Book Review: Strategy and War Planning in the British Navy, 1887-1918


by Shawn T. Grimes

Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell Press, 2012. Pp. xiv, 264. Maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $115.00. ISBN: 184383698X

This is a ground breaking look at war planning in the Royal Navy from late-Victorian times through the end of World War I.  Amassing a huge amount of hitherto overlooked evidence, Dr. Grimes (Saskatchewan) takes on the notion that strategy and war planning in the Royal Navy in this era was non-existent or at best amateurish, thus throwing a fresh light on the entire period. 

Grimes opens with a look at how the Royal Navy viewed the naval side of the Franco-Russian alliance that began to take shape in 1888 and British strategic thought into the 1890.  He then examines the increasing sensitivity to rising German naval power, which led to a decisive shift in war planning, yet one which had surprising roots in earlier strategies.  Grimes then discusses how planning and strategy evolved and changed during the war itself  In doing this, he makes use not only of actual wartime experience, but also takes a good look at the lessons of fleet maneuvers, an often overlooked element in the shaping of maritime strategy. 

In the course of telling this story, Grimes covers a number of other aspects of the naval history of the period.  For example, he examines British notions of operations in cooperation in Scandinavia, where, rather surprisingly, some of the regional nations were not as firmly committed to neutrality as is generally thought.  Grimes also gives us politicians, naval officers, and so forth, including several interesting but now largely forgotten minor characters who played often surprising roles.

An important book for those interested in the origins of the Great War and its conduct at sea, Strategy and War Planning in the British Navy, 1887-1918 well also prove reward for anyone studying the history of naval strategy.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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