Franz Ritter von Hipper

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Franz Ritter von Hipper
Admiral Hipper.jpg
Franz Ritter von Hipper was an Admiral in the Imperial German Navy during World War One and is one of the most renowned German fleet commanders. He wrote a diary about the war events at sea from 17 May 1914 to 22 February 1917 (Bundesarchiv Koblenz).
Birth date 13 September 1863(1863-09-13)
Place of birth Weilheim in Oberbayern, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Confederation
Death date 25 May 1932 (aged 68)
Place of death Othmarschen, German Reich
Allegiance  German Empire
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
Years of service 1881–1918
Rank Admiral
Commands held Second Torpedo Unit
SMS Leipzig
SMS Friedrich Carl
SMS Gneisenau
First Torpedo Boat Division
SMS Yorck
I Scouting Group
High Seas Fleet
  • World War I
    • Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby
    • Battle of Dogger Bank (1915)
    • Battle of Jutland
Awards Pour le Mérite

Franz Hipper, since 1916 Ritter von Hipper (13 September 1863 – 25 May 1932), was a German naval officer of the Imperial German Navy, finally Admiral in WWI. He began his naval career at the age of seventeen. During his fleet service, he mastered the art of gunnery and torpedo firing. In 1915, Hipper participated in the Battle of Dogger Bank against the British naval forces. In 1916, he was the head of the battlecruiser squadron at the Battle of Jutland, one of the largest naval battles in history. Hipper's flagship and a leading vessel for the scouting operations during the Battle of Jutland was SMS Lützow – a Derfflinger-class battlecruiser. On 11 August 1918, Ritter von Hipper was promoted admiral and appointed chief of the High Sea Fleet.


Vice-Admiral Franz Hipper (in the centre), commander of the German 1st Scouting Group (battle cruisers), and his staff on board the dreadnought (Großlinienschiff) SMS “Westfalen” (Wilhelmshaven repair yard) in 1916; from left to right: Kapitänleutnant Friedrich Brutzer, Korvettenkapitän Erich Raeder, Marine-General-Oberarzt Hagenah, Vice-Admiral Hipper, Korvettenkapitän Gottfried Hansen, an unknown Leutnant zur See und Kapitänleutnant Oskar von der Lühe.
Admiral von Hipper.jpg
Admiral von Hipper II.jpg
Admiral Hipper, Gedenkmünze II.jpg
Admiral Hipper, Gedenkmünze.jpg

Franz Hipper came from a middle-class Bavarian innkeeper family. He was the son of Anton Hipper (1831–1866) and his wife Anna, née Miller (b. 1835). His father, a shop-keeper, died when Franz was three. When Franz turned five, he began his education at a Catholic grammar school in Munich. At the age of ten, Franz attended the Gymnasium in Munich. Hipper graduated from the Gymnasium in 1879 with the degree of Obersekundareife. Some sources state, he first served as a one-year volunteer (Einjährig-Freiwilliger) with the Bavarian Army before deciding to apply for the German Navy and take the entrance examinations in Kiel (after attending Pressen or cram courses in order to prepare), which he passed with distinction. He joined the Imperial German Navy on 15 April 1881. After holding several commands and serving around the world, he was put in charge of all German scouting forces in 1913.

The first significant encounter between the two navies was that of the Helgoland Bight, on August 28, 1914, when a British force under Admiral Sir David Beatty, having entered German home waters, sank or damaged several German light cruisers and killed or captured 1,000 men at a cost of one British ship damaged and 35 deaths. For the following months the Germans in European or British waters confined themselves to submarine warfare—not without some notable successes: on September 22, a single German submarine, or U-boat, sank three British cruisers within an hour; on October 7 a U-boat made its way into the anchorage of Loch Ewe, on the west coast of Scotland; on October 15, the British cruiser Hawke was torpedoed; and on October 27, the British battleship Audacious was sunk by a mine. On December 15, battle cruisers of the German High Seas Fleet set off on a sortie across the North Sea, under the command of Admiral Franz von Hipper: they bombarded several British towns and then made their way home safely.[1]

Vice Admiral Hipper was an excellent tactician, who commanded effectively during the Battle of the Dogger Bank on 24 January 1915. As commander of the I Scouting Group of battlecruisers, Hipper played a key role in putting Admiral Scheer's plan into effect at Jutland. Not long after 2 p.m. on 31 May, Hipper and Beatty's battlecruiser forces made contact with each other.

Hipper turned south, hoping to draw the British towards the rest of the German fleet. It worked, and Beatty followed him. The two opposing battlecruiser forces soon opened fire on each other. Hipper's ships scored several early hits on the British, destroying HMS Queen Maryand HMS Indefatigable. The gunners on Hipper's battlecruisers had the advantage. The British ships were clearly visible against the skyline, whilst the Germans were less distinct targets. The Germans were able to capitalise on this, and achieved a better accuracy and range of fire during the fight between the battlecruisers.

When Scheer approached with the High Seas Fleet, Beatty turned away and headed north. The Germans followed and soon met the British Grand Fleet. A fierce battlecruiser encounter took place between the German ships SMS Lützow and SMS Derfflinger and Britain's HMS Invincible. Invincible exploded and all but six of her crew of 1,000 were lost. At one stage in the battle, Hipper had to transfer to a new flagship, SMS Moltke, as his had sustained too much damage and eventually sank. Under increasing pressure from the Grand Fleet, as night fell the Germans disengaged and turned for home. Hipper's force sustained some damage in the night fighting that occurred as the High Seas Fleet desperately tried to get home intact. Despite this, he and his remaining battlecruisers managed to return to their bases in Germany.

Hipper's role at Jutland (German: Skagerrakschlacht) was judged to have been carried out well, as his battlecruisers decisively won the initial clash with Beatty's force.

The Battle of Jutland was the First World War's largest naval engagement, a battle fought between the "Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and Admiral Reinhard Sheer's High Seas Fleet". Jutland was the largest meeting of dreadnoughts in history. It was the only encounter between the main British and German fleets during WWI and in a struggle that lasted less than 12 hours, 249 ships and 100,000 men fought each other to maintain maritime dominance, with the Germans attempting to lift the naval economic blockade that was slowly but surely draining Germany's lifeblood. The battle saw a great loss of life with significantly more British casualties for Britain compared to Germany; 14 British and 11 German ships were sunk. Both sides claimed victory. Jutland has been described as a tactical victory for the German High Seas Fleet but a strategic victory for the British Grand Fleet. The Germans had inflicted heavier losses on the numerically superior Grand Fleet and escaped near destruction but had failed to break the British blockade or control of the North Sea and had not altered the balance of power in any meaningful way.[2]

In August 1918, Ritter von Hipper took over from Scheer the control of the High Seas Fleet. He retired from the Imperial German Navy a few months later.


He spent his twilight years in Hamburg-Othmarschen, where he died after a long illness. The commemoration service took place at the Ohlsdorf cemetery, where, among others, Admirals Erich Raeder and von Hipper's old Crew comrade Wilhelm Souchon gave commemorative speeches; The 3rd Torpedo Boat Half Flotilla of the Reichsmarine provided a honour delegation. Admiral von Hipper found his final resting place in the cemetery of his hometown of Weilheim (Friedhof St. Sebastian) on 10 June 1932 with great participation from the people of Weilheim and also from numerous naval officers and soldiers in the family grave, where his urn had been transferred to. On hearing of von Hipper's death, his old adversary David Beatty said:

"I am very sorry. One would like to express one's regrets for the passing of a gallant officer and a great sailor."


  • 15 April 1881 Kadett (Officer Candidate; Crew 81)
    • Among others, the later admirals Richard Eckermann, Konrad Trummler, Friedrich Schultz, Karl Zimmermann, Christian Schütz and Wilhelm Sthamer belonged to this Crew.
  • 16 May 1882 Seekadett (Officer Cadet)
  • 21 November 1884 Unterleutnant zur See (2nd Lieutenant) without Patent
    • 19 December 1885 Patent received
  • 23 June 1888 Leutnant zur See (1st Lieutenant)
  • 14 January 1895 Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant Captain) subject to patentability (Vorbehalt der Patentierung)[3]
    • 11 November 1895 Patent received with Rank Seniority (RDA) from 14 Januar 1895
  • 10 June 1901 Korvettenkapitän (Corvette Captain – Lieutenant Commander)
  • 5 April 1905 Fregattenkapitän (Frigate Captain – Commander)
  • 6 April 1907 Kapitän zur See (Captain at Sea – Captain)
  • 27 January 1912 Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral)
  • 17 June 1915 Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral)
  • 11 August 1918 Admiral
    • He resigned from his post on 30 November 1918, was granted leave of absence until 13 December 1918, and then, at his request, was put at disposal (de facto retired).

Awards, decorations and honours

Awards and decorations

  • Prussian Centenary Medal 1897 (Zentenarmedaille)
  • Red Eagle Order (Roter Adlerorden), 4th Class
  • Military Merit Order (Bavaria), Knight's Cross 1st Class (BMV3a)
  • Imperial Russian Sankt-Stanislaus-Orden, II. Klasse (RSt2)
  • Prussian Long Service Cross for 25 years (Königlich Preußisches Dienstauszeichnungskreuz; DA)
  • Crown to his Red Eagle Order 4th Class
  • Order of the White Falcon (Hausorden vom Weißen Falken), Knight's Cross 1st Class (GSF3a)
  • Prussian Order of the Crown (Preußischer Kronenorden), 3rd Class
  • Military Merit Order (Bavaria), 3rd Class (BMV3)
  • Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav, Commander II. Class (NO2b)
  • Russian Order of Saint Anna (Sankt-Annen-Orden), 2nd Class (RA2)
  • Red Eagle Order, 3rd Class with the Bow (mit der Schleife)
  • Prussian Order of the Crown, 2nd Class
  • Military Merit Order (Bavaria), 2nd Class (BMV2)
  • Bronze Prinzregent Luitpold Medal on the anniversary medal ribbon from 1911 (BLM3J) on 12 April 1913
  • Red Eagle Order, 2nd Class with Oak Leaves


  • Iron Cross (1914), 2nd and 1st Class
  • Oldenburg Friedrich-August-Kreuz, Second and First Class (OFA1/OK1)
  • Military Merit Order (Württemberg), Commander (WMV2)
  • Star and Swords to his Military Merit Order (Bavaria) 2nd Class (BMV2mSt⚔)
  • Pour le Mérite on 5 June 1916 as Vice Admiral
  • Military Order of Max Joseph, Commander's Cross (BMJ2) on 6 June 1916 as Vice Admiral
    • This meant, together with the order, that he was elevated to personal nobility and, after being registered in the nobility register, he was allowed to call himself "Ritter von Hipper".
  • Großherzoglich Mecklenburg-Schwerinsches Militärverdienstkreuz, II. Class (MMV2/MK2)
  • Bremen Hanseatic Cross (Bremisches Hanseatenkreuz; BremH/BH)
  • Hamburg Hanseatic Cross (Hamburgisches Hanseatenkreuz; HH)
  • Lübeck Hanseatic Cross (Lübeckisches Hanseatenkreuz; LübH/LüH)
  • Swords to his Red Eagle Order 2nd Class with Oak Leaves
  • Albrechts-Orden of Saxony, Commander (Komtur) II. Class with Star and Swords (SA2bmSt⚔)
  • Star with Swords to his Red Eagle Order 2nd Class with Oak Leaves and Swords
  • Order of the Iron Crown (Austria), 1st Class with the War Decoration (ÖEK1K)


  • Honorary Citizen of Weilheim
  • Admiral-Hipper-Straße in Weilheim
  • Admiral-Hipper-Straße in München Trudering-Riem
  • Admiral-Hipper-Passage in Weilheim
  • The heavy cruiser "Admiral Hipper" of the Kriegsmarine was named after him.
  • The training frigate "Hipper" of the German Navy of the Bundeswehr was named after him.
  • A building of the German Naval Operations School in Bremerhaven was named after him.


  1. The war at sea, 1914–15
  2. Source: ISLE OF MAN POST
  3. Militär-Wochenblatt, Nr. 6, 19 January 1895, p. 135