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Eric Honeybrook Partridge

However, it was an advisory committee only, without executive powers.

Ottoman Empire during World War I

It focused on the core questions of home and imperial defence, and the relationship between the two. It addressed the possibility of invasion, the capacity of the navy alone to protect against it, and the risks attendant to deploying the bulk of the army overseas, particularly to India. The navy proposed amphibious operations in the Baltic, an option rejected by the CID in Alarmed by the poverty of naval planning, the prime minister appointed Winston Churchill to be First Lord of the Admiralty with the specific remit to form a naval staff.

Set up in January , it never fulfilled its promise. The post of chief of the War Staff, as it was called, was not merged with that of the First Sea Lord, the senior serving officer, and the War Staff was not represented on the Board of Admiralty, the joint civil-naval body which ran the service.

As a result, the Royal Navy had no settled war plan in place by , but only individual elements which cumulatively reveal its intentions. In , the British adopted the Dreadnought , a revolutionary battleship, armed with ten inch guns and capable of 21 knots. In the latest Dreadnought , the Queen Elizabeth , mounted inch guns, burnt oil, not coal, and could reach 25 knots. In the public mind, the Royal Navy was being optimised for a battle in the North Sea, especially after the Anglo-French naval agreement of left the French responsible for the Mediterranean and the British the North Sea and the Channel.

However, Britain was also a global maritime power, and its long-term rivals elsewhere in the world were not the Germans, but France and Russia , its allies in Fisher therefore planned a development of the Dreadnought, the battle-cruiser, for oceanic warfare. An all-big gun ship from , the battle-cruisers had It exploited speed and manoeuvrability to engage better armoured ships at long range around 20, yards.

As battle-cruisers replaced Dreadnoughts, Fisher planned to remove capital ships from the closed waters around Britain and to use submarines and mines in the North Sea and for coastal defence. The Dreadnought suggested that the Royal Navy was focused on battle and would achieve its strategic purpose by tactical effect.

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This expectation was challenged by Julian Corbett , the naval historian. Corbett like Mahan was more geopolitical and political in his focus than material or tactical. He also questioned the value of battle at sea.

The Routledge Atlas of the First World War: The Complete History

Battle would only risk a dominance which it would hold without fighting. He argued that, as men live on land, the effects of maritime warfare need to be felt there. After the repeal of the Corn Laws in , British agriculture no longer enjoyed protection. With the agricultural depression of the s, the United Kingdom became increasingly reliant on imported food, especially grain.

However, this argument did not just go one way. As Germany industrialised, and its population both grew and moved to towns, it lost self-sufficiency. By Germany imported 20 percent of its annual grain consumption. The trade division of the Naval Intelligence Department, which acted as a de facto naval staff, realised that Germany was also becoming vulnerable to blockade. If British maritime dominance were eroded by its own use of economic warfare, it would be self-defeating. It planned to mount a distant blockade by closing them.

In the Declaration of London sought to extend the rights of neutral powers in the event of war by narrowing the definition of contraband and lengthening the list of goods which could be freely traded in war. The House of Lords refused to ratify the terms, so preserving the possibility of a blockade with a wide definition of contraband. By , when Fisher retired as First Sea Lord, Britain had floated and resourced a number of maritime options for major war, ranging from the purely tactical and operational to the economic and legal. They had not been moulded into something coherent enough to call a war plan.

For some, blockade was not an end in itself but a means to provoke the German navy into battle.

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For others, battle was a means rather than an end, in this case to tighten the blockade. Even more uncertain than the relationship between battle and blockade was what economic warfare itself meant. In the trade division of the Naval Intelligence Division was dismantled. The Declaration of London raised the question as to what Britain could legitimately stop.

Food was contraband if it was to be supplied to the army but not if it was for civilian consumption. Munitions of war were contraband, but little specific thought had been given to how to target them. Their vision of economic war predicted chaos on the stock exchanges, the collapse of capitalism, and revolution.

Eric Honeybrook Partridge |

In Planning Armageddon , Nicholas Lambert has extracted this strand of blockade thinking to argue, selectively, that the navy had a coherent plan for a quick victory from which the British government resiled almost the moment the war broke out. It did not. From Hankey sought to impose order on these disparate ideas by preparing a War Book, setting out the legal and financial measures required of government departments to put economic warfare in place, stop German trade, and blockade the neutral ports serving Germany.

Hankey expected blockade to presage a long war, and he did not see it as the path to a quick victory or as an alternative to amphibious operations and the despatch of the army overseas. If the navy was a weapon intended for use against a European opponent, and an instrument of deterrence, the army was optimised to secure the British Empire.

A regular, professional, and long-service force, its structure was very different from that of its European peers. In Europe, armies were conscripted and tripled in size on mobilisation to become mass armies of almost 3 million men. The total strength of the British army on 1 August was , men. Barely a third of them, fewer than ,, were regulars, of whom almost half were then serving overseas, predominantly in India, and so were not immediately available. The balance was made up of various types of reserve, but only , were in the army reserve, ex-regulars who were liable for immediate call-up in the event of war.

Britain was slow to create a general staff, the body which in other armies devoted its energies to planning. Liberals objected that, if it existed, a general staff would look for a European war. They were right: when it was created in , it set about reviewing its options in the event of major war. The army may have done its fighting in the colonies, but intellectually it matched itself against the French and the Germans, studying continental conflicts to learn lessons.

However, the question remains: when, if ever, did the momentum of this planning begin to affect policy? The core challenge was a long-standing one: the defence of India against a Russian invasion via Afghanistan or in response to domestic insurrection the mutiny of the Indian army in still cast a long shadow , given lesser but numerous commitments elsewhere.

The Great War (1914-1918) "Amazing Grace" Armistice Day (11.11.18)

In reality the threat to India, if it existed, receded even further after the Anglo-Russian entente in The BEF itself was designed for imperial defence, not European war, and was thought more likely to fight Russia than Germany. A force of six divisions, neither its structure nor its size matched the standards for continental war.

It had no corps headquarters the all-arms higher command in European armies , having to create them from scratch in It was short of heavy artillery. When it went to France in it initially took only four of its six divisions and so mustered less than , men. Nor did it have much of a reserve, although almost half of its strength on mobilisation was made up of time-expired regulars who were recalled from civilian life.

From , the National Service League lobbied for the introduction of conscription, but only for home defence. By July it had failed to recruit to its establishment of ,, and only five complete units had made themselves available for service outside Britain. The Anglo-French entente resolved outstanding colonial issues more than it set out to create a common front to face Germany. In Germany put pressure on this understanding by engineering a crisis over French intervention in Morocco, but rather than fracture the entente hardened and acquired a European focus. In the winter of Britain and France initiated staff talks which continued until May Although Grey fully supported them, he insisted they must not compromise British neutrality.

For Haldane in his memoirs, and for the first generation of historians, this was the moment when a continental commitment was forged and British military planning began to prioritise fighting alongside France against Germany. However, he also reviewed six other options, including war with Russia and war in the colonies. It required the appointment as DMO of Henry Wilson , a Francophile with good personal contacts to the French army, in August for the staff talks of to be given substance and continuity.

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