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Tirpitz, the Building of Battleships and WWI

 
 
Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 02:23 pm
"Them that have, gets" might the German Emperor William II have thought.
But " Pride goeth before the fall" history proved.

Since he had ascended the throne, Emperor William II, describing himself as "shiplover", considere the construction of a strong, sophisticated navy to be his historic mission. This led since 1897 to a massive naval armament within the German Empire, which is estimated as one of the causes of WWI.

This high-sea-fleet-construction was strongly supported by the first modern governmental propaganda campaign in Germany.
Responsible for this campaign was the Undersecretary of State for the Navy, Authorised Representative to the Federal Assembly and Chairman of the Commitee for Naval Affairs, Rear Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz.

Tirpitz and the Emperor planned to built up a fleet of 40 to 60 battleships between 1897 and 1920. This fleet was supposed to allow the German Empire the policy of super. This even, if necessary, against the opposition of the greatest sea power, Great Britain. (At first, it was thought, to become an equal partner of the British. [And before that, they just wanted a second rated navy.])

However, the biggest hindrance for the accomplishment of this ambitious plan was the German parliament, which had to agree to the naval estimates. Many delegates were not in favour of the ernormous costs.

Therefore, Tirpitz intended to fill the German public with enthusiasm about the navy and by this to force parliament to accept his motions.
Thus, beginning in 1897 the Navy Department produced under the supervision of Tirpitz a tremendous propaganda campaign, using all know possibilties of (what we would now call) mass-media.

By using the spoken and printed word as well as visual communication, Tirpitz suddeede in creating such an overwhelming enthusiasm for the flett that the delegates finally gave in and passed two bills concerning the navy, which fixed a number of at least 40 battleships.

It was for the first time that parts of the government (and military) had recognized the importance of the public opinion for political life in a modern country.

With the largest German navy, which under him became the world's second largest, Tirpitz forged an efficient military weapon that did not see the action for which it was intended in the war and finally collapsed from within.

Tirpitz retired in 1916. WWI was lost. The Emperor had to resign.


Why, do you think, Tirpitz couldn't succed?
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nelsonn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Feb, 2003 09:56 pm
Great Britain's policy was to build two battleships for every one a possible enemy built. The only time the German fleet (as opposed to individual ships), saw action was at Jutland, and after that inconclusive engagement the fleet returned to port and stayed for the duration. In WWII air power mad battleships almost obsolete.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 26 Feb, 2003 11:33 am
I would say that Jutland was not inconclusive, but the Kaiser made it so, because he was terrified to risk his big, beautiful fleet again. I don't have the figures at my disposal, but i know that the Royal Navy lost much more tonnage--and the most of it was in the new, "fast" cruisers, whereas the High Seas Fleet lost mostly out-of-date battleships. Had the Germans come out again two or three times after Jutland, especially if they had supported their fleet with U-boat operations, they may well have had the Royal Navy on the ropes. Although i am not endorsing this idea, there are many historians who contend that Mahan's idea of "a fleet in being" was what motivated the Kaiser, and that, therefore, Germany threw away her best opportunity because of Willie's shallow understanding of what Mahan was trying to teach in The Influence of Sea Power on World History . . .

By the way, the dismal performance of the "fast" battle cruisers in 1916 apparently did not sink in with the English. Hood basically had the same design, with far too little deck armor, and insufficient armor on the magazines, all in the name of speed. Bismark bracketed her with her first salvo, and sent her down with the second--modern research into after action reports from Bismark, Prinz Eugen, Prince of Wales, Norfolk and Suffolk strongly suggests that at least one round in the second salvo entered the deck armor, and "found a crack" above the after magazine. Once that round went off in the magazine, it was all over. She swam for less than eight minutes from the time she opened on Bismark, and she took all but three men from a compliment of 1400 to the bottom of the Denmark straits with her.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Feb, 2003 11:36 am
Oh, and a young officer on Prinz Eugen had a little hand-held movie camera with him--he was standing on the fantail, and his little bit of film shows the water spouts from the first salvo, and then the second salvo hitting, Hood's stern lifting and breaking, and then Hood going down like a rock.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Feb, 2003 11:56 am
Thanks for your comments, Setanta!


The film, you mentioned ( I think at least, you meant that one!), is, btw, to be found online:

The Famous "Schmalenbach"/Prinz Eugen Rheinübung Film
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larry richette
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Mar, 2003 12:04 pm
Walter, this is part and parcel of the aggressive German foreign policy which on another discussion you denied ever existed.
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Walter Hinteler
 
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Reply Tue 25 Mar, 2003 12:12 pm
True, they wanted to be as aggressive as the others. But since they were the last in that row (not only therefor, of course!), they failed.
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larry richette
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Mar, 2003 10:39 pm
Germany was MORE aggressive than Russia or France from the period of 1890 to 1914 in terms of expanding its navy, military, and chasing colonies.
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Docent P
 
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Reply Wed 26 Mar, 2003 06:09 am
>I would say that Jutland was not inconclusive, but the Kaiser made it so

Why inconlcusive? What did the Caeser do wrong?

>I don't have the figures at my disposal, but i know that the Royal Navy lost much more tonnage--and the most of it was in the new, "fast" cruisers, whereas the High Seas Fleet lost mostly out-of-date battleships.

Nominally the Germans were more successive than the Britishes but not far. The Britishes lost 3 battlecruisers but the rest capital ships remained still battle-worthy. The Germans lost only one - Lutzow, it was the best German battlecruiser, Derfflinger's sistership. Derfflinger herself was heavily damaged - she lost all her 12'' guns and was on the very edge of death. These two were the only German battlecruiser armed with 12'' main caliber while the rest ones (Zeydlitz, Moltke and Fon-der-Tann) had 11''. The situation with them wasn't rather better - at the end of the battle none of them had any capable main caliber gun. All the German battlecruisers became targets for British shells - that was why German historians called the last Khipper's attempt to cover the retreating main forces "the death raid".

It was a total catastrophe for the German Navy. Sheer was VERY lucky having managed to escape thanks to poor visibility. Jellico let him retreat (later widely criticized for it) because the Germans would never be able to repeat such large scale action, so he preferred to wait and see the German ships in Scapa-Flow under the St George flags.

At Jutland the Germans had invented a good adventure but without effective intelligence they would have very few chances. Jellico clearly proved them that any new attempt to leave the base would be a real suicide. That's why Jutland is considered as a significant Britain's victory.
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larry richette
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Mar, 2003 03:04 pm
How exciting--we have a member in Russia! Welcome, Docent P! Welcome to A2K!
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Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2003 12:31 am
>How exciting--we have a member in Russia! Welcome, Docent P! Welcome to A2K!

Hello, Mr. Richette. Thank you for wellcome.

Any other comments?
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Mar, 2003 03:03 pm
One thing that is rarely discussed is that Jutland impelled the British to think of alternate tactics which led ultimately to the air craft carrier. The royal Navy had one commissioned and in operation in the North sea the last week of the war but it never got into action. Its first planed action was an attack on the zeppelin sheds at Hamburg
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Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2003 05:27 am
It's interesting to notice that Jellico had an airtransport in his Grand Fleet during Jutland but his officers forgot to give her any orders. On the day when Jellico was leaving Scapa-Flow the air-transport 's crew didn't see that their fleet is going away due to heavy fog. When Jellico noticed their abcense he was already far. But instead ordering the air-transport to get to the rest feet as soon as possible this kind guy ordered them to stay at the base due to the big danger of submarine attack. Therefore the Granf Fleet was left without good recon and good coordination between battlecruisers and battleships in the main battle of the war and the geatest naval battle in the history! That was why Bitty suffered so heavy losses before he managed to get to the main forces. Probably this absolutely inexcusable Jellico's behaviour wasn't prosecuted only because of the general success in the battle.
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Setanta
 
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Reply Mon 19 May, 2003 11:04 pm
Walter, thanks for the link of the film. It is now evident to me that what i saw (History Channel?) was edited, showing the salvo that brackets Bismark followed by the explosion aboard Hood, obviously leading one to see this as Hood being bracketed, and then hit. The eight minutes which Hood swam from opening on Bismark until going down, however, is from Prince of Wales' after-action report, and i consider that reliable. The piece i saw also interviewed surviving crewmen from Bismark. One member of the of the black gang (engine room crew) said that they were told that they were engaging Hood, and that everyone below had much the same reaction: "What, we're in the middle of a war cruise, and they're playing games ? ! ?" He then explains that all of their wargame cruises before the war were based on engaging Hood, so that they thought that was what was going on when they were first told that they were engaging Hood. When they were told, not ten minutes later, that Bismark had sunk Hood, they were stunned, and saddened--they all knew that few if any survivors afloat in the Denmark straits would survive for very long in those sub-arctic waters. Like infantrymen after a firefight, sailors after such an action consider wounded men and men in the water to be non-combatants.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2003 12:33 pm
AS to the battle of Jutland, i couldn't be arsed to go check at the time, but i have since checked sources. The Germans had one battleship sunk, one battle cruiser, four light cruisers and three destroyers--for a total of about 2500 casualties. The English lost three battle cruisers, three cruisers and eight destroyers, for a total of more than 6000 casualties. Jellicoe justified his losses by pointing out that the damage to his battleships was repaired by such and such a date, and that the Germans ran whenever their zeppelins spotted the English fleet. This was my point about the Kaiser's attitude. Tirpitz died in 1917, and he was no longer much listened to by then anyway (Wilhelm II always considered himself his own best advisor, and had been handing unsolicited advice to the Royal Navy in th 1880's, before Tirpitz was tagged for the Naval Ministry). By his own admission, Wilhelm was very taken by Mahan's book on sea power, and especially the principle of the "fleet in being." Wilhelm did not understand the equation of a peace-time navy and one on a war footing. A fleet in being does no good if it never goes in harm's way, and no Imperial naval commander attempted to apply the lessons of Jutland to use their fast, and well-armed and armored cruisers again to repeat their successes against Beatty's cruisers. That the English failed to learn lesson's from the battle is evident from the design of Hood, which suffered from the same lack of good deck armor which doomed Beatty's "fast cruisers." Hood's crew paid the price in the Denmark straits facing Bismark and Prinz Eugen.

The combined Anglo-French fleet behaved in exactly the same way in the Gallipoli campaign. On the first day of battle, they suffered somewhat, and, with the attitude of peace-time sailors, who never want to see any damage to their vessels, there was no second day of shelling. The papers of the German military advisors who were present in Constantinople at the time, however, tell a tale of near disaster. The excellent Krupp guns in the shore batteries were badly served by the Turks, their ammunition ran low before the end of that day's engagement, with little reserve stock, and less means of transport to replenish their magazines. Enver Bey and the Young Turks paniced to the extent that a special train was put on, and held with steam up, while government clerks scurried about trying to get all crucial paperwork on to the train--the Turks were ready to abandon the city.

But the English and French did not come back to the attack, and the bloody, useless and failed land campaign ensued. They failed to achieve what might have been a spectacular result, and what might have taken Turkey out of the war early on, opening a route to supply Russia, and send troops to support Serbia, and knock Austria out of the war. It is a good thing to preserve one's ship, and the fleet, for it's value in projecting one's power, in peace time. In war, a fleet which will not go into harm's way is no fleet at all, and that is why i say that the Kaiser assured that the results of Jutland were wasted for the High Seas Fleet. An intense concentration on the fleet would not have hindered the production of war materials for the Army, which was largely in a defensive posture in 1917 in the west, and conducting an almost ridiculously easy offensive against the Russians in the east. There were sufficient reserves in the army to send troops to bolster the Austrians in Italy and in Serbia. Germany had the production resources to continue to challenge England, and did not do so.

By the way, Tirpitz was even more thorough than Walter has shown in his opening post. He established a statistical bureau of young staff officers to produce the grist for the publicity mill. He also established an informal organization which amounted to a press bureau, with staff officers who regularly toured the country to provide editorial and feature material to small newspapers, including articles written and ready to set-up and print. Tirpitz not only used publicity in ways it had not been used by government before, he created the structure of public relations within his navy department which is taken for granted today. His personality was important as well, as he personally lobbied members of the Riechstag, and paid particular attention to those most likely to oppose his plans. Tirpitz was truly a remarkable man.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Sep, 2003 09:20 am
I'm really interested in this topic, and would like to take Setanta to task for some comments made in the previous post. Is anyone else still interested in this? Walter?
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Sep, 2003 12:38 pm
Well, joe, sort of :wink:

(Which means, I'd like more to follow the responses than to be active: wrote a paper* about the reichstag and Tirpitz, have some original navy sources from that time [with two "original Williams"** on officer's commision papers], have been in the navy myself ... but I really don't like military history that much!
*that was the reason of posting this thred
** he just wrote Wihelm with an indelible pencil)
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chronos20th
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 12:57 pm
Jutlamd, Imperial German Navy
Oh no, we're not back to the old "agressive foreign policy " one are we/

The german navy did come out several times after Jutlandbut oddly were not intercpted.
There were other actions involving more than one ship.

Jutland can hardly be considered a British victory in view of our losses.

The "distant blockade" did pen the german nvvy in the North Sea which was its objective.

Wilhem II wanted a navy because of the British connection - he had been taken by grannie across the Solent repeatedly as a child to see her navy. After 1897 germany was the only major power without a navy - the US. had started building and their building plans were modest compared to the British.

One thing upset the calculations and caused failure - the british "navalists" were forbidden at the last moment to have a "close blockade" and such schemes as a landing in Scleswig-Holstein to capture Kiel and entering the Baltic for a landing - which would have almost certainly caused disaster and on which the german tactics were based.

This point has been long neglrcted.
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chronos20th
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Dec, 2003 01:10 pm
Jutland and German Fleet
Well having read it I must largely agree with Sentanta.

Wilhelm, after the forgotten action of heligoland Bight at the opening of the war in which the germans were caught out, took contol and refused to allow anything in which the fleet might get damaged. It was also seen as a bargaining chip in the peace negotiations after what was thought was going to be a short war.

Had they organised their fleet, britain would have been placed in a much more difficult situation.
Excellent designs were in construction for really heavy battlecruisers, but were never finished.
There were plans to send them into the Atlantic supported by zeppelins, but this was never done.
Meamwhile britain paid the price for Fisher's foolish theories of samll ships, a clear two year lead over rivals and battlecruisers with virtually no armour intended for raids on foreign shores.
The Tiger, renown and repulse were the only satisfactory battlecruisers.

One problem was however the civilian economy in german which was not really organised for total war, and therefore steel production and shipbuilding suffered. had it been organised like the Anglo-Saxon countries there would have been no problem completing these ships rapidly and building others.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Dec, 2003 12:32 pm
Wellcome to A2K, chronos20th, and thank you for your responses!

However, what do you mean exactly with that
Quote:
After 1897 germany was the only major power without a navy
?

I've some origanl ship list/officer lsits from that time (my grand uncle became a naval medical officer in 1897), listing quite a number of bg ships. And after that time, they even got more, as far as I recall.
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