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During a speech in support of the First Naval Law on 6 December , Tirpitz stated that the navy was "a question of survival" for Germany. In a discussion with the Kaiser during his first month in his post as State Secretary, he stated that "for Germany the most dangerous naval enemy at present is England. For a final total of 60 German battleships, Britain would be required to build 90 to meet the 2: Tirpitz in fact believed Germany would emerge victorious from a naval struggle with Britain, as he believed Germany to possess superior ships manned by better-trained crews, more effective tactics, and led by more capable officers.
The squadrons were further divided into four-ship divisions.
The US Navy -- Battleship History
Rising international tensions, particularly as a result of the outbreak of the Boer War in South Africa and the Boxer Rebellion in China, allowed Tirpitz to push through an expanded fleet plan in The Second Naval Law was passed on 14 June ; it doubled the size of the fleet to 38 battleships and 20 large and 38 small cruisers. Tirpitz planned an even larger fleet. As early as September , he had informed the Kaiser that he sought at least 45 battleships, and potentially might secure a third double-squadron, for a total strength of 48 battleships.
World War I naval arms race During the initial period of German naval expansion, Britain did not feel particularly threatened. Segments of the British public, however, quickly seized on the perceived threat posed by the German construction programs. Admiral John Fisher , who became the First Sea Lord and head of the Admiralty in , introduced sweeping reforms in large part to counter the growing threat posed by the expanding German fleet.
Training programs were modernized, old and obsolete vessels were discarded, and the scattered squadrons of battleships were consolidated into four main fleets, three of which were based in Europe.
Britain also made a series of diplomatic arrangements, including an alliance with Japan that allowed a greater concentration of British battleships in the North Sea.
Tirpitz could also no longer depend on the higher level of training in both the German officer corps and the enlisted ranks, nor the superiority of the more modern and homogenized German squadrons over the heterogeneous British fleet. In October , Admiral Fisher stated "our only probable enemy is Germany. Germany keeps her whole Fleet always concentrated within a few hours of England.
We must therefore keep a Fleet twice as powerful concentrated within a few hours of Germany.
U.S. Battle Fleet on the High Seas (1922) - IMDb
Ships capable of battle with Dreadnought would need to be significantly larger than the old pre-dreadnoughts , which increased their cost and necessitated expensive dredging of canals and harbors to accommodate them. The German naval budget was already stretched thin; without new funding, Tirpitz would have to abandon his challenge to Britain. The First Amendment to the Second Naval Law was passed on 19 May and appropriated funding for the new battleships, as well as for the dredging required by their increased size.
The law also reduced the service life of all battleships from 25 to 20 years, which allowed Tirpitz to push for the replacement of older vessels earlier. A third and final amendment was passed in May represented a compromise between Tirpitz and moderates in parliament. The amendment authorized three new battleships and two light cruisers. The amendment called for the High Seas Fleet to be equipped with three squadrons of eight battleships each, one squadron of eight battlecruisers , and eighteen light cruisers.
Two 8-ship squadrons would be placed in reserve, along with two armored and twelve light cruisers. The arms reduction mission ended in failure, however, and the law was announced shortly thereafter. The Germans were aware at as early as , the Royal Navy had abandoned the idea of a decisive battle with the German fleet, in favor of a distant blockade at the entrances to the North Sea, which the British could easily control due to their geographical position.
There emerged the distinct possibility that the German fleet would be unable to force a battle on its own terms, which would render it militarily useless.
When the war came in , the British did in fact adopt this strategy. Coupled with the restrictive orders of the Kaiser, who preferred to keep the fleet intact to be used as a bargaining chip in the peace settlements, the ability of the High Seas Fleet to affect the military situation was markedly reduced. Either course of action would permit the Germans to whittle away at the numerical superiority of the Grand Fleet with submarines and torpedo boats.
Once a rough equality of forces could be achieved, the High Seas Fleet would be able to attack and destroy the British fleet. In addition, Tirpitz assumed that Britain would not be able to concentrate its fleet in the North Sea, owing to the demands of its global empire. At the start of a conflict between the two powers, the Germans would therefore be able to attack the Royal Navy with local superiority.
He concentrated British battleship strength in home waters, launched the Dreadnought revolution, and introduced rigorous training for the fleet personnel. The island of Heligoland provided a fortified forward position in the German Bight.
The German Navy lacked sufficient overseas bases for sustained operations, even for single ships operating as commerce raiders. By the outbreak of war in , this had increased significantly to about 80, officers, petty officers, and men.
The entire fleet conducted several cruises into the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea. During the last peacetime cruise of the Imperial Navy, the fleet conducted drills off Skagen before proceeding to the Norwegian fjords on 25 July. On the 27th, the entire fleet assembled off Cape Skudenes before returning to port, where the ships remained at a heightened state of readiness.
The first occurred on 2—3 November , though no British forces were encountered. However, skirmishes between the rival destroyer screens in the darkness convinced von Ingenohl that he was faced with the entire Grand Fleet. Under orders from the Kaiser to avoid risking the fleet unnecessarily, von Ingenohl broke off the engagement and turned the fleet back toward Germany. Admiral Hugo von Pohl replaced him as commander of the fleet. Another followed on 17—18 April, where the fleet covered a mining operation by the II Scouting Group.
Three days later, on 21—22 April, the High Seas Fleet advanced towards the Dogger Bank , though again failed to meet any British forces.
Scuttling of German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow
On 10 August, the fleet steamed to the north of Heligoland to cover the return of the auxiliary cruiser Meteor. A month later, on 11—12 September, the fleet covered another mine-laying operation off the Swarte Bank.
The last operation of the year, conducted on 23—24 October, was an advance without result in the direction of Horns Reef. The battlecruisers conducted another raid on the English coast on 24—25 April, during which the fleet provided distant support. The Admiralty ordered the Grand Fleet, totaling some 28 dreadnoughts and 9 battlecruisers, to sortie the night before in order to cut off and destroy the High Seas Fleet.
To extricate his fleet from this precarious position, Scheer ordered a point turn to the south-west. On 1 June, the British had twenty-four capital ships in fighting condition, compared to only ten German warships. Despite being forewarned by signal intelligence, the Grand Fleet did not attempt to intercept.
These activities included work refusals, hunger strikes, and taking unauthorized leave from their ships. The previous day, the Admiralstab had ordered the cessation of naval actions and the return of the dreadnoughts to the High Seas Fleet as soon as possible. As a result, the Royal Navy attached a squadron of battleships to protect the convoys, which presented Scheer with the possibility of destroying a detached squadron of the Grand Fleet.
On 22 April, the German fleet assembled in the Schillig Roads outside Wilhelmshaven and departed the following morning. Reports from U-boats indicated to Scheer that the convoys sailed at the start and middle of each week, but a west-bound convoy had left Bergen on Tuesday the 22nd and an east-bound group left Methil , Scotland, on the 24th, a Thursday.
As a result, there was no convoy for Hipper to attack. Scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow A final fleet action was planned for the end of October , days before the Armistice was to take effect. The bulk of the High Seas Fleet was to have sortied from their base in Wilhelmshaven to engage the British Grand Fleet; Scheer—by now the Grand Admiral Grossadmiral of the fleet—intended to inflict as much damage as possible on the British navy, in order to retain a better bargaining position for Germany, despite the expected casualties.
However, many of the war-weary sailors felt the operation would disrupt the peace process and prolong the war. The massive flotilla consisted of some British, American, and French warships.
Von Reuter believed that the British intended to seize the German ships on 21 June , which was the deadline for Germany to have signed the peace treaty. Unaware that the deadline had been extended to the 23rd, Reuter ordered the ships to be sunk at the next opportunity. On the morning of 21 June, the British fleet left Scapa Flow to conduct training maneuvers, and at The Royal Navy, initially opposed to salvage operations, decided to allow private firms to attempt to raise the vessels for scrapping.
They remain on the bottom of Scapa Flow, along with four light cruisers. Raeder advocated long-range commerce raiding by surface ships, rather than constructing a large surface fleet to challenge the Royal Navy, which he viewed to be a futile endeavor.