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I learned from Sir Eric Geddes that he felt capable of undertaking the
work on the understanding that he was assured of my personal support; he
said that experience in his railway work in France had shown the
difficulty of taking over duties hitherto performed by officers, and
stated that it could not have been carried through without the strong
support of the Commander-in-Chief; for this reason he considered he must
be assured of my support at the Admiralty. In view of the importance
attached to combining under one administration the work of both naval
and mercantile shipbuilding for the reasons already stated, and
influenced in some degree by the high opinion held of Sir Eric Geddes by
the Prime Minister, I came to the conclusion that his appointment would
be of benefit to Admiralty work, and therefore gave him the assurance
and said that I would do my best to smooth over any difficulties with
the existing Admiralty officials, whether naval or technical.

In these circumstances Sir Eric Geddes was offered the post of Admiralty
Controller by Sir Edward Carson, then First Lord, and accepted it. It
was arranged that a naval officer should continue to hold the post of
Third Sea Lord and that he should be jointly responsible, so far as the
Navy was concerned, for all _design_ work on its technical side, whether
for ships, ordnance material, mines, torpedoes, etc., etc., whilst the
Controller became entirely responsible for _production_. It was obvious
that goodwill and tact would be required to start this new organization,
which was decidedly complicated, and that the post of Third Sea Lord
would be difficult to fill. At the request of Sir Eric Geddes
Rear-Admiral Lionel Halsey, C.B., who at that time was Fourth Sea Lord,
was asked if he would become Third Sea Lord in the new organization. He
consented and was appointed. When the detailed organization, drawn up to
meet the views of Sir E. Geddes, was examined by the naval officers
responsible for armament work, strong objections were raised to that
part of the organization which affected their responsibility for the
control and approval of designs and of inspection.

Sir Eric held the view that inspection should come under the officials
in charge of production and that the designing staff should also be
under him, the designs being drawn up to meet the views of the naval
officers and finally approved by them. Personally I saw no _danger_ in
the proposals regarding design, because the responsibility of the naval
officer for final approval was recognized; but there was a certain
possibility of delay if the naval technical officer lost control over
the designing staff. I fully agreed with the criticisms on the subject
of inspection, the argument being that only naval officers accustomed to
_use_ the ordnance material could know the dangers that might arise from
faulty inspection, and that the producer had temptations in his path,
especially under war conditions, to make inspection subservient to
rapidity of production. Sir Eric Geddes finally waived his objections.
He informed me that he based his arguments largely on his experience at
the Ministry of Munitions, with which he had been associated earlier in
the war. The contention of the naval officers at the Admiralty was that
even if the organization proposed was found to be workable for the Army,
it would not be satisfactory for the Navy, as in our case it was
essential that the responsibility for approval of design and for
inspection should be independent of the producer, whether the producer
was a Government official or a contractor. Apart from questions of
general principle in this matter, accidents to ordnance material in the
Navy, or the production of inferior ammunition, may involve, and have
involved, the most serious results, even the complete loss of
battleships with their crews, as the result of a magazine explosion or
the bursting of a heavy gun. I could not find that the organization at
the Ministry of Munitions had, even in its early days, placed design,
inspection and production under one head; inspection and design had each
its own head and were separate from production. In any case in 1918 the
Ministry of Munitions reverted to the Admiralty system of placing the
responsibility for design and inspection under an artillery expert who
was neither a manufacturer nor responsible for production.

The matters referred to above may appear unimportant to the civilian
reader, but any question relating to the efficiency of its material is
of such paramount importance to the fighting efficiency of the Navy that
it is necessary to mention it with a view to the avoidance of future

The new organization resulted in the creation of a very large
administrative staff for the purpose of accelerating the production of
ships, ordnance material, mines, etc. Indeed, the increase in numbers
was so great that it became necessary to find additional housing room,
and the offices of the Board of Education were taken over for the
purpose. It was felt that the increase in staff, though it involved, of
course, very heavy expenditure, would be justified if it resulted in
increased rapidity of production. It will be readily understood that
such an immense change in organization, one which I had promised to see
through personally, and which was naturally much disliked by all the
Admiralty departments, threw a vast volume of extra work on my
shoulders, work which had no connexion with the operations of war, and
this too at a period when the enemy's submarine campaign was at its
height. I should not have undertaken it but for the hope that the change
would result in greatly increased production, particularly of warships
and merchant ships.

The success of this new organization can only be measured by the results
obtained, and by this standard, if it were possible to eliminate some of
the varying and incalculable factors, we should be able to judge the
extent to which the change was justified. It was a change for which,
under pressure, I bore a large share of responsibility, and it involved
replacing, in the middle of a great war, an organization built up by
experts well acquainted with naval needs by one in which a considerable
proportion of the personnel had no previous experience of the work. The
change was, of course, an experiment; the danger lay in the fact that,
until technical and Admiralty experience has been gained, even men of
the greatest ability in other walks of life may find it difficult to
produce satisfactory results even if there are no limits imposed on the
size of the Staff which assists them.

The question of production is best examined under various headings and
the results under the old Admiralty organization compared with those
under the new, although comparison is admittedly difficult owing to
changing conditions.


Under the Admiralty organization existing up to May, 1917, the Third Sea
Lord - as the Controller was termed when changes were introduced by Mr.
Churchill in 1912 - was head of the Departments of the Director of Naval
Construction and Engineer in Chief, and of that part of the work of the
Director of Naval Ordnance which dealt with the design and production of
guns and gun mountings. Under the new organization a civilian Controller
became responsible for production, the Third Sea Lord being associated
with him on technical matters of design.

A special department for warship production and repairs was set up under
a Deputy Controller, the Third Sea Lord having no authority over this
department except by his association with the Controller.

Under the old organization it had been the custom during the war for the
Third Sea Lord to give to the Board and to the Commander-in-Chief of the
Grand Fleet a personal forecast of the anticipated dates of completion
of all warships under construction. My experience whilst in command of
the Grand Fleet had been that this personal forecast was generally
fairly accurate for six months ahead.

As an example it may be stated that in the first four months of 1917 the
delivery of destroyers _was within one of the forecast_ made in October,
1916, four vessels of the class being slightly behind and three ahead of
the forecast. Of thirteen "E" class submarines forecasted in October,
1916, for delivery by March, 1917, all except two were delivered by
April; of twelve "K" class submarines forecasted for delivery in the
same period, all except three were delivered by April, 1917. It should
be stated that these "K" class submarines were vessels of a new type,
involving new problems of some difficulty.

On the other hand there was considerable delay in the completion of a
number of the thirty "P" boats forecasted in October, 1916, for delivery
during the first seven months of 1917, and the April forecast showed
that only twenty out of the thirty would be delivered during that
period. There was also some delay in the delivery of twin screw
minesweepers, twenty of which were shown in the forecast of October,
1916, as due for delivery in the first six months of 1917. The April,
1917, forecast showed that six had been delivered or would complete in
April, ten more would complete within the estimated period, and the four
remaining would be overdue and would not be delivered until July or

These figures show the degree of reliance which could be placed on the
personal forecasts of the Third Sea Lord under the old organization. It
is, of course, a fact that accurate forecasts do not _necessarily_ mean
that the rate of production is satisfactory, but only that the forecast
is to be depended on. We were never at all satisfied with the rate of
production, either under the old or the new organization. Accuracy of
forecast was, however, of great use from the Staff point of view in
allotting new ships to the various commands and in planning operations.

To turn now to the figures given by the Admiralty Controller under the
new organization. The table below shows the forecasts ("F") given in
June, 1917, and the deliveries ("D") of different classes of warships
month by month during the period of July to November of that year:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Class of | July. | Aug. | Sept. | Oct. | Nov. | Deficit in
Vessel. | F | D | F | D | F | D | F | D | F | D | 5 months
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Flotilla | | | | | | | | | | |
Leaders | | | | | | | | | | |
and T.B.D's.| 5 | 2 | 7 | 8 | 8 | 5 | 5 | 5 | 6 | 6 | 4
Submarines | 2 | 0 | 4 | 4 | 5 | 1 | 3 | 3 | 6 | 1 | 11
Sloops | 3 | 2 | 5 | 2 | 4 | 2 | 3 | 1 | 3 | 7 | 5
"P." Boats | 6 | 5 | 6 | 5 | 3 | 3 | 3 | 2 | 1 | 1 | 3
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Amongst vessels which were classed as auxiliaries the figures were:

Class of | July. | Aug. | Sept. | Oct. | Nov. | Deficit in
Vessel. | F | D | F | D | F | D | F | D | F | D | 5 months
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Minesweepers | 5 | 3 | 4 | 4 | 3 | 1 | 3 | 2 | 2 | 0 | 7
Trawlers |25 |18 |23 |14 |30 |13 |27 |28 |33 |24 | 41
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It will be seen from these figures that the forecast of June was
inaccurate even for the three succeeding months and that the total
deficit in the five months was considerable, except in the case of
T.B.D.'s and "P" boats.

The most disappointing figures were those relating to submarines,
trawlers and minesweepers. The case of the submarines may be put in
another way, thus:

In the June forecast twenty-six submarines were forecasted for delivery
during the period July to the end of December, the dates of three,
however, being somewhat uncertain; of this total of twenty-six, _only
nine were actually delivered_. Of the remainder, seven were shown in a
November forecast as delayed for four months, two for five months, and
one for nine months.

The attention of the Production Departments was continually directed to
the very serious effect which the delay was producing on our
anti-submarine measures, and the First Lord, Sir Eric Geddes, was
informed of the difficult position which was arising. In the early part
of December I pointed out to the Third Sea Lord and the Admiralty
Controller, Sir Allan Anderson, that it was obviously impossible for the
Naval Staff to frame future policy unless some dependence could be
placed on the forecast of deliveries. The Controller in reply stated
that accurate forecasts were most difficult, and proposed a discussion
with the Third Sea Lord and myself, but I had left the Admiralty before
the discussion took place.

The delays, as will be seen from the tables given, were most serious in
the case of vessels classed as auxiliaries. Sir Thomas Bell, who
possessed great experience of shipbuilding in a private capacity, was at
the head of the Department of the Deputy Controller for Dockyards and
Shipbuilding, and the Director of Warship Production was a distinguished
Naval constructor. The Deputy Controller of Auxiliary Shipbuilding was
an officer lent from the War Office, whose previous experience had lain,
I believe, largely in the railway world; some of his assistants and
staff were, however, men with experience of shipbuilding.

When I became First Sea Lord at the end of 1916 the new building
programme, which had received the sanction of the Cabinet, was as

8 Flotilla leaders. 500 Trawlers.
65 T.B.D.'s. 60 Submarines.
34 Sloops. 4 Seaplane carriers.
48 Screw minesweepers. 60 Boom defence vessels.
16 Paddle "

During the early part of 1917 it was decided to substitute 56 screw
minesweepers and 8 paddle sweepers for the approved programme of this
class of vessel and to add another 50 screw minesweepers to meet the
growing mine menace, as well as to substitute 115 drifters for 50 of the
trawlers, and to request the Canadian Government to build 36 trawlers
and 100 drifters mainly for use in Canadian waters. It was also decided
to lay down 36 mercantile decoy ships and 12 tugs, and to build 56 motor
skimmers on the lines of the coastal motor boats, which were then
showing their value off the Belgian coast. The programme therefore, in
May, 1917, was as follows:

Flotilla leaders 8
T.B.D.'s 65
Patrol boats 6
Sloops 34
Minesweepers (screw) 56
" (paddle) 8
Additional twin-screw minesweepers 50
Submarines 60
Trawlers 450
Drifters 115
Canadian trawlers 36
" drifters 100
Boom defence vessels 60
Mercantile decoy ships 36
Seaplane carriers 4
Tugs 12
Motor skimmers 56

Meanwhile intelligence had been received which indicated that Germany
was building such a considerable number of light cruisers as to
jeopardize our supremacy in this class of vessel, and it was decided by
the Board that we ought to build eight more light cruisers even at the
cost of appropriating the steel intended for the construction of six
merchant ships.

Further, the German submarine programme was developing with great
rapidity, and our own submarines of the "L" class were taking a very
long time to build. It was therefore proposed to substitute eighteen
additional "H" class submarines for four of the "L" class, as the
vessels of the "H" class were capable of more rapid construction, thus
making the total number of submarines on order 74. Approval was also
sought for the addition of 24 destroyers and four "P" boats to the
programme, bringing the number of destroyers on order up to a total of

The programme was approved, a slight change being made in the matter of
the seaplane carriers by fitting out one of the "Raleigh" class of
cruisers as a seaplane vessel in order to obtain an increased number of
vessels of this type more rapidly than by building. Later in the year
the cruiser _Furious_ was also converted into a seaplane carrier, and
she carried out much useful work in 1918.


A greatly increased output of merchant ships had been anticipated under
the new organization, which placed mercantile construction under the
Admiralty Controller instead of under the Ministry of Shipping. It was
expected that the difficulties due, under the previous arrangement, to
competing claims for steel and labour would vanish with very beneficial

It was, as previously stated, mainly with this object that the Admiralty
had agreed to the change. The start was promising enough. After a review
of the situation hopes were held out that during the second half of 1917
an addition of about 1,000,000 tons of shipping from the shipyards
within the United Kingdom would be effected. This figure, indeed, was
given to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister on August 16, 1917.

On comparing this figure with that of the first half of the year (a
total of about 484,000 tons) there was distinct cause for gratification;
it is right to state that Admiralty officials who had previously been
watching mercantile shipbuilding regarded the estimate as very
optimistic. Further, it was anticipated by the then Admiralty
Controller, Sir Eric Geddes, that during the year 1918, with some
addition to the labour strength, a total output of nearly two million
tons was possible, provided steel was forthcoming, whilst with
considerably greater additions to the labour strength and to the supply
of steel, and with the help of the National Shipyards proposed by the
Controller, the total output might even reach three million tons.

The actual results fell very short of these forecasts, the total output
for the second half of the year was only 620,000 tons, the monthly
totals in gross tonnage for the whole year being:

January 46,929 July 81,188
February 78,436 August 100,900
March 115,654 September 60,685
April 67,536 October 145,844
May 68,083 November 158,826
June 108,397 December 112,486

In January, 1918, the total dropped to 58,568 tons, and in February was
only 100,038 tons. In March it was announced that Lord Pirie would take
the position of Controller General of Merchant Shipbuilding. The
subsequent results in the direction of output of merchant ships do not
properly come within the scope of this book, which is intended to deal
only with work during the year 1917, but it may be of interest to give
here the output month by month. It was as follows:

January 58,568 July 141,948
February 100,038 August 124,675
March 161,674 September 144,772
April 111,533 October 136,000
May 197,274 November 105,093
June 134,159 December 118,276

Total for the year 1,534,110

It will be seen that the results for 1918 were an improvement on those
for 1917, the exact figure for that year being 1,163,474 tons; these
results, however, fell very short of the optimistic estimates given in
July, 1917.


The Controller's Department undoubtedly succeeded in the work of
improving the arrangements for the repair of merchant ships. This is
shown by an analysis of the total number of vessels that _completed_
repairs during various months.

In August, 1917, the number was 382, with a tonnage of 1,183,000. In
November the figure became 542 ships, with a tonnage of 1,509,000. There
remained under repair at the end of August 326 ships, and at the end of
November 350 ships, these figures indicating that the greater number of
completions was not due to the smaller number of vessels being damaged
or the damages being less in extent.

Considerable credit is due to the Department for this successful
acceleration of repair work which naturally had a great influence on the
shipping situation.


It was not, I think, realized either by the Government or by the
civilians brought into the Admiralty during the year 1917 that there was
a very great difference between the Admiralty and the War Office
organizations in the matter of production of material, nor was it
recognized that naval officers are by their training and experience
better fitted to deal with such matters on a large scale than are
military officers, except perhaps officers in the Artillery and Royal
Engineers. Whatever may be the case in the future, the Navy in pre-war
days was so much more dependent on material than the Army as to make
questions relating to naval material of far greater importance that was
the case with military material. This fact is apt to be forgotten by
those writers on naval affairs who think that an intimate knowledge of
questions relating to naval material _and its use_ is of little
importance. I trust that this belief will never become general in the
service, for the naval officer who is not familiar with the design and
production of material is handicapped when he comes to use it.

Ignorance of the great experience of the Admiralty in handling problems
of production and of the past success of Admiralty methods in this
respect gave rise to a good deal of misconception. The fact that it had
been necessary to form a separate Ministry (that of Munitions) to deal
with the production of war material for the Army probably fostered the
idea that matters at the Admiralty should be altered in a similar

The post of Deputy Controller of Armament Production was created under
the new organization, and all matters concerning the production of guns,
gun-mountings, projectiles, cordite, torpedoes, mines, paravanes and all
other war material was placed under him. I have dealt earlier in this
chapter with the questions of design and inspection over which some
disagreement arose.

I was not conscious that the new organization succeeded in speeding up
armament production during 1917, and during the latter part of the year
I was much concerned with the delays in ordnance production as revealed
during 1917 and as exposed by the forecasts for 1918.

It is very possible, on the other hand, that in the case of mines the
results were good. The old Admiralty organization had not been equipped
to deal with such an immense number of mines as were on order, and
although a large organization for their production was started by Sir
Lionel Halsey, when Fourth Sea Lord, with the assistance of Admiral
Fitzherbert and Captain Litchfield-Speer, it had not been sufficiently
long at work for an opinion to be given as to whether the results in
production would have been as good as under the D.C.A.P.

In considering the whole question of production during the year 1917 it
should be borne in mind that very extensive orders were placed in the
early part of that year for guns, gun-mountings, mines, warships of the
smaller class and patrol craft, and that if we compare only the actual
output for 1917 with that of previous years without taking the above
fact into account, we might form an incorrect impression as to the
success of the organization for production. For instance, in the last
quarter of 1917, 1,515 guns of all calibres were delivered, as against
1,101 in the first quarter; in the month of November 1,335 mines of all
natures and 2,078 depth charges were filled, as compared with 625 mines
and 542 depth charges in July. These figures were the result of the
large orders placed early in the year, and it was not until 1918 that
the full fruits of the orders placed in 1917 became apparent. The
figures for that year, however, are not at my disposal.

One great advantage which resulted from the new organization, viz., the
creation of a Directorate of Materials and Priority, must be mentioned.
This Directorate controlled the distribution of all steel for all
services and produced a very beneficial effect on the issue of supplies
of steel to shipbuilders. The immense increase in staff which resulted
from the institution of the office of Admiralty Controller is exhibited
in the lists of staff in 1918 as compared with the staff in the early

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Online LibraryJohn Rushworth JellicoeThe Crisis of the Naval War → online text (page 18 of 20)