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Bayly's War

Steve R. Dunn

Bayly’s War is the story of the Royal Navy’s Coast of Ireland Command (later named Western Approaches Command) during World War One.
Britain was particularly vulnerable to the disruption of trade in the Western Approaches through which food and munitions (and later soldiers) from North America and the Caribbean and ores and raw materials from the Southern Americas, all passed on their way to Liverpool or the Channel ports and London. After the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 and the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans, Britain found herself engaged in a fight for survival as U-boats targeted all incoming trade in an attempt to drive her into submission. Britain’s naval forces, based in Queenstown on the southern Irish coast, fought a long and arduous battle to keep the seaways open, and it was only one they began to master after American naval forces joined in 1917.

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Bayly’s War is the story of the Royal Navy’s Coast of Ireland Command (later named Western Approaches Command) during World War One. Britain was particularly vulnerable to the disruption of trade in the Western Approaches through which food and munitions (and later soldiers) from North America and the Caribbean and ores and raw materials from the Southern Americas, all passed on their way to Liverpool or the Channel ports and London. After the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 and the introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare by the Germans, Britain found herself engaged in a fight for survival as U-boats targeted all incoming trade in an attempt to drive her into submission. Britain’s naval forces, based in Queenstown on the southern Irish coast, fought a long and arduous battle to keep the seaways open, and it was only one they began to master after American naval forces joined in 1917. Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly was the man appointed to the Coast of Ireland Command. A fierce disciplinarian with a mania for efficiency, and thought by some of his colleagues to be more than a little mad, Bayly took the fight to the enemy. Utilising any vessel he could muster – trawlers, tugs, yachts – as well as the few naval craft at his disposal, he set out to hunt down the enemy submarines. The command also swept for mines, escorted merchantmen and fought endlessly against the harsh Atlantic weather. Relief came When America sent destroyers to Queenstown to serve under him, and Bayly, to the surprise of many, integrated the command into a homogenous fighting force. Along the way, the Command had to deal with the ambivalent attitude of the Irish population, the 1916 Easter Rising, the attempt to land arms on Ireland’s west coast and the resurgence of Irish nationalism in 1917. Bayly’s War is a vivid account of this vigorous defence of Britain’s trade and brings to life the U-boat battles, Q-ship actions, merchant ship sinkings and rescues as well as the tireless Bayly, the commander at the centre.

ISBN: 9781526701237
Format: Hardback
Author(s): Steve R. Dunn
First Publishment Date: 22 January 2018

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  1. Highly recommended review by PCW-M on 30/07/2018

    Bayly’s War – The Battle for the Western Approaches in WW1
    Author: Steve R Dunn

    In his introduction, the author states that the book is neither a “day to day history” nor is it a biography of Vice Admiral Bayly. The book has 3 distinct parts covering the Queenstown based Command, the joint RN and USN anti-submarine operations and Bayly’s legacy. In 1915, the Admiralty was becoming increasingly concerned at losses to U-boats. Bayly was sent to Queenstown to take command of the Western Approaches. With new build sloops replacing old trawlers and yachts and by adopting Q-ships tactics, the fightback started. Although Q ship operations were successful - not until 1917 was a U-boat sunk by a regular warship - merchant ship losses continued to rise through 1916. Meanwhile Bayly had to deal with simmering Irish discontent leading to the Easter uprising in which his ships played a vital role in stopping the landing of German arms and providing gunfire support and logistics. 1917 saw a major strategic shift with Germany declaring unrestricted submarine warfare in February and America entering the war in April. The Americans rapidly appreciated the seriousness of the U-boat war and USN destroyers arrived in May to serve under Bayly’s command; they also argued successfully for escorted convoys. The mix of ocean convoys and Bayly’s aggressive patrolling of the inshore waters worked well. At the end of the war Bayly had some 8000 USN personnel under his command, literally hundreds of RN ships, seaplanes and airships – and he had to deal with a hostile local population.
    The success of the Western Approaches Command is an extraordinary record for a man who was Naval Attache in Washington before the war. He described the job as a “very unpleasant position” and he was recalled at the request of the US Secretary of State. Yet he led an operationally cohesive RN/USN Command, and the Americans “appreciated him more than his masters”. Bayly’s Command played a vital role is keeping the Atlantic sea routes open, and showed that a joint Command could prove decisive. The author is to be congratulated on his book which recounts the wartime success of a man who arguably deserves greater recognition. Highly recommended.

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