- A.N. Other
- History - general, Ship design and development, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
More insidious than official censorship was the upsurge of public paranoia and “all the music hall twaddle that makes decent men sick’. To some extent Jane contributed to this with his articles on German spies and atrocities. On the overall conduct of the war, however, he was entirely out of sympathy with public opinion. Within weeks of the outbreak of war, disappointment was widespread at the lack of decisive clash between British and German fleets. In vain, Jane urged that “the object of war is not to provide headlines or interesting reading for the public”. The latter were unable to appreciate the slow pace of naval warfare.
They blamed those at the head of the Royal Navy for the lack of a new Trafalgar or Tsushima. Jane defended the Admiralty in characteristically paradoxical terms. In answer to the question, “Why doesn’t the Navy do something?” he wrote:
The ridiculous and irritating part of this question is that the Navy is doing something. To adopt a paradox, THE LESS IT DOES THE MORE IT DOES”.
As long as British ships could bring in food and raw materials and take expeditionary forces overseas, the Navy was doing all that was necessary. To the fury of the popular press, Jane denied that a minor skirmish in the Heligoland Bight constituted a major triumph for the Royal Navy, or that the loss of two old cruisers at Coronel was an equal disaster. With characteristic objectivity, he refused to accept that the war would soon be over. “All these yarns about Germany being played out or fed up with the war are mostly sheer bunkum”.
Perhaps fortunately, Jane did not live to see his predictions of a long war come true. Despite German newspapers referring to “the well known British naval officer Fred T. Jane”, and rumours that he was a member of the Naval Intelligence Department, he failed to find official wartime employment. Instead he undertook an exhausting series of lecture tours to explain his views on the conduct of the war. In October 1915 he was soaked to the skin driving the 100 miles from Portsmouth to Cheltenham in his open-topped racing car. He was stricken by influenza and depression. By Christmas 1915 he seems to have left his second wife, whom he had married in 1909. And the following March, Jane died alone in his apartment, apparently of heart failure.
Although Fred T. Jane must have died a lonely and disappointed man, unable to carry his views with the public or to make a real contribution to the war effort, he left an enduring legacy. Aware of his health problems, he had made careful arrangements for the continued publication of Fighting Ships. Its painstaking tabulations of naval strength continued to fulfil the same role as more recent analysis of missiles and warheads were published. Jane was the original exponent of the strategic analyst’s trade. He remains a key figure in the provision of the technical information required to support the defence debate in a democratic society, in a form at once authoritative and easy to use.
Editorial Note: In the interest of space notes and illustrations used in the original article have been omitted.