Who's Who - Hugo von Pohl

Hugo von Pohl Admiral Hugo von Pohl (1855-1916) commanded the German High Seas Fleet from 1915 until shortly before his death from illness in 1916.

Hugo von Pohl was born in Breslau on 25 August 1855 and commissioned as Lieutenant into the German navy in 1876 when aged 21.  Three years later he was appointed First Lieutenant and made Captain in 1900 following a stint working in the Imperial Naval Office.

In due course he was promoted Commodore in 1905.  Von Pohl was tasked in 1908 with the establishment of new naval stations from Kiel to Sonderberg, receiving a promotion to Vice Admiral the following year.

Succeeding Ingenohl as Commander-in-Chief of the fleet following the near disaster at Dogger Bank in January 1915 (with Bachmann taking his place as Chief of the Admiralty Staff), von Pohl proved something of a cautious naval commander, unwilling to risk the German surface fleet.

He resisted a number of British efforts to lure the smaller High Seas Fleet into the North Sea into combat against the British Grand Fleet, at that time clearly the largest of its kind in the world.

Cautious above sea he was however an enthusiast of submarine warfare and encouraged its spread during his brief tenure.  He recommended to German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg a U-boat blockade of British trade in retaliation to Britain's own blockade of German shipping (launched on the first day of the war).

A month before his death from illness he was replaced, in February 1916, by the markedly more aggressive Reinhardt Scheer who did not shy from engaging the British in surface fleet action, resulting in the Battle of Jutland a mere three months later.

In WW1 an "ace" was a pilot who scored five confirmed "kills".

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