2019 01 24 U3A Talk Jim Ring WW1 iP8 0194 Frederic Landes 

Trouble with Europe? Send for the Navy!

The photographs of the Tommies in the trenches, visits to battlefield museums, the moving poetry and prose of Owen, Sassoon and others all lead us to associate WW1 with the Army. There are fewer images or sites which reflect the activities of the Navy. Indeed “sea power “is a phrase we rarely hear today. The main theme of Jim Ring, our speaker on 24 January, was that the greatest debt was owed to the Royal Navy in WW1 for without sea power we would not have defeated the forces of the triple alliance.


In just around an hour Jim effectively described the strategy of each side in the First World War and the role played by our Army and Navy at each stage. He compared the decisiveness of the action, the number of dead and wounded and the monetary cost for each service. This was ambitious in terms of breadth and intent, but the audience stayed totally engaged as the argument was developed.  

As a global superpower we had the world’s largest Navy at the time but a relatively small Army of only 250,000 men until the mass recruitment by Kitchener took hold. Those valiant resources were exhausted and wasted by Haig in a series of battles which led only to deadlock, argued Mr. Ring. By contrast the Navy managed a highly effective blockade of maritime traffic to Continental Europe leading to a 50% reduction in both exports and imports and, by 2016, to a winter when the German population was reduced to eating turnips. The blockade was described by German leaders as “the starvation blockade”.

The Navy also played a decisive role in restricting the operations of the U Boat fleet which was attempting to choke off our own supplies. The public image of our Navy was damaged by its failure to defeat the German fleet at the battle of Jutland but Mr Ring explained that they did  win battles at Helligoland and the Falklands and effectively locked  up the German fleet. The full argument can be viewed on our website available to members of NNU3A where Jim Ring’s presentation “How the navy won WW1” is displayed. In his vote of thanks Vice Chairman David Riddle praised the quality and historical persuasiveness of the presentation by our excellent speaker while drily noting that the lesson of the consequences of halving exports and imports on a hitherto thriving population should be brought to the attention of today’s politicians.  

To see the slides you will need to be logged in, then click here.

Vic Cocker Chairman    


2019 01 24 U3A Talk Jim Ring WW1 iP8 0204 Frederic Landes2019 01 24 U3A Talk Jim Ring WW1 iP8 0244 Frederic Landes