Popular Australian history of the First World War is primarily about the Army at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front. The RAN is seldom mentioned apart from Sydney’s defeat of Emden and the occupation of the German Pacific Colonies.
David Steven’s In All Respects Ready. Australia’s Navy in World War One has written a comprehensively researched operational and administrative history of the RAN during the First World War. To this reviewer, this is the first serious treatment of the subject since J N Jose’s 1928 Official History. David Stevens is a prolific writer on naval subjects, and this may be his best book.Victory over the Central Powers would not have been possible without the Royal Navies’ safeguarding the essential trade of the Empire, convoying the dominion armies to France, blockading Germany and by driving enemy commerce raiders and merchant shipping from the oceans. The RAN played a part in all these operations.
German control of its Pacific colonies was quickly lost through the action of Australian and New Zealand naval and military forces, but the reader may be surprised to learn about the continuing German efforts to subvert Allied control. Defeating these German plots required continuous vigilance by the RAN, although this important work was often boring and always uncomfortable.
The RAN was a young service with a powerful fleet not possessed by any other Dominion and inevitably some three quarters of its personnel were on loan from the Royal Navy. Whenever possible, senior loan officers were selected from those with an Australian connection. Officers moved seamlessly between appointments in the two navies without detracting from the Australian character of the RAN.
The battle cruiser Australia and the cruisers Sydney and Melbourne served for most of 1915 – 1918 with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea, and although they were not present at the Battle of Jutland (but Australians were there in British ships), operating with the Royal Navy using the latest naval procedures and technology would have been a professionally satisfying experience.
This book is a pleasure to read – in fact is hard to put down, and it contains significant and interesting details that would only be noticed and thought important by a naval officer. Throughout the book there are a number of one-Reviewed for RUSI, by Roger Buxton, April 2016page biographies, with photographs, of officers and ratings who played notable roles in the wartime RAN.There are many photographs, comprehensive end notes, a bibliography and several appendices, including the RAN Involvement in North Sea Operations and one listing details of the RAN Fleet. With 449 pages this is not a short book, but it makes an important contribution to the history of the RAN on the centenary of the Great War.
Reviewed for RUSI, by Roger Buxton, April 2016
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