10 MARCH 1939, Page 22


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR] SIR,—I hope you will permit me to remark on certain state- ments in the review of The Navy From Within (The Spectator, February 24th).

It commences by crediting me with the puerile opinion that all the failures of the War, e.g., "Gallipoli, Jutland and the anti-submarine campaign of 1917," were due to certain faulty conceptions of discipline. The two chapters on the Dardanelles provide no grounds whatever for that idea. Strategical failures of this kind are clearly debited to a system which failed to train officers in the conduct of war.

With regard to Jutland, there are antecedent as well as proximate causes of failure, but everyone who reads this chapter will agree that it attributes the escape of the High Sea Fleet to our overcentralised and rigid system of command which suppressed the initiative of subordinate leaders.

As for the anti-submarine campaign, the fact that Mr. Lloyd George had, as it were, to coax the naval authorities into the lifeboat at the point of the bayonet is attributed to various reasons such as absorption of the naval staff in current work and lack of any planning organisation (page 229). The question of faulty disciplinary conceptions only arises indirectly because naval officers dared not openly dispute the First Sea Lord's opinion that convoy was impracticable.

The separation of numerous quotations from their context also conveys a false impression. For example, a remark that "the Admiralty seemed to be supremely ignorant of deficiencies which were apparent to the latest joined midship- men" is invoked to illustrate an alleged "tendency to fault- finding almost amounting to an obsession," but no one would dispute that statement if they knew that it referred to the fire control top of some of our battleships having been placed just abaft the funnel so that in certain winds the view was obscured and gunnery efficiency reduced to zero.

Your reviewer also remarks that the chapters on the 'Royal Oak' case are unconvincing because of insufficient documenta- tion, but all the relevant regulations are given and also extracts from the court-martial minutes.

With regard to the question of training officers, Professor Soley's remarks are none the less true because they were written in 1875. The objections to early entry and the " half- timer " midshipman do not diminish with lapse of time.

Finally, there is no justification for the statement "that in every chapter and almost every page (386 of them) emerges the implication that the author has always been right and most others in the Navy wrong." The reviewer accuses me of over-statement, but a more careful perusal of the book would show that about 90 per cent. of it is historical or auto- biographical narrative which provides no opportunities for claims to infallibility. Only with regard to the question of blockade in the event of war with Germany (vide Chapter X) do I claim to have been right and most others wrong, and it was this attack on the orthodox policy that probably saved the Navy from the kind of plan that led our Army to destruction at Mons.—I am, &c.,

K. G. B. DEWAR. Vice-Admiral.