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Jonathan Saunders

Invasion threat in 1914

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Jonathan Saunders

I started Command on the WF by Prior & Wilson this morning. Not that I can find the entry now but in the opening pages I am sure I read this morning that Kitchener feared a German invasion of the UK. Although the Germans had been able to raid the east coast I cant imagine an armada passing through the mine fields and the Royal Navy.

I just wondered what made Kitchener fear an invasion (and how this sits with his 3 yrs war theory) and whether anybody has any thoughts on this.

Many thanks in advance.

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Guest
I started Command on the WF by Prior & Wilson this morning.  Not that I can find the entry now but in the opening pages I am sure I read this morning that Kitchener feared a German invasion of the UK.  Although the Germans had been able to raid the east coast I cant imagine an armada passing through the mine fields and the Royal Navy.

I just wondered what made Kitchener fear an invasion (and how this sits with his 3 yrs war theory) and whether anybody has any thoughts on this.

Many thanks in advance.

All I can think of is that it was a popular pre-war theme used in several influential works of fiction.

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squirrel

Kitchener was aghast at sending the BEF to France at all as he could not see what difference 6 British Divisions (what the BEF was originally to have been comprised of) would make with the Germans and French having at least 70 divisions apiece.

He foresaw a long war and wanted to hold back all the regular troops to give a firm foundation for the building of the huge army which he said would be needed.

However, he had no choice but to go along with the Cabinet's decision to send them after the "agreement" which had been made with the French through Henry Wilson.

An invasion scare, brewed up apparently by the press and agitated by some politicians of varying persuasions, caused the Cabinet to rethink and Kitchener agreed to send 4 divisions to France while one was kept back for home defence.

This despite the CID and the Admiralty since 1909 proclaiming that no serious hostile invasion could succeed.

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Moonraker
This despite the CID and the Admiralty since 1909 proclaiming that no serious hostile invasion could succeed.

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they!

In 1903 the Andover Advertiser commented on manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain:

‘What with balloons, searchlights, roads blocked with convoys, motor cars travelling beyond the legal limit of speed, civilian traffic diverted at short notice, it appears as if the people living between Andover on the east side and Devizes on the west may have a very lively experience of what to expect when England is invaded."

At this time military thinking revolved very much around an invasion of England, public nervousness of which was reflected in - and increased by - such popular books as Erskine Childers' ’The Riddle of the Sands“ (1903), in which two yachtsmen discover German preparations to invade England, and William Le Queux's predictive’ The Invasion of 1910“, which was serialised in the Daily Mail in 1906. In 1903 The Times argued that there was an unreality about using large, open spaces such as Salisbury Plain and the Berkshire Downs to practise counter-invasion measures. The inland manoeuvres did not simulate attempts to repel an invasion force on the coast, and the troops were unable to use "the close country of England [which] ... is a natural defence".

In 1907 20,000 troops exercised in south Wiltshire, with part of this inland area being designated as the sea, with safe anchorages near Netheravon and Salisbury! These manoeuvres assumed the invaders had actually landed; presumably it was up to the navy to prevent it doing so!

The National Archives have various documents about contingency plans in the event of an invasion, with the area close to Alton, Hampshire, being seen as one an invasion force might use. Some of the plans relate to during the Great War.

Moonraker

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joseph

Maybe the actions that automatically kicked in on the declaration of war which was for defence created a certain amount of scaremongering

In 1913 as the war clouds where gathering over Europe the potential enemy being Germany a series of comprehensive defence schemes for the east coast ports was drawn up and issued in July 1913. Scheme no 3 was for the Humber, the strategic considerations were:

1. Areas of strategic importance

a. The fixed defences at Paull Point Battery and the electric searchlights.

b. The left bank of the Humber between Paull Holme Creek and Hedon Haven.

c. The right bank of the Humber between Thrunscoe, south of Cleethorpes and Grimsby Docks

d. The Port War signal station at Spurn Point.

e. Cleethorpes Admiralty wireless station at Waltham.

f. Docks at Hull

g. Docks at Grimsby.

h. Docks at Immingham.

i. Naval oil tanks at Killingholme.

The scheme goes on to give a detailed plan for the mobilization of troops in defence of the area. These plans where put into effect new batteries proposed in 1913 built and manned. Troops billeted to defend both banks of the Humber.

Regards Charles

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Terry_Reeves

There had long been concerns about the possibility of invasion, which was one of the reasons for the formation of the Volunteer Movement in 1859, and the construction of Palmerston's "follies", a chain of forts in the Portsmouth area. This led to system of defended ports involving the RGA and the RE, and in particular in the case of the latter Corps, the formation of Submarine Mining Companies. The main threat then, was perceived to be from France.

In the early years of the 20th Century, fiction writers got hold of the subject. In Germany, at least two books were written on the subject; The Offensive against ,and the Invasion of England" (1907) and "The Reckoning with England" (1910). In Britain, William le Queux's "The Invasion of England 1910" (1907) fired the popular imagination about the possibility of an invasion of Brtain by Germany, just at the time when the naval arms race was in full swing. Le Queux's book was intended to be a warning and was supported by the press Baron, Lord Northcliffe.

Fiction apart though, it is natural to have contingency plans. When the Territorial Force was mobilised, they were sent to their war stations, many in the south of England, to guard against the possibilty of invasion, which was originally intended to be their wartime role in any case.

Even when the immediate perceived threat of invasion had passed, a percentage of the army had to be kept in the UK, just in case that possibilty raised its head again.

Terry Reeves

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Tony Lund
e. Cleethorpes Admiralty wireless station at Waltham.

Holmfirth's territorial company were guarding this wireless station in August/September 1914, and living in tents in the field next to it.

Tony.

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Jonathan Saunders

Many thanks for all the various replies. It seems to me that Kitchener may have had some realistic (how much I dont know) concern in the possibility of invasion and this was not just a ploy to keep the Divisions back from the Western Front until Germany and France had exhausted themselves and Britain could deliver the coup de grace, as Squirrel infers. I cant believe Kitchener ever thought he could realistically hold our army back for his projected 3 years but thats another subject ...

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riflegreen

Where I live in essex, the local church over looks the Crouch valley , in the woods behind the church is the remains of a trench system with the main trench line over looking the valley , troops were there in WW1 & WW2 and rumoured to be there in the Napoleonic wars ( probably without trenches !) .

The church hall as is now was the OR's billet and the wooden bungalow opposite the officers quarters ( WW2 period ) .

It is the suggested site of the battle between Canute & the Saxons .

So I suppose the threat of invasion was taken seriously.

Chris

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riflegreen

Where I live in essex, the local church over looks the Crouch valley , in the woods behind the church is the remains of a trench system with the main trench line over looking the valley , troops were there in WW1 & WW2 and rumoured to be there in the Napoleonic wars ( probably without trenches !) .

The church hall as is now was the OR's billet and the wooden bungalow opposite the officers quarters ( WW2 period ) .

It is the suggested site of the battle between Canute & the Saxons .

So I suppose the threat of invasion was taken seriously.

Chris

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ian turner

I believe there was a defensive line inland from the east coast, and there are still WW1 vintage pill boxes (round rather than square) in existence.

I know of one between Wroxham and Stalham in Norfolk, but I am sure there are a few more scattered around still.

Ian

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Borden Battery

The 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade [fully motorized] was detained in England for several months in the event of a German invasion.

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healdav

Palmerston's follies were around Devonport as well as Portsmouth. They still exist and no one knows quite what to do with many although around 30 years ago somewere converted into luxury flats complete with their own anchorage.

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green_acorn

G'day Pals,

I just thought I would resurrect this thread after finding a "County of East Suffolk (Exclusive of the Borough of Lowestoft)" document for sale on eBay entitled "REVISED INSTRUCTIONS For the Guidance of the Civilian Population in the Event of a Landing by the Enemy on the Coast. 1st March 1916".

Sensible contingency planning me thinks.

Cheers,

Hendo

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truthergw

Interesting that the authorities were still taking the threat seriously as late as this. I believe that the threat of a full blown invasion was discounted even before the war. What could not be discounted was a raid by a few dozen or a couple of hundred men, against a shore installation. Churchill had a scare with respect to this several years before the war when he discovered that there was next to no guard on Naval Arsenals. One of his first acts as First Lord was to put one in place. There was also the fairly new problem of oil storage facilities. Of necessity, near the docks. A raid might be made on one of them with spectacular results. No government or CiC Home could be seen to have been caught napping.

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centurion

When the entente was first arrived at it was decided to send a senior British officer to Paris to act as liaison with the French General Staff. He arrived a day before he was expected to the embarrassment of the French General Staff who were involved in a huge paper war game - the invasion of Britain by France! Old obsessions die hard.

I have read of a hair brained scheme to evacuate all farm live stock from the area of a German invasion as part of a sort of lightly singed earth strategy.

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truthergw

No bacon and eggs for breakfast! That would show them what's what!

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green_acorn

Stock evacuation not as hair brained as you may think, there is mention of moving cattle in the document.

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MichaelBully

From reading the on line text of 'Hove and the Great War' , the official account of Hove during the War and its immediate aftermath, noticed there was a mention , amongst the scenarios envisaged is one of 'invasion':

http://www.archive.org/stream/hovegreatwar...lbiala_djvu.txt

( chapter on the Emergency committee starts page 86)

But only a few lines are devoted to the topic, along with air raids and bombardment from the sea. The south coast of course was not geograhically that far from the Western Front, and so far this is the first mention I have come across of a consideration of invasion in the south. Would be interested to hear of any others from this region.

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