Primary Documents - German Admiralty Declaration, 4 February 1915

German naval minister Alfred von Tirpitz The German government's first steps towards adopting a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare came with the admiralty declaration of 4 February 1915, which warned neutral shipping to stay away from the waters surrounding Britain and Ireland from 18 February 1915 onwards.

The ensuing international furore (chiefly from the U.S.) ensured that the threat of sinking neutral shipping was dropped until its re-imposition in January 1917.  It was this policy more than any other that drew the U.S. into the war in April 1917.

German Admiralty Declaration

All the waters surrounding Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a war zone.  From February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel found within this war zone will be destroyed without it always being possible to avoid danger to the crews and passengers.

Neutral ships will also be exposed to danger in the war zone, as, in view of the misuse of neutral flags ordered on January 31 by the British Government, and owing to unforeseen incidents to which naval warfare is liable, it is impossible to avoid attacks being made on neutral ships in mistake for those of the enemy.

Navigation to the north of the Shetlands, in the eastern parts of the North Sea and through a zone at least thirty nautical miles wide along the Dutch coast is not exposed to danger.

"Lance corporal bacon" was the name used by Anzac soldiers to describe very fatty bacon with a sliver of lean meat running through it.

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Primary Docs