RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR - THE DOGGER BANK
INCIDENT GOES WRONG
THE GREAT WAR OF 1904
This was an attempt by the British Empire to re-jig the
alliances of Europe in its favour and create the Triple Entente by setting Japan
on Russia, but it was a high risk strategy, and could easily spiral out of
control if the fighting spread to Europe. Theodore Roosevelt was brought in
behind the scenes to put pressure diplomatically on the European Powers.
The Dogger Bank Incident was almost certainly stage-managed
by the Naval Intelligence Department, the dirty tricks department, to prevent
the Russian Baltic fleet reaching Port Arthur in time. Jap torpedo boats with
crews in training were at Armstrong’s at Newcastle. All it would need was a
training torpedo with the valve open so it sank at the end of the run at night
to start the Russian warships shooting up British fishing boats.
This situation in 1904 is as follows;-
Salisbury had preferred the Triple Alliance and alliance
with Germany to end Splendid Isolation.
War had been thought to be inevitable with Russia over the
Far East, then the Japanese
alliance had been signed at the last minute after negotiations with Germany
France and Russia had been very hostile to Britain and a
naval war was thought inevitable. The Entente Cordiale has only just been signed
but Landsdowne the F.O was against any military element.
The Franco-Russian alliance will contain anti-British
clauses till April 1906 and a Naval Convention against Britain.
Plans were for the French fleet to hold up the British in
the Western Approaches, the Russians to sally from the Baltic, France to pursue
a Guerre de Course (radio not yet up
and running), Russian fleet to come out through the Straits, French cruisers to
raid in the Indian Ocean, French ships to protect the Russian Far East by
blocking movements past French Indo-China.
The Kaiser has his "Risk Fleet" of pre-dreadnought battleships.
He especially wants an alliance with Russia (Treaty of
It would have meant major engagements fought with fleets of
So here goes;-
It has gone down in the History Books as "The Great
War of 1904".
The Channel Fleet out of Portsmouth and Devonport started shadowing the Russian fleet in the lower Channel, as soon it is officially informed (this is what happened in OTL), so the fighting takes place there.
The Russian fleet runs for Cherbourg and French territorial waters.
Given our traditional arrogance to enter other country's
territorial waters after ships, damaged Russian ships are fired on there. Things
get out of hand, an experimental French submarine sinks a British warship when
French warships try to interpose themselves and are threatened. (France had the
biggest fleet of the best experimental submarines in this period).
British battleships fire on the French shore batteries
protecting the naval base of Cherbourg where the Russians are sheltering. They
The French are obliged to declare war under the treaty but
the government is hysterical over being involved in a war. The press and public
opinion react in a jingostic or rather chauvinistic outburst, as in Britain in
OTL, the government is forced to resign.
In the House of Commons, Balfour makes a jingoistic speech,
Landsdowne resigns and Sir Edward Grey enrages his own Liberal radicals of the
opposition by making a fighting speech supporting the government. Both the
French National Assembly and the House of Commons vote for war.
A mutual firestorm of declarations of war now follow as in
1914 in OTL, transforming Europe into war where a short time before there had
Wilhelm II makes a speech expressing horror at the events
and describing Russia as the one being the victim of aggression. This is played
up like mad in the London press.
A squadron of the Home Fleet is sent to overawe the "Risk Fleet" and semi-blockade the German coast in view as it is thought of the danger posed by the "Risk Fleet" theory.
The fleet of pre-dreadnoughts is sent out through the Kiel
Canal and the British forced to withdraw ,
Tirpitz's "Risk Fleet" theory has proved to be correct.
Britain declares war at this outrage and so that Germany
can be formally blockaded.
Russia, and Austria-Hungary and Italy as members of the Triple
Alliance, Italy because she is seeking colonial advantage, declare war. The
Russian Black Sea fleet comes out through the Straits and concentrates with the
A-H and Italian fleets.
The battleships around Cherbourg withdraw a distance but
institute a close blockade. The torpedo boats and experimental submarines sally
at night and attack against battleships inadequately as yet protected by
torpedo-boat destroyers. Brest is not yet blockaded and the Armoured Cruisers
escape to carry out a guerre de course against shipping. A concentration has
taken place as the damaged Russian Baltic fleet are with the French in
Fisher is quickly appointed First Sea Lord, a month before
his appointment in OTL. There is no committee on ship design appointed because
of the urgency, and he and Gard at once start laying down ships to his ideas of
"all big gun" battleships and cruisers. Parts for intended existing
type battleships - the Pre-Dreadnought battleships of OTL are diverted to them.
He follows his maxims of concentrating the fleet in home waters before sallying out elsewhere and of a purely naval war with landings at suitable points.
There is no opposition to this unlike OTL.
Britain has dangerously failed to concentrate, the main
fleet being in the Mediterranean. The folly of "The Millstone" as it
has been described in The Times, the
policy of having Britain's strongest fleet of 16 battleships in the
Mediterranean is now exposed. They set out and hurry north for the Channel and
the blockade of Cherbourg and Brest, under Fisher's orders. Ships have been
damaged by the French off Cherbourg by the French who are the world's experts at
counter-blockade warfare, public opinion is outraged and there is an invasion
Britain is forced to make that dreaded emergency measure -
withdrawal from the Mediterranean.
The German fleet comes out with the squadron of Russian
light cruisers left behind, passing through the Kiel canal.
Germany answers this with "all big gun" ships of
her own as the story is leaked to the London press to restore morale.
First Sea Lord "Jackie" Fisher has two schemes,
one for a landing on the Cotentin peninsular to destroy the French-Russian
fleet, the other to land in Schleswig-Holstein using Sylt as a base, block the
Kiel canal and destroy the German Fleet. "To "Copenhagen" the
German fleet". Meanwhile the British Channel fleet takes up its base in the
Channel Isles, particularly in Alderney. Prime Minister Balfour thanks the good
fortune of having the foresight to build these bases many years before in what
is to be a famous speech in the House of Commons.
A fleet of support vessels for the landing are laid down
under his personal supervision. In this time-line there is no competition to the
"navalists" as they were known for a continental war lead by General
Meanwhile away to the east the Russian Pacific fleet have no incentive to await the Baltic fleet which is clearly tied up in Europe and isn't coming. They revert to a policy of making sallies.
The Japanese now have difficulties as they must detach
ships to ensure merchant ships get through. The fear is of French and allied
cruisers stopping ships in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and South China Sea, and
even stopping and searching America vessels in the Pacific. The fear is of
munitions and military supplies not getting through.
In London there is horror, "We face another 1779!" and the Committee on Imperial
Defence have reported two years before that the Empire and Britain cannot be
defended at the same time. Fisher is forced to concentrate ships on Home Waters
and the defence of the Empire, and there are none to spare for the Far East. Japan
must help themselves.
The Kaiser, wishing to be seen to help his new ally, sends troops to the Far East. Krupp’s and the famous Skoda arsenal supply guns and ammunition. German and Austro-Hungarian railway troops and engineers help modernise the Trans-Siberian Railway and complete the direct route in an emergency civil engineering project.
The Koreans begin to plan abandoning their neutrality.
The Kriegloks of the Germans and Austro-Hungarians as
2-10-0's are much more powerful than the little Russian engines, but still have
a lower axle load on the light Russian track. it's the same with the huge French
Mallets, as France doesn't want to be left out with its export industry. More
supplies and men begin to flow east.
Delcasse, the French foreign minister performs a political
U-turn. He can still have his aims of gaining Morocco without Britain, and get
French rights back in Egypt as well, he goes along with the patriotic fervour in
the Assembly. He can even become Prime Minister and take over the government.
One reason for Britain seeking an Entente with France was that with Britain
allied with Japan and France with Russia, there was a danger of war in Europe
between Britain and France, this has now come about. An ambitious young
politician, Poincare, up till now an advocate of an anti-German policy goes
along with patriotic fervour, joins the government and becomes one of the most
enthusiastic advocates of the new policy.
It appears to British policy makers that which they most
feared is about to take place, a descent by an alliance of Continental powers to
divide the Empire between them. They turn to the power they have made a partner
if not an ally - the United States. Fortunately they have an ally in the
fervently pro-British president, Theodore Rooseveldt. He's secretly involved in
diplomacy to dissuade the Continental powers from intervening in the
Russo-Japanese war in any case.
Members of the "Roundtable" are dispatched to America with funds from Rhodes and Milner to influence American policy makers and public opinion post haste, citing the still popular in 1904 "Anglo-Saxonism".
J.P.Morgan is brought in to act for Britain.
Rooseveldt sends his Atlantic Fleet on a cruise down to
South America, then across the Atlantic ending up at Gibraltar. When they arrive
they find the French, Italian and Austro-Hungarian flags flying, as no-one can
agree who will have it, and units of the Russian fleet in the harbour, waiting
to raid out into the Atlantic. They are reminded of the rules concerning
neutrals in a combat zone. Rooseveldt has to contend with a neutral Congress and
public opinion and has to withdraw the fleet.
However he secretly decides to help out by buying
$20,000,000 of British government bonds to help out. There is a danger of a
financial crisis in London and a loan to finance the war is in any case being
raised. Gold is shipped across the Atlantic to pay for them in the British liner
RMS. Republic, the deposits will prevent a crisis for the City.
Unfortunately the Republic is intercepted by French
armoured cruisers and the gold seized. The consequent publicity and revelation
causes a neutralist reaction to Roosevelt's action.
The time has come for naval action against the Continent.
The Contentin Peninsular option is rejected because of the tides and the
Alderney tide race, instead the landing will be in Schleswig-Holstein to capture
Kiel and destroy the German navy. The British forces off Cherbourg will continue
to blockade out of the Channel Islands and the naval base on Alderney.
Besides, it's the one he has been working on originally to
help the French get Morocco originally and intimidate Germany to back down over
the Moroccan Question.
It is now late in the season, November 1904; North Sea rain
and mists and lengthening hours of darkness favor defenders. Particularly
against Pre-Dreadnought battleships in close inshore work and underdeveloped
destroyers as escorts.
Admiral Jackie Fisher proclaims a great success in the Nelsonian tradition in London with the capture of the island of Sylt as a base, but at a heavy price with ships sunk to mines, torpedo attacks and two of the new "Holland" American submarines that the Germans have acquired.
Because their presence is unsuspected, the vessels are
thought to have been sunk by mines, and other ships stopping to help are also
Whilst the Germans revert to counter-blockade Warfare, the
100,000 men of Haldane's Field Force, intended for rapid deployment abroad, are
landed in Schleswig-Holstein. A triumphant Fisher proclaims "I
will have Schleswig-Holstein in a fortnight!". This is widely declaimed
as a great victory by the press in London.
With no-one else to fight the German army can deploy huge
forces around the landing enclave, British battleships have difficulty
approaching the shore and there is the German artillery to contend with. Older
battleships are lost to mines and torpedo boat attacks which are found to be
particularly effect at night. German Coastal Defence ships are lost, but at an
expensive cost to the attackers.
The army is reinforced, by the British Home Force, "Territorials"
- volunteers - intended to be the second reserve to be sent abroad. The press
acclaim their departure as they march to the docks.
The A-H government in an uncharacteristic burst of decisive
action decides to send its fleet out into the Atlantic. They decide a decisive
role will allow them to resolve Balkan issues in their favour at any peace
conference. It departs accompanied by the powerful Russian Black Sea fleet, the
French Toulon fleet, and the Italians tagging along as they see possibilities
for advantage.. The french and Russians are particularly keen on this. Whilst
coaling at Vigo, word reaches London and a portion of the Channel Fleet is sent
south to find it. Unfortunately they miss one another as radio is in its
infancy. The Allied fleet reaches Brest and frantically begins to coal.
Delecasse is to make a reputation with his allegedly efficient arrangements to
transport bunkering coal to Brest via the French railway system.
The British fleet is centred off Cherbourg and based on the
Channel Islands in view of the closeness of the enemy fleet there to the English
coast and public panic. Any available reinforcements are sent by Fisher from the
North Sea; his advisors are confident they have the Germans contained.
Large numbers of French troops have been sent to Brest and
the Cotentin Peninsular, along with the French siege artillery to help the
Meanwhile in the North Sea, just as a major attack is made
by torpedo boats from north and south just before dawn, the German fleet and
Russian light cruisers arrive to the west, having come around from Kiel via the
The British squadron is silhouetted against the dawn sky which is clear. This is a decisive victory and surviving vessels shelter in Danish and Dutch ports.
The British troops are cut off and what is to be known as
the siege of Hulsum now begins.
It is proclaimed London are confident they can hold out
till relieved and evacuated, there being large amounts of stores in the port. As
soon as the fleet has dealt with the enemy ships in the Channel they will steam
to the rescue, escorting supply ships.
In the Channel the Allied fleet arrives from Brest in the rear just as a major sally is made by the Russians and French from Cherbourg with torpedo boats in support.
The confused and indecisive battle that follows, which is known to history as the Second Battle of La Hogue, is to be the subject of an intense debate as to exactly who won. But really the Allies win on points. The British ships sent south return after the battle has been in progress.
Part of the British fleet withdraws through the Alderney
Tide-Race in full flood, whilst another moves north towards Portland Harbour.
Writers will make much of the drama of this as Allied torpedo-boats turn back
because of the tumultuous waters. Effectively part of the British fleet is
blockaded in the battleship-harbour on Alderney.
The Kaiser now launches his master-stroke, really pressed
by the Grosse General Staff lead by von Schlieffen rather than the timid
A plan has been worked out by von Schlieffen personally,
now in every schoolboy's history textbook as the “Schlieffen Plan” to land
two German Corps in the East Anglia ports and march in four columns to London.
The Kaiser gives his approval and the navy escorts train ferries, liners and freighters carrying the troops.
There is no garrison in Britain since they are in Schleswig-Holstein.
The troops swiftly reach London and "protect" Uncle Bertie.
Part of the cruiser compliment has been fatally diverted to
try and supply the Husum Enclave in night runs which have become known as the
"North Sea Express".
A dramatic announcement is made in Berlin by the Kaiser flanked by his mother and his Uncle Arthur Duke of Clarence and Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
He offers his services as mediator, since the war is
pointless slaughter and peace is needed.
Events were not helped by the news at this point of the
surrender of the army in the Hulsum Enclave, the British public having been lead
to believe they would hold out till relieved.
Lord Fisher sees the need to resign. The government resigns. Since the arrangements for Henry Campbell-Bannerman to become Liberal Prime Minister as a compromise have not yet been made, Sir William Harcourt and his radical followers take over the Liberal government and not the Liberal Imperialists, Sir Edward Grey does not become Foreign Secretary.
Indeed Henry Campbell-Bannerman is on the continent in a
hotel in Biarritz when war broke out, and like P.G.Wodehouse in OTL ends up
The Conservatives and Liberal Imperialists of the Committee of Imperial Defence are panicking far more than the radicals of the new government. The Empire is threatened.
Panic reigns that the global financial position of the City
History will show that in these events they were far more
responsible for demanding the armistice which swiftly followed.
The Conference of London is a success, the Kaiser arriving ostentatiously on his yacht to officiate at the proceedings. The peace terms are surprisingly mild, partly because the allies cannot agree amongst themselves.
Britain retains her Empire, with the exception of Malta
going to Italy and French influence in Egypt becoming predominant. But with the
Sultan regaining his rights as the Egyptian Khedive is still a Turkish
Viceroy. The Russian, now come out through the Straits, the Italians or
Austro-Hungarians do not trust French domination of Egypt, so the rights of all
the Powers have to be upheld, but the French are allowed to be the major
shareholder in the International Suez Canal Company.
Delcasse is happy enough with this, he has enough La Gloire
and prestige to win elections and be in the government for years and does not
trust the Russians either. Morocco becomes French.
The Balkans is resolved by the withdrawal of the Ottomans
from Europe, with territory divided on the basis of nationality in exchange for
the Berlin to Baghdad railway and strategic railways in the Middle East, the
Kaiser's pet project. Constantinople becomes an International Zone.
But there is one important condition. Wilhelm the Second
will ultimately become King-Kaiser as William V. He will now be Uncle Bertie's
heir, and Edward's children are compensated by being given Governor-Generalships
in the Empire. Uncle Bertie and the politicians reluctantly accede, partly
because rumours are beginning to surface about the Dogger Bank Incident and
Armstrong’s which they are anxious to suppress and partly because some
politicians will do almost anything to save the Empire.
Joseph Chamberlain and the "Roundtable" have a Cunning Plan, they favour the arrangement as it will help Britain's post-war position and their plans for world empire.
Chamberlain played the same role at the Congress of London as Talleyrand at the
Congress of Vienna ninety years earlier" say the school history text
books. There are is also Fisher's plans for completely new types of battleship
to be considered... This would help ensuring Britain benefits and not rivals.
Meanwhile, almost forgotten by the events in Europe, away
to the east the Japanese are eager to accept the equally eager offer of
mediation by T.R.Roosevelt who is anxious of some prestige and has been severely
sidelined by the Kaiser and the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s in London. The signal to
rise has gone out in Korea and the Korean government abandons neutrality.
Russia's five-funnel commerce raiding cruiser has had a free hand in the Indian
Ocean preventing munitions reaching Japan. The armistice is on Russia's terms.
The Peace of San Francisco means Japan withdraws from Manchuria and Korea and
Three years later Edward VII abdicates - the family are
sure it has been the worse for his health as he always believed in peace - in
favour of Wilhelm II who ascends the British throne as King-Kaiser and William V
and II. Edward leads an enjoyable
retirement on the continent and lives till 1912. It is a “Personal Union” and William presides over the
creation of a new all-big-gun battleship fleet. Osborne House becomes one of his
favo8rite residences, from which he can review the Royal and Imperial fleets on
Spithead. He reigns till 1943 with Mr. Lloyd-George as his British prime
minister for years.
As Chamberlain supposed, the link with Germany benefits
Britain with an Imperial Preference Zollverein and help with the modernization
of British industry. British Siemens becomes a major electrical player on the
"The disaster of the War of 1904, as many supposed at the time, prove to be the foundation of the century of peace and prosperity than was the Twentieth Century" Encyclopedia of the Twentieth Century, 1999