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Threat of the German-English war in July November, 1911: myth or reality?

s. N. Sinegubov



In article the tense situation which arose between Germany and England in July - November, 1911, the danger of full-scale military collision concealing in itself is considered. The attempt of Germans to be claimed on the Atlantic coast of Morocco as a result of the known "jump of the Panther" that, in turn, caused crisis in the German-French relations was the reason of the arisen aggravation. In actions of Berlin London saw not so much the aspiration to achieve colonial compensations in Africa how many to upset "the balance of power in Europe" that went to a section

to the strategic interests of the British. The additional, but important factor aggravating an international situation was the continuing naval arms race between Germany and England. War did not arise owing to still unpreparedness of the Navies of two states to it.

S. Sinegubov



The article analyses the tense situation that appeared between Germany and England in July - November 1911 and harbored the danger of total armed clash. The reason for the arisen aggravation was caused by the Germans ’attempt to establish themselves at the Morocco Atlantic seaside as a result of the famous "Panther’s jump", which led to the crisis in the French-German relationships. London noticed not only the intention to achieve colonial compensations in Africa in Berlin’s actions, but to break "balance offorces in Europe", what was contrary to the British interests. The continuing navy military race between Germany and England was an additional, but very important factor, which aggravated the international situation. The war did not flare up because the navy armed forces of these two countries were not ready for action.

Occupation in spring of 1911 by the French troops of the capital of Morocco of Fets sharply aggravated not only German-French [5, page 704-705], but also the German-British relations which since the beginning of the 20th century in communication by sea rivalry between two states were in a condition of permanent tension [30, page 25; 21, page 102; 28, page 30;

1, page 59-63]. By order of the Kaiser the kanonersky boat "Panther" and the cruiser "Berlin" were sent on July 1, 1911 without council with the naval minister and the chief of staff Admiralteystva [20, page 89-90] to the Moroccan port Agadir which was located on the Atlantic coast that put Europe on a war side. London unambiguously took a position of Paris in the begun German-French opposition. And the British political and naval leaders considered that actions of the German side are dictated not so much by desire to receive colonial compensation how many to gain a foothold in Agadir from the French and to turn this seaport on Atlantic "into the second Helgoland" [25, page 239]. In strategic prospect a naval action of Germany and the subsequent pressure on

British regarded France as attempt of Germans to humiliate the French and by that to destroy the Entente. It, as considered in Foreign Offis, inevitably would lead the line to violation of balance of forces in Europe [14, page 126]. Therefore the sharpness of judgments concerning the conflict which began to reach from coast of the Thames is quite explainable. At the beginning such tonality was set by the press [25, page 240], and then it was picked up also by officials. On July 21, 1911 the head of financial department D. Lloyd George, from approval of the prime minister Mr. Askvit and the Minister of Foreign Affairs E. Gray [18, page 224], made the speech in Manshn-house. In it it was unambiguously told that Great Britain will not allow to change existing provisions on colonies without its participation [5, page 709]. This statement, on the one hand, cooled desire of the French politicians to make concessions to Germans, and on the other hand, let know unambiguously to Berlin resolute mood of British, up to military operations, to upholding of status quo on the African and European continents.

A performance Lloyd of George who had always a reputation for the pacifist and the supporter of the Anglo-German naval arrangement [15,

page 139-143], Wilhelm II and his environment apprehended not only as an official position of the British cabinet [16, page 213-214], but also as barefaced threat to the country and the German people [16, page 206-209]. Thus, contrary to expectations of the highest Berlin civil ranks the Moroccan conflict was beyond the German-French relations [4, page 493-499]. The German ambassador in London P. Metternich expressed to Gray sharp discontent of the government with contents of the speech Lloyd of George that was regarded by the head of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs as threat of military attack [25, page 241]. In the press of Foggy Albion the powerful anti-German campaign began, appeals by the beginning of fighting against Germany began to sound. The situation was even more aggravated when on the British Isles it became known that in coastal waters of Norway the German warships began to concentrate [10, page 1020]. This collecting the German ships was caused by intention of the Kaiser Wilhelm II to make next, an annual "northern trip" accompanied by a part of vessels of the fleet of the High sea and to arrive in the Norwegian port of Molde where the English ships also had to pay "courtesy visit". Taking into account the increasing tension on both sides of the passage and for the purpose of prevention of possible sea collision during the period from July 14 to July 22, 1911 foreign departments of two states conducted active negotiations on parting on different sides German and British the fleet [10, page 1015-1020].

Meanwhile the English editions "wound passions" concerning actions of the German ships of the Open fleet, probable and unexpected from the military point of view. By data, which were available for London "The Times" for July 21, 1911, Germans concentrated in the North Sea 16 liners and 4 big armored cruisers which location was unknown [25, page 241] that generated a certain nervousness even among ranks Admiralteystva [27, page 198]. Gradually heated situation began to remind a situation of the end of 1908

Then, as we know, the authoritative military in the country and politician lord Roberts, acting at the end of November, 1908 in the upper house of the English parliament, spoke about readiness of Germany to land a landing on the British Isles numbering 150-200 thousand soldiers [6]. Newspapers of London and other cities of the United Kingdom dazzled the message similar to what was published in the Quaterly Review edition [2]. In it, a particular, it was said that in London under the guise of footmen 50 thousand German spies ready on the first signal to occupy the British capital work. Such preliminary "preventions" caused panic state of the British society and it endured "the real collective military hysteria" [31, page 156]. However unlike November, 1908 when the highest English military and naval ranks especially did not trust in a possibility of the German invasion [31, page 148], the naval situation in the North Sea of the end of July, 1911 for members of Committee of Imperial Defence was in many respects not absolutely clear. Especially as the ships of the fleet of Domestic waters (Home Fleet) were dispersed on different ports that potentially facilitated the German attack on the British coastal territories. If Germany really would carry out similar operation, then, according to the naval commander admiral Ch. Beresford, famous in the country, "there would be a naval disaster" [25, page 241].

In this regard preventive actions which were taken by Foreign Offis's head are quite clear. On July 24 and 25, 1911 Gray in the messages to the sea minister R. Macken noted high probability of attack of the German ships on the British fleet. Therefore he asked it to hold the relevant preparatory activities [10, page 1021; 16, page 219]. For safety on July 26, 1911 planned "courtesy visit" of the British ships to Sweden and Norway was cancelled [10, page 1021], and the fleet is alerted [16, page 219] if necessary to give resolute battle to Germans in the North Sea. Bergen edition

transferred the English Lloyd's message that safety at the sea can be ensured only for 15 days [16, page 219]. All this only enhanced suspiciousness and nervousness in the German-British relations. Did not bring full calm and the statement of the English ambassador in Berlin E. Goshen made by it on July 26, 1911. In it it was said that "house standing" of the British fleet is not connected with events in Morocco and that it is caused by "the office and technical reasons" [16, page 219]. Though the Kaiser also went to the annual "northern travel" [16, page 219], but the chief of his naval office admiral G.A. Müller was urgently called from a holiday to control a situation [20, page 89]. In Germany "the right editions" in response to the anti-German performances on the British Isles led own attack on the British policy. For the naval secretary of state A. Tirpits such "the excited situation" was as it is impossible by the way. He wanted to use it to achieve the new objective - to accept the next naval short story which would legalize the so-called "three-stroke speed" [9, page 189] military shipbuilding after 1911., since 1912, according to the short story of 1908, the rate of military shipbuilding had to decrease to 2 ships a year [13, page 190]. However this intention of the naval minister did not fit into the strategy of the Reichs chancellor T. Betman-Golvega who from the very beginning of the chancellorship sought not to fuel tension with British. Moreover, the head of the government, as we know, wished to sign with them a political agreement on a neutrality to provide backs for German "world politics" [3, page 246-252]. However the developing situation obviously did not favor to it. On the contrary, it threatened to pour out in the worst that then could happen - in war. Told messages of the German ambassador P. Met-ternikh from London about such opportunity. On August 3, 1911 he wrote the Reichs chancellor that threats of British are not mere words. On the data which are available for it, the British can land within 14 days on French or Belgian

the coast up to 90,000 soldiers [16, page 225-226]. By the preliminary plan which was made in July, 1909 by subcommittee of Committee of Imperial Defense the British were ready to render to the French military aid, in case of unprovoked attack on them of Germans, at a rate of 6 infantry divisions and a cavalry with a total number of 160 thousand persons. The Kaiser took information of the ambassador seriously. Therefore his indignation to actions of London for forcing of a situation which it expressed to the ambassador Goshen in the conversation which took place between them on August 12, 1911 was genuine [16, page 228-230]. At the same meeting it was stated intention of the German leaders to accept the new naval short story providing increase in the fleet and first of all due to construction of additional cruisers. Some days before it, August 3, 1911, Tirpits in the letter to the deputy vice admiral E. Kapelle noted that strengthening of the German fleet through the approval of the new naval document can only become the effective response to threats of British. In other message dated on August 12, 1911 it, referring to unavailability still of the German fleet to war and to unreliability of allied Austria-Hungary and Italy, emphasized the political and military importance of adoption of the naval short story again in the future not to allow similar oppressions, "which Germany endures at the moment" [26, page 88]. As concrete requirements Tirpits suggested to approve without fail laying 3 or 4 of armored cruisers [27, page 200]. And with adoption of the naval short story as the naval secretary considered, it was impossible to pull in any way, "and it is necessary to do it at the beginning of 1912" [27, page 200].

In August, 1911 the English press already in all discussed possible negative consequences of change of the naval law by Germany for the German-British relations. Prospects of their development taking into account the German-French opposition unresolved at that time because of Morocco were not bright. However neither the Kaiser, nor Tirpits, it how many not the scarecrow, and, on the contrary, strengthened in desire to achieve

goal. The head of naval department directly said that if British want to forbid us adoption of the naval short story, it will be the basis for war and everyone in Germany will regard it with favor, and further "everything will be at will of destiny".

On August 19, 1911 Metternich warned Betman-Golvega that the situation will be "heavy" if Berlin not to agree with Paris [16, page 232]. At the same time the British authorities at that time seriously reckoned with threat of the German attack therefore they took measures for the termination of a strike of coal miners and railroad workers to enhance defense capability of the country [16, page 234-236], held mobilization events [16, page 279]. The situation was aggravated also with the fact that, according to the English sea attache in Vienna Stewart, during this period the naval ships could not be provided with enough coal that is undoubted, would complicate their actions in case of the German attack on the British coast [16, page 277]. In preparatory actions of London one of the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany V. Shtumm saw more defensive orientation, than offensive [16, page 280]. Also the head of department A. Kiderlen-Vekhter adhered to the same assessment [16, page 290], trying to prove that British bluff, frightening Germany by war. On the contrary, reports of the German sea attache in London V. Videnman indicated the opposite. The chief of the German headquarters Admiralteystva the vice admiral A. Heeringen also considered that the British prepare for attack [16, page 287]. On August 23, 1911 in London the closed meeting of Committee of Imperial Defense convened by the prime minister Mr. Askvit took place [29, page 99-101]. The highest ranks of ground and naval forces participated in it along with civil ministers, and the issue of triple strengthening of the forwarding case (up to 290,000 people) which was planned for disembarkation to the mainland was discussed. Though a consensus did not manage to be reached [19, page 225-234], but the decision on strengthening of activity of military and naval institutions was made [12, page 64].

The eagerness to fight of British angered Wilhelm who was always indignant with their barefaced pressure. Therefore, acting on August 27, 1911 in Hamburg, it sharply stated that Germany will strengthen further own fleet, and "that nobody will be able to challenge the place in the sun which is due to us" [20, page 92]. The German newspapers as, however, and the British editions [17, page 3-5] understood it as a hint on adoption of the new naval short story in the nearest future. It turned out that, without having solved still Moroccan problem because of what there were serious tensions with London, Berlin created the additional collision which was even more aggravating the German-British relations. Strengthening of tension between two parties was promoted also by a scandalous interview of the English ambassador in Vienna Kartright. It was published on August 25, 1911 in the Neuen Freien Presse newspaper and it contained very sharp attacks against the German policy in Morocco [16, page 237-244].

It is no wonder that in the conditions of a constant talk about possible war the Kaiser at the beginning of September, 1911 at first discussed the prospects of adoption of the naval short story [7] with Tirpits and Betman-Golveg, and then the gross admiral held by H. Holt-tsendorf in whom the question of sea war with the British was considered a detailed conversation with the chief of the fleet of the High sea. After its end Holttsendorf said to Müller that Wilhelm II wants to ruin the child - the fleet. Before beginning war with England, on his deep belief, "it is necessary to complete the internal construction of the fleet" [20, page 91]. The same opinion there was Heeringen and the chief of a naval office Müller. This "triumvirate" of military whom also the Reichs chancellor joined, convinced the Kaiser to refuse his mad idea to begin to be at war immediately with Great Britain. Moreover, even a number of the measures for increase in readiness of the German fleet proposed by Heeringe-nom considered Betman-Golveg "excessive and undesirable" [16, page 279].

Not to give to London an extra reason to start war, the Reichs chancellor managed to convince Tirpits not to bring up a question of naval

the short story, "the Moroccan passions" will not settle yet [27, page 208-209]. In this regard the meeting of the highest German civil and military ranks which took place on September 4, 1911 was indicative. At the initiative of the Kaiser on him the naval attache in London Videnman acted. Considering current situation in the relations with British, he made the proposal to accept, as soon as possible, the naval short story. Betman-Golvega's reaction was very impassioned. He in literal sense cried: "It will bring us war. It will bring us war!!!" [30, page 186].

On September 24 and 26, 1911 the naval secretary of state submitted reports to the Kaiser and the head of the government in whom two main political principles, one of which should have been chosen Germany - or the principle of self-restriction of interests within Europe, or the principle of aspiration to "place in the sun", i.e. world politics and fight against England [26, page 87 found reflections]. It is easy to guess that the second option was chosen especially as the aggressive anti-English spirit of "any passer-by" at that moment in Germany could not see only blind. According to the British naval attache in Berlin H. Watson, Germans in September days 1911 said that they "will take the small island (the British Isles meant. - Page of S.) within three or four years" [11, page 646]. The aggressive spirit of the German inhabitant was noted in the reports and by the English ambassador E. Goshen. Most of the population, according to him, except for only supporters of social democrats, demanded from the government of countermeasures on all military preparations of London [11, page 660]. However time for resolute actions, according to first of all Tirpits and Betman-Golvega, did not come yet therefore it was necessary to look for the conciliatory solution of the arisen dangerous tension in the germanoenglish relations owing to collision of the German and French interests in Morocco. Especially as mood of the British to support the French up to use of force was confirmed by various representatives in London.

On September 12, 1911 Metternich wrote the Reichs chancellor that the English government seriously is considered with a possibility of war [10, page 1034] and holds the relevant preparatory activities. These words completely were confirmed by actions of British. On September 15, 1911 Macken requested Gray about need of change of dislocation of the fleet of Domestic waters not to be overtaken unawares during sudden attack of Germans [10, page 1040]. On September 17, 1911 Gray in the message to Nicholson acknowledged the possibility of adverse turn German-French negotiations on Morocco and a fast performance of Germany. Therefore, according to the British minister, the Admiralty has to be completely ready to unexpected German attack [10, page 1041]. On September 18, 1911 the German military attache major Ostertag reported about reduction in combat readiness of the British infantry [30, page 194]. At the end of September, 1911 the British king George V who always differed from the ministers in restraint in a conversation with Metternich directly said that in case between Germans and the French the war begins, then his country will take the part of France [16, page 245]. The same thought almost in a month was confirmed by the British Minister of War R.B. Holden [16, page 249]. Spoke about inevitability and proximity of war in England also in the first of November, 1911 much, predicting its unleashing by the beginning of 1912 [16, page 252]. However, similar statements at this moment were already more made for political reasons to put pressure upon Germany. At the end of October, 1911 in London were already completely sure of impossibility of attack of Germany on the British Isles in view of a position of Tirpits occupied by him on this matter. The naval secretary of state considered that the German fleet up to 1915 will not be ready to full military operations. Therefore the real term of the beginning of war in the British sea department considered 1915 [10, page 1046-1047]. However Betman-Golveg perceived threatening statements from London as the significant risk factor influencing forming of the foreign policy line of Germany. Therefore during the debate on Morocco in the Reichstag on November 4, 1911 the Reichs chancellor considered more correct not to criticize officially the speech Lloyd of George. Moreover, he tried to constrain representatives of conservative party who kindled passions about it. Leaders of conservatives Heydebrand and Lasa said in the speeches in the Reichstag on November 9, 1911: "We know now where there is our enemy. These events as a lightning in night showed to the German people where his enemy". The German crown prince defiantly supported these anti-English performances that caused considerable disappointment and a regret in London [16, page 254, 259-260].

the Conciliatory mood of the head of the German government got a response from Gray who appreciated it, having expressed at the same time desire, openly not to protect in parliament a speech of the Minister of Finance [16, page 255]. It is unconditional that similar change of a position of the British leaders and desire in the subsequent not to bring the German-British relations to extreme aggravation what Metternich after November 9, 1911 began to write about [16, page 257], was caused by the German-French agreement on Morocco signed this day [10, page 1003-1008]. Played an undoubted certain role as well criticism from some members of the liberal party and ministers of an office [16, page 269-270] actions of Gray who finished a situation in July - August, 1911 to danger of real military collision with Germany [16, page 268]. At the same time, as the German ambassador noted, British let know that their efforts on mitigation of the German-British contradictions will not be made to the detriment of friendship with the French [16, page 257] and Russians [16, page 273]. At the end November, 1911 Metternich believed that after settling of the German-French conflict the possibility of gradual adjustment of the conciliatory relations between Berlin and London is not excluded. However it, according to him, will occur only if its management does not put before British of an alternative - or the contract

about a neutrality, or increase in the German fleet. Similar actions, according to the ambassador, will only strengthen attractive forces between Great Britain and France [16, page 269]. Besides, according to Metternich, it will be impossible to reach the political agreement between Germany and Great Britain if Berlin tries to break the English policy of "friendship with the Entente" [16, page 274].

On November 27, 1911 Gray acted in the lower house of parliament concerning the events which took place in the summer, proved a hard line of the country in relation to Germany [16, page 273], having stated at the same time standard assurances of "good intentions of British concerning Germans". According to Betman-Golvega, ". .ma have to wait for confirmation of these words affairs now" [16, 272]. On December 5, 1911 in a debate in the Reichstag on Morocco there were no obvious anti-English performances any more, but deputies also, as well as the Reichs chancellor, "would wish to see specific actions of British on improvement of their relations with Germans" [16, page 281].

Thus, throughout the period of July - the beginning of November, 1911, in different degree of probability, the German-British relations stood under the threat of their real transition to military opposition on the cause of conflict of Germany and France around Morocco. Only after signing of the German-French agreement on November 9, 1911 which satisfied and England, removed the countries from dangerous line behind which full-scale war could already begin. At the same time, as showed events, especially July - September, 1911, the British, at all gravity of the statements done to them to Berlin, did not possess sufficient naval forces at the coast yet to conduct the developed combat operations in the sea against Germans. Therefore in the subsequent when in February - March, 1912 the last attempt to agree with Germans on a problem of restriction of naval arms [23, page 665-692 ends with failure], the sea minister U. Churchill will continue the policy of concentration of additional military forces begun by his predecessors in the North Sea [17, page 217].

The English leaders after permission of the Moroccan conflict sought to improve the relations with the German authorities as it kept in mind of 1912 when Germans, it agrees to the statement made by it, were going to accept the new naval short story [25, page 135]. In London it was perceived as real threat to the British sea superiority. In such situation were necessary

at least not the hostile relations to try to dissuade Berlin from this invention. From the German side, desire to have the world with British was dictated by the aspiration to complete the naval construction in rather favorable external conditions and to achieve if is possible, considering pro-Antanta policy of Gray, the agreement on a neutrality.


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