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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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8 On the Verge of Power, 1895–1897

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

When William II became Emperor in 1888, Germany was in the midst of explosive population and economic growth.1 Between 1871 and 1910 the population of the Empire grew from 41 million to 65 million. Urban dwellers more than doubled and the annual population growth was 1 percent, after emigration slowed down in the early 1880s. Coal production grew sevenfold, and iron and steel production even faster, so that by 1900 German industrial power had caught up to that of Great Britain. Globally Germany was second only to the even faster-growing United States. Foreign trade grew alongside industry. Exports of industrial goods and imports, principally foodstuffs and raw materials, became increasingly important to the economy. Burgeoning growth continued in the German merchant marine, although the vast bulk of foreign trade was with other European countries.2

There was a concomitant growth of an industrial working class. The discriminatory three-class voting system within Prussia muted the number of seats of Social Democrats, but in the Imperial Reichstag the Socialist vote rose from 1.4 million in 1890 to 2.1 million in 1898, 27 percent of the total. The geographic distribution of seats, unchanged since 1871, limited Socialist seats to 56 (of 397) in 1898; but the trend of growing legislative representation seemed clear to contemporaries, as frightening to parties of the right as it was heartening to those of the left. The largest single party, the Center, represented Catholic interests and consistently won about 100 seats. Conservatives worried about how these two parties, anathematized by Bismarck as “enemies of the Reich,” would function in the post-Bismarck era.

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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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· Illustrations

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

Father, Rudolf Tirpitz, 1811–1905. Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Newlyweds Alfred and Marie, 1884.
Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Tirpitz and Marie in Sardinia, ca. 1888. Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Tirpitz and Ilse, early 1890s.
Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Left to right: Ahlefeld, Prinz Heinrich, Tirpitz, early 1890s.
Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Tirpitz ca. 1905, at the height of his power. Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Tirpitz in March 1896, on the eve of departing for Asia.
Courtesy of Agostino von Hassell.

Admiral Eduard von Capelle, Tirpitz’s Chief Aide for the Navy Laws.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Admiral August von Heeringen, Tirpitz’s agitator for the first two Navy Laws, later Chief of the Admiralstab. Hildebrand, 6:68.

The Emperor in all his glory, ca. 1910. Hildebrand, 1:62.

Left to right: von Diedrichs, Fischel, Fritze, Zeye, Meuss, von Prittwitz, Büchsel, Koester, Funke, Oldekop, Kirchhoff, von Holtzendorff, Vüllers. Mantey.

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4 The Young Officer, 1870–1877: A Taste of War

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

Consolidation of the North German Confederation, which by 1867 included all the German states north of the River Main, had important maritime consequences. With the addition of Hamburg and other Hanseatic cities, the Confederation possessed the world’s third-largest merchant marine. Greater only were those of Britain and the United States.1 In Berlin the team of Roon as Naval (and Army) Minister, Prinz Adalbert as Commanding Admiral, and Jachmann as Operational Commander in October 1867 got the new Reichstag to approve a ten-year program for sixteen armored ships, twenty unarmored corvettes, and eight avisos (dispatch boats), all steam-powered. The navy’s proposed goals were encouragement and protection of worldwide trade, defense of the North Sea and Baltic coasts, and, most ambitious, the development of a modest capacity to threaten enemy trade, fleets, and harbors.2 The navy’s expansion meant a shift from long-term volunteer sailors to three-year conscripts. Their sheer numbers would greatly increase the navy’s training burden.3

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