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The Great Naval Race

More than the story of the intense battleship-building competition between Great Britain and Imperial Germany before the First World War, this is a study in envy: Kaiser Wilhelm II, grandson of Queen Victoria, reflected Prusso-German resentment at Britain's world power, and longed for a fleet to rival the Royal Navy.

It is a fact, disgracefully unrecognised by the historical establishment, that his admiral, Alfred Tirpitz, designed the German battlefleet from the start as an instrument to smash the British fleet. Britain's First Sea Lord, Admiral 'Jackie' Fisher, and Winston Churchill, when appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, reacted by laying down more, larger and better battleships.

Tirpitz was forced to respond, but the escalating costs of the competition lost him the support of the Army and other interest groups. Almost alone, Wilhelm continued to back him, thereby ensuring that Britain would be an enemy when war came in 1914 - a war which Peter Padfield shows with irrefutable evidence from the German naval archives was provoked by Berlin.


‘Mr Padfield is much more than a skilled populariser. He has his own specialised contribution to make on the development of the battleship, especially its gunnery equipment.’

Times Literary Supplement

‘Important, readable and scholarly new book… adds immeasurably to our understanding of the events which carried much of the civilised world into the war of 1914-18.’

Texas Times

‘A fascinating story, well told.’

The Seafarer

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