11: No Money, Mo Problems


The story of the interwar Royal Navy is one of trying to simply do too much with not enough resources. The financial constraints that the Royal Navy had to operate under, along with the worldwide commitments inherent with the British Empire made it a very challenging time for a navy that had insisted on being the strongest in the world. Instead of ruling the waves around the world like it had been capable of doing in earlier times, the sphere of control had to shrink. The waters around the home islands and the Mediterranean were all that could be properly controlled, elsewhere on the globe other strategies would be needed.

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Hello everyone and welcome to History of the Second World War Members Episode 11 - The Royal Navy Part 1 - Budgets. The story of the interwar Royal Navy is one of trying to simply do too much with not enough resources. The financial constraints that the Royal Navy had to operate under, along with the worldwide commitments inherent with the British Empire made it a very challenging time for a navy that had insisted on being the strongest in the world. Instead of ruling the waves around the world like it had been capable of doing in earlier times, the sphere of control had to shrink. The waters around the home islands and the Mediterranean were all that could be properly controlled, elsewhere on the globe other strategies would be needed. Along with these adaptations, like every other navy there were a few other factors that the Royal Navy would have to adapt to, with the most important two being the naval treaties and the technological advancements that were made during this time period. Along the way they would have to build ships to try and accomplish the goals of Imperial defense within all of these constraints and the shifting landscape not just at home but also in every other naval power as well. The ships that they arrived at are something of a mixed bag, but I like this quote from David K. Brown from his book Nelson to Vanguard: Warship Development 1923-1945 when discussing how to evaluate what is and is not a good warship design. “Seen by some naval architects as one which meets the Staff Requirement at a reasonable price. The sailor, proud of the ship in which he lives, will attach considerable importance to aesthetics and habitability. The historian will look back on the performance of the ship at the end of its life, nearly worn out and perhaps, being used in a role very different from that for which it was designed.” I like this quote because it makes clear that there are many different facets to consider when evaluating a ship and its performance. Unique to the Royal Navy was another issue, and that was of course the First World war, which while eventually resulting in a victory for the Allied powers and the Royal Navy, had seen a massive superiority in British naval power not really count for much during the conflict. Or as Joseph Moretz would say in his introduction to The Royal Navy and the Capital Ship in the Interwar Period: An Operational Perspective “It is necessary to recall that [in the postwar period] it operated against the backdrop of the British naval experience of the First World War. Left unsaid publicly, but much present in the calculation of the severest critics, particularly those critics within the Royal Navy, was that the service was never again likely to enjoy the advantages of numerical superiority in material, the benefits of geography, and the amount of special intelligence against an adversary. If a navy so endowed could not secure command of the seas through its battlefleet, then perhaps the fault resided in the nature of the battlefleet itself and its constituent unit, the capital ship.” While there would never be a real push for the removal of the Capital ship from the ranks of the Royal Navy, there were certainly many discussions about the future of the capital ship and of naval warfare in general. This would result in some things that would prove to be quite forward looking, like the Royal Navy’s early lead in naval aviation, and some things that were perhaps less than optimal. This series of episodes will try to cover that entire story, from the situation within the Royal Navy after the First World War, all the way up to the state of the Royal Navy and its plans as it entered into its Second World War. This episode focuses primarily on the political and economic side of the Royal Navy, with a lot of discussion of the budgets and planning for the navy which would be so important in creating the navy that would still be hanging around in the late 1930s.

In the aftermath of the First World War the Royal Navy sought to make sure that the lessons from that war were properly categorized and actions were taken to try and address them. To this end the Postwar Questions Committee was created for the purpose of these discussions, which would involve all areas of Imperial defense. In 1919 a Naval Staff College would be founded in Greenwich to train future naval officers. As part of its work the college would spend a good amount of time studying the actions of the First World War to try and glean the correct lessons from them. During these efforts they had the benefit of being able to have discussions with the commanders who had actually participated, and often led, the very events that they were studying. There were many conclusions drawn from these studies, many of which we will be discussing throughout this series. But just as an example, there was general criticism of the Royal Navy’s hesitancy to engage in night actions, and so there would be attempts to meaningfully improve the night fighting capabilities of the Royal Navy in the years that followed. While there was much discussion, the priority for the Admiralty was to make sure that capital ship construction was restarted, after it had been mostly paused during the First World War. However, it would be at this point that the first round of capital ship discussions, and specifically the place of capital ships within a future naval conflict, would occur. These discussions, while questioning the need to restart capital ship construction, generally were not making the claim that they were not military useful, this early criticism came far more from economic concerns. In fact there were strong voices that were defending the roll of the capital ship, which would continue for the entire interwar period. For example Admiral Charles Madden, at the time the commander of the Atlantic Fleet would say “The demise of the Capital Ship has been predicted with the introduction of each new offensive weapon, commencing with Lord Cochrane’s device for destroying the French Fleet in 1809, followed by Robert Gulton’s Submarine in early Victorian times, and torpedo boat, the Destroyer, and, finally, the submarines and aircraft of the present day.” While there was a belief that the capital ship would still be an integral part of the fleet, there was still an understanding that at some point in the future some new evolution of the capital ship, or some other technology, would supplant the version of the capital ship that was being built in the 1920s. However, the belief was that this next evolution would not occur during the 1920s, or even at any point in the near future. This brought the capital ship conversations back to a question of economy, which would be the primary constraint on the Royal Navy until the late 1930s. The navy’s case that there were many lessons to be learned from war around how to design a capital ship, these lessons primarily involved how armor was distributed around the ship, but also just small efficiencies with new and better construction processes and larger guns. The United States and Japan were already planning their next generation of capital ships, and some of them were already laid down, and so if the Royal Navy did not keep up with these new developments they would quickly fall massively behind. On the other side of the argument was the Treasury, joined by others within the government. The war had greatly altered the economic health of the British empire, and it demanded serious spending restrictions. During the 1920s around 40% of all spending by the British government was spent on financing the debt that had been accrued during the war. This meant cuts to all government spending, and the Royal Navy was a big ticket item. It had also lost its ability to claim that it was the singular force that was necessary to protect the home islands because during the war the first bombing raids of London had occurred, and the continued growth of air power meant that the air threat would only increase, a threat that the Royal Navy was not the primary defender of. It was these economic considerations that would be so impactful on the construction projects in the 1920s, and on the British willingness to have discussions with other naval powers about force limitations. Those discussions were in the future during 1919 and 1920 and so the decision was made to start on 4 capital ships, which would be laid down, although they would not be completed before the Washington Naval treaty halted their construction.

These discussions about the presence of capital ship construction and the naval budget was part of a larger tug of war over naval budgets in general. In march 1920 a a major shift had been made when the navy was placed firmly on a One Power Standard, which meant that it should be as strong as the next largest naval power. Previously the navy had been operating on a two power standard, or at least a one plus some cushion standard, with the goal of being almost as large as the next two navies combined. While this represented a large reduction in the necessary commitment of resources to the Navy, even that reduced power was something of a dream, because there would barely be enough resources to maintain such levels of construction, especially given the state of future planning in America and Japan in 1919. The lack of ability to invest in the navy would be one of the driving factors for decisions around naval treaties, with the Treasury always pushing for greater reductions. In the early 1920s this would not prove to be too terrible, as the British entered the period at such an advantage in ships. Before the First World War the navy had been by far the most powerful in the world, and most of those ships still existed after the war and were still at least kind of serviceable. But there were issues, there was a massive maintenance need for example, and the fact that so many of the ships were older and were beginning to age out of their useful period given advancements made by other navies. The Royal Navy also had a much higher level of experience in fighting a modern conflict at sea, but this benefit, along with the benefit of having so many ships would diminish quickly after the war was over, and the age of so many ships would move from being moderately annoying to truly problematic, especially as naval budgets were continually forced downward and money for constructions of even smaller ships became more and more scarce. During the war the usage of so many ships for so many hours over the course of four years of fighting drastically cut the life expectancy of all of the vessels, for example before the war the lifespan of a light cruiser, a real workhorse for the fleet, was estimated to be about 17 years, but those who had served during the war were cut down to no more than 10. This was due simply to the wear and tear of wartime service, and it meant that there would have to be yet more spending in the years that followed. And to put some exact numbers on the budget issues that the Navy would experience. During 1918, the last year of the war, the naval budget had been about 365 million pounds, in 1923 it would be just 52 million. Now, of course, some of that money went to activities and men that were needed for the war but not for peace, but that was certainly not all of it. These massive budget cuts, even if they were almost mandatory, had negative effects far beyond the narrow scope of the number of ships that the Royal Navy could put to sea. The British ship building industry was hit incredibly hard, in 1914 there had been 111 warships under construction in British shipyards, in 1924 there would be just 25. This then rippled out into all of the supporting industries that were required to build a ship and as would later become evident, the atrophy of British shipbuilding capabilities would be very difficult to reverse during the 1930s would rearmament began again. With the dearth of building contracts workers moved to other industries and the physical items and infrastructure needed to build warships would decay. Other cost saving measures, beyond cutting construction, were also put in place, for example the complements of men aboard ship were cut, with some ships sailing with just 60% of their normal complement. Training time at sea was also cut in half to reduce the operation costs of training. This, along with a constant pressure to reduce the number of men within the Navy to cut down on personnel costs, would drastically reduce the ability of the Royal Navy to go to war without a lengthy period of increased funding. This was made all too clear during the Abyssinian Crisis when, to man the ships sent to the Mediterranean, training depots were almost entirely cleared out. While these decisions and changes were taking place, they also existed within a world of naval limitation treaties, which would completely alter the course of the Royal Navy.

Due to the importance of the budget in the shaping and acceptance of the Washington Naval Treaty, for the rest of this episode we are going to look at the treaty era from the perspective of the Royal Navy’s budgets and naval projects for each year. I think this is an interesting way to look at things because of what the treaties represented. They were political agreements, certainly with the input of naval officers, but driven mostly by political requirements. This meant that there were often agreements made based on what was easy to agree upon among the parties involved, and then the navy was forced to meet those new requirements. The two best examples of this were the 10,000 ton cruiser displacement limit and the 35,000 ton capital ship limit. In both cases the agreements were made and then designs were expected to then fit within those parameters, instead of the other way around. The budgeting process for the Royal Navy was similar in that it was a constant negotiation that focused more on the amount of money things would cost or save rather than on capabilities. The general process was that the Admiralty would come up with the number that it wanted, and then it would be presented to the cabinet and then adjusted based on feedback provided, usually adjusted downward. During this process a conversation would develop in which the Navy tried to justify whatever number it was suggesting with the Treasury and others would argue for a smaller number. The first full budget to be created after the Washington treaty would be for the 1922-1923 budget year. When this was being formulated a committee was created and put under the chairmanship of Winston Churchill. The committee was told to find a way to cut the budget of the Royal Navy by at least 20 million pounds. It would be in session for about a month to accomplish this goal and in the end it would present a report to the Cabinet on its findings. One of the important points that would be made during this time was around inflation, or the reduction in purchasing power of the British pound. This is a problem when looking back at history in a more general sense as well, and the Churchill Committee would make it clear that it was impossible to try to do any comparisons between the prewar budgets and the postwar budgets simply due to this inflation. The numbers that would be provided in the report, and to be completely honest I am in no way capable of fact checking them, was that to match the purchasing power of the last prewar naval estimates, which had been about 51 million pounds, the Navy in 1922 would need 115 million. It was clear that nothing close to that number would be obtained in 1922, but the report did try to make the case that it was important for the Royal Navy to at the very least stay on the One Power Standard, which in the treaty era meant keeping up with the United States. To do this, while still keeping the budget down and to meet the requirements of the Washington Naval Treaty, there were plans for a large reduction in the overall size of the fleet. Manpower would be reduced down to around 100,000men, which was seen as the minimum number that maintained the viability of the fleet. Destroyer flotillas would be reduced, 27 submarines scrapped, and the four battle cruisers that had been approved in 1921 would be fully abandoned. Along with this 12 more capital ships would be scrapped, and only 15 would be kept in full commission. This reduction in total capital ships was less severe than might otherwise be guessed from straight numbers, because the capital ships that were removed from the fleet were all older and had seen much wear and tear during the war, and were by the mid 1920s going to be of marginal value. Finally, the two battleships that had been granted to the British under the Washington treaty, and which would eventually become the Nelson and Rodney, would not be laid down until the following year. With all of these reduction the Sketch Naval Estimates were set at 62 million pounds, with the above cost cutting measures having reduced them from 81 million. The number given to parliament would be 65 million, which still displayed an 18 million pound reduction from the final number of the previous year. This number was important because, as it was the first budget of the Treaty Era, it set the stage for all of the years that followed, and really all the way until rearmament got going again in the late 1930s.

Along with the capital ships which were being discussed, there were also many other concerns. One of these discussions was around the treaty cruisers that had been introduced as part of the Washington Treaty. These were included in the estimates, and were seen as a valuable political tool as a way to ensure some work for the shipyards. For example, in February 19222 the government announced that it would start five such cruisers during that year. This was all part of the wider worldwide cruiser building spree that would develop during the 1920s which we discussed in a previous episode. Decisions were made at this early point that would chart the course for future development, like the goal of making sure that the cruiser’s main weapons were multi-purpose, and to make them useful for not just surface firing but also anti-aircraft fire, with the elevation required for this introducing a whole host of design headaches that would take a very long time to fully resolve. The other major discussion point during this time, and one that would continue for two decades, was the naval base at Singapore. The Singapore base had been part of the discussions in Washington, and the British delegation had insisted that it not be included in the ban on defensive improvements in the Pacific which had been an important provision for the United States. Having a base at Singapore was seen as an important factor in the acceptable force ratios between the Royal Navy and Japan, and the reasons why a base in the Far east was important for the Royal Navy was never seriously debated. if the Royal Navy wanted to fight in the Pacific they had to have a base that was capable of working on and with the largest ships in the fleet. The plan that was developed for a war in the Pacific involved a very quick movement of a large number of fleet resources to Singapore. This meant logistical and port facilities far in excess of what was currently available in the Far East. Along with this some thought had to be given to the defenses of the base, because it only worked as a fleet base if it was still in British hands. All of this work would be expensive though, but with the drastic contraction of the fleet after the war, which made it more challenging to permanently base ships in the Pacific, the urgency of getting the defenses in place became more urgent. Fewer ships in the Pacific meant that Singapore would be on its own for longer, which meant that greater defenses had to be built to ensure that it could defend itself, which meant more money needed to be spent, which was where the problem was, because that money was not forthcoming.

The Singapore base, the cruisers, and the pending construction of the Nelson and Rodney would cause problems for the 23-24 budget. This threatened to cause real problems because to try and fit them in would require an increase in the budget from the previous year, which was going to be a political difficult move not matter what the reasons were. There were also other problems, with a growing concern about the general state of many of the smaller ships in the fleet which were of pre-War vintage and due for replacement. First lord of the Admiralty Amery would speak to the common on March 12th making this concern known stating ‘A great Navy, once let down, cannot be improvised in an emergency. It is not only the ships that take years to build; the training and instinct required to handle that amazing complex of machinery, a modern battleship, need a generation to teach.’ However, any arguments would prove unable to make a meaningful change in the opinions of many members of Parliament. There were simply far too many people within the government that were completely against any increase in spending. Instead, the eventual budget would be set at 58 million, and almost across the board there would be reductions, with the only exception being the 2 million that were added specifically for the construction of Nelson and Rodney. Along with the budget squeeze the government, and it should be stated it was supported by many in the public, there were growing discussions about getting the rest of the Empire to spend more on their own defense. Throughout the period there would be pressure from London on the Dominions to increase their defense spending, and a general rejection from the Dominions to those requests, although each to a greater and lesser degree. This resistance only solidified during further discussions when it became clear that the British leaders would refuse to devolve to much control away from London and to the Dominions around how those resources would be used in a conflict. These discussions were not finalized during 1923, and would continue for some time. During the year there would be many discussions within the Admiralty about future plans, involving new construction and the conversion of some of the planned battlecruisers into aircraft carriers. however, these would all come screeching to a halt when the government was replaced with the first Labor led government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. Amery was replaced by Chelmsford in the seat of First lord, and this threw any real future planning back onto the table as the Labor government had very different views of the budgetary issues and the place that armament expenditures had within that budget.

These political changes did result in the cruiser program being greatly reduced, and the planned construction of 24 cruisers over the following 3 years was reduced, with only 4 to be in the 24/25 budget, then five the next year, and then no guarantees after that. The position of the Singapore base, which would cost far more with a far longer period of useful return on investment, would be an even more challenging discussion and meaningful construction was delayed. In the end the budget was once again reduced, down to 55.8 million, and again every item with the exception of the cruiser program saw a reduction.

After the Labor government came into power the discussions around further disarmament were given much greater attention. In April 1924 Admiral Beatty, First Sea Lord, was asked to prepare another report on the topic for possible implementation. There were some ideas and suggestions made by the political leaders mostly around reducing overall ship displacement, which the Navy was in favor of as well. The core of the resulting report was that an extension of the Washington Treaty was certainly possible, and it could also mandate a reduction in maximum capital ship size to 25,000 tons, and a reduction in cruiser size from 10,000 to 7,000 tons. There was some work in determining what designs for such ships would look like, however there would be the serious problem of any of these ships being put up against the newer ships built in the aftermath of the First World War, with each Navy having a few of such ships like the Nelson and Rodney that were under construction. Further disarmament was not a topic of discussion solely in Britain, and in fact in August 1924 President Calvin Coolidge announced that he would call a conference to discuss further restrictions. However, before this conference could occur the Labor Government was replaced in November 1925 and the Conservative Baldwin was back as Prime Minister. This shifted British naval policy back to what it had been before the Labor government, which meant support for at least an end of budget reduction, if perhaps not a huge increase in spending. While this shifted the official position of the British government, it did not mean that all conversations about possible further naval agreements were discarded. It would however shift the focus of British proposals from wide ranging reduction in various areas to a more conservative set of proposals that stuck far closer to what had been agreed to in Washington. Eventually these efforts would result in the Geneva Naval Conference which opened in June 1927. The most important areas of discussion were around treaty cruisers and their numbers. The British wanted to build more cruisers, even if they were smaller, the Japanese were unhappy with the 5:5:3 ratio, and the Americans refused to change any force ratios. Overall the efforts at Geneva were generally doomed from the start, and no agreement of any kind came out of the discussions. There were other proposals as well, like a British proposal around reducing capital ships to 30,000 tons and 13.5 inch guns, but no progress was made on such ideas.

Back in late 1924, with the new Conservative government in place the work on the next years naval estimates began. This was kickstarted with a request from the Treasury for a full set of estimates around the planned spending on the Singapore base and on the overall naval budget for the next few years. The Admiralty’s proposals for the next fiscal year would come out to about 65 million, which amounted to an increase of 9 million over the previous year. This proved to be simply too much, and for the next several months there would be a lengthy series of arguments between the Admiralty and those who believed that such an increase, or really anything but more cuts, was simply unfathomable. Eventually the budget was presented to Parliament at 60.5 million, a cut of almost 5 million from what the Navy wanted, but still an increase from the previous year. From this number the Navy, including First Sea Lord Beatty refused to budge, in fact Beatty would go so far as to prepare a speech to deliver in the House of Lords should he feel the need to resign over the issue.

On July 22nd, so that was over 4 months since the estimates had been introduced, Prime Minister Baldwin was forced to step in to help find a path to an agreement. The compromise that was put forth was that the number of cruisers constructed would be be spread out over the year with some of them not be laid down immediately but instead held until near the end of the year, a move that was seen as a way to give something to those pushing for greater economies while still having the intended result for the Navy. This, along with some other small changes, would get the estimates through the cabinet and Parliament. It would also be during these discussions that other important foreign relation changes would take place, specifically the signing of the Treaty of Locarno. Locarno was strictly a continental treaty, which guaranteed the borders in Western Europe and did not directly relate to the Navy. However, it was hoped that it would reduce the possibility of a European conflict which the British were so likely to get pulled into. In the next year the Naval estimates were actually easy to get approval for. This is partially due to the fact that once again the total number was reduced, which was an important political point for many members of the cabinet. I think it is interesting how this number was achieved though, one way was a reduction, by 2/3rds, of the oil reserves that were kept in Britain for the use of the fleet and the delay of construction of additional storage tanks for a later year. With no domestic oil supply, these built up supplies were very important to the operations of the Royal Navy in wartime, and the idea of clearly trading short term saving for preparations that would just have to be restarted later, and which would be essential in case of a conflict say a lot about the position of the Royal Navy during this period. This was the unfortunate position that the Royal Navy was at in the mid-1920s, it believed that new ships were needed, and so it was forced to either build the new ships and strip the rest of the cupboard completely bear, or delay construction and have some of those other items.

While these forced economies were accepted in the mid 1920s due partially to the fact that many of the other naval powers were saddled with similar financial restraints, there began to be planning for what would be suggested at the next Naval conference, which would occur in 1930 to try and come to agreements that failed at Geneva and to discuss the future of the Washington treaty which was due to expire in 1936. As early as 1926 discussions at the Admiralty began about what the proposals from the Royal Navy should be, always with an eye on costs due to the belief that the financial constraints from Parliament were unlikely to be lifted in the near future. Some of the ideas suggested were the same that the British took with them to Geneva, a reduction in size of all warships, extending the life of all capital ships even further, and introducing quantitative limits on cruisers, destroyers, and submarines much like what had already been placed on capital ships. The capital ship limitations would also be adjusted, only this time the suggested would be down to 28,500 tons but with the same maximum gun size of 13.5 inches. In this it is clear that the Admiralty strongly favored a set of qualitative limitations for each class of ship, rather than a focus on specific tonnage totals, the hope was that this would give the Royal Navy more flexibility to build more ships than the other nations due to their greater geographical needs. All of the cruiser discussions would contain the same caveat as they had at the Geneva conference, basically the British were protecting a worldwide empire and they needed more cruisers than anybody else to do that. It was not a simple matter of a few cruisers here and there, they believed that the Royal navy needed 70 cruisers to fulfill its global needs, while also believing that the Americans needed no more than 47 and the Japanese just 21. Obviously, the other Navies were none too thrilled to be at such a disadvantage. This line of argument was fully anticipated by the Americans, and in fact when they began their own investigations into what to present at the London Conference they would come to the conclusion that the British would claim ‘superiority in cruiser strength to guard her commerce and her lines of communication on the sea.’ While all of these discussions were occurring in the late 1920s, the Conference would not occur until 1930 and in between those two years the global economy would have a little bump called the Great Depression. The Royal Navy would still push forward with its planned construction though, and if they wanted to meet their numbers of cruisers, and keep up with the replacement of those that aged out, they would have to start building 3 cruisers very soon, and then continue that construction far into the future. They also hoped to start construction on additional aircraft carriers in 1929 and then to continue to expand the Fleet Air Arm at a steady rate for the next decade. All of these plans became much more difficult with the return of the Labor government in 1929 and then the Great Depression later that year.

The presence of the London Naval Conference on the calendar presented something of a problem for Royal Navy planning. The Admiralty wanted to push forward with a budget as if it was not going to happen, or that it would have not effect on anything. However, the Treasury refused to accept this, and in this case I would have to side with the Treasury. I think they had a really good point in being hesitant to say commit to building 6 submarines, which were in the Admiralty’s plan, while at the same time also planning to advocate for the abolition of the submarine at the conference. Because of these issues the position of the estimates was that they would be set at a pretty low number, just under 51 million, with the understanding that there would be a Supplementary Estimate that would be submitted after the conference. The estimates that were accepted did achieve some long sought after areas of economy though, for example the total personnel numbers would be reduced by 6 percent over two years, from 100,000 to 94,000. When the London Naval Conference began there was general disagreement among those involved that we covered in pretty good detail in earlier episode. They would eventually come to some agreements, with for example the number of 10,000 ton cruisers being limited quantitatively by number, while also agreeing on numbers for light cruisers that would be allowed for each nation, with the Royal Navy being provided with the largest number. however, many of the other topics that the British had planned to introduce were not accepted, for example any decisions about the size of capital ships or the abolition of the submarine. With the results of the conference in, the Admiralty went back to more planning about building programs. Once again the focus was on cruisers with the Admiralty trying to determine the best usage for its 90,000 tons of light cruiser tonnage that it had available to it. The eventual conclusion was that 10 7,000 ton and 4 5,000 ton cruisers would be built, all with the largest allowable guns of 6 inches. These would be spread out over 4 years, with plans to then start a long replacement program for older ships that was become more critical every year. While there had been initial fears that the estimates following the conference would present another hard fought battle, in fact things went quite smoothly. This was probably greatly assisted by the fact that they were able to come in under previous years estimates due to economies introduced before the conference which allowed for some additional new construction.

The early 1930s were a busy time for international conferences which sought to reduce various types of military equipment. This meant that just months after the end of the London Conference focus shifted to the next conference, this time the General Disarmament Conference that was part of the League of Nations. For this Conference the British preparations, at least on the naval side, looked very similar to what had been created for the London conference. This included a focus primarily on reducing the size of ships and not their numbers. The draft information was then given to the League of Nations in late 1930 as an effort by all nations to allow the League to create a draft agreement before the real conference even really started. In late 1931 another set of documents were produced by another committee in preparation for the conference, which concerned the possibility of a Budgetary Limitation being introduced at the conference, which the British were generally not in favor of. Stephen Roskill would have this to say about the preparations for the conference in Naval Policy Between Wars: The Period of Reluctant Rearmament, 1930–1939: “most outstanding feature of the preliminaries to the Disarmament Conference is the vast accumulation of paper produced by consideration of the various schemes, such as limitation of ‘Effectives’, Budgetary Limitation and the precise strength of existing forces.75 Plainly the time and effort of the service staffs and their civilian colleagues were so taken up by the preparation of these highly involved statements that their proper functions, such as the welfare and service conditions of personnel, the development of new material, and deliberation on strategic issues faded into the background.” The conference would begin, officially, on February 2, 1932 in Geneva. The League of prepared a draft convention as part of its almost decade long preparation for the conference. As discussed in a man podcast episode, this conference would become mired in the details of what was being asked. So for example on the naval side there were disagreements about the specific size limitations to be placed on submarined, the British wanted smaller submarines, the French and others wanted larger submarines. These types of very detailed conversations would create the cracks that would eventually made the whole conference a failure. To try and find agreements on these details committees were created but they would simply fail to come to meaningful conclusions before the entire conference fell apart. Each nation had their own special set of beliefs, and they spent most of the time trying to convince other nations that the other nation’s chosen weapons were clearly offensive in nature while their own preferred weapons were obviously defensive. Each naval power would try to find their own advantage, and this would eventually just cause it to end. However, the naval agreements were just one part of the problems that the conference faced, and certainly was not the only cause for the overall failure of the disarmament movement at this crucial time. The disarmament conference also just occurred too late really, by the time that it occurred, at least from the Royal Navy perspective, there were already worrying trends that prompted greater construction not less. At this early point most of those concerns came from Asia, where Japanese aggression in China was already very real, and at the point of the world the Royal Navy was least prepared to meet it. Those problems, and many other topics, will be discussed next episode.