The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean 1900-1915


"The Millstone" Table of Contents

The "Straits" Trilogy by Geoffrey Miller



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The Millstone

British Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War
xv + 611 pages
Full bibliography, notes and index
Card cover, 5¾" x 8¼"
ISBN 0 85958 690 1
Published 1999



Table of Contents



Changing fortunes

Britain’s strategical interest in the Mediterranean following the opening of the Suez Canal — the French threat — the propagation of naval scares — naval expenditure is increased — the Naval Defence Act of 1889 — the Mediterranean debates of the 1890s — the dissipation of the French threat — Fisher as C-in-C, Mediterranean — the necessity for economy — Fisher is appointed First Sea Lord.


The Fisher Factor

The perils of taking Fisher at face value — his inconsistency — Fisher’s remit — the elimination of the French and Russian threats — French policy in Morocco — Fisher’s preference for Alexandria — the constant redistribution of the British Fleet — the Anglo-French Entente — the first Moroccan crisis — Russia’s defeat — the naval centre of gravity moves north — the inception of the battle cruiser — new methods of fire control.


Bigger Guns and Greater Speed

The example of the Russo-Japanese War — the importance of long-range gunnery — the threat posed by the torpedo — real or imagined? — the tactical advantage of speed — finding a suitable rôle for the battle cruiser — the German response to the new class — renewed calls for economy — the Mediterranean fleet is halved.


Foreign Entanglements

The threat from Germany — the Committee of Imperial Defence — its objects — Admiralty hegemony — the formulation of War Plans to assist the French — the Navy’s plan is found wanting — a change of Government — an innocent discussion group — a fortuitous meeting while riding — the military correspondent of The Times — the Army view prevails — an interview with the French Ambassador — the ‘great question’ — Sir Edward Grey authorizes Anglo-French Staff Talks — Cabinet debate is denied — who knew what and when? — the influence of the Under-Secretary — a sanguine appraisal — Fisher rejects the military strategy — the moral force created by the Entente —a bribe for Germany? — the heckling of the French Senator — the awkward question.


Plans of War

Fisher attempts to quell his critics — the subsequent naval War Plans — Beresford finds fault — the War Plans controversy continues — the clamour for a Naval War Staff — the threat of war in 1908 — the Invasion Sub-Committee — Fisher’s unexpected reaction — the Tweedmouth letter — the international situation — Anglo-French naval talks — the "three conventions" — the French reaction — the entrenchment of the Continental Strategy — the great naval scare of 1909 and its aftermath.


A New Enemy

The Mediterranean naval race and its implications — French reactions — the great Fisher-Beresford feud — an Asquithian compromise — agitation for a Naval War Staff increases — Fisher’s tenure ends — Admiral Wilson is appointed First Sea Lord — his faults — the Anglo-Russian entente — Empire or encirclement? — the Straits question — a difficult year in the life of the Liberal Government — the resumption of Anglo-German naval conversations.



The origins of the crisis — the British position in the Mediterranean — Churchill enters the debate — Admiral Wilson is unconcerned — the conciliatory approach of Grey — the subsequent flare-up — Lloyd George speaks his mind — were British interests affected? — the German Ambassador’s fury — tension eases — the Continental commitment outlined — Haldane’s secret initiative — the C. I. D. pronounces on strategy — Admiral Wilson’s lamentable performance — the inept naval alternative.


The Right of Free Choice

Asquith determines on changes at the Admiralty — Haldane’s longing for the position — a second suitor — the ramifications of Admiral Wilson’s performance — Anglo-French naval talks are re-activated — increasing French confidence — the French centre of gravity moves south — the mania for secrecy — Asquith’s concern— the militarization of the "Terrible Twins" — policy is dictated by considerations of strategy — fear of French military weakness and the position of Belgium — Churchill stakes his claim for the Admiralty — the influence of Henry Wilson — the Radicals fight back — all change at the Admiralty — a confrontation in the Cabinet.


Churchill Arrives

The revivification of Fisher — the formation of a Naval War Staff — its defects — Churchill determines on a new First Sea Lord — the Turco-Italian War — Fisher and Alexandria once more — Churchill’s renewed interest in the Mediterranean naval situation — a French rebuff — Battenberg’s unease — the finalization of the Naval War Staff — the German novelle — Churchill’s attempt to bypass the Committee of Imperial Defence — the plan to withdraw the Mediterranean battleships.


"We cannot have everything or be strong everywhere"

The Haldane mission — proposals and counter-proposals — Churchill’s unhelpful intervention — the Anglo-German talks fail — French suspicion — the Mediterranean to be evacuated — the Naval Holiday — the proposed recasting of the fleet — the Foreign Office becomes involved — Sir Arthur Nicolson is let in on a secret — an alliance with France? — the War Office reaction.


The Malta Compromise

A small victory for the Cabinet — the summer cruise of Asquith and Churchill — Admiral Beatty’s idea — the Malta meetings — Churchill overcomes Kitchener — Kitchener enlists Grey’s help — Churchill tries to overcome the Cabinet — a job for the battle cruisers — McKenna fights back — the question of figures — who was right? — Churchill marshals his support — Sir Arthur Nicolson’s cold feet.


The Numbers Game

The C.I.D. sits in judgment — a loose compromise — Esher is elated, Churchill deflated — a trap for the Canadians — the Canadians escape — the dispositions for the Mediterranean are set — the pliable Admiralty — the Franco-Russian Naval Convention — Churchill’s new initiative — the private and public stances of the Admiralty — formal Anglo-French conversations.


The Obligation

The Austrian enigma — Poincaré spins a web — Churchill holds out for freedom of action — the problem of finding a successor to Admiral Troubridge — the French move their battleships from Brest — the relentless French pressure — Italian machinations — complications in the Mediterranean — the Grey-Cambon letters — the question of command — naval reaction to the First Balkan War — Bridgeman is outmanoeuvred — Battenberg fulfils an ambition.


The Polarization of the Mediterranean

A lack of resources — the Algerian Corps in French plans — the first British battle cruiser arrives — the completion of the technical Anglo-French arrangement — Battenberg’s cloak and dagger — Mediterranean War Orders — Admiral Milne’s friendly advice — Churchill’s Mediterranean diversions — the Adriatic position — the renewal of the Triple Alliance Naval Convention — the questionable naval co-operation of Italy and Austria-Hungary — a British naval demonstration is required — Beatty wants his ships back — Churchill’s estrangement from the C.I.D. — flaws in the Naval War Staff — Italian duplicity — Grey does not rise to the bait — San Giuliano cries "wolf".


Naval Estimates and the Question of Substitution

Churchill and the policy of Dreadnought substitution — the storm over the 1914-15 Estimates — Lloyd George speaks his mind again — his estrangement from Churchill — the Canadian dreadnoughts fail to make up the shortfall — Churchill’s flexible Mediterranean policy — Asquith intervenes — Lloyd George compromises — the submarine question — the future for Dreadnoughts.


The Limitations of Foreign Policy

Faulty intelligence — Churchill redeems his pledge — the question of substitution once more — a source on ready-made Dreadnoughts — the evolution of tactics — French strength — the French attempt to cement the bond — an initial lack of co-operation — Milne to be responsible for Goeben — Sazonov renews his approach — Britain’s hand is forced — preliminary Anglo-Russian talks are instigated — a diplomatic leak — Grey is discomfited — German knowledge of the talks.


"Before the unknown"

The British pledge to France and its implications — the onset of the crisis — Ulster dominates — the growing awareness — Grey’s proposal for a Conference — localizing the conflict — the question of Belgian neutrality — the Cabinet hedges its bets — the Continent mobilizes — a shameless German proposal — the naval situation — Churchill pre-empts the Cabinet — the embargo of the Turkish Dreadnoughts.


"Mon petit papier"

Grey’s ‘painful’ interview with the French Ambassador — the position of the permanent officials at the Foreign Office — Churchill’s intrigue — Cambon’s allegation — Saturday’s Cabinet and Grey’s unusual initiative — a misunderstanding — Grey’s threat to go — Lloyd George refuses to take the Radical whip — the issue of Belgian neutrality becomes paramount — Cambon goes on the attack — the outcome of the embargo — Grey’s ‘fixation’ with the English Channel — German naval operational plans — the future of the Liberal Party.


The Decision for War

The unprecedented Sunday Cabinet — Grey argues for a pledge to France — the Cabinet is split — the conversion of the middle section— Asquith’s reasoning — Grey controls the agenda — Italian neutrality and the Mediterranean position — Grey’s pledge to Cambon — the problem of Goeben and Breslau and the French troop transportation — the ‘excuse’ of Belgium— Samuel’s exaggerated rôle — the cynical policy of Lloyd George.


"A terrible business"

Cabinet resignations — the army is neglected — an emotional scene in the Cabinet — Grey prepares for his speech — the atmosphere in the House — Grey rises to speak — his lengthy defence of his policy — Grey carries the House — loud and prolonged cheers — Churchill’s immediate reaction — the question of Cabinet unity — Goeben and Breslau are sighted — Churchill is restrained — the moral force of the Grey-Cambon letters — Grey’s responsibility.


Summary and conclusions





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HMS Berwick : Original artwork © 2004 Geoffrey Miller
HMS Berwick
[Original artwork © 2004 Geoffrey Miller]


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