by Linden Lyons

Throughout the First World War the German Navy was pinned in its home waters by Britain's Grand Fleet and as a result was unable to intervene in operations in other parts of the world. At the outbreak of war in 1914, Germany had thirteen dreadnoughts and six battlecruisers to the Royal Navy's twenty-four dreadnoughts and ten battlecruisers. Because of their numerical superiority, the British ruled the waves — particularly the North Sea, which meant they were able to prevent any German move out of its home waters.

In Diplomacy, Germany faces the same problem at the beginning of 1901. England starts with two fleets to Germany's one, and in Spring 1901 England will almost certainly order a fleet to the North Sea. Now, Germany does not necessarily require fleet superiority in order to win the game, but a powerful navy would go a long way towards making a German victory possible. Such a situation, though, could only occur if Germany had control of the North Sea so that fleets could sail out into the Atlantic. But with an English fleet floating in the North Sea, England can easily pin down a German fleet in its home waters, thereby limiting its effectiveness. But this is not the end of Germany's naval problems. There are two other Great Powers able to build fleets for operations in northern waters — France and Russia. So how is Germany to obtain naval superiority in the area?

As unfavourable as the initial situation may appear, it is possible for Germany to have at least four fleets by Spring 1903 and to establish a great Nordic Empire. The probable maximum size of the Royal Navy by this time will be three fleets. With regard to France and Russia, Germany need not be too concerned over the fleets of these powers in 1901. France starts with one fleet, and in 1901 it is usually used either to claim Spain or Portugal, or to contest the English Channel with England. Russia, on the other hand, starts with two fleets in 1901, though only one starts in northern waters. Normally, Russia has no more available units in the north to support the northern fleet, usually due to the effort involved in defending its southern borders in the initial year or two. Because of this, dealing with the sole Russian fleet should not be too difficult for Germany. Therefore, only the English fleets are of any great concern in the first few game years.

This is how Germany can rapidly build up its navy in order to compete, at least on even terms, with the Royal Navy:

A German-Austrian alliance or non-aggression pact is needed. The usual reasons apply — war between these two nations at an early stage results only in their mutual destruction as the surrounding powers pick up the spoils. Consequently, an alliance or a pact of non-aggression is mutually beneficial. Some form of agreement with Turkey would also be useful. If Austria and Turkey could together put pressure on Russia's southern borders, then this would make it difficult for the Tsar to interfere with Germany's northern campaign. Finally, although it is not absolutely necessary, a Franco-German alliance against England would be excellent. Both France and Germany could together produce more fleets than England alone, and England would be unable to withstand a Franco-German attack. Such an alliance is beneficial to both parties. France would most likely end up with control of London and Liverpool and naval superiority in the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Germany will have gained possession of Edinburgh and Norway, and will emerge with control of the North Sea, protecting the German-held territories of Denmark, Holland and Belgium. From here, Germany could continue to expand westwards into France, or it can defend its western border and turn east in the pursuit of Lebensraum in Russia.

If, however, France does not agree to a Franco-German alliance, this need not at all overly concern Germany. In 1903, Germany will have enough fleets to take on the Royal Navy, or at the very least will be able to prevent an English advance into mainland Europe.

Germany's first moves are as follows:

Spring 1901

  • F(Kie)-Den
  • A(Ber)-Kie
  • A(Mun)-Ruh

These moves are neutral and do not raise any suspicion. Russia will probably have a fleet in the Gulf of Bothnia, and a sensible England will have ordered a fleet to the North Sea. At this stage, Germany has not committed itself in any direction, and any unexpected attack (like a Russian army in Prussia or Italian army in Tyrolia) can still be thwarted. Assuming all is well, what happens next is:

Autumn 1901

  • F(Den)-SKA
  • A(Kie)-Den
  • A(Ruh)-Hol

Russia will have its northern fleet in Sweden, and will realise with horror that Sweden is about to be taken away. Much depends, it should be noted, on lack of cooperation between Russia and England, and Germany's situation is even better if Austria and Turkey have captured Sevastapol and stopped Russia from capturing Rumania, for it would deny Russia a build, thereby leaving the lone Russian northern fleet without assistance. Meantime, England will have placed an army or fleet in Norway and will probably build a fleet. The situation would be better if England has been denied entry into Norway, and therefore denied a build, by a Russian army in St Petersburg, and Germany should encourage the development of such a situation (whilst at the same time cunningly persuading Austria and Turkey to strike at Russia in the south, which will prevent Russia becoming dominant in the northern theatre). The dynamics of the game in question will greatly determine how far Germany's plan can be taken, but to be aimed at is an Anglo-French war, an Anglo-Russian war, and an Austro-Turkish alliance against Russia. Assuming all has gone well, Germany can build a fleet in Kiel and an army in Munich and proceed accordingly:

Spring 1902

  • A(Den)-Swe
  • F(SKA) S A(Den)-Swe
  • F(Kie)-BAL
  • A(Mun)-Ruh
  • A(Hol) Stands

As stated, a great deal depends on England's attitude to the Russian. Distrust between these two powers is desirable from the German perspective, so the Kaiser must work vigorously in the diplomatic field towards this end. The fleet in Sweden must be without English support. This will ensure its dislodgement when Germany attacks it. The movement of a German fleet to the Baltic Sea is designed to prevent a Russian retreat to that sea zone, for such a retreat would threaten Berlin. Indeed, the execution of this plan requires that neither Munich nor Berlin is threatened. Should such a threat exist, Germany should take appropriate defensive measures, in which case a focus on the army's growth might become a priority. But seldom does Germany face this situation as early as 1902. It will also be noted that Germany has temporarily left Denmark open. This entails some risk, for England could simultaneously steam a fleet in there. Should this occur, Germany would most likely have to use its three northern units to retake Denmark, and Kiel would need to be covered to prevent an English retreat to that territory. This, naturally, would result in a postponement of Germany's naval ambitions.

Even so, an English movement to Denmark is unlikely. The Englishman would have to foresee its being left open, and this would not necessarily be expected. Futhermore, England's fleet in the North Sea would more likely be providing support to its army/fleet in Norway, especially if Russia attempts to take Norway as compensation for its anticipated loss of Sweden. So, once again, if all is well and all the above manoeuvres have been successfully achieved, Germany may proceed in the following manner:

Fall 1902

  • F(SKA)-Nwy
  • A(Swe) S F(SKA)-Nwy
  • F(BAL)-Den
  • A(Ruh)-Bel
  • A(Hol) S A(Ruh)-Bel

Norway's capture, inevitably, will be difficult, but it can be achieved through diplomatic skill. Specifically, if Germany has continued to encourage Austro-Turkish pressure against Russia, then Russia will have little choice but to comply with German requests for assistance against England. Additionally, by assuring the Tsar that England, not Russia, is Germany's ultimate target, the Tsar should be willing to work with Germany, even after being dislodged from Sweden. Should Russia not do so, it would be surrounded only by enemies. So, with Russian assistance, the German fleet ought to be able to capture Norway. As for Belgium, if France is engaged in war with England (and this should be pushed for by Germany), then France, if present in Belgium, should not be able to deny German entry into that territory without sacrificing its position against England.

In this manner, Germany should gain three builds. Two of these will be fleets, with an army placed in Munich.

Germany now has four fleets ready for 1903 and will soon successfully break the English naval blockade. This had been attempted unsuccessfully by the German Navy, under Admiral Reinhard Scheer, in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Here, though, Germany has success! Now, of course, if relations with France were good, and if there were no threat in the east, in Winter 1901 Germany could build a fleet in Berlin as opposed to an army in Munich. This could potentially mean a growth to five fleets by 1903! England will have at most three fleets, but if France is partaking in the invasion of England, and already has a fleet in London or Liverpool, then England will be down to two fleets and one army (or three fleets and no army).

In any case, Germany's 1903 target should be to wrestle control of the North Sea from England. This would be followed by an assault on England, after which one of two things can be done. Germany can proceed against France and into the Atlantic, thereby establishing German naval superiority over the whole of Europe. Alternatively, Germany can establish a defensive position along its western border and launch an invasion against Russia.

It is, therefore, quite possible for Germany to swiftly increase the size of its navy so as to be able, with or without French assistance, to destroy England's early dominant naval force. Germany would emerge with control of Scandinavia, England, the North Sea and, with great diplomatic skill and effort, have German fleets steaming through the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Linden Lyons

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