Book Review: Blockade: Cruiser Warfare and the Starvation of Germany in World War One


by Steve Dunn

Barnsley, Eng.: Seaforth / Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016. p. 206. Map, illus., appends., biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 1848323409

The Royal Navy and Economic Warfare during the Great War

In this work Dunn, author of Securing the Narrow Sea: The Dover Patrol 1914-1918 and other books on the Royal Navy from late-Victorian times through the First World War, tackles several different but inter-related subjects; the operations of cruisers for commerce raiding, trade protection, and the British blockade of Germany.  After a short introduction on the coming of the war and state of the navies at its outbreak, Dunn divides his subject into four parts.

Part One deals with the operations of German commerce raiders, from converted liners to cruisers to merchantmen, and, of course, British counter operations. Dunn offers us a number of good fights and some tales of fine seamen.

Part Two covers the operations of Britain’s blockade of German commerce. This was a difficult task carried out in subarctic waters primarily by obsolete vessels manned by overage or underage volunteer seamen with a seasoning of professionals. It had potentially critical diplomatic consequences, such as when American ships were found carrying contraband, which initially caused considerable tension between the two nations.

Part Three deals with operations against German blockade runners, trying to sneak critical materials into the Reich, and Dunn gives us some daring missions, most of which failed due to increasing dominance of the Royal Navy.

Part Four summarizes the overall importance of these operations, which certainly prevented Germany from receiving vital war materials, and are also said to have caused great hardship among German civilians, and following up with profiles of the postwar careers of some of the people mentioned in the book. It is his conclusions about the blockade’s effect on Germany’s food supply and the widespread hunger in the empire toward the end of the war that Dunn stumbles, though so do most writers on the subject, as he overlooks the question of why despite controlling Poland and Galicia for most of the war, two major food exporting regions, Germany failed to feed its people.

Nevertheless, Blockade will prove a rewarding read for any serious student of naval history.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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