Exercise 4: Data

Your task is to read the question below then look at the data given in the tables below and the comments on the interpretation pages before producing your answer.

How serious was the German naval threat to Great Britain before 1914?

Any threat needs to be considered in two ways:

  • the actual threat
  • the perceived threat

In looking at the German naval threat before 1914, therefore, we need to use the data to consider the extent to which the German fleet could actually harm the British, and the extent to which it merely appeared to be a menacing presence.

To do this, you need to use the data to address a number of subsidiary questions. These are some of the points you should consider:

  • It was Britain’s intention that her fleet should always be at least 160% of the size of the German fleet. To what extent was Britain able to maintain this ratio?
  • What were the respective strengths and weaknesses of battleships and battle cruisers?
  • What was the relative rate of production of warships of the two countries?
  • Which navy had the greater firepower/rate of fire?
  • Which navy could combine the greatest speed with the greatest rate of firepower?
  • What were the main differences in design between the British and German fleets?
  • How might these sets of figures have been used to stimulate public support for naval expenditure?
  • What significance should be placed on the names that each side gave their ships (you might need to check the significance of some of the names in dictionaries, encyclopaedias, or histories of the Napoleonic Wars)?


Follow the link to the tables on British and German shipbuilding below and also the interpretation page to help you answer the question section.

The tables in this section relate to the relative strengths of the British and German fleets by the end of 1913. These tables include only those ships which had actually been launched by the end of that year.

  • British battleships
  • British battlecruisers
  • German battleships
  • German battlecruisers

Points to bear in mind at all times:

  • The Germans reckoned that with their 11″ guns they were able to fire 24 shells a minute.
  • The British, with their 12″ guns, could fire 16 shells a minute.
  • HMS Dreadnought cost £1,850,000 to build.
  • HMS Queen Elizabeth (planned 1912, launched 1915) cost £4,000,000

British Naval Expenditure 1907-14

These figures will give you an idea of the implications of this level of cost for Britain’s naval expenditure: