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11-08-2015, 16:15

Prewar Naval Plans

The prewar ideas of naval planners proved even more detached from reality than those of their army counterparts. Both sides expected their battle fleets to meet in major engagements shortly after the start of the war. Germany's leading admirals expected the British fleet to do what it had done in the Napoleonic wars: move close to Germany's ports and naval bases in the North Sea in order to block Germany's maritime commerce. This seemed to offer brilliant prospects for the numerically weaker German navy. By picking its targets and times carefully, Germany could eliminate Britain's major naval units one at a time. When the strength of the British fleet had been brought within reach of Germany's High Seas Fleet, Germany would accept a general naval encounter. Meanwhile, British leaders expected an immediate offensive by the High Seas Fleet upon the outbreak of war. The Germans would come out of their ports, face the full weight of British naval power, and suffer an early and catastrophic defeat. In Paul Halpem's description of the temper of the times in Britain, "When the war broke out, the generation that had experienced the Anglo-German naval race, read widely popular spy stories . . . and remembered the sudden Japanese attack on the Russian base at Port Arthur a decade earlier fully expected a major battle within a short period of time."