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Preparing For Blockade 1885-1914: Naval Contingency for Economic Warfare
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 16:41


Author: Stephen Cobb
Publisher: Ashgate Publishing

From Baird Maritime

The  First World War was, in a naval sense, much more interesting and important than many current commentators and even historians accord it credit.

While the outbreak of war may have come as a shock to many British and mainland European people, it was far from unexpected to senior politicians and military thinkers . Indeed, in many ways, British naval brains had been thinking about and preparing for it for a century.

The War of 1812 against the United States was a great preparatory exercise for the World War One naval blockade of Germany and its allies. In fact from as far back as 1887, the Royal Navy had been liaising closely with Britain’s premier shipowners about the provision of “armed merchant cruisers” aka. Passenger liners to augment the RN fleet in the event of major war. This policy continued until the Falkland War in the 1980s.

So, in 1914 the Royal Navy was relatively well prepared for effective action against the German Navy and its allies. These erstwhile passenger liners were not just intended to be troop ships. They performed that role well but they were also used effectively as “armed merchant cruisers”.

This fine book, however, focuses on changes to naval culture and the rise in importance of naval intelligence as the war drew closer. The Naval Intelligence Department  was led and staffed by officers of notably superior personal intelligence and this, the author contends, led to impressive outcomes. Basically these officers were predominantly well-rounded, well-educated and well-travelled thinkers who also tended to be multi-lingual (Is the modern U.S.Navy reading this?).

An interesting review and analysis of the factors that led to the impressive success of “the blockade”, it provides considerable food for thought for modern naval thinkers. A contrarian approach is often difficult to have implemented but is well worth thinking about in any wartime situation.

Ordering information:

Ashgate Publishing
Farnham, UK

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