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The Kaiser’s Legacy

At the end of the 18th Century, Queen Victoria’s British Royal Navy ruled the oceans around the globe. William II, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, craved to possess a High Seas Fleet to match his grandmother’s navy. The Kaiser began a runaway shipbuilding program to attain parity. When the first World War began in 1914 Germany had attained second place amongst the world’s great navies. Admiral Tirpitz, secretary of the navy, led the effort in achieving this astonishing feat.

Admiral von Tirpitz
Admiral von Tirpitz

The Battle of Jutland in 1916 saw Scheer’s High Seas Fleet face the full power of Admiral Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet. Despite British overwhelming strength, Scheer managed to avoid annihilation and return with most of his fleet to Germany. The ‘fleet in being’ strategy resumed and continued until the end of the war.

An Armistice concluded the fighting in 1918. Victorious allies forced Germany to surrender the bulk of her fleet. These warships lay in Scapa Flow, Scotland until 1919. Tough Armistice negotiations neared completion when the German navy scuttled the warships in Scapa Flow. This ended the armistice talks and compelled Germany to accept the Treaty of Versailles. Losing their warships in this manner motivated the naval high command to build a comparable battle fleet in the future.

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Content ©2006, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 Joseph Gilbey.