Reversing the Curse of Trafalgar
Strategic Studies in Perspective – Second Year
École d’Avion, the Aviation School, Le Bourget, Paris
12 February 1902
Reversing the Curse of Trafalgar
by Sous Lieutenant de Volée Vincent Dreymon
There can be no doubt as to who was the victor of the Battle of Trafalgar in October of 1805. Clearly, the Royal Navy was victorious over our own combined fleet. What can be questioned are the long-term ramifications of Trafalgar, and what the development of the Ganymedes may represent for the French people.
The British have lorded their victory at Trafalgar over the French, rubbing our noses in it, for nearly a century. Nelson’s victory secured the position of the Royal Navy as the dominant force on the high seas in that age. The launch of the Ganymede, however, has changed the balance of power in a new and exciting way. For the first time, a technological innovation tips the scales of strategic power.
Historically, it was necessary to control the seas in order to protect the British Isles. With the advent of the air fleet, controlling the seas only allows the dominant nation to restrict commerce or large-scale shipping. While an invasion via air is not currently possible or practical, the time will come when that too is realistic. Until then, armies still must be moved via the traditional navy; but control of the skies makes control of the seas much more challenging.
While strategies have yet to be tested, it is conceivable that this innovation of technology has made obsolete the role of the wet navy. An air fleet, if concentrated and trained properly, can bombard a conventional naval force into submission or utter defeat. In doing so, the aviators control the skies and so control the seas.
What is lacking in our own country is the courage to believe that Trafalgar is behind us, and the willingness for our military leaders to fully embrace this new technology. In whatever conflict may be coming, it is necessary for us to use our air fleet to secure a stunning victory early in the conflict. This will help to dispel the myth of Trafalgar, it will demonstrate the value of this new technology to our military leaders, and at the same time convince the people of France that British superiority is a thing of the past.
The British believe that they possess air dominance and indeed, in some areas, they may (for the time being). That time is short. In the next conflict, our aviation fleet must stun the enemy; they must not only cripple the leviathans of our enemy, but also their traditional navy. This double punch, as it were, will shatter the confidence of the whole British people. Images of their leviathans crashing to earth and their naval vessels floundering will demoralize them. Panic and fear in the civilian government will force our enemies to early capitulation.
While some of our military planners can envision our aviation fleet in a support role, it is clear that, if deployed boldly, it should and will dominate both the ground battlefield and the high seas. When our leviathans dominate the air and sea, we will break our enemies morally and mentally. We will, once and for all, put Trafalgar into the history books not as a chapter-but a mere footnote.