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Remembered Today:

German Submarine Question


yelob

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Hi all,

Please excuse this probably simplistic question buy I can't find the answer elsewhere

why were German subs not used

1. at Jutland?

2. to sink the ships that were used in the blockade of Germany.?

Thanks,

Liam

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There are no simple questions, as there are no simple answers. 14 uboats were deployed a Jutland as well as a few airships.

Google: battle of jutland order of battle to see where they were positioned.

Uboats did a pretty good job at sinking allied warships. See link: http://www.uboat.net/wwi/ships_hit/warships.html

Respectfully,

Joe R

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Liam,

Quick answers:

1. German submarines were used at Jutland -- they were assigned patrol areas off British ports to watch for, report, and attack RN warships coming to and from port.

2. The answer is a bit complicated, because essentially you're asking about four years of the war, in which conditions (political and military environment, including the number of U-boats available) varied widely. In general terms, an armed merchant cruiser enforcing the blockade is a liner that isn't being used to haul troops and supplies. German submarines most certainly did attack them when they came across them. However, it was usually a lot more productive to focus on the far larger mass of smaller merchant shipping actually carrying supplies to and from Britain, France etc. Before mid-1917, these were usually traveling individually and often also unarmed. After that point, well, the U.S. was in, so Germany really didn't have anyone to trade with.

Best wishes,

Michael

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Neither side could arrange Jutland as a prescheduled event.

The German sortie that was to lead to Jutland was delayed, but the subs were already out to get into position beforehand, so many were near the end of their endurance by the time the fleets actually met.

Subs were slower than warships - their max surface speed was about the same as an economical cruising speed for a battleship, so it wasn't easy to redeploy them in the light of actual events, especially in radio silence - and most surface commanders had only limited, stale and often inaccurate information about where their own and enemy forces were.

The result was that there were no U-boats within about 60 miles of the main battle area.

A few were positioned to intercept ships returning to Scapa or Rosyth, and the damaged Warspite nearly managed to ram one as she staggered back half out-of-control.

It was a mine laid by one of the subs deployed for Jutland that sank Hampshire on her way to Russia, and drowned Kitchener.

So yes, they were used, but circumstances were such that they weren't able to affect the battle itself.

Regards,

MikB

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Thanks very much for the detailed answers and links and for pointing out the complexities.

Best Wishes,Liam

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With regard to the blockade it is an over simplification to think of a screen of ships stopping all traffic as it didn't work like that. Within 2 months of the war starting most of Germany's deep water merchant fleet was either sunk, captured or bottled up in a neutral port That which survived was restricted to short voyages in waters the German Navy could control (mainly the Baltic). However this did not mean that the blockade was effective - far from it. Under international law Britain could not actually declare a formal blockade unless she could apply it equally to all German ports and as the Baltic was very much under German control this could not be done. This greatly restricted the ability of Britain and France to restrict trade carried in neural ships with Germany either directly to German ports or indirectly through neutral countries and for the first 2½ years Germany switched most of its imports to neutral shipping and neutral countries adjacent to Germany increased their imports by up to 400% most of which was sold on to Germany for large profits. Any attempt by the Entente to limit the neutrals drew major diplomatic protests from the USA whose business sector was profiting mightily as a result. Gradually the Entente increased the categories of goods that were classified as absolute contraband (and which they could stop neutrals from carrying to German ports) from 11 in August 1914 to over 200 at the beginning of 1917. At the same time American business was effectively bribed into stopping supplying Germany by Britain entering into agreements to buy the products herself - financed by loans raised in New York, this had a great effect in reducing American complaints about restriction of neutral trade. Britain and France abrogated the bits of international law that prevented them from effectively embargoing traffic into neutral ports and introduced a system of rationing so that neutrals could only import enough to meet their own domestic needs and could not re export to Germany. It was not until the beginning of 1917 that anything like an effective blockade of Germany was in place. Germany was reduced to bringing in low volume high value strategic war material using fast blockade runners and U boats and even then the entry of the USA and Brazil into the war closed many of their sources for such material (such as Brazilian rubber). In those neutral countries that might still be able to supply Germany a secret war was waged between British and German agents including sabotage and assassination to block trade. It was not until the surrender of the German fleet after the armistice that the RN could close the German Baltic ports and finally seal off trade in iron ore and food products through Sweden thus asserting considerable pressure on Germany to sign the peace treaty.

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Cent, I'd like to know your source. Massie's 'Castles of Steel' states on p.545 (Vintage Books paperback) that hardship was seriously affecting the German population by early 1916. 3 times as many Germany-bound cargo ships were seized or retained by the British as British ships were sunk by U-boats during the first submarine offensive.

My father was a small boy in WW1 Berlin, and by the Armistice he was nearly starved - he thought some of his schoolmates died.

Regards,

MikB

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Cent, I'd like to know your source. Massie's 'Castles of Steel' states on p.545 (Vintage Books paperback) that hardship was seriously affecting the German population by early 1916. 3 times as many Germany-bound cargo ships were seized or retained by the British as British ships were sunk by U-boats during the first submarine offensive.

My father was a small boy in WW1 Berlin, and by the Armistice he was nearly starved - he thought some of his schoolmates died.

Regards,

MikB

Just wrote an essay on the subject as part of my MA - bibliography as follows

  • Anon The War Book of Facts, A W Shaw Company Ltd., London, 1914
  • Bell. Archibald Colquhoun, A History of the Blockade of Germany and of the countries associated with her in the Great War, HM Stationery Office, 1937
  • Broadberry. Stephen & Harrison. Mark (Editors), The Economics of World War I , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005
  • Consett. M.W.W.P., The Triumph Of Unarmed Forces, Williams and Norgate, London, 1923
  • Fayle. C Ernest, Official History of the War, Sea Borne Trade Imperial War Museum, London, 1997 (originally published 1923)
  • Guichard. Louis (trans C R Turner), The Naval Blockade 1914 -1918, Philip Allan & Co., Ltd., London,1930
  • Liddel Hart B.H.. The British Way in Warfare Revised Edition 1935. Penguin Special 1942
  • Pape. Robert A., Why Economic Sanctions do not Work International Security, Vol 22 Issue 2. The MIT Press, 1997
  • Parkinson. P Roger, Tormented Warrior Ludendorff and the Supreme Command, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1978
  • Siney Marion Celestia, Allied Negotiations with The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden to make effective the blockade of Germany, 1914-1916. University of Michigan, 1938
  • Stevenson. David, With Our Backs to the Wall, Penguin, London, 2012
  • Suydam. Henry, How The British Blockade Works. An Interview with Rear-Admiral Sir Dudley De Chair, K.C.B., M.V.O., Sir Joseph Causton & Sons. London, 1916
  • Vincent. C Paul. The Politics of Hunger, Ohio University Press
The issues that Massie refers to was due to a European outbreak of the potato blight (the same disease that hit Ireland in the 19th century). By WW1 a remedy had been found - the use of Copper based fungicides however all Germany's copper had been diverted to the production of brass and production of copper fungicidal sprays had ceased. The German high command had been relying on potatoes from Germany and the conquered territories in the east to make up for shortages in wheat based foods due to a rapid decline in German agricultural productivity but there were none - hence the turnip winter and food riots - incorrectly blamed on the blockade.
As I said the blockade was working after 1917 (and became fully effective in 1919 and people did starve - but the results were mainly amongst those at greatest risk - ie the sick, the already malnourished through poverty, the aged etc but you can dig the data out of Consett and Paul)
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Well, I wouldn't deny you put contention on the back foot with that bibliography, but.....

Had they been able to obtain copper from overseas, they could have put the fungicides into production (had they been prepared to divert chemical industry resources to do so), so the loss of the spud supply could still be regarded as a result of the blockade.

Regards,

MikB

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Well, I wouldn't deny you put contention on the back foot with that bibliography, but.....

Had they been able to obtain copper from overseas, they could have put the fungicides into production (had they been prepared to divert chemical industry resources to do so), so the loss of the spud supply could still be regarded as a result of the blockade.

Regards,

MikB

They did get their copper from overseas - Sweden!

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The blockade was about more than food. In 1914 Germany was able to feed herself (although the middle classes might object over what kind of food) and was a net exporter of basics, By the end of the war German food production had almost halved. The following diagram shows how in the first part of the war the deficit was being made up by imports via neutral countries.

post-9885-0-98987800-1402168087_thumb.jp

I haven't been able to add the Netherlands as much of their imports never were recorded being transshipped onto barges and straight up the Rhine but if Broadberry et al are to be believed probably were as great as the Scandinavian countries put together. This would imply that by 1916 Germany was getting about ten million tons of food stuffs from overseas

Also worth noting that the food distribution system in Germany was shambolic so that even at the armistice some more rural regions did not suffer at all having surpluses whilst hunger was rife in a number of the industrial cites

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They did get their copper from overseas - Sweden!

You sparked my interest with that one, as some sources say that Swedish copper production - at least at the end of 1915 - was very low : -http://jfredmacdonald.com/worldwarone1914-1918/denmark-15swedens-role.html

You yourself posted in a 'Trading with the Enemy' thread back in early June 2011 that:

'Sweden once the main supplier of copper to all of Europe by WW1 could not even meets its own domestic demand for copper.'

I think it's hard to make the case that the turnip winter wasn't ultimately due to - or at least severely exacerbated by - the Allied blockade, even if it resulted more directly from diversion of resources and capacity to war aims.

Regards,

MikB

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You sparked my interest with that one, as some sources say that Swedish copper production - at least at the end of 1915 - was very low.

You yourself posted in a 'Trading with the Enemy' thread back in early June 2011 that:

'Sweden once the main supplier of copper to all of Europe by WW1 could not even meets its own domestic demand for copper.'

I think it's hard to make the case that the turnip winter wasn't ultimately due to - or at least severely exacerbated by - the Allied blockade, even if it resulted more directly from diversion of resources and capacity to war aims.

Regards,

MikB

Its very easy - it was caused by a failure of the potato crop

Sweden was importing large amounts of copper some of which was re exported to Germany but the German high command chose to direct it all to munitions and the like.

Even Britain was hit by the potato shortage but a] was still producing copper based fungicides and so could mitigate the blight and b] was no where near as dependant on spuds as a basic food.

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