Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source3
Extract from the minutes of a meeting in 1911 of the Imperial Defence Committee setting out British Navy preparations for war
(Catalogue ref: CAB 18/19)
  • This source is a small extract from a long document (over 18 pages) that records the discussions of a meeting of the Imperial Defence Committee in 1911.
  • The meeting included the Prime Minister and the other leading politicians in the government: Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey.
  • The meeting also involved all Britain's leading military officials. This particular extract shows comments by Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, the most senior commander in the Navy.
  • Admiral Wilson refers to a number of German bases in his comments. Wilhelmshaven in the Baltic Sea was one of the largest German naval bases. The Kiel Canal enabled German ships to sail into the North Sea without having to go around the tip of Denmark. As Wilson comments, the canal was widened in the years before the war so that it would be big enough to take the new type of super battleship, the Dreadnought. Dreadnoughts were faster, better armoured and more powerful than any previous type of battleship.
  • At the time of the meeting, the situation in Europe was tense but stable. Britain, Russia and France belonged to an alliance called the Triple Entente. France and Russia were committed to helping each other if war broke out, but Britain was not committed.
  • Germany and Austria-Hungary were also committed to helping each other if war broke out.
  • In 1911, relations between the great powers in Europe were reasonably good. There had been no major clashes since 1908. Despite this stability, this document shows that Britain was making plans in case the situation got worse.
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