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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This book marks the completion of a three volume history of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and British policy towards the Ottoman Empire from the turn of the century until the inception of the Dardanelles campaign. The first volume, Superior Force: the conspiracy behind the escape of Goeben and Breslau, published in 1996 by the University of Hull Press, examined in detail the escape of the German Mittelmeerdivision and revealed how that escape was facilitated as a result of the political divisions in Greece in 1914. The second volume, Straits, which appeared in 1997, analyzed British policy towards the Ottoman Empire, charting the many lost opportunities and failed policies, in the period from the Young Turk revolution of 1908 until the outbreak of war between Britain and Turkey in November 1914. Straits also considered the origins of the Dardanelles campaign and the implications of the Royal Navy’s switch to oil-fired ships. This final volume charts the history of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean from its turn of the century zenith to its decline after 1912. The parlous state of Anglo-French naval co-operation, the strategic options available to Britain in the pre-war period, the problem of the naval situation in the Mediterranean, and the extent of the moral commitment to France are all examined. The British Cabinet’s decision to intervene in the war is then described in some detail as, in my view, this decision was forced upon a reluctant Cabinet (but not a reluctant Foreign Secretary) by the failure to address the altered strategic balance following Germany’s decision to challenge the Royal Navy and the 1912 withdrawal from the Mediterranean. 


Although it appears as the final volume of the trilogy, The Millstone was originally to have been the first. In the initial draft of the manuscript, the purpose of what follows was to set the scene for the escape of Goeben and Breslau, the subject of Superior Force. However, it was felt at the University Press that the allegations made in Superior Force regarding the activities of Admiral Mark Kerr and Prime Minister Venizelos in Athens were so astounding that that volume should appear first. Although some of the many reviewers preferred to believe in the “cock-up” rather than the conspiracy, the main charge levelled at Kerr and Venizelos — that they both knew beforehand of the destination of the German ships and kept this information to themselves — has not been seriously challenged. To follow the story of the escape to its conclusion, and to investigate how much the presence of the German ships was responsible for Turkey’s entry into the war and therefore for the subsequent Dardanelles campaign, it was decided to follow Superior Force with Straits. By the time that a tentative decision was taken late in 1997 to proceed with publication of The Millstone the manuscript had not been touched for some two years and it at once became clear that it would have to be extensively reworked. Most important, as it had originally been intended to lead directly into Superior Force, The Millstone, as it stood, lacked an ending — it simply finished with the abortive 1914 Anglo-Russian naval talks and the situation in the Mediterranean in the early summer of 1914. My task, then, was twofold: to re-write the early chapters, omitting extraneous material and adding the products of recent research, and to add a new second section concerning the decision for war.

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As with the previous volumes, The Millstone is Anglocentric in its approach. In large part this limitation has been imposed by financial considerations. In a generally favourable review of Superior Force, Professor Paul Halpern commented that ‘No matter how exhaustive the author’s labor, a study limited to documents in the British Isles will be a restricted one.’ Although it would be possible to take issue with this statement on other grounds, I then consulted the prefaces in Halpern’s first two books, to discover the following: ‘I am also grateful to Harvard University for a travel grant and fellowships … and to both the Research Council and the Department of History of the Florida State University for financial assistance …’ (from The Mediterranean Naval Situation, 1908-1914). ‘I also thank the American Philosophical Society and the President’s Club of Florida State University for financial assistance …’ (from The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1914-1918). Unlike Halpern (and most others in this field, I suspect), I have had no financial assistance. All my capital has been expended in the years taken to research and write the Straits trilogy. This also involved the not inconsiderable expense of my move from Sydney to London (and subsequently Flamborough) to pursue the project. If a grant had been obtainable to facilitate work in a foreign archive I would have accepted it without hesitation. Instead, this book is my last work of non-fiction. As much as I enjoy it, it does not pay the bills; it is time to give fiction a try. It is my hope that support for others in my position becomes available before it is too late. 


As before, I would like to thank the staffs of all the archives in which I have worked: the Public Record Office; the National Maritime Museum; the Department of Documents at the Imperial War Museum; the Naval Historical Library; the British Library Department of Manuscripts; the National Library of Scotland; St Antony’s College, Oxford (Centre for Middle Eastern Studies). Also, the British Library’s Document Supply Centre located a number of esoteric titles, which, together with more straightforward works, were then delivered to Flamborough library. 


For permission to quote from material to which they own the copyright, I would like to thank the following: the Trustees of the National Maritime Museum and the British Library. Crown copyright material is reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Material from letters by the Prime Minister to His Majesty King George V is reproduced by gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen. Extracts from Lord Hankey’s The Supreme Command, 2 vols., (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1961) are reproduced by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Extracts from The Companion Volumes published by William Heinemann as an adjunct to the Life of Winston S. Churchill are reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Ltd, London on behalf of C&T Publications: Copyright C&T Publications Ltd. Extracts from, M. & E. Brock (eds), H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, (Oxford, 1982) are reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. 


Where copyright has not lapsed, I have attempted to trace known copyright holders, however I offer my sincere apology if I have inadvertently infringed any other copyright. If the owners of such copyrights would care to contact me I will ensure that a suitable acknowledgement is made in subsequent editions of this book.Please click to go to the top of this page



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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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.


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

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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

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