and international visibility of maritime affairs, and provide a forum for policy debate and analysis.

Britain’s War at Sea, 1914–1918 The war they thought and the war they fought Edited by Greg Kennedy

First published 2016 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2016 selection and editorial matter, Greg Kennedy; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Greg Kennedy to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Britain’s war at sea, 1914–1918 : the war they thought and the war they fought / edited by Greg Kennedy. pages cm. — (Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies series) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4724-2627-7 (hardcover : alk. paper)— ISBN 978-1-4724-2628-4 (ebook)—ISBN 978-1-4724-2629-1 (epub) 1. World War, 1914–1918—Naval operations, British. I. Kennedy, Greg, editor, author. D581.B66 2016 940.4′5941—dc23 2015029923 ISBN: 978-1-4724-2627-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-3155-7004-4 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC





1 The British strategic assessment of the United States as a maritime power: 1900–1917



2 ‘The work of the F.O. is nauseous in war time – a mess of questions of contraband & kindred subjects that don’t exist in time of peace and are a disagreeable brood spawned by war’: the foreign office and maritime war, 1914–1915



3 ‘Allah is great and the NOT is his prophet’: sea power, diplomacy and economic warfare. The case of the Netherlands, 1900–1918


T. G . O T T E

4 Solvitur Ambulando: the Admiralty administration reacts to war, 1914–1918


C . I . H A M I LTO N

5 Pragmatic hegemony and British economic warfare, 1900–1918: preparations and practice



6 ‘In the shadow of the Alabama’: Royal Navy appreciations of the role of armed merchant cruisers, 1900–1918 STEPHEN COBB




7 How it worked: understanding the interaction of some environmental and technological realities of naval operations in the opening years of the First World War, 1914–1916



8 The legacy of Jutland: expectation, reality and learning from the experience of battle in the Royal Navy, 1913–1939



9 ‘The sea is all one’: the dominion perspective, 1909–1914



10 Royal Navy concepts of air power in the maritime environment 1900–1918



11 Not in quiet English fields: the Royal Navy and combined operations





Introduction Greg Kennedy

The concept of ‘lessons-learned’ has become a growth industry in the realm of academic, and not so academic, writing on Western strategic and operational processes within defence and security topics.1 In the aftermath of failed operations to reconstruct Iraq and Afghanistan into viable, functioning states, many questions about what the post-Iraq and Afghanistan world holds for the use of military power are being asked, particularly regarding doctrinal and tactical matters.2 The limited utility of Western military power in dealing with the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria and now the threat posed by the rise of Islamic State, has created a groundswell of literature that all points to lessons of the near-past having to be studied in order to learn lessons as to, primarily, identify what went wrong and how to avoid repeating such mistakes in the future. In the United Kingdom (UK) in particular, this search for lessons is manifest in the much-delayed Iraq Inquiry set up under the leadership of Sir John Chilcot.3 As such, most of the lessons-learned processes are reactive and avoidance oriented, instead of proactive and initiative oriented. Furthermore, the majority of these inquiries and questions about lessons learned are land warfare oriented. This focus on a land environment approach for trying to use the lessons of the past, both near and distant historical examples, belies the true nature of the current UK strategic need: to understand the use of sea power and the maritime domain. This study utilises a comprehensive methodology to interrogate one of the most significant periods of Britain’s maritime past with regard to lessons learned and preparation for future conflict. In the period leading up to the First World War the nature of the international system was complex and fluid, changing rapidly due to social, technological, commercial, fiscal and cultural pressures. As such it is an appropriate period to use for comparison to today’s international condition, which is described as being also in such a state of flux and transition. Furthermore, within the British strategic policy making elite, questions about what nations could be relied upon to be allies, neutrals or opponents were also fundamental to strategic planning for the future. Much like today and the choices presented to the UK’s strategic policy making elite, questions about how the world worked and why, how much money to spend on what, and what aspect of military power was most appropriate to the nation’s strategic condition, made such planning fraught with difficulty. However, one element of that strategic consideration process was


Greg Kennedy

clear: the centrality of the continued use and access to the maritime domain for all of the nation’s, and the empire’s, continued national security and prosperity in any peace. For Britain any general European war would require a maritime strategy to be utilised in order to create, apply and disseminate power on a global scale. Such is arguably still the case for Britain’s strategic position in the world as a key economic, political and military actor, that is absolutely dependent on the continued good governance and use of the seas in such a fashion. The chapters which follow look at how various aspects of that maritime security question were appreciated before the war, and how, if any, those appreciations changed due to the actual realities of the war itself. Issues relating to technological change, force structures and positioning, appreciations of potential allies, education, intelligence and the need to wage economic warfare as the first line of national defence, are dealt with by an international array of scholars. What is produced is a useful case study of the merits and perils of war planning and lessons learned in an under-appreciated area of both First World War studies and contemporary discussions about the UK’s strategic way ahead. As such, it is an important work of history that can be read with benefit by contemporary UK policy makers, as well as students of history. For what better approach to ‘lessons learned’ is there than a comprehensive and sound knowledge of history? History is, after all, the core intellectual discipline that is the very essence of the methodological underpinnings of such exercises. I would like to use this collection to also pay tribute to one of its contributors, Keith Neilson, a good friend and colleague for all my academic life, who tragically passed away during the production of this work. His chapter within is the last piece of history written by him and as such it is a great honour for me to be able to include it within these pages. His great knowledge, passion for history and desire to understand the past more accurately and completely will be greatly missed, as will he.

Notes 1 Nigel Ashton and Bryan Gibson (eds), The Iran–Iraq War: New International Perspectives, (Abingdon, Routledge), 2013; Dennis Blease, ‘Lessons from NATO’s military missions in the Western Balkans’, Connections, Vol. IX, No. 3, Summer 2010, pp. 3–18; Paul Dixon (ed.), The British Approach to Counterinsurgency: From Malaya and Northern Ireland to Iraq and Afghanistan, (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan), 2012; Terrence Kelly (ed.), Security Force Assistance in Afghanistan: identifying lessons for Future Efforts, (Santa Monica, CA., RAND Corporation), 2011; Warren Chin, ‘British Defense [sic] Policy and the War in Iraq 2003–2009’, Defense & Security Analysis, Vol. 27, No. 1 (2011): 67–8. 2 Allison Abbe and Melissa Gouge, ‘Cultural training for military personnel: revisiting the Vietnam era’, Military Review, Vol. XCII, No. 4, July–August 2012, pp. 9–17; Alexander Alderson, ‘ “Learn from experience” or “never again”: what next for UK counterinsurgency?’, RUSI Journal, Vol. 159, No. 1, February–March 2014, pp. 40–49; Col C.J. Ancker and Lt Col M.A. Scully, ‘Army doctrine publication 3–0: an opportunity to meet the challenges of the future’, Military Review, Vol. XCIII, No. 1, January–February 2013, pp. 38–42; Lt Gen. J. Anderson and Maj. M. McCreary, ‘International Security

Introduction 3 Assistance Force Joint Command 2014: the year of change’, Military Review, Vol. XCV, No. 1, January–February 2015, pp. 16–25; Brig. B. Barry, ‘Stabilisation operations in Iraq: part two’, British Army Review, No. 160, Spring–Summer 2014, pp. 22–9; Col N.G. Baveystock, ‘Has the UK decision-making process since 2002 enabled effective delivery of reconstruction and sustainable development in Iraq? What lessons can be learned in planning future operations?’, Seaford House Papers, (Royal College of Defence Studies), 2007, pp. 172–91. 3 Accessed Sept. 2, 2014.


The British strategic assessment of the United States as a maritime power 1900–1917 Greg Kennedy

When trying to identify what Britain’s strategic policy making elite considered America’s status as a maritime power to be in the period immediately before and during the First World War, it is important to first recognise who constituted the membership of that elite and what that elite’s concept of maritime power (how and why it functioned the way it did) was.1 The British elite’s membership was a combination of various Departments of State: Treasury, Foreign Office, Board of Trade, Admiralty, Colonial Office, who worked in partnership with key strategic actors in the areas of industry, finance and commerce. This diverse and complex network believed the core values of maritime power to be naval, economic, trade, fiscal, industrial and political power, all focused on exploiting the maritime environment to protect global, imperial national security interests.2 When faced with the task of having to assess Great Britain’s imperial strategic position and balance that against how a future, general, European war would be fought, that elite was compelled to make an appreciation of how the international community’s alignment, capabilities, and will would react and effect Britain’s ability to maintain maritime dominance and supremacy.3 Known alliances and coalitions, both friend and foe, were stable and predictable quantities within this strategic calculus. The dangerous variable in the attempt to construct such a strategic appreciation was the place of neutral nations that possessed significant maritime power. The questions created by the existence of such neutrals for British maritime strategists were: who were the neutrals that were significant maritime powers and how would they act under the tectonic pressures created by such a disruptive condition as a general European war. For Britain’s strategic policy making elite, the United States of America was the most important unknown in that process.4 Strategic assessments of the United States as a maritime power by Britain’s strategic planning elite recognised not only the growing naval potential of the United States, a not insignificant factor in appreciations of the military power available to the United States in both home waters and abroad, but its other power sources linked to the maritime environment.5 More importantly for Britain’s use of the maritime power domain were questions related to fiscal, economic and industrial power. Would the United States provide goods and services to any British war effort, or to an opponent? Would the United States object to British actions aimed at disrupting normal maritime

The British strategic assessment of the US 5 trade and commerce on the high seas? How would the United States react to the overall domination of activity at sea that Britain would enforce in order to prosecute a successful campaign against a continental power?6 What effect on imperial security would American actions taken in these circumstances have on Britain’s maritime prosecution of such a war? At the turn of the century the overall strategic relationship between the two powers was seen as being good and improving. The British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Julian Pauncefote, reported to the newly appointed Foreign Secretary, Lord Lansdowne, that the attitude of the American government was ‘all that could be desired’ and that all major areas of contention or friction in terms of boundary or treaty disputes were benign. The newly returned President, William McKinley, was seen as being strong and able in his ability to control domestic politics and not allow disruptive American forces to endanger AngloAmerican progress in their relationship.7 Other British strategic thinkers believed that the Anglo-American maritime strategic relationship was a symbol of that closeness and a strategic work-in-progress. They saw it as an embryonic reality concentrated around the similarities between the two nations’ commercial, legal and ideological positions, with the nature of those strategic linkages being global. The common medium of binding these various strategic interests was the use and utility of the sea. In 1902, Julian Corbett, lawyer, maritime thinker and adviser to the Royal Navy on matters of strategy and education, considered that in the case of a general European war: . . . our great danger in case of war is the stoppage of our food and raw material and especially that which comes across the Atlantic. Now if this trade is to be in the hands of an Anglo-American syndicate how is a European army to stop it? By a stroke of the pen such ships as may remain under the English flag could be transferred to the American with perfect plausibility and if the European enemy refused to recognize the transfer it would mean almost certain war with America as well as ourselves. The Atlantic trade is certainly something they would fight for.8 But who would the Americans fight was the question. Certainly, given the assistance Britain had given to the United States during its war with Spain, and the growing racial/socio-political ‘friendliness’ that was apparent in the United States towards Britain, the idea of an Anglo-American conflict was becoming a more and more remote possibility that defied logic.9 By 1904, given the sympathetic and cooperative spirit of both President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of State John Hay, the Foreign Office view of Anglo-American strategic relations concerning maritime issues was positive and optimistic about a growing closeness and reliability in relations with the United States.10 By 1905, with AngloAmerican cooperation an integral part of the crafting of the maritime and the international balance of power system that was the Russo-Japanese War settlement process, the likelihood of an Anglo-American armed conflict became even more unlikely.11 Having political coordination and cooperation of their respective


Greg Kennedy

policy making elites over perspectives on the nature of the international order and the role of maritime power within that system was a key component of the burgeoning Anglo-American strategic relationship early on in the twentieth century. However, political/diplomatic accord was only one element when appreciating the maritime power of a nation. Parts of the British Imperial Defence system continued to do their due diligence and consider how to plan for any eventuality, no matter how unlikely, of Great Britain being at war with the United States. Such assessments considered American proximity to imperial possessions in North America and the Caribbean as possible friction points if relations between the two nations were to break down. The Pacific coast of Canada was particularly vulnerable to American naval power, with the United States’ Pacific Squadron based in Seattle easily able to counter the minor units of the British Pacific Squadron.12 The American ability to seize Esquimalt on the Pacific coast of Canada was not, however, a significant strategic matter in the eyes of the Admiralty. Rather, it was elsewhere, where significant trade and commercial activity at sea took place that the Royal Navy would concentrate its forces in North American waters.13 The waters of the eastern seaboard of the United States and Caribbean, off the coast of the major American cities and industrial centres that linked American economic growth and trade to the European markets through the Atlantic sea-lines of communication (SLOC), were the maritime centre of gravity of greatest concern. The Admiralty’s appreciation of the growth of American naval power pointed out the strategic problems this newly-created condition could create if America was hostile to the British position: By the end of 1905 the United States will have a fleet of twenty battleships and eight armoured cruisers ready for sea, smaller vessels being left out of consideration. Of this force a portion must always be in the Pacific, but under normal conditions, only a minor portion; and in view of the increasing naval strength of the European Continental Powers, it does not seem probable that Great Britain would be able to spare a force sufficiently powerful to blockade the Atlantic portion of the United States’ fleet in its own ports. Our main efforts would probably be directed towards the protection of our grain traffic from Canada, which by the cessation of the trade from the United States would become, together with Argentina, the chief source of our food supply.14 Furthermore, the Admiralty was fully aware of its inability to be able to simultaneously wage a full-scale European war against naval powers such as France or Germany and conduct naval operations against a belligerent United States. Given Great Britain’s absolute need for being able to access the industrial, agricultural and financial resources of both South and North America in the event of such a war, America’s ability to deny Britain such access was a critical concern that had no apparent military answer. That being the case, the senior service emphasised the vital necessity for Britain’s diplomatic and economic power to be utilised to ‘. . . preserve amicable relations with the United States’.15 More than being a growing naval power, it was the growing British reliance and links to American

The British strategic assessment of the US 7 economic, trade and financial power, as well as the American connectivity to other European nations through the maritime domain, that was becoming the dominant strategic problem. In the final months of 1904 Prime Minister Balfour directed Sir G.S. Clarke, Secretary of the recently formed Committee of Imperial Defence, to produce a secret study of the value of neutral shipping to various states. Given the centrality of maritime blockade and economic warfare, delivered through the denial of shipping and resource access, to Britain’s ability to influence larger continental powers, and the changes in the international system occurring as various nations increased or reduced their potential overall vulnerability to the use of maritime power on them, the Prime Minister believed that a review of the effectiveness of such a strategy was required. Changes to the relative economic and industrial power of certain states, as well as changes to the merchant marine and naval power of various states had changed the conditions within which such a strategy was positioned.16 British experiences during the Boer War of the use of Belligerent Rights and the searching of neutral vessels for contraband had signalled the need to take the role of powerful neutrals into account given the nature of the balance of power between the European Great Powers and powerful neutrals in regards to economic and fiscal security for the international system at the turn of the century. As far as the economic, fiscal, industrial and trade linkages were concerned, there was no more important maritime neutral than the United States. The CID report highlighted two important factors regarding the centrality of the United States’ merchant shipping/trade power. The first point was the large amount of trade, which if labelled contraband would have to be voluntarily stopped or be seized by the Royal Navy, which came from the United States to potential British adversaries. Out of close to £30 million worth of contraband imports from overseas to Germany, America provided just over £23 million worth. The stoppage of such a large amount of America’s overseas commerce was not likely to be something the Americans would take lightly or tolerate, unless the political/ strategic conditions were correct: ‘On the whole, it seems clear that, in the event of war with Germany, not only would no real advantage accrue to Great Britain from the exercise of the right of seizure of neutral shipping carrying contraband as defined in the extreme form, but grave danger of accruing the active hostility of the United States would have to be faced’.17 Even more dangerous for the British strategic situation was the prospect of a war with the United States. American naval power was not as big a danger as was the denial of the American marketplace to the British economic system. In 1903 imports to the United States were valued at £213 million, with £106.8 million or 61 per cent of those imports being carried to America by British merchant ships. The denial of that merchant shipping, along with the lack of exports to the US from British companies, combined to paint a very dark and troubling economic picture if Anglo-American relations deteriorated to such an extent18: The right to capture neutral vessels containing contraband is evidently a double-edged weapon. Our stake in the sea-borne goods which have recently


Greg Kennedy been proclaimed contraband is infinitely greater than that of other Powers. Thus, in 1902, we imported 13 millions worth more raw cotton than Germany, France, and Russia combined. If our means of naval protection are greater than those of other Powers, our stake in maritime commerce is enormously greater. The right in question cannot confer any real advantage upon us in war with a European enemy, but it would give an enemy opportunities of injuring us as belligerents, and of hampering our trade or of driving us into war as neutrals. Lastly, so complex are the commercial operations of this country, that British interests are closely bound up with trade carried on under foreign flags. No figures bearing upon this point can be given, but the fact is beyond dispute. An international arrangement under which neutral bottoms covered contraband would be to our advantage, and such a policy would probably find strong support from the United States. The right of visit, in order to establish the nationality of a vessel, and of capture in the case of neutral vessels attempting to run a proclaimed and effective blockage would still be required; but neither need create any serious disturbance of neutral trade. During ninety years we have not been engaged in a war which threatened the movements of our commerce. Within this period France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia (thrice), and the United States have been so engaged. Only a distinct advantage to us as belligerents could compensate for the restriction of our rights as neutrals. Such an advantage does not appear to arise from the right of capture of neutral vessels”.19

That strategic assessment of the utility of Britain’s traditional maritime weapon and the power the United States now wielded in the maritime/commercial world was a perspective which the Board of Trade supported as well.20 Unsurprisingly, the Admiralty did not see the utility of this traditional weapon as having diminished, pointing out the wealth created due to increased insurance rates required for neutrals during times of conflict, which was a net profit for the British coffers, as well as the utility of the leverage produced through the denial of contraband on economies and industries as well. They refused, however, to acknowledge the greater place American trade and commercial power now took in their considerations, but did in an understated fashion acknowledge that scale and size of the powers involved in such blockade operations could have strategic consequences: ‘As regards war against a great Power we can exercise the right to exactly what extent we please, being under no compulsion to apply it in full if circumstances appear to render such a course injudicious. Unless, therefore, clear evidence exists that we do lose as a neutral more than we gain, which is at least doubtful, it would appear undesirable to relinquish a right whose effects may be at times very beneficial, even when, as in the cases quoted above, they may sometimes escape notice’.21 By 1905, however, the need to take America into account as a hostile nation, either martially or economically, was not a consideration the Admiralty felt it needed to waste much time analysing. In February 1905 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Selborne, declared that no-one of serious note anywhere in the British Empire could seriously contemplate

The British strategic assessment of the US 9 the idea of war breaking out between the United States and Great Britain. Indeed, he was of the opinion: ‘There is no statesman of any party who does not consider cordial friendship with the United States of America as the principal aim and object of British foreign policy. I know of no statesman who would not rejoice with a great rejoicing if the relations between the British Empire and the United States of America were to ripen into permanent alliance’.22 Despite this belief, the First Lord and Admiralty were duty bound to consider the possibility of an American attack on Canada, no matter how remote or ‘criminal’ the likelihood of such an act was thought to be. Due diligence and prudence, as well as agitation from certain ‘little Englander’ elements of the Tory benches made such a consideration a duty, not a reflection of any reality. The Admiralty believed that America’s naval power was being created and aimed at Germany and its threatening posture towards the American Monroe Doctrine. Furthermore, while the Anglo-American strategic and maritime relationship had been and was vastly improved in the wake of the Spanish-American war, the consequences of now possessing overseas possessions and obligations also was awakening a sense of empire, along with an awareness and ‘. . . sense of peril . . .’ to which such American dependencies were now exposed. Their explanation of what this all meant was: ‘This seems the explanation of the recent great development of America’s naval strength. It is a natural growth. It will not stand still. Disliking the fact as we may, but, in any case, admitting as we must, that the United States is bending all her energies towards the early acquisition of sea-power, we have next to inquire against whom this striking manifestation of the national will is direct’.23 That situation, the Admiralty advised, was not dangerous to British imperial defence as Germany was the main American concern here as well. Indeed, their appreciation given the evidence to hand was that the tide of cordial Anglo-American relations was flowing forward with great promise and amity. The Admiralty view of how Anglo-American strategic relations were progressing, and the British desire for that strategic relationship to continue to grow and prosper, meant that defending Canada was considered now a non-issue. Furthermore, it was actually counter-productive to the greater strategic need of intimate Anglo-American strategic relations to make any such gesture or action that demonstrated a British suspicion of America through defensive actions in Canada, an activity that was considered one of the few, if not only, things that might de-rail the vastly improved and improving Anglo-American relations.24 That emphasis on closer Anglo-American maritime relations was not driven by only questions of Canadian defence however. In April 1905, as his last major activity before being posted away from Washington, the Royal Navy’s representative in America’s capital, Naval Attaché Captain Dudley de Chair, produced a comprehensive report on the nature of the Anglo-American naval relationship. Although Ambassador Durand in his covering letter for the report stated his scepticism with regard to the chances of an Anglo-American formal alliance of any type being produced any time soon, he did admit to de Chair’s expertise and favourable position with regard to sources within the United States Navy (USN). As well, Durand acknowledged the great utility to be found in attempting to create closer Anglo-American naval relations


Greg Kennedy

in both peace and war, so long as the efforts to construct such a relationship did not generate unwanted public and private scrutiny by parties always on the outlook to question British motives for better Anglo-American relations.25 Large elements of the American political and public opinion were in favour of closer Anglo-American naval cooperation in time of war, de Chair reported. This being the case, he felt it was his duty to interrogate this idea with the aim being to inform the RN’s senior leadership as to the appropriateness of such a likelihood, as well as the capability of the USN in such a circumstance.26 The extensive study argued that if closer Anglo-American naval relations and cooperation was a desired endstate then the time was right for such an initiative and then gave a detailed explanation as to why de Chair took this view. His report emphasised the growing appreciation of Britain by the public and political elements within the United States, and in particular the close professional linkages that existed between the two navies. From close naval collaboration, de Chair believed, closer, larger strategic relations would grow. Furthermore, from a practical and operational level, there was a great deal to be gained from closer workings with the growing naval power that was the United States: Feelings of kinship have replaced bitterness, respect and good will have largely taken the place of hatred and contempt, and it is almost certain that Naval co-operation between Great Britain and the United States would be as welcome in certain contingencies as is the present political co-operation between them in East Asiatic affairs. These causes tend steadily towards encouraging the idea that united action between the fleets of Great Britain and the United States is one of the possibilities of the future and if such be the case it behoves Great Britain especially in regard to her Navy to make such preparations that in the event of a sudden co-operation between the two Navies no time shall be lost in assembling and wielding the two fleets as one. If however co-operation is never undertaken, much would never-the-less have been gained by increased knowledge of the many excellent qualities of that progressive Navy. In the latest application of science to Naval warfare the Americans are quite our equals, while in readiness to experiment and in boldness of conception, they are probably our superiors. From such people it is clear all others can learn much that is useful particularly in the development of Naval material, and ingenious use of their weapons. It is believed that we may legitimately claim superior training, discipline, and organization for H.M. Service, but from observations which have been carefully made regarding the American personnel, it is obvious that they are possessed of an intelligence and vigour that is most uncommon, while there is a strength and endurance in their physical composition which is equal to the average in our Navy. Their courage is of the highest quality with perhaps more dash and initiative than is to be found among other nations.27 By the end of 1905, therefore, throughout the Admiralty machinery, the analysis of the state of the Anglo-American strategic relationship, and its importance to the

The British strategic assessment of the US 11 future well-being of the British Empire as a whole, corresponded with and were supported by the diplomatic and foreign policy apparatus of the British imperial defence system as well. A change in the British Government, when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal Party came to power in December 1905, did not change this strategic condition. The new Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, wrote immediately to Ambassador Durand in Washington, instructing him to make certain that President Roosevelt realised that the new British government was as favourably disposed to closer Anglo-American strategic relations as Balfour’s Conservatives had been.28 Durand petitioned Grey for permission to give confidential assurances to Roosevelt that there was going to be no deviation from Lord Lansdowne’s attitude and tone with regard to Britain’s attitude towards the United States.29 The new Foreign Secretary was adamant that not only was there to be continuity in, and every effort made to promote, good relations30 but in terms of greater strategic relations: ‘I hope that a bond of union between ourselves and the United States will be found . . . in our tendency to take the same view of events in the world generally. If the two countries think alike about public events, they will be found acting together in foreign countries where they have mutual interests; and even where only one of them is interested, its policy and action will be understood by the other’. Grey’s desire to immediately impress upon President Roosevelt the continued ‘special’ place America held in Great Britain’s strategic considerations reflected a new reality for strategic relations between the two nations. America’s growing economic and industrial power, as well as its increasing willingness to engage in international affairs, ensured that Great Britain was forced to consider the United States’ maritime power more carefully in all aspects of its international relations. Naval power, along with an ability to absorb a large amount of merchant shipping transferred to an American neutral flag in time of a general European war, along with America’s own growing merchant shipping, all put America into a powerful position with regard to influencing global maritime/economic affairs.31 Grey’s position on Anglo-American strategic relations continued to guide Britain’s maritime appreciations of the United States, and was transmitted to the rest of the imperial actors during Empire celebrations and meetings in London in 1911. At various CID meetings throughout the spring of 1911 leaders of the Dominions were briefed on the strategic position of the Empire, as well as having an opportunity for their own inputs to be included in deliberations. Sea-power and the ability to control activities on the seas around the world was the central strategic pillar around which all other considerations revolved, Edward Grey told the Imperial delegates.32 After a survey of European and other international questions, the Foreign Secretary turned to the Empire’s relations with the other great ‘civilising’ Power in the world: the United States. He informed the Dominion leaders of the efforts that Britain’s diplomats exerted in order to not antagonise American suspicions over British activities in Central and South America. It was his belief that soon the whole world would be able to gauge just how intimate Anglo-American strategic relations were, and that relationship would be built on a sharing of the use of the seas for global commercial activity.33 Those messages


Greg Kennedy

were reinforced by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna. He confirmed that the United States Navy was not considered hostile and presented no threat to imperial interests, not because of a lack of ships or operational ability, but because the political/strategic situation made such tensions almost impossible to contemplate.34 In the summer of 1912 the British strategic policy making elite’s assessment of America being a neutral, if not benevolent, naval power was consolidated. During discussions regarding the Royal Navy’s future building programme the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, instructed the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to revise the two-power standard being used to justify British capital ship building.35 Prompted by objections from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, to the use of the United States Navy’s current and projected capital ship numbers, Asquith informed Churchill that he had ‘. . . expressly repudiated the reasonableness of including the United States as one of the two Powers against which we had to build, and in that opinion of Lord Fisher and the then Board of Admiralty had concurred’.36 The continued denial of America as a naval threat reflected the ongoing acceptance by the British strategic policy making elite of the centrality of America to the success of the imperial defence system, and collaterally its possession of significant maritime power. No serious consideration of America being a naval threat to British strategic interests existed prior to the outbreak of the war of 1914.37 While explaining the fundamental principles of the current imperial defence system to the Canadian Prime Minister, Robert L. Borden, Grey outlined the circumstances of the renewed Anglo-Japanese Alliance to make his point about the place of American maritime power.38 The Anglo-Japanese agreement was specifically crafted in order to allow Britain to abstain from support to Japan in any circumstance which arose where Japan and the United States might be in conflict. Although, Grey told Borden, both the British and the Japanese believed that such an eventuality was not likely to occur, nonetheless, the Japanese recognised that both United Kingdom and Imperial public opinion would never allow Great Britain to combine with Japan in any case. The Foreign Secretary stated that the Japanese view, which was accurate, was ‘. . . it would be impossible for the British Empire to go to war on the side of Japan against a nation like the United States, with which we are on such excellent terms, and with which we have so many close ties’.39 However, in matters regarding economic warfare, and in particular the disruption of vital American trade with Germany, British strategic policy makers had many delicate matters to consider when contemplating the use of its traditional strategic weapon, blockade, and its effect on American maritime/ economic interests. A large, comprehensive and systematic study by the CID of the problem of waging economic warfare against Germany highlighted the problems inherent in cutting off American cotton from Germany, as well as other goods. The studies highlighted the wide-ranging and intricate commercial and economic ties that now bound the two nation’s economic fortunes together. That relationship was predicated upon and revolved around the ability to globally utilise the seas for

The British strategic assessment of the US 13 military and commercial action. The British, therefore, had an absolute need to keep American benevolence and goodwill intact during any European war, a situation which demanded special consideration be given to how tight any British blockade and economic warfare would disrupt American trade. Not only would a starved American cotton lobby be a politically and diplomatically difficult issue for the British to deal with, but there was an internal problem as well. Restricting British merchant ships from doing business with American or German business in time of war would lead to British merchant shipping re-flagging to American owners, a situation the study was sure a general, extensive British war with Germany would lead to in such blockade and economic strangulation conditions.40 The reports reinforced earlier studies which pointed to the now almost unavoidable need Britain had of American benevolent neutrality, or actual support, in such circumstances. America’s economic, fiscal and industrial power were now translating into real maritime power, a condition that Great Britain, in its planning for a general European war, could not ignore. Most importantly, that maritime power was vital for Britain’s eventual success in such a conflict. Thus, while the possible neutrality of smaller Powers such as Belgium and Holland were not seen as an immediate issue with regard to the creation of an effective and efficient blockade on Germany, the United States’ position was another matter.41 The need to take into account the strategic leverage American fiscal and trading power now had on maritime affairs, particularly the question of the employment of British merchant shipping in time of war, resulted in a strategic compromise being taken. The CID’s standing Sub-Committee on Trading with the Enemy, under the Chairmanship of the Earl of Desart, repeated its earlier recommendation that in a European war with Germany the British blockade begin as a total blockade of all contraband goods, but reserve the ability to become more flexible in its prohibition of certain goods, such as raw cotton, in order to be able to placate American concerns. In particular, on an item such as raw cotton British authorities would not declare it contraband but instead simply prohibit British ships from carrying it. As the bulk of American cotton was transported to Germany in this fashion, the strategic effect would be the same but the British legal and diplomatic positions with regard to wartime interaction with the United States would be made more manageable.42 Vitally, if blockade and contraband policies resulted in North Sea nations such as the Baltic/Scandinavian states’ goods being unavailable to Britain, American products and supply were expected to take over the largest portion of that market share, along with other Imperial nations.43 This militarily benign, yet economically and fiscally critical appreciation of America’s maritime power, and its meaning for British Imperial security overall, was the perspective taken in the strategic appreciation of the United States prior to the outbreak of war in the late summer of 1914. As events over the next four years unravelled, that appreciation proved to be most accurate. No sooner had the guns begun to sound throughout Europe than British actions at sea threatened to create problems for Anglo-American relations. Those tensions were not military in nature but commercial. Two separate but similar issues caused the American Ambassador to Great Britain, Walter Hines Page, concern


Greg Kennedy

over the future of Anglo-American maritime relations. The first point was concern over general Anglo-American maritime relations. This concern was generated by an Admiralty representative telling the American Naval Attaché that if England suffered serious reverses on land or sea it would be forced to issue instructions to stop all trade with Germany and would use all means of force to ensure the end of such activity.44 Grey assured Page that this would not be the case and that no policy of interfering with American trade in that way was planned. He hoped that neither Page nor the Naval Attaché would report the matter as Grey was most desirous that such a poor presentation of the situation by the Admiralty would not create any unnecessary Anglo-American tensions.45 At the same time, the Foreign Secretary chastised the First Lord of the Admiralty for that department’s creation of such undesirable tones in the two nation’s maritime relationship. Grey instructed Churchill ‘. . . to be careful not to say anything to him [the American Naval Attaché], especially about hypothetical conditions, which may be translated into a threat and passed on to Washington and start a Press campaign’.46 Secondly, the diversion globally of British merchant shipping to British ports, complete with whatever cargoes they held, caused Page to raise concerns with Edward Grey about the financial, as well as political impact this activity would have on Anglo-American relations.47 The Foreign Office [FO] was well aware of the potential sticking point merchant shipping and trade issues could have on this critical relationship and wished the Cabinet Food Supply Committee of the CID to be fully aware of the need to avoid ‘. . . as far as possible any measure calculated to bring us into collision with the United States’.48 Furthermore, in order to deal with these sensitive exchanges, shipping and export matters the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, requested a financial and commercial expert be sent to New York to work with Wall Street and other important American business and financial persons in order to keep such matters from escalating into difficult, public political frictions.49 As a result of this need for a coordinator of economic, fiscal and merchant shipping elements, Sir George Paish was sent out to New York to fulfil this liaison mission.50 By the end of November Sir George and his team were returning from New York, having established sound, calm working relations with the American business and financial communities, as well as through such confidence-building measures, enabled a resurgence in American exports once again. The overall impact of the Paish Mission was negligible in any actual crisis policies needing to be implemented, but the mission’s ability to explain the British financial and commercial plans and actions had allowed confidence to grow in American markets and businesses exporting goods, especially in clarifying the rules by which credit would be given and re-paid by both nations.51 Financial and commercial relations linked to merchant shipping and sea-borne trade may have been reconciled quickly between the two states, but the question of contraband and restricting American trade with Germany was just beginning to be dealt with fully.52 The solution to restricting some of that trade was forthcoming from America itself, as businessmen in the United States controlling key aspects of trade looked to engage with Britain directly, without American Government involvement or

The British strategic assessment of the US 15 intrusion. Critical materials, such as copper, rubber, wool, cotton etc. were traded by companies which controlled very structured organisations that could guarantee there would be no re-exporting of these goods if Britain allowed American companies privileged access to them.53 This method of using American companies to police the use of key commodities, thereby restricting trade with Germany, and, at the same time save valuable resources that would be required in terms of men, time and money to police the activity themselves, was a great victory for the British in the battle for American maritime ‘neutrality’.54 On 18 November 1914, Chandler Anderson, a US State Department official assigned to the American Embassy in London, met with a committee from the Foreign Office (FO) to discuss the question of allowing the export to the United States of certain articles from the United Kingdom of which the export was prohibited. The FO was the lead government department for implementing the blockade, a role originally thought to have been within the purview of the Admiralty. The FO committee, comprised of Sir Eyre Crowe (Permanent Under-Secretary), Sir Francis Hopwood (Chairman of the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Committee and Director of War Trade Division, Admiralty), Cecil J.B. Hurst (FO representative to the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Committee) and Vice Admiral Sir E. Slade (vice-chair of the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Committee and former Director of Naval Intelligence), represented the most current and informed thinking on the problem of restricting trade to the enemy while limiting the tensions created in relations with valued neutrals.55 Anderson explained that the commodities which the United States Government wished particularly to import from Britain were manganese, chrome ore, jute, aluminium, bauxite, rubber and wool. The supply of the first five was controlled by either Britain directly or the Allies in general. The same was true to a lesser degree of rubber and wool. Anderson was told that under no conditions could wool be exported for the present from Britain as the existing supply was all required for home consumption. His Majesty’s Government were, however, prepared to consider the question of allowing the export of the other commodities to the United States. However, the British would require some definite understanding from the United States Government that those raw materials would not be allowed to be re-exported from the United States to any enemy country.56 Anderson explained that to put an embargo on the export of any article from the United States would require legislation, a process which would take a considerable length of time. He suggested, however, that it might be arranged for the American traders to give the United States Government a bond, pledging the trader not to re-export the articles imported from the United Kingdom. That bond would be enforced by American law if infringed. Such a scheme would operate more effectively and efficiently, said Hopwood, if the trade in the articles in question were controlled in the United States by a comparatively small number of firms. Anderson said he would consult with the American Commercial Attaché at the embassy, who would be able to report on the circumstances existing in each trade. Anderson also pointed out that it would be impossible for the American Government to appear to be favouring one set of manufacturers over others.57


Greg Kennedy

Before the meeting concluded it was reinforced to Anderson that to meet British concerns the proposed arrangement had to ensure (1) against the re-export not only of the raw material but also articles manufactured from that material, and (2) against the importer selling to a middleman who had given no undertaking not to re-export. Under the following five conditions: 1 2

3 4 5

Export of specified articles to be allowed to firms recommended by United States Government. United States Government not to recommend a firm unless a guarantee had been received from the firm that neither the raw material nor the manufactured article would be exported to or for the enemy country either by them of their sub-purchasers. United States Government to inform His Majesty’s Government of arrangements adopted to obtain the above guarantee and to enforce it in cases of infringement. United States Customs officers to notify the British Consul at the port concerned of any shipment of the specified articles of the manufactured product to the enemy country or a neighbouring neutral country. United States Government to agree to prosecute persons who ship contraband goods under false designations.58

a deal could be struck allowing American firms preferred access to the controlled materials. Eleven days later, on 29 November, Anderson returned to the FO for further talks, after having discussed the matter with Ambassador Page and having received instructions from the State Department. Initial discussions were primarily interested in trying to get preferred treatment for the status of copper being shipped from the United States to other neutral countries, and for it to not be declared contraband. As for the rubber issue, Sir Eyre Crowe highlighted some of the concerns about the American monitoring of trade activities concerning that raw material. German agents, as well as some neutral traders, had attempted to slip cargoes of rubber through American monitoring by having the cargoes labelled as gum, which was not a restricted item. Anderson admitted that it was unlikely that American customs officials were aware of the fraud and acknowledged the need there would be for a tightening of American procedures if British trust was to be gained on this regulation matter: ‘It was also explained to Mr. Anderson that the possibility of this kind of smuggling rendered valueless the arrangements which His Majesty’s Government hoped to arrive at with neutral countries in Europe by which those articles would not be interfered of which they prohibited the re-export’.59 The British delegates went on to tell Anderson that there had been a rethinking of how to deal with control of rubber products. The preferred process would not be for the United States Government to be asked to prevent the United States trader from re-exporting these manufactured articles (as had been suggested at the last meeting), but now American rubber traders and manufacturers were to establish depots in Britain from which they could distribute their products to Europe. In this

The British strategic assessment of the US 17 way the ultimate destination of the goods would be under the control of the British Government. Such an arrangement would be made directly between the British Authorities and the United States trade, and the United States Government would only be asked to give their good offices in helping to ensure its enforcement. Anderson told the committee that the whole rubber trade in the United States could be brought together to agree to some arrangement to prevent the re-export of such rubber which had been imported from the British Empire, and that he understood that the matter was being already discussed with Sir C. Spring Rice at Washington. He, Anderson, would draw up a statement in the form of a Despatch to the State Department, embodying an arrangement which he considered might, as the result of these discussions, be arrived at between the two Governments. He proposed to submit this statement by 2 December to the members of the present meeting for further discussion, clarification and hopefully, approval. By 4 December Sir Edward Grey, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had seen the proposal and approved it being sent to the State Department for them to now take forward to President Wilson.60 Grey instructed Spring Rice to now begin, in confidence and discreetly, to use the terms agreed in these discussions to begin to ‘educate’ American business, political and financial leaders connected to the rubber interests about the terms.61 Two days before Christmas, Secretary Bryan told Page that American rubber interests had presented him with a guarantee that they would not distribute rubber to anyone who had not signed the guarantee. Through this arrangement the American rubber companies and manufacturers would police their own constituency, ensuring that no rubber or rubber products were sold to companies who dealt with Germany and her allies. Furthermore, this same Rubber Club would not allow any exportation of rubber products to neutral countries that were likely to sell it on to enemy countries. With such progress being made, Bryan understood that Ambassador Spring Rice was now working on behalf of those American rubber interests to release over two thousand tons of rubber paid for by American companies held in London and Liverpool.62 While the policing and monitoring aspects of the rubber agreement appeared to have been accepted and workable, the British were concerned still about how much support the American Government would have for the Allies’ need to still seize American cargoes deemed contraband. On 2 January 1915, Grey sent a corrective set of instructions and information to Spring Rice about the rubber matter. The Secretary of State pointed out that the British interests had been endangered due to the American inability to stop some companies in America shipping rubber to Germany under the disguise of being a cargo of gum. Though not enough to stop the movements already afoot, to create an agreement regarding American access to rubber, Grey wanted Spring Rice to impress upon the State Department the expected quid pro quo that was to result from such an arrangement. It was in not enough that the US Government monitor and enforce any violations of re-exporting rubber to enemy nations, but also that the preferred access to the strategic material would buy a certain level of acceptance and complacence when it came to American protests against British actions against such shipping.63 The rubber question works itself out nicely as


Greg Kennedy

things progress over the three month period. Supplies were allowed into the US from British sources and an agreement is arrived at that looked almost identical to what Anderson had drafted in London: Rubber agreement Under the rubber agreements, manufacturers in the United States have undertaken 1 2

3 4



Not to export any raw rubber, reclaimed rubber, or waste rubber from the United States, except to the United Kingdom or a British possession; To execute all orders for manufactured or partly manufactured rubber goods to be sent to neutral European countries from stocks to be held in the United Kingdom or by reshipment from the United Kingdom under licence; Not to execute any orders for manufactured or partly manufactured goods to be sent either directly or indirectly to any country or State at war with Great Britain; Not to sell any manufactured or partly manufactured goods to any person in the United States without being satisfied that the purchaser will not export or resell the same for exportation to any countries in Europe other than Great Britain, France, or Russia otherwise than by shipment or reshipment by licence from the United Kingdom; Not to export manufactured or partly manufactured rubber goods to any destination outside Europe without filing with the British consul, either prior to or simultaneously with the shipment, a statement giving particulars of the goods so shipped and their destination; and To apply to all rubber tyres exported or sold for export under the preceding conditions a distinctive name or mark, which will be communicated to the consul in order to facilitate identity of the goods.64

This arrangement, forged out of the dealings between the British Government, American industry, and watched with a blind eye by the State Department, set the modus operandi for the setting up of the Textile Alliance. The issue of selling merino wool to the US was the next stage in the growing connectivity between American business and the British war effort. The British did not want an official relationship to be a lightning rod to German propaganda and anti-British lobbyists in America, but ‘. . . as in the case of the arrangements for exporting rubber to the United States that no official intimation of the conclusion of the agreement should be communicated to the United States Government’.65 Therefore, British policy makers wanted to do business with the US but were wary of allowing that relationship to evolve at a government to government level where it could become strategically embarrassing to both nations. The group known as the US Textile Alliance took on a leading role in establishing a relationship with the British Board of Trade and the British embassy’s attempts to try to

The British strategic assessment of the US 19 protect British interests on the open market. Through the use of the Textile Alliance, British money was used to buy up wool crops in an attempt to deny them to the Germans. American companies were given preferred access to British wool and in exchange agreed to keep an eye on what the Germans were trying to do with the wool game in the US.66 The whole process was one of trying to get the Textile Alliance to front for the British interests in the US and protect British interests against pro-German buyers of wool in the US, while the whole time the US Government remained unconnected to that relationship. The agreement between the Board of Trade and the Textile Alliance, signed at the end of March 1915 saw: “Agreement with the Textile Alliance for Importation of Wool into the United States” Briefly stated, the arrangement is this:-Wool can only be imported to the United States from Great Britain and the colonies if consigned to the Textile Alliance. In return for being allowed to import wool, the Alliance undertake, as far as possible, to control the wool trade in the United States in order to prevent wool reaching the enemy. Would-be importers of wool are recommended to us by Messrs. Freshfields, who act for the Alliance here; the names have to be approved by his majesty’s Ambassador at Washington, who telegraphs them home in order to check the list supplied to the Board of Trade by Freshfields. Wool is allowed to go only to firms approved by Sir C. Spring-Rice. This arrangement is a private one between the Board of Trade and the Textile Alliance; the United States Government were not informed officially of it; it is understood to be experimental; and all export of wool to the United States is subject to the needs of this country.67 The British monitored the State Department’s management of this new arrangement closely in order to ascertain whether it would prove a reliable method of restricting German access to wool and other products issuing from America. Intercepted telegrams between the State Department and its various legations, consulates, and embassies in Europe were used by the British to prove the security of the system.68 The system proved so effective, however, that by June an expansion of the understanding into other textile areas, and with a greater recognition of the power of the Textile Alliance to act as a safeguard of British interests in America, was established. The American Government, while aware of the ongoing relationship between the British Government and the Textile Alliance, exercised its plausible deniability of not being formally a part of that relationship, and thus immune to any charges of violating its neutrality stance.69 Pre-war British appreciations of the linkages between American economic, fiscal and merchant shipping power, all joined together in the modern, interconnected world of the early twentieth century to create modern maritime power, were very accurate. Coinciding with that appreciation of those elements of power was an accurate understanding of the political will and attitude of the United


Greg Kennedy

States toward Britain’s strategic interests, and the methods, such as blockade and economic warfare, that it would use to defend those imperial interests. Pre-war appreciations had indicated American reactions to the interference with international maritime trade would not create irreparable strategic tension, and that was the case. Indeed, pre-war assessments had clearly shown the need Great Britain had in a general European war with Germany to ensure that American money and services, as well as industrial capacity and markets were denied to Germany and made accessible only to Great Britain. That condition was for the most part achieved within six months of the outbreak of war, with American sea-borne commerce continuing to create wealth and generate growth for the US economy, while at the same time allowing Britain and her allies to benefit from the world’s largest neutral maritime power to the disadvantage of their continental foes.

Notes 1 The concept of policy making elites as it is now recognised in international and military history stems from the work of Donald C. Watt, Personalities and Policies. Studies in the Formulation of British Foreign Policy in the Twentieth Century, (London, 1965), which was enhanced over the decades by others including, but not limited to, Keith Neilson, ‘Perception and Posture in Anglo-American Relations: The Legacy of the Simon-Stimson Affair, 1932–1941’, International History Review, Vol. 29, 2007, pp. 313–38; Thomas G. Otte, ‘Introduction: Personalities and Impersonal Forces in History’, in Thomas G. Otte and Constantine A. Pagedas (eds), Personalities, War and Diplomacy: Essay in International History, (London, 1997), pp. 1–14; Zara Steiner, ‘Elitism and Foreign Policy: The Foreign Office Before the Great War’, in B.J.C. McKercher and David J. Moss (eds), Shadow and Substance in British Foreign Policy, 1895–1939, (Edmonton, 1984), pp. 19–56. 2 The range of elements comprising this elite are outlined in various chapters of: Keith Neilson and Greg Kennedy (eds), Far Flung Lines: Essays on Imperial Defence in Honour of Donald MacKenzie Schurman, (London, Frank Cass Press), 1997; Greg Kennedy (ed.), The Role of the Merchant Marine in International Relations, (London, Frank Cass Publishers), 2000; Greg Kennedy (ed.), Britain’s Naval Strategy East of Suez, 1900–2000: Influences and actions, (Frank Cass Publishers, London), 2005; Greg Kennedy (ed.), British Imperial Defence: The Old World Order, 1856–1956, (Taylor and Francis, London), 2008; Greg Kennedy and Keith Neilson, The British Way in Warfare: Power and the International System, 1856–1956, Essays in Honour of David French, (Ashgate, Farnham), 2010; Nicholas Tracey (ed.), Papers Relating to the Collective Naval Defence of Empire, 1900–1940, Naval Record Society Volume, (Ashgate, Basingstoke), 1997. 3 Steven T. Ross, American War Plans, 1890–1939, (London, Frank Cass Publishers), 2005; Talbot C. Imlay and Monica Duffy Toft, The Fog of Peace and War Planning, (London, Frank Cass Publishers), 2006. 4 The concept of strategy used in this paper’s analysis is that of Henry Eccles, where strategy is the comprehensive orientation of power used to control circumstances and conditions in order to achieve desired aims. 5 Iestyn Adams, Brothers Across the Ocean: British Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’ 1900–1905, (New York, Taurus Academic Studies), 2005; Walter Russell Mead, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, (New York, Alfred A. Knopf), 2007; Bernard Porter, Empire and Superempire: Britain, America and the World, (New Haven, Yale University Press), 2006; Niall Ferguson, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, (2003);

The British strategic assessment of the US 21


7 8 9 10 11 12 13

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Charles S. Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors, (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press), 2006; Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, (London, Little, Brown and Company), 1994; Anil Seal (ed.), The Decline, Revival and Fall of the British Empire: The Ford Lectures and Other Essays, (Cambridge, CUP), 1982; Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500–2000, (London, Unwin Hyman), 1988. Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War, (Cambridge, MA and London, Harvard University Press), 2012; M. Simpson (ed.), Anglo-American Naval Relations, 1917–1919, Naval Record Society Volume, (Ashgate, Basingstoke), 1991; Greg Kennedy, ‘Intelligence, Strategic Command and the Blockade: Britain’s War Winning Strategy, 1914–1917’, Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 22, No. 5, October 2007, pp. 699–721. F[oreign] O[ffice] 800–144, Lord Lansdowne Papers, The National Archive (hereafter TNA), Kew, London, private letter from Pauncefote to Lansdowne, 23 November 1900. Sir Julian Stafford Corbett Papers (hereafter Corbett Papers), Queen’s University, Kingston, Box 1, Group 1, Folder 1, letter from Corbett to Sir Henry Newbolt, 3 May 1902. FO 800–144, Lansdowne Papers, private letter from Ambassador Sir Mortimer Durand to Lansdowne, 8 January 1904. Ibid., Private letter from Durand to Lansdowne, 6 May 1904. Ibid., Private draft tel. from Lansdowne to Durand, 25 January 1905; private letter from Lansdowne to Durand, 4 February 1905; private and confidential letter from Lansdowne to Durand, 22 February 1905; letter from Durand to Lansdowne, 10 March 1905. CAB[inet] 38–2, Minutes and Memorandum of the Committee of Imperial Defence (hereafter CID), 1888–1914, Memo No.38, Secret ‘Memorandum on the Standard Defence at Esquimalt’, 24 May 1903, TNA. Ibid., Admiralty reply to Secret 17 March letter from Under-Secretary of State for War G.F. Wilson, 19 April 1902. CAB 38–3, CID Minutes and Memorandum, No.74, Secret Admiralty Intelligence Dept. memo, ‘Strategic Position of British Naval Bases in Western Atlantic and West Indies’, 24 November 1903. CAB 38–3, No.67, Secret, ‘Memorandum on the Standards of Defence for the Naval Bases of Halifax, Bermuda, Jamaica and St. Lucia’, 17 September 1903, quote from Admiralty confidential letter M.0109 to Colonial Office, 24 February 1903. Ibid., Admiralty confidential memo M.0567 to Army, 29 June 1903. CAB 38–6, CID Minutes and Memorandum, Secret memo prepared at direction of the Prime Minister, ‘The Value to Great Britain of the Right of Capture of Neutral Vessels’, 12 December 1904. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., letter from Francis S. Hopwood, Marine Dept. of the Board of Trade to CID, 31 January 1905. Ibid., Confidential Admiralty reply to CID memo, 10 June 1905. CAB 38/8, No.13, Secret Memo, ‘Defence of Canada’ prepared by the Admiralty, 24 February 1905, ‘Introductory Minute by the First Lord of the Admiralty on the Problem of Canadian Defence’, 10 February 1905. Ibid., ‘Observations by the Admiralty upon the War Office Memorandum of December 13, 1904, on Defence of Canada’, 6 January 1905. Ibid., and ‘Remarks by Mr. A.H. Lee MP, Civil Lord of the Admiralty’, 5 February 1905. Lee spent five years in Canada where he was the superintendent of a military survey of Canada and its defensive questions, as well as having served as the Military Attaché and was considered by the Admiralty to be ‘. . . one of the greatest living authorities on the matter . . .’.


Greg Kennedy

25 Papers of Admiral Dudley de Chair, in possession of Rodney de Chair, Oakplace, Chichester (hereafter de Chair, Oakplace), Folder: Family Records, Vol. 2, Confidential letter from Durand to Lansdowne, 22 April 1905. 26 Ibid., ‘Suggestions on the Subject of Naval Co-operation Between the United States and Great Britain’. 27 Ibid. 28 FO 800/81, Grey Papers, TNA, Folder ‘USA, 1905–1908’, letter from Grey to Durand, 13 December 1905. 29 Ibid., Private telegram from Durand to Grey, 22 December 1905. 30 Ibid., Private Tel. from Grey to Durand, 22 December 1905. 31 CAB 38/9, CID Minutes and Memos, No.36, Secret Paper, ‘The Defence of Canada, Reply to General Staff Memo (CID No.24), Remarks by the Admiralty on Paper 24C’, undated [possibly April] 1905; CAB 38/10, CID Minutes and Memos, No.83, Confidential Paper, ‘National Indemnity or Insurance of the War Risks of Shipping’, 15 November 1905, in particular paper ‘Remarks by Admiralty on 46B and 56B’, by C.I. Thomas, 4 July 1905, and ‘Remarks by Board of Trade on 56B’, by Francis J.S. Hopwood, 13 July 1905; CAB 38/11, CID Minutes and Memos, No.18, Secret Paper 73B, ‘The Capture of the Private Property of Belligerents at Sea’ a memo prepared by direction of the PM, 14 May 1906. 32 CAB 38/18, CID Minutes and Memos, No.40, Secret Paper, Minutes of 111th meeting, 26 May 1911. 33 Ibid. 34 CAB 38/18, CID Minutes and Memos, No.41, Secret, Minutes of 112th Meeting, 29 May 1911. 35 CAB 38/21, CID Minutes and Memos, No.26, Secret, Minutes of 117th Meeting, ‘The Strategic Position in the Mediterranean Sea’, 4 July 1912. 36 Ibid. 37 CAB 38/26, CID Minutes and Memos, No.14, Secret Paper, ‘Probable Scale of Attack against Oversea British Ports’, 21 April 1914; CAB 38/27, CID Minutes and Memos, No.23, Secret, Minutes of 126th Meeting, 14 May 1914. 38 CAB 38/21, No.27, Secret, Minutes of the 118th Meeting, 11 July 1912. 39 Ibid. 40 CAB 38/21, No.31, Secret Paper, ‘Sub-Committee of the CID on Trading with the Enemy’, 30 July 1912. 41 CAB 38/22, CID Minutes and Memos, No.42, Secret, Minutes of 120th Meeting, 6 December 1912. 42 Ibid. 43 CAB 38/26, CID Minutes and Memos, No.7, Secret Paper, ‘Supplies in Time of War Report’, 12 February 1914; Ibid., No.10, Secret Paper, ‘Supplies in Time of War’, 28 February 1914. 44 F[oreign] O[ffice] 800/88, Grey Papers, Admiralty, private letter from Grey to Churchill, 24 August 1914. 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid. 47 F[oreign] O[ffice] 368/1158/39323/39323, US 1914, note Page to Grey, 14 August 1914. 48 Ibid., Eyre Crowe minute, seen by Grey, 17 August 1914. 49 FO 368/1159/43896/43896, Telegram from Spring Rice [British Ambassador in Washington] to FO, 27 August 1914, Law and Crowe minutes, 1 September 1914. 50 FO 368/1159/43896/54231, Telegram from FO to Spring Rice, 1 October 1914. 51 FO 368/1159/43896/80522, despatch from Spring Rice to FO, 27 November 1914. 52 Standard views of American neutrality and maritime powers links to economic and trade matters are found in: Arthur S. Link, Wilson: The Struggle for Neutrality 1914– 1915, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ), 1960; Ethel C. Phillips, ‘American

The British strategic assessment of the US 23

53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69

participation in Belligerent Commercial Controls 1914–1917’, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, 1933, pp. 675–93; David F. Trask, Captains and Cabinets: Anglo-American Naval Relations, 1917–1918, (University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO), 1972, pp. 54–89; John W. Coogan, The End of Neutrality: The United States, Britain, and Maritime Rights 1899–1915, (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY), 1981. FO 800/88, personal letter from Sir Francis Hopwood [Civil Lord of the Admiralty and Chairman of the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Committee] to Grey, 31 December 1914. FO 368/1162/74685/81393, Tel. Spring Rice to FO, 10 December 1914. FO 368/1162/74973/74973, Sargent minute, 18 November 1914. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. FO 368/1162/74973/77567, ‘untitled Sargent minute’, 1 December 1914. This was done on 6 December, Papers Relating to the F[oreign]R[elations]U[nited] S[tates](hereafter FRUS), 1914 Supplement, tel. Page to Secretary of State, 6 December 1914, p. 356. FO 368/1162/74973/77567 ‘Grey minute’, 4 December 1914 and ‘FO instructions to Spring Rice’, 6 December 1914. FRUS, 1914 Supplement, tel. Secretary of State to Page, 23 December 1914, p. 430. F[oreign] O[ffice] 382/1/26/903, Blockade Files (hereafter FO382), America – 1915, The National Archives, Kew, London, tel. from Grey to Spring Rice, 2 January 1915. FO 382/1/26/36477, Confidential memo, 29 March 1915. Ibid. FO 382/6/10908, tel. from FO to Spring Rice and associated minutes, 29 January 1915. FO 382/6/35083, Confidential Memo by Knatchbull-Hugesson, 26 March 1915. FO 382/7/53899, intercepted tel. from US Minister in Copenhagen to Secretary of State, 4 May 1915. FO 382/7/83691, Confidential Tel. from FO to Spring Rice, 25 June 1915.


‘The work of the F.O. is nauseous in war time – a mess of questions of contraband & kindred subjects that don’t exist in time of peace and are a disagreeable brood spawned by war’1 The foreign office and maritime war, 1914–1915 Keith Neilson

It is impossible to speak of what war the Foreign Office expected in 1914. The task of the Foreign Office was not to plan war but to avoid war. However, that does not mean that the war did not affect that department of state. What changes occurred during the war are well known in broad terms.2 The Foreign Office was restructured to meet the exigencies of war, with new departments being created within it and existing ones amalgamated.3 As the war progressed, the Foreign Office became the object of criticism, from the political left both for having somehow brought Britain into the war and as a bastion of aristocracy and from others who believed that the Foreign Office had failed to attract neutrals to the Allied cause. When David Lloyd George came to power in late 1916, some of the Foreign Office’s traditional ambit was taken over by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, while new Ministries were created that also cut into the Foreign Office’s domain.4 However, the subject of Grey’s lament – contraband and its handmaiden, the blockade – and how it affected the Foreign Office has not been studied extensively, except in the narrow context of the legalities involved in dealing with the neutrals.5 What concerns us here, however, is what dealing with blockade revealed about the inadequacies of the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service and the steps taken to deal with the new situations created by the war. Before this can be done, it is necessary to give some thought to the way in which trade and economics functioned in the period before 1914. Beginning about the middle of the nineteenth century, and pushed by the development of new technologies, the first period of globalisation began. Britain was the centre of this development, and the latter’s epicentre was the North Atlantic trade.6 The new economy was based on steam-powered ships, the telegraph and railways that connected the interior of the North American continent with the coast and hence international trade. The trading system made possible by these developments saw a convergence of prices, a linkage between the money market in London and New

The Foreign Office and maritime war 25 York, and a form of just-in-time delivery of goods and services. Before 1914, these changes had little effect on the Foreign Office as, for the most part, they involved not intra-state relations but high finance and international business.7 As a result, while the Foreign Office possessed formidable expertise in international law dealing with freedom of the seas and blockade, and had demonstrated this recently both at the Second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 and at the London Conference in 1909, it was singularly lacking in the ability to deal with the complicated economic and financial issues involved when the First World War affected the new economy. This is a vast topic, and could be pursued widely. However, the focus here is on the North Atlantic trade, a subject chosen both because it was the most developed aspect of globalisation and because it was central to the British war effort.8 The problems emerged shortly after the outbreak of hostilities. Just after the British ambassador to the United States, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, returned from leave to the United States in late August 1914, he informed the Foreign Office of the need ‘to arrange [the] temporary appointment of a financial and commercial expert in New York to advise His Majesty’s Government as to exchange, shipping and exports’.9 At the Foreign Office, the initial response was to keep the matter in-house as much as possible, by utilising various consuls. However, the head of the Western and Eastern Departments, Sir Eyre Crowe, who was soon to be in charge of all contraband issues, felt that there was no suitable ‘expert’ available. Instead, he suggested that the head of the newly-created contraband committee (the Enemy Supplies Restrictions Committee), Sir Francis Hopwood, be consulted as to possible suitable candidates, not necessarily drawn from the diplomatic or consular service.10 On 5 September, Hopwood put forward a list of people, some resident in the United States, whom he felt had the requisite experience and connections to provide Spring Rice with the assistance required. This list was sent to Spring Rice on 11 September, but nothing transpired immediately, as the Embassy found itself involved in another issue of even greater import.11 This involved two intertwined issues: the American cotton crop and the payment of United States debts in London. Prior to 1914, the United States was a debtor nation whose economic expansion after the Civil War had been largely financed in Britain. One of the primary ways that this debt was serviced was by agricultural exports, particularly of cotton. Each year’s cotton crop was largely financed on credit, with planters borrowing money in the spring on the surety of promissory notes. The bankers who provided the cash necessary to permit seeding used these promissory notes as collateral for other financial transactions, buying and selling them as a form of currency. Many, if not most, of these promissory notes were purchased in London by the various accepting houses. In the autumn, when the cotton crop was harvested and sold, planters were able to pay off their debts and the cycle could begin again. The financial crisis that began as the First World War approached destroyed this complex system. The British and American stock exchanges closed (and did not open until Christmas) and loans were recalled. The accepting houses refused to buy any promissory notes and there was an immediate shortage of liquidity. This situation, magnified by the shortage of tonnage and the rise in maritime insurance rates,


Keith Neilson

was disastrous for the transatlantic economy. On 20 September Spring Rice was informed by the American Secretary of the Treasury (and the son-in-law of the US President, Woodrow Wilson), William Gibbs McAdoo, that American banks were creating a pool of $100 million in gold ‘for the purpose of meeting maturing obligations abroad’. McAdoo had suggested to the British Ambassador ‘that it might be wise if someone could be sent to confer with Banks here with a view to dealing with present problems or any that may arise in connection with the maturing of obligations and [the] expected increase of American exports and consignment change in balance of trade’. Such a momentous financial issue was clearly beyond the capabilities of the Foreign Office, and Spring Rice suggested that Sir George Paish, a well-known economist and the editor of the Statist, should come to America.12 On 22 September, Spring Rice made explicit the linkage between the cotton crop and the financial situation. He pointed out that, unless trade were resumed, the United States would be unable to pay its debts and that to ship gold to Britain ‘would undoubtedly bring on a crisis of such magnitude that it was very doubtful if the government could allow it’.13 Initially, the British government thought to send Lord Reading, the Lord Chief Justice, to the United States to discuss the situation, but McAdoo felt that Reading was ‘too great a personage and would excite too much attention which would be dangerous’.14 The Secretary of State preferred to receive a less exalted person. For their part, the British wanted to ensure that ‘if anyone does go over, he goes over at the request of the American Government, and not on our behalf’.15 In fact, it was finally decided that Paish and Sir Basil Blackett, a first-class clerk in the Treasury, were to go to the United States at the beginning of October.16 The need to ensure that it was known that the ‘Paish mission’, as it became known, was at the behest of the American government was underlined by concerns that the visit would be portrayed as an attempt by the British to make the United States ‘pay in gold’, which ‘would make us unpopular in the business world’.17 But, while Spring Rice waited for the Paish mission to arrive, the Ambassador became involved in another aspect of the problems caused by war. This new issue involved Canada. On the outbreak of hostilities, the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence, Sir Sam Hughes, had set up a Shells Committee to organise Canada’s munitions production. In addition to the formation of the Shells Committee, Hughes also authorised some of his business cronies to seek out contracts in the United States. His choice of agents was not always wise. A particular bugbear was Col. J. Wesley Allison, who arrived in New York in October claiming to be able to provide supplies to the Allies. In Washington, the Russian ambassador enquired of Spring Rice as to Allison’s bona fides.18 Spring Rice, who knew ‘nothing of him’, queried the Canadian Governor General about Allison. The latter ‘advise[d] caution’.19 Even more perplexed was the British Vice-Consul in New York, who asked the British Embassy: ‘Can you tell me anything of the status of Colonel Allison. . . . Does he hold any official commission from the War Office . . .?’. The lack of order was evident: Ever since the outbreak of war I have been swamped with offers of every conceivable kind of material from molasses down to mules – and I have never

The Foreign Office and maritime war 27 understood why the Government’s desire for secrecy should go so far as to holding back the names of their Agents even from the Consulate General in New York. Now I have had a sheaf of enquiries into the status of Colonel Allison, and I understand that he and Morgan [another Canadian ‘colonel’] have been asking for bids, apparently with the backing of the War Office. I wish you could tell me whether these men are genuine and whether I can properly turn offers of supplies into their hands.20 Spring Rice again attempted to discover the true nature of matters. He told the Governor General that he was ‘continually in receipt of statements to the effect that persons was give themselves out to be agents of the British Government are making offers for contracts at exorbitant prices’. He asked that the ConsulGeneral be given a list of authorised agents, noting that ‘there is no central authority, such as the French and the Germans have and the Russians will have, to whom we can refer. Canada and Great Britain are buying separately I presume. If there is a War Office representative in Canada, kindly let me know, so that I may refer to him’.21 This was in line with Spring Rice’s earlier proposal in mid-October that a consolidated buying organisation be set up in the United States to coordinate British purchasing there. Both the War Office and the Admiralty initially rejected the idea.22 However, by early November both departments agreed that the pooling of information among the Allies as to orders placed in the United States would be ‘most useful’, as this would ‘prevent counter bidding’.23 This was sensible, but Spring Rice argued further that there ‘should be one neck to the bottle if possible as regards our own orders’. Such a course made good sense, but, as was noted at the Foreign Office in London, ‘it is impossible to have “one neck to the bottle” if the War Office insist that their proper course is to deal directly with manufacturers’.24 Much of this was resolved in January 1915, when the British government signed an agreement with the American financial house of J.P. Morgan, making that body the agent for British purchases in the United States. No such arrangement was reached in Canada. The Canadian government and Canadian manufacturers were unhappy about the procurement of Allied supplies in North America. As early as 27 November 1914, Borden instructed Sir George Perley to push for having ‘the British and French Governments . . . buy as much as possible in Canada’.25 For the most part, it felt that it was being ignored in favour of the United States when such contracts were given out. However, the Allies had reason to be suspicious of Canadian firms. The Dominion Iron and Steel Company, for example, took a contract to supply the French government with 900 tons of steel wire and reneged on it when it was discovered that they were unable to manufacture the specified gauge.26 Canadian middlemen were also operating abroad. After his time in the United States, J. Wesley Allison travelled to Russia in early 1915 and obtained a contract for 3,000,000 3” shells from the Russian government, a contract that was never fulfilled.27 This did not daunt the Canadian government, which made representations to the Russian government asking them to place orders in Canada as much as possible.28


Keith Neilson

While this was going on, the Paish mission continued its discussions with American bankers and the US Treasury. By 26 October, progress was being made, as Paish and his colleague felt that they had ‘removed misconceptions’ about British policy.29 At the same time, another issue intruded on Spring Rice’s Embassy. Representatives of the French and Russian governments told him that Paris and Petrograd were making large purchases in the United States. In such circumstances, Spring Rice put forward the idea that ‘it would appear to be desirable to take into early consideration the question whether it is possible to coordinate the demands of the Allied Powers for financial accommodation in America and the case balances available in order that British credits here may not be exhausted by the action of one or the other Allies without consultation with Great Britain’.30 The advice that Spring Rice received from Paish and Blackett about Allied purchasing in the United States underlined both the lack of expertise that the Foreign Office possessed in this vital matter and the complexity of the matter. Paish optimistically felt that, if France ‘can meet her own expenditure in the United States’, ‘I apprehend no difficulty in meeting the expenditures of England and of Russia’. Blackett, thinking in the best Treasury mode, agreed about France, but contended that ‘the course most advantageous to the Allies would be that France should pay for these supplies by sending gold to England’. As to Russia, he was equally convinced that the Tsarist government should send gold to Britain so that London could ‘transfer ten million pounds sterling of our present American balances to Russia’s credit’. For the long term, he was convinced, presciently as it turned out, that ‘we and France will be compelled eventually to finance practically the whole of Russia’s expenditure on the purchase of war stores outside Russia’. Given this, ‘there is much to be said for a comprehensive scheme for co-ordinating the finance of all the Allies’ purchases in America. It is just as undesirable’, he concluded, ‘that the Allies should be bidding against each other in the American money market as in the American horse fairs, especially as England finds nearly all the cash’.31 By 3 November the Paish mission was ‘going on in a satisfactory matter’, and an agreement with the Americans was offered in which the Bank of England would provide credits to accepting houses so that American debts could be paid in England.32 This would prevent the Americans from having to ship gold, and would improve the exchange rate which had moved dramatically against the dollar since the outbreak of war. This, Paish and Blackett noted, would be of immense value in improving both the international economy and Anglo-American relations generally. However, despite Spring Rice’s warning that an immediate reply was necessary to the above proposals because delay was ‘having an unfortunate effect on public opinion’, the Foreign Office found itself at the mercy of the Treasury. The latter body professed that it was impossible to reply quickly because the ‘question is a very complex one, and as the action taken may have very far-reaching results’, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, needed time to consider matters.33 Indeed, by 20 November, the Treasury informed Spring Rice that no decision could be taken until Lloyd George could consult with Paish and Blackett,

The Foreign Office and maritime war 29 upon their return.34 In fact, a reply was not given until 1 January 1915, long after the critical point had passed.35 Clearly, the vital issue of finance was taken out of the hands of the Foreign Office, and logically so given its lack of expertise on the subject and the centrality of the Treasury to the topic. In fact, the ostensible reason for the Paish mission had been overtaken by events. Increased Allied purchasing in the United States had largely dealt with the exchange issue, and, as Blackett observed, discussion of that matter was ‘becoming an embarrassment to everyone’. However, what the mission did accomplish was to improve relations between Britain and American bankers, with their agreeing on ‘very important points of principle in regard to mutual credit arrangements’.36 Paish put more emphasis on the need to maintain good relations with America. He contended that ‘the successful conclusion of the war may in no small measure be governed by the extent of the economic and financial resources at the disposal of the Allies’. If the needs of the latter were ‘beyond their own resources’, then, if the Allies were ‘allowed to draw upon those of the United States their spending power will become overwhelmingly great’. This was indeed prescient, but his conclusion that the ‘contraband matter’ could be resolved by a British loan to the Americans in order to deal with things like the cotton crop, underlined how the Foreign Office’s ambit was being encroached upon by the exigencies of war.37 This reflected, as well, the different expertise required on such matters. As Spring Rice himself reported to the Foreign Office about the Paish mission as it left for Britain, what they had done was ‘a subject on which I am not competent to form a judgment’. What the Ambassador was capable of doing was reporting that the mission had led to a ‘very great improvement’ towards Britain in American banking circles.38 Throughout December, the Embassy in Washington was deeply involved in the question of contraband, something that Spring Rice and the Foreign Office dealt with on their own. But, another matter was the acquisition of war materiel in the United States. As noted above, Spring Rice had called for ‘one neck to the bottle’ for Allied purchasing, but as was noted at the Foreign Office by Eustace Percy, the War Office ‘probably rather resents our interference’.39 This ‘interference’ had resulted from the fact that there was ‘confusion and counter-bidding in the U.S., which was resulting into chaos’.40 The solution to this problem did not lie with the Foreign Office. When Paish returned to England, he suggested that J.P. Morgan, the influential American banking firm, be appointed as the purchasing agent for all British munitions buying in the United States.41 In mid-January this was done, but there was a measure of how little the Foreign Office was consulted in this matter – which was to be central in Anglo-American relations for the rest of the war – in a small exchange between the War Office and Foreign Office on 18 February. In a letter to the latter, the War Office announced that an American offer of timber supplies had been sent to J.P. Morgan ‘who as Sir E. Grey is aware, have been appointed to negotiate purchases on behalf of the War Department in the United States’. It was indicative of the Foreign Office’s position that one of the clerks at the Office could note on this letter that ‘this is, I think the first we have heard officially of the appointment of Messrs Morgan as Govt agents’.


Keith Neilson

Spring Rice, while well aware of the Morgan position due his personal friendship with J.P. ‘Jack’ Morgan (Spring Rice had been the best man at Morgan’s wedding), was clearly in need of more personnel at the Embassy to deal with the myriad financial and economic issues arising from the war. On 7 January 1915, Grey informed the Ambassador that: I am arranging to send Sir Richard Crawford to Washington as commercial Adviser to the Embassy. He showed such great tact, ability, and expert knowledge at Constantinople that you will am sure be able to trust him with negotiations with the Great Trades who wish for working agreements with us, with discussions with the State Department about contraband, and also to supervise and organize the work of the Consuls in dealing with contraband. I am sure some with expert knowledge is needed to assist the Embassy in these very important and abnormal commercial difficulties and I hope you find Sir R. Crawford a real help.42 While Crawford had acted as Minister Plenipotentiary at Constantinople before coming to the United States, he was not a member of the diplomatic service. His appointment proved to be a marked success. At the Foreign Office, Crawford was felt to be a ‘great comfort to Sir C. Spring Rice and has relieved him of a great deal of his work’.43 This assessment was echoed by the ambassador’s wife, Florence, who noted that Crawford, who ‘was extremely able and gets on very well with these people [American business types]’, had ‘been an immense help’ to Spring Rice.44 But Crawford’s appointment had interesting sidelights that spoke to how and to what extent financial and economic relations remained the bailiwick of the usual Foreign Office establishment. When approving Crawford’s salary and expenses, the Treasury opined that the Commercial Adviser might make his primary residence in New York both on the basis of cost and the fact that much (if not most) of his work would be carried on there. While there was some sympathy for this point of view at the Foreign Office, it did not extend to the head of the Contraband Department (a new department created as a result of the war), Sir Eyre Crowe. He argued that Crawford had gone to the United States ‘to act as adviser to Sir C. Spring Rice’, not as an independent agent. Crowe was therefore insistent that Crawford should have ‘full discretion’ as to where his ‘headquarters’ should be but felt ‘sure that he will choose Washington where the centre of interest really lies’.45 In this, Crowe was reflecting Spring Rice’s own view that the issues were more political than economic. This was evident in his own response to the appointment of Crawford: I am most grateful, and Sir Richard Crawford’s appointment will, I am sure, be most useful. I think that he should reside in Washington and let the business-men come here. I fear I must ask for another Secretary, if possible, for confidential office work, and the pressure is becoming overwhelming. Could he bring some one with him?

The Foreign Office and maritime war 31 As to his work, the situation is so complicated that I should like to explain the local conditions verbally, and I hope that he will come to Washington direct.46 Thus, despite the Treasury’s continuing concerns about cost, Crawford made his primary residence in Washington, but was paid an allowance for his time in New York.47 In the spring of 1915, Anglo-American relations centred around several things, the continuing American complaints about the seizure of United States ships and their cargoes, Washington’s response to the sinking of Lusitania and the shock induced by the resignation of the American Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, in June. However, at the end of that month, the intertwined issues of cotton and British finance in America arose, something that again underlined that many issues in Anglo-American affairs were now being handled outside the Foreign Office. Spring Rice was well aware of these issues, in part due to his friendship with Chandler P. Anderson, the legal adviser to the American State Department. In mid-June, Anderson and Spring Rice discussed the fact that British finances in the United States were approaching a dangerous spot, and Anderson told him that prominent American bankers had suggested that London float a loan for $100 million in New York as soon as possible. As to cotton, Spring Rice pointed out that American cotton producers had sold their entire crop, but to American middlemen, and that Britain could not be blamed for any losses incurred.48 Just over a month later, the situation had changed. Southern planters were demanding that they should be allowed to export their crop to Germany, and this had been taken up in Congress by southern senators, particularly Hoke Smith of Georgia, and linked to the idea that the United States should prohibit the sale of munitions to the Allies. This was a serious business, but dealing with it was done by Crawford. What the Commercial Counsellor had in mind was declaring cotton contraband, and thus legally susceptible to the British blockade, but at the same time buying whatever proportion of the cotton crop as was necessary to support a floor price agreeable to the Southern planters.49 This was not an economic or commercial course of action, but a political one to be used to end the unholy alliance between anti-British elements and Southern planters. This course of action, which turned out to be very successful, cost money. And this again was something that the Foreign Office had little hand in. On 24 July, Grey wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Reginald McKenna, concerning the issue of Britain’s financial position in America. E.C. Grenfell, a senior partner in Morgan, Grenfell (the British aspect of J.P. Morgan), had told Grey that the situation in America was parlous and suggested that the British ship gold to America and that legislative action to ‘acquire United States securities held in this country’ should be taken. Grey’s letter to McKenna underlined how little expertise the former (and by extension the Foreign Office) had with regard to finance. ‘I am much concerned at the situation’, the Foreign Secretary wrote, ‘but do not know enough to judge whether we must or can take the immediate action’ that Grenfell suggested.50


Keith Neilson

In fact, Grenfell’s concerns, which were also passed on to the Treasury, were taken up at the highest level, by the British Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith.51 The latter pointed out to McKenna that as the American contracts must not be ‘dropped through inability to provide exchange for the moment’, the measures advocated by Grenfell had to be adopted, and Russia and France made to provide gold shipments to shore up Allied (which in effect meant British) credit in the United States.52 This, too, was clearly the view of the Americans, and the Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Strong. He pointed out to Anderson that the ‘steady flow of money’ toward the United States from Britain and France was unsustainable for the latter countries without ‘drawing on their credit’. Indeed, he went so far as to project that ‘the time would come when they [the Allies] could not even pay for them [war materials]’.53 The exchange crisis was largely solved at an Anglo-French conference held at Boulogne on 22 August. At that gathering, the French agreed to ship gold to Britain as part of a combined measure to ‘hold for immediate export to the United States a sum of $200,000,000 (two hundred million American dollars) in gold’.54 But this was a temporary patch, and it was evident that the Allies would have to take out a loan in the United States to deal with the matters (including cotton) that Strong had outlined. In fact, the difficulties with exchange had been increased by the formation of the Ministry of Munitions in June 1915. Its minister, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, wished to place large munitions orders in the United States, despite the cautions of the Treasury, where it was stressed that ‘in view of the present condition of the American Exchanges, it has become essential in the national interests that pending completion of negotiations now in progress for providing funds in America, every possible step should be taken to keep the demands of the spending departments in America within the narrowest limits’.55 Such advice was anathema to Lloyd George, who had little faith in the Treasury’s opinions and, in any case, had tied his political future to increasing munitions production. In fact, in late June 1915, he had despatched his political crony, D.A. Thomas, on a mission to North America designed to increase munitions production there (something involving increased expenditure).56 Lloyd George’s response to the Treasury’s strictures was simply to promise consultation but to provide none. This prompted Bradbury to write later to the Minister of Munitions stating that ‘no further orders involving payments either in the United States or in Canada may be placed except in cases of absolute necessity and that in all such cases the previous approval of the Treasury shall be obtained before the commitment is entered into’.57 But all of this depended on getting a loan in the United States. At the end of August, the Cabinet agreed that a ‘financial mission to America’ should be sent, a group composed of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Reading; the Chairman of the London City and Midland Bank, E.H. Holden; an ex-Treasury official and President of the Bank of Turkey, Sir Henry Babington Smith, and Blackett.58 While this mission was central to Anglo-American relations, neither the Foreign Office nor Spring Rice played a significant role beyond the advisory. As Spring Rice wrote to Blackett: ‘You know that this Embassy is not in charge of the mission and that I have not been informed as to its objects except in general terms’.59 The

The Foreign Office and maritime war 33 Ambassador’s role was simply to provide background material as to the political situation in the United States, something that he also furnished to the Thomas mission, where his influence was similarly restricted.60 Such reductions in the role of the Foreign Office in dealing with the United States only increased as the war went on due to the activities of the Ministry of Munitions and the Treasury in the United States and the various missions sent to carry out these duties. The final recognition of this was Spring Rice’s replacement by Lord Reading, when the latter became Ambassador Extraordinary and High Commissioner on Special Mission to the United States. Thus, within a year of the outbreak of war, the Foreign Office’s role in the totality of international relations had changed. However, in some ways, things had remained constant. Traditional issues such as negotiations involving possible post-war settlements remained with the Foreign Office and were carried on in a fashion similar to what had occurred before 1914. However, the many aspects of relations between states had changed because of the war. Nowhere was this more evident than in Anglo-American relations, where issues concerning the purchase of war materiel, finances and the linkage between trade and high politics took on an importance far greater than prior to the outbreak of hostilities, something complicated by the changed international economy.61 One response of the Foreign Office to these difficulties was to create a new Contraband Department in late 1914, which dealt with many of the issues discussed above. The establishment of this body had a long-lasting impact, even after it was transformed into a new, temporary, Ministry of Blockade in 1916. The people who served in the Contraband Department/Ministry of Blockade gained experience in issues of international trade and economics that served them well when they returned to the Foreign Office proper after the war. And, there were institutional changes. In fact, an intradepartmental (Foreign Office and Treasury) Department of Overseas Trade was created at the end of the war as a result of the increased significance of such matters during the conflict, and an economic relations section was created in the Foreign Office in 1933.62 These were retrospective effects. Even during the war itself there was an awareness of the difficulties facing the Foreign Office with respect to the United States and the centrality of that country to the war effort. In November 1916, Lord Eustace Percy put forward a suggestion calling for an enlarged American Department in the Foreign Office.63 He proposed that this new body should ‘take over the work of the American section of the Contraband Department, the enemy exports work of the Commercial Department . . . and any other American work from other Departments which does not absolutely need to be treated as a general question affecting other neutral countries’. The need for an overarching type of Department was evident to Percy: The main reason in favour of the proposal, and a reason which I think overrides any objections, is that at the present moment there is great difficulty in treating relations with the United States in any comprehensive way and so far as I can see, a comprehensive policy with the United States is going to


Keith Neilson become more and more important in the next few months. The constant tendency, which I find it very difficult not to fall in with myself, is to starve the American Department of any real touch with American problems and so far as my personal experience is concerned, it is quite impossible to think out a policy with regard to American in the Contraband Department. Coordination has to be left to the top of the Office and I think it is very important to introduce a proper measure of coordination at the bottom as well.63

This suggestion had its supporters in the Foreign Office, but fell afoul of Eyre Crowe, the head of the Contraband Department. As he noted on 29 November, ‘the American aspect of our blockade policy enters into the consideration of every over section and it is essential that the head of the Contraband dept should have direct control of it. The present proposal’, Crowe went on, ‘is in itself only another makeshift’. He pointed out that Percy’s suggestion left several matters outside the proposed new department. Such arguments carried the day. The Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Charles Hardinge, opined that ‘any change as suggested would in my opinion, result, at the present time, in confusion and consequent inefficiency’. The above returns us to the central question. What was the type of war that the Foreign Office anticipated in 1914 and what was the war that they got? It seems clear that no one anticipated the difficulties that would arise with regard, here, to the United States. A total war was not on the mental horizon at the Foreign Office as, indeed, it was in no other department. The only aspect of what did occur that had been considered before the guns of August began to fire was the difficulties that might arise with the neutrals due to the implementation of economic warfare. These had been anticipated at the Desart Committee’s deliberations in 1911–12, and when they occurred during the war, not least with the United States, the Foreign Office was well prepared to deal with them.64 However, the other issues that came into prominence, involving international trade, finances and the purchase of munitions, had not been anticipated and the Foreign Office was not equipped, either in terms of personnel or expertise, to deal with them. Grey’s ‘disagreeable brood’ remained beyond the powers and mental horizons of the Foreign Office.

Notes 1 Grey to Rosebery, letter, 7 February 1915, Rosebery Papers MS 10028, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. 2 See the valuable work of Zara Steiner, ‘The Foreign Office and the War’, in F.H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 1977), 516–31. This piece builds on and extends Steiner’s seminal study, The Foreign Office and Foreign Policy 1898–1914 (Cambridge, 1969). Valuable background is found in Valerie Cromwell and Zara S. Steiner, ‘The Foreign Office before 1914: A Study in resistance’, in Gillian Sutherland (ed.), Studies in the growth of nineteenth-century government (London, 1972), 167–94 and, particularly, two works by Thomas Otte, ‘Old Diplomacy: Reflections on the Foreign Office before 1914’, Contemporary British History, 18, 3 (2004), 31–52 and The Foreign Office Mind. The Making of British Foreign Policy, 1865–1914 (Cambridge, 2011).

The Foreign Office and maritime war 35 3 For example, see John Fisher, ‘Lord Robert Cecil and the Formation of a Middle East Department of the Foreign Office’, Middle Eastern Studies, 42, 3 (2006), 365–80. 4 Roberta Warman, ‘The Erosion of Foreign Office Influence in the Making of Foreign Policy’, Historical Journal, 15 (1972), 133–59; Kathleen Burk (ed.), War and the State. The Transformation of British Government, 1914–1919 (London, 1982); Keith Neilson and T.G. Otte, The Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1854–1946 (New York and London, 2009), 135–60; M. Swartz, The Union of Democratic Control in British Policy during the First World War (Oxford, 1971); and John Turner, Lloyd George’s Secretariat (Cambridge, 1980). 5 There is a beginning in Arthur Marsden, ‘The Blockade’, in Hinsley (ed.), Grey, 488–515. For the legal issues, see J.W. Coogan, The End of Neutrality. The United States, Britain, and Maritime Rights, 1899–1915 (Ithaca, NY, 1981). 6 Central to this is Kevin H. O’Rourke and Jeffrey G. Williamson, Globalisation and History. The Evolution of the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy (Cambridge, MA. and London, 1999). For the British, Martin Daunton, ‘Britain and Globalisation since 1850: I. Creating a Global Order, 1850–1914’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Cambridge, 2006): 1–38; Gary B. Magree and Andrew S. Thompson, Empire and Globalisation. Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, c. 1850–1914 (Cambridge, 2010). 7 The Foreign Office’s superior attitude towards trade and commerce is well known; see D.C.M. Platt, The Cinderella Service. British Consuls since 1825 (London, 1971). 8 For a survey of Spring Rice’s embassy in Washington during the war and the problems that he experienced, see Keith Neilson, ‘Sir Cecil Spring Rice and the United States, 1914–1917’, in Christopher Baxter and Andrew Steward (eds), Diplomats at War. British and Commonwealth Diplomacy in Wartime (Leiden and Boston, 2008), 65–84. The best study of the topic is Greg C. Kennedy, ‘Strategy and Supply in the North Atlantic Triangle, 1914–1918’, in B.J.C. McKercher and Lawrence Aronsen (eds), The North Atlantic Triangle in a Changing World. Anglo-American-Canadian Relations, 1902–1956 (Toronto, 1996), 48–80. The essential outline of how British plans for economic warfare affected Anglo-American relations is Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon, British Economic Warfare and the First World War (Cambridge, MA. and London, 2012), 232–78. 9 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 46 Commercial, 27 August 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/43896, The National Archives (TNA), Kew, United Kingdom. 10 Crowe’s minutes, 1 and 2 September 1914, in ibid. 11 Hopwood to Hurst (legal adviser, FO), letter, 5 September 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/ 46881; FO to Spring Rice, tel. 43 Commercial, 11 September 1914, FO 368/1159/ 43896/48745. 12 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 53 Commercial, 20 September 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/51220. 13 Spring Rice to FO, disp. 195, 22 September 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/54406; Spring Rice to FO, tel. 56 Commercial, 24 September 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/52676. 14 FO to Spring Rice, tel. 49 Commercial, 29 September 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/53881. 15 Untitled and unsigned minutes of a conference of bankers with Lloyd George and the Governor of the Bank of England, 5 October 1914, T 172/124, TNA. 16 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 60 Commercial, 29 September 1914 and FO to Spring Rice, tel. 82 Commercial, 1 October 1914, both FO 368/1159/43896/54231. For Paish’s own account of how he was recruited by Lloyd George, see Paish, Coll. Misc. 621, British Library of Economic and Political Science, London School of Economics, London. 17 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 68 Commercial, 4 October 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/55929. 18 Bakhmetev to Spring Rice, letter, 10 October 1914, FO 115/1829, TNA. 19 Spring Rice to Governor General, telegram, 10 October 1914 and reply, 11 October 1914, both FO 115/1829. 20 Richard Nosworthy (Vice-Consul, NY) to E. Scott (1st Secretary, British Embassy, Washington), letter, 12 October 1914, FO 115/1829.


Keith Neilson

21 Spring Rice to Governor General, paraphrase telegram, 1 November 1914, Foster Papers, MG 27 II 3 7, vol. 108, Library and Archives of Canada (LAC), Ottawa. 22 WO to FO, letter, 16 October 1914, FO 368/1159/49773/60821, and Spring Rice to FO, private telegram, 17 October 1914, FO 368/1160/60411/60411. 23 Untitled minute, Eustace Percy, 6 November 1914, FO 371/2224/57870/69638, TNA. 24 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 119 Commercial, 11 November 1914, FO 371/2224/57870/70005 and the minute by Eustace Percy, 12 November. 25 Perley to Borden, letter, 14 January 1915, Borden Papers, MG 26, OC 210-OC, H1(a), vol. 47, LAC. 26 Wyldbore Smith (CIR) to Perley, letter, 23 December 1914, F.G.A. Butler (CO) to Perley, 29 December 1914, and Perley to Borden, 31 December 1914, all Borden Papers, MG 26, OC 210, H1(a), vol. 47. 27 For the Russian orders, see Keith Neilson, ‘Russian Foreign Purchasing in the Great War: A Test Case’, Slavonic and East European Review, 60, 4 (1982), 572–90. 28 Perley to Harcourt (Colonial Secretary), letter, 11 January 1915, FO 371/2583/5375/5375. 29 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 90 Commercial, 26 October 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/63128. 30 Spring Rice to FO, disp. 232 Commercial, 28 October 1914, FO 371/2224/5878/69910. 31 Paish to Spring Rice, letter, 27 October 1914; two memoranda by Blackett, both dated 27 October 1914 on French and Russian finance, all FO 371/2224/58787/69910. 32 Spring Rice to Grey, personal letter, 3 November 1914, FO 115/1770; the details of the proposed agreement are in Spring Rice to FO, tels 108 and 110 Commercial, both 5 November 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/67748 and /67927. 33 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 118 Commercial, 11 November 1914; Bradbury (Treasury) to FO, letter, 14 November 1914; FO to Spring Rice, tel. 91 Commercial, 15 November 1914, all FO 368/1159/43896/70004. 34 FO to Spring Rice, tel. 98 Commercial, 20 November 1914, FO 368/1159/43806/73543. 35 FO to Spring Rice, tel. 6 Commercial, 1 January 1915, FO 368/1441/548/548. 36 Blackett’s memorandum for Sir John Bradbury, 27 November 1914, MS Asquith 26, Bodleian Library, Oxford. 37 ‘Memorandum from Sir George Paish’, nd [c. late November 1914], ibid. 38 Spring Rice to FO, disp. 255 Commercial, 27 November 1914, FO 368/1159/43896/80522. 39 Percy’s minute, 7 December 1914, on Bertie (British ambassador, Paris) to FO, tel. 539, 6 December 1914, FO 371/2224/57870/79463. 40 G.R. Clerk’s minute, 7 December 1914, in ibid. 41 Paish, Coll. Misc. 621. 42 Grey to Spring Rice, personal telegram, 7 January 1915, Grey Papers, FO 800/85, TNA. 43 Law’s minute, 27 February 1915, on Treasury to FO, letter, 27 February 1915, FO 368/1444/19613/23632. 44 Florence Spring Rice to V. Chirol (British newspaperman), letter, 7 May 1915, Spring Rice Papers, CASR 1/24, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. 45 Crowe’s minute, 27 February 1915, on Treasury to FO, letter, 27 February 1915, FO 368/1444/19613/23632. 46 Spring Rice to Grey, personal telegram, 8 January 1915, Grey Papers FO 800/85. 47 Spring Rice to FO, tel. 95 Commercial, 6 February 1915, FO 368/1443/7903/14521 and the Treasury’s response. 48 Chandler Anderson diary entry, 18 June 1915, Chandler P. Anderson Papers, Reel 1, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. The cotton issue can be followed fully in Arthur S. Link, ‘The Cotton Crisis, the South, and Anglo-American Diplomacy, 1914–1915’, in J. Carlyle Sitterson (ed.), Studies in Southern History (Chapel Hill, NC, 1957), 122–38; James L. McCorkle, ‘Louisiana and the Cotton Crisis, 1914’, Louisiana History, 18, 3 (1977), 303–21; Bruce E. Matthews, ‘The 1914 Cotton Crisis in Alabama’, Alabama Review, 46 (1993), 3–23. Except where otherwise noted, my account is based on these sources.

The Foreign Office and maritime war 37 49 Chandler Anderson diary entries, 22 and 28 July 1915, Anderson Papers, Reel 1. 50 Grey to ‘My dear McKenna’, private letter, McKenna Papers, MCKN 5/6, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. 51 E.C. Grenfell’s memorandum, 20 July 1915, sent by Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith to Sir John Bradbury, 17 August 1915, Bradbury Papers, T 170/62, TNA. 52 Asquith to ‘My dear McKenna’, confidential letter, 25 July 1915, McKenna Papers, MCKN 5/8. This was a very contentious matter with the Allies; see Kathleen Burk, Britain, America and the Sinews of War 1914–1918 (London and Boston, 1985), 66–8; Keith Neilson, Strategy and Supply. The Anglo-Russian Alliance 1914–1917 (London, 1984), 105–8; Martin Horn, Britain, France, and the Financing of the First World War (Montreal and Kingston, 2002), 89–92. 53 Chandler Anderson diary entry, 5 August 1915, Anderson Papers, Reel 1. 54 ‘Agreed Copy of English version of Boulogne Agreement’, 22 August 1915, T 172/256. 55 Bradbury to Lloyd George, letter, 27 August 1915, Mun 5/168/1141/36, TNA. 56 For the Thomas mission, Burk, Sinews, 30–35; Keith Neilson, ‘R.H. Brand, the Empire and Munitions from Canada’, English Historical Review, 126, 523 (2011), 1434–6. 57 Bradbury to the Secretary, Ministry of Munitions, letter, 26 November 1915, Mun 5/168/1141/36. 58 Burk, Sinews, 65–73, for the mission; Asquith to the King, 27 August 1915, MS Asquith 8, Bodleian Library, Oxford. 59 Spring Rice to Blackett, letter, 6 September 1915, Spring Rice Papers, FO 800/241, TNA. 60 D.A. Thomas to FO, 11 December 1915, FO 371/2589/80688/1901451 and Thomas to Spring Rice, 15 December 1915, Spring Rice Papers, CASR 1/65. 61 Such differences also occurred outside Anglo-American relations. Russia became a place where numerous British missions – military, economic and intelligence – arrived, all of them operating outside the control of the Foreign Office (for this, see Neilson, Strategy and Supply, passim), while the British embassy in Paris found itself bypassed by military men and such British busybodies as Lord Esher (see Keith Hamilton, Bertie of Thame: Edwardian Ambassador (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1990)). Problems dealing with blockade were also central to Anglo-Swedish and Anglo-Dutch relations. For them, see, respectively, Keith Neilson and B.J.C. McKercher, ‘ “The Triumph of Unarmed Forces”: Sweden and the Allied Blockade of Germany, 1914–1917’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 7, 2 (1984), 178–99, and Maartje M. Abbenhuis, ‘In Fear of War: the First World War and the State of Siege in the Neutral Netherlands’, War in History, 13, 1 (2006), 16–41; idem, The Art of Staying Neutral: The Netherlands in the First World war 1914–1918 (Amsterdam, 2006); Marc Frey, ‘Trade, Ships, and the Neutrality of the Netherlands in the First World War’, International History Review, 19, 3 (1997), 541–62; Thomas Otte, ‘ “Between Hammer and Anvil”: Sir Francis Oppenheimer, the Netherlands Overseas Trust and Allied Economic Warfare, 1914–1918’, in Baxter and Stewart (eds), Diplomats at War. Oppenheimer’s career, which illustrates the difficulties involved for the Foreign Office, can be followed sketchily in John McDermott, ‘Sir Francis Oppenheimer: “Stranger Within” the Foreign Office’, History, 66, 217 (1981), 199–207 and more fully in T.G. Otte, ‘ “Alien Diplomatists”: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Germanism in the Diplomatic Career of Sir Francis Oppenheimer’, History, 89, 2, no. 294 (2004), 233–55. 62 See Victor Wellesley, Diplomacy in Fetters (London, 1944), 191–4; D.G. Boadle, ‘The formation of the foreign office economic relations section, 1930–1937’, Historical Journal, 20, 4 (1977), 919–36. 63 Untitled memorandum, Percy, 27 November 1916, FO 371/3071/5893/5893. What follows is based on this document and the minutes. 64 For the Desart Committee, see Lambert, Planning Armageddon, 155–61.


‘Allah is great and the NOT is his prophet’ Sea power, diplomacy and economic warfare. The case of the Netherlands, 1900–1918 T.G. Otte

In August 1913, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands formally opened the Peace Palace, the seat of the Permanent Court of International Arbitration at The Hague. World peace, it seemed, had broken out, and it resided in neutral Holland. The country, argued one of its leading international lawyers, Cornelis van Vollenhoven, was predestined, as a small power, to play the role of moral leader of internationalism and arbitrationism. The Great Powers, by contrast, could not further these causes, for ‘the foundation of their state affairs is nothing but egotism’.1 Not all contemporaries were infected by such optimism. ‘The Peace Palace has been opened’, quipped a socialist-anarchist: ‘The war can now begin’.2 His scepticism proved to be prescient. Less than twelve months after the grand opening of the building, their egotism had plunged the European powers into a global conflict, and the war would challenge Van Vollenhoven’s notion of neutrality. For the belligerents on both sides, the Netherlands, straddling as she did some of the main commercial arteries in North Western Europe, was of great strategic significance. For their part, the authorities at The Hague were only too aware of the potential risks entailed in a continental war. Within living memory, during the post-Crimean international crises and the critical year of 1870, Dutch neutrality had been challenged. Especially in the latter year, British diplomatic intervention had helped to shield the Low Countries against French hegemonic ambitions.3 Since then, successive Netherlands governments had pursued a policy of cautious and equidistant neutrality, indeed pacific aloofness from European politics. The policy of neutrality was commensurate with the country’s status as a now small power, and it was rooted in a clear appreciation of its precarious position in the event of a Great Power conflict in Europe. Only briefly, during the premiership of Abraham Kuyper (1901–05), was this foreign policy consensus challenged. Kuyper, the leader of the conservative Antirevolutionaire Partij, favoured gravitating towards Germany, partly on account of the growing economic importance of the German market and partly because the premier felt a strong political affinity with the Netherlands’ Eastern neighbour. Ultimately, his pronounced proGermanism triggered a Royal intervention. Queen Wilhelmina, herself married to a German prince, Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and on friendly terms

The case of the Netherlands 39 with the German Kaiser, pulled up Kuyper sharp and reaffirmed the principle of neutrality. ‘Without an ally’, the monarch wrote, ‘the Netherlands is free to pursue the policy which is the most advantageous for her, in whatever circumstances she may find herself’. The country had to arm itself against Britain, France and Germany; and ‘as regards our colonies we have to reckon with England, the United States of North America and Japan, and later perhaps with Germany’. Dutch foreign policy, then, had to operate within tightly defined parameters. Any deviation from strict neutrality entailed the risk of an invasion of the mother country or the loss of colonial possessions: Should the Great Powers of the continent be so strong that they could defend our estuaries and sea ports, then an alliance with one of them might be considered. So long as they are not so strong, such a combination appears to be very dangerous. A combination with a great maritime power might bring about a danger for the mother country because it could not defend us against a great continental power. Whichever alliance might be chosen, it would always be like the story of the [small] boat and the ship-of-the-line that are tied together. The conclusion of an alliance in times of peace for defensive purposes in wartime, without being able to foresee or to know them, appears highly dangerous. [. . .] If we were to conclude an alliance in times of general peace, then it would very much curtail our freedom and we would run the risk of being entangled in the affairs of our alliance partner(s).4 The queen’s intervention put an end to Kuyper’s manoeuvres in 1905 – the premier indeed resigned shortly afterwards – and Dutch foreign policy returned to its neutral groove, as defined by the previous foreign minister, the Liberal Willem Hendrik van Beaufort: ‘To live with all Great Powers in as good friendship as possible and with no Great Power in too close an association’.5 The war that broke out in August 1914 confirmed the essential correctness of the queen’s analysis. In sharp contrast to the other ‘Northern neutrals’, the conflict left Holland in an exposed position. She was not so well placed as Sweden to parry British attempts to restrict trade with Germany; nor did her geographical location allow for the role of a ‘neutral ally’ that Norway and, albeit less so, Denmark played.6 If anything, the country was more vulnerable to attack from the East than Belgium, its southern and eastern borders almost inviting German aggression.7 At the southeastern extremity of the kingdom, in the province of Limburg, a narrow strip of Dutch territory around Maastricht stretched southwards towards Luxemburg, thereby creating the strategically vital bottleneck around the Belgian fortress city of Liège. In the south west, possession of territory south of the River Scheldt gave the Netherlands control over the estuary of a largely Belgian river, and thus control over access to Antwerp, itself an inevitable strategic target for the belligerent Great Powers. Two major rivers, the Rhine and the Meuse, both


T.G. Otte

subject to international free navigation treaties and both of vital economic importance to Germany, debouched into the North Sea from Dutch territory.8 Relations with Germany were characterised by a mixture of general wariness of this powerful Eastern neighbour and growing commercial and financial ties. The transit traffic with the German industrial centres in the Ruhr was of great economic importance. Dutch industry was largely dependent on coal imports from the Ruhr since the indigenous coalfields in the province of Limburg could barely meet domestic requirement, so much so that in the years before 1914, nearly 90 per cent of all imported coal came from Germany.9 Dutch relations with Britain were a little distant, especially so since the two Boer wars. There was no small degree of irritation felt in political circles at The Hague at what was regarded as ‘English arrogance towards the weak’.10 At the same time, the possession of significant and economically valuable colonial territories in Southeast Asia and South America made good relations with Britain imperative. On the eve of the First World War, the East Indian colonies accounted for some 10 per cent of the Netherlands’ wealth – in 1870 they had contributed a mere 2.5 per cent.11 The need for closer ties with the world’s leading naval power was reinforced by the country’s close integration into the pre-1914 global, commercial and financial networks. Access to the international sea lanes for the Dutch merchant navy, one of the largest in the world, was largely dependent on the Royal Navy. During the war, Dutch commerce, in fact, was to decrease sharply. The value of imports declined from Nfl 3,903m in 1913 to Nfl 608,000 in 1918, while exports dropped from a pre-war total of Nfl 3,066m to Nfl 318,000, decreases of 84.5 per cent and 90 per cent respectively. There was a sharp decline in the volume of seaborne trade as a result of the Allied blockade and German submarine warfare. Some shipping lines, especially those with Asia, were completely disrupted, leading to a permanent economic re-orientation of the Dutch East Indies towards the United States and Japan. At home, by 1918, the number of ships visiting the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam had fallen to 10.3 per cent and 14.6 per cent of the pre-war figures.12 Changes in Dutch agriculture in the decades before 1914 increased the country’s potential vulnerability in times of conflict. Following stiff competition from cheaper American and Russian grain imports, agricultural production had been modernised since the 1880s. More efficient and more marketoriented now, Dutch farming had shifted from arable farming to cattle and poultry production, dairy farming and market gardening. Any disruption of international grain shipments during a continental war, therefore, threatened starvation for the Dutch population.13 In consequence, throughout the war, the country found itself in ‘the hardly enviable position between hammer and anvil’.14 Already before the conflict erupted, as the Sarajevo crisis gathered pace, the minority Liberal government of Prime Minister P.W.A. Cort van der Linden was determined to maintain Dutch neutrality. In the years before 1914, there had been a lively debate within the Dutch general staff as to how best to defend the country’s territory. Different scenarios, all of them involving the violation of Dutch neutrality, were the subject of staff exercises. The scenario, which formed the basis of the last peace-time war game, in December 1913, was to become reality

The case of the Netherlands 41 in July 1914 – a crisis in the Balkans, followed by Russian mobilisation and a German declaration of war on Russia and France, though this exercise also assumed that Belgium would ally herself with Britain and France and open hostilities against the Netherlands.15 All the exercises revolved around the actions likely to be taken by Great Britain and Germany, Holland’s neighbours at sea and on land. A British attempt to advance up the Scheldt to secure Antwerp, it was assumed, would be accompanied by the landing of an expeditionary force in the south west of the Netherlands to secure passage of troops and materiel along that river. British plans had indeed contemplated such a move, but from 1906 onwards their focus shifted away from that Belgian port to French channel ports, though Dutch defence planners could not, of course, know it.16 More pressing still than a British advance up the Scheldt was the prospect of a German attempt to circumvent the heavily fortified Liège bottleneck by sweeping through the Dutch provinces of Limburg and Brabant. That any German onslaught in the West would entail a push through Belgium was an axiomatic assumption of Dutch general staff plans, even if there was no specific information available.17 Until 1907–08, in fact, German war plans did envisage an advance across Limburg. The aim, as Field Marshal Count Alfred von Schlieffen specified in his last Aufmarschplan for 1905–06, was to take possession of the Meuse bridges at Venlo, Roermond and Maeseyck, and to use the railway lines in the south to speed up the passage of German troops towards their ultimate destination in Northern France.18 Schlieffen’s successor as chief of the general staff, General Helmuth von Moltke, dropped this part of the plan in 1908. Where Schlieffen detected short-term military advantages, Moltke saw the economic advantages of Dutch neutrality in the event of a prolonged conflict. Respecting it was thus a means of disrupting any Allied blockade of Germany as a form of economic ‘encirclement’ in wartime in that it would keep the Dutch sea ports open to international shipping. In Moltke’s analysis, this economic consideration outweighed all other conceivable advantages in advancing through Dutch territory: A hostile Holland at the back could have disastrous consequences for the advance of the German army to the west, particularly if England should use the violation of Belgian neutrality as a pretext for entering the war against us. A neutral Holland secures our rear, because if England declares war on us for violating Belgian neutrality she cannot herself violate Dutch neutrality. She cannot break the very law for whose sake she goes to war. Furthermore, it will be very important to have in Holland a country whose neutrality allows us to have imports and supplies. She must be the windpipe that enables to breathe.19 Whatever the merits of his other revisions of the Schlieffen Plan, in his decision to narrow the onslaught in the West to Belgium, Moltke had shown shrewd judgment. By 1915, close to 50 per cent of all German food imports came from or through the neutral Netherlands.


T.G. Otte

Cold calculations of economic and military advantage aside, personal sentiments and affinities also helped to shield Holland against a German attack. Although less tangible, these nevertheless mattered. The Kaiser, who prided himself on his Orange ancestry, had assured Queen Wilhelmina in December 1908 that Germany would respect her country’s neutrality in the event of a continental war, and even during the war, in 1917, after the Dutch authorities had interned two German U-boats that had strayed into Dutch territorial waters, Wilhelm was adamant that ‘Holland ist in Ruhe zu lassen [Holland is to be left alone]’.20 This was also the official German line once a continental war hove into view in the summer of 1914. The Wilhelmstrasse issued formal assurances that Dutch neutrality would be respected.21 Although this removed the danger of a German thrust through the Maastricht strip, the Cort van der Linden cabinet was determined to defend the country’s neutrality against all comers. Already on 25 July, the chief of the general staff, Lieutenant-General Cornelis Johannes Snijder, had returned from his Scandinavian holiday to take charge of any military preparations which might be deemed necessary – in August he was to be appointed ‘Opperbevelhebber’ (commander-in-chief) of the armed forces. The queen, too, returned to The Hague on 28 July to keep in close contact with her premier. Two days later, the government issued a proclamation of neutrality in any war, followed by a second proclamation that same afternoon of ‘oorlogsgevaar’ (danger of war), a necessary step, prescribed by article 186 of the Dutch basic law, preparatory to general mobilisation. This followed at 3 p.m. on 31 July. The Netherlands was thus the first country in Europe to place its entire armed forces on a war footing in 1914.22 Holland’s rapid mobilisation, no doubt, had a certain deterrence effect. For good measure, Cort van der Linden underscored the government’s resolve in an address to the chamber of deputies in an extraordinary session on Sunday, 2 August: ‘We are ready and determined to maintain our neutrality and, if necessary our national existence [volksbestaan] with all our might’.23 Consciously or not, the premier’s speech invoked an older tradition of Dutch foreign policy, ‘pacifique par principe et guerrière par accident’.24 That Berlin would respect Dutch neutrality was clearly understood by British diplomats. The German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, had indicated as much during his abortive and somewhat maladroit bid for British neutrality on 29 July. Nor was it difficult to fathom the reasoning behind it: ‘in order to safeguard German imports viâ Rotterdam’, noted Sir Eyre Crowe, one of the Assistant Under-secretaries at the Foreign Office.25 A neutral Netherlands had a special strategic significance for Britain. Any attempt to impair the war effort of the Central Powers by cutting off their supplies required the suppression of German seaborne trade out of and transit traffic through the Netherlands. In theory, command of the sea should have enabled the Allied powers to deny enemy merchant vessels access to the maritime highways. Except in the Baltic, German maritime trade had ceased following the outbreak of the war. During the opening rounds of the conflict, the Royal Navy captured, detained or destroyed just under 800,000 of German steamer tonnage, and nearly two thirds of the German merchant fleet was interned in neutral ports. Given Britain’s advantageous geographical position, the

The case of the Netherlands 43 Royal Navy was able to establish a distant blockade to block all access to German ports. As for the shipping lanes of Dutch ports, the mining of the Dover Straits forced all ships in the Channel to sail through the narrow passage between the Goodwin Sands and the Kentish coast, where they were stopped and searched by British patrol vessels. In purely naval terms, the ‘blockade was close to being hermetic’.26 In practice, applying economic pressure on Germany by blockading Dutch ports was fraught with difficulties. Already in 1912, the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) had identified some of the problems. If The Hague remained neutral and its neutral rights were to be respected, it would be well-nigh impossible to apply effective economic pressure on Germany. At the same time, British defence planners understood that forcing the Dutch government to guarantee the domestic consumption of all imported goods was problematic, too. Dutch prosperity, after all, depended to a large degree on the transit trade with Germany. Interfering with it was tantamount to treating the Netherlands as a hostile power. On the other hand, if she was to remain friendly to Britain, some form of compensation would have to be paid for the loss of trade. Conversely, any leaning towards the Allies ran the risk of provoking a German invasion.27 From the perspective of British strategic interests it was preferable that Holland remained neutral. As the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, observed: [T]he continuance of the independence and integrity of the Netherlands depends on our success in this war. But, till we are in a position to assure the Netherlands that we can prevent their being invaded and devastated by German troops as Belgium has been, I do not think that it would be fair in their own interests to suggest that they should cease to be neutral.28 Grey’s reflections underlined that the most pressing problems of the blockade were political rather than naval. Diplomatic solutions, then, were required. In many respects, indeed, a German invasion and occupation of the Netherlands would have simplified British strategic calculations. Extending the blockade to cover the Dutch coast in its entirety was more easily accomplished than coming to an arrangement with The Hague that protected Holland’s trading interests but also suppressed the onwards trade with the Central Powers. Such an arrangement nevertheless formed the most immediate task of British policy towards the Netherlands. It was one of the ‘larger questions of policy’, Crowe had identified one day after the outbreak of the conflict. ‘This war’, he averred, ‘requires us to use all our strength, and to fortify ourselves in every direction that we can’. The neutrality of the smaller northwestern European countries was vital to ‘bring[ing] into a system of fighting alliances a ring of Powers surrounding the enemies’. To guarantee their neutrality, ‘effective financial assistance and supplies of war material’ might be necessary, possibly procured from America.29 Against this backdrop, the Cabinet decided, on 14 August, to ‘invite the Dutch government to come to an agreement to prohibit the export eastwards of imported food-stuffs, we on our side allowing the export from Great Britain to Holland of the coal, which she needs for her own industries’.30


T.G. Otte

There was an ironic twist to the developments during the first fortnight of fighting. With both London and Berlin committed to preserving Dutch neutrality, there was a confluence of their strategic interests. Whilst this gave The Hague grounds for optimism, economic storm clouds were gathering in August and September. Disruptions to maritime trade caused supply problems, which were aggravated by tens of thousands of Belgian refugees fleeing north. In the aftermath of the fall of Antwerp in October that number would swell to one million. The belligerents’ insatiable hunger for raw materials and foodstuffs further deprived Holland of scarce supplies. Owing ‘to the dearth of wheat (and he added fodder for cattle)’, the Netherlands envoy in London informed the Foreign Office, ‘Holland was approaching a very critical situation’.31 Prices soared, and the government was forced to restrict or prohibit the export of certain goods. It even introduced ‘Bruinbroodsweken’ (brown bread weeks) as an economy measure.32 The Hague government now came under political pressure from the belligerents, with the inevitable result that, in trying to accommodate the demands of both sides, it offended both in equal measure. The Germans demanded Holland’s strict adherence to the 1869 Rhine Navigation Act which obligated her to guarantee unfettered riverine trade along that important commercial artery.33 In response to such pressure the Dutch released grain in transit to Germany that had been held at Rotterdam since the outbreak of the war. In turn, this decision caused ructions with the British. Concerned about cargoes in transit, London had forced the Netherlands government to guarantee that all imports were destined for Dutch domestic consumption. The decision now to release grain shipments to Germany was considered ‘an act of “slimness” on the part of the Dutch gov[ernmen]t’, and steps would have to be taken ‘to guard against any repetition of this manoeuvre in the future’.34 There were further problems – not all of them Dutch-made – and it took Whitehall some time before it got to grips with the intricacies of the blockade and its many unforeseen difficulties. In September, for instance, officials were forced to conclude that Britain was powerless to stop a Dutch-based, but British-registered, company from placing orders in Germany.35 Whitehall irritation at the many blockade problems reflected a growing realisation of the limitations of British naval power. For it to be effective, it had to be complemented by more extensive trading restrictions. Here, two problems arose. One was the War Cabinet’s decision to abandon the policy of starving the enemy civilian population. Moral scruples were genuine enough, but equally decisive were practical considerations. The blockade could be turned into a sharper-edged instrument of British power, Crowe observed, ‘by concentrating all our attention on a small number of articles of which we could effectively cut off the supply and the want of whom would make it practically impossible for the enemy to continue his warlike operations’.36 An additional consideration was the firm knowledge that any attempt to cut off trade was bound to stir up disputes about the finer points of international law. More significant still, it had the potential of producing an open breach with the most important neutral Power, the United States. Britain’s economic blockade of

The case of the Netherlands 45 the Netherlands, indeed, took shape in the long shadow cast by Washington. From August 1914, British policy aimed at imposing the maximum control and restrictions on neutral maritime commerce acceptable to the United States government.37 For now, placating America was more easily accomplished than reaching agreements with the ‘Northern neutrals’ on trade restrictions. London’s interpretation of neutral maritime rights was narrow in the extreme itself, a reflection of assumptions of Britain’s naval supremacy. Under the 1856 Declaration of Paris neutral shipping was protected unless it carried ‘contraband’ items. The law of war was further consolidated in the Declaration of London of 1909, the product of the 1907 Hague peace conference. It distinguished between three types of cargo. The first of these, and subject to seizure without exception, was ‘absolute contraband’, under which heading were subsumed all directly war-related materials, such as munitions and military equipment. Dual-use materials, suitable for military and non-military purposes, were classed as ‘conditional contraband’. This category included clothing, foodstuffs, fuel, railway rolling stock and vehicles. Finally, items on the so-called ‘free list’ were supposed always to be exempt from confiscation. But it, too, was problematic, for it included cotton and other textile materials, oil seeds and rubber, and also agricultural fertilisers and metallic ores. A further potential problem lay in the fact that the 1909 Declaration of London had limited the applicability of the doctrine of ‘continuous voyage’ by exempting ‘conditional contraband’ from it. Under that doctrine, cargo destined for a neutral port could be seized by a belligerent power, if its ultimate consignee resided in an enemy country.38 The 1909 stipulations went some way towards protecting neutral shipping in wartime. However, at the time, the House of Lords had refused to ratify the declaration; and the Admiralty had signalled its intention to ignore it if ever it were ratified.39 In August 1914, the British government affirmed its intention to respect the declaration but noted that this would be subject to certain qualifications. In practice, this robbed the 1909 stipulations of much of their meaning. The Orderin-Council of 20 August and a subsequent proclamation of 21 September eroded the distinction between ‘absolute’ and ‘conditional contraband’. The latter was now taken to mean all cargo that might aid the enemy’s war effort, and the ‘continuous voyage’ doctrine was extended to cover it.40 This redefinition created a precedent. It allowed Britain to expand the contraband list further, with the real aim of preventing Germany from building up strategic reserves in anticipation of a protracted war of attrition. All German traders operating in the Netherlands were classed as ‘agents du gouvernement de l’état ennemi’. For the Dutch this was a significant diminution of their rights as neutrals. In practice, warned the Netherlands envoy in London and former foreign minister, Jonkheer Renneke de Marees van Swinderen, Britain and France had effectively ceased to acknowledge ‘the distinction between the civilian and military population’.41 Tighter trade restrictions had potential ramifications for Britain’s standing in the Netherlands, warned the minister at The Hague, Sir Alan Johnstone. Whilst the majority of the Dutch population was wary of the powerful German neighbour,


T.G. Otte

certain sections of the upper classes, and especially the army officer corps, were Germanophile. There was also, though Johnstone did not touch on this in detail, the queen’s German-born consort, who quite openly displayed his pro-Reich sympathies. Key to Dutch policy, argued the envoy, was the country’s commercial elite. The ‘merchant class . . . are trembling for their pockets, and, as honest brokers, dread any action on the part of Britain which may diminish ocean-borne traffic’.42 Johnstone’s warning was clear: further unilateral trade restrictions would tilt the balance of opinion in the Netherlands against Britain and her allies. It was a strategic imperative, then, to secure a framework agreement that allowed for blockade practice of the most restrictive kind but that preserved the essence of Dutch neutral rights. The tension between the two objectives was immense. That an agreement was eventually concluded was very much the result of the work of Sir Francis Oppenheimer, Britain’s German-born commercial attaché for North Western Europe and Scandinavia, residing at Berlin until July 1914. Having established for himself a reputation for penetrating commercial reports and incisive analyses of the economic dimension of German politics, he was the natural choice for the mission to The Hague. The Dutch capital was one of ‘the keyholes of Germany’,43 where Oppenheimer’s commercial expertise and insights into the German economy could be deployed to good effect.44 Together, Oppenheimer in the Dutch capital and Crowe, now heading the Foreign Office’s newly established contraband department, were instrumental in organising Britain’s economic warfare in Holland. Crowe brought order and purpose where there had been chaos and drift. All war-related business of the Foreign Office’s Commercial and Treaty departments was subsumed under the new department. This was ‘the humble beginning of the vast Contraband Department, which grew into the Ministry of Blockade’ in 1916.45 In all but name the new ministry’s Permanent Under-secretary, Crowe provided the intellectual and organisational drive, and turned it into one of the central war departments in Whitehall. The effectiveness of the blockade instrument, one diplomat later reflected, ‘owed as much to the fertility of Crowe’s brain as it did to the Tenth Cruiser Squadron’.46 But without Oppenheimer’s penetrating commercial analyses, keen practical intelligence and astute political manoeuvres at The Hague (and elsewhere), Crowe’s fertile brain and the cruisers in the Dover Straits would have been far less effective. Even so, it was symptomatic of the initial confusion in Britain’s war effort in August–September 1914 that Oppenheimer was merely instructed to gather statistics on Dutch food supplies and to watch the coal trade on the Rhine.47 Oppenheimer’s interviews with J.C.A. Everwijn, the Under-secretary in the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, however, soon established The Hague government’s desire for some form of protection for Dutch exports to third countries. Because of Britain’s attitude, the Dutch official explained, the war would ‘seriously affect the business of Dutch merchant brokers and Dutch exporters’.48 Eventually, Oppenheimer formed the impression that ‘the Netherlands government would be prepared to go a long way towards giving guarantees to enable traders to maintain at least part of their foreign trade’, as far as it had to

The case of the Netherlands 47 rely on overseas imports. Unemployment in Rotterdam and other ports was growing, and placed the Dutch government under some pressure to act.49 However anxious both sides were for a settlement, there were formidable obstacles to be overcome. On 19 September, Grey suggested an arrangement which would prohibit the export from Holland of all merchandise on the British contraband list; and for all goods imported into Holland the Dutch government would have to give a guarantee of domestic consumption.50 The démarche caused a mild panic in the Dutch capital. If accepted, it meant direct government responsibility for all imports into the country, while every lump of coal or side of pork that found its way across the long and porous border with the Reich could be construed as a breach of neutrality. Conversely, to stop all traffic to the East would violate Holland’s obligations under the 1868 Rhine Navigation Act. Either way, the consequences were unpalatable. The situation required careful steering between ‘giving and not giving in’, observed the head of the First Department of the Dutch foreign ministry, Baron D.N. van Heeckeren.51 His political master, Jonkheer John Loudon, took a similar view. A career diplomat rather than a politician, the foreign minister’s ‘qualities [were] friendliness, humanity, great personal charm and absolute straightforwardness, but he has not got a forceful personality’, noted Lord Eustace Percy of the Foreign Office’s War Department.52 Percy’s assessment of his erstwhile acquaintance from Washington days was accurate. Neutrality was the Ming vase in the cupboard of Dutch foreign policy, and Loudon was determined that the precious vessel would not shatter while he shuffled across the parquet floor of international diplomacy. He rejected Grey’s proposal as inconsistent with Dutch neutral rights, but held out the prospect of a compromise. Rather than an official guarantee of domestic consumption for all imports, he suggested that the private consignees should give such an undertaking. For as long as Whitehall was uncertain about the volume of re-exports to Germany, advised Swinderen, such a course offered the best prospect of success.53 While the two governments were thus feeling their way towards some arrangement, the Dutch position became more precarious still. In October, London revised yet again the contraband list, and all copper and petroleum imports into Holland were now included.54 On this matter, and on the shipping restrictions in general, the British and Dutch positions remained far apart. Oppenheimer’s talks with Everwijn, however, offered a way forward. The Under-secretary put the former in touch with the Commissie voor den Nederlandschen Handel (Commission for Dutch Trade) (CNH). It had been formed by influential financiers, merchantbrokers and shipping magnates to advise The Hague with the aim of safeguarding the country’s commercial interests. In the course of the meetings between the CNH and Oppenheimer the outlines of two possible solutions emerged. One was the extension of the contraband list to include all goods and raw materials which the British authorities deemed potentially beneficial to the German war effort. Only a Dutch government guarantee of their final domestic destination would lift the export ban on such items that was to be bolted onto the extended list; and Dutch shipping merchants would give an undertaking only to carry goods that


T.G. Otte

were clearly identified as destined for Dutch end-users residing in the Netherlands. Not all of Britain’s grievances would be removed by such an arrangement, observed Orme Sargent, then a junior clerk in the Contraband Department. It had one crucial advantage, however. It went ‘a long way towards obviating the present danger of goods consigned to Rotterdam “to order” or even a Dutch firm being subsequently declared to be “in transit” and thus escaping into Germany’.55 On 3 October, the Dutch advanced a scheme of graduated, multiple and mutually reinforcing guarantees. Under it, merchants were to guarantee the domestic destination of their cargoes. On receipt of such a guarantee, the shipping lines would submit their own guarantees to the Dutch government, and The Hague would then formally affirm them to the British government. The scheme was initially designed to apply only to the Holland-Amerika-Lijn shipping company (HAL), which carried grain for the Dutch government, and in which a GermanAmerican consortium held a significant number of shares.56 Eventually, it was intended to roll the scheme out to cover all shipping. There were still problems with the scheme. Responsibility for its operation was shared by too many agencies, and there was no proper guarantee by the government at The Hague. It was, however, a first indication that the Dutch were anxious now to stop the uncontrolled trade in foodstuffs; and, as such, it furnished the basis for further discussions.57 This was also the view of the Foreign Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade, Walter Runciman, with both of whom Oppenheimer discussed the state of the talks during a brief visit to London in early October. It seemed more profitable to send the attaché to conclude the talks at The Hague. He had the necessary commercial and legal expertise, and he had proved himself to be a doughty negotiator. Loudon, for his part, wished for the discussions to continue in the Dutch capital; and both he and Grey shared a certain mistrust of Swinderen.58 Oppenheimer’s talks at The Hague were inching towards an agreement. The economic pressure of the blockade was beginning to tell on the Dutch government. An amended version of the mutual guarantee regime was now to apply to all conditional contraband, while an export ban was to be imposed on all other commodities, if these were vital to meeting domestic demand. Items thus designated would be consigned to the Netherlands government, thereby providing the official guarantee of home consumption, requested by Britain.59 Through one of his contacts Oppenheimer had learnt of talks between Dutch officials and American oil companies to ensure that all fuel imports were consigned to the Dutch government. It was a clear indication of The Hague’s preference for such semi-private, quasi-official guarantees reinforced by government assurances.60 For the British such a solution also had its uses in that it helped to circumvent official opposition to formal guarantees. Oppenheimer had little faith in the Dutch government’s protestations of its willingness to settle. Too strong, he reasoned, was the temptation to limit the application of Everwijn’s scheme. This made the CNH a more attractive proposition as the principal conduit for organising the blockade effort. The list of contraband raw materials could be significantly extended, he argued, ‘through saddling the [CNH] . . . with responsibility

The case of the Netherlands 49 concerning [the] bona fides of traders and in consequence concerning [the] destination of certain raw materials imported into Holland’.61 Running the blockade through a quasi-governmental organisation in the Netherlands was now the preferred option for the British, not least because official negotiations at The Hague remained impaled on thorny questions of definition. For one thing, there was no cast-iron guarantee, noted Crowe, that cargoes consigned to a named consignee residing in Holland might not be re-declared ‘in transit’ on arrival at Rotterdam.62 For another, the Netherlands government was not ready to accept more than an export and re-export ban on all goods declared to be ‘indispensable for the Dutch market’. It was progress of sorts. The distinction between ‘goods in transit’ and those intended for domestic consumption, observed Johnstone, gave Britain a free hand to confiscate the former, while The Hague undertook it to prevent the latter from reaching Germany. The distinction, noted C.J.B. (later Sir Cecil) Hurst, the Foreign Office’s legal adviser, ‘will strengthen our position in respect of any ships’ held up by Royal Navy vessels ‘in respect of consignments not addressed to the [Netherlands] government’. It was hardly a robust guarantee, however. Making the needs of the Dutch market the basis of this arrangement, created a significant potential loophole, as Sir Algernon Law, Assistant Under-Secretary in charge of commercial matters at the Foreign Office, pointed out: ‘It prevents leakage, i.e. nothing can (without smuggling) get through, while the cup of Dutch requirements is not full’. But if, on the other hand, ‘the cup is full, the law does not prevent an overflow into Germany’.63 There were further problems with the scheme in its current form, Sargent explained in a detailed memorandum on enemy supplies through contiguous, neutral countries. Some articles on the British contraband list might be deemed vital to Dutch export interests, and so generate tensions with the Netherlands government. It might be politic to accept private assurances in the place of formal guarantees, but the blockade was far from hermetic, Sargent warned. Intercepted telegrams, indeed, indicated ‘that unscrupulous firms [were] trying to deceive the Dutch Government as to the ultimate destination of some cargoes’.64 The breakthrough in the Anglo-Dutch negotiations came at the end of October. Although Oppenheimer had not been instructed to make any proposals, he developed his scheme of a CNH-backed import guarantee, on 23 October, in a private conversation with Dr Joost van Vollenhoven. A lawyer-politician representing Rotterdam in the Dutch Chamber, Van Vollenhoven was in close touch with the city’s maritime and Rhine trading interests, and he was the driving force behind the CNH. No doubt the British commercial attaché’s powers of persuasion were considerable, but more important still was the ratcheting up of Britain’s blockade pressure. On 29 October, in a third Order-in-Council, the British authorities extended once more the contraband list. More significant still, with the Order-inCouncil, London terminated ‘the provisional arrangement . . . by which all foodstuffs have for some time been allowed to go to Holland without any guarantee whatever as to their ultimate destination’.65 Furthermore, in response to German mine-laying operations, on 2 November, the whole of the North Sea was proclaimed to be a ‘war zone’. Neutral shipping was safe now only provided it kept to


T.G. Otte

specified sea lanes. The move marked a further escalation of Britain’s economic warfare efforts. Indeed, it was the beginning of a spiral of measures and countermeasures that would ultimately erode the very framework of maritime law itself.66 From the perspective of the Dutch government, in the face of such adversity, Oppenheimer’s proposal offered a way out of the current impasse. On 14 November, Vollenhoven informed the commercial attaché that a new private company, the Nederlandsche Overzee Trustmaatschappij (Netherlands Overseas Trust), would be formally registered ten days hence. It was financed by fifteen major financial and commercial companies. The most prominent of these was the Nederlandsche Handels-Maatschappij (Netherlands Trading Company). Established in 1824 as a state monopoly for the trade with the East Indies, by the 1890s the NHM had developed into a large modern banking and commercial corporation with significant shipping interests in Asia and South America. Its director since 1902, (Cornelis Johannes) Karel van Aalst, a man of remarkable financial nous and extensive contacts in government circles surpassed only by his energy and ruthlessness, took over the presidency of the NOT, while its executive board was drawn from amongst the members of the CNH.67 Its sole purpose was to take charge of all maritime commerce, acting as a private agency to facilitate import trade without trading itself. It was to reconcile Dutch commercial interests with the requirements of Allied economic warfare. The nub of this arrangement was a simple one. Dutch import merchants had to enter into contractual obligations with the agency, under which they had to declare all cargo to the NOT, subject to British contraband rules. The Trust then certified the domestic end-use of all consignments destined for ports in Holland or the Dutch colonies. Ships carrying goods thus NOT-certified had to fly the so-called ‘NOT-kegel’, a large canvas cone with distinctive black and white stripes visible at sea even at great distance. In return, the British government was to give an undertaking not to restrict imports into Holland further. The NOT regime was far better suited to Britain’s needs than London’s original British idea of an official Dutch guarantee ‘because the merchants are certainly better able to watch what becomes of a cargo than the government would be’, as Johnstone argued.68 The foundation of the Trust was a diplomatic solution to Britain’s Dutch problem, utilising private enterprise as an integral part of the naval blockade. This in itself would be a recurring theme of Britain’s economic warfare until the end of the war. The decisive break-through had been made, even though the final details of the new regime had not been agreed yet. Securing robust safeguards as to the final destination of cargo remained a major problem during the final phase of the negotiations. Under the given arrangements, as Van Vollenhoven was forced to concede, it was well nigh impossible to prevent the re-export of goods from Holland. At the root of this problem was an amalgam of legal technicalities and British commercial interests. For at that moment, shipping manifestoes carried no declaration of ultimate destination.69 This anomaly helped to protect British maritime trading interests. All foreign vessels heading for Dutch ports were intercepted and searched by the Royal Navy. British steamers, meanwhile, plying a considerable trade in ‘conditional contraband’ with the Netherlands, especially

The case of the Netherlands 51 copper, rubber and wire, passed without hindrance, provided the goods were consigned to private firms. There was divided counsel in Whitehall on this matter. Some officials pressed for the NOT to act as guarantor of all imports; others recommended that certain goods, most notably copper and oil, be consigned to the Dutch government, with the NOT taking responsibility for all other imports. In the end, it was left to Oppenheimer to settle the matter at The Hague.70 The absence of clearly defined plans for blockading the Netherlands at the beginning of the war and the ‘blank cheque’ for Oppenheimer were suggestive of the many teething problems of Allied economic warfare. As if to underline the lack of coherence in the Whitehall apparatus during the first six months of the war, Oppenheimer and the Foreign Office’s Contraband Department were discussing the problem of Dutch imports in ignorance of parallel discussions in the Office’s Commercial Department and the inter-departmental contraband committee.71 As so often during the opening months of the war, the Foreign Office adopted the commercial attaché’s proposals. Tighter controls were imposed on all exports to Holland carried on British steamers; all shipping manifestoes had to identify the Netherlands as the ultimate destination of the cargo carried. With the NOT, Oppenheimer observed, Britain had ‘secured the guarantee of a very efficient, keen and honest body of practical men. I am convinced that the system would work satisfactorily’.72 There were still legal and technical hurdles to be jumped before the NOT came into existence. London nearly torpedoed the whole scheme by objecting to Loudon’s suggestions to extend the Trust’s remit. Ultimately, Oppenheimer and the British chargé d’affaires, Hugh Chilton, ‘outbluffed’ the Netherlands foreign minister, who accepted the British regulations and consented to the NOT executive signing the agreement with the British on 29 December.73 ‘Now’, asked Oppenheimer jokingly as Van Aalst appended his signature to the treaty, ‘does the world stand still for just one second?’74 It did not, and on 11 January 1915, the first NOT certificates were issued for Holland-bound shipments.75 If the birth of the NOT had been attended by many complications, then its first steps after January 1915 were unsteady. Much of the Trust’s work was hampered by diverse technical problems. The export from Holland of goods manufactured from licensed imports of contraband material, for instance, was a source of some tension between the British and the Dutch; and so was the precise categorisation of oil derivatives and distillates.76 Even so, the establishment of the NOT was regarded as a major success in Whitehall, and Oppenheimer was dispatched to neutral Switzerland to set up a similar private agency controlling all imports there, the Société Suisse de Surveillance Économqiue (SSS). Indeed, it and the contemporaneous agreement with Denmark emulated the NOT model.77 Oppenheimer’s creation thus formed a central plank of Britain’s economic warfare in North Western Europe. As Gerald Hyde Villiers, the assistant senior clerk in the newly established Contraband Department at the Foreign Office, observed in late 1914, ‘[t]he “NOT” is a child of the Contraband Dep[artmen]t’.78 This departmental paternity claim was not, perhaps, entirely truthful. But the evident satisfaction with which it was made underscored the significance of the NOT for


T.G. Otte

the British maritime blockade. It enabled British diplomacy to maintain the fiction that the neutrality of the Dutch government remained unimpaired. The significance of this consideration went well beyond Anglo-Dutch relations, and touched on Britain’s dealings with the most important neutral, the United States. The NOT was thus an instrument for reducing, if not altogether removing, disputes with Washington over neutral shipping rights. If previously the Foreign Office had to plead with the Dutch ‘to leave the United States out of the account’,79 or bully them into doing so, now the NOT helped to shield official Anglo-Dutch relations from American interference. For the Netherlands, the Trust’s sole purpose was to appease the British. As this could only be done by disrupting the trade with Germany, a private agency was preferable to an official body, since such an organisation could easily have been construed by Berlin as a breach of the Rhine navigation treaty, and so might furnish a pretext for pressurising the Netherlands. The NOT, then, was a British-made vice, designed to constrict Germany’s economic ‘windpipe’. Once established, the NOT soon began to grow. Already in February 1915, Oppenheimer suggested broadening its responsibilities: As the Trust is proving very effective and friendly would it not be best to have all consignments of contraband addressed to the Trust . . . ? The Trust already superintends the formalities of [grain, copper and oil] traffic in a branch of its own office – but has not actual control. I have held throughout that the NOT guarantee is more efficient than the Government guarantee.80 This idea chimed in with recent thinking in Whitehall. If all contraband goods were ‘consignable to the Trust’, argued William Garnett of the Contraband Department, the Trust would have far ‘greater control over the disposal of contraband when it reaches Holland than the Dutch Gov[ernmen]t does’, and this would benefit British strategic objectives.80 Garnett’s comments, indeed, were suggestive of London’s growing suspicions of the Netherlands government, irrespective of Grey’s expressions of official appreciation for its actions.81 The further extension of the NOT’s activities eventually came about in response to external challenges. Germany’s decision, in February 1915, to embark upon unrestricted submarine warfare led to a significant loss of Dutch steamer tonnage. But it also changed the dynamics of Anglo-Dutch relations. London responded to the German U-boat campaign, on 11 March 1915, by extending its blockade measures across the North Sea in its entirety. In the face of the further escalation of naval warfare, the government at The Hague had no option but to agree to the transfer to the NOT of all cargo destined for Holland.82 This latest turn of events, vigorously exploited by the NOT’s ambitious president, transformed the fortunes of the agency. And it thus changed the nature of Anglo-Dutch relations as well as the dynamics of Dutch domestic politics. The Trust was the keystone of the Allied blockade architecture, but it also emerged as a player in its own right in Dutch politics, acting independently of the government. In an exchange of notes at the end of 1914, Loudon had accepted that the

The case of the Netherlands 53 NOT Executive Board should be empowered to deal directly with British officials. Soon, however, the agency was widely seen as a ‘state within the state’ and its executive as a ‘nevenregering’ (parallel government).83 Van Aalst, meanwhile, was described in the Dutch papers as the ‘uncrowned King of Holland’.84 Indeed, the organisation had steadily grown in the first year of its existence. An entire network of branches and dependencies spread across the Dutch capital from its headquarters at 35 Nordeinde. If, in 1915, its staff comprised a mere six clerks, the number of NOT employees had grown to nearly 1,000 by 1916. This reflected the exponential growth of the agency’s remit. Various new bodies emerged to regulate ever more areas of commercial and industrial life in the Netherlands, such as the Margarine Consumption Control Bureau, established in December 1915 as a NOT-affiliate to control dairy exports.85 By the winter of 1915–16, reported Arthur Henderson, the Labour leader and minister in the wartime coalition, ‘nearly all control of commercial affairs is vested in the NOT’.86 Such was its influence that one merchant commented that he did whatever the NOT commanded him, ‘thinking all the while: “Allah is great and the NOT is his prophet” ’.87 Not everyone was quite so philosophical. The NOT’s growing presence, combined with the fact that, in practice, it was the tool of a foreign power caused resentment. A cartoon in the weekly De Nieuwe Amsterdammer caught the popular mood. It depicted a remarkably haggard-looking Britannia tightening a Dutch girl’s corset – marked NOT – with the English caption: ‘Not to be or to be NOT’.88 An added complication was that the NOT had to balance the separate commercial interests of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Holland’s two trading entrepôts had quite different commercial orientations. Rotterdam, straddling the Meuse-Waal delta, was largely dependent on the Rhine trade. Its merchants were represented on the NOT executive by Anton Kröller, one of the largest grain merchants, iron ore and minerals traders with a stake in the Rotterdamsche Bankvereeniging as well as food processing companies.89 As with other Rotterdam traders he was primarily concerned with the riverborne trade with Germany. He was thus ‘[a]n exception to the pro-British tendency of the Trust Executive’.90 Kröller’s connections with the Norddeutscher Lloyd shipping line had attracted the attention of the British already earlier. In 1915, alerted by telegraphic intercepts, British diplomats successfully torpedoed attempts by German and American financiers to sell their holdings in the NHM-controlled Koninklijke Hollandsche Lloyd to Kröller, fearful that he would sell on to Netherlands-based ‘strawmen’ acting in German interests and so turning the shipping line into a ‘German’ company in all but name.91 The war-induced restrictions under which Dutch commerce laboured notwithstanding, Kröller appreciated the many opportunities which the conflict proffered to enterprising merchants. Germany’s need for foodstuff, for instance, was ‘an unexpected rain shower of gold which has descended upon the Netherlands’, he pointed out to Loudon.92 Even so, his pro-German sympathies were counterbalanced somewhat by his worldwide interests. By contrast, Amsterdam’s commercial activities were largely focused on transAtlantic shipping and the colonial trade. The political corollary of this commercial


T.G. Otte

orientation was a leaning towards the Allies. The delicate balance between the Amsterdam and Rotterdam economic interests affected the inner workings of the NOT Executive Board and circumscribed Van Aalst’s position as president. For his part, Van Aalst considered Kröller’s German tendencies economically unsound, if not downright dangerous. Given the Netherland’s dependence on maritime and more especially transoceanic commerce, closer economic ties with Germany threatened to undermine the arrangements the NOT had made with the Allies. Kröller and his Rotterdam clique had failed to appreciate Holland’s true strategic interests. ‘The main object of our endeavour’, he reflected, was ‘to keep the traffic with our colonies going and to disrupt economic life there as little as possible and to maintain trade routes with North and South America’.93 Van Aalst’s insistence on strict neutrality did not prevent him from launching – possibly encouraged by the German envoy, Dr Friedrich Rosen – an abortive peace initiative in early 1917, offering his services as a conduit between Berlin and London.94 But in so far as managing the NOT was concerned, Kröller’s presence on its Executive acted as a considerable constraint on Van Aalst. Under these circumstances, it was Van Vollenhoven, the deputy and expert in shipping and maritime law, who provided the vital backchannel to Oppenheimer and the British blockade operation. Without his services, Oppenheimer’s often fraught relations with the NOT president might well have broken down irrevocably.95 While the NOT’s range of responsibilities steadily grew, the British economic warfare apparatus at The Hague remained something of a pygmy unit. Matters changed on Oppenheimer’s return to the Dutch capital in November 1915. From then on, he organised the Allied blockade effort from the legation’s commercial chancery. In happier days before the war, it had been the mission’s ball-room. Where once the British minister had hosted diplomatic receptions, Oppenheimer’s expanding staff was now busy compiling trade statistics and reports on smuggling across the German frontier near the Rhine toll at Lobith.96 In this work, Oppenheimer was aided by two senior assistants, Percy Dunville Botterell and Richard Valentine Laming. The former was a City solicitor specialising in shipping, the latter a Dutch-educated agricultural expert.97 The ease with which the Whitehall war apparatus was able to recruit specialist outsiders to such positions was indicative of the British state’s ability to mobilise wider networks of people for the war effort. The labours of Oppenheimer’s office were not confined to monitoring imports or blacklisting delinquent importers and similar NOT-related matters. They also involved cultivating the Dutch press and exploiting the propaganda value of commercial fairs. A lengthy exposé on the value of Dutch agriculture exports to Britain in one of the commercial papers, for instance, was inspired by Oppenheimer.98 During his four years at The Hague Oppenheimer established for himself the reputation as a hard-working, tough but fair-minded interlocutor, so unlike ‘some of the perfumed salon diplomatists’.99 Oppenheimer’s drive and undoubted organisational abilities aside, at the root of the expansion of blockade-related activities was a combination of the escalation of naval warfare in the North Sea and problems left unresolved at the time

The case of the Netherlands 55 the NOT was established. Prominent among the latter was the certified consignment system. This helped to reduce the flow of Dutch re-exports to Germany and Austria-Hungary, but it could not staunch it altogether. Indeed, as Algernon Law had anticipated in the autumn of 1914, against the sale of surplus agricultural produce to Germany the NOT proved wholly ineffective. In early 1916, it transpired that the largest proportion of dairy and meat imports into Germany came from the Netherlands: ‘Holland is exporting (in spite of export prohibitions, which are meant to control and not to prevent export) all her available agricultural produce to our enemies at famine prices’, observed Aretas Akers-Douglas, one of the many senior diplomats of the interwar period who passed through the Contraband Department.100 Throughout 1915 further restrictions were imposed on Dutch commerce. In November, the Foreign Office had foisted new ‘rationing’ arrangements on the NOT, which covered a range of mostly agricultural crops. In this manner, as Oppenheimer later reflected, ‘[t]he Trust . . . became the means for negotiating and carrying into effect further means which Allied Governments were compelled to devise in pursuit of their economic war policy’.101 In an effort to throttle yet further the flow of agricultural exports to Germany, London forced an NOT-style private agency, the Nederlandsche Landbouw Export Bureau (Dutch Agricultural Export Office), to sign a preclusive purchasing agreement. Under its terms, the agency was obligated to sell to Britain a specified proportion of Dutch agricultural exports at fixed prices. It precluded the sale of all surplus produce to the Central Powers, and the British legation repeatedly reminded Loudon that ‘a most serious view would be taken of what would constitute a breach of the agricultural agreement’.102 The new arrangement proved remarkably effective, and left German efforts to import foreign foodstuffs hamstrung. Indeed, the preclusive purchasing agreement was so effective that it contributed to Berlin’s decision, in February 1917, to gamble everything on a final resort to the U-boat weapon.103 Once again, the logic of the economic blockade fuelled the further escalation of naval warfare. In turn, the cycle of measures and counter-measures by the belligerent Great Powers stimulated the growth of the blockade efforts. As the conflict wore on, so attempts to limit exports to the Netherlands to levels that were deemed sufficient to meet domestic demand, but were unlikely to be re-exported, now extended to an ever-expanding range of goods and materials. This was a source of considerable friction between the two sides. In the summer of 1916, The Hague protested at the detention of Dutch trawlers operating in British waters, but to no avail. Some 90 per cent of the Dutch herring catch was sold to Germany, Lord Robert Cecil, the blockade minister, retorted; and although he held out the prospect of some compensation, Britain would not budge.104 The NOT, for its part, resisted all suggestions of an export ban on cyanide, carbide or rubber. The stand-off had wider political ramifications. It had the potential to undermine the blockade, warned Gerald Spicer, senior clerk in the American Department and the Foreign Office’s representative on the Whitehall contraband committee: ‘It is important . . . to get the Trust to work with us, & if we act in a manner which seems to them to be arbitrary we shall only drive them into an attitude of opposition’.105


T.G. Otte

The fact that, under the auspices of the NOT, the two governments did not directly negotiate helped to reduce Anglo-Dutch wartime friction. To a degree, the informality of Oppenheimer’s links with Van Vollenhoven or Everwijn at the agriculture ministry lubricated the blockade machinery at The Hague. Even so, or perhaps because of it, the commercial attaché was not above ‘rais[ing] hell’ whenever he judged it politic to do so. In early 1915, for instance, he used the threat of detaining licensed consignments to force the NOT to accede to London’s proposals.106 There were other factors which contributed to Anglo-Dutch frictions. Dutch public opinion blamed the NOT for tax hikes and the growing scarcity of staple food items. There were food demonstrations and potato riots. ‘The potato is the burning topic at the moment’, reported the new British minister at The Hague, Sir Walter Townley.107 In early July 1917, in Amsterdam, an angry crowd seized fifty tons of potatoes about to be shipped to Britain. Three railway trucks and two lighters were looted, and armed police and soldiers opened fire on the protesters, killing one boy and mortally wounding another.108 In many ways, the year 1916 marked the zenith of the NOT’s powers and of the British blockade efforts at The Hague. America’s joining the war in the following spring further tilted the balance in Anglo-Dutch relations, already weighted in Britain’s favour. From now on, the NOT’s role as a mediator between Holland and the Allies and in Dutch domestic affairs declined. As the former foreign minister W.H. de Beaufort reflected six months after the US entry into the war, Washington’s transformation from neutral to belligerent was ‘a true calamity’ for the Netherlands.109 Previously, the country had sheltered under America’s umbrella. With the United States joining the conflict, Holland was now exposed to the full blast of war, her means of protecting her rights and interests now reduced to the ability of the authorities at The Hague to manipulate the interests of the belligerents. And they did not brook much interference. By mid-1917 the Netherlands government was in a precarious position: ‘[T]he potato [was] not the only black cloud in the sky’.110 Two further issues – German transit traffic in sand and gravel and the reduced shipping capacity of the Allied powers – curtailed The Hague’s ability to steer an independent course. The former highlighted the difficulties inherent in the blockade regime in distinguishing clearly between military and non-military usage of cargo; and it led to disputes between the Netherlands and both sides in the war that would rumble on throughout 1917 and 1918. In the previous summer, the German government had first demanded that the transport of sand and gravel to occupied Belgium be permitted across Dutch territory. Berlin gave assurances that this was building material needed for the repair of Belgian roads, but would not be used for primarily military purposes. Whatever his own private doubts, mindful of the country’s obligations under international law, Loudon decided to permit the transport of such materials to continue as long as there was no proof that they were intended for military use.111 This, however, was precisely the assumption made in Whitehall. What other use could there be for sand and gravel than to make concrete needed for the building of pillboxes, shelters and other fortified front-line positions along the

The case of the Netherlands 57 ‘Siegfriedstellung’ along the Western Front? Following British pressure, Loudon then imposed a monthly limit on the volume of sand and gravel transit traffic across Dutch territory. But this did not placate the British. If anything, their pressure grew, the more so since the failed offensives at Ypres and Passchendaele in July 1917 had underlined the ability of the German concrete-reinforced dug-outs to withstand any onslaught. Loudon was slow to comprehend the visceral anger of the British authorities at Holland’s perceived collusion with the enemy, and their determination to ratchet up the pressure. He was committed to maintaining the country’s neutrality, Loudon affirmed, but he was obliged, under the Rhine Navigation Act, to respect the freedom of all riverine commerce, unless it involved war-materials. In the autumn, he noted with dismay that statements on the sand and gravel question made by Arthur James Balfour, Grey’s successor as Foreign Secretary since December 1916, had created ‘a painful impression in government circles here’. But he could not bring himself to believe that Britain would abuse her power to resort to any ‘represaille maatregel’ (retaliatory measures).112 But that was precisely what the British government was resolved to do. Much of British irritation was focused on the Dutch foreign minister. A note from Loudon to Rosen, the German envoy at The Hague, indicating that the Dutch government was disposed to permit the continued transit of sand and gravel, subject to verification of their end-use in Belgium by Dutch officers, was intercepted by British intelligence at The Hague and led to a collective raising of eyebrows in Whitehall.113 As Townley observed in conversation with Van Aalst, Loudon had shown ‘the greatest possible naivety’ in accepting that sand and gravel would be used for peaceful purposes. Indeed, the foreign minister had confessed to him his own suspicions on that score. Information from an undisclosed German source had led him to conclude that: the sand and gravel would be used for military ends, whereupon he [Townley] had laughed that Mr Loudon had fortified his assumptions with this [information]. In this manner, said he, had Mr Loudon the deaths of hundreds [!] of English soldiers on his conscience and it was for this reason that the Eng[lish] Gov[ernment] had decided to go to extremes [tot het uiterste te gaan].114 On 2 October, the British authorities cut the Dutch telegraphic cable, thus severing The Hague’s lines of communication with the outside world, including the Dutch East Indies, and forcing Dutch officials and merchants to use Allied cables. At the same time, the NOT undertook it to vet all telegraphic financial transactions to prevent Germany and Austria-Hungary transferring money from or to their American contacts through banks in the Netherlands.115 The British government saw itself justified ‘in withdrawing commercial favours after repeated and unavailing protests’, argued Lord Robert Cecil. Belgium’s pre-war requirements, estimates suggested, could be supplied by the country’s quarries four times over: ‘There is therefore practically no civilian demand’. There was, however, demand for military purposes: ‘To meet it the Germans are importing sand & gravel by every means in their power & that going by Holland is no small part of the total’.116


T.G. Otte

This latest escalation nevertheless presented British blockade diplomacy with a dilemma. At home, reflected Townley, Loudon was no longer the undisputed upholder of neutral rights, and critical voices were now more frequently raised. Even so, it: would not be in our interest that he should go, although on account of his extreme weakness and inability to say what he knows it would be disagreeable to hear, he is by no means an ideal Foreign Minister to do business with. [. . .] All the same he is undoubtedly pro-Ally at heart, though so intent upon preserving his neutral attitude that it is hard to detect in his public acts much good feeling for us.117 There were broader issues involved than the personal failings of the Dutch foreign minister, however, as Townley observed before the telegraph cables were cut. The blockade was beginning to tell on Dutch public and economic life. Restricting food supplies, he argued, ‘will undoubtedly cause a good deal of grumbling’. More significant was the coal shortage, especially if the coming winter were to be harsh. It would not only cause discomfort for the civilian population, but also paralyse Dutch industrial production. Townley therefore thought it likely that Germany might supply Holland’s wants and so draw her into the German orbit. To avert this danger, the minister advocated that the Allies ought to provide much needed fuel to the Dutch. If this were not done, ‘there would be the danger both of strikes and of labour going over into Germany to find work in the munitions factories, as happens today, largely because so many industries have either had to shut down or reduce their employment of labour’. Townley’s analysis did not meet with universal approval in Whitehall. E.H.J. Leslie, one of the Foreign Office clerks now employed on blockade matters, suggested using the ‘coal lever’ to extract further concessions from the Dutch. Crowe meanwhile argued that Germany had an interest in keeping the Netherlands neutral. If she so wished, her U-boats could prevent British coal from reaching Dutch ports: ‘So far as it goes on, it does so with German connivance, that is to say Germany has some interest in not exasperating Holland by preventing her from getting coal from England. My belief is that this is likely to remain so’. However cogent Crowe’s argument, as Cecil noted, the ‘most important thing to avoid . . . is an extensive dislocation of industry, which will lead to disturbances and thence perhaps to violent action. Idleness is much more dangerous than hunger’.118 British fears of political upheaval were not without foundation. Throughout the last year of the war, there was ‘a certain bubbling of the Dutch Socialist cauldron’.119 Much as the scales had shifted to Holland’s disadvantage in the course of 1917, Britain and her Allies could push the small neutral country only so far. As for the contentious issue of sand and gravel and other materials likely to be put to military uses in Belgium, it had reached ‘a deadlock’, as Cecil informed the War Cabinet in late October. It would be impossible for Britain to give way, however120; and there the matter rested until sand and gravel transports became more acute again in the spring of the last year of the war.

The case of the Netherlands 59 A second development complicated British economic warfare in the Netherlands in 1917. Throughout the spring and summer Allied and Dutch shipping losses were mounting as a result of Germany’s unrestricted U-boat campaign. Neutral Dutch vessels were by no means immune to the depredations of marauding submarines. In March 1916, the passenger liner ‘Tubantia’, bound for Argentina, was sunk, presumably by a German torpedo. Some 400 passengers and crew were saved; others were less fortunate. In February 1917, six out of seven Dutch merchantmen, sailing in convoy, were destroyed by a U-boat with the loss of 20,000 tons of cargo. Dutch herring trawlers, too, ended up in the crosshairs of U-boat commanders, and a number of them were sunk. Between them, blockade, mining and U-boats brought Dutch overseas commerce almost to a standstill. While in 1913 some 17,000 merchantmen had docked in Holland’s ports, their number had dropped to 1,779 in 1918, a decline of nearly 90 per cent.121 The Netherlands’ position between the belligerents was becoming increasingly precarious now. Berlin’s latest escalation was met with counter-measures by the Allies. To compensate for the losses inflicted by German submersibles, and to increase their own shipping capacity, the Allies placed an embargo on Dutch exports that ‘finally became absolute’. The aim of this measure was to force the Netherlands government to transfer all Dutch vessels then in American ports to the Allies.122 Already in the previous summer, the British had seized the entire Dutch fishing fleet in British territorial waters, while significant numbers of Dutch merchantmen were compelled to sail on Allied charter or in the Allied interest in return for British coal. Different developments thus came together. Allied shipping losses and the fuel shortage in Holland generated irresistible pressure, as Balfour noted: ‘In offering our coal in exchange for use of Dutch tonnage, we are making use of the most effective lever we can now command without attaining all the objects of our blockade policy’.123 Allied pressure grew yet further. On 20 March 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced the confiscation of ninety Dutch cargo ships lying idle in American ports, to carry US troops and supplies to Europe.124 Twenty-four hours later, the British authorities requisitioned forty-five Dutch-registered vessels in British territorial waters. In this the Allied powers were actuated by the urgent need for additional tonnage: ‘The acquisition of 400,000 tons of Dutch shipping in the United States of America, and 200,000 tons elsewhere, would make all the difference to France and Italy, and to the whole shipping situation. Perhaps it might prove the most important factor in the war. If we gave Holland further time, she would probably consult Germany, and means might be found for further delay and obstacles’.125 Dutch politicians and press were incandescent at ‘de Schepenroof’ (theft of ships). Cort van der Linden issued a ‘flaming protest’ against this unlawful act.126 But there could be no doubt as to the utter impotence of the Netherlands when confronted with Allied naval and economic power. Van Aalst, the NOT president, was aghast at the ‘zoo enorm kras’ reaction to the Allied measures, too dependent was the country on British coal and American grain.127 In the face of earlier infringements of its neutral rights the Dutch government had relied on a mixture


T.G. Otte

of compromise, when possible, and concessions, where necessary, and protests, whenever admissible. The ultimate threat, resorting to force, was the one arrow in its quiver that the government could not use. Neutrality was to be preserved at all cost, in its form at least, even if its essence had already been compromised. Bereft of its American lever since April 1917, there was little The Hague could do. Cort van der Linden’s protest was intended for domestic consumption. A subsequent formal note was ‘stiff and uncompromising in tone’, Oppenheimer conceded, ‘but I am convinced that the attitude adopted . . . is nothing more or less than historical eyewash’. Public opinion would force the government to come to some arrangement with the Allies. The note was meant to strengthen The Hague’s position prior to any talks. ‘This reply will look well [sic] in history’, Oppenheimer reflected, ‘- little neutral Holland defying the Associated governments, only supported by her conscience as a good neutral, a good neutral in accordance with the Dutch interpretation of neutrality’. It would be politic, therefore, ‘if we hold our hands’. Tightening the blockade screw further would merely make The Hague more intractable.128 Oppenheimer’s analysis was sound. But there was another factor that weighed heavily on the minds of Dutch ministers in the spring of 1918 – relations with Germany. The Netherlands was scarcely in an enviable position in the last year of the war. As Allied governments stiffened their embargoes, German pressure grew to make available more transit facilities for German troop and materiel transports to the Western Front. The situation was more especially acute during the build-up to the ‘St. Michael’s Offensive’ in March 1918, Germany’s last roll of the dice. The rapid advance of Ludendorff’s shock troops during the opening phase of Germany’s final push in the West heightened fears at The Hague. With the outcome of the war hanging in the balance, Cort van der Linden confided to Van Aalst, this was no time to antagonise Berlin. The confusion amongst the Allied Supreme Command at Versailles and the retreat of Britain’s Fifth Army under General Sir Hubert Gough were viewed with apprehension. There was no doubt in the premier’s mind that ‘were Germany still to come out of this war victorious, then our political or economic independence would be lost’.129 Such fears were well-founded. The treaty of Brest-Litovsk in the previous month had offered a glimpse of the likely contours of a German peace order. Already during the offensive in the West, indeed, the German government increased pressure on The Hague. In a catalogue of demands the Wilhelmstrasse sought to secure substantial economic concessions, largely in the form of food exports, using Holland’s fuel shortage and debt obligations as levers – the mirror image of Allied policy. Above all, Rosen, the German envoy, was to obtain the passage of goods and troops through Holland.130 Although, in their final version of 25 April 1918, the demands excluded the transit of weapons, munitions and aircraft, they still infringed upon Dutch neutrality as troop transports or food supplies for the fighting forces were included, something the 1914 neutrality declaration had prohibited. The German demands caused mounting disquiet in political circles at The Hague. Her country, Queen Wilhelmina let the Kaiser know before the demands were formalised, was resolved ‘à maintenir notre politique de stricte neutralité’;

The case of the Netherlands 61 and to underline her own resolve, and perhaps to appeal to Wilhelm’s sense of his Orange patrimony, she added ‘ “Je maintiendrai” ’ – the motto of the House of Orange.131 After Berlin had submitted its demands, she pleaded with her ‘dear cousin’, ‘trusting in your friendly feelings for me and my country’.132 The queen’s ministers were far more apprehensive, and the German demands led to heated debates amongst them. All military leave was cancelled, but The Hague still yielded to Berlin’s démarche.133 The crisis also led to a stand-off between the Dutch war minister, B.C. de Jonge, and General Snijders, the commanderin-chief of the armed forces. Ultimately, the latter prevailed. Snijders refused to do the minister’s bidding to produce what he called ‘rose-tinted assessments and optimistic illusions [voorspiegelingen]’. In the event of a German invasion, the Dutch armed forces would swiftly be overrun, and all resistance would be ‘fruitless’. Even the Nieuwe Hollandsche Waterlinie, a complex system of fortified defensive positions and inundation zones, the jewel in the crown of Dutch defence planning, offered no real prospect of success. Effective support by the Entente powers was not likely to be forthcoming. The approaches to the Scheldt estuary were dominated by German batteries on the Belgian-Flemish coast and the U-boat base at Zeebrugge; and attempts to land troops at Walcheren would lead to the German occupation of the Dutch-Flemish strip of territory south of the Scheldt (Zeeuwsche Vlaanderen). It was possible, Snijders concluded his lengthy exposition that Holland might obtain her principal object, ‘to stay with honour out of the war. But there is not the slightest cause for overestimating our power and our capability to resist the onslaught by a mighty empire’.134 Ironically, the shifting fortunes on the Western Front in the spring of 1918 made it possible for the Netherlands government to resist Allied pressure. Balfour took a pragmatic view of the situation. It was of vital strategic importance to Britain ‘that Holland should not be overrun . . ., that the Scheldt should not fall into German hands, and the whole country become a vassal state under German domination’. However, the Foreign Secretary understood that the Netherlands had only limited means of resisting a German invasion, and he accepted that Britain was in no position to lend her significant armed assistance. Whilst Britain could not release Holland from her obligations in regard to imports and exports, ‘neither can we enable her to keep her promise against the exercise of force majeure’. Keeping the Netherlands neutral and preserving the Anglo-Dutch arrangements entailed a tightrope-walk, but Balfour was confident that ‘there is a large element of bluff in German proceedings’. Should Berlin push matters to extremes, however, Townley was to explain to Loudon that ‘we should not . . . regard as unneutral their submission in such circumstances to German demands’. In the meantime, it was best to avoid forcing Holland’s hands as ‘delay seems likely to be in our favour’.135 Balfour’s instructions to Townley were indicative of the limits of British and Allied power. There was the danger that were Berlin to secure concessions as a quid pro quo for the recent requisitioning of Dutch shipping, it would ‘indicate to Northern neutrals that Germany is now in a position to enforce her desire by threats and violence, and that the Entente powers are unable to interfere’, suggested Harold Nicolson of the Foreign Office’s Western Department. Even so,


T.G. Otte

he counselled against encouraging the Dutch to resist German demands. There was always the risk that the military elements, in the ascendant since the beginning of the Ludendorff offensive, might be ready to sacrifice everything to the short-term advantage of securing control over the Scheldt to relieve congestion of the Belgian roads and railways. For Britain, the balance of advantage lay in keeping Holland out of the war. If she were to enter the conflict, on whichever side, Britain would lose ‘one of the most valuable channels of information’, and the protection of British prisoners of war in Germany and Turkey would have to be left ‘in the less than satisfactory hands of Spain’. Should the Netherlands succumb to German pressure, however, Britain would be justified in regarding her as a quasi-belligerent vassal state and ‘in treating her as our interests demand’.136 For now, there was no practicable alternative to playing for time, even at the price of the ‘complete submission to Germany so far as the transit of sand & gravel [was] concerned’.137 The palpable growth of German influence in the Netherlands made a significant impression on Whitehall, so much so that an ad hoc committee at the Blockade Ministry, led by its Parliamentary Under-secretary, Sir Laming WorthingtonEvans, gave serious consideration to the possibility of an about-turn in Britain’s blockade policy. There was no prospect of securing a satisfactory agreement with the Dutch government, ‘in view of the Dutch fear of Germany and the latter’s powerful pressure upon Holland’. Under these circumstances, ‘the time ha[d] come to consider carefully whether the general embargo on Holland . . . is at all likely to secure the objects, for which it was imposed’. Given that the Dutch were ‘becom[ing] more and more involved in the German commercial and political net, [should not] some new policy . . . be adopted by the Allies’, the committee asked, without, however, formulating any alternative policy.138 The fact that no new policy emerged was suggestive of Britain’s deepening blockade dilemma. Indeed, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Britain’s economic warfare effort somehow staggered across the finishing line, weighed down by the many complications of the blockade but aided, in the end, by Germany’s reverses on the Western Front. The more German troops retreated, the more Berlin’s pressure on the Netherlands eased. A new cabinet was formed at The Hague, more amenable to the Allies.139 Delay had, indeed, proved to be in Britain’s favour, as Balfour had surmised in the spring, though even his acute intellect may not have anticipated the sudden end of the war. By 1918, Britain’s blockade policy in the Netherlands had run its course, and policy-makers in London were approaching a fork in the road. Only Germany’s collapse saved them from having to revise current policy. There was a paradox here. The cumulative effect of Allied economic warfare had contributed to the German war machinery eventually seizing up, but the policy underpinning it could not have been continued had the war carried on. At first glance, the blockade apparatus that gradually came into being from the autumn of 1914 onwards looked impressive. In reality, command of the sea was not easily translatable into disabling pressure on the enemy. In this sense, the creation of the NOT as a private agency with quasi-governmental functions completed the naval blockade and

The case of the Netherlands 63 kept Anglo-Dutch relations on a more or less even keel. Its consignment system was a vital part of Allied economic warfare. The trade restrictions introduced under the auspices of the NOT complemented Allied naval supremacy, and amplified it. Gradually it constricted Germany’s ‘windpipe’. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, and seemingly in constant danger of being squeezed to death, the Netherlands was incapable of retaliating against infringements of her neutral rights by either side. At the same time, none of the belligerents could compel Holland into complete compliance. It was not worth risking Dutch hostility. As for the Allies, their economic pressure on Holland was great and it kept growing, but it was never absolute. By 1916/17, persistent efforts at economic attrition were beginning to tell on the Central Powers, although the realities of attritional warfare meant that their operations did not grind to a halt for another eighteen months. By then, the NOT was a declining asset, its waning accelerated further by America joining the war. In its successes and its failings, the wartime blockade policy in the Netherlands illustrated the strengths and the limitations of British naval power and its attritional nature. But it also throws a revealing light on the extraordinary ability of the British state to mobilise networks of people and skills, and to bring these to bear on a deadly challenge to Britain’s vital interests.

Notes 1 C. van Vollenhoven, De eendracht van het land (Amsterdam, 1913), as quoted in J.C. Boogman, ‘Achtergronden, tendenties en tradities van het buitenlandse beleid van Nederland (eind zestiened eeuw – 1940)’, in N.C.F. van Sas (ed.), De kracht van Nederland: Internationale positie en buitenlandse beleid in historische perspectif (Haarlem, 1991), 31. 2 F.J. Domela Nieuwenhuis, as quoted A. Staarman, Verre van vredig: Nederland tijdens de eerste wereldoorlog, 1914–1918 (Delft, 2004), 9; see also Beaufort diary, 15 Mar. 1913, in J.P. de Valk and M. van Faassen (eds), Dagboeken en aantekeningen van Willem Hendrik de Beaufort, 1874–1918 (2 vols, The Hague, 1993) ii, 585. 3 Granville to Lyons (no. 130), 25 July 1870, The National Archives (Public Record Office), Kew, FO 27/1792. For detailed discussions see N.C.F. van Sas, Onze Natuurlijkste Bondgenoot: Nederland, Engeland en Europa, 1813–1831 (Groningen, 1985) and C.A. Tamse, Nederland en Belgie in Europa (1859–1871): De zelfstandigheids politiek van twee kleine staten (The Hague, 1973). 4 Memo. Wilhelmina, ‘Voor- en nadeelen van een bondgenootschap’, 29 Apr. 1905, C. Smit (ed.), Bescheiden Betreffende de Buitenlandse Politiek van Nederland, 1848– 1919, 3rd ser., 1899–1919 (8 vols, The Hague, 1957–64) ii, no. 412. For the Queen’s friendly relations with Wilhelm II, see C. Fasseur, Wilhelmina: De jonge koningin (Amsterdam, 1998), 399. For Kuyper’s policy, see C. Smit, De hoogtij der neutraliteitspolitiek: De buitenlandse politiek van Nederland, 1899–1919 (Leiden, 1959). 5 As quoted in P. Moeyes, Buiten schot: Nederland tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog, 1914–1918 (Amsterdam, 2001), 28. 6 See T. Kaarsted, Storbritannien og Danmark, 1914–1920 (Odense, 1974), 70–105; O. Riste, The Neutral Ally: Norway’s Relations with Belligerent Powers in the First World War (Oslo and London, 1965), 29–31; B.J.C. McKercher and K.E. Neilson, ‘ “The Triumph of Unarmed Forces”: Sweden and the Allied Blockade of Germany, 1914–1917’, Journal of Strategic Studies vii, 2 (1984), 178–99.


T.G. Otte

7 See W. Klinkert, ‘Verdediging van de zuidgrens, 1914–1918’, Militaire Spectator clvi, 3 and 4 (1987), 213–19 and 250–57. 8 J.F. Chamberlain, The Regime of the International Rivers: Danube and Rhine (New York, repr. 1968), 237–83. 9 For statistics, Netherlands: Report for the Year 1905 on the Trade and Navigation of Rotterdam (Cd. 2682) (1906), 10; for a discussion of attitudes towards Germany, see H. Lademacher, Zwei ungleiche Nachbarn: Wege und Wandlungen der deutschniederländischen Beziehungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt, 1990), 88–97. 10 Beaufort, ‘Corps Diplomatique in 1897’, Beaufort Dagboeken ii, app. I, 995; for the period of the Second Boer War see especially M. Kuitenbrouwer, Nederland en de opkomst van het moderne imperialisme: Koloniën en buitenlandse politiek, 1870– 1902 (Amsterdam, 1985), 176–90. 11 M. Kuitenbrouwer, ‘Het imperialisme van een kleine mogenheid: De overzee expansie van Nederland, 1870–1914’, Van Sas (ed.), Kracht van Nederland, 65–6; for some statistics, J.A. de Jonge, De industrialisatie in Nederland tussen 1850 en 1914 (Amsterdam, 1968), 356. 12 For further details N. Japikse, Die Stellung Hollands im Weltkrieg politisch und wirtschaftlich (Gotha, 1921), 122–76; M.J. van der Flier, War Finances in the Netherlands up to 1918 (Oxford, 1923), 1–20. 13 An interesting parallel with Britain’s own problems, K. Burk, ‘Wheat and the State during the First World War’, M. Dockrill and D. French (eds), Strategy and Intelligence: British Policy during the First World War (London, 1996), 120–21. For the changes in Dutch agriculture E.H. Kossman, De lage landen, 1780–1940: Anderhalve eeuw Nederland en België (Amsterdam and Brussels, 3rd ed. 1982), 312–14. 14 I.J. Brugmans, Paardenkracht en mensenmacht: Sociaal-economische geschiedenis van Nederland, 1795–1940 (Amsterdam, 1961), 437. 15 For details see W. Klinkert, ‘ “Met de pen of het zwaard”: Militaire middelen en verdediging van de neutraliteit, 1910–1914’, H. Binneveld (ed.), Leven naarst de catastrofe: Nederland tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog (Hilversum, 2001), 13–16, and more generally id., Het Vaderland Verdedigd: Plannen en opvattingen over de verdediging van Nederland, 1874–1914 (The Hague, 1992). 16 Committee of Imperial Defence memo., ‘Violation of Neutrality of Belgium during a Franco-German War’ (secret), 29 Oct. 1905, TNA (PRO), CAB 4/1/65B; see also J. Gooch, The Plans of War: The General Staff and British Military Strategy, c. 1900– 1916 (London, 1974), 280–83. 17 The war minister later claimed to have had specific information from a reliable German source, though some scepticism may be called for here, N. Bosboom, In moeilijke omstandigheden: Augustus 1914 – Mei 1917 (Gorinchem, 1933), 23 and n. 1. 18 ‘Aufmarschplan 1905/6’, H. Ehlert, M. Epkenhans and G.P. Gross (eds), Der Schlieffenplan: Analysen und Dokumente (Paderborn, 2006), 394–9; also J. Fortuin, ‘Nederland en de Schlieffenplan. Een onderzoek naar de positie van Nederland in het Duitse aanvalsplan vóór de Eerste Wereldoorlog’, Militaire Spectator cxlix, 1 (1980), 21–35. 19 Memo. Moltke, ‘General Observations on the Schlieffen Plan’, n.d. [1911], in G. Ritter, The Schlieffen Plan: Critique of a Myth (London, 1958), 166. 20 As reported by Grünau to Zimmermann, 7 Apr. 1917, C. Smit (ed.), BBBP (3) Buitenlandse Bronnen viii, 1, no. 32. For the assurances of 1908, see Fasseur, Wilhelmina, 521; for Wilhelm II and the Orange dynasty see J. Lilla, ‘Kaiser Wilhelm II und die Oranier’, Stichting Paleis Het Loo (ed), Onder den Oranje Boom: Niederländische Kunst und Kultur im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert an deutschen Fürstenhöfen (Munich, 1999), 445–54. 21 Tel. Gevers to Loudon, 2 Aug. 1914, note verbale Müller to Dutch government, 3 Aug. 1914, and ‘Neutraliteitsproclamatie’, 4 Aug. 1914, BBBP (3) iv, nos 18, 22 and 27. 22 Mins ministerial council, 27 July 1914, ibid., no. 6; also T.G. Otte, July Crisis: Europe’s Descent into War, Summer 1914 (Cambridge, 2014), 370–71. For detailed

The case of the Netherlands 65

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

40 41 42 43

discussions see P. Moeyes, ‘Wilhelmina (1880–1962): Strijdbar en standvastig’, W. Klinkert, S. Kruizinga and P. Moeyes, Nederland Neutraal: De Eerste Wereldoorlog (Amsterdam, 2014), 22–9; W. Klinkert, ‘C.J. Snijders (1852–1939): Met het geweer en de aanslag’, ibid., esp. 77–80, and id., ‘De Nederlandse Mobilisatie van 1914’, J.W.M. Schulten and L. de Vos (eds), Mobilisatie in Nederland en België, 1870– 1914–1939 (Amsterdam, 1991), 24–33. As quoted in Staarman, Verre van vredig, 25; Johnstone to Grey (no. 160), 23 Aug. 1914, FO 371/2054/42931. Fréderic II, Oeuvres posthumes: Histoire de mon temps (2 vols, Amsterdam, 1789) i, 23. Min. Crowe, 30 July 1914, on tel. Goschen to Grey (no. 102, secret), 29 July 1914, G.P. Gooch and H.W.V. Temperley (eds), British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898–1914 (11 vols, London, 1928–38) xi, 293; Otte, July Crisis, 408–9. D. Stevenson, 1914–1918: The History of the First World War (London, 2004), 246. For further details see H.H. Herwig, ‘Luxury’ Fleet: The Imperial German Navy, 1888–1918 (London, pb. ed. 1987), 148–9. Mins 120th CID meeting, 6 Dec. 1912, TNA (PRO), CAB 2/3/1. For some of the problems of pre-war planning see D. French, British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905–1915 (London, 1982), 51–84. Grey to Johnstone (private), 30 Jan. 1915 (copy), Grey MSS, TNA (PRO), FO 800/69. Memo. Crowe, ‘Prosecution of the War’, 5 Aug. 1914, TNA (PRO), FO 371/2162/ 36542. Asquith to King George V (private), 15 Aug. 1914, CAB 41/35/30. Min. Nicolson, 21 Aug. 1914, FO 368/1026/43477. For some of the background see N. Japikse, Staatskundige Geschiedenis van Nederland van 1887–1917 (Leiden, 1918), 438–9; H.P. van Tuyll van Seroskerken, The Netherlands and World War I: Espionage, Diplomacy and Survival (Amsterdam, 2001), 132–4. Tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 139), 28 Aug. 1914, FO 371/2054/44124; S. Kruizinga, ‘F.S. Posthuma (1874–1943): “Heer God! Straf Posthema” ’, Klinkert et al., Nederland Neutraal, 232–7. Min. Doude van Troostwijk, 18 Aug. 1914, and note verbale von Müller, n.d. [18 Aug. 1914], BBBP (3) iv, nos 74 and 75. Mins Villiers, Crowe and Davidson, 23 Aug. 1914, on tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 16, Commercial), 22 Aug. 1914, FO 368/1026/42155; cf. Swinderen to Loudon (no. 709), 23 Aug. 1914, BBBP (3) iv, no. 90. Mins Villiers and Hurst, 7 and 8 Sept. 1914, on Biddle & Co. to Foreign Office, 4 Sept. 1914, FO 368/1033/46583. Min. Crowe, 11 Dec. 1914, on Maxse to Grey (no. 501), 7 Dec. 1914, FO 368/1045/ 80743. J.W. Coogan, The End of Neutrality: The United States, Britain, and Maritime Rights, 1899–1915 (Ithaca, NY, 1981), here esp. 148–68. J.B. Scott, The Declaration of London of February 26, 1909: A Collection of Official Papers and Documents (New York, 1919), 117–22. Crowe to Satow (private), 11 Apr. 1909, Satow Mss, TNA (PRO), PRO 30/33/12/4; see also A. Offner, The First World War: An Agrarian Interpretation (Oxford, 1989), 270–84; K. Neilson, ‘ “The British Empire Floats on the British Navy”: British Naval Policy, Belligerent Rights, and Disarmament, 1902–1909’, B.J.C. McKercher (ed.), Arms Limitation and Disarmament: Restraints on War, 1899–1939 (Westport, CT, 1992), 21–42. Supplement to the London Gazette (22 Aug. 1914). Swinderen to Loudon (no. 720), 25 Aug. 1914, BBBP (3) iv, no. 95; Seroskerke, Netherlands, 135. Johnstone to Grey (no. 160), 23 Aug. 1914, FO 371/2054/42931. Lloyd George to Balfour (private), 29 Dec. 1916, Lloyd George Mss, Parliamentary Archive, House of Lords, F 3/1/6.


T.G. Otte

44 Perhaps appropriately, Oppenheimer had first attracted the attention of his superiors with a lengthy and cogent analysis of the problem of blockading Germany, see Oppenheimer to Grey (no. 2, Political), 28 Sept. 1909, FO 371/673/37070. For a fuller discussion see T.G. Otte, ‘ “Alien Diplomatist”: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Germanism in the Diplomatic Career of Sir Francis Oppenheimer, 1900–1921’, History 89, 2 (2004), 243–5. 45 Sir J.A.C. Tilley and S. Gaselee, The Foreign Office (London, 1933), 178; K. Neilson and T.G. Otte, The Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1854–1946 (London and New York, 2009), 168–9. 46 Sir O. O’Malley, The Phantom Caravan (London, 1954), 46. 47 Tel. Grey to Johnstone (for Oppenheimer) (20, Commercial), 31 Aug. 1914, FO 368/1032/44818; Sir F. Oppenheimer, Stranger Within: Autobiographical Pages (London, 1961), 234. 48 Oppenheimer to Hurst (no. 1), 23 Aug. 1914, FO 368/1029/43186. 49 Oppenheimer to Johnstone, 26 Aug. 1914, FO 368/1029/43965; also Oppenheimer to Hurst (nos 1 and 2), 23 and 25 Aug. 1914, FO 368/1029/43186 and 44100. 50 Swinderen to Loudon (no. 797), 20 Sept. 1914, encl. note Grey, 19 Sept. 1914, BBBP (3) iv, no. 149. 51 Memo. Van Heeckeren, 28 Sept. 1914, BBBP (3) iv, no. 159. 52 Min. Percy, 9 Sept. 1914, on Johnstone to Grey (no. 169), 6 Sept. 1914, FO 371/2054/47425; for a portrait of Loudon, see P. Moeyes, ‘John Loudon (1866–1955): Berschermheer van de neutraliteit’, Klinkert et al., Nederland Neutraal, 173–223. 53 Swinderen to Loudon (no. 835), 2 Oct. 1914, encl. note Swinderen to Grey, 27 Sept. 1914, BBBP (3) iv, no. 170. 54 Tels Johnstone to Grey (nos 106 and 109, Commercial), 21 and 23 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1033/61955 and 62331. 55 Min. Sargent, n.d. [2 Oct. 1914], on Oppenheimer to Johnstone, 28 Sept. 1914, FO 368/1039/54370. 56 At the end of November, a group of Dutch financiers acquired most of the HAL shares, see C.J.K. van Aalst, ‘Aantekeningen ten tijden van den Wereldoorlog, 1914–1918’, 2 Dec. 1914, [hereafter Van Aalst diary], fo. 44. 57 ‘Interview of the 3rd October, 1914, between Sir Francis Oppenheimer and M. Everwijn, of the Ministry of Commerce, The Hague’, FO 368/1043/60174; Oppenheimer, Stranger Within, 242–3. 58 Tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 83, Commercial), 9 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1027/57821. 59 Tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 178, Commercial), 16 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1027/60942. Oppenheimer’s reports were usually sent in the minister’s name. 60 Tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 109, Commercial), 22 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1034/62331. 61 Tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 99, Commercial), 18 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1027/60793. 62 Memo. Crowe, 21 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1027/6292. 63 Mins Law and Hurst, 1 and 2 Nov. 1914, on tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 193, Commercial), 23 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1027/63272. 64 Memo. Sargent, ‘The Passage of Enemy Supplies through Countries Contiguous to Germany and Austria-Hungary’, 25 Oct. 1914, CAB 37/121/137. 65 Tel. Grey to Johnstone (no. 73, Commercial), 31 Oct. 1914, and despatch (no. 111, Commercial, confidential), 3 Nov. 1914, FO 368/1028/65456 and /67438. 66 Stevenson, First World War, 247. 67 T. de Greef, Voor Handel en Maatschappij: Geschiedenis van der Nederlandsche Handels-Maatschappij (Amsterdam, 2012), 85–139; for Van Aalst’s interests in Curaçao see Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij to Oppenheimer (confidential), 11 Dec. 1917, FO 382/1322/150178. 68 Johnstone to Grey (no. 252, Commercial, urgent), 14 Nov. 1914, and Oppenheimer to Crowe, 15 Nov. 1914, encl. ‘Explanatory and Additional Memorandum’, FO 368/1028/71745; for further insights see S. Kruizinga, ‘C.J.K. van Aalst (1866–1939): Het brutaalst van allemaalst’, Klinkert et al., Nederland Neutraal, 138.

The case of the Netherlands 67 69 Johnstone to Grey (no. 326, Commercial), 12 Dec. 1914, FO 368/1045/83011. 70 Mins Tufton, Parker, Drogheda, Law and Crowe, 17 Dec. 1914–9 Jan. 1915, FO 368/1045/84991. 71 Min. Crowe, 16 Dec. 1914, on Johnstone to Grey (no. 310, Commercial), 9 Dec. 1914, FO 368/1045/81522. 72 Oppenheimer to Crowe, 13 Dec. 1914, and tel. Grey to Johnstone (no. 118, Commercial), 18 Dec. 1914, FO 368/1045/81522. 73 Oppenheimer to Crowe (private), 28 Dec. 1914, FO 368/1028/88814; Loudon to Chilton, 29 Dec. 1914, and NOT to Oppenheimer, 29 Dec. 1914, FO 382/205/399. 74 Van Aalst diary, 29 Dec. 1914, fo. 58. 75 For a sample NOT certificate see Johnstone to Grey (no. 286, Commercial), 10 Mar. 1915, FO 382/205/29191. 76 Tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 13, Commercial), 8 Jan. 1915, FO 382/205/2997; mins Oppenheimer and Hurst, 13 and 26 Feb. 1915, on tel. Johnstone to Grey (no. 80, Commercial), 8 Feb. 1915, ibid./14932. 77 Crowe to Oppenheimer, 6 Feb. 1915, Oppenheimer Mss, box 1; A. Marsden, ‘The Blockade’, F.H. Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, 1977), 495–6. For the Danish agreement of 9 Jan. 1915 see Kaarsted, Storbritannien, 86–90. 78 Min. Villiers, 14 Dec. 1914, on Johnstone to Grey (no. 310, Commercial), 9 Dec. 1914, FO 368/1045/81522. 79 Min. Crowe, 21 Oct. 1914, FO 368/1027/62922. 80 Oppenheimer to Crowe, 25 Feb. 1915, and min. Garnett, 3 Mar. 1915, FO 382/205/24328. 81 Swinderen to Loudon (no. 235), 19 Feb. 1915, BBBP (3) iv, no. 318. 82 Johnstone to Grey (no. 452, Commercial), 12 Apr. 1915, and mema Sargent, 23 Apr. and 14 May 1915, FO 382/206/44028 and 47068. 83 Note Loudon to Chilton, 29 Dec. 1914, encl. in Chilton to Grey (no. 365), 30 Dec. 1914, FO 382/205/399; for the contemporary epithets see C. Smit, ‘Waroom bleef Nederland buiten de Eerste Wereldoorlog’, Van Sas (ed.), Kracht van Nederland, 81. 84 Japikse, Stellung Hollands, 91. 85 Vollenhoven to Oppenheimer, 18 Dec. 1915, FO 382/204/198143. 86 Henderson to Cecil (confidential), 21 Jan. 1916, CAB 37/141/25. 87 Mins NOT Executive Board, 9 Jan. 1917, as quoted in Kruizinga, ‘Van Aalst’, 141. 88 De Nieuwe Amsterdammer, 15 July 1915, in ibid., 144. 89 For Kröller’s stake in Vianda Co., one of the main bacon-curing companies, see memo. Rew [Assistant Secretary, Board of Agriculture and Fish], 28 Apr. 1916, FO 382/737/82330; see also R. von Kühlmann, Erinnerungen (Heidelberg, 1948), 284. 90 Henderson to Cecil (confidential), 21 Jan. 1916, CAB 37/141/25. 91 Tels Grey to Johnstone (no. 409), 14 June 1915, and Bennett [consul-general New York] to Grey (no. 827), 16 June 1915, FO 368/1340/75742 and 79295; also Van Aalst diary, 13 June 1915, fo. 155. 92 Kröller to Loudon (separate), 15 Oct. 1915, BBBP (3) iv, no. 447; S. Kruizinga, ‘Ernst Heldring (1871–1954): Varen zonder compas’, Klinkert et al., Nederland Neutraal, 430–33. 93 Van Aalst diary, 20 May 1915 (in conversation with Chilton), fo. 142. 94 Van Aalst diary, 4 May 1917, fos 445–6; Oppenheimer diary, 14 Mar. 1917, Oppenheimer MSS, box 1; Kruizinga, ‘Van Aalst’, 157. 95 See e.g. Oppenheimer to Van Aalst (private), 2 Aug. 1917 and reply, 3 Aug. 1917, BBBP (3) v/1, no. 171, encl. 1 and 2. 96 Townley to Loudon, 7 Apr. 1917, Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, Nr. 20. Lobith was a long-established toll station, see W.J. Alberts, Der Rheinzoll bei Lobith im späten Mittelalter (Bonn, 1981). 97 Min. Sherwood, 27 Apr. 1915, on Oppenheimer to Nicolson, 22 Apr. 1915, FO 382/206/49831; also Oppenheimer, Stranger Within, 249, 268, 280. After the war,



99 100

101 102 103

104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118

T.G. Otte Laming joined the diplomatic service as commercial attaché at The Hague; Botterell subsided into legal obscurity in the City. Min. Oppenheimer, 26 Apr. 1918, on memo. Gilmour [Ministry of Information], ‘Trade in Relation to Propaganda’, 31 Mar. 1918, FO 382/1845/64692; ‘Uitvoer van landbouwproducten naar Engeland’, Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courier, 24 June 1916, was based on a statement drawn up by Oppenheimer, see Johnstone to Grey (no. 3313, Commercial), 24 June 1916, FO 382/737/123833. Ironically the legation tended to complain of the ‘fairly consistently hostile’ attitude of this paper, see Townley to Loudon, 25 May 1917, Loudon MSS, Nationaal Archief, The Hague,, Collectie 525, Nr. 20. ‘Personalia’, De Wereldkroniek, 19 Oct. 1918, 344. Min. Akers-Douglas, 8 Mar. 1916, on memo. Spicer, ‘Dutch Supplies of Dairy Produce and Meat to the United Kingdom and Germany’, 29 Feb. 1916, FO 382/736/43746; Johnstone to Hardinge, 20 Dec. 1916, Hardinge Mss, Cambridge University Library, Hardinge 28. Oppenheimer, Stranger Within, 247. For the November arrangement see memo. Hurst, ‘Limitations of Certain Imports into Holland’, 7 Nov. 1915, FO 382/207/165784; also G. Hardach, The First World War, 1914–1918 (London, 1977), 20–27. Townley to Loudon, 22 June 1917, Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, Nr. 20. Min. Oppenheimer, 3 May 1916, on memo. Rew [Assistant Under-Secretary, Board of Agriculture], ‘Dutch Supplies of Agricultural Produce’, 1 May 1916, FO 382/737/82330; ‘Agreement Relating to the Export of Agricultural Produce from Holland’, 1 Nov. 1916, FO 382/738/226697; Kruizinga, ‘Posthuma’, 241. For the nexus with German unrestricted submarine warfare see P. Count Kielmansegg, Deutschland und der Erste Weltkrieg (Berlin, 1968), 385–96. Tel. Grey to Johnstone (no. 3838, confidential), 9 Aug. 1916, FO 382/751/157347. Min. Spicer, 25 Nov. 1916, on Valstar [Secretary, NOT] to Oppenheimer, 4 Nov. 1916, FO 382/793/235004; for the glycerine ban see Vollenhoven to Oppenheimer, 22 Dec. 1915, FO 382/204/199289. Oppenheimer to Crowe, 25 Feb. 1915, FO 382/205/24328; also Cecil to Oppenheimer, 15 Aug. 1917, Oppenheimer Mss, box 4. Townley to Balfour (no. 158, very confidential), 4 July 1917, FO 382/1345/185375; Townley to Loudon, 1 July 1917, Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, Nr. 20. Tel. Townley to Balfour (no. 1950), 3 July 1917, FO 382/1345/131862; for a detailed discussion see M. Krijger, ‘Het aardappeloproer in 1917’, Armamentaria: Jaarboek Legermuseum xxxix (2004–05), 54–75. Beaufort diary, 15 Oct. 1917, Beaufort Dagboeken, ii, 953. Townley to Loudon (private), 1 July 1917, Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, No. 20. Loudon to Gevers (no. 43992/6596), 28 Sept. 1916, BBBP (3) iv, no. 635; see also M. Abbenhuis, The Art of Staying Neutral: The Netherlands in the First World War 1914–1918 (Amsterdam, 2006), 135–6. Loudon to De Marees van Swinderen (nos 32804/705 and 48683/981), 13 July and 26 Sept. 1917, BBBP (3) v, nos 143 and 239; Moeyes, ‘Loudon’, 208–9. Mins Selby and Akers-Douglas, 18 Sept. 1917, on Loudon to Rosen, 5 Sept. 1917, encl. in Rotterdam Secret Service Report (strictly confidential), 15 Sept. 1917, FO 372/1027/181201. Van Aalst diary, 16 Oct. 1917, fos 519–20. Townley to Loudon, 14 Jan. 1918, Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, Nr. 3; Moeyes, Buiten schot, 267. Min. Cecil, n.d. [c. Oct. 1917], FO 395/159/198497. Townley to Cecil (private), 18 Nov. 1917, Cecil of Chelwood MSS, FO 800/195. Mins Leslie, Crowe and Cecil, 28 and 29 Aug. 1917, on Townley to Balfour (no. 194), 21 Aug. 1917, FO 382/1380/168181. Privately, Townley operated with the ‘coal lever’ in his talks with Loudon, see Townley to Loudon (private), 15 Sept. 1917,

The case of the Netherlands 69

119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130

131 132 133 134


136 137

138 139

Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, Nr. 19. Like Crowe the Admiralty Naval Staff concluded that it was not in Germany’s interest to force the Netherlands to give up her neutrality, see memo. Admiralty Naval Staff, ‘On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Holland joining the Allies against Germany’, 27 July 1917, FO 382/1382/152013. Dutch migrant labourers working in the Ruhr remained a concern for the British, War Trade Intelligence Department, ‘Dutch Workmen to Germany’, 5 Jan. 1918, FO 382/1847/6386. Townley to Balfour (no. 26), 22 Feb. 1918, FO 371/3254/30441; Kossman, De lage landen, 424–6. Mins War Cabinet, 25 Oct. 1917, CAB 23/4. Staarman, Verre van vredig, 127–9. Min. Oppenheimer, 26 Apr. 1918, FO 382/1845/64692; Townley to Balfour (no. 183), 8 Aug. 1917, FO 371/2973/157523. Tel. Balfour to Spring Rice (no. 3402), 28 Aug. 1917, FO 382/1714/166151; Swinderen to Loudon, 25 Sept. 1917, Loudon MSS, Collectie 525, Nr. 3. Tel. Grey to Johnstone (no. 1283), 7 July 1916, FO 382/750/130958; Oppenheimer war diary, 16 Dec. 1917, Oppenheimer Mss, box 3. Mins War Cabinet, 7 Mar. 1918, CAB 23/5/361. Moeyes, ‘Wilhelmina’, 29–31. Van Aalst diary, 26 Mar. 1918, fo. 544. Min. Oppenheimer, 4 Apr. 1918, on tel. US War Trade Board to Sheldon [WTB representative, London] (no. 292), 1 Apr. 1918, FO 382/1855/60193. Van Aalst diary, 2 Apr. 1918, fo. 550; tel. Townley to Balfour (no. 1573, urgent, secret), 22 Apr. 1918, FO 371/3256/71016. Rosen to Hertling (no. A1210), and tel. Rosen to Auswärtiges Amt (no. 235), 5 and 26 Apr. 1918, BBBP (3) Buitenlandse Bronnen viii, nos 119 and 144. For the demands see ‘Modus Vivendi’, n.d. [24 Apr. 1918] and note, 25 Apr. 1918, ibid. v, nos 457 and 459. Encl. in tel. Rosen to Auswärtiges Amt (no. 151), 22 Mar. 1918, ibid. viii, no. 110. As quoted in Fasseur, Wilhelmina, 521. Mins ministerial council, 25 and 26 Apr. 1918, and Netherlands note, 27 Apr. 1918, BBBP (3) v, nos 460, 464 and 469. Memo. Snijders, 29 May 1918, ibid., no. 523; for the war minister’s views see memo. De Jonge, 8 May 1918, ibid., no. 499; Klinkert, ‘Snijders’, 50–53; P. Moeyes, ‘Een kwestie van vertrouwen: Het conflict tussen minister De Jonge en generaal Snijders, april – juni 1918’, Armamentaria: Jaarboek Legermuseum xxxix (2004–05), 8–33. Tel. Balfour to Townley (no. 881, very urgent, secret), 20 Apr. 1918, FO 371/3256/71016. The exchanges can be followed in Further Correspondence Respecting the Transit Traffic Across Holland of Materials Susceptible of Employment as Military Supplies (Cd. 8915) (1918). Memo. Nicolson, ‘Appreciation of the present situation in Holland from the point of view of the Foreign Office’, 24 Apr. 1918, FO 371/3256/73844. Min. Akers-Douglas, 6 May 1918, on tel. Townley to Balfour (no. 1725), 5 May 1918, FO 382/1845/79630; M. Frey, Der Erste Weltkrieg und die Niederlande: Ein neutrales Land im politischen und wirtschaftlichen Kalkül der Kriegsgegner (Berlin, 1996), 255–6. Memo. Akers-Douglas, 27 July 1918, FO 382/1856. Townley to Balfour (nos 161, confidential, and 180, confidential), 6 Aug. and 11 Sept. 1918, FO 371/3254/142514 and 155364. For the formation of the cabinet under C.J.M. Ruijs de Beerenbrouck, see Fasseur, Wilhelmina, 530–36.


Solvitur Ambulando The Admiralty administration reacts to war, 1914–1918 C.I. Hamilton

Shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, informed his staff they were to proceed on the assumption that the war would last a year, and the greatest effort was to be concentrated in the first six months. Furthermore, he emphasised that all departments should adopt careful and regular methods: In particular thrift and scrupulous attention to details are the marks of efficient administration in war. After all these years the Admiralty is now on its trial as an organisation, and the First Lord is very anxious that vigorous action should be combined with strict economy, so that the work of the department may subsequently become a model.1 Contrast that, though, with his staff minute of the following May. Now it was assumed conflict would last until the end of 1916, and the proclaimed aim was the strengthening of naval power before that date.1 The experience of war, it appears, had brought a telling change in perceived timescale and priorities – though even now well short of what ultimately was to be necessary. It reminds us of what the Royal Navy’s attaché in Berlin told Grand-Admiral Tirpitz in October 1913, that the British motto ‘was more or less “Solvitur Ambulando” ’. A literal translation would be ‘it is solved by walking’, or as shorthand one might simply suggest ‘evolution’ or ‘pragmatism’. Apparently, Tirpitz responded warmly, praising ‘an elastic mentality which can adapt itself even to frequent changes’, one he thought not found in Germany.2 As a counterexample, though, see Herbert Richmond’s reaction to Lord Jellicoe’s statement in a memoir that the failure to lay down orders for battle-fleet screens before 1914 had been due to the lack of ‘war experience’. The real explanation, Richmond said, was lack of forethought, and the spur for improvement once war came had been merely ‘the stimulus of danger’.3 We might well wonder whether wartime reorganisation at the Admiralty had the same origins, and much ought to have been anticipated. Comments from the administrative grass roots can be found in a history of the Admiralty Transport Department from 1914–18, by L.F. Goldsmid, a Superintending Clerk who worked there throughout the war. He began with a balanced

Solvitur Ambulando 71 judgement, stating ‘it would be calumny against our prudence and flattery to our inspiration to insinuate that all that was done was done on the spur of the moment’. There had, he wrote, been numerous efforts made before 1914 to anticipate what would be necessary should war come. However, the administration could not be fully prepared for an unprecedented war: it demanded of his department a scale and variety of work well beyond what the most pessimistic could possibly have anticipated; one had to rely on ‘the national faculty for improvization’. By that he meant much more than ‘muddling through’. Demands, he believed, were treated intelligently, many detailed modifications being made between supply of transports and demands, and the available people were dextrously moved between tasks according to their abilities. He even admitted to inspiration of a sort: the department ‘found itself justified in adopting Danton’s motto of “L’audace” ’. Only occasionally does he suggest less admirable aspects. We should consider the increase he mentions in hours of work. Before 1914, 44 hours were usual for all staff: with the war that rose to at least 50, and 70 for the seniors or even 80–90 ‘for weeks at a time’, which must have had a deadening effect on what was done. This is not to say staff were not increased in an attempt to cope with swelling demands: they were, but that brought problems of office accommodation. Between 1914 and 1920 there was not room to house the whole department together, and some sections were moved several times, causing great disruption. Doubtless from 1917 there was one main building that could take most of the staff, but it was a wooden structure built on the bed of the drained lake in St James’s Park, near the Admiralty, known as Lake House. The author implies it was damp, and it must have been cold and gloomy for much of the year. On this topic Goldsmid is willing openly to accept that better planning had been necessary and possible, perhaps thinking the complaint allowable since he was largely criticising another department, the Office of Works.4 His history is of interest for various reasons. For instance, he implies two sources for the fine spirit animating the department. One was the exceptional man appointed as Director in 1914 – Graeme Thomson, said by Winston Churchill to be one of the ‘discoveries’ of the war. Second, the men immediately under Thomson were relatively young, with enormous responsibilities thrown on them, thus marrying energy and initiative.5 (We can see an autobiographical element here: Goldsmid was only 33 in 1914.) More immediately relevant to us, Goldsmid’s description offers us a contrast with the less than inspired ‘walking’ implied in some reports from other departments. Take an example from the head of Victualling, J.H. Brooks, in 1917. He noted his department’s system had been reformed just before the war, and argued it proved itself both during the initial mobilisation and in later purchase, receipt and distribution of supplies. But he added: ‘It could not provide of course for the new services which arose in the course and from the nature of the War, and which could not have been anticipated by anyone, and these had to be met as they occurred’.6 So far so similar, it might seem; except his report lacks the spirit found in Goldsmid, failing completely to suggest initiative. The implication is the department was not so much learning and adapting accordingly as simply trying desperately to cope: no opportunity was seen even for desirable


C.I. Hamilton

modifications. And that was what the Superintending Electrical Engineer actually asserted about his own section, also in 1917: certain reforms had not been proposed, he wrote, ‘for fear of causing disorganization by making changes under the severe conditions of stress existing’, though we should allow that the decision might well have been the right one, as long as it was based on a careful assessment, not short sightedness.7 Reforms did come to both departments, but delayed: after the war in the case of electrical engineering, and only in the 1930s in Victualling, an important factor there being the strict financial pragmatism of the Treasury.8 Two important points emerge. First, even an expected war can make unforeseeable demands. Take the poor Office of Works, whose difficulties one can imagine. Circumstances might mean the Service departments would realise only right at the last moment that new staff had to be recruited and accommodated, and urgent requisitions be dispatched for hutments: the Works Department then had quickly to find materials and skilled labour (competing here directly with the Army on the Western Front). Despite weather and general friction, at last the new structure would be about to be opened, when another chit would arrive announcing a further increase of staff, and demanding that the new building be completed to twice the size. The Office of Works, that is, was in a particularly vulnerable position, right down the bottom of the chain of causation, suffering from the accumulated consequences of novelty, accident and failure. Yet the bulk of the Admiralty was only a level higher. Coherent advance planning was extremely difficult under such circumstances, so in practice one usually had to react. But how did one react? Here is our second point: there is a hierarchy of ‘learning through walking’, with an intelligent, even inspired form at the top, down through reluctant adaptation as requirements grow, finally to desperate last-minute tinkering under ‘the stimulus of danger’. Potentially we have an unwieldy topic, and I propose to address it here through taking three contrasting but complementary cases to help illumine the Admiralty experience. First, one that lets us look in more detail at the internal response to the nuts and bolts of wartime administration, suggesting a factor that can determine the level of reaction. Second, government, with disaster looming at sea, intervening within the Admiralty, an example of how one can get radical change rather than mere evolution. That questions the utility of pragmatism, as does our third case, where naval officers with experience of war at the sharp end – ‘users’ as they became known – managed to impose their authority at the Admiralty. For our first case, various possible topics come to mind; but – here as later – an effort will be made to go beyond the usual suspects. The one chosen is female employment at the Admiralty. There had been no women employees there before 1914, bar cleaners, but the needs of war offered no choice, and by 1918 there were over 3,000 in a staff of nearly 11,000. It is true, though, that the great majority of the newcomers remained at fairly menial levels – typists and shorthand-writers – so could be regarded as dispensable come the peace. In 1918 serious consideration was given to returning to the old pattern, one powerful point being made that about 700–800 Admiralty men then serving in the armed forces would be returning with

Solvitur Ambulando 73 the right to take up their previous employment.9 In any case, as some heads of department argued in reports submitted at this time, women had not fully proven themselves. First, there was a general complaint that – though usually careful, even obsessively painstaking in their work – they had not been eager to take responsibility or show initiative. Second, they had not had the same stamina as men, so could not work the same hours and also took much more sick leave: thus – a figure commonly suggested – it apparently took three women to do the work of two men: even if women staff were paid less, they were not necessarily an economy. It was noted as mitigation in some of the reports that women had not previously had the chance to get the same experience and training that the men had had, but a reply here was that they never would: for one thing, mothers were reluctant to allow their daughters to work late. Even worse, there was a very high turnover of female workers. The Naval Ordnance Store Officer at Chatham, for instance, remarked that almost a quarter of his women workers had resigned in the previous year, either because of home duties or marriage. This was outside the Admiralty, but the Superintendent of Ordnance Stores commented that the remarks about the staff at the Ordnance Depots applied equally to those at the Admiralty.10 However, there were some more welcoming reactions to female employment, in part because of the sorting effect of the war on the men. One grim result of war experience was the number of them returning maimed by the fighting: they had to be employed, but were less efficient than they had been. Women workers, it was said, might be inferior to men in their prime, but preferable to damaged ones. And this relative superiority could also be found regarding the men then available straight from civilian life. There were a number of complaints about the poor standard of male applicants. The war, it seemed, had left a quite inadequate male civilian residuum, while enormously increasing the need for staff. Women, it was implied or baldly stated, were the only recourse. If those comments were clearly grudging, others were more positive, a result of the way the war had mobilised a previously inaccessible female intake. Part of that lay at the bottom of the skills hierarchy, women striving to escape menial work by learning the clerical skills now at a premium. Another group was very different, both in class and education: indisputably ladies, who through patriotism as well as more material motives, ventured into the booming female job market. Though both groups were crucial, it was the latter who attracted the more favourable attention in the Admiralty reports, perhaps in part because it demonstrated more of an ability to escape the usual reluctance of women at the Admiralty to show initiative, at least when supervising other women. The 19 April 1918 report from the Signal Division Director made his approval clear when he said it had been noticed such staff would also ‘play the game’ in the office, being genteel enough not to press advantages on all occasions, but allow a certain give and take. It was only a pity, he thought, that they would be unlikely to stay during the peace: he didn’t realise that other consequences of the war, tax, greater social mobility and depression, would work to counter that.11 There is another aspect of his report to note. The Signal Division had been staffed mainly by women from its inception, and eventually had nearly 200 of


C.I. Hamilton

various social grades. The Director was close to his subject; he had had a better chance than many of his peers to judge on merits. The same might be said of certain others who also largely welcomed women, such as the Director of the Compass Department, another of those able to draw on recruits ‘of a good class and education’. Or there is the Civil Engineer-in-Chief: his female staff was limited, but he was able to draw on his observation of women draughters and tracers in the private sector, where they were common. Or, turning again to look at employment outside the Admiralty, there is the Director of Dockyards and Repairs: he praised the work not just of female clerks, but of machinists, welders and electrical workers in the dockyards; he too observed a certain lack of stamina, and a tendency to take more sick leave, but otherwise thought a failure to equal men was due to lack of training, not basic aptitudes. He, too, was well set up to judge, better, indeed, than any other: by mid-1918 women constituted 9 per cent of the over 5,000 workers in the royal dockyards. As a final example we can look to the testimony of the head of the Admiralty Chemical department, Arnold Philip. He had actually been prejudiced in favour of women chemists at first; experience somewhat disillusioned him. Although his female staff was small, most had been trained in a University, or the equivalent, and showed great keenness; but he thought they tended to get caught in the detail and lacked a certain common sense; thus he concluded men would be more efficient. However, one had to get the men first – and good men were needed, at that: yet too many, Philip realised, had been lost at the front or left for better-paid employment elsewhere: neither would be back. The women, at least, were there, and could do the job, and do it well: looking back over the previous six months, Philip estimated not even half the work could have been done without them. Finally, he realised what would happen after the war: the country’s chemical industry was bound to soar, and female chemists would be more necessary than ever. If less than whole-hearted, Philip was welcoming continued female employment. It seems he did not need to have had a large female staff to become convinced of their merits: necessity and, perhaps more important, a degree of imagination, could compensate.12 Here we return to Goldsmid’s point about the importance of acute individuals. Otherwise, though, one discerns a tendency to discard prejudice towards female staff the closer the observer’s experience of their work. We now move on to the second case, where government intervened to impose Admiralty reform. At root was frustration at the actions of Admiralty machinery. The failure to gain a great victory at sea, and growing losses of merchantmen to German U-boats, were causing serious worry in political circles from the end of 1916, propelled by what was at times a virulent newspaper campaign. Hence increasing intervention in Admiralty appointments by Lloyd George, the Prime Minister from 1916. He was the one who had Jellicoe made First Sea Lord in December 1916; and he went on the following May to transfer Sir Eric Geddes from War Office work to being Controller of the Navy, further promoting him to First Lord in July, and supporting his reforms. Geddes thus became the agent for important structural changes in the offices, both in the War Staff (which became the Naval Staff), and in the Board of Admiralty, split from September 1917 into

Solvitur Ambulando 75 two committees, the first to concentrate on administration, the other on naval operations. These developments constituted a serious attempt to go beyond merely reacting to events, however intelligently, and rather to take a grip on them through planning ahead: here one might point in particular to the creation in September of the Naval Staff Plans Division, which rapidly turned into a policy-making body, advising both First Sea Lord and Board. However, we should note the crisis that brought these changes about had two sides. One was operational – solved, as was hoped, by the changes just mentioned. It has been well studied of late, and we should rather turn to the other, and less well known side, concerning production.13 The war by 1916–17 called for not just dramatically increased numbers of merchantmen, to replace losses, but also of patrol and escort vessels, mines, nets, depth-charges, paravanes, otters, hydrophones and armour-piercing shells. Economic mobilisation had to be ratcheted up a few notches, and – more relevant to us – war-administration developed to match.14 The Prime Minister had already intervened over this in late 1916 through the appointment of a Shipping Controller to coordinate merchant shipping. There were rapid effects on the Admiralty organisation. The appointee, Sir Joseph Maclay, came to realise he needed a staff, and pressed for the transfer to himself of the Admiralty’s Transport Department. The Admiralty resisted, but in February 1917 agreed to a compromise, and the Transport Department was made to serve two masters, establishing the core bureaucracy for what became the Ministry of Shipping.15 The Admiralty was even more directly affected in May by Geddes’s appointment as Controller of the Navy (henceforward just ‘the Controller’). The post was an essentially managerial position that had been relinquished back in 1912 by the Third Sea Lord, since it was seen as distracting him from thinking about and articulating policy. Geddes did not last long in the post; he moved on to be First Lord in July, and was replaced by another civilian, Sir Alan Anderson; however, both were similar in glorying in their managerial role, and they masterminded a dramatic enhancement of the production of all kinds of naval materiel. To administer that, a whole series of important instruments were created under them in the heart of the Admiralty: first, a strong personal bureaucracy for the Controller, headed by a direct subordinate of the Permanent Secretary; second, a statistics department to monitor production as well as operations; third, a department to decide on priorities in materials and contracts; finally, three Deputy Controllers, each with his own department, dividing up between them most of the enormous field of materiel and production, the Deputy Controller of Dockyard Shipbuilding [DCDS], the Deputy Controller of Auxiliary Shipbuilding [DCAS] and the Deputy Controller of Armament Production [DCAP]. In retrospect, surely the Statistics Department is the most remarkable, an essential tool but created only after years of war. How can one plan if one has no organisation to gather and collate raw data on personnel and materials? The list of data being gathered by early 1918 by the various sections of the department indicates what had largely been absent previously: notably on warship fuel consumption, merchant ship sailings and losses, stocks of mines, torpedoes and depth charges,


C.I. Hamilton

industrial deliveries, stocks of various commodities, and production of warships, merchantmen, aircraft and auxiliary craft. Moreover, we must understand the importance of the functions of what became the largest part in the whole department, D.Stats (C) (known otherwise as the Materials and Production statistical section), which directly catered to the needs of the Controller. Yet again, what strikes us is the lateness with which needs were being addressed. Two examples: only in September 1917 was there a unit (a sub-section in D.Stats (C)) to monitor the Naval Staff’s requisitions to the Director of Contracts for supplies (before this, many of those sent had been initially purely verbal, often similarly modified later, a certain recipe for confusion)16: even more tellingly, it was only at about the same time that a parallel sub-section to collate all national requirements of raw materials also appeared, another innovation, and a little late in the day during an allegedly total war. Again only at this time, there was a greater interest in co-ordination, eschewing what were called ‘watertight compartments’. Criticisms of the latter can be found in the Admiralty even before the war, but these gathered force, and were implicit in the reform of the War Staff in 1917.17 And better co-ordination was the key to the reform of the Controller’s departments. A relevant factor was that most of the new heads were civilians and businessmen. Here too we should see the influence of Lloyd George: he admired business drive, and wanted to see it rejuvenating government. Geddes – himself a railwayman – and the fellow-businessmen he introduced into the Admiralty were to energise the administration with what were called ‘business principles’. Among the latter was the efficient circulation of ideas. Propinquity contributed: much of Anderson’s production administration was grouped together in more temporary hutments in St James’s Park (officially called ‘Birdcage House’; less politely ‘Birdcage Mansions’), conveniently close not just to the Admiralty but to what had become the Ministry of Shipping in Lake House. We should also note particular administrative offices devoted to liaison and co-ordination, especially the Controller’s section of the Secretariat. The Statistics Department was similarly active, above all D.Stats (C). It too was all sent to Birdcage House (by at least 19 August 1918), so came cheek by jowl with the rest of the production empire; moreover, from April 1918 each of its sub-sections was linked to a specific part of the latter: thus D.Stats (C) RM (for Requirements Raw Materials) worked with the Director of Materials and Priority; D.Stats (C) A (for Ammunition) with the DCAP; D.Stats (C) W (for Warships) with the DCDS; D.Stats (C) M (for Merchantmen) with the Controller-General for Merchant Shipbuilding (who had taken over merchant shipbuilding from the DCAS – his post now dissolved – in March); and D.Stats (C) R (for Requisition) with the Controller himself.18 More effort also went into developing linkages with industry, going beyond gathering and spreading information to exercising control. There had long been regional representatives of the Admiralty construction and armament departments, encouraging progress with contract work and checking quality. They increased with the war, even more so with the 1917 expansion in production, so that, at least in smaller towns, there might no longer be office space available for the new local staff.19 Circumstances could still dictate what was done, not planning. The

Solvitur Ambulando 77 Shipyard Labour Department (another 1917 innovation, headed by a barrister as director) found its task of allocating workers between local producers, according to need, depended on who had sufficient supplies of raw materials, so was drawn in to re-allocating them as well.20 But there was also more planning, as with the new Materials and Priority Department. An Admiralty priority section had been set up in 1916, but appears to have concerned itself largely with labour, and dealt purely with other government departments rather than at the grass roots. It was brusquely terminated when the Materials and Priority Department appeared, and the latter soon began to develop a network of local representatives.21 Planning is also to be seen in the local organisation under the DCAP: District Progress Engineers were sent out and encouraged to go beyond the task of spurring production from the habitual Admiralty firms, first by offering to help with any problems facing sub-contractors, and then to looking around the districts in case there were other previously untapped factories or workshops that might usefully be exploited. Moreover, there was presumably cooperation with the local network of the Materials and Priority Department, though the details are obscure.22 In the 1917 production reforms we have at last found examples of radical change, ones based on an attempt to plan and anticipate, beyond even intelligent pragmatism. It differs from our first case in one respect above all: while we suggested that closeness to the subject was important in encouraging advance in female employment, distance was the key in the 1917 restructurings, since they were imposed by those who knew relatively little about Admiralty practices, and perhaps cared less. Now we can move on to the third case, where clearly pragmatism was very much in the ascendent, and which deserves close attention if only because it resulted in a re-shaping of the Admiralty that long out-lasted the war. The emergence of the word ‘user’ towards the end of the First World War in itself surely constituted a form of objection to an apparently blind or at least maladroit employment of the country’s maritime resources. Those officers who knew the war at sea at first hand could regard themselves as the only ones fit to judge how it should be managed, and doubts were expressed whether the chief men at the Admiralty had the proper expertise. Thus there was a sense of irritation that until at least mid-1916 none of the Sea Lords or heads of the War Staff had recent direct experience of war at sea. And there were those invading businessmen of 1916–17, including Geddes, Anderson, Maclay, the head of the Statistics Department, two of the three Deputy Controllers, plus the later Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding [CGMS]; and while the head of Materials and Priority and the third Deputy-Controller were army officers, that was perhaps not a particular source of comfort to their naval colleagues. An important point here was that the Controllers and Deputies were responsible for design as well as production, so would decide on the instruments the ‘users’ would have to rely on. Doubtless, most had extensive shipbuilding or engineering experience; still, it was natural enough for ‘users’ to feel slighted. Thus the ‘crisis of production’ had been addressed – but brought with it an apparent ‘crisis of command’.23 ‘Users’ began to infiltrate the upper levels of the Admiralty from mid-1916, when a new Second Sea Lord was appointed who had recently been in command


C.I. Hamilton

of a cruiser squadron. And at the end of the year the senior ‘fighting admiral’ – Jellicoe – was brought in to be First Sea Lord, and he brought various officers with him from the Grand Fleet. There followed the developments in 1917, which brought even more new ‘users’ to the Naval Staff. There was still concern whether they were able to get their views listened to, if only because various ‘watertight compartments’ remained. One staff officer, K.G.B. Dewar, complained in July that the head of the Anti-Submarine Division did not see certain important papers, and that some senior officers kept details of operational orders in their heads.24 The Board itself could still lack current information: in an interview in August, Geddes admitted the Lords were ignorant of much that was happening in the departments, and the departments themselves were ill-informed about what the others were doing.25 However, the new Naval Staff gradually improved naval liaison and co-ordination. One means through which it could bring more naval experience to bear in design matters can be seen in an Admiralty circular from about the end of September 1917: 1


The Naval Staff will be responsible for advising as to the purpose for which war material should be employed; the general requirements to be fulfilled; the quantities required; and the time within which they should become available and also for the use made of the material when provided. The Third Sea Lord and the Controller and the Departments under them will be responsible for all matters connected with design, manufacture, inspection, trial, acceptance, equipment and maintenance of war material, in accordance with the general scheme of organisation set forth in Admiralty Office Memorandum of 1st June 1917.26

Here was the articulation of the principle, firmly held by Naval Staff officers in succeeding years, that there should be a functional separation between the Staff, which should articulate policy, notably about requirements for materiel, and the technical departments that would have to meet those requirements. However, it took some time for that principle to be properly refined, if only because at first there was no obvious part of the Naval Staff to lay down a general policy, within which the other Staff Divisions should set their own requirements. Then, also in September 1917, it will be recalled, the Plans Division was created. This soon became in effect a Plans and Policy Division, which from January 1918 was being told to take a close and continuing interest in design matters.27 Nevertheless, significant ‘user’ discontent still remained, as we see from complaints made in early 1918 by the Third Sea Lord, Lionel Halsey, one of the officers brought down from the Grand Fleet by Jellicoe. Halsey had been prompted by the abolition of the post of DCAS that March, and the handing over of responsibilities for merchant ship construction to the CGMS. This raised a great question about Sir Alan Anderson’s position as Controller of the Navy. While Anderson – through the DCAS – had been responsible for merchant ship construction, there was some reason for him to be a civilian. But now it could be argued he was in charge largely only of military materiel, the conclusion somehow followed he

Solvitur Ambulando 79 should be replaced by a military man: that suggested reverting to the position before 1912, when the Third Sea Lord had been Controller. In a letter to Jellicoe of 3 May 1918 Halsey stated it was inefficient to have Anderson as a colleague on the Board, not a subordinate: if Halsey wanted a change in manufacturing priorities, he was unable simply to issue an order, but had to try to persuade a man who by training could not follow ‘purely technical and professional matters’, and persuasion took time. But re-combining the posts of Third Sea Lord and Controller would unite executive authority in the materiel departments, and there could be ‘direct action’. Furthermore, cooperation between the various Controller’s departments would be easier, since all would be subject to the same Member of the Board. Halsey here gave an example of the kind of thing that he was trying to avoid, the friction between the Director of Naval Ordnance [DNO] and the DCAP, recently the subject of an inquiry.28 The complaint suggests not just a clash with the civilian-based ‘business principles’ that Geddes had been introducing, but a strong preference for military command as the basis of an organisation. Tellingly, Halsey found wide support among ‘user’ colleagues, including Jellicoe, and Beatty and various other Grand Fleet officers. Geddes resisted the message, but was worn down through meetings and correspondence. Halsey had in any case wanted to go back to sea, and got his wish in June 1918 on appointment to the plum command of a battlecruiser squadron. His successor, Charles de Bartolomé, became Third Sea Lord and Controller, and Anderson left the Admiralty. Deputy Controllers remained, but only until the Armistice, when their departments were rapidly separated into directorates in the pre-war fashion, headed by officers. Given that and the Naval Staff changes referred to above, the result was a remarkable consolidation of naval authority within the Admiralty. Moreover, it continued to develop after the war, particularly once Beatty succeeded as First Sea Lord in November 1919, in large part because one of his main advisers, his previous flag captain, Ernle Chatfield, held a number of crucial Admiralty appointments during Beatty’s tenure in office, and went on to be First Sea Lord himself. He was not just keen on the policy/production distinction between Naval Staff and departments, but consciously encouraged forms of administrative ‘navalisation’, including promoting paymasters as private secretaries and naval assistants to the Sea Lords, and propagating professional – that is ‘user’ – influence within Admiralty departments, such as Stores and Victualling, which had been essentially civilian before the war.29 This move was one of assertion rather than a pre-Geddes restoration; though we should note that it did not quite constitute an Admiralty ‘take-over’, if only because of the contemporary rise of a clearly civilian influence, that of the Secretariat, under the Permanent Secretary to the Admiralty, who from 1917 to 1936 was the formidable Sir Oswyn Murray. There was to be some competition between these two elements as they established themselves, where while naval officers could well assert the importance of knowing how to fight an enemy at sea, the Secretariat could counter – in particular once interwar economies loomed – by pointing to the crucial nature of their own expertise against a really dangerous opponent, the Treasury. The Naval Staff and the Secretariat each took powerful


C.I. Hamilton

and sometimes contradictory positions within the Admiralty, though since in the end each was willing to cooperate with the other, there was no dangerous split. There was also a limitation of another kind on navalisation – one of vision, of particular interest to us. The rise of the ‘user’ favoured pragmatism rather than prescience. This must not be overstated. The experience of war did show, to some at least, the importance of better preparation for next time: that is, contemporaries could draw the lesson that more effort was necessary to try to descry the future. That can be seen in the establishment – against some naval opposition – of the Plans Division. We also find praise openly expressed for planning ahead, as in a passage from Chatfield’s memoirs. It begins: The great naval machine is apt to move slowly and cautiously. Its problems are so difficult to solve, its material developments are so complicated, that it is not easy to launch out rapidly into new adventures. Perhaps in that, it displays a British characteristic. Let us perfect what we have, let us learn to walk before we can run, the average mind to apt to say.30 This offers us a less laudatory version of the ‘walking’ image, and also stresses the extreme difficulty of discerning future developments out of the mass of impacted detail of immediate experience; something that we, with our admirable hindsight, ought not completely to forget. But of course it implies the problems can be overcome. Chatfield goes on to offer us an example of what could be done by an exceptional officer – Beatty – who allegedly fought against the short-term economies of the Admiralty, and argued that future naval engagements would probably be at longer ranges, and that that should be prepared for. However, the future Chatfield anticipated was narrow. He was concerned largely with technical advance. Here Chatfield was by no means alone. It was a widely accepted lesson of the war that the navy had to stay ahead technically. Gunnery was here very much a pertinent case, above all where it came to armour piercing shells, where the British for long had difficulties, overcome only after great efforts. Towards the end of the war and soon after there were various submissions made, by the DNO (Frederic Dreyer and his later successor Cecil Usborne), the Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance [CINO] (Commander Llewellyn E.H. Llewellyn), the Captain of the gunnery ship Excellent (Robert N. Bax), the President of the Ordnance Committee (Commodore A.W. Craig), emphasising both the advances that had been made of late in ordnance, and the urgent requirement to maintain that in future, in particular through the proper training of specialist naval gunnery officers.31 War had also accentuated concern for technicalities because of the need for the mass production of arms. Weapons had not just to be reliable, even in the hurly-burly of combat, but also now be capable of production in very large quantities by machinery using semi-skilled labour: thus design and development became of even greater importance than before.32 We should also notice the contributory influence soon after the war of the Washington treaty, which limited the chief navies in numbers and tonnages of major warships. The Royal Navy could no longer hope to depend on numbers: it needed technical superiority,

Solvitur Ambulando 81 or – and this seems to have become something of a catch-phrase in the Admiralty in the 1920s – ‘super-excellence in design’.33 Yet technical superiority – narrowly understood – was no longer enough. As was seen by some naval officers, the war had been a tipping-point: the theoretical – that is the scientific – aspects of certain specialisations had emerged, rendering earlier more empirical ones inadequate. That was what lay behind some of the concerns about Ordnance mentioned a little earlier, and emerges more overtly in some submissions made about wireless in 1920. The Director of Naval Signalling, Captain John K. im Thurn, minuted that previously ‘W/T was still in the empirical realm, and advance was the result of trial and error’; but nowadays W/T ‘is capable of mathematical treatment . . .’. The Director of Training and Staff Duties, Captain Walter W. Ellerton, added that ‘W/T has reached the stage where scientific principles have been established, and development is now required along these lines’.34 There was just the question of quite how the scientific researcher was to be accommodated, and there was a clear split in the proposals. Some of the writers – such as Dreyer, Bax and im Thurn – wanted to train naval officers to be scientists, being influenced here by various worries about civilian researchers, including poor security, lack of discipline, and the way civilians might lightly wander back into the private sector, having enjoyed an extensive training at the expense of the government. Even more perceptive officers, therefore, could be reluctant to accept science on anything other than naval terms. Many others were not even willing to pay much attention to what science had to offer. For that we can look to the treatment of the Board of Invention and Research [BIR], set up in 1915 under Lord Fisher, who had precipitately resigned as First Sea Lord earlier that year. It was supposed to make available to the navy the scientific expertise needed to fight the naval war, and did do invaluable work, supplementing the scientists brought within the Admiralty organisation, such as those at the research institute set up initially at Aberdour (which ultimately became the Admiralty Research Laboratory [ARL], Teddington, in 1921). But a committee of inquiry under Sir R. Sothern Holland reported in 1917 that the BIR had never been fully welcomed into the naval administration. One problem here, as was admitted by Sir Oswyn Murray in an internal minute, was fear that Fisher would use the Board as a means to crash back into the Admiralty and wreck revenge on his numerous enemies.35 The Holland committee avoided personalities, but agreed that the Admiralty – and many naval officers – had slighted the Board, because of an excessive attachment to the immediate and the practical, and a longstanding failure to understand the importance of basic research. The reaction of Jellicoe to the Committee’s report, given when he was still First Sea Lord, well illustrates the more negative side of naval officer reaction. He was extraordinarily defensive, blaming the Treasury for any shortcomings in naval research, yet denying at the same time that there had been any shortcomings at all.36 He did admit that scientists were now necessary, but thought their selfish desire for personal reputation would mean they gave unnecessary attention to purely scientific investigations, ‘as opposed to those which have a definite


C.I. Hamilton

Service application’. In any case, they could not have that ‘close knowledge of what is practicable at sea which is possessed by the Naval Officer’: there was therefore yet another reason for keeping them firmly under the control of naval officers. Again, therefore, it was a matter of command. Jellicoe’s minute was approved by his Deputy (and successor), by the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, and by Halsey. Moreover, his arguments re-emerged time after time in officers’ minutes over the succeeding years. The prejudice could even be sharper, as with Commander Llewellyn’s assertion in 1919 that: ‘Scientists are more often than not, cranks’.37 Such libels, though, were only more extreme versions of the viewpoint that scientists could be impractical, or of what was a consensus that an essential touchstone for materiel development was a naval officer’s seagoing knowledge. Thus naval scientific endeavours were shaped in the post-war years. A permanent central research laboratory was set up (the ARL), and there were other, more specialised establishments, such as HMS Osprey at Portland, studying anti-submarine measures; but almost all of them were under immediate naval command; and in any case, the direction of naval development was set from the Admiralty itself, where practical design work tended to be favoured, as against fundamental research. That, indeed, is obvious enough from wording of official minutes, where ‘design’ and ‘development’ appear regularly, and ‘research’ can be rare. This is not to say that the latter was ignored. Some basic research – such as into Asdic – did continue, and yielded fine results. We should also note an Office Memorandum from 31 December 1918 which stated that in ‘view of the great importance of ensuring that Naval Policy and Scientific Research do not proceed on divergent lines’, the Plans Division ought to work in close association with the researchers. Thus the most forward-looking of the Admiralty institutions produced by the ‘navalisation’ of the First World War was associated directly with the scientific cause.38 Nevertheless, ‘navalisation’ remained the key phenomenon. Our three cases have been useful in varying ways. The first case, though less overtly than Goldsmid with the Transport Department, gives some instances that we might describe as adaptation intelligently achieved under the pressure of immediate circumstances: the kind of ‘walking’ that Tirpitz would surely have admired. The second case, on the other hand, shows such a distance between immediate circumstances and those who decided how to respond as not to class as ‘walking’ at all. It was precisely in the deployment of agents who knew little about the Ministry they were about to reform that gave the ability to reform. But such boldness was necessary: the crisis called for reforms beyond what was possible within existing departments, already fully occupied with the daily needs of fighting an unprecedented war. Hence the turn to external restructuring, with new departments and sections added where necessary. Though expensive, above all in personnel, and a far cry from Churchill’s 1914 principles of economy, this was the way to get vital new functions fully and quickly addressed. The final case opens up other lines of inquiry. Above all, why were ‘users’ so wed to the immediate and practical? There are various possible explanations, including national culture, lack of imagination, or a burden of work so insistent

Solvitur Ambulando 83 there was no time to pause and ask whether there were better ways of tackling problems. One might instead point out the long-standing attachment of naval officers to practical empiricism, seen particularly in the way officer training emphasised seamanship, instilled from as early an age as possible. Or there are the arguments offered by Dr Gordon in his well-known and persuasive The Rules of the Game about the influence of late Victorian naval training and culture.39 However, we must also allow for the crucial effect of fighting a war – practical experience in its highest form – in creating views and even doctrine.40 At the same time we must understand that such experience differs over time. That leads to our conclusion: an attempt to find a particular linkage between experience and learning in the context of the naval war as it was fought in 1914–18. Here it helps to jump forward to a set of minutes from 1937 to 38. C.S. Wright, the Director of Scientific Research, had recommended on 9 December that certain shortcomings in naval research could be overcome by consolidating efforts – including trials – in shore-based establishments. The Director of Torpedoes and Mining, Captain Frederic Wake Walker, minuted adversely on the 14th, arguing the only valid tests were those undertaken ‘in ships or with ships’ equipment’. Wright, he concluded, had ignored ‘the essential condition that a knowledge of sea conditions is necessary to the solution of the problems of sea requirements’. The minute went back to Wright, who thought the final argument mere ‘claptrap’, since decent liaison would keep the scientist adequately informed of what was required or suitable at sea. In any case, he believed trials at sea were useless, since the necessary means of accurate measurement were unlikely in ships in commission. In search of supporting evidence he passed on the papers to the ARL, and one of the Principal Scientific Officers there, J.M. Ford, replied sympathetically on 18 January, arguing a knowledge of sea conditions – whilst necessary for the formulation of requirements – had very little to do with ‘the actual basic solution’. He referred to different examples in his answer, though thought one alone substantiated his case: The urgent necessity for a propeller thrust block capable of withstanding very heavy loads was known to all marine power plant designers and sea going engineers for many years. The solution was provided by a scientist, Mr. A.G.M. Michell who produced his well known film bearing from mathematical considerations only. Marine engineers naturally developed the idea into sea-going form, but the basic work had no connection with “knowledge of sea conditions”.41 The correspondence is very interesting, first because it shows that still at this time a naval officer could strongly support the axiom that seagoing experience was central in creating solutions. But we must also be struck by Ford’s ready and confident response: it suggests the wealth of experience that had now accumulated in the naval laboratory rather than at sea. Wake Walker would probably not have been convinced by Ford, but we should notice he was convinced by the next war, where he enjoyed extensive experience both serving at sea and – from 1942 to


C.I. Hamilton

1945 – at the Admiralty, as Controller and Third Sea Lord. By 1944, you find him extolling the cause of science, and he uses that key word ‘research’ (rather than, say, just ‘design’) stating: In this war scientific research has come into its own . . . It is of the highest importance to the Navy, as to the other fighting services, that research and development should not only be retained as an integral part of our organisation [in peacetime] but that every care should be taken to improve and probably to expand it.42 His change in opinion had been brought by the changes in naval warfare by 1939–45. It has been said that both World Wars were ‘wars of science’, but that is simplistic. Even the more nuanced suggestion that 1939–45 was a war of physics, and 1914–18 a war of chemistry can be disputed, if only because the last part is true principally about the war on land. Another formulation is needed to assess what naval warfare was like, and how it changed, at least as experienced by the ‘users’. First we must exclude the prototypes, or weapons tried only in small numbers, and look rather to the hardware that was commonly deployed and thus commonly known. That said, it is still fitting to see the naval war in 1939–45 as one of science, where new devices, or new marks, based on improved technology and even novel principles, succeeded each other rapidly. We need think only of radar, HF/DF, Asdic/SONAR, advanced fire control, code machines and proximity fuses. The First World War at sea, by contrast, was essentially a war of engineering – a war of mechanical devices, where even the innovations, such as depth charges or paravanes, or the better shells introduced in 1918, were based on long-standing principles, and their workings were obvious enough, not dependent on some arcane expertise. We might see an exception in the hordes of technicians swarming over the ships of the Grand Fleet, drilling numerous holes through bulkheads – much to the distrust of officers who feared internal leaks should mine or torpedo strike – so wires could be installed for director firing gear.43 But even that was still engineering; part of the contemporary rapid advance of basic electrical engineering, which eventually had its own administrative consequence in 1918–19 in the emergence at the Admiralty of a distinct Directorate of Electrical Engineering. Doubtless, some perceptive officers saw that the First World War constituted a scientific turning-point, but the consensus shown in ‘user’ Admiralty minutes was that progress could be contained within the existing structures of weapon design, experiment and production. That might well be seen as a rational response to the war as experienced. However, it is also apparent that what is learned will quite likely be limited by the nature of the experience. Our conclusion must surely be that while ‘learning by walking’ is essential, it is not sufficient, and even has dangers. In mitigation – and here we return to the example of Tirpitz, if not his words – we should recall that a rigid attachment to planning and programmes can have yet more serious drawbacks.

Solvitur Ambulando 85

List of abbreviations ARL CINO CGMS DCAP DCAS DCDS DNO

Admiralty Research Laboratory Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding Deputy Controller of Armament Production Deputy Controller of Auxiliary Shipbuilding Deputy Controller of Dockyard Shipbuilding Director of Naval Ordnance

Notes 1 Minutes of 8 Aug. 1914, 11 May 1915, ADM 1/8388/235. From the Public Record Office, Kew, [‘The National Archives’], as is the case with other manuscript references here, unless otherwise stated. 2 Matthew S. Seligmann, Naval Intelligence from Germany. The Reports of the British Naval Attachés in Berlin, 1906–1914, Navy Records Society vol. 152, (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2007), p. 524. 3 Letter of 18 Feb. 1919 to Commander Carlyon Bellairs, A.J. Marder (ed.), Portrait of an Admiral. The Life and Papers of Sir Herbert Richmond, (Jonathan Cape: London, 1952), p. 338. 4 L.F. Goldsmid, ‘A Report of Shipping Control during the War. The Work of the Transport Department and Ministry of Shipping up to the Armistice 11th November 1918, “Pre-War Preparations” ’, pp. 6–8, MT 25/86; Part VI, ‘Departmental’, pp. 5, 9–10, 54–8, MT 25/87. 5 MT 25/87, Part VI, p. 10. 6 Submission of 13 Apr. 1917, ADM 116/1745. 7 27 Apr. 1917, ADM 116/1745. 8 Branch 4 was in question: see B. Trend minute of 25 Aug. 1938, E8092/1, T 162/501. 9 Comments by Sir Oswyn Murray, 18th meeting of the Reconstruction Committee, 21 Mar. 1918, ADM 116/1759. 10 Report by Naval Ordnance Store Officer, Chatham, 17 June 1918; report by the Superintendent of Ordnance Stores at the Admiralty, commenting on reports from the Ordnance Depots, 30 July 1918, ADM 116/1759. 11 Report by Director, Signal Division, 19 Apr. 1918, ADM 116/1759. 12 Reports by Director of Compass Department, 12 Apr. 1918; Civil Engineer-in-Chief, 10 Apr.; Director of Dockyards and Repairs, 12 June; Admiralty Chemist, 11 Apr. ADM 116/1759. 13 See for instance N. Black, The British Naval Staff in the First World War, (The Boydell Press: Woodbridge, 2009). 14 Dreyer minute of 6 Dec. 1926, in ADM 116/2516. 15 ADM 116/1520. Goldsmid, ‘A Report of Shipping Control during the War’, Part VI, pp. 12ff, ch. 2, MT 25/87. 16 Anon., undated memorandum on requisitions, Sept. 1917–Nov. 1918, ADM 116/2049. 17 Major A.H. Ollivant’s minutes of 13 Apr. and 25 May 1914, CAB 1/31 Part 3, fos 466–72, 474–81; 1 May 1914, ADM 1/8377/120. C.I. Hamilton, The Making of the Modern Admiralty, British Naval Policy-Making, 1805–1927, (CUP, 2011), pp. 254–60. 18 Situation as of April 1918. Wiring diagrams, June 1917, February and April 1918. (Note titles there for the Controller’s chief subordinates are not always in accordance with those in the Navy List. I follow the latter here.) There was further growth later in the year. See too Replies to Treasury Committee Inquiries, 24 Jan. 1922, ADM 116/2049.


C.I. Hamilton

19 See the case of Grantham, manuscript note, District Progress Engineer to DCAP, 18 July 1917, ADM 116/1764. 20 Secretary of the Admiralty to Director of Shipyard Labour, 3 Apr. 1917, ADM 116/1583. 21 ADM 1/8490/140. 22 See for instance, DCAP (Vincent Raven) to Controller, 9 Aug. 1917. Also C.G. Walker, for DCAP, to various firms, 20 July 1917, ADM 116/1764. 23 There may also have been disgruntlement due to pay differentials. The two civilian Deputy Controllers were unpaid, but the additional civilian directors ‘parachuted in’ under them received substantially higher salaries than naval officers doing the same kind of job. See ADM 1/8499/218. 24 Notebook, 40/3, fos 11b–16b, Dewar Papers, National Maritime Museum. 25 Interview with George A. Riddell, 13 Aug. ADM 116/1804. Geddes cut these comments out before publication. 26 From Office Instruction no. 100, DCAS Department, u/d. No. 95 was dated 19 Sept. 1917, ADM 116/1764. 27 From summary of minutes on Plans Division, Sept. 1917–Jan. 1918, circulated 29 Aug. 1918, ADM 1/8524/135. The policy/production principle had been implicit since the May reforms: see ‘Reorganising the Admiralty’, Shipbuilding and Shipping Record, 17 May 1917, p. 472. 28 Halsey to Jellicoe, 3 May 1918, Jellicoe Papers, British Library Additional MS. 49037, fos 77–80. The Navy List appears to show the CGMS came within the Controller’s empire, which would vitiate Halsey’s point about Anderson’s position after March 1918. But – exceptionally for a departmental head – the CGMS was responsible not to the Board through a ‘Superintending Lord’, but to the First Lord personally: see Sir Oswyn Murray minute of 31 Mar. 1918, ADM 116/1605. 29 Hamilton, Making of the Modern Admiralty, pp. 277–82. 30 The Navy and Defence, (William Heinemann: London, 1942), p. 113. 31 See correspondence, 1917–19, in ADM 116/1737. See also Willem Hackmann, Seek and Strike. Sonar, anti-submarine warfare and the Royal Navy 1914–54, (HMSO: 1984), ch. V. 32 Usborne minute of 4 June 1920, ADM 116/1737. 33 Engineer-in-Chief, 16 Jan. 1923, ADM 116/1916; W.A.T. Shorto to W.T. Matthews [Treasury], 10 July 1924, E8087/1, T 162/420; Director of Electrical Engineering report to the Parliamentary Secretary, 12 July 1928, ADM 116/2577. 34 12 and 22 July 1920, ADM 116/1737. See also the Dreyer minutes of 20 Nov. 1917 and 9 May 1918. 35 5 Oct. 1917, ADM 116/1430. 36 Minute of 17 Oct. 1917, ADM 116/1430. 37 Minute by CINO, 2 May 1919, ADM 116/1737. 38 31 Dec. 1918, ADM 1/8559/150. The memorandum also stated the Scientific Research and Experiment Department should be under the First Sea Lord: but it was later decided the department’s ‘Superintending Lord’ would be the Third Sea Lord and Controller. 39 Andrew Gordon, The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command, (Naval Institute Press: Annapolis, MA, 2012 paperback edition), see for instance ch. 9. 40 For an example on the operational side, see Jon Robb-Webb, The British Pacific Fleet Experience and Legacy 1944–50, (Ashgate: Farnham, Surrey, 2013), pp. 101f. 41 ADM 1/10848. 42 List of post-war problems, p. 6, ADM 116/5178. For some longer-term aspects of relations between science and the Admiralty, see C.I. Hamilton, ‘Three cultures at the Admiralty, c.1800–1945: Naval Staff, the Secretariat, and the arrival of Scientists’, Journal of Maritime Research, 16/1, May 2014. 43 Report, Director of Electrical Engineering, 12 July 1928, pp. 5f, ADM 116/2577.


Pragmatic hegemony and British economic warfare, 1900–1918 Preparations and practice John Ferris

This chapter compares British preparations for economic warfare at sea before the First World War, and its practice between 1914–18. These topics are underexplored and misconstrued. Historians agree that economic warfare shaped the First World War, but neither its application nor its effect have been studied thoroughly.1 Economic warfare aims to weaken an enemy’s economy while strengthening your own. It takes many forms, such as denying the enemy access to a commodity, making it pay a premium for the purchase, or by shattering the structure of an economy. The central means for economic warfare between 1914–18, maritime blockade, sought to prevent an enemy from exporting or importing goods by sea, denying it the ability to maintain markets and to garner foreign currency, or to acquire raw materials which it did not produce at home, so to create social and economic disruption, and to weaken its ability to produce military forces and equipment.2 These aims were ambitious, and so were the means. During the Great War, they led Britain to intervene in the economy of every neutral country, and to struggles with most of the world’s firms. In order to blockade Germany, Britain needed to regulate imports into its neutral neighbours, like the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Britain also had to control exports of raw materials and manufactured goods from distant neutral polities, most notably the United States, but also Spain, and many countries and colonies in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These needs forced Britain into complex arrangements with foreign governments and firms, which often had political power of their own. The aim was to inflict maximum harm on enemy states and their firms, with minimum collateral damage to your own. The balance between these outcomes might force one to use powerful tools with care, or not at all. The classic instance of failure to appreciate this point was Germany’s adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare, which cost far more than it gained, by pushing the United States into the war – the greatest consequence of the blockade itself, however indirect and unintended. With less justification, similar calculations slowed Britain’s pursuit of a financial blockade, or the tightening of its system of maritime control.

Economic warfare and international law Economic warfare marked the start and the end of the long nineteenth century. During the Napoleonic wars, France and Britain attempted to prevent any neutral


John Ferris

from trading with its enemy, and treated every item shipped to the latter as contraband. Every neutral resisted these claims, which were enforced at gun point. In the peace conferences of 1815, Britain refused even to discuss belligerent rights – whether those extreme practices, or its traditional, but robust, forms – with other powers. To do so would compromise claims for maritime sovereignty and supremacy, admit error and invite diplomatic defeat, at a moment when the RN could beat every other navy at once. Britain had just proven strong enough to force its views on them, as it would do again in 1915, and could have done at any point in between, had that been necessary, if at a price. Over time, different views emerged, expressed as public rhetoric, or private assessment. Memories of a great war receded. Ideas of progress emerged. By 1856, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Clarendon, justified a reduction in British claims to belligerent rights on the grounds that its old ones were ‘contrary to the public opinion of the world’, while ‘change is the visible law of society’.3 International trade mattered more than ever before to leading states, especially Britain, the centre of a world economy of unprecedented intensity and complexity. The abolition of the Corn Laws left Britain dependent on imports of food from abroad, opening a new vulnerability in economic warfare. Whether Britain ever again could exercise such maritime rights and powers became debatable. Most decision makers were uncertain about the matter, and thought claims for the right counter-productive. As the Foreign Secretary, Edward Grey, said in 1911, if Britain rejected an international consensus on maritime law: because you wish to keep your hands free and impose your own rules on the world – if you will have no agreement with them unless you get your own way in everything, because you will make no concession – you will be increasing the tendency, not of one or two Powers, but of several Powers to enlarge their naval expenditure, and you will be adding to the risk that you will be interfered with in time of war by neutral Powers.4 Even if Britain could exercise that power, any case which might merit this action was distant and hypothetical. Such belligerent rights might be essential during existential wars, but not in other circumstances, where their diplomatic cost was great, raising the question: why pay it, unless necessary? Two schools of thought emerged on this issue, which might be called traditionalists and realists, and liberals and legalists. Between 1815 and 1914, the first school initially dominated but declined in strength, while the latter grew. However, they were not mutually exclusive – men might express views from both schools simultaneously – and were subsumed in a third approach. By the 1850s, statesmen adopted a loose logic suiting a dominant seapower, based on a good grasp of how the law and politics of the seas really worked in peace and war. It might be called ‘pragmatic hegemonism’, which aimed to encourage general support for a law of the sea that protected British interests as a neutral, and as a combatant during minor struggles, at the price of weakening belligerent rights.5 The latter were unnecessary for major wars at the moment, but could expand if

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 89 and when needed in the future. During a great war, these laws would fail if they damaged the vital interests of any belligerent, as was likely to happen. Enemies would break these laws if they seemed to help Britain dominate the seas which, given the strength of the Royal Navy (RN), any set of laws must do, somehow. Alternately, Britain would find an excuse to abandon these rules. Until then, so long as Britain could write the rules, it was willing to enforce them equitably, or see them used by others, even to its own cost. As a neutral, Britain accepted how other states used the rules for belligerent rights, even when it did not like the outcome. As a belligerent, Britain would do what it willed. To define this logic schematically makes pragmatic hegemonism seem more clear than ever was the case. It was not a school of thought, but rather a way to think about the unthinkable, the incalculable and the unpredictable. The logic was loose, the rhetoric more so. Pragmatic hegemonism was a means to manage uncertainty, which was generated by complex conflicts between times, interests, tools and strategies. Like the matters it mediated, British strategy and law, pragmatic hegemonism was empirical, focused on cases and precedents. It was unspoken, its continuity broken, products driven by particular circumstances. No doctrine guided decisions through one case to the next. Instead, decision makers applied the same logic to similar problems, often without knowing how that process had been handled before, or even that it had been. This way of thinking emerged whenever people considered how to make strategy in the future conditional tense. They sought to maximise the certainty around current problems, and the gains to be made in them, while minimising gambles about issues which must be extrapolated into the future. Decision makers did so by maintaining flexibility and freedom – not foreclosing options; or making commitments which might be embarrassing to endure or to repudiate, or perhaps could compromise action later on. The aim was to maximise success for immediate interests, including the possibility of particular maritime wars, without damaging the ultimate requirements for a great war at sea, when what could and should be done was uncertain. The interests were complex, the means mysterious. Both linked power and law. International law was central to pragmatic hegemonism, but no Victorian statesman thought it a substitute for seapower. As Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston said during 1862, that: you have not that security from belligerents that in time of war they will observe the conditions laid down in peace which you have from neutrals. When you make an engagement with a neutral, if it is not kept by him you have the resource of war; but when you are at war with a foreign nation you have shot your bolt, and you can do nothing more. It must rest on the honour of the belligerent, and with his respect for public opinion.6 In 1891, when considering an international agreement to ban the cutting of cables, another Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, wrote: ‘Such an agreement would do no harm-but little good. War conventions are of doubtful value’.7 Increasingly, until 1914, these attitudes changed, while arguments based on them became muddled.


John Ferris

The belief that belligerents would, and Britain should, follow international law during great wars arose, though never to dominance. Without realising the fact, statesmen came to underestimate the value of belligerent rights, because of the impact of ideology, and the way it was argued, especially through the complicated relationship between legalism, liberalism, pragmatism and realism, multiplied by experience, or the lack of it. The value of belligerent rights in existential war became an academic matter. Britain’s main concern regarding the law of the sea became protecting its trade from belligerents during wars when it was neutral, not surprisingly, for a nation with the world’s dominant mercantile fleet, and an economy and population which required the import of food and other raw materials in large volumes. British blockades, meanwhile, even during the Crimean and Boer wars, were easy to execute, and secondary to victory. Two waves drove international law about maritime power in new directions. During 1856, when the Declaration of Paris emerged from the negotiations which ended the Crimean war, British statesmen combined realpolitik with law. They were driven by choice, not necessity, to provide a memorable coda to a messy war, while containing American and French efforts to challenge Britain in an international squabble over belligerent rights. The Declaration of Paris defined as illegal any ‘blockades’ which existed only on paper and were not ‘effective, that is to say, maintained by a force sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy’. Belligerents could not seize goods belonging to a neutral, or any items carried on a non-belligerent ship, including enemy property, save ‘contraband of war’ – which was not defined, gutting the value of that clause. Implicitly, through omission, belligerents could examine all neutral ships at sea, and bring them ashore for trial by Prize Court – national tribunals which enforced international law, tempered by the regulations of its own government.8 Again, from 1890, jurists and politicians sought to codify the laws of war, so to further the interests of individuals, states and civilisation. The law of the sea was an obvious candidate for makeover. Prompted by Britain, which was driven more by liberal ideology than had been the case in 1856, states sought to provide greater certainty and equity for all, by building on the base of the Declaration of Paris. Their product, the Declaration of London of 1911, clearly defined the ‘effectiveness’ of a blockade, by following Anglo-American views which made that matter legally easier and more useful to mount than did the doctrines preferred by continental states. Conversely, the Declaration aided all neutrals and weaker belligerents, by narrowing the meaning of contraband, which could either be (a) absolute, essentially munitions sent directly or indirectly to an enemy country, or (b) conditional, basically foodstuffs and some finished items like optical instruments sent straight (without an intermediate neutral destination) to an enemy military base, or a contractor in hostile territory. Absolute contraband could be seized anywhere at sea. Conditional contraband assigned to neutrals or sent straight to a neutral port, no matter their final destination, was safe from seizure. Even such materials carried on neutral vessels, assigned to enemy civilians and sent straight to one of the enemies’ ports which was neither a military base nor under ‘blockade’, could be condemned only by proving that it was destined to a hostile government. All other materials, so called

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 91 free goods, explicitly including major commodities like raw cotton, petroleum or metallic ores, ‘may not be declared contraband of war’. Nonetheless, belligerents could capture all items (including free goods) on every ship moving directly to a port or coast under effective ‘blockade’, or merchant ships under the enemy’s flag, or search neutral vessels for contraband anywhere on the high seas and bring such materials and ships into a Prize Court for adjudication.9 In July 1914, the Declaration of London was accepted in principle by all leading states but ratified by none of them. It had no legal force, though some political impact. It represented an international consensus which every state remained free to treat as it wished, more than usual even for law. Alas, that Declaration overgeneralised liberal principles from an archaic base of evidence, and was contradictory or incoherent in technical terms. Belligerent rights had not been exercised in a great maritime war since 1861–65, when the conditions of commerce and communications were more like those of 1815 than 1914. In previous wars, maritime trade was small in volume and importance. Trans-shipment between ports by land was slow and costly. Cargoes landed at Copenhagen or Rotterdam could not easily reach Hamburg by land. Communication for commerce was limited in range and speed. Messages about cargoes and their deeds of ownership were almost identical, and moved with the ship and goods they addressed. Every ship carried a manifest showing the destination and ownership of cargo, unless they were destroyed before a vessel was boarded for inspection, or covered by additional sets of false papers, both cases proving guilt. Merchant ships could be examined at sea quickly and safely, and contraband easily distinguished from other cargo. Prize Courts assumed that any ship brought in under suspicion of carrying contraband probably was guilty of some crime. None of these conditions held true in 1914. The Declaration of London assumed that all of them would exist, thus ignoring crucial developments in commerce and communications. These failures wrecked the legal basis of economic warfare for all parties, damaging both practices. In 1794, the great jurist of English prize law, Lord Stowell, noted: ‘The law of nations requires good faith; Therefore every ship must be supplied with complete and genuine papers; and the master at least should be privy to the truth of the transaction’.10 The Declaration of London assumed such standards: its demi official technical supplement held that ships papers offered ‘complete proof as to the voyage on which the vessel is engaged and as to the place where the cargo is to be discharged’. Anything less justified seizure.11 Applied to commercial practices of 1914, these standards entitled belligerents to seize any and every merchant ship on suspicion of carrying contraband, and Prize Courts to condemn them, or at least hold such vessels for prolonged trial. Even more, since 1815, the great powers had fought no prolonged war, nor any to which ‘blockade’ or economic warfare was fundamental, except the American Civil War. Blockade rights had not been tested in any war which might expose the divergence between old and modern modes of communications and commerce, or their consequences. In 1914 the powers entered a kind of war for which none had prepared, a total war between societies and armed forces.12 Economic warfare was the epitome of total war, as states attacked enemy civilians and their ability


John Ferris

to support armed forces. When war broke out, however, Britain was unsure about its policy on the matter, or how to exercise it and against what targets. Other states and firms were equally confused. Confusion, reciprocity and irony drove them all down the road to total war.

Pre-war British policy on economic warfare British commentators often described economic warfare as Britain’s chief and unique weapon. During 1900–14, the Royal Navy (RN) considered three versions of it. First, Nicholas Lambert argues that the RN intended to shut down the world economy at the start of a war, in the belief these actions would cause Germany to collapse without combat, while Britain could survive the fall. This argument cannot survive the shave of Occam’s razor. Legerdemain is not evidence. Lambert probably but not certainly has proven that naval and other decision makers took these ideas seriously. His claim that had magic been executed, it would have worked, is unprovable, either way. His contention that this was the only policy of economic warfare pursued by the Admiralty, is false. His assertion that decision makers accepted this policy, which became the heart of British strategy, is wrong. If so, Britain would have followed this strategy when war began. In fact, when the war began, everyone ignored these ideas. Politicians merely authorised the Admiralty to pursue whatever technical plans for economic warfare it wished, precisely as they let the War Office prepare to despatch an Expeditionary Force to France, leaving politicians free to act as they wished on the night. On that night the Admiralty did not practice magic.13 This policy also contradicted all of the planning for defensive forms of economic warfare which Britain intended to minimise the economic consequences of war.14 The second of these concepts was close blockade, a variant of traditional practices, with warships closing all trade to and from enemy ports, dashing after merchant ships, inspecting them at sea and dispatching suspects ashore commanded by prize crews. Ultimately, this idea was abandoned as impractical, because to ‘blockade’ German ports in the Baltic Sea was impossible, and increasingly even those on the North Sea. The RN slowly moved from this idea, through intermediate stages which Shawn Grimes calls ‘observational blockade’, with ports ‘blockaded’ by small ships and fleets standing progressively further out, toward the third concept – ‘distant blockade’.15 Despite the name, this strategy was not a ‘blockade’, but rather a means to seize contraband, and to exert extra-legal (i.e. coercive but not clearly illegal) pressure on neutrals. As Admiral Callaghan, the commander of the Home Fleet wrote in 1913, based on the entrances to the North Sea, ‘the battlefleet is ready for anything and can act when it is required. If the Germans will not risk a meeting, the fleet dominates the situation and Germany must submit to whatever action we choose in regard to her trade and her colonies. If this treatment is more than she can stand, she must come out to fight, knowing that the British fleet is superior in strength and possesses the initiative’.16 This strategy had costs. It abandoned any ability to conduct an effective ‘blockade’. It restricted economic warfare to seizing German merchant ships and

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 93 contraband on neutral vessels, while leaving non-belligerent and enemy merchant ships access to enemy ports. The Naval War College noted that this approach was ‘in fact, only one step beyond the system of “pacific blockade”, which is recognized and occasionally resorted to as a means of bringing pressure to bear on recalcitrant or contumacious minor States’. Nonetheless, combined with the withdrawal of British bottoms from the carrying trade with Germany, this approach might reduce by 80 per cent the number of mercantile vessels reaching German ports at the start of a war, though neutrals would redress the balance significantly.17 Probably the Admiralty did not intend to accept so permanent a limit to economic warfare, and hoped to raise the definition of contraband fast and far. The fleet exercises of July 1914 tested modes of distant blockade, which reflects the strategy which the Admiralty really was pursuing.18 Even so, on the eve of war, and during its initial months, naval officers entertained plans for a close blockade of the Heligoland Bight, perhaps based on the seizure of Dutch or Norwegian islands.19 By moving toward distant blockade, officers understood that they were reducing their ability to damage Germany – its defence was working without being tested, by limiting their ability to risk more. The Admiralty regarded economic pressure as the RN’s contribution to the defeat of Germany, with the containment of the High Seas Fleet, or destruction if it came out, a close second, though desirable. Many sailors believed that economic warfare might wreck Germany quickly and easily: as one staff officer said in 1906: ‘It is at least arguable whether a continental country could in the present day hold out against the effects of a blockade such as that maintained by the British fleet against Napoleon’.20 Most naval opinion assumed that economic warfare might destroy Germany faster and cheaper than proved possible between 1914–18, but still was fairly hard headed. The Admiralty’s war plans of July 1914 aimed to ‘exercise economic pressure upon Germany by cutting off German shipping from oceanic trade through the action of patrolling cruisers across the approaches to the North Sea’. The ‘war may be a long one and time is one of our most important weapons’, but ‘as time passes’ distant blockade would ‘inflict a steadily increasing degree of injury on German interests and credit sufficient to cause serious economic and social consequences’, and perhaps make it send out its fleet.21 The RN might win the war at sea even if it could not destroy the German Navy, but these successes would be just one element, however significant, in the defeat of the foe – a sound judgment. All of these ideas were challenged by a fourth concept of economic warfare, advocated by much civilian opinion, especially within the departments that handled commerce and economics, the Board of Trade and the Treasury, alongside the Bank of England and significant figures in finance, academe, and to lesser degrees, the Liberal government and the Foreign Office. They sought to limit economic warfare to the seizure of enemy owned merchant ships at sea, and of munitions and a few raw materials shipped by neutrals to a hostile state, and of effective ‘blockade’ of enemy ports, which would let Britain hammer the foe without harming non-belligerents. These bodies wished to minimise definitions of contraband or interference with neutral shipping, even when that limitation


John Ferris

aided an enemy. They favoured allowing enemies to use British financial facilities, even for measures such as selling their securities to neutrals, so raising funds for war, rather than trying to stop these practices and thus drive foreigners away from reliance on the City to other bourses, damaging ‘London’s supremacy as the international banking centre of the world’.22 These civilian authorities had a soft interpretation of pragmatic hegemonism, which placed unusual emphasis on the need to follow norms, and consider the views and interests of neutrals, against the hard view that in existential war, Britain should use all of its power to do whatever it must. As the legal advisor of the Foreign Office, Cecil Hurst, told The Committee on Trading with the Enemy in Time of War: New rules must of course be made and new practices resorted to by belligerents to meet new circumstances where necessary, but the probable measure of neutral opposition and resentment must control the policy of resorting to any such new belligerent practice. The effect of pushing interference, which is technically legitimate, with neutral commerce too far is to drive the neutral into belligerency in self-defence, as happened in 1812.23 Hurst emphasised the difference between actions ‘resorted to simultaneously with the outbreak of war as part of a pre-arranged plan of campaign, i.e., resorted to in cold blood and not under the pressure of events as the war develops’.23 It was precisely that difference which crippled the value of economic warfare as a tool of strategy during the First World War. These views were father to the later arguments about the fourth arm of defence, but more ambitious and naive. They posed not just a limit to Admiralty planning, but the challenge of a distinct strategy, backed by much opinion, about economic warfare and seapower. These views had two roots. One was ideological, whether a liberal internationalist effort to restrain the use of force and emphasise that of law in power politics, and to focus war on actions between belligerent states rather than against neutrals or civilians; or of liberal political economics, an effort to protect the rights of private property at sea, and to limit the power of governments against individuals in war. These concepts were intellectually independent, though exponents of one generally supported the other. The ideological arguments were weak in hindsight, yet powerful at the time. Rarely has ideology shaped strategy so much as in this case. For contemporary Britons, ideas of law and political economics like free trade and private property were almost articles of religious faith, or scientific law. The second root for these views was the desire to protect Britain’s centrality in world trade, by not wrecking the international economic system and thus the position of its maker and master, Britain. This argument had force. Economic warfare posed a tragedy for Britain, where any and every action had great costs, arguably outweighing the benefits. In 1914 Britain had more to lose through economic warfare than ever before, as well as to gain. Even from a realist perspective, Britain might have benefitted had everyone followed the Declaration of London, especially if one considers the long term consequences, rather than simply the war. This decision, however, was not purely for Britain to make.

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 95

International law and naval strategy: Debate declined, decision deferred Legal universalists, liberal political economists and liberal internationalists, focused on common values, reason, progress, public opinion and peoples. They misunderstood interests, power, states and war. Their views are easy to burlesque. Yet they look foolish only because in, 1915, Germany attacked international law, the world economy and the maritime commons, in a self-destructive but not inevitable fashion. These schools offered a strategy for economic warfare, but with flaws characteristic of all purely liberal strategies. They had no internally consistent means to handle force, attack, reciprocity or escalation, beyond turning the other cheek. They left an enemy free to act as it wished when it wanted, multiplying its strength against their own. Pure liberal strategies always fail when challenged by force, and succeed only when yoked with realism. Unfortunately, liberal legalist views and their interpretation of pragmatic hegemonism were not challenged well in pre-war discussions about economic warfare, nor forged into the alloy of liberal realism. That debate focused on general issues – law, seapower and Britain’s position both as neutral and belligerent in all sorts of conflicts, rather than economic warfare in existential war. During the Victorian period, the Conservative Party and the RN defended extreme and traditional versions of blockade rights as being essential for existential wars, along with hard forms of pragmatic hegemonism. Liberals like Palmerston and Clarendon doubted that Britain ever again could practice extreme forms of belligerent rights, but would not deny that prospect entirely. They held reservations about the Declaration of Paris, and expressed hard pragmatic hegemonism. In the decade before 1914, however, hard forms of pragmatic hegemonism rarely were expressed outside the Admiralty or officials of the Committee for Imperial Defence, though the logic resurged rapidly when war broke out. Realist statements about economic warfare rarely were made public, but expressed only as reservations stated sotto voce, or in papers circulated among small circles, by people without office. Thus, in 1912, an éminence grise of Edwardian defence policy, Lord Esher, told the Committee on Trading with the Enemy that in any great war with Germany, Britain must use ‘every means in our power to cripple her financially’, and aim at ‘the starving out of her people’. Britain should exploit Germany’s dependence on imports and exports, to wreck its morale and economy, ‘by throwing German industries into confusion, by throwing large masses of her population out of work, and by diverting the attention of her rulers from concentrating all their energies upon supplying the German armies to creating facilities for supporting large numbers of her starving population’.24 Instead, the main terrain of argument was law and its links to strategy, where the slippery logic and inchoate structure of pragmatic hegemonism hampered clear debate. Liberal legalists wanted Britain to follow international law in an existential war, though recognising that these rules might change significantly, if slowly. Naval officers accepted this logic in principle, but with substantial differences in practice. They were not absolute opponents of law, whatever might be suggested


John Ferris

by comments taken out of context. When confronting claims about the power of law that they thought overheated, and which often were so, admirals reacted with overstatement. Admiral Charles Beresford told the House of Commons that no: captain of a fighting ship worth his salt is going to study what the law about the question is. When he is allowed any reasonable doubt, which is the term used, to put down every ship he sees on the horizon do you not suppose he would have a reasonable doubt about everything. Both myself and my brother officers if we saw twenty ships that would cut off the enemy’s food supply, and if we were hanged for putting them down we would put them down all the same. Our business is to defeat the enemy . . .25 In fact, better than liberal legalists, naval officers grasped how law interacted with force. They believed that the law regarding economic warfare at sea was mutable, and would change through force and interest in any war. Like sea lawyers, they looked for loopholes, and through them, but they also internalised ideas about progress and civilised warfare, liberalism and law. Many officers believed that law might regulate war in key ways. None expected an enemy to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare. Seapowers probably would follow the framework of previous practice, as with every maritime campaign since 1815, but rules could be broken. In 1903, when testifying before an important strategic committee, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Captain Prince Louis of Battenberg – First Sea Lord when war began – was asked whether ‘the Admiralty have framed their plans on the assumption that the International Laws of warfare will be binding under all circumstances upon all nations?’. He replied that belligerents generally would obey ‘the International Laws of warfare . . . It is rather difficult to see how civilized warfare can be carried on unless you assume that’. Enemies, however, might adopt uncivilised methods of warfare, like trying to starve Britain out, and ‘it would be undoubtedly unwise to depend too strongly upon every point of International Law being adhered to’.26 When addressing whether food should be absolute or conditional contraband, Battenberg noted the dilemma: ‘our possible enemies some day may say, “The whole of the British Islands now are in the position of a besieged fort”. Then there is the larger question of humanity. You cannot condemn forty millions to starvation on the ground that they assist in defending their country, because you include women and children’. Addressing the same point eight years later, the Chief of the War Staff, Admiral Troubridge, said ‘we should vary our policy according to whether Germany declared them contraband or not. If Germany declared food contraband we should do the same, and spare no effort to prevent food reaching Germany’.27 Despite protests by publicists, the Admiralty never challenged the Declaration of London. It thought these principles would bolster Britain’s position as a neutral, without compromising economic warfare as a belligerent. One Naval Staff officer noted: When Great Britain is belligerent, she can be safely trusted to look after her own interests, but the dangerous time for her is when she is neutral and does

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 97 not wish to take such a strong line as to render herself liable to be drawn into war. At such a time, the existence of a well reasoned-out classification of goods will be of enormous advantage, not only to Great Britain, but to all other commercial communities.28 To exponents of the magical strategy, who rejected conventional forms of ‘blockade’, law was irrelevant. The rest of the RN was willing to fight by international law, because it believed Britain would do the necessary in existential war. Since British naval strength enabled success on almost any plan for war against Germany, the Admiralty need not openly prepare in advance for such eventualities. From distant blockade, claims for maritime rights could rise sky high. As First Sea Lord, Admiral John Fisher damned ideas that international law would rule economic warfare, but never made these views official.29 As First Lord, Reginald McKenna publically praised the Declaration of London for aiding ‘the process of bringing nations together and teaching them the duty of settling any outstanding quarrels by arrangement instead of by war’, while emphasising that ‘we shall rely on our Navy’ for security, not treaties.30 Privately, he made tougher arguments. Adrian Grant Duff, a secretary at the Committee for Imperial Defence, quoted McKenna as saying, regarding that Declaration, ‘the Germans are sure to infringe it in the early days of the war, then with great regret we tear it up. If they don’t infringe it than we must invent an infringement’.31 In August 1914, however, Winston Churchill and Battenberg were less interested than their predecessors, McKenna and Fisher, in economic warfare or challenging law. Subterranean but significant differences of opinion existed in the Admiralty’s approach to these issues, the heart of naval policy, multiplied because Churchill was a more doctrinaire liberal than McKenna on the idea of interference with trade and neutrals. Ideology did not dominate discussions on economic warfare before 1914, though ideas did, and even more the failure to articulate and engage them, and so to formulate strategy. This failure stemmed from departmentalism in mind and seat, which hampered the integration of the components of power and strategy – diplomacy, economics, armies and navies – along with lack of imagination and experience. Liberal legalists failed to predict the ruthlessness of belligerents in great wars. So did realists. Compared to the 1860s, people were less willing to face the reality of war, or the limits to law. Even the logic of pragmatic hegemonism was expressed obliquely, although pragmatism (or what was taken for it) dominated the debate. Supporters of the Declaration of London most emphasised that when Britain was a neutral, these principles would minimise interference with its mercantile marine, the largest on earth, and keep cotton off contraband lists, so preventing harm to the textile industry in Lancashire. As a belligerent, these principles would reduce interference with foodstuffs imported into Britain, a defensive measure of economic warfare. Members of the Liberal government liked these ideas for ideological reasons, and as a general solution to the wide range of issues which economic warfare raised for Britain, both as neutral and belligerent. Yet they also held that international law was tertiary in defending Britain at war. As John Morley, one of the most doctrinaire liberals in the


John Ferris

Cabinet, said, ‘moral influence in itself is a valid, practical, and substantial asset which a nation ought to be proud to possess and which it would be madness to throw overboard’, but: Nobody believes that moral influence alone will save or enable a great and powerful State to do its work unless the rulers of that State, to use a cumbrous phrase, “keep their powder dry”. . . . no Englishman would argue for the Declaration, or for the ratification of the Declaration, if he did not take for granted in every page and every line of that Declaration the doctrine and the policy of the supremacy of Great Britain at sea.32 Opinion in this debate was pragmatic, yet mistaken. Everyone misconstrued key matters about Britain as a belligerent in a great war, because they did not understand how the Declaration of London would cripple economic warfare, or the value of the latter as a weapon.33 When public figures, officials and ministers, did address these issues, they attempted to do so pragmatically, but failed. The Admiralty was secretive about its war plans, but led other departments to think the RN could and would execute a strategy of close blockade against German ports, while one focused against contraband alone was of little value.34 It did not tell Whitehall about the move from close to distant blockade, admittedly a policy in process. The Admiralty led liberal legalists to mistake the problem, and solutions. In 1911, Grey emphasised the value of ‘the pressure upon the enemy by the right of blockade’ while disparaging contraband as ‘a comparatively small point, because we shall never bring a Continental enemy to his knees by dealing with contraband alone’.35 He believed that was the Admiralty’s view, because it told him so.

Liberal economics at war When war began Britain had no policy on economic warfare, but many of them. The vagueness in the dominant ways of thought – liberal legalism, pragmatic hegemonism, liberal realism and liberal internationalism – dulled the issues, while governments found it hard to formulate any economic policy, or even to think in terms of one. Thus emerged the flaws in British strategy for economic warfare, and its failures during the war. Plans for offensive and defensive procedures were incoherent and contradictory. Decision making was disjointed. Authorities were too divided to cooperate. None understood the scale and significance of the task. Before July 1914, these issues were seen as academic rather than existential, because they were addressed in the future conditional tense, hypotheses constantly shifting. Every strand of opinion could say and do as it wished on its issues of concern, without needing to engage its rivals, or take any action. Their differences on ideology and practice emerged only when action had to happen, and to be coordinated: when existential war emerged, and Britain could halt all trade across the Atlantic Ocean, but did not. Suddenly yawned a gap, which liberalism could not cross without adulteration. Before the war ideology did not keep liberal legalists from being pragmatic, as the issues were understood. During 1914–16, issues and

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 99 actors changed. Pragmatism involved tragic choices between existential issues – the liberal order at home and abroad, victory and defeat in war. Any effective response must endanger liberal ideology and political economy. Anything less spelled defeat. These issues were harder for liberals than realists to understand and address. Debates over these differences were long and confusing, dominated by splits in ideology and party, ignorance about the issues, and irony, reciprocity and tragedy in the interrelationship between British and German policies. When war began, the RN started to interfere with trade through measures which suited both the plans of distant blockade and magical economic warfare. Private firms and the civil departments complained immediately and bitterly. Neither Churchill nor the Sea Lords resisted this pressure. Both were willing to combine distant blockade with the Declaration of London. So were Liberal politicians and the civil departments, especially the one which quickly came to dominate economic warfare, the Foreign Office. Grey wished to follow a liberal position in economics and law, and to support the Declaration of London, unratified although it was, for ideological reasons. Any other action would create an incoherent legal basis for economic warfare, with diplomatic costs in this war and future ones. Perhaps Grey saw the danger he had forecast in 1911, that if Britain rejected the Declaration of London, the ‘probable consequence’ in any war with a continental power, was that the enemy, ‘knowing perfectly well the risk, and desiring to avoid the danger of any friction with the United States’ would propose that each should accept the Declaration and ‘refer to arbitration any question which arose between them’, driving danger toward England.36 Bitter as he was toward Germany, Grey cared for neutral rights, and hoped for American cooperation with British policy. In June 1915, after a year of experience, as economic warfare became ruthless, Grey held ‘that if we can be secured against aggressive war being made upon us we should agree to forgo [sic] interference with commerce in time of war. I believe also that in view of the future development of the submarine and our excessive dependence on oversea commerce it will be to our interest that the sea should be free in time of war’.37 The effort to follow the Declaration of London, ‘so far as may be practicable’, dominated economic warfare until March 1915. In 1914, Britain could have conducted the most ruthless campaign of economic warfare ever known, as it did by 1916. The problems, however, were defined in legal terms, rather than economic, naval or strategic ones: not, how best to damage the German economy, but rather, how to redefine absolute contraband and to handle conditional contraband, including food, being shipped to neutrals next to Germany. These problems were multiplied by the incoherence of international law, and the dichotomy between the way that the Declaration assumed that states and firms would act, and they did. Every state and firm involved in trade across the Atlantic Ocean violated that law, and those assumptions. Britain did so less than other actors, but as the greatest of them, its actions were most notable, and noticeable. It took confusing actions, fluctuating up and down in intensity, in response to pressure from neutrals and allies, the exigencies of economic warfare, and intelligence and rumours about misbehaviour by states and firms. Through them, Britain and its Entente partners


John Ferris

defined regulations which followed the Declaration of London, with two major exceptions. It gradually turned several materials which were essential to military power, especially copper, lead, petroleum and iron, from free goods to conditional and then absolute contraband; and for several weeks it extended and then revoked the doctrine of continuous voyage (which allowed seizure of goods being sent to a neutral, if the enemy was the ultimate recipient) to items of conditional contraband intended for sale to an enemy state.38 Meanwhile, the difficulties with the Declaration drove Britain to conduct economic warfare through extralegal means, stemming from its dominance in the Atlantic Ocean. They included political pressure against states and firms to abandon or adopt certain practices, warning merchant ships that the German practice of floating mines made the North Sea a ‘war zone’ dangerous to cross, ‘diplomatic prize courting’ (detaining ships which carried absolute or conditional contraband, as a means to pressure firms, and to prevent neutral countries from building surpluses of materials useful to the German economy) and preemptive purchasing of select goods, including those which a Prize Court might refuse to condemn, so denying them to Germany without alienating neutrals. The circumstances drove Britain to a complex and, from the outside, contradictory policy of economic warfare, like the redefinitions of absolute contraband, and attitudes toward shipments of food. Grey’s efforts to maintain the Declaration of London centred increasingly on two points, both of which worked for German interests in the short term: to keep cotton a free good, so containing outrage from key sectors of American commerce and politics, and food an item of conditional contraband. He ordered the Procurator General, in charge of prosecuting cases before the Prize Courts, to handle food as conditional contraband: ‘to treat leniently Foodstuffs unless there is sufficient evidence of Enemy destination to secure a probable condemnation in the Prize Court’.39 The outcome was confusing. Much food crossed the Atlantic, either because Britain missed the shipments or let them pass, even when German civilians were the probable destination. However, the Foreign Office also ordered the detention of ships suspected of carrying shipments of food to the German government.40 Even more confusingly, some RN captains detained vessels containing food, which quickly were released without trial, as part of a cat and mouse conflict with the Foreign Office over how to execute blockade. Again, when reappointed as First Sea Lord, Fisher declared a war zone across the North Sea, to press neutral vessels to call at British ports for inspection. The Grand Fleet was uncertain how to handle neutral ships which tried to enter that zone. Churchill replied that he did ‘not wish force used’ to stop them, but instead they should be told ‘if they cross the line Iceland-Faoroes-Hebrides they do so at their own peril’, though his subordinates sought to harden his hand.41 In the first months of the war, economic warfare achieved mixed results. Most neutral merchant vessels voluntarily called at British ports. Any which preferred otherwise could try to run the blockade without much penalty: many or most of them succeeded. Blockade was not applied by far distant weather-beaten ships – the weather beat the initial efforts by the blockaders of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron. Its first warships were quickly withdrawn and scrapped as inadequate;

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 101 the second group, passenger liners equipped with guns, sailed into a wild winter on the north Atlantic, where one simply vanished, presumably in a storm.42 These warships could not intercept every merchant ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean, let alone inspect them, or send all suspects ashore under prize crews. 15 neutral merchant ships sailed directly from the United States to Hamburg without being stopped in the first seven months of the war. Between 7 March and 19 April 1915, the Admiralty later noted, 73 of the 455 merchant ships making the northern route ‘passed through unexamined’.43 Through diplomatic pressure at The Hague, Britain restrained shipments of contraband to the Netherlands. That turned the problem to Scandinavia, where solutions were slow to emerge. After much confusion, which enabled the enemy to boost its stockpiles, Britain and France halted the exports to Germany of absolute contraband, including the major materials added to the list. Britain handled problems with another commodity, cotton, by purchasing the American crop. Large shipments of important materials on the conditional contraband list, especially foodstuffs, reached Germany. Indeed, Germany never before had imported so many goods from abroad by sea as it did between August 1914 and February 1915, measured by value. By February 1915, blockade had done little to Germany beyond worsen its terms of trade. For Britain, the strategic benefits of this tax barely matched the diplomatic costs incurred in raising it. Slowly, the war transformed attitudes toward blockade. Experience demonstrated that military power did not stem simply from the state, but its society and economy: any item which helped industry boosted an army. These lessons undercut the liberal position toward blockade, and the ideas of conditional contraband or free goods. Public information, and secret intelligence sporadically provided from reading the cables, letters and wireless messages of neutral and enemy firms, began to dispel ignorance about the issues, and spurred learning about them. American firms increased their shipments of copper to Italy, Scandinavia and Switzerland from 8 million tons per year, to 33 million tons in 4 months. At that rate, Germany easily could maintain its pre-war imports of copper through neutral neighbours, avoid any problems with its food supply, and escape economic pressure. Britain acted against these dangers. Intelligence was fundamental to this decision and allowed most of these shipments to be seized and preemptively purchased before they reached their destination.44 They also guided Britain’s extra legal procedures and the expansion of the absolute contraband list to include items like copper and iron. The earliest challengers to the prevailing policy of economic warfare were the few people involved in it, who could see the problems and prospects, especially intelligence and naval officers, and to a lesser extent, the Procurator General’s department and the diplomats assigned to handle the issue, in the Blockade Department under Eyre Crowe. In the end, events probably would have driven British authorities to abandon that policy and move toward total war, but during early 1915, no department, not even the Admiralty, rejected the status quo. Most supported it. The debate was over how to make the system work, through cooperative and coercive diplomacy with other countries. Despite a tug of war over details, and a drift toward tougher procedures, Grey and


John Ferris

liberal attitudes dominated the fray, with no sign they were losing, until Germany declared a policy of unrestricted submarine blockade of British waters.

Reciprocity, irony and economic warfare In economic warfare, unintended consequences matter no less than intended ones. The RN always intended economic warfare to force the German navy out to fight, but not as it did. Despite doubts about the binding power of law, before 1914 German planning assumed that in a world war, the Declarations of Paris and London would make the RN conduct economic warfare only through close blockade, vulnerable to ambush, while letting Germans ship goods by Dutch ports, however inconveniently. The German Army regarded the ability to trade through the ‘windpipe’ of the Netherlands as essential to victory, if a European war lasted for several years. British actions crippled this strategy and that of the German Navy which, by 1914, knew it had no answer to distant blockade. If Britain pursued that strategy, the Chief of Admiralty Staff, August von Heeringen, forecast a ‘very sad role for our beautiful High Seas Fleet’.45 Germany realised that the allies were freely importing and exporting items across the seas, while damaging its economy, and being able to escalate that damage at their will. Between August 1914 to January 1915, blockade drove German shipping from the seas, and harmed German exports, imports, and GDP. The German population and economy relied more than ever before on imported goods, and paid extra for them. German exports were crippled. After that shock, Germany recovered fast. In February 1915, Germany imported more goods than ever before in its history, while its exports, carried by neutrals, surged toward pre-war levels. German decision-makers focused less on their successes than failures. They knew that economic warfare was damaging Germany. They could not retaliate by conventional means, yet might do so through unconventional ones. To accept British economic warfare without resistance was to submit not just to blows, but to claims for superiority of status, and sovereignty at sea, from a state Germans believed really had started the war, and forced them into it. Not to answer distant blockade demonstrated German impotence, and its status as a contumacious minor power. Knowing their submarines might sink merchant ships, German leaders could not refuse the temptation to strike even if that decision broke international law: indeed, this prospect doubled the attraction of the action, as did the instinct to deny the enemy a free hand anywhere. In legal terms, distant blockade was an innovation, open to challenge, but not patently illegal. Germany replied with piracy and murder of civilians; with a crime, and a mistake – its greatest strategic error of the twentieth century. This decision was driven by emotion, not reason. This German action, in the context of others, transformed British attitudes toward economic warfare. Britain adopted the rigorous definition of belligerent rights and contraband applied by the Union government during the American Civil War. It used American legal precedents to defend British actions against criticism from the strongest neutral, the United States. Britain declared that it would regard virtually any goods shipped to Germany, food among them, as contraband, and

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 103 tighten its scrutiny of neutral ships. Britain did not justify the abandonment of the Declarations of London and Paris or its increasingly radical actions in economic warfare, on the grounds of law, but simply as a retaliation for German actions.46 For months to come, the Foreign Office still treated neutrals more generously than it had said would happen, and with other civil departments, restrained the expansion of economic warfare. Nonetheless, power slipped from its hands, and theirs. The need to form a coalition with the Conservatives made the Cabinet more radical about the war and gave key positions to men with harder attitudes toward economic warfare. In particular, Arthur Balfour replaced Churchill as First Lord, and Robert Cecil became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, under Grey, with responsibility for the Blockade Department. Though Churchill argued in September 1914 that the RN’s chief duty was to ‘devote our entire efforts to strangling German Trade and protecting our own’, he ignored and misunderstood the matter. Six months later, he favoured less retaliation against German unrestricted submarine warfare than did his admirals: ‘Prima facie, I do not favour the wholesale arrest of ships. We should proceed selectively where we have clear cases, and operate by a deterrent effect on others who may think they come near the line’. The RN should seize ‘at least a dozen ships sailing within the next week, for arrest on grounds outside the penalties of international law’ while rapidly developing spy networks ‘so that we get really good information of cargoes which are German tainted, and do not have to rummage ships unnecessarily’.47 Under Balfour, the Admiralty as an institution for the first time spurred blockade toward more radical ends than Churchill envisaged. Even more, intelligence authorities and the Blockade Department, led by Cecil, became increasingly powerful and autonomous. Grey lost his grip on the Foreign Office’s tool to handle economic warfare. Cecil, the greatest liberal internationalist among ministers, waged a terrible war for empire and international law.

Economic warfare at war In the first months after July 1914, preparations for economic warfare failed, and effective ones had to be created. They emerged rapidly, because the allied position was powerful and their officers able, but only through a battle about liberalism and total war, involving ideology, politics and departmentalism. Economic warfare subverted standard practices of governance. It combined issues of diplomacy, strategy, finance and economics, which involved most departments of state, and many private institutions. This grinding of government produced friction and error. Diplomats ran many of the departments established to manage economic warfare, and thus the economy, despite their ignorance of trade. Crowe wrote on Christmas Day 1914, regarding explosive negotiations with American meat packing firms about cargoes seized as contraband: ‘The Foreign Office is at a disadvantage in treating this question. I am afraid we have too little knowledge and experience to be able to conduct a negotiation of this kind with wily American Jews’.48 Other organisations pressed on diplomacy, like the Bank of England and


John Ferris

the Treasury, because finance was central to blockade, and vice versa. The Foreign Office’s influence in the formulation of foreign policy declined, as did that of the Admiralty over the execution of seapower. Civil departments warred over the tightening of economic warfare with the Admiralty and the Blockade Department, as the latter did between themselves. The Bank of England sabotaged financial blockade, which threatened ‘London’s supremacy as the international banking centre of the world’, until forced to cooperate at gunpoint, by a government bound only on victory. The blockade did not become effective until mid 1915, nor efficient until 1916, while American entry into the war changed the game, by ending its greatest problems. As Lord Emmott, the head of a central element in economic warfare, the War Trade Department, noted, blockade evolved through ‘a labyrinth of difficulties’. ‘Our policy was one of gradually increasing stringency. In other words, it altered from week to week, sometimes almost from day to day, but practically always in the direction of increased stringency’.49 The blockade worked by stopping the shipment of (a) raw materials, primarily metals and food, across the Atlantic Ocean to Germany, and (b) German imports or exports of manufactured goods by sea. From early 1915, Britain defined most items going to and from Germany as contraband, but problems remained. Thus, should coffee, tea or cocoa be contraband? Until 1916 British authorities thought not, but changed their mind. Even at the end of the war, the General Staff and the Naval Staff disagreed over this matter. Blockade of such items did affect the morale of soldiers and civilians from coffee cultures. Yet hard currency spent abroad on coffee could not purchase other items.50 That the single largest material condemned by Prize Courts was coffee, reaching almost 40 per cent in value, illustrates the working of blockade.51 Coffee, with an uncertain status as contraband, could be smuggled in small volumes, the profits accrued from success outmatching the losses, especially since the value was sterilised if the product was not shipped. That neutral firms did not try to ship items like cotton or copper which were high in value, yet cumbersome to hide and Britain clearly would seize, illustrates how well the blockade worked. The blockade was a triumph of unarmed forces, and of open sources, enforced equally by sailors, intelligence officers and lawyers, directed by diplomats. Sailors found this arrangement hard to swallow. In 1916, the Grand Fleet wrote that ‘the work of the 10th C.S. in its effect on the whole life of the enemy peoples is the primary naval factor in the prosecution of the war. Every consular report dwells on the paramount importance of the operations of this squadron & the imperative necessity of using every means in our power during the forthcoming critical months to tighten still further our grip’.52 This statement exaggerated the role of that squadron, by making it a euphemism for the blockade as a whole. Without seapower, blockade would have failed, but the RN did not dominate its mechanics. Cruisers patrolled the northern approaches to European waters, checking merchant ships and blockade runners. The latter, however, were rare after spring 1915, and gone by 1916. Few shippers dared challenge Britain’s position, instead voluntarily calling at control points; just after Jutland the British removed most warships from blockade duty, because they were no longer needed for that

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 105 purpose, which says far more about the war at sea than does that battle.53 Jutland, moreover, was a decisive naval battle. As a result, Britain tightened the blockade, and Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare, knowing it would bring the United States into the war. Germany translated Jutland from tactical victory to strategic defeat. The blockade rested on Anglo-French seapower, control over maritime cables, law and diplomacy. When war began, Britain destroyed German trans-Atlantic cables, while the United States followed the Hague Convention, which ruled that neutrals could not let wireless sets on their territory transmit secret messages for belligerent states or firms. Britain exploited these circumstances to ensure that all private messages sent across the Atlantic Ocean went in plain language, or a few commercial codes of which Britain had copies. Between 1914–15, Britain read most of these messages and, during 1916–19, all of them. Experience and expertise was needed to understand these communications, develop effective means of analysis and data retrieval, and to coordinate the action of the units involved in the work. Britain solved these problems with rapidity, and effect. Blockade was a battleaxe rather than a scalpel. It could damage relations with firms and states in a counterproductive fashion. Intelligence helped Britain to wield it with some accuracy, striking as many enemies as possible and as few innocents. The effect of the blockade is a vexed question, but intelligence was fundamental on the margin, minimising the damage to Britain while maximising that on the enemy. During 1915, British authorities established an intelligence system able to enforce the strictest form of blockade they dared to make, in diplomatic terms. Intelligence provided knowledge, evidence and means for leverage. Intercepted letters, telegraph cables or wireless messages, let Britain know when firms were trying to break the blockade, often triggering the use of other sources in neutral countries, especially consuls and private detectives, to gather further information on the spot. Such reports were a political weapon: they could be given to firms, states and publics to justify British actions against one of their own, without losing the source. Indeed, the more neutral firms saw the power of these sources, and their role in punishment, the more they accepted British rules of blockade. This material was openly used as the basis for the Black Lists of firms, upon which the blockade worked. Meanwhile, all ships sailing to Europe were inspected at ports of naval control, where cargo, crew and passengers were scrutinised through physical means and intelligence, via ‘a vast hinterland of organization engaged in the critical evaluation of manifests and cargoes’.54 Here contraband was suspected, the blockade was enforced by the Treasury Solicitor’s Department before The Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of The High Court of Justice. This Prize Court accepted secret intelligence as evidence, and had tough procedures. Signals intelligence constantly was used as public evidence – that was one of its main functions. These procedures were not kangaroo courts: the prosecution could win only with evidence, it did lose cases, and then faced penalties. The Procurator General’s office, which ran these prosecutions, held that without communications intelligence, ‘hardly any evidence would have been available by which goods in the Prize Court could have been condemned’.55


John Ferris

Neutrals accepted Entente rules as a cost of business, because Britain and France had the naval, intelligence and administrative means to monitor all behaviour and to enforce their policy. They had overwhelming power in the Atlantic Ocean and its maritime economy and a combination of carrots and sticks at hand. In the neutral countries, especially the United States, the Entente made huge purchases from all sectors of the economy: and used blockade simply to prevent firms from making further money by dealing with Germany. This aim was easy to establish, because Britain had created the architecture for maritime trade, commerce and finance. Britain or its businesses controlled key elements of that system, which they could use to punish, coerce, deter or persuade neutral states or firms. Britain preferred deterrence and persuasion, because the effects were most economical and least explosive, particularly when confronting the world’s strongest nation, the United States, but that ability rested on the power to coerce, which often required exemplary punishment. Persuasion was needed, because one must convince foreign firms and governments to reconfigure their imports and exports to suit Entente demands. This situation easily could produce friction and danger. Until 1918, for example, Sweden refused to cooperate with the blockade and won, because it had a powerful bargaining chip, the ability to stop allied shipments to Russia passing through its territory. The United States had even greater power. Generally, however, neutral governments and firms preferred to cooperate with British blockade, because it maximised their interests, and profits. The American, Dutch and Danish governments let their firms form combines and negotiate directly with Britain, pledging to monitor and control their members to ensure that imports and exports were not illicitly forwarded to Germany, so to save businesses from punishment, and states from negotiations that might be embarrassing, or dangerous. The United States Government tolerated British pressure on some of the strongest sectoral groups in the United States, like the meat packing industry. In 1916, driven by power and necessity, and justified by Jutland, Britain tightened the blockade, and its pressure on neutrals and foes. Britain used its dominance over coal supplies to force all neutral shippers which wished to operate in the Atlantic Ocean either to accept British rules, or go out of business. Thus, they carried goods for the allies during the worst of the U-boat campaign. Britain rationed all categories of imports to European neutral states at pre-war levels, so to simplify and strengthen blockade, and then waged economic warfare on them so to strike the enemy: with effect. Blockade increasingly throttled Germany, boosted with the American entry into the war, which enabled harder treatment of the remaining neutrals, though partly countered by the German ability to loot Romania and Russia. All this was a success, but not a simple one. On economic matters, Britain won the war in part by transferring costs to the future, where the burden proved heavy. In economic warfare, the managers of the world economy applied one hammer to the machine, precisely as the U-boats did another, crippling a source of power for Britain. In the long run, economic warfare perhaps damaged Germany and Britain equally, but not in the short term. The U-boat campaign backfired on Germany. Blockade created problems with every neutral: British diplomacy,

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 107 and German incompetence, solved the problem. Blockade weakened Germany’s GDP, by crippling exports and forcing it to pay a premium for all imports, but not fundamentally. Germany lost because it ran out of will, not weapons. The blockade did not hurt Germans until 1916, when its greatest effect was to reduce the food available to civilians, and their morale. Statesmen viewed that effect in realistic terms. In 1915 and 1917, David Lloyd George argued that ‘no nation in the world had ever surrendered for economic reasons, unless actually within sight of starvation’. Success in economic warfare could matter only if German armies suffered great defeats when the effect might be great.56 These assessments fit how Germany collapsed during the summer and autumn of 1918. That effect was magnified, because blockade sparked unrestricted submarine warfare, which unleashed the other trigger for Germany’s collapse, the deployment of American troops to Europe, while in 1917 economic warfare was focused so to have its greatest impact on Germany during mid 1918. Blockade mattered, but claims for its effect routinely are exaggerated, and its failures ignored. Only had Britain pursued a hard programme of economic warfare immediately war began, through blockade or magic, could that tool have avoided attrition, by knock-out or a crippling blow, before Russia collapsed. Yet given its pre-war views, Britain could not have started an effective campaign of economic warfare much faster than it did. That campaign failed to cripple Germany before it evaded the danger by defeating Russia. Equally, had Russia been able to repeat its efforts of 1916, combined with another allied offensive in the west and economic warfare, in 1917 the allies might have won a better victory than that of 1918. Otherwise, the effect must be slow, costly and indecisive. The strategy of pragmatic hegemonism and the failure to assess its consequences before July 1914 had unanticipated costs during the war. They negated much, perhaps most, of the potential effect of British seapower. That failure forced Britain into the most costly land war of its history.

Notes 1 Useful accounts include Archibald C. Bell, A History of the Blockade of Germany and of the Countries Associated with Her in the Great War, Austria, Bulgaria and Turkey, 1914–1918, (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1937), Nicholas Lambert, Planning Armageddon, British Economic Warfare and the First World War, (Harvard University Press, 2012), Avner Offer, The First World War, An Agrarian Interpretation, (Oxford, 1991), Eric W. Osborne, Britain’s Economic Blockade of Germany, 1914– 1919, (Frank Cass and Co., London, 2004) and Marion Siney, The Allied Blockade of Germany, 1914–1916, (Ann Arbor, Il., The University of Michigan Press, 1957). 2 The term blockade has two meanings relevant to this chapter. The first, a narrow legal definition, dominant before 1916, focused on preventing access to and from specific coasts and ports, as distinct from the rights to seize enemy merchant ships or to search neutral ones for contraband. Increasingly from 1916, however, and universally after the war, the term became the standard descriptor for the allies’ wartime practices of maritime economic warfare. The latter did not meet the pre-war meaning of blockade, because the allies never prevented access to German ports: nor did they claim to do so. They justified their actions purely as retaliation for German practices of unrestricted submarine warfare. To avoid confusion, the paper will use the term ‘blockade’


3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10 11 12

13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

John Ferris

to describe pre-war legal concepts, and blockade when discussing a form of maritime economic warfare. House of Lords (HL) Debates, 22 May 1856, Volume 142, pp. 350, 354. House of Commons (HC ) Debates, 3 July 1911, Volume 27, p. 876. The term and interpretation are mine, though I am indebted to Andrew Lambert for discussions on the issue: cf. Andrew Lambert, ‘Great Britain and Maritime Law from the Declaration of Paris to the Era of Total War’, in R. Hobson and T. Kristiansen (eds), Navies in Northern Waters: 1721–2000, (London, 2004). Key pioneering studies in the relationship between ideology, international law and economic warfare include C. Iain Hamilton, ‘Anglo-French Seapower and the Declaration of Paris’, International History Review, iv (1982), Avner Offer, ‘Morality and Admiralty: “Jacky” Fisher, Economic Warfare and the Laws of War’, The Journal of Contemporary History, 23/1, January 1988, pp. 99–118, and Bryan Ranft, The naval defence of British sea-borne trade, 1860–1905, (Oxford D.Phil., 1967). Jan Martin Lemnitzer, Power, Law and the End of Privateering, (London, 2014), is an excellent account of international law, which oversimplifies its impact on strategy. HC Debates, 17 March 1862, Volume 165, p. 1695. Minute by Salisbury, n.d., c. January 1891 by internal evidence, FO 83/1762. The key work is Lemnitzer, End of Privateering, tempered by Hamilton and Lambert, op.cit. A. Pearce Higgins, The Hague Peace Conferences and other International Conferences Concerning the Laws and Usages of War, Texts of Conventions with Commentaries, (Cambridge, CUP, 1909), pp. 538–613. Henry Wheaton, A Digest of the Law of Maritime Captures and Prizes, (New York, 1815), pp. 309–14. Pearce Higgins, International Conferences, p. 589. For useful introductions to the topic of total war, cf. Roger Chickering and Stig Foster (eds), Great War, Total War, Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914– 1918, (CUP, 2000) and Talbot Imlay, ‘Total War’, The Journal of Strategic Studies 30 (2007), pp. 547–70. Nicholas Lambert, Planning Armageddon. The best critique is Matthew S. Seligmann (2013), ‘The Renaissance of Pre- First World War Naval History’, The Journal of Strategic Studies, 36:3, 454–79. David French, British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905–1915, (London, HarperCollins, 1982). Shawn T. Grimes, Strategy and War Planning in the British Navy, 1887–1918, (Woodbridge, Suffolk, Boydell & Brewer, 2012). Admiralty to Home Fleet, 26.10.11, 11.7.14, ADM 137/1936. Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet to Admiralty, No. 1266/H.F.T.S., 28.8.13, ADM 137/1936. Admiral Slade, Naval War College, to First Sea Lord, 11.2.07, ‘War Games and Sketches of War Operations’, ADM 116/1043 B. Admiralty to Flag Officers, M. 0673, 1.7.14, ADM 1/8387; Admiralty to Commanderin-Chief, Home Fleet, 11.7.14, ‘War Orders No. 1 (War with Germany)’ and M-0053, ‘War Plans (War with Germany)’, 7.14, ADM 137/1936. Plans La, Lb and T, by LWD 27.7.14, passim, ADM 137/995. ‘Notes on Attached “War Plans” ’, ND, no author, ADM 116/1043 B. Ibid. For useful evidence, cf. the minutes and memoranda of The Sub-Committee on Trading with the Enemy in Time of War (1911), CAB 16/18A. Appendix XXVI, 13.3.12, Note by C.J.B. Hurst, CAB 16/18 A. Appendix XX, Memorandum by Lord Esher, CAB 16/18 A. HC Debates, 29 June 1911, Volume 27, p. 631. Nineteenth Meeting of the Royal Commission on the Supply of Food and Raw Material in Time of War, 5.11.03, ADM 137/2872.

Pragmatic hegemony and economic warfare 109 27 ADM 137/2872, op.cit., and 6th meeting, 23.2.12, Sub-Committee on Trading with the Enemy in Time of War (1911), CAB 16/18A. 28 Notes on Contraband, undated but 1908, no author listed, but typewritten and in official record, ADM 116/1073. 29 Minute by Crowe, 24.12.08, FO 371/794. 30 HC Debates, 28 June 1911, Volume 27, p. 537, HC Debates, 29 June 1911, Volume 27, pp. 578–9. 31 Major AC Grant-Duff diary, entries 22–11, 24.11.11, Grant-Duff papers, 2/1, Churchill College, Cambridge. 32 HL Debates, 13 March 1911, Volume 7, p. 463. 33 E.g. HC Debates, 28 June 1911, Volume 27, pp. 434–548. 34 Appendix XV, CID Report on the Military Needs of the Empire, CID 109-B, Admiralty, 12.12.08, ‘The Economic Aspects of War on German Trade’, CAB 16/18 A. 35 HC Debates, 3 July 1911, Volume 27, p. 872. 36 HC Debates, 03 July 1911, Volume 27, pp. 870–71. 37 Minute by Grey, undated, on memorandum by Drummond, 7.6.15, FO 800/95. 38 Osborne, Economic Blockade, pp. 58–79; Isabel V. Hull, A Scrap of Paper, Making and Breaking International Law during the Great War, (Cornell University Press, 2014), pp. 171–80. 39 ‘Memorandum of Conversation with Sir Edward Grey’, unsigned, but probably John Mellor by internal evidence, 19.12.14, TS 13/234 B. 40 Minute by Crowe, 25 December 1914, passim, FO 368/1162. 41 Director of Trade Division, Richard Webb, to Admiral de Chair, 13.12.14, ADM 137/2909. 42 Dudley de Chair, The Sea is Strong, London, George Harrap, 1961. 43 ‘Spare papers re effect of reprisals’, no author cited and undated but c.4–5.15, ADM 137/2909. 44 ADM 186/603, memorandum by W.E. Arnold-Forster, Lt Commander RNVR, undated, ‘The Economic Blockade, 1914–1919’, p. 36. 45 Anika Mombauer, ‘German War Plans’, pp. 59, 66, 70 and Holger Herwig, ‘Conclusions’, in Holger Herwig and Richard F. Hamilton, War Plans 1914, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009). 46 FO 800/909–910 contains key material on this issue; cf. Hull, A Scrap of Paper, pp. 171–80. 47 First Lord to Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, No 519, 30.9.14. Churchill to Jellicoe, 9.14, CHAR 13/41, Churchill College, Cambridge; minute by Churchill, 3.3.15, FO 800/909. 48 Minute by Crowe, 25 December 1914, FO 368/1162. 49 Memorandum by Emmott, 27.3.19, CAB 15/6/4. 50 ADM 186/603, pp. 62–3; CC(TBS)-7, CAB 15/21. 51 Report by H.M. Procurator General upon the Prize Work of his Department during the War, 1914–1918, 28.11.23, TS 13/858. 52 Memorandum by de Brock, undated, but circa December 1916 according to internal evidence, ‘Strength of the 10th C.S’, ADM 137/1910. This draft memorandum reflects the views of the Grand Fleet on this issue. 53 Minute by Director, Intelligence Division, 1.11.17, ADM 137/1373. 54 ADM186/603, W.E. Arnold-Forster, undated, ‘The Economic Blockade, 1914–1919’, p. 108. 55 DEFE 1/130, p. 136. 56 G-2, Memorandum by Lloyd George, ‘The War, Suggestions as to the Military Position’, 1.1.15, CAB 24/1; Undated, ‘Note by Sir Maurice Hankey of a Conversation Between the Prime Minister and Himself of Monday, October 15, 1917, at Breakfast, at 9.30 am’, CAB 1/42.


‘In the shadow of the Alabama’ Royal Navy appreciations of the role of armed merchant cruisers, 1900–1918 Stephen Cobb ‘A run of a few hours more brought us up with the American bark Parker Cooke of and from Boston (. . .) If the Cooke had been chartered and sent out for our especial benefit, the capture could not have been more opportune. The Alabama’s commissariat was beginning to run a little low . . . We had found, by experience . . . that our Boston friends put up the very best of crackers and ship bread, and sent excellent butter, and cheese, salted beef, pork, and dried fruits to the West India markets; nor were we disappointed on the present occasion (. . .) It was sunset before we concluded our labours, and at the twilight hour, when the sea breeze was dying away, and all nature was sinking to repose, we applied the torch (. . . .) The Parker Cooke made a beautiful bonfire . . .’ Raphael Semmes, CSN The Confederate Raider Alabama, (ed.) P. Van Doren Stern, (New York, 1962) p. 150

The Alabama was engaged by USS Kearsarge, and sunk off Cherbourg, on 19 June 1864. Semmes reflected ruefully that though he had done ‘the best we could with our limited means, to harass and cripple the enemy’s commerce, that important sinew of war’, the Union had simply ‘let his commerce go rather than forego his purpose of subjugating us’.1 Nevertheless, the image (‘tapering royal and sky-sail masts with the snowiest of canvas’) of fine ships captured, looted and destroyed, resonated down subsequent decades.2 The guerre de course – ‘war against commerce’ – when regarded as sufficient in itself to crush an enemy – was, in Mahan’s apt phrase, ‘a most dangerous delusion when presenting itself in the fascinating garb of cheapness to the representatives of a people’, especially against a power with a healthy commerce and a powerful navy3: ‘Where the revenues and industries of a country can be concentrated in a few treasure ships . . . the sinew of war may perhaps be cut by a stroke; but when its wealth is scattered in thousands of . . . ships, when the roots of the system spread wide and far, and strike deep, it can stand many a cruel shock and lose many a goodly bough without the life being touched’.4

Royal Navy appreciations 111

Figure 6.1 Contemporary line engraving, depicting an early stage in the battle. Alabama is on the right, with Kearsarge in the left distance. Courtesy of F.S. Hicks. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph [US Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Dept. NH # 59354]

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars Britain lost 11,000 vessels (representing perhaps 4 per cent of her trade), but her burgeoning wealth had been more than sufficient to finance the several Coalitions against France. Nevertheless, there were voices ready to claim that, by the 1860s (a fortiori by 1905) circumstances had changed. Britain had gained a maritime empire, supported by a worldwide network of overseas bases, which quickly became coaling stations. In the second half of the century, the UK built and owned most merchant ships; her underwriters insured most of the vessels and cargoes; her banks financed much of the world’s trade; her Navy protected it (the Pax Britannica). Britain exported manufactured goods, and imported cheap food. Therein lay the threat, perceived to come from the French who, unable to compete with Britain in building capital ships, dallied with cheaper options based on commerce raiding and torpedo-boats. The strategic ideas underpinning this marine des pauvres were those of Theophile Aube and Gabriel Charmes and the Jeune Ecole, which remained influential, spasmodically, until 1904. The Niger River and Fashoda Crises of 1898 focused French attention on the homogenous squadrons of British battleships constructed after the passage of the Naval Defence Act of 1889, and the Spencer Programme of 1894.


Stephen Cobb

By comparison, despite their strengths in technology, innovation and training, the French possessed a weak fleet of samples!5 The Jeune Ecole did not envisage the wholesale destruction of the British merchant fleet – merely enough of it (through a ‘momentary’ command of the sea) to cause panic among merchants and shipowners, send freights sky-high, and from the consequent fear of mass starvation, trigger an economic and political crisis that would force Britain to submit. France possessed a global ring of naval bases, athwart the sea lanes, and the vehicles for the assault would be commerce-raiding armoured cruisers and armed liners.6 This threat remained once Germany became the likely foe.7 In 1911, VA Edmond Slade identified 232 German vessels with the potential for conversion, trading in eastern waters alone; 67 of them never went home to Germany, trading principally in China.8 As early as 1902 staff in the German Admiralty proposed to arm merchant ships at Umladungsplätze (U-plätze, secret rendezvous) having forwarded the materiel and reserve naval personnel when the threat of war with Britain loomed.9 At the London Naval Conference (December 1908–February 1909) Germany refused to concede the right to arm merchantmen on the high seas.10 Slade, and others at the Admiralty, appreciated that German seaborne trade was just as vulnerable to attack as Britain’s: The British Islands lie like a Breakwater 600 miles long athwart the German trade stream and nothing should elude our vigilance when once “War on German trade” is established.11 On Slade’s ‘watch’ as DNI, 1907–09, issues of economic warfare were ‘constantly under investigation’, as they had been for three years under his predecessor, Sir Charles Ottley.12 Faced with a threat to British seaborne trade from fast converted liners, the Admiralty’s response was, from 1887, to subsidise the construction of ‘Atlantic greyhounds’ (i.e. ‘Blue Riband’ holders fast enough to catch those which might be converted by France, and later Germany, which would be at the disposal of the Admiralty in time of war. W.H. White, Director of Naval Construction, laid down the specification required for the construction of vessels receiving subvention. In 1881 Sir Thomas Brassey, then Junior Naval Lord, had indicated that the most important desiderata were: speed; an efficient sub-division into watertight compartments; the means of readily providing protection to machinery against shell-fire; twin screws for ready manoeuvring in the absence of sails, and making way with one engine disabled; protection against shell-fire for rudder and steering gear where there was only one screw; structural capability of carrying the proposed armament; clear deck spaces for fighting the guns.13 The Admiralty then ratcheted up the requirements for subsidy (subvention), and cascaded vessels no longer meeting the standard. By 1891 it required twin-screw vessels; minimum 15 knots, highest continuous seagoing speed at load draught; minimum 50 days’ coal endurance at ten knots; and the retention, free of charge, of other suitable vessel(s) with each steamer subsidised.14 The Admiralty further required

Royal Navy appreciations 113 the vessel to be engaged in a trade where prompt use could be made of it in an emergency. The subvention payable was dependent on speed, on a sliding scale of £10,000 for 21 knots, down to £3,250 for 16 knots. There was a 25 per cent reduction for vessels receiving the Royal Mail subsidy, and £12 per head, per annum, for any reduction below the required number of men serving from the Reserve.15 This latter number was derived from the amount of subvention: if over £9000, all Officers and Engineers were required to be RNR, and half of all seamen; between £5000–9000, the proportions were two-thirds and one-third; less than £5000, half the certificated Officers and Engineers, and one quarter of the men. For ships using the Suez Canal, the requirement was relaxed for vessels ‘with an exceptionally large proportion of Lascars’.16 The plans of Cunard’s Campania and Lucania show how they met the Admiralty’s specification in 1895.17 Their boilers, engines, dynamos and steering gear were all below the waterline; twin screws; the forward 4.7-inch magazine was just above the keel, immediately behind the forepeak, followed by the shell room and the 3-pdr magazine. Aft, they were placed slightly higher, forward of the mail room. Boilers and machinery were screened by permanent 1-inch plate, with 2-inches to be fitted once taken into service, and by protective coal. Similar criteria were circulated to the shipping companies in 1900, when agreements with Cunard, White Star, P&O and Canadian Pacific were about to expire. At this point, against a background of concern about the cost of steamship subsidies, or the advantages possibly conferred by those of other nations, and the threat of foreign ownership, the Admiralty re-evaluated what it thought it needed. A Select Committee of the House of Commons considered these issues in 1902. The Admiralty conducted its own investigation, under the chairmanship of the Earl of Camperdown, into the expected cost of (and reasonable subsidy towards) a 24½-knot express steamer: one which could catch and destroy the fastest German steamers, given that the Companies would not ordinarily choose to build such a vessel for their own purposes. The outcome of these investigations in 1903 was the design and construction of Mauretania and Lusitania, financed by a Government loan to Cunard of £2,600,000, and an annual subsidy of £150,000.18 The Admiralty also secured the use of White Star Line vessels, notwithstanding that Line’s absorption by J.P. Morgan’s International Mercantile Marine in 1902. The use of vessels from other Companies was secured contractually, without payment of subvention. In the interim, Cunard’s intermediate construction, Caronia and Carmania, provided useful comparative evidence for the merits of reciprocating engines versus turbines; the latter were installed in the Mauretanias. However, by the time the two vessels entered service in 1907, the Admiralty was re-thinking its view of what it needed. On 2 December 1905, the Navy Estimates Committee 1906–07, was advised by Fisher that, as a match for the German liners, ‘the two great Cunard ships now completing’ were insufficient; in war, equality would not suffice, otherwise the result would be a toss-up!19 The Mauretanias would be retained until the Invincible-class armoured cruisers (re-named ‘battle-cruisers’ after 1911) were ready.20 Jellicoe opined that they


Stephen Cobb

would be replaced by ’25-knot cruisers’.21 He could see no role for unarmoured fighting ships unless they had 26/27 knots speed.22 Admiralty opinion then held that the liners should be used as messengers: American officers had informed Charles Ottley (DNI) that the value of City of Paris and City of New York in that role during the Spanish-American War of 1898 could not be exaggerated. The Committee – Cdrs Orpen, Dormer and Crease – recommended that the general use of AMCs was inadvisable. Their reserved armaments took up valuable space in the three home ports, and there were no suitable steamers to use those stored at Hong Kong and Sydney. The Report floated the idea of abolishing all of the reserved armaments, save those for Lusitania and Mauretania. Cunard were prepared to undertake those conversions, but had stated that it would take a minimum of three weeks, provided that all parts and fittings were ready in store. Arrangements were needed for manning the engine-room, which could not be adequately met by drafting RNR engineer officers and firemen. Existing arrangements required such staff to be engaged locally, at the port of fitting out, from amongst those on board if possible. Orpen and his colleagues were pessimistic about whether the existing engine-room complement would readily volunteer, when the moment came, without ‘high wages and terms as to pensions’. Speed was the ne plus ultra of the two vessels’ role, and an efficient engine-room was of the utmost importance to that role (and in avoiding capture!) An agreement with Cunard, to maintain a proportion of RNR officers and crew, for both deck (already covered) and engine-room staffs, appeared desirable, and should not be left until the outbreak of war. War Games at the RN War College in 1907 assumed that Germany would use fast liners as commerce raiders, and that they would be chased by British AMCs.23 In ‘War with Germany (Attack on German Commerce)’, the Assistant Director of Naval Mobilisation, Osmond de Beauvoir Brock identified six Cunard and three White Star vessels with a minimum sea speed of 19 knots.24 The Mauretanias would be armed with 6-inch guns; the others with 4.7-inch. Most plans indicated a distant blockade of German commerce by a cordon of Edgar-class cruisers of the 9th and 10th Cruiser Squadrons, from the Shetlands to Stadlandet in Norway. They would be stationed about 6 miles apart, and would be joined at the earliest opportunity by ten AMCs, disposed in the intervals between the cruisers, and 20 miles north.25 There were also references to stationing the Mauretanias in Loch Swilly, ready to spring out into the North Atlantic. The Admiralty continued to assert its requirements for shipbuilding, for example at a meeting with Houlder Brothers in August 1913; it was understood that the company would bear the cost from patriotic motives.26 At a meeting with 1SL on 1 July, George Ballard (DOD) was required to consider the suitability of the Mauretanias for trade protection in the North Atlantic; the use of Campania, Oceanic, Teutonic, Majestic and Olympic additionally, or as alternatives, would be ‘very desirable’.27 Other vessels from CPR, Canadian Northern and Allan Lines, were considered suitable.28 An Agreement dated 25 February 1914, amended that with Cunard from 1903. Other vessels could be substituted for the Mauretanias, or for those substituted for the substitutes. Lusitania, Mauretania and Aquitania

Royal Navy appreciations 115 were the ‘armed vessels of the Company’s fleet’. There were to be at least two RNR officers aboard, and the number of RNR/RNFR men on board had to be at least 50 per cent of the aggregate complement of the two Mauretanias.29 But by this time, doubts were being raised about the suitability of arming 50,000-ton liners to patrol the sea lanes. They should be considered if their speed was an important factor. Richard Webb (responsible for Trade, under Ballard) dismissed the Olympics as too large, too expensive in coal, possessing insufficient range and needing too large a complement.30 Their steering gear was unprotected and, at 850 feet in length, their manoeuvring qualities were poor.31 Webb also suggested that coaling problems would incline the Germans to use slower ships with greater endurance, and urged reconsideration of the ‘speed’ criterion for selection, and the use of White Star’s four 17-knot Baltics.32 He favoured the smaller, slower Allan liners, and those building for CPR.33 Henry Campbell, responsible for the Defensive Arming of Merchant Ships (‘DAMS’), also questioned the determining criterion of speed, rather than that of steaming endurance. It limited the number of ships available, necessitated frequent coaling and excluded refrigerated vessels whose lower holds could be easily converted to magazines. An AMC’s likely opponents would probably not try to escape, so a few knots extra speed were of little account, and insufficient to escape a fast warship herself. Campbell advocated approaching Owners so as to secure the Admiralty’s requirements (preferably at the construction stage) without interfering with commercial usage, and for the least possible expense. Underwater steering gear was the only element he advocated from the Admiralty’s previous specification, and he now highlighted the need for emergency communications between holds and bunkers; cooling pipes in the lower holds to permit their use as magazines, accessible notwithstanding the layer of protective coal above them; ready communications for control gear and searchlights. Every detail for a particular ship should be available either at the Royal Dockyards, or her terminal port. Because of the work on defensive arming of merchant ships, several firms in Liverpool, London, Southampton and Hull were already proficient in mounting guns. In April 1914, a War Staff Paper, OD.73/14 ‘Functions of Armed Mercantile Cruisers on Trade Routes’, asserted that in the ‘old naval wars’ the numbers of vessels available to protect trade were invariably insufficient, had to be augmented, and thereby depleted the number of cruisers available to the main fleet.34 Under present conditions, despite the abolition of privateering, the claims of trade would be enhanced. The assertion that ‘Germany was arming her merchant vessels’ elicited marginalia from Churchill that ‘evidence is conspicuous by its absence’ but the broader point was that Germany claimed the right to arm them, and the greater the threat to ‘hold up’ her trade, the greater her inducement to use them, alongside those of Austria and Italy35: ‘To adequately protect our trade routes will most probably require more armed merchant vessels in war than we have any conception of now. Some 20 years ago proper provisions were in force for arming many steamers both at home and abroad . . .’35


Stephen Cobb

In 1907, taking up and fitting out AMCs was not necessarily part of the General Mobilisation Scheme, but this needed to be reconsidered in light of the increase in the German Navy, in the number of Triple Alliance vessels capable of being so converted, and the decreased number of British cruisers available. Jackson proposed that the two Mauretanias, and possibly Aquitania, should be used in the North Atlantic, where ‘there should be ample scope for their powers’.36 In more distant waters, Jackson argued that vessels should be chosen ‘from the best class of vessels habitually using the areas in which (they) will be required’.37 During the Boer War, ‘the fast North Atlantic passenger steamers could not steam well in the tropics’.38 Their ventilation was unsuitable, and their condensers too small. Mail steamers trading south of the Equator were much better adapted for such use than the more imposing steamers of the North Atlantic. Union Castle’s Balmoral Castle could sail from England to Durban without coaling, needing to counter the south-east trades at the revolutions for 17 knots, merely to make 15. ‘No manof-war can do this, nor can an Atlantic liner’.39 But it wasn’t just a question of design. Many North Atlantic officers were in a groove, and out of their element elsewhere. They were more trouble, and less resourceful, than their counterparts ‘south of the line’, or the Masters of large tramps. Oliver cited a number of examples and concluded that ‘to get the best results, ships and officers should be kept as much as possible to their ordinary localities’.40 Numbers were more important than individual firepower, as long as one or two AMCs were supported by a more-heavily armed cruiser. Six-inch guns were preferred, giving an AMC a fighting chance against a German (unarmoured) light cruiser armed with 4.1-inch.41 Other recommended qualities were a large radius of action (achieved by carrying extra coal in the holds) a good, but not excessive, speed, and good accommodation – for a spare prize crew and enemy prisoners.42 To that end, Jackson recommended using CPR’s Empress of Britain, Allan Line’s Calgarian and Alsatian, and Canadian Northern’s Royal Edward and Royal George.43 Both Canadian lines had two further vessels building.44 In conclusion, Jackson proposed that the Admiralty make small structural alterations in peacetime, to enable rapid conversion; to take up the five named vessels; give no guarantee as to use, nor pay subsidy, and (with their owners consent) bring the vessels to the same state of readiness as the Cunarders.45 Ironically, the wheel came full circle from 1891, with Jackson’s final observation: ‘If the good will of the owners is obtained, it might be possible in future ships building to make slight structural alterations at a very small expense, thus developing a type for nearly instant readiness’.46 The paper concluded with a five page account of the Alabama’s cruise, and on Federal attempts to capture her! Churchill assenting to the proposals, minuted that: ‘The Alabama story shows how much more difficult it is to defend than attack trade . . .’.47 Another evaluation came from naval strategist Julian Corbett. From 1912–14, in consultation with RA Sir Edmond Slade, he produced an official account, for

Royal Navy appreciations 117 the War Staff, of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.48 Both sides used merchant cruisers. The Russians used units of their Volunteer Fleet, notably and notoriously Smolensk and Petersburg. Such success as they enjoyed – against lines of communication rather than commerce – was in operating against neutrals with no warning, and taking no precautions. Their depredations irritated neutrals, especially Britain, and they were recalled. They got no success at all from their purchase of four ageing German liners for the same purpose. The Japanese mobilised about a dozen merchant cruisers, and attached them to squadrons of the Fleet, employed for reconnaissance, the blockade of Port Arthur, and the interdiction of contraband – in La Pelouse and Tsugaru Straits, opposite Vladivostok, and on the ’4th Guard Line’, south-west from the island of Tsushima. Their ‘excellent service’ was recognised by attaching two to each squadron in the June 1905 reorganisation of the Japanese Fleet. Their role foreshadowed that of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, but also that envisaged for it – supporting the Edgars – in Fisher’s War Plans after 1907. What we have seen is the change in the Admiralty’s perception of its needs. In 1903, the foe might still have been France, or Russia. By 1907, both were in the Entente. After the Russo-Japanese war, Russia was not a naval threat, while the war itself provided a few object lessons for the use of AMCs. The Admiralty still saw the need for a few high-speed liners, but there was a growing appreciation of the need for endurance over speed. Nevertheless, if the vessels now preferred were smaller than the Mauretanias and Olympics, they were still comparable with Cunard’s Carmanias and White Star’s Oceanic, and twice the size of the latter’s Teutonic. If, by 1913, Henry Campbell and his colleagues were proposing to waive the previous design specification, his more comprehensive thinking may reflect the rising level of tension with Germany, and the need to procure suitable vessels.49

The experience of war The Fleet did not disperse following the test mobilisation of July 1914, and the Review at Spithead on the 20th; from the 27th it sailed for its war stations. HMS Crescent, flagship of RA Dudley de Chair, was the first unit of the 10th CS to arrive in Scapa Flow on 5 August. Their first AMCs, Oceanic and Alsatian, were both commissioned six days later.50 Alsatian had reached Lerwick by 18 August. Jellicoe mentioned ‘four mercantile auxiliaries’ being a ‘great help’ to de Chair in watching Nordfjord for the egress of German merchant ships on the same day.51 He cited reports from Teutonic on 10 November.52 The following night, both Crescent and Edgar were damaged in heavy seas west of Shetland, and the Squadron was obliged to heave-to. Thereafter, the Edgars were replaced by AMCs, though Keble Chatterton credits this to Jellicoe and de Chair, rather than as something previously envisaged.53 De Chair hoisted his flag in Alsatian, and on 4 December she was sent to Liverpool to be fitted with six-inch guns.54 There were then 20 other liners being fitted for naval service: eight in Liverpool, five at Avonmouth, four in London, and one each at Hull, Tyne and Clyde. As of 22 February 1915, Corbett lists 21 vessels in the 10th CS.55 Four more were attached to the 9th CS


Stephen Cobb

in mid-Atlantic (Calgarian, Carmania, Edinburgh Castle and Victorian). A fifth, Ophir, was still in dockyard hands. Empress of Britain was attached to Cruiser Force D. Caronia was with North America and West Indies (NAWI) Squadron. Celtic, Macedonia, Orama and Otranto were in the South Atlantic (SECA).56,57 Laconia and Armadale Castle were at the Cape; Laurentic was on the West coast of Africa, Kinfauns Castle on the East. Three CPR ‘Empresses’ (Asia, Japan and Russia) were in Mediterranean, Egyptian and East Indies’ waters, along with Himalaya, and six vessels of the Royal Indian Marine.58 Later additions, all capable of 30 days at 15 knots without refuelling, were RMSP’s Alcantara, Arlanza, Andes and Ebro; Orcoma (Pacific SN), India (P&O) and Avenger (Union SS of New Zealand). The larger vessels were not used. Aquitania collided with another vessel and was returned to Cunard. Lusitania and Mauretania were too expensive in fuel; Cedric, at 21,000 tons, was returned to WSL as too big.59 Campania became a seaplane carrier. Mauretania, Aquitania and Britannic were used as hospital ships or transports. As an armed transport, legally a warship and flying the White Ensign, Olympic rammed and sank U-103 in the Channel on 12 May 1918. In December 1905, Fisher viewed the outcome of a contest between two AMCs as a toss-up, and thus unacceptable.60 On 13 September 1914, the Admiralty issued a general order to AMCs that they were to work in conjunction with regular cruisers, and never engage a ship they met unless she was of distinctly inferior force.61 The day after, 14 September, HMS Carmania discovered the German AMC, SMS Cap Trafalgar, coaling at Trindade Island (Brazil), one of the U-plätze.62 The battle confirmed Fisher’s view. To give themselves room for action, both ships ran southward; Cap Trafalgar turned, and Carmania opened fire with her port guns at a range of 8,500 yards.63 The German ship replied from starboard, and as the range closed, her machine guns raked Carmania, which turned away, opened the range and re-engaged with her starboard battery. Cap Trafalgar listed heavily to starboard, and sank by the bow 100 minutes after the first shot. Smoke was seen on the horizon, the raider Kronprinz Wilhelm, but she turned away, fearing a trap. Carmania took enormous punishment, and was fortunate to survive the slugfest. Hit by 79 projectiles, she had 304 holes, her bridge was on fire, she was unseaworthy, with her navigational and communications equipment destroyed. She headed for safety at the Abrolhos Rocks, thence to Pernambuco and Gibraltar for repair. The previous month, the heavily outgunned auxiliary cruiser Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was also caught while coaling, off Rio d’Oro on 26 August 1914.64 She survived 105 minutes against HMS Highflyer, a protected cruiser built in 1898, armed with 11 six-inch guns and nine 12-pounders, before running out of ammunition and then scuttling herself. The 10th Cruiser Squadron established patrol lines between the Orkney and Faroe Islands, north of Shetland and the Faroes, and toward Iceland: The work of the squadron consisted in intercepting and boarding all vessels bound into or out of the northerly entrance to the North Sea (. . . .)

Royal Navy appreciations 119 Whilst the ships were on patrol, the work of the boarding parties was very arduous. The preliminary examination could not be carried out without boarding, and the manner in which the boats of the squadron were handled in the very heavy weather, almost constant in northern latitudes, was a fine tribute to the seamanship of the officers and men. In this boarding work the fishermen of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, hardy and experienced seamen, rendered most conspicuous service.65 On 11 January 1915, East patrol baseline ‘A’ ran north from the Faroes at Longitude 5° 30′W, to just below Latitude 65°, east of Iceland.66 Baseline ‘B’ (Cedric, Patia, Teutonic, Orotava, Viknor) followed Long. 1° 00′W north of Unst (Shetland) to just below Lat. 64°. Baseline ‘C’ (Otway, Bayano, Oropesa, Hilary, Digby) ran from the Faroes to a point mid-way between Orkney and North Rona to the west. Baseline ‘D’ (Hildebrand, Patuca, Clan MacNaughton) ran NW from St Kilda, NNW to a point roughly Long. 61°, Lat. 12°W. The patrolling AMCs steamed east–west to and from their eastern baselines. Their base for heavy maintenance was Liverpool, but a secondary advanced base was established at Swarbacks Minn, on the west side of Shetland; de Chair kept his flagship south of the Faroes, as some of his squadron possessed only short range Marconi apparatus of low power.67 These were the positions when, acting on information telegraphed from New York to London and Scapa Flow, the Viknor apprehended the Norwegian Bergensfjord, and arrested a German agent, Hans von Wedell, and other suspected reservists. Bergensfjord, a serial blockade-runner, was sent in to Kirkwall; Viknor sailed for Liverpool with the suspects, disappearing without trace with 295 aboard.68 Jellicoe paid tribute to the dangers faced from mines and submarines when the ships travelled the 600 mile, two-day passage, from their patrol lines to Liverpool and back, unprotected by destroyers.69 Steaming south through the North Channel, Bayano was torpedoed by U-27, ten miles SE by East off Corsewall Point, Galloway, on 11 March 1915.70 Later, lines ‘B’ and ‘D’ were abolished, and new lines ‘E’, ‘F’ and ‘G’ added. ‘E’ guarded the eastern end of the Denmark Strait, north of Iceland; ‘F’ ran southeast from Iceland, an extension of ‘C’, but a couple of degrees further west. ‘G’ ran parallel to the Norwegian coast, on meridian 3°E, between latitudes 62°N and 63° 30′N, and was intended to apprehend vessels coming round the north of Iceland, or running ore from Narvik to Germany. The map illustrates these. On 29 February 1916, Andes and Alcantara (Capt. T.E. Wardle) were patrolling on line ‘G’, the latter’s position at 9:00 am, Lat. 61° 45′N, Long. 0° 58′, NE of the Shetlands.71 Intelligence suggested that a disguised raider might pass the patrol line that day. At 08:55, smoke was reported W by N, and Andes, 14 miles north, signalled ‘Enemy in sight . . .’ describing a two-funnelled vessel.72 The smoke seen by Alcantara indicated a vessel with a single funnel, so she investigated, prior to assisting her sister. The vessel was ordered to stop with a signal and blank rounds, at a range of 6,000 yards. She hoisted her number, which could not be traced, and Alcantara went to ‘action stations’, closing to 4,000 yards. The suspicious vessel


Stephen Cobb

Figure 6.2 The Blockade Lines strengthened. E. Keble Chatterton, The Big Blockade. Source: Hurst & Blackett, London (n.d., but 1932), p. 134.

purported to be the Norwegian Rena, with two large flags painted on her sides, inward-bound from Rio to Trondhejm. Lloyd’s Confidential List of Ships appeared to bear out her claim. Wardle eased down to 14 knots, and prepared to place an armed guard aboard, when Andes signalled ‘That is suspicious vessel’. At about 10:00, the two ships were on the same heading, ‘Rena’ to port 2,500 yards distant, and the boarding party was swung out by crane. The Norwegian flags dropped, and three previously concealed guns and a pom-pom, opened fire on Alcantara, destroying the boarding boat, Wardle’s cabin under the bridge, and cutting all electrical communications and pipes for the telemotor steering-gear. Alcantara returned fire with her six-inch guns, but it took ten minutes to connect up her after steering position, during which she was out of control, losing power and closing her enemy: the 9,900 ton raider Greif (Fregatten-Kapitän Rudolf Tietze). The action again proved Fisher’s contention – made, ironically, to Wardle and others of the Naval Estimates Committee 1906–07, on 2 December 1905 – about the likely outcome of such actions. At 10:15, Greif fired a torpedo, which passed under the stern, but as the range closed to 800 yards there were explosions and fires aboard. Boats were seen leaving her at 10:32, and Wardle ceased fire. At 10:45 Alcantara was listing badly to starboard, and sinking, and she was abandoned. She heeled over on her beam ends, and sank at 11:08.73 Andes arrived on the scene with the cruiser Comus; Wardle had a front-row view from a raft as the two shelled Greif until she sank at 13:00. He was rescued by the destroyer Munster. Alcantara lost two officers and 67 men; five officers and 115 men were rescued from the Greif, rather less than half of those who had left Kiel just over two days earlier.

Royal Navy appreciations 121 Notwithstanding its frequent ‘sweeps’ and ‘sorties’, the Grand Fleet stood on the strategic defensive, to allow the 10th CS to do its work.74 But there were obvious limits to that work.75 The AMCs of the 10th CS were the constabulary arm of a much larger civilian, diplomatic, consular and intelligence strategy for conducting economic warfare against Germany and the Central Powers: . . . people in offices ashore, with their typewriters, telegraphs and files, their network of agreements, trading trusts and treaties, were carrying on the operation as if it were some world-extensive business with branches on both sides of the Atlantic. It was no longer a seaman’s job . . .76 Even at the outset in August 1914, it never had been. At sea, a ship’s identity could be easily verified, for example by comparing its certificate of registry with the details in Lloyd’s Register. Any attempt at disguise would be obvious to an experienced seaman during inspection. It would be less easy for a naval officer to ascertain the identity of individual passengers and crew calling themselves Norwegian, Swedes, Finns or Greeks. They might be asked to give the right words in their professed language, in rapid succession, for a bicycle pedal, bicycle chain, instep, cheek bone, nasturtium or frying pan. Inspection became increasingly easy, as officers became familiar with the vessels examined on regular patrol routes. Naval officers were also required to decide whether the vessel was actually prosecuting the voyage declared in its papers. But most ships inspected belonged to well-known Dutch and Scandinavian companies. Their directors and managers would never have allowed their masters and agents to break American law by obtaining false clearance papers, and American shippers of contraband always intended to send them to neutral consignees, who would then forward them to the enemy; the papers inspected by the boarding officers of the 10th CS should be in perfect order. So while the naval inspection could ascertain the nature of the cargo from the ship’s manifest, and check it against the mate’s cargo book and the bills of lading, it could know nothing about the consignees, their business, or whether the cargo was consistent with the nature of that business. It lay with Whitehall, rather than with the ‘constables’ of the 10th CS, to exercise British belligerent rights at sea. With the entry of the United States into the War, on 6 April 1917, American citizens and companies were no longer simply neutral businessmen plying their trade where they could, and contraband cargo would be apprehended by US Customs officials. The Squadron, by now commanded by VA Reginald Tupper, became superfluous before the year was out, and its ships were re-assigned. From August 1914 to the end of 1917, the 10th CS intercepted 8,905 ships, sent 1,816 into port under armed guard and boarded 4,520 fishing vessels.77 Its strength never exceeded 25 AMCs and 18 armed trawlers, and as units were undergoing refit or coaling, proceeding to or from station, its numbers were often much less. Its losses were severe, and became worse as the ships were allocated to convoy protection duties. Thus their role came full circle: vessels whose original function was to be fast enough to catch contemporary ‘Alabamas’ to protect British


Stephen Cobb

commerce, had themselves become a weapon against German trade, and now found themselves protecting their own trade, and no less vulnerable themselves, against submersible corsairs. India was torpedoed by U-22 (Bruno Hoppe) off Bodø on 8 August 1915, attempting to prevent ore ships from Narvik exiting Vestfjord.78 Ten officers and 150 ratings were lost; the survivors were treated with extraordinary sympathy, and the funerals were well-attended from the whole of Narvik and surrounding district – the more remarkable as several vessels had been arrested and sent in. Bell commented that79: ‘for some peculiar reason, which is difficult to explain, the allied cause was nowhere so staunchly befriended in neutral Europe as it was in the fishing villages and the fjords of Norway. Laurentic was employed ferrying gold and troops across the Atlantic in 1916–17.80 On 23 January 1917 she was mined off Fanad Head, the western tip of Lough Swilly, after leaving Liverpool for Halifax with £5,000,000 of gold for New York. She sank within an hour, only 121 of 475 aboard surviving. Hilary was sunk by U-88 (Walther Schwieger) west of Shetland on 25 May 1917, while on passage to refuel at Scapa Flow.81 Avenger was torpedoed by U-69 (Ernst Wilhelms) 80 miles west of the Shetlands, similarly en route to Scapa, on 14 June 1917.82 One man was lost. Ten men were lost when Otway was torpedoed by UC-49 (Karl Petri) north from the Butt of Lewis, on 23 July 1917.83 Oropesa was lent to the French Navy in 1915, and re-named Champagne.84 She was returned in July 1917, but retained her name. She was torpedoed in the Irish Sea by U-96 (Heinrich Jeß) off Dundrum Bay, on 9 October 1917; 56 lives were lost. Orama sighted the German AMC Navarra off the River Plate.85 Navarra started to scuttle herself, but Orama took her crew prisoner, and sank her by gunfire. She was also present, with HMSs Glasgow and Kent, at the destruction of the Dresden at Juan Fernandez, 14 March 1915. But she was the final loss of 1917, torpedoed on 19 October by U-62 (Ernst Hashagen) south of Ireland whilst escorting a convoy. She sank in four hours, and there were no casualties. Calgarian was the first casualty of 1918.86 Like Laurentic, she carried gold outwards, and troops inwards, across the Atlantic in 1916–17. She was in Halifax, NS, when the French ammunition ship Mont-Blanc blew up, on 6 December 1917, devastating the city, killing 2,000 people, and injuring 9,000 more, in the biggest man-made explosion before the development of nuclear weapons. Calgarian provided rescue and medical assistance. On 1 March she had completed her escort of a 30-strong inbound convoy at the entrance to the North Channel, and handed it over to destroyers. She was proceeding independently at 20 knots when she was torpedoed by U-19 (Hans Albrecht Liebeskind) off Rathlin Island. Calgarian did not sink, and the damage was contained. Seven destroyers, two sloops and 11 trawlers soon provided a protective screen, but U-19 dived under

Royal Navy appreciations 123 them and put two more torpedoes into her, finishing her off. Two officers and 47 ratings were lost. Moldavia was torpedoed by UB-57 (Johannes Lohs) off Beachy Head on 23 May 1918, carrying American troops, 56 of whom died in the explosion.87 Patia followed on 13 June.88 She was torpedoed in the Bristol Channel, 25 miles west of Hartland Point, by UC-49 (Hans Kükenthal). The final loss through enemy action was Marmora, escorting SS Bonah outward bound from Cardiff to Dakar, Senegal.89 Ten crewmen were lost when she was torpedoed by UB-64 (Otto von Schrader), south of Ireland. But there would be one more. On 6 October, off the island of Islay, in poor visibility, Otranto collided with the troopship (formerly P&O steamer) HMS Kashmir. Kashmir’s stem cut halfway through her port side, amidships, and listing, she ran ashore.90 The heavy seas pounded Otranto against the rocks, and she broke up and sank with the loss of 431 lives: 351 American servicemen, and 80 crew. Others were saved by the M-class destroyer, HMS Mounsey. The war ended less than five weeks later.

Notes 1 Semmes, op.cit., p. 362. 2 Semmes, pp. 149–50. 3 A.T. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power on History, 1660–1783, Boston, 1918 (12th ed.) p. 539. 4 Op.cit. 5 Cite ref. from Theodore Ropp, The Development of a Modern Navy: French Naval Policy 1871–1904, (ed.) Stephen S. Roberts, Naval Institute Press, 1987, which remains the classic account of the Jeune Ecole. 6 One cruiser, Chateaurenault, was designed to masquerade as a liner! 7 A Royal Commission, chaired by Lord Balfour of Burghley, considered the threat to Food Supplies and Raw Materials in Time of War, from 1903–05. 8 While C-in-C East Indies, 1909–12. Memorandum to Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India, 16 March 1911. Slade Papers, NMM/MRF 39. Microfilm 3. 9 Matthew S. Seligmann, The Royal Navy and the German Threat 1901–1914, OUP 2012, pp. 14–17. NB that German proposals for a war on British seaborne trade did not anticipate using submarines prior to the outbreak of war in 1914. 10 Seligmann, op.cit., chap. 5. Slade, as DNI, was a central participant at the Conference. 11 Admiralty to Committee of Imperial Defence (C.I.D.), 12 May 1906. Arthur J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Vol 1 The Road to War, Seaforth Publishing, 2013, p. 379. 12 Ottley to Reginald McKenna, 5 December 1908. Marder, op.cit. 13 Brassey, Papers on our Mercantile Auxiliaries, 1881, TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1224. 14 Regulations for the Subvention of Merchant Vessels that may be employed as Armed Cruisers, 9 October 1891, S.10340/91, TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1224. 15 Op.cit. 16 Lascars: Literally ‘Indian sailor’, but loosely used to describe anyone from that side of the Indian Ocean. 17 List of Merchant Vessels Qualified for Service as Armed Cruisers, July 1895. TNA/ PRO, ADM 116, 1224. The plans can be found in TNA/PRO ADM 116/907, Merchant Cruisers: Fitting in Wartime. (Extracts from the plans can be found in Cobb, Preparing for Blockade 1885–1914, Ashgate 2013, pp. 155–9).


Stephen Cobb

18 Details of the Admiralty’s investigations, the arrangements between the Government and the Cunard Company, and the arrangements with the Morgan Combine to facilitate the availability of White Star (and other) vessels, can be found in Cobb, op.cit., chapter 7, and in Seligmann, Royal Navy and the German Threat, chapter 3 (The Dawn of the Lusitania) pp. 46–64. 19 Crease Papers, NMRN Portsmouth, MSS.253/101. 20 Report on Fleet Auxiliaries, February 1906. Fisher Papers, FISR 8/16/4753, Churchill College Archives, Cambridge. Matthew Seligmann, op.cit., argues that the Invincibles were replacements for the Mauretanias in their hunter-killer role; Jon Sumida, Nicholas Lambert and Angus Ross argue that Fisher sought to supersede dreadnoughts with the multi-role ‘fusion’ armoured (battle-)cruiser, hunting down mercantile cruisers, and mopping them up one after another, might have been one of their roles. 21 Jellicoe, 24 January 1906 Tupper Papers, NMRN Portsmouth 130/87(91) 6.9.3. 22 None of the classes of light cruiser (Boadiceas, Towns/Bristols, Chathams) completed by 1914 could have kept pace with a 32,000-ton liner in the North Atlantic, though HMS Indomitable (an Invincible) maintained 25.3 knots for three days in 1908. 23 Capt. Edmond Slade to Fisher, ‘War Games and the Sketches of War Operations’, 11 February 1907, TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1043B, fo. 95. 24 Brock, 4 August 1908, TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1043B, fos 647–8. The liners were Mauretania, Lusitania, Carmania, Caronia, Umbria and Etruria; Oceanic, Teutonic and Majestic. 25 Memorandum to Accompany War Orders (M.0010/12), TNA/PRO, ADM 116/3096, p. 5. 26 Memorandum of 14 August 1913, TNA/ADM 116/1227. 27 ‘Armament of Merchant Cruisers’, (S.0111), TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1227. Britannic was added later. 28 Précis by H.W. Brown (Ship Branch) for the Board, dated 16 March 1914. Docket on Armed Merchant Cruisers: Selection of Vessels suitable for conversion to. TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1227, S.070/14. 15 vessels capable of 19 knots were identified. 29 TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1226. 30 Webb, 4 February 1914, in S.070/14, cited above. 31 W.H. Whiting (SCR) 28 January 1914, S.070/14 above. (No-one considered the practicalities of launching their boats 60 feet down in a heavy sea to examine potential prizes!). 32 Webb, 11 November 1913. TNA/PRO, ADM 116/1226. 33 Allan Line (Montreal Ocean SS Co.) founded 1854; in discussion with CPR from 1911, and merged 1915. Alsatian (18,500 tons) and Calgarian (17,500 tons) completed 1914; Tunisian, Victorian and Virginian (10,500 tons) 1905. 34 War Staff Paper OD.73/14, Henry Bradwardine Jackson, CWS, 14 April 1914. TNA/ PRO. ADM 1/8374/103. 35 Op.cit., p. 2. 36 Op.cit., p. 5. 37 Op.cit. 38 OD.73/14, Henry Oliver, DID, 20 March 1914. 39 Henry Oliver, op.cit. 40 Op.cit. 41 Op.cit., p. 8. 42 Op.cit., p. 7. 43 CN’s ‘Royal Line’ brand: Royal Edward and Royal George were purchased from the Egyptian Mail SS Co. in 1910, being formerly their Cairo (1908) and Heliopolis. Both were requisitioned as troopships on the outbreak of war. Prince Edward was torpedoed by UB-14, six nautical miles off Kandeloussa (heading for Mudros), with heavy loss of life (among 29th Infantry and RAMC). Prince George was sold to Cunard in 1916. 44 CPR’s Empress of Ireland was listed, but crossed through; she had sunk with heavy loss of life in the St Lawrence River on 29 May 1914.

Royal Navy appreciations 125 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55

56 57

58 59

60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68


Op.cit., pp. 9–10. Op.cit., p. 10. Op.cit., 4 June 1914. Julian Corbett, Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905, 2 vols, London 1912–14, Annapolis, 1994. I’m grateful to Greg Kennedy for first suggesting this to me. Oceanic served barely a week on station before piling up on Foula (Shetland) on 8 September 1914. To Battenberg, 18 August 1914, A. Temple Patterson (ed.), The Jellicoe Papers Vol 1, NRS, 1966, p. 51. Op.cit., pp. 79–80. Perhaps to draw a veil over the extent of pre-war preparation. E. Keble Chatterton, The Big Blockade, (n.d.) London, pp. 29, 53, 59. HMS Alsatian, log. TNA/ADM 53/33378. Alsatian (flag), Ambrose, Bayano, Calyx, Caribbean, Cedric, Changuinola, Columbella, Digby, Eskimo, Hilary, Hildebrand, Mantua, Motagua, Oropesa, Orotava, Otway, Patia, Patuca, Teutonic and Virginian. Corbett, Naval Operations, Vol. 2, Appendix C, London, 1921, pp. 420–23. Otranto (Capt. H.M. Edwards) was with Cradock at Coronel, 1 November 1914, but the Admiral ordered her out of the line. Macedonia, with HMS Bristol, sank the colliers Santa Isobel and Baden, after the main battle off the Falklands, 8 December 1914. Celtic, 20,901 GRT, 701 feet. Troopship after January 1916 in view of high fuel consumption. Mined off the Isle of Man on 15 February 1917, with the loss of 17 lives; torpedoed by UB-77 in the Irish Sea on 31 March 1918, with the loss of a further six lives. Celtic survived the war, to be involved in two further collisions, in 1925 and 1927, thereafter becoming a total loss on the Cow and Calf rocks, approaching Cobh, Ireland (December 1928).; http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/RMS_Celtic. Both sources accessed 28 October 2013. Corbett, op.cit., Appendix B, pp. 416–17. The R.I.M. vessels were Dalhousie, Dufferin, Hardinge, Lawrence, Minto and Northbrook. Cedric, 21,073 GRT; 700 feet long. Released 1916, becoming a troopship for Egypt, later across the Atlantic. On 29 January 1918, collided with CPR’s Montreal, which sank under tow the following day: Accessed 28 October 2013. Memorandum to Navy Estimates Committee 1906–07, 2 December 1905. Crease Papers, NMRN MSS.253/101. Corbett, Naval Operations, Vol 1, London, 1920, p. 266. Cap Trafalgar was completed in October 1913 for the Hamburg-South America Line; 18,710 gross tons; two 4.1-inch guns and six pom-poms. Extract from log of HMS Carmania.– 08Carmania.htm. Accessed 21 October, 2013. Built for Norddeutscher Lloyd, 1897; 14,349 gross tons; six 4-inch and two 37 mm guns. Jellicoe, The Grand Fleet 1914–1916. Its Creation, Development and Work, London, 1919, pp. 74, 75. Map and details in E. Keble Chatterton, op.cit., p. 86. Also, Jellicoe, op.cit., p. 74. E. Keble Chatterton, The Big Blockade, London (n.d.), pp. 85–7. Viknor (1888) 5,386 tons, was the oldest vessel in the Squadron. Formerly RMSP’s Atrato, and latterly The Viking (1912–14) cruising the Norwegian fjords. Wreckage and bodies were washed up at Portrush, and she probably hit one of the mines sown off Tory Island by the German auxiliary Berlin, which accounted for the battleship Audacious on 27 October 1914, and possibly Clan MacNaughton the following month, with the loss of 281 lives. Jellicoe, op.cit., pp. 74–5.


Stephen Cobb

70 Bayano (Elders & Fyffes, 1913) 5,948 tons, sank in four minutes. Cmdr H.C. Carr, 13 officers and 181 seamen were lost with her; 4 officers and 22 men were saved. Accessed 22 October 2013. U-27 was sunk by the Q-ship Baralong, 19 August 1915. 71 Both A-class vessels of RMSP for Southampton–La Plata services; approx. 16,000 gross tons. Sisters Arlanza and Almanzora served with 10th CS; Avon (as Avoca) as an AMC and troop transport; Asturias and Araguaya as hospital ships. Amazon torpedoed March 1918. 72 Account given in E. Keble Chatterton, op.cit., pp. 247–52, account by Admiral Thomas Erskine Wardle, to that author. Wardle’s Report, dated 1 March 1916, can be found at Accessed 21 October 2013. 73 At Lat. 61° 48′N; Long. 1° 40′E. 74 As Corbett and Slade had suggested it would, in Maritime Operations in the RussoJapanese War 1904–1905, Admiralty War Staff 1912–14 (introd. John B. Hattendorf and D.M. Schurman), Annapolis, 1994, p. 398. 75 What follows summarises Archibald C. Bell, A History of the Blockade of Germany and of the Countries Associated with her in the Great War, 1937, Naval & Military Press/Imperial War Museum, 2013, pp. 34–5. 76 E. Keble Chatterton, op.cit., p. 279. As a member of the Historical Branch of CID, Chatterton would have known that. 77 E. Keble Chatterton, op.cit. 78 P&O, 1896; 7,940 tons, Osborne, Spong and Grover, Armed Merchant Cruisers 1878– 1945, World Ship Society, 2007, p. 112. A more detailed source for the ships than is possible here. for this and subsequent details of German commanders. 79 Archibald C. Bell, op.cit., p. 350 and footnote. 80 White Star Line, 1908; 14,892 tons. £900,000 of the gold was recovered that summer, and all but 1 per cent post-war. RN divers made 5,000 dives between 1917–24. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 116, and Accessed 25 October 2013. 81 Booth SS Co., 1908; 6,329 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 111, and http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/HMS_Hilary_(1908). Accessed 25 October 2013. Schweiger had torpedoed the Lusitania on 7 May 1915. 82 14,744 tons, built as Aotearoa for Union SS Co. of NZ, but taken over and completed by the Admiralty in 1915. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 95, and wreck.aspx?166426. Accessed 25 October 2013. 83 Orient Steam Navigation Co., 1908; 12,077 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 131, and Accessed 25 October 2013. 84 Pacific SN Co., 1895, for the Liverpool Pacific service. 5,317 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 128. 85 Orient SN Co., 1911; 12,927 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 125. Corbett, Naval Operations Vol 1, 1920, p. 403. 86 Allan Line, 1914; 17,515 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 97 wiki/HMS_Calgarian_(1913); Both accessed 25 October 2013. 87 P&O 1903; 9,500 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., pp. 119–20; RMS_Moldavia. Accessed 25 October 2013. 88 Elders & Fyffes Ltd, 1913, for the West Indies’ route; 6,103 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., p. 132; Accessed 25 October 2013. UC-49 had torpedoed Otway the previous year. 89 P&O, 1903; 10,509 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., pp. 118–19; http://www.maritimequest. com/daily_event_archive/2011/07_july/23_hms_marmora.htm. Accessed 25 October 2013. 90 Orient SN Co., 1909; 12,124 tons. Osborne et al., op.cit., pp. 130–31; http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/HMS_Otranto. Accessed 25 October 2013.


How it worked Understanding the interaction of some environmental and technological realities of naval operations in the opening years of the First World War, 1914–1916 James Goldrick

The outbreak of the First World War came at a particularly difficult time for navies, principally because there had been so many very recent technological innovations, each of which in itself meant profound changes for the way in which fleets were operated and which together brought a whole new level of complexity. Many of these challenges have been explored in recent years and our understanding, even if still evolving, of the tactical implications has become much more complete. Nevertheless, there were many wider operational problems which are less well understood, but which directly affected the direction and working of formations at sea, as well as individual ships. The interaction of technological factors with environmental conditions was becoming ever more complicated, in ways that were only just becoming apparent. Much remained to be learned, let alone understood.1

Navigation and environment That the North Sea and the Baltic were difficult regions for accurate navigation was recognised by all the protagonists, but the demands of operations soon revealed that there was no room for complacency, even before navigational markers and beacons were removed and coastal lights doused. Navigational limitations dogged the smaller ships in particular. By the end of the Battle of the Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914, one destroyer was 25 miles2 out in her reckoning (and her navigator frankly admitted that, before making this discovery, ‘no one, needless to say, had the slightest idea where we were’).3 A few days earlier another British destroyer had managed to put herself some 60 miles wrong after confusing Dutch shore lights with similar characteristics,4 while both German5 and British6 light craft during the Scarborough Raid in December were up to 15 miles in error. However, the big ships had similar problems. After three days at sea conducting exercises with the remainder of the Grand Fleet in November 1914, the battleship Orion found herself twelve miles out in her reckoning when land was sighted.7 An experienced fleet navigator later acknowledged that he ‘never expected to be within five miles [of his estimated position] after eight hours’ steaming’.8


James Goldrick

While in most conditions a ship’s ‘pool of errors’ could be kept from getting even larger by the skill of expert navigators, there were good reasons for this uncertainty. Not only were there no artificial position finding aids, but many of the basic tools carried significant inherent errors. The magnetic compass had been the key system for navigation for hundreds of years, but magnetic units were affected by variations in the local magnetic field (variation), as well as those from fixed and moving metal items in the ship’s structure (deviation) – rotating turrets could affect the instrument, as could the concussion of gunfire or even the changing thermal signature of a funnel located too close to the compass platform (as in the Orion class). There were also emerging worries about the possibility of electrical interference9 – the beginning of a problem that would increasingly influence warship design and upper deck layout in later decades. Although the British had recently introduced 360 degree markings, the imprecision of magnetic compasses meant that many courses were still set and reports made using the old 32 point (11¼ degrees) system. Gyroscopic compasses promised an important improvement and their fit became wider as the war progressed (although it did not extend to destroyers in the Royal Navy until well into the 1920s). Nevertheless, the gyro itself was subject to inaccuracies. During trials in 1910, the first British units proved unreliable because of the effects of motion in a seaway (something that the German U-9 also discovered in her October 1914 sortie) and it was only in 1912 that an improved unit became available.10 At the outbreak of war, amongst the surface ships, only the 13.5” gun super-dreadnoughts were fitted. In heavy weather the performance of even the modified units proved ‘unsatisfactory and caused very large errors’.11 At 15 knots, a compass error of just one degree generated an error of more than half a mile in two hours. The first ‘war assisted’ groundings of British ships occurred around Scapa Flow as early as 31 July 1914. That night there was ‘a dense fog and two of the patrolling destroyers went ashore. Victor touched on Stanger Head – but escaped with a twisted forefoot. Porpoise went stern first on to Brimsness and damaged both propellers’.12 In low visibility, depth soundings were often the only source of hard information, particularly after the removal or movement of many navigational aids and because the usual conditions meant that ‘in the North Sea it is extraordinarily seldom that the weather allow[ed]’13 taking astronomical sights. This was something that the British had realised well before the war for those who ‘have to act on the offensive on a low-lying, stormy coast, without lights, beacons or buoys’14 and come to understand that it applied just as much to offshore operations. In 1907 the Royal Navy initiated a programme of surveys of the southern North Sea’s depth contours and tidal patterns, which received additional priority from 1912 onwards.15 This proved to be vital work, since British units were able to use their knowledge of distinctive features, such as the Brown Ridge. Its north–south line allowed them to determine their longitude ‘within one mile’ as they ran in formation over the feature concerned.16 British submarines later developed the technique of making a landfall on the East Coast (which had the soft sand and mud banks which made this a relatively safe approach) by flooding their forward tanks and using their bows as depth sounders. The continental navies do not seem to have had

How it worked


so adventurous an outlook, although U-9 made extensive use of depth soundings on her way to her successful attack on the armoured cruisers of Force C. All the navies found that highly variable currents constituted another challenge. The German loss of the light cruiser Magdeburg on 26 August 1914 was the result of under-estimating the effect of current when approaching the Russian coast in thick fog, while the Russian Rurik was badly damaged in similar circumstances off Gotland on 13 February 1915. Although the British were reasonably well aware of the hazards of the Pentland Firth and the approaches to Scapa Flow, managing the whole fleet during a spring tide provided some surprises. The fact that the leading squadron emerging from the Flow could be significantly slowed by the current in the Firth, causing the following units to bunch up, forced an increase in the ordered distance between the battle squadrons in such circumstances. The correspondence which described the first time that the problem was encountered indicates that, in trying to avoid ships ahead of her, the battleship Collingwood had been in real danger of grounding on Swona Island.17 While there were a number of other such incidents, the British only lost one major unit to grounding during the war, the armoured cruiser Argyll. Ironically, only three days after the Armistice, a second loss occurred when the armoured cruiser Cochrane stranded in the Mersey. The sinkings of British destroyers were much more numerous, some eight from navigational causes, while the Germans lost three torpedo boats in the same way. This was the result not only of the much more basic facilities of the small ships, as well as the lesser expertise onboard, but their operational employment, which was much more intense than the capital units, particularly in the later years of the war. The British found that the manning and the navigational equipment of the destroyers in particular needed to be supplemented soon after hostilities began. It became rapidly apparent that there were too few officers to manage the ships in action,18 as well as on patrol, while additional compasses had to be installed to supplement the main wheelhouse unit19 and the fit of the now-essential sounding machines was extended much more widely, since the old hand lead line was practically useless at the operating speeds necessary with the submarine threat. These changes also reflected the evolution of the surface torpedo craft from being simply components of large flotillas, which would always be in company with their leader, to independent and semi-independent units, both by reason of their operational employment and because the challenges of the North Sea made it apparent that every combatant had to be prepared to deal with a short notice threat. Submarines had much to learn about offshore navigation in 1914. This was in part because they were still in transition from employment largely as coastal defence units, but also because of an expectation that they would operate in combination rather than alone. German U-Boats had yet to be provided with the chronometers necessary to provide accurate time for astro-navigation out of sight of land in August 1914,20 but the British were only just ahead of them. In the 1912 manoeuvres, the ‘Overseas’ submarines were not issued with chronometers, but deck watches, whose accuracy could only be confirmed by comparisons between units.21 There were similar limitations with regard to their employment during


James Goldrick

manoeuvres after sunset. The result was, as the C-in-C Home Fleets admitted in 1913 that ‘we have, as yet, no experience of night operations by submarines’.22 This lack contributed to some unrealistic assessments as to their vulnerability, as well as their potential. Visibility in both the North Sea and Baltic remained a bugbear even when units were reasonably sure of their reckoning. Returning from serving as part of the High Seas Fleet covering force for the Scarborough Raid in December 1914, the armoured cruiser Yorck passed on the wrong side of the boom defence vessel marking the entrance to the swept channel into the Jade and ran foul of the defensive minefield. After exploding two weapons, she sank with heavy loss of life. On the other side of the North Sea, inexperience in managing the landfall and entry into harbour of a force as large as the Grand Fleet resulted in a serious collision in late 1914. Visibility, already poor, had been reduced almost to nothing by thick funnel smoke in a following wind of Force 8 strength. Because the various formations were too close together for such conditions, efforts to avoid an unexpected encounter with one of the gate vessels ended with the battleship Monarch being impaled by her sister-ship Conqueror. Inexperience on the part of the auxiliary harbour defence units had contributed to the accident and small craft were warned that, in the future, the big ships would run them down rather than put themselves at hazard.23 This incident was a reminder that funnel smoke could itself be a significant factor, particularly when large formations were operating together. In the wrong atmospheric conditions, the accumulation of smoke could create the equivalent of industrial smog, something that was to contribute to the increasing difficulties of conditions at Jutland as the day wore on. One aspect of this problem was inexperience with mixed firing. The supplementary burning of oil on top of coal had been limited to the minimum needed for training boiler room staff before the war.24 This proved insufficient, as demonstrated during the Falkland Islands action, when the poorly managed use of oil contributed to the problems of funnel smoke experienced by the British battlecruisers.25 The winter months in the North and Norwegian Seas produced their own surprises for British units which were not used to operating so far north at that time of year. It was not entirely unexpected that the elderly cruisers of the Tenth Cruiser Squadron would find conditions too much (although they proved daunting even for the most experienced26), but there were also problems with the converted merchant ships, not all of which were as weatherly as thought. After the loss of the Viknor in January 1915, a number were withdrawn as unsuitable for the northern patrol.27 Using exposed anchorages, on the other hand, at first meant few surprises in navigation and seamanship because this reflected the pre-war operating patterns of the British fleet in home waters. It was only as winter drew on that the challenges of Scapa Flow became fully evident, even in the more sheltered ‘winter anchorage’.28 Ships frequently had to put steam on their engines because even two anchors were incapable of holding them in position unassisted. During one blow, Orion found herself dragging. Her first attempt to find a better berth failed when

How it worked


she dragged again and matters were not improved when the starboard cable parted as the battleship once more tried to weigh anchor.29 The situation was better in the other Scottish anchorages, but even on the eve of the armistice in 1918, a sudden gale in the Firth of Forth resulted in the elderly seaplane carrier Campania dragging across the bows of the battleship Royal Oak. Holed in the engine room, she sank five hours later.

Creating a useful operational picture Navigation had critical tactical aspects. Precision in reckoning was vital when units had, apart from their own efforts to monitor and assess the strength of enemy wireless traffic, no detection capabilities other than visual means. Throughout the war, navigational inaccuracy, actual and relative, corrupted both the reports of dispersed units to higher authority and made uncertain any information which they received. Also fundamental to the problem was that the use of wireless required a revolution in how commanders and scouting units had to work together to create an understanding of the tactical situation outside the commanders’ visual horizons. Before the introduction of radio, since the commander was always in sight of the scouting unit or its relay, it was often enough to pass a simple bearing when reporting the enemy. This reflected the fact that much of the process of the commander’s appreciation and response was based upon a ‘horizontal’ estimate. Once the initial direction of the enemy had been established, what was most important was developing an understanding of relative bearing movement. The modern equivalent is used with passive detection systems, particularly in sonar, in which bearings are cumulated in a process called Target Motion Analysis to determine course and speed within calculated margins of error, as well as possible range. At sea a century ago, the process was not quite so sophisticated and largely performed mentally, but worked well enough for an admiral determining a course to steer towards an enemy who could not be far away. With radio the units concerned could be many miles apart. With greater range came the need for much greater precision, but in 1914 the Royal Navy had yet to develop a service wide format to report a distant enemy contact. This reflected a collective lack of understanding, something that should have become starkly apparent after the Scarborough Raid, which was marked by very poor reporting procedures. Pre-war manoeuvres had already showed that many units left out vital information, failing to indicate either their own position, or that of the enemy, as well as omitting other details such as courses and speeds,30 but the problem had not been faced in full before the outbreak of the war. For example, March 1913 instructions to ‘Ships Watching the Enemy’ did not refer to position amongst the required elements (‘class, number, order, course and speed’), even of a first sighting report.31 The Germans were a little further ahead than the British through their creation of a square system which provided reference positions much simpler to transmit than latitude and longitude and German ships proved more reliable at including such information during the early encounters of the war. The British had experimented with similar systems as early as 190332 and there were renewed


James Goldrick

attempts in later years. The problem was that the concept introduced additional inherent errors relative to the size of the squares and this made it less than ideal in the limited visibility of the North Sea. When the Royal Navy introduced a full equivalent at the end of 1914, it employed the much more precise method of reporting a range and bearing from a reference point.33 In the wake of the Scarborough Raid the C-in-C Grand Fleet was reduced to pleading: ‘Officers commanding squadrons or captains of single vessels should be most careful to give full information to the nearest flag or senior officer as to any enemy vessels sighted. Attention is once again directed to the absolute necessity for indicating the position of the reporting ship and of the enemy’. [Italics supplied]34 One reason for progress being slow was that the full concept did not yet exist of an operational plot, that is a plan on which the movements of own and enemy forces were systematically set down in what would now be described as ‘real time’ or ‘near-real time’ within ships, particularly flagships, and used for tactical decision making. The new scale of operations required a change from a horizontal perspective, to a ‘bird’s eye view’ in which the actual positions of units had to be known in relation to each other. Ships maintained charts to record and predict their own navigation, and flagships that of their own formations, but they did not yet extend the practice to reckoning the position and likely movements of the enemy’s various dispersed formations in the same way. In 1914, this aspect was still largely managed within the heads of the opposing commanders, or at best with a ‘Mooring Board’ or a ‘Battenberg’ which gave a relative velocity solution in relation to one other unit or formation. The most sophisticated pre-war efforts to improve the process through the introduction of instruments designed to simplify both plotting and calculation still had this focus.35 It was true that there was a theatre level plot maintained in what was designated the ‘Intelligence Office’. This, however, was a much larger scale – HMS Lion’s encompassed the entire North Sea – and was not intended to provide support for ‘real time’ decisions in relation to manoeuvring the fleet. Furthermore, although all major units were expected to maintain an Intelligence Office during hostilities (and, by implication, Grand Manoeuvres),36 prior to the war it was possible for a Major General embarked as an observer in 1913 to report, ‘I was given a copy of every message received by the [battleship] Superb during the manoeuvres + [I ] kept the record for the ship of the movements of both sides [italics supplied] as far as they could be ascertained – marking them on a large chart with flags’.37 The Intelligence Office was also usually remote from the compass platform, although increasing appreciation of the importance of the facility meant that the Iron Duke class had the office in a compartment only two decks directly below the conning tower.38 There had been substantial effort to understand the relationships of opposing battle lines to each other before the war, with extensive trials being conducted

How it worked


from 1910 onwards and senior commanders and their staffs devoting considerable thought to the subject.39 However, such analysis was still fundamentally based around a visual construct. This was essential work, but effectively an extension of classical pre-radio era confrontations focused on what would now be described as the ‘encounter’ phase of a battle. It originated in the need to exploit the much increased gun ranges that had become possible and the development of the most favourable tactical situation to allow concentrated fire against the enemy, while avoiding the exposure of elements of the line to concentrations of enemy ships. A parallel effort for the underwater weapon was undertaken in the form of the ‘Torpedo Plot’. The focus was not unreasonable and included another critical element. In the variable conditions of the North Sea, the larger and more dispersed a fleet’s formations, the greater the chance of one or more elements being surprised by a superior enemy. In poor visibility, even a mile could be decisive in determining whether contact would be gained or not, as clearly demonstrated by incidents during the Scarborough Raid of 1914.40 The North Sea Pilot commented that visibility was on average ‘only from 3 to 8 miles’ while fogs which restricted visibility to mere hundreds of yards (and sometimes less) could be expected in winter from 3 to 6 days a month and in summer from 1 to 3 days.41 This at least was well understood before the war. In the 1912 manoeuvres there had been a number of such incidents; in one between the cruiser Adventure and two destroyers, the two sides came into contact at only 600 yards and then lost each other in the fog within a minute.42 Beatty as commander of the First Battle Cruiser Squadron had been particularly aggrieved to have his ships ruled as damaged after a very brief encounter with the ‘enemy’ fleet at short range during the 1913 Manoeuvres.43 Thus, while long and medium range gunnery and torpedo fire control techniques were clearly a principal focus of development, the requirement to be able to react very quickly at short range by day and by night was always in the minds of those involved. Even as late as 1918, when removal of the 6" tertiary armament of the King Edward VII class pre-dreadnoughts was being considered, the utility of the calibre in low visibility encounters, particularly against opponents with equivalent armament, was an argument for its retention.44 Just as it had his predecessors in the Home Fleets, the problem of surprise dominated much of Jellicoe’s thinking as C-in-C, principally because, if it were accepted that the single line ahead was the only manageable battle formation for the Grand Fleet’s capital ships, it was vital that the cruising formation – which to be workable had to be in several columns – had time to deploy into the one line. Jellicoe came to fear that the High Seas Fleet might succeed in concentrating overwhelming firepower upon a component of his battle fleet, effectively achieving a form of defeat in detail. He had a point, since the minimum time in which the Grand Fleet could deploy into single line was in the order of ten minutes, something of an eternity when visibility was less than 8,000 yards. The evolution of Grand Fleet Battle Orders reflected this preoccupation, although Andrew Gordon has made some shrewd criticisms of the absence of more effective alternatives to the deployment procedures which were in use at Jutland.45


James Goldrick

Despite this abiding worry – or, perhaps, because of it – Jellicoe may have been the first to appreciate that remote plotting was also required,46 something also taken up by Beatty. Even if the semi-independent Battle Cruiser Fleet were not involved, the Grand Fleet’s scouting cruisers could be up to 40 miles away from the battle fleet. Since their reports could give less than an hour’s warning of the enemy’s approach, it was vital that effective methods for rapidly appreciating the situation be introduced. But there was another consideration – increasingly significant in view of the High Seas Fleet’s determination not to be caught by the British. Only timely and accurate reporting of a remote contact could create any chance of intercepting a force which was not itself seeking action. The earlier the warning and the greater the precision, the more chance there was of calculating a ‘course to close’ which would cut the enemy off from his bases. Although the details are uncertain and there had been some experiments in early 1914,47 the first systematic attempts at remote plotting seem to have occurred after mid-191548 and not before. The plot which was progressively developed to manage remote reports and the movements of multiple formations had a number of names given it, but was eventually designated the ‘strategic’ or ‘strategical’ plot, while the one used for decision making when in or nearly in sight (still largely to achieve the best overall relative position for gunnery and/or torpedo work) was the ‘tactical’ plot. The titles were misleading and after the war were redesignated ‘general’ and ‘action’, since ‘strategy can hardly be said to enter into it’,49 while what was ‘tactical’ was not inherently confined to being ‘in sight’. These new designations were to remain in use for most of the twentieth century. Creating a coherent long range ‘strategical’ plot was bedevilled by other limitations of technology in addition to the fundamental problems of navigation already described. The problem which relative errors could create was starkly demonstrated at the battle of Jutland when, at the encounter of the Battle Cruiser Fleet with the Grand Fleet, the combined relative error in the positions of the two flagships was twelve nautical miles, a difference exacerbated by a time error which added more than four miles to Lion’s misconception of Iron Duke’s position.50 Even small time errors created substantial difficulties, since a single minute’s difference between a scout and its commander, even at cruising speeds, could easily generate a discrepancy of half a mile – or more. The Admiralty found after examination of the visual and radio records of ships involved in the Scarborough Raid and the Dogger Bank action51 that there were multiple discrepancies in both content and recorded times. Although units were enjoined in the W/T Orders to be careful to maintain exact GMT in the radio rooms and coding offices,52 there was as yet (although the concept had been tried as early as 1905 and was employed in destroyers) only inconsistent use of radio time signals to align the clocks. The problem of reporting was further worsened by the difficulties of accurately estimating the enemy’s course by eye. Although focused on the development of a fire control solution, extensive trials in the Home Fleets in 1910 suggested that the consistent margin of error was approximately 10 degrees.53 This represented a serious problem for prediction over extended periods when reporting remotely at long range, because over two hours the error generated by a 10 degree difference

How it worked


was more than 5 miles. For units with only magnetic compasses, such an approximation of course had to be expected, since units normally reported in points (11¼ degrees). (Torpedo craft were encouraged to report if they could estimate the enemy’s course ‘within two points’.54) There was one saving, in that the ‘target’ unit, if using magnetic, was very likely steering a course which was either based on a point or half-point of the compass. The problem was never wholly solved, although it was later observed that aircraft, while subject to even greater positional errors than the surface ships, tended to be more accurate in their estimation of course.55 Ships were slow to realise that composing accurate reports and drafting the necessary signal were work that required expert and dedicated staff. While the complements of the most important flagships received additional navigating and signals staff officers over the first year of the war, this did not extend to private ships, even scouting units. It took the experience of Jutland for the commander of the Second Light Cruiser Squadron to insist that: ‘Every light cruiser must have a signal officer just as much as a spotting officer or a torpedo officer who should have no other duties to perform’.56 Even after awareness of the new requirements had developed and the associated processes improved, the inevitable ‘area of uncertainty’ within which units at sea were operating was also a key reason why the ‘War Room’ maintained by the Admiralty, which was intended to maintain the ‘picture’ in order to coordinate the movements of dispersed forces, did not always work well in practice.57 A technique to align the relative positions of units within a force was developed by late 1916. At regular intervals (generally of two hours), a flagship transmitted its position at that time to the rest of the fleet, that position being passed on, with the necessary additional information, from units actually in sight of the flagship to ships further dispersed.58 Ships maintained their own navigational plots, but made their position and sighting reports in relation to this information. An important associated benefit was that it also functioned as a time check, permitting ships to synchronise their time keeping with the flagship. However, apart from the obvious limitations of the technique in conditions of low visibility and at night, as well as the time taken (up to 3 hours) to get to the units furthest away, it could not solve the problem of the relative differences in the assessed positions of ships and formations which had sailed from different ports and never came into visual contact. Various other techniques were developed to support the construction of a successful ‘strategical’ plot. It was soon apparent that there were not only significant manpower requirements, but real difficulties were encountered in creating a comprehensible picture, given not only the potential errors but also the number of units involved, while ready access for the command – which necessarily meant that the plot had to be near the bridge and conning tower – was often limited by the design of the ship concerned. Useful devices included pre-traced overlays with the ordered fleet formation, or even the use of small models to assist visualisation.59 Anything that could speed up or simplify the process was welcome, since physically plotting and making sense of the available information took time. However, although much effort went into the subject, it is clear that not everyone who should have fully understood their responsibilities for what would now


James Goldrick

be called the ‘recognised picture’. This should certainly have become clear in the wake of Jutland, but, in response to a 1921 questionnaire as to plotting arrangements in 1918, the captain of the battleship Emperor of India declared that: ‘There is no information at present available on this subject in “Emperor of India” ’. The ships in which I myself served during the war had no plotting arrangements. [Italics supplied].60 This is a significant admission. H.R. Crooke (who was a distinguished gunnery officer) had commissioned as her captain the light cruiser Caroline in December 1914, which ship became a member of the Fourth Light Cruiser Squadron, one of the principal scouting units of the Grand Fleet at Jutland. He remained in command until early 1917. The response from the battleship King George V was not dissimilar: ‘The officers in this ship were in small ships during the war and have no experience of strategical or tactical plots’.61 There is another element to these declarations because they also strongly suggest that (even in 1921) some battleships, if they were private units and not flagships, were still not maintaining these plots. Perhaps just as important, and requiring as much effort as reporting and plotting, were the production and dissemination of effective orders and instructions to control remote operations in ‘real’ or ‘near-real’ time. Arguably, coordinating the movements of dispersed formations to achieve combined effects was something with which armies had been struggling with over the previous century and for which the creation and training of the staff and rigid, unambiguous (and fully understood) language and formats for orders were part of the solution. Significantly, military observers embarked in naval units for the Grand Manoeuvres, some for successive years, were consistent in their criticism of the way that naval orders were composed, being in parts too rigid and prescriptive and in others too vague. There was also commentary as to the lack of any attempts to provide by radio what would now be termed ‘sitreps’ to forces at sea. One summed up the problem: ‘Executive + verbal orders are given clearly + concisely. The same cannot be said of the signal orders + messages received, which could generally be interpreted in more than one sense’.62 Major General Morland, perhaps confident in his seniority, was even more forthright: ‘The general impression received was that orders were, from a military point of view, bad + that the preparation of orders is not understood in the Navy, making all allowance for the general differences inherent to the two Services’.63 The Admiralty’s problems in this regard were starkly demonstrated in the Goeben affair of August 1914 and the disaster at Coronel later in the year. While the civilian First Lord played his part, so did deficiencies in contemporary naval staff procedures in headquarters and flagships. These should have been confirmed by

How it worked


the near-disaster of the Heligoland Bight action on 28 August 1914 and the Scarborough Raid in December the same year. The Grand Fleet’s system of written ‘Operation Orders’ displayed rapid improvement in both internal logic and language as the war progressed, but there remained problems at sea with the way that radio signals were constructed. Straightforward manoeuvring could be achieved by modifications to the visual signal groups, since these had already been developed with an eye to brevity and simplicity. Practically all of the more complex instructions in the signal book, however, were based on the assumption that all the units involved were in visual contact with the enemy. It was in the area of remote operations, as recognised by the Army observers in 1912 and 1913, that new concepts and methods of staff work needed to be developed for directing the movements of dispersed units which neither overloaded the radio circuits nor confused detached subordinates – and which could cope with the inaccuracies inherent in the ‘wide area’ picture. To be fair, some of the issues had been identified by Sir William May as Umpire-in-Chief during both the 1912 and 1913 manoeuvres, including the need for additional expert personnel and much greater precision in radio orders.64 All this, however, was to take the Royal Navy much longer to achieve than the four years of the First World War.

Communications There were other problems than the language of orders. The potential of wireless for naval operations was largely understood from the first days of experiments, but in practice there were many complications to its use. The effects of atmospherics were not fully understood and management of the various circuits remained somewhat hit-and-miss. Apart from the fact that the latter soon became overloaded in periods of high operational intensity, it was sometimes difficult to decide the difference between deliberate jamming and interference. The British felt that the High Seas Fleet’s presence in the North Sea during the 1912 British Grand Manoeuvres had resulted in ‘intentional (underlining in original) and unintentional interference’, but it is more likely that it was, as was identified as another cause for the Royal Navy’s difficulties, ‘the very large number of ships . . . working in close proximity to one another’.65 The ‘Blue’ flagship for the 1912 Grand Manoeuvres (the Thunderer) had to designate no less than ten other battleships as guards for the various frequencies required to communicate with shore authorities, the deployed cruiser squadrons and the Admiral of Patrols. Although there was a low power, ‘Short Distance (S Wave)’ circuit available between the flagship and the guard units, messages were normally relayed by visual means to reduce the strain on the radio operators.66 This had the advantage of being relatively secure and might even have been faster than using another radio, even for short messages. Although very simple ciphers were in use, these took significant time to encode and decode (and not much more time to crack67), while en clair signals were always at risk of being monitored by the enemy. Another problem was that the rapid extension of radio installations worsened the existing shortage of trained personnel, which


James Goldrick

was acute. Furthermore, most of the smaller ships did not have enough operators to keep a continuous watch, which meant that they could only be contacted at specific times.68 Destroyers had only one operator in 1914, despite this having been identified as a serious deficiency as early as 1912.69 They did not receive an additional telegraphist until well into 1915. As for the submarines, the first wireless set was not fitted experimentally in a British unit until 1910.70 Systematic installation began in 1912, but the following year the C-in-C Home Fleet commented that submarines had yet to have soundproof cabinets installed and that operators found it very difficult to hear signals when the diesels were running.71 When wireless was fitted, its effective range was often no more than 30 miles,72 which was all the original 1911 staff requirement had proposed.73 Very few of the C class were yet equipped; some that were had no ability to transmit, while anything sent to them had to be en clair.74 Furthermore, the initial outfit had been approved on the understanding that it would not involve additional manpower. This rapidly proved unworkable. The size of the Grand Fleet and the limited visibility of the North Sea forced rapid development of improved low power techniques, as well as additional radio installations to allow the fleet to be manoeuvred, no matter what the conditions. Jellicoe himself had to point out to a security conscious Admiralty (which was even more alert to the problem from prisoner interrogations after the Dogger Bank75) that there were times ‘the necessary direction cannot be given without the use of W/T signals’.76 The Germans were much further ahead in this area at the outbreak of the war, although the British rapidly caught up. This would have been helped by the fact that one of the first and largest reinforcements on Jellicoe’s staff was in the form of two additional W/T and two signals specialist officers.77 Flag signalling remained the Grand Fleet’s preference during the day for reasons of both speed and security, but the techniques for manoeuvring by wireless were soon relatively sophisticated.78 The British were at least sensitive to the need for communications security and arrangements were made for what was designated the Fleet Land Wire Telegraph System through the depot ship Cyclops via Kirkwall as early as August 1914. In the first months of the war, the use of the northern anchorage meant that the Grand Fleet’s flagship could lie only a few cables from the Cyclops. A shift to a more sheltered area of the flow for the winter became permanent and this eventually brought about different arrangements, as the Cyclops’ new berth at Longhope was much further away from the fleet anchorage. By April 1915, rather than having to rely on hand messages from the Cyclops, the Iron Duke had been connected up with a land line to her mooring.79 Relay to the fleet was accomplished, depending upon the urgency, by visual signalling or hand messages, with drifters being employed for the distribution.80 The Germans, on the other hand, routinely employed wireless for fleet administration in harbour. Given that the High Seas Fleet had an extremely well organised communications network, the convenience of radio when ships were in dispersed anchorages was undeniable. Yet it was exposed not only to decryption, which would become possible for the British later in 1914 after they had obtained the

How it worked


three key naval cipher books, but also to traffic analysis and direction finding. As the British later noted, the Germans consistently underestimated the range of their local low power transmissions and thus the likelihood of their being monitored.81 This meant that they were slow to realise their vulnerability.

Naval aviation Naval aviation gave promise of being able to resolve some of the problems of reconnaissance and reporting, but it was still largely experimental in both the British and German navies at the start of the war. Tactical experience was extremely limited and each service had the impression that their rival was more advanced than was actually the case. The Royal Navy had conducted only one sustained tactical exercise from an ‘aircraft carrier’ before August 1914. Over the fourteen days during which Hermes took part in the 1913 manoeuvres with two seaplanes embarked, bad weather prevented flying for three days, while fog curtailed sorties on two days. One machine had a wing ripped off during a gale on 23 July, while three sorties resulted in damage to the aircraft. Overall, there were only five successful flights, even if successful use of radio was demonstrated. Ironically, after an engine failure had resulted in Seaplane No. 81 being forced down during the last sortie of the manoeuvres, she and her crew were rescued by a passing German merchant ship!82 The Admiralty later assessed that only about 50 seaplanes and aircraft (out of 93) were usable in August 1914, a number which grew only slowly in the first months of the war.83 The essentially experimental state of aviation at sea remained apparent well after the opening months of the war. The three cross-Channel ferries requisitioned and hastily converted to seaplane carriers had only the most basic facilities. Their crews and the aviators also all had much to learn and, as Erskine Childers’s diary confirms, were acutely aware of this.84 Much had been hoped of the seaplanes that were entering service but they proved disappointing. Apart from the frequent heavy seas around the British Isles and continuing problems with reliability of the radios that were fitted to some, their engines were not really powerful enough to achieve lift in all but the most favourable conditions. The first seaplane raid launched within the Heligoland Bight on 24 October 1914 was a dismal failure. After a day of heavy rain, only two of the six aircraft placed in the water succeeded in lifting and one of these had two engine failures before it had flown twelve miles. The sixth aircraft only got in the air after releasing its bomb.85 The Christmas Day 1914 attack was more successful but, even in near-perfect conditions, only five of nine aircraft did not experience difficulty taking off – while two never managed it at all. Arguably, it was the need for more powerful engines that was the key limitation on the development of fixed wing aviation at sea in the first years of the war. By July 1915, Jellicoe was emphasising that seaplanes were too under-powered to be able to operate in a seaway.86 Given that so much still needed to be understood concerning the methods of launching and recovering aircraft from the deck, this meant that seaborne aviation passed into something of a hiatus until better engines


James Goldrick

and more advanced techniques could be developed. Thus, even apart from the signal error which resulted in the seaplane carrier Campania not sailing with the Grand Fleet for Jutland, the contribution of aviation to that battle would be relatively limited. The Germans were in no better state. Although a much greater proportion of German effort had been devoted to rigid airships, zeppelins had only had a naval role since completion of the first naval unit in 1912. The British feared this new capability greatly because it seemed to have such potential to detect dispersed surface ships and direct superior forces towards them.87 Indeed, Hermes was specifically designated as ‘White’ for elements of her 1913 deployment in order to replicate the 800 nautical mile range which the zeppelins were thought to possess.88 The performance (with suitable weather) of the first zeppelin in the September 1913 manoeuvres was extremely encouraging, but L1 crashed in a North Sea thunderstorm a few weeks after with 14 dead. In October 1913, L2 burnt up in the air, killing all its crew, after a hydrogen explosion. Although the Germans hired a commercial unit (a Parseval) to allow basic training to continue, the naval zeppelin force in August 1914 was a single airship, L3, which had been commissioned in May. The most basic techniques of scouting, reporting and navigation over the sea were still being learnt, as were the effects of weather. Five more zeppelins were due to commission before the end of the year, but it had taken much persuasion to get Tirpitz to allocate the funds for them.89 There were only a few other airships and fixed wing aircraft. In the first days of the war, just six serviceable aircraft were available for the North Sea and eight in the Baltic, although the Germans were rushing to establish new naval air bases at Borkum and Norderney.90 None had radios and their operational range was barely 30 nautical miles. The airships, being reasonably stable platforms which maintained the same vertical orientation, did not have the compass problems experienced by fixed wing aircraft, which soon discovered that banking brought about new influences from the vertical component of the earth’s magnetic field which induced additional and substantial deviation errors.91 This could be predicted in theory but not in practice, given the unpredictability of any flight. Only much later in the war was a gyro-stabilised magnetic ‘aero compass’ successfully developed, but until this was, long range navigation over the water was essentially a hit-and-miss affair, relying very largely upon the individual expertise and flair of the aviators concerned. It was consciousness of the challenges involved that was to make the Royal Navy in later years so insistent on the role of the ‘Observer’ as a complement to the pilot.92

Engineering Machinery reliability was an issue for all navies, particularly in the big ships. The Grand Fleet suffered its worst problems in the first six months of the war when the lack of secure anchorages forced the fleet to remain at sea or at short notice for steam for extended periods. The distances steamed were more than double that of peace time. The New Zealand covered more than 21,000 nautical miles

How it worked


between July and the end of December 1914, compared with little over 10,000 for the previous six months.93 All this, together with known deficiencies in boiler design contributed to significant trouble. There were two main areas of concern for the British. The leaking of feed water from the tube ends of water tube boilers was known as ‘Wrapperitis’, resulting from design decisions a decade before,94 while the leaking of coolant sea water into the tubes containing the condensing ‘used’ steam was christened ‘condensiritis’.95 The latter most affected the 13.5” gun dreadnoughts96 and was a source of worry for Jellicoe.97 Hard work by ship’s staff and dockyard personnel sent north largely cured the problem, but it is difficult to avoid the impression that many deficiencies in engineering design in the capital ships were largely concealed by the reduction in operational tempo in early 1915 that resulted from the development of secure bases, the availability of signals intelligence and the desire to minimise risks to the battle fleet. Coal firing provided other problems. There was the repeated misery of coaling, which may have kept ship’s companies cohesive and physically fit, but represented an additional burden that only became heavier when the operational tempo increased.98 The intensity of British operations in 1914–15 created serious strains. One captain commented: ‘I have something to be thankful for in having an oil-ship + not coal. The Active has to coal every 3rd day – the men are dog-tired and the state of the dirt + coal dust simply filthy – no time to wash down. The Captain’s cabin was like an empty coal hole’.99 As with machinery defects, it is arguable that only the reduced activity of the Grand Fleet meant that this did not result in the crisis which threatened in late 1914. The New Zealand consumed only as much coal throughout the whole of 1916 as she had in the second half of 1914, and little more in 1917.100 The battleship Hercules had even lower consumption in the later years of the war.101 There were other significant problems with coal when ships were required to steam for extended periods at high speeds. Bunker design was critical, but even in the best laid out ships, it became progressively more difficult to transfer coal quickly enough from reserve bunkers to stand-by bunkers or direct to the stokeholds as the bunkers emptied. The bunkers of the battleship Agincourt, which had not been designed for the Royal Navy, were so badly laid out that only a few were readily accessible. Had the ship not been fitted with supplementary oil firing and her double bottoms converted into oil tanks, she would not have been able to keep up with the fleet after only two days.102 One expert assessed after the war that, at the cruising speeds of the Grand Fleet, it was practically impossible for any major ship to access the final 25 per cent of coal in their bunkers quickly enough, no matter how many personnel were involved.103 Fortunately for the Royal Navy, the operating environment of the North Sea meant that this point was not reached by the Grand Fleet as a whole. However, the problem was still serious for the battlecruisers, which at high speed began to have problems when down to only 60 per cent capacity.104 The strain on coal powered small ships was


James Goldrick

also considerable, particularly when the increasing threat posed by the submarine forced them to maintain higher speeds as a matter of course. This not only increased the frequency of the dreaded coaling when in harbour, but also made for a much increased workload on those engaged in the stoke holds and ‘trimming’ the bunkers.105 German difficulties were equally serious and may also have been disguised to posterity only by the restricted activities of the High Seas Fleet. Both the quality and availability of coal proved to be major problems and the potential sustained speeds of the battlecruisers in particular may have been over-estimated by the possible use of imported Welsh Admiralty coal on trials before the war. Certainly Franz Hipper, their commander, was disappointed by the actual performance of his ships.106 Despite the fact that their crews were supplemented with additional manpower at the outbreak,107 it is possible that no German battlecruiser ever achieved more than 24 knots during war operations and significant (despite their top trials speed of 28 knots or more) that their sustained speed over six hours was officially assessed at only 24.75 knots.108 In 1914, only the very latest German units had mixed oil-firing, probably due to a combination of concerns over expense (although it had a higher calorific value, oil cost approximately twice as much per ton as coal) and the availability of oil supplies in conflict. From 1915, however, the deficiencies of coal forced a fleet-wide programme of fitting supplementary oil sprayers and oil tanks,109 while new construction units had an increasing proportion of wholly oil fired boilers – German torpedo craft became completely oil fired, which one veteran admitted was ‘a great advantage’.110 Managing the poor quality Westphalian steaming coal continued to be a problem throughout the war, despite modifying the furnace grates to handle the extra waste.111 The battlecruisers had problems with the quality of coal as early as the Scarborough Raid in December 1914, while, at the Dogger Bank, the Derfflinger had trouble maintaining power in the absence of the high quality ‘torpedo boat coal’ which was available only in limited quantities112 (and may have been the remaining German stocks of Welsh coal113). At Jutland the Von der Tann had several furnace grates collapse under the weight of the stone-heavy clinkers and could not maintain fires in all her boilers – after less than a day at sea.114 Seydlitz had the same difficulties, despite increasing the rate of furnace cleaning.115 The final sortie of the High Seas Fleet in April 1918 was marked by the Von der Tann’s plaint: ‘Cannot do more than 21 knots on account of bad coal, coal consumption 50% higher than usual!’116 Reliability was a concern for the High Seas Fleet from the start of the war and German capital ships had many difficulties with both condensers and boilers.117 Although German boiler design was theoretically more advanced, the Imperial Navy having been much quicker to adopt small tube boilers than the British, the quality of design and material (and, probably, expertise in operation in a fleet suffering significant shortages of engineers118) produced doubtful results, particularly in the battlecruisers. The Von der Tann was repeatedly disabled by machinery defects in 1914–15 and did not take part in the Dogger Bank sortie because she was – not for the first time since August 1914 – in dockyard hands. Seydlitz

How it worked


and Moltke also suffered defects. The battleships had their problems as well. In 1915 Admiral von Pohl’s insistence that the maximum number of units remain operationally available meant that routine dockyard work was not undertaken. This allowed defects to accumulate and in July 1915, so many ships were unserviceable that von Pohl was unable to order a sortie.119 Operational endurance was a ‘nagging tooth’120 for commanders on both sides. The worst problem was that none of the pre-war torpedo craft had been designed to operate with their fleet for extended periods, particularly at the higher speeds required in the face of a submarine threat. The British were a little better off than the Germans, but Jellicoe complained in August 1915 that his destroyers could not ‘keep the sea for more than about 2½ days if an action is going to be fought in that time’.121 Oiling the destroyers from the big ships had been successfully employed in the pre-war manoeuvres, but this had been conducted at anchor, something that could not be considered with the possible presence of submarines.

Conclusion Navies in 1914 were, in many ways, a ‘work in progress’. So much remained to be done to make the new technology operationally effective it is not surprising that the first years of the Great War produced such mixed results in combat and in the wider operational environment. All concerned were learning as they went. This involved both conceptual and practical elements, some of which could only be ‘learned the hard way’, although many might have been dealt with had the various navies had both the time and resources available before the war. Like the forces on land, however, they had to make do with what they had – and what they understood – and any assessment of their performance must be made in that context. There were lions and there were donkeys at sea and ashore in 1914, but there were also many intelligent and thinking people trying to make sense of complexity and ambiguity. Given that finding solutions required not only further development of much of the emergent technology to close the yawning gaps between promise and reality but changes also in many fundamental concepts of naval operations, it could never be easy work.

Notes 1 Although I have tried to blaze my own trail on these complex subjects, I must acknowledge in particular a debt to Dr Norman Friedman for his work on naval technology and operations, most notably in his book Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter through Three World Wars, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 2009. This article has had the benefit of his advice and reflections. Dr Nicholas Lambert’s groundbreaking work on command and control (some cited below) also focused my thinking. 2 All distances cited are nautical miles. 3 Lieutenant William Tennant HMS Lizard. Diary Entry dated 28 August 1914. Tennant Papers. National Maritime Museum (NMM). 4 Lieutenant Oswald Frewen HM S Lookout. Diary Entry dated 21(?) August 1914. Frewen Papers.


James Goldrick

5 Captain Otto Groos, Der Krieg Zur See: Der Krieg in Der Nordsee Vol. III, Mittler, Berlin, 1923, Appendix 1. British Admiralty Naval Historical Branch (NHB) translation lists German signal traffic during the raid. 6 Admiralty: Naval Staff, Naval Staff Monograph (Historical) Vol. XII, Home Waters Part III, From November 1914 to the end of January 1915, p. 214 et seq. 7 Captain Frederic Dreyer HMS Orion. Diary Entry dated 7 November 1914. Dreyer Papers. Churchill College Archives (CCA). 8 Commander L. Pitcairn-Jones, ‘Navigation in War of 1914–1918’, p. 12. Lecture to the RN Staff College 1938. Naval Historical Branch (NHB). 9 See Admiralty Weekly Order No. 959/14 ‘Errors in Manoeuvring Compass of H.M.S. Neptune’. NHB. 10 Admiralty: Technical History Section, The Development of the Gyro-Compass Prior to and During the War CB 1515(20) October 1919, p. 3. NHB. 11 Ibid. p. 4. 12 Captain C.J. Wintour HMS Swift. Diary Entry dated 1 August 1914. Wintour Papers. Imperial War Museum (IWM). 13 Pitcairn-Jones, ‘Navigation in War of 1914–1918’, p. 12. 14 Lieutenant G.F. Hyde, RNR (later RAN), ‘Essay on Lessons to be Learned by the British Empire and More Particularly by the British Navy as regards: – (1) Organisation and training for war. (2) Conduct of war, and especially as regards Naval Strategy and Tactics’. Winning essay, C-in-C Channel Fleet Essay Competition, September (?) 1904. Australian War Memorial MSS 1494. 15 See Vice Admiral Sir Archibald Day, The Admiralty Hydrographic Service 1795– 1919, HMSO, London, pp. 206–87 for a narrative of the activities of the Royal Navy’s Hydrographic Service during the period. 16 Pitcairn-Jones, ‘Navigation in War of 1914–1918’, p. 16. 17 Vice Admiral Commanding First Battle Squadron Letter 027 of 23 October 1915. TNA ADM 137/1902. 18 Tennant HMS Lizard. Diary Entry dated 28 August 1914. Tennant Papers. NMM. 19 Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell, Number Thirteen, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1932, pp. 77–8. 20 Groos, Der Krieg zur See: Nordsee Vol. I, Mittler, Berlin, 1920, p. 124. 21 Senior Officer Submarines (HMS D3), ‘General Notes and Remarks’ ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1912: Report and Diary by Senior Officer of Red Submarines D3, D4 and D6’ TNA ADM116/1176B. 22 C-in-C Home Fleet, ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1913 – Remarks on North Sea Strategy’ No. 1266/H.F.7s dated 28 August 1913. TNA ADM116/1176B. 23 This did not prove necessary in the First World War, but in 1940 the battleship Revenge sank a boom defence vessel at Halifax rather than risk collision with the boom. 24 First Fleet Temporary Memorandum No. 131 of 16 April 1914, ‘Burning of oil fuel for instructional purposes’, Papers of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Backhouse. NHB. 25 Admiralty (Gunnery Division, Naval Staff), Grand Fleet Gunnery and Torpedo Memoranda on Naval Actions, 1914–1918 CB 956 (later OU 5444) April 1922, p. 5. 26 Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair, The Sea is Strong, Harrap, London, 1961, p. 181. See also Peter H. Liddle, The Sailor’s War 1914–1918, Blandford, Poole, 1985, p. 90 for another witness account of the storm that nearly did for HMS Crescent. 27 Minute by Director Trade Division 12 March 1915. John D. Grainger (ed.), The Maritime Blockade of Germany in the Great War: The Northern Patrol 1914–1918, Ashgate for the Navy Records Society, Aldershot, 2003, pp. 117–18. 28 Dreyer Diary Entry dated 8 November 1914. Dreyer Papers. CCA. 29 Dreyer Diary Entry dated 3 December 1914. Dreyer Papers. CCA. 30 See for example the cruiser Talbot’s sighting reports for the encounter on 24 July 1913. Only her third signal (after 14 minutes) gave the enemy position. ‘Naval Manoeuvres

How it worked

31 32

33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49

50 51


1913: Report by Umpire-in-Chief’, p. 102. TNA ADM116/1169. Admiral Sturdee’s Report on the Principal Cruiser Work Carried out by the Home Fleets During 1913 O.D. 13 Operations Division, Admiralty War Staff, July 1914 emphasised this point. See pp. 5–6. SDEE 2/7. Sturdee Papers, CCA. C-in-C Home Fleet Letter 267/H.F. 0269 of March 1913, ‘Instructions for the Conduct of a Fleet in Action’, Backhouse Papers. NHB. See Vice Admiral Sir Baldwin Wake Walker, The Employment of Cruisers and Destroyers, Intelligence Department, No. 801, Admiralty, September 1906, p. 53. See also Admiral B.M. Chambers, Salt Junk: Naval Reminiscences 1881–1906, Constable, London, 1927. Home Fleet Memorandum No. 0015 of 22 December 1914. Reproduced in Naval Staff Monograph (Historical) Vol. III, Monograph 12: The Action of Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915, p. 225. C-in-C Grand Fleet to Flag Officers and Commodores Memorandum Dated 30 December 1914. TNA ADM 137/295. This was backed up more publicly by Grand Fleet Order No. 420 of 1914. TNA ADM 137/261. Captain F.C. Dreyer HMS Orion. Letter dated 4 May 1914. Backhouse Papers. NHB. Rear Admiral First Battle Cruiser Squadron, ‘Preparation for War’ Memorandum No. 015 dated 2 June 1913. DRAX 1/26. Papers of Admiral Sir Reginald Ernle-ErlePlunkett-Drax. CCA. Major General T.L.N. Morland, ‘Report of the 1913 Manoeuvres’ dated 11 August 1913, p. 17. TNA ADM 116/1214. ‘Battleships of the Iron Duke Class: 1911–12 Programme’, Iron Duke Class Ship’s Cover Folio 83. National Maritime Museum. See for example the extensive notes and diagrams on the subject compiled by Admiral of the Fleet Sir William May (and his staff). MAY/10. May Papers, NMM. James Goldrick, The King’s Ships Were at Sea: The War in the North Sea, August 1914–February 1915, Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1984, pp. 206–7. A new, much revised and expanded edition was published by the Naval Institute in May 2015 with the title Before Jutland: The Naval War in Northern European Waters, August 1914– February 1915. Admiralty Hydrographic Department, North Sea Pilot Part III, Admiralty, London, 1948, p. 23. ‘Manoeuvres 1912 – Narrative of Events’ Enclosure (b) ‘List of Claims and CounterClaims’ p. 1. TNA ADM116/1176B. ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1913 – Report by Umpire-in-Chief: Claims during operations Unconnected with Raids or Western Area’ p. 59. TNA ADM 116/1169. Admiralty: Technical History Section, Alteration in Armaments of H.M. Ships During the War, CB 1515(34) May 1920, p. 9. Andrew Gordon, The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command, John Murray, London, 1996, pp. 433–41. This is Norman Friedman’s view, which I share. See Network-Centric Warfare, pp. 39–41. The evidence of developments between 1914–18 is not extensive in the archives so far examined, although the search is by no means complete. Friedman, Naval Firepower, pp. 86–7. Lieutenant Commander W.S. Chalmers, ‘Tactical Plotting’ Lecture to the RN Staff College 14 August 1919, TNA ADM 116/2090. Chalmers, who ran the plot for Beatty, was posted to the Lion from service ashore in France in August 1915. Commander R.A. Seymour, ‘Tactical and Strategical Plotting Systems’ Minute to ACNS dated 23 June 1920. TNA ADM116/2090. Seymour had been Beatty’s much criticised Flag Lieutenant, but his commentary and recommendations on the plotting issue suggest that he had a real grasp of the problems involved. Admiralty, Narrative of the Battle of Jutland, HMSO, London, 1924, pp. 34–5. See the logs retained in TNA ADM137/295 and ADM 137/305.


James Goldrick

52 Grand Fleet W/T Orders dated 19 December 1914 Section 1, Article 12. TNA ADM137/290. 53 C-in-C Home Fleets Letter HF 803/0194 dated 25 April 1910. TNA ADM 1/8051. 54 Admiralty, Wireless Instructions 1915, p. 123. TNA ADM 186/682. 55 Chalmers, ‘Tactical Plotting’ TNA ADM 116/2090. 56 Goodenough to Jellicoe Letter dated 5 June 1916. A. Temple Patterson (ed.), The Jellicoe Papers Vol. I 1893–1916, Navy Records Society, London, 1966, p. 270. 57 Nicholas A. Lambert, ‘Strategic Command and Control for Maneuver Warfare: Creation of the Royal Navy’s “War Room” System, 1905–1915’, Journal of Military History Vol. 69, No. 2, April 2005 gives extensive analysis of the concept evolved by the Admiralty and the difficulties encountered in making it work, see especially pp. 394–410. 58 Pitcairn-Jones, ‘Navigation in War of 1914–1918’, NHB. 59 See the responses to the 1921 Admiralty request for information on 1918 plotting procedures in TNA ADM 116/2090. 60 Emperor of India Signal dated 12 May 1921. Enclosure 2 to C-in-C Mediterranean Letter 1503/5M/90 dated 31 May 1921. TNA ADM 116/2090. 61 King George V Minute dated 4 March 1921. Enclosure 3 to C-in-C Mediterranean Letter 1503/5M/90 dated 31 May 1921. TNA ADM 116/2090. 62 Lieutenant Colonel T.R. Hudson, RA, ‘Report of the 1913 Manoeuvres’ dated 6 August 1913, p. 3. TNA ADM 116/1214. 63 Major General T.L.N. Morland, ‘Report of the 1913 Manoeuvres’, p. 17. TNA ADM 116/1214. 64 Admiral of the Fleet Sir William May, ‘Points Worthy of Notice’ in ‘Manoeuvres 1913 – Report by Umpire-in-Chief’ dated 13 August 1913. TNA ADM 116/3381. See also MAY/10, May Papers, NMM. 65 May, ‘Points Worthy of Notice’ TNA ADM 116/3381. 66 ‘Blue Fleet Manoeuvre Order No. 3’ dated 5 July 1912. TNA ADM116/1176B. 67 “Manoeuvres 1913: Miscellaneous Remarks” Probably drafted by Reginald Plunkett as Flag Commander to Beatty, Rear Admiral First Battle Cruiser Squadron. DRAX 4/1, Drax Papers, CCA. 68 Admiral of Patrols, ‘Patrol Flotillas: Wireless Telegraphy Memoranda’ 052 of 8 May 1912. TNA ADM 116/1176B. To be fair, this was still the case for small ships such as offshore patrol craft and minesweepers well into the 1980s and 1990s. 69 Admiral of the Fleet Sir William May, ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1912: Miscellaneous Notes by Umpire-in-Chief’ dated 5 August 1912. MAY/10, May Papers, NMM. 70 Commanding Officer HMS Forth. Letter to the Inspecting Captain Submarines dated 24 July 1910. TNA ADM 116/1361. 71 C-in-C Home Fleet Letter HF 0235 of 28 November 1913, ‘Fleet Exercises in North Sea, 6th–10th October 1913’ TN/1/6, Papers of Vice Admiral D.W. Trevylyan Napier, IWM. 72 Memorandum H.F. 0306 of 18 July 1913 ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1913: Blue Fleet Wireless Order: Corrigenda’ Backhouse Papers, NHB. 73 Note annotated by C.J.B. (?) dated 7 April 1911 to Minute ‘Fitting Wireless Telegraphy to Submarines’. TNA ADM 116/1361. 74 Memorandum H.F. 0306 of 18 July 1913 ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1913: Blue Fleet Wireless Order: Corrigenda’ Backhouse Papers, NHB. 75 Chief of the War Staff Note dated 5 March 1915. f. 90 (reverse). TNA ADM 137/305. 76 C-in-C Grand Fleet Letter to the Admiralty dated 31 March 1915. TNA ADM 137/1945. See also Temple Patterson, The Jellicoe Papers Vol. I, p. 155. 77 Four officers were appointed to date, 4 August 1914. See Admiralty, The Navy List, September 1914, pp. 338–9. 78 Admiralty, Wireless Instructions 1915, pp. 105–19. TNA ADM 186/682. See also ‘Grand Fleet W/T Orders’ in TNA ADM 137/290.

How it worked


79 Admiralty: Technical History Section, Inception and Development of the Northern Base CB 1515(37) February 1920, pp. 4–5. 80 K.R.S., ‘Reminiscences of H.M.S. Cyclops, 1914–1918’, p. 68. Royal Naval Museum Library. 81 W.F. Clarke and F. Birch, A Contribution to the History of German Naval Warfare 1914–1918 Vol. I The Fleet in Action. Held by NHB. Chapter II, pp. 27–8. 82 ‘Report of Captain of Hermes on use of aircraft during manoeuvres’ ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1913: Report by Umpire-in-Chief’ Appendix 1, pp. 79–82. TNA ADM 116/1169. 83 Admiralty: D.A.D., ‘Appreciation of British Naval Effort: R.N.A.S. Aircraft Operations’ Part 1. January 1919. NHB. 84 Lieutenant Erskine Childers, RNVR Diary Entries dated August–December 1914. Childers Papers. IWM. 85 Naval Staff Monograph (Historical) Vol. XI, Home Waters Part II September and October 1914, p. 139. 86 See Jellicoe to the Secretary of the Admiralty Letter dated 29 July 1915 and Jellicoe to Beatty Letter dated 7 August 1915. Temple Patterson, The Jellicoe Papers Vol. I, pp. 173–5. 87 Rear Admiral First Battle Cruiser Squadron, undated (but probably September 1913), ‘Manoeuvres 1913: Strategical Lessons’ Backhouse Papers. NHB. 88 ‘Naval Manoeuvres 1913: General Scheme’, p. 12. Backhouse Papers, NHB. 89 Douglas H. Robinson, The Zeppelin in Combat: A History of the German Naval Airship Division, 1912–1918, Foulis, London, 1966, pp. 18–31. 90 Kapitanleutnant Johannes Mohl, cited Peter Kilduff, Germany’s First Air Force 1914–1918, Arms & Armour, London, 1991, p. 85. 91 Admiralty: Technical History Section, The Development of the Gyro-Compass Prior to and During the War CB 1515(20) October 1919, p. 8. 92 Vice Admiral Richard Bell Davies, Sailor in the Air, Peter Davies, London, 1967, pp. 163–4, 173–4 and 191–4. 93 Anonymous, Onward HMS New Zealand, Swiss & Co Printers, Devonport, 1919, p. 38. 94 David K. Brown, The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development 1906–1922, Chatham, London, 1999, p. 94. 95 Vice Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly, From Fisher to the Falklands, Institute of Marine Engineers, London, 1991, p. 23. See also: Commander P.M. Rippon, Evolution of Engineering in the Royal Navy Volume I 1827–1939, Spellmount, Tunbridge Wells, 1988, pp. 134 and 147. 96 Admiral Sir Frederic Dreyer, The Sea Heritage: A Study of Maritime Warfare, Museum Press, London, 1955, p. 89. 97 Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Jellicoe, The Grand Fleet 1914–1916: Its Creation, Development and Work, Cassell, London, 1919, p. 153. 98 See the author’s ‘The Impact of War: Matching Expectations with Reality in the Royal Navy in the First Months of the Great War at Sea’, War in History Vol. 14, No. 1, 2007 and ‘Coal and the Advent of the First World War at Sea’, War in History Vol. 21, No. 3, 2014. 99 Wintour HMS Swift. Diary Entry dated 14 August 1914. Wintour Papers, IWM. 100 Onward HMS New Zealand, p. 38. 101 W.M. Brown, ‘The Royal Navy’s Fuel Supplies 1898–1939; The Transition From Coal to Oil’, Unpublished PhD Thesis, King’s College London, 2003, p. 126. 102 Engineer Vice Admiral Sir Reginald Skelton, ‘Coal versus Oil for the Navy’ read to the Royal United Services Institute March 1934, reproduced (with no author attribution) Papers on Engineering Subjects No. 16, 1937, p. 19. 103 Captain S.D. Spicer (writing as ‘S.D.S’.), ‘The Fuel of the Future?’, The Naval Review Vol. 23, No. 2, May 1935, p. 333. 104 W.M. Brown, ‘The Royal Navy’s Fuel Supplies 1898–1939’ p. 21.


James Goldrick

105 See the 1914 diary of Lieutenant B.W.L. Owen of the destroyer HMS Stour (IWM) for evidence of the strain the new operational environment posed. 106 Tobias R. Philbin, Admiral von Hipper: The Inconvenient Hero, Gruner, Amsterdam, 1982, pp. 56–7. 107 Groos, Der Krieg Zur See: Nordsee Vol. I, NHB translation, p. 43 and Admiral Scheer Germany’s High Sea Fleet in the World War, Cassell, London, 1920, p. 16. 108 Tobias R. Philbin, Battle of Dogger Bank: The First Dreadnought Engagement, January 1915, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2014, p. 44. 109 Erich Gröner (Revised and Expanded by Dieter Jung and Martin Maass), German Warships 1815–1945 Vol. I Major Surface Vessels, Naval Institute, Maryland, 1990, pp. 17, 20, 23 and following. 110 Vice Admiral Professor F. Ruge, SM Torpedo Boat B110 Profile Warship 27, Profile Publications, Windsor, 1972, p. 50. 111 Gröner, German Warships 1815–1945 Vol. I, p. 23. 112 Philbin, Admiral von Hipper, p. 57. 113 I am very grateful to Dr Michael Epkenhans for his searches of the German archives, so far silent on this matter. In the author’s opinion, the circumstantial evidence, notably the trouble experienced by German big ships with their coal during practically every high speed sortie of the High Seas Fleet, is that in peace time full power trials of the larger units were conducted with Welsh coal and that it was issued to the small ships as ‘torpedo boat’ coal. There is evidence from a British decryption of a 26 July 1914 signal from Norddeich to Swinemünde referring to German naval holdings of Welsh and Scottish coal. TNA ADM 137/4065. 114 The sequence of signals at Jutland indicates that the 1st Scouting Group only increased to 18 knots at 15:29, with successive increases (including ‘full speed’ at 15:36) in the following minutes. Times given were in Central European Time in the UK translation. See the Admiralty Naval Intelligence Department translation, The Battle of Jutland: The German Official Account OU 5359 Admiralty, London, 1926 of Der Krieg zur See, 1914–1918 Vol. V, Der Krieg in Der Nordsee. pp. 281–91 for signals on 31 May; p. 168 gives the reference to the ‘dirty state of [von der Tann’s] fires’. 115 Philbin, Admiral von Hipper, p. 56. 116 Hugo von Waldeyer-Hartz, Admiral von Hipper, Rich & Cowan, London, 1933, p. 242. 117 Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, ‘Die Flottenführung im ersten Kriegshalbjahr und des Seekriegswerk’, Marine Rundschau, January 1923, Issue 1, p. 7. 118 Holger H. Herwig, “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918, Allen & Unwin, London, 1980, p. 125. 119 Admiral Hugo von Pohl to his Wife Letter dated 17 July 1915. Ella von Pohl, Aus Auszeihnungen und Briefen Während der Kriegszeit von Admiral Hugo von Pohl, Karl Siegismund, Berlin, 1920, p. 137. 120 Captain A.W. Clarke (writing as ‘Onlooker’), ‘H.M. Navigation School 1903–1968’ The Naval Review Vol. LVI, No. 3, July 1968, p. 258. 121 Jellicoe to Beatty letter dated 7 August 1915. Temple Patterson, The Jellicoe Papers Vol. I, p. 176.


The legacy of Jutland Expectation, reality and learning from the experience of battle in the Royal Navy, 1913–1939 Joseph Moretz

The victory secured over the Central Powers and especially Germany during the First World War owed much to Britain’s maritime dominance if little to the fruits of fleet action. If the result was as expected by the British public and Royal Navy both, then its means of delivery certainly was not and the failure to secure a decisive victory against the High Seas Fleet rankled commoner and commander alike. Why the pre-war expectation of naval combat proved so divergent from the reality of wartime can be attributed to several factors. Still, that evolving technical considerations rendered nugatory the mythology of explanation surrounding Britain’s past naval success was certainly a vital one. Contemporaneously, the Royal Navy’s understanding of how naval power was fostered and exercised underwent a deep and profound shift as it became more ‘scientific’. Not scientific in the sense that its tenets could be verifiably proven or worked out with mathematical precision, but rather it now became anchored in the analysis of previous experience tied to its survey through surviving documentary evidence. Closely associated with this, future naval encounters could be approximated in war gaming based on reasonable conclusions of ship and weapon performance. All this came to fruition in the decade before the war and the disparate strands influencing the future style of naval warfare came together not so much as the clear image of a photograph but more the blurs of an emerging image, slowly crystallising. The constituent parts of the several technical considerations at play were recognised, but their relationship to the whole was not so easily discernible. As air and sail gave way to coal and steam and to guns of ever increasing calibre, the potential speed and range of naval combat increased several fold. To this, the torpedo and the naval mine, whether delivered from the surface or below, had now achieved real lethalness that surface vessels needed to consider. This much was appreciated in 1914, but perhaps not so easily recognised was the tremendous growth that naval aviation was on the cusp of achieving. Thus, a Royal Naval Air Service that counted only 93 aircraft of all types at war’s beginning approached almost 3,000 when in April 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service ceased and gave way to the newly created Royal Air Force.1 In all this, the adage of not being able to see the forest for the trees is appropriate and confirms that while most may be able to master the tools of the moment, grasping the bigger picture requires the gift of foresight that few actually possess.


Joseph Moretz

Compounding the problems of understanding any possible fleet action was that pre-war writers rarely considered the influences of weather, locale and season in their discourses. Perhaps it was because these elements were thought neutral and would operate against protagonists in equal measure, but the effects of such approximated Clausewitz’s friction acting as a brake on the ideal that was possible. If the war game projected what should occur, it remained that actual visibility in the face of rains, squalls, fogs, mists, steam and smoke guaranteed that the ideal would rarely be achieved. Yet, even if such conditions in battle had retained only minimal influences it remained that angles of approach, errors in navigation, and vagaries in human judgment and temperament made recognition of friend a far harder task than any exercise could proximate. A fleet action was always more than an engagement of opposing heavy ships though it was this aspect in the battleship era that provided its most salient feature. It represented a choreography of the distinct classes of ships built to purpose working towards the common objective of securing the defeat of a naval opponent. Scouted by cruisers and battlecruisers, screened by destroyers, these ships provided the eyes and first line of defence to the battle squadrons that concentrated the offensive firepower of the fleet. This firepower by the time of the Battle of Jutland was centred upon 13½- and 15-inch naval rifles along with torpedo armaments of up to 21-inches. The last weapon is frequently overlooked by later observers, but in some contemporary circles it was viewed as a formidable adjunct to the main batteries of the surface fleet offering at times to ‘prove superior to that of the gun’. Even if it was not actually employed, the threat of a torpedo strike could force an opponent into an unfavourable tactical position to the advantage of British gunnery fires.2 Given the ongoing changes in technology and the fact that naval science as opposed to naval art was still in its infancy, consensus of view before the First World War did not exist in the Royal Navy. For every innovation adopted, detractors remained. This made the formulation of doctrine difficult and, indeed, the very concept of doctrine in its broadest meaning was anathema to many senior officers.3 The lack of doctrine, or a governing theory in naval tactics, was recognised by some pre-war observers, notably Captain Edward Harding, Royal Marine Artillery, and Captain William Hall but addressing the void was not a simple affair.4 Still, the absence of doctrine did not mean that there was a void in commonly held precepts and practices. The prerogatives of command was surely one, but another article of faith upon which almost all officers agreed was that command of the sea for a maritime nation such as Britain remained essential. Indeed, true command could only be exercised following the defeat of an enemy. For before battle, command would always be open to dispute and the full benefits of maritime dominance constrained. Thus, fleet action, in time, became seen as the raison d’être of the Service though the strategic purposes of battle were often overlooked. Beyond these shibboleths, subsidiary tenets existed such as manoeuvring the British fleet between an enemy force and his bases and the importance of retaining the initiative. Thus, when Sir John Fisher said of HMS Indomitable following her trials that it allowed one to ‘fight HOW you like, WHEN like, and

The legacy of Jutland 151 WHERE you like!’ he was paying homage to the value of initiative more than enunciating a firm tactical edict.5 It is a measure of how weak was the doctrinal grounding of the Royal Navy that some of the best articles to appear in the professional journal of the Royal Navy, The Naval Review, were published in its very first years of existence when formal thought and dogma remained unsettled. Even the common precepts earlier remarked upon were as gossamer, for one pre-war officer writing in The Naval Review could specify four main tasks of sea power, of which, naval battle was not even one. Alfred Taylor, who later would oversee the Tactical Section of the Naval Staff and write Volume II to Herbert Richmond’s Volume I of Naval Tactical Notes,6 offered the view that victories at sea could not by themselves force a defeated power to make peace.7 Taylor saw the Navy as a force for power projection that primarily exerted its influence through actions that sapped an adversary’s economic lifeblood. His was not an isolated view in 1913 and that Taylor later served as the Director of Economic Warfare in the Admiralty from August 1939 through May 1940 testifies that the Navy yet recognised that battle was but one aspect of its business.8 Recognising that pre-war doctrine was unsettled, how a fleet should be handled in battle were matters of strong debate. If a general view existed how such action would unfold it can be summarised, thusly. Two fleets steaming in single file ahead and on roughly parallel tracks to each other would engage in a surface gunnery duel. The range at which the duel began would be highly dependent on the visibility conditions prevailing, but at whatever distance fire was initiated, the British fleet would endeavour to close to decisive range because only then could annihilation of the adversary occur. If a fast division of ships, such as battlecruisers, was present, then it would operate from the van and alterations of course would be avoided as this increased the rate of change in the gunnery solution and worked against estimating the course and speed of the enemy. Unfortunately, maintaining present course and speed offered little chance for achieving any positional advantage where British fires could be maximised at the expense of the enemy’s own gunnery solution. Thus, within professional circles and before 1914, a decisive encounter was frequently thought problematic.9 That the results of the Battle of Jutland fought 31 May–1 June 1916 confirmed the fears of some pre-war British naval officers was hardly a matter for celebration, but it did at least offer direct evidence, as opposed to conjecture, how a modern naval encounter would unfold. Leaving aside the material deficiencies identified and the need for their immediate correction, Jutland, and to a lesser degree the other naval encounters of the World War, were now studied in earnest to capture their lessons. This was an obvious tactical requirement, but it was also a strategic one for if the battlefleet could no longer ensure command of the seas, then it held grave implications in force structure, the relevance of Britain’s traditional maritime approach in warfare to say nothing of the centrality of the Royal Navy to the nation.10 The implications were not lost on politicians which was why Julian Corbett’s Official History of the battle was so eagerly awaited and it was also why the Admiralty sought to prepare its own internal appreciation which


Joseph Moretz

would treat the encounter with a frankness not possible in a popular history prepared for public release.11 Even the latter study being prepared by Alfred and Kenneth Dewar would not tell the full story for the Service faced constraints imposed by higher authority. Specifically, the role that signals intelligence played in the battle remained a topic that the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) and other departments did not wish to expose even in an internal study with limited distribution. Lieutenant John Pollen serving in the Historical Section of the CID was charged with reviewing the Staff Appreciation to ensure that any references ‘to Room 40, to all Special Intelligence reports or to Birch & Clarke’ were omitted.12 Still, it is to the Navy’s credit that they took seriously the need to understand the battle and the many errors committed in what was a confused and confusing encounter. Whilst much source data existed for any appreciation or history, resolving the multitude of discrepancies in time and place appearing in signals, charts and plots was essential. Thus, the care demonstrated by the Admiralty in finding the wreckage of the Invincible in 1919, as its true location formed a constant to compare against the frequently conflicting contemporary records. Such also explains why Captain John Harper, a Navigating Officer, was entrusted to prepare an unvarnished account of the battle in the interim and why Lieutenant Commander Archibald Bell was seconded to assist Corbett in his efforts at writing the Official History.13 Though the full gamut of Bell’s assistance to Corbett is unknown, it is significant that he was a qualified Hydrographer indicating that matters of navigation and chart interpretation were questions needing resolution before the battle could be understood in detail.14 Still, one area where Bell did provide unique service was in examining the records of Room 40 that were used, but not acknowledged, in the compilation of the Official History.15 Contemporary British naval officers appreciated the battle had been a poor showing. Richmond, a gifted if all too critical serving officer, recorded in his diary: ‘It is a nasty knock and there is no denying it. We have engaged an inferior force & got the worst of it’.16 Meanwhile, Captain Philip Dumas was noting that ill-blood had arisen between the acolytes of the two principal British officers involved: Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, and Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, Commander, Battle Cruiser Fleet.17 Given its performance had been found wanting, little time was lost in attempting to capture its lessons. Committees were formed to identify deficiencies in material and operating procedure, this leading to revisions in the Grand Fleet’s Battle Orders and Manoeuvring Orders. These encompassed practical measures for dealing with the tactics of the High Seas Fleet emphasising especially the responsibilities of subordinate leaders in battle. Later historians have argued that the Royal Navy was consumed by learning the lessons of Jutland. Both Professor Arthur Marder and Captain Stephen Roskill, perhaps the two most respected and quoted naval authorities of the interwar period, stressed the importance of Jutland in shaping the outlook of the Service. Their views are important, as others, when surveying British naval policy and thought have largely accepted their arguments in detail. This conventional view is correct

The legacy of Jutland 153 so far as it goes, but what is often forgotten is that Jutland was but a piece of the tapestry informing the Navy’s training efforts. By failing to address the broader context of instruction, the impression remains of a Service more focused on fighting the last war than preparing for the next. This was far from the case and what follows is the story of Jutland placed firmly within the setting of interwar naval education, training and exercise as revealed by its use within the curricula of the Staff College, the Senior Officers’ War Course and the Tactical School – the institutions most responsible for providing higher-level instruction to executive officers. It traces the lessons those institutions sought to impart and the evolving nature of Jutland instruction. In a like manner, the fleet exercises conducted in the war’s aftermath are reviewed to gauge the tactical lessons the Service sought to address. The first post-war sitting of the Staff College occurred in June 1919 when a reformed course met at Greenwich. Though highly qualified Lieutenants attended, typically the qualifier was a recently promoted Commander or Lieutenant Commander. During the period, the course waxed and waned in length and in the number of officers attending. The typical course ran for 10 months with 30 naval officers as qualifiers. Though officers attending were primarily from the Royal Navy, members of the Commonwealth appeared at intervals. Additionally, two members each usually came from the Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force. In time, officers from the Royal Canadian Air Force and Indian Army also appeared at Greenwich, though their presence was the exception rather than a firm practice. Interestingly, Jutland did not feature as a topic of the course until the third post-war session held in 1921–22 when Kenneth Dewar, then co-writing the battle’s staff appreciation, delivered four lectures.18 Previously, Captains Guy BiggWither and Henry Thursfield surveyed Grand Fleet tactics in more general terms in three lectures.19 Nor was it the case that qualifiers studying at Greenwich were consumed with the subject. The first paper written by a student touching upon the battle only appeared in 1923–24 when Lieutenant Commander Robert Bevan presented as his qualifying lecture, ‘The Naval Situation After Trafalgar and Jutland’.20 Even this survey did not cover tactical or operational deficiencies, focusing on the strategic options Britain faced in the wake of each battle. This absence of study is unsurprising, as the Service was still coming to grips with establishing the facts governing the battle. Until this happened, analysis would be mostly conjecture. The question arises then, if Jutland was not a feature of the course immediately following the war what was being examined? The answer is that many topics were addressed. Staff procedure, administration, intelligence and organisation – subjects natural enough for aspiring staff officers, but of strategic, operational and tactical tuition, the fullest treatment was given to commerce protection, amphibious operations, submarine warfare and air warfare. With the Dardanelles debacle and the privations of Germany’s submarine campaign much apparent, and in the wake of a unified air force, these topics were more salient. In 1919–20, fully 18 lectures covered some aspect of amphibious operations whilst commerce protection was surveyed in 19 lectures. The submarine and submarine warfare featured in 16 seminars whilst air warfare was surveyed in five.21


Joseph Moretz

Each year, the course concluded with a war game where all the skills a qualifier had mastered were applied. Appreciations were drafted, orders and instructions prepared, and play conducted under the scrutiny of the directing staff who served as umpires. Qualifiers were assigned roles representative of those they would soon hold, such as Staff Officer Operations or Staff Officer Submarines. The game was played in the afternoon and for the first post-war course lasted five days running to eighteen by the third year.22 In both cases, the presumed enemy was Japan. The extraordinary length of the game’s third rendition was a result of the recently concluded Washington Naval Agreement and the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, as the Service weighed the implications of the new strategic setting. Jutland as a topic, though, grew in scope and by 1926–27, it formed five seminars before growing to seven in the early 1930s with the topic presented by the Staff College’s Deputy Director, the officer responsible for tactical studies and analysis. The fundamental reason why Jutland was studied was to provide a case study of the application of the principles of war in battle. These principles were codified in the Naval War Manual, a document corresponding to and influenced by the British Army’s Field Service Regulations.23 It was the primary doctrinal publication of the Service and informed instruction of the War Course, a second Greenwich-based tuition lasting a little over four months that newly promoted Captains were expected to attend before assuming command.24 Meanwhile, qualifiers taking the Staff Course studied the War Manual, as officers needed an understanding of the responsibilities of the senior officers they would support.25 The Manual adjoined officers to understand its contents, as the Navy intended to fight in battle according to its precepts.26 Marder was deeply critical of the War Manual avowing that: ‘There was little in it beyond a few catchwords pertaining to the “principles of war” and generalities on “naval policy”, the “functions of the Navy”, “war plans”, and so on’.27 Such a conclusion is possible only if one views the Naval War Manual as a standalone document and fails to see it in its proper light. It was the font from which all other naval doctrine flowed supporting subsidiary works including the Battle Instructions,28 the Manoeuvring Orders,29 the Destroyer Attack Instructions,30 the Cruiser Manual31 and the Submarine Manual.32 The Manual specified eight principles of war: maintenance of the object, offensive action, surprise, concentration, economy of force, security, mobility and cooperation. Jutland highlighted the saliency of these principles with concentration, surprise, cooperation and offensive action proving particularly useful. Yet, Jutland had its limitations in demonstrating the tenets. Economy of force was more often addressed at the strategic level, as choices must be made where risks are to be accepted and forces are to be employed. Additionally, the one lesson of Jutland most cited by members of the directing staff was the importance of initiative. A valuable tenet, no doubt, but not a principle of war – at least in the eyes of the Naval War Manual. The purpose of the Staff College was to prepare staff officers. This may appear as a statement of the obvious, but some argued a corollary mission ought to be

The legacy of Jutland 155 preparing officers for command with failure to attend disqualifying an officer from achieving his captaincy.33 This was never its purpose and the Navy eschewed moves in this direction, as it was reluctant to define a single path to command. Consequently, the purpose of studying Jutland was not to make better commanders, but to develop better staff officers. Jutland highlighted where staff work had been deficient, such as in the handling of special intelligence, and the purpose of surveying the engagement was to minimise failings in the future. Accordingly, the observation that: ‘At the Royal Naval Staff College, refighting Jutland became the major obsession, a fixation that ran through the navy as a “deadening virus” ’ fundamentally mistakes the degree which Jutland informed the curriculum of the Staff College and the very purpose of the course itself.34 The battle was deconstructed in a series of lectures arranged chronologically. By 1931, supporting lectures were lasting more than a week. Highlighting the multiple errors of commission and omission, the aim was to impress upon staff officers the importance of paying attention to detail and understanding the necessity of initiative in operations. Another use of employing Jutland was to introduce the principles of war in a tactical setting. This shines through in Captain Geoffrey Blake’s lecture following a week’s study of the battle in 1927. Here, he noted how concentration was demonstrated by the deployment of the Grand Fleet and was suggested by the tentative efforts in marrying the gunfire of multiple ships to a single target being considered at the time. Again, Blake called attention to the lamentable lack of initiative shown by subordinate officers, particularly, their failure to report the movements of the High Seas Fleet.35 As with the War Course, Staff Course lectures covering tactics in the initial period following the war eschewed an emphasis on Jutland. This changed by the third post-war session and became only more pronounced as the years passed. Why is difficult to gauge, but one consideration must be the practice of successive members of the directing staff enhancing their lectures by adding material not considered previously. Commander William Tennant’s homage to the work of Captains Cedric Holland and John Godfrey before proceeding with his own thoughts on the battle confirms this pattern at work.36 Another reason is that those now attending were junior officers during the battle and their experience was not of a nature to highlight its lessons. Tennant’s lectures of 1931–33 surveyed the battle in seven papers. Providing a synopsis for each lecture with lessons indicated, qualifiers were left in little doubt where matters stood and how performance was deemed wanting. Again, the battle was analysed from the perspective of the principles of war and these certainly featured in many of the suggested lessons. Addressing cooperation, Tennant called attention to the Fifth Battle Squadron temporarily attached to the Battle Cruiser Fleet. Here, squadrons seeking to cooperate were more effective if working from the same harbour.37 Meanwhile, concentration in both its tactical and strategic forms was shown when the same squadron acted in company with the Battle Cruiser Fleet, whilst the latter force’s rendezvous with the Grand Fleet demonstrated its strategic dimension.38 Tennant’s third lecture stressed initiative and surprise, though initiative was not an explicit principle of war in British naval


Joseph Moretz

thinking. Noting the initiative of Commodore William Goodenough in signalling the presence of enemy battleships to the Battle Cruiser Fleet, praise, too, was bestowed on the actions of the destroyers Moresby and Onslow in attacking the First Scouting Group, a much superior force. This foray, conducted at night and in the absence of explicit orders, stood in contrast to the actions of others. Finally, the arrival of the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron during a critical moment of the action confirmed the value of surprise. Yet, as Invincible, the squadron’s flagship soon came to grief in a cataclysmic inferno, the qualifiers listening might have shared a different twist on the principle’s application than the one intended.39 Of the lessons expounded, foremost was the importance of initiative. Calling attention to this consideration, Tennant told his charges: ‘It is suggested that our greatest need of all at JUTLAND was INITIATIVE. Are we better in this respect today?’40 If the question posed was merely a rhetorical device, its import was clear given the tenor of the lectures preceding. If the War Manual did not ascribe initiative specifically as a principle of war, then did lecturers and qualifiers actually read the Manual? The answer is yes, but the confusion must owe something to adopting the FSR as the source document when preparing the Naval War Manual. If the Naval Staff had written their treatise from a fresh slate, not borrowing so heavily from the FSR, the importance of initiative in contemporary naval thinking would have become manifest and probably appeared in the War Manual. During his year at Greenwich, a qualifier could expect to attend between 160– 215 lectures and participate in 50 schemes or exercises.41 Jutland rarely appeared in these schemes and its place in the curriculum never ran to more than a week and a half of the course. That the battle was largely missing from the schemes considered owed much to its scale. Most exercises addressed a limited problem associated with a lecture, such as developing the skills needed to arrange a systematic search to locate an enemy force. Here, the backdrop of the Breslau and Goeben operating in the Mediterranean in the opening hours of the Great War featured prominently. Those schemes conducted of a comparable scale to Jutland usually were of the nature of an Anglo-Japanese conflict which had more relevance to classes of the period. Thus, whilst Jutland was given full treatment in the lectures of the Staff College, it was largely missing from the course’s practical work. After the creation of an Air Force Staff College in 1922, a common event was for its qualifiers to visit their Greenwich counterparts to investigate common problems. Jutland featured as one of the problems, but with a twist. Both fleets now sailed with a full complement of aircraft carriers and doing battle were ‘ “FURIOUS”, “HERMES”, “EAGLE” and “ARGUS” on the British side, and “BURIOUS”, “BERMES”, “BEAGLE” and “BARGUS” on the German side’.42 As Germany was not a current naval threat, the exercise offered the chance to retest the lines of the encounter by changing a variable now relevant to both British Services in any future engagement. Thus, the 1916 battle served as the control in the contemporary experiments measuring the lines of a future naval encounter. Moreover, each year a joint exercise lasting a week was held at Camberley amongst the three Service Staff Colleges against an idea posed by the CID or the War Office, Air Ministry and Admiralty working in common. The defence of

The legacy of Jutland 157 Singapore was a regular theme tested, though in 1937 the defence of Borneo was the scenario posed.43 Of necessity, these schemes required the cooperation of the three armed forces and thoughts of investigating Jutland were far-removed from the exercises’ objectives. By the close of the 1930s, lecturing on Jutland was now the responsibility of Captain Frank Pegram, the Deputy Director. He treated the battle in five lectures where Tennant had previously employed seven.44 Thus, as a topic of discourse, Jutland had its greatest resonance at the Staff College between the years 1930–32. Yet, surveying the last war’s only fleet encounter over the span of seven lectures in a course running to a minimum of ten months does not strike this observer as particularly excessive. Finally, with regard to the prominence of Jutland in the course’s curriculum, it is useful to relate what the Admiralty advised officers to read for those desiring to attend. They were encouraged to review AspinallOglander’s two-volume treatment of Gallipoli and Corbett’s works on the Seven Years and Russo-Japanese Wars. Cruttwell’s History of the Great War and Commander John Cresswell’s Naval Warfare were also recommended, as were the British and German Official Histories of the World War. Though these last-named treated the battle, no specific works of the many then available featured in the reading list.45 As the Senior Officers’ War Course typically lasted four months, Jutland never featured as a topic to the degree that it was felt at the Staff College. Marder concludes that the lectures on the subject offered at the Staff College leaned much on the work of Captain Bertram Ramsay who taught at the War College between 1927–29 and surveyed the battle in five lectures.46 His hand, doubtlessly, played a role, but the topic was already well established in the junior course and each of the instructors at Greenwich and the Tactical School benefited from the efforts of their predecessors in developing the lectures used. Rather than a detailed analysis of Jutland, officers taking the War Course concentrated on studying policy, strategy, operations and tactics with the emphasis very much, though, on the higher direction in war. Contemporary problems were at the fore in the War Course and investigating the lines of a war against Japan, Russia or the United States had more resonance than re-fighting the Battle of Jutland. To the extent tactics were covered, the focus was on examining general principles. This was all to the good, but others believed the matter deserved greater scrutiny. At the prodding of Rear Admiral Frederic Dreyer when serving as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, a Tactical School was instituted at Portsmouth in 1925.47 Dreyer, however, had not been the first officer to call for such a school. Lieutenant Commander Russell Grenfell made a similar argument in The Naval Review in 1923. Still, having the ear of the First Sea Lord gave Dreyer scope for pressing the case.48 Dreyer’s initiative owed much to the lack of tactical study he noted whilst taking the War Course in 1924, which in itself says something about the centrality of Jutland in the Service’s training.49 Where the War Manual informed instruction at the War Course, the Battle Instructions played a similar role at the Tactical School. Here, tactics were surveyed not only along their current lines, but also examined from a historical


Joseph Moretz

perspective in classes composed of roughly twenty officers primarily of Captain’s rank. Not surprisingly, then, Jutland was a prominent topic at the Tactical School. Officers attending the 8–11 week course examined the battle in depth and a demonstration of it was a prime occurrence to mark the conclusion of each sitting of the Tactical Course.50 Analysis of the battle by the school was broad, deep and ongoing with its findings summarised in the booklet New Light on Jutland issued to the fleet in 1934.51 Frequently, the school offered a critique of the battle to visiting dignitaries, and, in 1937, besides the First Lord of the Admiralty, 65 other officers not attending the school as qualifiers received a demonstration.52 This is unsurprising, for the battle if known to all was understood by few. For the Navy, such demonstrations served a purpose akin to the Hendon air displays of the Royal Air Force and were a means of telling the Service’s story, highlight progress made and make the Navy relevant to its political masters. Thus, when Samuel Hoare, the First Lord, spoke in the Commons in support of the Navy Estimates, he buttressed his argument with the following: I was very much struck by this fact the other day when I went to Portsmouth and saw in the Tactical School the Battle of Jutland worked out in great detail, with model ships, each of them exactly in its place during the course of a long-drawn-out engagement, with electric lights showing the visibility and with a senior naval officer, who was himself present at the engagement, explaining at the end of each phase of the battle exactly what did happen and contrasting what did happen with what might happen to-day under modern conditions and the many changes which have taken place since the Battle of Jutland.53 The school demonstrated the action in three separate phases corresponding to the battlecruiser action, the battlefleet action and those operations occurring at night.54 Spectators watched as the action unfolded. A spotlight focused on Jellicoe’s flagship, HMS Iron Duke, allowing audiences to appreciate the visibility the British commander enjoyed at all times during the engagement, whilst the directions of wind and sun were summarised in the notes provided to the audience. Meanwhile, the relative compass bearing at any moment was indicated by an arrowed-card on the table.55 Commentary noted where changes in current method were different from that employed during the battle. Thus, the practice of firing single salvoes and waiting to observe for fall of shot before correcting for the next round had been replaced with firing double salvoes in rapid succession. By firing one long and a second short to the estimated range and proceeding to correct for the observed error, the true range could be determined more rapidly.56 During the phase demonstrating the battlefleet action, it was noted that the Grand Fleet could only deploy on a port or starboard wing column with Jellicoe electing to deploy to port. Following the battle, the means to deploy on a centre column were perfected and audiences were able to see how the action flowed from the manoeuvre.57 When commenting on the action at night, the tendency for

The legacy of Jutland 159 British forces to fire a single torpedo, rather than in salvoes, and to treat unknown ships as friendly, and not hostile, featured.58 The latter point was key to why the Staff Course expended so much effort in training qualifiers in plotting. If a Captain understood where friendly forces were located before any encounter, then he would not need to challenge an unknown ship, but could proceed to engage immediately.59 Thus, maintaining, not surrendering, initiative. As for firing torpedoes at night, the need was to employ all weapons and to develop the maximum fire available. Firing torpedoes singly wasted opportunities, as the chances of hits were greater when fire was maximised. Finally, in common with what was stressed at the Staff College, the Tactical School emphasised the need for scouting and reconnaissance forces to report the presence of the enemy. If damage precluded the senior officer of a flotilla from providing a report, then it remained for subordinates in company to accomplish. Touch with the enemy once gained must not be surrendered, as there was no guarantee once lost, it could be re-established. Though Jutland received full treatment at the Tactical School, it was far from the only topic. The focus of instruction was to provide an understanding of tactical doctrine based on the several manuals used within the Service. Preliminary work in the first two weeks covered the Manoeuvring Manual and those publications dealing with signals followed by the specific orders used within the fleet, plotting and making contact reports.60 Next, officers learned how to play the game in both its strategical and tactical versions and then learned the tactics of cruisers, destroyers, submarines and naval aircraft. Having mastered these subjects, the use of smoke and gas and the Battle Instructions of the fleet followed. By the seventh week officers were finally studying the tactics of the late war, of which Jutland was central. However, the progress made since then was the essential lesson and demonstrating the battle was the culmination of all previous efforts pursued.61 A central feature of the Tactical Course was investigating problems posed by the Admiralty and reviewing the exercises of the fleet. Thus, after a number of actions were played-out in war games, the school proposed sub-dividing destroyer flotillas so that closer attack ranges might be achieved before launching their torpedoes.62 Testing problems and theories on the table was invaluable, as the results reached were rapid and economical. In the time taken to conduct one exercise at sea, the table allowed six games to be played.63 However, better still was it to follow Admiral Sir John Fisher’s dictate that the best scale for any experiment remained twelve inches to the foot and actually work a problem in an exercise at sea. Here, crucial aspects of the battle were evaluated in post-war exercises to define best practices and correct noted shortcomings. The visibility prevailing during the battle was atrocious as the misty conditions present combined with the smoke arising from the many coal-fired ships hindered observation. Exercise ‘L.J.’ conducted by the Atlantic Fleet in October 1928 replicated this feature of the battle as the destroyer Windsor laid a smoke screen between two fleets with the serial representing ‘a foggy day when the mist was lifting’.64 Jutland also demonstrated that contact reports suffered as the position of the sighting ship was, at best, an estimate based on its dead-reckoning position. Receiving ships suffered from the same problem and compounded the


Joseph Moretz

errors introduced. A post-war means to alleviate matters was for the sighting ship to drop a depth charge at the same moment its contact report was transmitted. A receiving ship could then plot the position of the transmitting ship based on the echo received in her hydrophones from the resulting explosion correlating this to the position cited in the contact report.65 Jutland demonstrated that the Germans were better prepared to fight at night and correcting this deficiency was now a leading aim of British training. The High Seas Fleet benefited in having star shell to illuminate an opposing force and did not need to rely solely on the use of searchlights, which perforce gave away one’s own position. Exercises, such as ‘E.D.2’, a combined Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleet serial of February 1922, tested the newer means adopted by the Navy to fight at night and demonstrated that shortcomings shown in battle were being corrected in peace.66 Meanwhile, a follow-on evolution, ‘E.D.3’, tested the ability to pursue an inferior and slower fleet returning to its defended anchorages.67 How to negate a torpedo attack launched against the battlefleet was an issue where Admiral Jellicoe had received much criticism. He had elected to turn away from the threat, thereby increasing the range between the two fleets. Alternatively, he could have maintained course and accepted the threat, or turned towards the threat closing the range between the two fleets. The turn-away was the standard tactic adopted by both fleets during the World War when faced with the situation, but for that, critics scorned the manoeuvre as it hindered gunnery effectiveness. Exercise ‘E.P.1’ of October 1922 was only one of many evolutions conducted to arrive at the best answer.68 The position finally established was to turn towards the attack when launched from less than 60° from the bow, and to turn away if the attack was initiated from greater than 60° on the bow relative to the receiving ship.69 Matters, now, were not as simple as during the war. Compounding the question was the introduction of a torpedo that ran in a weaving pattern, typically 8° from the perpendicular, making evasive action when facing the threat more difficult.70 Finally, exercise ‘E.Q’. held in October 1922 tested each of the previous problems – torpedo avoidance, night-time encounter, star shell and searchlight illumination – in toto.71 It was recognised that concentrating one’s force on a portion of the enemy was vital to securing victory. If the mathematical theory of Lanchester’s N-square law was more recent, the concept was understood even in Nelson’s day. Jutland had shown British fire distribution to have been faulty, particularly during the battlecruiser action and major efforts were directed at developing concentration of tactical fires. In time, concentrating the fires of two, three or even four ships on a single target were perfected and this could be accomplished with each ship acting independently or under the control of a single mastership using radio. From the previous, it is apparent that within the fleet solving the riddle of Jutland was ever a concern. However, other evolutions tested the fleet’s mettle against submarine and air attack, whilst escorting a slow moving convoy in the presence of both. The strategic background often posed was the British Empire against Japan with the main fleet approaching Singapore in the face of a Japanese force having already established local sea control and sewing the nearby narrow waters

The legacy of Jutland 161 with mines.72 That the Navy spent much time examining Jutland is not surprising; it would have been the more remarkable if it had not. Others, too, studied the encounter, of which, the United States Navy was at the fore.73 As fleet actions are a rare occurrence in war and becoming rarer, studying past experience is not a virtue, but a necessity. Jutland, besides being controversial, was extremely well documented. The signals issued by both fleets were soon part of the public record.74 This new degree of evidence allowed navies to examine a battle with a rigour not previously available and further explains its prominence of study. Finally, the lesson of Jutland was the need for all to demonstrate initiative in the execution of their duties. Opportunities were lost because of this failing. Whether the venue was Greenwich, Portsmouth, or exercises conducted at sea, this was the central tenet an officer was expected to grasp. Of the conventional wisdom that Jutland was an obsession within the interwar Navy, and, especially so at the Staff College, this observer cannot agree. Such a view fails to do justice to the curriculum when examined in its entirety and misrepresents the purpose the course served. Where Jutland did enjoy a prominence was at the Tactical School and in the exercise programme of the fleet. Yet, here too, it featured as but a portion of the whole. The lessons of Jutland were absorbed, but not as ends in themselves. The Royal Navy understood that both its pre-war assessment of naval battle and its performance demonstrated in the recent war had been found wanting and this needed correcting. For as Captain Drax reminded qualifiers of the Staff Course when closing his lecture on tactics: ‘Bad strategy may be redeemed by successful tactics, but there is no remedy for defeat in battle’.75

Notes 1 ADM 1/8549/13, The National Archives (hereafter TNA), Kew, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom, Director Air Division, ‘Appreciation of British Naval Effort during the War’, no date but c.January 1919. 2 See Thomas Maurice, ‘Torpedo Fire in Future Fleet Actions’, The Naval Review, Vol. II, 1914, pp. 72 and 81. 3 Reginald Plunkett, ‘Naval Education: Its Effect on Character and Intellect’, The Naval Review, Vol. I, 1913, p. 31. 4 E.W. Harding, ‘Studies in the Theory of Naval Tactics’, The Naval Review, Vol. I, 1913, p. 12 and William Hall, ‘The Fleet in Action’, The Naval Review, Vol. II, 1914, p. 53. 5 Fisher to Arnold White letter of 15 August 1908 cited in Arthur J. Marder (ed.), Fear God and Dread Nought: The Correspondence of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, Volume II, Years of Power, 1904–1914 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1956), p. 189. Original emphasis. 6 Secretary of the Admiralty to Herbert Richmond letter M. 03390/27 of 7 January 1928, Richmond Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, RIC/7/2. 7 Alfred Taylor, ‘Sea Power in 1913’, The Naval Review, Vol. I, 1913, p. 111. 8 TNA ADM 196/91 (Taylor). 9 Hall, ‘Fleet in Action’, p. 59. 10 On the relevance of the battlefleet and the Battle of Jutland, see Daily Mail article reproduced in Bryan Ranft (ed.), The Beatty Papers: Selections from the Private and Official Correspondence and Papers of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty, Volume II, 1916–1927 (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1993), pp. 452–3.


Joseph Moretz

11 On parliamentary interest in the battle and its associated Official History see The Hansard, House of Commons debates of 14 March 1919, Vol. 113, cc1616W, of 18 February 1920, Vol. 125, cc870–71, of 27 October 1920, Vol. 133, cc1716–17 and of 1 December 1920, Vol. 135, cc1209–10. 12 John Pollen to Kenneth Dewar letter of 30 November 1921, Vice Admiral Kenneth Dewar Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, DEW/4. Room 40 was the Admiralty office where signals intelligence work was primarily conducted, special intelligence was the euphemism for information acquired through electronic interception and cryptanalysis whilst Lieutenant Commander Frank Birch, RNVR, and Paymaster Lieutenant Commander William Clarke, RNVR, were two of the principal officers employed in such work. 13 TNA ADM 196/89 (Harper). 14 TNA ADM 196/143 (Bell). 15 Harper’s Official Record of the Battle of Jutland was completed in October 1919 but not published owing to the stark picture that it portrayed of the Grand Fleet’s actions. Instead, Viscount Long, the First Lord of the Admiralty, turned over Harper’s files to Corbett in October 1920 for his consideration and use. Finalised in 1922, Alfred and Kenneth Dewar’s C.B. 0938, Staff Appreciation of the Battle of Jutland was never released. Corbett’s treatment of Jutland appeared in 1923 as Naval Operations, Volume III while the Admiralty issued its own Narrative of the Battle of Jutland prepared by John Pollen in 1924. Though several Naval Staff monographs were prepared following the war and are found in the files of the TNA 186/600 series, a British account of Jutland does not feature. 16 Richmond cited in Arthur Marder (ed.), Portrait of an Admiral: The Life and Papers of Sir Herbert Richmond (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952), p. 213. 17 Diary entry of 7 June 1916, Admiral Philip Wylie Dumas Papers, Imperial War Museum, London, IWM/PP/MCR/96. 18 TNA ADM 203/100. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. 23 William Tennant, ‘Jutland I’ Royal Naval Staff College lecture of 1932, Admiral Sir William George Tennant Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, NMM/ TEN/41/1. 24 TNA ADM 1/9041. 25 TNA ADM 203/69, Captain Edward Astley-Rushton lecture ‘The Staff College’, no date but c.1924, pp. 2–3. 26 TNA ADM 186/66, C.B. 973. The Naval War Manual, Admiral, Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division, October 1925, p. 1. 27 Arthur J. Marder, From the Dardanelles to Oran: Studies of the Royal Navy in War and Peace 1915–1940 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 36. 28 TNA ADM 186/106, Battle Instructions (Mediterranean Fleet) of 15 June 1930. 29 TNA ADM 186/637, Manoeuvring Orders of 1 June 1928 and as amended. 30 TNA ADM 186/95, C.B. 01721, Destroyer Attack Instructions of 1 January 1924. 31 TNA ADM 186/53, C.B. 920, Cruiser Manual of 1 January 1920. 32 TNA ADM 186/462, Submarine Manual of 1 January 1928. 33 Wilfrid A. Egerton, ‘The Trinity of Efficiency, Part I’, The Naval Review, Vol. II, 1914, p. 113. 34 Holger H. Herwig, ‘Innovation Ignored: The submarine problem, Germany, Britain, and the United States, 1919–1939’ Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millet (eds), Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 249.

The legacy of Jutland 163 35 ‘Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich (Session 1926–1927) Summing Up by Director Royal Naval Staff College on Jutland Lectures 1927’, Captain Allan Thomas George Cumberland Peachey Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, United Kingdom, NMM/PCY/1. 36 ‘Jutland I’, lecture of 1932, Tennant Papers, NMM/TEN/41/1. 37 ‘Jutland I’, lecture of 1931, Tennant Papers, NMM/TEN/41/3. 38 ‘Jutland II’, lecture of 1931, Tennant Papers, NMM/TEN/41/3. 39 ‘Jutland III’, lecture of 1931, Tennant Papers, NMM/TEN/41/3. 40 ‘Jutland VI’, lecture of 1931, Tennant Papers, NMM/TEN/41/3. Original emphasis. 41 Anon., ‘Royal Naval Staff College’, The Naval Review, Vol. XX, No. 1, February 1932, p. 28 and ADM 203/100. 42 TNA ADM 203/69, Astley-Rushton lecture ‘The Staff College’, p. 14. 43 Unpublished memoir, p. 20, Air Commodore Colin Simpson Cadell Papers, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College, London. 44 TNA ADM 203/83. 45 TNA ADM 182/72, Admiralty Fleet Order, ’1751 – Preliminary Study by Candidates for the Royal Naval Staff Course’ of 16 July 1936. 46 Arthur Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Volume III, Jutland and After: May 1916–December 1916 (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. viii. 47 Stephen Roskill, Naval Policy Between the Wars, Volume I: The Period of Anglo-American Antagonism, 1919–1929 (New York: Walker and Company, 1968), p. 533. 48 Russell Grenfell, ‘Training in Tactics’, The Naval Review, Vol. XI, 1923, p. 685. 49 Frederic Dreyer, The Sea Heritage: The Study of Maritime Warfare (London: Museum Press Ltd, 1955), pp. 278–9. 50 TNA ADM 116/6364, Tactical School, ‘Annual Report, 1937’. 51 TNA NMM/BLE/12, Earl Mountbatten of Burma comments of 1967, Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. 52 Ibid. 53 Hansard, House of Commons debate of 11 March 1937, Vol. 321, cc1367–508. 54 NMM/CHT/8/2. Demonstration, Jutland, Tactical Course, 1935, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Chatfield Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. 55 Tactical School, ‘Demonstration. Jutland – Battlefleet Action’, p. 2, 19 May 1935, Admiral Sir Harold Martin Burrough Papers, Imperial War Museum, London. 56 NMM/CHT/8/2. Demonstration, Jutland I, Tactical Course, 1935, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Chatfield Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. 57 Ibid., ‘Jutland II’. 58 Ibid., ‘Jutland III’. 59 Ibid. 60 Tactical School, ‘Course (X)’ syllabus, Admiral Sir Frederic Dreyer Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, CCC/DRYR/7/2. 61 Ibid. 62 Ibid. 63 NMM/BTY/7/2/2, ‘Grand Fleet Battle Tactics’, p. 2, unsigned paper of 1 January 1917, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty Papers, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. 64 Midshipman journal entry of 3 October 1928, Captain John Frederick Beaufoy-Brown Papers, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King’s College, London. 65 Ibid. entry of 24 January 1929. 66 Midshipman journal entry of 8 February 1922, Lieutenant Commander Gordon Colin Campbell Campbell-Johnston. (Privately held). 67 Ibid. entry of 9 February 1922. 68 Ibid. entry of 2 October 1922. 69 C.B. 1734 1734(2). Selected Reports of Tactical Exercises, etc. – Spring and Autumn 1926. Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe Papers, British Library, London, Add MSS 49,012.


Joseph Moretz

70 TNA ADM 1/8628/130, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet to Secretary of the Admiralty letter No. 1119/A.H. 1120 of 14 August 1922. 71 Ibid. entry of 6 October 1922. 72 TNA ADM 1/8711/146, Plans Division minute 02771/27 of 14 February 1927. 73 ‘Narrative of Command, North America and West Indies, Vol. VII’, p. 18, Admiral Sir Vernon Haggard Papers, Imperial War Museum, London, IWM/85/21. 74 Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916 Official Despatches with Appendices (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1920). 75 ‘Tactics’, Royal Naval Staff College lecture of 1921–22, Drax Papers, CCC/DRAX/7/2.


‘The sea is all one’ The dominion perspective, 1909–1914 David Stevens

In July–August 1909 the British Government convened an imperial conference in London to discuss the naval and military defence of the empire. The gathering had been urged by the two principal dominions, Canada and Australia, in the wake of widespread public anxiety, albeit largely unjustified, concerning Britain’s ability to maintain superiority over Germany in modern battleships. As such, the conference aimed to determine some definite measure of coordinated response amid a confusion of separate schemes forwarded by the diverse territories of the British Empire. For all the years of their European existence these distant outposts had relied for their ultimate security on the power and strategic reach of the Royal Navy. Yet, while the situation in home waters might be more sanguine than had been portrayed in the newspapers, at the 1909 conference Britain first admitted that it could no longer guarantee sea supremacy in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Within six years, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, first signed in 1902, would have terminated, the Japanese and German fleets would be ‘very formidable’, and the position of dominions such as Australia, isolated and remote from British naval strength, ‘might be one of some danger’.1

Pre-war planning Hence it was also at this conference, that the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fisher, put forward his plan to have the dominions acquire their own independent ‘Fleet Units’. The proposed model was centred on a new type of all big-gun armoured cruiser (later battlecruiser) and its high-speed scout cruisers or ‘satellites’. When combined with a local defence flotilla of destroyers and submarines, and suitable support vessels, the package was meant to represent an ideal force structure; small enough to be manageable by a dominion in times of peace but, in war, capable of effective coordinated action as a powerful imperial Pacific Fleet.2 Despite the Admiralty’s urgings only Australia immediately accepted the totality of the recommended force structure, encouraged by assurances that Britain would fund two further fleet units on the China and East Indies Stations. Canada, having rejected the fleet unit concept as unsuitable for a nation with a double seaboard, decided to limit its participation to a newly built light cruiser on the Pacific


David Stevens

coast, and another two cruisers and four destroyers on the Atlantic coast, the deal sweetened by an Admiralty offer to make available two old cruisers for training.3 However, New Zealand, which had initially made an unconditional offer to fund a dreadnought, ‘to bolster the battlefleet’, was encouraged to learn that not only would its ‘gift ship’ become flagship of the China Station but also that part of the China fleet unit would be permanently headquartered in New Zealand waters.4 Following discussions with New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward, Fisher remained confident that in time he would achieve his aim: ‘He saw it! It means eventually Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, and India running a complete Navy! We manage the job in Europe. They’ll manage it against the Yankees, Japs, and Chinese, as occasion requires it out there!’5 Despite Fisher’s evident enthusiasm, his retirement from office at the end of 1910 meant that the scheme lost almost all its momentum. Thereafter public pronouncements of a naval strategy for the distant dominions faded, entirely disappearing once the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was renewed in 1911. The issue was not raised again until 17 March 1914, when a new First Lord of the Admiralty, the ebullient Winston Churchill, contended that his government had given full effect to the 1909 Naval Agreement, but rather than ‘the mere duplication of the Australian unit’ it had decided to keep all Dreadnought-type ships in home waters, where alone they would meet their equals. Pre-Dreadnoughts, Churchill announced, were quite sufficient for the China and East Indies Stations.6 In the interim, rather than form independent navies, India and South Africa had continued to contribute subsidies towards the maintenance of the Royal Navy in their own waters.7 While New Zealand, having funded the construction of the battlecruiser New Zealand, accepted, without apparent demur, the Admiralty decision in November 1912 to retain her in Europe.8 Unwilling to enter into a junior partnership arrangement with Australia, New Zealand at first remained content to subsidise the continuing presence in her waters of two small British cruisers. Nevertheless, there remained some desire to make a start in creating a local naval force, and in 1913 the new administration of Prime Minister William Massey announced plans to build ‘a fast modern cruiser’ and secured agreement from the Admiralty to provide on loan an additional cruiser for training.9 The elderly Pearl-class cruiser Philomel was thereby transferred to the newly formed New Zealand Naval Forces in July 1914, joining the two subsidised Pelorus-class cruisers, Psyche and Pyramus, which had been based at Auckland since the previous year. Canada had in 1910 likewise created the Canadian Naval Forces (designated the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1911 concurrently with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)), and had soon welcomed the two training cruisers, Niobe and Rainbow, but had steadfastly failed to achieve a national consensus on a naval policy. In April 1914, when reviewing the Canadian Government’s war book plans, Rear Admiral Charles Kingsmill, first Director of the Canadian Naval Service, was moved to comment, ‘. . . at the present stage of naval defence it does not seem to be an important matter’.10 By July, the naval sections of the war book, mainly dealing with the local defence schemes for the ports of Halifax and Esquimalt,

The dominion perspective 167 had been completed, but Niobe remained laid up in Halifax for want of money and crew, leaving only the west coast cruiser, Rainbow, capable of going to sea.11 Unsurprisingly, when Rear Admiral Robert Phipps-Hornby arrived on the North American Station later that year as its first wartime commander he assessed ‘that no preparations had been made for war with a naval power’.12 Canada, with a nation of almost 100,000,000 people at its backdoor insisting on the Monroe Doctrine, which pledged the United States to defend the Americas from foreign intervention, might well cut itself adrift from the empire with a fair degree of safety.13 Australia, however, remained in a very different position, with an ongoing mistrust of British assurances that the imperial navy would be available when needed. Moreover, unlike the situation in Canada, both major political factions in Australia seemed to recognise just how pivotal a naval project on the scale of the fleet unit would be in developing both a domestic industrial base and a truly national sentiment. The ships were ordered from British shipyards with only minor changes made to Fisher’s suggested force structure, the most notable being the replacement of three C-class submarines with two larger and more advanced E-class boats. The major units of the new fleet unit sailed for the first time into Sydney Harbour on 4 October 1913; the new battlecruiser HMAS Australia (flag) leading the light cruisers Melbourne, Sydney and Encounter, and the three destroyers Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra. On the same day Admiral Sir George King-Hall hauled down his flag as the last British Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Australian Station, leaving the Australian fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Sir George Patey, who had brought the flagship out from England, and the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board, the RAN’s governing body, headed by Rear Admiral Sir William Creswell. During the transition phase leading up to the Australian Station’s transfer to local control, Admiral King-Hall had held wartime responsibility for the protection of the China Station’s main supply route from Sydney through the Torres Strait to Singapore, and the more general protection of trade on the shipping routes that clustered to Australia’s north. As such, four of the C-in-C’s five available cruisers, which included the two in New Zealand waters, were expected to operate in the Arafura and Java Seas as far westward as Bali, with their base at Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Adding to these clearly inadequate forces would be several armed merchant cruisers and requisitioned auxiliaries, plus the Admiralty had directed the transfer of two warships from the East Indies Station to assist in the Java Sea. As far as practicable, King-Hall was also to provide protection to the major overseas trade routes in the Indian Ocean that converged on Australia’s west coast, but this still meant that ‘the whole of the vast area of the Pacific’ had to be left virtually undefended.14 It seems unlikely that the Australian or New Zealand Governments were ever apprised of this fact. Although the precise action to be taken depended somewhat upon the designated enemy, the greatest threat was seen as hostile armed merchant cruisers attempting to ‘cut up British trade’, but ‘of course the primary consideration’ would remain ‘the destruction or capture of their Men-of-War’. The specific


David Stevens

enemy would be notified in a ‘Warning’ telegram sent out when war was imminent, but the powers with which the empire might find itself engaged were listed as: Germany, Holland (possibly forced into an offensive alliance by Germany), America, France and Japan, although the last three were not regarded as probable enemies. There nevertheless remained the potential for hostilities to break out under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance against America and Germany, either individually or in combination.15 The first elements of Australia’s new ocean-going fleet had begun arriving in local waters at the end of 1910. Ongoing discussions had confirmed that individual dominions reserved the right to determine whether and when to place their naval forces at the disposal of the Admiralty but, in a demonstration of Australia’s readiness to comply, the Commonwealth Government suggested that, pending the arrival of the major units, in time of emergency or war the nation’s existing naval forces would be placed under King-Hall’s control.16 Although the Admiralty agreed to the arrangements, it is of interest that the communication of the actual war orders to the Naval Board was regarded as ‘consonant with this arrangement, though . . . not a necessary part of it’ and did not occur until the end of 1912.17 This attitude, verging on condescension, had been apparent in previous correspondence between the Admiralty and Australian naval authorities, and it was not about to end. In addition to offering its extant forces, Australia sought from the Admiralty the necessary plan of action to render the expanded fleet as effective as possible in wartime. Yet, difficulties remained in formulating the appropriate procedures. For example, Australia would have preferred that, once placed at imperial disposal, the seagoing Australian Fleet should fill the same position as a Royal Navy squadron and the Naval Board function as a C-in-C ashore, but the Admiralty initially felt any direct Australian involvement in passing orders to individual ships would be unworkable.18 Moreover, posing difficulties on constitutional grounds was the Admiralty’s desire to communicate directly to the Naval Board before the transfer of control, with the only proper channel for the communication of war orders to the Board being through the Commonwealth Government, Governor-General and Colonial Secretary.19 Compromises were eventually found, but the Admiralty soon revealed that its interest lay solely in the control of the Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, seeing no general service requirement for the remainder of the Australian fleet, and nothing more than a subsidiary role for Rear Admiral Patey. By May 1913, the Admiralty had forwarded prepared war orders acquainting the Naval Board with the duties Australia’s ships would be called upon to perform and making it clear that they rested on solid doctrinal foundations: The orders themselves are drawn up in conformity with the two strategic principles which have governed the conduct of all successful naval warfare waged on a scale in past history by any maritime state. These two principles are (a) Concentrations of capital ships in the areas where the enemy is strong, to provide fleets capable of defeating his main forces should they put to sea

The dominion perspective 169 whatever object they have in view. This is the first essential upon which all else depends. (b) Dispersion of a certain number of lighter ships to protect sea-borne trade against the attacks of his lighter forces which may succeed in evading the forces concentrated in (a).20 Already apparent were hints that Australia’s ideas for a national maritime strategy did not meet imperial requirements. The RAN’s battlecruiser, the Admiralty continued, was stationed in peacetime too far from the main theatre to be available for the main concentration in (a). Australia could not therefore ‘bear any share in the events which will decide the future of every part of the Empire’. The most she could do ‘will be to reinforce the subsidiary concentration of armoured ships that will take place in the Eastern seas’. This at least reduced the potential for the China Squadron’s defeat in the event of war with one of the powers, Japan excepted, maintaining significant naval forces in the Far East. Such a scenario, the Admiralty admitted, might have serious consequences for Australia, but would not ‘necessarily involve the Empire as a whole in irretrievable disaster’. In the event of war, Australia should therefore proceed to Thursday Island, complete with coal, and there await orders from the C-in-C China Station. Simultaneously, Sydney or Melbourne, whichever the closer, would make their way to Fremantle in Western Australia to begin patrols and await orders from the C-in-C East Indies. The older cruiser Encounter, flying Patey’s flag, together with the remaining east coast cruiser, would first search for, then capture or destroy any of the nominated enemy’s unarmoured warships in or near Australian waters. Thereafter Encounter and Patey would return to Sydney and the light cruiser that had remained in the east, like Australia, would join the China Station. The Naval Board’s primary role was to secretly move the named ships to their war stations during any period of strained relations at the same time requisitioning three supply ships, then loading them with provisions, reserve ammunition and spare stores for the use of each warship deployed off station. The Commonwealth Government had no intention of entrusting its security to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance; and some in Navy Office would shortly be considering how best to defend Australia’s vulnerable northern approaches, using an expanded fleet unit to defeat, or better still deter, any potential Japanese aggression without imperial assistance.21 Hence, although the Naval Board remained in broad agreement with the received war orders, it also appreciated that, once placed under Admiralty orders, Australia could not be recalled. It was therefore felt essential that the battlecruiser should first bring to action any enemy armoured ship in Australian waters before leaving the station. Moreover, since it would be unwise for a ship of Australia’s draft to attempt the inadequately surveyed Torres Strait, it would be far preferable if she proceeded to Singapore or Hong Kong via Western Australia. These caveats the Admiralty accepted in March 1914.22 There remained the issue of RAN vessels not included in war orders, and these it seemed were to be employed in guarding trade and territory without specific Admiralty direction. Hence, at a meeting on 22 April 1914, the Board finalised its


David Stevens

own wartime plans. Pioneer, another elderly cruiser recently given to Australia as a training ship, together with the three new destroyers, were to be based in Sydney, accompany Patey’s force and proceed under his orders. The two new submarines, AE1 and AE2, shortly to arrive from Britain, would also use Sydney as a base and there provide local defence as directed. The former colonial gunboats Protector and Gayundah, both of similarly elderly vintage, would likewise remain under the Board’s control but protect the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane respectively.23 With minor amendments, these arrangements were finalised in a letter to the Admiralty drafted in late July 1914 but never sent.

The onset of war On 27 July, press reports brought news of impending war between AustriaHungary and Serbia, and the Admiralty broadcast a precautionary message, advising its foreign stations that war between the two opposing alliances of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Britain, France and Russia was ‘by no means impossible’. The Senior Naval Officer New Zealand, Captain Herbert Marshall in Psyche, was an addressee, although the Australian Naval Board was not.24 Two days later the Admiralty sent out its official warning telegram, but again the Naval Board was not an addressee and, owing to the 10-hour time difference, details only arrived in Melbourne late on the afternoon of 30 July via the C-in-C China.25 The declaration of war against Germany followed on 4 August. In the Pacific, the German East Asian Squadron, commanded since 1912 by Vizeadmiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee, posed the greatest threat to British mercantile links. Comprising the two armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and up to three light cruisers, Emden, Leipzig and Nürnberg (currently representing German interests off Mexico), the squadron had its base at Tsingtao (Qingdao) within the German concession in China, but roamed far more widely. Von Spee could also call on a number of smaller gunboats and armed survey craft, which served to patrol the waters of Germany’s Pacific possessions. The German Admiralstab’s instructions for East Asian and Australian operations had long sought to be proactive, striking widely and leaving little undisturbed. By stalking trade routes and colonial possessions, and even raiding dominion harbours to acquire coal and supplies, the Germans aimed to take advantage of the British Empire’s greatest strategic vulnerability – its enormous dispersal. The longer such a campaign could be maintained, the greater the economic difficulties imposed for, as the German war orders explained, mere uncertainty regarding the whereabouts of the raiders ‘will cause general unrest. The shipping companies will retain their vessels in port. Trade will block up, insurance premiums will rise, neutral ships will have to be chartered’.26 On 1 August, the Admiralty had asked the Canadians to keep Rainbow ready to protect west coast shipping, and she sailed from Esquimalt two day later heading for San Diego. Although almost certainly inferior to the Germans, she was also expected to look out for Nürnberg and Leipzig (which had recently replaced Nürnberg) and protect two British sloops also off Mexico.27 On 4 August, Canada

The dominion perspective 171 formally placed its two cruisers at the Admiralty’s disposal, and by good fortune by 15 August Rainbow and the two sloops were safely back in Esquimalt having seen nothing of the Germans.28 In New Zealand, Philomel was likewise transferred to Admiralty control on 4 August, giving Captain Marshall command of all three cruisers at Auckland.29 However, in view of the threat posed by von Spee’s armoured cruisers, neither he nor the New Zealand Government regarded this as sufficient to escort a small New Zealand expeditionary force, which the imperial authorities had directed to capture the German colony at Samoa.30 Meanwhile in Australia, Rear Admiral Patey had been cruising with most of his fleet in Queensland waters since June. As war loomed, the Naval Board’s best information held that a German gunboat, Geier, was nearing the Makassar Strait in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), while a survey ship, Planet, and the steam-yacht used by the Governor of the German Pacific colonies, Komet, were in New Guinea waters.31 From the East Asian Squadron, Emden was believed to be at Tsingtao, while von Spee’s remaining ships, and, most worryingly, his two armoured cruisers, had not been accurately placed for six weeks.32 German naval communications were being intercepted, but since the RAN possessed no radio direction-finding apparatus, operators could only plot a very rough position estimated from the received signal strength at different stations. The first results placed Scharnhorst 300 miles northeast of New Guinea and, although subsequent plottings varied considerably, the general operating area seemed confirmed.33 The Naval Board sent out its preliminary warning to Patey on 28 July and followed up with the Admiralty’s official warning telegram immediately after its receipt. Patey had all his ships underway before midnight on 30 July. Australia and Encounter proceeded south to Sydney where they had access to appropriate replenishment facilities. Melbourne followed, having first escorted the destroyers to Brisbane and provided them with oil and stores as best she could from her own resources. There the destroyers awaited further instructions. Sydney, then visiting Townsville independently, also awaited orders. In parallel, the Australian Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, advised the British Colonial Secretary, Lewis Harcourt, that ‘unofficially’ Australian ships would at once be placed at the Admiralty’s disposal.34 Harcourt responded with a request that the ships take up their preliminary stations in accordance with their war orders.35 This was more a gentleman’s agreement than the envisaged formal transfer of responsibility, but it took place earlier than the British had anticipated, gaining Churchill’s ‘warmest appreciation’ for ‘action at critical time’, and presumably allaying any lingering doubts over the Commonwealth’s readiness to assist.36 In any case, Munro Ferguson had soon followed up with a more official and complete offer, received by Harcourt on the evening of 3 August: ‘In the event of war Commonwealth of Australia prepared to place vessels of Australian Navy under control of British Admiralty when desired. Further prepared to despatch expeditionary force of 20,000 men of any suggested composition to any destination desired by Home Government’.37 Munro Ferguson’s formal proclamation followed on 10 August, but only after a meeting of the federal Executive Council. Labelled as the ‘Transfer of the Royal


David Stevens

Australian Navy to the King’s Naval Forces’, the order gained immediate press support, since ‘the sea is all one’ and ‘Mr Churchill and his advisers can now, without let or hindrance, work out their schemes with all the naval resources of the Empire’.38 In practical terms, however, the handover was never so comprehensive. Despite the order specifying the transfer of ‘all the vessels of the Commonwealth Naval Forces, and all the officers and seamen of those vessels’, the Admiralty never took this literally, only ever seeking the assets it needed and generally maintaining a consultative approach with Australia’s politicians. Moreover, the British evinced no interest in the RAN’s bureaucratic or personnel administration, appreciating that the Naval Board retained control of all shore establishments and ships remaining in Australian waters and full responsibility to the Commonwealth Government for local defence. Despite its diminished status, the Naval Board remained ready to stand up for Australian interests, first demonstrating its willingness to question Admiralty instructions as early as 3 August, just before Australia, her storing complete, prepared to sail from Sydney for Western Australia. During the day, Rear Admiral Creswell called on the Defence Minister, Senator Edward Millen, to gain his agreement to a proposed modification to the battlecruiser’s movements.39 The then C-in-C China, Vice Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, expected Australia’s support within eight to twelve days of hostilities opening, and the Admiralty had specifically asked that her departure for Hong Kong not be delayed.40 But in consultation with Patey, the Naval Board had agreed that the suspected movements of German warships near New Guinea matched the war scenario requiring Australia’s presence. With Melbourne tasked as the cruiser to proceed to Fremantle for patrol duties, the Board recommended that Patey retain his flag in Australia, rendezvous with Sydney, Encounter and the destroyers south of Port Moresby, and from there seek out von Spee.41 The Admiralty concurred without additional comment. In the interim, the Naval Board had found that transferring control to the Admiralty had not lessened its activities or responsibilities. In view of the threatened concentration of German warships to the north, late on 5 August the Board ordered Melbourne to join Patey’s force without reference to London. Pioneer, ordered out of a dry dock in Melbourne, provisioned, coaled and ready for sea within 24 hours, proceeded to Fremantle to assume the role of protecting western trade routes. Actions sufficient to deal with the immediate requirements of local defence were in hand, but the British, in gratefully accepting the GovernorGeneral’s offer of a large expeditionary force, not only requested its despatch to Europe as soon as possible but also added ‘a great and urgent imperial service’, namely the seizure of the German cable and wireless stations at New Guinea, Yap in the Marshall Islands, and Nauru.42 Together with the complementary expedition from New Zealand to capture Samoa, the operations had been devised in the Admiralty just days before by Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson, Director of the Operations Division, and Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, the Chief of War Staff.43 The Committee of Imperial Defence had conceived of somewhat similar operations to disrupt Germany’s Pacific communications in 1911, but handing responsibility over to the dominions

The dominion perspective 173 represented a new approach; one that would not dissipate the concentration of strength in the main area of hostilities. Sturdee listed stimulating the ‘imperial idea’ as one potential benefit, but by encouraging Australia and New Zealand to pose a powerful and dispersed threat to Germany’s colonial possessions, the planners’ primary aim was to compel von Spee to intervene, thereby disrupting his plans for cruiser warfare and indirectly protecting trade.44 After sailing from Sydney, Australia had five days to run before a rendezvous with the remainder of the fleet on 9 August. At this point, Patey’s best estimate held that Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were about a hundred miles northeast of Malaita in the British Solomons.45 Two German colliers that had hurriedly quit Newcastle on 3 August might well be planning to act in support, probably making for Rabaul in New Britain, where the Germans maintained their colonial administration.46 From his position in the Coral Sea, Patey believed he could retain communications with both Port Moresby and Thursday Island, and be well positioned to watch Torres Strait, moving to follow von Spee or attack Rabaul only if he received definite news. Patey’s greatest constraint was his fleet’s limited endurance. He had no colliers with him, and at some stage he would need to stop or retrace his steps to allow those chartered by the Naval Board to catch up. ‘The whole German Eastern Fleet is concentrating off German New Guinea’, he wrote to a friend. ‘My best way of protecting trade is to get hold of some of these ships if I can, but it is a very difficult problem with all the immense distances to arrange for coal & oil’.47 To this point Patey had been acting independently, but the Naval Board kept the Admiralty informed of his movements and the latter directed that he contact Vice Admiral Jerram, so that they could take joint action against the Germans.48 The C-in-C China had been last heard from on 6 August, reporting his departure from Hong Kong in the armoured cruiser Minotaur in company with Hampshire and Newcastle. Jerram hoped to intercept Emden and four German colliers thought to be steaming south from Tsingtao and indicated that he would possibly proceed as far as Yap. Von Spee, he felt, might either be proceeding to South America, chasing the French armoured cruiser Montcalm in the South Pacific, or returning to China.49 How the two British admirals should best cooperate at such a remove the Admiralty did not immediately suggest. Nor could Patey elicit a reply from Jerram until the evening of 12 August, since the latter had forbidden the use of wireless to avoid disclosing his movements.50 But the Admiralty evidently agreed that von Spee was closer to Patey, confirming that he should ‘reconnoitre Rabaul and attack German cruisers, coal and wireless forthwith’.51 Patey had meanwhile gathered his commanding officers together for a briefing on ‘Operation Order No.1’. Since all were fully familiar with their expected roles, the meeting did not take long. By midday on 9 August the fleet was proceeding eastwards at 14 knots, Sydney and the destroyers taking station astern of Australia. In addition to Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and possibly Nürnberg, Patey had reminded his captains that Komet and Planet might also be in the area. His objectives were relatively straightforward: torpedo any warships found in the harbour, then follow up by destroying the wireless station.52 After steaming under


David Stevens

complete wireless silence, the plan called for Sydney and the three destroyers to detach on the evening of 11 August and make the final approach on the German harbour independently. Australia would remain 16 miles back to provide cover, the smaller ships retiring on the battlecruiser should they encounter the Germans outside the bay. The actual attack on the anchored enemy warships he left to the destroyer flotilla, Sydney remaining outside to deal with any patrols. Patey scheduled the attack for 21:00, allowing for almost 80 minutes of complete darkness before moonrise. Hence, it was in almost certain expectation of battle that Sydney and the three black-painted destroyers approached the harbour outside Rabaul, and a huge disappointment when they found it empty. Unable to find the wireless station and with his ships requiring fuel, Patey sailed again on the afternoon of 12 August. Encounter with the destroyers parted company the next day, bound directly for the lagoon at Rossel Island to refuel and rejoin with Melbourne. Australia and Sydney diverted to reconnoitre the southwest coast of Bougainville and the Shortland Islands. Thereafter, Australia proceeded to Port Moresby where he expected to meet another of the Naval Board’s chartered colliers, leaving Sydney to join the remainder of the fleet at Rossel. Assuming no specific news of von Spee, Patey had in mind that Australia, Melbourne and Sydney should next proceed to Nauru to destroy the wireless station, leaving Encounter and the destroyers to maintain wireless contact with Port Moresby and provide support for the 1,500 troops of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF), destined to occupy German New Guinea and then assembling at Sydney. The destruction of Yap, Patey felt, would be better left to Vice Admiral Jerram since the Australian cruisers could not attack both Nauru and Yap without returning for coal.53 However, on 13 August Patey received orders from the Admiralty to take command of the Samoa expedition in Australia and join the New Zealand convoy at Noumea.54 These orders imposed a three-week delay on the occupation of German New Guinea, and afterwards provided the focus for criticism that Australia had been diverted unnecessarily from her supposed primary objective, accounting for the German cruisers. The official historian, Arthur Jose, for example, wrote that the Admiralty’s intervention ‘entirely frustrated’ the RAN’s hunt for von Spee.55 Yet the soundness of Leveson and Sturdee’s original desire to goad von Spee into reaction had not lessened. Without precise knowledge of German intentions, Patey could never have enough warships, or colliers to supply them, to search the many potential Pacific anchorages. The battlecruiser remained the only Allied vessel von Spee need fear in the South Pacific, and since Rabaul had already broadcast Australia’s activities in New Guinea, it seemed far wiser to encourage von Spee’s intervention elsewhere. In view of further intelligence suggesting that von Spee’s light cruisers might now be in company, Patey determined that Melbourne should accompany Australia, and she joined the flagship from Rossel Island on 20 August.56 Sydney remained behind to support the AN&MEF. Anchoring outside the harbour at Noumea on the morning of 21 August, Australia and Melbourne found waiting two New Zealand transports, carrying 1,383 men, together with Psyche, Pyramus and Philomel, and Montcalm, flying the flag

The dominion perspective 175 of Contre Amiral Albert Huguet, C-in-C French Naval Forces in the Far East. At the subsequent conference, Patey briefed the commanders on his covering plans for the convoy, the attack on the Samoan capital at Apia and the procedure in case of an enemy encounter. Patey had initially intended to form his battle line Australia, Melbourne, Montcalm, but in deference to Huguet he moved Montcalm immediately astern of Australia. He left the French admiral in no doubt, however, that, if it came to a chase, the two faster Australian ships would speed ahead. Captain Marshall’s cruisers would protect the convoy; Philomel leading them away, Pyramus bringing up the rear and Psyche taking charge while keeping Australia between herself and the enemy.57 The convoy left Noumea on 23 August and arrived off Apia a week later, after a coaling stop at Suva and news that the Japanese had entered the war on the Allied side. To avoid alerting von Spee to Australia’s presence, Patey directed that all her wireless traffic must be passed at low power to Montcalm for retransmission. Once more, Patey and his men were disappointed to find no sign of the Germans, and the New Zealand occupation of Samoa proceeded without hindrance. Thereafter Patey returned with Australia to New Guinea waters, while he detached Melbourne to complete the destruction of the German wireless station at Nauru. In fact, the operation did succeed in attracting the Germans, although not in the manner expected. At Ponape with Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Nürnberg when war was declared, von Spee sailed on 6 August for the Marianne Islands. There he rendezvoused with Emden, the auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich and several colliers. On 13 August von Spee gathered together his commanding officers for a conference aboard Scharnhorst. The squadron’s priorities had recently been designated as attacks on trade in the focal areas in the Arabian Sea and off the Australian coast, but implementation remained dependent upon securing adequate coal supplies.58 Owing to the superior Australian, British and, potentially, Japanese forces gathering against him, von Spee was aware that he must keep moving. A transfer to the Indian Ocean, however, would face the perils of passing through the British-controlled Malay archipelago, followed by the impossibility of obtaining fuel once the meagre coal stocks already collected were exhausted. Only by proceeding east across the Pacific was there some chance of obtaining supplies from neutral territories.59 Such a course meant the temporary abandonment of cruiser warfare, but von Spee still saw value in maintaining his squadron as a ‘fleet in being’, concealing its whereabouts in order ‘to cause anxiety to the enemy’ and thereby holding down a large number of enemy ships.60 Not all his subordinates agreed. Emden’s Fregattenkapitän Karl von Müller expressed his fears that a long Pacific cruise might achieve practically nothing, with consequent loss of prestige for the German Navy. He therefore forcefully argued that Emden should operate independently in the Indian Ocean. After some hours consideration von Spee agreed.61 Von Spee sailed from Pagan on 14 August, but hampering his decision-making was the rapid impairment of his communications. The destruction of Yap by Vice Admiral Jerram on 12 August had meant the loss of his main intelligence centre and the end of wireless communications with Berlin. Nevertheless, on 17 August


David Stevens

Nauru broadcast news of the presence of the Australian fleet off Rabaul, and von Spee judged that it was ‘employed in searching the German Protectorates, where we are supposed to be’.62 Five days later he sent Nürnberg to Honolulu taking letters and telegrams for transmission to Germany and the supply bases on the west coast of the Americas. The German squadron proceeded around the Marshall Islands group at economical speed. The auxiliary cruiser Cormoran had joined on 28 August, and two days later von Spee detached her and Prinz Eitel Friedrich with one collier for Western Australian waters. The Germans do not appear to have detected the passage of Patey’s convoy to Samoa, but on the night of 30–31 August they did intercept signals between Australia and a New Zealand wireless station, followed on 3 September by news relayed from Nürnberg regarding Apia’s occupation. Correctly assessing that Australia had led the operation, von Spee decided to mount a counter-attack. An attempt to retake Samoa remained impracticable, but an approach on Apia before dawn might succeed in catching unawares a good number of supply steamers and warships lying at anchor. After detaching Nürnberg and a collier to destroy the Australia–Canada cable at Fanning Island, von Spee sailed with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from Christmas Island on 9 September. With no indication of Australia’s presence, just after daybreak on 14 September the Germans made their approach to Apia, where they found only two small sailing vessels in the harbour. Von Spee had not the forces to make an opposed landing, felt the range too great to make firing on the wireless station worthwhile and refrained from bombarding buildings or the New Zealand tent accommodation owing to the presence of native civilians and a wish to avoid damaging German property.63 Having achieved nothing other than to reveal their presence the German cruisers departed. Patey had meanwhile been assembling his forces for the occupation of German New Guinea; the fleet eventually including Australia, Sydney, Encounter, Protector, Parramatta, Warrego, Yarra and the submarines AE1 and AE2. In addition to its warships the RAN had also requisitioned four fleet auxiliaries within a fortnight of the war’s outbreak. Conversion to respectively a stores and ammunition ship, submarine support ship, armed transport and hospital ship had been eased by the Admiralty’s long-standing mobilisation plans for the station and, more particularly, the stores freely transferred to the RAN in October 1913 and held at Garden Island in Sydney. The first landings took place near Rabaul at dawn on 11 September, the destroyers and Sydney having again ensured that the adjacent waters remained free of enemy warships. Ashore, the enemy numbered some three hundred German and native troops. They had prepared a series of trenches along the main road leading to the wireless station, but by bold action and bluff small parties of RAN reservists outflanked and overwhelmed the opposition. Faced with Australia’s overwhelming presence, the local German Governor soon capitulated. Then, in a series of bloodless affairs, Australian forces proceeded to occupy the remainder of nearby enemy territories, in the process Sydney destroyed the last remaining German wireless station at Anguar, and the yacht Komet was captured in a harbour some 170 miles from Rabaul.

The dominion perspective 177 While the bulk of the RAN’s strength had been engaged in New Guinea, discussions had continued concerning the safe transport of the first troops of the Australian expeditionary force to Europe. The 8,270 men assembled by New Zealand for the European theatre required like consideration. From the start the Admiralty made it clear that for reasons of safety and efficiency it would countenance neither independent sailings nor the sailing of several small convoys.64 By mid-September, arrangements were in place for the New Zealand transports to sail from Wellington, proceeding direct to Western Australia and arriving there on 7 October. The escort would be provided first by Psyche and Philomel, then by Pyramus, despite New Zealand’s continuing anxiety that their capabilities were insufficient. Waiting for them at King George Sound at Albany in Western Australia would be the assembled Australian transports, after which the combined troop convoy would be escorted across the Indian Ocean by Australia, Sydney, Melbourne and the British cruiser Hampshire.65 Von Spee’s appearance off Apia, together with Emden’s attacks on merchant shipping in the Bay of Bengal, threw these arrangements into disarray. Thereafter the Admiralty ordered Patey to set up a new base for the Australian Fleet at Suva, and Hampshire to neutralise Emden, leaving only Melbourne for escort duties. Instead, the Admiralty redirected Minotaur and the Japanese armoured cruiser Ibuki to join the convoy in Western Australia.66 Since the Admiralty believed that von Spee was far more likely to attack the New Guinea expedition than steam 2,000 miles south into waters where he could not get coal, these new dispositions did nothing to enhance the escort from New Zealand. This was a severe political miscalculation. Von Spee’s unexpected arrival in Samoa encouraged further dominion distrust of the Admiralty’s assurances as to the safety of the transports. Moreover, this unease became coupled with a belief that the Australian Fleet and China Squadron had been mishandled, thereby delivering the initiative to the Germans.67 Against its better judgment, on 23 September the Admiralty directed Ibuki and Minotaur to bypass Fremantle and steam south around Australia to New Zealand, accepting that this must impose a three-week delay in the departure of the first Australasian contingents. The news that von Spee had appeared off Tahiti on 22 September, 3,300 miles from Sydney, encouraged the Naval Board to suggest that conditions had altered, but did nothing to allay New Zealand’s concerns that a Tasman Sea passage still posed unacceptable risks. Indeed, when on 4 October the Admiralty proposed that the expedition might usefully depart without further delay and meet Minotaur and Ibuki half way, New Zealand’s Prime Minister William Massey threatened to resign if adequate escorts were not provided.68 The two large cruisers duly arrived at Wellington on 13 October, and sailed three days later with the ten transports of the New Zealand convoy as well as Psyche and Philomel. Pyramus joined them at Hobart on 21 October. Badly in need of a refit, Psyche proceeded to Sydney when the voyage westwards resumed the following day and eventually paid off. With the New Zealand convoy underway, the Naval Board ordered the Australian transports to depart from their various ports so that they could concentrate at


David Stevens

King George Sound. Melbourne sailed from Sydney on 17 October to cover their movements, reaching Albany on 25 October, with the New Zealand convoy and its escort joining three days later. Philomel and Pyramus afterwards made their own way to Singapore for operations in the Middle East. It remained only to further enhance the convoy escort and, having been detached from Patey’s force at Suva, Sydney arrived at Albany on 31 October, the day before the convoy sailed. Having correctly predicted that von Spee would not risk an incursion into the Tasman Sea, the Admiralty now assessed that the presence of the light cruisers Königsberg and Emden in the Indian Ocean posed the greatest threat to the convoy. Based on the German East African Station, Königsberg had last been seen on 20 September off Zanzibar. The subsequent blockade of Königsberg in the Rufiji River and Sydney’s destruction of Emden on 9 November need not be recounted here. But although these successes left the Allied navies with a sense of triumph, important issues remained to be considered. Following the safe arrival of the Australasian convoy at Aden, the Admiralty had planned for Melbourne and Sydney to join the forces hunting Emden on the East Indies Station. Instead, on the day after Emden’s loss, the Admiralty telegraphed its desire to use the two Australian cruisers in the Atlantic.69 The resultant Australian response was thoughtful rather than spontaneous, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher first seeking confirmation that naval dispositions in the Far East remained adequate. He then reminded the Admiralty that the whereabouts of at least one enemy auxiliary cruiser (either Prinz Eitel Friedrich or Cormoran) still remained unknown; that some of the dozen German merchantmen still in neutral ports might yet be armed; that von Spee still had access to coal in the Pacific and might well return; and, most importantly, that a second large troop contingent was due to leave Australia in mid-December.70 Doubtless, some dominion authorities still remained uneasy about the depth of Britain’s regional security commitment, Australia’s Defence Minister later commenting how the empire had ‘paid the penalty’ for Britain’s pre-war withdrawal of its naval strength from the region ‘by loss of trade and prestige’.71 All the same, that the Commonwealth had even been consulted on the move indicated some measure of respect for the relationship. The Federal Government readily acceded to the Admiralty’s ‘reassuring’ explanation, which managed to encapsulate a strategic view that both encircled the globe and clearly identified the part that Australia’s three major warships should now play: It is necessary to profit instantly and to [the] full from the destruction of EMDEN and the blocking of KÖNIGSBERG so as to combine every effort against SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU. Admiralty therefore propose to move MELBOURNE and SYDNEY into the Atlantic with other British fast cruisers and simultaneously to search the Pacific shore [of] South America with an Anglo-Japanese squadron under His Majesty’s Ship AUSTRALIA. Sufficient British ships are left for convoy duties in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and Japanese fleet is also there. If any German warships return to Australasian waters suitable reinforcements will be sent immediately.

The dominion perspective 179 Admiralty feel sure Commonwealth will wish that military considerations should rule and that boldest and most rigorous use should be made of these valuable ships.72 Australia subsequently became flagship of ‘Force A’, closing down upon von Spee from the Pacific side of South America while Vice Admiral Sturdee, with the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible, approached from the Atlantic. Even the RCN played a part. Heading east and beyond the range of wireless stations in the western Pacific, Patey had first made contact with the remainder of his new command by making use of Rainbow, stationed between San Francisco and San Diego, as a wireless linking ship and passing messages via Esquimalt.73 As is well recorded, rather than remain in South American waters, von Spee decided to make his way back to the Atlantic, first attempting a raid on Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. There on 8 December he found Sturdee’s force and in a decisive action, Scharnhorst, Gneisnau, Leipzig and Nürnberg were sunk. The destruction of von Spee’s squadron affected the Royal Navy’s position all over the globe. The strain was relaxed, any remaining German warships in the Pacific – still hampered by a lack of coal – were soon interned or destroyed, and the way was clear for Australia and other detached capital ships to concentrate in the main theatre. The Royal Navy was still not entirely sure that independent dominion navies were the way of the future, but there remained no doubt that the forces that existed in 1914, and more particularly the RAN, had proved their worth. As Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson opined in November 1914, ‘. . . we should from the first have controlled the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans . . . It is the existence of the Australian Squadron that has saved the situation’.74 Final vindication of Australia’s position came at the 1919 Imperial Conference, with the Admiralty’s acceptance that: ‘The policy of forming Dominion Navies has the great advantage of stimulating national pride and effort in naval affairs and it is therefore recommended that Canada, New Zealand and South Africa should gradually build up navies of their own on the Australian model’.75 A combination of post-war constraints on defence spending, naval arms reduction treaties and the necessity for each dominion to set its own priorities would often stymie future cooperation. But the foundations had been laid, and the policy of collective defence would set the tenor for naval relationships within the British Commonwealth throughout World War II and for several decades thereafter.76

Notes 1 Admiralty Conference, 10 Aug. 1909, The National Archives (TNA): CAB/18/12A. 2 Nicholas Lambert, ‘Sir John Fisher, the fleet unit concept and the creation of the Australian Navy’, in David Stevens and John Reeve (eds), Southern Trident: Strategy, history and the rise of Australian naval power, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2001, pp. 214–24. 3 Marc Milner, Canada’s Navy: The First Century, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1999, pp. 15–16.


David Stevens

4 Ian McGibbon, The Path to Gallipoli: Defending New Zealand 1840–1915, GP Books, Wellington, 1991, p. 171; and Reginald McKenna to Sir Joseph Ward, 18 August 1909, in Nicholas Tracy (ed.), The Collective Naval Defence of the Empire, 1900–1940, Ashgate for the Naval Records Society, Aldershot, 1997, p. 111. 5 Fisher to Esher, 13 September 1909, quoted in A.J. Marder, Fear God and Dread Nought: The Correspondence of Admiral of the Fleet The Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, Vol II, Years of Power 1904–1914, Jonathon Cape, London, 1956, p. 266. 6 ‘The Navy, Admiralty’s Policy’, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Mar. 1914, p. 8. 7 Tracy, The Collective Naval Defence of the Empire, pp. xxiv, xl. 8 Denis Fairfax, The Battlecruiser New Zealand: Our ‘Gift Ship’, New Zealand Defence Force, Auckland, 2013, pp. 11–12. 9 Ian McGibbon, ‘New Zealand Naval Defence in the First World War’, in Peter Denerly and Olwen Morgan (eds), The Maritime Dimension in the Asia Pacific Region, Royal New Zealand Navy Museum, Auckland, 2004, pp. 101–14. 10 Kingsmill memo, 1 Apr. 1914, cited in William Johnston, William Rawling, Richard Gimblett and John MacFarlane, The Seabound Coast: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1867–1939, Vol. 1, Dundurn Press, Toronto, 2010, p. 215. 11 Milner, Canada’s Navy, pp. 28, 44. 12 Rear Admiral Phipps-Hornby to Admiralty, 10 Jun. 1915, TNA ADM/137/503. 13 C-in-C Australian Station to Governor-General, 13 Sep. 1912, National Archives of Australia (Victoria) (NAA(VIC)): MP1049/1, 1914/157. 14 ‘War Orders Australia Station’, 15 Jan. 1912, amended to 25 Jun. 1912, TNA ADM/116/3132. 15 ‘War Orders Australia Station’, 15 Jan. 1912, TNA ADM/116/3132. 16 Admiralty to C-in-C Australian Station, 11 Jun. 1912, TNA ADM/116/3132. 17 Minute by Nicholson, 19 November 1912, TNA ADM/116/3132. 18 Governor-General to Colonial Secretary, 17 Jun. 1912, and Naval Representative London to Naval Board, 24 Aug. 1912, NAA(VIC): MP1049/1, 1914/154. 19 Colonial Office to Admiralty, 22 November 1912, NAA(VIC): MP1049/1, 1914/154. 20 Admiralty to Naval Board, 15 May 1913, NAA(VIC): MP1049/1, 1914/157. 21 See David Stevens, ‘ “Defend the North”: Commander Thring, Captain Hughes-Onslow and the beginnings of Australian naval strategic thought’, in David Stevens and John Reeve (eds), Southern Trident, Strategy, History and the Rise of Australian Naval Power, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2001, pp. 225–41. 22 ‘Proposed amendment to War Orders for HMAS Australia’, initialled by Creswell, 30 Mar. 1914, NAA(VIC): MP1049/1, 1914/157. 23 Naval Board Minutes, 22 Apr. 1914, NAA (Australian Capital Territory (ACT)): A2585, 1914/1919. 24 Admiralty to SNO New Zealand Division, 27 Jul. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. 25 Arthur Jose, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Vol. IX: The Royal Australian Navy, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1928, p. 3 26 ‘Orders for German Cruiser Squadron, on the East Asian and Australian Stations’, 6 March 1906, German Federal Military Archive, Freiburg: RM5/v6256, p. 143f. 27 Milner, Canada’s Navy, pp. 35–6, 39–40. 28 Johnston et al., The Seabound Coast, pp. 215–16. 29 McGibbon, ‘New Zealand Naval Defence in the First World War’, p. 107. 30 Senior Naval Officer Auckland to Admiralty, 10 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. 31 OU 5470, The First Australasian Convoy, Naval Staff, Jan. 1921, p. 5. 32 ‘Australian Navy – Naval Efforts of the Commonwealth’, 17 Feb. 1919, TNA ADM/116/1686. 33 Engineer for Radio Telegraphy Balsillie to Naval Secretary, 7 Aug. 1914, NAA(VIC): MP1049/1, 1916/0235. 34 Governor-General to Colonial Secretary, 30 Jul. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. 35 Colonial Office to Governor-General, 30 Jul. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4.

The dominion perspective 181 36 37 38 39

40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58

59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71

Draft minute, First Lord to Admiralty Secretary, 30 Jul. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. Governor-General to Colonial Secretary, 3 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. ‘Transferred to Empire’, Argus (Melbourne), 11 Aug. 1914, pp. 7, 10. Captain Thring to Hector Bywater, 4 Sept. 1934, in David Stevens, ‘Australian Naval Defence: Selections from the Papers and Correspondence of Captain WHCS Thring 1913–34’, in Susan Rose (ed.), The Naval Miscellany, Vol. VII, Ashgate for the Navy Records Society, Aldershot, 2008, p. 458. Geoffrey Hooper, draft Emden narrative, Naval Historical Branch, Portsmouth, p. 15. Naval Board to Admiralty, 3 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. Colonial Secretary to Governor-General, 6 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. ‘Extract from proceedings of a Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence’, 5 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM137/7/1–4. Admiralty staff comments on telegram, Governor of New Zealand to Colonial Secretary, 2 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM137/7/1–4. Operations Against the German Squadron and Colonies’, 17 Feb. 1919, TNA ADM/ 116/1686. Singapore to Admiralty, 3 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/1/1–4. Rear Admiral Patey to Charles and Helen Patey, 10 Aug. 1914, Australian War Memorial (AWM): 2DRL/0795. Admiralty to ACNB, 7 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. C-in-C China to Admiralty, 6 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. ‘German Cruiser Squadron in the Pacific’, Naval Staff Monograph No. 1, Nov. 1920, pp. 64, 72. Admiralty to ACNB, 10 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. Australia, Operation Order No. 1, 7 Aug. 1914, AWM: 3DRL/53, 12/5/41. Naval Board to Admiralty, 13 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/1–4. Admiralty to Naval Board, 15 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/5–6. Jose, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 51. Admiralty to Naval Board, 20 Aug. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/5–6. Australia, Operation Order No. 2, 20 Aug. 1914, AWM: 3DRL/53, 12/5/41. Peter Overlack, ‘The commander in crisis: Graf Spee and the German East Asian Cruiser Squadron’, in David Stevens and John Reeve (eds), The Face of Naval Battle: The Human Experience of Modern War at Sea, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2003, pp. 77–9. Paul Halpern, A Naval History of World War I, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1994, pp. 67–8. Erich Raeder, Der Krieg zur See, 1914–1918, Der Kreuzerkrieg in den ausländischen Gewässern, Vol. 1, Mittler, Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn, 1922, pp. 76, 80. OU 6337(40), Review of German Cruiser Warfare, 1914–1918, Admiralty, 1940, p. 4. Raeder, Der Krieg zur See, p. 122. SL 3927, Cruiser Warfare in Foreign Waters, Vol. 1, Admiralty Library, p. 142. OU 5470, The First Australasian Convoy 1914, Naval Staff Monograph No. 14, Jan. 1921, p. 5. Governor New Zealand to Colonial Office, 13 Sept. 1914, and ACNB to Admiralty, 14 Sept. 1914, TNA ADM/137/1. Admiralty to ACNB, 16 Sept. 1914, TNA ADM/137/7/11–12. Admiral Jackson, ‘Proposed Draft Reply to New Zealand’, 19 Sept. 1914, TNA ADM/ 137/1. Admiralty to SNO New Zealand, 4 Oct. 1914, and Governor New Zealand to Colonial Office, 4 Oct. 1914, TNA ADM/137/2. Defence Minister to Naval Secretary, 11 Nov. 1914, AWM: AWM36, 20/3. Prime Minister to Governor-General, 13 Nov. 1914, AWM: AWM36, 20/3. ‘Memorandum by Senator the Hon. E.D. Millen on Relinquishing Office as Minister for Defence’, TNA ADM/137/2.


David Stevens

72 Colonial Secretary to Governor-General, 17 Nov. 1914, AWM: AWM36, 20/3. 73 Vice Admiral Commanding Australian Fleet, General Report No. 32, 27 Nov. 1914, AWM: 3DRL/53, 12/5/41. 74 Admiral Henderson to Richard Jebb, 11 Nov. 1914, cited in Peter Overlack, ‘Australasia and Germany’, in David Stevens (ed.), Maritime Power in the Twentieth Century: The Australian Experience, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 38. 75 Cited in Tracy, The Collective Naval Defence of the Empire, pp. xxviii–xxix. 76 See David Stevens, ‘The RAN/RN Cruiser Exchange 1924–36’, in Kathryn Young and Rhett Mitchell (eds), The Commonwealth Navies: 100 Years of Cooperation, Sea Power Centre – Australia, Canberra, 2012, pp. 9–20.

10 Royal Navy concepts of air power in the maritime environment 1900–1918 David Jordan1

It is not entirely unreasonable to suggest that the use of aircraft during the First World War is only partially understood, both in terms of popular and academic histories.2 The conflict is still deeply associated with notions of ‘knights of the air’, fighting deadly – but chivalric – air battles. David Lloyd George produced perhaps the most hyperbolic contemporary analysis, observing: High above the squalor and the mud . . . they fight out the eternal issues of right and wrong. . . . They are the knighthood of this War without fear and without reproach.3 He also referred to those fighting the air war as ‘the cavalry of the clouds’, and his concluding peroration that ‘every flight [was] a romance’ seems to have affected many post-war accounts of air warfare.3 This is perhaps unsurprising, since for all its rhetoric, Lloyd George’s speech had resonance in a nation appalled by the conditions of the trenches but which – like Germany and France – thrilled to the exploits of its aviators. The idea of combat unsullied by mud, while naïve, appealed, and the publicity granted to ‘ace’ pilots such as Manfred von Richthofen suggested that the populations of the main combatants preferred to think of air warfare as some sort of idealised arena when it was, in fact, as dangerous and unsentimental as the war on the ground. Furthermore, there was a clear fascination with powered flight which inspired public affection for aviators well before war broke out in 1914. Although balloons had been used during conflicts prior to the Twentieth Century, the air was a largely unexploited environment until the work of the Wright Brothers brought about the first successful heavier-than-air craft, in the form of the aeroplane. At around the same time, the work of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin had brought about the rigid airship, which offered great potential in terms of the size, endurance and payload potential of the craft in comparison with those airships without an internal structure.4 A combination of fear over German militarism, the supposed (and metaphorical) ending of Britain’s island status after Blériot’s Channel flight in 1909 and a number of press scares helped to inspire the creation of Britain’s air service, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The RFC, created in 1912, was originally meant to consist of a military and a naval wing, in


David Jordan

effect being what we would now term a ‘joint’ organisation. The Admiralty were unconvinced that this met the needs of the Royal Navy (RN), and in 1914, the naval wing split from the RFC to become the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The story of how the bifurcation of effort between the Admiralty and the War Office led to bitter disputes and problems of efficiency has been well covered in the historiography of the First World War; the effect was profound, since it led to the decision to create a third service to control Britain’s air effort in the form of the Royal Air Force (RAF).5 The creation of the Royal Air Force did not, of course, bring to an end the work of the RNAS; this simply continued under the auspices of the combined air service. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency within at least the popular historiography to underplay the part of the RNAS in the development of British air power. Unlike the RFC and RAF, personal memoirs are few in number, and often covered areas which did not have the ‘glamour’ associated with air fighting – a result of the relatively small proportion of the RNAS’s effort devoted to that role, unlike that of the RFC.6 The most well-known of the RNAS memoirs are those written by fighter pilots such as Raymond Collishaw and Leonard ‘Titch’ Rochford.7 It is also true that there is a lack of coverage of the RNAS in comparison with that of the land-based air services. This is not to say that such literature is absent. As John Morrow has observed, while the air war at sea was a minor matter when compared with the use of aircraft over land, there is a useful corpus of literature which helps to inform our understanding of the RNAS.8 S.W. Roskill’s volume of documents on the naval air service has been a key resource for historians since its publication in 1969, and a number of insightful book chapters have examined the work of the RNAS specifically.9 Nevertheless, Morrow’s observation ‘there is still much to be done concerning aviation and the sea’ remains valid.10 To this admixture may be added confusion and stereotyping as to the sophistication (or otherwise) of those leading the RN and their perceptions of how air power could and should be used. Although not in the same league as some of the egregious assumptions made about the British Army’s hierarchy and its views on air power, one might be forgiven for thinking that the Royal Navy’s leadership never truly valued or understood the potential that aircraft brought to their operations. Lord Curzon, President of the Air Board (set up to coordinate the efforts of the RFC and RNAS), complained that the Admiralty had been unhelpful, making the Board’s work more difficult. Curzon held the Admiralty to be ‘deficient both in understanding and in imagination’, contending that its view upon rigid airships was a ‘melancholy illustration of their lack of foresight’, which had in turn ensured that the RNAS had not ‘made anything like the development that has attended the RFC’.11 There was truth in Curzon’s complaint; the Admiralty’s decision to take under its own control the naval elements of what had been intended to be a joint organisation (in today’s terminology) hinted at an unwillingness to allow the new arm to do anything which might go beyond the relatively limited task of supporting ships at sea. Although ‘Jackie’ Fisher, the great reforming First Sea Lord, had a

Royal Navy concepts of air power 185 clear-sighted appreciation of what aviation could deliver the Royal Navy, even he took the view that the Naval Wing should be brought to where the Admiralty could control it.12 The lack of cooperation with the Curzon Air Board apparently did nothing to suggest that the Admiralty was open to new thinking when it came to air power, even if that thinking had been shaped by two years of war. Roskill’s analysis of the situation is not charitable to the Admiralty overall, and from it one may infer that the departure to RAF service of almost all members of the RNAS who might have resumed duty in the Royal Navy owed a great deal to the attitude displayed by senior naval officers.13 Yet for all this, one can also see that there was room for innovative thinking about the use of aircraft and airships and that it was neither discouraged nor suppressed. Furthermore, it is difficult to lay charges of reactionary views against the majority of the key naval leaders of the time. There is plenty of evidence that the likes of Admirals Jellicoe, Beatty, Wemyss and Madden recognised the importance of aviation, and recognised that it might be of considerable aid to the fleet. The challenge, though, was not one of senior officers failing to appreciate the value of using aircraft, but being at best unconvinced and at worst appalled by the branch of the service which used them. It might, perhaps, be fair to say that the Admiralty was not against innovation, but what it saw as excessive efforts in that direction by some of the more idiosyncratic members of the service. This seems a reasonable proposition given that it was not only during Winston Churchill’s tenure as First Lord of the Admiralty (1911–15) that the First Lord and the Board of Admiralty were keen to see the development of aviation.14 Churchill, of course, was perhaps the most enthusiastic proponent of using aircraft for military purposes in the Lloyd George government, and there is clear evidence that he retained his vigorous support for military and naval aviation throughout his political career.15 Finally, it needs to be remembered that the use of aircraft for military purposes was a new factor for all the major powers between 1914 and 1918, which meant that they were attempting to operate from first principles, or at least very close to them. The end result is that when asking what sort of war the Royal Navy anticipated, one is not presented with a neat, uniform position. Despite the merits of criticism of the RN’s handling of its air service, there is clear evidence of the service having overseen the development of a number of highly significant elements of air power.16 There is also evidence that the RNAS did not gain parental approval; as Geoff Till notes, there were those who saw the great increase in the number of personnel in the RNAS during the war as unwelcome and contended that the air service had been a failure.17 Indeed, the perceived indiscipline of the personnel of the RNAS led to some senior officers welcoming the creation of the RAF – only to find that the majority of naval aviators chose to join the new service rather than stay in the RN, ensuring that the amount of corporate knowledge about the practice of air power was dramatically reduced.18 We also, of course, see this in the context of a naval war which did not progress as the Admiralty either wished or anticipated. Yet in spite of these negative perspectives, there are positives. An analysis of the RN’s thinking on aviation shows that there was a mixture of enthusiasm and


David Jordan

doubt; vision and myopia. Some of the vision displayed, both in terms of exploitation of technology and in conceptualisation, was impressive. Indeed, in the latter respect, some of the thinking about air power that emanated from the RNAS bears scrutiny today. It is, then, against this sometimes contradictory backdrop of assessments of the efficacy of the RNAS that any analysis of the Royal Navy’s concepts about and utilisation of aircraft during the First World War must proceed. It is the contention of this chapter, then, that the Royal Navy’s thinking about aviation was forward-looking and sensible – but that the execution of these ideas proved problematic as a result of command and control problems, exacerbated on occasion by the over-ambition of individuals, creating a situation in which naval air power lacked a degree of coherence during the First World War.

Conceptual thinking about naval air power One of the notable features of thinking about the possibilities of air warfare in the early part of the Twentieth Century was the range of visionaries and theorists who presented their ideas in a variety of official and demi-official fora. These included the First Lord of the Admiralty, various senior officers, junior officers who were either enthused by aviation or deeply interested in the associated technology and keen to suggest how the new technology could be used for military or naval purposes and interested civilians. As might be presumed, the Royal Navy was a technically-focused service, and the linkages between technology and reform were of particular importance when Sir John Fisher took over as First Sea Lord. Even without Fisher’s reforming zeal, though, the technological challenges and opportunities presented by the development of airships and aeroplanes would have been of interest to the navy. As David Edgerton has observed: The Royal Navy, that great symbol of Edwardian England, was probably the largest technologically oriented institution in the world, operating Dreadnoughts powered by steam turbines fed by oil-fired boilers and which communicated by wireless telegraphy.19 In such circumstances, it was natural that there would be interest in what aircraft might achieve in naval service. Edgerton further suggests that while there was a strong strand of opinion in the Royal Navy which held that ‘Nelsonian principles’ would bring about victory, it was countered by another body of opinion which saw the use of the latest technology as bringing about effective and efficient naval forces which would bring about victory. This was a subset of a wider debate between those who saw technology and effective organisation as the ideal for the Empire’s defence and those who preferred to rely upon patriotism, heroism and other martial virtues.20 The appointment of ‘Jackie’ Fisher as First Sea Lord gave a clear impetus to the proponents of technology. But technology cannot be seen in isolation, since it was linked to a presumption on the part of the government that Fisher’s appointment would bring about considerable economies in naval

Royal Navy concepts of air power 187 spending.21 Such reform was undoubtedly necessary, since there had been government concerns over the apparently ceaseless growth in spending on the navy since the turn of the century. In October 1901, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, gloomily predicted that expenditure on the Royal Navy would take the nation ‘straight to financial ruin’.22 Thus, enlisting technology to replace mass while maintaining naval superiority would be a crucial part of Fisher’s reforms; as cutting-edge technology, aviation and what it might contribute to the Royal Navy naturally came under scrutiny. Fisher took up his appointment as First Sea Lord in October 1904, beginning a five-year period which saw the introduction of far-reaching reforms within the RN. He took office with similar concerns to Hicks-Beach, convinced that the Royal Navy as then configured was at serious risk of becoming unaffordable. As Nicholas Lambert notes, Fisher had always been ‘a progressive officer’ interested in technology.23 From 1886, he spent almost ten years in appointments which involved him closely with technology and organisation. Fisher’s main concentration was upon ships and the threat presented by enemy submarines, but aviation, as part of the technological progress of the early part of the twentieth Century, also featured in his thinking – not least because of its potential in terms of reconnaissance and anti-submarine work. In the case of the latter role, Fisher did not disagree with the observations of Lord Sydenham (a very maritime-minded soldier) when the latter suggested that aircraft offered a solution to the threat presented by such craft: An aeroplane sights a submarine on the surface. It can be over it before submergence is complete. If it can skim low enough to drop a high explosive charge over the submarine, the latter is doomed. If located with sufficient accuracy the submarine’s course under water can be followed. An accurately dropped high-explosive with delayed fuse would end the career of the submarine.24 This was entirely in keeping with developments that had occurred in the first years of Fisher’s tenure as First Sea Lord, in which aviation had undertaken a number of notable advances. What is often forgotten, though, is that it was the airship which seemed to offer promise as there was still doubt as to whether the Wright brothers’ claim to have made the first powered flight by a heavier-than-air craft was true. The Wrights, fearful that others would copy their as-yet unpatented invention, had been reluctant to allow the press to cover their experimental flights. It must also be remembered that as 1904 drew to a close, the Wrights had made 105 flights with the longest lasting no more than five minutes.25 This was hardly the basis upon which any planning for the future use of aeroplanes could be made. Despite this, there was British interest in both aeroplanes and airships through the person of Colonel (later Major-General) John Capper. Capper visited the Wrights in 1904 and was favourably impressed with their efforts, maintaining correspondence with them subsequent to their meeting. Capper had been in the United States to attend the St Louis World Fair in his capacity as the commanding officer of the Royal Engineers’ Balloon Sections.26 In 1906, he became Commandant of the School of Ballooning, and


David Jordan

in this capacity, he oversaw the building of Britain’s first military dirigible, a nonrigid airship named Nuli Secundus. This flew in October 1907; by July 1908 Capper’s projections of a long-range, rigid airship inspired Captain Reginald Bacon, the Director of Naval Ordnance to write to Fisher suggesting that the Admiralty ought to create the post of Naval Air Assistant and seek to build a rigid airship of its own. Fisher went further than this, writing to Prime Minister Asquith to explain how airships could be utilised for reconnaissance and a fleet of them would be much cheaper than relying upon cruisers.27 Fisher and Bacon’s interest had no doubt been inspired by the successful flight of Zeppelin’s LZ4 in the same month; this created a wave of German nationalist pride and spread concern over the possible military use of derivatives of LZ4.28 A media-inspired ‘Zeppelin panic’ then ensued in Britain, raising public concerns and prompting Asquith to establish a Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence which was to examine the whole question of Aerial Navigation.29 The War Office issued a press statement that there was nothing to fear from foreign airships, but the public was not reassured.30 1908 marked the point at which serious misgivings about the threat from the air entered British strategic thinking; the events of the following year, which saw a spectacular aviation meeting at Reims and Bleriot crossing the English Channel, simply confirmed the view that the possible military and naval uses of aviation had to be taken seriously. Furthermore, the potential of the aeroplane had been demonstrated, while various disappointments with British airships eventually saw the War Office all-but abandon its interest in them.31 The rapid development of technology and the appreciation of what might be done with aircraft led to the decision to create the Royal Flying Corps, with its military and naval wings, in 1912; it also saw a notable increase in the amount of thought given to how air power might be used. The impetus behind this was the Sub-Committee on Aerial Navigation. The Sub-Committee was directed to report as to: a b c

The dangers to which [Britain] would be exposed on sea [sic] or on land by any development in aerial navigation reasonably probable in the near future. The naval or military advantages that we might expect to derive from the use of air-ships or aeroplanes. The amount that should be allotted to expenditure on aerial experiments and the Department to which it should be allotted.32

The Sub-Committee reported on 28 January 1909, in measured terms. The SubCommittee was neither seized with over-enthusiasm, nor gripped by an excess of conservatism in its thoughts. The Sub-Committee was clear as to the main purpose of aircraft in support of the fleet, saying ‘the principal use to be made of dirigibles in naval warfare is for scouting’.33 The Sub-Committee had obtained estimated performance figures for airships, and it appeared that in good weather conditions, the visibility for observers aboard an airship patrolling at 1,000 feet would be 40 miles; if the airship climbed to 2,200 feet, this would increase to a range of 60 miles. This, of course, was far better than the visibility which could be obtained from a ship. If further

Royal Navy concepts of air power 189 encouragement to pursue airships were required, the fact that a dirigible was estimated to cost less than half the price of a destroyer was noted.34 The potential benefits of being able to exploit aerial observation to gain information which simply could not be obtained at sea level were clear; to maximise the potential of airships, technology was seen to be key – the Sub-Committee made clear that fitting them with wireless telegraphy equipment was essential to permit immediate communication. This was entirely in keeping with Fisher’s view about the importance of wireless telegraphy to the Royal Navy, and is a useful illustration of the way in technologies could be combined as an enabling factor.35 In response to the third term of reference, the Sub-Committee recommended the allocation of £35,000 in the naval estimates to build a rigid airship for the RN. No recommendations for similar sums for the War Office to experiment with aeroplanes were made (£10,000 was allocated to pursue a non-rigid airship programme) simply because of concerns that these had not yet proved themselves; this conclusion was outdated within a matter of months of the report being issued, but it was an entirely reasonable view at the time of writing. Perhaps the most forward-looking observation in the Sub-Committee report was on the potential use of airships for ‘the dropping of explosives and incendiary bombs’. Again, the conclusions were measured; the report noted that there was no evidence that such weapons could be delivered accurately, and it seemed that accuracy could only be achieved by delivering the explosives at low level, thus making the airship vulnerable.36 This was, of course, fully borne out with the German experience during the First World War. Unfortunately, the rigid airship, which came be known as the ‘Mayfly’ proved to be a disaster. The first attempt at flight failed; the craft was too heavy. Captain Murray Sueter, the Inspecting Captain of Airships, ordered that the Mayfly be lightened; this also failed to provoke the airship to rise and further reduction in weight was undertaken. On 24 September 1911, the Mayfly was taken out of its shed for further tests, but, caught by the wind while still tethered, broke in two. As the ground crew attempted to rectify the situation by taking the airship back indoors, further damage was sustained.37 This, coupled with clear improvements in the capability of aeroplanes, marked the point at which the rigid airship ceased to be regarded as a priority by the Royal Navy, although the endurance and loadcarrying capacity of dirigibles meant that they remained an important part of the Royal Navy’s order of battle during the Great War. Two further factors militated against development of the airship. The first was that in 1911 Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Fascinated by aviation, Churchill undertook flying lessons and intervened on a regular basis with his memoranda and loose minutes covering everything from strategy, policy issues, personnel matters down to criticising the ergonomics of one particular type of aeroplane’s cockpit (‘when you open or close the throttle, you ought to have a sensation like winding a watch . . .’).38 This is perhaps an extreme example, but the enthusiastic and vigorous Churchill was far from alone in the naval hierarchy in being of the view that aviation mattered. As already noted, Fisher was an advocate of aviation (albeit preferring the airship over the


David Jordan

aeroplane), and other senior officers were involved in thinking about and developing aviation. Rear Admiral Sir Charles Ottley, the Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence, wrote to Prince Louis of Battenburg (now First Sea Lord) in early 1912 to ask that the Navy think about how aeroplanes might be used in support of naval forces, while a week later, Rear Admiral Ernest Troubridge, the Chief of Staff at the Admiralty produced a paper ‘The Development of Naval Aeroplanes and Airships’ which addressed questions of whether the army or navy should control aeroplanes operating over the sea, recognised that attacking hostile aircraft would be part of aircraft operations, raised the prospect of ‘hydroplanes’ (Churchill later insisted these be renamed ‘seaplanes’) and called for the formation of an Aeronautical Branch to cover all aspects of aviation.39 Although there was high-level interest in aeronautics in the Royal Navy, there was still a lack of coordination at a national level in the field. This led to Prime Minister Asquith’s request in November 1911 that the Standing Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence investigate whether a ‘corps of aviators for naval and military purposes’ should be formed. Led by Lord Haldane, the Standing Committee reported on 28 February 1912, recommending the creation of an Aeronautical Service which would consist of a Naval and a Military Wing, along with a jointly-manned Central Flying School. The Royal Flying Corps received its Royal Warrant on 23 April, with vesting day being 13 May 1912.40 The creation of the Naval Wing was certainly not the end of thinking about aeronautical matters within the Royal Navy; it inspired even greater levels of thought about what air power might do. It helped that the Air Department of the Admiralty was led by a dynamic individual in the form of Murray Sueter. Sueter had become interested in aviation from around 1903, and in 1910 had been one of the British delegates at the international conference on aerial navigation; following a tour of Europe to investigate airship developments, he was appointed as the new Air Department’s Director (DAD) in 1912.41 Sueter laid out his vision for the Naval Wing on 29 August of that year. These were quite clear, and established the foundation for the work undertaken by what was to become the RNAS during the First World War: The purely naval duties of air craft [sic] are principally: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Distant reconnaissance work with the fleet at sea Reconnaissance work off the enemy’s coasts, working from detached cruisers or special aeroplane ships Assisting destroyers to detect and destroy submarines Detecting mine layers at work or mines already laid. Locating hostile craft in waters which have to be kept clear for our war and merchant vessels Assisting submarines in their look out for vessels to attack. Screening our fleets and harbours from observation by hostile aircraft by attacking the later. Preventing attacks on Dockyards, Magazines, Oil Storage Tanks, etc., by hostile aircraft.42

Royal Navy concepts of air power 191 Boiled down, this meant that Sueter saw the Naval Wing as being responsible for air defence, reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, tasks which are not unfamiliar to modern maritime aviation, albeit that anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare now involve the aircraft prosecuting the enemy target rather than finding it. Although Sueter was talking about seaplane tenders when referring to ‘special aeroplane ships’, the notion of aeroplanes accompanying the fleet was a live one, and the problems of launching and recovering aircraft while underway were already recognised. The difficulties of taking off and landing on the open sea were demonstrated consistently throughout the war, and the notion of flying and landing an aircraft on a ship was attractive. In 1915, Flight Commander Hugh Williamson produced a model of a ship which bore a striking resemblance to a modern aircraft carrier, with a flying deck, offset ‘island’ and arrester wires, and this was part of the genesis of the development of a vessel which could both launch and receive aircraft, culminating with HMS Argus joining the fleet in early November 1918.43 The one role missing from this was that of ‘dropping explosives’, tentatively mentioned by the 1910 Sub-Committee. The reason for this, of course, was that the problems of accuracy associated with bombing had not been addressed. That is not to say, though, that there was not a strand of thought in the Royal Navy which had not raised the matter. In a piece in Naval Review simply titled ‘air power’ (and which is often overlooked by historians of that subject), Lieutenant Dennistoun Burney outlined a vision with which the later, better recognised air power visionaries of the interwar years such as Douhet, Mitchell and Trenchard would have found much to agree.44 Indeed, some of the terminology used has echoes with the language employed in today’s lexicon of air power by theorists such as Colonel John Warden. Burney covered the key duties of naval aircraft in terms which were in general agreement with the duties laid down by Sueter, but went further by projecting the use of aircraft for offensive purposes against submarines and other targets, not out of some fetish for speculation but because of an appreciation that analysing the importance of developing British air power would be served by some reasonable speculation about how aircraft might be used in future conflicts. He thus moved from the realms of the near-term to the possible use of aircraft some 20 or 30 years hence; the piece is even adroit enough to discuss possible issues pertaining to the ethical and legal issues of aerial bombardment. Perhaps the most striking aspects, though, are these few lines: Aerial forces will be required to strike at the enemy’s vital points, but what are their vital points: are they the navy, the army, the opposing aerial forces, or some other organisation outside our ‘present day’ ideas of vital points? It is submitted that the life of a modern nation depends upon neither its army nor its navy, but upon uninterrupted internal and external communication, and that these communications are the vital points. If the enemy’s internal communications are paralysed, they are defeated as a modern state cannot exist in such a condition for more than a few days . . . . . . As the modern tendency is towards a grouping of industries, the area over which an attack could be carried out would be well-defined . . . Manufacturing


David Jordan work is now so specialised and firms are so interwoven that it cannot progress unless all the links in the chain are complete, and if many of the links are destroyed a long time must elapse before they can again be in working order.45

Placed into context with the arguments made by theorists such as General Billy Mitchell (the ‘industrial web’ theory which saw the paralysis of enemy industry through breaking the strands of the web (the links in Burney’s chain)) and even later John Boyd and John Warden when it came to the paralysis of the enemy, this is not only an illustration of the offensive spirit which remained an important part of the Royal Navy’s culture post-Nelson, but of the prescience of the sort of analysis that RN officers brought to the consideration of air power.46 It would have been easy for Burney to be dismissed as something of a crank by his peers (his fate was worse – he was apparently ignored, although other pre-war articles on air power which do not take him to task can be found in Naval Review), but the balance between what was practical at the time of writing and the forward projection of technological development is an interesting insight into some of the thinking that was accommodated in the pages of Naval Review. More important than the thoughts of a relatively unknown Lieutenant, no matter how prescient they might have been, were those of more senior figures. As noted above, one of the key concerns relating to airships was the risk of bombing attack by Zeppelins. This prompted the Admiralty to consider how it might defend against airship attack. The limitations of coastal patrolling soon became clear, and the RNAS then embarked upon offensive action in a bid to counter the Zeppelin threat. This saw attacks on Zeppelin sheds at Cologne and Dusseldorf as part of a philosophy which saw taking the offensive as being entirely the right thing to do. The daring of these raids was widely admired, and made bombing an area of some interest; the RNAS would pursue the role further, but before exploring this, a brief examination of the air defence is of use. Problems with air defence arose almost immediately. The War Office was unable to meet the air defence task of the United Kingdom which was assigned to it, and the Admiralty (more precisely, the ever-enthusiastic Churchill) willingly assumed the air defence role. This may have seemed logical at the time, since the RNAS’s bombing activities – albeit limited – formed part of what would now be seen as an offensive counter-air strategy. Combining the defensive and offensive parts of the overall approach to protecting Britain from air attack thus had some conceptual merit. Unfortunately, the practicalities were less encouraging. As one of the most detailed studies of air defence during the war reveals, the handover of responsibility did not mean that the RFC disappeared from the fray – rather, Army aircraft were also sometimes sent up in the face of enemy air raids.47 As there was no centralised mechanism for coordinating the two services, the already limited capability of the defences was further diluted. It would be easy to overstate this, since it must be recalled that the aeroplanes of the time were limited in what they could do, particularly in the face of attackers who held the advantage of being difficult to locate, usually in the dark, and who were already flying

Royal Navy concepts of air power 193 at altitude when the defending aircraft took off. The point is that there was little thought about how to maximise the potential of the assets of the two air services by working together. The success of Zeppelin raids in 1915 did little for the reputation of the RNAS, and after replacing Churchill as First Lord on 27 May 1915, Arthur Balfour sought to return the air defence of the United Kingdom to the War Office, a step which was to be achieved in 1916, although RNAS aircraft still contributed to the air defence of the nation up until the amalgamation of the RNAS and RFC came into effect in April 1918. It is, perhaps, significant in considering the conceptual and practical aspects of the RNAS during the war to note that the effectiveness and efficiency of air defence improved considerably in 1916 when the War Office assumed responsibility for air defence. The Army had a different philosophical approach, preferring to build a networked system around the point defence of targets likely to be subjected to air attack and then, when warning of attack arrived (often as a result of interception of German signals traffic), it became possible to flood the skies over and around cities with defending aircraft, aided by searchlights. Although the network was basic and proved in need of considerable refinement when German fixed wing raids occurred in 1917, it broke the airship offensive. Six airships were destroyed in the final five raids of 1916, and after that date, more Zeppelin crew-members died than British civilians. The instigation of a command and control system made a clear difference here, removing confusion and recognising the limitations of the equipment available to the defenders in a way that the previous system had not. Ferris notes that the RN personnel running air defence had come from three branches – gunnery officers who believed that their guns were the answer to the aerial threat and the RNAS and RN Volunteer Reserve, ‘ both marked by a privateering approach to organisation and a trust in strategies of distant interception’.48 Although air defence passed relatively swiftly from the hands of the RNAS, the use of bombing as a tool for taking the war to the enemy remained a key area of interest to the RNAS. Once again, it is difficult to avoid seeing the hand of Churchill in this, but the record shows that he was not alone in promoting bombing, even if he was the most prominent figure doing so. On 3 April 1915, at a meeting to discuss the RNAS and its future requirements, Churchill demonstrated his interest in air action unrelated to directly supporting the fleet: The First Lord pointed out the necessity of developing a very large fleet of aircraft, capable of delivering a sustained series of ‘smashing blows’ on the enemy; more in the nature of a bombardment by ships than the present isolated ‘dashing exploits’ . . . The object at aim was so as to harass the enemy and destroy his works as to effect very materially his ability to continue the war . . . . . . The object now to be aimed at from June will not be reconnaissance and patrolling but the attacking with bombs on the largest possible scale on enemy territory. [We] must acquire the power to strike heavy blows which will produce decisive results on the enemy’s fighting strength’.49


David Jordan

The resonance of these remarks with Churchill’s views on bombing in the Second World War and wider air power thinking is notable, but of more significance at the time was the direction in which it took the RNAS – away from the fundamental duty of providing support to the fleet through observation and reconnaissance. This was possible in no small part because of Churchill’s order of 5 February 1915 which granted Sueter and the RNAS ‘unprecedented autonomy’, making him ‘effectively monarch of all he surveyed’.50 The order made Sueter solely responsible to the Board of Admiralty for the running of the Air Department and the RNAS. This may have been to enable a clear and direct chain of communication between the First Sea Lord and DAD without the intervention of other members of the RN, enabling Churchill to be confident that his views on bombing would be followed. The end result was to be the formation of 3 (Naval) Wing at Luxeuil in 1916. The date is of interest here, since for all Sueter’s protestations about the lack of vision of those who led the air service after Balfour and Admiral Sir Henry Jackson (Fisher’s successor after the former’s spectacular resignation) took over at the Admiralty. The decision which most aggrieved Sueter was that his previous autonomy was removed and he was placed under the command of a new Director of Air Services, Rear Admiral Charles Vaughan-Lee. Vaughan-Lee was not an aviator (had he been, one suspects that he might not have been appointed), and as Cooper observes, historians have not been kind to him, arguing that he lacked the necessary degree of knowledge to oversee the RNAS.51 This lack of knowledge should not be mistaken for a lack of zeal in defending the interests of the Admiralty in the face of attempts by the government to impose a degree of cooperation between the War Office and the Admiralty in the efficient provision of air power to the Army and Navy; indeed, Jackson and Vaughan-Lee were perhaps too effective at demonstrating this, and their attitude towards the Curzon committee had been unhelpful, ‘naval obstructionism being one of the most decisive factors in proving the case for an independent air service’.52 Roskill considered Vaughan-Lee’s appointment to be ‘surprising’ and observed that he had ‘found next to nothing to suggest originality of thought in his papers and minutes’.53 This, clearly, was unfortunate – the fact that the change in approach did not go down well with the men of the RNAS even more so, since many came to believe that aviation could not develop under their new leaders, who appeared more concerned with discipline than aviation.54 Once again, though, the picture is rather more complex. The notion – aided by Sueter’s rather bitter account of events – that Balfour and Jackson, aided by Vaughan-Lee set about limiting the horizons of the RNAS for reasons of good order is difficult to sustain fully.55 This is particularly so when it comes to bombing, since on 4 April 1916, a year and a day after Churchill articulated the importance of bombing, it was Vaughan-Lee who issued a memorandum arguing that defence against airships required the use of offensive air power, and that long-range raids were important. He argued: The results of such raids . . . can hardly be overestimated. It is absurd to say that these attacks have no military value, They have the greatest effect in

Royal Navy concepts of air power 195 delaying the output of munitions and in a thousand other ways they should appeal to the War Council [sic] . . . . . . Briefly, a defensive policy limited to our own shores cannot compare with a vigorous offensive.56 Only in April 1917 when the exigencies of the Western Front and complaints from the War Office that the work of 3 Wing was a needless diversion of assets was the bombing effort stopped; the importance to the Admiralty, even after Churchill’s departure may been seen in the fact that by the end of 1916, the RNAS presence at Luxeuil alone was employing around 20 per cent of the RNAS’s qualified pilots.57 This clearly detracted from the ability of the RNAS to provide observation to the fleet; Churchill’s encomium of bombing at the expense of reconnaissance remained live long after he had departed the Admiralty. This had implications, since the Battle of Jutland was notable for the lack of quality of aerial spotting.58 The shock that Jutland presented to the Royal Navy (and the British public) was palpable. Wise observes: No inquiry was needed to show that the part played by the RNAS was lamentable . . . The air service, at the moment of crisis, had only ‘a comic craft jury-rigged to carry seaplanes . . . Jutland, nevertheless, was a turning-point for the air service. The gap between potential and performance bred a new air-mindedness among many officers in the fleet, the fruits of which were to emerge under Beatty’s leadership in 1917.59 As suggested earlier, there was, in fact, a considerable degree of air-mindedness throughout the Royal Navy at all ranks; Jellicoe and Beatty had both been receptive to the notions of air power aiding the fleet prior to Jutland. It is perhaps fair to say that the diversification and lack of coherent policy towards aviation was brought home by the battle. This meant that moves to ensure that the prime original function of aircraft, that of supporting the fleet, could be maintained and were undertaken. That did not mean that bombing was brought to a sudden end; rather it became focused on supporting the maritime war in a much closer manner. This saw RNAS bombers from around Dunkirk being used to attack German U-boat bases when the growing crisis caused by unrestricted submarine warfare became apparent.60 This meant that the bomber force became part of a wider and critical effort against enemy submarines. The often overlooked role of maritime patrol came to the fore here, with the development of the ‘Spider Web’ and South West Air Group patrols which were designed to locate U-boats either working in coastal areas or on their way to their patrol locations.61 The clear need for better aviation provision to meet these tasks helped to reduce the Admiralty’s reluctance to create the position of Fifth Sea Lord to oversee naval aviation.


David Jordan

Conclusion To some extent, the pre-war thinking about the use of aircraft by the Royal Navy shaped the way in which maritime aviation was utilised in such a manner that ‘what they got’ was not vastly different at the macro level from the assorted predictions of those who had commented on what aviation might achieve in a future war. Aircraft were used for anti-submarine work, for observation and reconnaissance and for taking the war to the enemy deep behind their front lines through the mechanism of bombing. The unexpected arose in the actual use of aircraft at the tactical and procedural levels as the aviators set about converting theory into practice. As already noted, the RNAS has been described as ‘modern’ and regarded with considerable approbation by historians, but James Pugh’s criticism that the RNAS failed to produce doctrine or single-minded policy, leading to some confusion and a lack of coherence has great validity, allowing for the fact that doctrine was not regarded as possessing the importance that it has assumed today.62 Pugh’s point matters because as he says, the RNAS seemed to lack coherence and possibly even a unified clarity of purpose.63 That said, the diverse activities which the RNAS undertook would not look entirely out of place in a modern, independent air service – the one significant gap being that the RNAS’s main contribution to maintaining control of the air came over land rather than over the Grand Fleet, something which led to the evolution of the RNAS ‘as a factor in air (and land) warfare, but not in ways that much enhanced its value to the fleet’.64 It is perhaps in this respect where we see the greatest divergence between theory and practice: the overwhelming majority of senior naval officers thought that they were building a fleet air arm, but in fact got an air force which did not always appear to see itself as having a direct link with the Royal Navy in spite of its name. This was the result of one obvious gap in the RN’s thinking about air power, and this was in the area of command and control. For all the vision displayed by the navy’s senior leaders, and despite the recognition of the importance of aviation, the RNAS suffered from the failure to impose a degree of command and control to prevent the outbreak of diversification which pulled the RNAS’s limited pool of aircraft and manpower in several directions. There was incoherence in deciding what the RNAS was for; while a case could be made for all the roles that the service undertook, attempting to do all of them without proper coordination and a lack of resources to allow all the tasks to be covered fully meant that the RNAS came to be seen as rather too autonomous for the liking of the rest of the Royal Navy. It is tempting to suggest that Churchill was a large part of the problem. Churchill’s fascination with aviation and its potential in warfare was coupled with a further interest in unconventional and innovative military formations. We tend to associate this with his critical role in the creation of the Commandos and the Special Operations Executive, support for airborne forces, the Auxiliaries and the Special Air Service amongst others during the Second World War.65 But it is not unreasonable to suggest that he was equally at ease with the novel formation that was the RNAS at its creation. He gave the new service its head and did not

Royal Navy concepts of air power 197 impose a staff system which might have brought some degree of coordination to its efforts. This was in stark contrast to the RFC, which was well-provided for with a staff structure. The end result was a much less formal command and control structure, which in turn added to the sense in the rest of the RN that there was a lack of good discipline.66 As Malcolm Cooper observes, this had ‘enabled the service to expand in a manner which entrenched departmental conservatism would otherwise have made most difficult’.67 His departure meant that more conservative eyes were cast upon the RNAS once the Admiralty was under the direction of Balfour and Jackson. They did not like what they saw. Balfour and Jackson felt that the RNAS lacked discipline, both personal and financial, and that the service was organised in an inefficient manner. They worried that the RNAS had become too independent and too involved in areas that were not directly linked to supporting the fleet; given the fact that the RNAS had pioneered the use of armoured cars and been involved in the development of what became the tank, it is difficult to disagree with them.68 At first sight, the removal of Sueter and the departure of Churchill appeared to mean that the high-powered patrons who had guided much of the development of the air service had gone, leaving it in the hands of dull, unimaginative conservatives who constrained the development of air power at every turn. Sueter was anxious to portray it so.69 Yet, as James Pugh notes, the supposedly conservative Vaughan-Lee did nothing to bring about a narrowing of scope of the RNAS’s activities.70 We see this in his observations about bombing cited above. His approach does not appear to have gone against the thinking of the new First Lord – a memo from Balfour (undated, but almost certainly written as February 1916 drew to a close) makes the following observation: The Admiralty has . . . always gone on the principle that powerful long distance machines were an absolute necessity for the Navy a) For distant scouting b) For attacking naval bases &c It is of vital importance that liberty of [action in] developing the Air Service in this direction should not be hampered.71 Jackson did not demur with this. This hardly seems the work of men ‘doing everything possible to prevent the RNAS from doing their real work in the war’, as Sueter claimed.72 The Admiralty’s opposition to changing their hold over naval aviation – particularly once there was a sense that policy direction was finally under the command of those eager to use the RNAS as a fleet air arm rather than a semiindependent air service made up of men in RN uniform – extended to their initial refusal to accept the creation of a Fifth Sea Lord with specific responsibility for naval aviation, something which bemused and annoyed all those attempting to bring coordination to the effective procurement and apportionment of aircraft and manpower for the two services. The War Cabinet asserted itself, and the Admiralty


David Jordan

created the new post. Vaughan-Lee was moved on, and he was replaced by Rear Admiral Godfrey Paine. Paine was an aviator, and although Roskill damns him with faint praise, suggesting that he was seen as ‘sound’ by his fellow Sea Lords, he had considerable experience in the field.73 The issue was not that Paine was sensible and not as forward thinking as Sueter, but the timing of his appointment; it came too late. A further consequence of Churchill’s leadership came from his belief in the value of offensive action; it must be said that this was not a case of the First Lord taking an approach which was wildly different from service culture. The offensive spirit shown by Nelson remained much admired, but in 1914, Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet Battle Orders were explicit in the need for ‘the subordination of the offensive spirit to defensive precautions’ and centralised command.74 Such injunctions, based upon practical considerations of warfare at sea, were lost on the RNAS. The spirit of Nelson (and his tendency not to ‘play things by the book’) remained alive and vigorous. The irony, of course, is that it was this vigour and non-conformity which had driven the RNAS’s thinking about naval air power, and given it the features which still resonate with the modern use of air power. In assessing the way in which the Royal Navy considered the best way to employ air power we can see that those who thought about the part that aviation might play in a forthcoming major war were proficient in divining the ways in which aircraft would contribute. Their pre-war thinking was able to evolve so that the RNAS’s roles and missions evolved as well when exposed to the challenge of war. As Wise notes, there is a case for saying that the lack of intensity in the fighting seen by many RNAS units when compared to the Western Front meant that the impetus for rapid development was not as great as it was for the RFC.75 Nonetheless, development did occur, and there is a good case for saying that the RNAS made as meaningful a contribution to the evolution of conceptual thought about air power as did the RFC; some of the key contributions of aircraft to the First World War originated in the thinking and planning made by naval officers. Indeed, this could be taken further, since even the most cursory examination of current British air power doctrine demonstrates that the fundamental roles of air power today, even if expressed in terms that the naval aviators of 1914 would find peculiar (‘Intelligence and Situational Awareness’ in lieu of ‘reconnaissance’, for example), are those developed during the First World War.76 Although Burney’s visionary thinking about air power displayed in Naval Review did not come to pass (and is barely recognised by air power historians today for what it is), it helps us understand the degree of conceptualisation which the RNAS brought to air power. There is no doubt that this positive image must be qualified. The lack of a suitable staff system and a ‘light touch’ approach to authoritative central control (the mantra of ‘centralised control, decentralised execution’ so beloved of independent air services) was arguably taken too far in the case of the RNAS under Churchill and Sueter where ideas led to action without necessarily asking whether this diverted effort from serving the fleet. Balfour and Jackson were not reactionaries attempting to restrain air power development, but were attempting

Royal Navy concepts of air power 199 to restrain their aviators in a bid to bring a degree of coherence and discipline to proceedings. This simply confused matters and alienated many airmen. It is perhaps ironic that the more structured approach within the RFC allowed the likes of Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson and Brigadier-General (later Marshal of the Royal Air Force) Hugh Trenchard much greater latitude as the commanders of the RFC than that enjoyed by Sueter; they were fully supported by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in this. Haig’s image as a technophobic buffoon is not borne out in his approach to the Royal Flying Corps. The Army was thus blessed with the most senior officer in the field acting as its champion (even if he did not fully understand the use of aircraft, he understood their importance to the prosecution of the land battle), supported by two persuasive and respected air commanders.77 This, unfortunately, was not quite the position for the Royal Naval Air Service, even if the Royal Navy’s senior leadership, military and civilian, understood that aviation mattered in the war they sought to fight. The approach to naval aviation adopted by the RNAS, ‘a crowd of highly skilled but ill-disciplined privateersmen [sic]’, meant that the core task of the service, that of observation, was not as well-developed as it could have been while other more diverse roles were pursued.78 Prescient privateers they may have been, but the initial lack of control and sheer diversity of roles they sought to undertake meant that they were seen to fall short in their prime duty, that of being an air arm for the Royal Navy. This is not to gainsay the daring and innovation of the aviators, simply to suggest that these characteristics, encouraged by a First Lord of the Admiralty who admired such qualities in abundance, militated against the development of the naval air service which ended up being less effective than it might have been. The war that naval aviators envisaged was not that dissimilar from the war they got in many ways; the disappointments and surprises lay within the way in which the thought was put into practice. We have to recall that criticism must be mitigated by the fact that this was being done from first principles and by noting that for all the technological advances that have occurred in the 100 years since, the way in which aircraft have contributed to subsequent wars has clearly discernible links to the thinking of the men who planned the first uses of British naval air power.

Notes 1 I am grateful to Christina Goulter for her thoughts and observations on this chapter and its contents, and to Greg Kennedy for his Job-like patience. Any errors of fact or interpretation remain mine alone. 2 The term ‘aircraft’ is used in this chapter in its original sense, namely ‘air craft’, that is to say covering both aeroplanes and airships. 3 Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Volume XCVIII, c1247, 29 October 1917. 4 For precision, it should be noted that Zeppelin’s first rigid airship, the LZ 1, flew in 1900, predating the Wrights by three years. A lack of money meant that development was slow until the potential shown by the LZ 4 in 1908 led to an upsurge of nationalist sentiment in Germany and a flood of public donations to support Zeppelin’s work: illustrating that the modern notion of crowd-funding is not as new as often supposed.



6 7



10 11 12 13 14 15

16 17 18

David Jordan

See, for example, Douglas H. Robinson, Giants in the Sky (Henley: Foulis, 1973) and Guy Hartcup, The Achievement of the Airship: A History of the Development of Rigid, Semi-Rigid and Non-Rigid Airships (London: David and Charles, 1974). For the creation of the RAF, see (amongst others) Malcolm Cooper, The Birth of Independent Air Power: British Air Policy in the First World War (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986); Neville Jones, The Origins of Strategic Bombing: A Study of the Development of British Air Strategic Thought and Practice up to 1918 (London: William Kimber, 1973); Malcolm Cooper, ‘Blueprint for Confusion: The Administrative Background to the Formation of the Royal Air Force, 1912–19’, Journal of Contemporary History 22:3 (1987), pp. 437–53; John Sweetman, ‘Crucial Months for Survival: The Royal Air Force 1918–1919’, Journal of Contemporary History 19:3 (1984), pp. 529–47 and Sweetman’s ‘The Smuts Report of 1917: Merely Political Window-Dressing?’, Journal of Strategic Studies 4:2 (1981), pp. 152–74. For instance, see James Pugh, ‘The Conceptual Origins Of The Control Of The Air: British Military And Naval Aviation, 1911–1918’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 2012. Raymond Collishaw, Air Command, A Fighting Pilot’s Story (London: Kimber, 1973); Leonard H. Rochford, I Chose the Sky (London: Kimber, 1977); for those who were not ‘aces’, see for example C.P.O. Bartlett and Nick Bartlett, In the Teeth of the Wind: Memoir of the Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 1994). John H. Morrow, ‘The War in the Air’ in Robin Higham and Denis Showalter, Researching World War I: A Handbook (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004), pp. 358–9. The balance between land and maritime air power can be further adduced from this source when comparing the length of the sections dealing with each. S.W. Roskill (ed.), Documents Relating to the Naval Air Service: Volume I 1908–1918 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co for the Naval Records Society, 1969); also see Christina Goulter, ‘The Royal Naval Air Service: A Very Modern Force’ in Sebastian Cox and Peter Gray (eds), Air Power History: Turning Points from Kitty Hawk to Kosovo (London: Frank Cass, 2002), pp. 51–65; Eric Grove, ‘Seamen or Airmen? The Early Days of British Naval Flying’ and ‘Air Force, Fleet Air Arm – or Armoured Corps? The Royal Naval Air Service at War’, both in Tim Benbow (ed.), British Naval Aviation: The First 100 Years (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 7–26 and 27–56; Geoffrey Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy: A Historical Survey 1914–1945 (London: Macdonald and Jane’s, 1979); R.D. Layman, Naval Aviation in the First World War: Its Impact and Influence (London: Chatham, 1996). Ibid., p. 359. Extracts from First Report of the Air Board Addressed to the War Committee, 23 October 1916, cited in Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. 393–5, 399 and 402. David Wragg, Fisher: The Admiral who reinvented the Royal Navy (Stroud: History Press, 2009), pp. 217–18. Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. x–xvii. As discussed below, the departure of the majority of RNAS aviators to the RAF cannot be ascribed only to the aviators reacting to the Admiralty’s attitude. Ibid., p. xii. See Richard Overy, ‘Churchill and Airpower’, education-resources/higher-education?id=Overy (accessed 24 June 2014 – subscriber access only) for a concise summary of the influence Churchill had on the development of British air power generally. See, for instance, Goulter, ‘A Very Modern Force’, Grove, ‘Seamen or Airmen?’ (see note 6 above) and Neville Parton, ‘The Evolution and Impact of Royal Air Force Doctrine’, Journal of Military History 72:4 (2008), pp. 1155–77. Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy, pp. 29–30. Andrew Lambert, Admirals: The Naval Commanders Who Made Britain Great (London: Faber and Faber, 2008), p. 372.

Royal Navy concepts of air power 201 19 David Edgerton, England and the Aeroplane: Militarism, Modernity and Machines (London: Penguin, 2013 [revised edition]), p. 19. 20 Ibid., pp. 17–18. 21 Jon Tetsuro Sumida, In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology and British Naval Policy 1889–1914 (London: Routledge, 1993), pp. 26–8. 22 Ibid., p. 23. 23 There is lively debate on Fisher’s approach to naval strategy and the use of technology; see, for instance, Jon Sumida, ‘Geography, Technology, and British Naval Strategy in the Dreadnought Era’, US Navy War College Review 59:3 (Summer 2006), pp. 89–102; Christopher M. Bell, ‘Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution Reconsidered: Winston Churchill at the Admiralty, 1911–1914’, War in History 18:3 (July 2011), pp. 333–56; Nicholas A. Lambert, ‘On Standards: A Reply to Christopher Bell’, War in History 19:2 (2012), pp. 217–40; Christopher M. Bell, ‘On Standards and Scholarship: A Response to Nicholas Lambert’, War in History 20:3 (July 2013), pp. 381–409, as well as Nicholas Lambert’s Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002 [paperback]). 24 Ruddock F. Mackay, Fisher of Kilverstone (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), pp. 450–51. Sydenham was commenting on a draft of Fisher’s 1913 paper ‘The Oil Engine and the Submarine’. 25 Alfred M. Gollin, No Longer an Island: Britain and the Wright Brothers, 1902–1909 (London: William Heinemann, 1984), p. 90. 26 For an introduction to the British Army’s use of balloons, see Peter Mead, The Eye in the Air: A History of Air Observation and Reconnaissance for the Army, 1785–1945 (London: HMSO, 1983). 27 Grove, ‘Seamen or Airmen?’, pp. 8–9. 28 Michael Paris, Winged Warfare: The Literature and Theory of Aerial Warfare in Britain, 1859–1917 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), p. 124. 29 Gollin, No Longer an Island, p. 349. 30 Ibid., p. 358. 31 Paris, Winged Warfare, pp. 124–6. 32 The National Archives (hereafter TNA) CAB 38/15/3, Terms of Reference for the Committee for Imperial Defence Sub-Committee on Aerial Navigation, 23 October 1910, in Roskill, Naval Air Service, p. 7. 33 Ibid. (Roskill, p. 9). 34 Ibid. 35 See, for instance, Nicholas A. Lambert, ‘Transformation and Technology in the Fisher Era: the Impact of the Communications Revolution’, Journal of Strategic Studies 27 (June 2004), 272–97; TNA CAB 38/15/3 (Roskill, Naval Air Service, p. 9). 36 Ibid. 37 Michael Paris, Winged Warfare, pp. 140–41. 38 Churchill to Director of the Air Department (Captain Murray Sueter), 4 June 1914 (Roskill, pp. 142–3). 39 TNA AIR 1/626, Letter Ottley to First Sea Lord, 16 January 1912; ‘The Development of Naval Aeroplanes and Airships’; Roskill, pp. 28–33. 40 Grove, ‘Seamen or Airmen?’, p. 17; Roskill, pp. 33–9. 41 See Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. 56–8 for a short biography of Sueter; Keith A. Hamilton, ‘The Air in Entente Diplomacy: Great Britain and the International Aerial Navigation Conference of 1910’, International History Review 3:2 (1981), pp. 169–200. 42 Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. 58–60. 43 Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy, p. 62. 44 Anon, ‘Air Power’, Naval Review Volume 1 No. 2 (1913). The authorship of articles in Naval Review is not given, but Burney has been identified by Michael Paris in Winged Warfare (note 28 above), p. 136. Burney’s given first name was Charles, but he was usually known as Dennis from the diminution of his second name. His interest


45 46 47 48

49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61

62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74

David Jordan

in aviation extended to designing his own seaplane, although he is best known for his work against sea mines through the creation of the paravane. Burney, ‘Air Power’, p. 69. See David S. Fadok, ‘John Boyd and John Warden: Air power’s Quest for Strategic Paralysis’ in Phillip S. Meilinger (ed.), The Paths of Heaven The Evolution of Airpower Theory (Maxwell: Air University Press, 1997), pp. 357–98. Christopher Cole and E.F. Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain, 1914–1918 (London: Putnam, 1984). Ibid., p. 53. On the limitations and inefficiencies of the system, also see the same author’s ‘Fighter Defence before Fighter Command: The Rise of Strategic Air Defence in Great Britain, 1917–1934’, The Journal of Military History Vol. 63, No. 4 (October 1999), pp. 845–84. Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. 199–201. Grove, ‘Air Force, Fleet Air Arm – or Armoured Corps?’, p. 33; Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. 193–4. Ibid.; see Roskill, Naval Air Service, p. xi, pp. 224–5; Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy, p. 113. Cooper, Birth of Independent Air Power, p. 37. Roskill, Naval Air Service, p. xi. Cooper, Birth of Independent Air Power, p. 37; S.F. Wise, Canadian Airmen and the First World War: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Volume I (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981), p. 135. Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy, p. 86. Roskill, Naval Air Service, pp. 342–4. Wise, Canadian Airmen, p. 143. Ibid., p. 155; Grove, ‘Air Force, Fleet Air Arm – or Armoured Corps?’, p. 42. Wise, Canadian Airmen, p. 155. John J. Abbatiello, ‘The Myths and Realities of Air Anti-Submarine Warfare during the Great War’, RAF Air Power Review 12:1 (Spring 2009), pp. 17–19. Ibid., p. 21. Also see John J. Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I: British Naval Aviation and the Defeat of the U-Boats (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006), particularly pp. 59–128 for a detailed analysis of the British use of air power against submarines during the war. Goulter, ‘A Very Modern Force’; Grove, ‘Seamen or Airmen?’ (both note 8 above); Pugh, ‘Conceptual Origins’, pp. 284–5. Ibid. Grove, ‘Air Force, Fleet Air Arm – or Armoured Corps?’, p. 27. See, for example, Michael Howard, ‘Churchill and the First World War’ in Robert Blake and Wm Roger Louis, Churchill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 131. Wise, Canadian Airmen, pp. 123–4. Cooper, Birth of Independent Air Power, p. 37. Grove, ‘Air Force, Fleet Air Arm – or Armoured Corps?’ encapsulates this range of activities superbly. See, for instance, M.F. Sueter, Airmen or Noahs? Fair Play for our Airmen (London: Pitman & Sons, 1928). Pugh, ‘Conceptual Origins’, p. 320. Undated minute by A.J. Balfour, First Lord of the Admiralty, Roskill, Naval Air Service, p. 306. Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy, p. 86. Roskill, Naval Air Service, p. xi. Jan S. Breemer, ‘The burden of Trafalgar: Decisive battle and naval strategic expectations on the eve of World War I’, The Journal of Strategic Studies 17.1 (1994), pp. 33–62; Jon Tetsuro Sumida, ‘A Matter of Timing: The Royal Navy and the Tactics of Decisive Battle, 1912–1916’, The Journal of Military History Vol. 67, no. 1 (2003), p. 87.

Royal Navy concepts of air power 203 75 Wise, Canadian Airmen, p. 124. 76 UK Ministry of Defence, Joint Doctrine Publication 0–30: UK Air and Space Doctrine (Shrivenham: Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, 2013), pp. 3–11. 77 See David Jordan and Gary Sheffield ‘Sir Douglas Haig and Air Power’ in Peter W. Gray and Sebastian Cox (eds), Air Power Leadership: Theory and Practice (London: TSO, 2002), pp. 264–82; idem, ‘The British Army and Air Power’ in Peter W. Gray (ed.), British Air Power (London: TSO, 2003), pp. 67–89; Andrew Whitmarsh, ‘British Army Manoeuvres and the Development of Military Aviation, 1910–1913’, War in History 14.3 (2007), pp. 325–46. 78 The quote is from Maurice Bonham-Carter, Private Secretary to Prime Minister Asquith, quoted in Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy, p. 114.

11 Not in quiet English fields The Royal Navy and combined operations Joseph Moretz

We forgot Napoleon’s lecture that the Sea was our Battle Ground and not the Continent, and that the British Army was a projectile to be fired by the British Navy.1 Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, 1918

Before 1914 combined operations, or what are now styled as joint amphibious operations, were always more than the execution of an opposed landing. This is important to recall because much of our understanding of the nature of this style of operation has been conditioned by what transpired in the Eastern Mediterranean from late 1914 through early 1916. This is not to discount the importance of the Dardanelles-Gallipoli campaign, but that saga is better seen as but one type of operation existing on a continuum of war where naval support was rendered to military forces which contemporary officers readily appreciated. From shore bombardments, administrative landings, feints, raids, blocking operations, opposed landings to executing a full-scale invasion, the naval officers of the prewar period who thought about such matters had a richer understanding of the possibilities than sometimes allowed. And perforce as every combined operation must at some point end, even the manner of evacuation was understood as a unique form of combined operation. That the British experience of combined operations before the World War was uneven is a given. Lamentable examples such as the Walcheren Expedition of 1809 were part of British, to say nothing of the Service’s, collective consciousness though where responsibility lay for this earlier failure remained a matter of dispute even a century later. Lord Ellenborough, the former naval officer Commander Cecil Law, was so bold as to point the finger of guilt at The Times through its injudicious reporting of British preparatory measures.2 This was going too far. Those ordering such operations must be cognisant of their risks, including the probability of compromise, but no doubt others coming later and approving such serials including Neville Chamberlain at the time of Norway or Margaret Thatcher during the South Atlantic Campaign shared a similar cry of the workings of the Fourth Estate. Of course, the record of earlier experience was not solely a litany of failure. If it had, then much of the contemporary debate surrounding British vulnerability to an

The Royal Navy and combined operations 205 invasion launched as a ‘bolt from out of the blue’ by Germany (and France before her) would have been academic at best, if not outright meaningless.3 Rather, much the opposite was true with many operations demonstrating the inherent flexibility, utility and effectiveness of maritime power acting in cooperation with Army and Marine forces. Accordingly, in the years before the World War experience of the Egyptian War of 1882, the Boxer Rebellion in China and the Anglo-Boer War showed the efficacy of combined operations. Beyond these British ventures, however, stood others, most notably the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 which offered testimony to the utility of navies operating in the role of power projection. As a result, British Army and Royal Navy officers considered combined operations from the twin perspectives as an object to be met in war no less than an object to initiate in war. Abetting such consideration was that before the establishment of the War Course in 1900 addressing strategy, naval tactics and the higher direction of war and the creation of the War Staff Course in 1912 to train those who would serve the senior officers prepared by the former instruction, the Navy had taken to sending selected naval and marine officers to Camberley.4 This institution was itself a response to the failings demonstrated during the Crimean campaign of 1853–56. Be that as it may, it was a reform that would repay ample dividends in the years to come and not only for the Army.5 Besides imparting lessons in War Office organisation and staff procedure, naval and marine officers secured an understanding of the capabilities, limitations and ethos of the British Army – of no small benefit if a combined operation were ever launched at a future date. The Army, in turn, began sending officers who had passed through their staff college to the War Course.6 This step promised to familiarise military officers with the ways and ethos of the Senior Service and aimed to ensure any combined operation passed seamlessly. This was all to the good, but difficulties persisted. The Admiralty reserved the right to remove a student from the Army staff college to fill a pressing vacancy whilst others found wanting upon leaving Camberley were denied further advancement.7 Moreover, appointments to the highest levels of command in this era often owed more to seniority and ready availability than pure qualification. To this end, Sir John Colomb, a former officer of the Royal Marine Artillery but presently the Member for Great Yarmouth, took the Admiralty and the War Office to task for the haphazard manner a naval brigade was organised and employed in South Africa. This was in 1899 when the inclusion of trained Marine staff officers was mostly eschewed with recourse to making do with the organic personnel of the fleet instead.8 Colomb, along with his brother Philip, were at the fore of what was known as ‘The Blue Water School’. The label is unfortunate for it masked the essence joint operations played in their teachings and, consequently, the centrality of a naval and military partnership.9 John Colomb’s cry, though, is instructive for highlighting how far things had progressed just as surely as depicting how much remained to be done. This serves as a reminder that professional military education, important as it was becoming, remained but a means to an end with Service culture and availability playing their parts. Where the Admiralty proved more astute was


Joseph Moretz

in employing Julian Corbett as a lecturer at the War Course and, as it was subsequently styled, the Royal Naval War College where he provided an historical underpinning to the more theoretical aspects of the curriculum.10 George Aston of the Royal Marine Artillery, however, was one officer who secured the military psc (1891) and then subsequently returned to Camberley to serve as one of its instructors where he lectured on imperial strategy from 1904–08. This pattern would be unusual after 1918. Then the Admiralty left it to naval psc holders recently honed at Greenwich to attend the staff colleges of another Service as qualifiers cum instructors where they were expected to impart a maritime dimension to those courses and proving that interoperability is not always enhanced when methods are formalised and regularised. Of course, Aston was no stranger to combined operations having landed at Suakin, Sudan, in company with the Mediterranean Fleet Royal Marine battalion in February 1884 and seeing action at Tamai the following month. This before seeing service in South Africa where he was attached to the 8th Division as an intelligence officer.11 Another officer with close connections to Camberley was Lieutenant the Honourable Reginald Plunkett (and following the death of his mother in 1916, Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax). Following his War Course attendance in 1908, Plunkett studied at the Military Staff College for six months in 1909 and then sat the first naval War Staff Course in 1912. Promotion to Commander followed and so too appointment to the battlecruiser HMS Lion with proximity to Rear Admiral David Beatty soon to come. Plunkett was a very good torpedo officer having a number of inventions and innovations to his credit, but he was much more than a narrow technical specialist. A charter member of the society that spawned The Naval Review, he was a broad church progressive given to reflection and would exert a healthy influence on the development of naval staff officers post1918 when he became the first director of the Royal Naval Staff College.12 That remained for the future and his posting to the Lion is indicative that it was easier to develop officers with a sympathy for the British Army and its ways than to employ them in a manner where skills recently acquired found ready use. This could also be said of Captain Alan Bourne, RMA, who from Camberley in 1914 proceeded to the Grand Fleet and eventually HMS Tiger where he saw action at the Dogger Bank and Jutland in the process.13 Plunkett’s attendance at the War Course before sitting a staff course – naval or otherwise – highlights the evolutionary and uneven character of pre-war naval higher education, but that should not colour our appreciation that real efforts were being made to ensure the interoperability of the Services and during those most difficult of ventures, combined operations. This was no easy matter for the Army was far further ahead in developing doctrine than the Navy and accepting the necessity for a General Staff to say nothing of the very idea of the staff system itself. Captain Herbert Richmond lamented the lack of a naval equivalent to the Field Service Regulations of the Army and, though this would be corrected following the World War, it does offer testimony that, notwithstanding the many changes adopted, the Navy of 1914 was an institution in many respects only on the cusp of reform.14

The Royal Navy and combined operations 207 The creation of a War Staff and the founding of a unique naval course to educate and train officers for duty within its divisions was not without controversy. The lines of that debate need not concern us here, but a primary impetus for creating such a staff and its associated course was to harmonise liaison with the War Office and the British and Indian Armies or so it was hoped by Arthur Lee, a former gunner and future First Lord of the Admiralty.15 These sentiments were shared by a cadre of influential officers from both the Army and the Navy desirous to ensure a degree of harmony in outlook and method to allow combined operations to be executed with the least amount of friction.16 Whether such would foster a more coherent imperial strategy remained to be seen, but in an era of increasing technical complexity and in view of the many problems arising in the recent South African campaign change was a given. In addition to the formal courses adopted before 1914, the Services conducted practical exercises together in combined operations such as those run in the spring of 1904. This witnessed troops and horses making an unopposed landing in Bournemouth Bay while demonstrating the practical skills of transferring artillery to shore in slings harnessed between two launches. The serial, in fact, tested lessons derived from South African experience, but there were limits to what was possible. Time and scale were two such brakes to mastering the intricacies of combined operations and exactly what Lieutenant Colonel Aylmer Hunter-Weston and Major Walter Braithwaite, two of the officers participating, made of the proceedings directed by Brigadier-General Percy Lake is not recorded.17 Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Sir Ian Hamilton commanding Southern Command and fresh from duty in Manchuria where he had followed the Russo-Japanese War continued the practise of fostering close ties with the Navy. He invited senior officers from the fleet to witness military manoeuvres and join in the after action discussions.18 Thus, pre-war cooperation in joint warfare was not a dead letter, but it suffered from the limitations imposed by the abbreviated training cycle. Given its commanding location governing access to the Black Sea from the Aegean and the extension of Russian sovereignty to the shores of the Black Sea, the Dardanelles came only to assume an even greater importance in British strategic planning. Even before this moment and in 1807, Vice Admiral Sir John Duckworth wearing his flag in HMS Royal George had led a force through the Turkish Straits and decamped in front of Constantinople. Success did not follow for when reports were at hand that the forts covering the Dardanelles were being augmented, the fleet withdrew lest it be trapped. Duckworth was unfortunate that his initial efforts were hindered by the strong currents present and that he lacked a supporting military force.19 Both problems would feature anew in the World War, though in the intervening period the Navy at least sought to measure the actual influences of the first. Unsurprisingly then, the Dardanelles environ became a staple of British naval intelligence reporting throughout the nineteenth century. Captain William Wharton and HMS Shearwater surveyed the Straits, the Bosphorus and the Black Sea in the summer of 1872 and Commander Edmond Slade in HMS Bramble extended this mapping to the Gulf of Bargas off Bulgaria in 1897.20 British hydrographic


Joseph Moretz

studies were an indispensable part of the Navy’s support to British maritime trade, but the gathering of such topographical intelligence was a feature that others could have taken to heart before initiating equally forlorn operations most notably in Norway in 1940.21 In 1883, Aston provided the accompanying drawings in a report drafted by Lieutenant the Honourable Maurice Bourke, RN, specifying the defences of the Dardanelles. This intelligence was updated on a regular basis with the latter officer especially commended in 1889 by Their Lordships for the revisions provided to his earlier report.22 In 1908, the Admiralty revised its report on the defences covering the Dardanelles and this information was cross-checked with intelligence held by the Italians and the Russians in early 1915.23 At the time of the Russo-Japanese War, the Dardanelles assumed a new prominence in British circles. With one fleet already en route to the Far East from Baltic Waters, the possibility was present St Petersburg might attempt to reinforce her forces by having the Black Sea fleet transit the Straits in contravention of its then demilitarisation.24 In the event, the fear was never realised, but planning for a possible combined operation against the Dardanelles continued. Accordingly, the War Office outlined such a scheme in December 1906 to the CID as part of planning arising over the Taba incident between Turkey and Egypt.25 As for the RussoJapanese War, it was watched closely by the British (and others) with the War Office going so far as to release the reports of its accredited observers to the Japanese and Russian Armies to the public in 1908. Meanwhile, the Admiralty Intelligence Division prepared a three-volume classified study of the war drafted by Corbett and Slade.26 Though Britain was now an ally of Japan, consideration of the war was bound to be a staple of Admiralty and War Office thinking regardless of any formal links. That said, those ties made her analysis more informed and were facilitated by the attendance of Commander Kiyokazu Abo, a veteran of the campaign and now naval attaché, who sat the War Course from October 1906–January 1907 – a rare concession of foreign access to the premier naval class considering strategy and the higher direction of war.27 As for Slade, he was just that sort of all-rounder that the Navy prized. A very good torpedo officer, fluent in several languages and knowledgeable of hydrography and wireless in equal measure. He also had served in Asian waters before the Russo-Japanese War, commanded the War Course under Admiral Sir Day Bosanquet and was from late 1907 the Director of Naval Intelligence.28 Meanwhile, the events surrounding the Turco-Italian War (1911–12) only emphasised the criticalness of the Dardanelles. The successful passage of several Italian warships in July 1912 bringing them to the Sea of Marmora demonstrating possibilities and vulnerabilities in equal measure.29 The extent to which a succession of lesser actions against second-rate military powers in the previous century clouded perceptions about the vulnerability of the Dardanelles to direct naval action is unknowable. What is clear is that many of the officers of note during the World War had cut their teeth in these minor operations displaying those traits of zeal, initiative and powers of command so prized in aspiring naval leaders. This included Lord Fisher who had been present at the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882 during the Egyptian War whilst commanding

The Royal Navy and combined operations 209 HMS Inflexible and then receiving further praise for his policing of that port.30 It also included the likes of Vice Admiral Sackville Carden who served as the Harbour Master at Alexandria during the same campaign.31 Yet, it is perhaps Commodore Roger Keyes who exemplified this strain of naval experience more than any other contemporary officer. Present during the annexation of the New Territories of Hong Kong, he was then expressly promoted to the rank of commander for his services in China. Keyes took part in any number of minor skirmishes from capturing the forts covering the approaches to Tientsin to subduing four Chinese destroyers.32 Before the Dardanelles, though, any number of lesser combined operations had already occurred in the new war of which the transfer of the British Expeditionary Force to the continent was at the fore. This administrative landing and its subsequent sustainment were made possible by the general command of the narrow waters that the Royal Navy had established. Never absolute, this command was maintained in the presence of German naval and military action for four and a half years of war. If initially executed with a large dose of improvisation and a measure of luck, then one does not need to resort to the counterfactual to comprehend how Allied fortunes would have fared if such control had gone begging.33 As for the employment of naval forces in raiding operations during the World War, an early illustration is provided by the cruisers HMS Minotaur and HMS Newcastle. Operating in Chinese waters when hostilities commenced, they immediately sailed for Yap and attacked the German wireless station located there on 11 August.34 Still, for breadth and variety of action the example of the cruiser HMS Doris operating off the coast of Syria from late 1914 can be little bettered. Here, Captain Frank Larken demonstrated all the advantages local sea control offered as he harried Turkish forces. They were threatening Egypt and, more importantly, the Suez Canal, not without reason sometimes referred to as the ‘Clapham Junction’ of imperial communications. This saw the Doris using her embarked seaplane to scout the enemy coast, provide direct fire on the spotted Turkish forces all of which was followed up by the landing of bluejackets led by Commander Kenneth Brounger to secure physical intelligence of the opposing forces. The detachment also succeeded in severing local telegraphic cables and damaging the coastal rail system. These raids continued and required a dispersal of effort on the part of the Turkish Army to protect its communications out of all proportion to the small British force engaged. They also indicated that Britain retained the ability to land forces elsewhere and extend the war to quarters not of Turkey’s choosing. As for Larken and the Doris, they remained in the Eastern Mediterranean and supported the subsequent Dardanelles-Gallipoli campaign.35 In modern parlance and beyond the immediate results achieved, the Doris was shaping the battlespace for future operations. In this regard, too much can be made of the shelling of the Dardanelles in November 1914 as sacrificing the precursor of surprise as the later post mortem found.36 In truth, this measure must be seen as part of a larger initiative by Larken and by Vice Admiral Sir Richard Peirse at Smyrna to keep Turkish forces guessing where the major effort would fall. This was important, for when the moment arrived to extend operations into


Joseph Moretz

the Dardanelles, holding Turkish forces in place elsewhere would be a valuable precursor. This points to another style of operation which the British employed – feints. Such serials abetted surprise to the main operation and were executed before, during and at the concluding phases of the campaign. Accordingly before the naval attack on the forts had been initiated, Maurice Hankey, the Secretary to the War Council, suggested launching diversionary operations against Serbia, Alexandretta and Haifa.37 Meanwhile, when the landings began in earnest on 25 April 1915, an early measure was the French diversionary approach made at Kum Kale on the Asiatic side of the Turkish Straits.38 Of blocking operations, the theory was easy enough. Against a critical harbour, sink a number of ships loaded with cement at key points to deny the enemy use of the port whilst concurrently attacking the surrounding infrastructure of locks, piers and canals. Where reality differed from theory is that any harbour deemed so vital would naturally be covered by the most robust of defences. This, no less, remained true at Zeebrugge and Ostend in Belgium, but the depredations inflicted by U-boats were pressing and, if allowed to continue, ominous. Other measures in time overcame the problem, but that should not hide that in 1917 and 1918 any attempt offering to deal the German campaign a body blow was an attempt worth making. Thus, the attack on the night of 22/23 April 1918.39 Proposals for dealing with the former had been mooted as early as January 1915, but did not proceed further for two reasons. Firstly, because Fisher, the First Sea Lord, did not believe the effort was worth the probable costs and, secondly, because the plan then being formulated required the cooperation of the French Army.40 Before this the Navy had bombarded the port and its facilities. More than the actual damage inflicted, the aim then was to entice a sortie by elements of the German Navy and force a fleet action.41 As German submarine operations progressed, the risk to Allied Channel communications became palpable. That, however, was not the only naval threat for sizeable flotilla forces were being concentrated at Zeebrugge which might cover a German amphibious assault on the Allied rear area.42 After the successful German operations against Riga and the landings at Oesel in the autumn of 1917, this fear only increased. In mitigation, a steady rate of air bombing, mining, attacks by coastal motor boats and bombardment by naval monitors were launched throughout the summer and autumn of 1917, but their efficacy proved limited.43 Moreover, in pursuing these attempts air support to the British Army in France was denuded. A joint operation in cooperation with the Royal Air Force was intended, but adverse weather cancelled the bombing mission slated to precede the naval raid.44 In the event, the results achieved were circumscribed, and, in the months following, the Royal Air Force and the Navy continued to devote considerable attention all towards denying the Germans renewed use of Zeebrugge.45 As British casualties were heavy and the object was not obtained, it is easy to cast the ZeebruggeOstend operation as another British failed attempt at combined operations. This though is to miss the forest for the trees. With fortunes in the West approaching their nadir – Haig had only recently issued his ‘backs to the wall’ Order of the Day – the talisman of bold, decisive action by Britain’s sure shield resonated.

The Royal Navy and combined operations 211 Never mind the results achieved; wars are rarely won by subtraction. With the exploits occurring on St George’s Day, it was a ready-made gift to Crewe House and those responsible for bolstering British spirits at this hour. This was how it was reported by the Press and the Press was not wrong to adopt this pose.46 Acting Vice Admiral Roger Keyes commanding the Dover Patrol shared in the laurels of Zeebrugge, but before that operation he had been Rear Admiral John de Robeck’s Chief of Staff in the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron.47 Committing a military force on a distant shore in the face of immediate enemy opposition is not an action for the fainthearted. Logistics alone make such operations exceedingly difficult as ammunition, food, water, transport and medical services must be present and sustained through the days and weeks ahead. Conversely, strategic surprise of what is intended seemingly evaporates the greater the enterprise being attempted as forces and supporting bases of necessity must be fashioned beforehand. Such complex operations, always hard, are not made easier when they are initiated early in a war when troops, staffs and commanders are of varying quality and experience and the specific means to actually conduct such an evolution are not present or present only in limited quantities. All these factors were present to lesser and greater degrees during the Dardanelles (naval) and subsequent Gallipoli ( joint) campaign, yet of greater concern was the campaign’s objective. An action initiated to support Russia and maintain communications with that ally was begun with only a modicum of military coordination with that power having been accomplished. The Russian Black Sea Squadron shelled the forts covering the Bosphorus on 28 March 1915 and continued the attacks here and elsewhere for the next two days. They then withdrew.48 Of course, the campaign that transpired was not the operation originally desired, for the naval action pursued in February 1915 proceeded notwithstanding the preferred and previous thought of launching an operation with the full cooperation of the military. It was a maxim that ships should not engage forts and forts covered by mobile howitzers and machine guns made the prospect even more daunting still. On the eve of committing the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron against the Turkish forts covering the Dardanelles, Hankey now queried Corbett about previous British attempts to tackle the problem. Naturally, Corbett surveyed the experience of 1807, contrasting it with the successful operation against Copenhagen of the same year. The latter successful campaign had been conducted with the full benefit of a cooperating military force. This was the lesson of both ventures and one not to be lightly discarded.49 It was, and by no less an authority than Hankey who did not think to alter the advice just rendered to the prime minister that the naval operation go forth.50 To those in London in February 1915 and in their defence, what was now being contemplated was seen as a demanding operation of war. Still, if ever a wish was father to the thought in war the Dardanelles-Gallipoli campaign ranks as such a venture. Difficulties were too readily discounted and the capabilities of the adversary under-estimated. Hubris can only partially explain why this proved so and the more likely reason remains that officials, fixated on rendering a telling and early blow in the war, accepted accumulated risks all too readily.51


Joseph Moretz

Geography alone might have gave one pause; passing a fleet through a chokepoint in excess of 160 miles in the presence of fixed and mobile batteries to say nothing of searchlights, mines and torpedoes bordered on the reckless. Even if the ships were expendable, then the crews were not. Whilst the fixed defences covering the Straits were known, the scale of supporting forces only became manifest once operations commenced for the defence in depth present spoke to a thoroughness in Turkish preparations. This failure in current intelligence speaks to shortcomings in the fleet no less than in Whitehall. To be sure, Ottoman forces faced their own set of problems foremost being the logistics of keeping garrisons supplied on the Gallipoli peninsula when the supporting road network was so poor. Of course, if British forces landed the same would then apply to them. The initial assault witnessed naval warships employing medium-range direct and long-range indirect fire against the outer forts. This operation began on 19 February 1915 – the very anniversary of Duckworth’s passing of the Straits over a century ago.52 These bombardments were followed, in turn, by the insertion of naval landing parties. Directed by Brigadier-General Charles Trotman, they set charges to the guns thereby effecting their destruction. The work was slow, methodical but successful. Yet, what proved possible here could not be duplicated when the intermediate forts were tackled. Trotman was a very experienced Marine who like so many of the senior officers who participated in a combined operation during the World War had earlier seen action at Suakin, Hasheen and Tamai. Indeed, Trotman had even completed the Army’s Senior Officers’ Course. He was not, however, a military psc demonstrating that the concerns voiced by John Colomb in 1899 continued into 1915.53 Once the purely naval action of subduing the forts was abandoned and strategic surprise had been lost, the operation progressed to the next stage, becoming a series of opposed landings conducted by the military. This did not happen immediately as surveys of the best grounds for landing needed to be confirmed by the Navy while the military force was readied. Much of the work of the former was overseen by Commander Percy Douglas, the Admiralty Superintendent of Charts who was attached to the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron. He would play a similar role at Dover in 1918 in the planning for Zeebrugge.54 While these measures robbed the enterprise of what little momentum had been won, too much should not be made of this lapse as a cause of the debacle following for the real objective requiring subjugation was not the fixed defences of the forts but the Ottoman Army protecting the same and barring the way to Constantinople. Time and again, the Navy demonstrated that it could place a military force ashore and time and again the Ottoman Army showed that the tactical success initially acquired could not be translated into a broader gain by the Allies. The Turkish soldier proved indomitable in defence and if his fighting qualities were held suspect before the start of operations, the British quickly appreciated the error made. Stalemate followed and with stalemate came disease as proper field sanitation while in direct and sustained contact with the enemy went begging. In this regard, dysentery, diarrhoea and enteric fever proved especially worrisome and always present were the infernal flies.55

The Royal Navy and combined operations 213 An opposed landing was a special brand of offensive action and in the First World War offensive action invariably produced heavy casualties amongst the attacking forces – at least in 1915. At Gallipoli, the Navy executed a blocking operation of another sort – as a defensive measure with Douglas fixing the positions of those vessels deliberately sunk off Cape Helles to protect the landed force.56 Of course, to sustain any progress, reserves of manpower and ammunition needed to be close at hand. This was never the case at Gallipoli and, in an operation commencing from the sea, supplying water to the troops landed became an acute shortfall. Distance complicated the situation for the military chain of command operated through Egypt and, thence, to the War Office in London.57 Throughout the campaign and the stalemate arising attempts were made to find a solution. Wherewithal that might have paid dividends if present during the opening phase began to appear including naval monitors, air support and, of course, more soldiers. The supporting infrastructure found at Mudros and Kephalos was a marvel of engineering matched in equal measure by the facilities developed on the Gallipoli peninsula to sustain the forces engaged. These though were the products of improvisation and not evidence of prior staff planning. Whether, if such costs in treasure, material and blood had been estimated ahead of time, a decision to initiate the campaign would have been reached remains an interesting imponderable. Unfortunately, the level of commitment required to achieve success, or something resembling it, operated against the greater Allied strategy of the war. Here, matters of prestige only complicated the situation. Unwilling to provide what was required, the authorities were unwilling to give up that little which had been secured for fear of what would follow afterwards in India and Egypt. Consequently, operational stalemate was met by political drift.58 If the fleet could not force the Straits, the Navy demonstrated that submarines could even in the presence of a mine barrage and the strong local currents. When this occurred much was expected from the disruption being caused to Turkish communications. This happened, but not to the extent anticipated. The campaign also witnessed the close cooperation of the air in support of the fleet no less than of the Army ashore. The latter, though, was more a promise of the future. If the campaign evidenced a silver-lining, the successful evacuation of the landed force in face of the difficulties enumerated must surely be it. This retrograde action was not relished, for withdrawing over beaches when in contact with the enemy was a dubious proposition. Much equipment would necessarily be sacrificed and whether all troops – fit and wounded – could detach and re-embark was not at all assured. Accordingly, Hamilton, for one, argued against the attempt.59 That success was allowed must have owed much to the level of support the military and naval forces now enjoyed. That said deception masked what was intended with several ruses adopted to lay a false trail.60 Evacuation was accepted, because continuation along the same lines promised nothing better than what had been delivered to date. This posed untoward risk to British imperial interests while potentially leaving Russia isolated in the war. This made continued action in Mesopotamia even more important than ever as it promised to tie down Turkish forces in another theatre other than the Caucasus,


Joseph Moretz

or so argued Hankey when summarising the situation now facing Britain in November 1915.61 The campaign in Mesopotamia running from November 1914 until War’s end offers an instance of the Services conducting that most fulsome of combined operations, a full-scale invasion. Though ultimately crowned with success, it, as with its Eastern Mediterranean counterpart, had seen its share of failure and both ventures led Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to introduce a parliamentary act creating two special commissions to investigate the affairs arising. If the fall of Kutal-Amara in April 1916 was the immediate cause of this act of statesmanship, then the earlier resignations of Churchill and Fisher during the Dardanelles-Gallipoli campaign necessitated broadening the endeavour to address the growing political crisis.62 More scalps would follow and in an act rich in irony, the Secretary of State for India, Austen Chamberlain, vacated his office in July 1917 at the very moment Churchill was returning to the War Cabinet as Minister of Munitions.63 From a naval perspective, Mesopotamia offered a more benign environment and a noticeable feature of operations was the direct support provided along the inland waters requiring the employment of minor craft to negotiate the limited depths present. In the first instance, Captain Arthur Hayes-Sadler commanded the naval flotilla whilst simultaneously commanding the battleship HMS Ocean. The Ocean and her captain soon departed for the Dardanelles where both fell victim to the mines covering the forts on 18 March 1915.64 Succeeding HayesSadler as Senior Naval Officer was another Navigating Officer, Captain Wilfrid Nunn.65 Nunn had qualified as a War Staff Officer in June 1912 without examination following appointment as an instructor to the War College the previous year. More importantly, Nunn was a veteran of the recent Somali campaign and an expert at pilotage. In view of the un-surveyed waters being used to support the Mesopotamian expedition, his selection by Vice Admiral Sir Richard Peirse, the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, was all that could be desired. Indeed, difficult as conditions were throughout the campaign, General Lake never stinted the naval support which made progress of any sort possible.66 This support included conducting reconnaissance ahead of the advancing ground force, sweeping the rivers for mines, transporting troops and supplies, performing casualty evacuation, acting as a communications link between the advancing columns and the rear echelon and, of course, placing direct tactical fires on the Ottoman Army. The freedom conferred by operating on the flanks of the Turks meant that the rivers were not the barriers presumed though navigation was difficult, as the initial boats available drew too much water to allow easy progress. Progress there was though and the campaign continued. A corollary benefit of these riverine operations was that they severely disrupted the normal commerce of the local Arabs and the lines of supply to their forces.67 Thus demonstrating that the value of interior lines in military operations is not always failsafe. That said, the expedition was commanded initially by the Government of India and led by officers of the Indian Army. Able and resolute as these officers were on the Northwest Frontier, combined operations was not a forte of the Indian Staff Corps and Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Barrett was taken to task for neglecting

The Royal Navy and combined operations 215 the advice of his naval adviser to augment the inland water transport supporting the advance.68 Conversely, the Government of India retained a strong appreciation of local conditions in Mesopotamia and from the beginning attached the accomplished Lieutenant Colonel Sir Percy Cox and Captain Arnold Wilson as political officers to the expedition.69 More than in the Dardanelles, the environmental conditions faced were daunting and Nunn’s subsequent career suffered as the effects of malaria contracted during the campaign lingered.70 As with Gallipoli, the landing of the military force was but a step and not an end in itself. Both campaigns are further instructive for they operated as adjuncts to the main strategy of the war which was to engage and defeat the German Army on the Western Front. To the modern observer with their limited force commitments, they represent the execution of economy of force at the strategic level of war.71 Both, however, demonstrated that making a limited military and naval commitment did not necessarily mean only limited political costs or opportunities were present. As an imperial power, and with that power anchored more on prestige than military fact, any setback on a secondary front posed a peril to a key British interest and might work against the greater Allied strategy of the war. This lesson was at the heart of Gerald Ellison’s The Perils of Amateur Strategy,72 himself a veteran of Gallipoli and, until he was sacked by the Committee of Imperial Defence, the author responsible for writing the Official History of the military campaign. It was a lesson central, too, to the mission of the Imperial Defence College which, inter alia, attempted to resolve the conflicts inherent between political direction, military strategy and supporting operations and captured so eloquently by Major General Robert Haining in 1936: It is, no doubt, extremely important to ensure that the proposed expedition is a feasible operation; the lessons of the Dardanelles bring this home very strongly. But this is only one point of a number of others which it is necessary to decide. What is essential at the outset is that the proposed operation should be reviewed in relation to its place in the war as a whole. There are many examples of operations being proposed during 1914/18, which, attractive in themselves, did not fit in properly with campaigns in other theatres, either actual or projected. It is essential that any proposed operation shall, in the first place, make its proper contribution towards the main object of the war; if it does not, then it is a wasted effort even if the object of the expedition itself can be, and is, attained.73 Fisher was a harsh critic of the Dardanelles venture though not of combined operations as his espousal of the essential role of the British Army at the beginning of this survey makes clear. Neither was his a lone voice. In the period before 1914, his view was shared by other thoughtful officers such as the former gunner Colonel John Annand who affirmed: ‘I take it the first object of our land forces is the defence of a sea-girt island; next, the power to throw an army (quantity unknown) on an hostile shore – keeping its base on the sea’.74 In the Eastern Mediterranean, the British set out to besiege Constantinople and control the Black Sea;


Joseph Moretz

they managed a toe-hold in Gallipoli and eventually yielded this limited gain. In Mesopotamia, the British initiated a narrow action to capture Basra; they eventually subdued Mosul. Failure was a part of both campaigns, yet the latter resulted in high success. An explanation is owed. Whilst the Navy and the Army might strive to harmonise the execution of a combined operation before 1914, they could not guarantee that the intended manoeuvre would suit the needs of strategy at the appointed hour. Corbett anticipated just this problem when writing of the War Course in The Times in 1906. His desire was to see the Foreign Office take its place in supporting the naval course much as the Army had done and thereby ensure that any action contemplated was not only operationally feasible, but fitted the needs of strategy.75 Sadly, the Dardanelles campaign exposed this crucial flaw and, notwithstanding subsequent official enquiry, it was not a problem amenable to easy resolution. The weakness in Britain’s higher direction of war – in any nation’s direction of war – depended foremost on the abilities and attitudes of those occupying the summit of power. It also depended on the bureaucratic structures and the constitutional traditions of British democracy. The first had been found wanting during the South African War leading to the formation of the Committee of Imperial Defence. This was a start, but hardly sufficient and the evolution of the British direction of war throughout 1914–18, if largely following the series of setbacks experienced on land and on the seas, became the lodestar of future success just as its previous deficiencies had been the font of earlier failures. Arthur Balfour captured the rationale of the Dardanelles campaign and its relationship to the broader strategy being pursued in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean. This led him to argue for the deployment of a military force sized to secure the campaign’s objectives. This was wise advice, but it would have been the wiser still if it had been rendered and adopted before the onset of the naval operation.76 Too often decisions taken incrementally, if sound on their own accord, spelled problems later as insufficient measures were adopted. The campaign following demonstrated many operational failings. From inadequate intelligence of the forces ranged against the Allies to forces not trained to task, and never resolved was whether the fleet could safely pass the Straits if only one side were controlled by the Allies. Moreover, unlike the Mesopotamia campaign, the British were attempting to defeat Ottoman power where it was strongest. Yet, the greater failure remained one of the existing political control of the war and the mismatch between ends and means. That a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel of Marines on the retired list and a Major of Hussars exerted an inordinate influence over strategy in 1915 was no less congruous than initiating an operation in disregard to the lessons of past experience which had been so welldocumented, so well-studied and, now, so well-ignored. Failure is not a precondition for innovation, but failure does frequently provide the spur for institutions, including Admiralties, to rethink their orthodoxies or in the strained jargon of today, the tactics, techniques and procedures of war. After all, it was from the diseases that laid low its troops at Walcheren that the post of Medical Director-General was established within the British Army.77 This, too,

The Royal Navy and combined operations 217 would be the case after November 1918 as the Services – now three – came to grips with the problem of combined operations. This led to the adoption of a common set of principles by the Services and their enunciation in doctrinal manuals by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force on a par and following the style of the Army’s Field Service Regulations. Thus, the birth of the Naval War Manual and The Manual of Air Operations owed much to the nexus of naval, military and, now, air operations.78 This was important, a matter of much compromise, and necessary as before a Manual of Combined Operations and the joint doctrine it espoused could be formulated, the Services needed to be clear about their own precepts.79 This was a start, but only that for what was difficult before 1914 was seen as nearly impossible after 1918. The trauma – and the word is not too strong – of the Dardanelles-Gallipoli campaign was one reason why this was so, but another was that warfare now occupied the three dimensions of space.80 The Navy did not turn its back on combined operations, but executing an opposed landing against a military power of the first rank was another matter entirely. This was accepted as a truism by the Air Ministry and the Admiralty faced an uphill battle arguing otherwise. That, however, remained another war to be thought.

Notes 1 Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher to George Lambert cited in Arthur J. Marder (ed.), Fear God and Dread Nought: The Correspondence of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, Volume III, Restoration, Abdication, and Last Years, 1914–1920 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1959), p. 518. 2 ‘Walcheren and Castlereagh’, The Times, 18 October 1909, p. 17. 3 The Hansard, House of Commons debate of 29 July 1909, vol. 8, cc1381–1432. 4 Ibid., House of Commons debate of 13 May 1909, vol. 4, c2019 and House of Commons debate of 18 March 1912, vol. 35, cc1549–1618. 5 A.R. Godwin-Austen, The Staff and the Staff College (London: Constable and Company Ltd, 1927), pp. 91–110. 6 Julian S. Corbett, ‘The Naval War Course’, The Times, 5 June 1906, p. 6. 7 The National Archives (hereafter TNA), ADM 196/61 (Eastman) and ADM 196/60 (Heaslop). 8 ‘Naval Brigade in Land Warfare’, The Times, 29 November 1899, p. 15. 9 Geoffrey Till, ‘Corbett and the emergence of a British School?’ in Till (ed.), The Development of British Naval Thinking: Essays in Memory of Bryan Ranft (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 63–5. 10 Andrew Lambert, ‘The Naval War Course, Some Principles of Maritime Strategy and the Origins of “The British Way in Warfare” ’, in Keith Neilson and Greg Kennedy (eds), The British Way in Warfare: Power and the International System, 1856–1956, Essays in Honour of David French (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010), pp. 220–21. 11 TNA ADM 196/61 (Aston) and ‘Maj.-Gen. Sir George Aston’, The Times, 3 December 1938, p. 14. 12 TNA ADM 196/45 (Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax). 13 TNA ADM 196/63 (Bourne). 14 Herbert Richmond, ‘Orders and Instruction’, The Naval Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, 1913, p. 172. 15 Hansard, House of Commons debate of 18 March 1912, vol. 35, cc1585–6. 16 Lambert, ‘Naval War’, p. 230. 17 ‘Combined Naval and Military Manoeuvres’, The Times, 20 April 1904, p. 10.


Joseph Moretz

18 John Lee, A Soldier’s Life: General Sir Ian Hamilton, 1853–1947 (London: Macmillan, 2000), p. 89. 19 Hansard, House of Commons debate of 9 May 1808, vol. 11, cc131–2. 20 TNA ADM 196/15 (Wharton), W.J.L. Wharton, ‘The Field of Geography and Some of its Problems’, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 26, No. 4, October 1905, p. 434 and ADM 106/87 (Slade). 21 TNA CAB 80/106, ‘Collection of Intelligence – Climate of Southern Norway’, Joint Planning Staff report, 4 October 1940. 22 TNA ADM 196/38 (Bourke). 23 A.L. Macfie, ‘The Straits Question in the First World War, 1914–18’, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, January 1983, p. 54. 24 TNA CAB 38/6, Committee of Imperial Defence minutes of 9 December 1904. The governing treaties were Straits Convention of Paris (1856) and the Treaties of London (1871) and Berlin (1878). See Macfie, ‘Straits Question in the First World War’, p. 46. 25 TNA CAB 24/36, ‘The Dardanelles Commission’, Robertson to War Cabinet memorandum, 17 December 1917. 26 A British Officer, ‘The Literature of the Russo-Japanese War, II’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 16, No. 4, July 1911, p. 736 and I.D. 944, Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, Admiralty, War Staff Intelligence Division, 1914. 27 TNA ADM 203/100. 28 TNA ADM 196/87 (Slade). 29 W. David Wrigley, ‘Germany and the Turco-Italian War, 1911–1912’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, May 1980, p. 331. 30 TNA ADM 196/86 (Fisher). 31 TNA ADM 196/38 (Carden). 32 TNA ADM 196/88 (Keyes) and Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes: Biography of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover (London: The Hogarth Press, 1951), pp. 37–69. 33 J.F.C. Fuller, Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier (London: Ivor Nicholson and Watson Limited, 1936), pp. 31–50. 34 ‘S.380, Lieutenant Harold Bedwell Remark Book’, entry of 11 August 1914 (privately held). 35 C.V. Usborne, Smoke on the Horizon: Mediterranean Fighting, 1914–1918 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1933), pp. 19–47 and TNA ADM 196/46 (Brounger). 36 Defeat at Gallipoli: The Dardanelles, Part II, 1915–16 (London: The Stationery Office, 2000), p. 292. More relevant to the loss of surprise was the ongoing British overture to Turkey seeking to buy the opening of the Straits. 37 TNA CAB 24/1, ‘Attack on the Dardanelles’, Hankey to Asquith note, 2 February 1915. 38 Tim Travers, ‘Liman von Sanders, the Capture of Lieutenant Palmer, and Ottoman Anticipation of the Allied Landings on 25 April 1915’, The Journal of Military History, Vol. 65, No. 4, October 2001, p. 966. 39 For a recent treatment of the operation see Mark Karau, ‘Twisting the Dragon’s Tail: The Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids of 1918’, The Journal of Military History, Vol. 67, No. 2, April 2003, pp. 455–81. 40 TNA CAB 42/1/12, War Council minutes, 8 January 1915 and CAB 42/1//26, War Council minutes, 28 January 1915–11:30 a.m. 41 TNA CAB 42/1/4, War Council minutes, 25 November 1914. 42 TNA CAB 23/2, War Cabinet minutes, 26 March 1917. 43 TNA CAB 24/3, War Cabinet minutes, 24 August 1917. 44 TNA CAB 23/6, War Cabinet minutes, 24 April 1918. 45 TNA CAB 23/41, Imperial War Cabinet minutes, 25 June 1918 and CAB 23/6, War Cabinet minutes, 23 May 1918. 46 ‘The Old Naval Touch’, The Times, 24 April 1918. 47 TNA ADM 196/88 (Keyes).

The Royal Navy and combined operations 219 48 Paul G. Halpern, The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914–1918 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987), p. 77. 49 TNA CAB 24/1, Corbett to Hankey letter, 4 February 1915. 50 TNA CAB 42/1/30, ‘Attack on the Dardanelles’, Hankey to Herbert Asquith note, 2 February 1915. 51 TNA CAB 24/1, ‘After the Dardanelles’, Hankey to CID note, 1 March 1915. 52 Macfie, ‘Straits Question in the First World War’, p. 54. 53 TNA ADM 196/62 (Trotman). 54 ‘Obituary: Vice-Admiral Sir Percy Douglas, K.C.B., C.M.G’., The Geographical Journal, Vol. 95, No. 4, April 1940, p. 326. 55 TNA CAB 21/1, ‘Preparations for a Winter Campaign at the Dardanelles’, Hankey to CID memorandum, 23 October 1915 and Tim Travers, Gallipoli 1915 (Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2001), p. 87. 56 TNA ADM 196/44 (Douglas). 57 TNA CAB 21/1, ‘The Dardanelles’, Hankey to CID memorandum, 30 August 1915. 58 TNA CAB 42/1/1, Dardanelles Committee minutes, 20 August–23 September 1915, inclusive. 59 TNA CAB 21/1, ‘The Dardanelles’, Hankey to CID memorandum, 30 August 1915. 60 Whitney T. Bendeck, “A” Force: The Origins of British Deception During the Second World War (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013), p. 29. 61 TNA CAB 24/1, ‘The Future Military Policy at the Dardanelles’, Hankey to CID memorandum, 29 November 1915. 62 Hansard, House of Commons debate of 24 July 1916, vol. 84, cc1358–60 and TNA CAB 24/2, ‘The Presentation to Parliament of Papers in Regard to the Military Operations in Mesopotamia and the Dardanelles’, July 1916. 63 ‘The War Cabinet’, The Times, 18 July 1917, p. 7. 64 TNA ADM 196/42 (Hayes-Sadler). 65 Wilfred (sic) Nunn. Tigris Gunboats: The Forgotten War in Iraq 1914–1917 (London: Chatham Publishing, 2007), p. 61. 66 TNA ADM 196/43 (Nunn). 67 Nunn, Tigris Gunboats, p. 84. 68 ‘F.-M. Sir Arthur Barrett’, The Times, 21 October 1926, p. 9. 69 ‘Major-General Sir Percy Zachariah Cox, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 90, No. 1, July 1937, pp. 2–3. 70 TNA ADM 196/90 (Nunn). 71 TNA CAB 23/1, War Cabinet minutes of 28 February 1917. 72 Gerald Ellison, The Perils of Amateur Strategy As Exemplified by the Attack on the Dardanelles Fortress in 1915 (London: Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd, 1926). 73 TNA CAB 53/27, Commandant, Imperial Defence College to Secretary, Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee letter of January 1936, Appendix C to Enclosure. 74 J.H. Annand, ‘Military Manoeuvres’, The Times, 19 January 1897, p. 6. 75 Corbett, ‘The Naval War Course’, p. 10. 76 TNA CAB 24/1, ‘The War’, Balfour to CID memorandum, 24 February 1915. 77 George G.H. Evatt, ‘A Professorship of Military Medical History At The Royal Army Medical Corps College, London’, The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2766, 3 January 1914, p. 63. 78 C.B. 934, Naval War Manual, 1921 (not traced) and TNA AIR 5/299, C.D. 22, Operations Manual, Royal Air Force, 1922; subsequently restyled as the RAF War Manual in 1928. 79 TNA AIR 10/1206, Manual of Combined Naval, Military and Air Operations, 1925. 80 TNA AIR 1/516/16/4/7, Report by Commandant Military Staff College on Naval and Military Exercise conducted November 1919.

This page intentionally left blank


absolute contraband/conditional contraband, distinction (erosion) 45 action stations, usage 119–20 Admiralstab (East Asian/Australian instructions) 170 Admiralty: Australian ships, usage 171–2; circular 78; compromises 168; planning, limitation 94; principle 197; reaction 70; reform, government intervention 74–5; short-term economies, problems 80; take-over 79–80; Transport Department, transfer 75; users, infiltration 77–8 Admiralty Research Laboratory (ARL) 81, 85; setup 82 aerial forces, attack 191–2 aero-compass, development 140 aeroplanes, experimentation funds 189 agents du gouvernement de l’etat ennemi (classification) 45 aircraft: fleet, development 193; military purposes 185 air craft, naval duties 190 air defense, authority (change) 193 Air Force Staff College, creation 156–7 air power: Naval air power, conceptual thinking 186–95; Royal Navy concepts 183 Akers-Douglas, Aretas 55 Alabama: illustration 111; sinking 110 Alcantara (patrol) 119; attack 120 Allied Channel communications, risk 210 Allies: economic/financial resources 29; embargoes, stiffening 60; measures, zoo enorm kras reaction 59–60; pressure, Netherlands resistance 61; supplies procurement, Canadian discontent 27 Alsatian 116 Alsatian (commissioning) 117 American Embassy (London), Anderson assignation 15

American naval power, appreciation 6 Amsterdam: commercial activities, focus 53–4; Rotterdam, commercial interests (NOT balance) 53 Anderson, Alan (Controller of the Navy) 78–9; Halsey, coordination 79 Anderson, Chandler: business invasion 77; Foreign Office committee meeting 15; State Department dispatch 17 Andes (patrol) 119; attack 120 Anglo-American armed conflict, likelihood 5–6 Anglo-American maritime relations, Page concerns 13–14 Anglo-American naval relationship (de Chair report) 9–10 Anglo-American relations: deterioration 7–8; Page concerns 14; problems 13–14 Anglo-American strategic relations (McKenna message) 11–12 Anglo-Boer War 205 Anglo-Dutch negotiations, breakthrough 49–50 Anglo-Dutch relations, change 52–3 Anglo-Dutch wartime friction, reduction (absence) 56 Anglo-French seapower, importance 105 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, renewal 12 Anglo-Japanese Treaty 154 Antirevolutionaire Partij 38 Antwerp: fall, aftermath 44; securing 41 Antwerp, access/target 39–40 Apia, von Spee (appearance) 177 Arabian Sea, focal areas 175 Armed Mercantile Cruisers (AMCs): baselines 119; contest 118; economic warfare 121; fitting, General Mobilization Scheme (relationship) 116; functions (War Staff Paper) 115; strength 121–2; support 116; usage 114, 117



Armed Merchant Cruisers, role 110 Asdic 82 Asquith, Herbert 214; gold shipment concerns 32; two-power standard, revision 12 Aston, George 206, 208 Atlantic greyhounds 112 Aube, Theophile 111 Aufmarschplan 41 Australia 178–9; Sydney location 171; Thursday Island relocation 169 Australian Station, local control transfer 167 Australia, plan of action (request) 168 Austria-Hungary, money transfer (prevention) 57 Avenger (torpedo attack) 122 aviation, experimental state 139 Babington Smith, Henry 32 Balfour, Arthur James 57, 193, 216; Churchill replacement 103; pragmatism 61 Balkans, crisis 41 Balland, George 114–15 Balmoral Castle (sailing ability) 116 Bank of England, credit (offering) 28 Barrett, Arthur 214–15 Battenberg, usage 132 battle-cruisers (battlecruisers): coal quality problems 142; usage 113–14, 165 Battle Instructions 154, 159; Tactical School role 157–8 Battle of Jutland (1916) 151, 158, 195; analysis 155–6; lectures, responsibility 157; refighting, obsession 155; riddle, solving 160–1; Tactical School treatment 159 Bax, Robert N. 80 Bayano (torpedo attack) 119 bearing movement, impact 131 Beatty, David 206 Belgium, pre-war requirements 57–8 belligerent rights: discussion (British refusal) 88; exercise 91; international squabble 90; rules, usage 89 belligerents, security 89 Beresford, Charles 96 Bergensfjord 119 Bigg-Wither, Guy 153 Birdcage House (Birdcage Mansions) 76 Blackett, Basil 26, 32; advice 28; Lloyd George, consultation 28–9 Blake, Geoffrey 155

blockade: activities, expansion 54–5; Anglo-French seapower, importance 105; attitudes (change), war (impact) 101–2; close blockade 92–3; Crowe observations 44; distant blockade, impact 92–3; effectiveness, definition (Declaration of London) 90–1; impact 24; importance 107; initiation 104; intelligence system, establishment 105; intricacies, understanding 44; Ministry of Blockade 33; observational blockade 92–3; pacific blockade 93; paper existence, illegality (Declaration of Paris) 90; policy, control 34; Royal Navy establishment 43; strategy, costs 92–3; tightening, British impact 106–7; undermining, Spicer warning 55–6 bluejackets, arrival 209 Blue Riband holders 112 Blue Water School, The 205–6 Board of Invention and Research (BIR) 81 Board of Trade, Textile Alliance (agreement) 19 bombing: importance 194; usage 193 Borden, Robert L. (imperial defense system discussion) 12 Borneo, defense (1937) 157 Botterell, Percy Dunville 54 Bourke, Maurice 208 Bourne, Alan 206 Boxer Rebellion 205 Boyd, John 192 Braithwaite, Walter 207 Brassey, Thomas 112 British blockade diplomacy 58 British Board of Trade 18–19 British Consul, United States Customs notification 16 British economic warfare 87 British Imperial Defense system: due diligence 6; principles, explanation 12 British munitions, J.P. Morgan purchasing agent recommendation 29 British operations, intensity (strains) 141 Brooks, J.H. 71–2 Brounger, Kenneth 209 Brown Ridge 128 Bryan, William Jennings (resignation) 31 Burney, Denniston 191 business principles (Geddes) 76 Calgarian 116; torpedo attack 122 Callaghan, Admiral 92 Camberley, training location 205

Index Campania: Cunard usage 113; Grand Fleet sailing, absence 140 Campbell-Bannerman, Henry 11 Campbell, Henry (DAMS responsibility) 115 Canada: munitions production, organization 26–7; procurement sources, unhappiness 27 capital ships, concentrations 168–9 Capper, John 187 Cap Trafalgar (attack) 118 Carmania (construction) 113 Caronia (construction) 113 Cecil, Robert 55; commercial favors, withdrawal 57–8; Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Foreign Affairs 103 Central Powers: economic attrition 63; economic warfare, AMCs (usage) 121; trade, suppression 43 Chamberlain, Austen 214 Charmes, Gabriel 111 Chatfield, Ernle: Admiralty appointments, impact 79; naval apparatus, perspective 80; technical advance, concern 80–1 Chatterton, Keble 117 Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance (CINO) 80, 85 Childer, Erskine 139 Christmas Day attack (1914) 139 Churchill, Winston: First Lord of the Admiralty, tenure 185; flying lessons 189–90; Naval Agreement comments 166; two-power standard instruction 12; war duration assumption 70 ciphers: books, capture 139; usage 137–8 City of New York (Spanish-American War importance) 114 City of Paris (Spanish-American War importance) 114 Clarendon, Lord 88; belligerent rights perception 95 Clarke, G.S. 7 Clausewitz, friction 150 close blockade 92–3; Heligoland Bight, close blockade 93 coal firing, problems 141 Collingwood (grounding danger) 129 Collishaw, Raymond (memoir) 184 Colomb, John 205 Colomb, Philip 205–6 Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C): China, contact 173; Grand Fleet, ship position advice 132; Home Fleets, night operation experience (absence) 130; Naval Board function 168


commerce, war 110–11 Commissie voor den Nederlandschen Handel (Commission for Dutch Trade) (CNH): contact 47; Oppenheimer proposal 49 Committee of Imperial Defense (CID): blockade problem identification 43; delegates, Grey discussion 11–12; economic warfare study 12–13; formation 216; internal study, exposure (avoidance) 152; report 7; strategic position meetings 11–12; Sub-Committee on Trading with the Enemy 13 Committee on Trading with Enemy in Time of War 94, 95 communications 137–9 condensiritis 141 conditional contraband: absolute contraband, distinction (erosion) 45; assignation/safety 90–1; British trade 50–1; exemption 45 contraband: absolute contraband/ conditional contraband, distinction (erosion) 45; conditional contraband, exemption 45; impact 24; issue, resolution 29; list, British revision 47–8; shipments, Britain restraint 101; war contraband 90 Contraband Department: blockade policy control 34; creation 30, 33; NOT, existence (Villiers observation) 51–2 Controller-General of Merchant Shipbuilding (CGMS) 78, 85 Copenhagen, cargoes (arrival) 91 Coral Sea, Patey communications 173 Corbett, Julian 5, 151–2; lectures 206 Corn Laws, abolition 88 Cort van der Linden, P.W.A.: Dutch neutrality 40–1; defense 42; van Aalst discussion 60 cotton crop, financial situation (Spring Rice linkage) 26 counter bidding, prevention 27 country, revenues/industries (concentration) 110 Cox, Percy 215 Craig, A.W. 80 Crawford, Florence 30 Crawford, Richard (appointment) 30–1 Cresswell, John 157 Creswell, William 167 Crooke, H.R. 136 Crowe, Eyre 15; blockade observations 44; contraband issues 25; Crawford



perspective 30–1; Foreign Office command 46 Cruiser Manual 154 cruiser warfare, abandonment 175 currents, impact 129 Curzon, Lord 184–5 Dardanelles: assault 212; campaign, changes 211; criticism (Fisher) 215–16; environment, challenges 215; geography, problems 212; lessons 153, 207–8, 215; vulnerability 208–9 de Barolome, Charles (Third Sea Lord) 79 de Beauvoir Brock, Osmond 114 de Chair, Dudley: HMS Crescent 117; report 9–10 Declaration of London (1909) 45; acceptance 91; Admiralty challenge, absence 96–7; assumptions, problems 91–2; blockade effectiveness definition 90–1; following, effort 99–100; praise (McKenna) 97; regulations 100; supporters, perspectives 97–8 Declaration of Paris (1856) 45, 90; reservations 95 Defensive Arming of Merchant Ships (DAMS) 115 de Jone, B.C. 61 Denmark: neutral ally, role 39–40; NOT model emulation 51 Deputy Controller of Armament Production (DCAP) 75; DNO, resistance 79 Deputy Controller of Auxiliary Shipbuilding (DCAS) 75, 78, 85 Deputy Controller of Dockyard Shipbuilding (DCDS) 75, 85 Derfflinger (power maintenance problems) 142 de Robeck, John 211 Desart Committee 34 de Schepenroof (theft of ships) 59–60 Destroyer Attack Instructions 154 destroyers: operator, number 138; problems 128–9 Dewar, Kenneth 153 Dewar, K.G.B. 78 diplomacy 38 Director of Naval Ordnance (DNO) 85; DCAP, resistance 79 distant blockade, impact 92–3 doctrinal foundations 168–9 doctrine of continuous voyage, applicability 45 Dogger Bank action/sortie 134, 142–3

dominion 165; authorities, uneasiness 178; naval force placement (control) 168 Dominion Iron and Steel Company, French contract 27 Douglas, Percy 212–13 Dreadnought-type ships, location 166 Dresden (torpedo attack) 122 Dreyer, Frederic 80, 157 Duff, Adrian Grant 97 Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, marriage 38–9 Durand, Ambassador (covering letter) 9–10 Dutch blockade, effects 58 Dutch cargo ships, Wilson confiscation 59 Dutch commerce: decrease 40; restrictions, increase 55; war-induced restrictions 53 Dutch commercial interests, safeguarding 47–8 Dutch food supplies, Oppenheimer information 46–7 Dutch imports, problem (Oppenheimer discussion) 51 Dutch neutrality: German respect 42; maintenance 40–1; preservation, English/German commitment 44 Dutch policy, merchant class (relationship) 46 Dutch ports, blockade 43 Dutch press, Oppenheimer cultivation 54 Dutch territory, advancement 41 economics, liberal position (Grey) 99 economic warfare 38, 87–92; contradictory policy 100; extralegal means 100; legal basis, destruction 91–2; limitation 93–4; pre-war British policy 92–4; reciprocity/ irony 102–3; theme, recurrence 50–1; tightening, civil department disputes 104; total war, comparison 91–2; waging, problem (CID study) 12–13; war 103–7 Edgar-class cruisers, blockade usage 114 Edwardian defense, policy 95 Egyptian War (1882) 205 Ellerton, Walter W. 81 Ellison, Gerald 215 embargoes, Allied stiffening (impact) 60 Emden: destruction 178; independent operation 175 Emmott, Lord 104 Emperor of India 136 Empress of Britain 116 en clair signals 137–8

Index Encounter: enemy attack instructions 169; Sydney location 171 enemy (portion), force (concentration) 160 enemy-owned merchant ships, seizure (usage) 93–4 enemy ports, blockade 93–4 Enemy Supplies Restrictions Committee 25 enemy territories, Australian occupation 176–7 enemy, vital points (aerial force attack) 191–2 engineering 140–3 Entente rules, neutral country acceptance 106 environmental conditions, technological factors (intersection) 127 Esher, Lord 95 European war, danger 5 Excellent (gunnery ship) 80 executive orders, verbal orders (combination) 136 Expeditionary Force, War Office dispatch 92 exposed anchorages, usage 130–1 Fanning Island, Australia-Canada cable (destruction) 176 Fashoda Crisis 111 female employment, reactions 73 female staff: importance 73–4; limitation (Civil Engineer-in-Chief observations) 74 female worker turnover, Naval Ordnance Store Officer observation 73 Field Service Regulations 154, 206 First Lord, anxiety 70 First World War, scientific turning-point 84 Fisher, Jackie (appointment) 186–7 Fisher, John 150, 166, 186 fleet action, engagement 150 Fleet Units, independence 165 Force A, Australia (flagship) 179 force majeure (exercise) 61 force structure, recommendations/ acceptance 165–6 Ford, J.M. 83 Foreign Office (FO): Commercial/Treaty departments, war-related business 46; committee: Anderson meeting 15; members, list 15; Crowe command 46; impact 24; international relations role 33; Page discussion 16–17; Paish mission, Spring Rice report 29 France: exchange crisis 32; war, German declaration 41 Fremantle, Admiralty bypass 177 funnel smoke, smog effects 130


Gallipoli: evacuation 213–14; problems 213; submarines, impact 213 Garnett, William 52 Geddes, Eric: business invasion 77; business principles 76; military command, preference 79; transfer/ promotion 74–5 General Mobilization Scheme 116 George, Lloyd: Admiralty appointments 74–5; influence 76; objections 12 German East Asian Squadron 170 German New Guinea, occupation delay 174 Germany: agricultural produce imports, sale ban (ineffectiveness) 55; Allied blockade, disruption 41; China, trade 112; concessions, securing 61–2; demarche, The Hague yield 61; economic warfare: AMCs, usage 121; waging, CID study 12–13; exports: blockade 104; harm 102; GDP, weakening 107; High Seas Fleet problems 142; imports: blockade 104; increase 102; keyholes, Dutch capital (relationship) 46; money transfer, prevention 57; navy, economic warfare (impact/intention) 102; night fight, preparation ability 160; relations, characterization 40; seaborne trade, vulnerability 112; shipping, disappearance 102; steamers, Royal Navy capture/detention/destruction 42–3; submarine campaign, privations 153; troop/material transports, impact 60; U-boats, usage 55; war, declaration 41 Gneisenau 178 Goeben affair (1914) 136–7 gold: exchange crisis 32; pool, creation 26 Goldsmid, L.F. (war anticipation) 70–1 Goodenough, William 156 Gordon, Andrew 83 Gough, Hubert 60 Grand Fleet 78; Battle Orders, evolution 133–4; deployment 155; ability 158–9; neutral ship interaction, uncertainty 100; size 138; sweeps/sorties 121; technicians, impact 84 Grand Fleet’s Battle Orders (revisions) 152 Grand Maneuvers (1912), Blue flagship 137–8 Great Britain: belligerence 96–7; status, confusion 98; blockade: challenges, decrease 104–5; efforts, The Hague (usage) 56; policy (Netherlands) 62–3;



Dutch relations 40; exchange crisis 32; financial crisis 26–7; financial mission, composition 32–3; industry, linkages (development) 76–7; intelligence system, establishment 105; Liberal Party, power 11; maritime empire 111–12; neutrality, von Bethmann Hollweg bid 42; night fight, ability 160; political pressure 100; pre-war withdrawal, penalty 178; strategic considerations, America (relationship) 11; United States: alliance, permanence 9; naval co-operation 10; strategic relationship, improvement 5; vessels, loss (Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars) 111 Great Powers: causes 38; strength 39 Grenfell, E.C. (gold shipment consideration) 31–2 Grey, Edward 29–30, 43; Anglo-American relations concerns 14; British financial position (McKenna correspondence) 31; contraband/blockade perspective 24; Durand correspondence 11; economics/ law liberal position 99; imperial defense system discussion 12; maritime law perspective 88; Netherlands perspective 43; rubber issue, instructions/ information 17–18; sea-power discussion 11–12 Grimes, Shawn 92 guerre de course (war against commerce) 110–11 gyroscopic compasses, improvement 128 Hague peace conference (1907) 45 Haining, Robert 215 Haldane, Lord 190 Hall, William 150 Halsey, Lionel 78–9; changes, bureaucratic inability 79 Harcourt, Lewis 171 Harding, Edward 150 Hayes-Sadler, Arthur 214 Hay, John 5 Heligoland Bight: action 137; close blockade 93 Henderson, Arthur (report) 53 Hermes (1913 maneuvers) 139–40 Hicks Beach, Michael 187 High Seas Fleet: communication network, organization 138–9; containment 93; covering force 130; movements, reporting 155; North Seas presence 137; problems 142; reliability, problems

142–3; success, fear 113; tactics 152; von Heeringen forecast 102 Hilary (torpedo attack) 122 His Majesty’s Government, United States Government informing 16 History of the Great War (Cruttwell) 157 HMAS Australia (battlecruiser) 167 HMS Argus 191 HMS Carmania (attack) 118 HMS Indomitable 150–1 HMS Inflexible 209 HMS Iron Duke (focus) 158 HMS Lion 132 HMS Minotaur 209 HMS Newcastle 209 HMS Ocean 214 HMS Osprey (research) 82 HMS Royal George (Turkish Straits force) 207 Hoare, Samuel 158 Holden, E.H. 32 Holland-Amerika-Lijn (HAL) shipping company, guarantees 48 Holland, fuel shortage/debt obligations 60 Holland, mobilization (deterrence effect) 42 Holland, R. Sothern 81 Hopwood, Francis 15 horizontal estimate, usage 131 Houlder Brothers, meeting 114–15 Hughes, Sam (Shells Committee setup) 26–7 Hunter-Weston, Aylmer 207 Hurst, Cecil 94 Hurst, Cecil J.B. 15 Imperial Conference (1919) 179 im Thurn, John K. 81 India (torpedo attack) 122 industrial web theory 192 industry, linkages (development) 76–7 infrastructure, attack 210 infringement, arrangements (enforcement) 16 international law 87–92; belligerent adherence, belief 90; German attack 95; importance 89–90; incoherence 99–100; naval strategy 95–8 international relations, Foreign Office role 33 international trade, importance 88 Invincible (wreckage) 152, 156 Invincible-class armored cruisers, usage 113–14 Iron Duke 132; position, Lion misconception 134 Italy, U.S. copper shipments (increase) 101

Index Jackson, Henry 194 Jellicoe, Lord: AMC usage 117–18; Committee report reaction 81–2; deployment issue 158–9; First Sea Lord, appointment 78; memoir entry 70; seaplane perspective 139–40 Jerram, Martyn 172 Jeune Ecole (influence) 111–12 Johnstone, Alan: cargo identification perspective 50; trade restriction warnings 45–6 J.P. Morgan: British government agreement 27; purchasing agent recommendation 29 Jutland: Battle of Jutland 158, 195; legacy 149 Kaiser, Orange ancestry 42; Wilhelmina appeal 61 Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse 118 Kearsarge (illustration) 111 Keyes, Roger 209, 211 King Edward VII class pre-dreadnoughts, armament removal (consideration) 133 King George Sound, Australian transport concentration 177–8 King George V (strategic/tactical experience) 136 King-Hall, George 167–8 kinship, feelings 10 Konigsberg (blockade) 178 Konigsberg, blocking 178–9 Koninklijke Hollandsche Lloyd (holdings) 53 Kroller, Anton (NOT executive) 53; German tendencies, Van Aalst perspective 54 Kronprinz Wilhelm (raider) 118 Kum Kale, French diversionary approach 210 Kut-al-Amara, fall 214 Kuyper, Abraham 38; Queen Wilhelmina, impact 39 L1 (airship), crash 140 L3 (airship) 140 Lake House 71 Lake, Percy 207 Lambert, Nicholas (Royal Navy argument) 92 Laming, Richard Valentine 54 landfall, submarine action 128–9 Landsdowne, Lord 5 Laurentic (gold/troops ferry) 122


Law, Algernon 49 law, liberal position (Grey) 99 Leslie, E.H.J. (Foreign Office clerk) 58 Leveson, Arthur 172 liberal economics, war (relationship) 98–102 liberal internationalism 98 liberal legalism 98 liberal political economics 94 liberal realism 98 liberals and legalists (school of thought) 88–9 Liege bottleneck 41 light cruiser, signal officer/spotting officer (presence/requirement) 135 Llewellyn, Llewellyn E.H. 80; scientist perspective 82 Lloyd George, David 183; economic surrender perspective 107; power 24; U.S. munitions orders 32 Lloyd’s Confidential List of Ships 120–21 London Conference (1909) 25 London, international banking center (perception) 94 long distance machines, importance 197 Loudon, Jonkheer John 47, 53; criticisms 58; mistrust 48; Rosen correspondence 57 Lucania (Cunard usage) 113 Lusitania: design/construction 113; sinking 31 Luxeuil, RNAS presence 195 LZ4 (zeppelin), flight 188 Maclay, Joseph 75; business invasion 77 Magdemurg (loss) 129 Maneuvering Manual 159 Maneuvering Orders 154 Marder, Arthur 152 Margarine Consumption Control Bureau 53 marine des pauvres 111 maritime commons, German attack 95 maritime environment, air power (Royal Navy concepts) 183 maritime law, international consensus (British rejection) 88 maritime power, combination 39 Maritime War, Foreign Office (impact) 24 Marshall, Herbert 1709 Marshall Islands, German squadron (location) 176 Massey, William 166 mass starvation, fear 112 Materials and Priority Department, creation 77



Mauretania: design/construction 113; stationing 114 Mayal archipelago, British control 175 Mayfly (rigid airship), disaster 189 May, William 137 McAdoo, William Gibbs (gold pool creation) 26 McKenna, Reginald: Anglo-American strategic relation (message) 11–12; British financial position, Grey correspondence 31; Declaration of London praise 97 McKinley, William 5 Mediterranean Fleet Royal Marine battalion 206 Men-of-War, destruction/capture 167–8 merchant cruisers, war usage 117 merino wool, sale 18–19 Mesopotamia, campaign 214 Meuse bridges, possession 41 Michell, A.G.M. 83 Middleman, importer sale (conditions) 16 Millen, Edward 172 Ministry of Blockade 33 Mitchell, Billy 192 Moldavia (torpedo attack) 123 Monroe Doctrine 167 Mont-Blanc (explosion) 122 Montcalm (armored cruiser) 173 Mooring Board, usage 132 moral influence, usage 98 Morgan, J.P. 29–30; Spring Rice friendship 30 Morland, General (seniority) 136 Morley, John 97–8 Munro Ferguson, Ronald 171; formal proclamation 171–2 Munster (destroyer) 120 Naura, wireless station destruction 174 Naval Agreement (1909), Churchill comments 166 Naval air power, conceptual thinking 186–95 naval aviation 139–40 Naval Board, communication 168 Naval Defense Act (1889) 111 Navalization, limitation 79–80 Naval Operations, environmental/ technological realities 127 naval science, infancy 150–1 Naval Staff, responsibility 78 naval strategy, public pronouncements 166 Naval Warfare (Cresswell) 157 Naval War Manual 154, 156

Naval Wing: Admiralty control 185; creation 190 navies, currents (impact) 129 navigation, environment 127–31 Navy Estimates, support 158 Nederlandsche Landbouw Export Bureau (Dutch Agricultural Export Office), preclusive purchasing agreement 55 Nederlandsche Overzee Trustmaatschappij (Netherlands Overseas Trust) 50; discussion/problems 50–2 Nederlansche Handels-Maatschappij (Netherlands Trading Company) 50 Nelsonian principles 186–7 Netherlands: Allied pressure resistance 61; blockade, plan clarity (absence) 51; British blockade policy 62–3; contraband shipments, British restraint 101; economic blockade (Great Britain) 44–5; German influence, growth 62; government, precariousness 56; Grey perspective 43; independence/integrity, continuance 43; infringement retaliation, inability 63; sea power/diplomacy/ economic warfare 38; trade: importance, German Army perspective 102; restrictions, British ramifications 45–6 neutral ally, role 39–40 neutral countries (neutrals): British intervention 87; conditional contraband, assignation/safety 90–1; Entente rules, acceptance 106; Foreign Office treatment 103; interference 97 neutrality: Dutch neutrality 40–4; policy 38–9; reaffirmation 39; Reich breach 47; van Aalst insistence 54 neutral opposition, measure 94 neutral powers, interference 88 neutral ships, Grand Fleet interaction (uncertainty) 100 nevenregering (parallel government) 53 New Light On Jutland 158 New Zealand: convoy, operation 177–8 New Zealand: coal, consumption 141; construction 166; distance, coverage 140–1 New Zealand, complementary expedition 172–3 NHM (banking/commercial corporation) 50, 53 Nicholson, Harold 61–2 Nieuwe Hollandsche Waterlinie fortifications 61 Niger River Crisis 111

Index Norddeutscher Lloyd shipping line, Kroller connections 53 North America and West Indies (NAWI) Squadron 118 North American Station, wartime commander 167 North Atlantic trade, epicenter 24–25 Northern neutrals 39–40 North Sea: High Seas Fleet presence 137; operating environment 141–2; visibility, limitation 138 Norway, neutral ally (role) 39–40 NOT activities, extension 52 NOT existence, legal/technical problems 51 NOT growth 52 NOT-kegel 50 NOT model, Denmark emulation 51 NOT powers, zenith 56 NOT regime 50 NOT responsibilities, growth 54 Noumea: convoy, exit 175; naval arrivals 174–5 Nuli Secundus 188 Nunn, Wilfrid 214 observational blockade 92–3 Occam’s razor 92 Oceanic (commissioning) 117 Office of Works, war demands 72 Official History (Corbett) 151–2, 215 offshore navigation, submarines (learning) 129–20 oorlogsgevaar 42 operational endurance, problem 143 operational picture, creation 131–7 operational plot, existence 132 Operation Order No. 1 173–4 Operation Orders 137 Oppenheimer, Francis 52; blockade analysis 60; CNH-backed import guarantee 49–51; Dutch import problem, discussion 51; economic agreement 46; operations, impact 54; talks (The Hague) 48 opposing battle lines, relationships (understanding) 132–3 Orion: dragging 130; navigation issues 127 Ottley, Charles 112, 114, 190 Ottoman power, defeat (attempt) 216 Otway (torpedo attack) 122 Paaschendaele, offensive (failure) 57 pacific blockade 93 pacifique par principe et guerriere par accident 42


Page, Walter Hines: Anglo-American maritime concerns 13–14; Foreign Office meeting 16–17 Paish, George 14, 26; advice 28; Lloyd George, consultation 28–9 Paish mission 26–8; impact 14; reason 29 Palmerston, Lord: belligerent rights perception 95; security, perception 89 Patey, George 167, 171–3; commanding officer briefing 173–4; forces, assembly 176 Patia (torpedo attack) 123 patrol lines, squadron establishment 118–19 Pauncefote, Julian 5 Pax Britannica 111 Peace Palace, opening 38 Pearl-class cruisers 166 Pegram, Frank 157 Pelorus-class cruisers, usage 166 Percy, Eustace 47; Foreign Office contact 33–4 Perils of Amateur Strategy, The (Ellison) 215 Permanent Court of International Arbitration at The Hague 38 Petersburg (merchant cruiser) 117 Philip, Arnold 74 Phipps-Hornby, Robert 167 Pierse, Richard 214 pillboxes, construction 56–7 Pioneer (training ship) 170 Plans Division, creation 78 Plunkett, Reginald 206 Pollen, John 152 Port Arthur, blockade 117 Port Moresby 173 pragmatic hegemonism 88–9, 98; international law, importance 89–90; soft interpretation 94; strategy, costs 107 pragmatic hegemony 87 pre-radio-era confrontations, focus 133 pre-war British policy 92–4 pre-war doctrine, settling (absence) 151 pre-war planning 165–70 principles of war 154 private property rights, protection 94 Prize Court 91; cases, prosecution 100; secret intelligence, evidence acceptance 105 propeller thrust, capability 83 qualifier: lectures/schemes/exercises, attendance expectations 156; training, emphasis 159



Queen Wilhelmina: intervention 39; marriage 38–9; neutrality: German respect 42; maintenance 60–1 radio: pre-radio-era confrontations, focus 133; usage/impact 131–2 Rainbow (readiness) 170–1 Ramsay, Bertram 157 Raw material, re-exporting (conditions) 16 raw material shipments, blockade 104 Reading, Lord 26, 32 remote plotting, attempts 134 reporting, problem 134–5 represaille maatregel (retaliatory measures) 57 research, term (usage) 84 Rhine Navigation Act (1869) 44 Richmond, Herbert 70, 150, 152 RMSPs, usage 118 RNR requirement 113 RNR/RNFR men, presence (requirement) 115 Rochford, Leonard (memoir) 184 Roosevelt, Theodore 5 Rosen, Friedrich: Loudon correspondence 57; peace initiative conduit 54 Roskill, Stephen 152, 185, 194 Rotterdam: Amsterdam, commercial interests (NOT balance) 53; cargoes, arrival 91 Rotterdamsche Bankvereeniging (economic stake) 53 Royal Air Force, creation 149, 184 Royal Australian Navy (RAN): administration, British perception 172; battlecruiser, station 169; strength, impact 177; training cruisers, usage 166–7 Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), training cruisers (usage) 166–7 Royal Edward 116 Royal Engineers, Balloon Sections 187–8 Royal Flying Corps (RFC): disappearance 192–3; impact 183–4 Royal George 116 Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) 184; air defense contribution 193; air power, emanation 186; autonomy 194; bombing activities 192; cessation 149, 184; Luxeuil presence 195; member service 185; role 195 Royal Naval Staff College 206 Royal Navy (RN): air-mindedness 195; appreciations 110; battle, experience 149; blockade establishment 43; concepts 183; economic pressure 93;

Edwardian England, symbol 186; needs 184; operations, combination 204; technical superiority, requirement 80–1; trade interference 99; world impact, Lamber perspective 92 Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS): requirements (Churchill discussion) 193 rubber agreement 18 Rubber Club, exportation ban 17 rubber goods, export ban 18 rubber tires, export (application) 18 Rules of the Game, The (Gordon) 83 Runciman, Walter 48 Rurik (damage) 129 Russia: mobilization 41; war, German declaration 41 Russo-Japanese War 157, 207–8; official account 116–17; settlement process 5 Salisbury, Lord (war convention perspective) 89–90 Sarajevo crisis, acceleration 40–1 Sargent, Orme 48 satellites, usage 165 Scandinavia, U.S. copper shipments (increase) 101 Scapa Flow, challenges 130–1 Scarborough Raid (1914) 133, 134, 137 Scharnhorst 178 Scharnhorst (location) 171 Scheldt: control, securing 62; German occupation 61 Schlieffen Plan 41 scout cruisers, usage 165 scouting cruisers, usage/limitations 134 sea: power 38; private property rights, protection 94; sea-borne goods 7–8; sea-borne trade, protection 169 sea-lines of communication (SLOC) 6 Sea Lords, firms/civil department pressure (resistance) 99 seaplanes, Jellicoe perspective 139–40 seapowers, impact 96 seaway, motion (effects) 128 Second Hague Peace Conference (1907) 25 Selborne, Lord (war contemplation) 8–9 Semmes, Raphael 110 Shells Committee, Hughes setup 26–7 Shipping Controller, appointment 75 ships: arrest, Churchill perspective 103; blockade, application/absence 100–1; damage 133; dispersion 169; enemyowned merchant ships, seizure (usage) 93–4; funnel smoke, smog effects 130; manifest, cargo determination

Index 121; navigational limitations 127; neutral ships, Grand Fleet interaction (uncertainty) 100; pool of errors 128; steamship subsidies, cost (concern) 113; technology, limitations 134; velocity, solution 132 Short Distance (S Wave) 137–8 Siegfriedstellung (pillbox construction) 56–7 Signal Division Director, staff approval 73–4 single vessels, captains 132 sitreps, term (usage) 136 Slade, E. 15 Slade, Edmond (Russo-Japanese War account) 116–17 Slade, VA Edmond 112 Smolensk (merchant cruiser) 117 Snijder, Cornelis Johannes 42, 61 Societe Suisse de Surveillance Economique (SSS) 51 Solvitur Ambulando 70 South Atlantic (SECA) 118 South West Air Group, development 195 Spanish-American War (1898) 114 Special Intelligence reports 152 Special Program (1894) 111 Spicer, Gerald 55 Spider Web, development 195 Spring Rice, Cecil 19; assistance, Hopwood list 25; embargo discussion 17; Morgan, friendship 30; Paish/ Blackett advice 28; rubber issue, instructions/information (Grey correspondence) 17–18; Wall Street interaction 14 squadrons, officers command 132 square system, creation 131–2 Staff Course, qualifier training 159 Statistics Department, creation 75–6 steamship subsidies, cost (concern) 113 St. Michael’s Offensive 60 strategical plot: construction 135; experience, absence 136 strategy, law (relationship) 95–6 Sturdee, Doveton 172, 179 Sub-Committee on Aerial Navigation 188–9 submarines: night operation experience, absence 130; offshore navigation education 129–30; soundproof cabinets, installation 138 Sueter, Murray 189, 190; protestations 194 Suez Canal, ship usage 113 Switzerland, U.S. copper shipments (increase) 101


Sydenham, Lord (observations) 187 Sydney (battle expectation) 174 tactical plot, experience (absence) 136 Tactical School 158; Battle of Jutland treatment 159; manuals, usage 157–8 Taylor, Alfred 151 technical advance, Chatfield concern 80–1 technical superiority, Royal Navy requirement 80–1 technology: changes 150–1; limitations 134 Tennant, William 155 Teutonic reports 117 Textile Alliance: agreement 19; Board of Trade, agreement 19; setup 18 The Hague: Great Britain blockade efforts 56; intractability 60; Oppenheimer talks 48 Third Battle Cruiser Squadron, arrival 156 Third Sea Lord, responsibility 78 Thursday Island 169, 173 Thursfield, Henry 153 Til, Geoff 185 Tirpitz, Grand-Admiral 70, 82; funds, allocation 140; planning/programs, adherence (problem) 84 torpedo attack, negation process 160 torpedo craft, enemy position estimates 135 total war, economic war (comparison) 91–2 Townley, Walter 56; Balfour instructions 61–2; van Aalst conversation 57 trade: activities, American monitoring (concerns) 16–17; interference 97; international trade, importance 88; restrictions, Johnstone warnings 45–6; Royal Navy interference 99; U.S. restrictions 14–15 traditionalists and realists (school of thought) 88–9 Trotman, Charles 212 Troubridge, Ernest 96, 190 Tubantia (passenger liner) 59 Tupper, Reginald 121 Turkish Army, communications protection 209 25-knot cruisers, usage 114 twin-screw vessels, requirement 112–13 two-power standard revision 12 U-19 (attack) 122–3 U-22 (attack) 122 U-62 (attack) 122 U-69 (attack) 122 U-96 (attack) 122



UB-57 (attack) 123 U-boats: base (Zeebrugge) 61; impact 106–7; usage 55 UC-49 (attack) 123 United States: debt, payments 28; economic/ fiscal/merchant shipping power, linkage (pre-war British appreciation) 19–20; exchange crisis 32; export, embargo 15–16; financial crisis 25–6; financial mission, composition 32–3; Great Britain: alliance, permanence 9; naval co-operation 10; strategic assessment 4; strategic relationship, improvement 5; manufacturers, rubber agreement 18; maritime power, British strategic assessment 4; merchant shipping/trade power, factors (CID report) 7; merino wool, sale 18; munitions orders (George placement) 32; naval power, neutrality (British assessment) 12; post-Civil War economic expansion 25; Textile Alliance, agreement 19; trade, restriction 14–15; wool, importation 19 Usborne, Cecil 80 user: discontent 78–9; immediate/practical considerations 82–3; infiltration (Admiralty) 77–8; term, emergence 77 USS Kearsarge (battle) 110 US Textile Alliance 18–19 van Aalst, Cornelis Johannes Karel 50, 53; Kroller perspective 54; neutrality, insistence 54; Townley conversation 57; zoo enom kras reaction, perspective 59–60 van Swinderen, Jonkheer Renneke 45; Loudon mistrust 48 Vaughan-Lee, Charles 194 velocity, solution 132 Viknor 119; loss 130 Villiers, Gerald Hyde 51–2 volksbestaan (maintenance) 42 von Bethmann Hollweg, Theobald (British neutrality bid) 42–3 Von der Trann (machinery defects) 142–3 von Heeringen, August 102 von Moltke, Helmuth 41 von Muller, Karl 175 von Schlieffen, Alfred (aim) 41 von Spee, Maximilian Reichsgraf 170–1, 173; Apia appearance 177; communications impairment 175–6; squadron, destruction 179 von Vollenhoven, Joost 49, 50

Walker, Frederic Wake 83 Wall Street (Rice interaction) 14 war: anticipation (Goldsmid) 70–1; contraband 90; conventions, Salisbury perspective 89–90; demands 72; economic warfare 103–7; experience 117–23; impact 70; female worker turnover, Naval Ordnance Store Officer observation 73; liberal economics, impact 98–102; onset 170–9; principles 154 War Course: attendance, impact 206; establishment 205; usage 155 Warden, John 191, 192 warfare, international laws (binding effect) 96 war games, usage 154 War Manual (usage) 157–8 War Office, complaints 195 War on German trade 112 War Plans (Fisher) 117 War Staff: Course, creation 205; creation 207 Washington Naval Agreement 154 watertight compartments 76 Wellington, New Zealand transports (location) 177 Welsh coal, usage 142 Western Front: exigencies 195; German defeat 215 White Star Line vessels, Admiralty usage 113 Wilhelmstrasse, formal assurances 42 Williamson, Hugh 191 Wilson, Arnold 215 Wilson, Woodrow 17, 26; confiscation announcement 59 Windsor (destroyer), smoke screen (usage) 159–60 wireless transmissions, usage 138–9 Works Department, war demands 72 world economy, German attack 95 Wrapperitis 141 Wright Brothers 187 Wright, C.S. 83 Yorck (sinking accident) 130 Ypres, offensive (failure) 57 Zeeuwsche Vlaanderen (Scheldt): control, securing 62; Germany occupation 61 Zeppelins, bombing attack 192 zoo enomr kras reaction 59–60