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The ships, completed between and , had deck armour but not side armour and were intended for overseas duties. Shortages of funding meant it was not possible to create several designs of cruisers specialised for long range work, or more heavily armoured for fleet work. Tirpitz advocated the cause of an expanded navy necessary for Germany to defend her territories abroad.
He had great success in persuading parliament to pass successive Navy bills authorising expansions of the fleet.
Now Germany was to compete with the rest. Tirpitz started with a publicity campaign aimed at popularising the navy. He created popular magazines about the navy, arranged for Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History , which argued the importance of naval forces, to be translated into German and serialised in newspapers, arranged rallies in support and invited politicians and industrialists to naval reviews.
Various pressure groups were formed to lobby politicians and spread publicity. One such organisation, the navy league or Flottenverein , was organized by principals in the steel industry Alfred Krupp , ship yards and banks, gaining more than one million members.
Political parties were offered concessions, such as taxes on imported grain, in exchange for their support for naval bills. On 10 April the first Navy Bill was passed by the Reichstag.
It authorised the maintenance of a fleet of 19 battleships, 8 armoured cruisers, 12 large cruisers and 30 light cruisers to be constructed by 1 April Existing ships were counted in the total, but the bill provided for ships to be replaced every 25 years on an indefinite basis.
Five million marks annually was allocated to run the navy, with a total budget of million marks for shipbuilding. This would bring the German fleet to a strength where it could contemplate challenging France or Russia, but would remain clearly inferior to the world's largest fleet, the Royal Navy.
Following the Boxer rebellion in China and the Boer War , a second navy bill was passed on 14 June This approximately doubled the allocated number of ships to 38 battleships, 20 armoured cruisers, 38 light cruisers.
Significantly, the bill set no overall cost limit for the building program. Expenditure for the navy was too great to be met from taxation: Instead, the bill was financed by massive loans. Tirpitz, in was already exploring the possibilities for extending the battleship total to 45, a target which rose to 48 by Britain had to maintain a fleet throughout the world and consider other naval powers, whereas the German fleet could be concentrated in German waters [ citation needed ].
Attempts were made to play down the perceived threat to Britain, but once the German fleet reached the position of equalling the other second-rank navies, it became impossible to avoid mention of the one great fleet it was intended to challenge.
Tirpitz hoped that other second-rank powers might ally with Germany, attracted by its navy. The policy of commencing what amounted to a naval arms race did not properly consider how Britain might respond.
British policy, stated in the Naval Defence Act of , was to maintain a navy superior to Britain's two largest rivals combined. The British Admiralty estimated that the German navy would be the world's second largest by Reforms in training and gunnery were introduced to make good perceived deficiencies, which in part Tirpitz had counted upon to provide his ships with a margin of superiority.
More capital ships were stationed in British home waters. A treaty with Japan in meant that ships could be withdrawn from East Asia, while the Entente Cordiale with France in meant that Britain could concentrate on guarding Channel waters, including the French coast, while France would protect British interests in the Mediterranean.
By it was considered that Britain's only likely naval enemy was Germany. Five battleships of the Wittelsbach class were constructed from to at a cost of 22 million marks per ship.
Five ships of the Braunschweig class were built between and for the slightly greater 24 million marks each. Due to torpedo improvements in range and accuracy, emphasis was placed on a secondary armament of smaller guns to defend against them. The five Deutschland -class battleships constructed between and had similar armament as the Braunschweig class, but heavier armour, for the slightly greater sum of Development of armoured cruisers also continued.
Fürst Bismarck ' s design was improved upon in the subsequent Prinz Heinrich , completed in Two ships of the Prinz Adalbert class were commissioned in , followed by two similar Roon -class armoured cruisers commissioned in and , at costs around 17 million marks each. Eight Bremen -class light cruisers were constructed between and , developed from the earlier Gazelle class. The ships had ten Turbines were faster, quieter, lighter, more reliable and more fuel efficient at high speeds.
No reliable German design was available by , so British Parsons turbines were purchased. In , the Imperial Naval High Command was replaced by the German Imperial Admiralty Staff Admiralstab responsible for planning, the training of officers, and naval intelligence. In time of war it was to assume overall command, but in peace acted only advisory. Direct control of various elements of the fleet was subordinated to officers commanding those elements, accountable to the Kaiser.
The reorganisations suited the Kaiser who wanted to maintain direct control of his ships. A disadvantage was that it split apart the integrated military command structure which before had balanced the importance of the navy within overall defence considerations. It suited Alfred von Tirpitz, because it removed the influence of the admiralty staff from naval planning, but left him the possibility, in wartime, to reorganise command around himself.
Wilhelm II, however, never agreed to relinquish direct control of his fleet. She became famous as the first of a new concept in battleship design, using all big gun, single size of calibre armament. She used turbine propulsion for greater speed and less space required by the machinery, and guns arranged so that three times as many could be brought to bear when firing ahead, and twice as many when firing broadside.
The design was not a uniquely British concept as similar ships were being built around the world, nor was it uniquely intended as a counter to German naval expansion, but the effect was to immediately require Germany to reconsider its naval building program.
The battleship design was complemented by the introduction of a variant with lighter armour and greater speed, which became the battlecruiser. The revolution in design, together with improvements in personnel and training severely brought into question the German assumption that a fleet of two-thirds the size of the Royal Navy would at least stand a chance in an engagement.
Either an enormous sum now had to be found to develop the navy further, or naval expansion had to be abandoned. The decision to continue was taken by Tirpitz in September and agreed by Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow and the Kaiser, while Dreadnought was still at the planning stage. The larger ships would naturally be more expensive, but also would require enlargement of harbours, locks and the Kiel canal, all of which would be enormously expensive.
Estimated cost for new dreadnoughts was placed at Two dreadnoughts and one battlecruiser were to be built each year. Construction of four Nassau -class battleships began in under the greatest possible secrecy. The chief German naval designer was Hans Bürkner. A principle was introduced that the thickness of side armour on a ship would equal the calibre of the large guns, while ships were increasingly divided internally into watertight compartments to make them more resistant to flooding when damaged.
The design was hampered by the necessity to use reciprocating engines instead of the smaller turbines, since no sufficiently powerful design was available and acceptable to the German navy. Turrets could not be placed above the centre of the ship and instead had to be placed at the side, meaning two of the six turrets would always be on the wrong side of the ship when firing broadsides. The ships were all completed by , over budget, averaging Four Parsons turbines were used, improving speed to 27 knots and reducing weight.
The design was considered a success, but the cost at Light cruiser development continued with the Dresden -class light cruisers, which were to become famous for their actions in the start of World War I in the Pacific. The ships were 3, tons, and armed with ten These had turbines, twelve Despite their ultimate importance, the German navy declined to take up the cause of another experiment, the submarine, until The first submarine had ton displacement on the surface and tons submerged.
Submerged, the ship could manage 50 nautical miles at 5 knots using battery electric propulsion. The ships followed a design by Maxime Laubeuf first used successfully in , having a double hull and flotation tanks around the outside of the main crew compartments.
The submarine had just one torpedo tube at the front and a total of three torpedoes. The early engines were noisy and smoky, so that a considerable boost to the usefulness of the submarine came with the introduction of quieter and cleaner diesel engines in , which were much more difficult for an enemy to detect.
German expenditure on ships was steadily rising. By the outbreak of World War I, one billion marks had been added to Germany's national debt because of naval expenditures.
While each German ship was more expensive than the last, the British managed to reduce the cost of the succeeding generations of Bellerophon 3 ships and St. Successive British battlecruisers were more expensive, but less so than their German equivalents. This all contributed to growing opposition in the Reichstag to any further expansion, particularly when it was clear that Britain intended to match and exceed any German expansion program.
In the fleet itself, complaints were beginning to be made in about underfunding and shortages of crews for the new ships. The State Secretary of the Treasury, Hermann von Stengel , resigned because he could see no way to resolve the budget deficit. The elections of had returned a Reichstag more favourable to military exploits, following the refusal of the previous parliament to grant funds to suppress uprisings in colonies in German South-West Africa.
Despite the difficulties, Tirpitz persuaded the Reichstag to pass a further Novelle in March This reduced the service life for ships from 25 years to 20 years, allowing for faster modernisation, and increased the building rate to four capital ships per year.
Tirpitz's target was a fleet of 16 battleships and 5 battlecruisers by , and 38 battleships and 20 battlecruisers by There were also to be 38 light cruisers, and torpedo boats. The bill contained a restriction, that building would fall to two ships per year in , but Tirpitz was confident of changing this at a later date. He anticipated that German industry, now heavily involved in shipbuilding, would back a campaign to maintain a higher construction rate.
Four battleships of the Helgoland class were laid down in —10, with displacements of 22, tons, twelve Again, the turret configuration was dictated by the need to use the centre of the ship for machinery, despite the disadvantage of the turret layout.
The Kaiser -class battleships built between and introduced a change in design as turbine engines were finally approved. As with the Von der Tann design, which was drawn up at a similar time, all guns could be fired either side in broadsides, meaning more guns could come to bear than with the Helgoland design, despite having fewer in total.
Five ships were constructed rather than the usual four, one to act as a fleet flagship. Luitpold had a top speed of 20 knots as a result, compared to 22 knots for the other ships.
The ships cost Seydlitz was constructed as a slightly enlarged version of the Moltke design, reaching a maximum speed of 29 knots. All cruisers were equipped with turbine engines from onwards. Between and four Magdeburg -class light cruisers were constructed of 4, tons, at around 7. The ships were fitted with oil burners to improve the effectiveness of their main coal fueling. These were followed by the similar but slightly enlarged and marginally faster Karlsruhe and Graudenz -class light cruisers.
In a naval artillery school was established at Sonderburg north of Kiel. This aimed to address the difficulties with the new generation of guns, which with potentially greater range required aiming devices capable of directing them at targets at those extreme ranges. Capital ships were fitted with spotting tops high up on masts with range finding equipment, while ship design was altered to place turrets on the centre line of the ship for improved accuracy.
The four König -class battleships were commenced between October and May and entered service in at a cost of 45 million marks, forming the other part of the Third Squadron of the High Seas Fleet. They were 28, tons, with a maximum speed of 21 knots from three triple-stage Brown-Boverie-Parsons turbines. Main armament was five double turrets housing twin The second turret at either end was raised higher than the outer so that it could fire over the top superfiring.
As with Prinzregent Luitpold , the ships were originally intended to have one diesel engine for cruising, but these were never developed and turbines were fitted instead. The ships were equipped with torpedo nets, trailed along the hull intended to stop torpedoes, but these reduced maximum speed to an impractical 8 knots and were later removed. Construction began in of the first submarine powered by twin diesel engines.
There were now two bow and two stern torpedo tubes, with six torpedoes carried. Spending on the navy increased inexorably year by year. In Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow and Treasury Secretary Reinhold von Sydow attempted to pass a new budget boosting taxes in an attempt to reduce the deficit.
The Social Democratic parties refused to accept the increased taxes on goods, while the conservatives opposed increases in inheritance taxes. His attempted solution was to initiate negotiations with Britain for an agreed slow down in naval building. Negotiations came to nothing when in the Agadir Crisis brought France and Germany into conflict. Germany attempted to 'persuade' France to cede territory in the Middle Congo in return for giving France a free hand in Morocco.
The effect was to raise concerns in Britain over Germany's expansionist aims, and encouraged Britain to form a closer relationship with France, including naval cooperation. Tirpitz saw this once again as an opportunity to press for naval expansion and the continuation of the four capital ships per year building rate into The January elections brought a Reichstag where the Social Democrats, opposed to military expansion, became the largest party. The German army, mindful of the steadily increasing proportion of spending going to the navy, demanded an increase of , men to bring its size closer to that of France.
In February the British war minister, Viscount Haldane , came to Berlin to discuss possible limits to naval expansion. Meanwhile, in Britain, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill made a speech describing the German navy as a 'luxury', which was considered an insult when reported in Germany. The talks came to nothing, ending in recriminations over who had offered what. Bethmann-Hollweg argued for a guaranteed proportion of expenditure for the army, but failed when army officers refused to support him publicly.
Tirpitz argued for six new capital ships, and got three, together with 15, additional sailors in a new combined military budget passed in April The new ships, together with the existing reserve flagship and four reserve battleships were to become one new squadron for the High Seas Fleet. In all the fleet would have five squadrons of eight battleships, twelve large cruisers and thirty small, plus additional cruisers for overseas duties. Tirpitz intended that with the rolling program of replacements, the existing coastal defence squadron of old ships would become a sixth fleet squadron, while the eight existing battle-cruisers would be joined by eight more as replacements for the large cruisers presently in the overseas squadrons.
The plan envisaged a main fleet of , men, 49 battleships and 28 battlecruisers by The Kaiser commented of the British, " Es gibt nichts aufregenderes als die orientalischen, geheimnisvollen Körper zu spüren.
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