A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 84


THE OPPOSING FORCES


The battleships and cruisers were grouped into squadrons, each consisting of four or eight vessels with their attendant destroyers and submarines, and on the British side some of these were formed into the Grand fleet which, on August 3, passed under the command of Sir J. R. Jellicoe. With his flag on the Iron Duke he had with him four squadrons of battleships, one of battle cruisers, led by Sir D. Beatty, and three of ordinary cruisers. The eight most powerful battleships, each carrying ten 13.5 in. guns, were in the 2nd battle squadron. The 1st battle squadron consisted of the Marlborough and seven ships with ten 12 in. guns. The 3rd battle squadron contained eight ships of the King Edward VII class, older and less powerful vessels than the Dreadnoughts. In the 4th battle squadron were only four ships, all Dreadnoughts. Behind the Grand fleet were the reserves in two fleets. The second fleet contained 15 battleships of the pre-Dreadnought era and various smaller craft. The third fleet contained still older vessels that were stationed at various points as guardships. The German High Seas fleet, though highly efficient, was certainly weaker than the Grand fleet. It contained 13 battleships of the Dreadnought class, four battle cruisers, seven light cruisers and an attendant force of destroyers and submarines.

With bases at Rosyth and Scapa Flow, the business of the Grand fleet was to watch and, if possible, destroy the German High Seas fleet stationed on the other side of the North Sea remembering that, as ever, the frontiers of Britain are the coasts of the enemy. This may be described as the major operation of the war, for if the Grand fleet was sunk or driven from the seas, a vital blow would be struck at the Allied cause.

In addition to its supreme task the British navy had others almost equally vital to an alliance whose communications were largely by sea. Britain's interests extended into all parts of the world; the food supplies of her people must at all costs be safe-guarded; men and material for carrying on the war must be moved freely from place to place. With the German fleet contained, to use a naval phrase, this gigantic task could be done without undue difficulty. A squadron in the Mediterranean, responsible for maintaining communications through the Red Sea, consisted of four battle cruisers, four cruisers, four light cruisers and other craft. The next strongest force was in the Chinese seas, and others were stationed to protect British

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