Erich Raeder was born on 24 April 1876 in Wandsbek in the province of Schleswig-Holstein. In 1894, aged 18, he joined the navy and rose rapidly through the ranks to become Chief of Staff to Admiral Hipper. During World War I he saw considerable combat action, and was present at the Battle of Doggerbank in 1915 and at Jutland in 1916. By the end of the war he had his own command as captain of the cruiser Coln. With the German armed forces reduced to a mere 100,000 men by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Raeder was fortunate to find himself retained by the newly formed Reichsmarine where he served on with the rank of Kapitan zur See. His rapid progress continued, despite the restrictions on career development options in the tiny armed forces of the Weimar Republic, and he was promoted Konteradmiral in charge of training in 1922. In 1924 he was appointed commander-in-chief of light naval units (Oberbefehlshaber leichte Seestreitkrafte) and in the following year was given command of German naval units in the Baltic. In 1928 he was promoted to full Admiral and commander-in-chief of the German Navy. Although the Kriegsmarine did not play a significant role in the Polish campaign (which it mostly spent blockading the exits from the Baltic in an attempt to ensure Polish warships did not escape into the Atlantic), it did fire the opening shots of the war when the elderly battleship Schleswig-Holstein bombarded the Polish fortress at Westerplatte in Danzig. Marine infantry then stormed and captured the fortress. As commander-in-chief of the Navy, and in recognition of the (comparatively minor) part played by the Kriegsmarine in the German military successes so far, Grossadmiral Raeder was decorated with the Knight's Cross on 30 September 1939. Raeder's tenure as commander-in-chief lasted until 1943 when he had a major disagreement with the Fuhrer. Hitler threatened to decommission all major units of the surface fleet and have their guns unshipped for use on land. Rader resigned in protest, to be replaced by the Commander-in-Chief Submarines, Karl Donitz. Raeder retained the post of Admiralinspekteur der Kriegsmarine but was effectively in retirement for the remainder of the war.