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NAVAL NOTES, Issue 15665, 2 December 1914
ICONXKIBUTED BY THH NAVY LEAGUE, Otago BItANCH.] N Through mountain and vallev, from East to West Britannia's call came clear—"O never indeed, in tho hour of need, May my sons bo slow to hoar!" " 1 have nurtured you from your childhood's days, And my flag lias kept you fire, But I know that all at their Mother's call Will return again to me." NEW CONDITIONS OF WARFARE. Civilians in particular are apt to forget that in the present naval war we are confronted with conditions which are unique. History and past manceuvres may supply some guidance, but for the most part both are of little value as guides to strategy or tactics. The naval correspondent of the ' Morning Post' points out that the Commander-in-Chief at sea, whether he ho English, French, or Gorman, must deal with conditions new to naval warfaro. The first of those conditions is that he must fight the invisible. In the old fairy stories the gift of the cloak of darkness made tho Prince invincible. The submarine may or may not be invincible, but she wears'the cloak of darkness. She is invisible. .She can attack unseen with a deadly weapon j she can retreat undiscovered. Before the submarine was tried in war it was urged that her efficiency was largely qualified by the fact that she waa blind in attack, and that her attack in any case was of tho nature of parasitic warfare, which would not affect the main issue. Experience has shown that her blindness, when her periscope, is submerged, docs not necessarily involve faillire. And as for the parasitic argument, it remains in suspense. Her chief defect is her slowness. Could she proceed at 25 knots, the increase of her power of 'offence would bo very great. In five or ton years ehe will probably have attained to that speed. —An Area to he Avoided. — In the meantime—to assume the views of the German Commander-in-Chief —it is not safe to send battleships within the area of submarine operations, which is, say, 500 miles from the base. It follows from this very sensible decision that the maximum that the first duty of a fleet is to search out and to destroy tho licet of tho enemy requires considerable modification. How can a battle fleet search out the enemy's fleet if the sea between is haunted by submarines? So far as Germany is concerned, she has at present declined the enterprise. But Germany is in this position : Until she has defeated the British fleet she remains in what is virtually, though not technically, a state of 'blockade. She keeps her fleet more or less intact; but she loses the whole of her seaborne trade and a large proportion of her mercantile marine, and the effect of that loss is cumulative. It is natural, therefore, that Germany should adopt the wearing-down process, which consists in perpetual attacks with submarines and tho employment of mines. Now and then she destroys a hostile ship. "It is probable," it is contended in our contemporary. " that she will decide to make an end of the position. Should the German fleet put to sea- it will brave great hazards; but there is no reason to supposo that the hazards will not be incurred. It will be a case of sacrificing'so much to bring the rest through. Once the German fleet conies into blue water the submarine peril disappears for the time •being. Then the old rules assert themselves again." It must not, however, be overloolred that the Russian Baltic fleet must bo seriously regarded by Germany. —Mr Churchill's " Economic Pressure." — It is impossible to ascertain to what extent the British fleet is really bringing effective economic pressure on Germany, but it is this pressure that she most feared, as the following quotation from the Memorandum issued with tho Navy Bill of 1000 indicates : A naval war for economic interests, particularly for commercial interests, will probably be of long duration, for tho, aim of a superior opponent will be all the more completely reached tho longer the war lasts. To this must be added that a naval war which, after the destruction of, or shutting up of. the German sea fighting force, was confmod to the blockade of the coasts and the capture of merchant ships, would cost the opponent little; indeed, he would, on the contrary, amply cover the expenses of the war by the simultaneous improvement of his own trade. An unsuccessful naval war of the duration of even only a year would destroy Germany's sea* trade, and would thereby bring'about the most disastrous conditions, first in her economic and then, as an immediate consequence of that, in her social life. Quite apart from the consequences of the politic peace conditions, the destruction of our sea trade during the war could not, oven at the close of it, be made good within measurable time, and would thus add to the sacrifices of the war a serious economic depression. It i.i good news to hoar from Mr Churchill that this "economic pressure" ia being satisfactorily applied. —Our Invincible Sword. — Those who are impatient for decisive naval action in the North Sea and the Mediterranean are apt to overlook the services which the navy is rendering to our army on the Continent. Britain is tho only country now engaged in war which U f bio to build up its military j power in .security and tranquillity. A writer in ' The Fortnightly Review' points out that in the Navy is to be tound the secret of our influence as a military Power. As the war on tho Continent goes forward a process of subtraction of military power will proceed steadily from day to day—duo to tho casualties of battle and disease and to tho scarcity of food and the increase of unemployment reacting on public opinion; the troops which remain will be worn out physically, and the civilian population depressed and disheartened. Consequently, as the war works towards its conclusion on the Continent, and tho process of subtraction continues relentlessly, our military ipower will rise in the scale, particularly a« the early period of the war has beon utilised for calling out the reserves, embodying the Territorials, enlisting two new armies, and training all the partiallytrained men in tdl parts of tho Empire. If. by pursuing an offensive-defensive policy on the sea, we can continue to strangle the maritime activities of cur two groat enemies—<and all tho nations of Europe are to a great extent dependent on oversea supplies—we shall gain a grip on the whole strategic situation, ashore as well »b afloat, which will enable us to use our increased military force- as it should he used : it is the projectile of the naval waa to be thrown into the balance j at any moment and at any place, as may be decided by those whose business .it is to direct it. —More Flamboyant Declarations.— 'Tho Times' recently reviewed a most interesting book by Ilerr Von Rudolf Troeltseh. It was published before the war, and with official approval. _ Although Herr Troeltseh is at great pains to describe such minor operations as coastal defence, blockade, commerce-raiding, and cruiser actions, he nevertheless creditably aclHeres throiighout to tk-e principle that these are all quite subordinate to the defeat and destruction of the enemy's main force in tho open. Indeed, he. begins, continues, and ends his work in the proud belief that the German fleet of to-day, created by the constructive skill, technical elaboration, and the personal qualities of Its officers, will emerge victorious from a conflict with any rival whatever. '• If necessary." he declares, " it will fight in the grand style, offer the enemy battle on tho high seas, and by defeating him gain tho command of tho sea for itself. We need not despair, even with a numerically inferior but well-trained fleet, of successfully' holding our own against a rival double our size. Whatever form of attack our enemy may choose, it ia all the same to us; to repel it we must decide tho issue in the oj«n."
AN EXPERT AND INVASION. Mr 11. C. By water writes : Most people realise by this time that the High .Sea, fleet is- being held back until certain plans, of which we know nothing definite, have matured. It is suggested that some desperate scheme of invasion is on foot, and that the German fleet at the critical moment will dash out to engage Admiral Jellieoo, while the trausports get across by somo means or other and launch an army on our shores. This theory is too palpably absurd to be discussed, and far too fatuous ever to be entertained by the shrewd thinkers in IJerlin. Another suggestion recently,put forward is that the "enemy is completing his fleet of aircraft, and that he will not come out until he as in a position bo deliver his attack under cover of a bout of I bomb-dropping dirigibles, supported, perhaps, by a. large flotilla of submarines. There is probably some substance in this theory, which is supported by the persistent rumors from Germany of intense activity at Friedrichshafen and the other airship factories. In tho opinion of the writer, when Germany docs oleot to launch her naval bolt she will strike with every ounce- of strength she can muster, and employ every contrivance at her disposal. The guiding principlo of German naval strategy, as we were repeatedly assured by the highest authorities before the war, is to stake everything on one grand coup, for no other policy offers the least chance of success against so formidable a fleet as that which awaits the Germans up North. "Allcs einsetzen," "let everything go in," sums up this principle, and the very fact that tho enemy is keeping even his destroyer flotilla out of sight for the time being shows that everything is being held in reserve for the one great attempt. TRUST YOUR NAVY. There is nothing in all this which need make our flesh creep. The British Navy, we may rest assured, has foreseen the difficulties of the task it has to perform and appreciates its magnitude. It is, and has every reason to be. supremely confident as to the result of a meeting with tho German fleet, and wo may be certain that nothing has been left undone to counter effectually whatever tactics the enemy may seek to employ. At'the same time, the nation should guard itself against indulgence in that over-confidence which appears to have been fostered by recent Ministerial speeches. The German fleet is not, strictly speaking, in a hole. It is true that most of tho .ships are rumored to be in the Kiel Canal, but this is only a rumor, and a very improbable one at that. The fleet, or the major part of it, is more likely to be in the Baltic, whore it would have plenty of room to manoeuvre. Tho point is that the whole of the armored squadrons are intact. Under present conditions tho German Commander-in-Chief is in the position of being able to choose his own moment to accept battle, and he can defer doing so until he feels the "selected moment" has arrived.
NAVAL NOTES, Issue 15665, 2 December 1914
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