Strategy and War Planning in the British Navy, 1887-1918

Strategy and War Planning in the British Navy, 1887-1918

Shawn T. Grimes


Boydell Press



Overturns existing thinking to show that the Royal Navy engaged professionally in war planning in the years before the First World War.
It has been widely accepted that British naval war planning from the late nineteenth century to the First World War was amateur and driven by personal political agenda. But Shawn T. Grimes argues that this was far from the case. His extensive original research shows that, in fact, the Royal Navy had a definitive war strategy, which was well thought-through and formulated in a professional manner.
Faced by a perceived Franco-Russian naval threat, the Admiralty adopted an offensive strategy from 1888 to 1905 based on observational blockade and combined operations. This strategy was modified after 1905 for war with Wilhelmine Germany. The book shows how specific war plans aimed at Germany's naval and economic assets in the Baltic were drawn up between 1906 and 1908 and that the strategy of primary distant blockade, formulated between 1897 and 1907, became a reality in late 1912 and not July 1914 as previously thought. The book argues that the Naval Intelligence Department, which took a lead in devising these plans, was the Navy's de facto staff. Overall, it is clear that there was a continuity underpinning British thinking about how to wage a naval war.

SHAWN GRIMES received his PhD in history from the University of London and has been a Lecturer in European History at the University of Saskatchewan.

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February 2012
3 line illustrations
278 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843836988
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037030, HIS027000, HIS015000
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Table of Contents

The Naval Intelligence Department, Naval History, and Admiralty War Planning, 1887-1904
Early Planning Against Germany, 1902-1906
The Scandinavian Dimension and War Planning, 1906-1907
War Planning, 1908-1909
Probes into Admiralty Planning, 1908-1909
The Solidification of Dual Strategies, 1911-1914
Offensive Planning and Operational Realities, 1914-1918
Appendix I
Appendix II


An important work that covers a lot of essential events and scholarship in the field. It should therefore be recommended reading for anyone interested in the British naval strategic development prior to and during the First World War. MARINER'S MIRROR

Exemplifies the emerging 'post-revisionist' school of naval historians.. [A] high quality analysis. WAR IN HISTORY

[T]his book will appeal to anyone interested in naval or military history, as well as students and scholars of the British Navy. NAUTICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL

An effective and competent discussion of a particularly turbulent period in British naval history. .. Grimes' arguments.are convincing and well reasoned. THE NORTHERN MARINER

By far the most cohesive, well researched and thorough treatment of British naval war planning of the period. . This is an excellent book and a must read for all historians of the period. It is without doubt now one of the key works on the Royal Navy in the Fisher era. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HISTORY

The author's case is well argued and back with solid evidence. WARSHIPS

As a corrective to the still commonplace view that pre-World War I British naval administration.was the preserve of incompetent amateurs, Grimes's study is of great value. He also drives another nail in the coffin of the myth.that the Royal Navy had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth century. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES