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The British Naval Staff in the First World War

The British Naval Staff in the First World War

Nicholas Black
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 348
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  • Book Info
    The British Naval Staff in the First World War
    Book Description:

    Nicholas Black examines the role of the Naval Staff of the Admiralty in the 1914-18 war, reassessing both the calibre of the Staff and the function and structure of the Staff. He challenges historians such as Arthur Marder and naval figures such as Captai

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-696-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Malcolm Llewellyn-Jones

    Nicholas Black’s study demonstrates that previous evaluations of the Naval Staff in the First World War need to be reconsidered. In place of bumbling amateurs, and the ‘sick and the maimed’ The British Naval Staff in the First World War shows that the Staff attracted officers of real calibre at a time when manning levels were desperately stretched. Officers found themselves on the staff because of their skills, and attempted to apply developing technology and limited resources to a conflict that was unprecedented in its scope and impact.

    The war also brought about major developments to the staff itself. It...

    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the Edwardian period, the Royal Navy had received the lion’s share of Britain’s defence budget as it sought to maintain its traditional supremacy over its rivals. In particular, the period was dominated by the dreadnought race with Wilhelmine Germany. With such spending came expectations. For over a century the Navy had guaranteed Britain’s homeland security, and allowed her armies to campaign in every continent of the world. Naval power had also helped British commerce to open up that world, and protect the wealth that such opportunities generated. Many had expected, therefore, that when war did come it would provide...

  9. 1 The Admiralty War Staff, 1912–1918: An Analysis of the Personnel
    (pp. 15-52)

    The officers of the Admiralty War Staff (Naval Staff from May 1917) have received a bad press, despite some praise for their work at the end of the war.¹ In particular, the Naval Staff has been the victim of an unholy trinity of service critics.² Kenworthy quoted, and approved, of the following view of those who served at the Admiralty (including those on the Staff): ‘The Admiralty breeds mediocre men and the mediocre man surrounds himself with mediocre men. Like calls to like with penguin gravity.’³ Dewar wrote, in what was the theme of his memoirs, that, ‘our system of...

  10. 2 The Establishment of the War Staff, and its Work before the Outbreak of War in August 1914
    (pp. 53-74)

    Captain Herbert Richmond produced a damning indictment of pre-war naval planning when he wrote that, while ‘the brain of Jupiter had indeed produced an Athene fully armed, it was no one’s business to be sure that the poor lady could use her spear’.¹ Richmond believed that the Navy, obsessed with matériel questions, had overlooked the need for a suitable planning organisation or the creation of coherent war plans. The War Staff as created in January 1912 failed to provide such a role, and was simply ‘the repository of inferior minds and supine wills’.² Although Professor Marder was not quite so...

  11. 3 The Churchill–Battenberg Regime, August–October 1914
    (pp. 75-103)

    ‘Now we have our war. The next thing is to decide how we are going to carry it on.’¹ Not surprisingly this statement by Churchill warranted one of Richmond’s characteristic denunciations in his diary, ‘The Duke of Newcastle himself could not have made a more damning confession of inadequate preparation for war.’ For Richmond, the ADOD, it typified what he saw as proof of the poor state of war readiness that affected not only the First Lord, but also the Admiralty as a whole. As he wrote later in the same diary entry, ‘all this should have been thought of...

  12. 4 The Churchill–Fisher Regime, October 1914–May 1915
    (pp. 104-130)

    While many felt that the Admiralty needed a more vigorous service chief than Battenberg had been, few were necessarily keen, however, to see Fisher back as First Sea Lord. Sturdee was quickly removed as COS (he had also been Beresford’s Flag Captain in the days of the ‘Syndicate of Discontent’ – Fisher had a long memory). He was replaced by Oliver although Churchill had toyed with the idea of using Wilson in this role. Fisher’s reputation in the service was mixed. While clearly a man of vision, action and guile, he had also divided the Navy and brought the service into...

  13. 5 The Balfour–Jackson Regime, May 1915–November 1916
    (pp. 131-169)

    The ‘may crisis’ of 1915 led not only to the removal of Fisher and Churchill from the Admiralty, but also to the formation of a coalition government. With Churchill and Fisher gone, the leadership of the Royal Navy took on a completely different complexion which has, traditionally, come in for a lot of criticism. The choice of Balfour and Jackson would seem to the outside observer to have had potential; Balfour had considerable experience of strategic questions, going back to his time as Prime Minister and founder of the Committee of Imperial Defence; and Jackson had spent years at the...

  14. 6 The Jellicoe Era, November 1916–December 1917
    (pp. 170-213)

    Jellicoe’s departure from the Grand Fleet caused shock amongst his sailors. Promotion to First Sea Lord would, in other circumstances, have been seen as the culmination of a glittering career. In the context of the war, however, many saw it as a demotion. Balfour, too, was removed to the safety of the Foreign Office, and replaced by the Unionist Sir Edward Carson, who was not a huge success. The coalition of December 1916 had not simply brought about changes for the political head of the Admiralty, but throughout the government. The most important of these changes was that Asquith left...

  15. 7 The Geddes–Wemyss Regime, December 1917–November 1918
    (pp. 214-237)

    The geddes–wemyss era has been seen as the culmination of Staff development in the First World War. Stripped of Jellicoe’s over-centralisation and pessimism, and with the winning combination of the Wemyss ‘hands off’ approach and Geddes’s systematic mentality, the Naval Staff finally approached the ideal for which Richmond and others clamoured.¹ Richmond even managed to join the Staff again, although not for long, and add his own incisive comments to the steady round of departmental memoranda. As has been suggested earlier, in many respects Wemyss was the beneficiary of Jellicoe’s work. Richmond, in the spirit of a true Jacobin,...

    (pp. 238-246)

    This book has demonstrated that a number of traditionally held assumptions about the Admiralty War Staff in the First World War are not true. It was not the depository of second-rate, retired or maimed officers, unfit for sea, who passed the war in desk jobs. As has been demonstrated, largely from an analysis of service records, those who worked on the Staff did so not as a result of any perceived inadequacy, but because of their ability. Staff Officers were promoted faster than the average RN officer, and many had a wide range of specialist skills which were of great...

    (pp. 247-249)
    (pp. 250-305)
  19. Appendix C: Naval Intelligence Department and the Naval Staff (1887–1919)
    (pp. 306-308)
    (pp. 309-320)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 321-334)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 335-335)