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Battle for the Baltic Islands 1917: Triumph of the Imperial German Navy

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See our disclaimer. In late , the Russians, despite the revolution, were still willing to continue the war against Germany. This is an account of Operation Albion, the highly-successful seaborne operation launched by the Germans to change their minds. Petersburg, so their capture was essential for any campaign towards the Russian capital.

Only after the fall of the islands did Russia begin peace negotiations freeing nearly half a million German soldiers for the Kaiser's last gamble on the Western Front. This then was a campaign of great significance for the war on both Eastern and Western fronts. A large part of the High Sea Fleet took part in the invasion of the Baltic islands, including the most modern dreadnought battleships. The Russians mounted a resolute defence despite being heavily outgunned and over a ten day period there were many naval clashes around the islands as well as the campaign ashore, all of which are described in detail with the use of both Russian and German first hand accounts.

Could they have avoided that by trying something like Albion much earlier?

Planning and positioning

Perhaps, but it was not until Scheer despaired of achieving results in the North Sea and pinned his faith on the submarine campaign that the Germans felt free to move the High Seas Fleet dreadnoughts to the Baltic. The campaign this book describes is most unusual and interesting, the coverage is detailed and comprehensive, and the writing is clear and cogent.

In short, this is very fine history indeed. It is based on a list of excellent sources, both German and English translations from the Russian, many by important participants including the Russian naval commander Adm. Bakhirev and Adm. Friedrich Ruge, later commander of the Bundesmarine, then a young officer. It also lacks any extensive historical and geographical background. This book is plainly not for the casual reader who does not find the subject matter inherently interesting, but it will richly reward all students of battleships, the big gun, and amphibious warfare.

Reviewed by Robert P.

Robert P. Aiding in these efforts during were units of the United States Navy based in Gibraltar. While most of the surface naval warfare occurred in the North Sea, there was a series of engagements in other theaters. Like the principle contest in the North Sea, these had very little effect on the outcome of the war. This force, under the command of Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee , consisted of two armored cruisers and three light cruisers. Upon the outbreak of the war, Spee elected to steam towards the western coast of South America with the goal of returning to Germany.

British efforts to hunt him down led to the 1 November Battle of Coronel. The Germans defeated a weaker British force with no consequent loss. The British also hunted down during and the first half of the few German light cruisers still at sea. The most notable of these was the SMS Emden , lost in November , which Spee had detached from his force in order to raid Allied commerce.

The Pacific theater exited by the German East Asia Squadron was dominated by operations of the Japanese against German territorial holdings since Japan declared war against Germany on 23 August as an Allied power. In December the Japanese conducted an amphibious assault that captured the German naval base of Qingdao on the Chinese mainland. By this time the Japanese had also seized all German held islands in the Pacific that were north of the equator.

Throughout the remainder of the conflict the Japanese navy was dedicated to policing Allied lines of communication in the Pacific. Naval operations in the Baltic Sea were more important than those in the Pacific as the theater was extremely important to Germany. Control of the Baltic allowed for a supply of iron ore from Sweden as well as denying a supply route to Russia. The Russian Baltic fleet did little to affect the course of the war at sea.

The Russians dedicated their resources to the protection of the Gulf of Finland and their own coastline to protect against any German amphibious assaults. The situation in the Baltic was one of stalemate until early when the Germans endeavored to secure the islands in the Baltic as a precursor to an assault on St.

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While the Germans succeeded in the capture of the islands, the amphibious assault on St. Petersburg never materialized as on 7 November the Bolsheviks seized power and declared their intention to withdraw Russia from the war. The use of submarines against Allied commerce was a key element of the war at sea, although the German use of this relatively new type of warship in this capacity was not envisioned before the conflict.

In August , Germany possessed only thirty-one operational U-boats and viewed them as mostly for reconnaissance, although their power versus warships became evident on 22 September when U-9 sank three British cruisers off the coast of the Netherlands. Berlin declared that the waters around Great Britain and Ireland , including the English Channel and the western portion of the North Sea, were a war zone. Any vessel entering this zone was subject to destruction as part of an unrestricted submarine warfare campaign, meaning that ships could be sunk without warning to their passengers and crew.

Diplomatic protests by neutral powers, particularly the United States, led to some restrictions on attacks versus neutral vessels. Even so, while Germany only possessed an operational force of twenty-five U-boats upon the declaration, these limited resources clearly demonstrated the potential of submarines used in commerce war. Between March and May , German submarines sank merchant vessels for the loss of only five craft in an atmosphere where there were limited anti-submarine measures.

These included most notably the United States. The potential for a diplomatic disaster was starkly revealed on 7 May with the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania by U with the loss of approximately 1. Among the dead were Americans. The sinking of the Lusitania combined with those of the British liner Arabic and American liner Hesperian in August and September led on 18 September to the end of the unrestricted submarine campaign.

In its place was a restricted campaign that entailed the practice of warning merchant crews before the sinking of their vessels. A return to unrestricted submarine warfare against armed merchant vessels on 29 February ended similarly when on 24 March a German submarine sank the steamer Sussex with the loss of additional American lives.

In response to a warning from United States President Woodrow Wilson that any further incident would lead to ending diplomatic relations, the Germans on 24 April once again suspended unrestricted submarine warfare. Nevertheless, both forms of submarine warfare exacted a heavy toll on shipping.

Battle for the Baltic Islands 1917 : triumph of the Imperial German Navy

British losses for the first half of alone approached , gross tons and this was more than could be replaced by new construction. The damage inflicted came at little cost to the Germans. By the opening of , the German Navy had lost only forty-six submarines since the beginning of hostilities.

Battle of the Baltic Islands Triumph of the Imperial German Navy - Flubit

Despite the success of the campaign, the Germans believed that the restricted submarine campaign was not sufficient to force Britain from the war. This estimation led to the renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare, for the first time during the war being completely unrestricted, on 1 February amidst the declining fortunes of the Central Powers on land. While the Germans recognized the risk of the United States declaring war on Germany as a result, the High Command believed that Britain could be brought to heel within a couple of months before the United States could affect the course of the war.

This calculation proved gravely mistaken as the United States, upon its declaration of war on 6 April , undermined the German submarine campaign as part of its war effort. Vice Admiral William Sims , the commander of American naval forces in European waters, lobbied for the institution of a convoy system to decrease shipping losses. This call led to implementation of the system in May with an increasing number of the escorts being American destroyers.

Baltic Sea Battles - Tanks On Other Fronts I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Shipping losses gradually decreased from their peak of , gross tons in April to , gross tons in October , being the last full month of hostilities. Not only did shipping losses decrease, but the number of German submarine losses rose. The German submarine campaign against the Allies consequently failed with disastrous results. Not only did it not force Great Britain from the war, it also led to the entry of the United States into the conflict. The naval blockade was a key factor in the defeat of Germany in World War I. Its potential, however, was in question in the pre-war years.

A blockaded nation might be able to break a close blockade through the use of small ships armed with these weapons. Also, improved coastal artillery , mines, and submarines could destroy blockaders. Another problem was posed by international law that protected neutral rights at sea. While Britain could seize all merchant ships sailing through the North Sea for Germany, naval strategists noted that neutral commerce, even in contraband items being those goods deemed to have a military value , would continue unchecked to those countries contiguous to Germany.

In terms of this trade, the onus of proof of destination rested with Britain rather than the neutral. Germany could import contraband supplies from these countries and thus undermine the whole effort. The British had not resolved these problems on the outbreak of World War I. Even so, they implemented a blockade since naval officials still attached some importance to it.

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The blockade was conducted in two theaters: the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea. In the Mediterranean, a British squadron stationed at Gibraltar monitored commerce with the aid of the French Navy. These activities, however, pale in comparison to those in the North Sea, which was the principle theater for the blockade. On 5 November , the Admiralty declared the entire North Sea a war zone where all ships entering into it would do so at their own risk.

The blockade of the North Sea consisted of two separate forces. One was the Dover Patrol that sealed off the Dover Strait.