What Is Sea Power?


For Britain’s failure to maintain her armed forces in the decades preceding the outbreak of World War II, this writer has strong condemnation. The explanation of the shabby deal at Munich, he insists, is to be found in the report Britain’s chiefs of staff gave Prime Minister Chamberlain when Germany was preparing to swallow Czechoslovakia. Without qualification, these men said that England was not ready for war and that any involvement in war with Germany at that time would probably lead to defeat. In effect, Chamberlain was told that he had to avoid war at all costs. He did it, to the total destruction of his own reputation; and Commander Kemp feels that he could not possibly have done anything else.

Naturally enough, this book concentrates on the British side of the story. As a picture of the war as a whole it is of course inadequate; what the armies did, in Russia or in France or elsewhere, is merely sketched in, and the manner in which control of the seas was finally won is described largely—though by no means entirely—in terms of what the British Navy did. But that, after all, is the story Commander Kemp selected, and he has told it very well. He is insistent in pointing out that sea power is not just a matter of navies. “In modern war,” he says, “the true exercise of maritime power depends nearly as much upon the exertions of land and air forces as it does upon naval.” But it is still sea power.