Kaiser lost in the fog of a pre-war Solent en route to Portsmouth

The Kaiser (left, saluting the honour guard) arriving at Portsmouth, 1907.
The Kaiser (left, saluting the honour guard) arriving at Portsmouth, 1907.
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In 1907, just seven years before the outbreak of the First World War, the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II visited his uncle King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Windsor Castle.

He had arrived in the Solent in the royal yacht Hohenzollern early on November 11 (a somewhat significant date just 11 years later) in thick fog. She was escorted by a squadron of German battleships.

At Spithead the Channel Fleet, comprising 50 ships, was dressed overall for the occasion – not that the Kaiser saw much of them in the mist.

The eldest grandson of Queen Victoria and Albert and the son of Victoria’s oldest daughter, also Victoria, the Kaiser arrived with his wife the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria expecting a straightforward arrival into Portsmouth Harbour to be met by the Prince of Wales on South Railway Jetty at 11.45am.

As the fog held the entourage on board, the Prince of Wales commandeered a torpedo boat and slowly made his was out to the yacht to meet the Emperor. Arriving safely, everyone remained on board until the fog started to lift.

Eventually it started to thin and the Royal Yacht made its way into the harbour and to South Railway Jetty which is where the fun started.

It was estimated the royal yacht would arrive about 2.45pm. As the royal guard and invited guests had been waiting around for so long, it was decided to take an early lunch.

Everyone was enjoying their food when the signal came through that the Hohenzollern was approaching out of the mist.

Panic. Everyone left their tables and scattered back to the jetty as fast as they could. The Royal Guard was quickly fallen in and everybody was in their place just as the Kaiser walked down the gangway. I did laugh when I stumbled across this piece of research.

The mayor of Portsmouth, Ferdinand Foster, greeted the Kaiser and made a somewhat prophetic speech, saying: ‘I hope this visit is an indication of the friendly relationship existing between the royal houses of Germany and England. We trust it may long continue to the advantage of the whole world.’

Seven years later we were at war.

The Kaiser and his entourage, escorted by the Prince of Wales, then boarded a train which took them onto the railway viaduct across the harbour to the main line and on to Windsor to meet the king and queen.

On arrival at Windsor the Kaiser said how touched he had been by the reception and warmth of the welcome he received in Portsmouth.

As we know, the Kaiser’s support for Austria-Hungary in the July 1914 crisis led to the beginning of the First World War. He died on June 3, 1941, aged 82.