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Four The Shifting Balance of Power

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

THE SINO-JAPANESE and Spanish-American wars in effect marked the closing of an era. The mark that the world wears is primarily a European mark. The state and the capitalist system were primarily European creations, and a global economy and global war were likewise of European pedigree. The calendar and time are similarly European, and Europeans drew virtually every border in the world, usually with little or no reference to indigenous populations. The Sino-Japanese and Spanish-American wars really marked the apogee of empire: from this time, around 1895–1898, virtually every part of the world other than Europe and North America was under either direct European control or a dominating European influence: as noted earlier, the nineteenth century in South America was known as the British century because the states of that continent found that British money, investments, and trade slotted into place with the end of Spanish empire. By the dawn of the new century there were no areas in which Europeans, and Americans, might establish themselves without war, or the very real prospect of war, with another European power. The conclusive evidence of this truth was provided in the Fashoda crisis of September–November 1898 when France quite deliberately chose not to confront Britain over claims over the Sudan. In a very real sense this was the acid test of extra-European issues: if France was prepared to acquiesce in British primacy on this occasion then there was never going to be an issue that could produce real crisis, at least not between Britain and France. Relations between the two countries were not good, but the simple fact was that France could never afford to challenge Britain outside Europe given its military, industrial, and demographic inferiority relative to Germany. Fashoda, however, was one in a series of events that came together in very rapid succession, and which in very large measure re-wrote naval terms of reference.

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Appendix Part 3.Intro.1 British Trade in the First World War

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

OVER THE LAST eighty years, the greater part of historical attention paid to the First World War at sea has been focused on two matters, the Anglo-German confrontation in the North Sea, which inevitably largely concerned itself with the battle of Jutland, and the successive U-boat campaigns against Allied and neutral shipping. Such concerns were wholly understandable. Jutland was only the second fleet action involving steel, steam-powered, warships, and it cast before the reader a host of questions that dominated the inter-war period in terms of professional naval study, while the German recourse to an unrestricted submarine offensive against shipping was similar but with the caveat that by its action Germany embarked upon a course that ensured defeat.

One would suggest that the only other item on the naval agenda, at least for some four decades, concerned the Dardanelles, and on two very separate counts: it was an episode brought to the fore by the self-advertising charlatan named Winston Churchill (1874–1965) seeking personal exoneration from a debacle mainly of his making, and, for the United States and a Marine Corps seeking to ensure its raison d’être, it was the basis of study in considering how a war in the central and western Pacific against Japan would be fought. Matters Mediterranean, however, were seldom afforded much in the way of serious consideration except, perhaps, with reference to three matters: first, the episode involving the battlecruiser Goeben and third-class protected cruiser Breslau at the very start of the war; second, the chaotic state of inter-Allied arrangements within the Mediterranean theater specifically with reference to anti-submarine measures; and third, the Otranto Barrage, and the overwhelming evidence of Allied futility of effort in seeking to implement a wholly misguided concept of operations, again with reference to anti-submarine measures. Beyond the Mediterranean the battles off Coronel (1 November 1914) and the Falklands (8 December 1914) have commanded fleeting attention and no more, and indeed these two actions merit no more, though in terms of the prosecution of the war at sea outside European waters and the North Atlantic these two actions, and specifically the second, do hold a certain relevance.

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Six Britain and the Defeat of the U-boat Guerre de Course

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER SIX

BRITAIN AND THE DEFEAT OF THE U-BOAT GUERRE DE COURSE

STATES AND THEIR ARMED FORCES must fight wars as they must rather than as they would, but at a distance of some eight decades from events it is very difficult to discern what the inter-war British Navy intended, hoped, or anticipated would be the type of war it would be called upon to fight. What seems clear is that for most of the inter-war period the navy never expected to have to fight another U-boat guerre de course, and there are at least three obvious indications of this belief. First, for much of the inter-war period British destroyers were not equipped with depth-charges. The first destroyers built after the war with asdic (to Americans, sonar) were ordered in 1923–1924,1 and very few escorts were built in a period of difficult financial circumstances. Second, in the entire inter-war period something like one in fifty appointments to flag rank were officers versed in anti-submarine operations, and in 1935 just 11 of 1,029 lieutenants and 16 of 972 lieutenant-commanders in the British navy were anti-submarine specialists.2 Third, the one detailed study of convoy and the experience of the First World War, undertaken in 1917–1918 by Commander Rollo Appleyard, was classified, with the result that in the inter-war period his study was all but inaccessible to its intended readership, and in 1939 the Admiralty ordered that all copies of his report be destroyed.3

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Nine The War in Northern Waters

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

THE OUTSET OF WAR provided evidence of the elements of constancy and change in naval warfare. In past conflicts British sea power had been used in three roles: to enforce the close blockade of enemy bases and ports, to clear the seas of enemy warships and trade, and to carry the war in which Britain found itself to enemy overseas possessions. The mine and the submarine by 1912 had forced the British Navy to abandon close blockade in favor of observational blockade, but with reference to the elements of constancy, the outbreak of war in August 1914 saw British sea power set about its historic tasks. In clearing the seas Britain’s positional advantage astride German and Austro-Hungarian sea-borne lines of communication with the outside world ensured that enemy oceanic trade very quickly dwindled. The first six months of war saw 383 German and Austro-Hungarian steamers of 978,152 tons detained, sunk, or captured by the Allies and another 788 ships of 2,970,458 tons seek the security of neutral ports. The two Central Powers lost the services of some 61 percent of their merchant fleets in this single, opening phase of the war.

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Introduction

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

THE YEARS BETWEEN 1904 and 1922 are all but synonymous with the Anglo-German naval race and the First World War, yet this was a period that saw five major wars involving great powers and two, not one, major naval races. It was a period that opened with the Russo-Japanese War (8 February 1904–6 September 1905) and then moved to the Italian-Turkish (29 September 1911–15 October 1912) and the Balkan (17 October 1912–10 August 1913) wars, the latter in many ways serving as the overture to the First World War (28 July 1914–11 November 1918), which in turn gave rise to a series of wars, the most notable being the Russian Civil War and Allied intervention (December 1917–October 1922). The latter, of course, was accompanied by the Russo-Polish War (April 1920–18 March 1921), and there was also the small matter of the Greco-Turkish War (May 1919–October 1922). Between 1906 and 1914, the unfolding Anglo-German naval race was one of the most important single items on a political and diplomatic agenda that made for an increasing militant and strident assertiveness that went hand in hand with an increasing sense of insecurity on the part of all the powers. Yet the First World War was witness to a second naval race in the Pacific between Japan and the United States, which after 1919–1920 was to be curbed in the attempt by the great powers to craft a new international order that included the first arms limitation arrangements.

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