No unity of command or direction existed for the French and British armies. Consequently the plan of campaign had to be worked out through agreement between the two Staffs. In practice, each army carried out, as was natural and proper, minor operations independently. With regard to more important schemes, the object of which was strategical success, it may be generally said that the British did not undertake anything to which the French strongly objected, and agreed to everything which they strongly advocated. This again, though by no means always desirable, was inevitable as the scene of battle was French soil, and the French army throughout this year at least was four times as great as the British.
The clash of interest had already manifested itself before the great lines of action for the year had been discussed. In January Sir John French proposed an advance along the coast towards Ostend, which had long been in his mind and that of the Admiralty. Churchill, its ardent champion, promised 'an absolutely devastating support' from the sea, and believed that a descent upon Zeebrugge could be successfully synchronized. Though the submarines had not yet begun their campaign against merchantmen, and had sunk no warship of great consequence except the Formidable (January 1), the shadow of their menace was already cast, and a provident desire was felt to deny them the use of those Belgian nests from which in future years they issued so disastrously. The French, however, for this very reason saw in the proposed operation a predominantly British interest; any such advance, they pointed out, would be in an excentric strategical direction, which could not influence the western theatre as a whole, and if successful would involve a longer trench line. The British