Strategy on the Wintry Sea: The Russo-British Submarine Flotilla in the Baltic, 1914–1918

In: International Journal of Military History and Historiography
Ian Ona Johnson University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, USA
University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, USA

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From 1914 to 1917, in severe weather conditions on the icy Baltic Sea, Russian and British submariners contested control of the sea lanes with the German Imperial Navy. Their accomplishments were largely forgotten after the war’s end. However, the Russo-British Baltic Submarine Flotilla played an important role in the war at sea in the First World War. Most significantly, in 1915 the Flotilla wreaked havoc on German naval planning and nearly cut Germany’s critical iron ore imports from Sweden. The results would lead to a strategic crisis in the German Imperial Admiralty Staff and delay Germany’s attempt to break the British blockade until 1916. Here, the significance of the Russo-British Baltic Submarine Flotilla to the broader strategy of the First World War – and its later impact on strategy in the Second World War – is re-examined.

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