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than any battleships, but they were in- way or another, benefited by the fullsane freaks, the offspring of fantastic er knowledge of the action off Jutland. and unwarlike notions, whose fabulous And nothing that Great Britain can do cost and complete futility would have can alter this state of things, for the excited angry comment
next four or five years at least. During the blunder of building them was sub- this period the British fleet will, in the merged in other and more costly, more strongest fighting units, compare with futile blunders still. The Hood, then, either the American or the Japanese is the only ship we can show that can be fleet, as a fraction of one to sixteen! said to embody any war experience at all. At Jutland, it will be remembered,
II the British battle-fleet did not get into action; it was the battle-cruisers that Now neither of the two following forced the fighting and suffered in the propositions can be doubted. Battle fighting. And the only ship we have ship strength is the foundation of all completed is a battle-cruiser, and the
sea-power. Without it decisive victory only change we have made from the at sea is inconceivable. These are docold design has been to eliminate the de trines laid down by the Board of Adfects shown in action to be fatal in the miralty over which Lord Beatty preother ships. Our only modern warship, sides, and we must remember that they therefore, is not a vessel of the most have been endorsed, without qualificaformidable fighting value, nor was she tion, by the General Board of the Unitbuilt after a full and mature examina- ed States Navy. They were, of course, tion of war experience.
equally true in 1914. They have been Indeed, this experience was not true throughout the history of naval available until after the surrender of war. It is the most powerful ships that the German fleet- it would, perhaps, be ultimately prevail, if they exist in ademore correct to say, until we obtained quate numbers, and are employed acfrom Germany, early in 1919, more or cording to right principles. less complete data of what the German But these are doctrines which have fleet had suffered from the attentions of always been subject to qualification, Lord Beatty and his captains. But this and it seems to be indisputable that information was shared with the As- there are factors actually existing and sociated and Allied powers, and it was growing in importance to-day that they, and not Great Britain, who made must qualify these principles still furuse of it. Thus, if the battleship is ther. First, there has been a develthe most powerful of naval units, and opment of other forms of sea-force, and if digested war experience is the best these make the effective employment guide to building the best battleships, of a battle-fleet an 'infinitely more then it is the simple fact that the difficult matter than it was in 1914. British fleet to-day does not possess a
There has been a continuous progress, single unit that incorporates the lessons not only in the range and power, but of the war. America and Japan, on the in the accuracy of the torpedo. It is other hand, have either completed, or now feasible to employ it from air. have due for completion within a year craft as well as from seacraft, surface or two, sixteen battleships and battle and submerged. And aircraft and sub cruisers a piece, all of which have been merged seacraft have gained in range, put in hand since the Hood was laid in certainty of action, and in speed, to down, and most of which have, in one a most marvelous degree. Again, the
means of communication at sea by wire- on battleship strength that have not less telegraphy and telephony have existed heretofore, we ought to have changed so greatly that the tactics for something, at least, to set against our leading up to action or for avoiding it crushing material inferiority in fighthave been greatly facilitated; while the ing-ships of the most modern kind. So high perfection to which the hydro- that the actual threat to Great Britain phone has been brought has made it of a battle-fleet more formidable than possible to gain news, not only of sub- she possesses, viewed as a material
a marines, but of surface craft, at far great- problem alone, is very far from being er distances than was once thought what it was seven years ago. possible, and with far greater precision. But this, of course, is far from being These things not only expose the huge the only technical difference between and costly units of a battle-fleet to forms the situation in 1914 and that in 1921. of attack undreamed of before the Then our most formidable sea
rival was World War, - so that there is a pre- geographically cornered. The mass of cariousness about battleship strength our island lay straight across his path actually more real than the most san- to the open sea. He was free to go into guine believer in the German attrition the Baltic and free to go into the North theory supposed in pre-war days, — Sea. But the first liberty was of little but, what is probably more important, value to him until he gained the Rusthey increase the facility with which a sian seaports by land conquest. He weaker force can tire out a superior had nothing to gain in the early stages force by the successful evasion of action. by an action with the Russian Navy;
Again, each of the new factors I have for, although that fleet was small in mentioned is manifestly capable of in- numbers, it was formidable in power, creases in efficiency. Nor is it less mani- and more formidable in view of its fest that to these factors new elements excellent war-trained officer personnel. can at any moment be added, as inven- And if he had little scope in the Baltic, tion, scientific research, and experiment he had apparently less in the North bring new devices and new weapons in- Sea. For here he could do nothing with to play. Putting these things together, effect unless he could force a very sutwo things become obvious: first, that a perior fleet into action and defeat it supreme battle-fleet will need a degree decisively. To a great extent, therefore, of anxious protection that will be both the German fleet was neutralized by the costly to prepare and embarrassing to disadvantages of its situation. If it use; and that, apart from this, the had been a superior fleet, the situation whole problem of employing a battle- would not have been wholly reversed. fleet to get its designed and desired ef- It could have denied British access to fect will have been made incalculably the North Sea until it was itself defeatmore complicated and, therefore, more ed; but if it could not force the Britdifficult.
ish fleet to action, it would be compelled The British Navy has actually had to contain it before it could itself promore experience of the novel factors in ceed to close our southern and western sea-war than has
and ports. it is natural to suppose
should it The neutralization of an inferior Brithave to go to war again - that in this ish fleet would have presented probrespect it must, for some years, enjoy a lems to a superior German fleet wholly great advantage. If, then, it is true different from those which we had to that there exist to-day forms of attack envisage. The point is simple. When
the threat of the British battle-fleet of the compass. But they have lost in compelled the Germans to keep to their sea endurance, and they are far more harbors, or limited them to a very re- dependent upon prompt and frequent stricted area beyond them, the whole access to their bases. And, being vastly menace of German sea-power was gone. more complicated, they need something The seas were free to British cruisers more at their bases than provisions, and British trade. The German lighter ropes, spars, and sails. A modern naval ships, — von Spee's armored cruisers, base, to be of the slightest value to Emden, Königsberg, Dresden, and the a battle-fleet, must be equipped with converted merchantmen,
productive facilities of an engineering all mopped up in a few months. There order, ample enough to constitute a was nothing between any British ship manufacturing town of very respectable and her home ports. But with the situ- proportions. It must have all the adation reversed this would not have been vantages on which the manufacturing so. A British battleship force ‘in be town depends for a constant supply of ing,' unhurt, at Scapa in the north, and fuel, material, and labor. So vast, inother forces at Plymouth in the south, deed, are the necessities of a modern could have issued from their harbors arsenal, that it is practically impossiand stopped all German sea-borne ble for one to exist if severed from the services, and have harried the German mainland of the country that owns it. cruisers that attempted to attack our No country in the world has so many own trade. Nor could the German coaling and other naval stations as fleet have left the British fleet on its has Great Britain; but outside Great flank and
open sea to pro- Britain itself there is not one naval tect its cruisers. So great, in short, was base that could support and supply a the handicap of the geographical po- battle-fleet in war. Both the American sition, that Germany, to counteract it, and the Japanese navies, then, suffer would have had to possess a fleet twice I am discussing this from the point of as strong as ours, merely to win a naval view of their being a menace to Great
Britain - from this severe disability. The present naval situation is, of Thus, altogether apart from the difcourse, altogether and entirely different. ficulties that have accumulated durA superior battle-fleet, based on the ing the past few years in employing Atlantic seaports, seems free from the a battle-fleet at all, British-sea power handicap imposed upon the German derives certain advantages from this fleet; for, clearly, a stronger battle-fleet factor of the distance that separates could not be confined to its harbors by a our bases and the focal points of our weaker force; and at first sight it would trade from the fleets materially superior seem as if, with free access to the At- to ours. In the light of these things, the lantic, such a fleet would constitute the fact that Great Britain no longer has a most formidable of all threats to Great predominant fighting fleet has a meanBritain. But there a new principle af- ing radically different from mere naval fects the situation.
inferiority to a European power: it sugModern ships have certain vast ad- gests that the difference is one, not of vantages over the wooden vessels of degree at all, but actually of kind. our forefathers. They have gained in- Yet, when every allowance has been calculably in power and in speed. They made, it remains a fact that, for the have gained still more in the facility first time in modern history, Great with which they are free of every point Britain is not the putative mistress of
gone to the
the seas. The topsy-turvydom of the the first proposition, let me quote from World War has brought us no surprise Mahan's Naval Strategy: comparable to this. Time out of mind,
There is a further conclusion to be drawn the invincibility of the British fleet has
from the war between Japan and Russia, been a fundamental doctrine of our
which contradicts a previous general imnational policy. What England owes to pression that I myself have shared, and posthe sea is a commonplace of everyday sibly in some degree have contributed to knowledge. That England, cut off from diffuse. That impression is, that navies the sea, must perish instantly and ut- depend upon maritime commerce as the terly, is a commonplace of military cause and justification of their existence. science. That for two hundred and
To a certain extent, of course, this is true; fifty years Great Britain has never, so
and, just because true to a certain extent, far as material provision could prevent,
the conclusion is more misleading. Because been in danger of sea-defeat, is a simple partly true, it is accepted as unqualifiedly
true. Russia has little maritime commerce, historical fact. And when I say 'in
at least in her own bottoms; her merchant danger,' I understate the fact. I mean
flag is rarely seen; she has a very defective that never, in all this period, was there
seacoast; can in no sense be called a maria time when Great Britain could not time nation. Yet the Russian navy had the face the sea-world in arms: indeed, at decisive part to play in the late war; and one period she actually did so, and with the war was unsuccessful, not because the success.
navy was not large enough, but because it
was improperly handled. Probably, it also III
was intrinsically insufficient — bad in qualNow, we shall not understand why it
ity; poor troops as well as poor generalship.
The disastrous result does not contravene is that Great Britain no longer has the
the truth that Russia, though with little strongest fleet, unless we understand
maritime shipping, was imperatively in need why for so long she had. It has been assumed that our greatness at sea arose originally - and naturally and inevi- Here, then, is a case where a navy tably — out of our greatness as a sea- was essential, though there was virtufaring people, and to our owning and ally no merchant-shipping at all out of using a larger merchant-shipping than which it could germinate. That there did other nations. And, again, it has have been great merchant marines been assumed that, as Great Britain without navies is, of course, equally was by far the wealthiest country in the true. Norway, with no navy at all, has world, her maintaining a greater navy a singularly high ratio of tonnage to was a natural and inevitable function population; and the huge leap in Gerof her wealth. But it is, of course, sim- man merchant-tonnage between 1890 ply untrue that fighting navies derive and 1909 is a not less striking instance from merchant navies by some preor- in point. For until 1909 Germany had dained and unescapable process; and not even the rudiments of a fleet that equally untrue that naval strength is, could have been formidable at sea. or ever has been, proportionate to a And as to navies being functions of country's wealth.
wealth, this surely is not in the least I shall not attempt to justify these degree tenable. People do not build statements by any complete summary fleets and ships because they can afford of the historical facts that prove them. them as a luxury. Still less do they But there are a few instances in point build them as an investment, trusting that will suffice for my purpose. As to to their conquests or their loot to pay
of a navy.
the bill. They build them only because Mexican border to the North Pole, they are a grim necessity. At least, owes its control by the descendants of this is certainly the explanation of Englishmen; that half of Africa is unGreat Britain's two centuries and a half der the flag of Britain; that India is a of sea-supremacy.
British dependency; that Australia is one of His Majesty's Dominions; that
China has been opened up to European IV
trade. England, after all, is one of the Few, if any, of the statesmen of European nations. Until quite recently England visualized the enormous scale she was as inferior in population to one of national expansion that Destiny had and another of her neighbors as she was in store for the British people. But in area. It was only toward the end of they have never failed in the instinct the eighteenth century that she became that this people had to be free to exthe wealthiest country in Europe; and pand. At every stage they. perceived although always dependent for a large that there was only one thing that portion of her wealth on the freest pos- could prevent the English being mas sible access to the sea, it was not pri- ters of their Fate: it was that the sea, marily her sea trade, but the fact that should be closed against them. They she was the first of the world's people to saw that there was but one contingency become a manufacturing nation, that that could so close the sea: it was that explained why, for a century and half, the other powers of Europe should comhers was the richest people in the world. bine to do it. There never was a posBut, of course, she could not have be- sibility that such a combination would come so without free access to the sea; be a spontaneous and voluntary moveand of all the nations that have ever ment; but it was a danger, nevertheless. been, she had the greatest interest in The ambition to govern the whole preserving this freedom. And she world is an infirmity that has obsessed needed a free sea, not only to develop the minds — noble and otherwise - of her trade, but for another purpose. many emperors and kings. But the Indeed, her trade itself arose out of that collapse of the Roman Empire, the purpose.
barbarian invasion of Europe, the slow The end of the fifteenth century, and reconstruction of a new civilization to the beginning of the sixteenth, was replace the old, the arrest of the world the age of the great sea-adventurers. trade that had existed while the Roman But, of all the countries, England alone Empire still stood - these and other maintained the spirit that had first sent causes made the business of world-conher sons afloat. Sometimes they went quest slumber, until Louis the Great as colonists — to get a freer religious or emerged from his minority in the political atmosphere than they could seventeenth century and found the get at home; sometimes they went in whole power and wealth of France consearch of wealth; sometimes, appar- centrated in his hands. His ambitions ently, for the sheer fun of the thing. taught the English the lesson they But, whatever the motive, the spirit of needed; and when, a century and a sea-adventuring, the desire for, and a quarter after Louis's failure, his politidetermination to get, free use of the sea, cal and spiritual heir, Napoleon Bonabecame the mark of the Anglo-Saxon parte, came into the same heritage, his race. It is to this spirit that the north- military genius seemed to promise sucern continent of America, from the cess where Louis had failed. But long