British Imperial Defence, and Power

British Imperial Defence, and Power

Apart from all these dispersed squadrons there had to be the battle fleet prepared for operation in any one or more ports of the world. One half of this in the mid- l 930s consisted of “5 battleships and 3 battle cruisers (some of which were normally under refit and so temporarily out of service), which were stationed in the home waters, to cover the areas in which the sea routes converge on the United Kingdom.”8 The distribution was partly dictated by the existence of two foreign fleets within a few hours steaming of those vital positions. The other half of the battle  fleet consisting  of “7 battleships (with the same proviso regarding absentees), was stationed in the Mediterranean, covering the first and perhaps the most vulnerable  stage of imperial  communications,  which  was also within striking distance of continental fleets.”9

The cost of maintaining this massive navy was nonetheless relatively cheap for many years. However, in the twentieth century, costs of ships especially began to escalate and it became more and more expensive to retain all these fleets (which we shall see in more detail below).

On the role of the British Army in protecting the Empire, it could be said that manpower was mostly provided by the individual countries of the Empire such as India. The United Kingdom supplied the machinery, which was transported by merchant ships under the protection of the Royal Navy.

By the end of the nineteenth century, defended essentially by her naval supremacy, Britain stood at the head of an empire with interests stretching right across the surface of the globe. Her commitments were similarly vast. She had built an economy, and a population which grew up within it, that relied for survival on the security of sea communications and on foreign trade. “As a great trading nation Britain came to lean upon a wide trading connection and, to an important extent, upon specialised services such as banking, insurance and shipping, and upon special skill in the production of fished articles, the raw material for which was imported from overseas.”10 The implication of this was that she became more dependent than most states on the maintenance of world peace simply for her own livelihood and a retention of a high standard of living. “Bonds of tradition, sympathy and interest linked her with other peoples all over the world, in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean, in Africa, Asia, America and Australia. These bonds at their closest took the form of a common allegiance to the Crown; these scattered peoples had the same principles of law and traditions of government and used the same language. In Europe and in the Middle East Britain had other traditional ties, resulting from friendship and strategic needs.”11

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