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



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The Millstone


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

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Chapter 14




The Polarization of the Mediterranean




 Austrian dreadnought Viribus Unitis

A new factor to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean: the Austrian dreadnought Viribus Unitis


At the same time as Churchill searched for a strategy to maintain prestige, events were conspiring to add to a lessening of British influence throughout the Mediterranean. The Italians had, in November 1912, passed a bill extending the territorial limit around the coasts of Italy from three to ten miles. On 5 February 1913, this new limit was extended to the coasts of Tripoli and Cyrenaica.[1] By May a report had reached London that the Greeks had also enacted a law excluding shipping from within ten nautical miles of the coast in time of war.[2] Though a protest was made on each occasion, the Foreign Office realized that it was powerless. Crowe minuted that this ‘question appears to me to be no longer one in which we can complacently continue to announce that we do not recognize any territorial claim to waters beyond the 3-mile limit. We have to face the practical question whether we have any means to enforce this view upon foreign Governments who openly reject it as not based on international law as they understand it.’ The three mile limit which, he accepted, had originally been based on the range a gun was capable of firing, was now breaking down with the advent of new cannon capable of shooting at increasingly greater ranges.[3]

                The revolution in Constantinople on 23 January 1913[4] also directed Churchill’s attention to the eastern Mediterranean and, in particular, to the fate of the Third Battle Squadron, which was still on temporary duty. ‘What force do you propose to have in the Mediterranean on the recall of the King Edwards?’ he inquired of Battenberg. ‘What battle cruisers and cruisers are due to be out there now according to the programme announced last September? When do you think it would be convenient to make the change? How would you make it, i.e. at what point should the relieving vessels cross? Would you make it all at once or ship by ship? If you want to keep the battle cruisers at home a little longer, there would appear to be no harm in leaving the King Edwards to replace an equal number for the present.’[5] Although by this time, according to Churchill’s own schedule, the battle cruisers Indomitable and Inflexible should both have been on station at Malta, only the latter was present and it would be August 1913 before she was joined by Indomitable and Invincible.[6] Even the dispatch of Inflexible had been a rush job: early in November 1912 the battle cruiser was in dock at Chatham, being modified to suit the particular requirements of the C-in-C of the Mediterranean Squadron. Only by the greatest exertions were the new cabins and offices completed and the ship made ready to leave by the middle of the month, arriving at Malta on 22 November. Inflexible remained at Malta for one day only to coal hurriedly before departing for Besika Bay, the decks piled high with unstowed fuel. The battle cruiser eventually reached its destination and made contact with Milne (flying his flag in an armoured cruiser) on 25 November. The huge ship remained there until 7 December, everyone having ‘a very dull time; and then the folly of keeping us there was realised at home, and we arrived back at Malta on the 9th, remaining tied there, a central point, in case action on account of the [Balkan] war was required until the latter end of March.’[7]

                A naval demonstration had been proposed to force a recalcitrant Turkey to cede Adrianople, then currently invested by the Balkan allies,[8] but the prospect of this was viewed with dismay by everyone from Grey down. The ships of the various Powers which were already positioned in the Golden Horn were, in any event, not viewed as a threat by the Turks. Lowther, the British Ambassador, confided privately to Arthur Nicolson that the ‘presence of ships here is rather agreeable to the Turks as the crews spend a lot of money.’[9] Although the Third Battle Squadron would remain for the duration of the Balkan War, Milne was conscious of the temporary nature of its posting and painfully aware also of the deprecatory remarks made to him throughout the eastern basin of the Mediterranean regarding the British evacuation. With the question mark hanging over the Third Battle Squadron, the rumour that reached Milne in March that his cruisers would be ordered to return to Home waters that summer for manoeuvres was the last straw. If true, his fleet would consist of little more than his own flagship, Inflexible. It would be the same situation which had prevailed late in November 1912 when ‘For some time’, a member of Inflexible’s crew recorded, ‘we were the fleet and the fleet was us.’[10] Milne pleaded with Nicolson to use his influence at the Foreign Office to ensure that, after peace was declared in the Balkans, a strong British squadron should go round the Mediterranean, calling at all the principal ports to show the flag.[11]

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                Churchill was doing some flag-waving of his own early in March, visiting the French base at Toulon, which would be the initial port of concentration for the French navy (except in the case where it was thought the Italians were mobilizing at Taranto). Churchill’s visit there and Battenberg’s to Paris a week later marked the culmination of the technical arrangements concerning the Anglo-French Naval Agreement. It was also at this time that the German Government became aware of the Grey-Cambon exchange of letters[12] though Grey continued in the belief right up to the eve of the war that the content of the letters remained secret.[13] Battenberg’s visit to Paris had come about as the result of his handing to de Saint-Seine in February a plan for combined action in the Mediterranean. As ever, a limit was set upon the extent of the British commitment and, while it was hoped that British forces would be capable of dealing with the Austrian fleet with a reasonable chance of success if it emerged from the Adriatic, nevertheless the North Sea was clearly marked as the decisive theatre of naval operations. As a consequence, and to ensure complete freedom to concentrate such forces in that area as would be required to defeat the enemy, Britain could not enter into any arrangement which would keep the British Mediterranean Squadron at a permanently fixed standard. Additionally, if conditions in Home waters obliged the British Government to recall so many ships that those remaining would no longer be able to act independently against the Austrian fleet the residue would attach themselves to the French under the orders of the French C-in-C, but always subject to the proviso that they, too, may be recalled at a moment’s notice. In other words, the French had to make allowances for the contingent possibility that, in the most extreme (though unlikely) case, not a single British ship would be left in the Mediterranean and the full burden of dealing with both the Italian and Austrian fleets would devolve completely to France.

                The concession of allowing even a small part of the British fleet to operate under French command if needs must was not, however, as great as it appeared. In the much more probable eventuality that a British deterrent remained in the Mediterranean, even if brought into close tactical contact with the French as the result of the attempted junction of the Italian and Austrian fleets, there would still be no attempt made to form a single line of battle. The two allied fleets would operate in mutual support but separately, relying on the common signal book and pre-arranged sight or sound communication. It was also proposed that the transportation of the XIXth Army Corps would be effected from the fifth to the tenth day of mobilization.[14] To bind matters, Battenberg suggested to de Saint-Seine that he (Battenberg) should travel to Paris to meet the new Chief of the French Naval Staff, Admiral Le Bris. The arrangements for the meeting had been made by early March and Battenberg was able to inform Churchill that he would cross to Paris on Tuesday the 11th and have the interview at the Admiral’s private residence the following morning. In view of the passions aroused – on both sides of the Channel – by the new Mediterranean dispositions Battenberg took great care to avoid being recognized in the French capital. In an age when Asquith could casually stroll from Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament and usually avoid recognition, the First Sea Lord was nevertheless going to take no chances. ‘Nothing can possibly get into the Papers — Saint-Seine preceding me by a day’, Battenberg archly informed Churchill. ‘I do not intend to go near our Embassy, and hope to settle everything in one day.’[15] The meetings took place at 14, Place Vendome, the office of de Saint-Seine’s brother.[16] The concealment of Battenberg’s identity was all the more important politically as Asquith had given a specific pledge in the Commons on 10 March that there was no military engagement to France.

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                Inevitably, following the Le Bris–Battenberg meeting, the Admiralty in London was loathe to commit anything to paper; the French, however, kept a record which indicated that, in pursuance of their partner’s duty to protect commerce in the eastern basin and destroy the Austrian fleet, the British could not guarantee the surveillance of the passages from the eastern to the western basins of the Mediterranean with all the concomitant danger that this omission entailed to the transfer of the French XIXth Corps.[17] The agreement then reached formed the basis of War Orders No. 2 for the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean which were dispatched to Milne on 1 May 1913. Milne was apprised of the fact that a joint signal book had been prepared; he was instructed that he was to be ready to reinforce the French at short notice should the Italian and Austrian fleets effect a junction; and he was cautioned that, although the Dardanelles were closed to vessels of war, it was ‘not beyond the limits of possibility in the future’ that the Russian Black Sea Fleet might lend ‘active support’ in which case ‘the situation may require fresh consideration with a view to preventing the enemy getting between the Russian Squadron and our own.’ The final paragraph, in which Milne was ordered ‘to take the necessary measures to ensure that all persons under your command are prepared to further the co-operation of the two navies by every means in their power’, was heavily qualified by the preceding paragraph: ‘Though your principal object will be to assist the French to the utmost of your power, this duty is not to be carried to the extent of allowing British interests in the Mediterranean to suffer unduly thereby.’[18]

Milne had already been busy cementing relations — but with the Germans. The catalyst was provided by the assassination in Salonica of King George of Greece on 18 March, the day before he was due to pay an official visit aboard Goeben.[19] When Milne, in Inflexible, proceeded to Athens (where the funeral ceremonies were scheduled to take place on 2 April), he found Rear-Admiral Trummler had already arrived from Salonica. As they waited for the arrangements to be made, Trummler made an official call on board Inflexible on April Fool’s Day and had a long talk with Milne covering recent and present events in the Near East; there was enough common ground to permit the talks being continued the next day, during the funeral ceremonies. Trummler reported to Berlin that Milne was apprehensive regarding French designs on Syria and feared they would use the pretext of unrest in Lebanon to extend their sphere of influence. According to Trummler, Milne ‘repeatedly’ urged that German warships should be sent to Alexandretta and Mersina, with the result that Trummler requested the dispatch to the Mediterranean of two additional small cruisers. Baron von Wangenheim, the wily German Ambassador in Constantinople, attributed Milne’s remarks to naval camaraderie but confessed to Jagow, the German Foreign Minister, on 10 April that:

I personally should rejoice if we show more interest in Asia Minor by increasing our number of ships. If we wish to have a share in cutting up Asia Minor when it comes off, it will do the other claimants good to find that we are not to be pushed on one side. But these naval demonstrations ought to be restricted to such points as undoubtedly belong to our sphere of interest — if I may use this tabooed expression. No one so far has found out precisely what part of Asia Minor we intend to claim as our own. Alexandretta and Mersina are the only exceptions, and Trummler ought to go there above all with his ships…[20]

Trummler duly arrived in Mersina on 4 May accompanied by two small cruisers, Strassburg and Dresden, and proceeded to fly the flag for a week.

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                Milne’s action in alerting Trummler soon received Imperial approbation: on 12 May the British Naval Attaché in Berlin, Captain Hugh Watson, reported to his ambassador that Wilhelm had spoken with pleasure at the way in which German and British ships had co-operated in the Mediterranean. The Emperor later admitted to Watson that he had been very grateful to Milne for his hint to Trummler, as the German cruisers had ‘arrived just in time to prevent an Armenian trouble.’ It was absurd, the Emperor maintained, for England to be always looking at Germany and concentrating in the North Sea — couldn’t they follow his lead in dispatching part of that concentration to the Mediterranean?[21] It is doubtful though if the All-Highest spoke with the concurrence of his Naval Staff who particularly begrudged the absence of Goeben from the North Sea.[22] However, any hopes entertained that the battle cruiser might return to northern waters went unfulfilled and, by June 1913, evidence had reached the Admiralty in London that Trummler’s appointment – hitherto shown as ‘temporarily detached from the Home Fleet’ – had been confirmed as commander of the German Mediterranean Division.[23] Wilhelm’s dander would have been further aroused had he known that the rumour which had so upset Milne – that most of the British ships would be recalled for manoeuvres in home waters – proved correct; to add insult to injury, Wilhelm’s nemesis, the First Lord himself, was cruising around the eastern Mediterranean and generally making a nuisance of himself.

                The Emperor, who did not know how to take Churchill, at the very least thought that the First Lord ‘was a man who could not be trusted, he turned 15 points to starboard too often.’[24] In this, he was not alone: even Churchill’s friends at times did not know what to make of him. For example, Churchill and his wife, joined by the Asquiths, Edward Marsh and Masterton-Smith from the Admiralty, spent the last three weeks of May 1913 cruising in the Admiralty yacht Enchantress, embarking from Venice and proceeding down the Dalmatian coast to Greece and then on to Malta. It was the perfect opportunity for the P.M. to relax; but Churchill, to Asquith’s barely concealed amusement, could not. The cruise coincided with an international naval demonstration which had been convened in an attempt to force Montenegro to give up the siege of Scutari, which she claimed as a spoil of the Balkan War. By 15 May detachments from the assembled warships had landed to take control of the city and, Asquith records, ‘It was with great difficulty that I prevented Winston from going himself to Scutari to witness (if not preside over) the surrender of the town.’ Later, wandering through Diocletian’s Palace at Spolato, Churchill’s most salient remark was the cryptic: ‘I should like to bombard the swine’ while at Syracuse he never set foot on shore ‘but dictated in his cabin a treatise … on the world’s supplies of oil.’[25]

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                Once at Malta, Churchill took the opportunity to explain personally to Milne ‘that practically everything except the Inflexible is to come home for the manoeuvres’, and that he must not expect any more battle cruisers until after these had taken place; he supposed, however, that Battenberg would send out the Invincible for a few months before she began the remounting of her guns at the end of the year as it was ‘important to have 3 battle cruisers in the Mediterranean at some time in the forthcoming Autumn.’[26] What Churchill did not realize was that some of the French Fleet would also be absent from the Mediterranean that summer. Enthusiasm for the French Navy had waned considerably in Brittany following the announcement of the transfer of the Third Squadron from Brest. Despite internal opposition, Pierre Baudin, then the Naval Minister, successfully campaigned for a flag-waving visit to be made by units of the Mediterranean Fleet. Too late, it dawned upon the French Foreign Minister that, combined with the absence of major units of the British Mediterranean Fleet, the combined Anglo-French naval force remaining would be outnumbered by the Austro-Italian Fleets in a time of continuing international tension due to the Balkan crisis. To prevent a further occurrence, Pichon sought from the British a commitment for a fixed number of ships in the Mediterranean. This the Admiralty in London would not countenance; the maintenance of the maximum amount of concentration in the North Sea to counter the German threat could not be reconciled with any guarantee to keep a fixed number of ships on station elsewhere. The Mediterranean, so far as Churchill was concerned, remained a millstone, although it might not necessarily have seemed so from the decks of the Admiralty yacht.

While at Malta on his cruise, Churchill also witnessed a squadron firing practice at ranges of 6,000 yards after which, characteristically, he approached the gunnery officer of Inflexible, Commander Rudolf Verner, to quiz him about the firing. Verner ventured the opinion that the range was too close and, when pressed, admitted that he would open fire at 12,000 yards on a fine day with the heavy guns, bringing the medium calibre 9.2-inch and 6-inch guns to bear only as the range closed. Although Churchill was due to leave Malta the following day (Saturday 24 May) orders came through for a special firing to take place for the First Lord’s benefit on Monday 26th to be conducted in three phases: at 12,000 yards with 12-inch guns; at 9,000 yards with 12-inch and 9.2-inch guns; and at 6,000 yards with 12-inch, 9.2-inch and 6-inch guns. Generally, the shooting was poor, though Verner thought his own ship’s performance ‘fair’ and believed that Churchill and the Admirals were delighted. ‘Anyhow’, he wrote proudly to his father, ‘it is a great triumph for me to have caused such a shoot to take place. I have never fired over 9,000 yards before, nor ever seen it.’[27] Whether the Admirals were in fact delighted is a moot point as it was precisely this type of well intentioned though heavy-handed interference by the First Lord that reduced many of them to apoplexy.[28]

                The cruise also provided Churchill and Asquith with an opportunity to consider at first hand the strategic value of the Corfu Channel. Churchill had already drawn Asquith’s attention to the possibilities offered by the possession of the island in October 1912 when, describing Corfu as the ‘key to the Adriatic’, he had proposed to trade Cyprus to Greece in return for the lease of Corfu as a naval base.[29] Since then the situation had been altered following the first Balkan War and the subsequent proposal to create an autonomous Albania[30] with a southern border which would be hotly contested by the Greeks. The Adriatic Powers – Italy and Austria-Hungary – had demanded that the border should be drawn as far south as possible to place all the coastline of the Channel in Albanian territory, as the new state could not possibly pose a threat, whereas Greece’s small navy was in the process of being modernized. The Italians in particular, exhibiting the stereotypical if still characteristic excitability of their race, became the more agitated and concentrated 7,000 troops at Brindisi; Grey, on the other hand, also characteristically phlegmatic, was somewhat puzzled by this martial display and had to inquire of the Admiralty as to the precise strategic importance of the Channel. Grey’s bewilderment was also felt by his Ambassador in Rome, Sir James Rennel Rodd, who ‘found it a little difficult to understand the great importance attached to this point. But the view that the security of the approaches to the Adriatic might be compromised by some Power establishing a naval base there, was strongly held by Italian naval experts and was therefore a factor with which we had to reckon.’ Indeed, there was a fear that Italy would go to war rather than have the border drawn too far north.[31]

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                However, the imperturbable Asquith was ‘quite convinced of the unreasonableness of the Italian view about the mainland opposite Corfu’ while, from his cabin aboard the Enchantress, Churchill wrote to Battenberg:

We cannot understand how the Corfu Channel could be a greater menace to the Adriatic Powers if it were in Greek hands than say the Gulf of Arta will be in any case if Greece is hostile; or again Cephalonia, as we well know, would do the trick equally well. It is extraordinary that the Italians should use such extreme language on the subject. In any case Corfu would be of no use for the purposes of blocking the Adriatic to a Power that had not effective command of the sea. It looks therefore as if it were not so much Greece but some stronger Naval Power that the Austrians and Italians have in mind. I wonder which? If it should turn out to be us there would not appear to be any special reason why we should support them. Generally speaking I am in favour of getting as much as possible for Greece now and making an alliance with her afterwards.[32]

                The Italian Naval Staff had indeed drawn up a secret paper on the value of the Corfu Channel in the hands of an enemy of the Triple Alliance; it did not remain secret for long. By June the Admiralty in London had managed to obtain a copy of the paper from Paris, upon which Battenberg noted that, ‘the co-operation of Austrian and German ships in the mouth of the Adriatic is spoken of as an established fact.’ The clear implication of this to the First Sea Lord was that:

the Goeben and her light, fast consorts will be maintained in [the] Mediterranean for some time, as a means of insuring Austria taking an active part afloat in an Anglo-German War. The draft War Orders for C-in-C, Medt. take account of this new disposition, which is really in our favour. I have not made any definite proposals as to covering the German light cruisers, which at present have two of ours opposed to them.

                I strongly urge the Cabinet to definitely say that we have to maintain a force in the Mediterranean capable of dealing with the Austrian fleet. — The conditions under which the Triple Alliance exist make it absolutely certain that Austria must join Germany in any war, but nothing like certainty exists as to the action of Italy. Germany hopes to be able to coerce the former into drawing the sword, but she realises that the British Fleet at Malta stands between Italy and her large African Army.[33]

Despite this appraisal and the Emperor notwithstanding, the German Admiralty Staff had planned on recalling Goeben, Breslau, Dresden and Strassburg as soon as the Balkan crisis allowed and, indeed, Dresden and Strassburg were withdrawn in September 1913; there would, however, be no recall for Goeben and Breslau.

                The revised Mediterranean War Orders No. 1 sent to Milne on 20 August 1913 directed him to concentrate at Malta should the attitude of Austria prove uncertain or hostile; there he would be reinforced, ‘if necessary’, to enable him to ‘accept battle with the Austrian Fleet and any German force which may be in the Mediterranean’. He was also instructed to watch the exit from the Adriatic ‘with the object, as soon as you are strong enough, of bringing the enemy to battle and preventing their return to their home bases should they attempt to leave the Adriatic.’ Milne was to prepare and submit schemes for this operation and invited to ‘offer suggestions as to the minimum strength of the reinforcements necessary for its achievement’. In connection with this, Milne was instructed to make proposals ‘for securing an advanced temporary base in the Ionian Islands or on the Greek or Albanian coast, but not actually violating neutral territory without direct permission from the Admiralty, who are fully alive to the advantage of using such a base and will use every effort to facilitate your obtaining one, if such a course is not inconsistent with the general policy of the war.’[34]

At the same time as Battenberg was being made aware of the increasing Austro-German naval co-operation, a small group of representatives of the Triple Alliance Powers met in Vienna to renew the moribund naval convention of December 1900. The Triple Alliance itself had been renewed in December 1912 at the instigation of Italy. This was, in part, an attempt to consolidate her gains in the Tripoli War; but also out of concern for the French naval concentration in the Mediterranean; and the better to keep an eye on the Austrians. Now Italy also took the lead in renegotiating the separate naval convention which would take effect after a casus foederis had arisen. This unsettling new development would have come as a shock in London where the War Staff always formulated their plans on the basis of a number of options, to take account of the possible combinations of both allies and enemies. Even so, a consistent thread ran through these plans when the position of Italy was concerned: allowance was duly made and contingency plans drawn up but always with the suspicion that the Italian Navy was directed more at Austria than at France or Britain (a suspicion felt as much in Vienna as in Paris and London).

                By early 1913 this position had changed: individually, the Italian and Austrian navies were hopelessly outgunned by the French and, even acting as a combined fleet, it would be some years before the addition of the dreadnoughts under construction would bring them level with the French and British Mediterranean Fleets. Italian self-interest and a shared unease at events in the Balkans drew the putative allies closer together and, by April 1913, the Italian emissary Capitano di fregata Angelo Conz, of the Naval Staff, was dispatched to Berlin to sound out the Germans with a proposal of mutual benefit to the three members of the alliance. In return for Austrian ships acting in the Western Mediterranean in concert with Italian ships to defeat the French at sea, the Italians would be able to land troops at the mouth of the Rhône to engage French land forces, thereby freeing German troops to assist the Austrians against Russia. Not unnaturally the Germans jumped at the proposal; the Austrians would not prove quite so easy to convince. But, with the weight of the German approval, coupled with the engaging personality of Conz (and helped by a heavy dose of flattery) the Austrians were, by 9 May, duly won over and gave their approval for a conference to be convened to update the 1900 convention.

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                Although Austrian suspicion of Italy was not completely allayed, the Austrians hoped to control the conference and leave the convention basically unchanged except where alterations were obviated by, for example, Italy’s recent acquisitions. The Austrians were not prepared to be forthcoming about their wireless techniques nor to be involved in the preparation of a joint signal book; there was also the vexed question of overall command which so bedevilled negotiations between the various allied nations. Here the problem was similar to that confronting the British in the Mediterranean where Milne outranked Boué de Lapeyrère: the Austrian Commander (Haus) was a full admiral, the Italian C-in-C a vice-admiral. The Italians had anticipated the problem and themselves proposed Haus, on condition that the post should not become an Austrian sinecure but revert in due course to an Italian with the appropriate rank. It was an astute move by the Italians which removed the wind from the Austrians’ sails, demonstrating as it did an admirable willingness to pander to Austrian sensibilities; it was also bought at little cost, as it was well known that Haus was in ill-health and might not occupy the supreme post for too long.

                Conz returned to Vienna on 1 June to represent Italy at the forthcoming conference, to be held in the Marinesektion building. The Austrian representative was Captain Alfred Cicoli and, from Berlin, came Commander Erich Köhler accompanied by a signals expert, Lieutenant Commander Alfred Saalwachter; acting as secretary was Lieutenant Commander Alfred Suchomel of the Austrian Navy. So determined were the Austrians to create the impression of harmony that paintings commemorating Austria’s naval victory over Italy in the Battle of Lissa were hastily replaced by ‘innocuous travel scenes’. The zones of operation – a feature of the 1900 convention dictated by the impossibility of deciding at that time who should be in overall command – were quickly abandoned and the tenure of Haus ratified. The unfortunate Haus was not immediately in a position to appreciate fully his new command: as the Italians had anticipated, he underwent surgery on 9 June for the removal of a benign stomach tumour and part of his large intestine. The business of the conference proceeded slowly and it was not until 23 June that the representatives were able to put their signatures to a new draft naval agreement.[35] The Italians proposed some later minor alterations which were incorporated in a revised draft on 2 August; this was in turn ratified and came into force on 1 November 1913.

                The general part of the agreement dealt with the wartime employment of the naval forces of the Triple Alliance both inside and outside the Mediterranean; the question of the supreme command; communications between the allies and the means these communications would take; and the reciprocal contributions of merchant vessels and harbours. Added to this was a supplementary agreement for the Mediterranean of a more technical nature which outlined the plan for joint operations. Haus was named as C-in-C with a staff consisting of one Chief of Staff each from the Austrian and Italian navies with the rank of Captain and one officer each of the Admiralty Staffs from the three navies. In the event of war the Austrian and Italian fleets were to ‘assemble as soon as possible in the neighbourhood of Messina and complete their supplies. The Italian fleet shall then proceed to its anchoring place between Milazzo and Messina, the Austro-Hungarian fleet to the harbour of Augusta … The German vessels shall endeavour to unite at Gaeta (or in the event of unfavourable conditions at sea, at Naples) in order to complete their supplies. Should special circumstances render it impossible to reach Gaeta (Naples), the German naval forces also shall join the C-in-C in the neighbourhood of Messina.’

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                The proposed concentration at Messina (rather than Taranto as the Austrians would have preferred) represented a decided tactical victory for the Italians in that the Austrians were now committed – on paper at least – to leave the Adriatic and assist in the defence of the west coast of Italy. The remit of Haus was simple but wide-ranging, his chief objective being ‘the securing of naval control in the Mediterranean through the swiftest possible defeat of the enemy fleets.’ If a portion of the French fleet was located at Bizerta it was to be held there by the contemplated employment of mine layers and torpedo boats operating out of Trapani and Cagliari, while ‘for action against a French fleet possibly proceeding eastward from Toulon, the light units of the local coast defence of the Western Ligurian coast are in contemplation.’ All this was but a preliminary for the main action which was ‘to be carried out so swiftly that the decision shall be reached before the Russian forces in the Black Sea can interfere.’ Not that, at that time, the Russian Black Sea fleet posed a substantial threat; indeed certain officers were quite openly dismissive of its value.

                It was left to the C-in-C ‘to decide whether, in addition to the main operations against the enemy fleets, simultaneous secondary operations shall be directed against possible French troop transports from North Africa or against sections of the enemy coasts’, in the expectation that the first French troop transports would embark from North Africa within the first three days of the mobilization. In that eventuality, ‘Italy shall immediately establish a patrol off the North African coast with fast auxiliary cruisers. For the further obstruction of the sending forward of troops the operations of light warships from Cagliari … and secondarily from Maddalena, are in contemplation.’ In the anticipated second phase of the war, against allied commerce after the major fleet engagement, auxiliary cruisers would be used, while ‘it would appear advantageous to establish a patrol of the Suez Canal and the Dardanelles immediately on the outbreak of hostilities.’ The defence of the Adriatic would devolve upon torpedo boats, scout cruisers and ancient coastal defence ships.

                It all looked fine — on paper. The annex listed the forces available to Haus which, if co-ordination had been achieved, would have posed a serious threat to the Anglo-French forces (discounting, for the time being, the Russian Black Sea fleet).[36] But was Austro-Italian collaboration ever a serious possibility? In Berlin the General Staff and the Admiralty Staff took the realistic view that the Italian initiative was worth encouraging but that positive results would be a bonus. Germany, after all, had little to lose and much to gain, particularly from the delay of the transportation of the XIXth Army Corps rather than the more fanciful notion of an Italian landing upon the south coast of France. From the other side of the fence the British view was reinforced by reports such as that received from Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, the senior officer of the International Force in occupation of Scutari, who informed Milne privately in September 1913 that all his time was spent trying to keep the peace between the Italians and Austrians assembled there, while relations between the respective admirals were ‘too strained to be pleasant’ with the Austrian admiral singled out as being particularly obstructive.[37] Despite the commendable exertions of Conz and Cicoli and the blessing of Berlin, the prospect of Austro-Italian naval co-operation remained what it always was: a chimera.


Notwithstanding the actual slowdown in Italian construction, which was later to cause the Italian Foreign Minister San Giuliano so much concern, alarming reports began circulating in London concerning the Italian and Austrian shipbuilding programmes, further jeopardizing the proclaimed one-Power Mediterranean standard; to this was added the continuing headache of the Canadian dreadnoughts upon which so much counted. Churchill’s memorandum of 29 November 1912 on the Naval Requirements for 1915 had forecast that only two British dreadnoughts would be available for the Mediterranean to face an expected force of six Italian and four Austrian dreadnoughts (in addition to three Austrian semi-dreadnoughts). As, therefore, Italy became the basis for the one-Power standard, the British deficit amounted to four dreadnoughts. One of these was made up by the gift of the super-dreadnought Malaya from the Federated Malay States, while the other three were to have come from Canada. By June 1913 it was evident that, if they eventuated at all, the Canadian dreadnoughts would be seriously delayed and could not be reckoned on for 1915 or, indeed, the first half of 1916. ‘Even after that’, Churchill noted despondently, ‘the prospect of our getting any real use of these ships now appears very doubtful.’ To reduce the three ship deficit, two courses lay open: to build an additional three ships to compensate, or to accelerate the construction of those ships already sanctioned ‘in such a way as to secure the requisite numbers in time.’

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                In any event it was already too late to have any bearing on the first half of 1915, which meant having ‘to try to carry on as well as we can with the 4 battle cruisers till the autumn of that year.’ The first option – additional construction – was out of the question, adding, as it would, £8.5 million to the already bloated Naval Estimates, and, Churchill added, somewhat illogically, ‘it would commit us to a further great development of capital ships at a time when submarines are continually increasing in power.’ This obviously begs the question that if Churchill really did see a growing danger from submarines why not fill the Mediterranean with them, as Fisher so ardently desired? Diplomatic considerations could still be fulfilled by semi-annual cruises of portions of the fleet, as had happened in 1913, or by the stationing of a small but powerful surface force, the option chosen by Germany. As will be seen, the First Lord was cynically prepared to turn to this argument if necessary. Fortunately for Churchill, after the early alarms, it became evident that both the Austrian and Italians naval programmes were suffering from serious delays so that if the British acceleration were to begin at once, on the predictions then current, all the fleets would be ready to match each other by the middle of 1915.[38]

                In the meantime Churchill considered it politic that a forceful demonstration of British power should be made and it was for this reason that, while Conz and Cicoli debated in Vienna during June 1913, Admiral Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne at last received permission to leave Malta for a cruise in the eastern Mediterranean, along the Syrian coast. Despite his earlier candour with the Germans in Athens, Milne expressed the hope to Churchill that he would not meet Goeben and her consorts, but thought it likely (which was hardly surprising in view of Milne’s complicity in having German ships dispatched to the region[39]). Although, he added, whenever they met them the Germans went out of their way to be ‘most friendly’, such fraternization was adversely commented upon by both the French and the Russians.[40] Political expediency, combined with the impossibility of outbuilding all other navies, also lay behind the granting of Milne’s wish for a grand display of British naval might in the Mediterranean. Churchill instructed Battenberg on 7 June 1913 that he ‘should like to see schemes worked out (a) for manoeuvres in the autumn of this year in the Mediterranean and (b) for general manoeuvres next year … of the whole Eastern fleet in Australian waters.’ In the first case, Churchill proposed:

a sudden and swift concentration in the Mediterranean of a powerful fleet about the month of November, to be formed as follows: – 5th Battle Squadron, 4th Battle Squadron, 3rd & 4th Armoured Cruiser Squadrons. The newest coal burning flotilla of destroyers. These, together with the Mediterranean fleet of 3 battle cruisers and 4 armoured cruisers (1st Cruiser Squadron) should raise our force to 28 large armoured vessels, the whole of which should certainly go as far as Malta. The subsequent operations could be conducted between Malta and Gibraltar. Speed should be restricted … It is an important feature in our present policy to show the great mobility of the Fleet, and to make it impossible for any foreign Power to calculate the force that may be brought against them in the Mediterranean.[41]

The manoeuvres were duly held – though not with the forces initially outlined by the First Lord[42] – after which the combined fleet visited Athens while individual squadrons showed the flag at Naples, Toulon, Barcelona, Algeria and Palermo.[43]

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                Milne had got the show of strength he wanted, yet the problem of the British Mediterranean Fleet remained as intractable as ever. Churchill’s calculations, depending as they did on the three Canadian dreadnoughts, were upset when the Canadian Senate defeated the bill in May 1913. Even the November exercises and flag-waving were not entirely successful: at least this was the opinion of the German Naval Attaché in London who reported that the French had reacted badly to the planned British manoeuvres, which had caused ‘mild annoyance’ in leading French circles. In spite of many clear indications from the British Government, the Attaché reported to Bethmann-Hollweg that ‘the French had got into the way of imagining fondly that England had left it for the French Navy to protect her interests in the Mediterranean, and that France could now realise her old dream of domination in the Latin sea, without having to bother about England.’[44]

                To add to these difficulties, Churchill’s former Naval Secretary, Rear-Admiral Beatty – now commanding the First Battle Cruiser Squadron – complained officially of the transfer of battle cruisers to the Mediterranean. Beatty had seen a copy of an Admiralty letter of 1 September 1913 which approved an estimate forwarded by the Admiral Superintendent, Malta, for fitting side-screens to Indefatigable. He wrote at once to the C-in-C, Home Fleets, Admiral Callaghan, demanding to know if it was intended to transfer the ship to the Mediterranean. The loss of Indefatigable, Beatty argued without an apparent trace of irony, would leave him with only Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary and New Zealand to face Moltke, Von der Tann, Seydlitz and Goeben (which he listed as ‘temporarily detached to Mediterranean’). It was a margin he considered insufficient, although he admitted that even by retaining Indefatigable the margin then of 5-4 would not be enough. And, as for Goeben, to Beatty it was ‘obvious that the German’s war station is the North Sea. Alone in the Mediterranean she can achieve nothing, and her destruction is certain. But she can return at any time in a few days, she is due home shortly to refit, and it is therefore quite certain that her stay abroad will not be prolonged. This makes a force of 4 battle cruisers in the North Sea on any date in the near future prior to strained relations.’ Beatty attempted to cover himself by arguing that if the war station of Goeben was to be the North Sea there was no reason for dispatching Indefatigable, but if her war station happened to be the Mediterranean it would be for one reason, and one reason alone: that she could contain, in that sea, a ‘vastly larger’ British force, thereby holding out the promise of a victory for the German battle cruiser squadron in the decisive theatre – the North Sea.

                It was, of course, to Beatty that Churchill owed the suggestion that battle cruisers should be stationed at Malta;[45] now that Beatty had himself assumed command of a battle cruiser squadron in the North Sea he presumably viewed matters in a different light. Beatty was also unhappy at the prospect of Indefatigable being temporarily dispatched to the Mediterranean for only as long as Goeben remained there: the prospect, he declared, of the British ship then having to shadow the return of the German ship to home waters was ‘neither dignified nor politic’. ‘Obviously’, he argued, ‘the situation turns on the Goeben’; and, although he wished to omit any discussion of the strategical situation in the Mediterranean, it was ‘already clear that our requirements there are not much better met by 4 battle-cruisers than they are by 3.’[46] Beatty’s equanimity would have been further disturbed had he been aware that the Naval War Staff had recently been pressing for the Mediterranean Squadron to be reinforced at the end of 1913 with the battle cruiser New Zealand and the large armoured cruiser Shannon.[47] Churchill disagreed at the time but, by December, he was forced to adopt the contingency that, if Goeben remained in the Mediterranean, the British force there would have to be strengthened by the addition of New Zealand (although this eventuality could only occur when the new battle cruiser Tiger was ready to join Beatty’s First Battle Cruiser Squadron, and this would not be until the end of 1914).[48]

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The summer of 1913 also witnessed Churchill’s continued estrangement from the C.I.D. coupled with his dissatisfaction with his own War Staff. He cautioned Battenberg, Sir Henry Jackson (the new C.O.S.), and Captain Thomas Jackson (the Director of the Intelligence Division), that the C.I.D. was ‘not the proper means of dealing with matters of such secrecy as war plans.’ It was Fisher all over again. Instead, ‘a conference between the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff held with the sanction of the Ministerial heads of departments should be sufficient to enable the necessary staff work to proceed.’[49] Churchill’s hostility towards the C.I.D. deepened after that body had had the temerity to interfere in, and force him to change, his Mediterranean policy. By January 1913 Churchill was suggesting to Sir John French, the C.I.G.S., that there should be a monthly meeting between himself, his opposite number at the War Office (Colonel Jack Seely), and the heads of the War Staffs. Seely thought the plan, which he referred to as ‘a sort of high level bridge’, to be admirable.[50] By the summer the bridge was in place consisting, for the main, of Churchill, Seely, Battenberg and French. Though this quasi-official committee ‘achieved a degree of agreement quite unknown at the C.I.D.’ Asquith could not afford to allow it to usurp the remaining functions of the attenuated C.I.D. which resulted in the anomaly of the ubiquitous Hankey attending the meetings in a private capacity. Hankey’s complete submersion in the technicalities required to produce the monumental War Book ensured that the rôle of the C.I.D. in policy making quietly lapsed. Policy now, despite the vacillation of Grey and the semantics of Churchill, was determined by the very fact of the Entente.[51]

                Within his own fiefdom Churchill had formed the opinion by the late summer of 1913 that the War Staff was not working together sufficiently as a whole. He complained to Battenberg and Henry Jackson of the ‘strongest pronounced tendency’ for the three divisions (Operations, Mobilization and Intelligence) to work separately from each other, leading towards what, he feared, would be ‘the rapid growth of watertight compartments.’ Jackson himself was singled out as working principally with the Operations Division ‘whereas it was the intention that he and his three Directors should work together under the First Sea Lord as a unit in effective integrity.’[52] The ineffectual Jackson was stung ‘as to the want of co-operation supposed to be existing between the heads of the War Staff’, and replied in kind after first having conferred with his three Directors. If Churchill was correct it was not, Jackson claimed, intentional ‘but must be due to inadvertence or defective organisation’; the latter gibe, one cannot help feeling, being a case solely of the Admiral getting his own back. Furthermore, the complaint made that the Operations Division worked separately from the other two Divisions could not ‘be accepted as being in accordance with the facts’, a bald statement about which Jackson had second thoughts, before deciding to tone it down by adding “generally” before “accepted”. Jackson suggested that Churchill should supply him with a definite case or cases on this point ‘in order that it or they may be investigated and remedied.’

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                It was the blustering response of a weak officer but when Churchill went on to request that a scheme should be prepared for the circulation of papers between departments Jackson was able to respond with some justification that ‘to circulate all papers dealt with by the D.O.D. and C.O.S. after their suggestions have been made would cause considerable delay in the final decision, and would add to the work of the other two Divisions, observing that on average more than 100 confidential papers pass through the Operations’ Division per week.’ Instead, Jackson proposed a Central War Staff Registry comprising the three Divisions and ‘with a clerical head to mark papers’.[53] This was symptomatic of the confusion still existing in the Admiralty almost two years after Churchill had received his remit to organize an effective and properly functioning Staff. Jackson was a poor choice to follow Troubridge as C.O.S.; Troubridge at least could plead that he was feeling his way in the post and, indeed, made a reasonable stab at it (though not without a keen awareness of the sense of his own importance) but did not miss the earliest opportunity to return to sea duty.

                The new position was always going to be awkward; what made it doubly so was having Churchill as the First Lord. As a typical example, Churchill complained to Asquith in September 1913 that for some time he had not been entirely satisfied with the views put forward by the War Staff regarding the protection of Britain’s trade in wartime. Rather than discussing the difference of opinion to find out why it existed Churchill took it upon himself to draft his own long memorandum on the subject. Although Battenberg was absent on leave and so could not see the paper, Churchill did not ‘anticipate any sensible divergence of opinion’ and showed it instead to Jellicoe and Custance, who each added notes, before the whole lot was sent to Asquith. ‘I should be grateful’, the First Lord asked of the P.M., ‘if you would turn these papers over in your mind and, if you have leisure, let me know you views upon them. I will then prepare an authoritative minute in conjunction with the First Sea Lord which will embody and govern the policy of the Admiralty.’[54] Such was business conducted in Churchill’s Admiralty. The effect on those actively trying to establish a proper Staff can well be imagined.

During the latter half of 1913 Italian duplicity, Austrian and Italian shipbuilding intentions, and the continued uncertainty over the Canadian dreadnoughts, culminated in the crisis of the 1914-15 Naval Estimates. In Paris the cipher section of the Quai d’Orsay had made inroads into the Italian secret code which allowed them to read the telegrams passing between the Italian Foreign Office and the Embassies in Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Then, in October 1913, the Italian Ambassador in Vienna referred to the Triple Alliance Naval Convention in a message to San Giuliano in Rome which the Foreign Minister duly passed on to his Ambassador in Paris. When decoded, the existence of some sort of naval agreement became known to the French and it did not take much educated guesswork at the Quai d’Orsay to decide what it might be. The intelligence was passed, via Cambon, to Grey who was then able to inform Ambassador Rodd, in Rome, that the ‘French believe … that, when the Triple Alliance was last renewed, it was extended to the Mediterranean in some way.’ But, he added, ‘I have no other information about this.’[55]

                Grey’s warning was prompted also by yet another approach to him by San Giuliano for a Mediterranean Agreement. Italian foreign policy during 1913 presented a crass spectacle of self-interested cynicism at its most debased. A year earlier San Giuliano had first proposed a British-French-Italian Mediterranean Agreement and had then promptly renewed the Triple Alliance, while the closer naval and military ties with Germany and Austria-Hungary – which culminated in the Naval Convention – had been initiated by the Italian Staffs. The heavy irony of the latter, however, was that these same Staffs remained unaware of the extent of the secret treaties binding Italy not only to the Triple Alliance, but also to France. The inconvenient treaty in question – the Prinetti/Barrère agreement of 1902 – bound Italy to maintain a strict neutrality in any war involving France where that country ‘should be the object of a direct or indirect aggression on the part of one or more Powers.’[56] This, itself, had been signed only two days after the Triple Alliance had been renewed on 28 June 1902 — a clear indication of the unworkability of the Triple Alliance in time of war.[57] With the ratification of the 1913 Naval Convention by the three Alliance Powers safely tucked under his belt, San Giuliano could happily proceed to reinsure himself by once more dangling the carrot of a Mediterranean Agreement before Grey, using the medium of the Italophile Ambassador Rodd.

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                Rodd duly reported to Grey on 8 December 1913 that:

San Giuliano said something about a Mediterranean agreement – I think he said “Mediterranean” not “African” – and referred to some preliminary conversations which we had had on the subject a year ago. I did not say anything much as I gathered my line would be to ask him if the subject be pursued, as he asked us at that time, to make a definite proposition which we could consider. But he also said “I may tell you something in confidence. You will remember that I said at that time that Italy must be loyal to her alliances and could of course not do anything which would be contrary to their spirit. Well I took the opportunity of mentioning in Berlin that the question of some such agreement between Italy and Great Britain might come up for consideration, and I was told that Germany would welcome such an understanding between the two countries.” Now while it is interesting to learn that Germany has given such a contingency her blessing I am not at all sure that San Giuliano was justified at that stage, if at any, in saying anything at Berlin…[58]

If San Giuliano’s intrigues were at last too much even for the credulous Ambassador, it is no surprise that, for Grey, the carrot was now looking distinctly wizened: the Foreign Secretary was both cautious and weary. If the Italian Government wished to proceed with the British proposal for an agreement regarding the status quo in North Africa Grey was prepared to acquiesce but, ‘If they want anything more than that, it is for them to explain what they desire, and make a proposal to us. They must bear in mind that these are matters that concern the French as well as us … ’[59]

                Grey would not rise to the bait by submitting a British proposal which San Giuliano could then use to extract further concessions from Berlin and Vienna towards satisfying Italian territorial ambitions, a ploy which would fail if it became known that San Giuliano himself had initiated the approach to London.[60] The veil had been lifted from the eyes of the Foreign Office in relation to Italy, as Crowe admitted some months later: ‘Italy wants to square the circle’, he noted, ‘without exposing herself to a change of faith she wants to remain in the Triple Alliance and yet not go to war with France in accordance with its stipulations. No Anglo-Italian “formula” can solve this ethical problem.’[61] Although San Giuliano would try one more time, in April and May 1914, to interest Rodd and Grey in an agreement his approach again foundered on the rock of continuing suspicion of Italian motives, heightened by the knowledge of the existence of some kind of Triple Alliance compact in the Mediterranean, and confirmed by the presence in that sea, long after the Balkan crisis had subsided, of the Mittelmeerdivision.

                It was at least possible to assign functions to the German ships such as commerce raiding and the interruption of the passage of the French XIXth Army Corps; however, while doubt continued to be expressed in London regarding the rôle of the Austrian fleet outside of the Adriatic, the rôle to be played by the Italian fleet anywhere became more difficult to discern. In such a fevered atmosphere it was easy to credit the Italians with being the progenitors of Triple Alliance policy – in the Mediterranean at least. While this was certainly true to an extent in 1913 while Austria-Hungary was diverted by Balkan affairs; but by early 1914 Italo-Austrian tension had resurfaced, the Italian dreadnought building programme had fallen behind schedule, and the French appeared more menacing. The almost inevitable paradox then was that, while his previous attempts at an agreement with Britain had been cynically motivated, now, in the spring of 1914, San Giuliano really did need an agreement. This time, the approach was made in desperation and Grey was tempted by the seemingly obvious sincerity of the Italian into believing that a possible cause of friction could be removed from the ambit of Great Power rivalries. However, he could not convince the French who, after all, had more immediately to fear from the Italians and who remained assured of the duplicitous nature of San Giuliano’s diplomacy. The Italian’s stock was bankrupt.  Please click to go to the top of this page





[1]     Grey to Rodd, Commercial No. 13, 21 February 1913, PRO FO 368/917/6853.

[2]     Grey to Elliot, no. 47, 27 May 1913, PRO FO 371/1655/22567.

[3]     Minute by Crowe, 17 March 1913, PRO FO 368/917/10557.

[4]     Miller, Straits, chapter 9.

[5]     Churchill to Battenberg, 24 January 1913, First Lord’s Minutes, Naval Historical Library.

[6]     In fact by this time a fourth battle cruiser, Indefatigable, should also have been on station. Indefatigable did not arrive until December 1913 by which time Invincible had to return to Britain to have her turret machinery replaced, still leaving only three of the proposed four battle cruisers in the Mediterranean. See appendix in Miller, Superior Force.

[7]     Rear-Admiral Henry Horniman, Smiling Through, unpublished typescript autobiography, Horniman mss., IWM PP/MCR/46, p. 91 [Horniman was a Fleet Paymaster aboard Inflexible].

[8]     Fears that the Turkish Cabinet would in fact agree to this demand had precipitated the coup on 23 January. Miller, Straits, chapters 8 and 9.

[9]     Lowther to Nicolson, 16 January 1913, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/362.

[10]    Horniman, Smiling Through, p. 91.

[11]    Milne to Nicolson, private, 11 March 1913, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/365.

[12]    Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, p. 308.

[13]    See, for example, Grey to Buchanan, 10 June 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/74. At the time Anglo-Russian naval conversations were in prospect, the fact of which had leaked in Paris. Grey complained to the Russian Ambassador of the inconvenience, to which Benckendorff observed ‘that everything leaked out in Paris.’ Grey replied ‘that there had sometimes been great leakages through the Quai d’Orsay, but the Military and Naval conversations with the French Authorities had not leaked out, nor the letter to Cambon’, a copy of which Grey had just handed to the Russian.

[14]    Anglo-French Naval Agreement, Action Combinee Dans La Mediterranee, 10 February 1913, PRO Adm 116/3109; Lumby, pp. 110-2.

[15]    Battenberg to Churchill, 5 March 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1715-6.

[16]    Williamson, The Politics of Grand Strategy, p. 321.

[17]    Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, pp. 107-8.

[18]    War Orders No. 2 for the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, PRO Adm 137/819; Lumby, pp. 112-3.

[19]    Letter of Proceedings, HMS Yarmouth, 23 March 1913. PRO Adm 1/8324.

[20]    Wangenheim to Jagow, 10 April 1913, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, p. 199. An editorial note following this letter states that Goeben visited Mersina accompanied by two small cruisers, Strassburg and Geier. In fact the cruisers in question were Strassburg and Dresden. See, Milne to Churchill, 22 June 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/34.

[21]    Watson to Goschen, 12 May 1913, 30 June 1913, Pre-War dispatches from Naval Attaché, Berlin, Naval Historical Library, SL 3046.

[22]    Tirpitz, My Memoirs, vol. II, p. 349: ‘The Emperor was particularly proud of our Mediterranean Squadron, while I regretted the absence from the North Sea of the Goeben in particular.’

[23]    German Cruisers in the Mediterranean, memorandum by Battenberg, 19 June 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/33.

[24]    Watson to Goschen, 12 May 1913, Pre-War dispatches from Naval Attaché, Berlin.

[25]    Quoted in, Jenkins, Asquith, pp. 260-1.

[26]    Churchill to Battenberg, 20 May 1913, Battenberg mss., IWM DS/MISC/20, reel 3, item 217.

[27]    Colonel Willoughby Verner (ed.), The Battle Cruisers at the Action of the Falkland Islands, Journal of Rudolf Verner, (London, 1920). pp. 39-40.

[28]    See, for example, Sir Francis Hopwood to Lord Stamfordham, 9 November 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1797-8: ‘There is a fierce quarrel raging between Churchill and his Naval Lords. C[hurchill] foolishly travels round the coast holding reviews and inspections & so forth without reference to Naval opinion and regulation. He is also much addicted to sending for junior officers & discussing with them the proceedings of their superiors; this naturally enrages the latter & is very mischievous to the former...’

[29]    Churchill to Grey and Asquith, 22 October 1912, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/34.

[30]    Crampton, Hollow Detente, p. 112: ‘It had been agreed that an Albanian state should be created, and on 20 December 1912 the ambassadors had further agreed in principle that the new state was to be autonomous under the suzerainty of the Sultan [of Turkey]…’

[31]    Sir James Rennel Rodd, Social and Diplomatic Memories, p. 168; R J Crampton, The Hollow Détente, (London, 1979), pp. 123-6.

[32]    Churchill to Battenberg, 20 May 1913, Battenberg mss., IWM DS/MISC/20 reel 3 item 217. With support from both France and Germany Grey was able to suggest the setting up of a frontier commission to investigate the border; by early August the Italians and Austrians had agreed to this. The commission did not meet until 4 October and was deadlocked in a little over a month. The chairman of the commission, the British delegate Major Doughty-Wylie, proposed a compromise line midway between the French and Italian proposals. This proved acceptable and the new southern frontier of Albania was announced on 20 December 1913. Crampton, Hollow Détente, pp. 129-30.

[33]    German Cruisers in Mediterranean, memorandum by Battenberg, 19 June 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/33.

[34]    Mediterranean War Orders No. 1, PRO Adm 137/819; Lumby, pp. 114-5.

[35]    Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, chapter VIII; Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914, vol. I, pp. 558 ff; Sondhaus, The Naval Policy of Austria-Hungary, 1867-1918, pp. 232-40.

[36]    Naval Agreement prepared between the Naval Section of the Austrian War Ministry, the Admiralty Staff of the German Navy, and the Admiralty Staff of the Italian Navy, with Supplementary Agreement for the Mediterranean. Hurst (ed.), Key Treaties for the Great Powers, 1871-1914, pp. 854-863; Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, pp. 253-6.

[37]    Burney to Milne, 16 September 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/34. Burney’s main force, the Third Battle Squadron, was withdrawn in early summer 1913, leaving the admiral to keep the peace in a light cruiser until he, too, was withdrawn in October.

[38]    Nevertheless the continued absence of the Canadian ships would result in the same problem of a shortfall recurring in 1914 in relation to the position in the second quarter of 1916. Memorandum by Churchill, 3 June 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1808-10.

[39]    It will be remembered that, when in Athens together with Rear-Admiral Trummler, Milne had allegedly ‘repeatedly’ urged that German warships should be dispatched to the Syrian coast to forestall French designs in the region.

[40]    Milne to Churchill, 22 June 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/34.

[41]    Churchill to Battenberg, 7 June 1913, First Lord’s Minutes, Naval Historical Library [my emphasis].

[42]    The manoeuvres comprised the Mediterranean Fleet together with the 4th Battle Squadron, part of the 1st Battle Squadron, the 3rd Cruiser Squadron and the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron.

[43]    The Naval Annual, 1914, pp. 404-6.

[44]    Kühlmann to Bethmann-Hollweg, 26 September 1913, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, pp. 298-9.

[45]    In May 1912, when cruising with Churchill in the Mediterranean, Beatty had advocated that, within two years, a force of three battle cruisers should be stationed at Malta.

[46]    Rear-Admiral Beatty, HMS Lion, Devonport, to C-in-C, Home Fleets, 8 September 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/33.

[47]    Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 114.

[48]    Navy Estimates, 1914-15, Memorandum by Churchill, 5 December 1913, PRO Cab 37/117/86; Lumby, p. 116.

[49]    Churchill to Battenberg, Henry Jackson and Thomas Jackson, 19 May 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1750.

[50]    d’Ombrain, War Machinery, p. 266.

[51]    Ibid., p. 273.

[52]    Memorandum by Churchill to Battenberg and Henry Jackson, C.O.S., 8 August 1913, Battenberg mss., IWM DS/MISC/20, reel 3, item 235.

[53]    Henry Jackson to Churchill, 12 August 1913, ibid.

[54]    Churchill to Asquith, 8 September 1913, enclosing memorandum of 21 August 1913, WSC Comp. Vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1770-7.

[55]    Grey to Rodd, 17 December 1913, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/64; Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 273 and note 67; Albertini, The Origins of the War of 1914, vol. I, p. 555.

[56]    “Exchange of Letters Declaring that no Divergence Subsists between the Two Countries as to their Respective Interests in the Mediterranean”, 1 & 2 November 1902, in Hurst (ed.), Key Treaties for the Great Powers, 1871-1914, pp. 735-8.

[57]    Note: the formal dating of the Prinetti/Barrère Exchange to 2 November was spurious; the actual agreement was signed on 30 June. Bosworth, Italy and the Approach of the First World War, pp. 60-1; Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, pp. 223-4.

[58]    Rodd to Grey, 8 December 1913, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/64.

[59]    Grey to Rodd, 17 December 1913, ibid.

[60]    C. J. Lowe, “Grey and the Tripoli War, 1911-1912”, in Hinsley (ed.), British Foreign Policy Under Sir Edward Grey, p. 322.

[61]    Quoted, ibid., p. 323.




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

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Home ContentsSearch Feedback Preface Introduction Superior Force Straits Chapter 1
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