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The War at Sea

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The War at Sea Why were there so few naval battles in World War 1? Both Germany and Britain believed that naval warfare was going to be of utmost importance to the outcome of the war. Even before the war, there was a frantic naval race in which both sides attempted to outnumber the other. However, in the entire duration of World War 1, very few naval battles took place. Although, sea campaigns were vitally important, confrontations were few, due to the cautious tactics of both sides' generals. Though there were a few important ones; at Heligoland with the British navy winning a small tactical victory over the Germans in August 1914. At the British towns of Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough, which were shelled by the German navy in early 1914. In the Mediterranean, with the German cruiser, Goeben, evading the Royal Navy to reach Constantinople, with the consequence of Turkey entering the war allied with Germany. And the most important being at the Battle of Jutland, in 1916, with 14 British and 11 German ships sunk. Nevertheless, it meant that the Germans failed to achieve the most important objective, which was to remove the blockade. However, these battles were few, with both generals knowing that the dominance of the seas was going to remain with Britain and that it would be unlikely that the Germans would be successful in battle. ...read more.


From 1915, the British introduced five crucial tactics against the German Submarines. Q ships were used before unrestricted warfare, as decoys to ambush unwary U-boats. Merchant ships would be armed with disguised heavy guns and would fool the U-boats into attacking them. The instant the U-boat had attacked and made its position obvious, the Q ships would immediately fight back and return fire against the surprised Germans, almost always sinking them. Convoys were another tactic used. From mid-1917 almost all merchant ships travelled in convoys. British and US warships escorted merchant ships in close formation. Allied shipping losses fell by about twenty percent, as now it was harder for the enemy to attack the merchant ships without being destroyed first. Depth charges, also used in conjunction with convoys, were introduced in 1916 and proved second only to mines as a weapon against the U-boat. Depth charges were bombs set to go off underwater at certain depths, easily destroying nearby submarines. Long-range aircrafts were surprisingly effective in addition, especially towards the end of the war, with aircraft technology having developed so much that an aircraft could protect convoys. The final and most effective defence against submarines were mines. Mines destroyed more U-boats than any other weapon and were particularly effective in preventing U-boats from using the English Channel and sailing into British ports. ...read more.


Conversely the use of sea effectively starved the Central Powers of all kinds of supplies, in a ruthless blockade that had contributed to their final collapse. Germany could never have been defeated at sea as Britain could have been. Germany's army was the mainstay of her power, and the only way it could be defeated was by other armies, supported by sea power. And it was the Allies naval blockade that primarily starved the people of Germany into defeat. It was this blockade that also brought about the Germany mutiny that led to the abduction of the Kaiser and ultimately the end of the War. This mutiny occurred when the German High Seas Fleet was ordered to break the blockade, an impossible mission. Although both sides have good arguments and reason, I believe it would be unwise to view them as two separate fronts. Both fronts worked in unity, to win the war and relied upon each other. Without the war at sea being won by the British, the soldiers at the frontline would not have been able to fight without supplies, and without the military and soldiers at the front, Germany would have swept through Europe, making it increasingly powerful and unconquerable. Therefore, I believe that the war at the front and the war at sea, were both equally important, and without either of them, the war could not have been won. Abbas Lightwalla 1 ...read more.

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