15/3/1916 Germany loses its naval minister

Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz has been Germany’s naval minister since 1898. A close ally of the Kaiser, he organised the expansion of Germany’s fleet from a small force fit only for coastal defence to the great navy it is today, one that is almost able to challenge Britain’s naval supremacy. In so doing he played an important part in driving Britain into alliance with Germany’s enemies.

Now, though, Tirpitz is feeling increasingly marginalised. His navy is strong but Britain’s is so much stronger that the German fleet dare not risk a straight fight. Tirpitz has advocated the use of U-boats to attack British merchant shipping, suggesting that this would bring Britain to its knees in a few months. But Germany’s political leadership is wary of unleashing the U-boats, for fear that this would bring the USA into the war on the side of the Allies.

The Kaiser has in fact recently approved an escalation of Germany’s U-boat campaign. Allied merchant ships that have been fitted with weapons may now be sunk on sight as warships, without being stopped and searched first. But this is not enough for Tirpitz, who in any case suspects that Kaiser Wilhelm will heed the advice of Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg and call off the U-boats again.

So Tirpitz resigns as naval minister. As a member of the Prussian House of Lords he hopes to continue his campaign for Germany to adopt the tough and uncompromising measures he sees as necessary to secure victory.

image source:

Alfred von Tirpitz (Wikipedia)

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