The Pollen Papers: The Privately Circulated Printed Works of Arthur Hungerford Pollen, 1901-1916

Vol 124 (1984), Dr J.T. Sumida

Arthur Pollen (1866-1937) trained as a barrister but eventually became a successful businessman. In 1900 he became interested in the problem of aiming naval artillery after witnessing a practice firing at sea. From that time he formulated his ideas for a system of firing accurately at long range and in 1906 he persuaded the Admiralty to co-operate in the development of his proposals.

However, Pollen’s ideas were not adopted as an influential group of naval officers supported another system, the Dreyer method of fire control, although some of Pollen’s ideas were used. In 1913 Pollen finally abandoned his attempts to get the Admiralty’s support. Promising negotiations with foreign navies were disrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. The volume consists of correspondence between Pollen and various naval officers as well as technical papers before 1916.

The poor performance of British gunnery, particularly at the Battle of Jutland, led the Admiralty to order a redesign of fire control equipment in 1916 After the war Pollen was awarded £30,000 in compensation for ideas which were used without his knowledge or permission. From 1927 Pollen’s ideas lay behind standard fire control equipment issued to British ships.

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About Jon Sumida

Jon Sumida is a modern historian who has specialised in the technical underpinnings of the Great
War at sea. He catalogued the papers of and frustrations of Arthur Hungerford Pollen who tried to
supply the Royal Navy with a modern fire control system. This was followed by a seminal work on
studying the Royal Navy͛s purchase of the Dreyer fire control systems, rather than Pollen͛s. He is an
Associate Professor at the University of Maryland.
He has received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Centre, the Guggenheim Foundation and
Churchill College Cambridge. He was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the US National War College,
program chair of the Society for Military History Annual Meeting 2004, Major General Matthew C
Horner Chair of Military Theory at the US Marine Corps University 2004-6. He is visiting lecturer at
the US Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting, Quantico, and Professor of History at the
University of Maryland.
His publications include

The Pollen Papers (Navy Records Society, 1984)

In Defence of Naval Supremacy: Finance, Technology and British Naval Policy, 1889-1914
(Unwin Hyman, 1989)

Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer
Mahan Reconsidered (John Hopkins University Press, 1997).

Decoding Clausewitz: A New Approach to On War (University Press of Kansas, 2008)