German "East First" Plan in 1914?

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glenn239
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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by glenn239 » 21 Oct 2019 19:36

SpicyJuan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 06:19
Regarding convoy tactics (I don't know too much about this subject), weren't they made possible/effective by the U.S. joining the war and greatly contributing/freeing the RN to supply convoys with escorts? Assuming the U.S. doesn't join in, are the convoys even possible without additional escorts and ship production?
Let's say a U-boat on an average day can spot and intercept a freighter at 30 miles, (smoke over the horizon). If the ship is advancing at 10kt then over the 12 hours (or whatever) of daylight, the ship is vulnerable in slice of sea 60 miles wide and 120 miles long - 7,200 square miles. So, let's say 10 ships are sailing independently. Their total area of vulnerability in 12 hours of daylight is about 7,200 x 10 = 72,000 square miles.

Now, let's say they're sailing in convoy maybe 500 yards wide and 2000 yards long, (or whatever). Let's say the additional smoke and larger formation allows the U-boat to spot them 15 miles further away. So, there will be for 10 ships a slice of vulnerability of 90 miles x 120 = 10,800 square miles. Versus 72,000 square miles. The ten ships collectively therefore have a far smaller 'footprint' at sea and are much more likely to slip by. This is true whether they have an escort or not.

So, if a U-boat sees them and attacks, then the question is, can the U-boat sink more than one ship in it attack? That's where the lack of escort get dicey. If the U-boat can sink, say, 5 of the ships, then the advantage of convoy isn't so much. But, if it can only sink, say 1 or 2 ships, then even without an escort, the convoy is a big advantage. The answer (IMO) is that if the convoy has no escort, but the ships themselves have deck guns for defense, the submarine might only get 1 or 2 kills before the convoy is gone. So, still a net advantage.

This is where combined arms warfare at sea plays a role and the lack of support of U-boats by the German surface navy was important. Because, whereas a U-boat is likely not to sink more than 1 or 2 ships in a convoy, in the few surface attacks made by the HSF on convoys in 1917, even a couple cruisers could pretty much eliminate a convoy even with 2 destroyers escorting. So, convoys were great for protecting ships against submarines. But, for superior surface forces, they could be a death trap that made the warships' job easier. Hence, the German failure was in part the introduction of convoy tactics and in part the failure to counter with wolfpack tactics. But also, the lack of activity of the surface fleet to assist the U-boats n 1917-1918, even if at great cost to the surface fleet.

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by SpicyJuan » 21 Oct 2019 20:53

Terry Duncan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 17:09
SpicyJuan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 06:19
Regarding convoy tactics (I don't know too much about this subject), weren't they made possible/effective by the U.S. joining the war and greatly contributing/freeing the RN to supply convoys with escorts? Assuming the U.S. doesn't join in, are the convoys even possible without additional escorts and ship production?
Convoys were possible, the problem was maintaining the Grand Fleet, BCF, Dover Patrol, Harwich Force etc at battle efficiency and providing what was deemed a suitable convoy escorts. There were talks of forming convoys with no escorts in extreme circumstances, the idea was deemed as possible although the same 'merchant captains will not be able to maintain formation' objection was applied to this just as much to normal convoys. The idea was rejected due to what was deemed the effect on morale for the convoy crews who would feel abandoned and exposts with no escort at all. There were escorts in the pipeline however, such as the Kil class, and manpower in itself was not a problem. If there is no risk of a major fleet encounter then there will be sufficient destroyers to cover convoys.
Wasn't the Royal Navy also running out of fuel before the U.S. joined? How much did that factor into the Admiralty holding off so late on convoys?

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Futurist » 22 Oct 2019 00:20

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
29 Aug 2019 05:44
IIRC, Germany didn't have any fortifications on its border with France in 1914. So it will still get bogged down in trench warfare, only in a different location than OTL. Britain and the USA will still probably come up with an excuse to enter the war against Germany. Once that happens, Germany slowly starves under the British blockade.

If Germany is dumb enough to try a Napoleonic/Hitler style attempt to conquer Russia, then WWI might end a lot earlier once its armies freeze to death somewhere between Smolensk and Moscow.
Why didn't Germany build any fortifications on its French border?

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by SpicyJuan » 22 Oct 2019 00:46

glenn239 wrote:
21 Oct 2019 19:36
SpicyJuan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 06:19
Regarding convoy tactics (I don't know too much about this subject), weren't they made possible/effective by the U.S. joining the war and greatly contributing/freeing the RN to supply convoys with escorts? Assuming the U.S. doesn't join in, are the convoys even possible without additional escorts and ship production?
Let's say a U-boat on an average day can spot and intercept a freighter at 30 miles, (smoke over the horizon). If the ship is advancing at 10kt then over the 12 hours (or whatever) of daylight, the ship is vulnerable in slice of sea 60 miles wide and 120 miles long - 7,200 square miles. So, let's say 10 ships are sailing independently. Their total area of vulnerability in 12 hours of daylight is about 7,200 x 10 = 72,000 square miles.

Now, let's say they're sailing in convoy maybe 500 yards wide and 2000 yards long, (or whatever). Let's say the additional smoke and larger formation allows the U-boat to spot them 15 miles further away. So, there will be for 10 ships a slice of vulnerability of 90 miles x 120 = 10,800 square miles. Versus 72,000 square miles. The ten ships collectively therefore have a far smaller 'footprint' at sea and are much more likely to slip by. This is true whether they have an escort or not.

So, if a U-boat sees them and attacks, then the question is, can the U-boat sink more than one ship in it attack? That's where the lack of escort get dicey. If the U-boat can sink, say, 5 of the ships, then the advantage of convoy isn't so much. But, if it can only sink, say 1 or 2 ships, then even without an escort, the convoy is a big advantage. The answer (IMO) is that if the convoy has no escort, but the ships themselves have deck guns for defense, the submarine might only get 1 or 2 kills before the convoy is gone. So, still a net advantage.

This is where combined arms warfare at sea plays a role and the lack of support of U-boats by the German surface navy was important. Because, whereas a U-boat is likely not to sink more than 1 or 2 ships in a convoy, in the few surface attacks made by the HSF on convoys in 1917, even a couple cruisers could pretty much eliminate a convoy even with 2 destroyers escorting. So, convoys were great for protecting ships against submarines. But, for superior surface forces, they could be a death trap that made the warships' job easier. Hence, the German failure was in part the introduction of convoy tactics and in part the failure to counter with wolfpack tactics. But also, the lack of activity of the surface fleet to assist the U-boats n 1917-1918, even if at great cost to the surface fleet.
Wasn't some preliminary form of Wolfpack tactics developed by the Germans by the end of the war? At least from my understanding of the German wiki page: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudeltaktik

This may be veering slightly off-topic, but was there a way for Germany to have won the "First" Battle of the Atlantic, or was the convoy system an inevitable trump card? Would some combination of taking the Pas de Calais ports and/or keeping the U.S. out of the war have offset the convoy system? Was the convoy system really inevitable or could the Admiralty hold on long enough to faulty calculations to lose the war?

From Hans Joachim Koerver's German Submarine Warfare 1914-1918 in the Eyes of British Intelligence
In summary, Scheer stopped the submarine merchant war in the Atlantic from
May to mid-September, 1916 for the very great gamble of a victorious High Seas
Fleet. It is tempting to speculate that instead of siphoning away his assets in pursuit
of a grand scheme, the deployment of all available U-boats in the North Sea would
have cost the Allies at least one million BRT in lost assets54 which might have been
enough to topple Britain in the spring of 1917, either on terms favourable to
German or as an outright victory...
Initial success in Spring 1917
Recognition of submarine effectiveness could also be found in Britain. In
October, 1916 when restricted submarine warfare resumed, Jellicoe wrote to the
Admiralty that there was “a serious danger that our losses in merchant ships, combined with
the losses in neutral merchant ships, may by the early summer of 1917, have such a serious effect
upon the import of food and other necessaries into the allied countries, as to force us into accepting
peace terms which the military position on the Continent would not justify, and which would fall
far short of our desires.”66 In November, 1916 the Admiralty informed His Majesty’s
government of the U-boat menace that “No conclusive answer has as yet been found to this
form of warfare; perhaps no conclusive answer ever will be found. We must for the present be
content with palliation.”67 The alarm heightened in April, 1917: “In a single fortnight in
April, 122 ocean-going vessels were lost. The rate of British loss in ocean-going tonnage during this
fortnight was equivalent to an average round-voyage loss of 25% percent – one out of every four
ships leaving the United Kingdom for an overseas voyage was lost before its return. The
continuance [at] this rate . . . would have brought disaster upon all Allied campaigns, and might
well have involved an unconditional surrender.”68 Admiral Lord Fisher was prompted to
ask “Can the Army win the war before the Navy loses it?”69
Churchill recorded a conversation between American Admiral Sims and
Admiral Jellicoe:
Sims: “It looks as though the Germans [are] winning”
Jellicoe: “They will win, unless we can stop these losses – and stop them soon.”70
The threat extended to the Grand Fleet: “By the outbreak of the war in 1914, 45%
percent of the British fleet burned oil, including nearly all the destroyers. The British Navy’s
monthly oil requirement jumped from 80,500 tons in January, 1915 to 190,000 two years later .
. . Tanker losses to U-boats further lowered the oil supply. ‘As demands went up, tankers went
down.’ Fuel oil stores were so low in February, 1917 that Lord Curzon admitted, ‘the Fleet had
to restrict its exercises.’ In June, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, was informed that the oil
situation was ‘most critical’, that all oil-burning vessels ‘except in great emergency were to be
limited to three-fifths power.’ In July, British foreign secretary Lord Arthur Balfour cabled . . .
that unless three hundred thousands tons of fuel oil could reach Britain, immobilization of the
British Fleet was threatened.”71
U-boats, indeed, were bringing Britain to ruin.

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by SpicyJuan » 22 Oct 2019 00:47

Futurist wrote:
22 Oct 2019 00:20
HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
29 Aug 2019 05:44
IIRC, Germany didn't have any fortifications on its border with France in 1914. So it will still get bogged down in trench warfare, only in a different location than OTL. Britain and the USA will still probably come up with an excuse to enter the war against Germany. Once that happens, Germany slowly starves under the British blockade.

If Germany is dumb enough to try a Napoleonic/Hitler style attempt to conquer Russia, then WWI might end a lot earlier once its armies freeze to death somewhere between Smolensk and Moscow.
Why didn't Germany build any fortifications on its French border?
But Germany did? Especially Metz-Diedenhofen and Strassburg

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 22 Oct 2019 05:06

SpicyJuan wrote:
22 Oct 2019 00:47
Futurist wrote:
22 Oct 2019 00:20
HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
29 Aug 2019 05:44
IIRC, Germany didn't have any fortifications on its border with France in 1914. So it will still get bogged down in trench warfare, only in a different location than OTL. Britain and the USA will still probably come up with an excuse to enter the war against Germany. Once that happens, Germany slowly starves under the British blockade.

If Germany is dumb enough to try a Napoleonic/Hitler style attempt to conquer Russia, then WWI might end a lot earlier once its armies freeze to death somewhere between Smolensk and Moscow.
Why didn't Germany build any fortifications on its French border?
But Germany did? Especially Metz-Diedenhofen and Strassburg
Yeah I was wrong about Germany not having fortifications. My bad.

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by SpicyJuan » 22 Oct 2019 05:43

Terry Duncan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 17:09
SpicyJuan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 06:19
Regarding convoy tactics (I don't know too much about this subject), weren't they made possible/effective by the U.S. joining the war and greatly contributing/freeing the RN to supply convoys with escorts? Assuming the U.S. doesn't join in, are the convoys even possible without additional escorts and ship production?
Convoys were possible, the problem was maintaining the Grand Fleet, BCF, Dover Patrol, Harwich Force etc at battle efficiency and providing what was deemed a suitable convoy escorts. There were talks of forming convoys with no escorts in extreme circumstances, the idea was deemed as possible although the same 'merchant captains will not be able to maintain formation' objection was applied to this just as much to normal convoys. The idea was rejected due to what was deemed the effect on morale for the convoy crews who would feel abandoned and exposts with no escort at all. There were escorts in the pipeline however, such as the Kil class, and manpower in itself was not a problem. If there is no risk of a major fleet encounter then there will be sufficient destroyers to cover convoys.
Btw, just came across this, any thoughts?
History Learner wrote:By April of 1917, the UK had six weeks of food left and eight weeks of oil. U.S. entry immediately added 28 destroyers to the combined Entente total, making an effective convoy system possible as well as added an insane amount of merchant tonnage to transport war materials. Had the U.S. not entered, Britain would've been forced into starvation by June of 1917.

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by ljadw » 22 Oct 2019 11:54

History Learner is wrong : as in WWII,Britain's food was mostly produced at home,and the importance of oil was secundary ,as in WWII.Besides a reserve of food for 6 weeks in April does not mean starvation in June because between April and June additional food was produced .

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by Terry Duncan » 22 Oct 2019 14:09

SpicyJuan wrote:
22 Oct 2019 05:43
Terry Duncan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 17:09
SpicyJuan wrote:
21 Oct 2019 06:19
Regarding convoy tactics (I don't know too much about this subject), weren't they made possible/effective by the U.S. joining the war and greatly contributing/freeing the RN to supply convoys with escorts? Assuming the U.S. doesn't join in, are the convoys even possible without additional escorts and ship production?
Convoys were possible, the problem was maintaining the Grand Fleet, BCF, Dover Patrol, Harwich Force etc at battle efficiency and providing what was deemed a suitable convoy escorts. There were talks of forming convoys with no escorts in extreme circumstances, the idea was deemed as possible although the same 'merchant captains will not be able to maintain formation' objection was applied to this just as much to normal convoys. The idea was rejected due to what was deemed the effect on morale for the convoy crews who would feel abandoned and exposts with no escort at all. There were escorts in the pipeline however, such as the Kil class, and manpower in itself was not a problem. If there is no risk of a major fleet encounter then there will be sufficient destroyers to cover convoys.
Btw, just came across this, any thoughts?
History Learner wrote:By April of 1917, the UK had six weeks of food left and eight weeks of oil. U.S. entry immediately added 28 destroyers to the combined Entente total, making an effective convoy system possible as well as added an insane amount of merchant tonnage to transport war materials. Had the U.S. not entered, Britain would've been forced into starvation by June of 1917.
ljadw is correct here. This is a myth. In WWI Britain did not even introduce any rationing until early 1918 and then it was only certain items that were rationed. Oil fuel was a concern through the war, but much of the fleet still ran on coal which was produced in Wales mostly. The German estimates of what it would take to make Britain run out of provisions widly inaccurate and they never really came close to achieving it.

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by glenn239 » 22 Oct 2019 17:36

SpicyJuan wrote:
22 Oct 2019 00:46
Wasn't some preliminary form of Wolfpack tactics developed by the Germans by the end of the war? At least from my understanding of the German wiki page: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudeltaktik
My understanding is that they were evolving towards Wolfpack tactics but hadn't got there yet. 1919? Perhaps. One thing that is for certain is that it is an exaggeration to suggest that the British had won the war against the U-boats. What they'd done is neutralized them enough that they could not regain the strategic advantage before the war had ended in France. This is what happened in WW2 as well, albeit much more decisively, (U-boats in 1918 were far more effective than U-boats in 1945!)
This may be veering slightly off-topic, but was there a way for Germany to have won the "First" Battle of the Atlantic, or was the convoy system an inevitable trump card? Would some combination of taking the Pas de Calais ports and/or keeping the U.S. out of the war have offset the convoy system? Was the convoy system really inevitable or could the Admiralty hold on long enough to faulty calculations to lose the war?
The convoy system coupled with an advantageous geographical position, and the political effects of unrestricted submarine warfare proved a large advantage to the Entente and the combined effect was enough to remove submarines from the end-of-war equation. I think it can be argued that the DOW by the United States was more decisive in terms of the U-boat war than the other two because of its ability to construct masses of replacement shipping. So any successful German sea campaign, IMO, had to be from the premise of US neutrality above all else.

On the German side, the primary defects in their campaign was poor coordination between surface and subsurface forces, lack of proper strategic reconnaissance, lack of suitable basing. Some of these defects were doctrinal (construction policy as well as operational practice), others a lack of suitable technology, (ie, aircraft range). The basing issue for the submarine force could have been considerably improved had better communication existed between the army and navy about the importance of the Pas de Calais region prior to 1914. But nothing short of the big French Atlantic ports would really have overturned the basing problem.
In summary, Scheer stopped the submarine merchant war in the Atlantic from May to mid-September, 1916 for the very great gamble of a victorious High Seas Fleet. It is tempting to speculate that instead of siphoning away his assets in pursuit of a grand scheme, the deployment of all available U-boats in the North Sea would have cost the Allies at least one million BRT in lost assets
A good example of lack of strategically efficient coordination between surface and subsurface forces. Scheer is using the primary striking arm (the submarines) as the support force in 1916, rather than the reverse, (ie, the use of the surface fleet to support the submarine campaign instead). For example, Scheer was obsessed with sinking enemy dreadnought types, but the USW war would benefiet from the HSF sinking destroyers, not battleships. So, was the most useful strategic target for Germany's surface fleet the Grand Fleet, or the Harwich Force?)
. . Tanker losses to U-boats further lowered the oil supply. ‘As demands went up, tankers went down.’ Fuel oil stores were so low in February, 1917 that Lord Curzon admitted, ‘the Fleet had to restrict its exercises.’ In June, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, was informed that the oil situation was ‘most critical’, that all oil-burning vessels ‘except in great emergency were to be limited to three-fifths power.’
Another example of lack of coordination. So, assuming the Grand Fleet was feeling the pinch on oil stocks, then the inactivity of the HSF circa 1917-1918 was assisting the British by allowing them to preserve their stocks. (The more active the HSF, the more the GF would have to burn oil in response). Failure to apply surface forces to the Atlantic approaches (whatever the cost attritionally) also allowed more tankers to make port in the UK.

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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by History Learner » 26 Oct 2019 22:14

SpicyJuan wrote:
22 Oct 2019 05:43
Btw, just came across this, any thoughts?
History Learner wrote:By April of 1917, the UK had six weeks of food left and eight weeks of oil. U.S. entry immediately added 28 destroyers to the combined Entente total, making an effective convoy system possible as well as added an insane amount of merchant tonnage to transport war materials. Had the U.S. not entered, Britain would've been forced into starvation by June of 1917.
ljadw wrote:
22 Oct 2019 11:54
History Learner is wrong : as in WWII,Britain's food was mostly produced at home,and the importance of oil was secundary ,as in WWII.Besides a reserve of food for 6 weeks in April does not mean starvation in June because between April and June additional food was produced .
Terry Duncan wrote:
22 Oct 2019 14:09
ljadw is correct here. This is a myth. In WWI Britain did not even introduce any rationing until early 1918 and then it was only certain items that were rationed. Oil fuel was a concern through the war, but much of the fleet still ran on coal which was produced in Wales mostly. The German estimates of what it would take to make Britain run out of provisions widly inaccurate and they never really came close to achieving it.
"By the outbreak of the First World War on 4 August 1914, Britain was 60 per cent reliant on imports for food supplies and other commodities such as fuel and fertilisers." This is from the National Farmer's Union, not the Germans. Some other interesting bits:
The Government introduced a voluntary code of rationing in February 1917, where people would limit themselves on what they ate; an initiative endorsed by the Royal Family.

Voluntary rationing was, however, largely ineffective; food remained unevenly distributed and some poorer
communities became malnourished.

Compulsory rationing was gradually implemented from December 1917 to try and distribute what food the country did have as evenly as possible. The first foods to be rationed were wheat, meat and sugar. Rationing continued for the remainder of the war and for some years afterwards. Compulsory rationing was a success as the lowest that the calorific value consumed fell was four per cent in 1917. Britain was recognised as a success due to the supply of food remaining almost intact for the duration of the war. Lessons were learnt and compulsory rationing was applied once again in the Second World War which ensured there were no food shortages.
The outbreak of war on August 4 1914 should have prompted a change in attitude towards food security.
Britain was not in a position to be able to feed itself. 1916 was a bleak year; severe weather resulted in a poor harvest leaving Britain with six weeks’ worth of wheat. The resulting shortage of food and the news from the Battle of the Somme brought the war home to most families.
The estimation of six weeks of food and eight weeks of oil in April of 1917 comes from Herbert Hoover and Admiral Sims, both Americans. The oil matter is backed up by this PhD dissertation for the University of Glasgow. Some interesting bits from it:
Earlier in the month Sir Albert Stanley, the President of the Board of Trade, had pointed out that UK petrol stocks were declining because demand exceeded imports. Shortages of shipping meant that imports in 1917 were likely to be lower than in 1916. Civilian consumption of 10,000,000 gallons per month could be reduced to 8,000,000. Any further cuts would severely disrupt the life and commerce of the country. Military use at home had to be restricted; the War Office and the Admiralty were both taking measures to economise on the use of petrol.
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, the First Sea Lord, informed the War Cabinet on 24 May that naval oil stocks amounted to less than three month's supply. Five large tankers had been sunk during the last month. The cruising of the Grand Fleet had consequently been restricted. In early June Tothill said in a memorandum that: '[t]he situation as regards oil is critical. Under present circumstances, oilers must be considered the most valuable vessels afloat. They should be convoyed.' On 30 June he warned the War Cabinet that stocks of naval oil fuel had fallen because of delays in the completion of tankers, losses of tankers, greater activity by oil burning vessels and an increase in the number of warships burning oil. Further supplies of oil had been requested from the USA, but had not yet been received. Long was in contact with Lord Northcliffe, Head of the British War Mission to the USA, over this issue. In Britain the construction and repair of tankers had been speeded up. The speed of oil-burning warships had been restricted, 'except in the gravest emergency and except in the Southern part of the North Sea.' Fleet movements were to be as restricted as much as possible. Tankers were to be convoyed both on route to and from Britain and on coastal passage and to be escorted in the submarine area. The number of tankers with the Fleet was to be reduced to the minimum possible number. Oil fuel was being imported from America in the double bottoms of cargo ships. Home production was being increased; this could have only a small impact in the immediate future.
Restrictions on oil imports affected food supplies in two ways. The first was that importing oil in double bottoms of cargo ships meant that ships not designed to carry oil could transport it. It did not increase the cargo capacity of the ship so there was a trade off between oil and other goods such as food. On 13 August Maclay told the First Lord of the Admiralty and Hankey that imports from the USA and Canada had fallen by about 1,250,000 tons per annum because of the need to carry oil in the double bottoms of liners and cargo ships. To replace losses 480,000 tons of tankers were being constructed annually, a fifth of the total merchant ship construction programme. The absence of the cargo ships that otherwise would have been built meant a fall of 1,750,000 tons of imports over twelve months. These figures were for naval oil only: another 250,000 of capacity must be allocated to double bottom imports to maintain commercial stocks and 240,000 tons of construction used to replace sunk commercial tankers.

The shortage of oil also impacted domestic food production because of attempts to increase output by replacing farm animals with motorised tractors. On 17 July Rowland Prothero, the President of the Board of Agriculture, wrote to Long regarding a letter sent by Cadman to the Board of Agriculture asking it to consider cutting its demands for petrol for tractors. Prothero wanted to help as much as possible but could not do so without reducing a ploughing programme that had been approved by the Cabinet. If insufficient petrol was available to carry out this out then he felt that it was up to the Cabinet rather than himself to reconsider the situation.254 Long explained that Cadman was acting on his authority; he was responsible to the Cabinet for all issues regarding oil.

In November Prothero warned the War Cabinet that insufficient fuel had allocated to the motor tractors ordered as part of a programme to increase agricultural output in England and Wales. He argued that food production should be given the same status as the armed forces and munitions output, giving it priority over other civilian and industrial uses. The Cabinet should make sure that more oil was imported and that enough of it was allocated to food production. Otherwise the part of the ploughing programme to be carried out by motor tractors would have to be abandoned. In that case the Cabinet must give the order or the Board of Agriculture would lose all credibility with farmers.256 Long explained that oil stocks still were dangerously low despite the importation of 100,000 tons per month in double bottoms. Doing so reduced the imports of food and other essentials so all new tankers would have to be used to replace the use of double bottoms. The Ministry of Shipping estimated that overall imports must be reduced by 8,000,000 tons per annum (666,000 tons per month), showing that the use of double bottoms must end as soon as a safety margin of oil stocks was secured. Demand for petroleum products from the Armed Forces was rising; almost all new warships burnt oil. The required level of naval stocks was rising each month. Prothero's requests placed demands on tanker tonnage that Long would do his 'utmost to meet, but which it is impossible to guarantee in the existing conditions of the Admiralty and War Office stocks.'257 Adoption of Prothero's proposal to treat agriculture the same as the armed forces would contradict the Cabinet's ruling, and would return to the situation that the current structure was intended to avoid. Shipping resources were already operating at maximum effort.

In December Maclay told the Petroleum Committee that Britain was 'faced with a very serious deficit in the tonnage now required to be allotted to Government services. The wheat position is particularly grave.'258 By the end of January, wheat stocks would be only 15-16 weeks demand, a very low level since half was held by the farmers. Wheat was available in the USA; the problem was finding ships to transport it. Maclay said there was a shortage of 40 ships, and it was 'of the utmost importance that every possible step be taken to reduce this deficit.'259 He suggested that half the deficit could be covered by abandoning the use of double bottoms for oil for a month. J. A. Salter, the Director of Shipping Requisition, attended the 12th meeting of the committee on 12 December 1917. He explained that the main problem was the failure of the French and Italian harvests, meaning that imports had to be diverted from Britain to those countries. The meeting concluded that a telegram should be sent to Sir Frederick Black in New York urging that the Americans release more tonnage for the North Atlantic route. Stopping use of double bottoms was discussed. Long insisted that naval fuel had to be prioritised.
The RN remained the most important user of oil. Reversion to coal as a fuel for warships was considered. Maclay's 13 August memorandum urged that building either coal fired ships or ones that could burn either oil or coal should be considered. Sir Eustace D'Eyncourt, the DNC, had looked into this in June and concluded that it would be very difficult to convert existing oil burning ships to coal. Oil boilers were much bigger than coal ones. Oil bunkers were in the wrong parts of the ship to be used for coal. One of the advantages of oil was that, unlike coal, it could be stored in parts of the ship that were awkward to for sailors to access. Oil was often carried low down, so there would be stability issues if the position of the fuel storage was changed. Ships that had been designed from the outset as oil burners would have to be completely rebuilt. Those completed as entirely oil fired, but designed to burn both coal and oil, would be difficult to convert to use coal and would have their fuel storage significantly reduced. New ships would have to be either slower or larger if they reverted to coal and would have bigger crews and shorter ranges than oil burners. D'Eyncourt thought that it was feasible to build a coal burning 22 knot destroyer for anti-submarine work, but it would be too slow to work with the Grand Fleet. Converting enough ships to burn coal to make a significant difference to oil usage would take the country's entire warship construction capacity for a year. He suggested that a substantial saving could instead be made by ordering oil burning warships to use reduced power except when it was crucial to achieve maximum speed.

The RN did construct small coal fired warships, such as convoy sloops, gunboats and minesweepers, during the war; several monitors, slow ships intended for coastal bombardment, used coal. Some of the battleships and cruisers that were under construction in British shipyards for foreign navies, and were taken over by the RN, burnt a mixture of oil and coal. All destroyers, battle cruisers and battleships ordered for the RN during the war burnt exclusively oil, as did all cruisers with the exception of the five ships of the Hawkins class. They were designed to hunt down commerce raiders, probably operating in remote areas where oil might not be available. One of the class was lost accidentally and the others converted to oil in the 1920s.

ljadw
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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by ljadw » 27 Oct 2019 07:02

Why would an oil reserve for 3 months (counted on a consumption in the past ) be bad? What was the minimum oil reserve that was required ? For how many months did Britain have an oil reserve in WWII ?
Did the oil reserve of 3 months result in difficulties for the operations of the navy, or did it create problems for British imports ? That there were restrictions for the navy does not mean that the navy was hindered in its operations .
To say that oil reserves were ''dangerously low '' is something meaningless : or the reserves are sufficient, or they are not .
Whatever, with these ''dangerously low reserves '' Britain won the war . There is no proof that with bigger reserves the war would be won earlier or that with lower reserves the war would be won later .
The arguments of Prothero (minister of agriculture ) have not much value : of course the minister of agriculture would ask more oil for the farmers . No one expected him to say that agriculture had sufficient fuel.
What we need are more reliable figures,as
imports and exports between 1913 and 1918,including these of food and oil
food and oil consumption between 1913 and 1918
food production between 1913 and 1918
food and oil reserves between 1913 and 1918
In WWII the decrease of food imports was more than neutralized by the increase of food production at home and by an efficient rationing system .Unless we have proofs of the opposite, we should start from the assumption that it was the same in WWI.Especially as there are no proofs for famine in WWI. Neither in WWII .

ljadw
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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by ljadw » 27 Oct 2019 07:32

The following is from Adrian Gregory : The Last Great War.British Society and the First World War 2008 pp 285-286 .
Cited in ''Organization of the War Economies (GB and Ireland ) ''
'' At its lowest point, in 1917, the calorific value of the average British diet was only 4 percent lower than in 1913,and across the war as a whole the diets and health of women and poor children improved . ''
IMO this is crushing the myth of the U Boat danger in WWI .''

ljadw
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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by ljadw » 27 Oct 2019 08:05

An other good source is Herwig : Total Rhetoric, Limited War: Germany's U-Boat Campaign 1917-1918.

ljadw
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Re: German "East First" Plan in 1914?

Post by ljadw » 27 Oct 2019 11:20

There was a lot of pessimism in Berlin in the winter of 1917 ,but the KM said it had a miracle solution : unrestricted submarine war ;when some people replied that this would cause war with the US,the KM answered that with an average monthly sinking of 600000 tons during 7 months (February-August ) Britain would be forced to capitulate,before US could intervene.
The truth was that the U Boats succeeded to sink 600000 tons monthly during 7 months,but that Britain did not capitulate .
The reason was that Britain was much less depending on imports in WWI than before 1914,and thus that less imports did not mean less food and that less food did not mean starvation .
About the influence of the U Boats in the amount of British imports, it ( losses by U Boats ) was only ONE ( and not the deciding ) of the elements in a very complicated assembly line : things as needs, production, transport,stockage capacity, loading and unloading... in Britain and in the US were as or even more important .

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