The enactment of the Second Naval Law represented an ambitious plan to double the size of the German fleet, but with the British Royal Navy having long been the world’s dominant maritime force Germany’s naval expansion was perceived as a direct challenge to British supremacy.

On February 4, 1915, Admiral Hugo von Pohl of the German High Seas Fleet warned that ‘every enemy merchant vessel’ in British waters would be targeted and that ‘it may not always be possible to prevent attacks on enemy ships from harming neutral ships’.

While the Council itself did not trigger the First World War, historians have seen its deliberations as emblematic of the geopolitical tensions that would eventually erupt with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914.

The Allies’ continuous advances, coupled with internal unrest and food shortages, left Germany with limited options and the Supreme Army Command demanded that the government seek a ceasefire immediately.