"Dr. Phillip Pattee has done an incredibly important service by providing a contextual look at British naval and maritime strategy in World War I in his new book, At War in Distant Waters. It reflects massive research and a much broader view than customary of the naval aspects of World War I, a war on which historians traditionally devote their focus solely to land operations on the Western Front."—Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, 12 August 2013
At War in Distant Waters investigates the reasons behind Great Britain’s combined military and naval offensive expeditions outside of Europe during the Great War. Often regarded as unnecessary sideshows to the conflict waged on the European continent, these various campaigns were necessary adjuncts to the war in Europe and fulfilled an important strategic purpose by protecting British trade where it was most vulnerable. Since international trade was essential for the island nation’s survival, Great Britain required freedom of the seas to maintain its global trade. While the German High Seas Fleet was a serious threat to the British coast, forcing the Royal Navy to concentrate in home waters, the importance of the empire’s global trade made it a valuable target to Germany’s various commerce raiders, just as Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz’s risk theory had anticipated.
Phillip Pattee argues that several combined military and naval operations against overseas territories constituted parts of an overarching strategy designed to facilitate the Royal Navy’s gaining command of the seas. Using documentary evidence from the Royal Navy and high-ranking government officials to support his theory, Pattee demonstrates that the Offensive Sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defense drafted the campaign plan. Subsequently, the plan received Cabinet approval, followed by coordination of the colonies to execute the operations necessary to carry out the campaign. The combined operations against German territories exterminated the logistics and intelligence hubs that supported Germany’s commerce raiders, thereby protecting Britain’s worldwide trade and its overseas possessions.
Phillip G. Pattee, a retired U.S. Navy submarine officer, is an associate professor of strategy and military operations at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. He has a PhD in military and diplomatic history from Temple University and lives in Lansing, KS.
~ Advance Praise ~
“Retired submarine officer and professor Phillip Pattee has produced a fascinating new look at Great Britain’s strategy to defend her maritime commerce during World War I. Previous historians questioned the utility or wisdom of Britain’s campaigns around the globe, especially in Africa and the Middle East, judging them distractions from the main show in Europe. Pattee provides a compelling affirmation of the necessity of these operations from a grand strategic point of view while at the same time offering a vivid and fast-paced operational narrative that integrates the disparate parts into an understandable whole.”
—Cdr. John T. Kuehn, USN (Ret.), professor of military history and author of Agents of Innovation: The General Board and the Design of the Fleet that Defeated the Japanese Navy
“Pattee offers fresh insights into the under-told story of how a series of seemingly minor, ad hoc operations were essential to the success of Britain’s strategy in the Great War.”
—Antulio J. Echevarria II, professor, U.S. Army War College
“An original study of the First World War’s maritime and global character. Professor Pattee’s analysis is sophisticated and full of fascinating insights. In clear and compelling prose he demonstrates that seemingly minor sideshows in distant waters were in fact key to the allied victory and that Great Britain could have lost the war in 1915 had it not taken early actions to secure its commerce and overseas empire. This is a timely and welcome addition to the literature of the Great War.”
—Vincent P. O’Hara, editor of To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War
“Often overlooked in histories of World War I has been Great Britain’s effort to protect trade with her colonies. In his compelling and persuasive new book, Phillip Pattee argues that defending commerce in far-flung corners of the globe constituted an important front in the war and helped shape British naval strategy. Exhaustively researched and crisply written, At War in Distant Waters rightly gives this fascinating chapter of the Great War its proper place.”
—Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century