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Anglo-German naval arms race

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Anglo-German naval arms race of the early


20th century preceded and was one of the several
intertwined causes for World War I.

There were also other naval buildups in several


other countries which were emerging as great
powers, such as the United States and Japan, and in
South America.
The size and power of battleships grew rapidly before,
during, and after World War I: a result of competitive
Contents shipbuilding among a number of naval powers, including
Britain and Germany, brought to an end by the Washington
1 Background Naval Treaty and Treaty of Versailles
2 The race
3 See also
4 References
5 Further reading

Background
The United Kingdom had the largest navy in the world[1] and so in accord with Wilhelm IIs enthusiasm for an
expanded German navy, and his own strong desires, Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, Secretary of State of
the German Imperial Naval Office, championed four Fleet Acts between 1898 and 1912 to greatly expand the
German High Seas Fleet. The German aim was to build a fleet that would be 2/3 the size of the British navy.[2]
This plan was sparked by the threat of the British Foreign Office in March 1897, after the British invasion of
Transvaal that started the Boer War, to blockade the German coast and thereby cripple the German economy, if
Germany were to intervene in the conflict in Transvaal.[3] From 1905 on, the British navy developed plans for
such a blockade that was a central part of British strategy.[4]

In reaction to this challenge to their naval supremacy, from 1902 to


1910, the British Royal Navy embarked on its own massive expansion
to keep ahead of the Germans. This competition came to focus on the
revolutionary new ships based on HMS Dreadnought, which was
launched in 1906.

By 1913, there was intense internal debate about new ships due to the
growing influence of John Fisher's ideas and increasing financial
constraints. It is now generally accepted by historians that in early-mid
1914 the Germans adopted a policy of building submarines instead of
new dreadnoughts and destroyers, effectively abandoning the arms race, HMS Dreadnought, the ship that
but kept this new policy secret so that other powers would be delayed in caused the Anglo-German naval arms
following suit. race to reach its period of greatest
intensity, while also sparking other
dreadnought races around the world
The race
The naval race between Britain and Germany generated massive public
support on each side. In the midst of the race, the British public coined
the slogan 'We want eight and we won't wait!',[5] referring to the number
of dreadnoughts they wanted the government to build. With the surge of
public support, the government did commission more shipbuilding.

British defense policy was to ensure that the British navy was at least
the size of the next two largest navies[6] as outlined in the Two Power
Standard. This was not the case as the war approached, due to financial
and logistical constraints, and the speed of expansion of the German
navy and the US Navy. Britain did, however, boast the largest and
mightiest navy when war broke out in 1914.

Britain managed to build HMS Dreadnought in just 14 months[7] and by


the start of the First World War Britain had 49 battleships, compared
with Germany's 29.[7] Although the naval race continued it was
economically impossible for the Germans to close the gap before the
1909 cartoon in Puck shows five
war broke out.
nations engaged in naval race
In 1912, the German chancellor Bethmann Hollweg ended the naval
arms race. His aim was to secure an understanding with the British to end the increasingly isolated position of
Germany. Russian military expansion compelled the Germans to prioritise spending on their army and therefore
less on the navy. This initiative led to the Haldane Mission, in which Germany offered to accept British naval
superiority in exchange for British neutrality in a war in which Germany could not be said to be the aggressor.
This proposal was rejected, as for Britain there was nothing to gain by such a treaty since their naval superiority
was insecure, although the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey favoured a more assertive policy against
Germany.[8]

The naval strength of the powers in 1914[9]


Large naval vessels
Country Personnel Tonnage
(dreadnoughts)
Russia 54,000 4 328,000
France 68,000 10 731,000
Britain 209,000 29 2,205,000
Total 331,000 43 3,264,000
Germany 79,000 17 1,019,000
Austria-Hungary 16,000 3* 249,000
Total 95,000 20 1,268,000
Grand total 426,000 63 4,532,000
*4th not commissioned yet.

See also
Causes of World War I
Imperial German Navy
GermanyUnited Kingdom relations
International relations of the Great Powers (18141919)

References
1. "Royal Navy and the First World War" (https://web.archive.org/web/19991007055519/http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.c
o.uk/FWWnavy.htm). Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Archived fromthe original (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FW
Wnavy.htm) on 1999-10-07. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
2. Andriessen, De andere waarheid, 1999, page 298
3. Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, 2012, page 148-149
4. Andriessen, 1999, De andere waarheid, page 304 e.v .
5. "Causes of WWI" (http://www.johndclare.net/causes_WWI2.htm). Johndclare.net. 1912-12-08. Retrieved 2014-01-20.
6. "Archived copy" (https://web.archive.org/web/20100127005738/http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/history/ships/hms-royal-
sovereign-1892/). Archived from the original (http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/history/ships/hms-royal-sovereign-1892/)
on January 27, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2010.
7. "The Cause of World War I" (http://www.firstworldwar.com/origins/causes.htm)
8. Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, 2012, page 318-319
9. Ferguson, Niall. The pity of war (1999) p. 85.

Further reading
Brandenburg, Erich. From Bismarck to the World War: A History of German Foreign Policy 1870-1914
(1927) pp 266-99, 394-417.
Dunley, Richard. "Sir John Fisher and the Policy of Strategic Deterrence, 19041908." War in History
22.2 (2015): 155-173.
Epkenhans, Michael. Tirpitz: Architect of the German High Seas Fleet (2008) excerpt and text search
Grimes, Shawn T. Strategy and War Planning in the British Navy (Boydell, 2012).
Hobson, Rolf. "The German School of Naval Thought and the Origins of the Tirpitz Plan 1875-1900."
(1996). online
Hobson, Rolf. Imperialism at Sea: Naval Strategic Thought, the Ideology of Sea Power, and the Tirpitz
Plan, 1875-1914 (Brill, 2002).
Kelly, Patrick J. "Strategy, Tactics, and Turf Wars: Tirpitz and the Oberkommando der Marine, 1892-
1895," Journal of Military History (2002) 66#4 pp 10331060.
Kelly, Patrick J. Tirpitz and the Imperial German Navy (2011) excerpt and text search
Kennedy, Paul M. The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism: 1860-1914 (1980)
Kennedy, Paul M. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1989) excerpt and text search
Lambert, Nicholas A. Sir John Fisher's Naval Revolution (2002) excerpt and text search
MacMillan, Margaret. The war that ended peace: The road to 1914 (Penguin, 2013) pp . 111-41.
Marder, Arthur. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: Volume I: The Road to War 1904-1914 (1978).
Massie, Robert K. Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the coming of the Great War, (1991), popular
history.
Morgan-Owen, David. "A Revolution in Naval Affairs? Technology, Strategy and British Naval Policy in
the Fisher Era." Journal of Strategic Studies 38.7 (2015): 944-965.
Rger, Jan. The great naval game: Britain and Germany in the age of empire (Cambridge UP, 2007).
Seligmann, Matthew. "Intelligence information and the 1909 naval scare: the secret foundations of a
public panic." War in History 17.1 (2010): 37-59. Argues the information was genuine and not scare-
mongering online
Steinberg, Jonathan. "The Tirpitz Plan," Historical Journal (1973) 16#1 pp 196204 in JSTOR
Steinberg, Jonathan. Yesterday's Deterrent: Tirpitz and the Birth of the German Battle Fleet (Macmillan,
1966).

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Categories: Naval history of Germany History of the Royal Navy Causes of World War I
Geopolitical rivalry Technological races

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