Hochseeflotte Ships

German Hochseeflotte

In the years before World War I Germany initiated a major fleet building program to enlarge its fleet - the Hochseeflotte - to a size nearly as powerful as the Royal Navy, the most powerful fleet in the world. Although the initial reason for creating this huge fleet was to protect German overseas trade, a lesson learned in several wars against Denmark in the 19th century, the key naval strategy in World War I was focused in one single decisive naval battle between the Hochseeflotte and the Royal Navy. It finally took place in 1916, the Battle of Jutland (or the Battle of Skagerak as it is called in Germany).

This biggest battle between battleships ever was a tactical German victory, but it did not change the strategic situation for the Hochseeflotte: Locked up in the North Sea by a British blockade, the German ships were limited to operate in North and Baltic Sea only and could not support the few ships operating outside of Europe.

Besides the Battle of Jutland the two sides only had a few encounters between their capital ships - the battlecruiser battle at the Doggerbank and the battles of the East Asia squadron at Coronell and the Falklands. The few small cruisers operating in the Pacific or Indian Ocean could operate successful for a short time, but due to the lack of resupplies and reinforcements from Germany, it was only a matter of time until they would be hunted and destroyed.

In the final months of the war, political unrest among the crews made operations of most ships nearly impossible and the final fate of the fleet was quite unique: After the war almost the complete fleet was interned in Scapa Flow and in June 1919 all ships were scuttled by their own crews. Only a few could be prevented from sinking and several were raised in the 1930s and broke down, but many ships still rest on the ground of Scapa Flow today.