- Greek Naval Strategy and Policy, 1910–1919
This work explores the causes and consequences of the increased naval importance of Greece during the crucial decade that included the Balkan Wars and the First World War. The author shows that the interaction of the weakening of the British position in the Mediterranean combined with the naval triumph of Greece in the First Balkan War significantly increased the desirability of Greece as a naval partner. Based on these conditions Greece first acquired a British Naval Mission and later keen British interest in some kind of naval cooperation. As the naval balance between Entente powers and Central Powers in the Mediterranean appeared to be headed for a dead heat, even a small power such as Greece could tip the balance. However, a strong difference of opinion emerged between the British Naval Missions and the Greek Admiralty over what kind of fleet Greece should build. The British pushed for Greece to buy a defensive navy that would serve as a deterrent to other naval powers while serving as an auxiliary to the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. In part, the British lobbied for the more modest Greek navy lest a more potent Greek battle fleet be turned against them. The Greeks, seeing their naval triumphs in the First Balkan War as a vindication of a desire for a more grandiose navy, strove mightily to procure capital ships.
Overall, author Zisis Fotakis deems these Greek procurements to have been not worth the effort. He notes that in the period 1912–14 Greece set aside £13,000,000 for a hodge-podge assortment of naval vessels built in five [End Page 1256] different countries with gun systems from eight different companies. Such purchases precluded the possibility of any homogeneity in the fleet. Fotakis also rightly concludes that the failure of the British Naval Missions to bring home more orders for British firms reflected a lack of political or financial backing from the Foreign Office. On the positive side, the author credits the British Naval Missions with improving Greek naval reorganization, education, and gunnery training.
Much of this story will be generally familiar to those who have read Paul Halpern's works. The main contribution of this work lies in giving considerably more of the Greek side of things. The level of detail is comprehensive, although at times the material is difficult to absorb due to the largely undifferentiated chapters. For example, every chapter is entitled "Greek Naval Policy and the Great Powers" with only the date range changing from chapter to chapter. Given the narrow scope, the book will be of most use to Greek specialists, although those interested in problems of foreign naval missions generally would also find much of value in this work.