The 1st World War at sea (World war one at sea)

With the emergence of the German Empire in 1872, the imperial navy, whose construction was the second strongest navy behind the British Royal Navy until 1914 continuously developed.

With the outbreak of the First World War, the hitherto largest naval forces were facing, a clash took place, however, did not take place until the Battle of the Skagerrak in 1916, instead, first large-scale submarines were used, which should change the naval command.





With the founding of the German empire, the former navy of the North German Confederation created the new imperial navy, which at that time was already in sixth place of the strongest naval forces. In the following years, the Navy was expanded, with the focus initially on the coastal defense and the securing of the maritime trade routes lay and was thus set rather defensive.

It was not until the turn of the century and the endeavor of the German Empire for colonies that the navy was attacked by Kaiser Wilhelm II and the navy fleet was established. In England, which has been dominating the world's oceans with its Royal Navy for decades, German armament has been watched with concern as fears have been fought between the British and German navies. This led to the Anglo-German arms race, whereby the German navy at no time came, in terms of numbers and equipment to the English Navy.



Balance of power at the beginning of the war:

ship type: Great Britain German empire France Austria-Hungary Russia USA Italy Japan
battleships 20 15 4 0 0 10 4 2
battlecruiser 9 4 0 3 0 0 4 2
Liners 40 22 20 12 12 25 12 14
Armored cruiser 34 9 22 3 6 17 10 13
Armored deck cruiser 73 41 12 9 8 17 11 18
Destroyer 256 149 84 33 103 61 63 49
Submarines 78 28 55 6 28 38 20 15


The German concept of naval warfare was based largely on the contribution of the Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, who wanted to advance the construction of a strong battle fleet and destroy the main enemy England in a single, crucial battle. Alternatives such as cruiser warfare, naval blockades or the autonomous deployment of submarines were not considered at the beginning of the war. It was not until the German Emperor, commander-in-chief of the navy, did not want to use the big warships to avoid losing them, and the focus on the use of submarines intensified.

The English Royal Navy was clearly superior to the German navy at the beginning of the war, yet English warfare relied on a blockade of the North Sea to cut off the German Empire from its imports rather than risking unnecessary casualties in a naval battle.






Chronology of the Sea War:

- 02 August: German warships lay mines off Libau in present-day Latvia. The cruisers SMS Augsburg and SMS Magdeburg bombard Russian munitions depots in the coastal area
- 04 August: The battle cruiser Goeben and the small cruiser Wroclaw of the German Mediterranean Division bombard on the Algerian coast port facilities and transport ships
- 05 August: The German auxiliary miner Queen Luise relocated to the Thames estuary Seeminen. The ship is sunk there by the English cruiser HMS Amphion
- 06 August: The English cruiser HMS Amphion runs on a laid by the German auxiliary miner Queen Luise sea mine and sinks
Denmark seals the large and small Beltes as well as the Danish part of the Øresund by means of sea mines
- 09 August: The German submarine U-13 sank
- 12 August: The German submarine U-15 sank
- 26 August: The German small cruiser Magdeburg stranded before Odensholm. The signal books fell into the hands of Russia, who passed on a copy to the English and thus had a decisive advantage and knowledge
- 28 August: Naval battle near Heligoland. The losses in the German Navy amounted to 3 small cruisers and 1 torpedo boat. In response to the losses, Kaiser Wilhelm II prohibited further actions, which are expected to cause major losses
- 05 September: The German submarine U-21 sunk the English cruiser HMS Pathfinder
- 13 September: The English submarine E-9 sinks the German cruiser SMS Hela
- 22 September: The German submarine U-9 sinks the English battleship HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy
- 15 October: The German submarine U-9 sinks the English cruiser HMS Hawke
- 27 October: The British battleship HMS Audacious ran on a German sea mine and sank
- 28 October: The German small cruiser Emden sunk the Russian cruiser Schemtschug and the French destroyer Mousquet
- 01 November: The German East Asia squadron sunk during the naval battle at Coronel the English cruiser HMS Monmouth and HMS Good Hope
- 03 November: German battlecruisers bombard the English coast at Yarmouth and Lowestoft
- 04 November: The small German cruiser SMS Karlsruhe sink for unknown reasons
- 09 November: The German cruiser SMS Emden is sunk by the Australian light cruiser Sydney
- 08 December: In the naval battle in the Falkland Islands was destroyed to the cruiser SMS Dresden, the entire East Asia squadron with the armored cruisers SMS Scharnhorst, SMS Gneisenau, the small cruisers SMS Nuremberg, SMS Leipzig and the Trossschiffen Baden and Santa Isabel
- 16 December: German battlecruisers bombard the English towns of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby





- 01 January: The German submarine U-24 sinks the English battleship Formidable in the English Channel
- 24 January: By deciphering radio messages of the German Navy, there was a naval battle on the Dogger Bank. The heavy cruiser SMS Blücher was sunk thereby
- 30 January: The German submarine U-20 sunk two merchant ships without warning according to the right of prize in the English Channel
- 18 February: As a countermeasure to the English naval blockade, the German naval leadership issues the unrestricted submarine trade war and declares the waters around England and Ireland a war zone. This procedure causes strong indignation in neutral states
- 19 February to 18 March: Battle of Gallipoli ends in disaster for the English and French troops
- 14 March: The German cruiser SMS Dresden is sunk by the crew in the neutral Chilean territorial waters of Robinson Crusoe Island, after British warships have tracked down the ship
- 07. May: The German submarine U-20 sunk the passenger ship RMS Lusitania with 1198 people died. Warnings of the German embassy before the departure of New York were ignored. Contrary to the official neutral stance of the US, the ship had loaded ammunition for the British forces and thus lost the war neutral state
- 23 May: Italy declared war on the Central Powers. On the same day, the cities of Ancona, Rimini, Senigallia, and the Potenzamündung were bombarded by Austro-Hungarian warships
- 02 July: At Gotland, German and Russian warships meet. The German mining cruiser Albatross is stranded
- 11 July: The German small cruiser SMS Königsberg is sunk after heavy shelling by the team itself
- 13 August: The German submarine U-14 sunk in the eastern Aegean the British troop transport Royal Edward
- 19 August: The German submarine U-24 sinks the British passenger steamer Arabic. Then the instruction goes out that passenger steamer may not be attacked any more.
On the same day, the German U-boat U-27 was sunk in Irish waters by the English submarine trap (disguised, armed flagship US flagship) Baralong and the survivors shot dead by the English crew
- 23 October: The big cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert was sunk by the English submarine E-8
- 05 November: In the Gulf of Sollum in Egypt submerged the German submarine U-35 the English auxiliary cruiser HMS Tara and the gunboat Abbas
- 08 November: The German submarine U-38 submerged the Italian passenger ship Ancona south of Sardinia




- 02 January: 50% of the merchant fleet of the Ottoman Empire were sunk by English submarines
- 01 February: For the first time a German Zeppelin sunk an English merchant ship in the English Channel
- 22 March: The English submarine trawler HMS Farnborough first launched depth charges and sunk the German submarine U-68
- 24 March: The German U-boat U-29 torpedoed the canal ferry Sussex, which could be towed heavily damaged to France
- 31 May and 01 June: In the waters off Jutland, the Battle of the Skagerrak was the site of the greatest conflict between the Imperial Navy and the Royal Navy. The real aim of the German naval command was to attack and severely weaken the British battlecruiser squadrons stationed at Rosyth before English reinforcements could run out. However, as the British were able to monitor and already decode German radio traffic, they were prepared.
The Royal Navy took part:
- 28 battleships
- 9 battlecruisers
- 8 armored cruiser
- 26 light cruisers
- 78 destroyers
- 1 aircraft mother ship participating in the battle.
The Imperial Navy had:
- 16 battleships
- 5 battlecruisers
- 6 old ships of the line
- 11 small cruisers
- 61 torpedo boats available.
In contrast to previous battles, this time the Royal Navy had to accept larger losses than the Imperial Navy. The English Navy lost
-- 3 battle cruisers HMS Queen Mary, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Invincible
-- 3 armored cruiser HMS Defense, HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince
-- 8 destroyers HMS Tipperary, HMS Ardent, HMS Fortune, HMS Nestor, HMS Nomad, HMS Shark, HMS Sparrowhawk and HMS Turbulent
The Imperial Navy lost
-- 1 large cruiser SMS Lützow
-- 4 small cruisers SMS Wiesbaden, SMS Frauenlob, SMS Elblag, SMS Rostock
-- 1 older battleship SMS Pommern
-- 5 torpedo boats V4, V27, V29, V48 and S35
Despite the larger losses on the English side remained the balance of power on the part of the Royal Navy
- 05 June: The British battleship HMS Hampshire runs on a German sea mine and sinks. Among the dead is the English Secretary of War Kitchener
- 02 July: Agents from Austria-Hungary sunk with an explosive charge, the Italian battleship Leonardo da Vinci
- 26 and 27 October: 23 German torpedo boats sink 1 English destroyer and 14 auxiliary ships in the English Channel
- 10 November: 10 German destroyers are sunk through a minefield in the Baltics
- 21 November: In the Aegean, the hospital ship HMHS Britannic ran on a German maritime mine and sank
- 25 November: The German submarine U-52 sunk before Portugal the French liner Suffren



The Skagerrak Battle of May 31, 1916


- 09 January: The German submarine U-32 sunk in the Mediterranean, the English liner Cornwallis
- 01 February: Germany begins again the unrestricted submarine war
- 17 March: 2 English destroyers sunk in the English Channel
- 06 April: The United States declare war on the German Empire
- 10 May: The Allies introduce the convoy system to protect their ships
- 19 July: On the German large-scale ships SMS Prinzregent Luitpold and SMS Frederick the Great, the first cases of insubordination and mutiny came on
- 12 October: Occupation of the Baltic islands Saaremaa (Ösel), Hiiumaa (Dagö) and Muhu (Moon)
- 17 October: Battle of Moon Sound between the Imperial and Russian navies. The Russian liner Slawa, 1 Russian destroyer and 1 Russian submarine were sunk
- 26 October: After the sinking of Brazilian ships, the country declares war on the german Empire




- 01 February: Around 6,000 sailors committed an uprising at the Austro-Hungarian naval base Kotor. After there was no reaction, it was finished on 03. February
- 23 April: The last foray into the North Sea of ​​the Imperial High Seas Fleet ends with a machine incident of the battlecruiser SMS Moltke
- 27 June: German submarine U-86 sinks the hospital ship Llandovery Castle. Most of the survivors were then shot in the water and in the lifeboats
- 10 October: The German submarine U-123 sinks the English passenger ship RMS Leinster
- 24 October: Following orders of the naval command of the German Emperor, the High Seas Fleet was to carry out an attack in the area of ​​the Flemish coast and the Thames estuary on the weakened English Royal Navy. From October 29 to October 30, the first sailors refused to execute the command, whereupon the attack was canceled. In spite of this, the refusal to obey led to the development of the Kiel Sailor Uprising, from which the November Revolution arose
- 09 November: The German submarine U-50 sunk the English liner HMS Britannia west of Gibraltar. It was the last sinking of a warship during the First World War
- 11 November: Under the terms of the ceasefire, the Imperial High Seas Fleet had to be extradited and interned at Scapa Flow. The First World War ended thus also for the imperial navy





The self-sinking of the Imperial High Seas Fleet:

On November 18, 1918, 20 German submarines sailed for England, followed on November 19 by nine battleships, five large cruisers, seven small cruisers and fifty torpedo boats. The dodgy ships SMS King Albert and the SMS Dresden followed later.

The fleet in Scapa Flow had been disarmed under the provisions and remained to operate only 4,500 sailors on site under the leadership of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. In June 1919 Reuter reduced the workforce by about 2,200 sailors, so that the core of the remaining sailors were loyal to him. Background was the assumption Reuters that the peace negotiations would fail, the state of war would be called again and thus the German high seas fleet the Englishmen directly into the hands would fall. Based on this, Reuters decided at a favorable moment to give orders for complete self-submergence of the warships.

On June 21, 1919, most of the Royal Navy stationed at Scapa Flow left the base for a maneuver in the North Sea. Reuters saw the right moment and gave the command to open the seacocks at 11:00. The remaining English ships realized too late what has happened, opened still fire on the German sailors, however, could no longer prevent the disaster. With the exception of 1 battleships SMS Baden, 3 small cruisers SMS Emden, SMS Frankfurt and SMS Nuremberg and 11 torpedo boats sank all German ships:
-- Battleship SMS Bayern
-- Battleship SMS Friedrich der Große
-- Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst
-- Battleship SMS Kaiser
-- Battleship SMS Kaiserin
-- Battleship SMS König Albert
-- Battleship SMS König
-- Battleship SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
-- Battleship SMS Markgraf
-- Battleship SMS Prinzregent Luitpold
-- Battleship SMS Baden
-- Battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger
-- Battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg
-- Battlecruiser SMS Moltke
-- Battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz
-- Battlecruiser SMS von der Tann
-- Small cruiser SMS Cöln
-- Small cruiser SMS Karlsruhe
-- Small cruiser SMS Dresden
-- Small cruiser SMS Brummer
-- Small cruiser SMS Bremse
-- Small cruiser SMS Nürnberg
-- Small cruiser SMS Frankfurt
-- Small cruiser SMS Emden
-- Torpedo boats the first flotilla (S 32, G 38, G 39, G 40, G 86, V 129)
-- Torpedo boats of the Second Flotilla (G 101, G 103, G 104, B 109, B 110, B 111, B 112)
-- Torpedo boats of the third flotilla (S 53, S 54, S 55, V 70, G 91)
-- Torpedo boats of the Sixth Flotilla (V 45, S 49, S 50, S 131)
-- Torpedo boats of the Seventh Flotilla (S 56, S 65, V 78, V 83, G 89, S 136, S 138, H 145)
-- Torpedo boats of the Seventeenth Semi-Flotilla (S 36, S 52)



As a consequence of the break of the ceasefire contract, the German government subsequently had to deliver other warships, which could have been used for the awarded Reichsmarine. In addition, dozens of ships had to be delivered to the merchant fleet.

Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter and 1773 officers and men were taken prisoner of war and returned only on January 31, 1920 to Germany.




Losses in the First World War:


Great Britain German empire France Austria-Hungary Russia USA Ottoman Empire
Battleships 2 0 0 2 2 0 0
Battlecruiser 3 1 0 0 2 0 0
Liners 11 2 4 1 2 0 2
Armored cruiser 13 6 5 0 0 2 0
Armored deck cruiser 12 18 0 4 1 1 1
Submarines 55 199 15 9 28 3 0
Other warships 257 239 51 12 197 15 36
Auxiliary vessels 765 319 90 13 110 42 57
total 1188 784 165 41 232 63 69
Tonnage without auxiliary ships 652.000 362.000 172.000 58.000 127.000 41.000 31.000
Dead 34.654 34.836 11.500 unknown unknown unknown unknown






You can find the right literature here:


Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, 1914–18

Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, 1914–18 Hardcover – April 15, 2017

Clash of Fleets is an operational history that records every naval engagement fought between major surface warships during World War I. Much more than a catalog of combat facts, Clash of Fleetsexplores why battles occurred; how the different navies fought; and how combat advanced doctrine and affected the development and application of technology. The result is a holistic overview of the war at sea as it affected all nations and all theaters of war. A work of this scope is unprecedented.

Organized into seven chapters, the authors first introduce the technology, weapons, ships, and the doctrine that governed naval warfare in 1914. The next five chapters explore each year of the war and are subdivided into sections corresponding to major geographic areas. This arrangement allows the massive sweep of action to be presented in a structured and easy to follow format that includes engagements fought by the Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Ottoman, and Russian Navies in the Adriatic, Aegean, Baltic, Black, Mediterranean, and North Seas as well as the Atlantic, India, and Pacific Oceans. The role of surface combat in the Great War is analyzed and these actions are compared to major naval wars before and after.

In addition to providing detailed descriptions of actions in their historical perspectives, O'Hara and Heinz advance several themes, including the notion that World War I was a war of navies as much as a war of armies. They explain that surface combat had a major impact on all aspects of the naval war and on the course of the war in general. Finally, Clash of Fleets illustrates that systems developed in peace do not always work as expected in war, that some are not used as anticipated, and that others became unexpectedly important. There is much for today's naval professional to consider in the naval conflict that occurred a century ago.

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Naval Weapons of World War One

Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines, and ASW Weapons of All Nations: An Illustrated Directory Hardcover – December 15, 2011

Although the Great War might be regarded as the heyday of the big-gun at sea, it also saw the maturing of underwater weapons, the mine and torpedo, as well as the first signs of the future potency of air power. Between 1914 and 1918 weapons development was both rapid and complex. This heavily illustrated work details all the guns, torpedoes, mines, aerial bombs and an anti-submarine systems employed during that period and offers an in-depth explanation of the background to their evolution. The book treats the war as a transition from naval weapons which were essentially experimental at its outbreak to a state where they pointed directly to what would be used in World War II. Based largely on original research, this sophisticated book is more than a catalogue of the weapons, offering insight into some of the most important technical and operational factors influencing the war at sea.

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Skagerrak: The Battle of Jutland Through German Eyes

Skagerrak: The Battle of Jutland Through German Eyes Hardcover – July 22, 2016

On 31 May 1916 The German High Seas Fleet clashed with the Royal Navy in the North Sea. The ensuing Battle of Jutland, known to the Germans as the Skaggerak Battle (der Skagerrakschlacht), was the most significant naval action of the First World War. Although not tactically decisive, the strategic result was that British naval supremacy in the North Sea went unchallenged for the rest of the war and the blockade of Germany remained in place.

Many works have dealt with this clash of titans, and many more will doubtless appear for the approaching centenary but the German perspective has been sorely neglected. Gary Staff aims to correct this. By cross-referencing both German and British official records and accounts he has established the most coherent narrative of the battle possible. But the bare bones of the timeline are fleshed out with eyewitness accounts from the crews of the German ships. The result is a gripping read that gives a real sense of the drama, tension and terror of being in battle inside one of these steel behemoths. The thoroughly researched and accessible text is supported by clear maps and a large number of archive photos, many never before published, showing the German vessels before, during and after the action.

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Scapa 1919: The Archaeology of a Scuttled Fleet

Scapa 1919: The Archaeology of a Scuttled Fleet Hardcover – May 21, 2019

The German High Seas Fleet was one of the most power naval forces in the world, and had fought the pride of the Royal Navy to a stalemate at the battle of Jutland in 1916. After the armistice was signed, ending fighting in World War I, it surrendered to the British and was interned in Scapa Flow pending the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles. In June 1919 the entire fleet attempted to sink itself in the Flow to prevent it being broken up as war prizes. Of the 74 ships present, 52 sunk and 22 were prevented from doing so by circumstance and British intervention.

Marine archaeologist and historian Dr Innes McCartney reveals for the first time what became of the warships that were scuttled, examining the circumstances behind the loss of each ship and reconciling what was known at the time to what the archaeology is revealing today. This fascinating study reveals a fleet lost for nearly a century beneath the waves.

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