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14 Denouement, 1911–1914

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

The explosive events of the summer and early fall of 1911 were triggered by an innocent and routine ship redeployment. The gunboat Panther, Southwest African station ship, was due to return to Wilhelmshaven for major repairs. Chief of the Admiralstab, Fischel, on 8 March 1911, asked the Foreign Office if there were any objections if Panther stopped in a Moroccan port on its way home in July. The French, in violation of the Algeciras Act of 1906, occupied the Moroccan capital of Fez on 21 May. Foreign Secretary Kiderlen-Wächter agreed to allow Panther to visit the port of Mogador.1

Late in June Bethmann and Kiderlen decided to challenge the French occupation of Morocco. A handy excuse was to protect hypothetically endangered German nationals in Agadir. The Emperor reluctantly consented, though nervous that it might spoil his upcoming visit to London. Since all the principals were at Kiel Week, Kiderlen called in Heeringen, the new Chief of the Admiralstab, to prepare the necessary orders without clarifying the political context. Heeringen told Michaelis that the Emperor had ordered the immediate dispatch of Panther to Agadir. Michaelis asked why the initiative, to which Heeringen replied: “To hoist the flag.” Michaelis responded: “The little ship is too weak to make a difference, and, by raising their flag at Fez, the French have declared that Morocco is in their sphere.” Heeringen answered: “It is not supposed to conquer Morocco but only to show that we are there, too. As Kiderlen says, it should be a trumpet blast with which we will get compensation from the French elsewhere.”2 Neither Tirpitz nor the Fleet Chief was officially informed.

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10 The Second Navy Law, 1899–1900

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

The ink was scarcely dry on the Emperor’s signature to the Navy Law when a new pressure group rose to promote the German Navy.1 On 30 April 1898 Viktor Schweinburg, editor of Krupp’s paper, the Berliner Neueste Nachrichten, founded the Deutscher Flottenverein (German Fleet Association) in Berlin. Its professed purpose was

the arousing, cherishing, and strengthening in the German people of understanding for and interest in the meaning and purpose of a navy. . . . The Navy League considers a strong German navy a necessity, especially for securing the coasts of Germany against the danger of war, for maintaining Germany’s position among the world powers, for protecting the general interests and commercial relations of Germany, as well as the honor and security of her citizens engaged in business abroad.2

The Flottenverein was an attempt by the big industrialists like Krupp to start a massive lobbying effort for the navy. Trade was much less represented in the founding group than industry was. In 1897 the industrialists were more reticent than later in openly touting the Navy Law for fear of an adverse effect on agrarians in the Reichstag.3 In March 1898 Krupp’s hand was forced by the attempt of a Berlin cod liver oil factory owner, J. E. Stroschein, to found a Deutscher Reichsmarine Verein (German Navy Association). He formed a committee and began an educational effort to promote knowledge of the navy in the name of simple patriotism.4

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12 Sow the Wind, 1906–1908

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

The RMA’s diverse workload and Tirpitz’s success as a bureaucratic warrior employed sixty mostly senior sea officers, by far the largest levy in the navy except for the fleet itself.1 Many of them were long-term RMA officers, whereas the Admiralstab had thirty-six officers, most of them quite junior, who rotated frequently in and out of the fleet. The RMA employed fifty-seven senior civil servants (none in the Admiralstab), plus clerks, scribes, and so on. The Admiralstab had only one admiral (Büchsel), whereas the RMA had six rear admirals or officers of even higher rank.

The RMA still had a leavening of Tirpitz’s Torpedo Gang, who, by 1906, were of high rank. These included Tirpitz’s close personal friends: Vice Admiral Hunold von Ahlefeld, Rear Admiral August von Heeringen, and Captain Raimond Winkler. Other torpedo men included Captain Reinhard Scheer and Captain Harald Dähnhardt. The latter two reported to Rear Admiral Eduard Capelle, Director of the Administrative Department (V).

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15 Tirpitz at War, August 1914–March 1916

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

The central theater of the naval war was the North Sea. The north–south orientation of the island of Great Britain was a barrier that made the North Sea a virtual cul de sac. Germany only had access to the open ocean either to the south, through the narrow English Channel, or to the north. At its southern end, where the English Channel begins, less than 30 nautical miles separate Dover from Calais. The North Sea extends north about 700 miles, along the coast of England and Scotland, to the Shetland Islands. About 200 miles east of the Shetlands is the great Norwegian coastal archipelago, inside of which is the old Hanseatic port of Bergen. From Bergen, 400 miles south and slightly east, was the fortified island of Helgoland, 50 miles north of the Jade Bay, and Wilhelmshaven, the home of the High Seas Fleet. From there, initially skirting the Dutch coast, another 300 miles southwest, is Dover and the English Channel. At the northwest corner of the North Sea, in the Orkney Islands, is Scapa Flow, the principal base of the British Grand Fleet. From there, 600 miles away, almost exactly southeast of Scapa, is Wilhelmshaven. The route between the two forms a diagonal that neatly bisects the North Sea.

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5 The Creation of the German Torpedo Arm, 1877–1889

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

When Tirpitz joined the Torpedo Commission, the first halting steps had already been taken in the evolving technology that would culminate in the sleek, deadly underwater missiles of the twentieth century. One idea was to put a mine at the end of a spar and use it as an exploding ram. Another was the Harvey tow torpedo, a floating charge on a tether attached to a boat, with the intention of turning the boat away at the moment of attack and allowing the charge to strike the target. Both these methods required almost suicidal bravery on the part of crews of improvised 10-knot torpedo boats. Nevertheless, by the early 1870s, most naval powers were trying out variations of these weapons. The possibility, even if remote, of sinking expensive battleships with cheap torpedoes was too tempting to resist, especially for smaller navies.

A more dynamic approach was the self-propelled “fish” torpedo. An English engineer, Robert Whitehead, director of the Firma Stabilimento Tecnico in Fiume, pursued this concept, the outcome of which would be the modern torpedo. In 1867 the Austrian government bought Whitehead’s patent. As early as 1869 a delegation from the North German Navy visited Fiume. By 1873, with Stosch in charge, the Imperial German Navy purchased torpedoes under license from the Austrian government and Whitehead.1

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