** World War I: Naval War strategy

World War I: Naval War--Strategy

Figure 1.-- First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher pulled the Royal Navy back from cooastal patrols off German so that U-boats and other small boats could not sink a capital ship. The Germans began shelling British North Sea ports of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby (December 16, 1914). There were hundreds of civilian casualties. The British saw it as a German atrocity. In fact, it was an effot to draw German dships into the Noryh Sea whre U-boats and small detachmebnts could begin to whitle away at the British Grand Fleet, there only hope of a Naval victiry.

While the naval war is usually given little attention in World war I histories, the Royal Navy's blockade of Germany played a critical role in the War. It slowly sapped Germny's industrial power and civilan morale. And Brirain had a huge advantage, not only because of the much larger fleet, but because Britain’s geographic position provide a near perfect potion to use its larger fleet and control trade routes. One author writes, "England found herself simply in a brilliant strategic position at the outbreak of the war. The arteries of her commerce lay in the Atlantic, unreachable by the German fleet from the Elbe. The German trade routes[...] could easily be severed in the Channel and off Scotland. The North Sea, through which no trade route any longer went, became a dead sea. The strategic position was so perfect that England never once felt the need to improve her position throughout the entire course of the war [...] the primary mission of the English fleet consisted of defense of England's strategic position, from which she controlled the important commercial arteries in the Atlantic ... ." [Wegener, p.14-15.] The German strategy was to whittle way at tthe British hpoing to even the oodds. First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher pulled the Royal Navy back from cooastal patrols off German so that U-boats and other small boats could not sink a capital ship. Heligoland in the German Bight (southeastern corner of the North Sea) was the U-boat forward base. When the Germans found the British had pulled back they began shelling Briiush North Sea ports to forced the Royal Navy out. The only major fleet action was Jutland, but it proved indecisive (1916). The German stragey if reducing th Btritih advantage faled. Germany also attempted a commerce war using U-boats and Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, but after sinking Luisitania, the United States forced them to honor cruiser rules (May 1915). When they resumeded Unrestructed Submarine Warfare (February 1917), it brought the United Sttes into the war. The U.S. Navy joining with the Royal Navy played an important role in defeating the German U-boats -- the only serious threat to the Royal Navy. The Americans prvodiding badly needed convoy escorts. The Germany Navy while technically effective disasatously impaired the German war effort. Germany's building of a High Seas Fleet was one of the reasons that public opinion on Bitain turned against Germany and that Britain entered the War. The U-boat campaign was a major reason that public opinion in America turned against Germany and that America entered the War. Despite the huge investment, the German Navy achieved nothing in return to counter balance the financial and foreign policy costs.


Wegener, Wolfgang. The Naval Strategy of the World War (Classics of Sea Power (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1989). The Wegener thesis is regarded by many as making a significant contribution to German World war II naval strategy


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Created: 9:56 AM 10/26/2021
Last updated: 9:56 AM 10/26/2021