The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918

By David French | Go to book overview

2
The Collapse of Kitchener's Strategy, December 1916- May 1917

AFTER working with the new Prime Minister for three weeks, Robertson believed that 'L. G. wants a victory quickly, a victory while you wait. He does not care where.'1 He was correct. Lloyd George did want a victory somewhere and quickly, both to bolster the prestige of his new government and to boost the morale of Britain and its allies. His dilemma was that in the spring of 1917 the possibility of achieving such a victory became ever more remote. Since August 1914 British strategic policy had rested on four pillars. The Royal Navy was sufficiently powerful to keep open the Entente's maritime communications. Britain was sufficiently rich to act as paymaster to the Entente. And the French and Russian armies could fight to contain the armies of the Central Powers on the continent of Europe with only minimal direct British assistance until, Kitchener had predicted, a point would be reached in early 1917 when the armies of all of the belligerents were exhausted. Britain's New Armies could then intervene decisively in the land war, inflict a final defeat on the Central Powers, and enable the British government to dictate the peace settlement. When he came to power, Lloyd George did not intend fundamentally to depart from Kitchener's strategy. But between December 1916 and May 1917 each of these pillars began to crumble. The collapse of the exchange rate in New York called into question Britain's continued ability to act as paymaster to the Entente. The declaration of unrestricted U-boat warfare threatened the Entente's ability to continue to control the world's oceans. The Russian Revolution, the failure of the Nivelle offensive, and the subsequent mutinies in the French army called into doubt whether Britain's major continental allies would be able to contain the armies of the Central

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1
C. à Court Repington, The First World War 1914-1918 ( London, 1920), i. 420.

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