Anglo-German Naval Agreement

18 Jun 1935


ww2dbaseIn mid-1935, amidst the protest of a small group of "alarm-mongers and scare-mongers" such as Sir John Simon and Winston Churchill, Germany and Britain engaged in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. Throwing aside all naval limitations placed by the Versailles Treaty, and without consulting with France, through this agreement Britain allowed Germany to build a naval force that was not to exceed 35% of her own, while agreeing to withdraw the British Royal Navy from the Baltic Sea. This was one of the prime examples of British appeasement policy of the time. To the members of the British Parliament, this appeared to continue to maintain Britain's status of the world's dominant naval power, but many of them failed to recognize Britain had a world empire to defend, while Germany's fleet would be concentrated entirely near her home ports. The agreement allowed Germany to build up to 21 cruisers, 64 destroyers (though she would not build so many surface ships before she invaded Poland in 1939), and through a mis-phrasing or mistranslation of the treaty, as many submarines as she wanted. Churchill noted this treaty as the "acme of gullibility" and pointed out that Britain had "condoned this unilateral violation of the Treaty [of Versailles]".

ww2dbaseIndirectly, this also aided the future Axis power Japan; with a potential powerful German navy, the British now must maintain a strong presence in North Atlantic, therefore unable to satisfy the demand for a strong naval presence at her great Pacific colonies of Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.

ww2dbaseGermany had much to gain from the purposefully-rushed negotiations conducted by Joachim von Ribbentrop in London. Much of Germany's iron imports were from Scandinavia, and needed the Baltic Sea to safely transport the ore into Germany for war production. Then, Germany also gained from this treaty the freedom to construct submarines, something the Treaty of Versailles had explicitly prohibited; with that weapon, Germany would nearly strangle Britain in the blockade. Lastly, with Berlin's instructions to hurriedly complete the negotiations of the treaty without input from Britain's WW1 allies, Ribbentrop had further alienated Britain and France. "French loyalty to the triumphant entente of 1914-1918 was vital to England's safety", said William Manchester; in 1935, France wondered why Britain would free Germany of her Versailles restrictions and place a sizeable German fleet practically on the French coast. If Britain indeed had France's welfare in mind, then perhaps this treaty spoke for one of the biggest myths at the time that the French army, with its "impenetrable" Maginot Line, was the "finest in the world".

ww2dbaseSources: the Last Lion, Wikipedia.

Last Major Update: May 2006

Anglo-German Naval Agreement Timeline

18 Jun 1935 The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed, limiting the German Navy to 35% of the British Navy.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
25 May 2011 11:26:55 AM

wow dats fantastic im a history teacher n i never knew dat
2. Anonymous says:
2 Dec 2012 10:12:57 AM

very interesting. Im a student and im doing about how the abyssinia crisis affected international relations and althpugh this doesnt mention italy i might use this for balance. To say how it wasnt just that which led Britain to adopt an appeasement policy.
3. Ari says:
22 Mar 2015 09:14:23 AM

True, I guess - although if the german naval force was just 35% how did it override britain?
4. Lou says:
5 Jan 2017 07:18:46 PM

It enabled Germany to run their shipyards 24 hrs a day and produce top of the line vessels. Most of the British navy were old and outdated.

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