Category Archives: Talks

The Work of the S. Yorks. Police and Crime Commissioner – Dr. Alan Billings 15th April 2019

Dr. Alan Billings was born in Leicester and read Theology and Philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He has been a parish priest and an aca­demic as well as being active in polit­ics. (For full details go to — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Billings)

Dr. Billings had planned to return to Sheffield to retire but was elec­ted as the S. Yorks. Police and Crime Commissioner (P.C.C.) in 2014, repla­cing the first Commissioner who had been a Rotherham Councillor and had held a senior pos­i­tion in Child Services. He resigned after a report exposed child sexual exploit­a­tion in Rotherham between the years 1997 and 2013, which Rotherham Council and S. Yorks. Police had chosen to ignore.

Police and Crime Commissioners have been elec­ted through­out the coun­try since 2012, to replace Police Authorities. They were made up of Local Councillors and the public, but the new posts provide a focal point. Prospective can­did­ates are sponsored by polit­ical parties, and the Labour Party now sup­port the scheme, although ori­gin­ally fear­ing politi­cisa­tion of the posts.

The duties of a P.C.C. include pro­du­cing a policy plan (reviewed annu­ally), for poli­cing and crime pri­or­it­ies, and then, to ensure that the police force follow them. There are monthly meet­ings with the police, press and the gen­eral public, and the P.C.C. also scru­tin­izes police reports. All this helps to determ­ine what type of police force is needed and where funds are to be alloc­ated.

The two prin­cipal sources for funds — Government 73%, Council Tax 27%, are alloc­ated thus :-

-           The police budget – 96%

-           Commissioning ser­vices for vic­tims

-           Running activ­it­ies for com­munit­ies

The 3 pri­or­it­ies for poli­cing, in the 2019 policy plan (copy avail­able on the inter­net) are :-

  1. Protecting vul­ner­able people

A greater pro­por­tion of police time is spent on this sub­ject :-

  • It is pre­dicted that by 2045 more than a third of the pop­u­la­tion will be over 60 years of age. With public ser­vices shrink­ing, more time is spent find­ing demen­tia patients who have wandered off.
  • Children are brought from the South of England , to homes in Barnsley and Sheffield where it is cheaper to look after them. The police, rather than the homes, spend time find­ing those who have broken their curfew hours.
  • Grooming either in person or on the inter­net requires more police staff in offices.
  • Since 2010, police officer num­bers in S. Yorks. have reduced from 3000 to 2500, but in 2019 a fur­ther 55 officers will be recruited, of which 40 will go into Neighbourhood Teams and be seen on the beat, and will be able to make arrests — a matter reg­u­larly reques­ted by the public. Police Support Officer num­bers, (intro­duced by David Blunkett, who dealt with anti-social beha­viour), who cannot make arrests, will not be cut.
  1. Tackling crime and anti-social beha­viour

On this matter, the P.C.C., who has no exec­ut­ive power, meets reg­u­larly with the Chief Constable to dis­cuss :-

-Knife crime, (which is mainly a London prob­lem). Incidents since 2018 in S.Yorks. are fall­ing, dis­cus­sions taking place as to why.

-Sex crime

-Cyber crime

-Drugs. This is wor­ry­ing and is linked to knife crime. Once when there were turf wars, based on post codes, the police knew the gangs, but now the gangs are under­ground with vul­ner­able young chil­dren being groomed to carry small pack­ages for a reward. The gangs offer an ‘altern­at­ive family’ so it is essen­tial to under­stand their psy­cho­logy. Failure within the gang means brutal repris­als.

The 4 pris­ons in Doncaster have drug prob­lems which the police are deal­ing with. Unintended con­sequences of drug leg­al­isa­tion, are also under con­sid­er­a­tion.

-Anti-social beha­viour. S.Yorks. has a minor­ity diverse eth­ni­city, unlike Leicester where the ethnic minor­it­ies are the major­ity. Our pit vil­lages are white, with noth­ing for the chil­dren to do, so anti-social beha­viour, rather than crime, is the main prob­lem. But city centres are dif­fer­ent, so there is more police demand. The Roma/Slovaks give prob­lems due to cul­tural dif­fer­ences, and traf­fick­ing is a world­wide prob­lem, with can­nabis farms involving vic­tims as well as crim­in­als.

  1. Treating people fairly, whether victim, sur­vivor, wit­ness or sus­pect.

The three main ongo­ing costly ‘legacy’ issues for S.Yorks. police are :-

  1. The Hillsborough dis­aster
  • It is the 30th The ongo­ing court case is paid for by Legal Aid but Civil claims are being made by around 600 people, who were affected by the tragedy.
  1. The Child Sexual Exploitation Case in Rotherham
  • 200 extra detect­ives in Rotherham are seek­ing the 1400 alleged child vic­tims, cost­ing £40million/year.

£20million has been alloc­ated for civil claims for both the above cases.

Dr. Billings has applied to the Home Office for spe­cial grants, but they still require S. Yorks. to meet £2.4m for each of the above issues.

  1. The Miners strike – still an issue.

For other fair­ness issues, Dr. Billings has set up Independent Panels such as the Ethics Panel to think through situ­ations, e.g. ‘stop and search’ with the body camera issue.

-    The P.C.C. can put pro­pos­als and oppor­tun­it­ies to the police to con­sider and report on, but cannot order the Chief Constable what to do. The N.H.S., the Local Councils, etc. are also involved and all work together as a team.

Dr. Billings con­vinced us that he has a tough job on his hands, which he said felt ‘like turn­ing a huge oil tanker around’, although there are not­able suc­cesses.

He was heart­ily thanked for a very enlight­en­ing and well delivered talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient Suburbs of Sheffield — David Templeman — 8th April 2019

David Templeman’s excel­lent talk was about the his­tory of a hand­ful of the mul­tiple ancient sub­urbs of Sheffield which, prior to the indus­trial revolu­tion, had remained tran­quil agri­cul­tural set­tle­ments, and of some of sig­ni­fic­ant beauty – dif­fi­cult to ima­gine today.

John Speed’s map of Sheffield

Speed’s map of Sheffield 1645 shows some of these places already estab­lished cen­tur­ies before. Place names were recor­ded phon­et­ic­ally, with dif­fer­ent spellings, and some had Viking (e.g. –thorpe is an addi­tional set­tle­ment in a vil­lage) and Saxon ori­gins. For instance –ley is a forest clear­ing, -ton an enclosed farm. Examples are Hackenthorpe, Owlerton and Tinsley.

Curiosities on the map led to debate over the unknown Westbury. According to Joseph Hunter (Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield), the Don was bridged at Washford at the Sheffield end of Attercliffe, where Speed rein­ven­ted it as Westbury vil­lage. Attercliffe was men­tioned in the Domesday Book as Ateclive, Attercliffe grew on an escarp­ment on the Don. Christ Church, des­troyed in World War II, was at the top of it and the escarp­ment is no longer vis­ible. The first church there was Attercliffe Chapel 1629

Christ Church, Attercliffe

Even in 1860, apart from small artisan work­shops (e.g. pen and pocket knife makers), there were farms, small shops, and the canal. It was an isol­ated rural com­munity with some large houses (Old Hall, New Hall, Carlton House and a wind­mill, and “no pret­tier place for miles around”. New Hall was con­ver­ted into pleas­ure gar­dens in the 19th cen­tury with a cricket ground, race­course, maze and lake, and was well known for its fire­works and con­certs. Carbrook Hall has under­gone extens­ive renov­a­tion recently and Starbucks have moved in. There was a bear bait­ing pit from Tudor times and cock fight­ing.

A turn­pike through Attercliffe provided access between Sheffield and the Don ter­minus at Tinsley. The Sheffield canal skir­ted the south side; a pity that pro­pos­als to widen it to form the Sheffield Ship Canal failed (Manchester’s gain!). Benjamin Huntsman, inventor of cru­cible steel, had a cot­tage, now demol­ished, along the Handsworth Road. In recent times another lack of city coun­cil foresight was fail­ure to con­vert the Don Valley into a massively impress­ive aes­thetic cor­ridor into the city. If anyone’s been to Stuttgart recently (a city of sim­ilar size with seven hills as Sheffield but with a lot more cash – Bosch, Mercedes, Porsche) they’ll under­stand.

The Don was a rich food source before indus­trial times. But good news! Salmon are back after a major river clean-up. This fish was caught recently at Salmon Pastures in Attercliffe (just behind the City Sauna).

Attercliffe had mixed memor­ies for David Templeman: he grew up there with the daily din of steel­works ham­mers but after his father won the treble chance the family moved up in the world to Woodhouse.

Your non-Yorkshire blogger’s only long term memory of Attercliffe was the Attercliffe Palace where his father once played alto sax in the Bobbie Gray orches­tra in the 50s. A bit later, the band audi­tioned Gerry Dorsey aka Englebert Humperdinck and turned him down!

Richmond was a small set­tle­ment with a few cot­tages together with Hall Farm, built in 1668 and demol­ished in the Sheffield bru­tal­ist period. The farm gate­posts, pre­vi­ously mark­ing the entrance to Sheffield Deer Park (hence the name Richmond?), sur­vive within a hous­ing estate.

Hackenthorpe craf­ted 30,000 sickles a year in the mid-19th cen­tury. Thomas Staniforth was its largest employer. Birley Spa was the site of a min­eral water spring, built by Earl Manvers in 1843. The dilap­id­ated Grade II listed bath house and grounds are cur­rently up for sale by the city coun­cil. Full res­tor­a­tion is planned once again if (ever) funds become avail­able.

Tinsley was ori­gin­ally “Tingas-Leah”, mean­ing Field of Council. The Domesday Book refers to it as “Tirneslawe and Tinelawe”, at the time owned by Roger de Busli but even­tu­ally part of the Wentworth Estate. The church, built in 1125 and rebuilt in 1878, houses Arthur Dyson’s remains after his murder by Sheffield’s Charles Peace, who was then executed in Leeds. After the Don became nav­ig­able in the 1730s with a turn­pike con­nec­ted to Lady’s Bridge in 1764, mines, steel and wire took over and its rural charm was gone forever. When the river was linked to the canal in 1819, the event was cel­eb­rated “with unbridled feast­ing” at the Tontine Inn in the city centre. All the ship­ping hype soon faded as rail took over.

Darnall Hall

Darnall, ori­gin­ally a hamlet, was ori­gin­ally “Derne Halh” (a secluded nook). Landowners were the De Darnall family in the reign of Henry III. William Walker, a res­id­ent, is reputed to have been Charles I’s exe­cu­tioner. Darnall Hall, built by the Staniforth family in 1723, became a lun­atic asylum. Staniforth and Chappell were the main local employ­ers involved in coal mining.

A cricket ground was ini­tially owned by a Mr Steer from 1821 and the fol­low­ing year the stand col­lapsed killing two spec­tat­ors. A larger ground was ready by 1824, and con­sidered to be the “second finest after Lords”, with ter­ra­cing for 8000 spec­tat­ors. Its claim to fame is that over­arm bowl­ing was intro­duced here.

Map of Heeley

Heeley, ori­gin­ally “Heah Leah” (wood­land clear­ing), was first doc­u­mented in 1343 and developed from three vil­lages: Top, Middle and Lower.

Heeley Tilt Mill, ini­tially known as Holm Wheels in 1747, was a cutler’s wheel and wire mill. It was then con­ver­ted into a tilt forge. A rolling mill was installed in 1875. The dam and build­ings, shown towards bottom right on the map, were even­tu­ally demol­ished and built over. The A61 was the turn­pike (foot of map) to Derby in 1757. A Toll Bar was built over the Meers brook at the bottom of Albert Road on the Yorkshire/Derbyshire bound­ary. The 15th cen­tury Heeley Hall, behind Ye Olde Shakespeare Inn, was demol­ished years ago.

Heeley Toll House

Crookes was a Viking set­tle­ment “Krkur”, foun­ded 980AD, and recor­ded in the Domesday book as “Crokkiss”. It lies near the Roman Templeborough-Brough course. There were medi­eval fields “in remark­able state” until the 1790s, when a turn­pike was opened. It was a day out in clean air for city centre res­id­ents. In 1887 a bronze age Cinerary urn with human bones and a knife were found at the Rivelin end of Crookes. In the 1700s Sheffield was sup­plied with fresh(ish) water chan­nelled through wooden, and later iron pipes, from reser­voirs at Crookesmoor down to Division Street. From there it was wheeled around town in 50 gallon casks and sold by the pail. From 1830 the new 5.5 acre Hadfield Service reser­voir kept pace with pop­u­la­tion expan­sion.

Route of the old race­course

The best view of Sheffield Races (1711–1781), with cups and prize money, was from a 34 x 54ft grand­stand at Lawson Road. The races were an attempt to divert interest from cock fight­ing and bear bait­ing. The course ran between Crookes and Endcliffe, and almost through our back garden, as shown on the map.

 

Bennet Grange

Fulwood was an Anglo-Saxon set­tle­ment “Ful Wuda” (wet marsh­land), part of the massive estate of Earl Waltheof. After the Norman inva­sion it passed to Roger de Busli. In 1297 Thomas de Furnival estab­lished the Burgery of Sheffield; the inhab­it­ants of “Folewood” to be gran­ted herb­age and foliage through­out Rivelin Chase. There was a pop­u­lar min­eral spa near Whiteley Lane in the 17th cen­tury. 15th cen­tury Fulwood hall was built by the Fox family. The first Stumperlowe Hall was built by the Mitchells in 1397, then rebuilt in 1854 by Henry Isaac Dixon. Whiteley Wood Hall in Common Lane was built in 1662 and bought by Thomas Boulsover, inventor of Sheffield plate. The hall was demol­ished in 1959 and the out­build­ings remain as an out­ward bound centre. Bennet Grange, in Harrison Lane from 1580, ini­tially belonged to Helen Hall, passed to the Hinds and then to Mary Bennet. It’s now under­go­ing extens­ive and expens­ive renov­a­tion.

Sir Nathaniel Creswick (1831–1917) was a Sheffield soli­citor who, as a member of Sheffield Cricket Club, joined other crick­eters in informal foot­ball matches from 1855. He co-founded Sheffield FC in 1857 and estab­lished the Sheffield Rules. Sheffield FC is recog­nised by FIFA as the oldest foot­ball club in the world

David Templeman’s talk was a feast of local interest and beau­ti­fully seasoned with spicy blood-curdling anec­dotes. The past was not a good time to live unless of course you were very rich and disease-free.

 

The Lord – Lieutenant of South Yorkshire Mr Andrew Coombe 1st April 2018

Probus this week enjoyed an enter­tain­ing and inform­at­ive talk by the Lord — Lieutenant of South Yorkshire former soli­citor and account­ant Andrew Coombe. He was born in Sheffield into the Spear and Jackson family went to Wellington School fol­low­ing which he bypassed uni­ver­sity and trained as an account­ant at Cooper Brothers (now PWC ) in Sheffield. After an invit­a­tion joined Keeble Hawsons and retrained as a soli­citor spe­cial­ising in the cor­por­ate law arena.

Following retire­ment in addi­tion to his extens­ive char­it­able works, he stood as  High Sheriff ofSouth Yorkshire in 2011 – 2012. After this pres­ti­gi­ous role, he was look­ing for­ward to having more time for his family and hob­bies. However, in early 2015 he received, from Downing Street, a letter invit­ing him to apply for the post of Lord – Lieutenant  and was induc­ted into role in April 2015 for a term until his retire­ment from the post on the date of his 75th birth­day, at the time of his visit this left 30 months remain­ing.

Whilst the pos­i­tion dates back to the 1500’s he informed us that the role was and remains little under­stood and one of his aspir­a­tions is to get greater under­stand­ing across the whole of the South Yorkshire region. Andrew did not go into the post entirely blind, so to speak, as he had stood as a Deputy for 20 years prior to his induc­tion.

We were told that the Lord – Lieutenant stands as a rep­res­ent­at­ive of the Queen and wider Royal family and is unpaid and non-political. Whilst unpaid there is an ele­ment of repay­ment of expenses, how­ever,  the incum­bent has to provide ele­ments of the pos­i­tions formal attire this being as a Major General incor­por­at­ing a cere­mo­nial sword, hand made in Sheffield, sashes, and medals.

The role requires con­sid­er­able com­mit­ment with the Lieutenant attend­ing 400–500 events in any one year although some but by no means the major­ity being under­taken by the Deputy Lieutenants of which there are some 40 at the present time with some 35% being women and coming from across a wide range of eth­ni­cit­ies.

The Lieutenant is also sup­por­ted by an office in Barnsley where his PA sits with others and runs his diary and assists with the organ­isa­tion of royal visits four of which have already been com­pleted this year. In addi­tion, the post holder has respons­ib­il­ity for award­ing hon­ours and Royal Awards for both Citizenship and Enterprise and hopes to raise the pro­file of  South Yorkshire within the wider busi­ness com­munity.

Mr Coombe is also keen that through­out his tenure com­munity cohe­sion can be improved this being done via meet­ings with local groups across the social spec­trum pro­mot­ing con­tacts and cre­at­ing an envir­on­ment for cross-culture con­tacts and under­stand­ing of dif­fer­ent social mores. He is also involved in visits to schools across the region explain­ing his role and also has an interest in Cadet and Scout groups and the bene­fit the mem­ber­ship can have on indi­vidual mem­bers some of whom have dif­fi­cult social and eco­nomic back­grounds.

Mr Coombe has obvi­ously thrown him­self into what is a demand­ing but reward­ing pos­i­tion with a vigour that I sus­pect not many of us share and is I believe a great ambas­sador for the region and the post of Lord- Lieutenant about which we are all now much better informed.

Another excel­lent and enlight­en­ing talk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fracking – Fact and Fiction —   Roger Vernon — 25th March 2019

Energy con­sump­tion is ever increas­ing to keep up with the demands of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. Many believe the increased demand could be met by the extrac­tion of shale gas through the pro­cess of frack­ing which is a tech­nique to recover gas and oil from shale rock. Drilling com­pan­ies have estim­ated that tril­lions of cubic feet of shale gas lay beneath us await­ing extrac­tion.  However, there is a great deal of public hos­til­ity towards the pro­cess of frack­ing and protests have delayed pro­gress on many drilling sights. Clearly we need more gas to meet our grow­ing require­ments and cur­rently we must import sup­plies from USA , Norway, Middle East and others.

Shale is a simple clay based rock con­tain­ing molecules of gas and oil. A short video clip was played illus­trat­ing how easily a piece of shale rock could be set on fire to show its burn­ing qual­it­ies. To release the gas and oil molecules , the pro­cess of frack­ing is used which involves drilling ver­tic­ally into the earth to the strata of shale rock and then gradu­ally chan­ging the dir­ec­tion of the drill to bore hori­zont­ally.  A mix­ture of water, sand and chem­ic­als is dir­ec­ted under high pres­sure into the rock . The pres­sure opens up fis­sures in the rock which are held open by the sand.  The pro­cess is reversed and water now dirty flows to the sur­face fol­lowed by oil and gas which are sep­ar­ated and trans­por­ted away. The recov­ery of the gas takes place over a lengthy period.

Reserves of shale gas have been iden­ti­fied in large swathes of the UK par­tic­u­larly in north­ern England. More than 100 licences have been awar­ded by the gov­ern­ment allow­ing firms to explore for gas and oil.  Planning per­mis­sion must be received from the rel­ev­ant local coun­cil before pro­duc­tion can pro­ceed.. Here is where the dis­putes arise with organ­ised protest. The com­pany Cuadrilla was gran­ted a licence to drill and extract gas and oil near Blackpool but were forced to sus­pend pro­duc­tion after earth­quakes of 1.5 and 2.2 mag­nitude  on the Richter scale hit the area. It was deemed “ highly prob­able “ that the tremors were caused by the frack­ing.  Using the government’s “ traffic light system “ for frack­ing , pump­ing has to pro­ceed at a reduced rate after tremors are exper­i­enced below 0.5 and stop for 18 hours after a tremor of 0.5 or over.

The risks of earth­quakes , noise and water pol­lu­tion are major con­cerns to the public and this fear has escal­ated into mass protest, ham­per­ing and stop­ping the pro­gress of  drilling and extrac­tion of shale gas.. However, the prob­lem remains — as the pop­u­la­tion increases the demand for gas grows. Over 80% of the UK has access to gas and over 45% of elec­tri­city is gen­er­ated by using gas.. The irony is that the very people who are protest­ing are most likely users of gas.  However, the threat to the envir­on­ment is real and cannot be under estim­ated , par­tic­u­larly when using a pro­cess and tech­no­logy which are largely new and untried in this coun­try. The shale gas industry may be strug­gling in the UK but in the USA it is boom­ing and a net exporter.  There the pro­cess is long estab­lished ori­gin­at­ing in Oklahoma in 1949 and a fur­ther major advant­age is that the drilling and pro­duc­tion occurs in vast open spaces away from the popu­lace. A luxury we do not have.

These are inter­est­ing times.   The pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing – we need more energy.  Roger gave us a most inter­est­ing talk giving us the facts and con­front­ing the myths which sur­round frack­ing.

Britain & Germany: The War at Sea 1914–18, Part II — Peter Stubbs — 18th March 2019

We all knew how it would finish, of course, but Peter Stubbs kept us enthralled to the very end of the second part of his talk on the War at Sea, 1914 to 1918.

Peter briefly recapped on his pre­vi­ous week’s talk, when we left the British Navy and the British public in good spir­its fol­low­ing the anni­hil­a­tion of Von Spee’s squad­ron in the South Atlantic in December 1914. “Britannia ruled the waves again, but not for long,” he told us.

Only eight days later, at 9am on December 16 and without any warn­ing whatever, high explos­ive shells smashed into houses, shops and other prop­er­ties in Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool.”

Admiral Franz Hipper had man­aged to leave har­bour in Germany and cross the North Sea undetec­ted. The British Admiralty had cracked German naval codes and warned the fleet of the Germany move­ment, but Admiral David Beatty failed to inter­cept either of Hipper’s squad­rons, in part due to poor vis­ib­il­ity in the North Sea and in part to sloppy sig­nalling by his flag officer.

A post-Scarborough recruit­ment poster. 

 

Only Hartlepool could have been said to be a legit­im­ate target with its dock­yard and factor­ies. In all 86 people were killed and 443 injured. Worst hit were the Bennett family in Wykeham Street, Scarborough. Of seven family mem­bers, four were killed.

The British public was out­raged. How could the largest and most power­ful navy in the world have failed to pro­tect them? But it was also a pro­pa­ganda coup for Britain. Recruiting in the army and navy shot up, helped by dra­matic poster advert­ising.

Another recruitmnent poster, show­ing the wrecked house in Wykeham Street, Scarborough.

There was a par­tial response nine days later, on Christmas Day, when Britain inflic­ted the first ever war damage in naval his­tory by air power. Merchant ships had been adap­ted with hangars on deck for sea­planes, with hoists to lift the planes in and out of the water. When the ships got close enough to the German coast seven sea­planes were launched and car­ried out a daring bomb­ing raid on the Zeppelin hangars at Cuxhaven.

Further – and more sig­ni­fic­ant – pay­back came a month later at the Battle of Dogger Bank, when Beatty’s battle cruis­ers con­fron­ted Admiral Hipper, who had led the bom­bard­ment of Scarborough. Hipper came out of his home waters with three battle cruis­ers, three lights cruis­ers and two flo­til­las of des­troy­ers.

The British knew they were coming,” Peter explained. “They had obtained the German naval codes thanks to the bril­liance of code break­ing staff in Room 40 at the Admiralty. Admiral Beatty was aler­ted, and set off south from Rosyth to inter­cept Hipper.” The British ships, all built between 1909 and 1913, were faster than the German oppos­i­tion, and out­gunned them.

Admiral David Beatty — later the first Earl Beatty.

As soon as Hipper’s ship was in range, Beatty sig­nalled to his ships ‘Open fire and engage the enemy.’ It was the first clash between modern battle cruis­ers in the north­ern hemi­sphere.”

Meanwhile, with Britain now at war with Turkey, the Admiralty revis­ited earlier con­tin­gency plans for a joint naval and mil­it­ary attack on the Dardanelles. It was a haz­ard­ous plan. The nar­rows were less than a mile wide and lined with forts and gun emplace­ments, making it impossible for the navy to ‘stand off’ at a dis­tance and attack out of range of the land based guns. There were also mines laid across the straits.

HMS Lion, Admiral Beatty’s flag­ship.

Five allied ships were lost and three badly dam­aged, and in all 700 British and French sail­ors were lost, with noth­ing achieved.

 

Back in the North Sea, both sides con­tin­ued to play cat and mouse, with mixed res­ults. After one par­tic­u­larly bruis­ing encounter, when his flag­ship Lion was hit twice in five minutes, Beatty reportedly said to his officers: “There seems to be some­thing wrong with our bloody ships today. As Peter explained: “He was quite wrong. What he should have said was ‘there seems to be some­thing wrong with our bloody officers today!’”

However, Britain still had com­mand of the seas. A block­ade remained in full force pre­vent­ing much needed sup­plies from reach­ing Germany. The Battle of Jutland in July 1916 was effect­ively the end of the sur­face war.

Admiral Franz Hipper.

But the peril of Germany’s sub­mar­ine fleet was ever present. Relations between Germany and the United States had hit rock bottom with the sink­ing of the Lusitania in May 2015. The Lusitania and her two sister ships were the largest pas­sen­ger liners in the world. Although she nor­mally trav­elled at 25 knots, too fast to be at risk from tor­pedo attack, as she approached the Irish coast she ran into a bank of fog and was forced to reduce speed.

One tor­pedo was suf­fi­cient. It was fol­lowed by a large explo­sion on the ship, prob­ably some of the explos­ives and arma­ments she was allegedly car­ry­ing, and within 18 minutes she had sunk with the loss of 1,200 pas­sen­gers, among them 126 US cit­izens.

The sink­ing did not bring the US into the war, but it had a sig­ni­fic­ant effect on the atti­tude of the US gov­ern­ment and public opin­ion. In Germany, mean­while, the sink­ing was cel­eb­rated and school­chil­dren were given a day’s hol­i­day.

The unres­tric­ted German sub­mar­ine offens­ive which even­tu­ally brought America into the war was ulti­mately defeated by the convoy system, and this reversal along with a lack of land pro­gress on the west­ern front was bring­ing Germany to its knees. But although the sub­mar­ine war had been won, the damage from the U-boat offens­ive was immense; during 51 months of war, German sub­mar­ines had sunk 5,282 British, allied and neut­ral mer­chant ships.

A peace­ful Scapa Flow today — pic­ture by Graham Snowdon.

On 21st November 1918 more than 70 ships of the German High Seas Fleet suffered the ulti­mate humi­li­ation of sur­ren­der­ing to 370 escort­ing ships of the allied navies and being escor­ted to Scapa Flow to be interned there. More than 120 sub­mar­ines were also taken into intern­ment at Harwich. In an ironic twist, seven months later the cap­tured German fleet at Scapa was scuttled by its own crews to avoid the ships being taken into use by the British navy.

Peter con­cluded by telling us: “As we all know, the peace was a rel­at­ively short one last­ing only 20 years. Although appar­ently for­got­ten — or at least little men­tioned — by our modern day politi­cians, the two world wars were the real and most import­ant reason for the set­ting up of the European Community and for coun­tries want­ing to be mem­bers of it. It seems that our politi­cians now think that another European war is impossible.”

Britain & Germany – War at sea 1914–1918 Pt1 — Peter Stubbs — 11 March 2019

Peter Stubbs is a retired soli­citor who has developed an interest in naval his­tory, he has given 2 talks pre­vi­ously to the Club.  The his­tory of the British Navy during WW1 is a big sub­ject and his talk is in two parts and this report refers to the first sec­tion.

Until the 16th cen­tury war­ships had been essen­tially for trans­port­ing sol­diers for hand to hand fight­ing. Now wooden ships with gun ports and muzzle loaded guns on 3 decks were built and 250 years later in the time of HMS Victory, war­ships had changed little.  95 years later HMS Warrior was launched with iron clad­ding to a timber frame with steam engines but still with 3 masts and muzzle loaded guns.  The British Navy was com­pla­cent and set in its ways.  In 1900 it was like a rich old man, swollen with self-confidence with memor­ies of past glor­ies and little regard for modern trends.  There was much emphasis on smart­ness and little on train­ing.

In 1889 the German Chancellor Bismark stated “I see England as an old and tra­di­tional ally.  No dif­fer­ence exists between England and Germany”.  In England, France was the tra­di­tional enemy.  The Kaiser was very jeal­ous of Britain’s dom­in­ance of the seas and in 1897 he made Tirpitz Secretary of State of the Imperial Navy.  He was a bril­liant admin­is­trator and began to increase the German Navy by 38 battle­ships, 20 armoured cruis­ers and 38 light cruis­ers.  The British Navy at this time had over 900 ships.

In 1904 Admiral John Fisher became 1st Sea Lord.  He recog­nised the threat the new German naval policy rep­res­en­ted and thought that war was inev­it­able.  He removed 150 obsol­ete ships from the fleet and planned for modern replace­ments.  He cham­pioned the devel­op­ment of the sub­mar­ine and inven­ted the concept of the modern des­troyer.  He was the ori­gin­ator of the Dreadnought battle­ship.  No other ship could com­pete with her and Britain built 35 of them.  Seeing the Dreadnought, Germany halted con­struc­tion of its ships and ordered new designs to be built.  The Battleship Race was on.

HMS Dreadnought 1906

The British Navy went to war on 4th August 1914 with 609 fight­ing ships includ­ing 29 Dreadnoughts and battle cruis­ers to Germany’s 17 equi­val­ents.  It soon became clear that sea power must now con­tend with mines, tor­pedoes and sub­mar­ines.

At this time 60% of our food and other com­mod­it­ies were impor­ted.  The object­ive of the German Grand Fleet was to break out from the North Sea and to attack Britain’s mer­chant ship­ping.  The Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellicoe was sta­tioned at Scapa Flow to pre­vent this.  Britain’s block­ade covered the whole of the west­ern approaches and applied to all ships bound for Germany.  This had an ever more dam­aging effect on German pro­duc­tion and living stand­ards.

At this early stage in the war inter-ship com­mu­nic­a­tion was poor.  In the battle of Heligoland Bight it was repor­ted “Our battle cruis­ers were scattered by and made viol­ent attempts to sink a squad­ron of our own sub­mar­ines.  Our light cruis­ers sent in to sup­port were in two cases thought to be enemy ships by our des­troy­ers and in another case two light cruis­ers chased two tor­pedo boats each sup­pos­ing the other to be the enemy.”  Despite all this Commodore Tyrett won the battle and this had a sig­ni­fic­ant effect on future German policy that became more cau­tious.

Peter’s talk covered sev­eral naval battles in the south­ern hemi­sphere includ­ing the Battle of Port Stanley and the sink­ing of the Scharnhorst and the Gneisanau.  The second part of the talk will be more focused on war in the north­ern hemi­sphere.

We eagerly await Peter’s con­clud­ing talk in what is an intriguing insight into our recent his­tory that few of us have much know­ledge of.