The Creation of the MarineKorps
Precisely when Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz decided to create a naval unit to garrison the Flanders coast is unknown. The first mention of such a unit is in a telegram from Grosses Hauptquartier in Coblenz to Berlin on 23 August 1914. The document recommended the creation of a marine division to defend the French and Belgian coastlines.1 This date was confirmed by Edgar Erich Schulze, von Tirpitz's son-in-law and an Admiral Staff Officer on the MarineKorps Flandern, in his article [Das MarineKorps in Flandern 19141918.] He claims that on that day von Tirpitz telephoned General Headquarters and requested the creation of a naval division which would garrison the coastlines.2 What exactly led von Tirpitz to this recommendation and what did he hope to accomplish? Any study of the MarineKorps needs to begin with an examination of these elemental issues.
There were three factors which were central to von Tirpitz's thinking. The first of these resulted from the adoption of the strategy of Kleinkrieg. In order for this strategy to be employed effectively, Germany required bases from which the light forces of the Kaiserliche Marine could sortie. The Helgoland Bight was simply too far from the English coastline to be useful unless the English attacked the Bight itself (as they did on 28 August 1914). The Belgian coastline was perfectly situated. A German force based in Belgium would be in a position to attack the vulnerable commercial and military shipping in the English Channel.3 The plan was for the newly created MarineDivision to build and defend the naval bases that these forces would use.