This is the first volume (of five in the main series) of the British Official History of the First World War at sea. It was written by Sir Julian Corbett, one of the most famous British naval historians, and an important pre-war theorist.
This volume covers the first five months of the First World War, from the period of tension before war was declared to the battle of the Falklands. In some respects this is the most interesting period of the war at sea, covering the period when the largest number of German cruisers were at large on the world's oceans.
The book covers events in every ocean. In Home Waters the main events were the movement of the BEF to France, the fighting in Belgium, including the British intervention at Antwerp, and the Race to the Sea, and the first major action of the war, the battle of Heligoland Bight.
Outside Home Waters, the main events of this period included the Imperial Concentration (the process that saw the first Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops travel to Europe), the hunt for the German cruisers Breslau and Goeben in the Mediterranean, and the careers of the early German commerce raiders. It also includes the entire cruise of Admiral von Spee and the German East Asian squadron, ending with the battles of Coronel and the Falklands.
The main limitation of this book comes from its early publication. Corbett had access to a vast amount of official British documents, but very little official German material. His main sources of information for the intentions of German commanders has to come from a more limited range of sources - information gathered from prisoners of war (in this volume that includes survivors from the German cruisers), and the earliest memoirs published in Germany.
Even with that limitation, this is an invaluable book for anyone interesting in the First World War at sea, with an impressive level of detail throughout. Corbett's prose is generally very well written, and always coherent.
Author: Sir Julian Corbett
Publisher: Naval & Military Press (2003 new edition)
Year: 1920 (original edition)