Spies in Uniform: British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War

Spies in Uniform: British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War

Spies in Uniform: British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War

Spies in Uniform: British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War


Why did the British government declare war on Germany in August 1914? Was it because Germany posed a threat to British national security? Today many prominent historians would argue that this was not the case and that a million British citizens died needlessly for a misguided cause.

This book counters such revisionist arguments. Matthew Seligmann disputes the suggestion that the British government either got its facts wrong about the German threat or even, as some have claimed, deliberately 'invented' it in order to justify an otherwise unnecessary alignment with France and Russia. By examining the military and naval intelligence assessments forwarded from Germany to London by Britain's service attach's in Berlin, its 'men on the spot',Spying on the Kaiserclearly demonstrates that the British authorities had every reason to be alarmed. From these crucial intelligence documents, previously thought to have been lost, Dr Seligmann shows that in the decade before the First World War, the British government was kept well informed about military and naval developments in the Reich. In particular, the attach's consistently warned that German ambitions to challenge Britain posed a real and imminent danger to national security. As a result, the book concludes that the British government's perception of a German threat before 1914, far from being mistaken or invented, was rooted in hard and credible intelligence.


While writing this book I have received assistance from several individuals and institutions and I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge this. For their encouragement and advice, I am grateful to professors John Röhl, David Stevenson, Robin Higham, and Tony Morris. For their willingness to answer my seemingly endless enquiries, I thank William Frame at the British Library, Jenny Wraight and Ian MacKenzie at the Admiralty Library, Matthew Sheldon at the Royal Navy Museum, Kate Tildesley at the Naval Historical Branch, George Malcolmson at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Mitch Yockelson at the National Archives at College Park, Nick Mays at the News International Archive, and Pamela Clark at the Royal Archives. I am also indebted to Lord Monro of Langholm, who was kind enough to grant me access to the papers of Sir John Spencer Ewart; to John and Maureen Russell, who supplied me with the unpublished autobiography of the Hon. Alexander Alick' Russell; to Rose Willis, who sent me copies of Alick Russell's South African journals; and to the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum for allowing access to the papers of Henry Wilson, Vernon Kell, Prince Louis of Battenberg, and Philip Dumas. I am grateful to Mr Tim Dumas for permission to publish extracts from the diary of Admiral Philip Dumas; to Mrs Pam ArnoldForster for permission to quote from the diaries of H. O. Arnold-Forster; and Mrs Virginia Knowles for permission to cite several letters by her grandfather, Sir Walford Selby. Material from the Royal Archives is reproduced by permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; extracts from the Milner papers are used by permission of the Warden and Fellows of New College, Oxford; excerpts from the Slade, Oliver, Domville, and Richmond papers are incorporated courtesy of the National Maritime Museum; and passages from the correspondence of Lord Hardinge of Penshurst are reproduced by permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library. For permission to cite materials from the papers of Field Marshal the First Earl Haig, I would like to thank the present Earl Haig and the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland. For permission to use the James Edmonds papers, I am grateful to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military archives, King's College London. Crown copyright material in the National Archives and elsewhere is reproduced by permission of the Keeper of Her Majesty's Stationery Office. While every reasonable effort was undertaken to obtain copyright permission for all the original sources used in this book, inevitably in some cases the copyright holder could not be contacted. If notified, the publisher will be happy to amend the acknowledgements in any future edition.

This monograph was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


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