WE Germans are faced with a cruel fate. Our German youth will grow up in an enslaved Germany in which foreign Powers are compelling us to work for them. We shall see how the Anglo-Saxon will look scornfully down upon us. Even Frenchmen, Italians, and representatives of other races which are inferior to us intellectually, morally and physically, will pluck up courage to regard us Germans as brute barbarians, rightly punished for their crimes.
I am firmly convinced that our German youth will not allow all this to close its eyes to the truth. Brave Germans, old and young alike, must, and will, see to it that our nation does not lose its inherited characteristics in feeble, servile and un-German conceptions of life and the world. It is the duty of us elders to give young Germany the benefit of our advice and help in its approaching struggle. Part of that duty is to keep alive the memory of all that was done by the German people when it was proud and strong, and to recall the deeds and times in which it proved itself a true nation of heroes.
The twenty-two years during which I was permitted to serve the Fatherland as a naval officer gave me an insight into two phases of professional activity, that of the German officer and that of the sailor. To-day, after the Revolution and our downfall have almost entirely put an end to those two sets of activities, I look back into the past with a feeling of gratitude to my profession in which I lived and worked all the time with men and boys who were German to the core and offered their lives and energies for Germany’s greatness in peace as in war. I am particularly grateful to my profession for having brought me into contact with almost all the peoples of the earth under conditions which always left me proud that I was a German and a sailor.
In relating events from my old professional days my aim is to do something towards filling young Germany with the same pride in our Fatherland which inspired us grown-ups before we had to draw our sword against a world of enemies. It was with that proud feeling that we were in no way inferior to any nation upon earth that we fought during four long years and stepped from victory to victory until we finally collapsed when men of our own race, essentially un-German, knocked our weapons out of our hands in the moment of betrayal.
It was in June, 1914, that a great English squadron visited Kiel. I was appointed personal aide-de-camp to the English commander, Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, for the duration of the visit of this squadron. All that time, during which the Serajevo assassination occurred, I lived on board the flagship, King George V. with the English ambassador and other guests of the Admiral.
I wrote down my experiences and impressions of my stay on board the King George V at the beginning of July, 1914, immediately after the English squadron left, using notes I had made in my diary every day.
ON May 22nd, 1914, The Times made the following announcement:
“The Admiralty announce that four squadrons of battleships and cruisers are to cruise in the Baltic next month. All the principal ports are to be visited, including Kiel, Kronstadt, Copenhagen, Christiania and Stockholm. These visits are of a similar character to those which British squadrons have made recently to Austrian, Italian and French ports, which an Austrian squadron is now making” to Malta, a Russian squadron made to Portland last summer, and a French squadron will make to that port next month.”
“They have been arranged between the respective Governments, and while they have no political or international significance, it is hoped that they may not be made occasions for anything beyond the customary exchange of hospitality which such visits must be expected to bring forth. These cruises will be most welcome to the officers and men, since they give relief from the routine of service in home waters and add to their knowledge of foreign ports. The last time a British naval force was in the Baltic was in the autumn of 1912, when the Second Cruiser Squadron visited Chris-tiania, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Reval and Libau.”
“The following are the prospective movements of His Majesty’s ships of the First Fleet, announced by the Secretary of the Admiralty :”
“The Vice-Admiral commanding 2nd Battle Squadron in the King George V., with the Ajax, Audacious and Centurion, and the Commodore ist Light Cruiser Squadron in the Southampton, with the Birmingham and Nottingham, will visit Kiel from June 23 to 30.”
“The news of the proposed visit of the English Fleet to Kiel caused the greatest excitement in Germany and all the world over. Some liked to regard it as an important step towards easing the political situation, while others saw in it nothing but a final bit of espionage before the inevitable conflict. The German Press soon became very busy with the approaching visit of the English Fleet, and the Navy made preparations for the reception of the ships at Kiel.”
His Majesty the Kaiser commanded that two German officers should be assigned to the two English commanders as personal aides-de-camp. As early as May I heard that my name had been put forward for this duty to one of the English admirals, and at the beginning of June it was announced in Fleet Orders that I had been posted as aide-de-camp to Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender and Lieutenant Kehrhahn as aide-de-camp to Commodore Goodenough, commanding the light cruisers.
About nine o’clock in the morning of June 23rd we ran into Kiel Bay. It amused me to think that I, who had made this trip so often before, should now be making it on the Admiral’s bridge of an English flagship. Off the entrance we ran into a heavy squall, but it cleared up as the storm passed over Labo and we saw the lovely harbour of Kiel lying in bright sunshine. A large number of yachts and naval launches circled round us, and the shore was black with curious folk, who had hurried up to witness the entry of the celebrated English Dreadnoughts. From Labo we were accompanied by the white motor launch of Prince Henry, who greeted us, with his ladies. The Admiral and Prince Henry welcomed each other with much waving of caps. In good order and showing splendid seamanship, all the ships made fast to their special buoys practically simultaneously.
Shortly afterwards we all assembled for breakfast with the Admiral. The Admiral had a very large dining-room occupying the whole width of the ship and panelled with mahogany. He had also a state cabin appointed very elegantly with light furniture. With all its cushions and its light carpet it looked just like a lady’s drawing-room. These two rooms were for general use by the members of the Admiral’s mess, though the latter usually spent their cabins or the wardroom. For his personal use the Admiral had a large office, a capacious bedroom, bath and dressing rooms.
We made an excellent breakfast, and the Admiral discussed the arrangements for the day with me. Provision had been made for : n a.m. Exchange of visits on S.M.S. Friedrich der Grosse. Then report to Prince Henry. The Admiral asked me where I was to be found. I requested to be allowed to stay on the King George V., which pleased him very much. He gave me temporary quarters in the state room intended for the Ambassador, and so my servant, Able Seaman Hanel, moved in with all my gear. It was a small, self-contained apartment, a cabin prettily appointed, bed, bath and dressing rooms. Unfortunately I did not enjoy it long, for the same evening the British Ambassador came on board, and I moved into a cabin on one of the lower decks, which was certainly roomy, but very uncomfortable and hot.
I lived and slept on board the King George V. all through the Kiel week. As a result of my continuous contact with Admiral Warrender, and his officers and men, I had a chance of getting to know them well, and forming an opinion on their spirit.
In addition to the English Ambassador, the latter’s son and a nephew of the Admiral, young Lord Erskine, were the Admiral’s guests on board. At the time appointed we went in the Admiral’s ” barge/’ a very large and fine steam launch fitted up in mahogany, to the Fleet Flagship Friedrich der Grosse, where all the admirals and captains present in Kiel were assembled for the formal reception. Admiral von Ingenohl and Admiral Warrender presented their respective officers. The German officers adopted a cool and reserved attitude, and the English more or less did the same, so that, in spite of formal courtesies, the political tension could be observed.
In the subsequent festivities I failed to notice anything similar, especially in the intercourse of the junior officers, who were very soon good friends. At all the balls and dinners the young English officers could be seen getting on famously with the German officers and flirting zealously with the German ladies. A good many English officers were also invited out by our married naval officers, and so they enjoyed many an hour of German domestic hospitality. Many officers and men made use of the opportunity of free railway journeys which were offered them.
Every day hundreds of them went to Berlin and Hamburg, so that a large proportion of the officers and men were away from Kiel.
From the Friedrich der Grosse we went to the Royal Castle. We were received by Prince Henry, the Princess, the young princes and the household. Their Royal Highnesses talked very intimately to the English officers. Both of them had a particular predilection for everything English before the war, and, indeed, among themselves hardly spoke anything but English. I had a long talk with the youthful Prince Siegismund and then with Princess Henry, who displayed a keen interest in what I was doing on the King George V. All the Englishmen were greatl) charmed by the kindness and distinction of Prince Henry.
From the Royal Castle we went back to the King George V., where meanwhile the two naval attaches, Commander Erich von Müller, who had come from London, and Captain Wilfrid Henderson, had arrived as guests for lunch. Commander von Müller drew me aside, and said: ” Be on your guard against the English! England is ready to strike ; war is imminent, and the object of the naval visit is only spying. They want to see exactly how prepared we are. Whatever you do, tell them nothing about our U-boats.”
This information completely confirmed my own views, but I was none the less taken aback to hear the point put so baldly. I paid strict heed to his advice during the whole of the English visit.
The future was to justify Commander von Müller up to the hilt. He realized the approach of danger, even before the murder at Serajevo, so much better than his chief, Ambassador Prince Lichnowsky.
We had only been on board a few minutes when Prince Henry appeared to pay his return call, and he was soon followed by the Commander-in-Chief and the officer in command of the Base.
we all shifted for dinner with Prince Henry. Full mess dress, i.e., mess jacket with white waistcoat and gold braid on the trousers, was the prescribed rig. Just before eight we all went to the Royal Castle in the splendid ” barge” in which we were to make many a trip in the next week.
Soon after ten o’clock we again returned to the King George V. in the barge. With Stopford and Buxton I went into the wardroom, where I made the acquaintance of several officers of the ship. We spent a long and pleasant time together, drinking whisky and soda. The officers of the English ships almost always had two pretty large rooms for their common use—the officers’ mess proper, which is used almost exclusively as a dining-room, and the ante-room, which is provided with club chairs and leather sofas, and in which the officers smoke, read and play cards. The furniture is the property of the officers. On the King George V. both rooms were furnished in particularly good taste.
Georg von Hase, KIEL AND JUTLAND, London. 1920