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fbtwitterlinkedinvimeoflicker grey 14rssslideshare1
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: other, mem_text_and_place
The Royal Navy's main—but not only—weapon at the beginning of the First World War was the Grand Fleet, whose pre-war title was the Home Fleet. The Home Fleet was brought into being in April 1907 after a controversial and confusing series of communications between Sir John Fisher at the Admiralty, the Cs-in-C. of the three main battle fleets, and Admiral Francis Bridgeman, who was Fisher's choice to command the new organization. The initial motive for this reorganization was a financial one: the new Liberal government demanded economies in naval expenditure on top of those introduced by Fisher for the now-ousted Conservatives. During the internal discussions on the proposed Home Fleet in the fall of 1906, three new motives were introduced:\ud \ud 1) A desire to improve on the existing reserve force structure.\ud 2) Furtherance of a trend towards centralized Admiralty control of war operations replacing the previous independence of fleet and station commanders.\ud 3) The shift from a primarily anti-Dual Alliance strategic posture to a primarily anti-German one.\ud \ud This combination of financial and strategic motives would set the stage for future Admiralty policy throughout the remainder of the Prewar Era. The developments related to these motives ensured the Home Fleet would not remain in its initial form for long. Attacks on the Home Fleet from within the Navy resulted in the accelerated demise of the Navy's previous first-line organization in home waters, the Channel Fleet, and shifting geostrategic paradigms reduced the importance of theatres outside the North Sea. Despite efforts by advocates of both those who wished to reduce naval expenditure and advocates of new technologies such as the submarine, the dreadnought-based Home Fleet remained the principal defence of the realm in July 1914, and was likely to remain so into the immediate future.
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    • 5 Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918, ii, new ed. (London: Odhams Press Limited, 1939), p. 1015.
    • The paragraph leading up to this statement deserves quotation as well: 'The standpoint of the Commander-in-Chief was unique. His responsibilities were on a different scale from all others. It might fall to him as to no other man-Sovereign, Statesman, Admiral or General-to issue orders which in the space of two or three hours might nakedly decide who won the war. The destruction of the British Battle Fleet would be fatal. Jellicoe was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon.' 6 Eric Grove, in Jellicoe, op. cit., p. 10.
    • 7 Paul Hayes, 'Britain, Germany, and the Admiralty's Plans for Attacking German Territory, 1906-1915', in Lawrence Freedman, Paul Hayes, and Robert O'Neill (eds.), War, Strategy, and International Politics: Essays in Honour of Sir Michael Howard (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 95.
    • 'Tell [Private Secretary to the First Lord Vincent] Baddely [sic] I hope the First Lord won't swallow “capital” ships! It would be endless argument!' Fisher to Unknown, 29 December 1907, MSS 254/930/20, Baron Tweedmouth MSS, NMRN.
    • 38 Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise of Anglo-German Antagonism, 1860-1914, paperback ed. (London: The Ashfield Press, 1987), p. 279.
    • 39 Matthew S. Seligmann, 'Switching Horses: The Admiralty's Recognition of the Threat from Germany, 1900-1905', IHR 30, no. 2 (June 2008), pp. 240-242.
    • 40 Hew Strachan, The First World War, Volume I: To Arms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 380. These 'weak appointees' are Fisher's three prewar successors: Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson, VC, Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, and Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg.
    • 41 Ruddock F. Mackay, Fisher of Kilverstone (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973), pp. 236-238.
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    • Burgoyne, Alan H. (ed.), The Navy League Annual 1907-1908, London: John Murray, 1907.
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    • Vagts, Alfred, 'Hopes and Fears of an American German War, 1870-1915 I', Political Science Quarterly 54, no. 4 (December 1939), pp. 514-535.
    • Vagts, Alfred, 'Hopes and Fears of an American German War, 1870-1915 II', Political Science Quarterly 55, no. 1 (March 1940), pp. 53-76.
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    • Williams, Rhodri, 'Arthur James Balfour, Sir John Fisher and the Politics of Naval Reform, 1904-10', Historical Research 60, no. 141 (February 1987), pp. 80-99.
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