Book Review: Before Jutland: The Naval War in Northern European Waters, August 1914-February 1915


by James Goldrick

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015. Pp. xx, 268. Illus., maps, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $44.95 paper. ISBN: 1591143497

The Prelminaries to the Main Event

Retired Australian rear admiral, naval historian, and maritime strategy analyst Goldrick, who has written extensively on British and Commonwealth navies, takes a fresh look at the opening six months of the Great War in the North and Baltic Seas, and adjacent waters. He opens with the interesting, and accurate observing that in many ways we understand the operations of the Age of Fighting Sail better than those of the Era of Dreadnoughts, in part because many technical details of warships and naval operations of the period have been forgotten, such as the limitations of contemporary radio communications and the lack of fleet air reconaissance.

Goldrich’s treatment of the movements of ships and their clashes is very clear, with a balanced mix of narrative and anaysis. He reminds us that despite almost literally decades of “getting ready,” no one was actually prepared for what came. There were miscaluclations and mistakes in such battles as Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank, and also in many smaller actions, and in sustaining the Allied blockade of Germany, mining and counter-mining operations, and, of course, in coping with the submarine threat.

Unlike many earlier, less thorough writers discussing these operations, Goldrick integrates how things like prewar service culture, popular expectations, careless intelligence management, inadequate command arrangements, tradition, class, technological overload (e.g., radio, submarines, fire control, aircraft, etc.) and, of course, personalities, affected the actions of the British and German fleets, and, to a lesser extent those of the French and Russians as well, which are are almost always absent from naval histories of the war.

Before Jutland is a very good book, a necessary read for the serious naval historian and a rewarding one for the armchair admiral.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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