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· Appendix

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

THE TORPEDO GANG

The semi-tabular form used below lists each officer’s name; year of birth; years in the Torpedo Arm while Tirpitz was there (1877–89); years in the Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) when Tirpitz was Chief of Staff (1892–95); and years in the Reichsmarineamt (RMA) while Tirpitz was there (1897–1916). Listed last is each officer’s final service rank and the most important position he ever held. A few of them also served with Tirpitz when he was Chief of the East Asian Cruiser Squadron (1896–97). These are noted where applicable. Almost all the data below are from Hans Hildebrand, ed., Deutschlands Admirale, 1849–1945. Names listed as “von” indicate hereditary nobility; names listed as “(von)” indicate non-nobles by birth but enobled during their lifetime for their services.

Hunold von Ahlefeld (1851): Torpedo Arm, 1880–91; OKM, 1893–96; RMA, 1902–1907; Vice Admiral and Chief of the Baltic Station, 1907–1908.

Otto Braun (1864?): Torpedo Arm, 1885–87; OKM, 1892–95; died in a typhoon on 23 July 1896 as Lieutenant Commander and Commander of the gunboat Iltis, part of Tirpitz’s East Asian Cruiser Squadron.

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1 Introduction

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

On 3 August 1914 gray-clad German troopers crossed the Belgian and Luxemburg frontiers to begin, in that theater, the greatest conflagration Europe had ever seen. Nestled in the fenlands of the North Sea coast, the small, drab German city of Wilhelmshaven overnight became a household word. In its harbor and in the nearby Jade, a lagoon-like body of water, sheltered from the stormy North Sea by a great sand bar, there gathered the most powerful fleet ever assembled in continental Europe, the mighty German High Seas Fleet. Fifteen of the most modern (Dreadnought-type) battleships, soon joined by two more in trials, and four speedy battlecruisers lay poised for an expected Armageddon with the even mightier British Grand Fleet, which then had twenty-two Dreadnoughts and ten powerful battlecruisers.

A few dozen leagues to the north, on the small island of Helgoland, lookouts scanned the horizon in wary anticipation of the British Armada. Smaller warships, based in Helgoland, formed a picket line to the north and west, ready to wireless the alarm.

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13 The Whirlwind Rises, 1908–1911

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

The 1908 Novelle, and the less celebrated but equally important ratcheting up of the ship cost table, was a great victory. Shipbuilding increased at an energetic pace. Money poured in to expand imperial and private shipyards, as well as Krupp’s great armor and artillery forges.

In June 1908 Tirpitz arranged a junket for Reichstag and Bundesrat members. From Danzig to Kiel to Wilhelmshaven, the parliamentarians inspected fortifications and fleet exercises. Tirpitz explained the need for quiet, steady work over the next few years, and radiated confidence that the navy was spending the public’s money efficiently and wisely.1

The 1908 Novelle was a potentially provocative act. Tirpitz tried to soft-pedal it, but he feared that British Conservatives would raise a hue and cry and demand a corresponding expansion of the Royal Navy or, even worse, replay the “Copenhagen” cries heard in 1904–1905.2 Just as threatening for Tirpitz were British diplomatic attempts to limit the arms race.

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6 Interim, 1889–1891

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

Late in 1883 or early in 1884, while Tirpitz struggled with the complexities of torpedoes and torpedo boats, the thirty-four-year-old officer fell in love. The young lady, Marie Lipke, was a fetching twenty-three year old from a wealthy bourgeois family. By early 1884 they were engaged. Their correspondence at the time shows Tirpitz as the eager suitor. “How much I love you and desire you . . . do you feel this desire at least a little bit?” Marie fretted that Alfred might find her boring.1 They married on 18 November 1884 at the Garrison Church in Berlin.2 After a happy and protracted honeymoon they lived in Kiel in a house subsidized by Gustav Lipke, Marie’s father.3

Marriage for a naval officer was a complicated business. The groom needed imperial marriage consent (Allerhöchsten Konsens), for reasons both financial and social. Officers needed enough money to support a family, lest they be overwhelmed with debt. Brides, too, had to have financial means, and a wife with low social status was considered unsuitable. The practical effect of such rules was to prevent officers ranked below lieutenant from marrying. Young officers searched for wealthy, socially acceptable young women so actively that, in 1894, the Marine Kabinett censured officers for advertising in the newspapers for a suitable match. Although there were no written rules, young officers were discouraged from seeking Jewish wives, even if the latter were financially and socially suitable.4

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9 Tirpitz Ascendant, 1897–1898

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

There is no available written record of Tirpitz’s thoughts as he sailed home from New York. The voyage did little to help his severe bronchitis, but his fevered brain must never have rested. When he debarked at Bremerhaven early in June 1897, he entered the most complex, difficult, and delicate situation he had ever encountered. The array of problems he faced, aspects of which he had to deal with almost simultaneously, was truly staggering.

Only thirteenth in seniority, he had to seize the initiative from his old boss, Eduard von Knorr at the OK, and from other senior admirals in powerful places, many of whom still favored a cruiser strategy. As Hopmann later wrote, “even in the RMA there was opposition to the Navy Law, and it was prophesized that the introduction of such a law would lead, within a few months, to Tirpitz losing his job.”1 His crew comrade Büchsel was Acting State Secretary of the RMA, from Hollmann’s dismissal at the end of March to Tirpitz’s official installation on 18 June. Knorr and Büchsel, at Senden’s strong urging and at the Emperor’s orders, did not wait for Tirpitz’s return but devised a unified OK-RMA scheme. Nevertheless, Tirpitz had his own ideas and Knorr, especially, would need persuading.

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