Annual Manoeuvres of 1912
The intended outline of the Royal Navy's Annual Manoeuvres of 1912 was vaguely described in The Times in mid-July. The lack of detail is unusual for such exercises, and reference is made to secrecy.. This was probably owing to the sensitivity of the exercise, which was to investigate the vulnerability of Great Britain to raid or invasion by Germany. The Army was arguing that its role would be in France in the event of a war, and that the Navy had to protect Britain from invasion. The Navy believed that its role would be following the traditional strategy of blockade and using the Army as an amphibious force, which had proved successful in war since the seventeenth century.
Planning and Conduct of the Manoeuvres
The manoeuvres for 1912 were mainly designed to explore the Navy’s ability to prevent a hostile landing and to protect trade. After a review of the fleet at Spithead on Tuesday 9th July, the ships departed for their preliminary positions in the exercise which began on Thursday 11th July.
Admiral Sir George Callaghan was in charge of the attacking Red forces, operating against the defending Blue forces commanded by Admiral H.S.H. Prince Louis of Battenberg. The umpire was Admiral Sir William May in HMS Euryalus.
Blue territory was all of the United Kingdom and Ireland with the exception of the coast between Flamborough Head and Dungeness. Red territory was the coastline from Yarmouth Pier to Dungeness. The coast between Flamborough Head and Yarmouth Pier was neutral territory.
On the declaration of war, it was known to Red that a Blue fleet was cruising off the Scottish coast, with its HQ at Rosyth. A second Blue fleet was cruising off the west coast of Scotland and Blue cruisers and destroyers had been sighted in the North Sea. Red battleships were known to be in Dover Harbour and at the Nore.
The orders for the Red force were to achieve one or all of the following:
- To cover the descent of a military expedition on the Blue coast;
- To interrupt Atlantic trade, in sufficient strength to ensure that only battleships could engage them;
- To interrupt Atlantic trade with cruisers, in sufficient strength to divert the attention of the Blue battle fleet.
Instead of chartering transports, battleships were used to represent transports when they flew the Transport flag. Each 'transport' was assumed to carry 3,000 men including cyclists but no horses. Transports were assessed as being able to unload 500 men per hour in daylight, or two hours at night.
In the event of naval engagements, the limit of effective fire was set at 9,000 yards range, and less than 3,000 yards at night. Torpedo craft were not allowed to approach the enemy closer than 500 yards. Submarines could only attack by day and at less than 1,200 yards. After an attack, or when within 1,000 yards of a ship, submarines were required to surface thereby precluding multiple attacks.
Conclusions Drawn from the Manoeuvres
The main event of the 1912 manoeuvres was the successful landing of a raiding force at Filey by Red forces. This success caused concern in the Government, although the defending submarines claimed that they had only failed to attack the 'transports' as they were unable to identify that the enemy battleships were acting as transports. In order to investigate this, a similar scenario was repeated in the Annual Manoeuvres of 1913 in which, to prevent the recurrence of a similarly equivocal result, real transports were chartered and supplied with troops from the Army and Royal Marines.
Order of Battle
The Blue Force, consisting of 26 battleships, 21 armoured and six protected cruisers under the command of Prince Louis of Battenberg would be the defending force. The Red Force, under Sir George Callaghan, would be the attacking force and would consist of 15 battleships, ten armoured and three protected cruisers.
The secrecy maintained through this exercise appears to have extended to the Service Records of R.N. personnel.
The Blue Fleet was to be the defending fleet, under Commander-in-Chief Admiral Admiral H.S.H. Prince Louis of Battenberg.
The Red Fleet was to be the "attacking fleet," falling under the overall direction of Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir George Callaghan.
- "The Naval Manoeuvres." The Times (London, England), Monday, July 15, 1912, Issue 39951, p.8.
- "Naval & Military Intelligence." The Times (London, England), 19 June 1912, p. 6.
- For a detailed discussion of the clash of approaches see Andrew Lambert's "The British Way of War: Julian Corbett and the Battle for a National Strategy", (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2021).
- Most of the following information comes from Admiralty, “Naval Manoeuvres, 1912”, June 1912, plus “Errata and Addenda”: ADM 116/1176B, TNA.
- "The Naval Manoeuvres." The Times (London, England), Monday, July 22, 1912, Issue 39957, p.5.
- Arthur J. Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Vol 1: The Road to War, 1904-1914, (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 352.
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