In the US, today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor those who have served in the military. It coincides with Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, when the guns finally fell silent after four years of bloody conflict. Today is a good time to recall the mutiny of the German High Seas Fleet, which played a significant role in finally ending the war. Here is a repost of a an article from a few years ago about the naval mutinies.
The mutinies at Wilhelmshaven on October 29th and at Kiel on November 3, triggered the German revolution and swept aside the monarchy within a few days. The naval mutinies led directly to the end of the German Empire and to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.
As summarized by the History Channel: By the last week of October 1918, three of the Central Powers—Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire—were at least in talks with the Allies about reaching an armistice, while the fourth, Bulgaria, had already concluded one at the end of September. With the end of the war seemingly in sight, the German naval command—led by the Admiralty’s chief of staff, Reinhardt Scheer—decided to launch a last-ditch effort against the British in the North Sea in a desperate attempt to restore the German navy’s prestige. In the words of Reinhardt Scheer, chief of staff of the German Admiralty, “An honorable battle by the fleet—even if it should be a fight to the death—will sow the seed of a new German fleet of the future. There can be no future for a fleet fettered by a dishonorable peace.” Choosing not to inform the chancellor, Max von Baden, of its plans, the German Admiralty issued the order to leave port on October 28.
The sailors themselves, however, believing the attack to be a suicide mission, would have none of it. Though the order was given five times, each time they resisted. In total, 1,000 mutineers were arrested, leaving the Imperial Fleet immobilized. By October 30, the resistance had engulfed the German naval base at Kiel, where sailors and industrial workers alike took part in the rebellion; within a week, it had spread across the country, with revolts in Hamburg, Bremen and Lubeck on November 4 and 5 and in Munich two days later. This widespread discontent led Socialist members of the German Reichstag, or parliament, to declare the country a republic on November 9, followed swiftly by Kaiser Wilhelm’s abdication and finally, on November 11, by the end of the First World War.