Kaiserliche Marine
Overview
 
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy
German Navy
The German Navy is the navy of Germany and is part of the unified Bundeswehr .The German Navy traces its roots back to the Imperial Fleet of the revolutionary era of 1848 – 52 and more directly to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy...

 created at the time of the formation of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy
Prussian Navy
Throughout the centuries, Prussia’s military consistently concentrated on its land power, and never sought a similar power at sea. Yet historically there were always Prussian naval forces , beginning in the days when "Prussia" meant only the Margraviate of Brandenburg.- The Navy of Electoral...

 and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine
Norddeutsche Bundesmarine
The Norddeutsche Bundesmarine was the Navy of the North German Confederation, formed out of the Prussian Navy. It was eventually succeeded by the Kaiserliche Marine in 1871.-External links:*...

, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded the Navy, and enlarged its mission. The key leader was Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 (1849–1930), who greatly expand the size and quality of the Navy, while adopting the sea power theories of American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide...

.
Encyclopedia
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy
German Navy
The German Navy is the navy of Germany and is part of the unified Bundeswehr .The German Navy traces its roots back to the Imperial Fleet of the revolutionary era of 1848 – 52 and more directly to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy...

 created at the time of the formation of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy
Prussian Navy
Throughout the centuries, Prussia’s military consistently concentrated on its land power, and never sought a similar power at sea. Yet historically there were always Prussian naval forces , beginning in the days when "Prussia" meant only the Margraviate of Brandenburg.- The Navy of Electoral...

 and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine
Norddeutsche Bundesmarine
The Norddeutsche Bundesmarine was the Navy of the North German Confederation, formed out of the Prussian Navy. It was eventually succeeded by the Kaiserliche Marine in 1871.-External links:*...

, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded the Navy, and enlarged its mission. The key leader was Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 (1849–1930), who greatly expand the size and quality of the Navy, while adopting the sea power theories of American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide...

. The result was a naval arms race with Britain as the German navy grew to become one of the greatest maritime forces in the world, second only to the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. The German surface navy proved ineffective during World War I; its only major Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

 was indecisive. However the submarine fleet was greatly expanded and posed a major threat to the British supply system. The Imperial Navy was largely destroyed at Scapa Flow in 1919
Scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow
The scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, in Scotland, after the end of the First World War. The High Seas Fleet had been interned there under the terms of the Armistice whilst negotiations took place over the fate of the ships...

 by its own officers, after Germany's defeat.

All ships of the Imperial Navy were designated SMS, for Seiner Majestät Schiff (His Majesty's Ship).

Achievements

The Imperial Navy achieved some important operational feats. At the Battle of Coronel
Battle of Coronel
The First World War naval Battle of Coronel took place on 1 November 1914 off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel. German Kaiserliche Marine forces led by Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee met and defeated a Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher...

, it inflicted the first major defeat on the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 in over one hundred years, although the German squadron of ships was subsequently defeated at the Battle of the Falkland Islands
Battle of the Falkland Islands
The Battle of the Falkland Islands was a British naval victory over the Imperial German Navy on 8 December 1914 during the First World War in the South Atlantic...

, only one ship escaping destruction. The Navy also emerged from the fleet action of the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

 having destroyed more ships than it lost, although the strategic
Strategic victory
A strategic victory is a victory that brings long-term advantage to the victor, and disturbs the enemy's ability to wage a war. When a historian speaks of a victory in general, it is usually referring to a strategic victory....

 value of both of these encounters was minimal.

The Imperial Navy was the first to operate submarines
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 successfully on a large scale in wartime, with 375 submarines commissioned by the end of the First World War, and it also operated zeppelin
Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

s. Although it was never able to match the number of ships of the Royal Navy, it had technological advantages, such as better shells and propellant for much of the Great War, meaning that it never lost a ship to a catastrophic magazine explosion from an above-water attack, although the elderly pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought battleship is the general term for all of the types of sea-going battleships built between the mid-1890s and 1905. Pre-dreadnoughts replaced the ironclad warships of the 1870s and 1880s...

 Pommern
SMS Pommern
SMS Pommern was one of five Deutschland class of pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Kaiserliche Marine between 1904 and 1906. Named after the Prussian province of Pomerania, she was built at the AG Vulcan yard at Stettin, where she was laid down on 22 March 1904 and launched on 2 December...

 sank rapidly at Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

 after a magazine explosion caused by an underwater attack.

1871 to 1888, Kaiser Wilhelm I

The unification of Germany
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

 under Prussian leadership was the defining point for the creation of the Imperial Navy in 1871. The newly created emperor, Wilhelm I, as king of Prussia, had previously been head of state of the strongest state forming part of the new empire. The navy remained the same as that operated by the empire's predecessor organisation in the unification of Germany, the North German Federation, which itself in 1867 had inherited the navy of the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

. Article 53 of the new Empire's constitution recognised the existence of the Navy as an independent organisation, but until 1888 it was commanded by army officers and initially adopted the same regulations as the Prussian army. Supreme command was vested in the emperor, but its first appointed chief was Infantry General Albrecht von Stosch
Albrecht von Stosch
Albrecht von Stosch was a German General der Infanterie and Admiral who served as first Chief of the newly created Imperial German admiralty from 1872 to 1883....

. Kiel
Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

 on the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 and Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven
Wilhelmshaven is a coastal town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the western side of the Jade Bight, a bay of the North Sea.-History:...

 on the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 served as the Navy's principal naval bases. The former Navy Ministry became the Imperial Admiralty on 1 February 1872, while Stosch became formally an admiral in 1875. Initially the main task of the new Imperial Navy was coastal protection, with France and Russia seen as Germany's most likely future enemies. The Imperial Navy's tasks were then to prevent any invasion force from landing and to protect coastal towns from possible bombardment.

In March 1872 a German Imperial Naval Academy
German Imperial Naval Academy 1872-1918
The German Imperial Naval Academy at Kiel, Germany, was from 1872 until the end of the First World War the higher education institution of the German Imperial Navy, Kaiserliche Marine, where naval officers were prepared for problems in higher levels of command...

 was created at Kiel for training officers, followed in May by the creation of a 'Machine Engineer Corps', and in February 1873 a 'Medical Corps'. In July 1879 a separate 'Torpedo Engineer Corps' was created dealing with torpedoes and mines.

In May 1872 a ten year building programme was instituted to modernise the fleet. This called for eight armoured frigates, six armoured corvettes, twenty light corvettes, seven monitors, two floating batteries, six avisos
Aviso
An aviso , a kind of dispatch boat or advice boat, survives particularly in the French navy, they are considered equivalent to the modern sloop....

, eighteen gunboats and twenty-eight torpedo boats, at an estimated cost of 220 million Gold Marks
German gold mark
The Goldmark was the currency used in the German Empire from 1873 to 1914.-History:Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ grams of pure silver...

. The building plan had to be approved by the Reichstag
Reichstag (German Empire)
The Reichstag was the parliament of the North German Confederation , and of the German Reich ....

, which controlled the allocation of funds, although one-quarter of the money came from French war reparations.

In 1883 Stosch was replaced by another general, Count Leo von Caprivi
Leo von Caprivi
Georg Leo Graf von Caprivi de Caprera de Montecuccoli was a German major general and statesman, who succeeded Otto von Bismarck as Chancellor of Germany...

. At this point the navy had seven armoured frigates and four armoured corvettes, 400 officers and 5,000 ratings. The objectives of coastal defence remained largely unchanged, but there was a new emphasis on development of the torpedo, which offered the possibility of relatively small ships successfully attacking much larger ones. In October 1887 the first torpedo division was created at Wilhelmshaven and the second torpedo division based at Kiel. In 1887 Caprivi requested the construction of ten armoured frigates.
Greater importance was placed at this time on development of the army, which was expected to be more important in any war. However, the Kiel Canal
Kiel Canal
The Kiel Canal , known as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal until 1948, is a long canal in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.The canal links the North Sea at Brunsbüttel to the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau. An average of is saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the Jutland Peninsula....

 was commenced in June 1887, which connected the North Sea with the Baltic through the Jutland peninsula, allowing German ships to travel between the two seas avoiding waters controlled by other countries. This shortened the journey for commercial ships, but specifically united the two areas principally of concern to the German navy, at a cost of 150 million GM.

Later, the protection of German maritime trade routes became important. This soon involved the setting up of some overseas supply stations, and in the 1880s the Imperial Navy played a part in helping to secure the establishment of German colonies and protectorates
German colonial empire
The German colonial empire was an overseas domain formed in the late 19th century as part of the German Empire. Short-lived colonial efforts by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but Imperial Germany's colonial efforts began in 1884...

 in Africa, Asia and Oceania.

1888 to 1897, Kaiser Wilhelm II

In June 1888 Wilhelm II became Emperor after the death of his father Frederick III
Frederick III, German Emperor
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service...

, who ruled for only 99 days. He started his reign with the intention of doing for the navy what his grandfather Wilhelm I had done for the army. The creation of a maritime empire to rival the British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and French
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 empires became an ambition to mark Germany as a truly global great power
Great power
A great power is a nation or state that has the ability to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and cultural influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions...

. Wilhelm became Grand Admiral of the German navy, but also was bestowed honorific titles from all over Europe, becoming admiral in the British, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Greek navies. On one occasion he wore the uniform of a British admiral to receive the visiting British ambassador. At this time the Imperial Navy had 534 officers and 15,480 men.

The concept of expanding naval power, inevitably at the cost of not expanding other forces, was opposed by the three successive heads of the German armed forces, Waldersee, Schlieffen and Moltke
Helmuth von Moltke the Younger
Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke , also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. The two are often differentiated as Moltke the Elder and Moltke the Younger...

 between 1888 and 1914. It would also have been more widely opposed, had the Kaiser's intentions been widely known. Instead, he proceeded with a plan to expand the navy slowly, justifying enlargement step by step.

In July 1888 Wilhelm II appointed Vice-Admiral Alexander von Monts
Alexander von Monts
Alexander Graf von Monts was an officer in the German Imperial navy, the Kaiserliche Marine....

 as head of the admiralty. Monts oversaw the design of the Brandenburg class
Brandenburg class battleship
The four Brandenburg-class pre-dreadnought battleships were Germany's first ocean-going battleships. They were also the first German warship, of any type, to be fitted with wireless communications. The class comprised , , , and . All were laid down in 1890 and completed by 1893, except for...

 battleship, four of which were constructed by 1894 at a cost of 16 million GM each and displacement of 10,000 tons.

In 1889 Wilhelm II reorganised top level control of the navy by creating a Navy Cabinet (Marine-Kabinett)
German Imperial Naval Cabinet
The German Imperial Naval Cabinet was a government office of German Imperial Navy, 1871-1918, which was responsible for the commanding naval officers, marine officers, engineers, naval stores, and munitions....

 equivalent to the German Imperial Military Cabinet
German Imperial Military Cabinet
The Prussian Military Cabinet or the German Military Cabinet was a military institution under the direct command authority of the Prussian king and German emperor for handling personnel matters of the army officer corps....

 which had previously functioned in the same capacity for both the army and navy. The Head of the navy cabinet was responsible for promotions, appointments, administration and issuing orders to naval forces. Captain Gustav von Senden-Bibran
Gustav von Senden-Bibran
Gustav Freiherr von Senden-Bibran was an admiral of the German Imperial Navy. His father was a Silesian landowner who had served in the Austro-Hungarian Calvary. He entered the Prussian Navy at age 15, never married, and dedicated his life to building a strong German Navy...

 was appointed as its first head and remained so until 1906, when he was replaced by the long-serving Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller
Georg Alexander von Müller
Georg Alexander von Müller was an Admiral of the German Imperial Navy and close to the Kaiser in the run up to the First World War....

. The existing Imperial admiralty was abolished and its responsibilities divided between two organisations. A new position of Chief of the Imperial Naval High Command was created, being responsible for ship deployments, strategy and tactics, an equivalent to the supreme commander of the Army. Vice admiral Max von der Goltz
Max von der Goltz
Otto Ferdinand Maximilian Leopold Freiherr von der Goltz was an Admiral of the German Imperial Navy ....

 was appointed in 1889 and remained in post until 1895. Construction and maintenance of ships and obtaining supplies was the responsibility of the State Secretary of the Imperial Navy Office (Reichsmarineamt), responsible to the chancellor and advising the Reichstag on naval matters. The first appointee was Rear Admiral Karl Eduard Heusner
Karl Eduard Heusner
Karl Eduard Heusner was a Vice-Admiral of the German Imperial Navy ....

, followed shortly by Rear Admiral Friedrich von Hollmann
Friedrich von Hollmann
Friedrich von Hollmann was an Admiral of the German Imperial Navy and Secretary of the German Imperial Naval Office under Emperor Wilhelm II....

 from 1890 to 1897. Each of these three heads of department reported separately to Wilhelm II.
In 1895 funding was agreed for five battleships of the Kaiser Friedrich III class
Kaiser Friedrich III class battleship
Kaiser Friedrich III class battleships were a class of pre–World War I, pre-dreadnought battleships of the German Kaiserliche Marine. The class was made up of five ships, all of which were named for German emperors...

, completed by 1902. The ships were innovative for their time, introducing a complex system of watertight compartments and storing coal along the sides of the ship to help absorb explosions. However, the ships went against the trend for increasingly larger main guns, having smaller diameter guns than the Brandenburg design, but with a quick-loading design and more powerful secondary armaments. Costs rose to 21 million GM each, as had size to 11,500 tons.

In 1892 Germany had launched the protected cruiser Kaiserin Augusta
SMS Kaiserin Augusta
SMS Kaiserin Augusta was a unique protected cruiser, built for the German Kaiserliche Marine in the early 1890s. She was laid down in 1890, launched in January 1892, and completed in November of that year. Owing to budgetary restrictions, Kaiserin Augusta was designed to fill both fleet scout and...

, the first navy ship to have triple propellers. She was succeeded by five Victoria Louise class
Victoria Louise class protected cruiser
The Victoria Louise class of protected cruisers was Germany's last class of ships of that type. They were designed for overseas cruiser duties. The class design introduced the clipper bow and blocky sides that typified later German armored cruisers....

 protected cruiser
Protected cruiser
The protected cruiser is a type of naval cruiser of the late 19th century, so known because its armoured deck offered protection for vital machine spaces from shrapnel caused by exploding shells above...

s, the last 'protected', as distinct from 'armoured' cruiser class constructed by Germany. The ships, completed between 1898 and 1900, had deck armour but not side armour and were intended for overseas duties. Shortages of funding meant it was not possible to create several designs of cruisers specialised for long range work, or more heavily armoured for fleet work. Work commenced on an armoured cruiser design, Fürst Bismarck
SMS Fürst Bismarck (1896)
SMS Fürst Bismarck"SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship" in German. was Germany's first armored cruiser, built for the Kaiserliche Marine before the turn of the 20th century. She was named for the German statesman Otto von Bismarck...

 started in 1896 and commissioned in 1900.

1897–1906 Tirpitz and the Navy Bills

On 18 June 1897 Rear-Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 was appointed State Secretary of the Navy, where he remained for nineteen years. Tirpitz advocated the cause of an expanded navy necessary for Germany to defend her territories abroad. He had great success in persuading parliament to pass successive Navy bills
Fleet Acts
The Naval Laws were five separate laws passed by the German Empire, in 1898, 1900, 1906, 1908, and 1912. These acts, championed by Kaiser Wilhelm II and his Secretary of State for the Navy, Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, committed Germany to building up a navy capable of competing with the Royal...

 authorising expansions of the fleet. German foreign policy as espoused by Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 had been to deflect the interest of great powers abroad while Germany consolidated her integration and military strength. Now Germany was to compete with the rest. Tirpitz started with a publicity campaign aimed at popularising the navy. He created popular magazines about the navy, arranged for Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan
Alfred Thayer Mahan was a United States Navy flag officer, geostrategist, and historian, who has been called "the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century." His concept of "sea power" was based on the idea that countries with greater naval power will have greater worldwide...

's The Influence of Sea Power upon History, which argued the importance of naval forces, to be translated into German and serialised in newspapers, arranged rallies in support and invited politicians and industrialists to naval reviews. Various pressure groups were formed to lobby politicians and spread publicity. One such organisation, the navy league
Navy League (Germany)
The Navy League or Fleet Association in Imperial Germany was an interest group formed on April 30 1898 on initiative of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz through the German Imperial Naval Office which he headed to support the expansion of the Imperial Navy ...

 or Flottenverein, was organized by principals in the steel industry (Alfred Krupp), ship yards and banks, gaining more than one million members. Political parties were offered concessions, such as taxes on imported grain, in exchange for their support for naval bills.

On 10 April 1898 the first Navy Bill was passed by the Reichstag. It authorised the maintenance of a fleet of 19 battleships, 8 armoured cruisers, 12 large cruisers and 30 light cruisers to be constructed by 1 April 1904. Existing ships were counted in the total, but the bill provided for ships to be replaced every 25 years on an indefinite basis. Five million GM annually was allocated to run the navy, with a total budget of 408 million GM for shipbuilding. This would bring the German fleet to a strength where it could contemplate challenging France or Russia, but would remain clearly inferior to the world's largest fleet, the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

.

Following the Boxer rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China and the Boer War
Boer War
The Boer Wars were two wars fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics, the Oranje Vrijstaat and the Republiek van Transvaal ....

, a second navy bill was passed on 14 June 1900. This approximately doubled the allocated number of ships to 38 battleships, 20 armoured cruisers, 38 light cruisers. Significantly, the bill set no overall cost limit for the building program. Expenditure for the navy was too great to be met from taxation: the Reichstag had limited powers to extend taxation without entering into negotiations with the constituent German states, and this was considered politically unviable. Instead, the bill was financed by massive loans. Tirpitz, in 1899 was already exploring the possibilities for extending the battleship total to 45, a target which rose to 48 by 1909.
Tirpitz’s ultimate goal was a fleet superior to that of Britain. As British public opinion was turned against Germany, "[Admiral Sir John] Fisher, twice – in 1904 and 1908 – proposed using Britain’s current naval superiority to 'Copenhagen' the German fleet, that is, to launch preemptive strikes against the Kiel and Wilhelmshaven naval bases as the Royal Navy had done against the Danish navy in 1801 and 1807." Tirpitz argued that if the fleet could achieve two-thirds the number of capital ships possessed by Britain then it stood a chance of winning in a conflict. Britain had to maintain a fleet throughout the world and consider other naval powers, whereas the German fleet could be concentrated in German waters. Attempts were made to play down the perceived threat to Britain, but once the German fleet reached the position of equalling the other second-rank navies, it became impossible to avoid mention of the one great fleet it was intended to challenge. Tirpitz hoped that other second-rank powers might ally with Germany, attracted by its navy. The policy of commencing what amounted to a naval arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 did not properly consider how Britain might respond. British policy, stated in the Naval Defence Act of 1889, was to maintain a navy superior to Britain's two largest rivals combined. The British Admiralty estimated that the German navy would be the world's second largest by 1906.

Major reforms of the British fleet were undertaken, particularly by Admiral Jackie Fisher as First Sea Lord
First Sea Lord
The First Sea Lord is the professional head of the Royal Navy and the whole Naval Service; it was formerly known as First Naval Lord. He also holds the title of Chief of Naval Staff, and is known by the abbreviations 1SL/CNS...

 from 1904 to 1909. 154 older ships, including 17 battleships, were scrapped to make way for newer vessels. Reforms in training and gunnery were introduced to make good perceived deficiencies, which in part Tirpitz had counted upon to provide his ships with a margin of superiority. More capital ships were stationed in British home waters. A treaty with Japan
Anglo-Japanese Alliance
The first was signed in London at what is now the Lansdowne Club, on January 30, 1902, by Lord Lansdowne and Hayashi Tadasu . A diplomatic milestone for its ending of Britain's splendid isolation, the alliance was renewed and extended in scope twice, in 1905 and 1911, before its demise in 1921...

 in 1902 meant that ships could be withdrawn from East Asia, while the Entente
Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent...

with France in 1904 meant that Britain could concentrate on guarding Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 waters, including the French coast, while France would protect British interests in the Mediterranean. In 1906 it was considered that Britain's only likely naval enemy was Germany.

Five battleships of the Wittelsbach class
Wittelsbach class battleship
The Wittelsbach-class battleships were a group of five pre-dreadnought battleships of the German Kaiserliche Marine . They were the first battleships produced under the Navy Law of 1898. The class was composed of the lead ship, , , , and . All five ships were laid down between 1899 and 1900, and...

, were constructed from 1899 to 1904 at a cost of 22 million GM per ship. Five ships of the Braunschweig class
Braunschweig class battleship
The Braunschweig class battleships were pre-dreadnought battleships of the Kaiserliche Marine . The class comprised five ships: , , , , and...

 were built between 1901 and 1906 for the slightly greater 24 million GM each. Technological improvements meant that rapid fire guns could be made larger, so the Braunschweig class had a main armament of 28 cm guns. Due to torpedo improvements in range and accuracy, emphasis was placed on a secondary armament of smaller guns to defend against them. The five Deutschland class
Deutschland class battleship
The Deutschland class was a group of five pre-dreadnought battleships built for the German Kaiserliche Marine. The class comprised , , , , and . Built between 1903 and 1908, the ships closely resembled those of the preceding , though they had stronger armor protection...

 battleships constructed between 1903 and 1908 had similar armament as the Braunschweig class, but heavier armour, for the slightly greater sum of 24.5 million GM each.

Development of armoured cruisers also continued. Fürst Bismarcks design was improved upon in the subsequent Prinz Heinrich
SMS Prinz Heinrich
SMS Prinz Heinrich was a unique German armored cruiser built at the turn of the 20th century for the Imperial German Navy, named after Kaiser Wilhelm II's younger brother Prince Henry. Prinz Heinrich was built at the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel. She was laid down in 1898 and completed in March 1902,...

, completed in 1902. Two ships of the Prinz Adalbert class armored cruiser
Prinz Adalbert class armored cruiser
The Prinz Adalbert class was a type of armored cruiser built for the Imperial German Navy in the early 1900s. Two ships of the class were built, , and . Friedrich Carl was commissioned first, on 12 December 1903 and Prinz Adalbert followed on 12 January 1904. They were an improvement upon the...

 were commissioned in 1904, followed by two similar Roon class armored cruiser
Roon class armored cruiser
The Roon class was a pair of armored cruisers built for the German Imperial Navy after the turn of the 20th century. The class comprised and , which closely resembled the earlier Prinz Adalbert class ships, but incorporated slight incremental improvements. The ships were easily distinguished from...

 commissioned in 1905 and 1906, at costs around 17 million GM each. Scharnhorst
SMS Scharnhorst
SMS Scharnhorst was an armored cruiser of the Imperial German Navy, built at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. She was the lead ship of her class, which also included her sister . Scharnhorst and her sister were enlarged versions of the preceding ; they were equipped with a greater...

 and Gneisenau
SMS Gneisenau
SMS Gneisenau was an armored cruiser of the German navy, part of the two-ship . She was named after August von Gneisenau, a Prussian general of the Napoleonic Wars. The ship was laid down in 1904 at the AG Weser dockyard in Bremen, launched in June 1906, and completed in March 1908, at a cost of...

 followed, between 1904 and 1908, and cost an estimated for 20.3 million GM. Main armament was eight 21 cm guns, but with six 15 cm and eighteen 9 cm guns for smaller targets. Eight Bremen class light cruisers were constructed between 1902 and 1907, developed from the earlier Gazelle class. The ships had ten 10.5 cm guns and were named after German towns. SMS Lübeck was the first German cruiser to be fitted with turbine engines, which were also trialled in torpedo boat S-125. Turbines were faster, quieter, lighter, more reliable and more fuel efficient at high speeds. The first British experimental design (the destroyer HMS Velox) had been constructed in 1901 and as a result Tirpitz had set up a special commission to develop turbines. No reliable German design was available by 1903, so British Parsons turbines were purchased.

Command reorganisation

In 1899, the Imperial Naval High Command was replaced by the German Imperial Admiralty Staff
German Imperial Admiralty Staff
The German Imperial Admiralty Staff was a military institution established in 1899 under the direct authority and command of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II for managing the German Imperial Navy...

 (Admiralstab) responsible for planning, the training of officers, and naval intelligence. In time of war it was to assume overall command, but in peace acted only advisorily. Direct control of various elements of the fleet was subordinated to officers commanding those elements, accountable to the Kaiser.

The reorganisations suited the Kaiser who wanted to maintain direct control of his ships. A disadvantage was that it split apart the integrated military command structure which before had balanced the importance of the navy within overall defence considerations. It suited Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

, because it removed the influence of the admiralty staff from naval planning, but left him the possibility, in wartime, to reorganise command around himself. Wilhelm II, however, never agreed to relinquish direct control of his fleet.

1906–1908, The Dreadnought and innovation: First Novelle

On 3 December 1906 the Royal Navy received a new battleship, HMS Dreadnought
HMS Dreadnought (1906)
HMS Dreadnought was a battleship of the British Royal Navy that revolutionised naval power. Her entry into service in 1906 represented such a marked advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the "dreadnoughts", as well as the class of...

. She became famous as the first of a new concept in battleship design, using all big gun, single calibre armament. She used turbine propulsion for greater speed and less space required by the machinery, and guns arranged so that three times as many could be brought to bear when firing ahead, and twice as many when firing broadside. The design was not a uniquely British concept as similar ships were being built around the world, nor was it uniquely intended as a counter to German naval expansion, but the effect was to immediately require Germany to reconsider its naval building program. The battleship design was complemented by the introduction of a variant with lighter armour and greater speed, which became the battlecruiser.

The revolution in design, together with improvements in personnel and training severely brought into question the German assumption that a fleet of two-thirds the size of the Royal Navy would at least stand a chance in an engagement. By 1906 Germany was already spending 60% of revenue upon the army. Either an enormous sum now had to be found to develop the navy further, or naval expansion had to be abandoned. The decision to continue was taken by Tirpitz in September 1905 and agreed by Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow
Bernhard von Bülow
Bernhard Heinrich Karl Martin von Bülow , named in 1905 Prince von Bülow, was a German statesman who served as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for three years and then as Chancellor of the German Empire from 1900 to 1909.Bülow was described as possessing every quality except greatness...

 and the Kaiser, while Dreadnought was still at the planning stage. The larger ships would naturally be more expensive, but also would require enlargement of harbours, locks and the Kiel canal, all of which would be enormously expensive. Estimated cost for new dreadnoughts was placed at 36.5 million GM for 19,000 ton displacement ships (larger than Dreadnought at 17,900 tons), and 27.5 million GM for battlecruisers. 60 million GM was allocated for dredging the canal. The Reichstag was persuaded to agree to the program and passed a Novelle amending the navy bills and allocating 940 million GM for a dreadnought program and the necessary infrastructure. Two dreadnoughts and one battlecruiser were to be built each year.

Construction of four Nassau class
Nassau class battleship
The Nassau class were a group of four German dreadnought battleships built for the Imperial Navy. They were the German response to the introduction of the "all big gun" British . The class was composed of , , , and . All four ships were laid down in mid-1907, and completed between May and September...

 battleships began in 1907 with the greatest possible secrecy. Chief German naval designer was Hans Bürkner. A principle was introduced that the thickness of side armour on a ship would equal the calibre of the large guns, while ships were increasingly divided internally into watertight compartments to make them more resistant to flooding when damaged. The design was hampered by the necessity to use reciprocating engines instead of the smaller turbines, since no sufficiently powerful design was available and acceptable to the German navy. Turrets could not be placed above the centre of the ship and instead had to be placed at the side, meaning two of the six turrets would always be on the wrong side of the ship when firing broadsides. Main armament was twelve 28 cm guns. The ships were all completed by 1910, over budget, averaging 37.4 million GM each. In 1910 they were transferred from Kiel to Wilhelmshaven, where two new large docks had been completed and more were under construction.

The first German battlecruiser——was commenced March 1908. Two Parsons turbines were used, improving speed to 27 knots and reducing weight. Four twin turrets mounted 28 cm guns; although the two centre turrets were still placed one either side of the ship, they were offset so could now fire either side. The design was considered a success, but the cost at 35.5 million GM was significantly above the 1906 allocation. Light cruiser development continued with the Dresden class
Dresden class light cruiser
The Dresden class of light cruisers was a class of two ships built for the German Imperial Navy in the early part of the 20th century. The class was composed of Dresden and Emden. Dresden and Emden both participated in well known battles during World War I...

 light cruisers, which were to become famous for their actions in the start of World War I in the pacific. The ships were 3,300 tons, and armed with ten 10.5 cm rapid fire guns and a speed around 24 knots. Dresden cost 7.5 million GM, and Emden 6 million GM. Four Kolberg class cruiser were produced between 1907 and 1911 at 4,400 tons and around 8 million GM each. These had turbines, twelve 10.5 cm guns as main armament, but were also equipped to carry and lay 100 mines. From 1907 onward, all torpedo boats were constructed using turbine engines.

Despite their ultimate importance, the German navy declined to take up the cause of another experiment, the submarine, until 1904. The first submarine, U-1 was delivered in December 1906, built by Krupp's Germania yard in Kiel. The first submarine had 238 ton displacement on the surface and 283 tons submerged. The paraffin engine developed 10 knots on the surface with a range of 1500 sm. Submerged, the ship could manage 50sm at 5 knots using battery electric propulsion. The ships followed a design by Laubeuf first used successfully in 1897, having a double hull and flotation tanks around the outside of the main crew compartments. The submarine had just one torpedo tube at the front and a total of three torpedoes. The early engines were noisy and smokey, so that a considerable boost to the usefulness of the submarine came with the introduction of quieter and cleaner diesel engines in 1910, which were much more difficult for an enemy to detect.

1908–1912, Second Novelle

German expenditure on ships was steadily rising. In 1907, 290 million GM was spent on the fleet, rising to 347 million GM or 24% of the national budget in 1908, with a predicted budget deficit of 500 million GM. By the outbreak of World War I, one billion GM had been added to Germany's national debt because of naval expenditures. While each German ship was more expensive than the last, the British managed to reduce the cost of the succeeding generations of Bellerophon
Bellerophon class battleship
The Bellerophon class was a class of three dreadnought battleships that were built in the United Kingdom prior to World War I, and served in the Royal Navy during the war. The Bellerophons were near carbon copies of the previous , with the exception of a second tripod mast...

 and St.Vincent
St. Vincent class battleship
The St. Vincent class battleships consisted of three ships of the Royal Navy laid down in 1908, and completed between May 1909 and April 1910. They were St. Vincent, Collingwood, and Vanguard. Vanguard was destroyed in an ammunition explosion, probably due to bagged cordite.Visually, they were very...

 class battleships. Successive British battlecruisers were more expensive, but less so than their German equivalents. Overall, German ships were some 30% more expensive than the British. This all contributed to growing opposition in the Reichstag to any further expansion, particularly when it was clear that Britain intended to match and exceed any German expansion program. In the fleet itself, complaints were beginning to be made in 1908 about underfunding and shortages of crews for the new ships. The State Secretary of the Treasury, Hermann von Stengel
Hermann von Stengel
Hermann Guido Leopold Freiherr von Stengel was a Bavarian administrator, a German politician and Finance Minister of the empire....

, resigned because he could see no way to resolve the budget deficit.

The elections of 1907 had returned a Reichstag more favourable to military exploits, following the refusal of the previous parliament to grant funds to suppress uprisings in colonies in South West Africa. Despite the difficulties, Tirpitz persuaded the Reichstag to pass a further Novelle in March 1908. This reduced the service life for ships from 25 years to 20 years, allowing for faster modernisation, and increased the building rate to four capital ships per year. Tirpitz' target was a fleet of 16 battleships and 5 battlecruisers by 1914, and 38 battleships and 20 battlecruisers by 1920. There were also to be 38 light cruisers, and 144 torpedo boats. The bill contained a restriction, that building would fall to two ships per year in 1912, but Tirpitz was confident of changing this at a later date. He anticipated that German industry, now heavily involved in shipbuilding, would back a campaign to maintain a higher construction rate.

Four battleships of the Helgoland class
Helgoland class battleship
The Helgoland class was the second class of German dreadnought battleships. Constructed from 1908 to 1912, the class comprised four ships: , the lead ship; ; ; and . The design was a significant improvement over the previous ships; they had a larger main battery— main guns instead of the weapons...

 were laid down in 1909–1910, with displacements of 22,800 tons, twelve 30.5 cm guns in 6 turrets, reciprocating engines generating a maximum speed of 21 knots, and a price tag of 46 million GM. Again, the turret configuration was dictated by the need to use the centre of the ship for machinery, despite the disadvantage of the turret layout. The ships were now equipped with 50 cm torpedoes.

The Kaiser class battleships built between 1909 and 1913 introduced a change in design as turbine engines were finally approved. The ships had ten 30.5 cm guns, losing two of the center side turrets but gaining an additional turret astern on the centre line. As with the Von der Tann design, which was drawn up at a similar time, all guns could be fired either side in broadsides, meaning more guns could come to bear than with the Helgoland design, despite having fewer in total. Five ships were constructed rather than the usual four, one to act as a fleet flagship. One ship, the Prinzregent Luitpold
SMS Prinzregent Luitpold
SMS Prinzregent Luitpold "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" was the fifth and final vessel of the of battleships of the German Imperial Navy. Prinzregent Luitpolds keel was laid in October 1910 at the Germaniawerft dockyard in Kiel...

, was equipped with only two turbines rather than three, with the intention of having an additional diesel engine for cruising, but the Howaldt engine could not be developed in time. Luitpold had a top speed of 20 knots as a result, compared to 22 knots for the other ships. The ships were larger than the preceding class at 24,700 tons, but cheaper at 45 million GM. They formed part of the third squadron of the High Seas Fleet as it was constituted for World War I.

Between 1908 and 1912 two Moltke class
Moltke class battlecruiser
The Moltke class was a class of two "all-big-gun" battlecruisersThe German navy classified the ships as Großen Kreuzer . These ships differed from older Großen Kreuzer, such as the Roon class, in that they carried a uniform main battery, instead of four large guns and a mixed array of smaller weapons...

 battlecruisers were constructed, adding an extra turret on the centre line astern, raised above the aft turret, but still using 28 cm guns. became part of the High Seas Fleet, but became part of the Mediterranean squadron and spent World War I as part of the Turkish navy. The ships cost 42.6 and 41.6 million GM, with maximum speed of 28 knots. was constructed as a slightly enlarged version of the Moltke design, reaching a maximum speed of 29 knots. All cruisers were equipped with turbine engines from 1908 onwards. Between 1910 and 1912 four Magdeburg class
Magdeburg class light cruiser
The Magdeburg class of light cruisers was a group of four ships built for the German Imperial Navy before World War I. The ships were all laid down in 1910, and completed by the end of 1912...

 light cruisers were constructed of 4,600 tons, at around 7.4 million GM each. The ships were fitted with oil burners to improve the effectiveness of their main coal fueling. These were followed by the similar but slightly enlarged and marginally faster Karlsruhe
Karlsruhe class light cruiser
The Karlsruhe class of light cruisers was a pair of two ships built for the German Imperial Navy before the start of World War I. The ships— and —were very similar to the previous s, mounting the same armament and similar armor protection, though they were larger and faster than the...

 and Graudenz
Graudenz class light cruiser
The Graudenz class of light cruisers was a class of two ships built for the German Imperial Navy. The ships were laid down in 1912, and completed within the first few months of World War I.-Dimensions and machinery:...

 classes.

In 1907 a naval artillery school was established at Sonderburg
Sønderborg
Sønderborg Municipality , is a municipality in Region of Southern Denmark partially on the Jutland peninsula and partially on the island of Als in south Denmark, at the border with Germany. The municipality covers an area of , and has a total population of 76,236...

 (north of Kiel). This aimed to address the difficulties with the new generation of guns, which with potentially greater range required aiming devices capable of directing them at targets at those extreme ranges. By 1914, experiments were being conducted with guns in increasing sizes up to 51 cm. Capital ships were fitted with spotting tops high up on masts with range finding equipment, while ship design was altered to place turrets on the centre line of the ship for improved accuracy.

The four König class
König class battleship
The König class was a group of four battleships built for the German Kaiserliche Marine on the eve of World War I. The class was composed of , , , and . The most powerful warships of the German High Seas Fleet at the outbreak of war in 1914, the class operated as a unit throughout World War...

 battleships were commenced between October 1911 and May 1912 and entered service in 1914 at a cost of 45 million GM, forming the other part of the Third Squadron of the High Seas Fleet. They were 28,500 tons, with a maximum speed of twenty one knots from three triple stage Brown-Boverie-Parsons turbines. Main armament was five double turrets housing twin 30.5 cm guns, arranged with two turrets fore and aft and one in the centre of the ship. The second turret either end was raised higher than the outer so that it could fire over the top (superfiring). As with Prinzregent Luitpold, the ships were originally intended to have one diesel engine for cruising, but these were never developed and turbines were fitted instead. The ships were equipped with torpedo nets, trailed along the hull intended to stop torpedoes, but these reduced maximum speed to an impractical 8 knots and were later removed.

Construction began in 1910 of the first submarine powered by twin diesel engines. U-19 was twice the size of the first German submarine, had five times the range at 7,600 sm cruising at 8 knots, or 15 knots maximum. There were now two bow and two stern torpedo tubes, with six torpedoes carried. The ships were designed to operate at a depth of 50m, though could go to 80m.

1912–1914, Third Novelle

Spending on the navy increased inexorably year by year. In 1909 Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow and Treasury Secretary Reinhold von Sydow attempted to pass a new budget boosting taxes in an attempt to reduce the deficit. The Social Democratic parties refused to accept the increased taxes on goods, while the conservatives opposed increases in inheritance taxes. Bülow and Sydow resigned in defeat and Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg was a German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor of the German Empire from 1909 to 1917.-Origins:...

 became Chancellor. His attempted solution was to initiate negotiations with Britain for an agreed slow down in naval building. Negotiations came to nothing when in 1911 the Agadir Crisis
Agadir Crisis
The Agadir Crisis, also called the Second Moroccan Crisis, or the Panthersprung, was the international tension sparked by the deployment of the German gunboat Panther, to the Moroccan port of Agadir on July 1, 1911.-Background:...

 brought France and Germany into conflict. Germany attempted to 'persuade' France to cede territory in the Middle Congo in return for giving France a free hand in Morocco. The effect was to raise concerns in Britain over Germany's expansionist aims, and encouraged Britain to form a closer relationship with France, including naval cooperation. Tirpitz saw this once again as an opportunity to press for naval expansion and the continuation of the four capital ships per year building rate into 1912. The January 1912 elections brought a Reichstag where the Social Democrats, opposed to military expansion, became the largest party.

The German army, mindful of the steadily increasing proportion of spending going to the navy, demanded an increase of 136,000 men to bring its size closer to that of France. In February 1912 the British war minister, Viscount Haldane, came to Berlin to discuss possible limits to naval expansion. Meanwhile in Britain, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill made a speech describing the German navy as a 'luxury', which was considered an insult when reported in Germany. The talks came to nothing, ending in recriminations over who had offered what. Bethmann-Hollweg argued for a guaranteed proportion of expenditure for the army, but failed when army officers refused to support him publicly. Tirpitz argued for six new capital ships, and got three, together with 15,000 additional sailors in a new combined military budget passed in April 1912. The new ships, together with the existing reserve flagship and four reserve battleships were to become one new squadron for the High Seas Fleet. In all the fleet would have five squadrons of eight battleships, twelve large cruisers and thirty small, plus additional cruisers for overseas duties. Tirpitz intended that with the rolling program of replacements, the existing coastal defence squadron of old ships would become a sixth fleet squadron, while the eight existing battlecruisers would be joined by eight more as replacements for the large cruisers presently in the overseas squadrons. The plan envisaged a main fleet of 100,000 men, 49 battleships and 28 battlecruisers by 1920. The Kaiser commented of the British, "... we have them up against the wall."

Although Tirpitz had succeeded in getting more ships, the proportion of military expenditure on the navy declined in 1912 and thereafter, from 35% in 1911 to 33% in 1912 and 25% in 1913. This reflected a change in attitude amongst military planners that a land war in Europe was increasingly likely, and a turning away from Tirpitz's scheme for worldwide expansion using the navy. In 1912 General von Moltke commented, "I consider war to be unavoidable, and the sooner the better." The Kaiser's younger brother, Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia
Prince Heinrich of Prussia
Prince Henry of Prussia was a younger brother of German Emperor William II and a Prince of Prussia...

, considered that the cost of the navy was now too great. In Britain, Churchill announced an intention to build two capital ships for every one constructed by Germany, and reorganised the fleet to move battleships from the Mediterranean to channel waters. A policy was introduced of promoting British naval officers by merit and ability rather than time served, which saw rapid promotions for Jellicoe
John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

 and Beatty
David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty
Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO was an admiral in the Royal Navy...

, both of whom had important roles in the forthcoming World War I. By 1913 the French and British had plans in place for joint naval action against Germany, and France moved its Atlantic fleet from Brest to Toulon, replacing British ships.

Britain also escalated the arms race by expanding the capabilities of its new battleships. The 1912 Queen Elizabeth class
Queen Elizabeth class battleship
The Queen Elizabeth-class battleships were a class of five super-dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy. The lead ship was named after Elizabeth I of England...

 of 32,000 tons would have 15 inch guns and be completely oil fueled, allowing a speed of 25 knots. For 1912–13 Germany concentrated on battlecruisers, with three Derfflinger class
Derfflinger class battlecruiser
The Derfflinger class was a class of three battlecruisers of the German Imperial Navy. The ships were ordered for the 1912 to 1913 Naval Building Program of the German Imperial Navy as a reply to the Royal Navy's three new s that had been launched a few years earlier...

 ships of 27,000 tons and 26–27 knots maximum speed, costing 56–59 million GM each. These had four turrets mounting two 30.5 cm guns arranged in two turrets either end, with the inner turret able to fire over the outer. Derflinger was the first German ship to have anti-aircraft guns fitted.

In 1913, Germany responded to the British challenge laying down two Bayern class
Bayern class battleship
The Bayern class was a class of four super-dreadnought battleships built by the German Kaiserliche Marine . The class comprised , , Sachsen, and Württemberg. Construction started on the ships shortly before World War I; Baden was laid down in 1913, Bayern and Sachsen followed in 1914, and...

 battleships. These did not enter service until after the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

, so failed to take part in any major naval action of the war. They had displacement of 28,600 tons, a crew of 1100 and a speed of 22 knots, costing 50 million GM. Guns were arranged in the same pattern as the preceding battlecruisers, but were now increased to 38 cm diameter. The ships had four 8.8 cm anti-aircraft and also sixteen 15 cm lighter guns, but was coal fueled. It was considered that coal bunkers at the sides of the ship added to protection against penetrating shells, but Germany also did not have a reliable supply of fuel oil. Two more ships of the class were later laid down, but never completed.

Three light cruisers commenced construction in German yards in 1912–1913 ordered by the Russian Navy, costing around 9 million GM. The ships were seized at the outbreak of World War I becoming SMS Regensburg
SMS Regensburg
SMS Regensburg"SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship" in German. was a light cruiser built for the German Imperial Navy by AG Weser in Bremen shortly before World War I. She was laid down in 1912, launched on 25 April 1914, and completed by 3 January 1915. Regensburg...

, SMS Pillau
SMS Pillau
SMS Pillau was a German light cruiser in World War I. She and her sistership SMS Elbing were originally ordered from German shipyards by the Russian Navy, but were confiscated at the outbreak of war and taken over by the German Navy...

 and SMS Elbing
SMS Elbing
The SMS Elbing was a German Pillau class light cruiser, named after the East Prussian city of Elbing. Intended for the Russian navy under the name Admiral Newelski , the ship was built at F. Schichau-Werft in Danzig in 1913-1914...

. Two larger cruisers, SMS Wiesbaden
SMS Wiesbaden
SMS Wiesbaden was the lead ship of the Wiesbaden-class of light cruisers of the German Imperial Navy in World War I, the other being the Frankfurt-Specifications:...

 and SMS Frankfurt
SMS Frankfurt
SMS Frankfurt was a Wiesbaden class light cruiser of the German Imperial Navy. Construction of the ship started before World War I, but she was not completed until after hostilities began. She was laid down at the Kiel Navy dockyard in January 1913 and launched in 1915.-Dimensions and...

 were also commenced and entered service in 1915. More torpedo boats were constructed, with gradually increasing sizes having reached 800 tons for the V-25 to V-30 craft constructed by Vulcan in Kiel before 1914. In 1912 Germany created a Mediterranean squadron consisting of the battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau.

Air Power

Naval trials of balloons began in 1891, but the results were unsatisfactory and none were purchased by the navy. In 1895 Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin
Ferdinand von Zeppelin
Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin was a German general and later aircraft manufacturer. He founded the Zeppelin Airship company...

 attempted to interest both the army and navy in his new dirigibles, but without success. The dirigibles were considered too slow and there were concerns with their reliability operating over water. In 1909 the navy rejected proposals for aircraft to be launched from ships, and again in 1910 declined Zeppelin's dirigibles. Finally in 1911, trials with aircraft began and in 1912 Tirpitz agreed to purchase the first dirigible for naval reconnaissance at a cost of 850,000 GM.

The machine had insufficient range (1440 km) to operate over Britain, but had machine guns for use against aircraft and experimental 80 kg bombs. The following year ten more were purchased and a new naval air division was created at Johannisthal, near Berlin. However, in September 1913 L1 was destroyed in a storm, while the following month L2 was lost in a gas explosion. Orders for the undelivered machines were cancelled, leaving the navy with one machine, the L3.

In 1910 Prince Heinrich had learnt to fly and supported the cause of naval aviation. In 1911 experiments took place with Albatros seaplanes and in 1912 Tirpitz authorized 200,000 GM for seaplane trials. The Curtiss seaplane was adopted. By 1913 there were four planes, now including a British Sopwith and long term plans to create six naval air stations by 1918. By 1914 there were twelve seaplanes and one land plane and an 8.5 million GM budget. Trials in 1914 using sea planes operating with the fleet were less than impressive, when out of four taking part one crashed, one was unable to take off and only one succeeded in all tasks. The most successful plane had been the British design, and indeed experiments in Britain had been proceeding with the support of Winston Churchill, including converting initially ferries and liners into aircraft tenders and aircraft carriers.

World War I

By the start of the First World War, the German Imperial Navy possessed 22 pre-Dreadnoughts, 19 dreadnought battleships and 7 battlecruisers.

Admiral von Tirpitz became the commander of the Navy. The main fighting forces of the navy were to become the High Seas Fleet
High Seas Fleet
The High Seas Fleet was the battle fleet of the German Empire and saw action during World War I. The formation was created in February 1907, when the Home Fleet was renamed as the High Seas Fleet. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz was the architect of the fleet; he envisioned a force powerful enough to...

, and the U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 fleet. Smaller fleets were deployed to the German overseas protectorates, the most prominent being assigned to the East Asia Station
German East Asia Squadron
The German East Asia Squadron was a German Navy cruiser squadron which operated mainly in the Pacific Ocean between the 1870s and 1914...

 at Tsingtao.

The German Navy's U-boats were also instrumental in the sinking of the civilian passenger liner the Lusitania
Lusitania
Lusitania or Hispania Lusitania was an ancient Roman province including approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro river and part of modern Spain . It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people...

 on the 7th May 1915, which was one of the main events that led to the USA joining the war 2 years later in 1917.

Engagements

Notable battles fought by the Navy were:
  • Battle of Heligoland Bight (Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass
    Leberecht Maass
    Leberecht Maass was the rear admiral who commanded the German naval forces at the first Battle of Heligoland Bight...

    )
  • Battle of Coronel
    Battle of Coronel
    The First World War naval Battle of Coronel took place on 1 November 1914 off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel. German Kaiserliche Marine forces led by Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee met and defeated a Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher...

     (Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee
    Maximilian von Spee
    Vice Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee was a German admiral. Although he was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the counts von Spee belonged to the prominent families of the Rhenish nobility. He joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1878. In 1887–88 he commanded the Kamerun ports, in German West...

    )
  • Battle of the Falkland Islands
    Battle of the Falkland Islands
    The Battle of the Falkland Islands was a British naval victory over the Imperial German Navy on 8 December 1914 during the First World War in the South Atlantic...

     (Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee
    Maximilian von Spee
    Vice Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee was a German admiral. Although he was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the counts von Spee belonged to the prominent families of the Rhenish nobility. He joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1878. In 1887–88 he commanded the Kamerun ports, in German West...

    )
  • Battle of Dogger Bank
    Battle of Dogger Bank (1915)
    The Battle of Dogger Bank was a naval battle fought near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea on 24 January 1915, during the First World War, between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet....

     (Vice Admiral Franz Hipper
    Franz von Hipper
    Franz Ritter von Hipper was an admiral in the German Imperial Navy . Franz von Hipper joined the German Navy in 1881 as an officer cadet. He commanded several torpedo boat units and served as watch officer aboard several warships, as well as Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht Hohenzollern...

    )
  • Battle of the Gulf of Riga
    Battle of the Gulf of Riga
    The Battle of the Gulf of Riga was a World War I naval operation of the German High Seas Fleet against the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea in August 1915...

     (Vice Admiral Erhard Schmidt
    Erhard Schmidt (admiral)
    Erhard Schmidt was a German Admiral of the Kaiserliche Marine .-Career:At age 15 he entered the navy and saw service at several branches at sea and on land. Among them were posts on missions, as a commanding officer and in cadet training...

    )
  • Battle of Jutland
    Battle of Jutland
    The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

     (Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer
    Reinhard Scheer
    Reinhard Scheer was an Admiral in the German Kaiserliche Marine. Scheer joined the navy in 1879 as an officer cadet; he progressed through the ranks, commanding cruisers and battleships, as well as major staff positions on land. At the outbreak of World War I, Scheer was the commander of the II...

    ; Vice Admiral Franz Hipper
    Franz von Hipper
    Franz Ritter von Hipper was an admiral in the German Imperial Navy . Franz von Hipper joined the German Navy in 1881 as an officer cadet. He commanded several torpedo boat units and served as watch officer aboard several warships, as well as Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht Hohenzollern...

    )
  • Operation Albion
    Operation Albion
    Operation Albion was the German land and naval operation in September-October 1917 to invade and occupy the Estonian islands of Saaremaa , Hiiumaa and Muhu , then part of the Russian Republic...

    , including Battle of Moon Sound
    Battle of Moon Sound
    The Battle of Moon Sound was a naval battle in World War I, fought on 17 October 1917 between naval forces of the German and Russian Empires in the Baltic Sea....

     (Vice Admiral Erhard Schmidt
    Erhard Schmidt (admiral)
    Erhard Schmidt was a German Admiral of the Kaiserliche Marine .-Career:At age 15 he entered the navy and saw service at several branches at sea and on land. Among them were posts on missions, as a commanding officer and in cadet training...

    )
  • First Battle of the Atlantic – U-boat warfare


Notable minor battles:
  • Battle of Gotland
  • First Battle of Dover Strait
    Battle of Dover Strait (1916)
    The Battle of Dover Strait that occurred on 26–27 October 1916 was a naval battle of the First World War between Great Britain and the German Empire...

  • Second Battle of Dover Strait
  • Battle of Cocos
    Battle of Cocos
    The Battle of Cocos took place on 9 November 1914 during the First World War off the Cocos Islands, in the north east Indian Ocean. The German light cruiser attacked the British cable station on Direction Island and was engaged several hours later by the Australian light cruiser...

  • Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby
    Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby
    The raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, which took place on 16 December 1914, was an attack by the Imperial German Navy on the British seaport towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby. The attack resulted in 137 fatalities and 592 casualties, many of which were civilians...

  • Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau
    Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau
    The pursuit of Goeben and Breslau was a naval action that occurred in the Mediterranean Sea at the outbreak of the First World War when elements of the British Mediterranean Fleet attempted to intercept the German Mittelmeerdivision comprising the battlecruiser and the light cruiser...

  • Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft
    Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft
    The Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft was a naval battle fought during the First World War between the German Empire and the British Empire in the North Sea....

  • Battle of Trindade
    Battle of Trindade
    The Battle of Trindade was a single-ship action fought during the First World War on 14 September 1914 off the coast of the Brazilian island of Trindade between the Imperial German Navy and the British Royal Navy.-Battle:...


Minor engagements included the commerce raiding
Commerce raiding
Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

 carried out by the , , and the sailing ship and commerce raider .

The Imperial Navy carried out land operations, e.g. operating the long-range Paris Gun
Paris Gun
The Paris Gun was a German long-range siege gun used to bombard Paris during World War I. It was in service from March-August 1918. When it was first employed, Parisians believed they'd been bombed by a new type of high-altitude zeppelin, as neither the sound of an airplane nor a gun could be heard...

 which was based on a naval gun. The Siege of Tsingtao used naval troops as Tsingtao was a naval base, and also as the Imperial Navy was directly under the Imperial Government (the German Army
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

 was made up of regiments from the various states).

Marines

The Marines were referred to as Seebatallione
Seebatallione
The Seebatallione [sea battalions] were naval infantry troops or marines serving in the Prussian navy, the navy of the North German Confederation, the Imperial German Navy, the Wehrmacht, and briefly in the modern Federal German Navy, the Bundesmarine....

[sea battalions]. They served in the Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n navy, the navy of the North German Confederation
North German Confederation
The North German Confederation 1866–71, was a federation of 22 independent states of northern Germany. It was formed by a constitution accepted by the member states in 1867 and controlled military and foreign policy. It included the new Reichstag, a parliament elected by universal manhood...

, the Imperial German Navy and briefly in the modern Federal German Navy, the Bundesmarine.

Navy Aviation

The German Navy purchased 14 Zeppelin
Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

s, named L1 to L14; the main use of the airships was in reconnaissance over the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 and the Baltic
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, where the endurance of the craft led German warships to a number of Allied vessels. Zeppelin patrolling had priority over any other airship activity. During the entire war around 1,200 scouting flights were made. During 1915 the German Navy had some 15 Zeppelins in commission and was able to have two or more patrolling continuously at any one time, almost regardless of weather. They kept the British ships from approaching Germany, spotted when and where the British were laying sea-mines, and later aided in the destruction of those mines. Zeppelins would sometimes land on the sea surface next to a minesweeper, bring aboard an officer and show him the lay of the mines. Before the widespread availability of incendiary ammunition
Incendiary ammunition
-World War I:One of the first uses of incendiary ammunition occurred in World War I. At the time, phosphorus—the primary ingredient in the incendiary charge—ignited upon firing, leaving a trail of blue smoke. They were also known as 'smoke tracer' for this reason. The effective range of...

 made commerce raiding
Commerce raiding
Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

 too risky, they would also land or hover close to a merchant ship suspected of carrying contraband, order all ship's hands to leave in boats, then inspect the ship, and either destroy it or take it back to Germany as prize
Prize (law)
Prize is a term used in admiralty law to refer to equipment, vehicles, vessels, and cargo captured during armed conflict. The most common use of prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy ship and its cargo as a prize of war. In the past, it was common that the capturing force would be allotted...

.

The Naval and Army Air Services also directed a number of strategic raids
German strategic bombing during World War I
As the First World War unfolded, aircraft, which had previously been dismissed as having little military value, began to prove their critics wrong. As a result of these initial experiences, the armed forces on both sides began to put considerable thought into concepts for highly specialized types...

 against Britain, leading the way in bombing techniques and also forcing the British to bolster their anti-aircraft defences. The possibility of airship raids were approved by the Kaiser on 9 January 1915, although he excluded London as a target and further demanded that no attacks be made on historic or government buildings or museums. The night-time raids were intended to target only military sites on the east coast and around the Thames estuary, but after blackouts became widespread, many bombs fell randomly in East Anglia.

Post war

After the end of World War I, the bulk of the Navy's modern ships (74 in all) were interned at Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

 where the entire fleet (with a few exceptions) was scuttled by its crews
Scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow
The scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, in Scotland, after the end of the First World War. The High Seas Fleet had been interned there under the terms of the Armistice whilst negotiations took place over the fate of the ships...

 on 21 June 1919 on orders from its commander, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter
Ludwig von Reuter
Ludwig von Reuter was a German admiral during World War I, who commanded the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet when it was interned at Scapa Flow at the end of the war. On 21 June 1919 he ordered the scuttling of the fleet to prevent the British from seizing the ships.-Early life:Reuter was...

.

Many of the ships were subsequently salvaged by Ernest Cox
Ernest Cox
Ernest Frank Guelph Cox was an electrical and mechanical engineer and marine salvage expert from Wolverhampton. Between 1924 and 1931 his Cox & Danks Shipbreaking Co. successfully raised 35 of the German fleet that had been scuttled at Gutter Sound, Scapa Flow in 1919. He eventually sold the...

.

See also

  • List of German Imperial Navy ships
  • List of naval ships of Germany
  • Naval warfare of World War I
    Naval warfare of World War I
    Naval warfare in World War I was mainly characterized by the efforts of the Allied Powers, with their larger fleets and surrounding position, to blockade the Central Powers by sea, and the efforts of the Central Powers to break that blockade or to establish an effective blockade of the United...

  • Marine-Regatta-Verein
    Marine-Regatta-Verein
    The Marine-Regatta-Verein , "Naval Regatta Union", is a yacht club of the German Navy. Its main branch is located in the harbor city of Kiel, and it has branches in different states of Germany. This club promotes both sailing and powerboating...

  • Navy League (Germany)
    Navy League (Germany)
    The Navy League or Fleet Association in Imperial Germany was an interest group formed on April 30 1898 on initiative of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz through the German Imperial Naval Office which he headed to support the expansion of the Imperial Navy ...

  • Reichsmarine
    Reichsmarine
    The Reichsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Weimar Republic and first two years of Nazi Germany. It was the naval branch of the Reichswehr, existing from 1918 to 1935...

     and Kriegsmarine
    Kriegsmarine
    The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...


Further reading

  • Kelly, Patrick J. Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy (2011), 608pp
  • Kelly, Patrick J. "Strategy, Tactics, and Turf Wars: Tirpitz and the Oberkommando der Marine, 1892–1895," Journal of Military History, Oct 2002, Vol. 66 Issue 4, pp 1033–1060
  • Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1989)
  • Kennedy, Paul. The Rise And Fall of British Naval Mastery (2006)

in German

  • Cord Eberspächer: Die deutsche Yangtse-Patrouille. Deutsche Kanonenbootpolitik in China im Zeitalter des Imperialismus 1900–1914 (The German Yangtse Patrol. German gunboat diplomacy in China in the age of imperialism), Bochum 2004.
  • Gerhard Wiechmann: Die preußisch-deutsche Marine in Lateinamerika 1866–1914. Eine Studie deutscher Kanonenbootpolitik (The Prussian-German Navy in Latin America 1866–1914. A study of German gunboat diplomacy 1866–1914), Bremen 2002, ISBN 3-89757-142-0.
  • Schneider, Dennis: Die Flottenpolitik im Deutschen Kaiserreich, 1890er Jahre bis zum Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges, GRIN Verlag 2009.

External links

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