Naval History Homepage and Site Search


Inter-War Period 1918-1939

Main Political and Naval Events

German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, completed 1936 (Ships Pictures, click to enlarge) return to inter-war, 1918-193




1919 - Treaty of Versailles - Under its provisions, Germany was to be disarmed, the Rhineland occupied and reparations paid. At this time Poland was recreated from parts of Germany and Russia, as were other Central European states out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Japan was given a mandate over the ex-German islands in the Pacific.

The League of Nations was formed.

      1921-22 - Washington Naval Treaty - Britain, United States, Japan, France and Italy agreed to limit the displacement and main armament of capital ships, aircraft carriers and cruisers, and total tonnage and age of the first two categories.
1922 - Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power in Italy.
      1922 - Japanese carrier Hosho completed.
1926 - The German Weimar Republic joined the league of Nations.
      1927 - Geneva Naval Conference failed to reach agreement on total tonnage of cruisers, destroyers and submarines.

Major warships completed - British battleships Nelson and Rodney, French carrier Bearn, US carriers Lexington and Saratoga, and Japanese carrier Akagi".

1928 - Japanese carrier Kaga completed.

1930 - Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929 the world moved into major economic depression.

1931 - An incident in the Chinese province of Manchuria led to the Japanese invasion which was completed by early 1932. The puppet state of Manchukuo was declared. By then Japanese forces had taken control of the Shanghai area in further fighting.

      1930 - London Naval Treaty - Britain, US and Japan agreed on total tonnage, tonnage and armament limitations for cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Also that no new capital ships were to be laid down until 1937. Neither France nor Italy were signatories.
1933 - Following earlier Nazi Party election successes, Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January. He took the country out of the League of Nations later in the year, by which time the Japanese had already walked out over the Manchurian issue.
      1933 - Major warships completed - German pocket battleship Deutschland and Japanese carrier Ryujo.
1934 - Russia joined the League of Nations.

Meanwhile Hitler consolidated his power and in August proclaimed himself Fuehrer.

      1934 - The 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference finally broke down and Japan announced its intention to withdraw from the 1922 and 1930 Naval Treaties when they expired in 1936. Planning started on the giant battleships of the Yamato class.

Major warships completed - US carrier Ranger and German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer.


March - Hitler introduced military conscription.

April - The United States passed the Neutrality Act forbidding the supply of arms to belligerents in the event of war.

October - Following border disputes between Italian Somaliland and Abyssinia, Italy invaded. League of Nations sanctions had little effect and by May 1936 the country had been taken over by Mussolini's forces.


June - Anglo-German Naval Agreement - Germany was allowed to build a fleet up to 35% of British total tonnage and 45% of submarines. Parity in numbers of submarines was allowed if notice was given.


March - German troops were sent to reoccupy the Rhineland.

July - The Spanish Civil War started; Italy and Germany became aligned with one side and Russia with the other.


November - London Protocol -The major powers including Germany agreed to prohibit unrestricted submarine warfare against unarmed ships.

December -The 1922 and 1930 Naval Treaties were allowed to lapse and the major powers moved towards rearmament. In Britain this effectively started with the 1936/37 Estimates.

Completed - German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee.


July - Further incidents in China this time near Peking, led to Japan extending its hold over northeastern China and the major port areas by the end of 1938.


Major warships completed - French battlecruiser Dunkerque, US carrier Yorktown, Japanese carrier Soryu. Italian battleships Littorio and Vittorio Veneto were launched.


March - German troops marched into and annexed Austria.

September - In the Munich Crisis, Czechoslovakia was forced to cede Sudetenland to Germany.


Germany drew up the major naval rearmament programme, the 'Z' plan, to bring the Navy closer to equality to Britain by the mid-1940s.

Major warships completed - British carrier Ark Royal, French battlecruiser Strasbourg, German battlecruiser Gneisenau, and US carrier Enterprise. (German carrier Graf Zeppelin was launched but never completed.)


March - Germany completed its occupation of Czechoslovakia and took back Memel on the Baltic coast from Lithuania. Now Britain and France guaranteed Poland's independence.

The Spanish Civil War came to an end.

April - Italy invaded Albania.

May - Britain reintroduced military conscription. Germany and Italy joined forces in the Pact of Steel.

August - Following secret negotiations the Russian-German Non-Aggression Pact was signed in Moscow to the world's amazement. Its provisions included the dismemberment of Poland.

1st September - Germany invaded Poland.


April - Germany abrogated the 1935 Anglo-German Naval Agreement.

June - The Reserve Fleet of the Royal Navy was manned.

August - Full mobilisation of the Royal Navy was ordered and the Admiralty took control of all merchant shipping.

German U-boats and two pocket battleships sailed for their war stations in the Atlantic.


Major warships completed to 3rd September 1939 - German battlecruiser Scharnhorst and Japanese carrier Hiryu. Launched in the same period - British battleships King George V, Prince of Wales, fleet carriers Illustrious, Formidable, French battleship Richelieu (above - Maritime Quest), German battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz, Japanese carrier Shokaku and US carrier Wasp

  return to inter-war, 1918-1939
or to Naval-History.Net

revised 4/9/11