Book Review: At War in Distant Waters: British Colonial Defense in the Great War


by Phillip G. Pattee

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013. Pp. xiv, 274. Maps, notes, biblio, index. $59.95. ISBN: 1612511945

Defending the Outposts of Empire against the German Threat, 1880-1915

Prof. Pattee (C&GSC, Leavenworth) argues that by the outbreak of the Great War, Britain had evolved a sophisticated concept of global imperial defense, to protect its maritime commerce from any enemy, notably, which from the late 1880s increasingly came to mean Germany.  

Pattee opens At War in Distant Waters with a look at Britain’s at the nature of worldwide trading network on the eve of the Great War.  He follows this with an overview of German foreign policy and maritime power as it evolved during the reign of Wilhelm II.  The bulk of Pattee’s book then addresses the ramifications of these two trends, as British concern over German ambitions and power grew.  He looks at various strategic options, including diplomatic ties with Japan, France, Russia, Italy, and other powers.  The result was a maritime strategy based in the colonies, to patrol the sea lanes and sweep German warships from the oceans.  Pattee covers the naval war “in distant waters” in 1914-1915 concisely, including the cruise of the German Pacific Cruiser Squadron, the exploits of individual German cruisers and merchant cruisers, and British counter measures, with surprising detail.  

At War in Distant Waters is an excellent study of the evolution and application of a maritime strategy, and will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in the Great War at sea or naval history, and is a “must” for serious students of strategy. 

Note: At War in Distant Waters is also available in PDF format or as an e-book, ISBN 978-1-61251-195-5

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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