By Gerald Balzer
Northrop F-89 Scorpion (Aerofax Datagraph eight)
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In the metaphor so much favoured by writers ofthe early twentieth century, the legions had to be called home. It would, of course, be exaggerated to maintain that the concept of preserving sea-power was the sole reason for the changes in British policy that followed: the abandonment of 'splendid isolation', the abortive efforts to reach agreement with Germany, the altered attitude towards the United States, the alliance with Japan, the entente first with France and then with Russia, Fisher's reorganisation of the Royal Navy.
The continent was lost and with it substantial British forces. What is more, the diversion, before and during the war, of resources to these two unproductive tasks left too little to provide sufficient ships and aircraft of the right kind to ensure the defence of the British Isles and their seaborne communications. If Britain was neither invaded in 1940 nor starved in subsequent years, it was in spite of British strategy, not because of it. The Relevance of Sea-Power 39 It would be unconvincing to explore the hypothetical consequences of the adoption, in the early thirties, of a maritime strategy intended to ensure the defence of Britain, even to keep her in a state of peace, until such time as a change in the international situation offered a real prospect, which did not exist in 1939, of actually defeating Germany.
At 1975 prices, for instance, British defence expenditure was lower than it had been in 1967 in each of the following ten years. The decline in gross domestic fixed capital formation between 1967 and 1977 was even steeper. 22 lt is at least plausible that the exact opposite may be true: increased defence expenditure demands new investment, particularly in high technology, which subsequently has a commercial spin-off. But for the demands of defence, would Britain today have a significant position in the petroleum industry, in chemicals, in aerospace, in electronics?