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After Jutland

After Jutland

James Goldrick
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Rear Admiral Goldrick brings to the story insights as a seaman that no landsman could possibly achieve, and is able also to draw on his own Command experience. He is no mean researcher, as shown by his extensive references and bibliography. Consequently what we get is a truly comprehensive account of naval events, in the North Sea and the Baltic, from Jutland to the Armistice, that takes wind and weather and sea, and particularly human factors, fully into consideration, which explains all manner of things, and delivers a very interesting narrative. There is considerable detail of various individual actions, they explained right down to the tactical and operational levels, which makes clear the reasons for their results (or lack of same).

Besides the North Sea war between the RN (helped a little by the French and later more so by the USN) and Germany, we are shown the quite separate war going on in the Baltic between Germany and Russia (aided by a small number of intrepid British submarines), featuring (to start with) mostly obsolescent capital ships and characterised by second-rate commanders on both sides, leading to feinting rather than fighting. The usefulness of Russian new construction, available from 1917, was undermined by Red Revolution. Mine warfare was key here - the Russians laid forty thousand - as in the North Sea where the RN eventually copied the German mine for greater effect. All sides sustained considerable losses, both from the mines and from attempted interdiction of the sweepers.

The resumé of Jutland I felt could have more stressed the failure of the Scheer's High Seas Fleet to make any ground at all towards its strategic objective of breaking the strangulation of the British blockade. In that sense Tirpitz' vast investment in the HSF achieved (in strategic terms) precisely NOTHING, then or indeed later. 'Jutland the Unfinished Battle' by Nicholas Jellicoe is worth a read.

With regard to the vexed delay in implementing Convoy, a more precise citation of the merchant shipping statistics by which the Admiralty allowed itself to be misled might be welcome. The scope of this book extends to operations from Queenstown, particularly after the USN arrived. Bayly's War by Steve R Dunn is a good primer for this. The Zeebrugge raid, costly in men and treasure for no useful result, gets its own chapter; 'Zeebrugge, St George's Day 1918' by Barrie Pitt (1958 ) is the book for the full treatment.

Some of the many photographs are from Australian sources so may well be new to many readers. The text is comprehensively supported by useful charts. The great deal of hard work that has gone into this book is lucidly presented in a comprehensive and balanced manner, with due notice taken of the fog of war - the RN intelligence system slow to mature - and the physical limitations of poor visibility and actual fog are taken into account in a seamanlike manner.

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