Saturday 27 July 2019

The Reichsmarine: The Germany Navy after Versailles

As laid down in the Treaty of Versailles, the new German Navy or Reichsmarine was restricted to:
  • 6 battleships of the Deutschland or Lothringen type;
  • 6 light cruisers;
  • 12 destroyers;
  • 12 torpedo boats;
  • or an equal number of ships constructed to replace them as provided in Article 190.
The battleships were all pre-dreadnoughts and unable to fight modern dreadnought battleships, although they were a match for most powerful of the ships operated by potential enemy navies in the Baltic (i.e. Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Finland but not the new Soviet Navy). The light cruisers were mostly so obsolete that many of them had been inactive during most of the First World War, and the destroyers and torpedo boats were also obsolete, and could not be classed as being up-to-date.

It soon became obvious that in order to field even such a small force, the Reichsmarine would need to create a reserve of ships. The Allies eventually agreed to this on 4th May 1920, and German was allowed to retain an additional two battleships, two light cruisers, four destroyers, and four torpedo boats 'in reserve' (i.e. fully armed but with no ammunition, crews, or provisions kept aboard).

As will be gathered, many of the ships retained by the Reichsmarine were obsolete and worn out. The sheer number of minesweepers that they were allowed to retain indicates the size of the mine clearing operations that the Reichsmarine had to undertake in the immediate aftermath of the signing of the treaty. What is more surprising is how many of these ships were still in service in minor and auxiliary roles twenty years later when the Second World War broke out.

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