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

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A Nearly Forgotten Classic: Luxury Fleet: The Imperial German Navy, 1888-1918

Purchase This Title HERE

By Holger Herwig
Allen and Unwin, 1980
Ashland Highlands, 1987 Revised Edition

Previously, we have recommended Holger Herwig's Luxury Fleet: The Imperial Germany Navy, 1888-1918 as one of the dozen BEST BOOKS on the Naval War of 1914-1918.  

However, we have never been able to find a reviewer to take on this work for Roads to the Great War and I want to encourage our readers to read this singular and valuable book before it's forgotten.  Below is a collection of some of the most telling comments on Luxury Fleet that I've been able to find online.

Originally published in 1980 'Luxury' Fleet (the phrase was Winston Churchill's) was the first history of the Imperial German navy from 1888 to 1918. After tracing the historical background to German naval ambitions, the first two sections of the book analyse Admiral Tirpitz's programme of building a battle fleet strong enough to engage the Royal Navy in the North Sea. The author shows the fleet in its European setting and describes the warships and the attitudes of the officer corps and seamen. The final section of the book discusses the tactical deployment of the German fleet during the First World War, both in home waters and overseas; and it weighs the balance between those who supported fleet actions in preference to those who favoured cruiser and submarine warfare. 
Amazon Review

Herwig is well qualified to provide the first overview of the Imperial Navy that reflects the recent scholarship "that has radically altered accepted views" of the [German Navy]. . . Herwig touches upon all the major "debatin points" in the building of the "luxurry fleet": the German justification for alarge blue-water navy; naval strategy and planning; German-English naval rivalry; the impact of the Dreadnought; and the role of Tirpitz.  The broad scope of the book, however, results in several topics receiving short shrift, most notable the issue of unrestricted submarine warfare on the naval mutinies of 1917-1918. . . Historians will find the book informative and most original in Herwig's analysis of the navy's political history, particularly the role of Tirpitz and the officer corps in the development and deployment of the High Seas Fleet.
Naval War College Review,  1981

My personal view is that in Luxury Fleet Holger Herwig constructed one of the most intriguing and seductive Table of Contents in the History of Military History. 

1. Modest Beginnings: The Prussian/German Naval Tradition to 1888 
2. Kaiser Wilhelm ii: the Years of Hope and Misdirection, 1888-1898 
3. The ‘New Course’: Alfred v. Tirpitz, Architect of the Battle Fleet, 1897-1905 
4. The Dreadnought Challenge: The Master Plan Goes Awry, 19-05-1911 
5. ‘We Have Them Up Against the Wall’: Dénouement, 1912-1914 
6. A Place in the Sun: The German Colonial Empire and the navy, 1884-1914 
7. ‘Men Fight, not Ships’: The Personnel of the Imperial German Navy 
8. August 1914: The War That Came Too Soon 
9. Jutland 1916: Missed opportunity or Fortunate Escape? 
10. ‘Museum of Experiments’: The End of the Battleship Era, 1914-1918 
11. ‘Between the Thames and Helgoland’: German Naval Policies, 1917-1918 
12. The Sun Sets: Scapa Flow, 21 June 1919.


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