Germany – Postcard – Wilhelm Von Lans – Autographed – Kaiserliche Marine
This is a very scarce autographed postcard of Vizeadmiral Wilhelm von Lans (1861-1947). Von Lans joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1878 as a cadet. Over the next twenty years he filled a variety of posts both on vessels and in staff roles. In 1899 he was given command of the small kanonboot S. M. S. Iltis, which was based in China. This was a traumatic time in China. The Boxer Rebellion erupted in 1900. The rebellion was an effort to rid China of European and Japanese influences. On 17 June 1900, the S.M.S. Iltis participated in an assault on and the taking of several Chinese forts, known as the Battle of the Taku Forts. During the successful assault, the S.M.S. Iltis suffered extensive damage from Chinese cannons within the forts, as well as extensive casualties among the crew. Lans himself was among the wounded. When news reached Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II, a major proponent of German colonial acquisition, was thrilled. In his eyes, the action proved Germany’s benefit in having colonies as well as a modern and powerful navy. The Navy had always been the Kaiser’s favorite, so he lavished praise on the Iltis and her commander, who by this time had been sent to Japan to recover from his wounds.
On 25 June the Kaiser awarded the Orden Pour le Mérite to Lans. It was the first PLM awarded to a German naval officer. The Kaiser also awarded a Pour le Mérite to the ship! This had never been done before, and would never be repeated. A large PLM was prepared and mounted on a jack stand at the ship’s bowlines. After Lans recovered from his wounds, and in 1904 was given command of the S. M. S. Kaiser Wilhelm II. It was one of Germany’s most modern battleships. The Kaiser often sailed aboard it when he visited or traveled with the fleet. Lans was promoted to Konteradmiral in 1906. From the period of 1912-1915, he commanded the 1st Battleship Squadron of the High Seas Fleet. In 1913 he was again promoted, this time to the rank of Vizeadmiral. That same year he was ennobled, to be remembered for the balance of his life as Wilhelm von Lans. His final promotion to the rank of full admiral came in 1915. Only the rank of großadmiral (which he did not achieve) was a higher position. His career stalled out after disagreements with von Tirpitz, and he ended the war as the North Seas Station’s commander.
The postcard shows von Lans wearing his PLM. It is boldly signed “v. Lans” and is dated 1920. We have a similar postcard of him which was signed before he was ennobled.