Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert Massie
Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert Massie
To call this book mammoth is to do it an injustice. It has taken me the better part of two years to work my way through it, one chunk at a time.
What follows are a few ideas and passages to use when planning lessons on German Nationalism, The Moroccan Crisis, The Boer War and then Fisher and RN evolution. There is then a less elegant ditching of other notes and observations that I took while reading it. Personally, I will be revisiting them when creating lessons and content on these areas. For everyone else, I hope it can help in some way.
German ‘Nationalism’ and Yacht Racing…
“However, culture was moving on. The Pan German League was created and pushed for more colonies - academia began to routinely attack Britain for being stuck in the past and unable to adapt to the unstoppable growth of the German Empire in central Europe (and beyond). Leading the charge was the Kasier himself, his grandfather, William I had created a German Empire - now William II felt he owed it to his people to go to the next logical step and develop a world Empire.
William was obsessed with the Royal Navy and determined to match and beat the British. Every summer as a young man William would come to Britain for yacht racing. His yacht, Meteor, would race for top spot against the Prince of Wales (Future Edward VII - or Bertie - the eldest son of Victoria - and William's uncle). William took the racing seriously and was famous for tantrums or appealing to the ruling committee about fair play when he lost. These contests were irksome for Edward VII, but his yacht was superior and would win most of the races.”
In 1896 William sent a telegram to the President of Transvaal in South Africa, congratulating him on fighting off am armed incursion by the British Cape Colony. He hoped, bizarrely, it would expose the British position as isolated and bring them closer to cooperating with Germany over future colonial acquisitions. Instead it triggered an anti-German backlash with the British public and William didn't visit Britain again for 4 years and never attend the racing again ever again. Instead he built Meteor II, III and IV. Each faster than Britannia and each one more German. IV was entirely German crewed. He even tried to replicate and surpass the Cowes sailing regatta by creating one at Kiel. However, despite throwing money and prestige at the event it still didn't quite eclipse the leas formal, but more prestigious, Cowes event.
Cecil Rhodes, through the DeBeer mining company controlled 90% of the world's diamonds. He seized most of South Africa (and funded himself a degree at Oxford - and a seat in Parliament). He became PM of the South African colony. His plans for domination were thwarted by a small colony of Dutch Settlers.
The Boers had settled in South Africa in the early 1800s but during the Napoleonic War were taken over by the Royal Navy. However, once the British banned slavery throughout the Empire a Revolt amongst the Boers resulted in 5000 of them going on the 'Great Trek', fighting local tribes as they went, to the North and settling two new lands. Traansval and the Orange Free State.
In 1877 the British invaded the Traansval and an 1881 treaty gave them semi-autonomy over the region. The colony became led by Paul Kruger, who pursued a strict Christian interpretation. They lived peacefully in their capital Pretoria with each other until 1886, when gold was discovered.
Soon tens of thousands of outsiders were arriving in the Traansval, their brutish behaviour offended the locals and the locals strange ways frustrated the gold miners.
Rhodes tried to resolve the situation by planning an internal Revolt, but it failed and 400 of his private solders from the South African Company were captured in the badly executed affair. This was known as the James on Raid, after the name of the officer who decided to pre-emptively strike against the Traansval before the Revolt had taken hold.
The Traansval Boers were darlings of Germany. Ethnically German they were one of the few colonies that could be said to be German. Various wild schemes to assist the Boers were discussed by William II but eventually tamed by his ministers he settled on a message of support, known to History as the Kruger Telegram of 1896. In it he congratulated the colony for repelling the British raid, claimed her recognised the regions independence (it was a crown colony!) And implied that Germany would be prepared to assist them in future if such threats occurred again. A catastrophic diplomatic reply for Anglo-German relations.
It sparked howls of protest in Britain and much excitement and support in Germany. German shops in Germany were smashed, German sailors on the Themes attacked. It marked an important shift in British opinions about who their enemy was. William II, grandson to their monarch, was always considered a friend and France the enemy. This changed things.
It also empowered Tirpitz in Germany, who seizing on the British anger used it to argue his case that Germany couldn't have helped Traansval even if it wanted to - because Germany couldnt beat Britain at sea.
However, that's not to say there wasn't any tension with France. A stand off at a fort called Fashoda the base of the Nile River between Britsh and French forces. Britain had sent Kitchener in to avenge the death of a former British expedition at the hands of the Sudanese (or Fuzzy Wuzzies, as Corporal Jones might say).
At the conclusion of Kitchener's success they were to capture the Fort of Fashoda to secure it from a possible French incursion from their bases in the Congo. However, they arrived too late and the base was already held by the French. A stand off ensued and war looked likely at one point, with the Reserve Home Fleet being mobilised to fight France. However, cooler heads prevailed (including pleas from Queen Victoria that she didn't wish to fight over a fort in a far away place).
Of note on this expedition was a young Royal Navy Lieutenant called Beatty. (Who would be Admiral at Jutland).
Back in South Africa Kruger and the Boers were causing trouble again and war broke out. Initially Britain suffered many set backs and William II enjoyed sending coded insults and wind ups to his English family. Three German steamers were stopped and searched by the RN on suspicion of carrying weapons for the Boers. This caused further uproar in Germany. Eventually the British smothered the area in reinforcements, taking the initial number of soldiers from 25,000 to 250,000. Eventually the Boers were defeated and Kruger fled to Europe never to return.
Meanwhile in China...
The German seizure of Tsingtao was the immediate spark that caused the formation of the Boxers.
As the rebellion spread the foreign quarter out under seige William became carried away with excitement. He assembled a German army, negotiated that one of his favourite generals, Waldersee, (who he promoted to Field Marshall) be given the role of leading an international force. He gave a terrible speech to the departing troops encouraging them to behave like the Mongol hordes of history - the Hun.
Arriving too late to lift the seige, which had been done by more local foreign troops, there was little for Field Marshall (dubbed 'World Marshall') to do. So instead, following their instructions to leave a legacy of fear, they busied themselves with raids, rapes and executions. Soon after the other foreign powers pulled out once China had agreed to pay reparations for the Rebellion.
"In June 1901, Waldersee left Peking and sailed for home. He did so with regret. He had not been able to win the glory that the Kaiser so keenly desired. The World Marshal left behind in Peking a romantic partner, the wife of a former Chinese diplomat who had served in Berlin. He brought home with him from China an intestinal disease which eventually killed him in 1904 at the age of seventy-two."
In 1903, Edward VII did remarkable work in a state visit to Paris, on his own initiative. He was able to win vast amounts of the French press and elite, who had previously been using the Boer War as an excuse to criticise and attack the British. His visit changed the tone of the relationship. A return visit followed by the French President.
Building on this the following year a Anglo-French Convention was signed settling some colonial clashes, notably giving France free reign in Morocco and Britain the same in Egypt. It came to be known as the Entente Cordiale.
Only... this left out the Germans. They'd been growing their trade with Morroco, but mostly they just felt cut out of the deal. During the infamous carve up of Africa Morocco had been designated somewhere free from European influences by the British - so their position at Gibraltar was not threatened. Any change to the deal was meant to involve discussions with other European powers. And here the French and Brits were acting like they were the only two in the colonial game.
Willy was not having it.
He visited Morocco and gave a speech insisting Germany recognised the Sultan's right to independence under the Treaty of Madrid, and his encouragement, had the Sultan try to call a conference of the signatories of the Treaty of Madrid to discuss the situation...
France and Britain refused and so most of the others refused to attend either.
However, the issue did not go away and rumours circulated that Morocco may gift Germany an Atlantic port or coaling Station. Tensions rose, a French foreign minister who was urging a complete alliance with Britain, was forced to resign and a German suggestion of a conference on the Morocco matter to be held in Spain at Algeciras was accepted.
However, at the conference the Germans overplayed their hand. They came in with a long list of demands and assumed the British would side with Germany against France in order to keep Morocco effectively neutral. It didn't work. The British were more than happy with the Entente Cordiale and had no intention of jeopardising it. They stood firm with their French allies and the conference ended with a loose agreement that French control of the Moroccon police was to be split with the Spanish and overseen by the Swiss, Germany was again being isolated.
"While France had not won the clear predominance she had sought in Morocco, she had gained something more precious, something of which M. Delcassé had dreamed: the active diplomatic support of Great Britain. At Algeciras, Germany achieved the opposite of what she intended. She meant to break the Entente before it took on meaning and strength. Instead, German bullying succeeded in driving France and England closer together."
Fisher and the Royal Navy’s Evolution:
The RN struggled initially to make the move away from sail and towards steam. So many traditions involved sail. The willingness to turn their back on them was lacking.
The first ironclad, literally a wooden Hull clad in iron, was built by France. HMS Warrior followed on quickly.
The first demonstration of their power came jn the US Civil War with the South's CSS Virginia, which looked like an upside down bath tub, sailing out alone and smashing it's way through several blockading Union frigates. It survived several broadsides in the process. It was only stopped when it was confronted by the Unions one and only ironclad concept, one with a rotating turret, USS Monitor.
Slowly and mostly reluctantly the arN did begin to change.
In 1886 HMS Colossus became the first warship with a steel (not iron) Hull. Many others followed, and eventually "The transformation was extraordinarily rapid. Every captain commanding a great steel battleship at the beginning of the twentieth century had trained in the Old Navy of masts and sails. None would dispute the retired sailor who looked back on those days and said, “No doubt the present fleet24 far excels the old wooden walls, but those old wooden walls made sailors.”
Innovation was discouraged. Nelson's maxim of "engage the enemy more closely" ruled, despite new inventions in gunnery.
"Anything new was suspicious and potentially dangerous. By getting out of step, one might make a mistake; by remaining in step, one eventually reached the top. Midshipmen became lieutenants, lieutenants became commanders, then captains, then admirals, all in stately procession, no one making a fuss, each waiting placidly in line for his seniors to retire so that he could succeed."
"Another problem was the human material. The brightest boys in England did not instinctively become navy midshipmen. Nepotism was the rule as fathers steered their sons, and uncles their nephews, into the navy; the result was a “self-perpetuating...25 semi-aristocratic yacht club.""
Jellicoe seems like an interesting character. Wrote an anonymous letter to the newspaper complaining about the way RN practices discouraged independent thinking and of an impending disaster. Later he was on board HMS Victorious as the CinC, on board, Admiral Tyron, who enjoyed reckless sailing and formations ordered Campeltown and Victorious to collide into each other. Nobody dared seriously question it, assuming he had something up his sleeve. He didn't. Victorious sank, along with half its crew and Tyron. Jellicoe survived. Quite a formational experience.
"One aspect of shipboard life which no one worried much about was gunnery; the few officers who did worry were ridiculed as fanatics. As one former officer explained: “Had anyone suggested39 that fighting efficiency lay in knowing how to shoot the guns and not polishing them, he would have been looked at as a lunatic and treated accordingly.”
"John Arbuthnot Fisher, England’s greatest admiral since Nelson, was not cast from the Nelsonian mold. Whereas the hero of Trafalgar was a calm, quiet man whose private arrangements were a national scandal, Fisher, the tempestuous builder of the modern Royal Navy, rushed through life from one seething, volcanic controversy to the next, all the while serving at home as the exemplary head of a model family. A more important distinction, of course, is that Nelson was a fighting admiral, while Fisher, although he commanded fleets at sea (most notably the Mediterranean Fleet, from 1899 to 1902), never did so during wartime. His role and his great service to the navy and his country were as an administrator and reformer. In this sense, Fisher can better be compared to St. Vincent than to Nelson, for it was the magisterial and autocratic John Jervis, Earl St. Vincent, England’s First Sea Lord during the Napoleonic Wars, who appointed Nelson to command and provided him with the ships and men to vanquish the French. Similarly, Fisher appointed Admiral Sir John Jellicoe to command the Grand Fleet during the Great War and provided Jellicoe with the vast agglomeration of ships—battleships, battle cruisers, cruisers, destroyers, and submarines—with which Great Britain guarded the exits from the North Sea, shielded her coasts, and foiled the purposes of the German High Seas Fleet."
"Fisher wanted the British Fleet poised to “hit first, hit hard, and keep on hitting.”
"It was, in almost every sense, his fleet. For fifty years, from naval cadet to Admiral of the Fleet, Jacky Fisher had stood for change, reform, efficiency, readiness. Over the years, as the navy converted from sail to steam, from wooden hulls to iron and steel, Fisher was first to demand reforms in technology, in personnel handling, in tactics and strategy at sea. He was a leading proponent of improved naval gunnery: firing at longer ranges, with greater accuracy and faster rates of fire. Yet he believed that the torpedo would eventually supersede the great gun as the primary naval weapon. He believed in large, fast surface ships with heavy guns, and he supervised the design and construction of the Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun battleship. Yet he was convinced that the submarine was the warship of the future and he urged the Royal Navy to invest in these sneaky undersea craft and develop tactics for them to sink battleships. He introduced destroyers and gave them their name. He began substitution of turbines for reciprocating engines and he urged the use of oil fuel rather than coal. Even on what seemed the smallest matters, Fisher demanded change. Remembering the hard, weevily biscuits which he had eaten as a cadet and midshipman aboard sailing ships, he converted the fleet to fresh bread baked daily in ovens aboard the ships."
“Inconsistency is the bugbear of fools! I wouldn’t give a damn for a fellow who couldn’t change his mind with a change of conditions. Ain’t I to wear a waterproof because I didn’t when the sun was shining?” Fisher’s general opinion of politicians was not high"
“All nations want peace,28 but they want a peace that suits them.” A decision for war, he felt, came from a weighing of factors; if a nation felt that it risked losing more in war than it could possibly gain, there would be no war. Thus, for Fisher, the key to peace as well as security lay in the strength of the British Navy."
"If war did come, it might come suddenly and, in the case of a great sea battle, all could be decided within a few hours. Throughout his career Fisher hammered on the theme of “the suddenness...32 and finality of a modern sea fight... once beaten the war is finished. Beaten on land, you can improvise fresh armies in a few weeks. You can’t improvise a fresh Navy; it takes four years.” The suddenness and decisiveness of a sea battle put a premium on intelligent, courageous leadership. “The generals may be asses,33 but the men, being lions, may pull the battle through on shore,” he said. **“But in a sea fight, if the admiral is an ass, millions of lions are useless!”**
There were many who hated him and he hated them. His was not the method of leading smoothly, but of driving relentlessly and remorselessly. He prided himself on this policy, and boasted of it and of his scorn of opposition.”
He consulted junior Lfts, he endlessly walked the corridor talking to people and asking their views. He kept a notepad by his bed and rose at 4/5am to enact the ideas he had scribbled. Endless energy. He kept a war Gaming table in his office and had an open door policy. Anyone could come in and discuss tactics. Kne a junior officer came in with a plan for anti-torpedo tactics - the next morning the fleet were practicing them.
Many of the old guard found his behaviour threatening and undermining. He made no secret of his disdain for tradition.
So the question is ... how? How did Fisher become First Sea Lord despite pissing off all his superiors? How did not become another victim of the system? Adapting his style yo best suit progeession through the bureaucracy?
It was exactly this driving, ruthless search for efficiency, this remorseless hounding of the inefficient, which inspired and awed Fisher’s young admirers and acolytes. As Bacon remembered: “It is impossible16 to exaggerate the new ardor and the feeling of relief among younger officers. They felt that the day had dawned when mere peace ideas and maneuvers were about to give way to real preparations for meeting a war when it came.” Fisher’s credo—“the efficiency of the Navy17 and its instant readiness for war”—became the watchword of this band of reformers which, within the navy, came to be called the Fishpond.
Forty years later, as Lord Hankey, the former marine, looked back on what he had witnessed: “It is difficult for anyone22 who had not lived under the previous regime to realize what a change Fisher brought about in the Mediterranean Fleet, and, by example and reaction, throughout the Navy.... Before his arrival, the topics and arguments of the officers’ messes... were mainly confined to such matters as the cleaning of paint and brasswork, the getting out of torpedo nets and anchors and similar trivialities. After a year of Fisher’s regime, these were forgotten and replaced by incessant controversies on tactics, strategy, gunnery, torpedo warfare, blockade, etc. It was a veritable renaissance and affected every officer in the Navy.”
"Fisher aimed his belligerence, which could be venomous, at Kerr. “The First Sea Lord is a nonentity50 because he tries to do everything and succeeds in doing nothing,” he wrote to J. R. Thursfield, naval correspondent of the Times. Kerr was less interested in preparing for war than in the regulations for the cuffs of flag officers’ full dress coats, he charged."
"Fisher made regular excursions behind the backs of his civilian and naval superiors to communicate his views to the press. A number of journalists interested in naval affairs, most notably Thursfield of The Times and Arnold White of the Daily Mail, received regular letters from Fisher, who fed them information on which to base articles pushing his views, most prominently the urgent need to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet."
Guided Reading on a lesson on ‘The Outbreak of War’
“On the early morning of June 23, the gray shapes of the Second Battle Squadron emerged from the mist ten miles off the German Baltic coast. When they entered the port, the mist had evaporated and Kiel Harbor was bathed in sunshine. Yachts and naval launches circled the ships, and the shore was black with spectators. Sir George Warrender and his captains boarded the German flagship, Friedrich der Grosse, to be welcomed by Admiral Friedrich von Ingenhol, Commander-in-Chief of the High Seas Fleet. They went ashore to the Royal Castle, where Prince Henry and Princess Irene greeted them in unaccented English. In the afternoon Prince Henry visited the British flagship, King George V, and described her as “the finest ship afloat.”47 The following day, Admiral von Tirpitz arrived from Berlin, hoisted his flag in the battleship Friedrich Karl, and invited the English officers to his cabin. Again, English was spoken, and Tirpitz, sipping champagne, described for his guests the development of the German Navy. That afternoon, all ships in the harbor, British and German, thundered twenty-one-gun salutes as the Kaiser arrived, on board the Hohenzollern, which had passed through the Kiel Canal. Airplanes and a zeppelin circled overhead; this ceremony was marred when one of the planes crashed into the sea. Proceeding to its anchorage, the gold and white Hohenzollern passed the mammoth King George V, whose decks and turrets were lined by sailors in white and by red-jacketed marines. Once the Imperial yacht was anchored a signal fluttered up, inviting all British senior officers aboard. In full-dress uniform, the British admiral and captains climbed the Hohenzollern’s accommodation ladder and were received by the enthusiastic Emperor. On June 25, the Kaiser, wearing the uniform of a British Admiral of the Fleet, paid his first and only visit to a British dreadnought. Admiral Warrender served lunch. His guests were led to his private dining room, paneled in mahogony and furnished with comfortable leather chairs and sofas. They ate at small tables set with flowers, and listened to an orchestra playing works by German composers. Warrender gave a speech hailing the spirit of goodfellowship between the British and German fleets. William was in high spirits; he made jokes, poked fun at the top hat of a diplomat present, and asked whether sailors in the British Navy ever swore. That same day the yacht regatta began. For the rest of the week the harbor and the sea approaches to Kiel were flecked with sails. On Friday the twenty-sixth, the Kaiser invited Warrender, the British Ambassador, Sir Edward Goschen, Prince Henry, and Tirpitz to race with him aboard the Meteor. Meanwhile, officers and sailors of the British squadron were fraternizing with German officers and with the townspeople of Kiel. German officers in white waistcoats, with gold braid on their trousers, sat drinking whiskey and soda in the wardrooms of British ships, while young British officers attended tennis matches, tea dances, dinner parties, and balls, where they flirted with German girls. Married English officers were invited to the homes of married German officers. The town of Kiel provided competitive games for English seamen: soccer matches, relay races, tugs of war. Every day, the German Admiralty offered hundreds of free railway passes so that English sailors could visit Berlin and Hamburg. In a somber moment, British and German officers stood bareheaded at the funeral of the pilot killed as the Hohenzollern entered the harbor. There were moments when the fact that the two fleets had been built to fight each other could not be ignored. British officers heard whispers that the Kaiserin and her sons had not come because they so disliked England. German officers who seemed carried away by British goodfellowship found Commander von Müller, the German Naval Attaché in London, at their elbows, hissing urgently; “Be on your guard48 against the English. England is ready to strike; war is imminent, and the object of this visit is only spying. They want to see how prepared we are. Whatever you do, tell them nothing about our U-boats!” The only evidence of British “spying” was shaky. Fuddled old Lord Brassey, an ardent yachtsman and friend of the Kaiser’s, set off for shore one day with a single sailor in a dinghy from his yacht, Sunbeam, and found himself inside the U-boat dock of the Kiel building yards, which was closed to civilians. Arrested and kept under guard until identified, he was released in time for dinner. Admiral Warrender offered Admiral von Ingehol and his officers complete freedom of all British ships except for the wireless room and the fire-control section of the conning towers. The German Admiral was forced to refuse, as he could not respond by showing British officers through German ships. When Tirpitz and Ingehol came to lunch on board King George V, Warrender repeated his invitation. Tirpitz refused, but Ingehol consented to go inside one of the 13.5-inch gun turrets, which was rotated and the guns elevated for his inspection. On Sunday, June 28, the Kaiser went racing again aboard the Meteor. At two-thirty that afternoon, a telegram arrived in Kiel announcing the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Admiral von Müller, Chief of the Naval Cabinet, ordered a launch and set out to find his master. “We overhauled the Meteor49 sailing on a northerly course with a faint breeze,” Müller wrote. “The Kaiser was standing in the stern with his guests, watching the arrival of our launch with some anxiety. I called out to him that I was the bearer of grave news and that I would throw the written message across. But His Majesty insisted upon knowing at once what it was all about so I gave him the message by word of mouth.... The Kaiser was very calm and merely asked, ‘Would it be better to abandon the race?’” The character of Kiel Week changed. Flags were lowered to half-mast, and receptions, dinners, and a ball at the Royal Castle were cancelled. Early the next morning, the Kaiser departed, intending to go to Vienna and the Archduke’s funeral. Warrender struggled to preserve the spirit of the week. Speaking to a hall filled with sailors from both fleets, he spoke of the friendship between the two countries and called for three cheers for the German Navy. A German admiral called for three cheers for the British Navy. The two admirals shook hands. On the morning of June 30, the British squadron weighed anchor and left the harbor. The signal masts of German warships flew the signal “Pleasant journey.”50 From his flagship, Warrender sent a wireless message back to the German Fleet: “Friends in past and friends forever.”
Geography dictated confrontation. German merchant ships, leaving the Baltic or the North Sea harbors of Hamburg or Bremen, could reach the Atlantic and other oceans of the world only by steaming through the Channel or around the coast of Scotland. A German Navy strong enough to protect German merchant shipping in these waters and guarantee unimpeded passage to the oceans meant, in the last resort, a German fleet able to defeat the British Navy. This Great Britain would never permit, for it meant also a German fleet strong enough to screen an invasion of England, to sweep9 from the seas all British merchant shipping, to strip Britain of her colonies and empire. Thus, the goal of the German Navy—to protect German commerce on the high seas—was wholly incompatible with the interest of British security. What one power demanded, the other was unwilling to concede.
William II blamed his mother, Vicky, the oldest daughter of Queen Victoria, her his father's death. William I (his grandfather) lived to he 90+ and by the time of his death his father, Frederick, was sick with cancer. He died after only 90 days on the throne. Vicky had insisted on listening to English doctors over German ones and had tried to stop her son from seeing his father in the last few days. She had a poor relationship with him, starting with such high hopes she had crafted a strict timetable of learning when he was a child that he had never taken to - he preferred socialising and fashion - much to her horror. William II also had a frail arm from birth, preventing him from doing sports of much soldiering. This insecurity and a resentment for his mother were crucial to understanding his character. His rough treatment of his mother, combined with a desire to protect traditional "monarchism" from democracy was a direct reversal of his mother and father's wishes - shaped as they were by the Liberal minded Albert - their father and Victoria's beloved husband.
Bismarck worried about the rule of Frederick. He was Liberal and through his wife too closely aligned with Britain. He worried Frederick might undo his hard work. So he struck upon a scheme, admitted in his journals, to block Ferderick into a future anti British position. Bismarck decided yo strike up an interest in German overseas colonies - something he previously believed to be a waste of time. However, in treading on the feet of Britain overseas, and dressing the issue up as one of German pride - he effectively turned the German people against Britain, and by association, undermined the position of Frederick and his English wife, Vicky. As Bismarck said to Tsar Alexander III, "the sole object of German colonial policy was to drive a wedge between the Crown Prince (Frederick) and England".
The young William II had a foreign minister, called Holstein. Quiet, hard working and previously a deputy to Bismarck who had nutured his career. He believed it vital to keep Britain on side and neutral:
"Accommodation with Britain assured German predominance in Europe, but also required moderation of German ambitions overseas. Germany must not alarm and provoke Great Britain by an aggressive colonial policy or by an extravagant increase in the size of the German Navy. In the 1870s and 1880s, Britain had assisted in the training of the small German fleet; in the 1880s Britain had endorsed Bismarck’s brief excursion into colonialism. In overseas trade, German ships and traders enjoyed the protection of the Royal Navy and access to British colonial markets. Holstein saw no need to push for more."
Holstein was influential behind the scenes in shaping policy early in William II'S reign.