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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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· 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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2 Tirpitz’s Early Life

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

Alfred Peter Friedrich Tirpitz was born on 19 March 1849 in Küstrin an der Oder in the Mark Brandenburg, Prussia.1 Oral tradition in his father’s family claimed that the family name had been Czern von Terpitz, originally from Silesia and Bohemia. The Thirty Years’ War brought impoverishment and forced the family to surrender the ennobling “von.”

The earliest Tirpitz who can be documented was Christian Ferdinand (1707–1790), a trumpeter and musician. His son, Jacob Friedrich (1750–1830), Tirpitz’s great-grandfather, was an army trumpeter for a Prussian dragoon regiment from the Küstrin area. He became a salt factor and overseer of the salt monopoly in Sonnenburg.

Jacob’s middle son, Friedrich Wilhelm (1782–1862), Alfred’s grandfather, was a lawyer and notary, first in Sonnenburg and later in Frankfurt an der Oder. His wife, Ulrike Rohleder (1788–1862), was the daughter of a government official in Sonnenburg and a descendant of noble Hugenot refugees. The eldest child of Friedrich and Ulrike was Rudolf Friedrich Tirpitz (1811–1905), Alfred’s father. He went to classical gymnasium in Berlin at the Gray Cloister, with a schoolmate named Otto von Bismarck. He studied law at Heidelberg, joined the mostly aristocratic Saxoborussia Corps, and was known as a boxer and duelist. Most unusual is that he drank milk instead of beer. The twenty-one-year-old Rudolf met and fell intensely in love with seventeen-year-old Malwine Hartmann (1815–1880). Once he secured an appropriate position, they were married in 1843. Rudolf had a long and successful career as a jurist. He began as a local magistrate in Küstrin and Frankfurt an der Oder, and capped his career as an appellate judge, sitting in Berlin, for the whole Mark Brandenburg.2 Rudolf’s education and career are clear indications of his status in the upper bourgeoisie.

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11 The “Quiet” Years, 1900–1906

Patrick J. Kelly Indiana University Press ePub

When raised to the hereditary nobility in June 1900 Tirpitz, at age fifty-one, was in his mature prime. His public image, in newspaper photos and editorial cartoons, was dominated by his famous forked beard. His once trim body, hardened by years of strenuous outdoor work in the Torpedo Arm, was gradually softening. Eight years of desk work had taken its toll. Unchanged were his piercing eyes, which still glittered with intelligence and ambition. He was at the peak of his powers.

He could be ruthless, as in 1899, when he persuaded his imperial master to dismantle his chief rival within the navy, the Oberkommando. He became the biggest fish in the naval pond, though, as a junior Vice Admiral, he was not on top of the navy’s seniority list. He succeeded in manipulating the erratic Emperor, not by flattery or subservience, but by a shrewd combination of defiance and resignation threats, mingled with tact and occasional tactical accommodation. His indispensability for the Emperor’s lifetime dream of a formidable fleet allowed Tirpitz to get away with such behavior. Until 1914, when the navy’s mission suddenly changed from construction to combat, Tirpitz preserved his ascendancy.

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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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