Advertisement

Strategic Dilemmas: 1914–15

  • Andrew Suttie

Abstract

Following his account of the outbreak of war, Lloyd George provides a critique of several aspects of British strategy in the first weeks of hostilities. He first argues that the decision to deploy the BEF on the left wing of the French was wrong and instead that BEF would have been better placed to inflict a severe, even decisive blow against the German advance by concentrating in Antwerp and joining forces with the Belgians. He then describes his proposal to circumvent the developing stalemate in France with an audacious Allied attack on Austria-Hungary in alliance with the Balkan states. This was rejected by the Cabinet, however, in favour of an attack on Turkey in the Dardanelles, initially with naval forces alone and later with substantial land forces, with well-known results. Allied forces were later deployed in Salonika at the end of 1915, but rather than launching a powerful attack on Austria as Lloyd George wanted, they were too weak in numbers and equipment to be anything but an irritant to Austria and Bulgaria until the last months of the war.

Keywords

General Staff Ally Force Naval Force British Troop Western Front 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 4.
    Robert Blake (ed.), The Private Papers of Douglas Haig 1914–1919 (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1952), pp. 68–69; Google Scholar
  2. C.E. Callwell (ed.), Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: His Life and Diaries, 2 vols (London: Cassell, 1927) p. 158; Google Scholar
  3. Samuel R. Williamson, The Politics of Grand Strategy: Britain and France Prepare for War 1904–1914 (London and Atlantic Highlands NJ: Ashfield Press, 1990), p. 365; Google Scholar
  4. Maurice Hankey, The Supreme Command, 2 vols (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961), 1, pp. 170–71.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Trevor Wilson, The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1986), pp. 36–37. Google Scholar
  6. See also Sir Llewellyn Woodward, Great Britain and the War of 1914–1918 (London: Methuen, 1967), p. 31; Google Scholar
  7. George H. Cassar, The Tragedy of Sir John French (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1985), p. 84.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Paul Guinn, British Strategy and Politics 1914–1918 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), pp. 13–14; Google Scholar
  9. William J. Philpott, ‘British Military Strategy on the Western Front: Independence or Alliance 1904–1918’ (DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1991), pp. 19–28 (published in revised form as Anglo-French Relations and Strategy on the Western Front 1914–1918 [London: Macmillan, 1996]).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Randolph S. Churchill, Young Statesman: Winston S. Churchill 1901–1914, Companion vol. II (London: Heinemann, 1969), pp. 1117–18, Churchill to Grey, 30 August 1911, Churchill to Lloyd George, 31 August 1911.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    B.H. Liddell Hart, History of the First World War (London: Pan, 1970) (pbk ed. of A History of the World War 1934, itself was a revised edition of The Real War, 1930), p. 44.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy: The Indirect Approach (London: Faber & Faber, 1967) (rev.ed. of The Strategy of Indirect Approach, 1941), p. 168.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Michael Howard, The Continental Commitment (London: Temple Smith, 1972), p. 55.Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Asquith was impressed with Lloyd George’s effort. As he wrote to Venetia Stanley: ‘I have also received to-day two long mem[oranda] — one from Winston, the other from Lloyd George (quite good, the latter) as to the … conduct of the war. They are both keen on a new objective & theatre, as soon as our new troops are ready: W, of course, for Borkum & the Baltic: LI.G for Salonika to join in with the Serbians, & for Syria!’, Michael and Eleonor Brock (eds), H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 357–58.Google Scholar
  15. 38.
    On the Austro-Hungarian army see Alan Sked, The Decline and Fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1815–1918 (London: Longman, 1989), pp. 258–64; Google Scholar
  16. Gunther E. Rothenberg, ‘The Habsburg Army in the First World War: 1914–1918’, in Béla K. Király and Nándor F. Dreisziger (eds), East Central Europe in World War I (Highland Lakes: Atlantic Research and Publications, Social Science Monographs, 1985), pp. 289–300; Google Scholar
  17. István Deák, ‘The Habsburg Army in the First and Last Days of World War I: A Comparative Analysis’, in Király and Dreisziger (eds), East Central Europe in World War I, pp. 301–12; cf. Geoffrey Wawro, ‘Morale in the Austro-Hungarian Army: the Evidence of Habsburg Army Campaign Reports and Allied Intelligence Officers’, in Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle (eds), Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced (London: Leo Cooper, 1996), pp. 399–412.Google Scholar
  18. 42.
    David Stevenson (ed.), British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part II Series H, The First World War 1914–1918, 12 vols (University Publications of America, 1989; General Editors Kenneth Bourne and D. Cameron Watt), p. 17, No. 38, Grey to Erskine, British Chargé d’Affaires in Athens, 11 August 1914. Venizelos a few days later told Erskine that support for a Balkan grouping was his ‘personal view’, and that he was anxious that the initiative should come from Russia; p. 19, No. 43, Erskine to Grey, 12 August 1914.Google Scholar
  19. 44.
    David French, British Strategy and War Aims 1914–1916 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986), p. 68.Google Scholar
  20. 48.
    Ibid. For an examination of the issues of supply and communications in the Macedonian campaign, see Cyril Falls, Military Operations in Macedonia from the Outbreak of War to the Spring of 1917, Vol. I (London: HMSO, 1933), ch. 12.Google Scholar
  21. 50.
    Kitchener to French, 2 January 1915, quoted in ibid., p. 382. See also Sir George Arthur, Life of Lord Kitchener, 3 vols (London: Macmillan, 1920), I, pp. 85–86.Google Scholar
  22. 60.
    J.F.C. Fuller, The Conduct of War 1789–1961 (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1962), pp. 161–62.Google Scholar
  23. 71.
    Keith Robbins, ‘British Diplomacy and Bulgaria 1914–1915’, Slavonic and East European Review, XLIX, 117, October 1971, p. 566.Google Scholar
  24. 72.
    Stevenson (ed.), British Documents on Foreign Affairs from the Confidential Print, Part II Series H, I, p. 383, No. 670, Lord Eustace Percy, The Balkans, 1914–15, from the Outbreak of War to the Offer to Bulgaria, 9 July 1915.Google Scholar
  25. 73.
    See ibid., Edward, Viscount Grey, Twenty Five Years, 2 vols (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1925), I, p. 180; Google Scholar
  26. G.M. Trevelyan, Grey of Fallodon (London: Longmans, 1937), p. 283. The latter notes that ‘Grey could not alienate Russia and bring Turkey and Bulgaria into the war against us, merely for Greek aid’. This is particularly pertinent considering the state of the Greek Army. On this point, see Prior, ‘World Crisis’ as History, p. 185 and Prior’s comments on Churchill’s discussion of the ‘lost opportunity’ of Greek aid, p. 44.Google Scholar
  27. 79.
    A.J.P. Taylor (ed.), Lloyd George: A Diary by Frances Stevenson (London: Hutchinson, 1971), p. 28. See Lloyd George’s nine-page letter to Grey, 7 February 1915. At the end of the letter he tacked on one line: ‘The financial conference was a great success’; HLRO LG MSS: C/4/1/16.Google Scholar
  28. 87.
    See Grigg, Lloyd George, II, p. 207 and Alan Palmer, The Gardeners of Salonika (London: Andre Deutsch, 1965), p. 28. Although as Lloyd George said one month later, ‘the reason why Greece did not intervene was not the general opposition of the King, but the fact that by the most competent military judges in Greece Germany was still expected to win … The same impression was influencing the other neutral countries — Bulgaria, Roumania, Italy. It required a man of real imagination and insight like Venizelos to realise the immense staying power of Great Britain which in the end would determine the issue.’ Scott Diaries, pp. 120–21.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Andrew Suttie 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Suttie

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations