THE MILLSTONE: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War © Geoffrey Miller





THE MILLSTONE: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War © Geoffrey Miller



Please click for details of e-book versions


The Millstone


British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War

Please click to order a copy of "The Millstone"




Chapter 10




“We cannot have everything or be strong everywhere”





The Anglo-French Mediterranean naval situation would be minutely re-examined in the coming months, as a by-product of the German novelle. Bethmann-Hollweg’s apprehension concerning the new scheme of Tirpitz was shared by, amongst others, the head of the Hamburg-Amerika Steamship Co., Albert Ballin (in Berlin) and the influential financier Sir Ernest Cassel (residing in London, although German by birth). Their unofficial, behind-the-scenes, diplomacy resulted in an invitation being delivered by Cassel to Churchill on 7 January to meet the Kaiser for explanatory talks — an invitation Churchill declined. He did not, however, dismiss Cassel’s efforts out of hand: in conjunction with first, Lloyd George, and then Grey, a memorandum was drafted enshrining the principle of British naval supremacy to serve as the basis for official negotiations to prevent the naval arms race spiralling out of control. Still under attack from the radical wing,[1] Grey was amenable to the re-opening of talks with Berlin, though somewhat sceptical of the chances of success and anxious not to offend French sensibilities.[2] Cassel journeyed to Berlin later in the month and gave the memorandum to Ballin on the morning of 29 January; Ballin immediately took the document to Bethmann-Hollweg. In the afternoon Cassel and Ballin had an audience with the Chancellor and the Emperor. ‘They all appeared deeply pleased by the venture’, Churchill informed Grey, adding maliciously, ‘B. H. earnest & cordial, the Emperor “enchanted, almost childishly so”. The Emperor talked a great deal on naval matters to Cassel, the details of which he was unable to follow.’[3]

                In this early form of shuttle diplomacy, Cassel returned to London on Tuesday 30 January, arriving late at night, and immediately saw Churchill with his spoils. Cassel had with him a cordial letter from the Kaiser and, far more important than Wilhelm’s good wishes, a draft by Bethmann-Hollweg of the impending naval increases. While Cassel slept, Churchill and his advisers ‘devoured this invaluable document all night long in the Admiralty.’ When Cassel returned in the morning, to breakfast with Churchill and Lloyd George, the First Lord knew the worst: if it was not as bad as it could have been, it was still ‘serious’. The original German programme had called for two ships a year for the next six years. Tirpitz, conveniently using the diplomatic disaster of Agadir as an excuse, wanted to push the tempo to three ships a year which was an intolerable burden for Germany. From Bethmann-Hollwegg’s initial refusal to countenance such an increase a compromise was eventually reached: three ships in the first, third and fifth years; two ships in the second, fourth and sixth years. To meet this challenge, the proposed British tempo would have to be increased by one dreadnought a year to 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 4. As Churchill observed, with regard to Germany alone, this would not only maintain a superiority of sixty per cent. but would also represent two keels to one on the additional three ships, surely a stern enough warning to the German Government that it would be folly to try to outbuild Britain.

Please click to go to the top of this page

                Complicating the position for Britain was the fact that the three extra German ships envisaged in the programme, when added to five pre-dreadnoughts from the Reserve Fleet, would allow the Germans to create a third active battle squadron. Churchill pointed out the significance of this when writing to Grey on 31 January: ‘At present, owing to the fact that in the 6 winter months the First & Second Squadrons of the High Sea Fleet are congested with recruits, there is a great relief to us from the strain to which we are put by German naval power. The additional burden of the Third squadron will make that strain continual throughout the year.’ To counter the threat of twenty-five German battleships (three squadrons plus the flagship) the Admiralty would have to deploy forty-one battleships (five squadrons plus flagship). ‘The facts are grim’, lamented Churchill. ‘In order to meet the new German squadron, we are contemplating bringing home the Mediterranean battleships.’ Obviously, in this eventuality, Britain would have to rely upon France in the Mediterranean and, as Grey was no doubt aware (even if he refused to admit it), another strand in the Entente web was being spun. Churchill could see only one way out of this particular trap: as soon as the novelle was announced, make an ‘immediate and effective reply’. If the Germans, so admonished, cared to slow down their tempo to twelve years, that is, to make their quotas biennial instead of annual, ‘friendly relations’ would ensue and, though Churchill would be ‘reluctant to bargain about it, [Britain] could slow down too.’ The result, in his opinion, would be that ‘12 years of tranquillity would be assured in naval policy.’[4]

                The Cabinet met two days later to decide on the best means of improving Anglo-German relations. It was felt premature for Grey to travel to Berlin (for which the Foreign Secretary, who never shook off his dislike of foreign travel, must have breathed a sigh of relief); instead, in his place, Grey suggested Haldane who had occasion to visit Berlin anyway, had been educated in Germany, and was fluent in the language. Grey’s proposal was adopted, ‘after much consideration’. Haldane was charged to see the Kaiser and Bethmann-Hollweg and ‘feel the way in the direction of a more definite understanding.’ He was to point out the futility of a new naval arms race and indicate British ‘readiness to deal in a cordial and generous spirit with German aspirations and interests.’[5]

                The following day, Cassel sent a telegram (drafted by himself, Churchill, Haldane and Grey) to Ballin proposing a private and unofficial visit by a British Minister to open discussions with a view to reducing German naval expenditure ‘by an alteration of the tempo or otherwise.’[6] Confirmation that the visit was acceptable reached Haldane from Berlin on Monday 5 February and he planned to leave London on the following Wednesday morning: in the short time before his departure he was briefed by Churchill on various naval matters including the current British shipbuilding programme, the increase in both ships and money required to meet the proposed German Fleet Law, and whether it would be reasonable to object to the new Third Squadron in full commission. ‘Is it not necessary for them’, Haldane inquired equitably of Churchill, ‘if they are to have – what we have – an always ready fleet?’[7]

Haldane set off secretly on 7 February, only to be spotted by a newspaper reporter while crossing the Channel.[8] Not overly optimistic, and aware that the main stumbling block would be Tirpitz, what Haldane could not have been aware of was the impediment placed upon him by one of his own colleagues — none other than Churchill himself. As Haldane travelled on that cold, distant Wednesday the Kaiser was opening the new session of the Reichstag with a speech foreshadowing increases in both Army and Navy expenditure. The report of the speech made the late edition of that evening’s newspapers in London, which were picked up by Churchill as he waited for his train, for he was due to speak in Belfast in support of the Home Rule Bill. Churchill was in the unique position of those standing on the platform that night of knowing completely the ‘scope and character’ of the new Navy Law; when this secret knowledge was alloyed with the report of the speech and, in particular, its mention of the increase in the Army Bill, Churchill ‘sustained a strong impression at this moment of approaching danger.’[9]

                His thoughts turned away from the Irish imbroglio and towards the peril he perceived on the Continent. Did he believe that Haldane’s mission was doomed before it started or, worse, that the Secretary of State for War might make concessions in return for an ephemeral promise of naval limitation, a concern that was certainly felt at the Foreign Office?[10] Either way, Churchill determined that at the first opportunity after Belfast he would speak his mind frankly. His chance would come in Glasgow on 9 February; his speech would carry the full weight of the First Lord’s office, but not the approval of the Cabinet, for Churchill had not bothered to inform his colleagues. Meanwhile, having travelled through the night, Haldane arrived at the Friedrichstrasse station at 7:30 on the morning of the 8th. He spent the morning with the British Ambassador, Sir Edward Goschen, before meeting Bethmann-Hollweg for lunch and then having a private interview with the Chancellor at 2 p.m. which lasted more than an hour and a half.

                To Bethmann-Hollweg’s contention that, during the Agadir crisis, British military preparations had been made Haldane insisted that these were in fact ‘a purely departmental matter concerning the War Office’,[11] that he himself was the responsible minister and he was, personally, not wanting in friendly feelings towards Germany. Having thus hoped to disarm Bethmann-Hollweg with his frankness, Haldane turned to the contentious issue of the Third Battle Squadron. While not contesting the Chancellor’s argument that the proposed new squadron was necessary to maintain year-round fleet readiness, Haldane responded that the result would only be a strengthening of the British fleet in the North Sea, which could be accomplished, if necessary, by bringing home the Mediterranean ships. Each additional ship in the German programme would be met by the laying down of two British keels.

Please click to go to the top of this page

                What could Bethmann-Hollweg do? The suggestion that the term of the novelle be lengthened would have to be considered by his experts and, as he readily conceded, ‘My admirals are very difficult.’ Although the Chancellor used the plural, in reality it was one Admiral and he was impossible. Tirpitz had, for example, denounced Cassel as ‘a Jewish renegade in whose house the Anglo-French entente was sealed.’ His ultimate sanction, however, remained the threat of resignation.[12] The following day, Friday 9 February, Haldane met the Emperor and Tirpitz. Haldane had now modified his demands and asked that, if the new law could not be dropped, at least ‘drop out a ship’. When Tirpitz, as anticipated, continued to combat the idea of any further diminution, Haldane repeated his suggestion to spread the tempo. Goschen reported privately to Sir Arthur Nicolson that night that, as he had foreseen, Tirpitz would be the stumbling block; although, Goschen confided, Tirpitz had had the joy of seeing England’s naval lead over Germany substantially reduced, the Agadir crisis had demonstrated that ‘the German fleet was still not ready for serious business.’

                Tirpitz had succeeded in having his proposals for still further increases accepted only after a severe struggle with both the Chancellor and the military. ‘No doubt he threatened to resign if he did not get his way’, the Ambassador correctly surmised, ‘and he is practically irreplaceable.’ Tirpitz would not give up the fruits after winning the battle; Goschen knew the Admiral too well.

[I]t is my firm opinion [Goschen maintained to Nicolson] that if Lord Haldane had talked to him [Tirpitz] till Doomsday he could not have persuaded him to diminish the number of ships for which he has applied and which there is but little doubt the Reichstag will sanction. Even to spread their construction over a number of years, as Lord Haldane suggested, will be, if the suggestion is finally accepted, gall and wormwood to him, and I feel certain that nothing more favourable to our views can be obtained. Whether the firm intention of His Majesty’s Government, about which Lord Haldane left no possible doubt in the mind of those with whom he conversed, to lay down two keels to one would ultimately bring the German Government to a more yielding frame of mind is another matter. There is a large section of public opinion in Germany with whom that forcible argument would have more effect than any other. But, as matters stand at present, with the public in full possession of the new Government proposals, there is perhaps a still larger section who would raise a storm against any reduction of the proposals and who will certainly make it very hot for the Government if they learn that even a reduction of the ‘tempo’ of the new construction is contemplated.[13]

The only hope entertained by Haldane (and it was a slim one) was that Tirpitz might agree to delay the construction of the first additional ship till 1913, the second till 1916, and the third till 1919. Haldane saw Bethmann-Hollweg again that night. The German Chancellor was now worried that the agreement – ‘the dream of his life’ – would founder because of the insignificant nature of the concessions acceptable to Tirpitz. It was not, however, the Admiral’s intransigence which was now the issue. The discussions which followed, aimed at securing a political formula with the possibility of colonial concessions, were effectively rendered pointless — scuttled by the First Lord of the Admiralty who rose that same evening in Glasgow to speak.[14] ‘The purposes of British naval power are essentially defensive’, Churchill told his uncritical audience. The difference between the naval power of the two countries was that, the ‘British Navy is to us a necessity and, from some points of view, the German Navy is to them more in the nature of a luxury. Our naval power involves British existence. It is existence to us; it is expansion to them.’[15]

                Although, somewhat fancifully, Haldane later maintained to the Cabinet that the speech had not been a hindrance, but rather the ‘greatest possible help’,[16] Liberal opinion in Britain was appalled. This was nothing, however, to the outrage felt in Germany and here was the real harm of Churchill’s oration: it gave Tirpitz the opportunity to suggest the British were not serious in their offers of a naval agreement. When Churchill innocently telephoned Lloyd George to ask him what he had thought of the speech, the Chancellor told him that it was ‘most imprudent and calculated to ruin Haldane’s mission to Germany, which was on a fair way to success.’ This was clearly not what Churchill wanted to hear; as Lloyd George maliciously added when recounting the story, ‘Winston did not reply, but I could see his face.’[17]

The only tangible benefit of the Mission was that Haldane was given a copy of the actual text of the new German Navy Law which, once more, was pored over at the Admiralty upon his return to London. With the failure of the Mission, the permanent officials at the Foreign Office, who had resented the intrusion of the Secretary of State for War upon their patch, could now give vent to their feelings. Nicolson, who had been against the venture from the start, had written ‘a private line for your eyes only’ to Bertie in Paris on 8 February explaining that he did not see ‘why we should abandon the excellent position in which we have been placed, and step down to be involved in endeavours to entangle us in some so-called “understandings” which would undoubtedly, if not actually, impair our relations with France and Russia … Moreover, is it likely that we shall be able to obtain from Germany an undertaking of a really formal and binding character that she will not increase her naval programme — and will always be content to leave us in undisputed and indisputable supremacy? … The idea is preposterous.’[18]

                Bertie replied that the Haldane Mission had been a ‘foolish move’ which would only create suspicion in Paris. ‘It is evident’, he continued, ‘that the German Government whatever they may pretend to us will not abate their intention to compete with us at sea. The more dignified course for us would be not to waste words, but to go on in increasing ratio to construct against the German building programmes. Any understanding given to us by the German Government would not be observed in the spirit as would any engagements entered into by us.’ Poor Cassel, already damned by Tirpitz, now had his motives questioned by both sides. Bertie’s opinion was scarcely more flattering: ‘Whatever Cassel may say he is at heart a German, and acts accordingly whenever he has the opportunity in matters political or political-financial. Financiers as a rule have no “patrie” other than lucre.’[19]

Please click to go to the top of this page

By 14 February Churchill had prepared a memorandum for the Cabinet, and a further one for the Sea Lords the following day.[20] ‘The main feature in the new law’, he observed to his Cabinet colleagues, ‘is the extraordinary increase in the striking force, of ships of all classes, immediately available throughout the year … The great development of immediate war power is effected by building three new battleships, by fully manning five others, four of which hitherto only counted on paper, by bringing home three large cruisers from abroad, and providing crews for four others now in material reserve.’ To the Sea Lords, Churchill spelled out the measures to be implemented:

1.  The naval situation disclosed by the new German Navy Law renders the formation of an additional Battle Squadron in Home waters necessary. We cannot afford to keep fully commissioned battleships abroad during these years of tension. The first ten days and especially the first five days of war would require the maximum immediate development of naval power in the North Sea and the Channel. Once our mobilisation has been effected and even before any naval decision has been obtained it should be possible, if desired, to detach a Battle Squadron for the Mediterranean. But the greatly increased striking force which Germany is organising, and against which we must always maintain sufficient margins, makes it necessary that all fully commissioned battleships, whether eventually destined for the Mediterranean or not, should be retained in the main theatre of operations until our mobilisation is complete, or the enemy’s fleet beaten.

2.  Proposals should be made for carrying out this policy. As it is not now possible to reduce the total number of ships in full commission, but on the contrary some increase is necessary, there is no longer any financial saving to be looked for. The alternative of basing one of the battle squadrons on Gibraltar and [Berehaven] should not be excluded from consideration. The Atlantic fleet would thus be recalled, and the Mediterranean battle squadron moved into the Atlantic station. It would not then be necessary to strengthen the Mediterranean cruiser squadron. The number of vessels for which we shall have to provide accommodation may make it necessary to use Gibraltar to the full. The diplomatic aspect would be better also. Both places should therefore be examined by the staff in their strategic and administrative aspects. The question is urgent.

                Following Churchill’s briefing, Haldane dined with the German Ambassador, Metternich, on the evening of 29 February when the discussion following the meal continued until midnight. Haldane confided that the British Navy Estimates, to be introduced ‘in about a fortnight’, were to have been in their original form (that is, comprising only four capital ships) which actually represented a reduction over the previous year. Now, however, with knowledge of the German increases, ‘supplementary Estimates would be brought in, and there would be a stronger concentration of the fleet by recalling ships from the Mediterranean Squadron.’ This, according to the Kaiser when he learned of the news, amounted to ‘mobilisation’ — Wilhelm minuted the dispatch from London that Haldane was to be informed through Metternich ‘that if the Mediterranean Squadron is transferred to the North Sea, it will be regarded by us as a casus belli and will be answered by the strengthened Supplementary Law in its old form and by mobilisation.’[21]

                Metternich was further instructed on 5 March that Wilhelm was prepared to stand by the basis of the negotiations conducted with Haldane (that is, a retarded tempo) but that withdrawal of British ships from the Mediterranean would be taken as a threat of war to be answered by a triple tempo novelle and eventual mobilization.[22] The Ambassador saw Grey the following day and presented him with a memorandum which put the political and naval negotiations on an equal footing: a satisfactory political formula from Britain would result in the additional German ships being laid down only in 1913 and 1916, while the third would be postponed indefinitely, a concession Bethmann-Hollweg had apparently extracted from the wavering Emperor.[23] However, any political proposal drafted by Grey would have to go before Cabinet; to prevent wavering on his own side, Churchill circulated his own memorandum on 9 March in which he attempted to turn the argument around, even if Haldane had to be discredited to do so.

Please click to go to the top of this page

                Churchill now maintained that, on the basis of ‘general indications which they had previously received’, the Admiralty had believed that the new construction would be the most serious feature of the German Navy Law. But the copy brought back by Haldane revealed that ‘new construction was limited to three, or it may be two, capital ships in six years’ — thus was Bethmann-Hollweg’s dearly wrought concession devalued. Rather, Admiralty fears now centred on the increase in personnel and ships maintained in full commission. ‘Compared to this dominant fact’, Churchill argued, ‘any alteration of the tempo of the proposed additional new construction appeared comparatively a small thing, however desirable in itself.’ The Admiralty, added the First Lord disingenuously, could not express an opinion on the ‘international aspects of the case.’ All they could do was to define the British naval measures required to meet the German threat and stress that these measures ‘must necessarily be of such a character as to concentrate public attention upon the increasing naval rivalry rather than the improved cordial relations of the two Powers.’[24]

                Presumably Churchill was aware that, as far as Germany was concerned, the question of personnel increases was not negotiable. By concentrating on this issue no further progress could be made in the discussions on naval limitation. It was left to Grey to come up with an anodyne political formula which duly received Cabinet backing and was put to Metternich by the Foreign Secretary on 14 March with Haldane also in attendance. Grey proposed that ‘England will make no unprovoked attack upon Germany and will pursue no aggressive policy towards her. Aggression upon Germany is not the subject and forms no part of any treaty, understanding or combination to which England is now a party, nor will she become a party to anything that has such an object.’[25] Metternich, aware that this did not go far enough, urged Grey to add at least a guarantee of neutrality if war were forced on Germany; this Grey could not and would not do. According to the Colonial Secretary (and leading proponent of seeking an accommodation with Germany) Grey was ‘evidently afraid of losing French Entente.’ Harcourt tried to prove to Grey that the ‘neutrality “declaration” was no more than we had put in our formula’, but found the Foreign Secretary immoveable.[26] Grey suggested instead the addition of an unctuous declaration that the two Powers were ‘mutually desirous of securing peace and friendship between them.’

                This was enough at least to persuade Bethmann-Hollweg that a German accommodation with regard to the armaments question would be rewarded by a political agreement with England in accordance with German wishes; but the Emperor would have none of it — the British note was ‘an insult to the recent negotiations’. Wilhelm perversely advised that the negotiations be continued

so that England is put in the wrong by herself rejecting our proposal. By letting Haldane down the British Government have deserted and altered their own basis and disavowed him; so the Agreement is finished. Fresh negotiations are now to begin on a different basis. I propose to offer England an offensive and defensive alliance with the inclusion of France in place of the neutrality clause. If England rejects that, she will put herself flagrantly in the wrong before the whole world; if she accepts it, our position with regard to the Supplementary Law will appear to our own people in a better light.[27]

In a last desperate attempt, Bethmann-Hollweg advised Metternich that, to enable the novelle to be altered, justification would have to come in the form of a declaration of absolute neutrality, akin to a defensive alliance. But again it was too late; on 16 March the Cabinet did no more than tinker with the formula.[28] Churchill had other ideas as to how naval arms limitation could be achieved. At Glasgow in February he had invaded the province of the Foreign Secretary; now, in March, he would spell out, bluntly, the threat, the counter-measures to be adopted if necessary, and his new idea of a cessation of all building by both sides for a year: the “Naval Holiday”.



With all eyes on the North Sea the British position in the Mediterranean temporarily assumed less importance at the Admiralty. Churchill, it seems clear, had already unconsciously ceded control to the French to permit the withdrawal of the British battleships. Just how little Mediterranean strategy figured in Admiralty calculations was graphically demonstrated when Captain Howard Kelly, the British Naval Attaché in Paris, returned to London for consultations. In January 1912 Kelly had been invited to accompany a portion of the French fleet which was to provide a salute to King George and Queen Mary as they stopped at Malta on their return from the Durbar in India. Kelly was the guest of Admiral Boué de Lapeyrère, the French C-in-C who had recently assumed the Mediterranean command; as such, the trip would be an ideal opportunity to discuss ‘the general questions of aims and movements on the outbreak of war.’ French strategy, Kelly noted, was entirely centred on the ‘transport and safe passage of the Algerian Army Corps, and until that was completed they would have no naval forces available for other purposes.’ Alas, back in London, Kelly remembered so well, ‘on my return to the Admiralty after my cruise, going to the Chief of the Staff [Troubridge] to report the results of my mission, when he sat back in an arm chair with his legs gracefully crossed, and waving a cigarette with a nonchalant gesture, he said, “My dear Kelly, you know we have got something more serious to think about than the passage of the XIXth Army Corps”.’[29]

Please click to go to the top of this page

                This was made clear when Churchill rose to his feet in the Commons on the afternoon of 18 March 1912 to deliver his speech upon the introduction of the Navy Estimates.[30] His mission, he declared, was to lay bare before the House the naval situation with perfect openness. ‘It is necessary to do so’, he said with a curious mixture of lamentation and expectation, ‘mainly with reference to one Power. I regret that necessity, but nothing is to be gained by using indirect modes of expression. On the contrary, the Germans are a people of robust mind, whose strong and masculine sense and high courage do not recoil from, and are not offended by, plain and blunt statements of fact if expressed with courtesy and sincerity.’ The old two-Power standard was formally laid to rest, buried by shifting alliances and the rise of the German navy.

The time has come [Churchill warned the House] for us to readjust our standard in closer accord with actual facts and probable contingencies. The actual standard of new construction which the Admiralty has in fact followed during recent years has been to develop a 60 per cent. superiority in vessels of the Dreadnought type over the German Navy on the basis of the existing fleet law.[31]

If, however, the additional German ships were constructed they would be countered by laying two British keels for every extra German dreadnought. On the other hand, retardation or reduction in German construction would, as soon as it became apparent, be followed promptly by ‘large and fully proportionate reduction’ in Britain, contingent, naturally, upon ‘the absence of any dangerous development elsewhere and not now foreseen.’ Nevertheless, as things stood, in 1913 Germany planned to build three capital ships and Britain would therefore have to build five. To try to forestall this next round of destructive lunacy Churchill then introduced a plan, ‘perfectly plain and simple’, whereby ‘without any diplomatic negotiations, without any bargaining, without the slightest restriction on the sovereign freedom of either Power, this keen and costly naval rivalry can at any time be abated.’

                What was this plan which sounded far too good to be true? Under the portentous heading, “The Book of Misunderstanding”, the First Lord outlined its basics: Supposing we were both to take a holiday for that year, and supposing we both introduced a blank page into the book of misunderstanding; supposing that Germany were to build no ships that year, she would save herself between six and seven millions sterling. But that is not all. In ordinary circumstances we should not begin our ships until Germany had started hers. The three ships that she did not build would therefore automatically wipe out no fewer than five British potential super-Dreadnoughts. That is more than I expect they could hope to do in a brilliant naval action. As to the indirect results within a single year, they simply cannot be measured, not only between our two great brother nations, but to all the world. They are results immeasurable in their hope and brightness. This, then, is the position which we take up — that the Germans will be no gainers so far as naval power is concerned over us by any increases they may make, and no losers on the basis I have laid down by any diminution.

Whether Churchill entertained any serious hopes that the proposal would find favour in Germany is problematical. Would it be too cynical to suggest that the First Lord was playing the Kaiser at his own game by advocating a proposition he knew would be rejected and thus, this time, place Germany in the wrong? Churchill was soon to declare that he ‘had knocked Germany “sprawling” in the matter of naval construction, and that she had not realised the expense and small satisfaction which result from being a “second rate” naval power’.[32] Still, “holiday” or no, a threat undeniably existed which could only be met by completely recasting the alignment of the Royal Navy.

Please click to go to the top of this page

                A new organization of ships available for Home Defence, comprising the First, Second and Third Fleets would be formed, each representing a distinct administrative status and standard of commission. The First Fleet would comprise four battle squadrons of fully manned ships, made up of (a) the former Home Fleet (the first and second squadrons); (b) the Atlantic Fleet, which would move its base home from Gibraltar and become the third squadron; (c) the Mediterranean Squadron which would be moved from Malta to Gibraltar to become the fourth battle squadron, available to fight either in home waters or in the Mediterranean. The only ships to be left on station at Malta, as advocated by Churchill a year earlier, would be cruisers. The Second Fleet would comprise two battle squadrons with nucleus crews amounting to approximately fifty per cent. of the complement and the Third Fleet would comprise two battle squadrons also, though with care and maintenance parties only.

                The speech was generally well received in Britain; in Germany the response was predictable in its outrage. Realizing that any form of naval holiday would always ultimately leave Britain in a stronger position, Wilhelm furiously deemed the speech ‘arrogant’.[33] Negotiations stalled immediately; the affable Metternich (‘hopelessly incurable’ in Wilhelm’s view) was withdrawn.[34] Crowe, Nicolson and Bertie breathed a collective sigh of relief. ‘The whole history of these recent German negotiations is an extraordinary episode,’ Nicolson declared, ‘and I have never seen any discussions conducted in such a strange manner.’ Nicolson was doing his best ‘to get us out of the quagmire into which we are plunged, and into which we have been led by our unscrupulous adversaries and our singularly naive and feeble negotiators.’[35] Paradoxically, once the damage had been done, The Naval Annual readily conceded that the additions to the German programme were not as serious as at one time had seemed probable: in particular, the formation of a Third Squadron for the German High Sea Fleet only in effect replaced the Reserve Squadron, ‘which in any case we had to be prepared to meet.’ Rather, it was the increase in personnel that was the most important feature of the novelle. The new Admiralty dispositions were welcomed on the whole — if there was one reservation in Britain it concerned the new arrangements for the Mediterranean: ‘The shifting of the base of the Fourth or Mediterranean Squadron of the First Fleet from Malta to Gibraltar does not, it is to be hoped, imply a withdrawal from the Mediterranean’ argued the Naval Annual. ‘If it does, it is the most questionable feature in the scheme. The policy of concentration may be carried too far.’[36] Indeed, having perhaps hoped that he had disposed of this argument, the Mediterranean would occupy Churchill, personally and professionally, for much of the coming months.

                Esher, who had warmly congratulated Churchill afters his Commons’ speech, would later criticize him privately to the King for denuding the Mediterranean, and then become the focus for a concerted campaign to have the policy reversed. It was perhaps unfortunate that Churchill lost one important ally, albeit temporarily, when he also fell out of favour with Fisher. Ironically, in this case the catalyst was the appointment of Admiral Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne to command the new, truncated, Mediterranean Squadron. The First Lord had written to the King on 28 March 1912 to submit suitable names for new appointments; included amongst the list of candidates to succeed Sir Edmund Poë at Malta were Berkeley Milne, a former equerry to the King, and Sir George Egerton. Egerton lost out because Milne, who had been a vice-admiral since May 1908, was just ahead of him in the list of seniority. But Churchill’s opinion – that it ‘was only fair however that Sir Berkeley Milne should have the first choice’ – sits unhappily beside his earlier judgment that the ‘appointments are the best that could be made and will greatly conduce to the advantage of the Service.’[37]

                Fisher was in high dudgeon: he wrote to his son that Churchill had succumbed to court influence where McKenna would not; to Mrs McKenna, Milne was parodied as ‘Sir Berkeley Mean (he buys his Times second-hand for a penny)’; and, finally, on 22 April Churchill was accused of betraying the Navy. ‘You are aware’, Fisher fumed, ‘that Sir Berkeley Milne is unfitted to be the Senior Admiral afloat, as you have now made him.’ A week later, he denounced Churchill to Esher as having sacrificed the Country to the Court.[38] Churchill eventually replied on 27 April, in a pained but dignified tone, that Fisher’s letter was incomprehensible to him. Fisher’s principle grievance – that Milne’s appointment would hinder Jellicoe’s rise – was given short shrift: the appointment would ‘not affect in any way the command of the Home Fleets, which will be determined without regard to seniority as a matter of high state policy.’ Besides, the glamour of the Mediterranean command was not what it had once been. ‘The Mediterranean Fleet shorn down to a cruiser squadron is the smallest command over which an Admiral has ever hoisted his flag in recent times’, Churchill rightly pointed out. ‘That Milne should take it shows the modesty of his claims.’[39] To prevent a complete rift, Churchill appealed to the Admiral’s vanity by requesting his presence aboard the Admiralty yacht Enchantress upon which Churchill and senior members of the Government would be touring the Mediterranean in May and June. Although Fisher, then at Naples, was at first recalcitrant (‘I will NOT go on the Admiralty yacht’) in fact nothing would keep him away.


Despite the speciousness of the argument that the new Fourth Battle Squadron at Gibraltar could operate in the Mediterranean if required, the proposed withdrawal from Malta had implications which removed the question solely from the province of the Admiralty and placed it squarely in the lap of the Government. The views of the Foreign Office and the War Office also had to be considered. Asquith informed Churchill on Sunday 21 April that he would see the First Lord the following Thursday to discuss the war plans. When they met Churchill was quite definite that, in a war against Germany conjoined by one of the Mediterranean Powers, the Admiralty could not guarantee the safety of British communications in the Mediterranean until the situation had been resolved in the North Sea, a task which might take some months. Churchill thereupon proposed that Asquith should take advantage of his forthcoming Mediterranean summer cruise to convene a preliminary meeting of the C.I.D. on Malta ‘to examine the local aspects of the question’ within the wider context of investigating the effect of the new dispositions ‘on the strategical situation in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.’[40] Churchill’s suggestion had the great merit of ensuring that the matter would have Asquith’s concentrated attention ‘during a time when he will have full leisure from other things’.[41]

Please click to go to the top of this page

                On the following Monday (29 April) Henry Wilson from the War Office and Eyre Crowe from the Foreign Office gathered in Troubridge’s room at the Admiralty for an informal meeting with the Chief of the War Staff to consider an agenda for the Malta meeting. To allow the naval and military men to make their calculations regarding the defence of British interests in the Mediterranean Wilson was insistent that the Foreign Office must first write a policy paper which would also provide some guidance as to the strongest combination of hostile Powers that Britain might have to face.[42] While Crowe went away to begin work on a memorandum, Hankey whose aid had been enlisted by Asquith, drafted the following agenda in which Fisher’s influence was still apparent; indeed, it would be years before Hankey (now the Secretary of the C.I.D. following Ottley’s departure[43]) emerged completely from out of the long shadow cast by the mercurial Admiral:


1.   The scale of oversea attack to be provided against in time of war at Malta having regard to —

            (a.)  The new naval dispositions in the Mediterranean

            (b.)  The degree of reliance to be placed on the co-operation of the French fleet.

2.   The scale of defences and the garrison required at Malta to meet such attack.

3.   The scale of oversea attack to be provided against in Egypt, having regard to (a.) and (b.) in (1).

4.   The possible use of Alexandria as an additional base in the Mediterranean, and any naval or military dispositions entailed thereby.

5.   The scale of land attack from Turkey and Tripoli to be provided against in Egypt.

6.   The strength of the garrison required in Egypt to meet the scales of attack decided on, and to protect the Suez Canal.

7.   The arrangements, consequent on decisions on the above points, for the protection or diversion of trade through the Mediterranean.

8.   The effect of the new naval disposition on India and the dominions and colonies east of the Mediterranean.[44]

At this early stage it was proposed that, in addition to Asquith and Churchill, the preliminary meeting would consist of just Battenberg, Kitchener (who would come from Egypt), a representative each from the Naval War Staff and the General Staff, the Governor of Malta, and the Navy and Army Commanders-in-Chief, Mediterranean.

                The sanguine intentions of the military and naval planners whenever they admitted a civilian to their closeted deliberations were always likely to be disappointed, and it was no different this time. When completed, early in May, Crowe’s memorandum would make depressing reading for the Admiralty, as the situation in the Mediterranean was anything but uncomplicated. The Italian invasion of Tripoli in October 1911 had not resulted in the anticipated swift victory against the supposedly moribund Turks; instead it had developed into a drawn out struggle which appeared to cause Turkey little real inconvenience. Crowe’s memorandum was also written against the background of the recent Italian bombardment of the Dardanelles and was coincident with the Italian occupation of Ottoman islands in the Dodecanese.[45] To round off a sorry picture there was also evidence of mounting unrest in the Balkans. In view of this, Crowe’s conclusions, echoing the general feeling at the Foreign Office, were that a withdrawal from the Mediterranean would tend to throw Italy into the arms of the Triple Alliance completely; would make Spain more willing to co-operate with the Triple Alliance in a war against France; would create unrest in Egypt and encourage Turkey to the reconquest of that country; and would endanger the general peace. The only qualification to this gloomy prognosis was that these ‘consequences could to a certain extent be averted if the place of the British Mediterranean squadron were effectively taken by a powerful French fleet’; or if ‘Anglo-French co-operation were assured in the case of either country being at war with the Triple Alliance…’[46]

Please click to go to the top of this page

                Crowe’s memorandum carried the full weight of Sir Arthur Nicolson’s imprimatur. As early as 1 April Nicolson had shared his concerns with Fairfax Cartwright, the Ambassador in Vienna: although conceding that the Mediterranean reduction was ‘absolutely necessary’, Nicolson confided that ‘I cannot say that I was at all in favour of it, and I do not think that the steps we have taken have been particularly pleasing to the French.’[47] In fact, the reverse was the case. Cambon had approached Nicolson on 15 April seeking to strengthen the Entente using the pretext of Haldane’s failed mission. Nicolson was fully aware of the ‘uneasiness which existed in the minds both of the President and M. Poincaré in regard to our discussions with Germany, with especial reference to formulas of any description.’[48] With Grey at Fallodon, Nicolson refused to budge from the official line, leaving matters as they were, and thereby not straining ‘an understanding which was at present popular, and did not by itself afford the slightest reason to any other country to resent or demur to it.’[49] Cambon took the rebuff in his stride, as well he might. With the Admiralty intent on evacuating the Mediterranean, he could afford to wait, until the naval situation made British dependence upon France in the Mediterranean a certainty. The Entente was about to be strengthened whether Grey liked it or not. What concerned the French more was any hint that, despite the failure to reach an accommodation, informal Anglo-German conversations might continue. Therefore, when Asquith announced in the Commons on 30 April that, despite the German decision to continue with their naval programme, relations were sufficiently friendly to allow for the amicable discussion of mutual interests, Cambon was immediately apprehensive.[50]


Following his earlier polite rebuff, the French Ambassador would now add to Nicolson’s chagrin; Cambon’s subsequent visit to Nicolson on 4 May was to prove a severe embarrassment to the Permanent Under-Secretary. The confused and chaotic nature of previous Anglo-French naval conversations, the result in part of the mania for secrecy, has already been related. A Franco-Russian military convention already existed to which the Russians were desirous of adding a Naval convention; the French, while disposed to accede, suggested to the Russians that it would be preferable if Britain also became a party. Cambon now wished therefore, through the respective Naval Attachés, to renew the Anglo-French naval conversations. As Cambon understood it, the desire of the French Government was that Britain should look after the Channel and northern coasts of France while the newly ‘renovated’ French fleet would take ‘care of the whole of the Mediterranean.’

                Nicolson was dumbfounded. He told Cambon that he knew ‘nothing absolutely about all these arrangements’ and made no other remark, saving his ire for the real guilty party in his view: the Admiralty. ‘I think’, he wrote innocently to Grey later that day, ‘that these inter Admiralty discussions or conversations should not have been undertaken without the knowledge and approval of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at least. Indeed I should have thought Cabinet sanction should have been solicited. We shall have confusion if the Departments intervene in what are important foreign questions.’ Nicolson’s report was also seen by Asquith, Churchill and Haldane, each of whom bore some responsibility for the lamentable state of affairs it described; but none of course as much as Nicolson’s own boss, Grey, whose weak response was to fall back on the standard formula: ‘…it was always understood’, he minuted, ‘that [the conversations] did not commit either Government to go to war to assist the other.’[51]

Please click to go to the top of this page

                Once Nicolson’s fury had abated, he realized that Cambon’s approach ‘would bring to a head the question which has been preoccupying me for some time past, and that is, that we really must come to some understanding with France in regard to our naval matters.’ Since dealing with Cambon in Grey’s absence the previous month, Nicolson’s thoughts had turned increasingly to consideration of the status of the Entente. His personal opinion had long been at variance with Grey’s; now, unless a decision was made, the result, in his opinion, would be a continuation of the drift in foreign policy he had been warning about for some time. Although the political formula rejected by Grey and the Cabinet still remained on the table in theory, Nicolson believed that, as the original formula had been rejected, it would be possible to ‘abandon all formula of any description’, maintain ‘friendly relation’ with Germany, but that Britain ‘should retain perfect liberty of action, and not tie ourselves up in any way. If we do one of the chief guarantees of peace is removed.’[52] He voiced his apprehensions privately to Goschen in Berlin on 7 May:

Just at this juncture, when every international question, I may say, is in a state of chaos, and when no-one knows what will be the developments of this Turco-Italian war, it seems to me hardly the moment for us to take an entirely new departure, and practically evacuate the Mediterranean. The idea, I believe, is that France should safeguard our interests in that Sea until we should be in a position to detach vessels from our forces in home waters. If we ask France to do this, she will very naturally request that there should be some reciprocity in the arrangement, and that we should undertake ourselves to assist her on her eastern frontier. I do not think that we can continue for an indefinite time to sit on the fence, and the Government will have to make up its mind as to what policy they intend to adopt.[53]

                Writing in similar vein to Bertie in Paris, Nicolson could see that only two courses were available if ‘the naval people’ insisted upon a Mediterranean evacuation. First, to construct a new purpose-built Mediterranean fleet; but this was out of the question in view of the heavy addition it would add to the Estimates. Second, ‘to come to an understanding with France on the subject which would, I do not deny, be very much of the character of a defensive alliance. I think certain members of the Cabinet see this very clearly and would be disposed to agree to it, but I do not know if they would be able to carry all their colleagues with them. In fact I doubt if such would be the case.’[54] On the same day, when writing to Grey, Nicolson added a third, highly improbable, alternative – an alliance with Germany – which he quickly dismissed. He was at pains, however, to avoid all mention of the specific term ‘defensive alliance’ to the Foreign Secretary. Rather, there should be an ‘understanding with France whereby she would undertake, in the early period of a war and until we could detach vessels from home waters, to safeguard our interests in the Mediterranean.’ As a quid pro quo, she ‘would naturally ask for some reciprocal engagements from us which it would be well worth our while to give. This to my mind offers the cheapest, simplest and safest solution.’[55] What Nicolson was proposing, by automatically assuming that Britain and France would be conjoined ‘in the early period of a war’, was a defensive alliance by any other criteria. Although it could be argued that, after six years in the post, Grey was now very much his own Foreign Secretary, the concerns of Nicolson and Crowe still had to be faced, and answered if possible.[56] While Grey did not need Nicolson to act as his conscience, an occasional reminder of the covenant which was being created should have served to warn Grey of the perils of an Entente whose main foundation now rested not on a concrete political understanding but the shifting sand of military and naval conversations.

Please click to go to the top of this page

                The Foreign Office was not the only centre of opposition to the proposed changes. Inside the War Office minds were also occupied concerting their strategy: following the meeting in Troubridge’s room General Wilson set to work to prepare a paper showing ‘what the naval withdrawal from the Mediterranean means’. On 6 May, when summoned by Haldane to discuss the subject, Wilson ‘advocated an alliance with France for the specific case of aggression’ only to run into opposition from his Chief who was opposed ‘because he sees it would probably mean conscription.’ Nevertheless, Haldane was deeply concerned at the prospect of a Mediterranean withdrawal ( it ‘frightens him — and no wonder’ recorded Wilson) and agreement was reached ‘that it is high time that the F.O. (or Cabinet) laid down a policy’. This did no more than voice the unequivocal annoyance felt at the War Office that the decision to reduce the Mediterranean squadron ‘was come to by Winston and the Admiralty without permission of the F.O. or Cabinet, and without discussion by the C.I.D.’[57] When Wilson saw Haldane the following day for another long talk the Secretary of State for War was clearly rattled: he had just received a letter from Churchill in which the First Lord asserted that ‘The actual point has been settled long ago by the brute force of facts. We cannot possibly hold the Mediterranean or guarantee our interests there until we have obtained a decision in the North Sea.’

The War-plans for the last 5 years [Churchill continued in similar vein] have provided for the evacuation of the Mediterranean as the first step consequent on a war with Germany, & all we are doing is to make peace dispositions which approximate to war necessities. It would be very foolish to lose England in safeguarding Egypt. Of course if the Cabinet & the House of Commons like to build another fleet of Dreadnoughts for the Mediterranean the attitude of the Admiralty will be that of a cat to a nice fresh dish of cream. But I do not look upon this as practical politics. It would cost you 3 or 4 millions a year extra to make head against Austria & Italy in the Mediterranean & still keep a 60% preponderance in the North Sea. All the above is true, independent of anything France may do. If she is our friend, we shall not suffer. If she is not, we shall suffer. But if we win the big battle in the decisive theatre, we can put everything else straight afterwards. London is the key of Egypt — don’t lose that. Considering you propose to send the whole British Army abroad, you ought to help me to keep the whole British Navy at home…[58]

Whether or not Haldane interpreted this as a veiled threat, presaging another Admiralty onslaught against the Continental strategy, he was ‘more fussed’ than Wilson had ever seen him and was now inclining to more money for the navy and more ships. Wilson was made of sterner stuff; he inclined to more soldiers.

                Still reeling, Haldane called in Wilson and General Sir John French for a further long meeting on 8 May; this did little to ease Haldane’s apprehension as both Wilson and French favoured a formal alliance with France and were insistent that the predictable call for more money was a smokescreen as ‘we have ships enough’ but needed more soldiers. At 5 o’clock that afternoon Wilson saw Eyre Crowe to discuss the paper on the Mediterranean situation which Crowe had just completed. According to Wilson, Crowe also insisted on the necessity for an alliance with France and maintained that ‘Grey seems to be coming to believe this, but says such a step would break up the Cabinet.’[59]  Please click to go to the top of this page







[1]     And not only just the radicals: Lord Sanderson noted on 26 January that there was a ‘considerable amount of discontent against Grey in the Liberal Party’. Sanderson to Hardinge, 26 January 1912, in Lowe and Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, vol. III, p. 450.

[2]     Grey, Twenty-five Years, vol. I, pp. 241-2.

[3]     Churchill to Grey, 31 January 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1503.

[4]     Churchill to Grey, 31 January 1912, ibid., pp. 1504-5; Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, pp. 275-6; Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, pp. 14-15.

[5]     Asquith to the King, 3 February 1912, PRO Cab 41/33/34.

[6]     Cassel to Ballin, 3 February 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1515.

[7]     Haldane to Churchill, 5 February 1912, ibid., pp. 1516-17.

[8]     Williamson, The Politics of Grand Strategy, p. 254. This in itself was enough to start rumours flying.

[9]     Churchill, World Crisis, p. 76.

[10]    Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, p. 277; Nicolson, Lord Carnock, pp. 362-3.

[11]    Haldane, Autobiography, Appendix I, p. 304.

[12]    Holger Herwig, Luxury Fleet, p. 76. Tirpitz would, in fact, tender his resignation – unsuccessfully – on 10 March 1912.

[13]    Goschen to Nicolson, 9 February 1912, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/353.

[14]    Even the question of concessions could be misinterpreted: Haldane maintained that he had only ‘dangled’ the possibility of concessions (see, Herwig, Luxury Fleet, p. 77) while Bethmann-Hollweg was under the impression a firm offer had been made. Bethmann-Hollweg to Metternich, 12 February 1912, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, pp. 75-6.

[15]    Churchill, World Crisis, p. 77.

[16]    Ibid., p.78; Randolph Churchill, WSC vol. II, p. 564.

[17]    Riddell, diary entry for 10 February 1912, in McEwen (ed.), The Riddell Diaries, p. 32. Riddell attempted, without success, to defend Churchill.

[18]    Nicolson to Bertie, 8 February 1912, given in Mirage of Power, vol. III, p. 451.

[19]    Bertie to Nicolson, 11 February 1912, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/353.

[20]    Memoranda by Churchill, 14 & 15 February 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1517-19.

[21]    Minute by the Emperor on Metternich to Bethmann-Hollweg, 1 March 1912, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, pp. 78-80.

[22]    Wilhelm II to Count von Metternich, 5 March 1912, ibid., p. 81.

[23]    Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, p. 280.

[24]    Cabinet Memorandum by Churchill, 9 March 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1525-6.

[25]    Metternich to German Foreign Office, 14 March 1912, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, pp. 82-3.

[26]    Interview between Harcourt, Haldane and Grey, 14 March 1912, quoted in, Lowe and Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, vol. I, pp. 50-1.

[27]    Minute by the Emperor on Bethmann-Hollweg to Wilhelm II, 17 March 1912, ibid., pp. 83-4.

[28]    Niall Ferguson has argued (“The Kaiser’s European Union”, in Virtual History, pp. 250-1) that, ‘the subsequent British claim that the naval escalation was the fault of the German side alone needs to be treated with scepticism. The Germans in fact offered real concessions during the Haldane mission; it was on the neutrality issue that the talks foundered, more than the naval issue.’ The talks were already dead in the water before the neutrality issue arose. Certainly there was intransigence on both sides (from Tirpitz and Wilhelm in Berlin and Churchill in London); however, distrust of German intentions and the fact that the concessions were not as great as Ferguson maintains (and were viewed as insufficient to warrant entering into a political formula) doomed the talks.

[29]    Howard Kelly, Journal as Naval Attaché, pp. 28-9, Kelly mss., NMM Kel 3.

[30]    The speech is printed in full in The Naval Annual, 1912, pp. 412-34.

[31]    To assist the House the First Lord pointed out the difference between new construction, which resulted in increases in expenditure for the period of construction only, and increases in the physical establishment of the navy which would involve charges in pay and pensions lasting a generation.

[32]    Riddell, diary entry for 31 March 1912, in McEwen (ed.), The Riddell Diaries, p. 40.

[33]    Holger Herwig, Luxury Fleet, p. 80.

[34]    Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, p. 285; Lowe and Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, vol. I, p. 51.

[35]    Nicolson to Bertie, 6 April 1912, given in, Lowe and Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, vol. III, pp. 453-4.

[36]    The Naval Annual, 1912, p. 48, p. 78.

[37]    Churchill to the King, 28 March 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1536.

[38]    See, generally, F.G.D.N., vol. II, pp. 445-459.

[39]    Churchill to Fisher, 27 April 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1547.

[40]    Enclosure 1 in Hankey to Grey, 30 April 1912, Lumby, pp. 8-9.

[41]    Churchill to Hankey, 25 April 1912, quoted in Williamson, The Politics of Grand Strategy, p. 267.

[42]    Callwell, Wilson, vol. I, p. 113.

[43]    Early in 1912 Ottley had received an attractive offer to join the board of Armstrong’s, the armaments’ manufacturer, in Elswick. After first trying to persuade the Treasury to ‘accede to certain proposals regarding his tenure of appointment and pension’, Ottley reluctantly accepted the Armstrong offer and enthusiastically recommended Hankey to succeed him. Ottley to Churchill, Hankey to Churchill, 17 February 1912, , WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1519-21.

[44]    Enclosure 2 in Hankey to Grey, 30 April 1912, ibid., p. 9.

[45]    This was carried out by the Italians in an attempt to force the Turks to the negotiating table. See Miller, Straits, chapters 6 & 7.

[46]    Sir Eyre Crowe, Effect of a British Evacuation of the Mediterranean on Questions of Foreign Policy, 8 May 1912, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/357; Lumby, pp. 12-18.

[47]    Nicolson to Fairfax Cartwright, 1 April 1912, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/354.

[48]    Nicolson to Bertie, 6 April 1912, given in, Lowe and Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, vol. III, pp. 453-4.

[49]    Memorandum by Nicolson, 15 April 1912, quoted in Williamson, The Politics of Grand Strategy, p. 262.

[50]    Hamilton, Bertie of Thame, p. 280.

[51]    Nicolson to Grey, 4 May 1912; minutes by Grey, Asquith and Churchill, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/94 Asquith complacently recorded that ‘No such arrangements as M. Cambon indicates could in any event be made without Cabinet sanction.’

[52]    Nicolson to Bertie, 6 April 1912, in Lowe and Dockrill, The Mirage of Power, vol. III, p. 453.

[53]    Nicolson to Goschen, 7 May 1912, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/355.

[54]    Nicolson to Bertie, 6 May 1912, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/356.

[55]    Nicolson to Grey, 6 May 1912, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/94; Lumby, pp. 11-12; Nicolson, Lord Carnock, pp. 371-3.

[56]    Keith Robbins has argued [Sir Edward Grey, p. 240] that, ‘Sir Arthur [Nicolson] was not a very efficient administrator, and his dislike of the Liberal Government obtruded too conspicuously for political convenience … By the summer of 1911, Grey was an established Minister. No new Permanent Under-Secretary could have established with him the relationship which Hardinge had been able to develop after 1906.’

[57]    General Wilson, diary entry for 6 May 1912, quoted in, Callwell, Wilson, vol. I, pp. 112-3.

[58]    Churchill to Haldane, 3 May, 6 May 1912. WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1548-9; Wilson, diary entry for 7 May 1912, quoted in Callwell, Wilson, vol. I, p. 113.

[59]    Wilson, diary entry for 8 May 1912, quoted in, Callwell, Wilson, vol. I, p. 113.



THE MILLSTONE: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War © Geoffrey Miller

The Links Page :

As the range of our activities is so diverse, we have a number of different websites. The site you are currently viewing is wholly devoted to the third of the three non-fiction books written by Geoffrey Miller, and deals specifically with the political and diplomatic imperatives behind the British decision to enter the war in August 1914. The main Flamborough Manor site focuses primarily on accommodation but has brief details of all our other activities. To allow for more information to be presented on these other activities, there are other self-contained web-sites. All our web-sites have a LINKS page in common, which allows for easy navigation between the various sites. To find out where you are, or to return to the main site, simply go to the LINKS page.


Please click to go to the top of this page



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

  Geoffrey Miller can be contacted by:
Telephone or FAX
01262 850943  [International: +44 1262 850943]
Postal address

The Manor House,
East Riding of Yorkshire, YO15 1PD
United Kingdom.




Secondary Navigation Copyright © 1995-2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be further reproduced by any means without the prior permission of the author, Geoffrey Miller, who has asserted his right in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Click to go to top of page
Home ContentsSearch Feedback Preface Introduction Superior Force Straits Chapter 1
Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10
Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19
Chapter 20 Summary Resurgam Bibliography Index Ordering Order Form Biographies Links

Web-site design & content Copyright © 1995-2013 Geoffrey Miller