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The triumph of unarmed forces

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Skipman
The triumph of unarmed forces : an account of the transactions by which Germany during the Great War was able to obtain supplies prior to her collapse under the pressure of economic forces by Rear-Admiral Montagu William Warcop Peter Consett



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Mike

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centurion

I think I'd suggest some radical changes to the OP text. Have you read it? I have and the info you give covers about 30 % of the book. Most of it is about the introduction of the rationing system (rationing the imports of neutral countries) plus the impact on Germany and the co author seems to have vanished. If anyone is interested I can provide a useful list of material on the "blockade" (legally there was never a blockade) from British and French sources most of which is available for download (the ones that aren't will cost an arm and a leg but hobbling around and typing one handed I can certify aren't really worth it)

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Guest

No haven't read it am afraid. So if I add tags Rationing, Neutral countries, that will help?

Mike

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David Filsell

Why do you persist in claiming it was not a blockade whenever reference to the action uses the term? Legally, what ever that means in this context, or not it was, and was contemporaneously described as a blockade, understood to be so by historians, Great War enthusiasts, the press and the Germans. 'Legal' or not it was a blockade.

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centurion

Why do you persist in claiming it was not a blockade whenever reference to the action uses the term? Legally, what ever that means in this context, or not it was, and was contemporaneously described as a blockade, understood to be so by historians, Great War enthusiasts, the press and the Germans. 'Legal' or not it was a blockade.

Because as all the British and French documentation insists it was not legally a blockade Under International Law as set down in the Declaration of Paris and reaffirmed in the declaration of London just before WW1 and confirmed by Britain and France (under pressure from the USA) in 1914 a blockade could not be legally declared unless all a belligerent's ports could be closed to neutral shipping. Germany's Baltic ports could not be so closed. Blockade was a sort of short hand for an enforcement of the rules of contraband which proved woefully inadequate as the book in the OP acknowledges (read it|) It also acknowledges that a legal blockade could not be applied (and is quite rude about the brain dead admiral who agreed to the Declaration of London). The appropriate parts of the history of the war confirm this - again I'd say read it before commenting in this manner. In fact even with Britain and Frances abrogation of the Declaration of London in 1916 the Declaration of Paris still had force and a full and legal blockade did not take effect until after the armistice when the RN could send capital ships into the Baltic. It was not until 1917 that the imposition of the rationing system on Baltic (and Dutch) nations that anything like a blockade was in place and even then it took the USA and Brazil entering the war to make it about 90% effective. Most documentation of the time uses blockade as a sort of generalisation and then go on to explain that its not really a full blockade - I know I've read it - have you?

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Dust Jacket Collector

The Official History of the Blockade of the Central Empires & the rare History of the Blockade (as identified by MartH) would certainly suggest it was regarded as such at the time.

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centurion

The Official History of the Blockade of the Central Empires & the rare History of the Blockade (as identified by MartH) would certainly suggest it was regarded as such at the time.

As there was no official history of the "blockade" I'd be interested to know to what you are referring. Do you mean 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 or Fayle. C Ernest, Official History of the War, Sea Borne Trade Imperial War Museum, London, 1997 (originally published 1923) Neither of which support your assertions? Both in fact reinforce the statement made by Louis Guichard. of the Historical section of the French Ministry of Marine who stated "The Central Empires therefore were never blockaded in the legal sense of the word" quoting the Declarations of Paris and London. The blockade is one of those great myths of WW1 for which some will provide a defence which is almost religious in its passion

It was of course a subject some in governmental circles did not want to shed too much light on having thrown away a weapon that could have ended the war within two years even before the war started.

Possibly a case of

"Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?”

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Dust Jacket Collector

Thanks for the Kipling quote - much appreciated by fhis collector of his works.

Yes I was refering to the Bell but also to 'The History of the Blockade' by Carless Davis published in 1920. I've not seen it, there being only 2 or 3 copies known to have survived, I was merely quoting it to suggest that there seemed to have been some kind of official acknowledgement that a Blockade had been in place. You'd better get in touch with MartH, who has a copy, if you wish to know more.

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Guest

There are certainly a few books with "Blockade" in the title, whether it was legally a 'blockade' I don't know?

Mike

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centurion

Bells monumental work which I have a copy of was written with full access to all the official papers etc but was never part of the Official History of the war. As I said there never was an Official history of the blockade. All the references to blockade in book titles etc need to be qualified (and often are) in the same manner that Louis Guichard qualified his history adding "if I should happen to use the term (blockade) in the course of this work, it will be in its ordinary acceptance of "economic encirclement" ". In fact within two months of the start of hostilities Germany had switched from using its own merchant fleet (most of which was either captured, sunk or bottled up) to getting its imports (and exports) carried by neutral shipping which under the Declaration of London 1909 the Allies were very restricted in interdicting as there was never a legal blockade. Imports of products for re-export to Germany (and in some cases on to the KuK) by neutrals with land borders with Germany or short protected sea passages there rocketed so for example Norway became became the worlds leading exporter of coco products. Before the outbreak of war in 1914 the Allies had no blockade strategy in place other than to capture German shipping, . Churchill had on more than one occasion asked for one to be established in anticipation of war but had been overruled by the Prime Minister at the behest of the Board of Trade. By the end of 1916 food re-exports from Scandinavian countries alone had reached 6,000,000 tons per year and this was almost certainly at least matched if not surpassed by the Netherlands. Much of the material of all sorts reaching Germany came from the USA whose industry and agriculture profited enormously (and the American government protested most vigorously against any attempt to introduce an effective encirclement) but some British manufacturers were also selling goods to agents in neutral countries even though it was obvious that the products would be re exported to Germany - it may have been morally reprehensible but it wasn't illegal.

​The British government put out plenty of propaganda about the effectiveness of the "blockade" but in this period many of Germany's economic problems were effectively "own goals" Thus switching to a reliance on potatoes as a bulk staple proved a disaster as Germany at the same time stopped producing copper based fungicides which made them particularly vulnerable to potato blight, an outbreak of which swept across Europe in 1915 - leading to the "turnip winter"

​It was only through economic and diplomatic measures that a noose was tightened around Germany. A rationing system was established whereby neutral countries were restricted by treaty to importing only pre war levels of goods. This could be enforced legally by the navy once the treaties had been signed but negotiating them individually took hard and difficult negotiation and was not fully in force until into 1917. The USA was effectively "bought off" whereby Britain agreed with various industrial combines to buy the goods that would have gone to Germany - the loans to finance this were raised mainly in New York and left Britain hugely indebted to the USA.

It was only by mid 1917 that Germany began to be effectively strangled (and this was helped by the USA entering the war) and many were the ingenious stratagems employed to run the embargos and to counter this but the flow was effectively minuscule. By 1918 so many sources of goods for Germany were by then Allies or co-belligerents alongside Britain and France that Germany began to run out of places to buy goods even if she had been able to get them in.

​It is possible to argue that had Britain had a well organised and effective legal naval blockade strategy in place and ready to go in August 1914 Germany might have been on her knees by the time of the Somme offensive

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Guest

Because as all the British and French documentation insists it was not legally a blockade

All? Have you read them all? How many documents are there exactly? Are you absolutely sure of this? MG

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David Filsell

Its still a blockade to me even if qualified by partial or whatever adjective you care to select. In truth, sadly, I cannot feel other than that you are being particularly pedantic on this issue.

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Guest

**sigh** If the Blockade was not 'legal' someone ought to have informed the Ministry of Blockade. There are 55 volumes of papers for this department held in the National Archive unde TS 14 see here.

Ministry of Blockade: War Trade Intelligence Department and War Trade Statistical Department, Records
Description:

Records relating to blockade created by the Foreign Office Contraband Committee and Enemy Exports Committee, the Trade Clearing House section, and the War Trade Statistical Department of the War Trade Department and the War Trade Statistical Department of the Ministry of Blockade. War Trade Intelligence Department records are also included.

The volumes consist of minutes, etc of meetings of committees; a set of Transit Letter Bulletins giving information about the activities of traders obtained from intercepted mail; and war trade statistics regarding imports into neutral countries adjacent to enemy territories. Some of the volumes consist of bound copies of Foreign Office confidential print.

Date:
1914-1919
Related Material:
Records of the Trade Clearing House and the War Trade Intelligence Department after it was transferred are in BT 73
For further records of the War Trade Intelligence Department see FO 902
Held by:
The National Archives, Kew
Legal status:
Public Record
Language:
English
Creator:
Foreign Office, Contraband Committee, 1914-1918
Foreign Office, Enemy Exports Committee, 1915-1918
Ministry of Blockade, War Trade Intelligence Department, 1916-1919
Ministry of Blockade, War Trade Statistical Department, 1917-1919
War Trade Department, Trade Clearing House, 1915-1916
War Trade Department, War Trade Intelligence Department, 1916-1917
War Trade Department, War Trade Statistical Department, 1916-1917
Physical description:
55 volume(s)
Custodial history:
Following the disbandment of the Ministry of Blockade in May 1919 and the dissolution of the War Trade Intelligence Department in October 1919 those records dealing with blockade matters were transferred to the custody of HM Procurator General in connection with outstanding prize business.
Selection and destruction information:
A Destruction Schedule, under the Public Record Office Act 1877, was approved on 2 February 1920 in respect of the records, and the papers in this series are those which it was decided should be preserved permanently.
Administrative / biographical background:

The Trade Clearing House was established during the First World War as the intelligence branch of the War Trade Department. In March 1916 the branch was renamed the War Trade Intelligence Department and attached to the Ministry of Blockade. The War Trade Statistical Department of the War Trade Department was transferred to the Ministry of Blockade in January 1917.

Early in 1918 the War Trade Intelligence Department was transferred for administrative purposes to the newly formed Department of Overseas Trade, although it retained its connection with the Ministry of Blockade.

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Guest

Hankey's two volume "The Supreme Command" has 14 anecdotes on the Blockade, including Asquith's comments on it and the Ministry of Blockade. Page 547:

"In February 1916 for instance it was decided to set up a Ministry of Blockade in order to strengthen and co-ordinate the machinery for exerting economic pressure, and Robert Cecil was appointed Minister with a Seat in Cabinet".

It is worth noting that the Declaration of London was slowly eroded by what is called an Order-in Council which cancelled the provisions held within the Declaration. By 7 Jul 1916 the Declaration had according to Hankey received the coup de grace. The basis was 'the enemy' was disregarding international law and the provisions within the Declaration were dismantled.

So, there was a Ministry of Blockade and there are hundreds of Official documents and parliamentary papers that used the term blockade and after 7th July 1916 it was legal. MG

Its still a blockade to me even if qualified by partial or whatever adjective you care to select. In truth, sadly, I cannot feel other than that you are being particularly pedantic on this issue.

He is not being pedantic... he is simply wrong... again.

Edit. Even Consett mentions the death of the Declaration of London on 7th Jul 1916 on page xviii of the Preface of the Book in the OP.

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centurion

Doesn't alter the fact that under international law there was no Legal Blockade at all and in reality no effective blockade (in the term of economic encirclement) until 1917. The Ministry of Blockade (note Blockade here is a verb not a noun) was formed on 23rd February 1916 with Lord Robert Cecil at its head after a parliamentary debate. Much of its work was involved with the negotiations around the rationing system. The French equivalent under Denys Cochin was called The Minisrty of Restriction but was popularly called the Ministry of Blockade

You appear to be conflating the extension of the definition of absolute contraband, between August 1914 and July 1917 with no less than 15 proclamations issued extending the lists of absolute and conditional contraband. [by the last of these the list of absolute contraband had grown from 11 to 202 categories. so here was very little left that was not either absolute contraband or conditional contraband (33 categories)] with the abrogation of the Declaration of London as a result of the Anglo French Conference of London in October 1915. Contraband was still covered by the Declaration of Paris as was the legal definition of a blockade and covered goods taken directly into German ports by neutral shipping. Most of the goods reaching Germany came via neutral ports hence the need for the rationing system

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Dust Jacket Collector

Bells monumental work which I have a copy of was written with full access to all the official papers etc but was never part of the Official History of the war.

Not wishing to get squashed between clashing heavyweights but my original copy of Bell's 'Blockade of Germany' from 1937 marked 'Confidential' on the bottom of the spine is clearly marked in gilt at the top 'Official History of the War'

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Guest

Not wishing to get squashed between clashing heavyweights but my original copy of Bell's 'Blockade of Germany' from 1937 marked 'Confidential' on the bottom of the spine is clearly marked in gilt at the top 'Official History of the War'

QED

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Guest

Doesn't alter the fact that under international law there was no Legal Blockade at all and in reality no effective blockade (in the term of economic encirclement) until 1917. The Ministry of Blockade (note Blockade here is a verb not a noun) was formed on 23rd February 1916 with Lord Robert Cecil at its head after a parliamentary debate. Much of its work was involved with the negotiations around the rationing system. The French equivalent under Denys Cochin was called The Minisrty of Restriction but was popularly called the Ministry of Blockade

You appear to be conflating the extension of the definition of absolute contraband, between August 1914 and July 1917 with no less than 15 proclamations issued extending the lists of absolute and conditional contraband. [by the last of these the list of absolute contraband had grown from 11 to 202 categories. so here was very little left that was not either absolute contraband or conditional contraband (33 categories)] with the abrogation of the Declaration of London as a result of the Anglo French Conference of London in October 1915. Contraband was still covered by the Declaration of Paris as was the legal definition of a blockade and covered goods taken directly into German ports by neutral shipping. Most of the goods reaching Germany came via neutral ports hence the need for the rationing system

Centurion. The use of a capital L and the word Legal does not strengthen your arguments. There is a danger that the corner you have painted yourself into is diminishing in size. So far there are number of factual errors in your arguments, none of which you acknowledge - the latest that it was not part of the OH which is clearly wrong (again). I am almost losing the will to live. At what stage do you acknowledge your statement that 'all the British and French documentation insists it was not legally a blockade" is simply incorrect.? There is nothing wrong with being wrong or misinformed. The existence of the Ministry of Blockade* for most people would suggest there was such a thing and after 7th July 1916 was legal under the Declaration of London as acknowledged by the US. The UK went through a laboriously long process to dismantle the parts of the London Declaration and multiple sources at the highest level of Govt suggest it was complete by July 1916 yet you persist in your idea that it was not 'Legal'.

Does the 'useful list of material' that you offered in post # 2 include parliamentary papers, or any material from the 50 odd volumes of the Ministry of Blockade? Have you read the 50 volumes? I wonder which volume deals with the dismantling of the Declaration of London. Given you are so well read and are offering this useful list of material, can you quote anything from TS 14 with a reference? If you can, I would be interested in the minutes in the immediate aftermath of 7th July 1916. I suspect most people would argue that the Ministry of Blockade's papers would be definitive reference material.

MG

* A noun to me in the same way the Ministry or Education is/was not the ministry of Educating and the Ministry of War was not the Ministry of Making War or Warring....

Edit: From the International Red Cross website:

Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War. London, 26 February 1909.

The Hague Convention (XII) of 1907 relative to the creation of an International Prize Court provides in Article 7 that the Court shall apply the generally recognized rules of international law relative to prize. In view of the divergencies which existed with regard to those rules, the British Government convened the main sea Powers to a conference in order to lay down the rules mentioned above. Ten Powers participated in the Conference. Most of the rules embodied in the present Declaration correspond to established practice and decisions of national prize courts. Due to its rejection by the British House of Lords, the Declaration was not ratified by any signatory.

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centurion

Hankey's two volume "The Supreme Command" has 14 anecdotes on the Blockade, including Asquith's comments on it and the Ministry of Blockade. Page 547:

"In February 1916 for instance it was decided to set up a Ministry of Blockade in order to strengthen and co-ordinate the machinery for exerting economic pressure, and Robert Cecil was appointed Minister with a Seat in Cabinet".

It is worth noting that the Declaration of London was slowly eroded by what is called an Order-in Council which cancelled the provisions held within the Declaration. By 7 Jul 1916 the Declaration had according to Hankey received the coup de grace. The basis was 'the enemy' was disregarding international law and the provisions within the Declaration were dismantled.

So, there was a Ministry of Blockade and there are hundreds of Official documents and parliamentary papers that used the term blockade and after 7th July 1916 it was legal. MG

He is not being pedantic... he is simply wrong... again.

Edit. Even Consett mentions the death of the Declaration of London on 7th Jul 1916 on page xviii of the Preface of the Book in the OP.

I,m at a WW1 conference in Leeds and away from my library so there are some points in some posts am unable to reply to with chapter and verse (yet) However with regard to this one I can say beware of anecdotes. Britain did not need an order in council to weaken the Declaration of London as she had never ratified it (due to a revolt in the House of Lords) The order to which I assume Hankey refers to was to allow the government in 1914 to adopt it's provisions (in the face of the wishes of Parliament) in response to American pressure. However when doing so they included a strong note of reservation to the definitions of contraband of war as defined in the Declaration of Paris and confirmed in the Declaration of London. Bell (and others) cover this in detail with references to the appropriate documents and I'll post page reference when I get back

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David Filsell

So to summarise it was a blockade but not a 'legal' blockade. In other words it was a blockade. It does not need to be legal to have the effect of a blockade. Get real and stop playing with the reality of what the non legal actions did to act as a means of depriving Germany of much need materials which helped that it had a significant effect on Germany's ability to fight the war. Legally, or legally matters not it was a deliberate blockading action which had a major effect. Semantics

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Guest

Britain did not need an order in council to weaken the Declaration of London as she had never ratified it (due to a revolt in the House of Lords) The order to which I assume Hankey refers to was to allow the government in 1914 to adopt it's provisions (in the face of the wishes of Parliament) in response to American pressure. However when doing so they included a strong note of reservation to the definitions of contraband of war as defined in the Declaration of Paris and confirmed in the Declaration of London. Bell (and others) cover this in detail with references to the appropriate documents and I'll post page reference when I get back

Your assumptions/view of events is at odds with Hankey's memoirs. He has a whole chapter on the Declaration of London. The British Govt had continued to support the Declaration of London right up to the War and therefore needed to dismantle parts of it rather than simply walk away from it. It was an important diplomatic strategy. He discusses a number of specific Order-of-Councils - the most prominent one being that of 11th March 1915 which effectively debarred neutral merchant shipping from entering or leaving German ports (page 489) - and the dismantling of certain provisions. Presumably he was not imagining these and it would seem odd for the British Govt to require an Order-in-Council if the Govt had not felt bound by the Declaration of London.

These are hardly 'anecdotes' - Hankey provides verbatiom transcriptions of Memorandums and minutes and notes for Asquith for speeches in Secret Session and in Parliament. Hankey had a ringside seat. He was one of the men who were briefing the Prime Minister at the time on this subject. Despite not ratifying the London Declaration the British Govt felt it had an obligation to abide by the Declaration as it had 'advocated, sponsored and taken a leading part in the negotiation of the Declaration'. Futhermore Hankey talks of the British Govt being hampered by it, so clearly they felt some kind of obligation despite the fact that the House of Lords had not ratified the Declaration.Rather than trying to bow to American pressure, the British Govt was on the front foot:

page 353 "We had always foreseen this but in dealing with this problem we were very much handicapped by the Declaration of London which had been drawn up on the basis of methods of naval warfare which were already obsolete. It is true that the Declaration of London had never been ratified, but the Government had never abandoned the hope that it would be eventually be ratified and our preparations in such matters as Naval Prize had been drawn up on this assumption. This instrument soon shrivelled up when exposed to the fiery furnace of actual war, for, as Page, the American Ambassador reported to his President in September 1916 - 'That Declaration would probably have given victory to Germany if the Allies had adopted it"

page 368: on the chapter 'freedom of the Seas': "On the same day the American Government were informed that as a measure of retaliation to the German submarine blockade: The British and French will therefore hold themselves free to detain and take into port ships carrying goods of presumed enemy destination, ownership or origin. It is not intended to confiscate such vessels or cargoes unless they would otherwise be liable to condemnation. The treatment of vessels and cargoes which have sailed before this date will not be affected [March 1st, 1915]

This was a strong measure for it ran counter to the Declaration of Paris 1856 ....it was a measure against which the United States Government could hardly protest as they had refused to become a party to the Declaration of Paris. Thus, by his declaration of the submarine blockade the enemy who had already enabled us to get rid of a great part of the Declaration of London, gave us a pretext to strike off yet another of the fetters which were hampering the full exercise of our sea-power.....

Altogether March 1st 1915 was a red-letter day for the development of our policy of economic pressure. But it was a disastrous day for President Wilson's proposal which in the atmosphere of the German reply and of the new British policy stood no chance of acceptance.

Hankey gives the strong impression that the British Govt out-manoeuvred the US in the negotiations and played it straight with regards to the Declaration of London and the legal means by which the British Govt dismantled parts of it. MG

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simonharley

Apropos of the author, just reading through the diary of a Royal Navy captain who visited Scandinavia with the Third Cruiser Squadron in June, 1914. He met Consett a few times over the course of the visit, and on 30 June noted, "A talk with Consett who is very foolish & doesn't in the least appreciate the seriousness of the present situation. It is almost incredible that our Naval interests can be left in such hands."

The officer in question, Philip W. Dumas, was a former naval attaché to Germany who had been convinced for years that war was coming, just prior to Scandinavia had lectured that the Germans would undoubtedly resort to unrestricted submarine warfare had been "laughed at" by his peers in the squadron, and in 1911 had already decided that the Declaration of London was a massive mistake.

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