Germanys High Sea Fleet in the First World War

Author(s) Reinhard Scheer
Publisher Frontline Books
Date 2014
Pages 396
Format pdf
Size 1 Mb







If, as Winston Churchill famously remarked, Admiral John Jellicoe was the only and unique person who could have lost the Great War in an afternoon, then by extension Admiral Reinhard Scheer was the man who could have achieved victory in so few hours. Reinhard Scheer, the longest serving of the four wartime commanders of Imperial Germany's High Sea Fleet, was one of the most influential wartime German naval officers.

His thirty-two months commanding the fleet covered some of the critically important events not only of the sea war, but also the entire conflict - the Battle of Jutland or Skagerrakschlacht, and the Germanese resumption of the unrestricted submarine warfare which was instrumental in bringing in America on the side of the Entente powers. In August 1918 Scheer was promoted to Chef des Admiralstabs (Chief of the Naval Staff) after the incumbent. Admiral Hennine von Holtzendorff. tendered his resignation to the Kaiser in late July owing to ill-health. He remained in this position until the end of the war, before resigning from his post on 14 November, and retiring from the navy on 17 December. Born in 1863, Scheer joined the Imperial Navy as a cadet in 1879 and his career path followed the usual combination of RMS Lusitania caused a serious diplomatic crisis with the US in May 1915.

In January 1916 von Pohl was taken ill and relieved of his command. He would die of liver cancer before the end of February. On 18 January Reinhard Scheer was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the whole High Sea Fleet. Within the navy fleet he was widely acknowledged as being the best choice and a man of action. Scheer was determined to inject a new lease of life into the German naval campaign in the North Sea and while the Grand Fleet still needed to be avoided, except for in favorable circumstances, he envisaged a much more aggressive use of surface and U-boat forces backed up by Zeppelins for advanced reconnaissance.

The Kaiser approved Scheer !s plans and the first operation in late April was another coastal bombardment by German battle cruisers. this time of Lowestoft and Yarmouth, designed to destroy any forces sent out to defend against the German attack. In the event the bombardment did little damage while an opportunity was missed to inflict damage on the weaker British Harwich Force.

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