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Early 20th century naval communication

Early 20th century naval communication

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During the Discovery Expedition (1901-1904) to Antarctica, a pre-arranged message point was set up at Cape Crozier so that relief ships would be able to locate the expedition. What exactly was that message point? A flag semaphore point? A hut where written messages were left by the expedition team to the relief ships?

The usual method was to build a cairn of large stones, rather than a hut, and put written messages in watertight containers into it. This doesn't require transporting materials to build a hut to Antarctica, and is much less subject to being blown away by storms. Source: practices of the Franklin expedition to the Canadian Arctic.

A flag semaphore point would have to be manned, and that would have added considerably to the manpower and supplies required for the expedition.

Early 20th Century and World War I Photographs

After the turn of the century, the modern battleship took its final form. As the naval arms race escalated, imperial nations produced large fleets that symbolized a nation&rsquos might and ability to enact its foreign policies. Needless to say, these fleets required a huge amount of a country&rsquos wealth to maintain. A prime example of the growing arms race was the HMS Dreadnought, commissioned in 1906. This British battleship was equipped with 10 large guns as opposed to the usual 4 on preceding battleships. This emphasis on bigger, long range guns was a response to the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, where a Japanese fleet defeated a Russian fleet due in large part to its use of guns and rangefinders that could fire up to 15,000 yards. Naval warfare became dominated by battleships with success dependent upon a fleet&rsquos ability to hit the correct coordinates too distant to see with the unaided eye. After the HMS Dreadnought, every other ship was effectively obsolete with the launch of this ship. By World War 1, the major navies boasted large fleets of &ldquodreadnought&rdquo type ships. The First World War continued the development of the battleship however, aircraft emerged as a serious threat to the battleship. Aircraft carriers were born out of the lessons of World War 1. The decades after World War I eventually led to this new type of ship eclipsing the battleship as the most powerful type of ship afloat. World War I left the major powers (apart from the United States) with severely crippled economies, and as a result ship construction was not what it was pre- World War I.

A Seafaring Tradition

The fledgling Continental Navy created at the outset of the American Revolution had its roots in early colonial America. Early English settlers to the 13 colonies were as much drawn to the sea as to the land. The sea was a principal means of transportation and colonists looked to the sea to provide their living the sea was a barrier to their enemies and a marine highway to their mother country. Shipbuilding and the timber business formed the principal industries of colonial America, supplying both local and home country maritime needs. The largest American towns—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore—were all Atlantic seaports which developed professional seamen and the necessary ingredients for shipbuilding: warehouses, ropewalks, boat builder’s sheds, sail lofts, and counting houses. All up and down the coast, new ships slid down the stocks almost on a daily basis.

Case In Point: Communication Study Now

International, National, and Regional Organizations of Communication Study

A variety of professional organizations are devoted to organizing those interested in studying communication, organizing conferences for scholars to communicate about current research, and publishing academic journals highlighting the latest in research from our discipline. To find out more about what these organizations do, you can visit their websites.

The International Communication Association (ICA) was first organized in the 1940’s by various speech departments as the National Society for the Study of Communication (NSSC). By 1950 the NSSC had become the ICA and had the express purpose of bringing together academics and professionals around the world interested in the study of human communication. The ICA currently has over 3,400 members with over two-thirds of them working as teachers and researchers in educational settings around the world. International Communication
Association (ICA)

A relatively new organization that takes advantage of computer technologies to organize its members is the American Communication Association (ACA). The ACA was founded in 1993 and actually exists as a virtual professional association that includes researchers, teachers, and professionals devoted to communication study in North, Central, and South America as well as in the Caribbean. American Communication Association (ACA)

The largest United States organization devoted to communication is the National Communication Association (NCA). NCA boasts the largest membership of any communication organization in the world. Currently there are approximately 7,100 members from the U.S. and more than 20 foreign countries. The NCA is a scholarly society devoted to “enhancing the research, teaching, and service produced by its members on topics of both intellectual and social significance” ( National Communication Association (NCA)

There are also smaller regional organizations including the Eastern Communication Association (ECA), the Southern States Communication Association (SSCA), Central States Communication Association (CSCA), and Western States Communication Association (WSCA)

As Communication scholars formed departments of Communication, they also organized themselves into associations that reflected the interests of the field. The first organization of Communication professionals was the National Association of Elocutionists, established in 1892 (Rarig & Greaves 490), followed by The Eastern Public Speaking Conference formed in 1910. Within a year, over sixty secondary-school teachers of Speech attended a conference at Swarthmore (Smith 423). Our current National Communication Association began during this time in 1914 as the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking, and became the Speech Communication Association in 1970. It wasn’t until 1997 that members voted to change it to its current name. As a result of the work of the early founders, a number of organizations are currently devoted to bringing together those interested in studying communication.

After 2400 years of study going in a variety of directions, the beginning of the 20th century showed the desire of communication teachers to formally organize and institutionalize the study of communication. These organizations have played a large part in determining how departments of Communication look and function on college campuses, the Communication curriculum, and the latest in teaching strategies for Communication professors. To better understand the Communication department on your campus today, let’s examine some of the important events and people that shaped the study of communication during the 20th century.

Early 20th century naval sizes

Which is in fact what happened OTL the dreadnoughts were concentrated in the Grand Fleet to square off against Germany, while the RN used only a handful of predreadnought battleships in overseas points, mostly to show the flag, plus sending the BCs to chase after Von Spee's Far East Squadron.

None of the Central Powers fleets deployed anything larger than an armored cruiser outside of European waters throughout the length of the war.



Which is in fact what happened OTL the dreadnoughts were concentrated in the Grand Fleet to square off against Germany, while the RN used only a handful of predreadnought battleships in overseas points, mostly to show the flag, plus sending the BCs to chase after Von Spee's Far East Squadron.

None of the Central Powers fleets deployed anything larger than an armored cruiser outside of European waters throughout the length of the war.

Precisely. Of course, the German Admirals weren't utter fools their plan, given the tools they were given, was consistently to try and defeat the RN in detail fight only a portion of the Grand Fleet at a time, and hopefully crush it, and then proceed.

Unfortunately for the HSF, the British knew pretty well what they were doing, and never fought the Germans on those terms. There were the occasional chances where the Germans almost got the fight they wanted, but it never actually happened.


Precisely. Of course, the German Admirals weren't utter fools their plan, given the tools they were given, was consistently to try and defeat the RN in detail fight only a portion of the Grand Fleet at a time, and hopefully crush it, and then proceed.

Unfortunately for the HSF, the British knew pretty well what they were doing, and never fought the Germans on those terms. There were the occasional chances where the Germans almost got the fight they wanted, but it never actually happened.


Prior to 1910 it's an obsolete collection of rusting hulks. See, for instance, for a quick summary.

After 1910 it's still a distinctly third-rate power: two ex-German predreadnoughts, a rebuilt Monitor that they're pretending is equivalent to a predreadnought, a couple of protected cruisers, and the usual smattering of light ships, including a not-insignificant contingent of minelayers.




1) Don't forget the Swedish navy. Sweden followed a different philosophy focusing on having a navy to defend its coast and operate in the Baltic. Thus they built superb coast defence battleships - don't think second rate crappy battleship when you hear "coast defence" think the best available vessel for tonnage.

2) German battleships are not worthless outside of the North Sea. They are designed for operation not far from bases. Thus, the Goeben in the Mediterranean was an effective unit.

3) If you are not having WW1 break out in 1914, then you need to pay especial attention to Russia whose numbers of dreadnoughts is going to positively explode over the next few years - not just the 4 Ganguts, the 4 Borodinos and the 4 in the Black Sea, but plans already approved for 16" gunned ships for the Black Sea fleet.


Two of these predreadnoughts were ex-German and were reasonably effective as Marmara defence ships.

They also had 2 effective light cruisers, one of which was rather famous at the time for its trans-Mediterranean voyage during the Italo-Ottoman War


Up to that point, British propaganda made great play of their battlecruisers and the Falklands had seemed to bear this out. Thus, with the cold light of hindsight we can say "Oh they were only battlecruisers" but at the time it was "Holy Fuck we sank 3 British battlecruisers!"


Precisely. Of course, the German Admirals weren't utter fools their plan, given the tools they were given, was consistently to try and defeat the RN in detail fight only a portion of the Grand Fleet at a time, and hopefully crush it, and then proceed.

Unfortunately for the HSF, the British knew pretty well what they were doing, and never fought the Germans on those terms. There were the occasional chances where the Germans almost got the fight they wanted, but it never actually happened.

Ingenohl had the best chance in late 1914 but for his part was afraid that the apparent golden opportunity was actually a British trap so broke off

Gannt the chartist

For reference there is a Janes Fighting Ships for ww1 (and 2) which you can get on ebay for $20 -$30 and is comprehensive.

Conways fighting ships may be more useful (1860 - 1905, 1905 - 1922, 22 - 46) as they give a greater date range and in the UK go for £20-30 each.

Your location says Texas if you are near Corpus Christi the Half price bookstore on SPID used to have a disproportionate library on matters naval.

Online apart from the ones mentioned

Navweps. It actually gives you the weapon type but also the class name which equipped it. If you google the class Name given it usually links to a wiki page you can crosscheck that page lists the preceding and succeeding classes of the same type (cruiser destroyer etc0 of that navy.


Up to that point, British propaganda made great play of their battlecruisers and the Falklands had seemed to bear this out. Thus, with the cold light of hindsight we can say "Oh they were only battlecruisers" but at the time it was "Holy Fuck we sank 3 British battlecruisers!"

Futurism (1909-1914)

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni, 1913

Futurism was founded by poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in Milan in the early 20th century. Like its predecessors, Futurism emphasized abstraction and nontraditional representation. It valued speed, viscerality, youth and modernity and acted as a form of Italian liberation from its fraught history. Although founded in Italy, it’s influences also spread to other European countries.

Known artists: Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini

Reference Works and Surveys

Because of the breadth and complexity of this topic, one must first start with a scholarly survey. Problematically, coverage is spotty on certain topics. Woods 1974 and Bridge and Pegg 2001 offer important starting points from the historical perspective, while Beauchamp 2001 provides a more technological perspective. Harfield 1989 reminds us to consider the place of animals as communicators, a role played until remarkably recently. Headrick 2000 contextualizes the developments in military or strategic communications with the larger period, which is essential for understanding their full implications. Scheips 1980 has collected many important individual works in one place and should be used together with Woods 1974 and Bridge and Pegg 2001. Sterling 2008 is a handy reference work, although it is heavy with Internet references. For US Army history, Raines 1996 is peerless and must be consulted.

Beauchamp, Ken. History of Telegraphy: Its Technology and Application. London: Institution of Electrical Engineers, 2001.

Narrative survey that looks mostly at the 19th and early 20th centuries, with an epilogue that covers the period after 1945. Written from an engineering perspective, it is also largely Anglo-centric. Useful for cross-checking against historical perspectives.

Bridge, Maureen, and John Pegg, eds. Call to Arms: A History of Military Communications from the Crimean War to the Present Day. Tavistock, UK: Focus, 2001.

A work largely done from a British perspective, it provides a useful survey from the mid-19th century forward. It includes valuable discussion of the military utility of the civilian British post office.

Harfield, Alan, ed. Pigeon to Packhorse: The Illustrated Story of Animals in Army Communications. Chippenham, UK: Picton, 1989.

Provides a reminder that animals have long played a key role, only until quite recently, in military communications.

Headrick, Daniel. When Information Came of Age: Technologies of Knowledge in the Age of Reason, 1700–1850. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Survey of how information was gathered, stored, shared, and disseminated. Of particular importance is the wide-reaching survey chapter on postal and telegraphic systems of the early 19th century.

Raines, Rebecca R. Getting the Message Through: A Branch History of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1996.

Critical thorough survey of the Signal Corps from the Civil War to the early 1990s. Starting point for any work on the US Army in this period.

Scheips, Paul J., ed. Military Signals Communications. 2 vols. New York: Arno, 1980.

This is a key anthology of important articles, essays, and selections in the history of signal communications from a variety of sources reprinted here in one handy location.

Sterling, Christopher. Military Communications: From Ancient Times to the 21st Century. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2008.

Alphabetically organized and with suggestions for further reading, this guide provides a brief explanation of the principal subjects and individuals. Useful place to start.

Woods, David L. A History of Tactical Communications Techniques. New York: Arno, 1974.

Originally published in 1965 by the Martin-Marietta Corporation, this survey of tactical communications covers from the ancient period to the 1960s. It is unique as a survey and an important place to start, but it lacks documentation.

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Thai Naval Force Development - Early 20th Century

The development of the Thai naval force has been continuous. During the reign of King Rama V, this became a long-term project as seen in the development scheme presented to King Rama V by Admiral of the Fleet H.R.H. Prince Paribatra, the then Chief Staff of the Navy Department, in 1905. The scheme was to build several warships within a 16-year period.

In the period of King Rama VI [r. 1910-1925], the structure of the naval force was first drawn up by a committee consisting of Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara, Admiral H.R.H. Prince Singhavikrom and Vice Admiral Phraya Maha Yotha. The Navy Department presented this project to King Rama VI in 1910 which detailed the development of the Royal Siamese Navy within 15 years. The process was divided into five phases.

The building of warships under this project was financially constrained. Therefore, only one or two warships were built at a time leaving a wide gap before another one or two were built. Each warship was not very different from previous types. The required types were gun boats, destroyers, torpedo boats, minelayers, and submarines. In 1911, Sua Khamronsin and Torpedo Boat No.4 were built. In 1913 the 900-ton HTMS Rattanakosin was built in England and completed in 1925. The delay was caused by the outbreak of World War I. Other important ships that the Royal procured were as follows:

  1. HTMS Phra Ruang was a 1,046_ton destroyer, built in England and commissioned on 11 October 1920. To help finance this procurement project, King Rama VI, together with other members of the royal family, government officials and ordinary people donated money. Admiral H.R.H. Prince Abhakara went to Europe to procure the ship and brought it back to Thailand himself. This was the first time that a Thai national commanded a ship on such long distance. Also, this was the first time that the public donated money to procure a warship.
  2. HTMS Sua Khamronsin was a 375-ton destroyer, built at Kawazaki Dockyard, in Kobe, Japan, and commissioned on 18 June 1912. Lieutenant Commander Luang Pradiyat Navayuth commanded this ship back to Thailand from Japan. This was the first time that all the crew members were Thais.
  3. Royal Maha Chakri Barge (2nd barge) was a yacht with a displacement of 2,249 tons, built at Kawazaki Dockyard, in Kobe, Japan, and commissioned on 4 February 1918. In 1929, King Rama VII travelled to Java on this barge.
  4. HTMS Chaophraya was a sloop bought from the Royal Navy with a displacement of 762 tons. It was commissioned on 8 May 1923. Originally, this sloop was the Royal Navy's minelayer used in WorId War I.

In 1926, Vice Admiral Phra)ia Rachawangsan, Chief of Staff, Royal Siamese Navy, presented a project regarding the naval force called "Memorandum on the Organisation of the Siamese Navy" to the Minister of the Navy. He divided the naval force into two fleets as follows:

    Coastal Defense Division consisting "of four 1,000-2,000-ton gun boats, three destroyers, four torpedo boats, ten inshore patrol craft, two minesweepers, and a number of minelayers and mines.

This project was a guideline for later warship procurement. In 1929, the gun boat HTMS Sukhothai was built with the same design as HTMS Rattanakosin. One inshore patrol craft called inshore patrol craft No. 2 was built at the Naval Dockyard, and three more inshore patrol craft Nos.3, 4 and 5 were built in England.

The March of Time - 20th Century History

I have not commented on this TL many times, but I just had to drop in to say that you are doing a very good job here, Karelian. One can see that you have done a lot of research for this and the depth it brings to the story is down right impressive. This is probably the best TL on the forum at the moment, in terms of the historical scholarship involved. This is why I seconded The March of Time for a Turtledove as well.

I'd like to comment more on the actual twists and turns of the story, but some of it goes so much above my head that I would have to do some research of my own first to comment effectively. Maybe in the summer, when the current backlog at work has been sorted through, I'll sit down with a stack of reference material and go through the TL again with some thought to really see what you have actually done here.

Willy never does disappoint, does he?

At a time when Germany needed an Emperor of great cunning, restraint and resolve to negotiate the rough and treacherous waters of early 20th century Europe - Germany got Wilhelm II instead.

Tyr Anazasi

Grand Prince Paul II.

Willy never does disappoint, does he?

At a time when Germany needed an Emperor of great cunning, restraint and resolve to negotiate the rough and treacherous waters of early 20th century Europe - Germany got Wilhelm II instead.


I've used this TL as a personal excuse for myself to skim and scan through practically all of at least somewhat relevant volumes from the "new history books"-shelf of the local university library. With the centennial of Great War just two years ago, they're amply stocked with the latest research, which has been really pleasant and insightful to read and has provided a lot of food for thought and material to write about.

Heh, that'd be nice indeed. Just let me know if you want a reading list of the source material.

Willy never does disappoint, does he?

At a time when Germany needed an Emperor of great cunning, restraint and resolve to negotiate the rough and treacherous waters of early 20th century Europe - Germany got Wilhelm II instead.

A man who considers himself to be the very epitome of those qualities you listed, and whom others compare to a battleship with steam up and screws going, but with no rudder, or a balloon, since he was air-headed enough that if one did not hold him fast on a string, he could fly away to a random direction. Well, he is certainly delightful source material for alt-history writers. And for all of his faults I cannot help to feel a bit of sympathy for the man - just like Nicholas II, Wilhelm II is the wrong person in a wrong place at a wrong time.


The topics discussed during the latest set of German-Swedish diplomatic contacts reflected the wider concern for the threat the Norwegian secession potentially posed to the stability of Europe. When Crown Prince Gustaf of Sweden-Norway came to Berlin at the beginning of June 1905 to attend the wedding of the German Crown Prince, he had asked Chancellor Eulenburg directly whether, if Russia intervened in Norway, the Kaiser would also take military measures? The Reich Chancellor gave him the ambivalent answer that "he thought it hardly likely that Germany would follow the wishes of the Kaiser in this question." The whole crisis was putting a great strain to the health of venerable old King Oscar II, who was justifiably called the most educated of Europe’s monarchs. He was honorary doctor at a number of academic institutions, knew Latin, Italian, and other languages in addition to the two languages of his realms, which he spoke fluently. He had studied aesthetics, history, philosophy, and math, translated works of Goethe and others into Swedish and wrote own works, including diaries, memoirs, and speeches. While sympathetic towards Wilhelm II and painfully aware of the weak state of his kingdom compared to the might of Germany, he did not personally hold the bombastic German Emperor in high regard. But at their next meeting with Oscar II and the Swedish Crown Prince outside the small Baltic port of Gävle on 13-14 July, Wilhelm II did his best to act in a serious and respectable manner.

It seemed like he had heeded the advice of Eulenburg, and he dutifully relayed the policy line agreed upon with his Chancellor to King Oscar II and his son. Wilhelm II made it very clear that he did not intend to support "some Swedish adventure", that the resolution to the crisis should come about as quickly as conveniently possible, and that Bernadottes should accept the Norwegian offer for sekundogeniture. If a nomination of a Bernadotte to the throne of Norway was out of question, the Swedes should officially support the candidacy of Prince Valdemar of Denmark. The only concession to Swedish cause was a promise to withhold the recognition of Norwegian independence as long the Swedes wished. The Gävle meeting, conducted as a part of the annual Scandinavian summer cruise of the royal yacht Hohenzollern, was initially called as “a new Tangier”, as Wilhelm II once again appeared to the scene of an international crisis, stealing the attention of media and leaving diplomats and statesmen through Europe doubtful about the true intentions of the erratic German Emperor. Yellow press loved Wilhelm II, and soon rumors were circulating that the German Emperor was scheming to promote the cause of electing Prince Eitel Friedrich of Prussia as the new King of Norway. In reality these stories had a grain of truth in them, for it was only with great difficulty that Crown Prince Gustaf and King Oscar II succeeded in convincing Wilhelm II that it was now ‘practically impossible’ to pick a member from the Swedish House of Bernadotte, not to mention anything about a German prince. In return Wilhelm II openly deplored the idea of the candidature of Prince Charles of Denmark and his wife, as ‘the presence of an English Princess on the Norwegian throne’ would signify the ‘vassalage of Norway to England’, and would ensure that Britain would henceforth benefit from ‘commercial preponderance’ in Norway should Charles be elected.

In reality Wilhelm II could hardly conceal his joy from the course of events. Never had the chances of a breakthrough to world power seemed within closer reach than now, through this crisis in God-forsaken North! Now he only would have to convince 'Cousin Nicky' to comply with his plan, and everything would fall in place after years of careful plotting and planning! In their earlier royal meetings at Danzig, Reval, Wiesbaden and Darmstadt, Wilhelm II had for the last three years consistently urged his infantile cousin to turn away from Europe, and instead seek to annex Manchuria and Korea and threaten the British in India, Afghanistan and Persia. For all these years he had told Nicholas II to look East, telling him that his God-given role was the defense of Christendom and the white race in the Asiatic frontiers against the heathen ‘Yellow Peril’, and that while the Czar should justifiably call himself as ‘Admiral of the Pacific’, Wilhelm would play his part as ‘Admiral of the Atlantic.’ Together they would do great things! Together they would forge a grand coalition of the five Great Powers of the European continent, including the hostile and reluctant France, to form a new Holy Alliance ‘against the democratic wind blowing from the Atlantic.’ His bombastic telegrams, written in English as a language both monarchs were fluent with, had for a long time sought to convince the Czar of All the Russias about the benefits of such an arrangement:

"The smaller nations, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway will all be attracted to this new great centre of gravity, by quite natural laws of the attraction of smaller bodies by the larger ones. They will revolve in the orbit of the block of powers, the Dual Alliance combining with the Triple Alliance gives a Quintuplet Alliance, well able to hold all unruly neighbours in order, and to impose peace even by force."

For Wilhelm II, such talk represented his desire to realize the dream he had pursued ever since his coronation, when he had declared to Eulenburg that “the fundamental principle of his European policy would be leadership in the peaceful sense - a sort of Napoleonic supremacy.” In order to achieve the “greatest coup of his life” and to unhinge the existing European alliance system to establish a German hegemony, Wilhelm II had used his personal diplomacy towards Nicholas II as a concentrated attempt to draw Russia over into the orbit of German policy by seeking a consensus with her Balkan-oriented new foreign policy. In the plans of Wilhelm II, this would result either in drawing France to the fold, kicking and screaming, and establishing a continent-wide German-Russian-French combination. Or it would result in rupturing the Dual Alliance and re-isolating France. Whether Paris would choose to submit or continue to resist would not make a great difference, for in either case, Germany’s position would be strengthened and she would win the prestige of a diplomatic success. The second method to achieve this long-term goal had been the quest for diplomatic triumphs abroad, backed up by a policy of force, proclaiming that important arrangements in the world could not be made without consulting Germany. In his pursuit of this foreign policy goal Wilhelm II had acted with extraordinary interest and intricacy, and during the last five years the Kaiser had been busy orchestrating the German Weltpolitik at the world stage from Venezuela to China. This year had been no different, for after giving a public speech at Tangiers and causing a domestic policy crisis in France Wilhelm had by now focused himself to Nordic matters, moving to the sunny Baltic summer on board of the Hohenzollern.

Such stunts of naval diplomacy had been his trademark before. A year earlier, on June 25th 1904, William II had heartily welcomed his “Uncle Bertie”, King Edward VII of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as a honorary admiral of the German fleet to the Kiel regatta to review the German navy:
Which is the latest creation among the fleets of the world and an expression of the reviving sea power of the German Empire recreated by the great emperor. Destined for the protection of its trade and its territories, it also serves, like the German army, to maintain peace which the German Empire together with Europe has maintained for over thirty years. Everyone knows, too, Your Majesty’s words and work, that Your Majesty’s whole effort is also directed towards this goal - toward the maintenance of peace. As I have steadily set my whole strength to reach this goal, may God give success to our efforts.” Edward VII, normally gloomy and reclusive because of his still painful injuries sustained at the assassination attempt in Belgium had shown a flash of his younger days as a gentlemanly socialite, and had charmed the German press and court circles, making a generally excellent impression on the press and people of Germany. But while this visit was the first positive twist in the badly strained personal relations between Wilhelm II and his uncle in a long time, they did little to change the foreign policy goals of the German Emperor. During the whole previous year Wilhelm II had also active towards Russia, constantly sending Nicholas II new telegrams and letters and seeking to court his favor and show the goodwill of Germany by smaller gestures, such as re-establishing the pre-1890s era system of mutual re-nomination of military plenipotentiaries for both courts. And the Czar, who had privately called his cousin "stark raving mad" after their first meeting and felt isolated and stressed by the internal turmoil of Russia and the lack of a male heir, had gradually grown fond of "cousin Willy", stating in early 1905 to count Witte who was sent to Berlin to negotiate the Russo-German trade agreement that the Czar considered his relationship with Wilhelm II as a “loyal friendship which I trust beyond anything.”

Wilhelm II felt that his ability to sway his cousin would hand him - and through him the German Empire - the keys to the domination of European continent. Confident of his (in essence quite correct) political estimation that Russia and Germany had common ground towards the situation of the Baltic Sea and the crisis in Scandinavia, he hoped to win them over for good. In this sense Wilhelm II was merely one among the many actors in the stage of European top-level diplomacy of summer 1905 with his feeling that one should never waste a good crisis. He decided to use the crisis in Norway as a chance to show his willingness to work together with the Russian leadership, if necessary against British interests, should it suit them to do so.

A week later he casually telegraphed to Nicholas II from Stockholm:

Kung Zog

Very nice last updates! I will comment more in detail when more info is laid bare.

Thanks also for the throwback to the Ottoman regicide. I had forgotten that these events where more or less parallel.


Wilhelm II felt that his prospects of achieving a deal with Nicholas II were rather good despite the unexpected setback caused by assassination of Sultan Abdülhamid II. After scoring what seemed like a major diplomatic success at Morocco through instigating the domestic policy crisis in France, and thus indirectly forcing the resignation of M. Delcassé on June 6th, the German Kaiser had contributed to the French acceptance by Combes, two days later, of the principle that Moroccan affairs should be settled by bilateral negotiations of the interested Powers later that year. After leaving Morocco behind and considering the matter settled, Wilhelm II had once again looked East. The search for a suitable new ruler for Norway raised vital questions which ought to be settled with the Czar in person. At the same time Wilhelm II hoped to gain a chance to promote his own geopolitical vision to his cousin.

For the part of Russian leadership, Minister Witte who had visited Berlin a year ago to negotiate a new Russo-German trade agreement of 1904[1] had long desired to see closer relations between the three great Continental Powers. For him, France represented the epitome of European wealth just as Germany held the supreme military power. By allying herself with both, Russia could benefit by the financial resources of Paris and the strength of Berlin. Also supposing that the Kaiser had in mind a defensive alliance into which Russia, France and Germany would enter voluntarily and as equals, Witte had pointed out that that since its success depended on securing the adhesion of France, Paris should not longer be exasperated with issues such as the Moroccan situation. Wilhelm II was happy to agree. He had personally always regarded Morocco as insignificant region that could well fall to French sphere of interest for all he cared, and had originally raised the issue to an international minor crisis to advance his personal diplomatic goals and to placate the chauvinistic German press - and because he had been guided to act in a bellicose manner by Holstein, who had convinced Eulenburg that Germany had to constantly show strength in pursuit of her interests in the international arena because of her vulnerable geopolitical position.

So When Witte dutifully relayed the ideas of a new continental coalition to the Czar after he had returned to St. Petersburg, Nicholas II had ingenuously accepted the idea with the naïve assumption that France was naturally to be included to the treaty as an equal partner. He telegraphed to his cousin:

When he finally met with Nicholas II at Björkö on 23rd of July and the formal niceties were over and done with, Wilhelm II was glad to notice that the Russian monarch seemed to have accepted his last-minute lie and accepted his insistence to keep Paris in the dark about the true their meeting, at least for the time being. He thus lost no opportunity to exploit the tense atmosphere in the Baltic, and begun to exploit the knowledge obtained during the ostensibly secret negotiations with Oscar II and Crown Prince Gustaf for his own ends. No other persons were present at the main part of the royal meeting. The Kaiser began by relating the news which he had picked up from King Oscar of Sweden. He mentioned that King Oscar was totally indifferent towards the question of who should be chosen the new King of Norway the old monarch hadn’t even objected the idea of a republic! At this, Nicholas II threw his hands over his head, exclaiming “That too - that is all we need, as if we did not already have enough republics and monarchies like that in the world, what is to become of the monarchical principle?!” Nicholas II then implored that if King Oscar was not ambitious to put a Swedish prince in Norway, and if the Danish royal family was interested in the matter, Prince Valdemar of Denmark, the youngest brother of the widowed Tsaritsa Maria Feodorovna (Empress Dowager Dagmar) could become a potential candidate: “Valdemar might be sent he has had some experience in life, has an elegant, nice wife (born a Princess of Orleáns), and fine, strapping children?” The Kaiser appeared to agree, but deftly mentioned “private information from Copenhagen” indicating that “the King of England has already given out his approval and consent if his son-in-law were chosen." Nicholas seemed to know nothing about it, and was visibly upset, commenting that his "cousin Charles was completely unsuitable: he had never been anywhere, had no experience, and was insignificant and lazy with Charles, England would stick her fingers into Norway by fair means or foul, and increase her influence, starting intrigues and eventually close off the Skagerrak by occupying Christiansand and so shut us all into the Baltic it would also put paid to his ports on the Murman coast in the North! Valdemar would be much better!"

The two Danish princes had little idea that their respective candidacies to the throne of Norway would become a point of contest in European Great Power politics.

Wilhelm II continued his ploy by confessing that Gävle King Oscar II in the course of a conversation had let slip the remark that of course there was nothing to prevent Germany occupying Bergen, and in response to the objection that England might have something to say about that, Wilhelm II boasted to Nicholas II that he had went on to say, "Yes, then they would probably seize Christiansand!" Nicholas II was visibly very worried by the idea of Norway being divided up in such a manner in a direct confrontation of European Powers over the issue of Norwegian succession, and of Britain possibly establishing a firm foothold there, commenting that. "the dangers for Russia of a blockade of the Kattegat are of course obvious." Wilhelm II continued to carefully manipulate his cousin by fluidly moving the topic of the conversation to Britain. It very soon appeared to Wilhelm II that the Czar seemed to truly feel deep personal resentment towards the island nation. He called Edward VII "the greatest mischief- maker and the most dangerous and deceptive intriguer in the world." Having fed him this line of thought for years, Wilhelm II was happy to agree with the notion, adding that "I especially had had to suffer from his intrigues in recent years. He has a passion for plotting against every power, of making a little agreements" whereupon the Tsar interrupted, striking the table with his fist: "Well, I can only say he shall not get one from me, and never in my life against Germany or you, my word of honor upon it!'

Then the question of Denmark was discussed at length. The Czar asked what measures they could take to assist King Christian and guarantee his position in his country, so that they themselves could be certain in case of war of maintaining the defense of the Baltic north of the Belts. Wilhelm II explained to the Czar that in case of war and impending attack on the Baltic from a foreign Power, the Danes expected, "their inability and helplessness to uphold even the shadow of neutrality against invasion being evident", that Russia and Germany would immediately take up steps to safeguard their interests by laying hands on Denmark and occupying it during the war, as this would at the same time guarantee the territory and future existence of the dynasty and country:"Sensible men in society as well as in Governmental circles are on their own account, little by little, coming to the conclusion, that in the case of war between us both and a foreign Power, the latter attacking our Baltic shores, Denmark would be unable to uphold her neutrality, falling an easy prey to the foreigner. He would create Denmark his base of operations, and thereby draw her on his side as his unwilling ally. This she would have pay for - eventually, by loss of independence after the war, as we would never allow her to suffer such a fate again. As we would not countenance such a development of things, and never allow the door of the Baltic to fall into the hands of an enemy, in case of an outbreak of war, these men are resigned to expect a joint occupation from us, which however would guarantee their territory to remain undiminished and their independence to remain untouched. As this is precisely what we want the Danes to think, and as they are already on the road to it, I thought “let well alone”, and said nothing they are slowly ripening to the fruit we wish and in time to come it will fall into our laps."

Thus, having arranged amicably between themselves for the fate of this small nation, and through this the virtual exclusion of the hostile Royal Navy from the Baltic in a case of war, the Kaiser then came to the really important matter. He presented the draft of the new treaty to Nicholas II:

But in the end the influence of the Russian leading ministers on their Czar turned out to be greater than that of the ‘responsible’ Reich Chancellor Eulenburg on the supposedly constitutional German Kaiser. Unwilling to admit that all of his work had been in vain and that the era of royal diplomacy was drawing to an end, Wilhelm II sought in vain to find a new common cause with Nicholas II on the matter of Norwegian succession - only to be frustrated again less than a week later, when the Nordic crisis took a sudden and violent turn to the worse.[3]

1: As Wilhelm II is willing to win Russia over and Russia is not burdened by a war against Japan as in OTL, the TTL version of the Norderney trade agreement is a lot more generous to Russia, granting Russia both the OTL access to Berlin loan markets, and (much to the dismay of the Prussian Junkers estate owners) with much lower duties to rye and wheat than in OTL as well. This leads to all kinds of agricultural butterflies, but on the long term the main effects are further adjustments of German agricultural sector with more pig-raising in nortwestern Germany, as cheap export grain from the ports of Bremen and Hamburg turns these activities into profitable business. This will in turn affect the domestic political relations within the German Empire. Without the OTL policy of determined tariff protection and artificial maintenance of German grain sector, the German agricultural sector does not turn the Catholic peasant population of the south into allies of the Protestant east-Elbean Junkers, as the peasant economy at large becomes much more supportive towards low-tariff agricultural policy.

2: The OTL amendment Wilhelm II personally made to the draft, limiting the treaty to Europe, was approved by Eulenburg in TTL. The TTL III. Article is also different, as the treaty is to become effective immediately instead of the OTL reference to the end of the Russo-Japanese War.


When the crisis of 1905 begun, the Royal Norwegian Navy was a small, young and forward-looking naval force.

Between 1895 and 1905 the determined drive for naval re-armament had increased the total strength of Norwegian naval forces from a modest coastal defense force of four older ironclad monitors, three unarmored gun vessels, twelve gunboats, sixteen small gunboats and a flotilla of twenty-seven torpedo boats by inclusion of four new armored ships, ten torpedo boats of the 1st class, twelve of 2nd class with a new torpedo division flotilla leader to support them. The Navy was thus stronger than it had ever been, and the decisions and debates of strategy that had led to this point had already divided the small force into two competing groups. These matters were most personal, as the Norwegian naval officer corps itself was still a small, closed group of people - by 1900 the fleet had had only 116 active duty officers (with an additional sixty in reserve) and 700 petty officers and seamen. The debates had culminated to a slow-burning and bitter personal feud between the commanding admiral, vice admiral Christian Sparre and his chief of staff, Rear Admiral Jacob Børresen. Considering these two characters, their shared history and the situation of Norway in summer 1905, a confrontation between them would have been extremely hard to avoid even in better situations, let alone in a crisis like this. The two naval officers were in many ways good representatives of the two polar opposites of Norwegian society at large.

Børresen was a royalist right-wing conservative. Originally he had been a firm supporter of the union with Sweden, and had merely wanted, like most Norwegian right-wing politicians, a greater degree of equality between the two countries. Børresen also had a good and close relationship with King Oscar II. In 1903 he had accompanied the King, together with Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg, on a voyage to Lyngen in northern Norway. During the journey, he had been captivated by Princess Ingeborg. When the Swedish government presented the "Bernadotte offer" that the Norwegian crown could go to a prince of the house Bernadotte, Børresen secretly wrote to his personal diary that he sincerely hoped that Princess Ingeborg could become the new Queen of Norway. Sparre was a Liberal and and steadfast left-wing Republican, and a dogged opponent of the union with Sweden. During the crisis he supported the hard line that sought to break with Sweden as soon as possible. For a radicals like Sparre, Børresen and the Norwegian conservative politicians in general were to be held in utter contempt because of their close historical contacts to the Swedish elite. Børresen had even served in the Swedish Navy as a squadron commander just a few years ago, and had advocated closer cooperation between the two countries' navies - something that infuriated Sparre as a treason of the Norwegian cause. The two men were thus very different in their political views, and had for long held one another in contempt because of that. Their natures were also like night and day. Børresen was an outgoing and charismatic leader, a womanizer and held the great Norwegian naval hero Tordenskiold as his personal idol, writing several articles about him and wishing to be able to one day mimic the deeds of his great paragon. Sparre was withdrawn, sullen and nervous, methodical and formal. Børresen had a reputation as an impulsive commander. He had eagerly adopted the views of Mahan, and wanted to attack, seek out the enemy's main force and destroy it in a decisive battle. Sparre was cautious, and believed that the inferior force should always avoid decisive battles and maintain a deterring fleet-in-being approach.

This difference in their view of the proper use of naval power also included their views on the role of coastal defense. For Sparre the coastal fortifications and especially coastal artillery were the primarily defense, the shield that the the Norwegian fleet would have to use as a basis for sudden attacks on the enemy landings, and a protective umbrella that they should never abandon. Børresen felt that it would be utter folly to disperse the Navy along the coast to the defense of the main ports. Freed from this purely defensive role they should instead be concentrated to a single mobile squadron, backed by a screen of torpedo boats, which could then be concentrated against invaders as a united and effective offensive force. Børresen already had a reputation as a skillfull tactician - his tactical schemes for combat squadrons had been studied all across Europe, and the Swedish navy had also adopted them for their use during the Baltic training cruises of summer 1903 - a fact which made Sparre doubt the true loyalties of Børresen.

And on top of it all the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Sparre to the position of commanding admiral had had everything to do with the political inclinations of the two men - a fact that had made Børresen feel especially slighted. With no official naval doctrine or tactical regulations for naval operations and no general plans, except for a general mobilization plan that was based on the premise of fighting together with the Swedish navy against a common enemy, the two men both tried to assert their authority over the Norwegian fleet. The disagreement about the fact how the heavy units of the fleet should be allocated in the event of war with Sweden was a central issue in the feud. Sparre wanted to keep the main force of the fleet in readiness at the naval base of Melsomvik, and avoid winding it into a decisive battle against a numerically superior enemy. Børresen wanted to exploit what he perceived as the better seaworthiness, higher speed and greater shooting skills of the Norwegian fleet, and seek out the enemy's main strength in the open sea in order to defeat it in a single decisive battle. As a compromise, the four coastal defense armored cruisers, torpedo boats of 1st class and torpedo leader "Valkyrie" had formed the Skagerrakeskadren, the strongest fleet the Norwegian Navy had ever been able amass together, and this force had been concentrated to the naval base of Melsomvik to protect the approaches to Kristiania under the command of Børresen.

In exchange of this concession, Sparre had strictly ordered that Børresen should sail out from Melsomvik and attack the enemy only once the hostile warships had penetrated into the Kristianiafjord, and that he should by all means do not be cut off from the base in Melsomvik and its hoard of ammunition, water and coal. Børresen believed that under this tactical approach he would be forced to operate in narrow waters which limited his maneuverability on the way out to meet the Swedish fleet, which would be in the open sea and have the freedom to maneuver. Børresen wanted a completely opposite engagement situation, where he had the freedom to maneuver while the Swedes were restricted by narrow waters. In his view such a situation would arise if he were on Breidangen north of Bastøy while the Swedes were on their way up the fjord between Bastøy and Østfoldlandet. From here he could just sail southwards and threaten Gothenburg, forcing the Swedes back to defend the city. Thus would Børresen get the chance to intercept them out in the open sea. With the slightly higher speed and greater seaworthiness of the Norwegian Panserskips he hoped that by using his tactical system he could surprise the Swedes, breaking the ranks of the Swedish squadron, and then defeat the Swedish ships with long-distance gunfire one by one. His concern was that during exercises with the Swedish squadron at autumn 1903 the Swedes had incorporated his formation system to their own fleet as well, and, could now use his own tactics against him. While the plan Børresen advocated was extremely risky, it was based on a firm analysis of the relative strengths and disadvantages of the potential adversary.

The Swedish Kustflottan gathered to Gothenburg consisted of a total of eight coastal defense armored cruisers, four torpedo cruisers, two destroyers, 24 torpedo boats and a submarine (based on the US Holland-class boat). On paper this force was clearly stronger than the Norwegian fleet. But the Swedish armored ships were designed for operations in the Baltic Sea, and were therefore not as seaworthy as their Norwegian counterparts. Only four of them had as much top speed as the Norwegian ships, and the Norwegians had greater range of their main guns, heavier grenade weight and - according to Børresen - shot more accurately than the Swedes.

Sparre was determined to avoid getting into a losing battle with a superior opponent, and thus risking losing the squadron and leaving Kristianiafjord open for enemy invasion. His analysis was based on events of 1814, as in his opinion the military-strategic situation was now very similar than roughly a century ago. Then the Swedes had planned to conduct a naval landing to Kristianiafjord, but in order to be able to do so they had first had to defeat the Norwegian gunboats stationed to the Hvaler Archipelago. Norwegians had withdrew back to Vallø without a fight, but with the Norwegian gunboats still intact, the Swedes were forced to abandon their landing plans. Thus Sparre was convinced that the best method of using the Norwegian fleet was to keep it well-drilled and in high readiness, but out of harms way. Privately Sparre, Defense Minister Olssøn and the rest of the government all feared that allowing Børresen to send the fleet the open sea before a possible outbreak of war was a major security risk, as he could then easily provoke and engage Swedish units without direct orders, thus starting the war the Norwegian government and Sparre himself so strongly wanted to avoid.

The two admirals thus continued their dispute during an intensive series of three-month long training maneuvers. The last weeks of June and early July after Norwegian secession declaration had been filled with intense firing exercises, both with individual ships and tactical shooting in formation. Børresen had decided to open fire at 8000 meters, and he had shared the Panserskips into two groups so that the gun crews could practice in judging exactly that distance against a capital-ship sized target. After almost continuous exercises in all weathers and both during day- and night-time, on 28 July 1905, the Skagerrakeskadren was sailing through Vestfjord near Tønsberg. The flotilla was led by the Norwegian flagship “Eidsvold” with admiral Børresen aboard. In the wake followed other heavy Norwegian capital ships “Norge”, “Tordenskjold” and “Harald Haarfagre.” Eidsvold and Norge were Panserskips, coastal defense armored cruisers, sister ships built for the Norwegian navy by Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd in 1899 with a displacement of just over 4,000 tons. The two other Panserskips were also sister ships, and the Tordenskjold and Harald Haarfagre had a displacement of little under 4,000 tons.

As the flotilla was passing the Sundåsen and Haaøen coastal forts at the northern side of Veierland on the way to anchor in Melsomvik, it was a grand sight. Flying the Norwegian flag without the hated "herring salad" union ensign, the fleet was crewed by professional, hard-drilled crews and fully ready for combat with live ammunition on board. And then a disaster struck. The armor protection of both classes of Panserskips had been designed primarily with naval gunfire in mind. Both the Tordenskjold- and Eidsvold-class had identical layout - six inches of Harvey steel armor at the sides, and nine inches at the gun-towers. Neither class had a torpedo belt, nor any particular protection against naval mines. Kommandørkaptein Gade and his crew discovered this the hard way when Tordenskjold suddenly disappeared to a devastating underwater explosion that had devastated the ship, capsizing the vessel in mere minutes with the loss of 228 Norwegian seamen. Many historians would later on remark that the chances of a peaceful solution to the secession crisis sank along the Panserskipet Tordenskjold.[1]

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Naval War College: An Army Idea?

By John Pentangelo
HRNM Director

No, the U.S. Army did not give birth to the idea of a Naval War College, not exactly. But, a discussion between one of its most famous officers and one of the Navy’s most visionary intellectuals at the close of the American Civil War provided a spark that influenced professional military education forever after.

Established in Newport, Rhode Island in 1884, the Naval War College was the first institution of its kind in the world. It is renowned today for its role in educating naval officers in their chosen profession. The lectures provided by Alfred Thayer Mahan in early years became the basis of his seminal book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783. The book, published in 1890, was read widely by world leaders and influenced the build-up of major naval powers in the early 20th century. The college continued to do innovative work in the field of war gaming and the development of war plans after the First World War. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, a 1923 graduate of the college, credited the war gaming program with helping to prepare the Navy’s ultimate victory in the Pacific during the Second World War. Today the college educates military personnel from all over the world, nourishes global partnerships, and offers a Master’s degree in Defense and Strategic Studies. So how did the idea for the Naval War College originate?

General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865 (National Archives)

In 1865, Lieutenant Commander Stephen B. Luce was in command of the gunboat USS Pontiac with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. He was ordered to report to General William Tecumseh Sherman to guard the crossing of Savannah River as Sherman marched north to begin his campaign in the Carolinas. In discussion, Sherman shared his opinion on how to take the city of Charleston. The Navy tried unsuccessfully to take Charleston by bombarding Fort Sumter for three years. Sherman told the naval officer that Charleston would fall into the Union’s hands “like a ripe pear” when he cut its communications. This proved to be true in the next few weeks. Luce recalled: “After hearing General Sherman’s clear exposition of the military situation the scales seemed to fall from my eyes. ‘Here’ I said to myself, ‘is a soldier who knows his business!’ It dawned upon me that there were certain fundamental principles underlying military operations, which it were well to look into principles of general application whether the operations were conducted on land or sea.” [1] The seed was planted.

Lieutenant Commander Stephen B. Luce, c. 1865 (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Long devoted to education, Luce devoted much of his career to the formal education of naval personnel. Assigned to the Naval Academy during the early years of the Civil War, he revised W.H. Parker’s Instructions for Light Artillery, Afloat and Ashore. He also wrote and published Seamanship, a text for midshipmen. After the war, Luce lamented that naval officers began to specialize increasingly in navigation, hydrography, engineering, or ordnance. He fought against this, insisting to his fellow officers that their profession was war and it was war that they must study. After helping to establish the maritime college in New York (1874), he established the naval apprentice program aboard training ships in the late 1870s and was instrumental in the creation of the Navy’s first shore-based recruit training station at Newport (1883). During this time, he never forgot his meeting with Sherman. The general’s assessment of the military situation and his ability to execute a solution in a non-military way convinced Luce that decision makers required subject matter experts to advise them on military problems. The expertise in the art and science of naval warfare would be best developed through formal education. After years of advocacy, correspondence, research, and thought, Luce became the founding president of the Naval War College, established in 1884. He defined the college as “a place of original research on all questions relating to war and to statesmanship connected with war, or the prevention of war.” [2] The College owes its existence to the visionary leadership, perseverance, and commitment of Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce. Perhaps it owes its inspiration to General William Tecumseh Sherman.

[1] Stephen Luce, “Naval Administration, III,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings Vol. 29 (1903): 820

[2] Stephen B. Luce, An Address Delivered at the United States Naval War College, The Writings of Stephen B. Luce, eds. John D. Hayes and John B. Hattendorf Naval War College Press Newport, RI, 39-40

Watch the video: Το επάγγελμα του Αξιωματικού Εμπορικού Ναυτικού (May 2022).