Le 6 avril 2017, 11:16 dans Humeurs • 0
I then went on to reply to the critics who had said that the use of monitors for coast defence was the most disturbing feature of a very unwise series of departures from true policy, and then passed on to what seemed to me the more serious criticism, as follows:
“The attack on this part of Mr. Balfour’s policy is vastly more damaging. For it asserts that the policy of defensive offence, Great Britain’s traditional sea strategy, has now been reversed. The East Coast towns may expect comparative immunity, but only because the strategic use of our forces has been altered. It is a modification imposed upon the Admiralty by the action of the enemy. Its weakness lies in the ‘substitution of squadrons in fixed positions for periodical sweeps in force through the length and breadth of the North Sea.’ Were this indeed the meaning of Mr. Balfour’s letter and the intention of his policy, nothing more deplorable could be imagined.
“But what ground is there for thinking that this is Mr. Balfour’s meaning? He says nothing of the kind. He275 makes it quite clear that a new arrangement is made possible by additional units of the first importance now being ready to use. The old provision of adequate naval preponderance at the right point has not been disturbed. It is merely proposed to establish new and advanced bases from which the new available squadrons can strike. It stands to reason that the nearer this base is to the shortest line between Heligoland and the East Coast, the greater the chance of the force within it being able to fall upon Germany’s cruising or raiding units if they venture within the radius of its action. To establish a new or more southerly base, then, is a development of, and not a departure from, our previous strategy—it shortens the radius of German freedom. If there is nothing to show that the old distribution is changed, certainly there is no suggestion that the squadron destined for the new base will be ‘fixed’ there. If squadrons now based on the north are there only to pounce upon the emerging German ships, why should squadrons based farther south not be ?”
The foregoing will make it clear that the general idea of British strategy was to maintain, to the extreme north of these islands, an overwhelming force of capital ships. It was adopted because it economized strength and secured the main object—viz. the paralysis of our enemy, outside certain narrow limits.
The southern half of the North Sea—say, roughly from Peterhead to the Skagerack, 400 miles; from the Skagerack to Heligoland, 250; from Heligoland to Lowestoft, 300; and from Lowestoft to Peterhead, 350 miles—was left as a kind of no man’s land. If the Germans chose to cruise about in this area, they took the chance of being cut off and engaged by the British forces, whose policy it was276 to leave their bases from time to time for what Sir John Jellicoe in the Jutland despatch describes as “periodic sweeps through the North Sea.” But the German Fleet being supplied with Zeppelins, could, in weather in which Zeppelins could scout, get information so far afield as to be able to choose the times for their own cruises in the North Sea, and so make the procedure a perfectly safe one, so long as chance encounters with submarines and straying into British mine-fields could be avoided.