The Kiel Week, 1914
On June 25th the yacht regatta began. It had been preceded on the 23rd by the races of the men-of-war’s boats. The bay was the scene of the usual sporting contest, the sight of which fills every seaman’s heart with joy. Unfortunately the starting-point was too far from the King George V. for us to follow all the details of the start from on board. A very large number of yachts had been entered, particularly foreign boats. The King George V. was made fast to a buoy in the immediate vicinity of Bellevue Bridge. South of her lay the Fleet Flagship Friedrich der Grosse and the Hohenzollern] north of her the other English ships, and on the east the Viktoria Luise moored between two buoys. At 9 a.m. the 8m. and 5m. Class started, the 18m. and 12m. Class at 10 a.m., the 15m. Class at n a.m., and the Special Class at midday. Thus the bay was flecked with sails practically the whole day.
A comprehensive programme had been provided for the 25th :
Midday.—Lunch with the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet.
Afternoon.—Three functions : Kiel Town sports, a fete on board the Preussen, flagship of the Second Squadron, and a garden-party at the house of the Mayor, Dr. Ahlmann.
Evening.—Invitation to the Kaiser’s dinner on board the Hohenzottern.
Early in the morning came a note from Admiral Müller, Chief of the Cabinet, to say that the Kaiser would visit the King George V. at twelve o’clock. At the appointed time the whole ship’s complement was drawn up for inspection on the upper deck. The Kaiser came on board in the uniform of a British Admiral of the Fleet. He looked very happy and well and was apparently in the best of spirits. He was accompanied by Admiral von Müller and his aide-de-camp, Commander Baron von Paleske. All the English captains and the officers of the King George V. were present on the quarter-deck. Lieutenant Kehrhahn and I were on the left. The Kaiser asked Admiral Warrender to present all the officers to him. When the Admiral was about to present us also the Kaiser said: “I know my officers” and gave us his hand with the words : ” Konnen Sie sich denn einigermassen mit den Leuten ver-standigen ? “* The Kaiser did not inspect the ship’s company, as is usual in such visits, but went immediately with Admiral Warrender to the Admiral’s cabin, where he stayed talking with him more than half an hour. Before he left the Kaiser signed the Visitors’ Book of the King George V., which already bore the signatures of many famous people. He conversed for some time longer with young Lord Erskine, who had put on his Highland full-dress uniform in honour of the day, and then bade a very warm farewell to Admiral Warrender and the English captains.
* ” Do you find you get on fairly well with these gentlemen ? “*
Lunch with the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet, Admiral von Ingenohl, passed off very smoothly. We lunched in the Admiral’s cabin at small tables charmingly decorated with flowers. A special small orchestra played works exclusively by German composers. I sat with our first flag-lieutenant, and, of course, Stopford and Buxton. Ingenohl and Warrender both made very good speeches about the English and German fleets respectively. Indeed Warrender spoke twice and devoted the whole of his second speech to the spirit of good fellowship which had always existed between our navies. He referred
to all the friends in the German navy whose acquaintance he had made in his professional career, and specially mentioned his friendship with Rear-Admiral Sarnow.
In the afternoon we had the difficult task of putting in an appearance at three simultaneous functions. With the help of fast cars and the good barge we easily solved this difficulty. First we went in several cars which I had had brought to Bellevue Bridge to the sports which the town of Kiel were holding in honour of the English crews on the town sports ground. The ladies watched the events from the stand while the Admiral went down with us among the competitors. Warrender had a wonderful way of talking to his men. He talked like a friend to the seamen about the contests and made them tell him what was happening. The events comprised a football match, a shooting competition, relay races, tug-of-war and so forth. It was extraordinary to see how our people won nearly all the events. We arrived just in time for the tug-of-war. Four times in succession the same process was repeated. With one irresistible swift pull our sailors drew the English crews over the line. The English could not claim a single victory in the tug-of-war. It was just the same with the other events. The football match alone was a draw.
I was not particularly surprised at the success of the German sailors. Most of the English sailors were little fellows. Many of them were very young—the King George V. alone had 70 men under seventeen—while there was also an excessive proportion of old men. The tall Teutonic type was far rarer than among our men. Indeed, I observed that a large number looked strongly Jewish, a thing which astonished me, as I knew that the Jews had a fundamental aversion to seafaring.
From the sports ground we went in cars to Dr. Ahlmann’s splendid place. Unfortunately it came on to rain, so that the party could not be held in the park in Düsternbrook Wood. We had to go into the fine rooms of the great house. There was tea-drinking, dancing and flirting. We did not stay long and then went by car and barge to the Preussen. The Base authorities had given me carte blanche as regards the use of cars, and that alone made it possible for the Admiral to meet all the demands upon his time. Prince and Princess Henry were present on the Preussen, but otherwise it presented the usual picture of a fete on board. The decks were prettily decorated and we danced zealously. For the reception of the English guests the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet had permanently assigned two Germans to each English ship, and the German ships were instructed to invite the English officers to lunches and functions on board. The result was that a large number of English officers were seen at the festivities on board during the Kiel Week. This was true of the Preussen also.
Introducing the Admiral to Kiel society kept me going the whole time. I knew so many people I introduced that he asked me in astonishment : “Do you know everybody ? ”
At eight o’clock in the evening we were commanded to dine on the Hohenzollern. It was the last banquet which was ever given on the splendid royal yacht. On this day the Hohenzollern showed herself in all her glory for the last time. We assembled on the promenade deck, where the Kaiser welcomed us. He was wearing— as we were guests—the simple mess uniform. The tables were set in the great saloon and decorated with superb orchids. Germans and Englishmen sat together .
I noticed that the Kaiser did not get on very well with Admiral Warrender. Unfortunately Warrender also had the Kaiser on his practically deaf side, so that the latter talked almost all the time to the English ambassador. After dinner we had coffee and cigars on the promenade deck and conversation was merry and free. The Kaiser spoke to almost all his English guests. We noticed the way in which he devoted himself to showing himself to his guests as nothing but a kind host.
I had a very interesting conversation with the English captains Dampier and Sir Arthur Henniker-Hughan on the political situation and Germany’s prospects in the world. Both insisted that England had no idea of isolating Germany from the world, but if war came it would be Germany that started it, not England.
It was pretty late when we returned to the King George V., where we sat for some time longer in the ante-room of the officers’ mess. It was on this occasion that I struck up a friendship with Commander Brownrigg, Gunnery Officer of the King George V. He told me many interesting points about guns, and in his cabin showed me shooting charts, the results of gunnery tests and gunnery prizes. We were at one in our mania for everything to do with naval gunnery. The English naval authorities knew how to make the career of the gunnery officer the most distinguished and coveted among naval officers. In the German navy the gun was a secondary, not the main weapon, and the torpedo arm had become the object of the ambition of every efficient officer.
This has always seemed to me regrettable, and I regarded it as a great mistake. The preference for the torpedo was justified when our navy was so weak that a battle for the mastery of the seas—which could only be waged with the guns of powerful ships—seemed to have no prospects from the start. Churchill said very aptly during the war, after the Battle of Skagerrak [i. e. the Battle of Jutland – wjs]: ” The first sea-power relies on the gun ; the second is bound to place its hopes on the torpedo”
The fact that we put our hopes almost entirely on the torpedo in the war meant that to a certain extent we renounced the battle methods of a first-class naval power. It was only at the Battle of Skagerrak , almost two years after the outbreak of war, that Admiral Scheer, the Com-mander-in-Chief of the Fleet, ventured on an artillery action on the high seas, and that was after his predecessors, Admirals von Ingenohl and von Pohl, had failed to exploit any of the opportunites for a high seas action which had offered themselves so frequently.
Commander Brownrigg told me of gunnery exercises in which he had been successful at a range of 150 hm.* This seemed to me an enormous range. As a matter of fact, in the war itself, shooting was almost always at even greater ranges.
* 15 km.