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tempted to believe that the amateur 'who knows so little' can be trusted to do the right thing,' we can securely count upon a repetition of the lack of foresight and the mistakes which are now painfully apparent.
The Royal Navy, in July 1914, was relatively and absolutely more powerful than at any period at which it had been called upon to assert its traditional dominion of the sea.
It was also, in a sense, better prepared for immediate action, and, as was abundantly proved, its personnel was incomparable. Nevertheless, there were radical defects—not wholly unrecognised-which inevitably caused disappointments, and gave rise to grave anxiety. For the superior direction of war at sea we were singularly ill-equipped. There was no real war staff at the Admiralty until the reorganisation in 1918; and for some time naval policy had been dominated by a school which placed material above the study of war and developed tendencies closely resembling those which, at an earlier date, had led to the erection of monumental fortifications in defiance of principles and quite unsuited to the requirements of the strongest naval power. From the initiation of the Dreadnought' policy in 1905, the prevailing idea seemed to be that the science of naval construction demanded a succession of monster ships which would relegate existing battle fleets to the scrapheap and render foreign competition impossible. With sound instinct, Admiral Fisher detected the enemy, and he hoped, by the rapid building of super-Dreadnoughts, to force Germany to deepen the Kiel Canal, while we attained a position of such predominance in capital ships that the German fleet could be attacked and destroyed without difficulty. Unfortunately for the success of this programme, the essential condition-an attack on Germany at a selected moment-was incapable of fufilment.
Lord Fisher could say that, in May 1907, we had 7 'Dreadnoughts' and 3 •Dreadnought' battle-cruisers and Germany had 'none, and that, in September 1912, 'we shall have 16 British “Dreadnoughts” with the 134-in. gun before the Germans have one,' while he was planning to add an 'Incomparable' of 40,000 tons and 40 knots speed, with six 20-in. guns. But, as Sir Julian
. Corbett has pointed out, in January 1915, Admiral Jellicoe could only count on '18 “Dreadnoughts” and 8 "King
Edwards” against 17 German Dreadnoughts" and 22 older battleships,'* while Admiral Beatty only disposed of 5 battle-cruisers against 4 of Germany. So far did realities fall short of anticipations! The Dread. nought' policy was vainly opposed at the time when Mr Balfour accepted it; and that it weakened our battleline in the hour of trial, and gave Admiral von Tirpitz, who built later, a chance he was well qualified to seize is now generally admitted. The policy, once accepted, led us on to a path which could not be retraced; and the effect upon the navies of the world was financially disastrous. Incidentally, it seems clear that care for the safety of these excessively important units helped to deflect our naval strategy in the Great War.
There is another circumstance which cannot be overlooked. When Lord Fisher took office as First Sea Lord on Oct. 30, 1914, he brought with him a plan for a vast combined expedition into the Baltic to effect a landing on the Pomeranian coast about ninety miles from Berlin. This plan, which involved the building of an Armada of 612 vessels of 13 classes, ranging from 5 special lightdraught battle-cruisers of 33 knots to 36 sloops, was apparently accepted by the First Lord and the War Council and held the field until May 14, 1915, when Lord Fisher resigned. That the Admiralty, with all the intense preoccupation involved in the opening stages of the greatest naval war, should have been committed to immense military operations on land is terribly signi. ficant. This, stated Lord Fisher, is 'my main scheme
. of naval strategy. The German Fleet could not be ignored, and accordingly he proposed to sow the North Sea with mines on such a huge scale that naval operations in it become impossible.' ¢ Apparently the invading force was to consist largely of Russian troops,
* Our own older battleships were apparently not included as not being under Admiral Jellicoe's command.
+ This plan was supported by a remarkable memorandum submitted by Sir Julian Corbett to the First Sea Lord 'in the early autumn of 1914.' He then pointed out that it may be well to consider the possibility of bringing our command of the sea to bear more actively. We have only to go back again to the Seven Years' War to find a means of doing this, which, if feasible under modern conditions, would promise success as surely as it did in the 18th century.'— Records,' by Lord Fisher.
I'Memories.' We had no effective mines at this time.
who might, or might not, be available, and the whole operation was essentially military. How far the building of the Armada was allowed to proceed, or to what extent it interfered with the urgent requirements of the war at sea, we do not know; but some of the vessels, and the 56 destroyers especially, were undoubtedly valuable additions. As Sir Julian Corbett writes, “ever since his (Lord Fisher's) succession to office, he had been devoting all his well-known energy to its (the Armada's) preparation’; and the effects of this diversion of the energies of the Admiralty staff from naval to military objects cannot be estimated. Any one who studies the sea-approaches to the Baltic and who reflects that the Pomeranian expeditionary force must have entailed the continuous passage backwards and forwards of supply vessels and transports, can only come to the conclusion that the project, if translated into action, would have led to a disaster of the first magnitude.*
Materials for a critical history of the naval operations are accumulating. The Germans-political and professional—have proved prolific writers having grievances and recriminations to inspire them. Grand Admiral von Tirpitz in 'My Memories ' has made a valuable contribution to naval history; but his book is somewhat marred by personal feeling, and has not received the recognition which it certainly deserves. No writer has shown a stronger grip of the principles of naval war of which the Admiralty before 1914 had lost sight; and the strain upon the British Navy would have been greatly intensified if his views had been allowed to prevail. It is evident,' writes Admiral Sir R. N. Custance, that Tirpitz grasped early in his career and understood the importance of sea power and of the battle at sea.' He was the real creator of the German fleet, and he set himself to improve upon the 'Dreadnoughts' which we were busily constructing. He considered that the supreme quality of a ship is that she shall remain afloat tinue to fight,' which might, he believed, decide the issue of a naval engagement. The result was a fleet of which the recent units were far less easily sunk than our
• One effect would have been to transfer to Germany geographical advantages superior to those which we possessed. Vol. 237.–No. 471,
own; and, as the German shells were distinctly more effective, a comparison of broadsides was fallacious. The High Seas Fleet was in fact more formidable than it appeared on paper, and Tirpitz believed that numerical inferiority was partly redressed by the superiority of matériel, to which Admiral Jellicoe has paid tribute.
Tirpitz was more than a sound naval strategist. He saw clearly that for Germany there was only one aim, to strike at the heart of the coalition '-Great Britain. He, therefore, advocated an offensive policy against us from the first, and he desired to strike straight for Calais, risking a fleet action if necessary. He realised instinctively that the guerilla warfare which followed the ill-conceived naval war orders was futile; and he condemned the casual use of submarines in the North Sea in place of concentrating them on the mouth of the Thames at the outset. In January 1916, he advocated immediate and relentless recourse to the submarine weapon' against commerce, in which von Falkenhayn concurred; and the postponement to February 1917, which he regarded as a mistake, led to his resignation. Viewing My Memories ' in the light of our own and the German histories, the genius of Tirpitz as a director of war stands out plainly. Had he controlled the operations of the fleet, in which he believed, as its commanders did not, he would have proved a dangerous antagonist. Admiral Scheer has also made a useful contribution to naval history, supplementing and generally confirming British records, while his handling of the fleet at the battle of Jutland proves him to be a skilled tactician.
Whatever disabilities for the direction of war existed at the Admiralty in 1914, they were exceeded by the extraordinary system which Tirpitz stigmatised. The Great General Staff created by Von Moltke enjoyed an ascendancy which neither the Emperor nor the civil ministers could supersede. The Naval War Staff, however, seems to have been pulled hither and thither by functionaries who were able to obtain the ear of the Kaiser. The German official history, of which three
* The ‘Goeben’ is said to have struck mines three times, and to have been still able to steam; and Germany was spared such a tragedy as the destruction of our three battle.cruisers at the battle of Jutland.
volumes have now appeared, is remarkable for outspoken criticism of the system and its results. This and the publication of orders and contemporary official documents sharply differentiate it from Sir Julian Corbett's careful narrative of events, which shrinks from criticism, and in tantalising fashion omits official pièces justificatives. The interest of the German history centres upon the hopes and fears, the speculations and the decisions, of the various actors, more especially in the opening phases of the war. Our naval manoeuvres had been the subject of meticulous study in order to obtain clues as to probable British strategy. It was expected in some quarters that we should take the offensive at once by a close blockade, utilising aircraft; and although the use of Scapa Flow was foreseen, Admiral von Ingenobl disbelieved in the distant blockade because of its effect on the United States, while Admiral Scheer thought that our prestige would demand at least some activity in the Bight. Doubt at first prevailed as to our participation in the War, and Admiral Behnke almost alone counted on our immediate action. Von Jagow was of opinion that we should hold our hand and await events; and the Kaiser seems to have been obsessed with the idea of an imminent attack by the Russians. Amid confused counsels, a general anxiety is prominent; and, as the German Foreign Office did not keep the Fleet commander informed, the preliminary measures showed signs of incertitude. There is an interesting comparison of the relative strengths of the two fleets; and the inferiority of the British battle-ships to 'ours of corresponding dates' is duly noted. The scientific knowledge of the German navy is rated highly ; but the British temperament and leadership are recognised as formidable factors.
At length speculations as to the attitude of Great Britain ended, and at 7.30 p.m. on Aug. 4, the · Königin Luise,' of the Hamburg-America Line, was ordered to the mouth of the Thames. After laying a minefield, she was sunk by the Amphion' and some destroyers; but, on the following day, the · Amphion,' returning, was sunk by a German mine. At daybreak on the 5th a submarine was sighted off Heligoland, and the German light cruisers on patrol were withdrawn. The