Alfred von Tirpitz

Alfred von Tirpitz
Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C1743, Alfred von Tirpitz.jpg
Alfred von Tirpitz in 1903
Born(1849-03-19)19 March 1849
Küstrin, Province of Brandenburg, Kingdom of Prussia in the German Confederation
(today Kostrzyn, Poland)
Died6 March 1930(1930-03-06) (aged 80)
Ebenhausen, Free State of Bavaria in the Weimar Republic
Allegiance Kingdom of Prussia
 German Empire
Service/branch Prussian Navy
 Imperial German Navy
Years of service1869–1916
RankGrand Admiral
Battles/warsFranco-Prussian War
World War I
AwardsPour le Mérite
Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle
Friedrich Order
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order

Alfred Peter Friedrich von Tirpitz (19 March 1849 – 6 March 1930) was a German Grand Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871. Tirpitz took the modest Imperial Navy and, starting in the 1890s, turned it into a world-class force that could threaten the Royal Navy. His navy, however, was not strong enough to confront the British successfully in the First World War; the one great engagement at sea, the Battle of Jutland, ended in a draw with both sides claiming victory. Tirpitz turned to submarine warfare, which antagonised the United States. He was dismissed in 1916 and never regained power.

Family and early life

Tirpitz was born in Küstrin (today Kostrzyn in Poland) in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, the son of lawyer and later judge Rudolf Tirpitz (1811–1905). His mother was the daughter of a doctor. Tirpitz grew up in Frankfurt (Oder). He recorded in his memoirs that he was a mediocre pupil as a child.

Tirpitz spoke English fluently and was sufficiently at home in Great Britain that he sent his two daughters to Cheltenham Ladies' College.

On 18 November 1884 he married Maria Augusta Lipke (born 11 October 1860 in Schwetz, West Prussia, died after 1941). On 12 June 1900 he was elevated to the Prussian nobility, becoming von Tirpitz. His son, Oberleutnant zur See Wolfgang von Tirpitz, was taken prisoner of war following the sinking of SMS Mainz in the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914.

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