To what degree did British naval superiority cause the victory of WWI?

Sep 2013
432
France
Spring 1918, Germany had defeated Russia, and was not that far from knocking out the western front, launching a vast offensive which drive them not that far from Paris.
After 4 years of blockade, if it was that decisive, I don't think this could have happened, even if this blockade contributes in the failure of this offensive.
I tend to think that after 4 years of a decisive blockade, western front would have collapsed very easily. It was not the case.
 

Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,460
South of the barcodes
They never even got close to knocking out the western front.

The British government had refused to release reinforcements to the front lines for political reasons so Haigh had concentrated his main forces to defend strategic points like the ports and left a thinner screen round non-essential areas to hold the front line.

The Germans lost their best troops and the initiative going through weakened expendable areas. By the time the government released their reserves for a counter-attack the Germans were done.

The only way the Germans could provide the equipment for the attack was by stripping third line troops of decent weapons to give to the first line. Their artillery wasnt accurate because gun barrels were worn out and couldnt be replaced,they could only feed the troops because they were stripping Ukraine of every ounce of wheat they could find.

French and British factories were churning out artillery and planes faster than the Americans, they were producing new factories for new weapons like light machine guns and tanks and they still had spare capacity for luxury items the Germans couldnt get hold of like butter and jam.

That doesnt count the effect of malnutrition on the German troops making them susceptible to illness.
 
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Jan 2017
1,308
Durham
It was vital. The naval blockade was the largest contributing factor to the German collapse. The economic chaos and social unrest that resulted was a huge factor in the defeat of Germany. A good summary here: The British Blockade During World War I: The Weapon of Deprivation
It was important but I'm not convinced the 'largest contributing factor'.

Certainly the Germans were taking down church bells and using them for war means, and so clearly they were struggling with resources. But the collapse didn't begin at home; it began on the front, contrary to popular opinion.

The biggest contributing factor in my opinion was US intervention and the associated loss of nerve on the part of the Germans. That's not to say the US won the war or anything like that, but they'd all fought themselves to a standstill, no one was budging, and the US intervention drew the Germans out of their defensive positions and when the March offensive broke down they lost their never when they didn't really need to. The Americans weren't some sort of crack outfit. In fact, it took ages for them to be deployed in any significant numbers, and although widely recognised as brave by the British and French made exactly the same mistakes as the British and French did earlier in the war. That said, it drew the Germans out and they had the mind-set that the March offensive was do or die and so when it failed the likes of Ludendorff had a meltdown and that spread right through the German Army, when in fact their position was nowhere near as bad as they imagined.

On the whole, I'd say loss of nerve, although someone once talked about an army marching on an empty stomach so you have a point there.
 
Oct 2015
1,195
California
I’ve read from a number of sources that Britain’s naval superiority was one of, if not the most decisive factor that enabled the Allies to win World War I. Can anyone else shed more light on that?
The British naval blockade literally starved Germany to the point that Germans were eating sawdust by the end of the war. So yes British naval superiority was extremely decisive.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,755
SoCal
It was vital. The naval blockade was the largest contributing factor to the German collapse. The economic chaos and social unrest that resulted was a huge factor in the defeat of Germany. A good summary here: The British Blockade During World War I: The Weapon of Deprivation
This and there's also another huge factor to consider here. Without the British blockade (and Germany's inability to challenge it via conventional means), Germany would not have engaged in USW, which in turn means that the US never actually gets involved in WWI. US manpower and its potential certainly significantly helped the Entente not merely because of what the Americans did, but also because of what the Americans were capable of doing had WWI continued after 1918 and much more American troops would have shown up in Europe in 1919.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,755
SoCal
It was important but I'm not convinced the 'largest contributing factor'.

Certainly the Germans were taking down church bells and using them for war means, and so clearly they were struggling with resources. But the collapse didn't begin at home; it began on the front, contrary to popular opinion.

The biggest contributing factor in my opinion was US intervention and the associated loss of nerve on the part of the Germans. That's not to say the US won the war or anything like that, but they'd all fought themselves to a standstill, no one was budging, and the US intervention drew the Germans out of their defensive positions and when the March offensive broke down they lost their never when they didn't really need to. The Americans weren't some sort of crack outfit. In fact, it took ages for them to be deployed in any significant numbers, and although widely recognised as brave by the British and French made exactly the same mistakes as the British and French did earlier in the war. That said, it drew the Germans out and they had the mind-set that the March offensive was do or die and so when it failed the likes of Ludendorff had a meltdown and that spread right through the German Army, when in fact their position was nowhere near as bad as they imagined.

On the whole, I'd say loss of nerve, although someone once talked about an army marching on an empty stomach so you have a point there.
You know, I wonder just how much longer Germany could have survived had the German leadership in 1918 had a mentality similar to that of Hitler in 1944-1945--as in, fight to the very end regardless of anything. Also, this includes brutally suppressing and crushing any attempts by Germans to create a revolution at the same time that Germany is fighting the war.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,755
SoCal
Though there is no doubt the Germans were in desperate need of things that could be imported. if there was no blockade , how could all these things be paid for?
Germany dod not have the vast amount of investiments in the USA that bore the brunt of funding British imports for most of the war. Has anyone got figures for German hldings that could be liquidated for paying import costs, because otherwise Germany would have to be exporting what exactly that the USA or others needed to pay for the importing?
Could Germany have taken out loans?
 
May 2019
125
Northern and Western hemispheres
This and there's also another huge factor to consider here. Without the British blockade (and Germany's inability to challenge it via conventional means), Germany would not have engaged in USW, which in turn means that the US never actually gets involved in WWI. US manpower and its potential certainly significantly helped the Entente not merely because of what the Americans did, but also because of what the Americans were capable of doing had WWI continued after 1918 and much more American troops would have shown up in Europe in 1919.
Do you know if Britain's blockade of Germany was legal or not? Wasn't Germany also trying to blockade Britain? Would the Zimmerman telegram have been enough to get the U.S.A. involved in WWI?
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,463
Dispargum
Could Germany have taken out loans?
Both sides intended to make the loser pay reparations. These reparations would have repaid the war debt. Had America extended credit to both sides of the war, half of their debts would have defaulted. By only lending to one side, the US had a vested interest in Allied victory. But it was also all or nothing in terms of whether the loans would be repaid or not.
 
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