The Great War at Sea ... Take 13

... once more into the fray ....
... you just never know ... might get it closer to right this time ...

Prologue
The Great War had begun for Great Britain on August 3rd, 1914, as with most previous wars, the development of new technologies and tactics would be needed if the foe would be vanquished, and this war would prove no different. In fact, it was the development of new technologies, along with new thought on their application, which would set the Great War apart from the countless conflicts that had preceded it. These technologies were myriad and very diverse in their nature. They began with measured advancements in thinking and manufacturing in existing products and design, such as ship design and armour placement. This process continued through new ideas and formats, which would hopefully counter new threats that had come to the fore in recent years. This development was further enhanced by the imaginative use of new ideas, ideas that would set up completely new areas of military usage and hopefully advantage as well.

The advancement of these new technologies would have major impacts on not only the structure of the Royal Navy, but on the minds of its strategic thinkers and tacticians alike. The Royal Navy would go to war in 1914 with the theory that the great battleships would be the dominant weapon in naval strategy. When the conflict would end in 1917, the battleship would still be a substantial threat to foes of the RN; it would now be seen more in a position of one among many, than the realized commander of the seas as it once was just a few years earlier.

While these new technological advances, as well as the proven production from previous advances, would be important to the coming victory, one must not forget that even with these in place, they would be of little use without the spirited and strong willed men who would put them to use in defence of King and Country. While there were indeed countless good and great men who would stand to face down the foe, it would be remiss to mention one who in the early days of the war dutifully filled his position against long odds. By his stance and actions in the trying early days of the war, he allowed for not only stability and pride of place in the Royal Navy, but set in motion much of the development of the amazing new technologies and processes. These would keep the Royal Navy on the cusp of new development for the duration of the conflict and into the future.

That man was Admiral of the Fleet Prince Louis Alexander of Battenburg.

Introduction
November 10th, 1914

The halls of the Admiralty were echoing with the footsteps of its staff as The First Sea Lord settled at his desk to begin his daily rote. At 58, Admiral of the Fleet Prince Louis Alexander of Battenburg was certainly feeling the strain of command after the tumultuous first months of The Great War. However, on this date it was more likely that he was feeling the vindication of one who had been delivered up from the unjust treatment of the righteous at the hands of those of a more base temperament and ideology.

Up until the start of the Great War, Admiral Battenburg had managed a long and illustrious career in the Royal Navy. While his family ties with the Royal Navy were indeed a factor in his rise through the ranks, it was not an unusual fact for a higher-ranking officer in the navy to attain his rank through royal or political patronage and connection. In fact, Admiral Battenburg had several times in his rise to his position as First Sea Lord, refrained from seeking out or accepting such assistance. He was in many ways a self-made man, under the conditions of the day.

However, with the war clouds gathering, it was the fact that he was not only foreign born, but of German descent as well, which was to draw him into the biggest challenge he had ever faced as a career officer. For there were those who would use his lineage against him as they in turn sought out their own rise to power. One at the forefront of such machinations was Lord Beresford.

Beresford had retired from the navy in 1911 after being denied the chance to rise to fill the position of First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, which he felt should be his. A longstanding feud between himself and Admiral John Fisher had put paid to any hopes of such a position being made available to him. Being that as it may, Beresford had not shrank from the opportunity to oppose anyone who he perceived as being in Fisher’s camp, and would use any means at his disposal to see his plans through to fruition. This legacy wad been borne out in previous years with his treatment of the likes of Percy Scott and others, as well as forcing Fisher himself to make an early retirement from his position as First Sea Lord.

Due to his position as a Member of Parliament, his connections with the elite of the nation, as well as a link to the King, Beresford fostered a growing condemnation of Battenburg holding the highest rank in the Royal Navy in many influential circles of power. His efforts would not be stifled and dealt with until weeks later.

Added to the issues regarding his heritage being pushed by Beresford, was the political head of the Royal Navy, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Churchill, A young and dynamic man, had set out to bring more of the control of the day-to-day operation of the navy under his control. This became readily apparent in the period from the weeks just prior to Great Britain’s entry into the war, until his final resignation. The culmination of this effort actually happened quite early in that period when he ordered HMS Indomitable and HMS Indefatigable to engage the German battle cruiser Goeben after the loss of the SS Isle of Hastings on August the 3rd at Phillipville. The result of this would light the fires of scandals and accusations that were the backbone of those first three months of the war, in what came to be known as ‘The Long Ninety’.

If not all the politics, intrigue and infighting at the Admiralty had been enough; there had been the opening stages of a war to fight as well, a war that had been brought upon Great Britain by Churchill’s retaliatory response to the sinking of a British steamer at Phillipville on the 3rd of August. His poorly thought out and unilateral actions and series of confusing and complex signals to Admiral Milne, commander of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, would forever paint him as the man who brought Great Britain into the Great War.

There are many sides to this, as it has been felt by many historians that in all likelihood, Great Britain and her empire would have joined the fight by mid August at the latest, and as early as the next day. However, as with most historical debate, the potential of Great Britain’s entry into the conflict would be academic, and for all Churchill’s great political achievements in his long and sometimes brilliant career, that dark day of August 3rd, 1914 would always be his signature date.

The result of his orders set off numerous eddies in both the near and longer terms. The manoeuvring and actions from the 3rd of August, through the 6th, would be paramount in leading to the Admiralty Crisis of the fall of 1914. When HMS Indomitable, along with her compatriot HMS Indefatigable had intercepted the German battle cruiser Goeben and her consort, the light cruiser Breslau, on the afternoon of 3rd, there was an air of electric excitement through the Admiralty, as Churchill’s actions were thought to be justified. However, after the passage of four long hours, that mood became much more sombre, following the dramatic loss of HMS Indomitable after a heavy exchange of gunfire between the antagonists.

Not even the fact that the heavily damaged light cruiser Breslau was finished off by HMS Weymouth early the next morning would lighten the mood. Even as people would begin to look to the reasons behind the loss of one of the Royal Navy’s mighty battle cruisers, Churchill was already beginning to look for those who the blame might be shifted.

The final act, the Battle of The Straits of Messina, was when Admiral Troubridge and his command, the 1st Cruiser Squadron, caught the damaged Goeben, and brought the great German vessel to task. The battle, in which Troubrige's ships sank Goeben after a bloody action in which a good portion of the British cruisers were to sustain damage and numerous casualties, would be the final step, which would start what would come to be known as the Beresford Scandal.

After questions were asked as to why Troubridge had engaged the German battle cruiser without waiting for the arrival of Admiral Milne with the battle cruiser Inflexible, Churchill had laid the blame squarely with Troubridge, at a time when Admiral Troubridge, who was seriously injured in the battle, could not properly defend himself. This had initially covered the fact that Milne, a Churchill favourite and appointee, had bungled the arrival time of HMS Inflexible by his own orders. Stories would quickly spread questioning Milne’s lack of courage, as well as skill in command, which led to be attention once more focusing on Churchill, for Milne was one of Churchill’s appointees. Seeing an opportunity to further his anti-Battenburg crusade, it was at this point that Lord Beresford would weigh in with further very public statements supporting Churchill, while at the same time denigrating Battenburg.

Further troubles arose when it became common knowledge that the German Asiatic Squadron under Spee had been allowed to escape to the open seas due to Admiral Jerram’s' supposed failure to keep a proper blockade of the German port at Tsingtao on the Chinese coast. When it became apparent that the reason for the failure of the blockade and containment was more than likely due less to Jerram and more with Churchill’s attempts at managing fleet deployments across the globe, Beresford and his supporters increased their diatribes against the First Sea Lord and his supporters in an effort to deflect attention from Churchill. Almost by default, these two politicians would fall into lockstep, as Churchill strove to finalize his dominance of the Admiralty, While Beresford wanted to play out his vendetta against Admiral Fisher, which in his eyes was manifested in Admiral Battenburg.

However, while Churchill and Beresford would continue to up the ante as they strove to not only solidify their political positions, but also remove those who had stood up to them, there would be many who would see the development of this unholy alliance developing, and begin to take steps to impede its success. While these people were not well organized at first, as the days stretched into weeks, their front would solidify. With each passing day, Churchill and Beresford would find more of their agendas being challenged, as their threats, accusations and rhetoric would begin to lose credibility. As the challenges and counter accusations rose, both of these men failed to realize a more balanced approach might have netted better result. While some aspects of the final fall would last until the end, and after the first bits of information came out regarding Churchill’s attempts to manage the tactical movements of the fleet and the impact of his decisions, bits of their defences began crumbling almost immediately. This would be seen when Prime Minister Asquith’s cabinet moved shortly after the battles in the Mediterranean and the deployments of the China Squadron, to limit Churchill’s day to day control of the Royal Navy, much to Churchill’s ire. As Churchill lost his control, He would lose not only the ability to stand firmly of the backs of his underlings, but maybe possibly even more important in his own eyes, He lost status among his peers.

If Churchill had possessed a cooler temperament, and settled back at that point, He might well have weathered the storm and managed to maintain and even possibly build up his stature. However, with Admiral Beresford essentially goading him on, there could realistically be no other outcome for Churchill than what would be delivered up in Late October.

Further actions of the fleet would continue to sully the waters of the political sea, starting with the Empress of Britain incident off New York on the 9th of August, and then after a series of short sharp scraps between light forces in the North Sea, came the Battle of Helgoland Bight on the 28th of August.

At the Battle of Helgoland Bight, warships under the command of Beatty, Tyrwhitt, Keyes and Goodenough badly mauled German light forces. They sank seven light cruisers and five torpedo boats in the early stages of the battle, as well as several patrol craft and minesweepers in the early part of the battle. The High Seas Fleet eventually managed to sail a portion of their vessels in time to engage the retiring British forces.

In the ensuing later action, the three German battle cruisers and their lighter consorts gave a good account of themselves. Sinking the battle cruiser Inflexible as well as heavily damaging two more of the British battle cruisers and three of the light cruisers, as well as sinking a pair of destroyers. While they did not know it for some days, a shell hit on HMS Lion from SMS Moltke had killed many on the battle cruisers bridge, including Rear Admiral David Beatty. It was only the quick action of the ship’s badly wounded commander, Captain Ernle Chatfield, which saved the day and allowed the damaged British vessels to make good their withdrawal.

Before making good their escape, the British pummelled all three of the German battle cruisers, as well as sinking three more torpedo boats. The finale for the RN was the torpedoing of SMS Seydlitz by a Royal Navy submarine as the ship returned to port. The battle cruiser would survive, however it would be in dockyard hands until mid January, 1915.

Farther afield, in the vast expanses of the Pacific, Admiral Patey, with support from Jerram’s cruiser from China Station, would encounter the German Asiatic Squadron under Admiral Spee off Easter Island. The battle came by chance, as both forces chose the location to gather in scattered ships. In the ensuing action, von Spee’s force was routed, and only one light cruiser would escape. However, for the loss of two cruisers and a collier, the German threat to the Pacific was reduced to a nuisance level.

While most of these actions had been victorious for the Royal Navy, the losses had been substantial, and Beresford wasted no time in further deriding Battenburg’s efforts as a result of that, and playing down Churchill’s part in the battles. Churchill in turn would attempt to build himself up by shifting blame for problems in the battle to Patey and Jerram. Stiff responses from Battenburg, as well as other senior admirals in the fleet, who were themselves displeased by Churchill and Beresford, met these attempts.

While all this had been going on, many of the highest-ranking RN officers had been keeping close tabs on the situation. While there were a few that were solidly in the Beresford/Churchill camp, the bulk of the admirals were behind Battenburg, particularly after it was announced that the seriously wounded Admiral Troubridge would indeed face court marshal proceedings for engaging the Goeben.

At this point, none other than the redoubtable Admiral Fisher weighed in to the fight, lambasting not only Churchill’s antics, but the machinations of Beresford as well. Never happy with Churchill appointing Milne to command the Mediterranean Fleet, He stood firm for Troubridge and swore that he would stand for the maligned Admiral if the threatened court martial was to take place. Beresford’s response to Fisher’s entry into the fray was to retaliate by saying that as Battenburg was a favourite of Fisher, he would have expected no other response from Admiral Fisher.

Realizing that events were fast getting beyond his ability to control them, Churchill, seeking an easy egress, asked Battenburg to resign, citing his German borne heritage, explaining he would replace him with Fisher, which he felt would be better for the war effort. Luck would have it that Fisher would arrive to see Battenburg just as Churchill was leaving. Sensing something amiss, Fisher demanded and received the details and flew into a rage like few others seen within the walls of the Admiralty. In no uncertain terms, Fisher told a rather subdued Churchill that he would not replace Battenburg under such auspices. To further drive home the point, he wondered aloud as to if the whole exercise then underway was to simply allow Churchill to clear the First Sea Lord’s position for his associate Beresford, or one of his lackies.

On that note, Churchill himself lost his patience with the situation and after a loud and blistering attempt at a rebuttal; he turned to Battenburg and demanded his resignation the following day, before leaving. As Churchill left, Fisher informed Battenburg that it was time to ‘stop this rot’, and that Battenburg should not resign until further efforts were undertaken. When Battenburg asked just what those further efforts might be, Fisher simply told him to ‘Stay the course’ as he had a course of action about to start, before himself storming out of the office.

Probably more interesting than the fight at the political level, was what was taking place among the upper echelons of the Royal Navy. For while there were developing divisions among the RN’s admirals, for right or wrong, both sides were well connected with the Royal Family, whether though patronage, connection or friendship. With many British Admirals having connections to The Royal family, the King was able to stay well informed of the situation.
Therefore, it was that when Admiral Fisher was making preparations to ask for an audience, the King himself summoned him to the palace. For little to Fisher’s knowledge, Churchill had already been talking to Beresford, Beresford in turn had made a statement regarding ‘Our German King’s favourite German Admiral’. The statement found its way to the palace shortly thereafter, and with that, all holy hell broke loose.

In a rare moment, King George V asked to address the House of Parliament and the House of Lords regarding the issue at hand. After addressing the British parliamentarians, the King issued a statement to the press, stating his unflinching belief in not only the Royal Navy, but also Admiral Battenburg. He went on to state that any further slanderous attacks on the First Sea Lord would not be kindly looked upon by the Royal Family. Any further attacks on Battenburg would be considered an attack on the Royal Family itself.

At that point, Beresford’s misadventure quickly came unravelled. It started with Churchill, who refused to back Beresford further, and followed with an apology from Churchill to the King, Battenburg, and the British people, before resigning from the Admiralty. Admiral Milne would be retired immediately on his return to Britain, while several other flag officers would go quietly into retirement or be relegated to obscure postings.

Beresford himself managed one last bit of his now infamous stubborn streak when on the evening before he was to be censured by the House of Parliament, He was found dead in his private chambers, apparently dying from a possible stroke. It would be felt by many that knew him that the stroke that killed him was the last of possibly several smaller ones. In addition, that it was this series of strokes that may have caused noticeable personality changes in him in the preceding months.

During the period of time that the Scandal had ran out, the Royal Navy had stood to its duties and performed admirably, if not always completely successfully, as it went about the business at hand, and honourably maintained the British moat.

While the Germans still maintained a presence on the great oceans of the world, it had been reduced to a level that would allow the Royal Navy to concentrate their heavy units in home waters. While Admiral Battenburg was indeed a strained and battered old salt after the previous months, He had come through vindicated and unbroken. And under his leadership Britannia once more ruled the seas, and would do so for the foreseeable future.

It has been agreed upon by many historical scholars that this period was indeed Battenburg’s greatest achievement in his long and distinguished naval career. He is remembered for many great deeds in his time in the navy, his ability to keep the Royal Navy in best form through this formative period of the war set a shining example as to what could be done in trying times. As Well, He also set a pattern whereby those in command should operate when holding positions of great power, and take responsibility for their actions. For through all that he had faced in those gray early days of the Great War, Admiral Battenburg retained his cool quiet professional manner, which in turn earned him the deserved respect of all who came in contact with him.

While some still challenge this portrayal of Admiral Battenburg, they tend to overlook the fact that in this time period, His greatest threat-and of the RN as well- was not so much the activities of Central Powers as it was the Beresford-Churchill Axis. It is beyond the scope of this history to delve any further into these matters, but suffices to say that it would be questionable to imagine any other Admiral who might have managed so well operating under the threat of two such powerful foes as Beresford and Churchill.

Battenburg’s vindication at the end of the ‘Beresford Scandal’ should be probably being recognized as one of the Royal Navy’s greatest victories of the Great War as well. For through his victory in this dark struggle, the Royal Navy – and indeed the whole of the British Empire would be allowed to not only keep a core of the command structure in place in the naval side of the Admiralty, but to begin the process of a properly comprehensive command and control structure for the Royal Navy.

A side effect of this would be to foster the beginning of a new era in the appreciation of talent in all levels of the navy, as the case of Milne’s appointment and its aftermath, had allowed all to see the dangers of the continuation of such policies. Not only would the effort being made to promote more on talent help with the workings of the fleet in general, it would also aid and abet the promotion of needed steps in technological development, which would lead to victory. More importantly, it allowed the British government and military to see the benefit of working together for the common good, as well as to be wary of those who would seek positions of advantage, power and influence during those troubling times.

Some have made this change in promotion as having a sudden and direct impact on the Royal Navy. While it would have been near miraculous if indeed it had of happened that way, in fact it would be a labour stretched over many years in some cases. Where it did indeed have its best early impact was more than likely in the research, development and application of new technologies. The reason for this was that those who had in the past, used their influence and seniority to stand in the way of new ideas now found it was not in their own best interests to impede the introduction of new equipment and tactics. More and more, as the war would drag on, it was those officers that were delivering up new tactical thought, while at the same time integrating new tools into the fleet, that were on the fast track to the higher levels of command.

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With the Beresford Scandal behind him, and the Great War now well into its fourth month, Admiral Battenburg could at this point begin to better concentrate on the tasks at hand. A new First Lord had been appointed, or rather an old one had been re-appointed, Reginald McKenna. This was done at first as an interim measure with the removal of Winston Churchill, however after feeling each other out, Battenburg and McKenna would find that they might work together well and in the best interest of not only the Royal Navy, but the nation as well.

This discovery of common thought and ground was not so much a point of chance; rather it was more due to directive. There had been several private meetings and orders from Prime Minister Asquith and his cabinet on these matters. As well, it has been strongly rumoured that the King himself was involves as well, although this has never been proven. Being that as it may, Battenburg would get on well with his civilian superior, while McKenna in turn would give the respect and understanding needed for a proper working relationship between himself and Battenburg. As their time together increased, a strong understanding and friendship developed between them, a friendship that would last long after their professional parting of ways in 1916.

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Chapter 1.
Two Admirals
While the events of the ‘Beresford Scandal’ had played out, there were still many other events in the first weeks of the Great War that were to cause great angst and concern. While there had been various naval engagements, the bulk of the main battle fleets of both sides had remained out of harm’s way initially, and while damage and losses had been incurred by most of them, it was nothing that could not be managed.

Probably the biggest shock was the casualty lists. The British had taken heavy losses in the destruction of HMS Indomitable, followed later by the even more horrendous losses in the spectacular destruction of HMS Inflexible. Along with the men killed or wounded in the other ships damaged or lost in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and at the Battle of Helgoland Bight, the numbers were exceedingly heavy for a nation that was at this point unused to war. With a total casualty list of over 6000 men from the early engagements, the point was driven home to the British people that the human cost of new modern warfare was something to be reckoned with. However, it would also show that while the butcher’s bill would be high in any further engagements, it would also cut across all ranks and classes of people. From the lowest rating to the admirals commanding, no one was safe from the dark horseman that even then was reaping the globe.

While there are many men from all across the ranks of the Royal Navy whose sacrifice for King and Country are remembered for their valour and duty, it is beyond the boundaries of this humble work to attempt to give them all their due. However, two in particular stand out, officers of the Royal Navy who did their duty to King and Country. One, Admiral David Beatty, would give his life. The other Admiral Ernest Troubridge, would suffer great injury, yet would come back to fight again. Both would leave their mark on the Royal Navy, which would see the great fleet through to victory.

The loss of Rear Admiral David Beatty and a good portion of his staff, at the Helgoland Bight action proved that Admirals and commanders bled and died, as did the common sailor man. However, even in his passing, this man could, and did, impact indelibly on the Fleet. Admiral Beatty had been a fast rising star in the Royal Navy. Well known in high society, as well as in naval ranks, his loss was keenly felt across the nation, from the palace to the average man on the street. There had been many who felt that a man of his stripe was the future of the RN in the years ahead. He was known for his abilities to look to new ways and the use of creative thought in command, something that was missing from many of the older, more traditional thinking admirals.

However, even with his loss so early in the war, Admiral Beatty would leave his mark on the Royal Navy. Beatty was every inch the unconventional sailor, which showed outwardly not only in his unconventional dress, but in his unconventional attitudes, and tactical thought, as well. Many have wondered as to where Beatty might have risen to if his career had not been so tragically cut short on that fateful day, however the legacy he left was that many of the more traditional practices of the Royal Navy would have no place in the modern fleet. While these changes would take time, adjustments would begin to manifest in the weeks following his death. These changes would help keep the Royal Navy in good stead through the Great War and into the future.

Admiral Troubridge, who had suffered grievous injuries, including the loss of his right arm, in his victory over the Goeben, had been hospitalized at Malta, and while Churchill was doing his best to pass the blame onto him for the losses taken in sinking the Goeben, he was kept there in virtual incommunicado until the end of September. It had finally taken the intervention of Battenburg to have him brought home. This had allowed him to better prepare for his coming court martial.

With the removal of Churchill from the Admiralty at the end of October, Troubridge would still face the court martial, which would not only clear him of all charges, but would vindicate his choices made completely. Probably the most important result of the court martial was to further speed procedures to end patronage appointments, and the beginning of promotions based on the Royal Navy.

In the next year and a half while convalescing, Troubridge would not be idle. As he had to learn to write left-handed, he practiced his penmanship by composing notes to all the men and families under his command who had been injured or killed in the Battle of The Straits of Messina. These scrawling notes would become prized family heirlooms for many of the recipients.

An interesting side line of his rather well publicized efforts to properly use his left hand was what came to be known unofficially as ‘The School Boy’s Revolt’, when left-handed students began to rise up against school practices of time, which insisted that all hand writing be done with the right hand. Their battle cry soon became variations of ‘I write like an admiral’, and no manner of corporal punishment seemed able to allow the issue to be resolved.

Finally, in near desperation, educators approached Troubridge in hopes of getting a statement, which would resolve the issue. Troubridge readily agreed, but much to their horror, he stated:
“Whether a child writes with his right or left hand is of little consequence. What matters is that the children of the Empire are given a proper and full education, without the dogma and biases of previous generations. Only in that way will the Empire forge ahead.”

With that, the issue of left-handed writing was decided, and Admiral Troubridge near instantaneously became the hero of many a downtrodden lad across the Empire.

As a result of his notes to those who had served under him, Troubridge would develop an interest in the well-being of the lower decks. Many of those who had received the notes had responded with their own. These brought to his attention the lacking in pensions, medical support and death benefits for many from the lower decks, or even a total lack thereof. As a result of this, Troubridge would spend many hours, much at his own expense, looking out for the interests of those he had commanded.

This would eventually become a lifelong interest of Troubridge, and while he initially did what he could for any that asked his assistance, it would become his ambition to see better support for not just veterans, but for working men and women across the Empire. While his hopes for a universal program of support and health would not materialize in his lifetime, His oft quoted by-line of “None left behind’ would become the rallying call of Liberals across the Empire as the strove to advance his ideals. He would come to be recognized as the Father of Social Services across the Empire.

Admiral Troubridge would return to command in early 1916 and finish out a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy, known across the Empire as “Our Twentieth Century Nelson”.

It was maybe best put by Admiral Ernle Chatfield at Admiral Troubridge’s funeral in 1937:
“My friend Admiral Ernest Troubridge may not have been the grandest tactician the Royal Navy has ever known. However, He had a gift of command that many of us were envious of. His connection with those he commanded was exemplary. His men always knew that He was with them through every league, that they could count on him in their darkest moments, that he would carry the battle lantern to see them through to better times. Because of that His crews were always standing to, ready to do his bidding, and never flinching from their duties. He was, and always will be, an inspiration to us all. Godspeed Sir.”

While many men from every rank of the Royal Navy would leave their mark on the Royal Navy, these two Admirals were probably the best examples of all that could be good in the navy. Their ways set an example for others to follow that would help lead the RN though to the calmer seas ahead.

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Chapter 3
Nuts and Bolts
November 7th, 1914

While there were countless issues for the Admiralty to sort through, the more basic issues would be dealt with first, so as not to have distractions when the more complex challenges needed to be faced. The first to be addressed was to be regarding new ships.

It was originally felt that this new war would not last longer than a few months at most. As a result of this thinking it had been initially decided that while lighter vessels would be kept in production, anything larger than a light cruiser would only be completed if it could be ready to join the fleet in the next eighteen months. The thought behind this was that it was not deemed wise to be building ships whose technologies might well be proven wrong by lessons learned from the war.

That would mean that the only new reinforcements for the navy would consist of five Queen Elizabeth class battleships, five more of the Revenge class, the two battleships initially confiscated from the Turks (with one of them released to the Ottomans later in the year, as will be discussed later), and one of two Chilean battleships that was nearing completion. It was felt that these ships would be enough to maintain a comfortable numerical advantage over the Central Powers naval forces for the duration of what was so far being seen to be as a short war.

However, the fleet actions of the first three months of the war had raised some concerns. In particular, the catastrophic loss of HMS Indomitable, followed shortly after by the loss of her sister, HMS Inflexible, led to a major reconsideration by the cabinet, followed by queries to the Admiralty. While little had been accomplished before the removal of Churchill and Beresford’s demise, with the situation fast stabilizing in early November, the cabinet was pushing for action on the matter. After a short review and a confirmation of available materials, it was decided that the construction of pair of super dreadnoughts could be re-commenced almost immediately.

The question for the Admiralty was not so much if they wanted these ships, but what type of ship did they want? Discussions in the navy between Battenburg, Jellicoe and others had come to the conclusion that it was felt that with the new building there were enough battleships for the time being, at least in the format of what was in service or nearing completion. This suited the cabinet fine, as their concern was not with battleships, but rather battle cruisers. With that, the issue of battle cruisers would rear its ugly head once more. This push from the cabinet had been brought to the fore by the loss of the two battle cruisers mentioned previously, along with the damages suffered by not only the others, but what had been inflicted on their older cousins, the armoured cruisers, as well.

In the eyes of many in Great Britain and elsewhere, the battle cruiser was the epitome of the modern dreadnought. Fast, well armoured, and with a heavy broadside, they were considered to be the consummate ruler of the seas. However, those who knew the truth would only shake their heads at such thoughts. For while they were faster than standard dreadnoughts, their armour was much lighter and their main batteries had a lower throw weight as well, particularly in the case of the older British examples.

In actual fact, the two original classes of Royal Navy battle cruisers were originally conceived and built as an enlarged and modernized concept of the old armoured cruiser. The new designs were originally to be used in a similar manner, which was to pare back enemy cruisers and destroyers, as well as a heavyweight cruiser to patrol and dominate distant sea-lanes. At the same time, they would be covering their own lighter brethren while they scouted for enemy fleets, with the ability to run down anything inferior to them, while at the same time, be able to keep their distance from more powerful foes. While it was understood that there might be opportunities to stand in as a ship of the line in secondary theatres, the original concept on their uses would not place them in the main firing line in major fleet actions.

However, like the armoured cruiser before them, battle cruisers, mainly by their size and armament, would come to be seen as a second-class battleship. This thinking had started shortly after the turn of the century, and had been shown to have some merit in the Russo-Japanese War. While the Russian cruisers engaged had not shone as brightly as the Japanese had, both sides had used their big cruisers in the battle line with reasonable result.
Even as the success of the armoured cruiser in the Russo-Japanese came to be seen, improvements in the design process were called for. As with most other naval construction, the improvements in design for the armoured cruiser type would simply get larger, faster and take on a heavier armament.

The problem with this was that while they grew in size, the increase in the percentage of the total mass of the vessel needed for propulsion grew faster than other design considerations. The result was that the armoured cruisers increased in size by such a factor that in the final examples of the type their size and displacement was larger than the battleships of the day. However, even with the increase in size, the armoured cruiser could not carry the same weight of broadside or armour as the battleship.

Even more disconcerting was the disadvantage the big cruisers would be in any engagement where they might be engaged with a foe’s battleship, simply because of their size. For at 12,000 yards, with the smoke and haze of battle swirling about, they could very well be perceived as a battleship, and be dealt with as one. That was something that would have no good outcome in a modern naval environment, for while their armament and protection should limit them to fighting other cruisers, their size will draw the attention, and with it the fire, of battleships.

While this issue had had its roots in the armoured cruisers, the first of the British battle cruisers had taken it to a rather more pronounced level. In fact, the Invincibles’s, and the following Indefatigable, were not actually known as battle cruisers until 1911. They were officially known as armoured cruisers- as well as unofficially called dreadnought cruisers, cruiser-battleships, and of course, battle-cruiser on occasion – and in theory were not thought of as 1st class ships of the line. However, as the war clouds began to gather, and the numbers game of the naval race came into play, these half dozen dreadnoughts would help push Royal Navy numbers well into the lead. This would be all fine and good, as long as they were never to meet in battle enemy vessels with similarly sized main batteries. Sadly, that exclusion was not meant to be.

The follow on classes after the Invincibles’s and Indefatigable, the two ship Lion class, were much improved designs, stated to be superior to the best German design to that time, the Moltke’s. However, to get to that point, when, launched, they were the largest warships in the world. While they were the largest, they were nowhere near the best as far as armour went. The truth was they were probably closer to the original German battle cruiser, vonn der Tann, in protection; and even here they were not up to the same standard in many ways.

At roughly the same time as the Lion’s were being built, the governments of Australia and New Zealand had both agreed to construct a battle cruiser each. Through a combination of issues and concerns, these ships would be, in essence, throwbacks. Fiscal realities, concerns over actually getting the ships built, the perceived need for total numbers of serviceable units to counter German building programs, along with trying to recover from a near building freeze brought on by a Liberal government a couple of years previously, these dominion battle cruisers would be built to the much cheaper, and well dated, Indefatigable design.

The exact reasoning of the wherefore’s and the why’s of the decisions on choosing the designs of these two ships has never been fully understood. However, the end result was that instead of having two more Lion’s, that would have been a much more functional choice, the near desperation of the Admiralty to gain extra hulls led to the realization of this very dubious choice, a choice which would have consequence later in the war.

The last two pre-war battle cruisers, HMS Queen Mary and HMS Tiger, would be linear improvements on the Lion class. While the Queen Mary was a mediocre improvement, there was not a lot to separate her from the previous Lion’s. HMS Tiger however, was finally more of a proper step in the evolution of the British battle cruiser design philosophy. Being that as it may, it still was not quite enough to catch up with the German design trends. A second Tiger, HMS Leopard, was set out for the following year’s program; however, it would not go further than initial stages of consideration, before being cancelled. The reasoning behind this decision had been centered on the next class of battleships, the Queen Elizabeth’s. The Queen Elizabeth’s would not only be the first of the Royal Navy’s ships to mount the superlative 15”mark I rifle as their main battery, but would have a design speed of 25 knots. This would very much narrow the gap between the battleship and battle cruiser design philosophy, at a time when the Royal Navy was becoming less enamoured of the battle cruiser concept.

Starting with the Lion’s, the British battle cruiser designs had been based on the current class of battleships building, similar in manner to how the last of the last classes of armoured cruisers had corresponded to the current pre-dreadnought design. However, as the Queen Elizabeth’s were a substantial evolutionary step forward in the design philosophies, this would give pause to the actual need for a corresponding battle cruiser for that class of battleship. The result was that funding for HMS Leopard would be held back and used instead for a sixth Queen Elizabeth class in the 1914 program.

It had been hoped that the Dominion of Canada could be convinced to put up the funding for a further three modified Queen Elizabeth’s as well. With these three ships, along with the deferred Leopard replacement, and the original Queen Elizabeth’s, the Royal Navy would not only provide a proper counter to the High Seas Fleet’s battle cruisers, but would have a powerful battle squadron which would be able to stand in the line of battle as well.

However, sadly, between the defeat of the original Canadian Naval Bill (due to a combination of internal national politics and the tone of Winston Churchill’s near demands for acquiesce, which was found to be somewhat offensive by the Canadian government) and the building freeze at the start of the war, this hoped for advantage was not to be.

Therefore, it was, when the Cabinet came calling, that the Admiralty would make a choice for something rather more in between the two concepts, a proper fast battleship. The Admiralty’s choice would be for a ship with the same armament and protection of the Queen Elizabeth’s, with the speed as close to that of HMS Tiger that could be attained. The Admiralty would follow up this request almost immediately with another. Not only would they ask that the second Chilean battleship be brought to completion as expeditiously as possible, along with the third Turkish battleship. As well they also strongly lobbied for two additional fast battleships to be approved to make good the losses already suffered.

With suitable designs readily available with some alterations, and materials assembled for the last three R class battleships that could be used to start the process, the Cabinet approved the original pair shortly after the plan was proposed to them. They would deliberate on the second Chilean battleship and the Turkish ship until just before Christmas, before approving it. The second pair of fast battleships would finally get approval in early 1915. The ex-Chilean battleship, by then known as HMS Eagle, would join the fleet in February, 1916. The ex-Turkish ship, a sister to HMS Erin, would launch in March of 1916 as HMS Caledonia. The first pair of fast battleships would follow along shortly thereafter. HMS Renown would join the fleet in April of 1916, and HMS Repulse would follow in May. The next, HMS Resistance, would follow in September of 1914, while the last one, HMS Retaliation, delayed by the need to erect four more turrets and the associated barbettes, would take her place in the fleet in January of 1917.

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Another matter of concern was that of the new field of fire control for the fighting ships of the Royal Navy. While some work had been done previous to the war under the guidance of Admiral Percy Scott, this work had come to a standstill. This was mainly due to the intransigence of a goodly portion of commanders in the fleet, in combination with Scott’s caustic and rather bellicose attitude to others, as well as its main proponent in the Admiralty, Admiral Jellicoe, being promoted to command of the Grand Fleet. Scott was one of those people of a more genius bent; who, while very astute and practical, was driven to the point that any who questioned his workings would be singled out and attacked remorselessly.

The need for proper fire control for the navy was now readily understood after the poor gunnery results against both the Goeben and Spee’s forces were known. Admiral Scott was indeed the man to get it into place, however there needed to be someone who could manage him in such a way so as not to let his attitudes toward others undermine his efforts.

That person would appear as Admiral of the Fleet Baron John Fisher. Fisher had been rather a bit of a pest of late at the Admiralty as he was looking to make himself useful in the war effort. Battenburg, after consulting with McKenna, tasked Fisher with heading up special naval projects, until such a time that they might function independently. Once more being at the forefront of innovation in the fleet, Fisher readily agreed.

The first of these projects was to be the completion of installation of Fire control in the fleet. Admiral Percy Scott would be subordinate to him, and by the combination of the force of Fisher’s personality, and their respect for each other from working together previously, the operation would proceed in a relatively smooth and successful manner (or as good as it might get considering the personalities of this pair of men). The result of this would be that all the dreadnought types being fully equipped and operational with proper fire control units by the fall of the following year, and most of the cruisers by the spring of 1916.

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As well, there was the burgeoning threat from German submersibles, for which there seemed no ready answer. Submarine activities were proving to be a much more substantial threat than most had ever imagined. While a lot of that misunderstanding of the potential of submersibles could be laid squarely at the feet of the more traditional thinkers in the Royal Navy, there were few naval minds anywhere that would have actually felt the current results feasible only a few short years before. The losses in merchant shipping were mounting, and several fleet units had been lost as well. While a few of the so-called U-boats had been accounted for, it had not been near enough the total needed to slow the losses sustained from them. While alert lookouts would be able to discern a periscope or even possibly make out the shadowy form of these submersibles, these efforts barely made a scratch in the numbers of U-Boats needed to defeat the threat.

A new type of ship, which would be known to be known as a Q ship, would begin to make its appearance, and more merchantmen were being issued guns of the 12pdr type, however these were merely a quick fix. As it was felt that the issues at hand needed further thought, Battenburg and McKenna would bring in Fisher into the discussion. Fisher in turn surprised them by immediately taking his leave to gather in Admiral Scott. Scott, in his style, would turn up the next afternoon with a brief full of drawings and script. In his rather abrupt manner, Scott explained to Battenburg the principle of his hydrostatic pistol, which was attached to a sinking bomb, which he referred to as a variable depth charge device. He went on to explain how it might be launched or deployed, including delivering it by flying machine.

Rather incredulously Battenburg had asked about how it might be delivered by a flying machine, to which Scott rather brusquely replied that The First Sea Lord would have to talk to Admiral Kerr about that. Battenburg looked over at Fisher, who had the faintest of smirks on his face. He then turned to McKenna, who was rather agape. Battenburg asked Scott why he had not brought forth such plans and ideas before. Scott’s response was that he indeed had:
“... but your damned fools wouldn’t listen to me.”

According to Admiralty legend, Fisher’s smirk disappeared as Battenburg glare back at Scott for a moment before replying:
“Well Admiral Scott .... This damned fool is listening now.”

Whether an actual event or not, it was after this meeting that Admiral Fisher had another project added to his portfolio, along with orders to bring home Admiral Kerr, and any other people who might have information on naval flying machines.

With that, a new department was proposed, under the command of Admiral Fisher, which would look into and formulate the design, uses and application of new technologies for the Royal Navy. To keep it from the public eye as much as possible -which would be hard given Fisher’s fame and presence – Fisher would also be put in charge of a new cruiser design committee, a place where it was felt his efforts could be well camouflaged without too much concern for his tendencies to getting too overly creative. “After all,” Battenburg had supposedly quipped, ”What might our illustrious Baron do with a cruiser?”

While there never had been a Cruiser Design Committee, nor the intention to create one in a formal sense, there had been in place for a long time a group responsible for the continuing evolution of cruisers in the Admiralty. McKenna had been the one to recommend using it as a more formal body to cover other aspects of Fisher’s new responsibilities. Surprisingly enough, it would work quite well, and true to plan, Fisher was able to keep Scott under control, which for many was a success in itself. Some aspects of his influence on cruiser design would be another story.

While at this point, it appeared that possible solutions had been found for effectively attacking the U-boats, a means for properly detecting them at a safe distance needed to be found. It was a matter of no small luck that early in November a letter would appear from a Canadian physicist Robert William Boyle, who was in Britain at that time. Boyle was offering his assistance and expertise to the Admiralty to find a way to locate submersibles by ultrasonic sound waves. While studies had been ongoing in various departments and establishments, based on the workings of Fessenden oscillators and other such devices, not much if anything had been accomplished in the matter, with rudimentary hydrophone research being probably the most technical innovation being looked at currently.

Boyle’s offer was immediately brought to McKenna, who in turn introduced him to a study group, which would eventually form into the Anti-Submarine Division of the British Naval Staff. Upon looking at Boyle’s initial work, it was thought prudent to bring in a top British physicist to look over his ideas. Albert Beaumont Wood was sent for, and after consulting with Boyle it was felt that Boyle’s theories and ideas were on track. Wood agreed to stay on and collaborate with Boyle, and the fledgling Royal Navy submarine detection research unit was up and running by New Year’s Day, 1915.

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It would be late November when Admiral Kerr would finally arrive in London, in company with another officer, Captain Hugh Williamson. After introductions with McKenna and his staff, Kerr had told those present that he had asked Fisher to bring Williamson back as well, as his ideas on naval aviation as he called it, were even more knowledgeable than He could ever hope to be. They were soon joined by Fisher, and McKenna asked for reports to be prepared regarding the practical usage of naval aviation. With that, Admiral Fisher gathered in his newfound charges and bundled them off to offices in the nether regions of the Admiralty to take up their new duties.

Admiral Kerr had become somewhat of an issue for the Admiralty and even the British government in his last posting. It had become quite obvious to the foreign office that the Admiral had developed uncomfortably close ties with Greek officials (in particular the Greek Prime Minister). While after looking further into the issues it had been understood that he had indeed acted in the nations and navy’s best interests, there were many who felt uncomfortable with leaving him in that position. With the political situation in the Balkans stabilizing – at least by the standards of the region, if not elsewhere- it was felt that an officer more inclined to the technical needs of the Hellenic Fleet and better removed from political dallying would be a better choice, it had been proposed that something closer to home be found for Kerr.

It was hoped to be able to initiate such a move without upsetting the Greeks too much, however, because of Kerr’s popularity in Greece, the Admiralty would have to be careful. When the need to look into a more substantial use of flying machines in the Royal Navy, the Admiralty realized the opportunity, and seized upon it.

Kerr was an ideal choice to become the head of naval aviation. He a firm believer in the advantages posed by the possibilities of the new applications of the flying machines and he had applied much thought and study to those possibilities. As well, he was the first Flag Officer to hold an Aviator’s Certificate, having learned to fly earlier in the year. When his orders were received that he was to return to London to assume his new duties, his only delay would be time spent on getting Captain Williamson’s orders drafted as well.

Out of all the ‘Wizards’ as they came to be known in the Admiralty, perhaps Rear Admiral Kerr was the one to be the most worrisome initially. In his first weeks in the Admiralty, he had very much the appearance of a hunted man. While in his previous posting as the Royal Navy’s naval advisor to Greece, he had developed very strong bonds with the higher echelons of the Greek government, as well as reported ties with the King, and at a much later point it became known that Kerr had done his best to help keep Greece out of the war.

There had been unusual reports of a group of at least three, and as many as seven, colliers that had been operating under suspicious conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first days of the war. While these ships had been gathered up, no one managed to get a clear answer on their reasons for being where they were. There had been theories that these ships and their cargoes had links to not only the Turks and the Greeks, but Germany as well. More importantly, some had even postulated that the mastermind behind the operation may well have been Rear Admiral Kerr himself, with the blessing of Churchill. This was an association that raised many eyebrows, as there were those that understood that the only reason Kerr was sent to Greece to lead the naval mission was that Churchill wanted to keep plum appointments that he might have been placed into for his own favourites.

While the matter was managed well enough to keep it from the public eye, snippets of information would make their appearance regarding, among other things, an operation of sorts to assist in the movement of the German warships Goeben and Breslau to Turkey to help the Turks to keep Istanbul free of Russian advances. This thought process had surfaced rather suddenly after it was realized that the cancelling of the agreement to deliver the pair of dreadnoughts building in Great Britain, that Turkey would have next to nothing in the way of an effective naval counter to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

According to the final few snippets ,the issue disappeared rather suddenly, after certain members of the staff of the Admiralty were ‘consulted with’ by rather unsettling gentlemen from an unknown government branch, and much quicker than the whole process had appeared, interest in it melted away.

According to some, even the highest levels of the Admiralty were included in these ’discussions’. While this was never proven at that point in time, at the height of the Malayan Emergency in 1951, there had been a release of classified information regarding an attempted diplomatic effort involving several levels of government, including the Admiralty, in early August of 1914. This effort was to bolster the Ottomans in 1914 in the face of Russian expansionism in the Balkans, and while the plan never moved to fruition, the highest levels of government and the navy had been made aware of the operation after the fact.

While the whole notion of such activity would leave most to wonder to the validity of this so-called operation, it must be noted that in the timeframe soon after these supposed final events, Rear Admiral Mark Kerr, came into his own. Maybe of slightly more import, while other departments in the Admiralty would have their trying moments in the months and years ahead, Admiral Kerr’s naval aviation committee stood out as being one of the most successful branches of the Admiralty, and as some would state, that Kerr never seemed to want for anything. For the most part, what Kerr wanted, Kerr received. Admiral Kerr would head the Naval Aviation committee until his retirement in 1926. He is fondly remembered as Father of the modern Royal Navy Air Service.

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Probably one of the most disturbing bits of information from the first sea battles was reports of the ineffectiveness of a good portion of the Royal Navy’s shells. Both at the battles in the Mediterranean, as well as off Easter Island, there were reports from interrogated prisoners that spoke of the ineffectiveness of a large percentage of the shells that struck German ships. In the last weeks of 1914, questions would be raised with those industries responsible for their manufacture, however little would be gained. Initially, the manufacturers just tended to brush queries off, however when the Admiralty researchers insisted on pushing the issue for a proper response, the industrialists in turn mounted their own riposte. Using their wealth and influence, particularly in Parliament and the House of Lords, there was a major backlash on the Admiralty in general and McKenna and Battenburg in particular.

Near the same responses would be seen when the issue of the catastrophic loss of the two battle cruisers was questioned as well. While it was an accepted fact since Fisher had vacated the Admiralty that battle cruisers, and in particular the half dozen original British built ones, should not stand in the battle line as their defensive armour was not adequate to protect them from heavy shells. However, to have two lost in spectacular magazine explosions set off alarm bells at the Admiralty, and was further bolstered by the general populace of Great Britain. It would, in the end be the general be the questioning of the average British citizen, along with the world press, about the loss of the two battle cruisers, which would gain the Admiralty enough support to begin the proper study and testing of not only the ships themselves, but their shells and powder as well.

Even with support for the navy evident, there were still those in industry who felt there was no need for any investigation. While those who still would attempt to pass the losses off as bad luck and bring an end of the issue, did not consider what Battenburg had been through in the previous months, nor how McKenna had grown to appreciate his drive and strength of conviction.

After discussions in the Admiralty, it was decided to bring in Captain Fredric Dreyer, probably the Royal Navy’s brightest expert on gunnery and associated systems. He would begin his work in December of 1914, looking first into the stowage and handling practices of powder and shells in the ships of the Royal Navy. One of his earliest discoveries was how orders put in place by Admiral Callahan in an effort to increase the rate of fire to offset inaccurate long-range gunnery. This not only included unsecure storage of powder and shell, but also included the suppression of safe handling of said items in their movement from the magazines to the guns. Dreyer’s first success would be to have the reinstatement of all proper stowage and handling procedures by mid January, 1915.

In seeking out the answer to the riddle of the spectacular loss of Indomitable and Inflexible, along with other vessels since that time, Admiral Dreyer would successfully carry out a large number of scientifically monitored tests. It would culminate in the spectacular destruction of the old battleship, HMS Jupiter, at a secluded point on the Scottish coast on April 9th, 1915. With these tests he proved beyond doubt that there were serious issues with not only the Cordite charges, but the Lyddite shell fillers as well. While it would take almost a year to address these issues properly, Further study would see that temporary remedial actions would be in place by early July which would help mitigate some if not all of the issues with these products.

As to the shells themselves, more advanced studies would be undertaking, looking into not only the basic quality control issues which had been known about for some time, but also looking at things as diverse as the depth of shell walls, relative brittleness of the shell casings and possible advances in shell fusing. This would prove to be rather dragged out and evolutionary in its process of development. As a result while certain aspects of the shell design process would manifest in short order, others would take much longer. The complete redesign, in its first form known as the Green Boy, would not begin to appear in the fleet until the spring of 1916, and then only in limited numbers. It would be in widespread usage by the fall of 1916, in all major calibers. Its improved sibling, known as the Blue Boy would appear in general fits of ammunition in the summer of 1917.

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While these are some of the more important challenges the Admiralty had to deal with, they are an example of the ongoing dynamic that had to be managed in the Royal Navy as the war continued. More importantly, even as these issues were dealt with, more would appear, for no matter what might be accomplished, there would always be new challenges, events and scenarios that would rise up to challenge the brightest minds of the Empire. However, as they did in their darkest early days of the war, the Men of the Royal Navy would stand to and pursue the course needed to gain the proper result.

 
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Chapter 4
Congregation
Without doubt, the most crucial decisions to be made in the Admiralty would revolve around positions of command, both in positions, which had been become open by casualty, resignation or dismissal. The Royal Navy had a very pronounced system of ranking and seniority, which with small exception was for the most part accepted. However, with the need finally being seen after the various follies of the likes of Milne and others of his bent, the wheels were slowly beginning to turn under the appreciation that the best men for the job would need to be found. While not always finding the proper placement, those responsible for promotion would begin to try to apply the understanding that the best man for the job was not necessarily the next in line for promotion. At the same time, there began a conscious effort to look for those whose specialties, interests and even quirks might make them well suited for a variety of specialized positions not only in the fleet, but in the Admiralty as well.

Admiral David Beatty was an early example of that exception, and had been brought up ahead of others more senior, when he had first been given command of 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, and then again, when shortly there-after when He was given command of the Battle Cruiser Fleet. Part of that special advancement included faster increases in rank, both in regular and acting rank. At the time of his death Beatty held the acting rank of Vice Admiral, instead of his current actual rank of Rear Admiral. He would have been given the full rank early in the New Year if not for his death in action. Now, however there were several posts to fill, including Beatty’s.

Beatty’s interim replacement had Rear Admiral Gordon Moore, the commander of 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron at the time of Beatty’s death.. Moore would hold the position until mid November. While Moore was not a sailor with the dynamic of Beatty, He was a solid tactician, and a man who never seemed to be far from competent thought. As four of the British battle cruisers would be laid up for repairs for most of the period he was in command, most of his time would be spent on training and dealing with the damages taken by the fleet’s battle cruisers in the Mediterranean, the Pacific and at Helgoland, tasks he was admirably suited for.

Beatty’s permanent replacement would be a Churchillian exile, Rear Admiral Christopher Craddock, who had been the recent commander of the North American Station, before being ordered south to the Falklands in an attempt to block passage of the German Far Eastern Squadron. With Patey’s victory at Easter Island, Craddock’s rather desultory and obsolete force had returned to the duty of sweeping the Atlantic for reported remaining German light cruisers and merchant raiders.

Why an Admiral considered capable of assuming Beatty’s position had been languishing in an out of the way backwater was soon discovered to be due to Churchill’s desire to place blame on Craddock after the Navy’s bungled rescue of survivors from the P&O liner Delhi which had grounded near Tangier in the early winter of 1911. While the delay in rescue efforts was due to misguided refusal of RN wireless to respond to merchant messages, Churchill placed the blame on Craddock, who had simply been the senior officer on board after the Royal Navy finally deemed it fit to rescue those people stranded. The fact that the passenger list included the Duke of Fife and his Wife, the Princess Royal, led Churchill to suppose that a scapegoat would be needed. In this case it came to be Rear Admiral Craddock, who just happened to be the senior officer present when rescue operations were finally put into action.

In his last weeks in the South Atlantic, Craddock had achieved no small amount of notoriety when his forces had first happened upon a German light cruiser near Punta Arenas on October17th. Craddock had sighted the vessel while heading west to bolster other ships of his command that had been ordered to patrol along the western coast of South America, in search of stragglers from the battle off Easter Island. The ship sighted was the SMS Dresden, which had been the last remaining German warship of von Spee’s command.

After a spirited engagement, the doughty German cruiser seemed likely to escape back to the west; however, the arrival of the Cruiser HMS Monmouth and the armed merchant cruiser Otranto from the west put paid to that option. Badly outnumbered, the German cruiser gave a good account of itself before finally being marked down. It had come as a rather big surprise when Admiral Spee was found to be among the survivors, as the British had been led to believe he had been lost with his flagship at Easter Island.

While sinking the last of Spee’s cruisers along with capturing Spee himself, Craddock might have considered the possibility of being sent home; however one of the last commands that Churchill was to give was to embark Von Spee and his surviving crewmen on board the AMC HMS Otranto, and send them back to Britain under escort of HMS Glasgow. Craddock was ordered to continue his search for the last unaccounted German cruiser in the Atlantic, SMS Karlsruhe.

Craddock had returned to Port Stanley in the Falklands, where his ships restocked with coal and provisions, in preparations for redeployment northward, toward the last reports of Karlsruhe’s operation. Craddock had decided that He would travel in company with the two returning ships as far as Ascension Island before angling north-west toward the Caribbean. Sending HMS Monmouth north along the eastern coast of South America to meet HMS Essex which was patrolling down from Rio De Janeiro, Craddock, with his flagship HMS Good Hope, along with HMS Glasgow and HMS Otranto left for Ascension on November 25th. Arriving at ascension on the 29th, Craddock found orders for the squadron to hold up there to await further orders. After four days, he was ordered to switch his flag to Glasgow, and return with Otranto to Portsmouth.

With Churchill gone from the Admiralty, Craddock returned home to assume command of the Battle Cruiser Fleet in mid November, replacing Rear Admiral Moore and allowing him to return to command of the 2nd BCS. Craddock would be given the acting rank of Vice Admiral as an interim measure, until his new permanent rank took hold.

Arriving in Portsmouth on November 9th, he was very much surprised to be met by none other than the First Sea Lord himself. After a private dinner, over which his new deployment was discussed, he boarded a train to start his journey to Cromarty, where he would assume his new command as the Commander of the Battle Cruiser Fleet.

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Admiral Craddock’s orders to command the Battle Cruiser Fleet was just one of several to take place in the month of November. These would see the likes of Admiral Sackville Carden posted to command the Mediterranean Squadron, Admiral John de Robeck being sent out to The North America Station and Admiral Arbuthnot being dispatched to South America Station.

Rear Admiral Arbuthnot stands out as an interesting study as to dealing with high-level officers in a time of changing rules and standards. Arbuthnot held rather extreme values regarding not only rules of order, but fitness and religion as well. While to some he was an adequate officer, for the most part, he was being considered as closer to unstable as each year would pass.

In a perfect world He might simply have been beached, however Arbuthnot had enough connections that if the attempt was made there well might be repercussions. It had been decided that may haps a position in an out of the way locale would be of best service to all. That was when the position of the South Atlantic Station was presented. This led to further discussion in which it was thought that it may well be a good place for him, as the only enemy vessels unaccounted for anywhere near his base of operations were two German light cruisers, SMS Emden in the Indian Ocean, and SMS Karlsruhe operating near the Caribbean on last report.

Those discussing the matter were fast coming to an agreement when the Second Sea Lord, Admiral Hamilton, wondered aloud regarding the fate of the ratings that would serve under Arbuthnot in such a place as the Falkland Islands?
“To serve under such an officer in a place as Port Stanley would be harsh duty even as a defaulter.”

While the comment was given more as dry wit, as people present finished their sniggers and snorts, there was a moment of quiet before Battenburg spoke. After inquiring as to the number of defaulters in the navy at that point, he asked where they were stationed for the penalty time, although he already knew the answer.

When it was stated that the main defaulter ship in the Royal Navy was its newest battle cruiser, HMS Tiger, stationed at Cromarty, He himself wondered aloud if a seasoned old armoured cruiser stationed at Port Stanley might be a better choice for such duties. After further discussion, it was confirmed to post Admiral Arbuthnot south to Port Stanley with his new command, consisting of a pair of old armoured cruisers, along with a pair of light cruisers.

After questions were raised as to the possibility of Arbuthnot’s ‘abilities’ eventually setting off more profound scenarios, it was decided- to be on the safe side- a company of Royal marines and a provost platoon would be sent along to help keep the peace.

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While these are but few of the command postings at the time, these would prove to be some of the more crucial ones in the next weeks, months and years as the Royal Navy continued to further take its place at the helm of naval operations for the Entente Powers. While no man is a perfect officer, and there still would be mistakes made in the choices for commands, the change had begun. These and other appointments made in the last days of 1914 and continuing into the first weeks of the new year, would later be recognized as the beginning of a new Royal Navy, one in which merit and skill would become dominant over patronage and privilege.

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Chapter 5
Much Ado

Before moving on to look at 1915, it is important to take into consideration the nations bordering the Adriatic, the Balkans and Asia Minor. While the year would finish off with serious military activity in these areas, it would be stabilized very much in the Entente’s favour. While there were still ample grounds for concern as the Central Powers shifted assets to bolster efforts, the Entente would remain cautiously optimistic with the region for the time being.

With the victory over the High Seas Fleet’s Mediterranean squadron in the first few days of the war, the balance of power in the Mediterranean shifted slightly in the Entente’s favour. This balance was further bolstered by the Italians continuing to maintain their neutrality. As long as the Italians – who had originally been a member of the Central Powers before backing away from their treaty commitments – stayed out of the fight, the remaining Central Powers naval assets, the Austrian navy, could be contained relatively easily in the Adriatic. Bolstered by a reduced RN Mediterranean squadron, the French fleet was large enough to maintain a stranglehold on the Austrians by maintaining a blockade at the Adriatic exits as long as the Italians kept their current status.

For the Italians, there were complications that would have a bearing on how and when they might enter the war, and on which side they might join. For while there were traditional alignments for them that had been the basis of their original reasons for joining the Central Powers, there were also other scenarios whereby an association with the Entente might put them in good stead as well. In the original selection of joining the Central Powers, there was the feeling that Italy could make better territorial gains at the expense of the French in Europe, as well as in North Africa, as Italy had irredentist claims in the Nice regions as well as Monaco, along with designs on Tunisia. Possibly of more importance was the effect the final settlements of the selection of Balkan wars that had been fought in the last few years. While the Italians had gained Libya and the Dodecanese from the Turks, and had developed private agreements with the French regarding Morocco, as well as influence in Tunisia, and a growing influence in Albania, the Italian position was rather weak.

After the London Treaty to settle out the Balkan and Italo-Turkish Wars, Italy would find its gains substantially pared back. The Dodecanese would have be returned to Turkey in a rather complex manner after Libya was properly annexed. As to Albania, much to the disgust of not only Italy, but the other neighbouring countries as well, This small Balkan nation would be allowed to set its new course without the interference of its neighbours, so Italian designs on moving Albania into her sphere of influence was denied. The quiet deal with France regarding Tunisian influence and allowances for Moroccan adventures seemed to fade away as well. In the case of Tunisia, the French would handily forget most of the Italian concerns with the region, while the Italians soon found that any mention of Morocco raised the concerns of the British, due to its proximity to Gibraltar.

While the Italians went home from these negotiations feeling rather disappointed to put it mildly, there were those in Italy who would be rather grateful for the turn of events. The Italo-Turkish War had been completed successfully, it had been done at a terrible cost in gold. The final expenditures were in the neighbourhood of 1.6 Billion lire, almost one and a quarter billion higher than originally projected. As well, the final subjugation of the new Libyan territories was an ongoing expense, for while the urban areas were under control, the hinterlands would not be fully stabilized for a long time to come.

The return of the Dodecanese Islands, while a bit of a blow, would not impact greatly for the most part. They had been captured during the war more in an effort to cut the Turks seaborne supply lines than for any other reason. As well the closeness of British held Cyprus was a concern, as most Italians did not want to have the English take issue with them. While the initial plan was for the Dodecanese to be returned to Turkish control beginning in 1914, the start of the Great War would delay that, and it would be at a future point that the Italians would complete their withdrawal from the area.

The Italian interest in Albania had been denied as well, however the Italians would manage to maintain business interests in the port of Vlore, much to the dismay of the Austrians. For even as Italy looked to building their interests in Albania to dominate the entrances to the Adriatic, The Austro- Hungarians had interests in seeing that this did not happen, making Italian activity at Vlore worrisome for them. These activities would be very counter-productive to bettering Italo-Austrian co-operation, and would provide substance for those in Italy who did not want Italy to join the Central Powers when they went to war.

While these political decisions would have their impact on Italy’s choices, there were other facets which would temper the Italian decision making process as well. Of major concerns was the afore mentioned accumulated debt from the Italo-Turkish War, along with ongoing pacification expenditures in Libya. Added to that would be not only their long and hard to defend coastlines, and their scattered island possessions in the Mediterranean. There was further concern with their colonial holdings in East Africa, which would need access to the Suez Canal if they were to be sustained. The only real threat to most of these places would come from the British and the French. While both of these nations had in fact been seen as the biggest opposition to further Italian expansion, neither had acted in any way that might make it appear they were interested in any of Italy’s existing holdings. However, if Italy decided to stay in the Central Powers and go to war against the Entente, the approach by the British and French would surely change in these regards.

Many would argue that the Italian Fleet, with the backing of the Austrian fleet, would be able to command the Mediterranean and preclude most Entente naval adventures. This might have been true, except for the real Achilles’ heel of the Italian fleet, which was coal. Italy’s domestic coal supply was virtually non-existent, and the nation depended for the bulk of its coal on foreign import, with a good portion of that either coming from markets controlled by the French and British, or from those nations themselves. Even if it was not originating in those places controlled by the Entente, it would have to traverse sea-lanes dominated by them.

Another point to be considered by the Italians was that while Italian irredentists had claims on French territories, their designs on the erstwhile allies Austria were very much larger. It was felt by many supporting action against their old allies would gain a better result if the Italians played their hand properly. This would leave the Italians at the start of the war being rather quiet, yet watching developments closely. With small exception, they would do their best to be implicitly neutral and not take action to offend either alliance in the early days of the war. While doing their best to prepare, the Italians wanted to beg off joining the fight too soon, preferring to wait until it was in their best interest to join whichever side they saw fit.

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Further east, the Ottoman Turks would be at a loss to make up their mind as well. The Turks, like the Italians and the Balkan nations, had been through a period of heavy and expensive warfare. While the Turks were still smarting from the loss of large areas that they had previously controlled, they were in many ways unprepared to begin another war to regain it, without the strong support of at least one great power.

It was a historical, as well as geographical, reality that by far the largest threat to the Ottomans was Russia. It was a well known diplomatic fact around the globe that the Russians had their eyes on Constantinople and the straits for centuries, as that would give them unfettered access to the Mediterranean, and with that access came access to the world. As the war began, the Turks were very concerned about this fact, even more so than the longings of other Entente members who had interest in Ottoman territories of their own.

The Turkish defence minister, Envers Pasha, had concluded a secret treaty with Germany in the hours before the war, but it had not as yet been ratified by the Ottomans. While Envers and others in his clique would try their utmost to commit the Ottoman Empire to declare for the Central Powers, they would not be successful in this attempt.

While the Ottomans had a large and reasonably well trained army, the state of their navy was lamentable to say the least. When the two dreadnoughts building in Britain had been denied them in the last minutes of peace, the Turks found themselves left in a very exposed position. Both the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts were vulnerable to action by the respective Entente fleets, and the Turks had no real way to defend them, or threaten Entente naval assets.

There has been much made of the theory that the German battle cruiser Goeben and her consort, the light cruiser Breslau, would have had a great impact on a possible early entry of Turkey into the Great War if they had arrived safely at Constantinople. However, while many hypothesis have been presented regarding their possible operations in Turkish waters, it seems to most that the impact of a single battle cruiser and light cruiser would have had no serious impact on early attempts to get the Ottomans to join the Central Powers, particularly with the combined might of the British, French and Russian fleets to oppose them.

While the threat from the Entente in general (and out of that group, the Russians, in particular) was seen as real, there was still not only the Italians, but Greece and Bulgaria to consider as well. Add to that, the threat of Armenian separatists, along with dissent throughout Arabia and the Levant, and it reveals just how uncertain the fate of the Ottoman Empire actually was at that time.

While the secret pact with Germany, as well as the ultimate destination of Goeben and Breslau being the Golden Horn as a means to bolster the afore mentioned pact, would not be agreed to or implemented, there were those in the Ottoman’s ranks who would have still preferred to throw in their lot with the Germans. They had wanted to join the fight immediately after the war’s declarations between the two great alliances. However, Prince Suliman would have none of it, feeling that it was not the time or place to be warring with anyone outside their empire when there was so much dissent within.

Germany had made a great effort to bring the Ottomans into the Central powers, being rewarded by a proper treaty in the last moments of peace. While the pro Central Powers Clique under Envers Pasha had finalized the treaty the decidedly more pro Entente leadership not only had not been informed, but also in all likelihood would not support it. For while Envers- and others that supported him- seen the opportunity in joining the Central Powers, the more moderate view was that Turkey’s coasts, both on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, were too exposed to action by the Entente.

But even as the upper strata of the Ottoman structure was working to contain the desire of Envers Pasha and others, to join the Central Powers alliance, while at the same time restoring good relations with the Entente. One of the best arguments Envers had was the seizure of the two dreadnoughts building in Great Britain. They claimed it showed the true feelings of not only Great Britain, but also the entente as a whole. As well they let it be known that the Entente would like nothing better than to see the Ottoman Empire prostrate before them, allowing it to be carved up at their leisure. The Central Powers had no such interests, or at least that was how they projected the argument.

While in truth the members of the Entente did have more than a passing interest in the Ottoman Empire, the main view of Great Britain, and to a lesser degree France, was that the Ottomans were still valuable as a rampart against further westward expansion of the Russian Empire. As long as the Ottomans were strong, and clearly associated with Entente interests, the Ottomans were best left in place.

It was however one of the many quandaries of the political situation of the era how France- and more particularly Great Britain – could strive to bolster Turkey’s position in the north while at the same time drive the Ottoman’s back in the Levant, Iraq and Arabia. It had become a very convoluted diplomatic picture in the later months of 1914 as the British and French used their diplomatic wiles to keep the Ottomans neutral, while at the same time backing semi-clandestine efforts to destabilize the southern areas of the Ottoman Empire, just in case.

So while they did have interests in the southern portions of the Ottoman Empire, due to the present war, the Entente had no real interest or proper manpower and resources with which to deliver a positive result in these areas in the early months of the war. The main priority for the British would to be to keep the Ottomans out of the fighting and safe from Russian encroachment if possible for the interim.

The conflict in the Turkish government had become more intense as the days moved on past the first week of August. The alliance with Germany had been supposedly near ratification by August 2nd, however, neither the Sultan nor Djemal Pasha, one of the three members of the ruling triumvirate had signed the document. For without any substantial solid support, many influential Turks would stand in the way of acceptance of the German treaty. While the agreement was secret in theory, it wasn’t but a matter of a day before the knowledge of it was circulating, and by the afternoon of the 5th the Entente was in full awareness of it in principle, if not in full detail.

So while Enver, his associates and the Germans were initially pleased with their hopes of a ratification, there soon started a movement by others to reverse the process in hopes of calming the diplomatic situation. As the Three Pashas and their CUP party had become more extreme since the coup of 1913, they would set about dealing with any objections to the alliance in very heavy handed manners. All this would accomplish in the short term was more dissent and unease across the Ottoman Empire.

While the bulk of the opposition to the CUP had been imprisoned, murdered or driven in to exile, there were still those in Turkey who would begin to take steps to oppose the Pashas action. While in many cases they were operating independently, the opposition began to coalesce, and as summer slid into fall, there was a series of clandestine meetings as some of the groups began to align. As Envers and his supporters began to realize that something was afoot, he began to organize further steps to better solidify his hold on power and end once and for all the threat to his pact with Germany.

While there was never any large organized movement that assembled to stop the progression of the alliance in a formal manner, on the night of September 13th, a group of exiles that had been in Egypt, found their way back to Turkey. They were members of the “Saviour Officers”, which had been affiliated with the now suppressed LU opposition party, the last real opposition to the CUP. While never fully proven, the theory was that they were called back at the bequest of Sultan Mehmed V, to try to stop Turkey from being dragged into the war. Three days later Envers Pasha and Talaat Pasha would be dead, as would the Grand Visier Said Halim Pasha,, along with several other high ranking members of the CUP party, leaving Turkey was in a state of shock, and LU moving to once more solidify their control on the nation.

The rest of September and well into October would be a time of tribulation, unrest and fear in the Ottoman Empire as the Sultan and his supporters struggled to regain control of the Empire. While the main threat to stability came from within, there were interests beyond the Ottoman boundaries that would be looking for any advantage as well. In the southern regions of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs would ramp up their efforts to lead their lands out of surety to the Turks, while in the east, the Assyrians and Armenians would begin to explore their options as well. In the Levant, more unrest would begin as clashes began among the various religious groups in the region.

More importantly however, on the borders of European Turkey, the Bulgarians were mobilizing, while the Russians had increased their naval patrols along the Turkish Black Sea coast. The Turks would be forced to make some fast decisions, and for the most part, their actions were satisfactory. By far the most important one was to reinforce the frontier with Bulgaria, with a lighter presence on the Greek border. Their next move was to begin to send troops on the gruelling journey to the border with Russia. In the south and south east, their efforts were substantially limited, and they would concern themselves with more of a police and patrol action, than to prepare for heavy offensive operations. Such manoeuvres would have to wait until such a time as they might be able to calm the major threats to the north and east.

By the end of October the Turks were getting concerned, as both the Russians and Bulgarians were becoming more aggressive in their stances. In the east, the Armenians were causing more issues, more than likely with the blessing of the Russians. Into the territories of the Assyrians and the Arabs further south, while the events continued they were operating at a much lower tempo, and in the Levant it was possibly starting to balance out.

The Sultan had given instructions to cancel the allegiance with Germany, as well as stopping the negotiations with Bulgaria that had started just before the removal of the previous government. The Germans were incensed, and would attempt to have the Turks reconsider, but with their champion removed, there was little hope of further gain.

The Russians were pressuring, with both naval squadrons and in the eastern frontier areas, and fomenting rebellion in the territories bordering them. The Russian’s western allies, and in particular Great Britain, were greatly displeased by Russia’s actions. After a formal request to the Turks, Great Britain would send a delegation to Istanbul to see what might be done to stabilize the Ottoman Empire. It arrived on October 15th, and after the initial greetings, both sides got down to the business at hand. The French delegation would arrive three days later. By the time the French turned up, the British had hammered out a deal with the Turks. The Russians in turn had sent delegates, however after their aggressive posturing of late, the Turks had been successful in making sure that they were there simply as observers.

The British and French made the Russians understand in no uncertain terms that the Turkish borders were inviolate at this point in time, and further actions against the Turks by the Russians would not be well received. With the Entente backing down for the interim, the Ottomans would attempt to stabilize their empire and hopefully stay their course away from the war now consuming Europe.

The British knew by mid August of Envers pact with the Central Powers, as well as understanding that Prince Sulieman or other members of the cabinet did not yet approve the pact. They also understood the impact of the seizure of the Turkish battleships completing in British yards, and how it was being used against the Entente position. The British had stressed to Prince Sulieman that the sole reason for their seizure was simply the need to maintain a sufficient lead in numbers over the High Seas Fleet. While somewhat empathetic to the British position, the Prince raised the point that with the British decision, they had left the coasts of the Ottoman Empire exposed in a much more serious manner. It was hoped that the British might come up with a solution to help ease the current fears of the Ottomans. The Ottomans let it be known that the release of the pair of Dreadnoughts to them would be the preferred path to not only stabilizing the current situation, but keeping them firmly out of an alliance with the Central Powers.

After a period of discussions, along with consultations with both the Admiralty and the British government, an agreement in principle was reached in early November whereby one of the dreadnoughts, Sultan Osman-i Evvel, would be returned to the Ottomans. While Churchill had been the First Lord of the Admiralty, the attempts to turn the ship over to the Ottomans was strongly opposed by him. However, with his removal, in conjunction with an honest look at the vessel, it was decided that with the ship being of questionable value at best, it would be best to let the Ottomans have her if it would calm the situation. So it was that on December 1st, 1914, that the crew of the Turkish battleship would once more arrive in Great Britain to eventually take their vessel home. It would be an eventful February 17th, 1915 when the new flagship of the Ottoman navy would drop anchor across from the Golden Horn, and the Ottomans would finally have the beginnings of a modern fleet.

While the Turks were happy, initially most everyone else in the region was not. The Italians, not long away from a war with the Ottomans, held major concerns regarding the arrival of the battleship in Turkish waters, feeling that it might well provide a catalyst for the Turks to redress their losses to Italy. The Greeks in turn would let on that their displeasure was genuine as well, however secretly they were rather more settled in their response due to the fact that in their opinion the Turkish battleship would help provide a stronger defence against a Russian move on the Straits.

The Bulgarians held grave concerns with the delivery of the new Ottoman warship, as they held no vessel anywhere near to being able to counter such a ship. With the Balkan Wars fresh on their minds, they were fearful of the Ottomans ability to bombard their coast with impunity with this new battleship, and would force them to rethink their relations with their various neighbours in the region, as well as overtures from the Germans.

The Russians were initially livid, as they seen the deal as one allowed by the British to further limit their demands for the Straits. However, given the strategic position that the Russians found themselves in after the disastrous losses at the Battle of Tannenburg and elsewhere in the early months of the war, there was little at the time they could do. There were several effects from the stabilization of the Ottomans that would actually work to the Russians advantage, the first being that they could actually move forces from their frontier with the Ottoman Empire to help make up for losses sustained in Prussia and Poland.

Another advantage was that with Bulgaria reconsidering its position, as a result of the arrival of the Turkish battleship, there was a strong possibility of the Bulgarians allowing the transfer of needed supplies to the Serbians across their territory in exchange for protection from the Turkish dreadnought. However, probably the most important advantage was that as part in parcel with the agreement to release the battleship, the Turks had agreed to a liberal flow of trade through the straits to and from Russia. It held caveats that while the supply of goods and materials would be for the most part unfettered, there would be very strict controls on the movement of Russian military personnel.

While this agreement would appear to many not privy to the complete situation as overly generous, in fact in the British view it was rather more cynical. While there would be a great uproar in the British press regarding the release of the battleship, it would eventually settle out as the war progressed. Many would be curious as to why the British would release what was believed by many laymen to be a very powerful vessel at a time when the Royal Navy needed every vessel it could muster, the British were careful to publicly state that it was more important to foster good relations with the Ottomans at that point. The British government would publicly state their thanks to the Ottomans as well for allowing the British to keep the second vessel, as well as a sister ship to that vessel which would continue to be constructed. To further enhance the spirit of goodwill and understanding between the two empires the British government agreed to return to the Ottomans all funds paid by the Ottomans for both the returned vessel, as well as the two other ones. The British agreed that the two newer vessels would be sold back to the Turks at a substantial discount at the end of hostilities, or if the Turks preferred, two new vessels would be constructed in their place.

The end result would be that for losing the services of a dreadnought of questionable value, The British and their allies would gain so much more. The British would find that they not only stabilized the Ottomans at a very sensitive time, it would also allow for better supplies to the Serbs in their fight against the Austrians along with guaranteeing a supply and trade route to Russia.

 
... just a comment or two here ... some of this will stay, some will go .... there's more to come ... as well as better paragraph spacing ...at this point it's somewhat wankish, but it may improve ...thanks for checking in!
 
Okay sat down to read this and off to a good start :) Beatty's death is no real loss, the man and his staff were fools. But Kit Craddock as commander of the BCF...very interesting, he was a damn good Officer.
 
Thank you all for having a look, it is appreciated.

There is a lot more to follow, and this will not be abandoned ... in actual fact, it hasn't been abandoned even up to this point. It has just been a bit interesting for me as the research has developed into this particular project. It seems that every time this gets close to moving forward, some new bit of 'intelligence' is found whereby major changes need to be made. I have reached a point where things are smoothing out into the developed format I want to present, so here it goes.

As to updates, until the end of the month and into early May it will likely be irregular, as I am finishing up work in the next couple of weeks, then we're prepping for a break away to Panama for a month or so to visit the in-laws and help celebrate Mamita's eightieth birthday. Once there, there will be more time for getting updates out.

After Panama, if all goes according to plan, We'll be off to Argentina for the ski season (my better half is a ski instructor ... I don't ski ), and my days will be concentrated on Spanish lessons and writing ... probably not in that order ... lol ... I love it when a plan goes together!

Thanks again for stopping by!
 
Chapter 6
Into the Adriatic

While the Austrian-Hungarian Army had made some gains against heavy losses, the re-invigorated Serbians, backed by their Montenegrin and French allies, had at first held the Austrians, then threw them back. By October, the Serbs had liberated Belgrade and had forced the Central Powers out of Serbia proper.

With Italy not yet declaring for the Central Powers, and the Entente beginning to pour men and material into Serbia, the Austrians were coming to the realization that something would have to be done to stop the Entente before the Balkans were lost completely.

Italy and Austria had both found common ground when Greece had occupied North Epirus in early October, as both nations had seen the importance of Albania’s strategic location at the mouth of the Adriatic. While Italy had a stronger influence in the Kingdom, Austria too had interests in seeing that Albania was not carved up for the benefit of Greece.

Because of the cooling of relations with the Entente due to the Greek seizure of Epirus and the warming of relations with Austria, the Italian naval sources were sharing intelligence with the Austrians regarding the whereabouts of Entente naval forces in the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean. With the various rebuffs by the Entente toward Italy, both real and perceived, this had developed to such a degree by early October that relations with the Entente were once more becoming strained. This was seen by many in both nations who supported Italy honouring her treaty obligations that while Italy had still not declared for the Central Powers, the grounds were there to finally do so.

Even as this warming continued, there were still influential Italians of a more pragmatic bent who still felt strongly for a joint effort with the Entente, and that irredentist claims against Austria were far more important than a decidedly Greek province in Albania. Therefore, while certain elements of the Italian navy were keeping the Austrians up to date with information on Entente naval movements, there were strong intelligence links developing with the Entente as well regarding Austrian naval matters.

As the situation in the Adriatic continued to heat up through September and October, the Italians were becoming very perturbed by the naval operations of both the great alliances that were beginning to encroach on their waters as both the Austrians and the Entente used Italian coastal waters on several occasions in this period. Italian coastal shipping was fast becoming hostage to the whims of both the warring alliances.

While the Italians had done their level best to outwardly maintain their neutrality in the tight waters of the Adriatic, both the Central Powers and the Entente seemed to give little regard to the Italians position if it did not suit their needs.

The Italians were forced into action after a squadron of French armoured cruisers dodged up the Italian coast on the night of October 4th to outflank Austrian patrols. Not only did the French successfully engage and sink two old Austrian battleships, which were moving south to bombard coastal positions in Montenegro, they escaped using the same route. A further result was the firing on of an Italian tramp steamer by pursuing Austrian destroyers who apparently mistook it for a French cruiser in the darkness.

The Italians replied by posting stronger patrols off their coast, and took great pains to notify all the combatants that further hostile incursions into their waters would be seen as an act of war. Both sides made assurances that Italian coastal waters were to be respected and the Austrians made restitution for the damage done to the Italian steamer, and Italy’s coastal waters calmed down for the rest of the month as the naval skirmishes moved to the central and eastern Adriatic.

On the 27th of October however, the situation changed. Two French Armoured cruisers entered the Adriatic steering north. Their original goal was to sweep north, looking to hunt down Austrian light forces.

The Austrians, having been appraised of the advancing French force by their Italian sources, had dispatched a squadron to try to intercept them. The squadron, composed of a light cruiser and five destroyers, was sweeping down the Dalmatian coast looking for Entente patrols. They hoped that a quick dash across the Adriatic would allow them to gain a position in Italian coastal waters where a torpedo ambush could be set.

The Austrian force was in place by a little after midnight, spread out in a rough search line and watching to the SSE as they moved slowly to the south. The Austrians continued at low speed through the increasing rain and mist for almost two hours. At 0155 hrs, with no sign of the French, the order was given to break off, to be well clear of these dangerous waters by daybreak.

Even as the first of the Austrian vessels began to break off, a large shadowy form was seen at the last minute bearing down on the Austrian destroyer Pandur. Despite attempts to evade a collision by both vessels, the bows of the large vessel sliced into the stern of the Pandur, nearly severing it completely as the smaller destroyer was carried bodily sideways by the much larger armoured cruiser, as the cruiser gave orders to reverse.

The gun crew on Pandur’s forecastle mount fired once at the mystery ship, before realizing that the cruiser in question was not French, but Italian. That shot did no real damage, but it caused the lighter weapons on the armoured cruiser that would bear to respond. These guns were soon joined by more as other Italian warships came into view, and the hapless Pandur was struck several times. Two of the other Austrian destroyers, which advanced on the gunfire, were able to discern from the silhouette of the Cruiser that it was Italian and not French. They wisely drew off to the south and attempted to break free. The cruiser, Admiral Spaun did the same as well.


However, the last two Austrian destroyers were approaching from an angle that precluded a clear view of their target. All they seen were the scattered flashes of gunfire, and their companion under fire. The two destroyers dashed in and each launched a pair of torpedoes at Pandur’s assailants. They had no sooner fired their weapons when the first commands came in, warning them that the unknown ships were Italian and not French.

While of the four torpedoes fired, one failed and sank almost immediately and another pair missed their targets, the fourth ran true. It slammed into the Italian armoured cruiser Amalfi well forward and detonated, holing the cruiser. The Italians were by this time getting well into action, and both the Austrian Destroyers Ulan and Dinara were taking heavy damage as they attempted to break off.

Ulan eventually struggled free, however Dinara was quickly brought to a halt by a lucky salvo from the Italian cruiser Pisa. The action quickly bled off as the surviving Austrian units struggled clear.

Just as it seemed that order was returning a bright flash, followed moments later by a rumbling detonation carried across the Adriatic. The Italian destroyer Intrepido had sighted the Austrian Cruiser Admiral Spaun as it attempted to clear the area. It had launched two torpedoes at the interloper and one had caught Admiral Spaun forward, blowing off a portion of her bows. The Admiral Spaun slowed to a halt, down by the fore and starting to list to starboard as Intrepido came about to launch her last torpedo.

Even as the Intrepido moved in to launch her last torpedo, the Austrian cruiser struck her colours as her crew began to leave the apparently sinking cruiser. Calling for assistance, the Italian destroyer ran alongside the Austrian cruiser to offer what assistance it could, while at the same time claiming their wallowing prize.

Mornings light found a battered selection of warships in the area. The armoured cruiser Amalfi was heavily down by the bows and limping south to Taranto in company with her sister, the cruiser Pisa. The Austrian destroyer Pandur had succumbed during the early morning hours and her crews survivors were on Italian destroyers headed for internment in Italy.
The shattered Dinara had burnt out, sinking just after daybreak, and her crews remnants would be joining their brothers from Pandur and the Admiral Spaun in Italian PW camps.

The Admiral Spaun had surprisingly enough not sunk, and by late afternoon, it was on its way to Italy as well. In due course, it would be repaired, joining the Italian fleet as Dalmatia in late 1915.

While the confused battle was over, the diplomatic hubris had only just begun. The long-term result would be not at all good for either party. With news of the battle hitting the papers the next day, the mood in Italy was black, as the citizenry demanded action. The Austrians were contrite at first, and initially hoped to make amends, but questions began to arise in the Austrian press and elsewhere regarding the involvement of the French cruisers in bringing about the action.

Popular opinion in Austria was the French squadron had been used as bait to set a trap that would cause an incident that would have Italy declaring for the Entente. In one of their last gasps, Italian naval officers in support of the Central Powers disseminated information of questionable sourcing which at first seemed to support such a theory.

The Italian government was at a loss as to what to do. While as much as they were enraged by the Austrians action, they now had to contend with allegations that they had been somehow involved with the French in setting up the situation. While their national honour had been assaulted, the Italians were in no good position to join the war at this point.

Being pressured by not only Austria, as Germany, France and Great Britain were also chiming in with their opinions on the events, the Italians struggled for some days with the issue. The Italians felt that they really had no option with either of the warring parties at this point, even though the naval action on the night of 28/29th had clearly moved public opinion to the side of the Entente. But the Ententes actions in Albania and elsewhere had tempered that choice, so in the midterm the Italian government felt it had no choice but to stay the course on its neutral position.

The Austrians were demanding the return of not only their captive sailors, but the damaged cruiser as well. The Italians responded by denying any negotiations on the cruiser as it was a prize of war. They did however state that the Austrian detainees would be returned once reparations were made in full for the damages inflicted by the Austrians.

The Austrians were at first incensed. However, cooler heads soon prevailed, given the situation Austria found itself in. The negotiations moved slowly at first, but further fighting in the Balkans and its surrounding waters finally drove home the point that Austria really didn’t need to be adding another nation to its list of foes, and by early December, a deal had been struck and the Austrian sailors were on their way home.

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What had become of the French squadron that had started the whole situation? A boiler explosion in one of the advancing French armoured cruisers, Edgar Quinet, had ended the French navy sweep late on the evening of the 28th. The French force had limped back to Malta for rudimentary repairs before the damaged cruiser was sent back to France for proper repairs.

The whole action in the end proved to be a combination of mistaken identities and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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By early December the Austrians were finding themselves very much in a bind. Anyone in the Balkans that was in the fight was fighting them, and those who were not apparently had no immediate intention of joining the fray on their behalf. Morale in the Austria-Hungarian military was plummeting in the face of continuing Entente successes against them. The multi ethnic structure of the Austrian army was at best rather shaky, and with a few months of actual combat, the various national groups of the Austrian army were fast losing whatever cohesion it once had. The outlook for a successful campaign against Entente forces in the Balkans was dissipating more steadily with each passing day.

The reinvigorated Serbs and their allies in their turn were slowly but steadily rolling back the armies of Austria-Hungary, making sizeable gains in Bosnia and elsewhere along the Dalmatian coast. The Austrians had been pushing for a more pronounced German support in the area, and the Germans were indeed moving in men and material to sustain their allies.

The Germans were in turn demanding a strong offensive action against the mainly French Entente fleet, which was covering the direct shipment of supplies to the Serbs and their allies fighting in the Balkans. The Germans made it clear that there could be no large or long-term support for offensive operations in the Balkans without the Austrians making a firm attempt to break the Entente control of the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean.

The Germans felt that a successful attack on Entente naval forces would well shift the balance of power in the region enough to return Italy to the Central Powers fold, which would cement the Central Powers strategy to not only knock Serbia out of the war, but to once again attempt to entice Turkey, Bulgaria, and possibly Romania as well, to reconsider supporting the Central Powers.

The Germans did their part by seeing that coal stocks were built up, as well as providing support for the construction of various new Austrian warships. As these efforts began, the Entente and the Italians took note of the renewed Austrian naval efforts, realizing that something was coming down the pipe.

The British and French took great strides to concentrate against the Austrian fleet. With the return of most of the heavy British ships to the home islands and elsewhere, the bulk of the RN forces in the Mediterranean consisted of HMS Lord Nelson, HMS Agamemnon, a light cruiser squadron, two flotillas of destroyers, and a handful of submarines.

With the renewed Austrian naval preparations, the Entente was forced to take further steps. The French brought the bulk of their fleet to the Mediterranean. As well, the situation was further bolstered by the RN dispatch of two dreadnoughts – HMS Colossus and HMS Dreadnought – along with a further squadron of County class cruisers. With these forces in place, it was felt that sufficient force could be kept on hand to deter any operations by the Austrian fleet.

The Austrians were somewhat nonplussed by the appearance of the additional reinforcements in the region, but with the German pressure for naval action being part and parcel with their commitment to further support, the Austrian fleet prepared for action.

The Austrians knew that while the Entente had an overall numerical superiority, the Entente had been unable to deploy anything more than a comparative sized force into the Adriatic. While the Royal Navy had indeed, more than doubled its Mediterranean squadron, so far- other than lighter units – the British had not deployed units to the Adriatic. As well, the Austrian fleet had a much shorter distance to travel to its main bases, and a lesser need to deploy, so their vessels were arguably in a much better state of readiness and repair on any given day. Most importantly, when the opportunity to engage the Entente fleet, it would more than likely be at a time and place of the Austrians choosing.

Of even more import was that, even if somewhat restricted, the Austrians still had sources in the Italian fleet that were passing on information to them regarding Entente fleet deployments to the Adriatic. By mid December, the Austrians were prepared enough to sail on a 24-hour notice if an opportunity was presented to them.

As much as the Austrians felt that they were in an advantageous position, and able to pick the time and place, all was not as it appeared to be. Britain and France had realized that something was afoot at the north end of the Adriatic. Reports from intelligence operatives were coming in not only on the renewed building programs in Austrian shipyards, but also on large shipments of German coal and on other supplies. While the building program would be for the most part a rather long-winded affair, the build up of fuel, munitions and other victuals let the Entente know something more immediate was afoot.

While the Austrians had come to believe they had numerous advantages to exploit, the Entente had many of their own to counter them. Probably one of the best advantages was the pairing of Admiral Augustin Boue de Lapeyrere as the overall Entente naval commander in the Mediterranean with Rear Admiral Sackville Carden, who had replaced the lamentable Milne after his disastrous leadership of the British Mediterranean squadron in the wars early days.

In these two men, the Entente had a pairing of two good naval minds, and as well, they both soon developed not only a solid and competent working relationship, but a firm friendship as well. Both admirals were imbibed with an aggressive, yet intelligent spirit in matters naval and worked together to allow for a proper interaction between their respective forces if the opportunity arose.

The decision was made early in their working relationships that while the RN light cruisers and destroyers would operate in the Adriatic on a regular basis with the French. The British battleships and armoured cruisers would be held back to the south of the Straits of Otranto, as a long stop should the Austrian fleet put to sea to challenge the French on their escorting missions to Budya. The Entente felt that warnings of a sailing by the Austrian fleet would be timely enough to allow the British forces to join the French if needed.

Probably the best advantage the Entente had was that they had discovered the leak of intelligence from the Italian fleet to the Austrians. This had come about when an Italian naval source for the Entente informed them that the Italian navy was very concerned with leaks to the Austrians in the last days of November, which their own sources informed them of.

Lapeyrere and his staff realized that if a proper opportunity presented itself, the Austrian fleet may well be drawn out for a decisive battle, one in which a superior combined Entente force would prevail. Additional submarines were posted to reconnoitre for possible advances by the Austrian fleet.

The first proof of this came on December 5th, when in response to the entry of a heavily escorted convoy into the Adriatic bound for Budya, The Austrian fleet put to sea. Only four hours out of Pola, the French submarine Curie sighted the Austrian fleet. The submarine’s commander, Captain Gabriel O’Byrne, could not believe his good fortune as the Austrians advanced steadily toward him.

An hour later, he launched a torpedo from his sub’s single torpedo tube at an approaching dreadnought. As the torpedo was clear, he ordered a second loaded and launched, then turned to escape.

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Admiral Hoth, commanding the Austrian fleet, had been enjoying an uneventful voyage those last few hours since leaving Pola. He had just been finishing some last minute details for operations in the coming day, as well as double-checking the orders for the return of the old battleship Monarch back to Pola with steering problems, when the dull report of an explosion resonated off his quarter’s bulkhead. He rose and headed to the bridge, arriving just as a second one was heard.

An increase in speed was ordered, along with a change of course to all his heavy ships. At the same time, the fleets destroyers and cruisers were fanning out in search of their assailant. It was moments later that Admiral Hoth received the first reports on the targeted victim.

The target had been the ship in line behind his flagship, the newest battleship in the Austrian fleet, the Prinz Eugen. It was hit amidships by both torpedoes and initial reports stated there was some flooding in the engineering spaces. Ordering a light cruiser and a pair of destroyers to stand by the stricken vessel as the rest of the fleet moved clear, Hoth considered his options.

With the dispatch back of the old battleship Monarch, followed by the apparent torpedoing of Prinz Eugen, his force was significantly reduced. But after a quick exchange of signals with Pola, he was ordered to continue with his mission, as the Germans were demanding direct naval action to slow the flow of supplies to the Balkans. Besides, it was felt that his remaining force of 2 dreadnoughts, 5 older battleships, a cruiser and 12 destroyers would still be enough to overwhelm the French squadron escorting the convoy bound for Budya.

With no sign of their attacker, and the Prinz Eugen clearly in serious trouble, Admiral Hoth had no choice but to obey. Reforming his fleet in the dawns early light he resumed his course south. By the time Hoth’s force had moved out of view, the Prinz Eugen was being evacuated, as her flooding could not be stopped. By mid-day, she finally capsized then disappeared beneath the waves.


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Further to the south, the Entente naval forces were only now beginning to understand something was afoot. While they had heard nothing from O’Byrne in the Curie (and would not until the next day), there had been an increase in Austrian wireless traffic picked up by a station at Budya, and by mid afternoon this information was in the hands of Admiral Lapeyrere, who was with the French squadron escorting the convoy to Budya.

Acting quickly, LaPeyrere sent a signal to Malta, ordering Carden to bring his battleships north post haste. At the same time, he gave orders for the convoy he was covering to counter-march toward the Straits of Otranto. By 1800 hrs, the convoy was nearing the north end of the straits, accompanied by two French cruisers. In the mean time, LaPeyrere was nearing a patrolling position to the WNW of Budya. Three armoured cruisers and nine destroyers backed up his force, consisting of the battleships Jean Bart, France, Courbet, Paris, Danton, Voltaire, Diderot, Mirabeau,Vergniaud and Condercet. He would deploy his forces in two groups, with his armoured cruisers and destroyers in a patrol line to the north, the six battleships closer to Budya.

Carden was coming north with four battleships, two armoured cruisers, two light cruisers and seven destroyers. They would be entering the straits around 1800 hours and hopefully be joining La Peyrere by first light.

To ensure support to Le Peyrere as soon as possible, Carden ordered his cruisers ahead at maximum speed, while his battleships would advance as fast as they were able. With that, he returned to the business at hand, and set about his day’s labours. But even as Carden took his leave from the bridge, his command was under attack.


---0----

U-5, the last Austrian submarine operating in the straits, had tried to report the passage north of what was thought to be a cruiser and a pair of destroyers in company. The Austrian U-Boat had not been able to close the range sufficiently to make an attack, but they had continued on with their patrol sweep. With sundry mechanical faults, including faults with their wireless, which only received sporadically, and was refusing to broadcast, they were in the dark as to recent events. The last clear message received had been some hours earlier and regarded the sailing of the Austrian fleet.

The hunting had not been good for U-5, and other than the vessels, which had just passed out of range, there had only been two reports of smoke on the horizon in the past 48 hours. As the U-5 continued to travel its designated patrol line the blue Adriatic sky was barren for the next hour. The U-Boat’s commander was about to take a short leave from the control room when smoke was once again sighted to the SE.

Not wanting to miss this opportunity, orders were given to head off the target as it continued to track north. As U-5 continued east at a frustrating 6 knots, the light patch of smoke began to grow in size and become a darker smudge, before the unmistakeable tripod masts of battleships came into view.

U-5 continued to close the advancing column of battleships and their attendant light craft, in hopes of closing to attack range before the slipped by. On the surface, the sea was rising, and while that was felt to be good to cover the periscope being sighted, keeping the submarine at proper depth was a mounting concern. It would take nearly an hour, however U-5 was not to be denied, and while the first three dreadnoughts were clearly moving out of range, the fourth was a perfect target.

Just before U-5 was about to launch on her target, the British destroyer HMS Scorpion sighted the periscope under 1000 yards off. It’s commander ordered his crew to action as the destroyer heeled around to port to attempt to ram the target, the destroyers guns began to fire, while signals were sent to the battleships. Even as the first shells dropped into the sea in the general vicinity of the periscope, the bows of the U-boat broke the surface, as the crew had not been able to compensate properly for the weight of the launched torpedoes in the rough seas. With the range down to near minimums, U-5 was struck by a trio of 4 inch shells in quick succession, along with numerous smaller rounds. Almost immediately after that, to the screeching and grinding of two hulls in jarring contact, the prow of HMS Scorpion drove into and over the bows of U-5.

It had seemed like an eternity for the crew of U-5 that had survived the ramming, however as the British destroyer had cleared their stricken vessel, those that could began to struggle free of their now sinking boat. Eleven crewmen, including the Kapitan, made their way clear of U-5.

The British destroyer hove to, and started to pull the Austrian sailors on board as U-5 disappeared beneath the waves. As the Austrian Kapitan was pulled over the rail, he happened to see his stricken target off in the distance. While he was saddened by the loss of his command and the crew that had been claimed by it, Kapitan Georg Johannes von Trapp could take no small bit of grim satisfaction as he watched the unmistakeable lines of a British battleship slew out of line. He would go down in history as the u-boat commander who sank HMS Dreadnought.

As the heavy units wheeled clear, the destroyers swarmed about. Some shepherded the battleships clear, while a pair stood by the stricken Dreadnought. HMS Scorpion had sustained enough damage to her hull and rudder that she would precede no further. The destroyer would be ordered back to Malta once her damages had been appraised properly and she was in no danger of sinking.

On HMS Dreadnought, the situation was grim. She had been hit by two torpedoes aft, the first detonated against the submerged belt, with little damage other than heavy seepage from warped plate seams. The second had hit below Y turret, and had torn a substantial hole in the side of the ship. Seawater was pouring into the battleship, and no attempt to stem the flow seemed to have any effect. When one flow of water was stopped up, another would appear, and the pumps available, such as they were, did little or no good. It was sadly similar to the flooding reported on HMS King Edward VII some weeks before when that ship had been mined in home waters.

Within an hour of the first hit, Dreadnought’s aft deck was awash as far as the rearmost turret and her boiler and turbine rooms had been abandoned in the face of the incoming sea. With the loss of her engines, the pumps fell silent which only hurried her end. At that point three of the destroyers moved in and began to lift off her 756 surviving crewmen. As the last one pulled away, HMS Dreadnought’s stern dropped into the sea while her bows began a slow climb skyward, as she gracefully rolled over on her port beams. As the sea claimed her a series of mighty explosions thundered through her hull, and moments later she was gone; Her grave marked only by a dissipating cloud of brownish smoke and a scattering of flotsam and foam on the waves.

With the loss of Dreadnought, a destroyer seriously damaged, and three more destroyers loaded down with survivors, Carden quickly sorted through the aftermath, and after sending the affected destroyers back to Malta, He regrouped his surviving ships to continue on to meet the French.

After signalling Malta to request larger shipping to meet the destroyers and relieve them of their burden, Carden sent another to Lapeyrere to illuminate his position and inform him that his arrival would be delayed.

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I just caught up on the action and trials of the Entente. I am really liking the changed from OTL, and how the changes allow for new reveals. It looks like the French will have to deal with the Austrians by themselves, but the RN will come to finish the job.

Looking forward to when you are able to update. :cool:
 
Chapter 7
a great impact

As his battered command made its way south toward Malta, Admiral Lapeyrere finalized his final report of the battle, then sat back in his chair for a moment to contemplate the last hours. It had been shortly after 0930hrs that his advanced screen of armoured cruisers had made contact with the Austrian fleet coming south. In the initial hour of the fight, three of those big armoured cruisers had been marked down by the Austrians after they had blundered into range of the Austrian battleships. That the remainder hadn’t met the same fate was due to Admiral Carden joining the fight from the Austrian’s western flank.

While the surviving cruisers had been able to fall back after themselves sustaining damage, Carden’s squadron was to pay a horrific price for their bravery. Carden’s flagship, HMS Lord Nelson, took severe damage as it had led the British column into action, and while Lord Nelson had laid a murderous fire on SMS Teggetthoff, the British battleship was only able to limp free after the French battleships had begun to engage the Austrians. HMS Agamemnon, which was deployed behind Lord Nelson, had been torn to pieces by the concentrated fire of several Austrian battleships. Reduced to a charnel house, she was finally lost in a hellish explosion, probably originating in her forward starboard side wing turret magazine.

The last remaining British battleship, HMS Colossus, seemed to live a rather charmed existence, shrugging off several Austrian heavy shell hits with seemingly no serious damage. However, her gunnery made excellent gain on first the Austrian dreadnought Viribus Unitis, followed by the older pre dreadnought Monarch, before finally retiring to the southwest after covering Lord Nelson’s withdrawal. The British cruiser HMS Weymouth was severely damaged in assisting the Colossus, and had sunk not long after the end of the fight.

While Rear Admiral Sackville Carden was seriously injured in the fight (He would succumb to his wounds on the return trip to Malta), Him and the men under his command would know that without their selfless effort, the fleet of Austria-Hungary may well have managed a victory, or at least the escape of a substantial part of their fleet.

However, even as the damaged French armoured cruisers were escaping, Lapeyrere was taking a position on the east flank of the Austrians whereby there could be no easy withdrawal. While the Austrians did try to turn about and retire, they were, for the most part, unsuccessful. Under the concentrated fire of the three French dreadnoughts present, first Teggethoff, then the savaged Viribus Unitis, were marked down. Teggethof would be later dispatched by torpedoes from a British destroyer, while the other was lost to flooding after a magazine explosion. These were followed by the Radetzky, her two sisters, and the remainder of the heavy ships of the Austrian Navy in the next few hours. Only a handful of torpedo boats and an old armoured cruiser would find their way to the safety of Pola.

While the victory had been near complete in the end with the complete destruction of the Austrian fleet, the damages and losses had been far from one-sided. While the three French dreadnoughts present had survived the fight, all three were damaged, with Courbet taking severe damage. Of the older battleships present, Diderot, Vergniaud and Voltair were sunk in the action, while Mirabeau would lose her fight under tow to Malta. As well as the three armoured cruisers lost initially (Metz, Colmar and Ernest Renan), Leon Gambetta would be sunk as well, while Victor Hugo would sink in Valetta harbour shortly after her arrival after the battle. Add to that the seven destroyer types, as well as the losses suffered by the Royal Navy, and one could see that it was in no way a one sided victory in a material sense.

However, in a strategic sense, the victory over the Austrian fleet by Admiral Lapeyrere’s fleet might well be considered the most influential naval battle of the war. For not only would it limit actions of the Austrian fleet to more of a nuicance level, and aide in further degredation of morale and will in Austria-Hungary, it would have other benefits as well.

Almost immediately it was to provide for the calming of various Balkan nations nerves in the days after it became public knowledge. Both Greece and Bulgaria would settle more into the Entente sphere, while Romania would see the wisdom in staying neutral.

By far the most significant impact was on the Italians, who not only realized that with the destruction of the Austrian fleet, there was no real way they could challenge the combined power of Great Britain and France in the Mediterranean. Whatever their aspirations might have been regarding irredentist claims against France, or other considerations in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean, the only way territorial gains might well be guaranteed was by joining the Entente.

More importantly, with the gains being made by the Serbians, Montenegrans and their allies in Bosnia, Croatia, and along the Dalmatian coast, Italy would not be wise to wait long if they wanted their rightful share of the spoils.

By the last days of December of 1914, it would begin to become apparent that with the Mediterranean taking on the appearance of an Entente lake, and the Balkans solidifying behind the Entente as well, Germany and Austria-Hungary were suddenly faced with a rather more desultory position than what they had originally imagined. While the Russians were still reeling after their initial battles, and the Anglo-French forces on the western front were just barely stabilized, there was little doubt in Berlin that a positive result to the war would have to be gained sooner than later.

While much of the political developments of the battle were beyond Lapayrere's concern, as he stood up from his desk and thoughts he would later say in his memoirs that his most compelling concern at that point in time was for the horrendous cost of modern warfare, both in men and material. He would carry that concern with him for the rest of the war.
 
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Damn a blood letting all around. Italy would be smart to take what it can and not piss off the Entente.
 
By far the most significant impact was on the Italians, who not only realized that with the destruction of the Austrian fleet, there was no real way they could challenge the combined power of Great Britain and France in the Mediterranean. Whatever their aspirations might have been regarding irredentist claims against France, or other considerations in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean, the only way territorial gains might well be guaranteed was by joining the Entente.

Or more simply, the worse strategic situation will force Wien to make concession to Italy to keep her neutral unlike OTL


 
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