The Grand Fleet

June 3rd, 2014

The British Navy in 1914 consisted of an array of ships, the most important of which where the 41 Battleships* and the 4 Battlecruisers of the soon-to-be-formed Grand Fleet.  This fleet was tasked with the most important job given to the Royal Navy, proection of England's communication routes to the Empire and denying the use of the sea to Germany through blockade.  Loss of a significant portion of the fleet would allow an enemy to starve Great Britian out in a few months, but the fleet could not sit in port like those of other nations since she had to actively enforce a blocade against the Central Powers.  

The Grand Fleet was lead in 1914 by John Rushworth Jellicoe.  Jellicoe was the last generation of the Royal Navy to enter a sail based, wooden-hulled navy.  His cadet training ship had screw based propellors and steam power only to supplement its canvas sails.  In a sense Jellicoe grew up with the steam-based, iron clad navy serving on an early iron clad during the first years of his postings.  As the man who could loose the war in a single day, Jellicoe was a cautious man.  He believed the fleet had to stay substantially intact and able to defeat the German menace.  With the German High Seas Fleet having 24 battleships of their own and a possible quarter of the Grand Fleet at any time being repaired or unable to respond, a fleet engagement was unthinkable unless he could get a part of the enemy fleet in his gunsights at a time.  Since this was essentially the same tactic that Germans were shooting for it actually reduced the likelyhood that the two main forces would ever meet.

Fleet-Flagship— Iron Duke

Battleships: MarlboroughSt.VincentColossusHercules, Neptune, Vanguard, Colingwood, Superb, King George V., Orion, Ajax, Auda­cious, Centurion, Conqueror, Monarch, Thunderer, Dreadnought, Temeraire, Bellerophon, King Edward VII., Hibernia, Commonwealth, Zealandia, Dominion, Africa, Britannia, Hindustan, Prince of Wales, Agamemnon, Bulwark, Formidable, Implacable, Irresistible, London, Russell, Queen, Venerable, Cornwallis, Albemarle, Duncan, Exmouth, Vengence.

Battlecruisers: Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary, New Zea­land 


*15 older ships also formed a reserve fleet of the Grand Fleet