The musicians of the Flaggeschiffskapelle des Kreuzergeschwaders pose on the dock beside their ship for their official postcard photograph. This band was stationed on the Cruiser Squadron Flagship of the Imperial Germany Navy or Kaiserliche Marine. Though more a light orchestra than a band, the string players in this small ensemble of 16 sailors probably doubled on brass or woodwind instruments too.
|Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz|
Navy bands are an old tradition in many countries, but the new nation of Germany, which was created in 1871 by the unification of the many German States, did not have any history of a real navy. Instead it developed out of the small Prussian navy, and since the King of Prussia became the German Emperor, it was the grandiose enthusiasms of Kaiser Wilhelm II which really expanded the German navy.
And the man who became the driving force for the Kaiser's ambition for German domination on the seas, was Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, who advocated for building a larger fleet with many more battleships and armored cruisers. I'd think it was hard to argue with someone sporting such a magnificent beard.
Kiel, the home port of the German Navy's Baltic Fleet, on 18 April 1908. Though the penmanship is fantastic, the language style again prevents me from a translation. There is a note on the front with something about Leopoldshall, which suggest a concert date perhaps.
The word Kreuzergeschwaders is crossed out and B.S.A. is written. I believe this may stand for Baltic Scouting Group, a division of the High Seas Fleet. In 1908, the Imperial German Navy was still using many older ships, and in the next few years, just prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Germany would build dozens of huge battleships, in an effort to intimidate the British navy. So I don't think the ship in the photograph is one of the great dreadnoughts, and despite scanning the card at 2400 dpi, I'm unable to make out the ship name on their caps.
The Kapellmeister or band leader stands in the center with both his baton and sword. Conductors can be quite expert in fencing with musicians, but I think that cutlass would command a lot more attention from a wayward trombonist than a small pointy stick.
With seven strings, flute, two clarinets, two trumpets, two horns, trombone and percussion, this chamber ensemble probably played regularly for the admiral's meals and parties, as well as providing ceremonial music for the ship's company.
The idea that programs of waltzes and polkas were heard on board a battleship, really softens the image of a great naval power. Could Admiral Tirpitz have nodded his head in time to the music of these musicians?
The dashing beards wore by several of these musicians, resembles the imperial style beard of a musician in another photo postcard I recently acquired. This elegant violinist stands in front of his music desk, presumably in his home, and though there are no markings or note to date or place him, I believe based on his aristocratic beard, that he is German and from this same period. With his frock coat and striped trousers, he is certainly a professional musician too.
If he had a sword, I'd even say he was the same man as the flagship orchestra's Kapellmeister. Note the wedding band on his little finger of his left hand.
Since I have chosen a German naval theme this weekend, I must include another photo postcard which I recently acquired. They are sailors too, but maybe not so musical.
These four lads are Die Söhne des Kronprinzen am Maschinengewehr, or the sons of the Crown Prince on the machine gun. These boys, dressed in bright white sailor suits, are the sons of Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst, better known as Crown Prince Wilhelm the heir to the German Imperial throne. They are lying on a garden lawn, taking aim with their machine gun, and defending the fatherland sometime around 1917-18. Just the kind of patriotic postcard to send to grandmother.
The subtitle reads Eigenhändige Aufnahme Ihrer Kaiserlichen Hoheit Frau Kronprinzessin in Zoppot, or Handwritten Recording Her Imperial Highness Crown Princess in Zoppot. My interpretation is that her Royal Highness the Crown Princess took this photograph herself. Did she let the boys use live ammunition?
Zoppot, or Sopot as it is now known, is a seaside spa on the Baltic in Pomerania, now Poland, which was part of Prussia until the end of WW1.
|Sons of the German Crown Prince|
Wikipedia provides another postcard image of the same boys dressed in army uniforms, but without weapons. The postcard publisher is the same, but the number is smaller so this may be a few months earlier. Their names are:
- Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Joseph Christian Olaf of Prussia (1906 –1940)
- Prince Louis Ferdinand Viktor Eduard Albert Michael Hubertus of Prussia (1907 – 1994)
- Prince Hubertus Karl Wilhelm of Prussia (1909 –1950)
- Prince Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Christoph of Prussia (1911 –1966)
Mother must have been so proud!
Want to bet she collected the whole postcard series?
This is my nautical contribution to Sepia Saturday,
where you might discover a whole wave of vintage maritime stories and photos.