Hello everyone and welcome to this fifteenth Devlog. After talking about the Royal Navy in the last one, today's subject is about the Kaiserliche Marine of the German Empire. Without further ado, let's get right into the German Maritime History, which helps to better understand the situation in which it was at the start of the War.
Despite the long political history of Germany and the important strategic naval objectives of the Baltic Sea Region, a strong navy has largely eluded them throughout history and was in fairness in part because of their late unification.
During the age of German tribes, clans, and barbarian kingdoms, historians reported that Germans were using mostly refitted transport ships to try and raid commerce or make small landings to seize slaves and rob coastal cities. For the most part, barbarians stuck to land warfare even later on when a barbarian kingdom would logically have had the capability to make a major fleet (such as the Visigothic or Ostrogothic Kingdoms). This continued to be the case for the gradually modernizing German states after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
Charlemagne's empire kept a river-going navy but lacked an ocean going navy, a trend largely carried on by the Holy Roman Empire during the period in which it was a more centralized state. The only significant naval battle by the Empire during this time is the Battle of Giglio, a battle which was, in fact, fought with the navy of Norman Sicily, the Emperor's home kingdom which was only part of the Empire for the duration of his rule. However, one of the most interesting results of the decentralization to follow was the first signs of bucking this trend.
The Hanseatic League opted to create a navy which was to operate essentially as one single entity. This was the first time that there was truly a standing navy for the Germans. The new fleet was somewhat small, but innovative, with gun-and-cannon-bearing designs that would later be imitated by all of Europe's naval powers. They performed the first true blockade and also were the first to use shore bombardment in an effective way. From the late 14th century to the early 16th century, the League's fleet was the preeminent one in the North and Baltic Seas, regularly defeating naval powers that would logically be well above their weight like England and the Kalmar Union. This would end during the time of the Danish Count's Feud, where the Hanseatic League's disastrous support of the Catholic powers would lead to the decisive defeats at the Battles of Bornholm and Little Belt, ending the Hanseatic Fleet as a major Naval force forever.
Initially, when Prussia was inherited by the Hohenzollerns, the fleet's new owners took control of it with enthusiasm, with Brandenburg-Preußen not only creating a modest fleet, but also creating a modest colonial empire with the new navy's protection. However, by 1701, with the proclamation of Prussia as a unified state, the colonies had all been sold, the fleet had been left to rot, and the Baltic Sea was left without a naval power of any significance, with the idea that the Dutch and British would provide naval support in times of war. The First Schleswig War would prove how disastrous this could be for the disunified German states.
Denmark's ability to block Prussian and other North German troops from crossing to Sjælland while maintaining a naval blockade bought the small state the time needed for other European countries to diplomatically force Prussian withdrawal,leading to terms favorable to the Danes. One of the demands of the Frankfurt Parliament in its abortive attempt to unify Germany was the creation of a new German fleet. Prince Adalbert of Prussia, the father of the modern German navy, was in charge of making this idea a reality.
While the negotiations for unity fell apart, Adalbert took his ideas to Prussia, which were skeptically accepted by his older brother, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The purchase of the Jade Bight (later becoming the Wilhelmshaven) gave Prussia the needed facilities to create a fleet large enough to achieve another victory against Denmark. Moreover, the take of Holstein during the Second Schleswig War would prove to be a great location for German shipbuilding. The establishment of the Germaniawerft gave the navies of the North German Confederation, and subsequently the German Empire, two major advantages: Speed of Construction and Innovation.
Through the last third of the 19th century and the first decade and a half of the 20th, German naval enthusiasm has made for a huge buildup of ships, especially under the ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II, who seeks to use the German fleet as a way to exercise the Empire's might around the world. Most of Germany's ships are innovative, forward-thinking designs, especially their smaller screening ships which are heralded as some of the best in the world. Even more notable, would be the Unterseeboot, a well-armed highly advanced submarine whose capabilities were practically unknown to the British and French.
During The Great War, contrary to what Friedrich von Ingenohl had hoped, the Hochseeflotte couldn't really take part in decisive battles with the exception of the Battles of Dogger Bank and Gotland in 1915 and, of course, the Battle of Jutland in 1917. The Kaiserliche Marine spent a large part of the war in port, where U-Boats tried to impact the war in any way. The British numerical superiority proved too much for the Imperial fleet to handle, leading to a repeat of the nightmare that was the First Schleswig War. Perhaps it was fate... or perhaps it was strategic blunders by the German Admiralty that kept them cooped up. Perhaps will you do better in the Fields (or Seas) of History.
Whether it is for the Kaiserliche Marine or for any other navy, we proceeded exactly the same way as we did for the Royal Navy. Based on national archives, manifests and other sources, we've reconstructed it as faithfully as possible. As usual, you will be able to rearrange your Navy as you see fit. You will find for each navy of each country, the same organizational structure (Half-Flotillas, Flotillas, Squadrons and Grand Squadrons) that we had presented and explained in our previous Devlog.
But the German will was not limited to only compete with the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy in Europe, the Kaiser also wanted the Kaiserliche Marine to extend its influence in the colonies. The most important of the non-European Naval Forces of the Germans was undoubtedly the German East Asia Squadron led by the Vizeadmiral Maximilian von Spee, which from the very beginning of the war, managed to obtain several successes by using a "guerre de course" Tactic.
« Post card showing the SMS Deutschland alongside the SMS Gefion with the portrait of Prinz Heinrich von Preußen »
But the East Asia Squadron was soon threatened by the Australian and British Navies. Japan's entry into the war alongside Britain put an end to German ambitions in the Pacific. As a result, von Spee could not prevent the German surrender at Tsingtao the 7th November 1914 to the Japanese Imperial Army and a British contingent after a siege of more than two months.
Here's the summary of the Kaiserliche Marine in the Naval Overview Menu. Although numerically fewer in number than its rival, it lines up many Naval Units that can give you control of the Baltic. In addition, due to its naval armament program, the German Empire also had many Naval Units under construction that will be welcome to reinforce your Naval Forces.
Unlike the British, who will have to spread their fleet to protect and maintain control over their supply lines while still having combat fleets, you will have to make choices. Do you prefer to protect your colonial possessions or bring home your entire Navy in order to impose a local and powerful control on an area like the Baltic for example, taking advantage at the same time of your many ports and shipyards that will allow you to supply and repair your Naval Units. As Winston Churchill, the First Sea Lord, said, the German navy is a "Luxury" and it will be up to you to develop it to try to impose your domination and prove him wrong. A task that will be complicated but not impossible.
After presenting you the Kaiserliche Marine and its organization, we can't resist giving you a preview of the Construction Menu of the Naval Units in Fields of History.
What you can see above are Ships under construction, three Dreadnought Battleships - the SMS Großer Kurfürst, the SMS Bayern and its sister ship the SMS Baden - and the SMS Graudenz, a Light Cruiser which was ceded to Italy as a war prize and commissioned as the Ancona into the Regia Marina.
Upon commissioning into the Hochseeflotte, the SMS Baden and the SMS Bayern looked like real monsters. Among these imposing Super-Dreadnought, under the command of Franz von Hipper, the SMS Baden was later designated as the new Flagship of the Kaiserliche Marine (replacing the SMS Friedrich der Grosse in this role) until the end of the War.
We won't go into further details as the Construction of the Ships needs a full Devlog and this will be the subject of our next one. We are still working on the interface but we wanted to show it to you.
As for the Royal Navy, we would like to thank the people who have meticulously gathered a lot of information about Navies around the world and more particularly about the Kaiserliche Marine. If you wish more information, we recommend you to visit the following websites:
- Kaiserliche Marine on Naval Encyclopedia
- Imperial German Navy on The Dreadnought Project
- High Seas Fleet on 1914-1918-online International Encyclopedia of the First World War
- Organisation of the German Imperial Navy 1914-1918 on Naval History
This Devlog is coming to an end and we do hope that you've enjoyed it and that you learned more about the situation of the two largest navies of the time and what is at stake. Like we said, the next Devlog will be about the Naval Production of your Naval Units. Whit what is happening all around the world due to the Covid-19, we do hope that you are not affected by it, take good care of you and your family. Auf Wiedersehen!