David – There is a claim in Norman Stone’s history of WWI that the first shot fired is a warning shot at Sydney Harbour, against a GE collier trying to leave even before war is declared. Of course there’s no source – any thoughts on this?
1918 did not see the obvious & intimate Jt / Cbd co-op of major invasions. But seapower still had a key role in determining the context of the fighting on the Western front.
Ampib ops earlier in the war had been successful in establishing beachheads (this is Suvla) but exploitation has fallen victim to ‘trenchlock’
RM Bde of Super Hy 15 in guns (there was also an RM AA Bde)
RND – proto Jt by 1918; never more than 5% of RN but 40% of RN casualties
The Blockade – initially AMCs, under the shadow of the Battlefleet
GE copes despite the blockade. Punch cartoon illustrates trade via neutrals
Gradual development of blockade via multiple lines of ops. Development of stats to measures, diplomatic pressure, quotas, pre-emptive buying, the Black List. Has to be balanced against our own trade with neutrals but main element of policy as tight as possible without a critical break with the US. Post US entry blockade becomes far more complete. Unrestricted U-Boat war also links with this as their sinkings meant the reaminaing shipping moved into the most profitable sector – trading with the entente powers & US!
Historiography – British stresses GE social & economic collapse under pressure of blockade (tends to minimise how far land war consumption also contributed to that stress)
Historiography – GE – tended to agree but also stressed starvation element & connected with the ‘Stab in the Back’ element. Much modern historiography makes little of the blockade (ie Fergusson), stressing GE mismanagement & most also make no connection with GE Op level on land. GE mil always denied that blockade had any significant effect on them & the fact GE forces faced no critical shortages of weapons & ammo etc (though troops were clearly short of food) tended to back this up. However Stephen dares to suggest there are elements that have been missed, or at least not connected….
Critical weakness of GE Army by 1918 is in mobility, particularly to quickly exploit & support their successes in early 1918. Railways OK for internal movements but inflexible, particularly in the advance & by 1918 GE rail system grinding to halt through overuse, lack of maintain & shortages of coal (particularly as the Fr & Bel coal fields are lost during the retreats)
V limited in MT. BY the 100 days Entente have 6x’s GE MT, with much greater carrying capacity per vehicle. GE limited by industry but also oil (Romania virtually the only source, so loss in Sept 1918 is also key)
Horses – limited stock & cannot generate useable horses quickly (See my notes on DiNardo on horses). Shortages lead to GE fd gun teams being cut from 6 to 4 horses as early as 1916. Horses can be looted from E Europe but still limited & when they are taken from captured areas or Central European agriculture food production falls…. Dilemma of the pressures of total war that we are applying. Horse are part of the prohibitions in the first Order in Council regarding trading with the enemey in Aug ’14 Forage shortages (pre-war forage had been imported) means GE hores are often very weak
GE cannot move up arty fast enough to spt their initial break-in battles of 1918, which relied heavily on intensive ‘hurricane’ bombardment. This also contrbutes to the larges numbers of guns they have to leave behind in the autumn of 1918. See my notes on Zabecki for the full extent of this fundamnental distortion of the GE Army (though he makes no connection with the blockade)
Main role of Allied battlefleets to prevent enemey interfearance with expolitation of the seas
Surface battles mainly North Sea
U Boat threat, avoiding the battlefleet
Convoy as a key measures to control losses
Losses substantial but managable by 1918
Most sinkings in UK coastal waters, reflecting range of U Boats & best chances of a target
Though convoy vital other measures also significant, such as effective Channel barrier by 1918, forcing U-Boats into long routes & majority of time on passage. Also effective protection of the vital link to France for the Army. Allies make 22 mil troop movements by sea in WWI; 14 mil are cross Channel, with less than 1,000 cas. Overall troop delivery rate by sea is 99.98% successful (most losses are in the Med)
But this is just one part of a larger maritime network. Note the trade routes to Norway, Holland & France.
This is the www that the Entente can exploit for effective trade & to finace their war efforts It allows us to buy, which motivates the seller, in sharp contrast to GE attempts to forcably exploit the territory they conquer in E Europe
Meat imports (contrast with Ge meat shortages)
Horse imports – mean the Allies do not face the same paradox as the Germans over horse, esp as they can as import MT
British armaments industry, fed by the optimum mix of raw materails from across the globe (no ertzats products here)
But also French industry – this is a Bleriot factory near Paris. Fr industry lost its coal but imports from wales mean it can still operate effectively
MT that give the Allies flexibility
Supplies that underpin the successful, arty heavy tactics of the Allies in 1918
Labour imports from around the world (these are Egyptian Labour Corps)
Br Army consuming up to nearly 1 million shells a day in the 100 days
Tanks & NZ inf. Br & FR both rely in Imp manpower
24 Bn AIF, 1 Sept 1918 (AWM E3142) Imperial manpower with British kit including the essential Lewis guns
US troops with Br helmets & Fr light tanks. Allied system had the flex in 1918 that US shipments of just troops could be accelerated & then married up with Fr kit in theatre. This was an effective response to the GE offensives, showing flex the GE system completely lacked.
GE – mutiny in the fleet. Discontent & privation at home could be supressed & restrained temporarily in the spring of 1918, during the GE offensives. However, once these offensive had been frustrated the fundamental weaknesses came out stronger than ever, both at home & at the battlefront. I wd suggest not so much a ‘Stab in the Back’ or a ‘Stab in the Front’ (The 100 Days) as a death from multiple injuries
GE evac Bel (in crude transport). The success of ground forces in Bel freed the Channel coast from GE forces, thus impoving the strategic situation at sea. This illustrates the fundamentally linked nature of the ops of the services, even when their ops were not obviously connected.
Internment of the GE fleet but elements of the blocakade would continue until the peace treaty as a way to apply pressure without (Allied) casualties.
2013 King Hall Day 2 Session 1 - 2
The Real Warhorse?
Assistant Director of the Naval Staff
& Head of Naval Historical Branch,