The Kaiser in Command, Britain Prepared – Part Eight

Testing a big gun and showing proportion of HMS Queen Elizabeth guns.
Chrono date: 
1914 Jun 01

At the moment when the Germans and Austrians were preparing, at the first opportunity, to annihilate Servia —weak and, as it was thought, friendless — the international situation seemed so peaceful that the Admiralty had no hesitation in arranging a series of visits by some of the finest men-of-war under the British ensign to the great maritime Powers in southern and northern waters. Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne, with three battle-cruisers — the Inflexible, Invincible and Indomitable — together with four of our finest armoured cruisers, exchanged courtesies with the Turks, Greeks, Italians and Austrians. The Sultan presented him with a watch studded with diamonds! Almost simultaneously divisions of the Fleet in British waters, under Admirals Sir George Warrender, Sir David Beatty, and William C. Pakenham, were received in the great northern ports — Copenhagen, Stockholm, Reval, Cronstadt and Kiel. In the course of a few days the Emperors of Russia and Germany and the Kings of Denmark and Greece were entertained on board British men-of-war, and exchanged complimentary speeches in which testimony was borne to the peaceful outlook which the world then presented.

The cordiality of the Kaiser and the interest which he displayed in the British division at Kiel was the subject of special remark. One morning an unexpected message was received on board Sir George Warrender’s flagship stating that His Majesty proposed to make an official visit. Shortly before noon a boat shot out from the side of the Imperial yacht Hollenzollern, and the Kaiser, in the uniform of an Admiral-of-the-Fleet in the British service, was rowed towards the King George V, the Union Jack streaming astern the small craft. It was a bright June day.

(Top) A four 12" gun salvo. (Middle) Fore turret 15" guns of HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Bottom) "This means business."

(Top) A four 12" gun salvo. (Middle) Fore turret 15" guns of HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Bottom) "This means business."

Immediately the Kaiser stepped on board, Sir George Warrender’s flag was replaced by the Union Jack, which the Emperor at that time was entitled to fly in virtue of the honorary commission conferred upon him years ago by Queen Victoria when the German Fleet was one of the least conspicuous of all the fleets of the world. The Kaiser’s visit lasted about an hour, and during that period he was technically in command of the group of British Dreadnoughts and the squadron of light cruisers, under Commodore Goodenough, anchored in Kiel Bay. The visit was the first which the Emperor had made to one of the British battleships of the new all-big-gun design, and he evinced the keenest interest in all that he saw, though he did not leave the upper deck or carry out anything in the nature of an inspection of her armament or internal arrangements. All the captains of the British Division had assembled on board the King George V to pay their respects to the Emperor, who inspected the crew, and talked vivaciously to this officer and that of his interest in sea affairs and the many links which he had formed with England.

The subsequent days of the visit of Sir George Warrender and his officers and men were filled with a programme of entertainments in which all the leading personalities connected with Germany’s maritime interests took part — Prince Henry of Prussia, Grand Admiral von Koster, the President of the German Navy League, Admiral von Ingenohl, then the Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet, and Herr Ballin, her great shipowner. The last named had determined that nothing should be lacking which could contribute to the success of the stay of the British men-of-war, and had invited Lady Warrender to cross from England in the huge liner Vaterland and live as his guest on board the Hamburg-Amerika steamer Viktoria Luise, moored in Kiel Harbour. Through her ships-of-war, Germany — official Germany — courted Britain. Had the Kaiser and his ministers any arriere pensee?

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