Though Great Britain’s warships ruled the waves throughout the First World War, their greatest challenge came from just underneath them. Nowhere was this better demonstrated in the Western Approaches, where, as Steve R. Dunn
details in his book Bayly’s War: The Battle for the Western Approaches in the First World War
(Naval Institute Press, 2018), the Royal Navy found themselves hard pressed even to secure the trade routes just off their western shores from the threat posed by Germany U-boats. At the start of the war, the command covering the region, the Coast of Ireland station, was something of a backwater, one not anticipated to be a major area of the war. The U-boat campaign against British trade soon changed this, as sinkings such as those of the liner Lusitania demonstrated the vulnerability of shipping in the region. In response the Admiralty nominated the dynamic Lewis Bayly to take over as commander. Setting a focused, no-nonsense tone from the start, Bayly soon moved to protect merchant shipping and hunt down U-boats by every means possible. Bayly’s greatest success, though, came with the entry of the United States into the war in 1917, as he presided over the successful integration of American naval vessels into his command, where they provided the necessary protection for the ships transporting American soldiers to the battlefields of the Western Front.