Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention
in the War
third volume ofthe Straits Trilogyby Geoffrey Miller
I: Superior Force
: the conspiracy behind the escape of Goeben and
: British Policy towards the Ottoman
Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign
III: The Millstone
: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean,
1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War
Please note that The Millstone
is now out-of-print
provide a comprehensive account of British naval and diplomatic policy in the two decades
prior to the Great War, focusing in particular on the escape of the German ships
and Breslau [Superior Force], the origins of the Dardanelles Campaign
[Straits], and the
political and diplomatic imperatives behind the British decision to enter the
war in August 1914 [The Millstone].
Each non-fiction title by Geoffrey Miller has its
own dedicated web-site.
On all of these sites the ENTIRE TEXT IS AVAILABLE.
For further information on each
individual title, please select a link below or click on a cover to go to that
At half past two on the afternoon of
Sunday, 2 August 1914, Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, informed
the French Ambassador of the decision just reached by the British
Cabinet — despite not yet being at war with Germany, if, nevertheless,
the German High Seas Fleet ventured out from its base, the British fleet
‘would intervene … in such a way that from that moment Great Britain and
Germany would be in a state of war.’ What led to the giving of this
pledge? Was there an obligation on Britain’s part, or merely a
commitment, moral or otherwise, to intervene in certain circumstances?
The Foreign Secretary subsequently declared in his own defence that the
promise to the French ‘did not pledge us to war.’ Grey was, however,
wrong — once the promise was made, British entry into the war was
certain. Despite this, a group within the Cabinet spent the afternoon of
Sunday 2 August desperately searching for an issue around which they
could group, and which would provide a more convenient excuse for
British entry into the war than one based upon a moral commitment to
France; that excuse was to be Belgian neutrality.
Two things virtually guaranteed British entry in the war: the secret
Anglo-French military and naval talks, which commenced in 1906, and the
naval position in the Mediterranean. With Austria and Italy both
constructing dreadnoughts, and facing the German naval challenge,
British command of the Mediterranean could no longer be guaranteed.
Similarly over-extended, the French were unable to protect both their
Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. From strategic necessity came
political expediency. The Millstone will show:
That Grey was more aware of what was settled by the secret military
conversations than he pretended to be.
That the situation created by the German naval programme gave Britain no
option other than to evacuate the Mediterranean.
That Anglo-French naval co-ordination and strategic planning remained
That the Cabinet could not have prevented Britain’s entry into the war;
all they could have done was to prevent the formation of a coalition
That the pledge to France and consideration of British interests were
the sole determinants of Britain’s entry.
That the German promise in August 1914 not to attack the French coast
That, far from informing the German Government of the pledge given to
Cambon as he claimed, Grey was determined to conceal this fact until
Monday, 3 August.
That the issue of Belgian neutrality was used in August 1914 to assuage
consciences and prevent the formation of a coalition Government, but was
not crucial to the decision to intervene.
That the Continental policy, committing British troops to fight in
Europe, was decided upon in August 1911 by a small inner circle of the
Cabinet who knew precisely what it would entail.
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Journal of the American Great War Society"
(review of "Superior Force")
Miller’s account is of the events at sea, the
book’s meat lies in the allegation in the
subtitle, which advances a contention so novel
that revisionistic is too mild a term for it.
This is that three highly-placed individuals in
Athens connived, directly or indirectly, to abet
the escape … Miller’s version of events seems
confirmed by his highly impressive research in
primary sources … a valuable contribution to
Great War naval literature."
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