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Original Rare Pre-WWI Imperial German Navy Kaiserliche Marine Officer’s Visor Cap

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Original Item: Only One Available. This is an exceptionally rare WWI Imperial German Navy Officer’s Schirmmutze Visor Cap, and the very first we have ever had the pleasure of offering!. These Kaiserliche Marine Caps are incredibly hard to find, in any condition, let alone in fantastic untouched condition like this! This piece recently was uncovered from an estate in Pennsylvania, and has never been on the collector’s market before!

This is an absolutely stunning example which is completely original. The cap is made of a high quality melton wool with a traditional high forward crown, and band being made of the same material. The Kaiserliche Marine wreathed cockade is made of metallic bullion, and absolutely gorgeous, having signs of having been on the cap from the beginning, the insignia is tightly fitted to the cap, and firmly in place after 100 years. There is some slight mothing to the cap, which is expected after decades of storage, but nothing that detracts from the outward appearance and displayability of the cap!

The chinstrap is of painted leather, secured with fabric covered buttons on either side. The chinstrap is in excellent condition, held firmly in place and bearing no signs of ever having been broken. The visor is made of a vulcanized fiber with a painted exterior and interior painted green. The Visor is sewn firmly in place, and the visor leather edging is firmly in place. The sweatband is fully intact and has no loose stitching, only showing signs of honest use and expected age.

The lining is made of dark blue silk, with a quilting pattern in the crown sewn in a concentric pattern. In the center of the crown is the maker “ZEFFERT & SON”, which was a British Maker of Naval headgear which operated in Portsmouth, England. As Anglo-German relations were relatively good before WWI, with their navies coming to port in either country, it is not unreasonable to believe that a German Naval Officer commissioned to have this cap made while in port. As this was not an uncommon practice amongst the peacetime nations in Europe Pre-1914. In addition, British tailored items were incredibly popular at the time, this would have been a popular choice for an officer looking for superior garments. It should be noted that this cap is made to approximate the regulation Kaiserliche Marine Visor Cap. It is certainly NOT a British Royal Navy Cap which was converted! Note the absence of the ribbed cap band, and the fact the tailor used cloth covered buttons as opposed to Kaiserliche Marine Buttons (Obviously not something a British tailoring firm would have on hand!). This is a fascinating aspect of this piece!

This is an exceptional piece of history, and an attractive piece of headgear to add to the collection!

The Kaiserliche Marine:
The Imperial German Navy or the Imperial Navy (German: Kaiserliche Marine) was the navy of the German Empire, which existed between 1871 and 1919. It grew out of the small Prussian Navy (from 1867 the North German Federal Navy), which was mainly for coast defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded the navy. The key leader was Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, who greatly expanded the size and quality of the navy, while adopting the sea power theories of American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan. The result was a naval arms race with Britain, as the German navy grew to become one of the greatest maritime forces in the world, second only to the Royal Navy.

The German surface navy proved ineffective during the First World War; its only major engagement, the Battle of Jutland, was a draw, but it kept the surface fleet largely in port for the rest of the war. The submarine fleet was greatly expanded and threatened the British supply system during the U-boat campaign. As part of the Armistice, the Imperial Navy's main ships were ordered to be turned over to the Allies but they were instead scuttled by their own crews. All ships of the Imperial Navy bore the title SMS, for Seiner Majestät Schiff (His Majesty's Ship).

The Imperial Navy achieved some important operational feats. At the Battle of Coronel, it inflicted the first major defeat on the Royal Navy in over one hundred years, although the German squadron of ships was subsequently defeated at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, only one ship escaping destruction. The Navy also emerged from the fleet action of the Battle of Jutland having destroyed more ships than it lost, although the strategic value of both of these encounters was minimal.

The Imperial Navy was the first to operate submarines successfully on a large scale in wartime, with 375 submarines commissioned by the end of the First World War, and it also operated zeppelins. Although it was never able to match the number of ships of the Royal Navy, it had technological advantages, such as better shells and propellant for much of the Great War, meaning that it never lost a ship to a catastrophic magazine explosion from an above-water attack, although the elderly pre-dreadnought SMS Pommern sank rapidly at Jutland after a magazine explosion was caused by an underwater attack.

Spending on the navy increased inexorably year by year. In 1909 Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow and Treasury Secretary Reinhold von Sydow attempted to pass a new budget boosting taxes in an attempt to reduce the deficit. The Social Democratic parties refused to accept the increased taxes on goods, while the conservatives opposed increases in inheritance taxes. Bülow and Sydow resigned in defeat and Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg became Chancellor. His attempted solution was to initiate negotiations with Britain for an agreed slow down in naval building. Negotiations came to nothing when in 1911 the Agadir Crisis brought France and Germany into conflict. Germany attempted to 'persuade' France to cede territory in the Middle Congo in return for giving France a free hand in Morocco. The effect was to raise concerns in Britain over Germany's expansionist aims, and encouraged Britain to form a closer relationship with France, including naval cooperation. Tirpitz saw this once again as an opportunity to press for naval expansion and the continuation of the four capital ships per year building rate into 1912. The January 1912 elections brought a Reichstag where the Social Democrats, opposed to military expansion, became the largest party.

The German army, mindful of the steadily increasing proportion of spending going to the navy, demanded an increase of 136,000 men to bring its size closer to that of France. In February 1912 the British war minister, Viscount Haldane, came to Berlin to discuss possible limits to naval expansion. Meanwhile, in Britain, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill made a speech describing the German navy as a 'luxury', which was considered an insult when reported in Germany. The talks came to nothing, ending in recriminations over who had offered what. Bethmann-Hollweg argued for a guaranteed proportion of expenditure for the army, but failed when army officers refused to support him publicly. Tirpitz argued for six new capital ships, and got three, together with 15,000 additional sailors in a new combined military budget passed in April 1912. The new ships, together with the existing reserve flagship and four reserve battleships were to become one new squadron for the High Seas Fleet. In all the fleet would have five squadrons of eight battleships, twelve large cruisers and thirty small, plus additional cruisers for overseas duties. Tirpitz intended that with the rolling program of replacements, the existing coastal defense squadron of old ships would become a sixth fleet squadron, while the eight existing battle-cruisers would be joined by eight more as replacements for the large cruisers presently in the overseas squadrons. The plan envisaged a main fleet of 100,000 men, 49 battleships and 28 battlecruisers by 1920. The Kaiser commented of the British, "... we have them up against the wall."

Although Tirpitz had succeeded in getting more ships, the proportion of military expenditure on the navy declined in 1912 and thereafter, from 35% in 1911 to 33% in 1912 and 25% in 1913. This reflected a change in attitude amongst military planners that a land war in Europe was increasingly likely, and a turning away from Tirpitz's scheme for worldwide expansion using the navy. In 1912 General von Moltke commented, "I consider war to be unavoidable, and the sooner the better." The Kaiser's younger brother, Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia, considered that the cost of the navy was now too great. In Britain, Churchill announced an intention to build two capital ships for every one constructed by Germany, and reorganized the fleet to move battleships from the Mediterranean to Channel waters. A policy was introduced of promoting British naval officers by merit and ability rather than time served, which saw rapid promotions for Jellicoe and Beatty, both of whom had important roles in the forthcoming World War I. By 1913 the French and British had plans in place for joint naval action against Germany, and France moved its Atlantic fleet from Brest to Toulon, replacing British ships.

Britain also escalated the arms race by expanding the capabilities of its new battleships. The five 1912 Queen Elizabeth class of 32,000 tons would have 15 in (380 mm) guns and would be completely oil-fueled, allowing a speed of 25 knots. For 1912–13 Germany concentrated on battlecruisers, with three Derfflinger-class ships of 27,000 tons and 26–27 knots maximum speed, costing 56–59 million marks each. These had four turrets mounting two 30.5 cm guns arranged in two turrets either end, with the inner turret superfiring over the outer. SMS Derfflinger was the first German ship to have anti-aircraft guns fitted.

In 1913, Germany responded to the British challenge by laying down two Bayern class battleships. These did not enter service until after the Battle of Jutland, so failed to take part in any major naval action of the war. They had displacement of 28,600 tons, a crew of 1,100 and a speed of 22 knots, costing 50 million marks. Guns were arranged in the same pattern as the preceding battle-cruisers, but were now increased to 38 cm (15 in) diameter. The ships had four 8.8 cm anti-aircraft and also sixteen 15 cm lighter guns, but were coal fueled. It was considered that coal bunkers at the sides of the ship added to protection against penetrating shells, but Germany also did not have a reliable supply of fuel oil. Two more ships of the class were later laid down, but never completed.

Three light cruisers commenced construction in German yards in 1912–1913 ordered by the Russian Navy, costing around 9 million marks. The ships were seized at the outbreak of World War I becoming SMS Regensburg, SMS Pillau and SMS Elbing. Two larger cruisers, SMS Wiesbaden and SMS Frankfurt were also commenced and entered service in 1915. More torpedo boats were constructed, with gradually increasing sizes having reached 800 tons for the V-25 to V-30 craft constructed by AG Vulcan in Kiel before 1914. In 1912 Germany created a Mediterranean squadron consisting of the battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau.

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