Book Review: From Imperial Splendor to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War


by Nicholas Wolz

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015. Pp. xx, 268. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index . $52.95. ISBN: 1591141745

The German Side of the Great War at Sea

The author of several works on the Great War and German history, Wolz’s battle history of the German Imperial Navy was originally published in Germany in 2013. Unlike most works in English on war at sea, which focus overmuch on the role of the Royal Navy, to the detriment everyone else’s side of the story, Wolz gives us the German perspective on the events.

Although Wolz addresses such matters as policy, strategy, and organization, the primary focus of the book is the German fleet at war. Based in part on his doctoral work on British and German naval officers in the Great War, and he uses first-hand accounts to great effect as he discusses naval operations, often providing remarkable detail on the experiences of men under fire.

Wolz identifies many flaws in German war-making. There was, for example, a total absence of any coordination by the Army’s war planners with the Navy, which goes far to explain why the BEF reached France over a few days in August of 1914 totally undisturbed. He also discusses why relations between officers and the “lower decks” in the Royal Navy were better than those in the Imperial Navy.

While his treatment of operations, battles, and skirmishes is generally very good, especially his coverage of events in the Baltic, there is one surprising omission. After an excellent account of the movements of the battlecruiser Goeben and her escort the Breslau that ultimately saw them enter the Dardanelles on Aug. 10, 1914, there is virtually no further discussion of their service in the war, despite their engaging the Russian fleet in the Black sea on several occasions. This unfortunate omission has to be set against the overall value of Wolz’s account of the Imperial Navy’s role in the war, including its eventual misguided belief that the submarine could bring ultimate victory.

From Imperial Splendor to Internment is a valuable read for anyone interested in the naval side of the Great War, and for background on the German Navy in the World War II.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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