Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, June 14, 2013

Notable Figures of the Kriegsmarine

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We stumbled across the image above, from a 1917 issue of the German magazine Lustig Blatter, that is obviously a tribute to the notable figures of the nation's navy. We could find, however, no identifying key for the figures. The editors contacted our friend and naval historian Steve McLaughlin for help. Steve plugged into his network of naval experts and below is what they have come up with. Comments are welcome, and there are a few identities that our panel were not fully confident about. In any case, thanks to Steve and his colleagues.

Upper row:

  • Otto Weddigen, U-boat commander; famous for sinking the British armored cruisers Aboukir, Cressy , and Hogue on 22 September 1914 while in command of U-9. He was killed on 18 March 1915 while in command of U-29 — his boat was rammed by the battleship HMS Dreadnought — the only time that famous battleship was actually in action.
  • Christian August Max Ahlmann Valentiner, third-highest-scoring U-boat commander of the First World War.
  • Otto Hersing, U-boat commander, sank the British cruiser HMS Pathfinder on 5 September 1914, the first ship to be sunk by a submarine-launched, self-propelled torpedo. He went on to sink the pre-dreadnought battleships Triumph and Majestic off the Dardanelles in 1915.
  • (?) Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien, commander of the minelayer/commerce raider Möwe; one of her mines sank the British pre-dreadnought HMS Prince Edward VII.
  • Karl Friedrich Max von Müller, captain of the famous light cruiser Emden.
  • (?) Walter Schweiger, famous for sinking the Lusitania.
  • Peter Strasser, commander of the naval Zeppelins during the war.
  • (?) Walther Forstmann, another U-boat commander, the second most successful U-boat commander in terms of tonnage sunk.
  • Heinrich Mathy, Zeppelin commander.
  • (?) The enlisted sailor is so conspicuous our advisers believe he must have done some exceptional deed, but no one could identify him.

    Our naval adviser Steve McLaughlin is a contributor to a comprehensive look at the navies of World War I to be released next month from Naval Institute Press, To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War, which we will be reviewing soon in Roads.

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    Bottom Row:

  • Maximilian von Spee, who should need no introduction!
  • Henning von Holtzendorff, famous for writing the December 1916 memo to the Kaiser advocating the resumption of unrestricted U-boat warfare.
  • Eduard von Capelle, who replaced Tirpitz as State Secretary for the Navy in March 1916; although initially opposed to unrestricted U-boat warfare, he eventually came to support it.
  • Adolf von Trotha, Scheer’s chief of staff at the Battle of Jutland.
  • Franz Hipper, another officer who should need no introduction!
  • Prinz Heinrich of Prussia, younger brother of the Kaiser and commander of German naval forces in the Baltic Sea.
  • Erich Steinbrinck, commander of the torpedo boat (i.e., destroyer) V-29; he was killed at Jutland.
  • Alfred von Tirpitz, another officer who needs no introduction.
  • Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière, the most successful U-boat commander in terms of tonnage sunk.
  • Reinhard Scheer, who was (or course!) the commander of the High Seas Fleet at Jutland.


    1. Guessing here, but could the enlisted man be Petty Officer [Maat] Wilhelm Heidkamp, who saved SMS Seydlitz during the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1915, by flooding the magazines, even though the valves he had to turn were glowing red-hot?
      I also wonder if Peter Strasser is fourth from left back row, whom you have identified as Dohna-Schlodien, in which case these two identities could be transposed?

    2. These are notable figures of the Kaiserliche Marine. The (K.u.K) Kriegsmarine was the navy of Austria-Hungary.

    3. Didn't notice that! The Kriegsmarine was also the title of the WW2 German Navy.