As we can see from the production figures any claim that Germany was trying to challenge the Royal Navy is ludicrous. The question then arises: how did the arms race begin? As was hinted at above it was the result of a criminal triumvirate of Lord Balfour, Milliner, and First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Reginald McKenna.
The root cause of England’s warrantless provocation of Germany is found in the private writings of the US diplomat Henry White and his conversation with Lord Balfour in 1907:
“Balfour (somewhat lightly): “We are probably fools to not find a reason for not declaring war on Germany before she builds too many ships and takes away our trade.”
White: “You are a very high-minded man in private life. How can you possibly contemplate anything so politically immoral as provoking a war against a harmless nation which has as good a right to a navy as you have? If you wish to compete with German trade, work harder.”
Balfour: “That would mean lowering our standard of living. Perhaps it would be simpler for us to have a war.”
White: “I am shocked that you of all men should enunciate such principles.”
Balfour (again lightly): “Is it a question of right or wrong? Maybe it is just a question of keeping our supremacy.”
This view that England wanted to eliminate a trade rival was accepted by the renowned economist John Maynard Keynes:
“The politics of power are inevitable, and there is nothing very new to learn about this war or the end it was fought for; England had destroyed, as in each preceding century, a trade rival; a mighty chapter had been closed in the secular struggle between the glories of Germany and France.”
It should not be forgotten that after the end of the First World War, a massive trans-Atlantic revisionism took place in the US, UK, and France thoroughly debunking many of these myths, only for those same myths to re-entrench themselves in the post-World War II era. (*)
The hysteria directed against Germany began in 1909 with the Great Naval Scare. When First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Reginald McKenna made ludicrous claims that Germany was intending to build eight dreadnoughts rather than the four stated in the April 1908 German Naval Law3, he spread hysteria throughout the British Isles. He claimed that Germany could build dreadnoughts faster than the British and would outstrip them in naval production at current rates. The heights of hysteria can be seen in the twin predictions made by McKenna and Lord Balfour in April 1912; the former claimed Germany had 17 dreadnoughts and the latter 21-25. The ridiculousness of these estimates can be seen by the fact that at the onset of the First World War in 1914 Germany had only 13 dreadnoughts4.
The ‘evidence’ for these fantastic figures came from H.H. Mulliner. Mr. Mulliner was the managing director of Coventry Ordnance Works. Desiring more orders from the government he fabricated a series of hysterical predictions that Germany would rapidly outpace Britain in dreadnought production. Due to the slump in naval production, a result of the détentes with France and Russia, a new foe had to be manufactured to ensure government orders. The information of Germany’s feverish buildup came from one of H.H. Mulliner’s employees, a certain Mr. Carpmael. Mr. Carpmael claimed to have visited the Krupp Works and saw five to six large machines of varying degrees of competition and assumed that Germany was building or capable of building six dreadnoughts a year.5 While Mr. Carpmael’s intentions are unknown they were grist for Mr. Mulliner’s mill.
Yet as these fabulous predications were being made the truth was well known by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the King. John ‘Jack’ Fisher wrote:
“I might say “The unswerving intention of 4 years has now culminated in two complete Fleets in Home Waters, each of which is incomparably superior to the whole German Fleet mobilized for war. Don’t take my word! Count them, see them for yourselves! You will see them next June. This can’t alter for years, even were we supinely passive in our building; but it won’t alter because we will have 8 dreadnoughts a year. So sleep quiet in your beds!””6
To King Edward he wrote:
“In March of this year, 1907, it is an absolute fact that Germany had not laid down a single “Dreadnought,” nor had she commenced building a single Battleship or Big Cruiser for eighteen months.”7
There is one more piece of information I have to give: Admiral Tirpitz, the German Minister of Marine has just stated, in a secret official document, that the English Navy is now four times stronger than the German Navy. Yes that is so, and we are going to keep the British Navy at that strength, with ten “Dreadnoughts” commenced last May. But we don’t want to parade all this to the world at large.”8
Bold is mine, but as we can see the British with cold and malicious intent lied about an irenic neighbor in order to build up the Royal Navy for war with Germany to remove a trade rival. Admiral von Tirpitz claims that the British led by “Jack” Fisher compared the projected size of the Germany Navy of 1920 with the then contemporary British Navy of 1908, this bait and switch being impossible for the British people to have known about.9
The question then arises: why did Germany seek a blue water navy? In order to combat the growing strength of the Franco-Russian navies as the two nations were joined as allies. We see from JFC Fuller:
The crux of the naval question was that it had been the policy of successive British governments to concentrate popular attention on British and German expansion alone; they did not take into account the fact that Germany had other naval considerations than war against England. Her naval situation in a war against France and Russia was overlooked; yet it was the situation which was, and had been, the governing factor in her naval policy since 1900, when Admirals Tirpitz said: “We should be in a position to blockade the Russian fleet in the Baltic ports, and to prevent at the same time the entrance to that sea of the French fleet.”10
Check out Todd Lewis’ blog at http://praiseoffolly.wordpress.com/
1 Alvin Nevins, Thirty Years of American Diplomacy (Harper & Brothers, 1st edition 1930), 257-58.
2 John Maynard Keynes, The economic consequences of the peace (Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920), 33.
3 Francis Neilson, How Diplomats Make War (B. W. Huebsch, 1915), 135.
4 Bertrand Russell, Prophesy and Dissent, (Academic Division of Unwin Hayman Ltd., 1988), 263.
5 “Background to the Dreadnought Panic – enter Mr. Mulliner.”, accessed October 2, 2014 http://www.whyworldwar1.com/1906-9-mulliner-panic#_edn3
6 Baron John Arbuthnot Fisher, Memories (Hodder and Stroughton),189-190.
7 Ibid pg 14
8 Ibid pg 16
9 Admiral von Tirpitz, My Memoirs (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1919), 269.
10JFC Fuller, Military History of the Western World, Vol. 3: From the American Civil War to the End of World War II (Da Capo Press, 1956), 176-7