Monday, 9 December 2013

Naval Arms Race

News from the Naval Arms Race!

I´ve been busy working on the Italian Navy and have finished major parts of it - three old cruisers and two old battleships as well as a Dreadnought + some Destroyers are still pending completion, but the majority of capital ships and cruisers are finished.

I´ve been basing most of the ships during the last few days, but there´s still some way to go. I´m leaving the bases blank for now, with handpainted names as an interim solution. As soon as I get my hands on a Label printer with white font on transparent labels for a decent price, I´ll scratch off the handpainted names, put the printed ones on and add silicone waves.

Here´s a wild mix of ships, some british and Italian cruisers where still in action while the pic was taken. Maybe I´ll upload another battlereport of this engagement soonish, but I don´t make promises any longer as I´ve the tendency not to keep them :D

Confronted by the Italian Fleet, the French have also decided to start their navy buildup:

This impressive armada is the entirety of the French Battleships and Cruisers - no destroyers on the sheet yet.  Not all of those ships, but the majority where stationed in the Mediterranean.

I´ve also glanced over the designs of the French Pre-Dreadnoughts after someone on TMP pointed out that the numbers alone are not conclusive regarding the fighting strengths of the navies. Indeed, most of the French Pre-Dreadnoughts are armed with 4x 12" Main Guns, whereas even the latest Italian Pre-Dreadnoughts where armed with just 2x 12" Main Guns, which is half the firepower on each ship, with better overall protection of about 10-12" armor on belt and turrets compared to Italian armor of 10" belt and 8" turrets on Regina Elena Class Pre-Dreadnoughts (worse for the older models).

Counting all the excess 12"-guns on the French Pre-Dreads the French Navy can easily make up for the initial slight inferiority in numbers of Dreadnoughts when compared to the combined Austro-Italian Fleets. Provided they can be brought to bear effectively...

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Italian Battleships

After Germany and Britain, I´ve commenced work on the Italians and finally took some photos of the first two Battleship squadrons:

In the back, left to right, the Dreadnoughts Dante Alighieri, Andrea Doria, Caio Duilio and Leonardo da Vinci.

Actually, I have another "Conte di Cavour"-class Battleship painted, but I always mix up "Andrea Doria"-class and "Conte di Cavour"-class - my original plan was to display the two ships of the older class and only one of the new Dreadnoughts, as "Andrea Doria" was only finished in 1916.

If you scan through wikipedia for completion dates, you notice that Italy had only two Dreadnoughts (Dante Alighieri and Leonardo da Vinci) ready for War in 1914. Many sites claim that Italy had three Battleships when the war started - but this is somewhat misleading.  Italy entered the war in May 1915, when "Conte  di Cavour" was just finished a week ago. In 1914, four of Italies six modern Dreadnoughts where still in the dock being  built.  Thus, I apologize for the wrong number given earlier that Italy started the war with three Dreadnoughts - it´s only 2 in 1914.

In the foreground, you can see four "Regina Elena"-class Predreadnoughts, completed in 1907 and 1908. These obsolete Battleships have merely two large 12"-main Batteries and an arsenal of 8"-guns. Their displacement is about equal to the British Large Armored Cruisers stationed in the Mediterranean (about 13000 tons), but their armor is slightly better. I´m still not sure if I´d place my bet on them against the faster and well armed british cruiser force... We´ll see how they handle combat!

Anyway - Italian Armored Cruisers (Pisa- and San Giorgio-classes) are finished as well, but locked in conflict with the British Squadron right now, so no photos as of yet. I´ll post them later this week, together with another battlereport.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Breakthrough - A Naval Thunder Battlereport

The Situation

 August 1914 - The German Mediterranean Squadron is on its way east back from shelling french ports in North Africa shortly after the declaration of war. After briefly encountering parts of the British mediterranean fleet, who where ordered to disengage as Britain was not yet at war with Germany, Admiral Souchons two Ships anchored in Messina Harbor to coal. Historically, Admiral Milne deployed two of his three Battlecruisers North of the Straits of Messina and sent Indomitable to coal at Bizerta.

This scenario explores what might have happened if Indomitable was sent to Malta instead, able to intercept Göben in combined strength with Troubridges 1st Cruiser Squadron, deployed on the southern fringes of the Adriatic Sea.

The Forces

The German Mediterranean Squadron fields the Battlecruiser SMS Göben, a Moltke-Class almost-battleship. Though armed with a slightly smaller main gun calibre than the British battlecruisers, it features much stronger armor (11 inch belt armor, 9" turrets & barbettes, 1-3" deck armor) than its British counterpart (Indomitable: 6" belt armor, 7" turrets & barbettes and 1,5-2,5" deck).
SMS Göben is also slightly larger (25.000 tons displacement fully loaded) than Indomitable (20.000 tons) and able to withstand slightly more hull damage. Both Battlecruisers are designed for a speed of 25,5 knots.

In addition to their Battleship, Germanys Squadron has a Light Cruiser escort of the "Magdeburg"-class. It´s a rather ligthly armed vessel, mounting merely 4,1"-guns and some torpedoes. Easily outclassed by even the British light Cruisers in the theatre. The Breslau is thus more of a liability then an asset.

The British field their Indomitable (Invincible Class) with 12" guns, slightly outranging the Göben and packing marginally more punch, but lacking the big armor of their german countepart.

First Cruiser Squadron consists of 4 Armored cruisers, two Duke of Edingburgh-class, one Warrior-class and one Minotaur-class, all with 9,2" Main Armament and comparable armor to the British Battlecruiser. Their smaller calibre packs less of a punch and must be utilized on closer range, but could penetrate the Göbens Armor with some lucky hits at closer range (At least in Naval Thunder).

In addition, the British field their own light Cruiser, HMS Gloucester, a Bristol-class vessel that was shadowing the Germans when they attempted to break through. With its 6" guns it can outgun the Breslau, but is naturally no match for Göben, except if able to sneak up into torpedo-range (which the secondary guns of Göben will prevent most assuredly).

 Setup & Mission Objectives

The Germans start at the Nort-Western end of the table, trying to leave the table on the southern or eastern end. They must maintain sufficient speed not to be caught by the remaining British battlecruisers, which would spell doom upon the Division. This means both ships must escape with a speed rating equal to the british Battlecruisers (6 for Naval Thunder).

The British are trying to prevent the German breakthrough, sinking both ships if possible - but for victory, reducing the Germans speed enough to allow the rest of the Med. Squadron to catch up would suffice (see above).

The Battle

 Starting out of Gun Range, the first few minutes where spent carefully maneuvering towards the enemy.

Battlemap is abstracted, distances are not accurate!

 In the second turn, the Battlecruisers already acquired targets and fired the opening salvos of the battle at extreme distance. Though one shell came close to hitting Gloucester, it missed the light cruiser barely and landed harmlessly in the water.

Indomitable returned fire on Göben and actually scored the first hit! Fortunately, the thick armor of the Göben prevented any serious damage and left the ship with some scratches and minor damage to the outer hull.

After coming under fire, Gloucester took evasive maneuvers and turned away to. Indomitable turned starbord to range in a full broadside on Göben, while the Armored cruisers closed in further and turned star as well to deliver their full fire later.

All the while, Breslau danced around the Göben with her superior speed to avoid being targeted by the large guns of enemy ships.

I don´t know why the pic is grey...
Turn three saw some more gunnery, with the range closing quickly as the formations steamed towards each other. Indomitable fired a full broadside salvo on Göben, scored another single hit with a shell and failed again to penetrate Göbens superior armor.

Göben switched targets and fired off at the lead cruiser HMS Minotaur to its front, but failing to hit with her two turrets in the front arc.

wtf.. another shade of grey?!

After successfully luring Troubridges Cruisers into a starbord turn to deliver their broadsides, Souchon ordered full 90° starbord turn himself, while Troubridges Cruisers didn´t turn south to correct the previous mistake. Having all British cruisers to his east now, the Germans steamed full speed south, hoping to catch the enemy in their weak flank and achieve a breakthrough.

Indomitable again unleashed a broadside, this time on SMS Breslau, the lightly armored weak part of the german formation. Fortunately, despite coming close to hit, all shots missed, while Göben unleashed her full broadside against the British Battlecruiser again.

Shooting on a larger target, Göben achieved a hit and promptly penetrated Indomitables weak armor, destroying a torpedo mount.

Finally in Range, the lead Cruisers of 1st Cruiser Squadron opened fire, but failed to hit anything on extreme range for their smaller 9,2" guns.

Finally, Troubridges Cruisers turned southwest to pursue the Germans, who where already making good progress to the south. Breslau took evasive actions and slowed down a little to allow Göben to catch up, having the Battlecruiser as a shield between the enemy guns and the light cruiser.

HMS Gloucester, now perilouly close to the enemy battlecruiser, took evase action herself and tried to flee east towards Indomitable, but failed to leave German secondary battery range in time.

Again, the Battlecruisers traded fire, Indomitable scoring one non-penetrating hit, while Göben delivered 3 hits on target, with 2 penetrating the british armor. Both shells struck secondary turrets and destroyed them.

With Gloucester in effective Range of her 5,9" secondary batteries, Göben unleashed hell on the British light cruiser, hitting it twice on extreme range. The shells easily pierced the weak armor and damaged Engine room and rudder, dooming the light Cruiser to limp around in circles until the rudder was fixed.

Troubridges lead Cruiser Minotaur fired another salvo on extreme range, failing to hit Göben.

Though struck by two shells, HMS Gloucester ranged her guns in on Breslau, but againl long range and frantic turning and twisting by both Cruisers made the chance of hitting anything remote.

With its rudder jammed, Gloucester turned port towards the enemy formation, while the Cruiser formation vainly tried to catch up. Indomitable finally turned, trying to deliver some decisive blow on the enemy, who simply steamed ahead to escape.

Indomitables fire actually scored two hits, with one penetrating Göbens armor by hitting a weak part. Unfortunately for the British, it only disabled a secondary turret and did not much harm. The second shell hit well protected parts and failed to penetrate.

Göbens answer was swift and decisive: 8 Guns firing at medium range, precisely targeted and delivered with devastating effect: Five hits on the British Battlecruiser, all penetrating weak parts of the armor, hitting the Engine Room twice, Fire Control, and disabled two secondary battery turrets. The blasts of the Explosions shook the ship and seriously damaged the ships internal structure. Still afloat, Indomitable was now a slow, badly stricken wreck which would need months of repair in a friendly harbor.

Again, the secondary batteries targeted the wounded Gloucester, scoring another hit on long range and disabling a gun turret.

HMS Minotaur fired their front guns again, but hit nothing due to the excessive range between the flotillas.

With the Battlecruiser badly hit and HMS Gloucester out of action, the British commander decided to disengage and let the Germans escape. Souchon, unwilling to risk more than necessary, continued south and escaped the British.


Decisive German victory! With barely a scratch on his ships and at full speed, Souchon left a crippled British Battlecruiser limping back to Malta. The British public is shocked about the resounding defeat and the British Admiralty starts an investigation into the reasons for the defeat.

Post-Battle Analysis

When I set up this scenario, I thought the Germans would have a hard time against a superior British fleet. However, the German Battlecruiser design has proven to be more effective than the British. Granted, the English made some mistakes in turning their Cruiser Squadron north, where they could be outmaneuvered and left behind, which left them effectively out of battle, but in the end the decisive factor in the battle was the lack of British heavy armor and the survivability of the German ship. The British can only lose when confining the battle to such a duel. Their leverage to win this scenario is the light Cruiser Breslau, which must be separated from its big brother or brought down by the heavy guns of the Indomitable.
Furthermore, the British cruisers should probably be used in an aggressive manner to close the distance quickly and unleash their smaller main calibres on closer distance. Their numerical advantage enables them to overwhelm the gunnery of the Göben, as they can only pick one target at a time and will not easily penetrate the armored Cruisers defenses with their secondary guns.

All in all, contrary to my expectatios, this scenario is more difficult for the British than it is for the Germans, and it is perfectly understandable why such a fight was avoided by the real commanders - and why three Battlecruisers where dispatched to destroy Göben. It´s a powerful ship that can take quite some pounding!

I´m pondering if I should add a Destroyer Flotilla to the British Order of Battle, to make things more interesting and give the British some more options with Torpedoes. 

And sorry for the bad images, I wasn´t able to use the original pictures of the Battle as it didn´t occur on a blue surface, I´m still looking for some cheap blue cloth.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Royal Navy - Mediterranean Fleet

It´s raining outside and my plans to prime the Regina Marina have gone moot. So I decided to take some pictures of the British Mediterranean Fleet of 1914 (without bases yet, still gathering raw material).  No Destroyers yet, still working on them.

The Mediterranean Fleet of 1914 consisted of a detachment of cruisers, with three Battlecruisers - HMS Inflexible, HMS Indomitable (both "Invincible"-Class) and HMS Indefatigable ("Indefatigable"-Class) - forming the backbone of the fleet detachment.

The heavily armed battlecruisers where supported by the 1st Cruiser Squadron, fielding two Duke of Edingburgh-Class Armored Cruisers (HMS Black Prince and HMS Duke of Edinburgh), one Minotaur-Class Cruiser (HMS Defense) and one Warrior-Class Cruiser (HMS Warrior).

To save money, I´ve replaced the Warrior-class ship with another Minotaur-class Cruiser, as these came in the same package as the Duke of Edinburghs. I´d have to order another 4 Warrior-class cruisers to add a single one to my fleet, and chose to substitute...

For scouting, patrol, screening and actions against smaller ships, the British also had 4 Light Cruisers in their fleet - HMS Chatham, Dublin, Gloucester and Weymouth - all of very similar design (Town-class cruisers) but with some changes. Again, I substituted HMS Gloucester, which is a Bristol-class Cruiser, with another Chatham-class (might switch it for a Weymouth-class later, don´t know yet)  - again, I didn´t want to buy another 4 or 5 Bristols just for one ship.

That´s essentially the force you see above. The British had 16 Destroyers to operate with this group, which I´ll put into two destroyer squadrons (probably represented by 4 ships) to use with Naval Thunder. This time, I actually failed in my effort to save, as I ordered all 16 Destroyers instead of only 1 pack of 8... Yeah...

Transparent Ship Basing

Hey folks,

as the naval arms race is heating up and more ships are leaving dock, I will have to prepare some Bases for them. I´m using Hallmark/Figureheadd 1/6000 ships that come with their own metal base, but I´ve been tinkering with another solution. What I´ve seen in most battlereports that feature naval gaming and painted bases is that somehow they never blend well with the background sea - either they are too dark or too light, and even if you somehow manage to blend the ship bases into your gaming table/mat, everything is moot as soon as you take your ships to another table with different background.

That´s why I´ve been looking for solutions to have the ships independant of the background waters, chamäleon style. One could just leave the ship unbased entirely, but that makes it difficult to tell which model is which ship exactly and probably confuses things for larger battles. The alternative is transparent basing:

Two test versions of transparent bases - one with waves and foam of the ship plowing through the water (Invincible)  and one completely blank (Göben).  I´ve taken several shots to demonstrate the effect under different lighting and camera angle.

You can see that the base is still visibly, but barely so - the upside is that names can be easily applied to the base, so ships can be dinstinguished even with several models of the same class in a row.

Right now, artistically, I prefer the Invincible-Option with waves of silicone and painted white foam, however, the silicone still reflects light very much and makes the base stand out a little more. I´m wondering if this effect can be reduces by applying a matte varnish? I´ve none at hand right now, but I´ll have to get some sooner or later, as the ships definitely need some varnish to survive with their painting intact.

Option 3 is to take the blank base (Göben-style) and paint stylised foam on it without applying waves of silicone for the 3d-effect. I might do another test-base with this solution...

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Improbable Case

In 1914, when Europe went to war over Austrias feud with Serbia, the Great Powers where split into two blocs of power - France, Russia and Britain more or less united in the Triple Entente and Austria and Germany on the other side.

After the outbreak of War, Naval Action in the Mediterranean was limited to the chasing of the German Mediterranean Division, consisting of the Battlecruiser Göben and the Light Cruiser Breslau, whose commander sought to escape the trap that the Adriatic Sea was for his ships and push towards Istanbul, initially under the assumption that the Ottoman Empire was Germanies ally, but later on his way informed that this was not the case. He still decided to turn towards Istanbul, hoping to bring Turkey into the war, in which he actually succeeded. Subsequently, the German ships operated under Ottoman flag in the Black Sea.

After their escape, not much of an enemy remained in the mediterranan. The Gallipoli Campaign, supported by massive Naval presence, was not much of a naval fight, and the Austrian Fleet remained at Port in Pola, massively outnumbered first by the French and British and later the Italian Fleet.

So - Why the hell should I open a blog on Naval Warfare in the Mediterranean?

Actually, the first sentence of this post is not quite correct. Or rather, incomplete. When Europe went to War in 1914, the Continent was split into two major alliance blocs, the Triple Entente, as stated above, and the Triple Alliance, including Germany, Austria AND Italy.
To everyones surprise, Italy had renewed the alliance one year earlier, but refused to honor the call to arms, citing that the alliance was purely defensive, whereas Austrias operations against Serbia, an offensive operation, where the trigger for the war.

For the sake of fun and more or less balanced odds, this Blog will assume that Italy made the fateful decision to stand by its allies in 1914 and went to war against the Entente. This is an improbable case, a decision that no rational and calculating Italian leader would have made in 1914. Austria was one of Italies chief rivals, occupying Trentino and Dalmatio, areas that Italy claimed as rightfully theirs [Interestingly enough, many People in the Trentino still speak German today... maybe Austria should try to reclaim it :D].

The Balkan interests of both countries also caused quarrels between both countries, as did the Expansion of Italian overseas territory in Libya, previously owned by the Ottoman Empire, a nation friendly to Germany. The occupation of the Greek Dodecanese, with Greece being another germanophile country didn´t help either. Furthermore, Irredentists in Italy where on the rise in the chaotic first half of 1914, with growing clamour for taking back Italian terroritory "occupied" by Austria.

As no coherent data is easily available on this topic, we can only guess what impact the economic considerations had on the decision makers. Being a nation centrally located in Italy and with good access to the sea, I believe that Italies dependence on naval trade would have made a war with Britain and France a rather unattractive affair. The British could easily close the entire mediterranean for Italian Shipping, depriving the country of any seaborne imports. With the ceasing of naval trade, Italy would have been completely dependent on imports of raw materials from Germany and Austria, both of which suffered from shortages of said materials during the war.

However improbable, it is still conceivable that Italy might have honored its alliance. Even a month after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and with the crisis looming over Europe, Italy and Germany agreed that Italian troops would be sent to the Rhine to support German operations in a war with France. This was approved by the King on August 2nd, 1914, one day before the same king contacted the German government that Italy would not commit herself in a war against the Triple Entente. Furthermore, it is not quite clear who could have seized the initiative during the critical days of July 1914. It is conceivable that elements of the Italian government and general staff favoring Italies entry into the war could have exerted enough pressure during the critical window of opportunity to overcome the resistance - once at war, even the nationalist peer groups could have done little to revert the decision.

For whatever reasons Italy might or might not have gone to war, is irrelevant after all. We cannot change history and it is of no concern how probable or improbably a diversion from our timeline is, as it did not materialise. Seemingly improbably events happen all too often to waste time on judging possibilities - the fact that the possibility existed is enough, and this is clearly the case. And I guess I´m not venturing into realms of fantasy in pursuing this scenario - at least no deeper into it than anyone playing a Cold War Gone Hot Scenario :)

So, why is this scenario particularly interesting for Naval Warfare in the Mediterranean?
With Italy as one of the Central Powers, the Naval Balance would have dramatically shifted towards a situation of roughly equal capabilities. In 1914, the British Mediterranean Fleet consisted of 3 Battlecruisers, 4 Armored Cruisers and 4 Light Cruisers, as the British had drawn down their presence in agreement with France to bolster their commitment to the North Sea. France was tasked with the defense of the Mediterannean, especially the Western Basin, and had amassed most of their naval forces in Toulon. The French fleet consisted of 4 Dreadnoughts (With 2 still on their way back from Russia at the outbreak of the war - "France" and "Jean Bart" where tasked with carrying Raymond Poincare, the French president, to a state visit in Russia in late July 1914 and back.),  11 Pre-Dreadnoughts, 6 old battleships and 15 armored and protected cruisers.

These forces would have stood against 3 Italian and 3 Austrian Dreadnoughts (6 in total), 8 Italian and 9 Austrian Pre-Dreadnought Battleships (17 total) and 8 Italian and 3 Austrian armored cruisers, with several light cruisers available. Add to this the German Mittelmeerdivision with 1 Battlecruiser and another light cruiser and the allies would have been in dire need to either call in British reinforcements from the North Sea or start at a disadvantage in numbers.

This is what I take as a premise for my Naval Wargaming in the Mediterranean.
It´s a long term Project, with the buildup of forces starting now in preparation for 1914, when the hostilities should commence (not yet sure if it will start in August or if I´m driving for a quicker entry into the war). Of course, I´ll likely play some naval action before that time, but we´ll see. Projects tend to making their own schedules obsolete pretty quickly!

 Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Mittelmeerrdivision - SMS Göben & Breslau

I´m still devising my final opening post for this blog, meanwhile, for all those who happen to stumble upon this site (or view this after the grand official opening), here are the first ships fresh from the painting table. These are Hallmark / Figurehead 1/6000 ships, tiny tiny tiny little ships, but incredibly rich in detail for the scale they are. The scepticism and doubt after opening the package and looking at the unpainted ships faded quickly once I started painting. I´m awed about the skills of the designer who made the masters for these models.

So, here´s the Mittelmeerdivision, SMS Göben and Breslau.
The picture is scaled to what it looks like in reality. Other people use coins for reference, but as coins differ in size depending on your currency area, I´ve decided to put in something else for scale reference - something every wargamer uses :D

They are not based yet and I´ll devote another post later for basing, as I´ve something special in mind. We´ll see if it works out.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Book Recommendation: The Sleepwalkers

Many books have been written on the whereabouts of the Great conflict that erupted in the summer of 1914 and became known as the Great War or World War 1. Though this is the first book I´ve read that focuses solely on this topic I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

"The Sleepwalkers - How Europe went to War in 1914", written by Christopher Clark, focuses on how the July Crisis of 1914 turned into the First World War. To generate a deeper understanding for the different parties in the Crisis and their views, dilemmas and objectives, Clark first focuses on the Balkan, the brewing kettle of the conflict, and devotes the first 100 pages to an investigation on Serba and Austria, the peculiarities of their political systems, rulers and interest groups.

This regional perspective is followed by a detailed analysis of the European Balance of Power, tracing the polarization of Europe during 30 years from 1887-1907, an analysis that questions the traditional motivations (especially Great Britains motivation to enter the Entente Cordiale and later the Triple Entente, which, as Clark shows in a very compelling way, was not so much triggered by the Anglo-German Naval Arms race and Germany seeking a Place in the Sun, but rather by the threat conceived by the Franco-Russian Alliance and later the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5). He also points out that the power to shape foreign policy was fluid in the pre-war diplomatic system, with shifting key actors and prevalent factions and agents in the respective national systems.

The following chapters of the book focus on the disruptive effects of the Balkan Wars that brought the destabilization of the Balkan and the first major clash of Austrian and Russian Interest in the Balkan. In an interesting episode, Clark shows how the Austro-Russian Balkan Winter Crisis of 1912-13 almost brought about an earlier war, and though the war was averted at this time, how the crisis reduced the options of Austria-Hungaries diplomacy in 1914.

Before the book focuses on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the following diplomatic Crisis, the author takes a look at the attempts of Detente on the on hand and the lurking dangers of conflict and belligerent thinking on the other side during the pre-war years, trying to determine their influence on the coming conflict and posing the question how avoidable the Great War was.

Finally, the book devotes a chapter to th Assassination in Sarajevo, its tragic circumstances and the international reactions, before moving into the machinations of the crisis on parts of the Great Powers. Clark shows how even before the results of the investigation into the assassination had even yielded any results, the Entente powers had formed a strong narrative that there was no connection to Serbia and any Austrian reprisal against Belgrade would be considered illegitimate. He also shows why Austria took almost three weeks to step up action against Belgrade and that Entente politicians knew about the ultimatum even before it was issued, despite Austrian attempts of utmost secrecy - and how they reacted even before all cards where officially on the table...  and how Europe went to War in 1914.

Now, my personal impressions and why I can only recommend this book: It´s an awesome collection of evidence, a very critical analysis of the things that transpired in Europe during the pre-war years. Clark is a detective who has analysed the available sources very carefully. In his introduction, Clark explains the problems of historians trying to dig into the era. He cites an oversupply of unreliable sources as the most striking problem, as many countries have produced volumes of official works after the war. "Most of the official document editions produced in the interwar period have an apologetic spin" (Clark, 2012, p.xxiv). According to Clark, the same holds true for the memoirs of the involved statesmen, who have an understandeable tendency for "self-justification".
Despite these limitations, Clark delivers an outstanding piece of work, rich with critically reviewed information (Over 200 pages of sources at the end of the book, which is almost 1/4 of the entire book!).

As the title suggests, "The Sleepwalkers" is a book that is not so much focused on why the war came about, but how. Again, I cite the introduction: "This books strives to understand the July Crisis of 1914 as a modern event, the most complex of modern times, perheps of any time so far. It is concerned less with why the war happened than with how it came about [...] The question of how invites us to look closely at the sequences of interactions that produced certain outcomes. The question of why invites us to go in search of the remote and categorical causes [...] Political actors become mere executors of forces long established and beyond their control. The story this book tells is, by contrast, saturated with agency." (Clark, 2012, p. xxvii)

Not only does he achieve this goal, he does so in a very convincing manner. While reading the book I often felt that suddenly the decisions of certain actors made sense! Decisions I questioned earlier as irrational and dangerous (with the benefit of hindsight, of course) suddenly appeared as perfectly understandable once I was confronted with the decision makers perspectives during the time. What reinforces this effect is the way Clark delivers the content to the reader. Rich in anectodes and citations, the book is written in a very enjoyable language and structure. It delivers content in an enjoyable way - reading this book is fun, not work or research! - that enables the reader to immerse himself into the situation and the decisions faced by the agents of the time.

All the while, Clark does an astounding work in keeping the book analytical and neutral. While he clearly shows who was responsible for which action during the process, there is no bias or blame for any of the involved parties. The picture that remains is a murky one, shades of grey, decisions and interest of different factions and agents, that lead to a catastrophic downfall.

  • "The Sleekwalkers - How Europe Went to War in 1914"
  • Christopher Clark
  • ISBN-10: 0141027827 , ISBN-13: 978-0141027821   (Penguin Press, soft-cover)
  • ISBN-10: 071399942X, ISBN-13: 978-0713999426 (Allen Lane, hard-cover)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

I´m Alive!

Dear Visitor,

should you stumble upon this site, this post will inform you that the blog is still in development and will be updated shortly. Please be patient and return in time :)

Small Update - Sidebar is now more beautiful, while work is still done on the header. It will improve, the currenct picture is just a placeholder. Content will be added later.