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The Kaiser's Cruisers, 1871–1918 (Hardback)

WWI Seaforth Naval Photographic Books Pre WWI 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918

By Aidan Dodson, Dirk Nottelmann
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 175 illustrations & 50 line drawings
ISBN: 9781526765765
Published: 16th November 2021

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While bookshelves groan with works on the capital ships of the German Third Reich, there is little in English devoted to their predecessors of the Second Reich, so this new book will fill a clear gap in its study of German cruisers of the period, from wooden-hulled corvettes, through the fusion of ‘overseas’ and ‘home’ vessels into the modern small cruisers that evolved and fought in the First World War.

The book covers the full range of cruising vessels operated or ordered by the Imperial German Navy between 1871 and 1918, excluding the large cruisers, previously covered by the author’s companion volume The Kaiser’s Battlefleet. These include corvettes, avisos, sloops, torpedo cruisers, III- and IV-class cruisers and small cruisers, and are described and arranged in a chronological narrative. This includes both design and operational histories, the latter continuing down to the end of ships’ service after the fall of Imperial Germany, and it is accompanied by an extensive selection of many rare photographs. The ships’ technical details are tabulated in the second half of the book which also includes sketches of ships’ internal layouts and armour and changes in appearance over time.

The authors have made extensive use of archival material, particularly relating to the political and technical background to design and procurement, and present a developmental history of this ship class which is unique in the English language. It will have huge appeal to all those with an interest in the German navy and to those who have been waiting avidly for the sequel to The Kaiser’s Battlefleet.

A remarkable book which will appeal to anyone interested in the development of naval history, especially that of Germany. It is well written and detailed, to the point of including the plans and blueprints for the development of the first German fleet.
The book begins with an excellent overview of the establishment of Germany as a nation - which reminds us that this only occurred as recently as 1871. Before then, Germany consisted of an amalgam of independent states. With the foundation of the new Germany, the process commenced of planning a national fleet which then consisted of a handful of elderly training ships, mostly still relying on sail as the means of propulsion. More modern warships were then planned, mainly to secure the German coastline of the North Sea and Baltic where Germany’s neighbour, Denmark, had long since acted malevolently towards Germany.
Interestingly, the book reminds the reader that, at that point in time, Germany had no overseas colonies. It was not until the following year, 1872, that the first German cruiser, the Nymph, reached the South Pacific. A ‘flying squadron’ of cruisers was then commissioned to represent Germany’s interest’s worldwide, to begin with, to encourage the payment of any outstanding monies to Germany or it’s citizens then resident overseas.
The book then turns to the detailed account of the development and construction of the numerous naval vessels necessary to support Germany’ growing interests worldwide. I was pleased to see the book included maps to support these accounts.
This is a technical work best suited to experts in the field, a ‘stand alone’ work which completely covers the subject. I strongly recommend it to anyone fitting this description.

Dr Adrian Greaves, The Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society

Featured in

Great War IPMS, Great War SIG newsletter – October 2021

Featured in

Cher Ami, Great War Sig Newsletter - IPMS, June 2021
 Aidan Dodson

About Aidan Dodson

Aidan Dodson is Hon Professor of Egyptology in the Department of Anthropology & Archaeology at the University of Bristol, where he has taught since 1996. He has also maintained parallel research interests in naval history, and worked as a civil servant in defence procurement for 25 years, including  project leader for the offshore patrol vessel HMS Clyde. He is the author of more than 300 articles and reviews, plus some twenty books, including The Kaiser’s Battlefleet: German capital ships 1871–1918 ,Before the Battlecruiser: the big cruiser in the world’s navies 1865–1910 and Spoils of War: the fates of the ex-enemy fleets after the two World Wars, with Serena Cant, all published by Seaforth.


About Dirk Nottelmann

Dirk Nottelmann is a marine engineer by profession, presently working as a civil servant for the German flag-state administration (Deutsche Flagge), and has been working on the history of the Imperial Navy for more than 30 years. He was the last editor of the former Hamburger Rundbrief, and the author of more 150 articles and reviews, and three books: Halbmond und Kaiseradler: Goeben und Breslau am Bosporus, 1914-1918, with Bernd Langensiepen, Die Brandenburg-Klasse: Höhepunkt des deutschen Panzerschiffbaus, and Das Kanonenboot Iltis (ii) – seine Vorgänger und Nachfolger, with Lothar Wischmeyer.

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The battleships of the Third Reich have been written about exhaustively, but there is little in English devoted to their predecessors of the Second Reich. This new book fills an important gap in the literature of the period by covering these German capital ships in detail and studying the full span of battleship development during this period. The book is arranged as a chronological narrative, with technical details, construction schedules and ultimate fates tabulated throughout, thus avoiding the sometimes disjointed structure that can result from a class-by-class approach. Heavily illustrated…

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