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British Colonial Defense in the Great War
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781612511948
  • Binding: Hardcover & eBook
  • Era: 20th Century
  • Number of Pages: 288
  • Subject: World War I
  • Date Available: October 2013
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"This book is impressively researched and well written with an easy to follow narrative. The author makes his points clearly and supports them with reasonable evidence. He is able to pull together a worldwide effot and show its interrelation in the bigger picure of World War I."- Military Heritage

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.

~ Praise for At War in Distant Waters~

"At War in Distant Waters is an excellent piece of scholarship. Lucidly told, it addresses a side of naval strategy too frequently ignored and is warmly recommended to the academic no less than to those only acquainted with the topic."

— International Journal of Naval History

“In general, it is founded on excellent original research: the author has made extensive use of original and secondary materials and firmly bases the work within the context of the existing historiography. It is original, compelling and persuasive.”

— International Journal of Maritime History

“This book describes the strategically important British combined naval and military operations that neutralized the commerce raiders and the German colonies overseas that supported them.”

— Seapower

“Pattee tells a thorough and clearly organized story of foreign policy and a thoughtful strategy to protect British trade during World War I. He argues convincingly that the naval missions to German colonies were decisive in the preservation of a trade network critical to Britain’s survival. He does a valuable service by clarifying how naval intelligence and operations, the use of Dominion and allied forces, government insurance guarantees for shipping, and persuasive diplomacy with neutral countries together achieved Britain’s goals and protected its interests. Sharp strategic judgments at home won the 'War in Distant Waters.'”

— Michigan War Studies Review

At War in Distant Waters is a valuable addition to the literature of WWI at sea and Phillip Pattee has done valuable work in stressing the relative importance of defence on distant stations.”

— The Naval Review

"Pattee provides fresh insights into the overlooked British effort to protect her colonial empire, and in so doing demonstrates that the apparently minor sideshows in distant waters were essential to the Allied victory in 1918.  This exhaustively researched and well-written book is a timely addition to the naval literature of the First World War.  Highly recommended."

— Warship 2014

“Furthermore, Britain was prepared for global warfare and there was Cabinet-level structure in place to direct overseas strategy as this excellent, well-researched book makes clear.”

— Warships International Fleet Review

"Tightly and elegantly drafted volume."

— The Maple Leaf, a magazine of the Central Ontario Branch Western Front Association

"Astutely reasoned and accessibly presented contribution to military and naval history shelves. Highly recommended."

— The Midwest Book Review

"The British reply to the German cruiser campaign was so successful that its significance can easily be overlooked.  The author of this scholarly book tells his story with admirable clarity, and has done a useful service in showing that the campaigns against Germany's colonies should not be dismissed as minor sideshows.  They were strategically important."

— Journal of Military History

"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

“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.”

“…provides a new perspective on the importance of trade and economics in the formulation of British global strategy.”

—The Historian

—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


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.

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