Imperial German Navy

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Flags of the Imperial Navy (with Iron Cross)

The Imperial German Navy (German: Kaiserliche Marine, sometimes Kaiserliche Kriegsmarine) was the navy of the German Empire from 1872 until 1918. The German Navy also had U-boats (U-Boote), an air force (Marineflieger), an infantry or marines (Marineinfanterie of the Seebataillone) and rigid airships (Zeppeline).


Standard of the Chief of the Admiralty (1872–1889)
Standard of the Chief of the Admiralty Staff
The Reichsdienstflagge (Imperials Service Flag) of the Imperial Naval Office (German: Reichsmarineamt)
Imperial German and Imperial Austrian Navys united in loyalty during WWI
Sinking of the Linda Blanche out of Liverpool by naval artist Willy Stöwer (1864–1931); On 30 January 1915, "Linda Blanche", on a voyage from Manchester to Belfast with general cargo, was sunk by the German Unterseeboot SM U 21 (Kommandant Otto Hersing), 18 miles NW1/2 north of the Liverpool Bar lightvessel. There were no casualties. The crew of the cargo steamer, who landed at Fleetwood after the sinking of their vessel, declared that they had been well treated by the Germans who had given them cigars and cigarettes. One of the officers told them he was sorry to have to inconvenience them, but he had orders to sink all British craft. They left Manchester at four o'clock on Friday afternoon, and anchored for some time in the Mersey. At eight o'clock on Saturday evening the voyage was resumed , and at 12.30, when the vessel was due west of Liverpool Lightship, the German submarine U21 came alongside suddenly. The German officer, who spoke perfect English, instructed the skipper, Captain Ellis, to take the crew off within ten minutes. The two small boats of the vessel were quickly lowered and the crew got into them. The German sailors then fixed mine on the bridge of the vessel and one in the forecastle, and these exploded. The vessel was a complete wreck in five minutes. The Germans told the crew there was a trawler in a certain direction, and at two o'clock in the afternoon they were picked up by it. The interviewed man told an interesting incident in connection with the skipper's fox terrier. In their haste to get into the boat the animal was overlooked, and when the crew had cleared off, the dog jumped into the sea and swam to the small boats. When Ellis was interviewed the dog was in his arms.[1]

German Imperial Admiralty (1872–1889)

The German Imperial Admiralty (German: Kaiserliche Admiralität) was an imperial naval authority in the German Empire. By order of Kaiser Wilhelm I the Northern German Federal Navy Department of the North German Confederation (1866–71), which had been formed from the Prussian Navy Department (Marineministerium), became on 1 January 1872 the German Imperial Admiralty (Kaiserliche Admiralität).

The head of the Admiralty (Chef der Admiralität) administered the Imperial Navy under the authority of the Reichskanzler and the supreme command of the Emperor (Kaiserliche Kommandogewalt). It lasted until 1889, undergoing several reorganizations, but proved an impractical arrangement given the constant growth and the expansion of the German Navy.

Finally it was abolished in April 1889 and its duties divided among three new entities: German Imperial Naval High Command (Kaiserliches Oberkommando der Marine), the Imperial Naval Office (Reichsmarineamt), and the Imperial Naval Cabinet (Kaiserliches Marinekabinett). The Imperial Naval High Command was, on 14 March 1899, replaced by the German Imperial Admiralty Staff, which simply transferred over most of the personnel of the Admiral Staff detachment of the former Naval High Command.


Heads/Chiefs of the Admiralty (Chefs der Admiralität):

  • Albrecht von Stosch (1818–1896) : 1 January 1872 to 20 March 1883 (11 years, 78 days)
    • Von Stosch was since 1870 Generalleutnant, also Staatsminister, since 1875 General der Infanterie and Chef der Admiralität mit dem Range als Admiral
  • Vize-Admiral/Generalleutnant Leo von Caprivi (1831–1899) : 20 March 1883 to 5 July 1888 (5 years, 107 days)
  • Vize-Admiral Alexander von Monts (1832–1889) : 5 July 1888 to 19 January 1889 (198 days)
Chiefs of Staff (Chef des Stabes der Admiralität)
  • Ludwig Friedrich Wilhelm von Henk as Direktor der Admiralität (1872–1873)
  • Karl Ferdinand Batsch (6 December 1873 to 16 April 1878)
  • Louis von Blanc (April 1878 to April 1881)
  • Eduard Knorr (1881–1884)
  • Hans von Koester (Autumn 1884 to Spring 1887)
  • Friedrich von Hollmann (1887–1888)
  • Guido Philipp Kilian Karcher (1888 to January 1892)

Commanding Admirals

Naval High Command

Commanding Admirals of the German Imperial Naval High Command (German: Kaiserliches Oberkommando der Marine) were:

  • Vizeadmiral Max von der Goltz (1838–1906): 1 April 1889 to 8 March 1895
  • Admiral Eduard von Knorr (1840–1920): 8 March 1895 (another source claims 14 May 1895) to 14 March 1899

German Imperial Admiralty Staff (1899–1918)

The German Imperial Admiralty Staff (German: Admiralstab) was one of four command agencies for the administration of the Imperial German Navy from 1899 to 1918. While the German Kaiser Wilhelm II as commander-in-chief exercised supreme operational command and control of the naval forces, the military staff was split into the Admiralty, the Naval Office, the Naval Cabinet, and the Inspector-General.


Heads/Chiefs of the Admiralty Staff (Chefs des Admiralstabs der Kaiserlichen Marine):

  • Admiral Felix von Bendemann (1848–1915): 14 March 1899 to 31 December 1899 (292 days)
  • Vizeadmiral Otto von Diederichs (1843–1918): 1 Januar 1900 to 19 August 1902 (2 years, 230 days)
  • Vizeadmiral Wilhelm Büchsel (1848–1920): 20 August 1902 to 28 Jan 1908 (5 years, 161 days)
  • Admiral Friedrich Graf von Baudissin (1852–1921): 29 Januar 1908 to 5 September 1909 (1 year, 219 days)
  • Admiral Max von Fischel (1850–1929): 6 September 1909 to 11 March 1911 (1 year, 187 days)
  • Vizeadmiral August von Heeringen (1855–1927): 12 March 1911 to 31 March 1913 (2 years, 19 days)
  • Admiral Hugo von Pohl (1855–1916): 1 April 1913 to 1 February 1915 (1 year, 306 days)
  • Admiral Gustav Bachmann (1860–1943): 2 February 1915 to 3 September 1915 (213 days)
  • Großadmiral Henning von Holtzendorff (1853–1919): 4 September 1915 to 10 August 1918 (2 years, 340 days)
  • Admiral Reinhard Scheer (1863–1928) 11 August 1918 to 14 November 1918 (95 days)

Generalinspekteur der Marine (1871/89–1918)

  • Adalbert Prince of Prussia (1811–1873): 1871 to 6 June 1873
  • Hans von Koester (1844–1928): 14 March 1899 to 29 December 1906
  • Heinrich Prince of Prussia (1862–1929): 1 October 1909 to 10 August 1918

Engagements (WWI)

Notable major battles

  • Battle of Heligoland Bight (Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass) – 1914
  • Battle of Coronel (Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee) – 1914. The German East Asia Squadron defeated the British West Indies Squadron
  • Battle of the Falkland Islands (Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee) – 1914. The East Asia Squadron (de) was defeated by British battlecruisers
  • Battle of Dogger Bank (Vice Admiral Franz Hipper) – 1915. Armoured cruiser Blücher sank and British battlecruiser Lion put out of action.
  • Battle of the Gulf of Riga (Vice Admiral Ehrhard Schmidt)
  • Battle of Jutland (Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer; Vice Admiral Franz Hipper) -1916.
    • In the largest naval battle of the war several British ships were sunk or damaged but the High Seas Fleet was unable to damage the British Grand Fleet sufficiently to threaten the blockade of Germany.
  • Operation Albion (de), including Battle of Moon Sound (Vice Admiral Ehrhard Schmidt) – 1917. In the Baltic against Russian forces.
  • First Battle of the Atlantic – U-boat warfare

Notable minor battles

  • Battle of Gotland
  • First Battle of Dover Strait – 1916. Torpedo boat attack on Dover Barrage
  • Second Battle of Dover Strait – 1917. Attack on Dover Barrage
  • Battle of Cocos
  • Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby – 1914. Bombardment of British east coast ports.
  • Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau
  • Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft – 1916. Bombardment of British east coast ports.
  • Battle of Trindade

Minor engagements included the commerce raiding carried out by the SMS "Emden", SMS "Königsberg" and the sailing ship and commerce raider SMS "Seeadler".


After the end of World War I, the bulk of the navy's modern ships (74 in all) were interned at Scapa Flow (November 1918), where the entire fleet (with a few exceptions) was scuttled by its crews on 21 June 1919 on orders from its commander, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. The surviving ships of the Imperial Navy became the basis for the Reichsmarine of the German Reich. 1935 the Kriegsmarine would become it's successor.

See also

Further reading

External links


  1. Aberdeen Daily Journal, 1 February 1915