In the aftermath of the 2016 celebrations of the Battle of Jutland centenary, it is worth considering how the First World War at sea changed after the battle. Although the German High Seas Fleet did venture out again and raid the British coast, the main thrust of German strategy switched to submarine warfare, thus posing a dangerous new threat to the Royal Navy. But how prepared was the Royal Navy for submarine warfare? And how invested was the Navy in this new strategy? This volume, no.142 from 2001, explores the Admiralty’s decision, made in 1900, to buy submarines, and the carefully selected and edited primary sources explore the mindset of Britain’s leading politicians and naval officers in the run-up to the war.

The Submarine Service, 1900-1918

Vol 142 (2001), N.A. Lambert

The year 2001 marked the centenary of the Royal Navy’s submarine service. This volume opens with an examination of the background to the Board of Admiralty’s decision in 1900 to buy submarines, bringing to light documents that go a long way toward dispelling the myth that Britain’s pre-1914 naval leaders were opposed to the development of the submarine as a major weapon. Indeed, the documents show that senior naval officers and influential civilians in Whitehall believed that the advent of the submarine would revolutionize naval warfare in a way that would bolster the Royal Navy’s position as the world’s predominant naval power.

This edited selection of documents illustrates not only the Admiralty’s thinking on the employment of the submarine between 1900 and 1918, it also charts the technical development of British submarines, and explains issues such as why the pioneer submariners came to regard themselves as an élite group within the Royal Navy – and were allowed to become the ‘silent service’.

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