Genesis of the Grand Fleet

The Admiralty, Germany, and the Home Fleet, 1896–1914

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Overview

Genesis of the Grand Fleet: The Admiralty, Germany, and the Home Fleet, 1896–1914 tells the story of the prewar predecessor to the Royal Navy’s war-winning Grand Fleet: the Home Fleet. Established in early 1907 by First Sea Lord Sir John Fisher, the Home Fleet combined an active core of powerful armored warships with a unification of the various reserve divisions of warships previously under the control of the three Royal Navy home port commands. Fisher boasted that the new Home Fleet would be able to counter the growing German Hochseeflotte.  

While these boasts were accurate, they were not the sole motivation behind the Home Fleet’s establishment. The Liberal Party’s landslide victory in the 1906 General Election made fiscal economy on the part of the Admiralty even more important than before, and this significantly influenced the Home Fleet’s creation. 

Subsequently the Home Fleet suffered a sustained campaign of criticism by the commanderinchief of the Channel Fleet, Lord Charles Beresford. This campaign ruined many careers including Beresford’s and resulted in the assimilation of the Channel Fleet into the Home Fleet in 1909. From 1910 onward the Home Fleet steadily evolved and became the most important single command in the Royal Navy, and the Home Fleet’s successive commandersinchief had influence on strategic policy rivaled only by the Board of Admiralty. The last prewar commander of the Home Fleet, Admiral Sir George Callaghan achieved this influence by impressing the civilian head of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. A driven reformer, Churchill’s influence was almost as important as Fisher’s. 

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Editorial Reviews

“This important study provides a robust defense and vindication of the Royal Navy's pre-World War One leadership, war planning, and tactical thought. It is refreshing to read an account that pays close attention to important figures like Walter Kerr, Francis Bridgeman, Edmond Slade, William May, and George Callaghan, whose contributions to British naval policy have been largely ignored by historians obsessed with John Fisher.” —John Beeler, author of British Naval Policy in the Gladstone-Disraeli Era, 1866-1880; Professor of History, the University of Alabama
“Focusing on the creation and development of the Home Fleet, this lucid and well-researched volume is a very welcome addition to the literature that provides an up-to-date analysis of how the Royal Navy made ready for a possible conflict with Germany in the first decade of the twentieth century.” —Matthew S. Seligmann, professor of Naval History, Brunel University London; author of Rum, Sodomy, Prayers and the Lash Revisited: Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 1900-1915
The Genesis of the Grand Fleet is the first detailed account of the formation and development of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet, and in doing so offers important new insights on a host of crucial issues from defense politics to strategy and materiel. The book is well researched and closely argued, and makes significant contribution to the scholarship on the pre-First World War Royal Navy.” —Richard Dunley, author of Britain and the Mine, 1900-1915; lecturer in History, University of New South Wales, Canberra 
“The storyline details the significant issues confronting pre-World War I British naval policy and strategy and there are several themes still relevant today for those concerned with the strategic level of defence planning, force design, and operations.” —Australian Naval Institute
“Christopher M. Buckey has crafted a narrative that serves as a useful tool that reflects the past challenges of naval policy onto a modern setting as nations ponder their twenty-first-century maritime goals. It’s a text that will appeal to a broad swath of readers ranging from students of naval history through those interested in naval policy and great power competition.” —Armchair General

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