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The Crisis of the Naval War By John Rushworth Jellicoe Characters: 52965

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

It is perhaps as well that the nation generally remained to a great extent unconscious of the extreme gravity of the situation which developed during the Great War, when the Germans were sinking an increasing volume of merchant tonnage week by week. The people of this country as a whole rose superior to many disheartening events and never lost their sure belief in final victory, but full knowledge of the supreme crisis in our history might have tended to undermine in some quarters that confidence in victory which it was essential should be maintained, and, in any event, the facts could not be disclosed without benefiting the enemy. But the position at times was undoubtedly extremely serious.

At the opening of the war we possessed approximately half the merchant tonnage of the world, but experience during the early part of the struggle revealed that we had not a single ship too many for the great and increasing oversea military liabilities which we were steadily incurring, over and above the responsibility of bringing to these shores the greater part of the food for a population of forty-five million people, as well as nearly all the raw materials which were essential for the manufacture of munitions. The whole of our war efforts, ashore as well as afloat, depended first and last on an adequate volume of merchant shipping.

It is small wonder, therefore, that those who watched from day to day the increasing toll which the enemy took of the country's sea-carrying power, were sometimes filled with deep concern for the future. Particularly was this the case during the early months of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. For if the menace had not been mastered to a considerable extent, and that speedily, not only would the victory of the Allies have been imperilled, but this country would have been brought face to face with conditions approaching starvation. In pre-war days the possibility of these islands being blockaded was frequently discussed; but during the dark days of the unrestricted submarine campaign there was ample excuse for those with imagination to picture the implication of events which were happening from week to week. The memories of those days are already becoming somewhat dim, and as a matter of history and a guide to the future, it is perhaps well that some account should be given, however inadequate, of the dangers which confronted the country and of the means which were adopted to avert the worst consequences of the enemy's campaign without ceasing to exert the increasing pressure of our sea power upon his fighting efficiency, and without diminishing our military efforts overseas.

The latter points were of great importance. It was always necessary to keep the Grand Fleet at a strength that would ensure its instant readiness to move in waters which might be infested by submarines in large numbers should the Germans decide upon some operation by the High Sea Fleet. The possibility of action between the fleets necessitated the maintenance of very strong destroyer forces with the Grand Fleet.

Similarly our oversea military expeditions, with the consequent large number of merchant ships in use as transports or supply ships, required a considerable force of destroyers and other small craft. These commitments greatly reduced the means at our disposal for dealing with the hostile submarines that were attempting to prevent the import of food and raw materials into the country.

Readers of books, and particularly books dealing with war, show a natural avidity for what may be described as the human side of a contest as well as for the dramatic events. But, whether it be prosecuted by sea or by land, war is largely a matter of efficient and adequate organization. It is a common saying that we muddle through our wars, but we could not afford to muddle in face of the threat which the enemy's unrestricted submarine campaign represented. It is impossible, therefore, to approach the history of the successful efforts made by sea to overcome this menace without describing in some detail the work of organization which was carried out at the Admiralty in order to enable the Fleet to fulfil its new mission. In effect those responsible for the naval policy of the country conducted two wars simultaneously, the one on the surface, and the other under the surface. The strategy, tactics and weapons which were appropriate to the former, were to a large extent useless in the contest against mines and submarines which the enemy employed with the utmost persistency and no little ingenuity. Even in the Russo-Japanese war, where the mine was little used, it exerted a marked influence on the course of the war; the Germans based their hopes of victory in the early days of the struggle entirely on a war of attrition, waged against men-of-war, as well as merchant ships. The submarine, which was thrown into the struggle in increasing numbers, represented an entirely new development, for the submarine is a vessel which can travel unseen beneath the water and, while still unseen, except for a possible momentary glimpse of a few inches of periscope, can launch a torpedo at long or short range and with deadly accuracy. In these circumstances it became imperative to organize the Admiralty administration to meet new needs, and to press into the service of the central administration a large number of officers charged with the sole duty of studying the new forms of warfare which the enemy had adopted and of evolving with scientific assistance novel methods of defeating his tactics.

Whilst the enemy's campaign against merchant shipping always gave rise to anxiety, there were certain periods of greatly increased activity. During the summer months of 1916 the losses from submarine attack and from submarine-laid mines were comparatively slight, and, in fact, less than during the latter half of 1915, but in the autumn of 1916 they assumed very serious proportions. This will be seen by reference to the following table, which gives the monthly losses in British, neutral and Allied mercantile gross tonnage from submarine and mine attack alone for the months of May to November inclusive:

May 122,793

June 111,719

July 110,757

August 160,077

September 229,687

October 352,902

November 327,245

Another disturbing feature was the knowledge that we were not sinking enemy submarines at any appreciable rate, whilst we knew that the Germans had under construction a very large number of these vessels, and that they were thus rapidly adding to their fleet. It was a matter also of common knowledge that our output of new merchant ships was exceedingly small, and I, in common with others, had urged a policy of greatly increased mercantile ship construction. These facts, combined with the knowledge that our reserves of food and essential raw materials for war purposes were very low, led me, when commanding the Grand Fleet, to the inevitable conclusion that it was essential to concentrate all our naval efforts so far as possible on the submarine menace, and to adopt the most energetic measures for the protection of our sea communications and the destruction of the enemy's submarines. Although it was not easy to see the exact means by which this could be achieved, it appeared necessary as a first step to form an organization having as its sole duty the study of the question, comprising such officers as would be most likely to deal effectively with the problem, supported by the necessary authority to push forward their ideas. Another necessity was the rapid production of such material as was found to be required for anti-submarine measures.

With these ideas in my mind I had written letters to the Admiralty on the subject, and was summoned to a conference in London on November 1 by Mr. Balfour, the First Lord. The whole question of the submarine warfare was fully discussed with Mr. Balfour and Sir Henry Jackson (then First Sea Lord) during the two days spent in London. I had at that time formed and expressed the view that there was very little probability of the High Sea Fleet putting to sea again to risk a Fleet action until the new submarine campaign had been given a thorough trial. With the High Sea Fleet "in being" we could not afford to deplete the Grand Fleet of destroyers, which could under other conditions be employed in anti-submarine work, and therefore the probable German strategy in these circumstances was to keep the Fleet "in being." At the same time the situation appeared so serious that I went so far as to suggest that one Grand Fleet flotilla of destroyers might under certain conditions be withdrawn for anti-submarine duties in southern waters.

The misgivings which I entertained were, of course, shared by all those in authority who were acquainted with the facts of the case, including the Board of Admiralty.

On November 24 Mr. Balfour telegraphed offering me the post of First Sea Lord, and in the event of acceptance requesting me to meet him in Edinburgh to discuss matters. After consultation with Sir Charles Madden, my Chief of Staff, I replied that I was prepared to do what was considered best for the Service.

During the conference with Mr. Balfour in Edinburgh on November 27, 1916, and after I had agreed to go to the Admiralty, he informed me of the consequent changes which he proposed to make in flag officers' appointments in the Grand Fleet. Amongst the changes he included Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, who would be relieved of his post as second in command of the Grand Fleet and commander of the 1st Battle Squadron, as he had practically completed his term of two years in command. I thereupon asked that he might be offered the post of Second Sea Lord, and that Commodore Lionel Halsey, who had been serving as Captain of the Fleet, might be offered that of Fourth Sea Lord. In my view it was very desirable that an officer with the great experience in command possessed by Sir Cecil Burney should occupy the position of Second Sea Lord under the conditions which existed, and that one who had served afloat during the war in both an executive and administrative capacity should become Fourth Sea Lord. I also informed Mr. Balfour of my desire to form an Anti-Submarine Division of the War Staff at the Admiralty, and asked that Rear-Admiral A.L. Duff, C.B., should be offered the post of Director of the Division, with Captain F.C. Dreyer, C.B., my Flag Captain in the Iron Duke, as his assistant.

All these appointments were made.

Although I arrived in London on November 29, I did not actually take office as First Sea Lord until December 5, owing to an attack of influenza. On that day I relieved Sir Henry Jackson, but only held office under Mr. Balfour for two or three days, as the change of Government took place just at this period, and Sir Edward Carson came to the Admiralty in place of Mr. Balfour.

This book is intended to record facts, and not to touch upon personal matters, but I cannot forbear to mention the extreme cordiality of Sir Edward Carson's relations with the Board in general and myself in particular. His devotion to the naval service was obvious to all, and in him the Navy possessed indeed a true and a powerful friend.

The earliest conversations between the First Lord and myself had relation to the submarine menace, and Sir Edward Carson threw himself wholeheartedly into the work. This was before the days of the unrestricted submarine campaign, and although ships were frequently torpedoed, very large numbers were still being sunk by gun-fire. The torpedo did not come into general use until March, 1917.

One of the most pressing needs of this period of attack by gun-fire was consequently a great increase in the number of guns for use in defensively armed merchant vessels, and here Sir Edward Carson's assistance was of great value. He fully realized the urgent necessities of the case, and was constant in his efforts to procure the necessary guns. The work carried out in this connection is given in detail in Chapter III (p. 68).

During Sir Edward's tenure of office the reorganization of the Naval Staff was taken in hand. Changes from which great benefit resulted were effected in the Staff organization. Sir Edward very quickly saw the necessity for a considerable strengthening of the Staff. In addition to the newly formed and rapidly expanding Anti-Submarine Division of the Naval Staff, he realized that the Operations Division also needed increased strength, and that it was essential to relieve the First Sea Lord of the mass of administrative work falling upon his shoulders, which had unfortunately been greatly magnified by the circumstances already described.

It is as well at this point to describe the conditions in regard to Staff organization that existed at the Admiralty at the end of 1916, and to show how those conditions had been arrived at.

Prior to 1909 there was no real Staff, although the organization at the Admiralty included an Intelligence Department and a Mobilization Division. The Director of Naval Intelligence at that time acted in an advisory capacity as Chief of the Staff. Indeed prior to 1904 there were but few naval officers at the Admiralty at all beyond those in the technical departments of the Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes and the members of the Board itself. The Sea Lords were even without Naval Assistants and depended entirely on the help of a secretary provided by the civilian staff at the Admiralty.

In 1910 a new branch was formed termed the Mobilization and Movements Department under a Director. This branch was a first step towards an Operations Division.

Under Mr. Churchill's regime at the Admiralty in 1911 a more regular Staff organization was introduced and a Chief of the War Staff, acting under the First Sea Lord, was appointed. The organization introduced during his term of office is thus shown graphically:




| | |

Director of Director of Director of

Operations Division. Intelligence Division. Mobilization Division.

In addition to other duties, the Mobilization Division was charged with the responsibility for the supply of fuel to the Fleet, from the Staff point of view.

In the organization introduced in 1911 the duties of the Chief of the Staff were defined as being of an advisory nature. He possessed no executive powers. Consequently all orders affecting the movements of ships required the approval of the First Sea Lord before issue, and the consequence of this over-centralization was that additional work was thrown on the First Sea Lord. The resultant inconvenience was not of much account during peace, but became of importance in war, and as the war progressed the Chief of the Staff gradually exercised executive functions, orders which were not of the first importance being issued by the Staff in accordance with the policy approved generally by the First Sea Lord. The fault in the organization appeared to me to lie in non-recognition of the fact that the First Sea Lord was in reality the Chief of the Naval Staff, since he was charged with the responsibility for the preparation and readiness of the Fleet for war and for all movements. Another anomaly existing at the Admiralty, which was not altered in the 1911 reorganization of the War Staff, was that the orders to the Fleet were not drafted and issued by the War Staff, but by the Military Branch of the Secretary's Department.

The system was only workable because the very able civil servants of the Military Branch were possessed of wide Admiralty experience and worked in the closest co-operation with the naval officers. Their work was of the most strenuous nature and was carried out with the greatest devotion, but the system was manifestly wrong in principle.

On the outbreak of war the necessity for placing the War Registry (a part of the Military Branch) directly under the Chief of the Staff became apparent, and this was done.

In December, 1916, when I took up the post of First Sea Lord, the Admiralty War Staff was still being worked on the general lines of the organization introduced by Mr. Churchill in 1911, but it had, of course, expanded to a very considerable extent to meet war conditions, and a most important Trade Division, which dealt with all questions connected with the Mercantile Marine, had been formed at the outbreak of war under the charge of Captain Richard Webb. This Division, under that very able officer, had carried out work of the greatest national importance with marked success.

The successive changes in the Staff organization carried out during the year 1917 were as follows:

In December, 1916, an Anti-Submarine Division of the Staff was formed. This Division did not, for some reason, appear in the Navy List as part of the Staff organization until some months had elapsed, although it started work in December, 1916. The officers who composed the Division were shown as borne on the books of H.M.S. President.

The Division relieved the Operations Division of the control of all vessels, including aircraft, which were engaged in anti-submarine offensive and defensive work, and took over also the control of mine-sweeping operations. The Division was also charged with the duty of examining and perfecting all experimental devices for combating the submarine menace and of producing fresh schemes for the destruction of enemy submarines. This organization is open to the criticism that matters concerning operations and material came under the same head, but they were so closely allied at this stage that it was deemed advisable to accept this departure from correct Staff organization. The personnel of the Division came with me from the Grand Fleet, and at the outset consisted of one flag officer-Rear-Admiral A.L. Duff, C.B.-two captains, four commanders, three lieutenant-commanders, and two engineer officers, in addition to the necessary clerical staff. The small staff of four officers already at the Admiralty engaged in anti-submarine experimental work, which had done much to develop this side of warfare, was absorbed. The new Division worked directly under me, but in close touch with the then Chief of the War Staff, Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Oliver.

In the early spring of 1917 the illogical nature of the War Staff organization became apparent, in that it had no executive functions, and as the result of discussions between Sir Edward Carson and myself the decision was taken that the duties of the Naval Staff (the term decided upon in place of that of War Staff) should be made executive, and that the First Sea Lord should assume his correct title as Chief of the Naval Staff, as he had, in fact, already assumed the position.

At the same time the operational work of the Staff was grouped under two heads, the first mainly concerned with operations against the enemy's surface vessels, and the second with the protection of trade and operations against the enemy's under-water warfare, whether the means he employed were submarines or mines.

The officer, Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Oliver, K.C.B., charged with the supervision of the first-named work was styled Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (D.C.N.S.), and the officer connected with the second, Rear-Admiral A.L. Duff, C.B., was given the title of Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (A.C.N.S.).

The duties of Director of the Anti-Submarine Division of the Staff, hitherto carried out by Admiral Duff, were at this time taken over by Captain W.W. Fisher, C.B., who was brought down from the Grand Fleet for the purpose. Captain Dreyer, who had been Admiral Duff's original assistant, had in the meantime been appointed Director of Naval Ordnance, and had been succeeded by Captain H. Walwyn, D.S.O.

The Mine-Sweeping Division of the Staff was also formed, and the importance of the question of signal communications was recognized by forming a Signal Section of the Staff.

The adoption of the title of Chief of the Naval Staff by the First Sea Lord necessarily made the functions of the Staff executive instead of advisory.

The Staff organization at this period is shown graphically below.



+-- D.C.N.S.

| . |

| . +-- Operations Division.

| . | |

| . | +-- Home

| . | +-- Foreign

| . +-- Mobilization Division.

| . +-- Signal Section.

| . +-- Intelligence Division.

| .

+-- A.C.N.S.


+-- Trade Division.

+-- Convoys Section.

+-- Anti-Submarine Division.

+-- Mine-Sweeping Division.

Stress was laid in a Staff memorandum issued by me on the fact that the various divisions were on no account to work in watertight compartments, but were to be in the closest touch with one another. The dotted line connecting the D.C.N.S. and the A.C.N.S. in the graph was defined as indicating that there should be the fullest co-operation between the different portions of the Staff.

In the summer of 1917 the growth of the convoy system necessitated further expansion of the Naval Staff, and a Mercantile Movements Division was added. The duties of this division were to organize and regulate the movements of convoys of merchant ships. A staff of officers had been by this time sent abroad to the ports from which convoys were directed to sail, and the Mercantile Movements Division, acting in close touch with the Ministry of Shipping, arranged the assembly and movements of the convoys and their protection.

The organization of the portion of the Staff under the A.C.N.S. at this stage is shown below.




| | | |

Director of Director of Director of Director of

Mercantile Trade Anti-Sub- Mine-Sweeping

Movements Division. marine Division.

Division. (Captain R.N.) Division. (Captain R.N.)

(Captain R.N.) | (Captain R.N.) |

| Staff. | Staff.

-------------- Staff.

| |

Convoy Movements

Section. Section.

The portion of the organization under the A.C.N.S. comprised the following numbers in December, 1917:

Mercantile Movements Division, 36 Officers, with a clerical staff.

Trade Division, 43 Officers, with a clerical staff of 10 civilians.

Anti-Submarine Division, 26 Officers, with a clerical staff.

Mine-Sweeping Division, 8 Officers, with a clerical staff.

Of this number practically the whole of the Mercantile Movements and Anti-Submarine Divisions were added during the year 1917, whilst large additions were also made to the Trade Division, owing to the great increase of work.

During the first half of the year 1917 the Operations Division of the Naval Staff received a much needed increase of strength by the appointment of additional officers, charged, under the Director of the Operations Division, with the detailed preparation of plans for operations. Further additions to this branch of the Staff were made in the latter half of the year.

Matters were in this position with the reorganization of the Naval Staff in hand and working towards a definite conclusion when, to the intense regret of those who had been privileged to work with him, Sir Edward Carson left the Admiralty to become a member of the War Cabinet.

Before leaving the subject of work at the Admiralty during Sir Edward Carson's administration, mention should be made of the progress made in the difficult task of providing officers for the rapidly expanding Fleet. The large programme of small craft started in the early part of 1917 involved the eventual provision of a great number of additional officers. Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, the Second Sea Lord, took this matter in hand with conspicuous success, and the measures which he introduced tided us over a period of much difficulty and made provision for many months ahead. Sir Cecil Burney, by reason of his intimate knowledge of the personnel-the result of years of command afloat-was able to settle also many problems relating to personnel which had been the cause of dissatisfaction in the past.

Sir Edward Carson, on leaving the Admiralty, was succeeded by Sir Eric Geddes as First Lord. Sir Eric had been brought into the Admiralty in May, 1917, in circumstances which I will describe later. (Vide Chapter X.) One of his first steps as First Lord which affected Admiralty organization was the appointment of a Deputy First Sea Lord. This appointment was frankly made more as a matter of expediency than because any real need had been shown for the creation of such an office. It is unnecessary here to enter into the circumstances which led to the appointment to which I saw objections, owing to the difficulty of fitting into the organization an officer bearing the title of Deputy First Sea Lord.

Vice-Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss-who had come to England for the purpose of conferring with the Admiralty before taking up the post of British Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean-was selected by the First Lord as Deputy First Sea Lord.

Shortly after assuming office as First Lord, Sir Eric Geddes expressed a wish for a further consideration of the question of Admiralty organization. To this end he appointed a joint War Office and Admiralty Committee to compare the two organizations.

Having received the report of the Committee, the First Lord and I both formulated ideas for further reorganization. My proposals, so far as they concerned the Naval Staff, were conceived on the general lines of an extension of the organization already adopted since my arrival at the Admiralty, but I also stated that the time had arrived when the whole Admiralty organization should be divided more distinctly into two sides, viz., the Operational side and the Materiél or Administrative side, and indicated that the arrangement existing in the time of the old Navy Board might be largely followed, in order that questions of Operations and Materiél should be quite clearly separated. This, indeed, was the principle of the Staff organization which I had adopted in the Grand Fleet, and I was anxious to extend it to the Admiralty.

This principle was accepted-although the term "Navy Board" was not reinstituted-the Admiralty Board being divided into two Committees, one for Operations and one for Materiél, the whole Board meeting at least once a week, as required, to discuss important questions affecting both sides. Whilst it was necessary that the Maintenance Com

mittee should be kept acquainted with the requirements in the shape of material needed for operations in which the Fleet was engaged-and to the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff was assigned this particular liaison duty-I was not in favour of discussing questions affecting ordinary operations with the whole Board, since, in addition to the delay thereby involved, members of the Maintenance Committee could not keep in sufficiently intimate touch with such matters, and opinions might be formed and conclusions expressed on an incomplete knowledge of facts. Questions of broad policy or of proposed major operations were, of course, in a different category, and the above objections did not apply.

The further alterations in Naval Staff organization were not adopted without considerable discussion and some difference of opinion as to detail, particularly on the subject of the organization of the Operations Division of the Naval Staff, which I considered should embrace the Plans Division as a sub-section in order to avoid overlapping and delay. In my view it was undesirable for a body of officers not working under the authority of those in close touch with the daily operations of the Fleet to put forward plans for operations which necessarily involved the use of the same vessels and material, as such a procedure must inevitably lead to impracticable suggestions and consequent waste of time; the system which I favoured was that in use in the Army, where the Operations Section of the Staff dealt also with the working out of plans.

The Admiralty Staff organization necessarily differed somewhat from that at the War Office, because during the war the Admiralty in a sense combined, so far as Naval operations were concerned, the functions both of the War Office and of General Headquarters in France. This was due primarily to the fact that intelligence was necessarily centred at the Admiralty, and, secondly, because the Admiralty acted in a sense as Commander-in-Chief of all the forces working in the vicinity of the British Isles. It was not possible for the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet to assume this function, since he could not be provided with the necessary knowledge without great delay being caused, and, further, when he was at sea the other commands would be without a head. The Admiralty therefore necessarily assumed the duty, whilst supplying each command with all the information required for operations. The general lines of the Staff organizations at the War Office and at General Headquarters in France are here given for the sake of comparison with the Naval Staff organization.

1.-The British War Office.

The approximate organization is shown as concisely as possible in the following diagram:


Director of Staff Duties.

Staff duties Organization and training.

War Organization of forces.

General questions of training.

Signals and communications.

Director of Military Operations.

Operations on all fronts.

Director of Military Intelligence.



The Press.

The other important departments of the War Office on the administration side are those of the Adjutant-General and the Quartermaster-General, the former dealing with all questions relating to the personnel of the Army under the various headings of organization, mobilization, pay and discipline, and the latter with all questions of supply and transport.

A Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff was attached to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. His main duty was to act as a liaison between the General Staff and the administrative departments of the War Office.

The whole organization of the British War Office is, of course, under the direction and control of the Secretary of State for War.

2.-The Staff Organization at General Headquarters in France.



Chief of the General Staff

G.S. (a) (Operations) Plans and Execution Intelligence.

G.S. (b) (Staff Duties) War Organizations and

Establishments Liason between G.S. (a) and

Administrative Services.

Adjutant General (Personnel, Discipline, etc.)

Quartermaster General (Transport and Supply, etc.)





| | |

Artillery Adviser Engineer-in-Chief. Inspector of

(Advises Chief of Advises as in case of Training.

General Stall on Artillery.

Artillery matters

and operations).


Advises Administrative

Departments as


N.B.-The Inspector of Training works in consultation with the Chief of the General Staff.

It will be seen that whilst at the War Office the liaison between the General Staff and the administrative side was maintained by a Deputy Chief of the General Staff, in the organization in the field the same function was performed by the Staff Officer known as G.S. (b).

It will also be seen that neither at General Headquarters nor in the case of an Army command does the Chief of the General Staff exercise control over the administrative side.

After some discussion the Admiralty organizations shown in the Tables A and B on page 20 (below) were adopted, and I guarded as far as possible against the objection to keeping the Plans Division separate from the Operations Division by the issue of detailed orders as to the conduct of the business of the Staff, in which directions were given that the Director of the Plans Division should be in close touch with the Director of the Operations Division before submitting any proposals to the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff or myself.

During the remainder of my service at the Admiralty the organization remained as shown in Tables A and B on p. 20 below. It was not entirely satisfactory, for reasons already mentioned and because I did not obtain all the relief from administrative work which was so desirable.


First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff.

Deputy Chief of Naval Staff.

Director of Intelligence Division.

Director of Signals Division.

Director of Operations Division.

Deputy-Director of Operations

Operations at home.

Assistant Director Operations Division and Staff.

Operations abroad.

Director of Plans Division.

Preparation of Plans for operations at home and abroad.

Consideration of and proposals for use of new

weapons and material. Building programmes to

carry out approved policy.

Deputy First Sea Lord.

Director of Training and Staff Duties.

Assistant Chief of Naval Staff.

Director of Trade Division.

Director of Mercantile Movements.

Director of Mine-sweeping.

Director of Anti-Submarine Division.


Board of Admiralty.

Operations Committee.

Naval Staff.

Maintenance Committee.

Shipbuilding and Armaments.




Personnel and Discipline, etc.


Early in 1918, after my departure from the Admiralty, the following announcement appeared in the Press:

The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following announcement:-

The Letters Patent for the new Board of Admiralty having now been issued, it may be desirable to summarize the changes in the personnel of the Board and to indicate briefly the alterations in organization that have been decided upon.

Acting Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Oliver now brings to a close his long period of valuable service on the Naval Staff and will take up a sea-going command, being succeeded as D.C.N.S. by Rear-Admiral Sydney Fremantle. Rear-Admiral George P.W. Hope has been selected for the appointment of Deputy First Sea Lord, formerly held by Admiral Wemyss, but with changed functions. Commodore Paine, Fifth Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Air Service, leaves the Board of Admiralty in consequence of the recent creation of the Air Council, of which he is now a member, and formal effect is now given to the appointment of Mr. A.F. Pease as Second Civil Lord, which was announced on Thursday last.

In view of the formal recognition now accorded, as explained by the First Lord in his statement in the House of Commons on the 1st November, to the principle of the division of the work of the Board under the two heads of Operations and Maintenance, the Members of the new Board (other than the First Lord) may be grouped as follows:-


First Sea Lord Second Sea Lord.

and (Vice-Admiral Sir H.L. Heath.)

Chief of Naval Staff.

(Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.)

Deputy Chief of Naval Staff. Third Sea Lord.

(Rear-Admiral S.R. Fremantle.) (Rear-Admiral L. Halsey.)

Assistant Chief of Naval Staff. Fourth Sea Lord.

(Rear-Admiral A.L. Duff.) (Rear-Admiral H.H.D.


Deputy First Sea Lord. Civil Lord.

(Rear-Admiral G.P.W. Hope.) (Right Hon. E.G. Pretyman,



(Sir A.G. Anderson.)

Second Civil Lord.

(Mr. A.F. Pease.)

Financial Secretary.

(Right Hon. T.J. Macnamara, M.P.)

Permanent Secretary.

(Sir O. Murray.)

The principle of isolating the work of planning and directing naval war operations from all other work, in order that it may receive the entire attention of the Officers selected for its performance, is now being carried a stage further and applied systematically to the organization of the Operations side of the Board and that of the Naval Staff.

In future the general distribution of duties between the Members of the Board belonging to the Naval Staff will be as follows:-

FIRST SEA LORD AND CHIEF Naval policy and general direction

OF NAVAL STAFF of operations.

DEPUTY CHIEF OF NAVAL War operations in Home

STAFF Waters.


STAFF anti-submarine operations.

DEPUTY FIRST SEA LORD General policy questions and

operations outside Home


The detailed arrangements have been carefully worked out so as to relieve the first three of these officers of the necessity of dealing with any questions not directly connected with the main operations of the war, and the great mass of important paper work and administrative detail which is inseparably and necessarily connected with Staff work, but which has hitherto tended to compete for attention with Operations work generally will under the new organization be diverted to the Deputy First Sea Lord.

The grouping of the Directors of the Naval Staff Divisions will be governed by the same principle.

The only two Directors that will work immediately under the First Sea Lord will be the Director of Intelligence Division (Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Hall) and the Director of Training and Staff Duties (Rear-Admiral J. C. Ley), whose functions obviously affect all the other Staff Divisions alike.

Under the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff will be grouped three Directors whose duties will relate entirely to the planning and direction of operations in the main sphere of naval activity, viz.:-

Director of Operations Division Captain A.D.P. Pound.


Director of Plans Division Captain C.T.M. Fuller,

C.M.G., D.S.O.

Director of Air Division Wing Captain F.R. Scarlett,


together with the Director of Signals Division, Acting-Captain R.L. Nicholson, D.S.O., whose duties relate to the system of Fleet communications.

Under the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff will be grouped four Directors, whose duties relate to Trade Protection and Anti-Submarine Operations, viz:-

Director of Anti-Submarine Captain W.W. Fisher, C.B.


Director of Mine-sweeping Captain L.G. Preston, C.B.


Director of Mercantile Movements Captain F.A. Whitehead.


Director of Trade Division Captain A.G. Hotham.

Under the Deputy First Sea Lord there will be one Director of Operations Division (Foreign)-Captain C.P.R. Coode, D.S.O.

The chief change on the Maintenance side of the Board relates to the distribution of duties amongst the Civil Members. The continuance of the war has caused a steady increase in the number of cases in which necessary developments of Admiralty policy due to the war, or experience resulting from war conditions give rise to administrative problems of great importance and complexity, of which a solution will have to be forthcoming either immediately upon or very soon after the conclusion of the war. The difficulty of concentrating attention on these problems of the future in the midst of current administrative work of great urgency may easily be appreciated, and the Civil Lord has consented to take charge of this important matter, with suitable naval and other assistance. He will, therefore, be relieved by the Second Civil Lord of the administration of the programme of Naval Works, including the questions of priority of labour and material requirements arising therefrom and the superintendence of the Director of Works Department.

It has further been decided that the exceptional labour and other difficulties now attending upon the execution of the very large programme of urgent naval works in progress have so greatly transformed the functions of the Director of Works Department of the Admiralty that it is desirable, whilst these abnormal conditions last, to place that Department under the charge of an expert in the rapid execution of large engineering works.

The Army Council have consented, at the request of the First Lord of the Admiralty, to lend for this purpose the services of Colonel Alexander Gibb, K.B.E., C.B., R.E., Chief Engineer, Port Construction, British Armies in France. Colonel Gibb (of the Firm of Easton, Gibb, Son and Company, which built Rosyth Naval Base) will have the title of Civil Engineer-in-Chief, and will be assisted by the Director of Works, who retains his status as such, and the existing Staff of the Department, which will be strengthened as necessary.

Another important change has reference to the organization of the Admiralty Board of Invention and Research, and has the object at once of securing greater concentration of effort in connection with scientific research and experiment, and ensuring that the distinguished scientists who are giving their assistance to the Admiralty are more constantly in and amongst the problems upon which they are advising.

Mr. Charles H. Merz, M.Inst.C.E., the well-known Electrical Consulting Engineer, who has been associated with the Board of Invention and Research (B.I.R.) since its inception, has consented to serve as Director of Experiments and Research (unpaid) at the Admiralty to direct and supervise all the executive arrangements in connection with the organization of scientific Research and Experiments. Mr. Merz will also be a member of the Central Committee of the B.I.R. under the presidency of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher. The functions of the Central Committee will, as hitherto, be to initiate, investigate, develop and advise generally upon proposals in respect to the application of Science and Engineering to Naval Warfare, but the distinguished scientific experts at present giving their services will in future work more much closely with the Technical Departments of the Admiralty immediately concerned with the production and use of apparatus required for specific purposes.

The general arrangements in regard to the organization of scientific research and experiment will in future come under the direct supervision of the First Lord.

Possibly by reason of the manner in which the announcement was made, the Press appeared to assume that the whole of this Admiralty organization was new. Such was not the case. Apart from the changes in the personnel of the Board itself and a slight rearrangement of their duties and those due to the establishment of an Air Ministry (which had been arranged by the Cabinet before December, 1917), there were but slight alterations in the organization shown in Table A [above], as will be seen by comparing it with Table C on p. 27 [below], which indicates graphically the organization given in the Admiralty communique.



Deputy Chief of Naval Staff.

Director of Signals Division.

Director of Operations Division (Home).

Director of Plans Division.

Director of Air Division.

Deputy First Sea Lord.

Director of Operations Division (Foreign) and

Administrative detail work.

Director of Intelligence Division.

Director of Training and Staff Duties.

Assistant Chief of Naval Staff.

Director of Trade Division.

Director of Mercantile Movements.

Director of Mine-sweeping.

Director of Anti-Submarine Division.

It will be seen that the alterations in Naval Staff organization were as follows:

(a) The new Deputy First Sea Lord-Rear-Admiral Hope-who since the spring of 1917 had been Director of the Operations Division, was given the responsibility for operations in foreign waters, with a Director of Operations (foreign) under him, and was also definitely charged with the administrative detail involving technical matters. The special gifts, experience and aptitude of this particular officer for such work enabled him, no doubt, to relieve the pressure on the First Sea Lord for administrative detail very materially.

(b) The Operations Division was separated into two parts (home and foreign), with a Director for each, instead of there being a Deputy Director for home and an Assistant Director for foreign work, both working under the Director. This was a change in name only, as the same officer continued the foreign work under the new arrangement.

(c) The Director of the Intelligence Division and the Director of Training and Staff Duties were shown as working immediately under the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff.

(d) A Director of the Air Division was introduced as a result of the Naval Air Service having been separated from the Admiralty and placed under the Air Ministry. A larger Admiralty Staff organization for aerial matters thus became necessary, since the Staff could no longer refer to the Naval Air Service.

There were no other changes in the Staff organization. As regards the general Admiralty organization, there was no change except that caused by the disappearance of the separate Naval Air Service, the addition of a Second Civil Lord, and some reorganization of the Board of Invention and Research which had been under discussion for some months previously.

It is probable that in 1918 the Chief of the Naval Staff had more time at his disposal than was the case in 1917, owing to the changes in organization initiated in the later year having reached some finality and to the fact that the numerous anti-submarine measures put in hand in 1917 had become effective in 1918.

The future Admiralty Naval Staff organization, which was in my mind at the end of 1917, was a development of that shown in Table A, p. 20, subject to the following remarks:

In the organization then adopted the personality and experience during the war of many of the officers in high positions were of necessity considered, and the organization to that extent adapted to circumstances. This resulted in somewhat overloading the staff at the head, and the principle on which the Board of Admiralty works, i.e., that its members are colleagues one of another, and seniority in rank does not, theoretically, give greater weight in council, was not altogether followed. Thus the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, and the Deputy First Sea Lord were, by the nature of their duties, subordinate to the Chief of the Naval Staff and yet were members of the Board. The well-known loyalty of naval officers to one another tended to minimize any difficulties that might have arisen from this anomaly, but the arrangement might conceivably give rise to difficulty, and is best avoided if the Board system is to remain.

The situation would be clearer if two of the three officers concerned were removed altogether from the Board, viz., the Deputy First Sea Lord and the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, leaving only the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff as a member of the Board to act in the absence of the Chief of the Naval Staff and to relieve him of the administrative and technical work not immediately connected with operations.

The work of the two officers thus removed should, under these conditions, be undertaken by officers who should preferably be Flag Officers, with experience in command at sea, having the titles of Directors of Operations, whose emoluments should be commensurate with their position and responsibilities.

I did not consider it advisable to carry out this alteration during the war, and it was also difficult under the hour to hour stress of war to rearrange all the duties of the Naval Staff in the manner most convenient to the conduct of Staff business, although its desirability was recognized during 1917.

It may be as well to close this chapter by a few remarks on Staff work generally in the Navy. In the first place it is necessary in the Navy to give much weight to the opinions of specialist officers, and for this reason it is desirable that they should be included in the Staff organization, and not "attached" to it as was the case with our Army in pre-war days. The reason for this is that in the Army there is, except in regard to artillery, little "specialization." The training received by an officer of any of the fighting branches of the Army at the Staff College may fit him to assist in the planning and execution of operations, provided due regard is paid to questions of supply, transport, housing, etc.

This is not so in a navy. A ship and all that she contains is the weapon, and very intimate knowledge of the different factors that go to make a ship an efficient weapon is necessary if the ship is to be used effectively and if operations in which the ship takes so prominent a part are to be successfully planned and executed, or if a sound opinion is to be expressed on the training necessary to produce and maintain her as an efficient weapon.

The particular points in which this specially intimate knowledge is required are:

(a) The science of navigation and of handling ships of all types and classes.

(b) Gunnery.

(c) Torpedoes and mines.

It is the case at present (and the conditions are not likely to alter) that each one of these subjects is a matter for specialist training. Every executive officer has a general knowledge of each subject, but it is not possible for any one officer to possess the knowledge of all three which is gained by the specialist, and if attempts are made to plan operations without the assistance of the specialists grave errors may be made, and, indeed, such errors were made during the late war, perhaps from this cause.

In my view, therefore, it is desirable that specialist officers should be included in a Naval Staff organization and not be merely "attached" to it. It may be said that a Staff can take the advice of specialist officers who are attached to it for that purpose. But there is a danger that the specialist advice may never reach the heads of the Staff. Human nature being what it is, the safest procedure is to place the specialist officer where his voice must be heard, i.e. to give him a position on the Staff, for one must legislate for the average individual and for normal conditions of work.

The Chief of a Staff might have specialist knowledge himself, or he might assure himself that due weight had been given to the opinions of specialists attached to a Staff; but, on the other hand, it is possible that he might not have that knowledge and that he might ignore the opinions of the specialists. The procedure suggested is at least as necessary when considering the question of training as it is in the case of operations.

In passing from this point I may say that I have heard the opinion expressed by military Staff officers that the war has shown that artillery is so all important that it would be desirable to place the Major-General of the Royal Artillery, now attached to General Headquarters, on the Staff for operational matters.

Finally, great care should be exercised to prevent the Staff becoming larger than is necessary, and there is some danger that the ignorant may gauge the value of the Staff by its size.

Von Schellendorff says on this subject:

"The principle strictly followed throughout the German Service of reducing all Staffs to the smallest possible dimensions is moreover vindicated by restricting every Staff to what is absolutely necessary, and by not attaching to every Army, Army Corps and Divisional Staff representatives of all the various branches and departments according to any fixed rule.

"There cannot be the slightest doubt that the addition of every individual not absolutely required on a Staff is in itself an evil. In the first place, it unnecessarily weakens the strength of the regiment from which an officer is taken. Again it increases the difficulty of providing the Staff with quarters, which affects the troops that may happen to be quartered in the same place; and these are quite ready enough, as it is, occasionally to look with a certain amount of dislike-though in most cases it is entirely uncalled for-on the personnel of the higher Staffs. Finally, it should be remembered-and this is the most weighty argument against the proceeding-that idleness is at the root of all mischief. When there are too many officers on a Staff they cannot always find the work and occupation essential for their mental and physical welfare, and their superfluous energies soon make themselves felt in all sorts of objectionable ways. Experience shows that whenever a Staff is unnecessarily numerous the ambitious before long take to intrigue, the litigious soon produce general friction, and the vain are never satisfied. These failings, so common to human nature, even if all present, are to a great extent counteracted if those concerned have plenty of hard and constant work. Besides, the numbers of a Staff being few, there is all the greater choice in the selection of the men who are to fill posts on it. In forming a Staff for war the qualifications required include not only great professional knowledge and acquaintance with service routine, but above all things character, self-denial, energy, tact and discretion."

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