This week we assess the navies of the major powers in World War I and how they contributed to the war effort. The United States have not been included on this list as their late entry to the war meant they did not engage any of its major ships in the conflict.
Although the majority of warfare during the conflict was fought on land, ships and navies would prove to be ideal vehicles to transport resources and troops to strategic positions.
The first major conflict was in May 1916 when the Battle of Jutland raged in the Atlantic. A total of 151 ships from the Royal Navy went head to head with 99 of the Imperial German Navy. It resulted in immense losses on both sides and an inconclusive conclusion, but with British superiority maintained in the North Sea.
Both before and after the battle, the German threat was felt beneath the waves rather than above it, the dreaded ‘Unterseeboat’ or U-boat. The aim of the U-boat campaign was to prevent supplies and resources reaching Britain from its overseas empire. The campaign was moderately successful but was held back by international agreements to restrict the use of submarines. This agreement was broken in February 1915 as Germany began unrestricted warfare on British vessels in the Atlantic. Although immediately successful, a grave error was made with the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Lusitania, which was one of the primary factors to the USA entering the war and helping turn the tide against the Germans.
As well as the war in the Atlantic and North Sea, the Mediterranean also saw its fair share of war. Rather than Britain and Germany, this theatre of war was mainly conducted by the French and Italian Navies against the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Navies. The Allies blockaded the Adriatic Sea to prevent Austrian movement and as a result the majority of the Mediterranean was controlled by the Allies. This was a major victory for the Triple Entente as resupplying missions and naval support were easily achievable.
Below is a list of some of the major vessels from the Great War.
Cover photo attributed to: Bundesarchiv, DVM 10 Bild-23-61-23 / CC-BY-SA