Germany’s U-boat crews are fêted as heroes, for the country still hopes that their efforts will bring the war to a victorious end. Although the U-boat crews are being pushed to the limit, they enjoy an esprit de corps that allows them to endure what others would find unendurable. Things are different for the crews of Germany’s surface fleet. Since the Battle of Jutland last year, Germany’s battleships have remained in port, fearing annihilation at the hands of the British fleet. The naval crews are sitting out the war and their boredom leads them towards disaffection.
German sailors have many grounds for discontent. Their officers are aloof and uncaring and the navy enforces an iron discipline on the ships. Food is also an issue: although the officers eat well, rations for the rank and file are appalling. Moreover there is also anti-war and socialist agitation taking place among the sailors.
Throughout the summer disaffection has been escalating into incidents of low-level insubordination. Today though in an escalation several hundred sailors from two battleships stage a demonstration in Wilhelmshaven. Their demands are relatively innocuous but the naval authorities are alarmed. They quickly suppress the mutiny, arresting many sailors and prepare to court-martial the ringleaders.
For Germany’s leaders the Wilhelmshaven mutiny is a disturbing incident. They have watched with some delight as discipline breaks down in the Russian army, but Wilhelmshaven suggests that Germany’s own armed forces are not immune from rebelliousness.
Sailors from the Prinzregent Luitpold, one of the ships affected by the mutiny (De Eerste Wereldoorlog 1914 – 1918: Muiterij op de Duitse oorlogsvloot in de zomer van 1917: hongeroproer of revolutiepoging? [The First World War 1914 – 1918: Mutiny in the German fleet in the summer of 1917: food riot or attempted revolution?])
Sailors’ protest march (De Eerste Wereldoorlog 1914 – 1918: Muiterij op de Duitse oorlogsvloot in de zomer van 1917: hongeroproer of revolutiepoging? [The First World War 1914 – 1918: Mutiny in the German fleet in the summer of 1917: food riot or attempted revolution?])