Encyclopedia - The Kiel Canal

The Kiel Canal in 1914 The Kiel Canal was constructed between 1887-95 and originally named the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, after the then-Kaiser, Wilhelm II.  Primarily built as a means of facilitating movement of the German naval fleet from its Baltic bases to the open sea without the necessity to pass through international waters, the canal was also of great commercial significance since it removed the need to attempt to pass round the somewhat dangerous Jutland peninsula.

The canal was some 98.7 kilometres in length (61 miles) and extended from Kiel on the Baltic to Brunsbuettelkoog at the mouth of the Elbe River.  In the immediate pre-war years the canal's depth was extended from its original 9 metre depth (30 feet) and 65 metre width (213 feet) to 11 metres depth (36 feet) and 100 metres width (328 feet) in order to enable the latest German warships to use the canal.

At the end of the First World War the Treaty of Versailles decreed that the waterway was of sufficient importance that it would henceforth be regarded as an international waterway, open to all, although it was still administered by Germany.  Hitler revoked this policy in 1936 although it was re-implemented at the end of the Second World War.

A 'Base Rat' was a soldier perpetually at the base, typically in conditions of comfort and safety.

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