Who's Who - Henning von Holtzendorff

Henning von Holtzendorff Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff's (1853-1919) naval career, which seemed over following his more or less forced resignation into retirement in 1913, was resuscitated with the declaration of war in August 1914.

Holtzendorff served as commander of the High Seas Fleet from 1909 until 1913 when, as an opponent of Tirpitz's policy of rapid expansion of the German Navy in competition with Britain, he was manoeuvred into retirement along with numerous others of a similar viewpoint.

Recalled in September 1915, Holtzendorff was placed at the head of the naval General Staff.  Freshly converted to Tirpitz's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, Holtzendorff wrote an important memorandum on 22 December 1916 in which he predicted the demise of Britain should the policy be aggressively adopted by the German Third Supreme Command (led by Hindenburg and Ludendorff): "England will be forced to sue for peace within five months as the result of launching an unrestricted  U-boat war".

In fact Holtzendorff believed the policy would bring Britain to its knees within eight months; Tirpitz, rather more optimistically, believed its aims could be achieved in just two months.

Critically, both Holtzendorff and Tirpitz recognised that the adoption of unrestricted submarine warfare would probably bring the then-neutral U.S. into the war on the side of the Allies; however they were also convinced that they could knock Britain out of the war before the U.S. could effectively mobilise.

Holtzendorff's influential memorandum struck a chord not only with Hindenburg and Ludendorff, but also with the Kaiser, Wilhelm II, leading to its approval as policy.

The muted success of the ensuing campaign (adopted a little over a month following his memorandum) made Holtzendorff's position difficult.  Certainly the policy was producing notable successes at sea, but was manifestly failing in its primary aim of obliging Britain to sue for peace in short order.  In April the U.S. was predictably brought into the war.

Finding himself in dispute with the Third Supreme Command over Germany's war aims (among others), Holtzendorff was effectively placed into retirement in August 1918 with Scheer's appointment as head of the Naval Supreme Command.

Awarded the Pour Le Merite on 22 March 1917 and the Oakleaves on 1 February 1918, Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff died in 1919.

'Kitchener's Army' comprised Men recruited into the British Army a result of Lord Kitchener's appeal for volunteers.

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