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Sunday, 22 May 2016


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A nice summary David. Some of this sounds like the approach of Nelson to the French Fleet off Trafalgar during another age. A perpendicular approach, which was kind of new at the time. Tall ships or diesel engines, still it is positioning, timing and speed, skill and plain old "pluck" in the end.

Sort of, Whiters, but at Trafalgar, Nelson deliberately allowed the Franco-Spanish fleet to, in effect, cross TWO of his Ts. He divided the British fleet into two separate lines which he sent towards two separate points in the enemies line, at roughly one third and two thirds down the line. But of course, he was operating in the age of sail and the age of smooth-bore cannon. By breaking the enemy line at one third it meant that their vanguard under wind conditions was forced to sail on before trying, desperately slowly to tack back to the action. Thus, at a stroke he had reduced the enemy effectives by a third.

Also, (like Jellicoe in the next century) he understood the technology of his era. Smooth-bore cannon were notoriously inaccurate especially when mounted on wooden ships pitching and rolling at sea, so he was quite prepared to take his chances as his two Ts were crossed. The other great tactical advantage was that as each of his ships passed through the enemy line the gun crews were able to fire, at point blank range, down the *length* of the ship to the left and then race over to the gun on the other side and fire that down the length of the ship to the right. Raking shots like that produced terrific damage and casualties.

I'm glad I was at neither battle!

I think it is a mistake to dismiss Beatty as a complete prat. Agreed, he misjudged things appallingly at Jutland and the fact that we suffered considerably more losses than the Germans was entirely down to him.

However, after replacing Jellicoe, his return of the Navy to the Nelsonic principles of commanders thoroughly understanding their commander's intentions and using their initiative to achieve them was surely the correct approach. Jellico was one of the most brilliant and inspiring admirals we have ever had, but it cannot be denied that he over regulated, over centralised and was far too reluctant to delegate.

Also, one shouldn't forget that Beatty was one of the finest first sea lords that we have ever had, and perhaps his most valuable service to the nation was the fact that he fought the politicians tooth and nail over naval cuts and the fact that we still had a navy worth the name at the start of WW2 was almost entirely down to him.

With regard to our vulnerable battlecruisers I would argue that the overall concept was correct, but design and doctrine left a lot to be desired. They were simply not robust enough to take on any serious opposition. Interestingly, the Germans had a good hard look at the class and then produced their own which were a considerable improvement on ours. While sacrificing range and crew comfort, they were nearly as well armoured as a battleship and could take a huge pounding before succumbing. They were also fast.

Take particular note that SMS Goeben, a German battlecruiser was arguably the single most successful warship in history. She evaded British and French pursuit and then brought Turkey into the conflict ON THE WRONG SIDE which lengthened the war BY A GOOD TWO YEARS. The closure of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles that followed denied Russia her only warm water trade route and the shortages that ensued were a contributory cause to the Russian revolution that followed. The Goeben, a battle cruiser, was truly a ship that changed history.

thank you Duffers very interesting post.

The other vital point informing Jellicoe's decision was that the consequneces for Britain of a defeat were rather worse than those for Germany.

I would take slight issue with your remark that the Kaiser hated all things British. He loved the Navy which is why he made his own, and I think he was simply such an utter dick that he welcomed the opportunity start a war to give it a run out. Obviously there were all sorts of other issues as well such as the fact that Germany considered herself surrounded and their analysis indicated that is was then or never, but my own opinion is that the Kaiser was an infantile twat and regarded it all rather as other boys play with trainsets.

Gentlemen, let me confess instantly that my knowledge of Beatty is mostly centred on his conduct at Jutland. However, was interesting to find out, via the TV programme, that he ensured that charts were altered after the war to throw blame on Jellicoe and enhance his own role. Dammit, the man was an utter cad! In comparison, Jellicoe, despite the vilification, remained completely tight-lipped until his death.

Also, I intended no criticism of the Battlecruiser concept which was pushed through with help from Adm. Fisher (another of my 'heroes'). It was exactly right for the Royal Navy of the time which had to patrol the global seas to protect British interests. However, the tactical concept behind it was to provide a *very fast* big ship with *big guns* which could track down enemy raiders and then stand off at a distance and sink them. Also, of course, they filled a reconnaissance role which would keep a fleet commander informed of enemy movements - a role that Beatty totally cocked-up at Jutland.

Jellicoe was not a great communicator but partly that was due to his low opinion of most of his fellow naval officers - and if Beatty was a typical, thoughtless, gung ho, up-and-at-'em type then you can understand his reluctance. Hardly any of them understood afterwards that his decision not to go charging after the German fleet was because he understood the essential aim of the conflict - that it was not absolutely necessary to win, it was only essential not to lose! Having several battleships sunk by ten shilling torpedoes and mines would have been a war-losing disaster. The proof is that the Germans sneaked back into harbour and never came out again!

Cuffers, your assessment of the Kaiser is about right. He was technically, I think, psychotic with a deeply peculiar love/hate/envy feeling towards the British. Needless to say, his attempt to out-build the Brits and produce a world-dominating nave of his own was a disaster - thank God! - because it diverted huge financial and man-power resources from his army to his navy. Would we and the French have held back the German army in 1914 if he had enjoyed the use of, say, another 5 army Corps?

Oh and Beatty - how managed to sink a steamer on one of the cataracts in the Nile during the River campaign - the only one that was lost.

So yes, I think your opinion is about right - bit useless, but a jolly good swimmer!!

Thanks for the summary, David; I need to learn more about this, because apart from its historical importance, my grandfather was there as a leading stoker on HMS Calliope, so I have a personal interest in the fact that he survived!

(Prior to Jutland, he had applied to his CO to be moved to a different (ie less dangerous) duty, but was told to stay put because his skills were too valuable. I have the CO's letter advising him of this refusal - fascinating stuff.)

Andrew, before you 'do a Beatty' and rush off for a book on Jutland, please begin by reading "Dreadnought" by Robert K. Massie which is up there vying for a place in my best ever history book list! Then, read up on Jutland.

Thanks Mr. Duffin, very much at the news of your Grandfather's importance at Jutland - and his CO's great good sense refusing the transfer. Examples of such sense during the period not exactly, abounding.

Salutes all round for the Royal Navy - roota toot toot!

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