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German High Seas Fleet, Worth The Investment?


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#61 Archie Pellagio

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Posted 29 April 2015 - 0540 AM

Focusing on BC, especially in the era before the super-dreadnoughts brought BC-like speed to the party, would've been a logical policy for sea denial and commerce raiding.

 

At the end of the day, no BC was sunk because of inadequate armor, or rather no BC was sunk by surface fire that a BC in a similar situation would've survived.


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#62 DougRichards

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Posted 29 April 2015 - 2344 PM

Thew BC was sunk due to its being used as a second class fast battleship, against real battleships.

 

The ideal use concept of the BC was beautifully demonstrated on 8 December 1914 at the Falklands.  Surprisingly it was later demonstrated by the sinking of the HMS Glorious by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.  Of course when the Scharnhorst was trapped into a one sided battle against The Duke of York and a force of cruisers at North Cape, its destruction was assured.

 

So would the Kaiser's navy have been better off thinking along different lines than building an expensive fleet of dreadnoughts?  Perhaps having a good force of battlecruisers to do what battlecruisers so best, hunting cruisers and attacking blockading ships, with a separate force of 'Baltic' battleships, similar in nature to the Sverige, or maybe a bit larger, enough to keep the Baltic under greater German control in an economic way, without having any thought of challenging the Royal Navy on the high seas.

 

Of course that would not have had the dubious prestige of a force of dreadnoughts.


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#63 Markus Becker

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 0652 AM

But if the Germans do not invade Belgium then Belgium will probably declare itself neutral in the conflict between Germany and France/Britain. Then the Germans can just buy the nitrate stored in Antwerp, as long as the Belgians are willing to sell of course. Not much the Royal Navy can do about that, short of shelling Antwerp harbour.

 

If the Germans don't invade Belgium how does the UK get into the war? Before the invasion the public seemed to consider the war a 'war on the continent'. I know that some politicians wanted the UK to enter the war anyway but that might have been impossible if Germany had been defensive in the west and of course placed huge orders with UK firms.


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#64 glenn239

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 0850 AM

Alejandro - Yes, but without the UK in the war I cannot see how the French/Russian Navy could enforce the blockade.

 

 

 

Maybe, maybe not.  What is certain is that, British neutrality or not, the 400,000 tons of nitrates was crucial to the CP war effort for ammunition production, and this would be beyond Germany's reach - it might get some from neutral Belgium, but not all of it.  I still am surprised that Germany could sieze that amount of nitrates in Antwerp, which is almost a year’s production from Chile.  It would have to be that it was warehoused for pending distribution for the 1915 crops in Europe.  


Edited by glenn239, 30 April 2015 - 0850 AM.

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#65 glenn239

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 0910 AM

Markus Becker If the Germans don't invade Belgium how does the UK get into the war?

 

 

 

The 2 August 1914 naval pledge to France said that if the German fleet came through the North Sea or around Scotland, the British would attack it – this commitment was made before Germany sent its note to Belgium.  Assuming this radical departure from neutrality actually worked without drawing Britain into the war, that still would allow the French navy, from behind the British navy, to have executed a blockade.  So, after 2 August, whether the British got dragged in or not, the French would still in position to blockade Germany with inferior numbers. 

 

The second possibility that could drag the British into the war without Germany having invaded Belgium would be if the French did so - this unilateral action by France would force the British hand and virtually compel a DOW on Germany, (because otherwise Belgium would become a German satellite in the post-war period).


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#66 Markus Becker

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 1040 AM

 

 

The 2 August 1914 naval pledge to France said that if the German fleet came through the North Sea or around Scotland, the British would attack it – this commitment was made before Germany sent its note to Belgium.  Assuming this radical departure from neutrality actually worked without drawing Britain into the war, that still would allow the French navy, from behind the British navy, to have executed a blockade.  So, after 2 August, whether the British got dragged in or not, the French would still in position to blockade Germany with inferior numbers. 

 

 

Why would the HSF sail into the Channel or around Scotland? The former would PO the UK almost as much as an invasion of Belgium and is the latter even possible given the range of the HSF? It certainly strikes me as not necessary. The French can close the Channel but they can not blockade the Denmark Strait or shut down UK to Germany trade inside the North Sea.

 

 

The second possibility that could drag the British into the war without Germany having invaded Belgium would be if the French did so - this unilateral action by France would force the British hand and virtually compel a DOW on Germany, (because otherwise Belgium would become a German satellite in the post-war period).

 

 

You mean a French invasion of Belgium would make the UK go to war with ... Germany???

 

Even if by some miracle the government gets a DOW in parliament, how on earth do you convince the general public that an unprovoced act of French agression against a small and peaceful neutral nation is reason to support France? OK, I get the long term strategic reasoning but you need to sell this to the people and that would have been a PR nightmare.

 

 

PS: I completely forgot the key player in this game: Belgium! What would they do if Germany issues no ultimatum and France invades them? Ask Britain for help? If they do, a British DOW on Germany looks impossible to me.


Edited by Markus Becker, 30 April 2015 - 1049 AM.

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#67 glenn239

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 1558 PM

Markus Becker - Why would the HSF sail into the Channel or around Scotland? The former would PO the UK almost as much as an invasion of Belgium and is the latter even possible given the range of the HSF? It certainly strikes me as not necessary. The French can close the Channel but they cannot blockade the Denmark Strait or shut down UK to Germany trade inside the North Sea.

 

 

 

I suspect the naval pledge may have eventually drawn Britain in because it was the kind of half-measure that would satisfy no one, and half measures can be unstable when tested. 

For example, did anyone ever ask Jellicoe of what he thought of the naval pledge? 

 

You mean a French invasion of Belgium would make the UK go to war with ... Germany???

 

 

 

Yes.  Picking another option would leave Belgium as a vassal of Germany at the end of the war because the Germans would first boot the French out of Belgium and then never leave.  It didn't matter who invaded Belgium first - only declaring war on Germany would preserve the neutrality of Belgium after the war.

 

 

Even if by some miracle the government gets a DOW in parliament, how on earth do you convince the general public that an unprovoked act of French aggression against a small and peaceful neutral nation is reason to support France?   OK, I get the long term strategic reasoning but you need to sell this to the people and that would have been a PR nightmare.

 

 

 

From the POV of the German navy, if anyone invades Belgium Britain is probably coming in against Germany.  So the navywould best assume war with Britain is probably going to happen.  In that case elusive the German navy should have wanted the army to take Amiens during the offensive into France so that coastal artillery could go to Calais for the purpose of war in the Channel fought with aircraft and light forces. 


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#68 glenn239

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 1558 PM

Markus PS: I completely forgot the key player in this game: Belgium! What would they do if Germany issues no ultimatum and France invades them?

 

 

 

You really want my guess on how it plays out?  Ok, but this is kinda a separate topic and this is only a guess.

 

 

Paris would not be dumb enough to do as Germany did and present some stupid note in Brussels – the Belgians would just wake up one morning with French cavalry halfway across the Ardennes.  Belgium would protest violently to Paris and appeal to London.  Moltke would respond within hours by demanding German access to Belgian soil.  London would advise (1) Belgium to reject the German demand, (2) warn Paris not to cross north of the Meuse (3) commence “mediation” for a French withdrawal, (4) warn Berlin that it must not to enter Belgian territory and (5) present to cabinet Belgium’s appeal for assistance, which Grey would present in the form of the BEF going to Antwerp.  Paris would respond to London that they welcomed “mediation”, welcomed the BEF north of the Meuse, and would keep the French army south of the Meuse.  They would say their intelligence indicated that Germany had violated the neutrality of Belgium and France would make certain that this was not so. 

 

Moltke is now presented with the following situation – the Belgian army has been ordered to resist all invaders, but since the Belgian army is not south of the Meuse in any strength anyways, this will have no impact whatever on the French advance.  Cabinet will approve the BEF going to Belgium at the appeal of the Belgians.   Germany’s demand for access to Belgian soil would be rejected in Brussels and in London.  Moltke now is presented with two choices.  Either enter Belgium without permission, in which case a large battle at Liege will commence, or stay clear of Belgian territory, in which case the BEF will occupy Liege and the French army will come straight across the Ardennes and into Germany.

 

 


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#69 swerve

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Posted 30 April 2015 - 1625 PM

 

Markus Becker If the Germans don't invade Belgium how does the UK get into the war?

 

 

The 2 August 1914 naval pledge to France said that if the German fleet came through the North Sea or around Scotland, the British would attack it – this commitment was made before Germany sent its note to Belgium.  Assuming this radical departure from neutrality actually worked without drawing Britain into the war, that still would allow the French navy, from behind the British navy, to have executed a blockade.  So, after 2 August, whether the British got dragged in or not, the French would still in position to blockade Germany with inferior numbers. 

As Markus says, how can the French interdict German trade with Great Britain? The British merchant fleet was by far the biggest in the world. Would the French start stopping British ships in the Atlantic, & the Channel, in case they were sailing to or from Germany? The French navy couldn't sail into the North Sea to blockade German ports: that would be suicidal, & contrary to everything a still (semi) neutral UK would want.

 

So unless the UK (not at war with Germany) imposed its own blockade, including of Danish ports & Baltic shipping, or at the very least a trade embargo (no British ships in German ports, no German ships in British ports), the French couldn't blockade Germany. And a British blockade would be a declaration of war, & even an embargo would be effectively one.


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#70 Markus Becker

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 0743 AM

 

 

Moltke is now presented with the following situation – the Belgian army has been ordered to resist all invaders, but since the Belgian army is not south of the Meuse in any strength anyways, this will have no impact whatever on the French advance.  Cabinet will approve the BEF going to Belgium at the appeal of the Belgians.   Germany’s demand for access to Belgian soil would be rejected in Brussels and in London.  Moltke now is presented with two choices.  Either enter Belgium without permission, in which case a large battle at Liege will commence, or stay clear of Belgian territory, in which case the BEF will occupy Liege and the French army will come straight across the Ardennes and into Germany.

 

 

 

No matter what happenes after France invades Belgium, France still started it and Germany merely reacts. Unless Germany reacts by invading central and northern Belgium spin doctors will have a hard time convincing anyone the Germans are the guilty party. And Germany too might stay south of Liege. If they choose to enter Belgium at all. From a political POV that would be a mistake and militarily it does not lokk necessary. The terrain on the German side of the border is just as bad as on the Belgain.


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#71 glenn239

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 1134 AM

Swerve - As Markus says, how can the French interdict German trade with Great Britain? The British merchant fleet was by far the biggest in the world. Would the French start stopping British ships in the Atlantic, & the Channel, in case they were sailing to or from Germany?

 

 

 

I see two general ways it could play out. 

 

You’re thinking of the first way, where Britain refuses to allow its neutral rights to be impacted and continues to trade with Germany, making great profits.  In that instance, the German navy literally has no mission outside the Baltic, since the British navy and government are ensuring trade.  The bulk of the German navy could be demobilized or kept in the Baltic, and the German navy could even invite British observers to the Kiel Canal and North Sea ports.

 

The second way it can play is a little different.  Here, the British are conspiring with the French and actively mindful of the need for legal precedent in the future use of their own Royal Navy’s most powerful weapon – blockade.  They uphold France’s right to declare a distant blockade on Germany and recognize the validity to the French argument, the doctrine of continuous voyage.  To prevent the disruptions in British imports inherent to the French detaining ships bound for Britain, the British government simply regulates exports to Germany or any European port that can trade with Germany, such that the French objectives are achieved.


Edited by glenn239, 01 May 2015 - 1159 AM.

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#72 glenn239

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 1146 AM

 

 

Markus Becker - No matter what happens after France invades Belgium, France still started it and Germany merely reacts. Unless Germany reacts by invading central and northern Belgium spin doctors will have a hard time convincing anyone the Germans are the guilty party.

 

 

 

Assuming that the basic premises are sound – that the British will send the BEF to Antwerp and call for mediation as to the French violation, that the Belgians will refuse Germany permission to enter Belgium, (Brussels would be letting the vampire in the house otherwise), and that the Belgian army will offer only token resistance in the Ardennes, limiting their actions with the French to sharp protests, then what Moltke sees is the BEF north of the Meuse advancing towards Germany and the French south of the Meuse advancing towards Germany.   The British are still neutral, but the line between neutrality and belligerency is razor thin and the actual movements of the Anglo-French are essentially what they would been anyways, if Britain were belligerent, (except instead of being in Northern France, the Entente is on the doorstep of the Ruhr).  All in all, I think the German navy best had to assume that the British could not avoid being dragged in.  If not by Germany’s own action, then by its entanglements with Belgium and France.


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#73 Markus Becker

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 1226 PM

That would be a way for the UK to enter a war IF the Reich fails to provide a pretext in 1914 but we need to go back further.

 

The Entente Cordiale came into being in 1904 and the Anglo German naval arms race was a major factor, wasn’t it? So what happens if there is no naval arms race? I’m not saying Britain will go to war with France and/or Russia over colonial issues but even if the differences are sorted out peacefully the likely outcome is IMO merely good mutual relations. That is a far cry from Britain joining an anti-German military alliance.

 

And if Britain does not join such an alliance because Anglo German relations are in a good working order why would Britain be eager to enter a war, especially one France started? To end up with a continent dominated by France and Russia?


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#74 glenn239

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Posted 02 May 2015 - 0825 AM

The Entente Cordiale came into being in 1904 and the Anglo German naval arms race was a major factor, wasn’t it? So what happens if there is no naval arms race?

 

 

 

The formal purpose to the Entente was to end frictions between Britain and France in the colonial sphere, with the “biggies” being the question of Morocco and Egypt.  Exactly how much the 2nd German naval law played into it is open for debate.  My impression was that the British were more interested in securing their relations with France then they were worried about German naval construction.  For example, late in 1901the British foreign minister composed a little-known draft of possible terms for an Anglo-German Entente, which IIRC, (would have to re-check) he intended to be compatible with an Anglo-French Entente.  I don’t recall the question of the German fleet being in the draft sent to the PM, and the response from the PM I recall as being very frosty, but again, I don’t recall him mentioning concern with the German navy.  If the British were so worried about the German navy in 1901, why isn’t this reflected in their own confidential internal communications?

 

 

When the German 2nd Naval Law was signed into law in 1900, and when the Anglo-French Entente negotiations commenced the next year, the Dreadnought revolution was still four or five years in the future.  At the point the decision was made to seek an Entente with France, I don’t think anyone in London or Paris was thinking that the large fleet of 40 (or so) British pre-dreadnoughts would be made obsolescent within five years and everyone would be starting “from scratch”.  Thrusting the tensions and uncertainties of the Dreadnought building scare circa 1907/1908 backwards in time to 1901/1904 to me is placing them out of context. 

 

 

I’m not saying Britain will go to war with France and/or Russia over colonial issues but even if the differences are sorted out peacefully the likely outcome is IMO merely good mutual relations. That is a far cry from Britain joining an anti-German military alliance.

 

 

 

I agree that the British would have preferred there to be no war at all, which pretty much precludes any offensive alliance aimed at Germany inclusive of Britain, but that’s a far cry from Britain being able to maintain neutrality should a continental war break out.  I suspect that where  thinking is departing from that of the historical British figures is that you assume if the British enter the war the Germans automatically lose, whereas they were afraid of  the Schlieffen Plan and the possibility that Germany could overthrow the balance of power in Europe in just four weeks.  I doubt the British considered they had a military safety margin to play with,  that even a month or two of neutrality could lead to an unrecoverable military disaster in France.  The German Chancellor’s pre-war assurances that Germany would not “crush” France stood in stark contrast to the secret intelligence flowing from France which indicated the German army would do precisely that in the first month of the a war. 

 

 

And if Britain does not join such an alliance because Anglo German relations are in a good working order why would Britain be eager to enter a war, especially one France started?

 

 

 

I think this places far too much weight on the question of who actually would start a war.  It almost didn’t matter, because whether Germany or France started a war with Britain neutral, the way the war would end would be the same  – with France crushed just like in 1870 and Germany making vassal states out of Belgium and the Netherlands. 

 

 

 

To end up with a continent dominated by France and Russia?

 

 

 

I doubt it was possible for France and Russia to dominate Europe, even if Germany had been defeated.  OTOH, I suspect it was quite possible, even likely, for Germany to dominate Europe if Germany won the war.


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#75 Ken Estes

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Posted 22 May 2015 - 1221 PM

One has to work hard to not find evidence that the German Fleet Law of 1900 preoccupied the UK leadership.

Just look at Arthur Marder's Vol 1 in his From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow [5 vols.]. In it, he devotes a chapter to "The German Naval Challenge, 1900-1908," headed by this:

There is no doubt that during those pre-war years the naval question loomed like a heavy cloud over the relations between England and Germany. We had absolutely no question at issue with Germany except the controversy of participation in the Baghdad Railway, and had it not been for the strenuous naval competition initiated by German, there was no apparent cause for disturbance in Europe for the next ten yers, and no need for the large naval programme that England was forced by Germany to adopt in order to maintain the security of our shores.

--- Lord Hardinge, Old Diplomacy

 

 

Marder laces his text in the chapter with pithy observations, as he wrote:

 

- The years 1900-5 witnessed a steady deterioration in the relations of the two peoples and the two  governments

- Feeling in both countries was running so high that the alliance negotiations were doomed from the start.

- The 1900 program was executed silently, rapidly and systematically, without the the shipbuilding delays which were recurring in England. Between 1900 and 1905 twelve battleships were laid down and proceeded with swiftly. Fourteen battleships were launched in these years, only two fewer than the British.

- It was in 1901-2 that the Admiralty first became seriously concerned about the German Navy.

- Cecil Spring-Rice, the rising young diplomat, wrote from London of the 'extraordinary' change in English opinion. 'Everyone in the [foreign] office and out talks as if we had but one enemy in the world and that Germany.'

- An October 1902 Cabinet paper by Selborne went a step further. The Admiralty was now convinced that the German Fleet was being built with a view to a naval war with England.

- The upshot was that already, in the summer and autumn of 1904, talk of the inevitability of an Anglo-German war was in the air. It was at this point that Fisher took over the helm.


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#76 DB

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Posted 19 June 2015 - 0956 AM

A report of an account of the scuttling of the fleet.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk...gazine-33152438


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#77 Murph

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Posted 28 June 2015 - 1513 PM

Germany would have been better served with more cruisers and maybe battlecruisers.  Less of an overt threat to the British and more useful for the colonial empire.


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#78 a77

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 1042 AM

Less of an overt threat to the British and more useful for the colonial empire.

 

It will not helpe, British did try to balance the power in Europe, since the Napoleonic era. But now the united Germany is rising to superpower status, economically, culturally, politically, economically. Whaderver German do it will shatter the old power balance in Europe at the British expense. Even if Willhelm II order the German industrial might to build him romantic fairytale castle (as his precursor have done) insted of a war fleet.


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#79 Murph

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Posted 05 July 2018 - 2000 PM

But cruisers would have been less threatening to the British unlike battleships. Cruisers would have been much more useful to protect the colonies.
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#80 FlyingCanOpener

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Posted 06 July 2018 - 0952 AM

Germany's colonies were doomed from the start in any war because of their isolation as well as being surrounded by unfriendly colonies with their own naval stations and forces to bolster them.


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