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I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2019-12-08 10:37am
by MKSheppard
You can practically hear the heavy breathing in British from this:

Some context; this appears to have been written or passed to the Prime Minister of Canada at the time; R.L. Borden as justification for naval spending.


The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History – Volume I: Origins and Early Years by Gilbert Tucker

AUGUST 20, 1912
[This Document is the Property of His Britannic Majesty’s Government.]


Memorandum on the General Naval Situation
(Prepared for the Information of the Right Hon. R. L. Borden, K.C., M.P.)

I.—General Position

1. THE power of the British Empire to maintain the superiority on the sea which is essential to its security must obviously be measured from time to time by reference to the other Naval Forces of the world, and such a comparison does not imply anything unfriendly in intention, or in spirit, to any other Power, or Group of Powers. From this point of view the development of the German Fleet during the last fifteen years is the dominant feature of the Naval situation to-day. That development has been authorised by five successive legislative enactments, viz., the Fleet Laws of 1898, 1900, 1906, 1908, and 1912. These laws cover the period up to 1920.

Whereas in 1898 the German Fleet consisted of—

9 battleships (excluding coast-defence vessels),
3 large cruisers,
28 small cruisers,
113 torpedo-boats, and
25,000 men,

maintained at an annual cost of £6,000,000, the full Fleet of 1920 will consist of—

41 battleships,
20 large cruisers,
40 small cruisers,
144 torpedo-boats,
72 submarines, and
101,500 men,

estimated to be maintained at an annual cost of £23,000,000.

These figures however, give no real idea of the advance, for the size and cost of ships has risen continually during the period, and, apart from increasing their total numbers Germany has systematically replaced old and small ships, which counted as units in her earlier Fleet, by the most powerful and costly modern vessels. Neither does the money provided for the completed law represent the increase in cost properly attributable to the German Navy, for many charges borne on British naval funds are otherwise defrayed in Germany; and the German Navy comprises such a large proportion of new ships that the cost of maintenance and repair is considerably less than in Navies which have been longer established.

Even if no further increases are made by Germany in the interval the Fleet possessed by that Power in 1920 will be far stronger than the British Navy of to-day. Already, by 15 years of scientific effort, Germany from having practically no Fleet at all has raised herself to what is indisputably a second place among the Fleets of the world. The whole of this extraordinary evolution—comprising as it does not only the building of ships of all kinds and of the most powerful types, but the formation and training of great numbers of officers and men of every specialist grade and rating; the development of a naval science and of naval tactics of their own; the provision of colleges and training schools, of vast arsenals for the supply of guns, ammunition, torpedoes, armour plate, and every kind of naval equipment; of naval harbours, docks, dockyards, and of marine fortifications on an unexampled scale,—has been achieved under the guidance and during the tenure of a single Minister, Admiral von Tirpitz.

2. The cause which has led Germany to create and develop this Navy is still a matter of dispute. The debates in the British Houses of Parliament tor the past 10 years reproduce with monotonous fidelity two antagonistic views: While the one points to the inherent anti-British nature of German increases and the necessity for Great Britain to reply from time to time with larger programmes, if she be determined to maintain her naval superiority and consequently her national existence, the other insists that German Naval expansion is due to the naval or the foreign policy of Great Britain.

With foreign policy this memorandum is not concerned: it is sufficient to observe that the great German Law, that of 1900, was passed with national assent before the friendship between England and France rendered the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904 a possibility, and while we were still on bad terms with Russia. It is therefore impossible to regard the good relations which have prevailed since 1904 between Great Britain and France, or since 1907 between Great Britain and Russia, as the cause or reason for German naval expansion, much of which had been publicly determined on in periods anterior to these dates.

3. Again, the naval policy of Great Britain has certainly not been provocative. On the accession of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannermans administration to power at the end of 1905 a deep and earnest desire prevailed throughout the dominant political forces in Great Britain to check and mitigate the rivalry in naval armaments. The expression of this desire and the hope that the Hague Conference of 1906 might be productive of some reasonable scheme for the limitation of armaments were received by the German Government. They declined to discuss the matter at The Hague, or between the Sovereigns, and proceeded to the passage of their new law of 1906, which had already been projected during the tenure of Mr. Balfour’s administration in the preceding year. Great Britain, however, did not relinquish her efforts to check the rivalry of armaments, and in order to support words by deeds and precept by example, the British construction in capital ships and the cost of the Naval Estimates were substantially reduced. The following figures are instructive:—

In 1905 Great Britain was building 4 capital ships and Germany 2.

In 1906 Great Britain reduced to 3 capital ships and Germany increased to 3.

In 1907 Great Britain built 3 capital ships and Germany built 3.

In 1908 Great Britain reduced to 2 capital ships and Germany increased to 4.

The year 1906 was signalised by the passage of the 3rd German Naval Law, which provided among other things for the addition of 6 large cruisers, the greatest ships in the world, to that Fleet. It is noteworthy also that whereas prior to the year 1906 the Germans were building only 6 torpedo-boat destroyers a year, they have since built double that number annually.

A man must be very anxious to prove Great Britain in the wrong if he seeks to found any charge of naval provocation against her upon the above figures. It cannot be contended with justice that Germany has been compelled by British naval rivalry and British naval increases to expand her naval establishments.

It has, indeed, been made a matter of reproach in many quarters that the reduction in British naval construction in the 3 years 1906, 1907, and 1909, encouraged the German Navy to a sudden and more rapid exertion in the hopes of overtaking the naval power of Great Britain. This is not the Admiralty view, as will be shown later; but it is necessary to state that it was not until the efforts of Great Britain, to procure the abatement or retardation of naval rivalry, had failed for 3 successive years that in 1909 upon a general review of the naval situation we were forced to take exceptional measures to secure against all possible hazards the safety of the Empire. In that year 8 capital ships were laid down in Great Britain and 2 others were provided by the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand respectively—a total of 10. The German new construction continued at 4.

4. In the spring of the present year the fifth German Navy Law was assented to by the Reichstag. The main feature of that law is not the increase in the new construction of capital ships, though that is important, but rather the increase in the striking force of ships of all classes which will be immediately available at all seasons of the year.

A third squadron of 8 battleships will be created and maintained in full commission as part of the active battle fleet. Whereas, according to the unamended law, the active battle fleet consisted of 17 battleships, 4 battle or large armoured cruisers, and 12 small cruisers, it will in the near future consist of 25 battleships, 8 battle or large armoured cruisers, and 18 small cruisers; and whereas at present, owing to the system of recruitment which prevails in Germany, the German Fleet is less fully mobile during the winter than during the summer months, it will, through the operation of this law, not only be increased in strength, but rendered much more readily available. Ninety-nine torpedo-boat destroyers, instead of 66, will be maintained in full commission out of a total of 144; 72 new submarines will be built within the currency of the new law, and of these it is apparently proposed to maintain 54 with full permanent crews. Taking a general view, the effect of the law will be that nearly four-fifths of the entire German Navy will be maintained in full permanent commission; that is to say, instantly and constantly ready for war. Such a proportion is without example in the previous practice of modern naval Powers.

So great a change and development in the German Fleet involves, of course, important additions to their personnel. In 1898 the officers and men of the German Navy amounted to 25,000. To-day that figure has reached 66,000. Under the previous Navy Laws, and various amendments which have preceded this one, Germany has been working up to a total in 1920, according to Admiralty calculations, of 86,500 officers and men, and they have been approaching that total by increments of approximately 3,500 a year. The new law adds 15,000 officers and men, and makes a total in 1920 of 101,500. The new average annual addition is calculated to be 1,680 of all ranks, but for the next three years, from 1912 to 1914, by special provision, 500 men extra are to be added, and in the last three years of the currency of the law 500 less will be taken, making the total rate of increase of the German Navy personnel about 5,700 men a year for the first three years.

The new construction under the law prescribes for the building of 3 additional battleships—1 to be begun next year, 1 in 1916—and 2 small cruisers, of which the date has not yet been fixed. The date of the third battleship has not been fixed. It has been presumed to be later than the six years which are in view. The cost of these increases in men and in material during the next six years is estimated as £10,500,000 spread over that period above the previous estimates.

The facts set forth above were laid before the House of Commons on the 22nd July, 1912, by the First Lord of the Admiralty.

5. The effect of the new German Navy Law is to produce a remarkable expansion of strength and efficiency, and particularly of strength and efficiency as they contribute to striking power. The number of battleships and large armoured cruisers which will be kept constantly ready and in full commission will be raised by the law from 21, the present figure, to 33—an addition of 12, or an increase of about 57 per cent.

The new fleet will, in the beginning, include about 20 battleships and large cruisers of the older type, but gradually as new vessels are built the fighting power of the fleet will rise until in the end it will consist completely of modern vessels.

This full development will only be realised step by step; but already in 1914 2 squadrons will, according to Admiralty information, be entirely composed of what are called Dreadnoughts, and the third will be made up of good ships like the “Deutschlands” and the “Braunschweigs”, together with 5 Dreadnought battle cruisers.

The organisation of the German Fleet will be 5 battle squadrons and a fleet flagship, comprising 41 battleships in all, each attended by a battle or armoured cruiser squadron, complete with small cruisers and auxiliaries of all kinds and accompanied by numerous flotillas of destroyers and submarines.

This great fleet is not dispersed all over the world for duties of commerce protection or in discharge of Colonial responsibilities; nor are its composition and character adapted to those purposes. It is concentrated and kept concentrated in close proximity to the German and British coasts, and has been organised and designed at every stage and in every particular with a view to a fleet action on a large scale in the North Sea or North Atlantic with the navy of some other great naval Power.

Attention must be drawn to the explicit declaration of the tactical objects for which the German Fleet exists as set forth in the preamble to the Naval Law of 1900 as follows:—

“In order to protect German trade and commerce under existing conditions, only one thing will suffice, namely, Germany must possess a battle fleet of such a strength that even for the most powerful naval adversary a war would involve such risks as to make that Power’s own supremacy doubtful. For this purpose it is not absolutely necessary that the German Fleet should be as strong as that of the greatest naval Power, for, as a rule, a great Naval Power will not be in a position to concentrate all its forces against us.”

6. When in 1900 Germany commenced the building of her Fleet, the well-known preamble to her Naval Law fully defined the objects and determination of that law. The development of the law by the various amendments is perfectly consistent with the preamble, and the Admiralty do not believe that the naval programmes or general policy of Great Britain have had any effect whatever upon the German Naval Law or its amendments. Although the German Naval Law has been developed in stages, and each stage has afforded opportunity for political recrimination in this country, it is more likely that the full scope of the Naval Law was clearly foreseen by the rulers of Germany in 1900, and that its announcement in instalments was merely accommodated to the capacity for digestion of the German finances and of their naval organisation at the moment of announcement. Harbours had to be designed and constructed for the new Fleet; docks to be provided; personnel to be entered and trained; the Kiel Canal to be deepened, and fortifications everywhere to be designed and established. Neighbouring nations that could not take umbrage at the more modest proposals of the earliest period might well have been shocked had the whole scheme been announced at once. A close study of the Naval Law of 1900 and its amendments and a careful consideration of the strength of our Fleet at that time compared with its strength to-day, leads the Admiralty to the conclusion that the law as we know it to-day was in the mind of the author of the law of 1900, and that it was reasons of policy and method only that caused the successive announcements of its development to be spread over a decade. What more there is to come cannot be known, but there are already signs, similar to those which have appeared on former occasions of increases, that even the mighty fleet which Germany will possess in 1920 is no final limit to her naval aspirations.

7. The purpose of German naval expansion is also a subject of doubt and controversy. We have often been assured that the German Navy is intended simply for the defence of Germany’s oversea possessions and her growing seaborne commerce and mercantile marine. If this were the true object, we might have expected to see a Navy of numerous and powerful cruisers distributed widely all over the world, showing the German flag in distant seas and aiding German commerce and colonial developments by their presence and influence. Instead of this, we are confronted with a very strong fleet of battleships concentrated and kept concentrated in close proximity to the German shores and our own.

Next we have been informed that the German Fleet exists for the defence of Germany against an attack by a naval Power, presumably Great Britain. If this be a sincere apprehension, it is singularly ill-founded, and becomes increasingly ill-founded as the march of naval science progresses. Germany has a very small coast-line and few great harbours in the North Sea. It would be difficult to find a more unpromising coast for a naval attack than this line of small islands, with their dangerous navigation, uncertain and shifting channels and sand banks, currents, mists, and fogs. All the difficulties of nature have been developed by military art, and an immense front of fortifications crowned by enormous batteries already covers and commands all the approaches to Germany from the North Sea. With every improvement in the mine, the torpedo, and the submarine-boat the German coasts become more effectually protected from a naval attack. The total military force which Great Britain could provide for an invasion of Germany would not exceed at the most 150,000 men. The German Army attains on mobilisation a strength of over 4,000,000.

Although, no doubt, the scare of a British invasion has been used in Germany to delude the vulgar, it is impossible that it can have any basis in the minds of the powerful naval and military classes in Germany, or of the men who direct the policy of that Empire.

8. The whole character of the German Fleet shows that it is designed for aggressive and offensive action on the largest possible scale in the North Sea or the North Atlantic. The structure of the German battleships shows clearly that they are intended for attack in a fleet action. The disposition of their guns, torpedo tubes, armour, the systems of naval tactics which the Germans practise and the naval principles which they inculcate upon their officers, leave no room to doubt that the idea of sudden and aggressive action against a fleet of great power is the primary cause for which they have been prepared.

Their “torpedo-boats,” as they call them in contrast to our term “torpedo-boat destroyers,” by their high speed and general characteristics, show themselves to be designed with the prime purpose of making an attack upon the great ships of the Navy they may be opposed to. The British torpedo-boat destroyers, on the other hand, are designed primarily for the purpose of destroying the torpedo-boats of the enemy and thus defending the British Battle Fleet from attack. Gun power for defence is the main characteristic of British torpedo craft: speed for closing to effective torpedo range that of the German.

No class of vessel yet designed belongs more naturally to the defensive than the submarine; but the German development of the submarine, from all the information we can obtain, tends to turn even this weapon of defence into one of offence by building not the smaller class, which would be useful for the defence of their limited coast-line, but large submarines capable of a sudden and offensive operation at a distance from their base across the sea.

The Admiralty feel it impossible to resist the conclusion that the German Fleet, whatever may be said about it, exists and has been created for the purpose of fighting, if need be, a great battle in the North Sea or the North Atlantic both with battleships and all ancillary vessels against some other great naval Power. The weapon which has been so patiently and laboriously prepared is fitted for that purpose, and that alone.

9. We have further been assured from German sources that, even if this were so, the Germans have no expectation of obtaining a victory over the strongest naval Power, and that all they seek to achieve is a standard of strength that will leave the greatest naval Power so seriously weakened after the battle is over that she would hesitate before embarking on a quarrel. This explanation is scarcely respectful to the sagacity of the German Government, and to the high degree to which they carry their studies of the military art both by land and sea. Whatever purpose has animated the creators of the German Navy, and induced them to make so many exertions and sacrifices, it is not the foolish purpose of certainly coming off second best on the day of trial.

10. Reference must here be made to a very secret matter. During the last few years we have become aware of the development in the United Kingdom of an extensive system of German intelligence agents. The materials at the disposal of the Admiralty on this subject were submitted by the present First Lord in November last to the Director of Public Prosecutions (Sir Charles Mathews), and to Mr. A. H. Bodkin, K.C., in order to obtain a perfectly cool and dispassionate opinion from persons unconnected with the Admiralty and accustomed to weigh evidence. The following is an extract from their report:—

“We have carefully examined and considered the material with which we have been furnished, and have come to the following conclusions:—

(a) That as far as England and Wales are concerned there is already established therein an extensive and systematic machinery of secret service, kept in motion and controlled by one or more persons in the secret service of Germany.

(b) That agents in this country are employed and controlled from Germany in collecting information relating to land and naval defence of this country, and in communicating such information to one or more members of the German secret service.

(c) That such agents are distributed over various parts of England and Wales, chiefly at places near to the sea coast, where information upon such matters would more probably be obtained.

(d) That such agents in this country are principally, it would appear, of German nationality, but in some cases English in one or other of the services.”

11. The purpose which governs the creation of a weapon may be unconnected with any intention to employ it. It would not be fair to draw from the character of the German Fleet the conclusion that the German Government, or still less, the German people, have formed any conscious intention of attacking the British Empire; and so long as we maintain a good and sufficient superiority in naval power it is unlikely that they will ever do so. It is permissible to believe that Germany wishes to be powerful at sea, simply for the sake of being powerful and of obtaining the influence which comes from power without any specific danger to guard against or settled purpose to employ the power. Still, the German Empire has been built up by a series of sudden and successful wars. Within the lifetime of many she has carved a maritime province out of Denmark, and the Rhine provinces out of France. She has absorbed half the ancient Kingdom of Poland; she dominates Austria, Italy, and Sweden. Her policy has been such as to place her in a position to absorb Holland with scarcely an effort. Her military strength renders her alone, among the nations of Europe, free from the fear of invasion. But there is not a State on her borders, nor a small State in Europe, but has either suffered at her hands or lies under the impression of her power. From these anxieties Great Britain, and the British Empire, sheltered by the Navy of Great Britain, have hitherto been free.

12. In this connection the disparity of the naval risks of the British and German Empires must not be overlooked.

Great Britain can never violate German territory even after a defeat of that Power at sea, her Army not being organised or strong enough for such an undertaking. Germany with her large Army could, however, if she chose, invade and conquer Great Britain after a successful naval campaign in the North Sea. Germany has no overseas territory desired by Great Britain. Great Britain has overseas territories, the cession of which might be demanded by Germany after a successful war. A decisive battle lost at sea by Germany would still leave her the greatest Power in Europe. A decisive battle lost at sea by Great Britain would for ever ruin the United Kingdom, would shatter the British Empire to its foundations, and change profoundly the destiny of its component parts. The advantages which Great Britain could gain from defeating Germany are nil. There are practically no limits to the ambitions which might be indulged by Germany, or to the brilliant prospects open to her in every quarter of the globe, if the British Navy were out of the way. The combination of the strongest Navy with that of the strongest Army would afford wider possibilities of influence and action than have yet been possessed by any Empire in modern times.

II.—Situation in 1915

13. In Home Waters:—

In the spring of the year 1915—

Great Britain will have 25 Dreadnought battleships and 2 Lord Nelsons.
Germany will have 17 Dreadnought battleships.
Great Britain will have 6 battle cruisers.
Germany will have 6 battle cruisers.

The Admiralty have decided upon a certain margin of superiority in Home waters which they consider to be absolutely necessary to secure the safety of our shores. This margin has been broadly fixed for that year at a ratio of 3 to 2 in Dreadnought battleships apart from other vessels.

Consequently, when Germany has—

2 battle squadrons of Dreadnoughts and 1 fleet flagship; total, 17;

Great Britain will have—

3 battle squadrons of Dreadnoughts and 1 fleet flagship; total, 25

It will be noted that, owing to the dispatch of 4 battle cruisers to the Mediterranean, Great Britain and Germany will each have an equal number of these vessels in Home waters, viz., 6.

14. These standards in new ships are sober and moderate. No one can say that they err on the side of excess. The reason we are able to content ourselves with them for the present is that we possess a good superiority in battleships and especially armoured cruisers of the pre-Dreadnought era.

In this are included 8 King Edwards (3rd Battle Squadron), which are more powerful than any other pre-Dreadnought ships; 8 Formidables (5th Battle Squadron) and 5 Duncans (6th Battle Squadron), which are as good as the ships of the 3rd German Squadron; and 8 Majesties (7th Battle Squadron); 6 Canopus, and 2 Swiftsures (8th Battle Squadron), which are superior to the 4th and 5th German Squadrons as they will be in 1915. There are, besides, 22 armoured cruisers, some of which are very good ships, against which the Germans have 7 of similar strength. There is also a preponderance in torpedo-boat destroyers and a good margin in submarines.

This reserve of strength will steadily diminish every year, actually because the ships of which it is composed grow old, and relatively because the new ships are more powerful. It will diminish more rapidly if new construction in Germany is increased or accelerated. As this process continues, greater exertions will be required by the British Empire.

15. The margin above prescribed in new ships has been decided upon after a consideration of many factors, including the individual power of the ships on both sides, and the British preponderance in older vessels to which reference has been made.

16. Attention is directed to the necessity of our being prepared at our average moment for an attack by Germany at her selected moment.

With regard to this:—

In the North Sea Germany has about 140 miles of coast line. Approximately one-half of this is north of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal which, 40 miles in length, communicates directly with Kiel, the largest German naval station. This northern coast is protected by the Frisian islands, which are being fortified, but it comprises no harbours or naval stations. The southern and western half includes the entrance to the Kiel Canal with a coast line of approximately 75 miles, contains the naval stations of Wilhelmshaven, Cuxhaven, and Emden, and is protected by a long line of islands strongly fortified, Heligoland being an outlying fortified post. It follows that, without any variation of routine conditions, the whole German Navy can be concentrated within a narrow compass at any moment without exciting any attention.

17. It here becomes necessary to allude to the German pre-Dreadnought forces.

In addition to the 17 Dreadnought battleships and 6 Dreadnought cruisers above mentioned, Germany will have in permanent commission by 1915 a 3rd squadron of 8 ships, bringing the total numbers in full commission up to 25, or 3 squadrons of 8 and 1 Fleet flagship.

She will also have from 12 to 14 battleships in reserve, of which under the new law 4 will be in permanent commission. The numbers thus avail-able at any selected moment in battleships alone are:—

29, of which 1, are Dreadnoughts and 12 pre-Dreadnoughts, with 6 battle cruisers;

and, without attracting any attention whatever, these ships can, by reason of the conditions of the coast-line and harbours above alluded to, be concentrated for war at any moment 300 miles from the entrance to the River Thames.

18. Great Britain, average moment.

In 1915, according to the present arrangements (which may have to be reconsidered in the light of German progress), we shall have in permanent full commission—

4 battle squadrons and 1 Fleet flagship,

of which 3 squadrons or 25 ships will be Dreadnoughts. One of these four squadrons (king Edwards) may at an average moment be at Gibraltar, leaving 25 ships, or 3 squadrons in British waters.

In addition, there will be a squadron of 8 ships (Formidables) and 5 Duncans manned permanently as to 50 per cent, of their crews, the remaining 50 per cent, being at the various schools of torpedo, gunnery, &c., available at the shortest notice provided the ships are at their ports. An average moment may find them away from their ports exercising, and at all moments it will be necessary to embark the balance crews before they can be put in the line of battle.

Further, as regards the three fully commissioned squadrons numbering 25 ships in full commission, the possibility of concentration which has been alluded to in the case of Germany does not exist for us at our average moment. There is in effect no harbour where such an assemblage of ships could lie at an average moment without causing a great disturbance of organisation; the exigencies of their practices in tactics, gunnery, torpedo, &c., actually compel their dispersion among the various ports and harbours of the British Isles.

There are not very many harbours convenient for these purposes. The necessity of non-interference with commerce, fisheries, &c., practically limits the normal exercising positions to the east and west coasts of Scotland, Berehaven on the south-west of Ireland, and Portland on the south coast of England. It will, wherefore, be noticed that at an average moment our whole active Fleet may be dispersed, as to one squadron as far as Gibraltar, as to 3 squadrons over the whole coast-hne of about 2,000 miles of the British Isles, as to the 5th and 6th (not yet formed) at a distance measured in time for mobilisation of anything up to 48 hours, and as to the 7th and 8th up to, say, 5 days.

Although after the Reserves have been mobilised the British forces will be superior, unremitting vigilance is required; and anything which increases our margin in the newest ships diminishes the strain and augments our security and our chances of being left unmolested.

19. Mediterranean Station.—Four battle-cruisers and four armoured cruisers will be required to support during the years 1913 and 1914 the interests of Great Britain in the Mediterranean and the important food supplies and Oriental trade which pass through that sea. By keeping this squadron in the Mediterranean we reduce our superiority in battle-cruisers in Home waters, leaving us a bare equality in this important class. During these years the Navies of Austria and Italy will gradually increase in strength, until in 1915 they will each possess a formidable Fleet of 4 and 6 Dreadnought battleships respectively, together with strong battleships of the pre-Dreadnought types and other units, such as cruisers, torpedo craft, &c. It is evident, therefore, that in the year 1915 our squadron of 4 battlecruisers and 4 armoured cruisers (maintained, be it remembered, at the cost of our superiority in the former vessels in Home waters) will not suffice to fulfil our requirements, and its whole composition must be re-considered. To maintain a force that will secure consideration for our interests from Mediterranean Powers we should have at least 6 Dreadnought battleships with 2 battle-cruisers. The maintenance of such a force may well be the factor that will determine Mediterranean Powers to hostility or amity with Great Britain.

It is not that with inferior forces our officers and men would fear to meet an enemy: no doubt they would do so, and with good heart; but it is the duty of the citizens of the Empire, upon whom the actual fighting cannot devolve, to furnish those upon whom it might, devolve with such forces as will give them fair prospects of victory.

The policy of keeping upon foreign stations ships of which the strength is less than that of the ships of foreign Powers whom they may expect to meet in battle proved disastrous to this country in the American War of 1812, when, owing to the policy of expecting our 32-gun frigates to fight with success the American 44-gun frigates, many mortifying reverses attended our arms.

20. Overseas.—Within a decade the paramount duty of ensuring our preponderance in Home waters (at present the decisive theatre of a possible war), has compelled Great Britain to abandon her policy of maintaining at great expense in men and money squadrons in every distant sea, and to concentrate the Fleet mainly in Home waters.

Thus in 1902 there were 55 pennants in the Mediterranean; to-day there are 19. There were 14 pennants on the North America and West Indies Station; to-day there are 3.

There were 3 cruisers on the south-east coast of America; to-day there is 1.

There were 16 pennants on the Cape of Good Hope Station; to-day there are 3.

There were 8 pennants on the Pacific Station; to-day there are 2.

There were 42 pennants on the China Station; to-day there are 31.

There were 12 pennants on the Australian Station; to-day there are 8. These will eventually be increased by the formation of the Australian Fleet unit to 10.

There were 10 pennants on the East Indies station; to-day there are 9.

Or a total of 160 pennants on foreign stations against 76 to-day.

On the other hand, there has been a substantial accession of strength at home. Whereas in 1902 the Channel Fleet had 13 ships in full commission, while 25 were under the orders of the Admiral Superintendent of Naval Reserves and 24 destroyers were attached to the Home ports for instructional purposes, to-day the 1st Fleet numbers 56 ships, while 11 ships and 66 destroyers in full commission are attached to it. The 2nd Fleet, with 50 per cent crews embarked, comprises 21 ships; and 13 ships with 66 destroyers and 24 torpedo-boats, also 48 submarines with 4 attached ships, are within its organisation.

The 3rd Fleet, which represents all remaining effective vessels required upon outbreak of war, comprises 16 battleships and 38 cruisers, all of which have a small number of men embarked in order that they may be effective on mobilisation. (These last would greatly need a short period in which to develop their efficiency.)

Neither the 2nd nor 3rd Fleet existed in 1902, vessels not in full commission being kept in dockyards with no men on board of them.

Heavy and increasing as the strain has been, the Admiralty cannot admit that up to the present it has not been met, or that there is not time to provide for the future.

21. From this comparison it will be seen that the growth of the German Navy has compelled us to concentrate our Fleet at home. Money has not been stinted by Parliament. Estimates of £31,000,000, which were sufficient in 1902, have risen to £45,000,000 in the present year, and will rise again substantially next year. The enlistment of men, the training of officers, the steady and methodical development by every possible means of British naval strength and efficiency have been and will be untiringly pursued. But in spite of this largely increased expenditure and these exertions the fact remains that the Admiralty have been compelled by the pressure of circumstances to withdraw or diminish various forces which in time of peace were a symbol of Empire and the visible link which united all the subjects of the Crown and citizens of our race.

Larger margins of superiority at home would, among other things, impart a greater freedom to the movements of the British squadrons, and enable the flag to be again flown confidently in the distant seas.

22. Naval supremacy is of two kinds: general and local. General naval supremacy consists in the power to defeat in battle and drive from the seas the strongest hostile Navy or combination of hostile Navies wherever they may be found. Local superiority consists in the power to send in good time to, or maintain permanently in, some distant theatre forces adequate to defeat the enemy or hold him in check until the main decision has been obtained in the decisive theatre. It is the general naval supremacy of Great Britain which is the primary defence for the safety and interests of the great dominions of the Crown, and which for all these years has been an effective deterrent upon possible designs prejudicial to or inconsiderate of the policy and the security of Canada.

23. The rapid expansion of Canadian sea-borne trade and the immense value of Canadian cargoes always afloat in British and Canadian bottoms here require consideration. On the basis of the figures supplied by the Board of Trade to the Imperial Conference of 1911, the annual value of the overseas trade (imports and exports) of the Dominion of Canada in 1909-10 was not less than £72,000,000, and the tonnage of Canadian vessels was 718,000 tons, and these proportions have already increased and are still increasing. For the whole of this trade wherever it may be about the distant waters of the world, as well as for the maintenance of her communications both with Europe and Asia, Canada is dependent, and has always depended, upon the Imperial Navy without contribution or cost to her of any kind.

24. Further, at the present time and in the immediate future we still have the power by making special arrangements and mobilising a portion of our reserves to send, without courting disaster at home, an effective Fleet of battleships and cruisers to unite with the Royal Australian Navy and the British squadrons in China and the Pacific for the defence of British Columbia, Australia, and New Zealand. And these communities are also protected and their interests safeguarded by the power and authority of Great Britain so long as her naval strength is unbroken.

25. This power both specific and general will be diminished with the growth not only of the German Navy, but by the simultaneous building by many Powers of great modern ships of war. Whereas, in the present year Great Britain possesses 18 battleships and battle cruisers of the Dreadnought class against 19 of that class possessed by the other Powers of Europe, and will possess in 1913 24 to 21, the figures in 1914 will be 31 to 33, and in 1915 only 35 to 51. The existence of a number of Navies all comprising ships of high quality creates possibilities of adverse combinations being suddenly formed against which no reasonable standard of British naval strength can fully guard. And the development of British naval strength has to be accompanied by a foreign policy which does not leave us without friends in Europe and Asia, and relieves us from the impossible task of building against the whole world.

26. Whatever may be the decision of Canada at the present serious juncture, Great Britain will not in any circumstances fail in her duty to the Oversea Dominions of the Crown. She has before now successfully made head alone and unaided against the most formidable combinations and the greatest military Powers; and she has not lost her capacity, even if left wholly unsupported, of being able by a wise policy and strenuous exertions to watch over and preserve the vital interests of the Empire. The Admiralty will not hesitate if necessary to ask next year for a further substantial increase beyond anything that has at present been announced, with consequent extra additions to the burden of the British taxpayer. But the aid which Canada could give at the present time is not to be measured only in ships or money. It will have a moral value out of all proportion to the material assistance afforded. The failure of Canada at this moment, after all that has been said, to take any effective step would produce the worst impression abroad and expose us all to much derision. But any action on the part of Canada to increase the power of the Imperial Navy, and thus widen the margins of our common safety, would, on the other hand, be recognised everywhere as the proof and sign that those who may at any time be minded to menace any part of the Empire will have to contend with the united strength of the whole.

27. On these grounds, not less than from purely naval reasons, it is desirable that any aid given by Canada at this time should include the provision of a certain number of the largest and strongest ships of war which science can build or money supply.

It is true that the forms of naval architecture change and are changing as the years pass; that great ships are not the only units in which decisive naval power can be measured; and that new weapons and new conditions may modify their influence.

It is after a full consideration of these aspects that the Admiralty record their opinion as above. They are satisfied that no step which Canada could take at the present time would be so helpful to the British Navy, or so likely to put a stop to dangerous naval rivalry, as the provision of capital ships for general Imperial service.

Admiralty, September 20, 1912.

[NOTE: The Appendices were omitted in the reprinted version found in The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History – Volume I: Origins and Early Years]

Appendix A – Tables illustrating the Development of the German Navy under the Fleet Laws of 1898 and 1900, and Amendments of 1906, 1908, and 1912.

Appendix B – Extract from Memorandum accompanying the German Fleet Bill of 1900.

Appendix C – Translation of German Naval Law Amendment Bill, 1912.

Appendix 1 – Comparison of the Amendment with the Fleet Laws.

Appendix 2 – Programme of Construction.

Appendix 3 – Increased requirements of Personnel.

Appendix 4 – Calculation of Cost.

Appendix D – Statement showing Construction of Ships for the British and German Navies under the Programmes 1902-3 to 1912-13, inclusive.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2019-12-08 01:36pm
by madd0ct0r
Dear Sir,

Although your post is cogent, I fear its length is such that my tea has gone quite cold in the reading. I agree with your points, and shake my jowls in murmurs of blather and dissaproval of these european follies. I fully accept your consideration that it is the natural and right place for Britannia to be the greatest naval power at home and abroad, and that any attempts by the Germans to meet or exceed us are dangerous and short sighted.

Your humble servant.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2019-12-08 10:44pm
by Coop D'etat
The unspoken thing in this communique was that by that point if the Dominion of Canada faced a threat from the United States, the Imperial Government's plan was to abandon them to their fate. The dropping of the 19th century commitment to defend the Dominion was also something the UK didn't bother to inform Ottawa about either.

There was an shift in role where the old deal was loyalty to the Empire implied the Empire was responsible for defense to suddenly the UK looking to the Empire to help defend them from European threats based on the idea of Empire being one happy family. This proved to be a card the British could only play once, after WW1 the colonials were a lot less interested in being Westminister's foot soldiers.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2019-12-21 06:56pm
by Simon_Jester
In all fairness, there came some point in the late 19th or early 20th century where the balance of power was such that it would be effectively impossible for Britain to defend Canada from a serious and mobilized US attempt at conquest. Even given that British naval numbers could sweep the sea clean of American shipping and fleets, deploying enough soldiers into Canada to actually stop a mobilized American army on anything like the scale of the American Civil War would not have been feasible.

Britain guaranteeing the security of Australia or South Africa was a lot more practical. Because those dominions didn't share a land border with an industrialized country that had roughly half again the population of Great Britain.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2019-12-25 12:51am
by Coop D'etat
Oh, Great Britain's leadership was entirely correct that a land war with the US was unwinnable.

It's just high handed conduct to ask a dominion to step up to provide defence to the metropole when the metropole was withdrawing its commitment to defend the dominion and worse failing to inform the dominion of that fact.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-12 07:24am
by lordroel
MKSheppard wrote:
2019-12-08 10:37am

41 battleships,
20 large cruisers,
40 small cruisers,
144 torpedo-boats,
72 submarines, and
101,500 men,
Is that what they toughed the Germans had in 1920, ho far where they off if you look at what the Germans at the end of the war in 1918 had.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-12 08:42am
by madd0ct0r
Necro AND unreadable typos even by my standards. Impressive.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-13 03:51am
by The_Saint
lordroel wrote:
2020-06-12 07:24am
MKSheppard wrote:
2019-12-08 10:37am

41 battleships,
20 large cruisers,
40 small cruisers,
144 torpedo-boats,
72 submarines, and
101,500 men,
Is that what they toughed the Germans had in 1920, ho far where they off if you look at what the Germans at the end of the war in 1918 had.
To answer the necro because (for about three seconds) I think it is an interesting question...

If you look at the state of the German High Seas fleet right before the Kiel Mutiny when there was an order to put to sea to force a confrontation with the British Grand Fleet ... the Grand Fleet would have had an approximately 2:1 numerical advantage in warships of all classes.

A quick check of the numbers has the British Grand Fleet with 44 capital ships (+ 5 USA & 1 Australian for a total of 50) vs 23 equivalent in the German High Seas Fleet.

The German fleet possibly maybe had the (slimmest) relative edge in newer ships, considering what they'd lost at Jutland or retired subsequently but the British had also been retiring older or compromised vessels as well by late 1918 and quantity is a quality of it's own.

So hypothetically if WW1 had not happened then the Germany could possibly have achieved the OP hypothetical order of battle but wartime priorities and events severely curtailed this outcome.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-13 05:07pm
by Captain Seafort
The_Saint wrote:
2020-06-13 03:51am
lordroel wrote:
2020-06-12 07:24am
MKSheppard wrote:
2019-12-08 10:37am

41 battleships,
20 large cruisers,
40 small cruisers,
144 torpedo-boats,
72 submarines, and
101,500 men,
Is that what they toughed the Germans had in 1920, ho far where they off if you look at what the Germans at the end of the war in 1918 had.
To answer the necro because (for about three seconds) I think it is an interesting question...

So hypothetically if WW1 had not happened then the Germany could possibly have achieved the OP hypothetical order of battle but wartime priorities and events severely curtailed this outcome.
The numbers quoted are those of the 1912 amendment to the Fleet Law. I don't think it's a great surprise that the UK was assuming that the Germans would build the number of ships they'd said they would.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-13 05:23pm
by Lord Revan
I suspect that it's generally good to plan according a realistic "worst case scenario" (in this case that Germans would build as many ships as they were planning to build).

That way you won't end up short if they manage to do that.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-27 05:01am
by lordroel
The_Saint wrote:
2020-06-13 03:51am

So hypothetically if WW1 had not happened then the Germany could possibly have achieved the OP hypothetical order of battle but wartime priorities and events severely curtailed this outcome.
Even then, i assume the British would still have more ships in service.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-27 05:32am
by Captain Seafort
lordroel wrote:
2020-06-27 05:01am
The_Saint wrote:
2020-06-13 03:51am

So hypothetically if WW1 had not happened then the Germany could possibly have achieved the OP hypothetical order of battle but wartime priorities and events severely curtailed this outcome.
Even then, i assume the British would still have more ships in service.
Vastly more, especially since the 41 battleships listed refer to all battleships, not just dreadnoughts.

Re: I have found the Most Perfectly British Thing Ever (1912 Memorandum to PM of Canada on the Navy)

Posted: 2020-06-27 12:07pm
by Coop D'etat
Incidentally, the Germans knew this very well and by this period were working towards coming to an arrangement with the British on naval matters, because the fleet building program had failed to accomplish its intended objectives of convincing the British of their worth as allies or deterring the British from joining coalitions against them, or being able to secure the North Sea for intercontinental trade against opposition.