Before the Great War it was said that the English fleet was the only one in the world in which serious mutinies occured. The Germans thought their own sailors, by contrast, had a deep moral seriousness, an unselfish devotion, even pious, sense of duty. There had been a mutiny at Kiel on several ships of the fleet on 07 January 1918 and again at Wilhelmshaven on 07 August 1918; but these had been sternly suppressed, with the death-sentence executed on a certain proportion of the mutineers. As the fate of Germany was being written in large and fiery letters during late 1918, there were many who believed that the German Navy would come out for one desperate grapple with their enemies and go down fighting.
In the early hours of the morning of Thursday, 31 October 1918, the Admiral commanding the German High Seas Fleet at Kiel signaled the order 'Seeklar' (be ready to put to sea), and it was suspected from end to end of the fleet that this meant a last desperate attempt to fight the British Navy. But the crews had no desire to perish heroically; on the contrary, they were determined not to allow themselves to be dragged into this mad adventure. Instead of obeying, the seamen broke out into open mutiny. The revolt assumed tremendous proportions and spread to other ports, and Prince Henry, the High Commander, was compelled to flee for his life. Elements among the revolted sailors seized trains and rushed to Berlin where the smouldering Revolution had burst into flame, important elements of the troops uniting in the disorder. The flames rapidly swept on into a conflagration and the Prussian Capital fell into the hands of the Bolshevists or Spartacists, as they were termed. The Imperial standard was torn down and the Red flag was hoisted over the Imperial Palace and the Brandenburg Gate.
The first surrender of German naval vessels under the Armistice was the delivery of twenty submarines to Admiral Tyrwhitt of the British navy off Harwich at sunrise on 20 November 1918. The following day nineteen more were delivered. The most spectacular event, however, was the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet to Admiral Beatty and the Allied armada off the Firth of Forth on the morning of 21 November 1918, the greatest naval capitulation in history. The ships surrendered were nine dreadnoughts, five battle cruisers, seven light cruisers, and fifty destroyers, representing a total tonnage of 410,000. Under British guardianship this mighty flotilla was interned at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys; the vaunted German navy was at last in British hands, and Germany was defenseless not only in Europe but on the seas and in the dominions beyond the seas.
In the interest of historical truth it must be recorded that the German crews, who had received the news of the surrender with shouts of joy, proceeded with the ships to the Firth of Forth in the firm belief that it was a question only of a temporary internment and not of the complete surrender of the fleet. The German officers acted from a strict sense of duty and under the same conviction. It is only fair to say that it was when it became known to them that in this expectation they had been deceived, that the officers and crews sank their ships in Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919.
Before the war, German naval officers held themselves on a very high plane indeed. It was often said that the wardroom of a German warship was more exclusive than the court of Austria. This de haut en bas attitude maintained toward the enlisted force worked fairly well as long as Germany succeeded in her aims: but as soon as defeat became of more than average occurrence, discipline began to waver: the battle of Jutland and the horrors of the submarine service were the final disrupting forces.
Discipline, obedience, and patriotism disappeared and the result is a 'pseudo-navy run upon trade-union lines and administered by soviets." The demoralization of the naval service was so complete that there was little probability of the formation of an efficient navy for many years to come. The German admiral, Hollweg, regarded any attempt to reorganize the old naval forces as impossible. The officers are all right but the men were hopelessly filled with soviet and revolutionary doctrines which would make a well organized and disciplined navy absolutely impossible. Since both Kiel and Wilhelmshaven were hotbeds of sovietism, anarchism, and extremely radical socialistic doctrines, the admiral believed it would be necessary to discard both as naval bases as well as to disband every part of the existing naval forces and start in new localities with new men.
Side by side with the fulfilment of the Peace Treaty went the re-establishment of discipline. In particular the 2 naval brigades, formed from volunteers, and a few cruisers and torpedo-boats set an example of military obedience and loyalty to duty. From the example set by them grew the restoration of the moral and organization of the navy, which was seriously but transiently disturbed once more by the Kapp Putsch on 13 March 1920.
Under the revolution the inner organization of the navy was severely strained but not destroyed. Order was gradually restored. The authority vested in heads of staff and administration was revived as the governtment grew stronger and the liquidation of the war could be begin. So the "Reichsmarine" was eventually brought largely under the control of the Monarchists. Naval officers, both active and retired, had been conspicuous in every counter-revolutionary movement, from the Kapp Putsch to the plots against leading members of the Republican administration. The German navy was itself a hotbed of reaction. All the "disaffected" elements had been weeded out. The officers, from the departmental chief, Admiral von Behncke, down to the youngest Fahnrich, were said to be ardent "Kaiser's men," and it was their boast that the lower-deck personnel have been carefully selected with a view to their political opinions.
At the end of the Great War, and upon the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the German Armed Forces had been drastically reduced by the Allies. The German navy was known as the Vorläufige Reichsmarine from 1919-1921 and subsequently as the Reichsmarine from 1921-1933. The Reichswehr was the defensively oriented armed force of the German Republic from 1919 to April 1935. The Reichswehr was composed of the Reichsmarine (Naval Forces) and the Reichsheer (Army Forces). The German Navy was stripped of its battleships, submarines, and aircraft. As a fighting force the German navy ceased to exist under the terms of the Armistice and the Treaty of Versailles. Only a navy recruited and maintained on a volunteer basis was allowed to Germany, the total personnel not to exceed 15,000, including a maximum of 1500 officers and warrant officers. The naval expenditure in 1921, including mine-sweeping, was estimated at 221,000,000 marks. All the capital ships of the former High Fleet of Germany left afloat were broken up.
The naval force left to Germany was negligible in power. It consisted of the pre-dreadnought battleships Deutschland (Ichd. 1904), Hannover (1905), Schlesien (1906), Schleswig-Holstein (1906) - all of 13,000 tons. 4 11-inch guns; Lothringen (1904), Braunschweig (1902), Elsass (1903), Hessen (1903)-all of 13,000 tons and 4 11-inch guns. The light cruisers retained are the Berlin and Hamburg ( 1903 -3200 tons, 23 knots, 10 4.1-inch guns), Arcana (1902-2700 tons, 21 knots, 10 4.1-inch guns), Amazone, Medusa, and Thetis (1900-2650. tons, 22 knots, 10 4.1-inch guns). There were 12 destroyers of about 6OO tons and 10 years old. Not one of the foregoing vessels would be retained in a modern navy as a part of the fighting force. Five modern fast light cruisers were to be retained under the provisions of the Versailles treaty but after the sinking of the ships at Scapa Flow these were required to be given up together with floating docks, floating cranes, tugs, and barges equivalent to a displacement of 400,000 tons. However, the number and power of the ships retained in the German navy are not of the least importance.
Under the revolution the Inner organization of the navy was severely strained but not destroyed. Order was gradually restored. The authority vested in heads of staff and administration was revived as the Government grew stronger and the liquidation of the war could be begun. Side by side with the fulfilment of the Peace Treaty went the reestablishmcnt of discipline. In particular the 2 naval brigades formed from volunteers, and a few cruisers and torpedo-boats, set an example of military obedience and loyalty to duty. From the example set by them grew the restoration of the moral and organization of the navy, which was seriously but transiently disturbed once more by the Kapp Putsch on 13 March 1920.
In 1921 the navy was organized as follows: The control of the navy was, like the control of the army, incorporated in the Ministry of the Defence of the Reich (Reichswehrministerium) in Berlin and was subordinated to the political minister at the head of that department. It included the functions of the former Admiralty staff, Naval Cabinet and Admiralty, and therefore embraced the command and the administrative authorities. Subject to the head of the control of the navy were: the Navy Command Department (including the defence department, for organization, training, and welfare, and the fleet department, for military dispositions, developments in fighting material, strategic and tactical questions); the General Navy Department (including the dockyards section, construction department, armament section, nautical section, and water transport section); and the Navy Administrative Office (naval stores, accounts, pay)- In addition there are the central department, the financial department, and the medical department; and further, for both army and navy, the leyal department and the intelligence department.
The naval forces were at Baltic Station: the battleships "Hanover," "Hessen," and "Schleswig-Holstein "; the cruisers "Medusa," "Thetis," and "Berlin." At the North Sea Station: the battleships "Braunschweig," "Elsass," and "Schlesien"; the cruisers "Hamburg," "Arcona," and "Amazone"; together with two flotilla* of torpedo-boats (each of 6 larger and 6 smaller boats), and 4 gunboats ("Drache," " Hai," "Fuchs," "Dolphin "). Also there were several mine-sweeping flotillas. It was intended to replace obsolete ships, and a vote for the construction of a new cruiser was passed in 1920-1.
The naval dockyard in Kiel had been made over to a private company, the navy retaining only the smaller portion of it as an arsenal. The Wilhelmshaven dockyard was greatly diminished in extent. In that part which was given up there was a fishing harbor. The shipbuilding yards were used for merchant vessels and steam trawlers.
In accordance with the peace terms the naval personnel numbered 15,000, of whom 1,500 were officers. Compulsory service was abolished. Every volunteer agreed to serve 12 years, and every officer to serve 25 years, or until the age of 45.
The legal basis of the navy was embodied in the Law of April 16 1919 and the National Defence Law of March 19 1921. To these must be added the Pay Law and the Pensions Law. The estimates were fixed annually; for 1921 they were for 652,000,000 marks.
In 1921 the control of the navy was, like the control of the army, incorporated in the Ministry of the Defence of the Reich (Reichswehrministerium) in Berlin and was subordinated to the political minister at the head of lhat department. It includes the functions of the former Admiralty staff, Naval Cabinet and Admiralty, and therefore embraces the command and the administrative authorities. Subject to the head of the control of the navy are:-the Navy Command Department (including the de-fence department, for organization, training, and welfare, and the licet department, for military dispositions, developments in fighting material, strategic and tactical questions); the General Navy Department (including the dockyards section, construction department, armament section, nautical section, and water transport section); and the Navy Administrative Office (naval stores, accounts, pay). In addition there arc the central department, the financial department, and the medical department; and further, for both army and navy, the legal department and the intelligence department.
Following the end of the World War I, the major combatants engaged in varying degrees of reorganization and reformation to incorporate the lessons learned from the conflict. Germany faced the pressing need to quickly reconstitute and reorganize her armed forces to meet both external and internal threats. The effort to rebuild began immediately following the war. The decision about what direction and shape the Navy would take was influenced by several factors. The German Navy's anticipated enemy, the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles, and the political situation all played a part in the development of the post-World War I German Navy. At least as important as any of these factors was the influence of two prominent naval theorists, A.T. Mahan, and Sir Julian Corbett.
Contrary to the belief that the Reichswehr expansion began after Hitler's assumption of power in January 1933, the Army had already begun a caution expansion after the departure of the Allied Control Commission in 1926. Germany took considerable steps to build the industrial base for rearmament. Domestic manufacturers illicitly developed or procured machinery to produce modern machine guns and artillery. Others moved tooling, blueprints and materials to subsidiaries in neutral countries, such as Holland and Sweden, and openly developed and manufactured heavy guns, aircraft and submarines.
To accomplish Hitler's goal of rapid expansion the Reichstag enacted the National Defense Law of 21 May 1935, which law dissolved the Reichswehr. In it's place were created the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces) which consisted of the Heer (Army), Kriegsmarine (Navy) and Luftwaffe (Air Forces).
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