Coeln class cruisers 1916: These were the very last German cruisers of WWI, a gradual improvements of previous light cruiser classes and reaching a new standard in size, speed and armament that was fitting well the needs of the Kaiserliches Marine. Unfortunately the large class of a dozen ships was built in wartime and only SMS Cöeln(ii), Dresden(ii), Wiesbaden(ii), Magdeburg(ii), Leipzig(ii), Rostock(ii), Frauenlob(ii) were actually completed, seeing little action. Not closing the lineage completely they inspired the RMS Emden of the Reichsmarine, first postwar (school) cruiser later of the kriegsmarine. https://bit.ly/3SMYdgb #kaiserlichesmarine #ww1 #cruiser #kreuzer
The last Imperial cruisers
Until that point, Germany had been following a simple and proven path of gradually improving a base model. The lineage of German light cruisers really started all the way back with the Bremen class in 1902, leading to famous series, notably thosed in service in Von Spee’s Asian Squadron. But the real start of the linage was traced back to the Magdeburg class in 1911. They really nailed the size, capabilities of new German light cruisers, scouts still capable of engaging their equivalents, the British contemporary Town class, despite having a “weak” armament of only 10.5 cm guns. The Karlsruhe repeated their “four piper” design, the Graudenz in 1913 showed a new silhouette and radical upsizing, the Wiesbaden of 1915 were the first with 15 cm guns, and the Könisgberg(ii) solidified the design once and for all in 1916. Thus, the Cöln class was just defined as an improvement over the latter, with the same armament but with one extra AA gun, better torpedo tubes, a larger hull but same speed and powerplant, a bit more radius. The large size, 510 feets, enabling better handling in northern rough weather and possible upgrades in the future.
What did not change was the armor protection, fairly limited and unchanged since the Magdeburg, albeit applied on large surfaces.
A construction delayed by wartime
However the main incentive for this new class was simpl in 1915 to replace all the cruisers losses since the start of the war, which amounted to thirteen in 1916 and in between, the Kaiserliche Marine ordered ten new cruisers. To gain time, they were ordered as a modified Königsberg(ii) class design and laid down in 1915 (Cöln, Wiesbaden, Leipzig, Rostock, Frauenlob, Esatz Cöln and Emden) and 1916 (Dresden, Magdeburg, Ersatz Karlruhe).
SMS Cöln(ii) became the lead ship, built by Blohm & Voss in Bremen whereas Wiesbaden and Rostock came from AG Vulcan in Stettin, Leipzig and yet unnamed vessels (Ersatz Cöln, Ersatz Emden) from AG Weser dockyard in Bremen. Dresden and Magdeburg in Howaldtswerke Kiel, Frauenlob and “Ersatz Karlsruhe” at the Imperial Dockyard Kiel. Never Germany had ordered so many cruisers of a strictly identical type, at least since 1900.
However, with the war going on, shortage of labour and materials meant delays:
-The first launched was SMS Cöln, by 5 October 1916.
Her sister Wiesbaden on 25 April 1917, and thus could have become the only one with a significant service life.
-However SMS Cöln was completed on 17 January 1918
-Dresden, launched in April 1917, was also completed in march 1918.
-Wiesbaden was canceled however by December 1918, being six months late in completion.
-SMS Magdeburg followed launched on 17 November 1917, nine monthsunder schedule when also canceled.
-Leipzig was launched on 28 January 1918, canceled after seven months of work
-Rostock was launched on 6 April 1918, and also seven months away, same fate.
-SMS Frauenlob, the very last of these cruisers to be launched, on 16 September(October for Conways) 1918 and so too far away from completion.
-The last three “Ersatz”, unnamed, despite being laid down in 1915-16, had their construction almost indefinitely suspended. They were never launched and canceled still on the slipway.
Thus, only SMS Cöln and Dresden saw some active service before the end of the war (see later).
Design of the Cöln class
Hull and general design
The ships of the class were 149.80 meters (491 ft 6 in) long at the waterline and 155.50 m (510 ft 2 in) long overall. They had a beam of 14.20 m (46 ft 7 in) and a draft of 6.01 m (19 ft 9 in) forward and 6.43 m (21 ft 1 in) aft. The ships had a designed displacement of 5,620 metric tons (5,530 long tons), and at full load, they displaced 7,486 t (7,368 long tons). Their hulls were built with longitudinal steel frames.
The ships had a complement of 17 officers and 542 enlisted men. They carried several smaller vessels, including one picket boat, one barge, one cutter, two yawls, and two dinghies.
Armour protection layout
These cruisers were protected by Krupp cemented steel:
-Armor belt, 60 mm (2.4 in) thick amidships, tapered down to 18 mm (0.71 in) forward.
-Armored deck 20 mm (0.79 in) thick (stern), 40 mm (1.6 in) amidships, 60 mm forward.
-Armored deck, slopes 40 mm thick linked to the belt armor.
-Conning tower 100 mm (3.9 in) walls, 20 mm thick roof.
-Main battery guns shields 50 mm (2.0 in) thick.
-ASW Protection: Subdivision 24 watertight compartments, double bottom on 45% of the length.
The propulsion systems was repeated of previous designs. Two 3.50 m (11 ft 6 in) diameter bronze propellers, driven by two sets of steam turbines, fed by steam coming from eight coal-fired and six oil-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers. They were all ducted into three funnels, equal size and span amidships but with the forward one was taller. Electrical power came from two Siemens turbo generators and a backup and supply diesel generator, for a total output of 300 kilowatts (rated at the standard European 220 volts). Steering depended on a single large rudder.
The global engine output was were rated as designed for 31,000 shaft horsepower (23,000 kW). Top speed also as designed was estimated 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph). However trials, had the lead ship reaching 48,708 shp (36,322 kW) for a top speed of 29.3 kn (54.3 km/h; 33.7 mph) and SMS Dresden did even better at 49,428 shp (36,858 kW) but for only 27.8 knots. They were both regarded as average steamers but good sea boats with gentle motion. This was largely due to the same hull design being repeated and modified on a regular basis since the Wiesbaden. They were highly maneuverable with even a tight turning radius, but of course bleeding speed on hard turns, up to 60% and were noted on trials as “stern-heavy”.
Radius of Action:
Coal storage was “only” 300 t (300 long tons; 330 short tons) as designed. However by filling the many underwater void compartments, up to 1,100 t could be carried onboard. It was mixed, with fuel oil reserved nominally of 200 t but up to 1,050 t, so this made for a 50% supply of both, 2,150 tons in all. Cruising speed was 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) and this enabled as designed 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km; 6,900 mi). On trials Dresden reached only 5,400 nmi (10,000 km; 6,200 mi) at 12 knots however. At 25 kn (46 km/h; 29 mph) the raduis fell to 1,200 nmi (2,200 km; 1,400 mi) making them still good “interceptors” in the confines of the North Sea.
The armament was basically a repeat of the Königsberg and Wiesbaden class, all composed of 15 cm guns to face on equal terms the British “Town” class cruisers. The main difference was the addition of a third 8,8 cm AA gun, and new torpedo tubes of the 23.6 in or caliber (Conways). Other sources states incorrectly these were 50 cm (19.7 in) TTs. Their deck was also outfitted to carry on rails up to 200 mines but this capability was never used.
Main: 8x 15cm SK L/45
The ship was armed with eight 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns, all in single pedestal mounts:
-Two were side by side forward on the forecastle
-Four amidships on either side
-Two arranged in a super firing pair aft.
Cöln was unique as having their pair amidships guns on the forecastle deck. The rest of the class had them one deck lower.
These guns had for basic caracteristcs: Shell: 45.3-kilogram (100 lb) Muzzle velocity: 840 meters per second (2,800 ft/s). Maximum elevation: 30 degrees Max range: 17,600 m (57,700 ft). Ammo supply: 1,040 rounds, 130 shells per gun.
AA guns: Three 8,8 cm SK L/45
The Cöln class were given three 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 anti-aircraft guns instead of two on previous classes. Two were mounted on the centerline, astern of the funnels. One was removed in 1918 however as her arc of fire was too limited.
-They fired a 10 kg (22 lb) shell at 750-770 m/s in muzzle velocity (2,500 to 2,500 ft/s).
-Evelation for the MPL C/13 was −10° to +70°
-Rate of fire was 15 RPM
-Maximum range was 10,694 metres/25° and 14,100 metres (15,400 yd) for 43°
-Max ceiling was 9,150 metres (30,020 ft) at 70°
She was also equipped with four H8 torpedo tubes. These called the final “super torpedo” type were only fitted on wartime ships, the Bayern and the Mackensen classes, SMS Lützow, Hindenburg, and the S 113 class large high seas torpedo boats (destroyers). This new type of torpeod was first designed in 1912 but only entered service in 1915.
The new H8 torpedo measured 315 in (8.000 m), carried a 463 lbs. (210 kg) Hexanite warhead ay 6,550 yards (6,000 m) on 36 knots on the fast setting and 15,310 yards (14,000 m) at 30 knots, double the range. It was powered by a wet heater of the Brotherhood system. Both on the Cöln II were installed on deck, in swivel launchers amidships, abreast the funnels.
8 × 15 cm SK L/45, 3 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45, 4 × 60 cm (23.7 in) TTs
Belt 60 mm (2.4 in), Deck 20–60 mm (0.79–2.36 in), CT 100 mm (3.9 in), Gun shields: 50 mm (2.0 in)
SMS Cöeln (ii)
Cölen replaced the cruiser sunk at the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914 and ordered as “Ersatz Ariadne” (she was supposed to replace the old Ariadne). Her keel was laid down at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg, launched on 5 October 1916, fitted-out and commissioned on 17 January 1918. First captain was fregattenkapitän Erich Raeder (yes, the one), training on her way to the High Seas Fleet. Her initial crew was in part from the survivors of the light cruiser Hamburg and newbies. She started her sea trials by early February, until late March. No particularly grave fixes were made afterwards, but she had a new anti-mine device fitted. On 13 May 1918 she jined II Scouting Group with her unique sister ship Dresden plus the older Königsberg, Pillau, Graudenz, Nürnberg, and Karlsruhe.
Thus potent force was to be thrown into dangerous operations, notablt tasked to protect minelayers creating the mine barrages protecting entrances to various naval bases in the North Sea. This area was known by the Admiralty which sent destroyers and submarines. On 19 June in one of these missions, the squadron was reassigned to try to intercept the HMS Furious just after the Tondern raid. By late August SMS Cöln was detached to lay a minefield off Texel, apparently carrying mines for the first and last time. Having screws issues which needed repairs in September in dry-docked she was unavilable from 19 September to 11 October. However that late into the war, Erich Raeder was transferred to the Armistice Commission working from Spa in Belgium on armistice negotiations completed on 11 November 1918. Fregattankaptain Kaulhausen took command of the cruiser in replacement.
By October 1918, the II Scouting Group was mobilized for the last, all out attack on the British navy hoped to bring extra bargaining chips to the Negociation table. Hipper and Scheer dreamed of a repeat of Jutland but with less caution, hoping better results. Cöln, Dresden, Pillau, and Königsberg in this large operations were to provoke a British sortie by preying on merchant shipping in the Thames estuary. The others were to bombard Flanders. It was hoped all this would draw the British Grand Fleet.
Scheer however underestimated the loyalty of his crews after almost two years of near-inaction. On the morning of 29 October 1918 this reality surfaced suddenly. When order was given to assemble in Wilhelmshaven the night saw mass desertions and mutinies especially on battleships. Cruisers, having smaller and perhaps more solidary cruisers and lower rank officers were genrally more loyal. In any case, without its precious capital ships, Hipper and Scheer could do little. They cancelled the operation, making the Kaiser say afterwards “I no longer have a navy.”
On 9 November 1918, just two days before the armistice went into effect, a reported British presence had Cöln, Graudenz, and torpedo boats scrambled in interception, for nothing. 12 November came and SMS Cöln sailed to Wilhelmshaven under the Imperial War Flag. She was prepared to sail and be interned in Scapa Flow. Captain Kaulhausen was replaced by then by Kapitänleutnant Heinemann which was tasked to watch about the crew and ship during the internment.
Under Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, the German fleet departed for Scapa Flow but when steaming into the Firth of Forth, on the final leg opf the voyage, Heinemann radioed the commander that one of his steam turbines had a leaking condenser, and she was to be assisted to be towed in case by another light cruiser. She took three days eventually but arrived in port on 22 November and was assigned her anchoring position.
Captivity drew unrest agains, and von Reuter decided to cut his crews down to limited personal, sending notably troublesome individuals and groups “contaminated” with active Bolshevism. While negotiations went on, Von Reuter believed the expiration was on 21 June 1919 and did not wanted his ships to be just shared between allies, and on the morning as the British fleet left Scapa Flow for drills, ordered at 11:20 all ships to scuttle as per the preparations made before. SMS Cöln sank at 13:50. It was deep enough for her to stay there, never never raised for scrapping. In 2017, the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology explored her wreck and stuidied the way she was deteriorating under 36 m (118 ft). Still there, she made the day of many scuba divers.
SMS Dresden (ii)
SMS Dresden was ordered as “Ersatz Dresden”, laid down at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg in 1916, launched on 25 April 1917 and with a fitting-out work lasting for a full year, commissioned on 28 March 1918. She joined the reconnaissance screen of the Hochseeflotte, last light cruiser in service with the Kaiserliche Marine. She was in II Scouting Group with her sister and the older Königsberg, Pillau, Graudenz, Nürnberg, and Karlsruhe.
Their first operation was a sortie to Norway in 23–24 April 1918 with I Scouting Group, and escorted by the Second Torpedo-Boat Flotilla. Their objective was to attack a heavily guarded British convoy to Norway. Of course the High Seas Fleet sortied in support. But this was a failured as the convoy already had been at sea a day prior. This was a successful British deception. Admiral Reinhard Scheer broke off after a long cruise, not knowing about the whereabout of the convoy.
In October 1918, SMS Dresden was scheduled to lead the grand “final attack” as seen above for Cöln. She was with her sister, Pillau and Königsberg assigned to raid the Thames estuary, others rampaging the Flanders, in the hope to draw out the British Grand Fleet and having Scheer’s Hochseeflotte waiting behind. A repeat of the losses at Jutland was hoped to bring a better bargaining position for Germany in the negociations. Sailors however, after many months of inaction, were not of the same mood and widespread mutinies in the night of 29 October had Hipper and Scheer cancelling the operation.
Dresden however, which crew was loyal, was ordered to Eckernförde, relaying Kiel as Communications had completely broken there. SMS Markgraf however arrived in her path, and her unruly crew refused to move out hers way, even aiming her forward main gun turrets at Dresden. Ultimately they backed down and Dresden could leave the port, sailing to Swinemünde. There, the crew partially scuttled her based on reports of mutinied ships en route to attack the cruisers here, which proved false. Dresden was re-floated (cocks had been opened, so air was just pumped back in), and returned to seaworthiness, but after removing the ammunition to pump her dry.
By November 1918, Cöl joined the fleet Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, to internment in Scapa Flow. But due to her poor condition she was not able to join the fleet but only mich later on 6 December, and still leaking badly. On the morning of 21 June, 11:20, Dresden was ordered scuttled herself -again- and started to sink at 13:50. The wreck lays now at the south east of the island of Cava under 25 to 45 m (82 to 148 ft), on her flank and gutted. She was examined in 2017 by marine archaeologists from the Orkney Research Center, making a survey of Dresden, mapped and studying her deterioration. This another spot for scuba diving.
Failed civilian conversion attempts
The eight uncompleted cruisers of the Cöln class in November 1918 were formally stricken on 17 November 1919. The navy considered selling them for civilian conversion and some consideration was left to Ersatz Karlsruhe in particular, just started: She would have receive new diesel engines from unfinished U-boats and a full completion with large holds, central islands, single funnels and service masts. But by 1920, the Deutsches Petroleumgesellschaft acquired rights to the ships. They were to be converted instead all as oil tankers, approved by the Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control. Military features such as side and deck armor, torpedo bulkheads were to be removed under controled by 31 July 1921. In the end, Wiesbaden and Rostock were towed to Lübeck for conversio, their old machinery removed by November 1920, military features cut away in time. Magdeburg was also demilitarized at Howaldtswerke.
However this whole prospect fell apart: By lack of funds and unrealistic convesion costs, time tables, the company eventually back down and had them scrapped instead: Magdeburg was sold on 28 October 1921 BU in Kiel-Nordmole. Leipzig and Rostock were sold the same year and scrapped in Hamburg. Frauenlob was towed to Deutsche Werke shipyard in 1921 also for demolition. Ersatz Karlsruhe however never left her sliplway and was BU on situ in 1920 already. Ersatz Cöln and Ersatz Emden were sold on 21 and 25 June 1921, launched to clear the slipway towed to Bremen and Hamburg to be demolished.
Campbell, N. J. M. & Sieche, Erwin (1986). “Germany”. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921.
Dodson, Aidan (2017). “After the Kaiser: The Imperial German Navy’s Light Cruisers after 1918”. Warship 2017.
Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels. NIP
Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. NIP
Herwig, Holger (1980). “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Humanity Books
Tarrant, V. E. (1995). Jutland: The German Perspective. Cassell Military Paperbacks
Wille, Peter (2005). Sound Images of the Ocean: In Research and Monitoring. Springer.
Woodward, David (1973). The Collapse of Power: Mutiny in the High Seas Fleet. Arthur Barker Ltd.
Dodson, Aidan; Cant, Serena (2020). Spoils of War: The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5267-4198-1.
Dodson, Aidan; Nottelmann, Dirk (2021). The Kaiser’s Cruisers 1871–1918. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-68247-745-8.
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2004). Kleine Kreuzer 1903–1918: Bremen bis Cöln-Klasse [Small Cruisers 1903–1918: The Bremen Through Cöln Classes] (in German). München: Bernard & Graefe Verlag. ISBN 3-7637-6252-3.
A new, unnamed class was programmed in 1913 already to replaced the Wiesbaden class. They were an incremental step in design, larger, and four cruisers were started as WWI broke out, SMS Königsberg, Karlsruhe, Emden, Nürnberg, soon taking named of recently lost cruisers, and completed in 1916-17. For that late entry into service they saw limited action in WWI. Apart SMS Karlsruhe (ii) scuttled in Scapa Flow with the rest of the fleet in 1919, the other three were given as war prize, one to France (Metz, used until 1936), another (also scuttled) used by France as a target ship until 1926 and Nürnberg, also scuttled, sunk as target in 1922. The follwoing Cöln (ii) class was the most ambitious with ten ships ordered, and again, an incremental evolution of the Könisgberg (ii) and prewar Magdeburg. They formed the basis of the KMS Emden (iii) built in the 1920s for the Reischmarine.
Development of the new Könisberg class
The design was an incremental improvement over the previous Wiesbaden class, itself derived from the previous Graudenz which innovated with 15 cm main guns. Logically the hull was lenghtened as displacement, but with the same armament, speed, and armor protection overall. This enabled to improved a bit ASW protection and make the ship roomier in general. But other than that it was pretty much a repeat of the previous design.
Königsberg (ii) was ordered as “Ersatz Gazelle”, supposed to replace the old 1900 cruiser. She was laid down at AG Weser shipyard, Bremen in 1914, launched on 18 December 1915, commissioned on 12 August 1916. Emden (ii) was originally ordered as “Ersatz Nymphe” at AG Weser in 1914, launched later on 1 February 1916, commissioned on 16 December 1916. SMS Karlsruhe (ii) was ordered as Ersatz Niobe, laid down in 1915 at Kaiserliches Werft in Kiel, launched on 31 January 1916 fitting-out and commissioned on 15 November 1916. SMS Nürnberg(ii) was laid down as Ersatz Thetis at Howaldtswerke Werft, also in in Kiel, in 1915. She was launched on 14 April 1916, commissioned on 15 February 1917. Therefore, their service life was short compared to previous cruisers of the German Imperial Navy.
The design made the basis, natuarlly, for the next Cöln-class cruisers, which were few to see service before the end of the war. In turn, the latter were the starting point for designers making the sold cruiser authorized for the Reichsmarine under the Versailles treaty in the 1920s and declared as a school cruiser, SMS Emden (third of the name in a decade), but they started on the blueprints for Karlsruhe not the Cöln, which disappeared. The design was simply strecthed out and improved. Personnel shortages in the design staff, closure of the Navy’s Ship Testing Institute meant no new revolutionary design could be made in time. This changed in 1926.
Design of the Könisberg class
Karsruhe Scapa Flow 1919
Hull and general design
With 145.80 meters (478 ft 4 in) long at the waterline, up to 151.40 m (496 ft 9 in) long overall, they were the longest cruisers of the Kaiserliches Marine since the Scharnhorst class armored cruisers (144 m). The beam was larger than the previous class at 14.20 m (46 ft 7 in) versus 13.90 m (45 ft 6in) and a draft of 5.96 m (19 ft 7 in) also more pronounced forward and up to 6.32 m (20 ft 9 in) aft (versus 5.76m for the Wiesbaden). Designed displacement was 5,440 metric tons (5,350 long tons), and fully loaded, battle ready, 7,125 t (7,012 long tons). It was almost 1,000 tonnes heavier than the Wiesbaden.
Their hulls used the same techniques as before, with longitudinal steel frames, divided into eighteen watertight compartments, one more than on the Wiesbaden, plus the now usual double bottom extending for 49% (versus 47%) of the keel. Complement remained the same, 17 officers and 458 enlisted men. Their onboard service boats fleet was located on davits alongside the funnels, amidships. It included a picket boat, a supply barge, a cutter, two yawls, and two dinghies.
The propulsion systems comprised two steam turbines driving two three-bladed screws 3.50 m (11 ft 6 in) in diameter. SMS Karlsruhe was the only one outfitted with two sets of high-pressure geared turbines. These steam turbines were fed by ten coal-fired boilers, plus two oil-fired double-ended boilers. In total, the output was 31,000 shaft horsepower (23,000 kW) for 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph) and on trials, the lead ship, SMS Königsberg managed to make 45,900 shp (34,200 kW) for 27.8 knots (51.5 km/h; 32.0 mph), Karlsruhe 55,700 shp/27.7 knots, Emden 50,216 shp/27.7 kn, while Nürnberg skipped this part. Trials were conducted in shallow water but in deep water they were supposed to reach 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph). This was about the same as the previous Wiesbaden.
Autonomy was 4,850 nautical miles (8,980 km; 5,580 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) cruising speed, down to 1,200 nmi (2,200 km; 1,400 mi) at top speed (27 kts). They carried 350 t of coal as designed, but in wartime or in practive when all voids were filled, up to 1,340 t. Fuel oil carried only initially was 150 t but again, by filling voids, up to 500 t in operations. Electrical power came from two turbo generators, one diesel generator, and a total of 300 kilowatts/220 volts.
They were generally regarded as good sea boats with gentle motion, and thanks to their slighty improved rudder and reworked stern, were highly maneuverable, with tight turning radius, but bleeding speed going in hard turns, due to their lenght ratio, ideal to ride waves in the north sea. Hard rudder, they lost 60% speed and were generally stern-heavy.
Profiles on Kombrig
Main: 8x 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns
All were mounted on single pedestal mounts, two in tandem forward (forecastle), four on the sides amidships, two in superfiring pair aft. Same as for previous carriers, they were able to engage targets at 17,600 m (19,200 yd). 1,040 rounds were carried total (130 per gun). They fired 45.3-kilogram (100 lb) HE shells at 840 meters per second (2,800 ft/s), with max elevation 30°.
Secondary: 2x 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45
The ships’ light battery was mostly for antiaircraft pusposes. Unlike the Wiesbadens, they were not planned with four 5.2 cm (2 in) L/55 guns but were fitted insted with two of the excellent 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 models. They were placed on the centerline astern of the funnels, and fired a 10 kg (22 lb) shell at 750-770 m/s (2,500 to 2,500 ft/s).
Torpedo Tubes & Mines
They also carried four 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes, with one torpedo reload for each, two were submerged, broadside, two were on the upper deck amidships on swivel mounts for traverse. Like previous cruisers they could be equipped with rails to carry 200 mines, instead of the 120 of the Wiesbadens, thanks to their greater lenght.
These vessels were understandably lightly protected, as previous cruisers. But still, for the Wiesbaden and Frankfurt their waterline armored belt was 60 mm (2.4 in) thick amidships, tapereed down to 18 mm (0.71 in) forward. The stern was unarmored. The conning tower was the strongest part of the ship with walls 100 mm (3.9 in) thick, topped by a 20 mm (0.79 in) roof. The rangefinder atop was protected by 30 mm (1.2 in) plating. The deck had 6 cm (2.4) plating forward, tapered down to 40 mm (1.6 in) amidships, 20 mm (1.1 in) aft with sloped armor 40 mm thick, which connected the deck and belt armor. Gun shields for the 15cm guns were 50 mm (2 in) thick. In contrast, the Königsbergs had the following, with a belt and deck made of Krupp cemented steel:
Main Belt 60 mm (2.4 in) amidships, 18 mm (0.71 in) fwd
Armored deck 40 mm (1.6 in) amidships, 20 mm (0.79 in) stern, 60 mm forward
Connecting sloped armor 40 mm thick
Conning tower 100 mm (3.9 in) sides, 20 mm roof
Main battery gun shields 50 mm (2 in)
Mine Hold 20 mm thick deck, 30 mm side armor
⚙ Königsberg ii class specifications
5,440 tons standard, 7,125 tons Fully Loaded
151.40 x 14.20 x 5.96 m (496 ft 9 in x 46 ft 7 in x 19 ft 7 in)
Not amazing compared to previous vessels and arriving too late in service, Königsberg and Nürnberg saw action still at the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight. They escorted minesweepers clearing paths in British minefields, which saw HMS Repulse engaging Königsberg (hit, minimal damage, fire mastered). All four sister ships also participated in Operation Albion in the Gulf of Riga. Emden proved she could be used as Torpedoboats flagship and leader, with success.
By late (October) 1918 they were all four mobilized for a final grand attack, with very agressive objectives: Königsberg, with Cöln, Dresden, and Pillau were to enter the Thames estuary. Karlsruhe, Nürnberg, Graudenz shell the Flanders to draw out the British Grand Fleet. Reinhard Scheer’s plans were marred by mutinies and the operation cancelled. In the end, after a period of inactivity they were partly conducted to Scapa Flow, but two ended was war reparation cruisers, to France. They were appreciated as the scout cruisers France planned in 1912 but never built.
KMS Emden(iii) off China, 1931
So design wise, they were as good as their predecessors and on part with British designs of the time, notably the “Town” and C class cruisers, all armed with 6-in guns, but they had more. Typically a C-class of 1916 was smaller and had five main guns, 4,000 tonnes, 29 knots and less torpedoes. None of them encountered the Königsberg(ii) class cruisers in actions, which were rare. It seems the French were quite happy with their design, maintained all the way through the end of the interwar without much modifications.
Links & Resources
Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921.
Bennett, Geoffrey (2005). Naval Battles of the First World War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military Classics.
Campbell, N. J. M. & Sieche, Erwin (1986). “Germany”. In Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906–1921
Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels. NIP
Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis NIP
Herwig, Holger (1998) . “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918.
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2014). German Light Cruisers of World War II: Warships of the Kriegsmarine
Staff, Gary (2008). Battle for the Baltic Islands. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime.
Tarrant, V. E. (1995). Jutland: The German Perspective. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks.
Van der Vat, Dan (1986). The Grand Scuttle. Worcester: Billing & Sons Ltd.
Woodward, David (1973). The Collapse of Power: Mutiny in the High Seas Fleet. London: Arthur Barker Ltd.
Dodson, Aidan; Cant, Serena (2020). Spoils of War: The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing.
Dodson, Aidan; Nottelmann, Dirk (2021). The Kaiser’s Cruisers 1871–1918. NIP
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2004). Kleine Kreuzer 1903–1918: Bremen bis Cöln-Klasse, München: Bernard & Graefe Verlag.
SMS Königsberg was launched on 18 December 1915 without fanfare, followed by a quick fitting-out work, and commissioned after sea trials and fixes on 12 August 1916. From the 29th, she was reassigned to the II Scouting Group as flagship. Kapitän zur See Ludwig von Reuter took command, hoisting his flag aboard and she spent her early time in coastal defense patrols in the German Bight, Pillau, Frankfurt, Graudenz, and Regensburg, for the German North Sea coast defence agains any RN intrusion, notably minelayers. Vizeadmiral Reinhard Scheer at the time was rather in favor of the U-boat campaign and often uneventful patrol duties alternated with a Baltic Sea training exercize from 22 February to 4 March, 20 May to 2 June. She was in dydock for maintenance from 16 August to 9 September.
Her first serious combat mission was Operation Albion: She was tasked to support amphibious assault on in the Gulf of Riga, to allow the German Army to advance further. One of the objectives was to eliminated the Russian naval forces present, and the combined fleet planned to take Ösel Island and the Sworbe Peninsula gun batteries, implying a landing. Königsberg was in Kiel on 23 September to prepare, the rest of II Scouting Group escorting the troop transports while she became flagship of IV Transport Group, visited and briefed by Ludwig von Estorff, commander of the 42nd Division which was escorted. The fleet stopped in Libau on 25 September for final preparations and departed on 11 October, starting the following day by SMS Moltke (III Squadron) shelled Tagga Bay and the IV Squadron the Sworbe Peninsula, Saaremaa.
SMS Königsberg was in Tagga Bay for the coordination of the infantry landings, and Russian opposition failed; On 18–19 October, she was to cover minesweepers operating off Dagö, marred by bad weather. On the 19th with SMS Nürnberg and Danzig she was sent to intercept two Russian torpedo boats, but they could not be found. The following day, the operation was a success, and the Admiralstab ordered the fleet back in the North Sea. On 28 October, SMS Königsberg stopped in Libau on her way and returned to patrols with the II Scouting Group.
Next, she took part in the Second Battle of Helgoland Bight, still with II Scouting Group and torpedo boats, escorting minesweepers of the II Minensuchflotille in Horns Rev, SMS Kaiser and Kaiserin in distant support. Reuter sent Nürnberg forward in reconnaissance, and she soon spotted the incoming British 1st Cruiser and 6th Light Cruisers Squadrons, supported by the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron. Reuter orders his remaining cruisers forward too to distract the British while the minesweepers withdrew under smoke screen; Next the cruiser’s orders were to draw the squadrons towards the German battleships.
Eventually HMS Courageous, Glorious, and Repulse arrived in turn, engagede Kaiserin and Kaiser while Reuter attacked with the cruisers, Repulse hitting Königsberg with with a main shell at 10:58. All three funnels were razed and fire raged. She fell to 17 kn while Reuter transferred his flag to Pillau. She eventually withdrew and the fire was suppressed, and she came back, buy the British broke off their attack and more German reinforcements were signalled. Next, she covered the IV Battle Squadron (Flagship Friedrich der Grosse, VAdm Wilhelm Souchon) during a sweep for any remaining British vessels, for nothing, retreateing at 15:00
Königsberg was back in the Schillig roadstead at 19:05 and listed twenty-three casualties, with eight deads. The general staff criticized Kurt Graßhoff leading the battleships not to have been closer. This became a new guideline to protect minesweeper groups. Meanwhile, Königsberg was in repairs at Wilhelmshaven until 15 Decmber.
Königsberg was flagship again of her unit, proceeding to more patrol duties in the German Bight, until 20 January 1918, when Reuter was replaced by KzS Magnus von Levetzow. The II Scouting Group made Baltic exercizes (21 January to 7 February) and in all afterwards, took part in five fleet sweeps, incuding the 23–24 April raids against convoys to Norway. Moltke having a serious accident led Scheer to break off prematurely. Anothe sweep took place on 10-13 May, escorting the minelayer Senta laying an ASW defensive minefield in the Bight. After another training session in the Baltic on 11-12 July. Levetzow joined the Seekriegsleitung or Maritime Warfare Command, replaced by KzS Victor Harder, still making Königsberg his flagship.
In October 1918, Königsberg with Cöln, Dresden, and Pillau (II group) were prepared for a final raid on British waters, her role being to attack merchant shipping in the Thames estuary. But on 29 October, widespread mutiny had the operation cancelled. Nevertheless, Kommodore Andreas Michelsen organized an attack group with sixty ships including Königsberg as reports came on 9 November reports of British activity but the reports proved false. Following the abdication, ceasefire and peace talks, it’s KMS Königsberg that carried RADM Hugo Meurer to Scapa Flow to negotiate the german fleet fate with Admiral David Beatty, notably the place of internment. She was in Scapa on 15 November with a white flag. Later the High Sea Fleets met a combined allied fleet as prearranged and was conducted to Scapa, but Königsberg remained in Germany, coming back with Meurer.
Stricken on 31 May 1920 after prolongated inactivity, she was eventually ceded to France as war reparation under the name “A”. She sailed in Cherbourg on 20 July, renamed “Metz” on 6 October and re-entered service with the French fleet (see WW2 French Cruisers for more).
SMS Karlsruhe was commissioned on 15 November 1916 but trained without assignment until 22 February 1917, before joining II Scouting Group. She multiplied patrols in the German Bight and supported minelaying/minesweeping operations, starting on 5 March; followed by another on 6 April. There, she led the 2nd Torpedoboat Half-Flotilla to the Amrun Bank to U-22, damaged, which needed help. On 16 August she took part in a minesweeping operation in the North Sea, Route Yellow used by U-boats. She sailed with SMS Frankfurt and three torpedo boats and at some point lookouts spotted a British squadron of three light cruisers, sixteen destroyers and the minesweepers withdrew but when Karlsruhe and escort failed were too far way to help them.
Karlsruhe also took part in Operation Albion: By early September 1917 she took part in the invasion of the Gulf of Riga. On 18 September she was prepared for the operation as part of the II Scouting Group she was the cruiser screen for the task force, departing on 24 September from Kiel via Libau and carrying infantry on 26 September to Putziger Wiek to be reloaded on capital ships, before turning back to Libau on 2 October, embarking the Saxon Radfahr-Bataillonen and departing on 11 October, leading the 2nd Transport Group.
The operation went on by 12 October and Karlsruhe landed her infantry ashore in Tagga Bay, covering also ten transport ships on 17 October, escorted back to Libau. She also was to cover minesweepers off Dagö and was back to the North Sea via Kiel on 27 October, followed by a drydock maintenance on 16 November-6 December.
By early April 1918 she assisted the laying of a defensive minefield in the North Sea for a next month major fleet operation, abortive (23–24 April) to attack British convoys to Norway. Moltke indeed had a serious machinery issue and Scheer cancelled it. On 10 to 13 May she escorted the minelayer Senta for another defensive minefield inthe way of the usual route of British submarines to the German Bight. She also escorted SMS Baden and trained in the Baltic 11-12 July, still under Kapitän zur See Magnus von Levetzow, followed by a maintenance from 1 August.
She took part in the evacuation on the coast of Flanders on 14 August after the Battle of Amiens, loaded 70 mines to participate in a later cancelled operation with Brummer and Nürnberg, the latter being drydocked for repairs. After training in the Baltic on 16-23 October, and patrolling the German Bight she was prepared for the final attack in November, cancelled due to mutinies. After the capitulation she sailed under Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter to Scapa Flow, hosting the II Scouting Group commander, KzS Victor Harder. On the morning of 21 June at 11:20 she received the order to scuttle, and sank at 15:50, one of the last ships to do so, latter never raised for scrapping as she was in a greater depth, but part of her wreck was extracted as she was sold in 1962. The wreck was surveyed in 2017 by marine archaeologists from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology, under 25 m (82 ft), a popular diver’s attraction.
SMS Emden (ii) was commissioned on 16 December 1916 and became in October 1917 flagship for Commodore Paul Heinrich torpedo-boats Cdr, assigned for Operation Albion. On 12 October, she shelled a Russian battery at Pamerort and covered the landings afterwards. She latter spotted two Russian destroyers but they were shelled and chased off. On the 13th, an attack by eight Russian destroyers was met by Emden which moved forward at 07:45 in the German screen, opening fire on the three leading ones from 13,800 meters (45,300 ft), straddling them and destroying the wireless equipment of Grom. She shelled on two others at 09:30 but weather deteriorated. Still the signal station at Pamerort assisted Emden to dive them off. At 12:20, the Russian gunboat Chivinetz brought her heavy guns to deal with the cruiser, with two destroyers, briefly engaging Emden, which straddled her until she retreated.
On the 14th, covered the mine-clearing of Kassar Wiek between Dagö and Ösel with the battleship Kaiser, entering the Soelo Sound to support torpedo-boats sweeping the area. Emden spotted and fired on four Russian destroyers, which retreated. Kaiser scored a hit on Grom, which took a list. The others were driven off. She latter shelled Dagö at 15:00. On the 18th, she started again, firing 170 shells until the Russians retreated and on the 20th, the island was under German control.
On 11 December 1917, she led a raid on British shipping in the North Sea with the II TB Flotilla, split in half off the Dogger Bank, some spotting and sinking four of six steamers located. After the Armistice, she departed under RADM Ludwig von Reuter to Scapa Flow. But as he was harrassed by disgruntled sailors on the battleship Friedrich der Grosse he transferred flag on Emden, which was cuttled on 21 June at 11:20 but did not sink. The British managed to tow her close to shore, beached and re-floated, then assigned to the French Navy on 11 March 1920, used as a target, finished off with explosives and BU in Caen in 1926.
SMS Nürnberg was commissioned on 15 February 1917, under Fregattenkapitän Walter Hildebrand. After sea trials lasting until 1st May, she joined the II Scouting Group patrols in the summer, before being mobilized for Operation Albion in September 1917, where Nürnberg and the II Scouting Group under RADM Ludwig von Reuter was in the cover screen, from 11 October, with a contingent of soldiers aboard while escorting several transport ships with the landing force, collier and tugboats, arriving in Tagga Bay
Nürnberg started landing troops, covered by Königsberg. The operation was over on 20 October, and she was back in the North Sea, but not before she departed on 24 October via Libau and Kiel. However she took part in the second Battle of Helgoland Bight : On 17 November with Königsberg, Frankfurt, and Pillau she covered a minesweeping operation in the Helgoland Bight, supported at a distance by Kaiser and Kaiserin, when the minesweepers were attacked by a force of cruisers, with Six British battlecruisers in support. The minesweepers retreated under a smoke screen and Nürnberg opened fire on the British cruisers at 08:55 from 11 km (6.8 mi) before being straddled in turn by the British cruisers and the HMS Courageous and Glorious.
Due to the poor weather she was not hit directly, but showered with shell splinters, having light casualties although this is disputed. She returned fire and was “saved” at last by the arriving Kaiser and Kaiserin while Hindenburg arrived in reinforcement and both sides folded back.
Under her new commander Hans Quaet-Faslem by January 1918, she had a peacful late career, under overhaul in March-May, covered a minelaying operation on 10-13 May and sortied to catch the British aircraft carrier HMS Furious after the Tondern raid in July. She changed captain again for Wolfgang Wegener.
In October 1918 she was to take part in the next month climactic attack mobilizing the whole Hochseeflotte, Nürnberg, Karlsruhe and Graudenz were assigned to the Flanders attack. On 29 October order was given to regroup in Wilhelmshaven but the following night, desertions and massive mutinies led to the cancellation. Nürnberg was to sail to Scapa flow for internemt latern departing on 19 November, arriving on the 27th. Captain Wegener went back to Germany, leaving Kapitänleutnant Günther Georgii and a skeleton crew in charge. They scuttled the ship on 21 June, but British sailors approached and used explosive charges to blast her anchor chains so that she could be dragged aground before sinking slowly.
She was refloated in July, towed to Portsmouth, and converted into a target ship, at first fired at by HMS Terror on 5 November 1920 from 370 m (400 yd) and she listed 10° to simulate long range angle. Terror tested a 7.5 in and a 6 in gun and different shell types. This went on also on 8 November. On 7 July 1922, she was eventualy properly sank by HMS Repulse off the Isle of Wight.
Among the light cruisers screening for the Kaiserliches Marine, were the modern and active SMS Wiesbaden and Frankfurt: They were screening Admiral Franz Hipper’s battlecruisers (1st scouting group) in early sorties and fought notably at Jutland. Very similar to the previous Graudenz class, but up-armed with 15 cm SK L/45 guns and capable of 27.5 knots. Wiesbaden’s career ended at Jutland, badly damaged and eventually sank in the early morning hours while Frankfurt was only lightly damaged and went on with the II Scouting Group in Operation Albion and Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917.
Development of the Wiesbaden class
SMS Frankfurt in Scapa Flow, 1919
Technically these cruisers were just an incremental step in light cruiser design. Planned in 1912 as part of the naval program, as improved Graudenz class, only two were built, laid down in 1913. They were very similar but armed with eight 15 cm SK L/45 guns instead of the twelve 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns on the earlier cruisers, a radical firepower upgrade that was a result of recent evaluation and tactical use as screening vessels. It went from “destroyer killers” to “cruisers killers”. Ie. their role went to chasing out enemy’s own flotillas, generally led by light cruisers, to combat their opposite screening forces, which cruisers the time were all armed with 6-in guns, like the prolific “Town” class.
And apart a reviewed protection for better standing 6-in shells damage (they could not be stopped anyway), it was joined with a better speed of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph) to also give them a fair advantage and the ability to out-run their enemy and choose their distance of engagement. This was especially true for the Hochseeflotte which planned them to serve on the north sea, which vibility was poor most of the time, between bad weather and fog. The Royal Navy when designing their cruisers were less specific about the theater of operation due to the needs of their large empire and numerous trade routes.
SMS Wiesbaden was ordered under the contract name “Ersatz Gefion”. She was laid down at AG Vulcan shipyard, Stettin, in 1913. She was launched on 20 January 1915 and fitting-out work started. Her sister Frankfurt was ordered under “Ersatz Hela”, laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel, also in 1913, launched later on 20 March 1915 but fitting-out work proved faster and she was completed earlier.
Construction was relatively long, delayed due to other more priority works after the war broke out. But they were eventually launched on January and March 1915, and completed in August 1915, Frankfurt ten days before her sister ship. The class is still named in most publications after the led ship launched. Completion and fitting out work was very short in order to have both pressed into service as soon as possible. In between the Graudenz and Wiesbaden built at Vulkan and Kiel, little experience could be integrated from cruisers classes built in between: The Pillau were Russian designed ships, requisitioned and modified, and the Brummer were minelayers.
Design of the Wiesbaden class
SMS Frankfurt seen from profile
If taking of the previous Graudenz class as reference (both were launched in 1913 and 1914); the new Wiesbaden were a bit larger, perhaps 300 tonnes more in displacement fully loaded, a few meters longer (145.3m/476 ft versus 142.7m/468 ft overall), just 10 cm (4 in) wider, but they generally shared a similar design and outlook, with two equal masts fore and aft, three raked funnels of equal size and span, a forecastle, a bulwark covered amidship section and a lower aft deck, clipper bow and round stern.
In many way they confirmed the design standard repeated for the next wartime Königsberg (ii) -four ships- and the final Cöln class flirting with 7,500 tonnes (11 ships planned, two completed too late to see action). They could be seen as well as the forebears of the interwar KMS Emden, first “modern” german cruiser.
Hull and general design
The hull followed the usual scheme of longitudinal steel frames. Their crew comprised 17 officers and 457 enlisted men, a bit less than the previous Graudenz which had more guns (albeit of a smaller caliber), so they felt roomy. They carried for service boats a single steam picket boat, a supply barge, a cutter, two yawls and two dinghies, man-rowed but with optional sail.
Apart changes in armament, the new cruisers had a bit more power, but their simhouette remained the same. The bridge was separated entirely from the forward conning tower, on which was installed the main telemeter. The enclosedd winter deck with wings was topped by the open battle deck with lookouts and signals post. The two equal masts were composed of two parts, the lower being thicker and supporting a lightly armored observation post. Contrary to the Graudenz, there were equal fore and aft, covering the observer from the elements and from shrapnels.
The central section, about 1/3 lenght was dotted by the three funnels, truncated from all the pipes, with ventilation louvres on uptakes fore and aft of these. Two flak guns (8.8 cm) were installed either side of the middle funnel. Six service boats were fitted under davits on the sides and extra space was allocated aft of the third funnel, at the foot of the aft mast. The latter also supported a watch platform, a small radio room, and aft main telemeter for the two superfiring guns. Four night projectors were located on invidual platforms on each mast, one over the other, covering the front and back.
SMS Wiesbaden engraving (postcard) – pinterest
The Wiesbaden class propulsion systems consisted of two sets of Marine steam turbines. Each drove a single three-bladed 3.5-meter (11 ft) screw propeller. In total, ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers and two oil-fired double-ended boilers provided an output of 31,000 shaft horsepower (23,000 kW). Top speed as designed was 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph). Sea trials speeds are not known, but generally superior to those planned on German cruisers.
For range, they carried 1,280 metric tons of coal plus an additional 470 metric tons of oil making for a total of 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 12 knots cruise speed. At 25 knots as tested (46 km/h; 29 mph) it was down to to 1,200 nmi (2,200 km; 1,400 mi). Wiesbaden and Frankfurt each had a pair of turbo generators, but only the first had an extra diesel generator, rated for 300 kilowatts (400 hp) at 220 Volts. SMS Frankfurt reached only 240 kW (320 hp) however she also differed by having a hydraulic drive on one shaft, and geared cruising turbine on the other as an experiment. Steering on both vessels was controlled by a single rudder and they were considered good steamers and responsive at the helm, good weapons platform with a moderately slow and predictable roll.
Main Guns: 8x 15cm SKL/45
The Wiesbaden class made their greatest changed compared to all previous cruisers (and it was time!) by replacing the usual 10.5 cm (4 in) battery by a far more potent main battery of eight 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns, all also in single pedestal mounts with different locations:
-Two were placed side by side (tandem) forward on the forecastle
-Four located amidships, two per side
-Two were placed in a superfiring pair aft.
The SK L/45 became the mainstay of secondary armament on battleships and cruisers in the German Navy. It was studied from 1906, introduced first in capital ships like the Kaiser and König class, but the Wiesbaden were the first to introduce these. They were also used by subsequent vessels of the Pillau, Brummer, Königsberg (II), Dresden (II) classes, and KMS Emden in the 1920s, spared later being used on the many auxiliary cruisers seeing action in WW2, notably KMS Atlantis against Sydney. Many cruisers were also rearmed in 1915-16 with these guns.
These guns fire an HE or AP shell both 99.8 lbs. (45.3 kg), with a rate of fire of about 5-7 rounds per minute, and range of 17,600 m (19,200 yd). In total 1,024 rounds of ammunition was aboard, so for 128 shells per gun. More on navweaps
Main Guns: 4x 5.2cm SKL/55
Since the design was studied in 1913, antiaircraft armament was planned from the start, and comprised four 5.2 cm (2 in) L/55 guns. They were located amidship, abaft the third funnel, but later replaced with just two 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 anti-aircraft guns with high-angle mountings.
Torpedo Tubes: 4x 50cm Torpedoes
As previous cruisers, the new cruisers carried torpedo tubes, four 50 cm (19.7 in) two submerged braodside, two on the upper deck, with eight torpedoes in store. The Wiesbaden class was also design to be able to carry mines, 120 of them stored on the deck rails running aft.
SMS Wiesbaden and Frankfurt had the following:
-Waterline armored belt 60 mm (2.4 in) thick amidships.
-Forward belt tapeered down to 18 mm (0.71 in).
-No stern belt.
-Forward Conning tower 100 mm (3.9 in) walls, 20 mm (0.79 in) thick roof.
-Rangefinder atop 30 mm (1.2 in) armor protection.
-Main armored deck 60 mm thick armor plate forward, 40 mm (1.6 in) amidships, 20 mm aft.
-Sloped armor 40 mm thick, connecting deck to belt armor.
-Main battery gun shields 50 mm (2 in) thick.
-Seventeen watertight compartments
-Double bottom 47% keel lenght.
Wiesbaden class, old illustration by the author
⚙ Wiesbaden class specifications
145.30 m (476 ft 8 in) x 13.90 m (45 ft 7 in) x 5.76 m (18 ft 11 in)
Belt: 60 mm (2.4 in), Deck: 60 mm, Conning tower: 100 mm (3.9 in)
Links & Resources
Campbell, N. J. M. & Sieche, Erwin (1986). “Germany”. In Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal (eds.) Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921.
Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. London: Conway Maritime Press.
Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels. NIS
Herwig, Holger (1980). “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Humanity Books.
Miller, Roger G. (2009). Billy Mitchell: Stormy Petrel of the Air. Office of Air Force History.
Staff, Gary (2008). Battle for the Baltic Islands. Pen & Sword Maritime.
Tarrant, V. E. (1995). Jutland: The German Perspective. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks.
Woodward, David (1973). The Collapse of Power: Mutiny in the High Seas Fleet. Arthur Barker Ltd.
The Kaiser’s Cruisers, 1871–1918 By Aidan Dodson, Dirk Nottelmann
Dodson, Aidan; Cant, Serena (2020). Spoils of War: The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars. Seaforth Publishing.
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2004). Kleine Kreuzer 1903–1918 Bremen bis Cöln-Klasse, Bernard & Graefe Verlag
SMS Wiesbaden was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet, on 23 August 1915, while her sea trials were rushed out (perhaps why nio data is available for test speeds). Her career in the winter was spent with uneventful patrols and training sorties as part of the II Scouting Group (also Lebing, Königsberg and her sister ship). The latter on 24 April 1916 had her taking part in Raid of Lowestoft at last. But only her sister saw some action, not her. As part of the screened force she did not have the occasion to fire one shot apart on Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but damage was light; The operation had been almost a complete failure as just two patrol craft were sunk, in exchange of a badly damaged battlecruiser. But her real test came with the spring of 1916.
Under Command of Kapitan zür zee Fritz Reiss, SMS Wiesbaden was still assigned to II Scouting Group, headed by Konteradmiral Friedrich Boedicker and operating alongside the I scouting group as the forward screening force, departing on 30 May with Hipper’s battlecruisers. Wiesbaden and Frankfurt served teamed together, her sister as Boedicker’s flagship. She was cruising to starboard on the formation, on the disengaged side when Elbing, Pillau, and Frankfurt engaged the British screen.
Circa 18:30, SMS Wiesbaden spotted and fired on the cruiser HMS Chester, scoring several hits, but both sides disengaged, spotting Rear Admiral Horace Hood’s battlecruisers. HMS Invincible fired on Wiesbaden and managed to land a lucky hit, penetrating the unprotected aft deck and exploding in her engine room. The damage was so extensive the cruiser bled speed to a crewl, while Konteradmiral Paul Behncke ordered his dreadnoughts Wiesbaden, in a vain hope the crew could repair the damage.
But at the same time, the British 3rd and 4th Light Cruiser Squadrons closed earlier to make a massive torpedo attack on the German line, while shelling Wiesbaden with their main guns at the same time. Then, the destroyer HMS Onslow closed within 2,000 yards (1,800 m), firing a single torpedo with sure results on a siotting duck. Hit below the conning tower forward, the hull shook violently, but thanks in part due to the compartimentation, she still remained afloat. The melee which followed was absolutely chaotic and fierce, with the crew of Wiesbaden right in the middle of the storm, witnessing fire from all sides. They saw the armored cruiser HMS Defence blew up, HMS Warrior fatally damaged. The German cruiser’s captain decided to launch her torpedoes in this, and managed to score against the battleship HMS Marlborough.
Shortly after 20:00, the German III Flotilla of torpedo boats attempted, not to defend, but just to evacuate her crew. They were pushed back by a dense fire from the British battle line. Another attempt was made but in the darknes they could not spot the stranded cruiser. Eventually she was left to her fate. Wiesbaden sank without witness at circa 01:45 up to 02:45. One crew member survived though, picked up by a Norwegian steamer on 1st June. The whple crew of 589 disapperaed behind the waves, probably surviving for some time swimming for some, but never found. Among these was the well-known poet and essayist Johann Kinau, aka “Gorch Fock”. Her wreck was found in 1983 by divers of the German Navy. The screws were salvaged and she was classed as a war grave, found lying upside down, the last vessel of the battle to be discovered.
SMS Frankfurt was commissioned on 20 August 1915 and like her sister ship due to the war, she rushed out her sea trials, being assigned to the II. scouting group.
Raid on Lowestoft
After months of training she took part at last in her first operation, the Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft, on 24 April 1916. As part of the screen of the I Scouting Group (Franz Von Hipper’s battlecruisers) and under command of Konteradmiral Friedrich Boedicker she spotted, attacked and sank a British armed patrol boat off the coast during the bombardment. Reports of submarines and torpedo attacks had Boedicker breaking off and ordered to sail full speed back east, towards the High Seas Fleet awaiting further away to destroy any chasing British force. Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, C-in-C, was warned of the Grand Fleet rushing out of Scapa Flow in hot pursuit and ordered a general withdrawal.
Next action was not long to follow, still in the same unit with her sister she sailed on 31 May, as Boedicker’s flagship, II Scouting Group commander, screening for Hipper’s I Scouting Group. Frankfurt spotted their British’s screening counterpart and opened fire, with the battlecruiser squadrons closing fast behind. Frankfurt, Pillau, and Elbing were on the right side of the engagement and duelled with British light cruisers at 16:17, until the British, having many hits, folded away. But 30 min. later the 5th Battle Squadron’s fast battleships arrived and started to fire at SMS Frankfurt, which fled under a smokescreen, unscaved.
At around 18:00, the destroyers HMS Onslow and Moresby found and attacked the German battlecruisers, but were repelled by Frankfurt and Pillau. 30 min. later, Frankfurt spotted and engaged the cruiser HMS Chester, scoring several hits. Rear Admiral Horace Hood battlecruisers in turn arrived on the scene, opened fore and hit her sister Wiesbaden, disabled and later left behind. About 19:30 as darkness fell, HMS Canterbury scored four hits on Frankfurt, two 6-in around her mainmast and two 4-in forward above the waterline, and near the stern, damaging both screws.
Frankfurt and Pillau spotted HMS Castor and several destroyers at about 23:00 and fired each a torpedo at the cruiser before folding on the German line, searchlights shut not to be spotted. It was past well past midnight when Frankfurt met two British destroyers at close range, firing on them briefly and retreated; At around 04:00, 1 June, the entire fleet had managed to reach Horns Reef and Frankfurt had “only” three men killed and eighteen wounded, having fired 379 rounds or her main guns, some of her 8.8 cm guns and a single torpedo. Her captain found himself lucky to have escaped the fate of her sister ship.
Operation Albion and Heligoland
Next was Operation Albion, in October 1917. The goal was to drive off the Russian naval forces of the Gulf of Riga. Still in the II Scouting Group under command of RADM Ludwig von Reuter, she did her share of the action but did not fired a shot. In November, SMS Frankfurt and the II Scouting Group took part in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight. With the three other cruisers of her unit she escorted the minesweepers clearing paths in British minefields around the contested island.
SMS Kaiser and Kaiserin were in distant support in case of need, and during the British attack, Frankfurt fired torpedoes at incoming British cruisers, but missed. The British eventually broke off as German battleships came to the rescue. All withdrew soon after.
On 21 October 1918 in the evening, SMS Frankfurt accidentally rammed UB-89 in Kiel-Holtenau. The schock not only sunk the submarine, it also killing seven of her crew but 27 survivors were still pulled from the water. UB-89 was would be later raised by the salvage vessel Cyclop on 30 October but never repaired.
Later career and end as a target ship
18 July 1921 US coast air attack test: Frankfurt is bombed.
Frabkfurth is burning
Scheer and Hipper had the project of a last massive sortie with the while fleet “for honor” after months of inaction, and trying to gain a better bargaining position for Germany in the peace treaty. On 29 October 1918, Frankfurt’s captain was ordered to sail to Wilhelmshaven but miutinies during the night of the 29-30 and further unrest during teh day forced Hipper to cancel the operation. Frankfurt was later summoned by the treaty’s condition to be interned in in Scapa Flow under overall command of Admiral Reuter.
While negotiations went on, she as prepared for scuttling and on 21 June 1919, as Reuter believed the deadline was about to end for the allied seizure of the fleet, he waited for an opportunity, which presented itself on 21 June when the Grand fleet left Scapa Flow for maneuvers. Ar 11:20 order to scuttle the ships was given. However Frankfurt was close to the coast and was swiflty boarded by British sailors when what happened was now obvious, and under gunpoint, even after the cocks were opened, they managed to have the ship beached before sinking. Raised in July, she was transferred to the USN as war prize.
From 11 March 1920 she was taken over, and then recommissioned on 4 June 1920, still in Britain. Instead of repairing her damage for subsequent service it was decided to have her “spent” as a target for experiments. She was taken in tow by the minesweepers USS Redwing, Rail, and Falcon to Brest, France, together with the battleship SMS Ostfriesland also a war prize. The three minesweepers towed three ex-German torpedo boats for good measure, creating a nice “target flotilla” which was not dealt on situ but rather escorted in convoy across the Atlantic to NYC Navy Yard. Inspection by naval engineers was long and exhaustive in order to gain lessons to apply to US ship design.
Her watertight compartments were completely sealed in order to have her survive extensive damage and on July 1921, the US Army Air Service and US Navy conducted bombing tests off Cape Henry in Virginia. They were at the initiative of WW1 ace and war hero, now General Billy Mitchell, to convince the Navy of the potenty of naval aviation and the threat it posed to traditional fleets. The “target fleet” was buffed up further by the adition of the old, stricken 1890s battleship USS Iowa. Tests started on 18 July with air attacks performed at first with small 250-pound (110 kg) and 300 lb (140 kg) bombs. Damage was minimal, then tests started with 550 lb (250 kg) and then 600 lb (270 kg) bombs using Martin MB-2 bombers. Frankfurt took several 600 lb bombs and sank that day at 18:25.
In 1915, the Admiralty decided to start construction in Vulcan, Stettin, of two large turbine-powered minelayer vessels. Launched in December 1915, March 1916, commissioned in April and July 1916. These were very active and successful ships until the end of WWI.
In order to strengthen or replace Albatross and the Nautilus, the only mine-laying cruisers in the German fleet, the Admiralty decided to start construction in 1915 at Vulcan, Stettin, of two large vessels dedicated to this task, better armed than the frail light cruisers of 1906. The Brummer and the Bremse were launched in December 1915 and March 1916 and accepted in April and July 1916. Decision to build them was also facilitated by the presence of turbines built to propel the Russian battle cruiser Navarin, whose construction was canceled due to the war. So they were quite powerful as a result.
In the end, these mixed ships, running on coal and fuel oil, were able of way than 28 knots (29.5 on trials), and developed more than 42,000 hp (Brummer) and 47,000 (Bremse) during the same trials. Their career was quite intense: SMS Brummer was part of the 2nd and then the 4th fleet. In January 1917 she participated with Bremse in the great minefield laid between Norderney and Helgoland. In October, she was detached with her sister-ship to attack convoys and from 16 to 18, decimated a convoy by sinking 8 freighters and a destroyer, another badly damaged.
In November, Brummer successfully carried out another raid from Helgoland. In June 1918, she was seen performing two more minelaying missions, but remained inactive until November. Bremse raided off Fisher Bank in December 1916, and had the opportunity to use her AA to protect Zeppelin L44 from British fighters in September 1917. She also went out against merchant traffic, and carried out a raid on the coasts of Norway in April 1918. Like Brummer, she was forced to join Scapa Flow after the capitulation and scuttled there in June 1919.
In 1914, AG Vulcan in Stettin was building two sets of high-powered steam turbines for the Russian Navy, intended for the battlecruiser Navarin under construction in Russia. However August 1914 had the German government seizing the turbines. Meanwhile, the Kaiserliche Marine’s only two minelayer cruisers Nautilus and Albatross being whoefully unsufficient, ordered AG Vulcan to reuse Navarin’s turbines and from there, deliver two cruiser hulls buikt around these in order to be fast mine-layers for night operations of the British coast. The speed allowed them to make a “hit and run” minelaying opetration and not to be intercepted. Also it was envisioned to make them look superficially as the British Arethusa-class cruisers to confused British observers and allow them to close on the hostile coast.
Final Design and construction
Design work was completed in 1914, just after the order, SMS Brummer being laid down at AG Vulcan, Stettin in early 1915, built in record-time to be launched on 11 December. SMS Bremse was also built at AG Vulcan, but launched later, on 11 March 1916 and still completed in less than four months to be commissioned in mid-1916. To reach the same crescent bow shape (straight in German cruisers) and general silhouette of British cruisers the yard went as far as covering parts and add fake volumes using sheet metal for a perfect disguise.
Brummer was contract name “C” laid down at the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin in 1915. She was launched on 11 December 1915, after which fitting-out work commenced. Completed in less than four months. SMS Bremse was ordered under the contract name “D”, laid down also at AG Vulcan shipyard the same day but launched on 11 March 1916, followed by an express fitting-out work, also in four months for a commission on 1st July 1916, one month after Jutland.
Both Brummer and Bremse were 135 meters (442 ft 11 in) long at the waterline, mostly due to the space required for the turbines, around which the rest of the ships were designed. They reached 140.4 m (460 ft 8 in) overall for 13.2 m (43 ft 4 in) in beam (making for a 1/10 ratio) and 6 m (19 ft 8 in) draft forward, down to 5.88 m (19 ft 3 in) aft. Designed displacement was 4,385 metric tons (4,316 long tons) standard and up to 5,856 t (5,764 long tons) when battle ready and fully loaded.
Construction of the the hull called for longitudinal steel frames and a waterline internal compartimentation pushed into twenty-one watertight compartments. They also had a double bottom for 44% pf the hull underbelly, over the keel. SMS Brummer was given portholes amidships, but not Bremse, and this was their first difference.
For the silhouette, both were given masts shaped like and implanted as on the British Arethusa-class cruisers, and they could be lowered and stored on the superstructure deck to free some fire arc or steam under bridges if necessary. The bow was modeled too as an Arethusa class bow, using extra plating to reach the desired shape. They carried both some 16 officers and 293 ratings and had the usual fleet of smaller service boats installed aft at the foot of the mainmast, served by a boom, and on davits along the main deck: She carried a steam picket boat, a barge for supplies, and two dinghies.
The Brummer’s propulsion systems rested on these two turbines, rather powerful for cruisers. They drove two three-bladed screw propellers 3.20 m (10 ft 6 in) in diameter. These turbines in turn were fed by six mixed firing boilers: by just two coal-fired Marine Doppelkessel double-ended water-tube boilers, but also four oil-fired Öl-Marine double-ended boilers. Total output was rated for 33,000 shaft horsepower (25,000 kW), enough for a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). Thus was equivalent to the Arethusa class.
On trials however, Brummer with forced heating reached 42,797 shp (31,914 kW) for 30.2 knots (55.9 km/h; 34.8 mph) and even 47,748 shp (35,606 kW) for SMS Bremse, which was also observed capable of reaching 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) in quick runs, something no British criser was capable of at the time.
They carried 300 t of coal as designed in peacetime, which could be doubled to 600 t in wartime, notably by filling extra waterline compartments. They also carried 500 tons of Fuel oil and also by having all voids filled, could reach 1,000 t. At a cruising speed (12 knots or 22 km/h/14 mph, they reached 5,800 nautical miles (10,700 km; 6,700 mi). When fast-cruising at 25 kn (46 km/h; 29 mph) this naturally fell to 1,200 nmi (2,200 km; 1,400 mi). Electrical power aboard came from two Siemens turbo generators coupled with a MAN diesel generator.
There was a single, large rudder and it was enough for them to be regarded as excellent sea boats, very agile, and with gentle and predictable motion making them good gun platforms. They had a tight turning radius and bled speed in heavy weather or about 60% speed when turning hard. They were also seen a bit stiff as well.
Protection, Armour scheme
Their protection tested on Krupp cemented steel. There were the following:
A Full waterline armored belt that 40 mm (1.6 in) in thickness amidships
The bow and stern were completely unarmored.
The armored deck at waterline level was just 15 mm (0.59 in) thick.
There was no extra armor over the steering gear room or ammunition magazines.
The main gun shields were made of 50 mm (2 in) plating.
The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) walls and topped by a 20 mm (0.79 in) roof.
The bridge above was unarmoured except a splinter-proof chart house.
The three funnels had a steel glacis for splinter protection.
Compared to the Arethusa class it was weak, although they had four guns, the latter had two, but also six quicker guns. The 88 cm were a match for the 4-in (102 mm) at close range though, but they were there for AA defence mainly. Overall, aside their minelating capability they were rather weak for their size and tonnage.
-Four 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns in pedestal mounts allowing 30° elevation, centerline, enabling a four guns broadside. They were located on the forecastle, between the first and second funnel and superfiring pair aft. 45.3-kilogram (100 lb) shell at 840 meters per second (2,800 ft/s) and max 17,600 m (57,742 ft 9 in). 600 rounds were carried (150 per gun), of HE/AP types.
-Two 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 anti-aircraft guns, centerline, astern of the funnels. They fired a 10 kg (22 lb) HE shell at 750 to 770 m/s (2,500 to 2,500 ft/s).
-Two 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes (four torpedoes in reserve) in swivel mount amidships. G7 type (1913), 430 lbs. (195 kg) WH at 4,370 yards/37 knots or 10,170 yards/27 knots.
-450 mines on two main deck rails and stern chutes. They were moored Hertz horn contact mines Type I-IV with various warheads and depht settings. The more common Type IV was 34 inches (86 cm) in diameter, 620 lbs. (281 kg) and fitted with a 180 lbs. (81.6 kg) Wet gun guncotton warhead. Read more on navweaps
After commissioning with the High Seas Fleet they made a sortie in the North Sea in October 1916, and mining Norderney approaches in January 1917 as well as covering minesweeping operations until May 1916. By October 1917 they were part of the attack force of a British convoy to Norway. They were chosen by Scheer because of their high speed and autonomy. The battle of Lerwick saw them butchering the two escort destroyers and sink nine of the twelve cargo vessels of the convoy, the rest beong damaged but escaping.
This infuriated the British Admiralty when leaent and remobilized the fleet to better protect these and change their communication habits and planning. These were the shining points of their career, the rest was les glamorous. Still, the Navy had immense respect for both cruisers, largely due to their oversized propulsion. If their design was generaly excellent, making them among the best German cruisers, their armament was weak, if only in a cruiser duel. It was perfectly adequate to rampage convoys as seen.
All in all, these cruisers were several fold better than the previous Albatros, but they really had the occasion of testing their metal against equivalent ships. In that case, they lacked armament: Four 15 cm guns versus eight of the Wiesbaden class, built at the same time. They still were by far the best minelaying cruisers of the central Empire, and their concept was sound.
Due to their reputation, the entente powers obliged to cede them Brummer and Bremse for internment at Scapa Flow. Departing on 21 November 1918 under Ludwig von Reuter, they were scuttled like the rest of the fleet on 21 June 1919, at 13:05, never raised for scrapping and remains to this day on the bottom. Bremse sank at 14:30. She was however raised on 27 November 1929 and BU 1932–1933.
The Wiesbaden class in comparison (1915-16) packed a twice greater punch.
Links & Resources
Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921 – German section Campbell, N. J. M. & Sieche, Erwin (1986)
Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels. Annapolis NIS
Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis NIS
Herwig, Holger (1980). “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Humanity Books.
Massie, Robert K. (2003). Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. Ballantine Books.
Novik, Anton (1969). “The Story of the Cruisers Brummer and Bremse”. Warship International
Dodson, Aidan; Cant, Serena (2020). Spoils of War: The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars. BSeaforth Publishing.
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2004). Kleine Kreuzer 1903–1918: Bremen bis Cöln-Klasse. Bernard & Graefe Verlag.
SMS Brummer was commissioned into the Hochessflotte (High Seas Fleet) on 2 April 1916 and trained enough to be ready in early May 1916, but on the 31 she did not followed the fleet to Jutland and went on training. It’s only in the autumn of 1917, almost one year later, that Admiral Reinhard Scheer decided to start a new tactic, sending surface raiders ti catch and destroy British convoys to Scandinavia. He wanted to divert escorts from the Atlantic to give more leeway to U-boats.
SMS Brummer at the time un command of Fregattenkapitän Leonhardi teamed with SMS Bremse again (Fregattenkapitän Westerkamp) chosen by Scheer and prepared for this operation. In addition to their performances, they looed like British light cruisers, and the captains in addition knew Royal Navy communication codes. The crews also painted the ships dark gray, the livery of these cruisers in the Royal Navy a the time. Nothing was left unanswered for a perfect deceiption plan.
Just after dawn on 17 October, SMS Brummer and Bremse arrived at cruise speed at a point which crossed the path of a westbound convoy 70 nautical miles (130 km; 81 mi) east of Lerwick. Hence later the “battle of Lerwick”. The convoy comprised twelve freighters escorted by the destroyers HMS Strongbow and HMS Mary Rose plus two armed trawlers. This seems to use ludrcrously weak, but at the time, convoy attack was only threatened by rare submersibles. Never the navy sent two surface cruisers for the task.
The German ruse worked enough for them to close in the convoy after a few exchanges by morse projector, reassuring the convoy commander about these to be friendly ships. Identification was not help by the way due to the early morning light. Recognition signals in rerturn from British vessels were however unanswered until the Germans eventually opened fire at a 2,700 m (8,900 ft), not point-blank range but close enough to almost guarantee first hits.
HMS Strongbow was hit by a first volley of both cruisers, eight 15 cm shells, which quickly were fatal, while Mary Rose closed in and by rapid fire, struggling to bring her to torpedo range, she was also dealt with. The two trawlers were armed with a single 3-in gun each and tried to protect the convoy the best theyr could, but now that the two shepherd dogs were out, the sheeps were ready for the slaughter. Bummer and Bremse rampeged into the convoy, even ifiring their 8,8 cm and torpedoes.
Recoignising the situation was hopeless, the two trawlers escaped with three merchant ships but the rest of the convoy was sunk entirely, nine vessels total, destroyers not included. Elise, one of the armed trawker coming from Bergen was fired on by Bremse while attempting to pick up survivors, something which was later told to the press and further exacerbate the ire of the admiralty. No wireless report was sent, wheras there was a squadron of sixteen light cruisers at sea, just south of the convoy. When known later, it was too late and Admiral David Beatty later said this was ‘luck was against us.’.
The British Admiralty was not informed of the attack the two cruisers informed the admiralty of their success while underway back home, and the message interecpted and decoded. Kaiser Wilhelm II congratulated the captains and Scheer for the idea and was overjoyed. The plan succeed as now, feating further raids, the RN decided to bolster the protection of its convoys with more vessels. But scheer, to maintain this fear, attempted more bold attacks all along the remainder of 1917 and 1918. None however achieved the same success.
Anyway, this feat, combined to the early successed for some far east cruisers like Emden, convinced the admiralty, of which any officers still crewed the Kriegsmarine years later, that commerce rauiding by cruisers and even battleships was a sound tactic for the new surface fleet. This was number one tactic to be applied by Erich Raeder, alongside a repeat of submarine warfare.
In late 1918, the Admiralstab again considered sending Brummer and Bremse on such mission, but in the Atlantic , where convoys were larger, and transiting to operate off the Azores with a pre-positioned oiler. They targeted the central Atlantic, out of U-boats. They were lightly defended on this leg and area. But eventually it was canceled as there was still some need to refuel them at sea, a dangerous task. If the oilers were spotted and sunk, the two cruisers would have been stranded there, easy targets fopr the entente;
SMS Brummer entering Scapa Flow
Another issue identified was the clouds of red sparks emergig from their stacks when steaming over 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph), making them easy to spot by night, precluding a stealthy approach. SMS Brummer was also mobilized for thefinal sortie “for honor” of the High Seas Fleet in October 1918, cancelled due to mutinies in Wilhelmshaven. She was moved to Sassnitz; but due to their reputation, both were included in list of internment in Scapa Flow signified to the Admiralstab.
Brummer followed on 21 November 1918 the rest of the Hochseeflotte as part of a single file, heavily guarded by an international coaslition. Under RADM Ludwig von Reuter she arrived in the Firth of Forth later this day and escorted to their final leg into Scapa Flow. Wireless equipment was removed as well as breech blocks for the heavy guns and skeleton crews only for basic maintenance, the rest being sent home. Further crews cuts were made by Reuter fearing an uprising on board.
Unaware that the new extended deadline provided on 23rd, Reuter wated for the Home fleet to depart for exercizes and ordered this morning of 21 June, her order the crew to prepare the ship, so at 11:20 order was given for a scuttling, using mostly pumps or small explisive charges in the underbelly not to raise attention. Brummer sank at 13:05, never raised, still there under 36 m (118 ft), a nice recreational site for scuba divers.
SMS Bremse was commissioned on 1 July 1916, and on 11–20 October she teamed with her sister Brummer for a first sortie in the North Sea. This was mostly a patrol, which was uneventful. On 10 January 1917, however, they woukd be used as intended, although in a mission not as bold as initially planned. They would lay a minefield off Norderney (Nördernee, an East Frisian Island off the North Sea coast of Germany). This was a defensive minelfield, certainly not an offensive one, close to the british coast. Together they laid around 900 mines.
On 1–13 March, they escorted minesweepers from Emden and Wilhelmshaven. The rest of 1917 saw no important mission but in October 1917 an important commerce raiding mission to diver the RN atttn,tion from submersible warfare in the Atlantic. At the time, Britain agreed to ship 250,000 tons of coal monthly to Norway in exchange of steel. These convoys started to cross the North Sea by late 1917 and were weakly escorted as consiered too far away for German raiders.
Scheer until then posted U-Boats along their supposed route, but in vain. Her wanted to try a dailight surface surprise raid and mobilized Bremse (Fregattenkapitän Westerkamp) and her sister Brummer for the task, being the longest-range, faster cruisers designed to resemble British light cruisers. All measures were taken for a perfect deceiption, and both cruisers as described above, arrived to the scene as planned at dawn on 17 October and the rampage was total.
Bremse during the Lerwick convoy attack in 1917 (shipbucket)
Brummer and Bremse were mobilized again for a commerce raiding mission into the Atlantic, based off the Azores and replenished at sea by an oiler to operate in the central Atlantic, where convoyed expecting no threats, were lightly defended. This (the limited radius of U-Boats) was recoignised in interwar and Dönitz would precisely specify a range extending to the central Atlantic which becalme in WW2 the famous “black pit” with limited escort and air cover.
The Admiralstab however canceled the plan due to several issues. On 2 April 1918 however, SMS Bremse, sent alone, laid a 304 mines field in the North Sea, and 150 on 11 April. Both made a final fleet sortie with the rest of the battle fleet on 22–24 April, in vain as they spotted no British vessel. On 11 May, SMS Bremse laid another minefield in the North Sea, with her almost full load of 400 mines and 420 mines on the 14th. Mobilized for the final sortie of the High Seas Fleet in October, it was cancelled due to mutinies.
Included in the list for internment she departed on 21 November 1918, being later rescorted on the RDV point by some 370 entente warships to the Firth of Forth and later Scapa Flow. Wireless was removed as her 15 cm guns breech blocks while part of her crew was sent back home. In June 1919, Von Reuter believed the deadline was about to expire on the 23 and prepared the scuttling, waiting for an opportunity to proceed. On 21 June, the departure of the British fleet for training maneuvers gave just the pretext he wanted and ordered at 11:20 the general scuttling order. It was done with celerity as all preparations has been made long ago in such eventuality.
Seeing Bremse prepared for the scuttling, an armed British naval party attempted to board her and close her bottom valves, but they arrived too late. They managed instead to blast off her anchor chains to have her taken in tow under guard from the destroyer HMS Venetia, trying to beach her. Indeed they managed to have her beach south of Cava, bu the slope here was such that her stern sank deep, so she rolled over and sank in 75 ft (23 m) of water at 14:30. Fortunately there was no casualty. Her bow emerging there was the only reminder for many mon,ths and years afterwards.
Ernest Cox bought salvage rights in the early 1920s but Bremse presented her own challenges. She was in part perched precariously on a sloping rock and could during salvage operations slip off and sinkat any moment, so Cox’s salvage team sealed her bulkheads, divided the hull into watertight compartments and pumped air in them, afetr the hull was patched up and fitted with an airlock. There was however still a load of oil covering her which needed disposal. With oxyacetylene torches, some was burnt, leading to an explosion, but none was injured.
By July 1929 superstructure being gone, she was turned upside down and compressors brought her to the surface, supported by 9-inch wires connected to the floating docks anchored on her port. However as success was coming, she toppled onto her side, heeled over and settled onto the rocks inshore, also causing an oil spill. It was decided to burn off the oil and the fire was later controilled while operations resumed, patching her again, pumping in air, and she again broke the surface. Considered too unsafe to tow to Rosyth she was brought to nearby Lyness on 30 November to be scrapped. So she outlived here sister by eleven years.
The Pillau class were originally the Russian-ordered Maraviev Amurskyy and Admiral Nevelskoy, in 1912 to Schichau Yards. They were laid down in 1913 and launched for the first on 11 April 1914. Therefore on 5 August, both were requisitioned and completed as SMS Pillau and Elbing. They were a bit singular in their style, and their career as well. The first Took part in the battle of Riga, Jutland, Heligoland Bight (2), and became the Italian Bari after the war, modernized and sunk in Livorno by the RAF in June 1943. Elbing on her side took part in the Yarmouth raid, but was lost during the battle of Jutland, not due to enemy action but when she was rammed by SMS Posen…
Design context and construction
Design of the original Amurskyy class. Notice the conning tower with almost no bridge, three equal funnels, and different armament with the rear ones placed on a superstructure, the side ones on sponsons.
Specifics of the Amurskyy class training/minelaying cruisers
In 1912, the Imperial Russian Navy badly needed new cruiusers fast to rebuilt her crippling losses after the Russo-Japanese war. For memory she lost both her pacific squadron and baltic fleet. Russian yards were alrady busy with some priority construction, in particular dreadnoughts, so the admiralty contacted builders for a pair of light cruisers, and eventually Schichau-Werke, Danzig, won the contract. The Maraviev Amurskyy class were small turbine cruisers planned to acquire as part of a four cruisers procurement, with a design of light cruisers displacing 6800 tons for the Baltic, and 7600 tons for the Black Sea.
There was acute debate about the use of turbine, due to the total lack of training for the crews to service these on new ships. Therefore, the two small cruisers included in the new shipbuilding program were supposed to be turbine training ships. The Naval General Staff considered this task to be prioritary, and also to replace the obsolete Askold and Zhemchug stationed the Far East, now part of the new “Siberian military flotilla”. The third objective was to have them acting optionally as high-speed minelayers, carrying more mines than destroyers, agility and improved maneuverability.
It was planned to reach the agility requirement by a limited length of no more than 130 m and a refined hull shape, although this could adversely impact propulsion. In 1912, the General Directorate of Shipbuilding sent a request for proposals to several yards, Ansaldo, Shichau and Vulkan, pressed to take part in a competition. On the recommendation of the MGSH, two guns were placed on the forecastle, two in casemate bow, two in the aft superstructure and two on the poop.
Experts believed this placement would significantly increase their chase and retreat firepower, and make room for mine rails. Four anti-aircraft guns also were needed to be place as not to interfere with the main artillery still have the best arc of fire possible. Since the displacement was not indicated in the specifications, all projects submitted largely differed on that plan: Putilov submitted a 4,000 tons cruiser, Nevsky 3,800 tons, Revelsky 3,500 tons, Vulkan 4,600 tons and Schichau 4,000 tons. Note that Ansaldo did not even aswered.
As the project was further developed in order to reach agreement to discussions between the MGSH and GUK, the displacement gradually increased while speed decreased and in the end, the Schichau project and its 27.5 knot speed, based on the Kolberg-class cruisers appeared the quickest and most proven of all. But the Naval Ministry was still not satisfied with the traditional German three-shaft configuration, nor their boilers of a type not used in the Russian fleet. It also underlined weak structural basis for the guns and insufficient height above the waterline. Schichau promptly reworked the project and resubmitted it after fixing all issues.
SMS Pillau underway in WW1
Meanwhile, Nevsky Yard was nevertheless recognized as the winner of the competition, but on auction the bidder, fastest construction time were from Schichau, and having considered all applications, the Naval Ministry eventually gave preference to Dantzig Yard, receiving a signed order on July 15, 1914, and a second four months later. Other factories were just not ready to start construction immediately. Putilov shipyard and Revel were already full with orders to manufacturer shells and supplies, while the Nevsky plant could hardly cope with the construction of two destroyers for the Black Sea already.
Giving preference to the Schichau represented a risk however at a time of great turmoil and increasing tensions in the Balkans. Representatives of the General Staff were not even consulted and were faced with a fait accompli, the ministry’s GUK explaining their choice based mostly on the construction time due to a proposal of a slightly modernized SMS Mainz for which plans were drawn already with little modifications. In addition, the yard recommended ten Yarrow boilers (6 coal-burning, 4-oil burning) to feed their own turbines, plus the same propellers as on SMS Karlsruhe.
Both turbines had a capacity of 28,000 liters and the design speed of 27.5 knots (51 km/h) was estimated easy to reach. In January 1913, the named of Muravyov-Amursky and Nevelskoy were reviewed and eventually accepted, for a launch by late 1914, while negotiations were underway between Russia and England for the finalization of the Triple Entente. Of course, by August 1, 1914, war broke out between Germany and Russia leading straight to a requisition and both cruisers changed ownership and later names, on August 6.
Requisition and completion as the Pillau class
Pillau launch on 11 April 1914
As the war broke out in August 1914, both cruisers were in construction in their basins. The first was launched on 11 April 1914 already and completion was on its way, until stopped by the navy command for standardizattion after the requisition. Plans were changed and modifications made until she was completed and eventually Commissioned 14 December 1914 under the new name of S.M.S Elbing from the baltic port. Her sister ship was launched later, on 21 November 1914 as SMS Elbing. Time was gained since moidifications has been done to her sister so she could be converted and standardized right away. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 4 September 1915.
Blueprint of Bari, which presented some significant differences with Pillau
Both vessels had both a family air of German and Russian cruisers strangely. Moslty German, with their three funnels, general forecastle and hull lines, straight prow, and some Russian aspects for the bridge and masts as well as casemates. They were manned by a complement of twenty-one officers, leading 421 ratings. Like all the others they had a fleet of smaller boats: Steam picket boat, one supply barge, two rowing yawls and two dinghies.
Hull construction and general design
The Pillau class hull ended as 134.30 meters (440 ft 7 in) long at the waterline, 135.30 m (443 ft 11 in) overall, with a beam of 13.60 m (44 ft 7 in) and draft of 5.98 m (19 ft 7 in) forward, 5.31 m (17 ft 5 in) aft. Nominal calculated displacement of 4,390 metric tons (4,320 long tons) standard as designed reached 5,252 t (5,169 long tons) when fully loaded. They were not particularly overweight. Construction called for transverse and longitudinal steel frames and below the waterline, it was subdivided into sixteen watertight compartments, and completed by a double bottom extending for 51% of the total jull length.
Pillau in port
The Russian Navy imposed changes specific to them in the design, notably getting rid of a waterline armored belt. Instead, they had an armored deck 80 mm (3.1 in) thick in the central section, up to the bow, but tapering down to 20 mm (0.79 in) aft. It was sloped with a layer of 40 mm (1.6 in) on either side on the upper portion of the sides by default of a belt. Main battery guns had 50 mm shields. Conning tower received 75 mm (3 in) thick walls, completed by a 50 mm (2 in) rooftop. That was it. It was design to somewhat resists destroyer fire but not much, and the ASW compartimentation to delay a sinking. Speed was the actual, active protection.
Powerplant & Performances
The propulsion system comprised as said above, two sets of (German Admiralty) Marine steam turbines. They drove two 3.5-meter (11 ft) bronze propellers. Steam camle also froma mix of six coal-fired Yarrow water-tube boilers, and four oil-fired boilers fromp the same manufacturer. They were trunked into three funnels on the centerline. Fortunately for them, the Germans ordered these boilers soon enough.
Performance-wise, these were rated for 30,000 shaft horsepower (22,400 kW) total, in order to reach of top speed of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph). For range, they carried each some 620 t (610 long tons) of coal, plus 580 t (570 long tons) of oil for a grand total of 4,300 nautical miles (8,000 km; 4,900 mi) at the cruise speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), roughly half their top speed. For onboard elecvtrical power, they counted of three German Siemens turbo-generators for a total output rated at 360 kilowatts (480 hp), based on standard 220 Volts.
In general they were considered good sea boats, although fairly stiff. They suffered from heavy roll, though with a relatively predictable motion as gun platforms. They were considered maneuverable, just responsive at the helm, but slow in turns and bleeding speed fast hard rudder, up to 60%. Steering by the way depended on a single large rudder. In a head sea they also lost speed, as expected, not in sync with the wavelenght.
As designed, they were planned with eight 130 mm (5.1 in) Russian L/55 QF guns plus four 6.3 cm (2.5 in) L/38 guns from Obukhoff. However as completed for the Riechsmarine, this planned armament was standardized. Here is the detail. Specs are similar to other German cruiser’s guns, albeit they were the first German cruisers planned to mount 15 cm guns right away:
The 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns in single pedestal mounts were side by side on the forecastle, four amidships and two side by side aft. Range of 17,600 m (19,200 yd), 1,024 rounds provided total. The four 52 mm AA were replaced later by two largely better 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 AA guns. Theytwo torpeod tubes were mounted on deck. The 120 mines were carried on two long rails along the main deck, starting immediately aft of the forecastle.
Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921.
McCartney, Innes. 2018. Jutland 1916: The Archaeology of a Naval Battlefield. Osprey Publishing LTD.
Gröner, Erich. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815—1945. Band 1 Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1982
Gerhard Koop/Klaus-Peter Schmolke. Kleine Kreuzer 1903—1918. bernard & Graefe Vtrlag, 2004.
SMS Pillau was commissioned on 14 December 1914, trained until assigned to II Scouting Group. She was first sent in the Baltic to take part in the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in August 1915. She screen a force of eight dreadnoughts and three battlecruisers, but on 13 August, Russian submarines ambushed her. Three torpedoes were coming her way, but missed. Pillau was in the second attack on 16 August and when minesweepers cleared the minefields on the 20th, she entered the Gulf, to withdrawn to Moon Sound again due to Russian submarines and mines. She was back in the north sea station by August.
Although she took part in several sweeps afterwards, nothing was of note until May 1916. Like her sister ship she was prepared for a major operation as part of the II Scouting Group, screening for the I Scouting Group, leaving on 31 May for the Skagerrak and at 15:30, Pillau and Frankfurt assisted Elbing, engaging the Britush criser screen, at 16:12 PM firing on HMS Galatea and Phaeton from 16,300 yards (14,900 m) and ceasing at 16:17 due to the range. 15 minutes later they spotted and engaged the seaplane tender HMS Engadine and afterwards were back on stations.
At around 16:50, the British 5th Battle Squadron spotted Pillau, Elbing, and Frankfurt, HMS Warspite and Valiant opening fire first at Pillau at 17,000 yards (16,000 m). She was straddled with almost near-misses, so decision was mlade to lay smoke and hide their escape at high speed. An hour later, German battlecruisers were charged by the destroyers HMS Onslow and Moresby and Pillau, Frankfurt drove them off with rapid fire. At 18:30, Pillau spotted HMS Chester and and scored several hits before disengaging due to the arrival of Rear Admiral Horace Hood’s Invincible class battlecruisers.
HMS Inflexible scored a hit on Pillau, with a 12 in (300 mm) shell which exploded below her chart house; although fortunately the blast went overboard. Due however to her starboard air supply shaft, the explosion blast was also vented into second boiler room which shut all six coal-fired boilers. She managed to maintain 24 kn (44 km/h; 28 mph) using only her four remaining oil-fired boilers and escaping in heavy fog. By 20:30, three boilers were back in operation so she was now steaming at 26 kn (48 km/h; 30 mph) out of harm.
And then came the night battle: The Britsh were closing their trap and at 21:20, the II Scouting Group met British battlecruisers, turning away, and while doing so, Pillau came under fire from them, but not close. HMS Lion and Tiger in all fired salvos at her without result before turning on SMS Derfflinger, and as reported by Pillau they were “very inaccurate”. Pillau and Frankfurt then spotted the cruiser HMS Castor leading several destroyers at 23:00, fired their torpedoes and turned back toward the German lines, keeping their searchlights off not to draw attention.
By 04:00 PM, the fleet managed to reach Horns Reef. At 09:30, Pillau was detached to assist SMS Seydlitz, still far from port. Pillau steamed ahead of her, guideing her to Wilhelmshaven until she however ran aground at 10:00 off Sylt. She was freedat 10:30 and could resume her voyage with Pillau and soon a division of minesweepers testing depth while screening them. Pillau ttempted to tow the battlecruiser but the hard strained line repeatedly snapped. Pumping steamers were there in the evening to help, Pillau guiding them until reaching the outer Jade lightship at 08:30. In all she had fired 113 main rounds, four 8.8 cm shells and a torpedo, with 4 killed, 23 wounded.
Her sister ship was rammed and sunk during the engagement leaving her the sold survivor of her class. Northing much happened until July 1917, whe she saw a mutiny aboard while in Wilhelmshaven. The 20th, 137 men left the ship to protest a cancellation of their leave, spent hours in the town and then returned to resume their tasks as a show of good will. But Pillau’s captain’s retribution was light, with only limited punishment. By late 1917, she was reassigned to the IV Scouting Group with SMS Stralsund and Regensburg.
By late October 1917 they were tasked to replace heavy units of the fleet after Operation Albion in the Gulf of Riga, with battleships of the I Battle Squadron. The operation was cancelled anyway due to the danger of mines and submarines. She wazs back to the North Sea on 31 October and the II Scouting Group.
On 17 November, they screened the battleships Kaiser and Kaiserin, which themselves cover minesweepers in the North Sea. British cruisers supported by battlecruisers and battleships arrived, which trigerred the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight. Königsberg (ii), Pillau’s group flagship, was damaged while the four cruisers evaded the trap but also draw them toward the German dreadnoughts. Both sides exhanges fire but eventually parted away, Pillau being unscathed.
On 23–24 April 1918, she was mobilized for an abortive fleet operation to Norway, as the Germans failed to locate the convoy, Scheer breaking off the operation. By October 1918 with the II Scouting Group she wa smobilized for the final attack planned in force, and Pillau, Cöln, Dresden, Königsberg(ii) were intended to lead a diversionary, drawing attack on merchant shipping directly n the Thames estuary. Karlsruhe, Nürnberg, Graudenz were to be sent to Flanders to draw out the British Grand Fleet. But on 29 October 1918, order to sail from Wilhelmshaven were met with wholesale mutiny forcing cancellation. Pending her fate, SMS Pillau was anchored in Germany, exlcuded for the fleet going to Scapa Flow for internement in 1918.
Italian service as Bari (1920-1943)
Bari in Venice during the interwar
Although she was listed in the Reichmarine, Pillau was stricken on 5 November 1919, surrendered to the Allies in Cherbourg on 20 July 1920 peing attribution. She was ceded to Italy as a war prize. As Bari, modified, she was recommissioned into the Regia Marina on 21 January 1924, as fleet scout (Esploratori). Her German AA guns were replaced with Italian 76 mm (3 in)/40 guns. In August 1925 she ran aground off Palermo. By July 1929, she joined Ancona and Taranto, Premuda as the Scout Division, 1st Squadron in La Spezia.
Modernized in the early 1930s (bridge, forward funnel) she was refitted for colonial service, witll all oil-firing boilers and additional oil bunker space. She lost her forward funnel, having the others cut cut down. Now based on 21,000 shp (16,000 kW) for 24.5 kn she reached 4,000 nmi (7,400 km; 4,600 mi) at 15 knots. She was deployed in the Red Sea and Italian East Africa until May 1938, relieved by the sloop Eritrea, ad by the start iof WW2, received six Breda 20 mm (0.79 in) and six 13.2 mm (0.52 in) HMGs.
In 1940 she became flagship of the Forza Navale Speciale taking part in the Greco-Italian War and covering the the invasion of Cephalonia and mainland Greece. From April 1941 and Greece defeat, she escorted convoys to Greek ports for occupation, but war with France in June 1940 saw her mobilized on the west coast until the capitulation of the latter. In 1942, the invasion of Malta was planned and Bari, Taranto were to cover the landing force. It was cancelled.
In November 1942 she became the flagship of the amphibious force landing at Bastia, French Corsica. Later she shell partisans off the Montenegrin coast, based in Livorno. Eventually placed in reserve in January 1943 the admirakty envisioned her conversion as AA ship (with six 90 mm/50 guns, eight 37 mmguns, eight 20 mm/65/70) but by 28 June it was stil not started when an US air raid devastated Livorno and badly damaged Bari. In September 1943, she was scuttled to avoid falling into German occupiers’s hands. The latter scrapped her partially in 1944. Stricken on 27 February 1947, she was raised on 13 January 1948 and BU.
Postcard of SMS Elbing
SMS Elbing after some initial training was assigned to II Scouting Group, screening for Rear Admiral Friedrich Boedicker’s battlecruisers of I Scouting Group. She sailed away of them with destroyers for the raid on Yarmouth and Lowestoft on 24–25 April. While approaching Lowestoft, Elbing and Rostock both spotted the incoming Harwich Force (three light cruisers, 18 destroyers) from the south at 04:50. RADM Boedicker initially ordered the battlecruisers to continue while Elbing and five other light cruisers went to to fight off the Harwich Force.
At 05:30, the clash commenced at long range, and weent on wih little scores on each sides and perhaps caution, until the battlecruisers arrived at 05:47. At their sight, the British squadron quickly retreated. The overall result was a light cruiser and a destroyer both damaged. Boedicker did not chased them and broke off after receiving reports of British submarines closeby.
After several months of relative quiet service and few screening sorties without anything noticeable, she was in May 1916 under orders of Admiral Reinhard Scheer for a major operation. She served with the II Scouting Group attached to I Scouting Group, leaving the Jade at 02:00 on 31 May. After heading for the Skagerrak an hour and a half later before the main leet, her lookouts signalled at 15:00 the Danish steamer N. J. Fjord and she detached two torpedo boats to investigate.
Meanwhile HMS Galatea and Phaeton arrived to inspect the steamer, and fired on them at circa 15:30. SMS Elbing then turned to cover them and opened fire at 15:32, scoring the very first “hit” (turned out to be a dud) of the battle on HMS Galatea. The cruusers then turned north toward the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron chased by Elbing, still firing, and soon joined by SMS Frankfurt and her sister Pillau but they stopped at 16:17, out of range. They later spotted and engaged briefly the seaplane tender HMS Engadine, failed to score any hits and later returned to their screening stations.
At around 18:30, SMS Elbing encountered the cruiser HMS Chester and she opened fire, scoring several hits to later disengaged as RADM Horace Hood’s battlecruisers were spotted incoming. HMS Invincible actually scored a hit on SMS Wiesbaden, disabling while Elbing and Frankfurt fire their torpedoes at them, missing. Elbing was framed by water plumes while fleeing from the battlecruisers but labaged to keep the distance. At circa 20:15, Elbing’s suddent leakages in her boiler condensers had her slowing down to 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph) and she stayed at that regime during frantic repairs for four hours.
II Scouting Group meanwhile was ordered to take station ahead of the line ro take its night cruising formation. Elbing was unable to keep up and fell with IV Scouting Group. At 23:15, she teamed with SMS Hamburg when both spotted the British cruiser HMS Castor leading a pack of destroyers. Vleverly their captains used the British recognition signal when closing enough to engage them at 1,100 yards before turning on their searchlights. Bt night it was nigh-impossible to recoignise them.
The ruse worked and Castor was soon hit seven times and set on fire by both cruisers, and the British turned away in a panic, but not before the destroyers launched volleys of torpedoes at Elbing and Hamburg, whch manouevred hard to avoid them. One passed right underneath Elbing and failed to explode. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron also arrived, engaging IV Scouting Group and hit Elbing once, knowking out her wireless station with 4 killed, 12 wounded. Midnight arrived, and afterwards, the British net was closing on the retreating Germans.
Elbing ran on a the rear British destroyer screen, steaming on the port side of the German line with Hamburg and Rostock when SMS Westfalen opened fire first quickly by Elbing, Nassau and Rheinland. A Brithsh torpedo attack forced the cruisers to turn to starboard, but this placed in the path of thee German line. Elbing just managed to pass between Nassau and Posen, but Posen’s captain was too late to realize the manoeuver and rammed the cruiser, after trying to turn hard to starboard. Her bow went stright to Elbing’s starboard quarter.
The cruiser was holed below the waterline, which flooded the starboard engine room first. She took a 18° list, soon counter-balanced eighteen but was dead in the water, with her engines flooded and shut down. Steam started to condense in the pipes and soon the electric generators went down, the ship loosing all lighting and power. With the pumps down, there was little hope to save her while flooding spreaded throughout the underwater compartments, somewhat reducing the list, but still nit in danger of sinking.
At 02:00 AM, Elbing was helped by the torpedo boat S53 which came alongside to take aboard 477 officers and men, her commander and a few officers remaining on board either to save or scuttle their ship. Amazingly, they rigged an improvised sail to try to bring the ship closer to shore. But their effort was for naught: At 03:00, British destroyers were spotted coming from the south. Before their arrived, order was given to scuttle the ship while the ship’s cutter was lowered and set off, steaming back to port. At around 07:00, a Dutch trawler met the cutter and took the men aboard, returned as POWs to Holland. In total during the battle, Elbing would had fired 230 main 15 cm rounds and a torpedo.
The Graudenz class were another iteration over the now classic kight cruiser formular prioneered by the Brmen class in 1902. Tne years after a constant, complete improvement cycle (namely the Könisgberg (1905), Dresden (1907), Kolberg (1908), Magdeburg (1911) and Karlsruhe (1912), the admiralty came with a new design reaching almost 6,400 tonnes fully loaded, almost twice as much as the Bremens. And unlike the previous Karlsruhe, they reverted to three funnels and introduced 15 cm guns, better in tone with the new size of these vessels and to compete with the Royal Navy’s own light cruisers.
SMS Graudenz and Regensburg, started in 1912, entered service in 1915, and both had a fairly long career unlike contemporary German cruisers; Graudenz saw extensive service in the reconnaissance screen for the I Scouting Group’s battlecruisers: Scarborough, Hartlepool, Whitby, Battle of Dogger Bank, Gulf of Riga until October 1918. They missed Jutland, the first being allocated as a war orize to Italy and partluy modernized, and SMS Regensburg saw the Battle of Jutland and served with the I Scouting Group battlecruisers. She was ceded to France in 1920, Strasbourg and used as a colonial cruiser, discarded 1936, used as barracks ship and sunk in Lorient in 1944.
The Graudenz class cruisers were slightly larger than the previous Karlsruhe class but with shorter hull at 139 meters (456 ft) waterline, 142.70 m (468 ft 2 in) overall. They had a larger beam of 13.80 m (45 ft 3 in), 60 cm more than the Karlsruhe, much hiher draft at 5.75 m (18 ft 10 in) forward, 6.08 m (19 ft 11 in) aft (versus 4.5 m on the Karsruhe).
Displacement with such figures was higher, at 4,912 metric tons (4,834 long tons), as designed, and reaching 6,382 t (6,281 long tons) fully load, versus 5,925 tonnes FL fr the previous cruisers. Construction called for the same conventional longitudinal steel frames, defining seventeen watertight compartments. There was also a double bottom on 47% of the keel.
Their crew was lightly less than the previous cruisers, with twenty-one officers and 364 enlisted men, far less than the 450 of the previous vessels. The better, more automated design perhaps, despite the same armament which perhaps contributed to this difference. As a whole, the ships were considered roomier. However, they were also fitted to be used as second command flagship (flotilla leader) with three officers and fourteen additional ratings. The onboard small boats fleet including a single steam-powered picket boat, a supply barge, a cutter, two yawls, and two dinghies.
Their propulsion system comprised two sets of Marine-type steam turbines, connected to shafts ended by two bronze-cast three-bladed 3.50 m (11 ft 6 in) diameter propellers. They were fed by twelve Marine water-tube boilers. For ASW protection, each turbine was separated inside its own engine room. As designed, they developed 26,000 shaft horsepower (19,000 kW). In a similar way, the twelve boilers, which were divided into ten coal-fired and two oil-fired and double-ended ones, were located also in four boiler rooms.
All in all, with the same output as their predecessors, they reached a top speed of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph), less than the 29.5 as designed of their predecessors. For range, with 1,280 t of coal, and 375 t of fuel oil they reached circa 5,500 nautical miles (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at the cruise speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). They could maintain 25 knots but in that case, it fell to 1,000 nmi (1,900 km; 1,200 mi), roughly comparable to the previous vessels.
As a complement, they also had two turbo generators plus a single diesel generator to power all onboard system when the powerplant was cold. They together reached the output of 260 kilowatts (350 hp), at 220 Volts.
At sea, reports said they were regarded as good sea boats, with slight weather helm, gentle, predictable motion in a swell. They were maneuverable, but due to their hull ratio, bleed speed in a turn, up to 60° with the rudder hard over. Steering depended on a single large rudder. Transverse metacentric height was .79 m (2 ft 7 in) and they were considered stable gun platfrom despite their heavier main guns after upgrade in 1916.
bp regensburg 1917 as rearmed
–Twelve 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/45 guns, single mounts. Two side by side on the forecastle, eight amidships, on both sides and including two in a superfiring pair aft.
Maximum elevation 30 degrees
Max range 12,700 m (13,900 yd)
-In 1916, they were all replaced by seven 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns.
Maximum elevation 30 degrees
Max range 12,700 m (13,900 yd)
-There was nothing when completed beside these main guns, but two submerged 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes, with five torpedoes in reserve.
After their 1916-17 refits, they were given two 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 anti-aircraft gun, while two extra deck-mounted torpedo tubes were added on Graudenz, while Regensburg had her submerged tubes removed, four deck mounted installed instead. Although on paper they had rails and the capacity to carry and lay 120 mines, this was not used.
Nothing revolutionay in their protection scheme which was virtually a repeat of the previous cruisers. They were designed to stop same caliber shells (10,5 cm) and nothing more. In effect they were rearmed in 1916-17 with a caliber superior to their protection.
Waterline armored belt 60 mm (2.4 in) amidships, 18 mm (0.71 in) bow.
Armored deck 60 mm forward, 40 mm amidships, 20 mm (0.79 in) aft.
Sloped armor 40 mm to connect deck and belt.
Conning tower 100 mm (3.9 in) walls, 20 mm roof.
Rangefinder 30 mm (1.2 in).
Main battery gun shields 50 mm (2 in)
SMS Graudenz was ordered under the contract name “Ersatz Prinzess Wilhelm”. She laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft shipyard (Kiel) in 1912, launched on 25 October 1913, assisted and christened by the mayor of her namesake city, Dr. Kühnast. She was commissioned on 10 August 1914. The war was fresh of only 15 days.
SMS Regensburg was ordered as “Ersatz Irene”, laid down at the AG Weser shipyard (Bremen) at the same time, but launched much later on 25 April 1914. In assistance and chistening the vessel was the mayor of her namesake city, Hofrat Josef Bleyer. She was commissioned on 3 January 1915 to the High Seas Fleet and a lot already happened for the fleet in the meantime.
SMS Graudenz’s was mobilized for the raid on Yarmouth, 3 November 1914 as part of the reconnaissance screen assigned to the battlecruisers of the 1st scouting group under orders of Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper. There in her unit were the cruisers SMS Kolberg and Strassburg.
The shelling done, the raiding fleet return, an uncharted German mine just utside Wilhelmshaven blasted open the hull of the armored cruiser SMS Yorck. This was fatal and she sank. Next, Graudenz took part in the same circumstances to the raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby (15–16 December). However when withdrawing, British forces waited for them. Despite of this, with two squadrons closing, SMS Graudenz, Stralsund, Strassburg, leading their two flotillas of torpedo boats managed to pass through both squadrons.
However soon they crossed a heavy mist, and could not see beyond 4,000 yd (3,700 m) when it happened. SMS Stralsund was just spotted briefly and in fact this covered their withdrawal. Later, Graudenz screened the I Scouting Group for a Dogger Bank foray on 24 January 1915 and she was too distant to participate in the Battle of the same name.
In August 1915, SMS Graudenz was reassigned to the Baltic. The major operation there was to clear out the Gulf of Riga of Russian forces, and in this, no less than eight dreadnoughts and three battlecruisers were taken from the Hochseeflotte. Graudenz took part only in the second attack, on 16 August, with Nassau and Posen. Albeit the operation was a success, Graudenz struck a mine on the night of 21/22 April 1916.
Placed in drydock in May 1916 she missed the Battle of Jutland and at her return in active service, modernized and with a new armament, she was assigned her own torpedo boat flotilla, as leader. Nothing much happened in the remainder of 1916 or 1917 of note. The same was true in 1918, apart a few sorties, either of patrol or training.
By October 1918 however, Graudenz was assigned to the II Scouting Group, for the planned giant attack by whole the High Seas Fleet, “for honor”. More details specific she would have been part in a foray on Allied shipping right into the Thames estuary, and along Flanders in the hope to lure out the Grand Fleet.
For this, Graudenz, Karlsruhe and Nürnberg were mobilized to proceed to Flanders first, and prepared, but on the morning of 29 October 1918, order tp sail was given, but during the night disgruntled sailors on several battleships mutinied, forcing Hipper and Scheer to cancel it; Nevertheless, Commodore Andreas Michelsen convinced the general staff that smaller ships were in general more loyal, and to organize a “light force” headed by light cruisers. Even U-boats were to take ambush position on a probable withdrawal route. Graudenz became his flagship.
SMS Graudenz in drydock, stern view
As it happened, this too, never materialized. The war ended, but she was not in the Hochseeflotte, so not part of the fleet which headed for internment in Scapa. Instead she served briefly in the Reichsmarinewas and was eventually attributed as a war prize after the Versailles treaty provisions in 1919, attributed to Italy.
SMS Regensburg completed her sea trials on 10 March 1915, after which she was assigned to the II Scouting Group in the baltic. There, she shelled Russian positions at Polangen and Papensee until 24 March, after which Captain Hans Zenker proposed to reaem her 15 cm guns (as the liner Cap Polonio) to start a commerce raiding campaign in the Atlantic to replaced the vessels lost in 1914. Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl denied this request arguaing the Royal navy mastery of the north sea would have seen her sunk as well and don’t wanted to loss a modern light cruiser.
On 17–18 May, SMS Regensburg instead covered a mine-laying operation off the Dogger Bank. On 25 August she was back to the baltic for shore bombardment on Dagö island and St. Andreasberg lighthouse and the signal station on Cap Ristna. On 11–12 May, she covered another minelaying off Texel. In September 1915 she made sweeps in the Skagerrak and Kattegat. In early 1916, she covered more minelaying missions, as well as reconnaissance sweeps into the North Sea. On 23–24 April 1916, she took part in the Yarmouth-Lowestoft raid with the I Scouting Group like her sister ship.
In May 1916 that was her greatest test: The battle of Jutland. She was assigned as a leader of a torpedo boat flotilla screening the I Scouting Group’s battlecruisers, leaving the Jade roadstead at 02:00, on 31 May for the Skagerrak. Circa 15:30, she spotted and engaged the British 1st Battlecruiser Squadron but SMS Regensburg was too far in the German formation to actually fire or get fire at. She steamed to reach the fight, when engaged by battlecruisers at some 2,200 yd (2,000 m away, but she was not hit and kept her distances. At 17:10 she reached the head of the line when engaged more accurately by HMS Tiger (she was mistook by a battlescruiser in poor weather conditions).
Regensburg then led by order a general attack with her TBs, while the British counter this by their own destroyer screen, leading to a hard-fought battle at close range while capital ships startug firing with their secondary guns. At 19:00, Regensburg managed to lead her TBs for a torpeod run at HMS Canterbury and four destroyers, which disabled HMS Shark before engaging HMS Canterbury, turning covered by the mist. At 20:15, Scheer ordered a withdrawal in which the I Scouting Group would charge the British line in cover, with a massed torpedo boat attack led by Regensburg and other flotillas. It was realized later the British had turned away, out of range.
Regensburg was ordered next to organized three torpedo boat flotillas and renew night night. At 21:10, the II Flotilla and XII Half-Flotilla at the rear were pressed into attack while the rest passed behind the British fleet, reaching Horns Reef at 04:00. At 09:45, Regensburg and the three TBs on her formation met torpedo boats carrying the crew of the scuttled SMS Lützow, having spent 372 main rounds while emerged unscathed.
By 1917, she was assigned to the IV Scouting Group with SMS Stralsund and Pillau. By late October 1917, the IV Scouting Group went to the city of Pillau, arriving on the 30th to replacing heavier vessels there after Operation Albion (Gulf of Riga campaign) and battleships of the I Battle Squadron. Minefields loose after a recent storm cancelled the mission and they return to the North Sea a day after. Nothing much hapened for the remainder of the year or in 1918. A few sweeps and patrols, with nothing notable.
By October 1918 however, SMS Regensburg was flagship, Commodore Johannes von Karpf, IV Scouting Group. She was mobilized and prepared for the final large scale raid of the High Seas Fleet and on the morning of 27 October, Karpf ordered Regensburg’s crew to take on a full load of coal and oil, but many refused to obey as the the engine room personnel, still in their shore-going uniforms. They all went on stirke until First Lieutenant arrested the ringleader, jailed, after which work resumed. On the 29 October 1918, order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven but during the night, several battleships’s crews mutinied, deserted en route and the unrest had Hipper cancelling the operation.
Regensburg was in Swinemünde on 7 November but false reports of communist-turned crewed torpedo boats had Karpf ordereding his ships to be laid up with confidential materials destroyed and ammunition magazines flooded. This proved incorrect, and the fleet command saked Karpf, replaced by Commodore Rohardt, restoring the ships in condition. The IV Scouting Group moved to Stettin, learning after the abdication of the Kaiser on 9 November. Rohardt struck down the Imperial ensign and placed Regensburg and Brummer out of commission. Lacking crew, despite a new officer, the ship was in reserved until December 1918, when she escorted the British battleship HMS Hercules carrying the Allied Armistice Commission to Kiel.
Strasbourg – credits Alex Montreal
She served a short time in the Reichsmarine, in 1919, stricken on 10 March 1920, decomm, and by 4 June 1920 sent to Cherbourg in France, in the armistic allied commission attributing vessels as war prize. She was attributed to the French as ship “J”, later renamed Strasbourg, recommissioned after many changes, including armament with the French fleet in 1922. In 1944, she was scuttled, her wreck remaining, visible at low tide.
German light Cruisers (1911-1914) SMS Karlsruhe, SMS Rostock
The last German “four stackers”
With the previous Magdeburg class, the Karlsruhe were near-sister ships with the same armament, armor protection, but faster and larger. Launched in 1912 they were commissioned as the war broke out and saw plenty of action, with short but very intense career as the 30 kts vanguard ships of the Hochseeflotte. SMS Karlsruhe started with commerce raiding career, sinking sixteen merchant ships but she desappeared after an accidental internal explosion on 4 November 1914. SMS Rostock frequently screened for I Scouting Group (Battlecruisers) and saw the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915, several raids and the Battle of Jutland, being torpedoed by a British destroyer and scuttled.
Bundesarchiv, SMS Karlsruhe on sea trials, 1914
The design for the Karlsruhe class was prepared in 1910, as an incremental improvement over the Magdeburg class. All authors saw them as different classes, but they shared many characteristics, being “near-twins”. This allowed to keep the good points of the design, saving time, while trying to push the envelope in some areas. Karlsruhe and Rostock had a longer hull which enable larger steam turbines and 14 boilers, increasing their output, but also a reworked hull with notably a more raked hull, although this was paid by a greater displacement. They however kept the same armament and protection.
SMS Karlsruhe was ordered in 1911 as “Ersatz Seeadler” (as a replacement for the 1890 2nd class cruiser). She was laid down in 1911 at Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel, hull number 181. Launched on 11 November 1912, she was commissioned on 15 January 1914. Another SMS Seeadler (1888) was made famous during the war as the only master commerce raider, the “kaiser’s pirate”.
SMS Rostock was ordered as “Ersatz Geier” (another Bussard class cruiser), laid down in 1911 at Howaldtswerke dockyard (Kiel), construction number 560. Launched on 12 November 1912, just a day after her sister ship, she was completed on 5 February 1914, so had little time to train before the war broke out.
Hull construction & general characteristics
The ships were 139 meters (456 ft) long (waterline), 142.20 m (466 ft 6 in) overall, an increase of nine feets. The beam took 20 cm at 13.70 m (44 ft 11 in), the draft progressed also to 5.38 m (17 ft 8 in) forward, 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) aft (instead of 4.40 m). Displacement rose to 4,900 metric tons (4,800 long tons), as designed (normal), and up to 6,191 t (6,093 long tons) fully loaded, to compared with the 4570/5587 tons of the Magdeburg class.
Design wise, they were close, with the same clipper bow, forecastle, low aft deck, weapons repartition, two masts and four funnels heavenly spaced amidships. They were crewed by eighteen officers and 355 enlisted men, a bit more than the previous Madeburg, but they were also larger. They carried service boats, namely one steam picket boat, a coaling barge, a cutter, two yawls, and two dinghies. Teir masts supported platforms for projectors, but in 1915, Rostock was fitted with spotting tops.
Powerplant & Performances
HD rendition, the blueprints
Both vessels had two shafts propellers (three-bladed screws 3.50 m or 11 ft 6 in in diameter), driven by two Marine-type steam turbines. Steam came from twelve coal-fired water tube boilers, plus two oil-fired double-ended water tube boilers. Total ouptut was evaluated at 26,000 shaft horsepower (19,000 kW), for a designed top speed of 27.8 knots (51.5 km/h; 32.0 mph). But as usual on trials, they exceeded these figures, Karlsruhe reaching 28.5 knots (52.8 km/h; 32.8 mph) on 37,885 shp (28,251 kW), Rostock 29.3 knots based on 43,628 shp (32,533 kW).
Autonomy wise, they carried 400 t (394 long tons; 441 short tons) of coal, 70 t (69 long tons; 77 short tons) or oil, and ASW internal voids could accept an extra 1,300 t (1,279 long tons; 1,433 short tons) plus 200 t (197 long tons; 220 short tons) or oil, respectively. Range is estimated to be above 6,000 nm at 23 kts due to their larger hull, according to Magdeburg’s data;
Electrical power came from two turbo generators, rated at 240 and 200 kilowatts respectively, both working at 220 volts.
After sea trials and some service, they were reported favoutably, their captains seeing them as good sea boats, with slight weather helm in a swell, severe leeway, slow steering and when pushed hard over, bleeding 60% speed. Their transverse metacentric height was average, at 0.79 m (2 ft 7 in). Their roll and general motion was predictable, making good artillery platforms. They were bad steamers however at the start.
The general scheme was a repeat of the the preceding class.
Waterline armored belt: 60 mm (2.4 in) amiships
WL Belt tapered down to 18 mm (0.71 in) forward.
Unarmored belt stern section.
Armored deck: 60 mm forward, 40 mm amidships, 20 mm aft.
Sloped armor deck: 40 mm connected to the belt.
Conning tower: 100 mm (3.9 in) walls, 20 mm (0.79 in) roof
For ASW protection they had their hull constructed with longitudinal steel frames incorporating some fifteen watertight compartments, plus a double bottom running for 45% of its length. Each turbine was installed in its own engine room to avoid loosing all power after a flooding. Also, their 14 boilers were split into five separate boiler rooms.
SMS Karlsruhe underway
12 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/45 guns
Same as the Magdeburg’s: These twelve guns were placed as follows: two forward in tandem, two aft, four in sponsons and recesses to fire forward ad aft, the rest amidships. They fired at 15 RPM, firing 17.4 kg (38 lb) shells with a 25.5 kg (56 lb) fixed Brass Casing at 710 m/s (2,300 ft/s), to a max range of 12,700 m (13,900 yd) at 30°.
2 × 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes
Standard G7 type (1913) also used by the Magdeburg: Submerged on the broadsides. They carried a 430 lbs. (195 kg) Hexanite warhead, reaching 4,370 yards (4,000 m) at 37 knots or 10,170 yards (9,300 m) at 27 knots depending on the setting. They were powered by a Decahydronaphthalene (Decalin) Wet-Heater.
120 × mines
Likely the R-Mine standard type using a 330 lbs. (150 kg) wet gun cotton charge. They were carried on deck rails on either side, starting after the forecastle.
Resources & Links
SMS Karlsruhe, painting (cc)
Bennett, Geoffrey (2005). Naval Battles of the First World War. Pen & Sword Military Classics.
Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. Conways
Campbell, N. J. M. & Sieche, Erwin (1986). German section, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921.
Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels.
Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Tarrant, V. E. (1995). Jutland: The German Perspective.
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2004). Kleine Kreuzer 1903–1918: Bremen bis Cöln-Klasse [Small Cruisers 1903–1918
Nottlemann, Dirk (2021). “The Development of the Small Cruiser in the Imperial German Navy (Part II)”.
*For the anecdote, while a Karlsruhe was launched again in 1927, Rostock(ii) of the Cöln class, launched in April 1918, was never completed and the name never used again on a cruiser.
Belt 1.5-2.25 in, decks 1 in, Masks 25 1 in, CT 3 in)
SMS Karlsruhe coaling at San Juan P.R.
SMS Karlsruhe (contract name “Ersatz Seeadler”, laid down at Germaniawerft, Kiel, 21 September 1911 and launched, chistened by her namesake mayor, Karl Siegrist, on 11 November 1912. Fitting-out was followed by the yard’s trials in mid-December 1913, and official sea trials revealing excessive coal consumption.
Commissioned on 15 January 1914, she spent the months before the war training under command of her first captain, Fregattenkapitän Fritz Lüdecke. Fixes needed extra trials which went on until June. However even after yards’s modification, this was not much improved and she was scheduled for the East American Station, to relieve SMS Bremen, but she was replaced by Dresden and only departed Kiel on 14 June.
On 1st July, she was in Saint Thomas, dropping anchor in the Danish West Indies. As new from the Balkans saw rising tensuions, she was sent to watch over German Nationals in Port-au-Prince, Haiti during civil unrest, until 9 July. She was ordered newt to meet SMS Dresden in Veracruz (Mexico) but the situation degraded further in Haiti and she stayed, only ordered to leave by 27 July. Both cruisers exchanged commanders, with FK Erich Köhler now taking command of SMS Karlsruhe while Lüdecke was ordered to conduct Dresden back to Germany.
SMS Karlsruhe was to take part in the opening ceremonies of the Panama Canal, but Köhler decided decided to avoid the numerous British and French warships present here and instead headed for Havana, Cuba, and on 30 July, left and stayed close to shore before, heading for a Cay Sal Bank (Straits of Florida) and then evaded any pursuers by broadcasting a message in the open as she was to head for Tampico (Mexico) on 4 August, where the present armored cruiser HMS Berwick awaited here. Köhler armed the passenger ship SS Kronprinz Wilhelm as an auxiliary cruiser and next steamed east into the Atlantic, receiving news of the war underway in the 3/4 August night.
Her standing orders were to conduct commerce raiding, targeting British merchant traffic. Karlsruhe, Dresden and auxiliary cruisers mobilized from the Royal Navy no less than five cruiser squadrons, including one headed by Rear Admiral Christopher Craddock, and Rear Admiral Archibald Stoddart. Ships were dispersed, covering the vast sways of the Atlantic. Based on maps, the commanders planned possible routes two and from the coaling stations where they might intercept them.
On 6 August, SMS Karlsruhe met Kronprinz Wilhelm 120 nmi north of Watling Island (now San Salvador). She was transferring guns and equipment to SS Kronprinz Wilhelm when Craddock (HMS Suffolk) was spotted approaching from the south. Only two 8.8 cm guns and a machine gun were transferred before the two ships parted over quickly. Suffolk followed SMS Karlsruhe and the hunt was launched, communicated to other cruisers. However, being faster, she evaded Craddock.
Operations of SMS Karlsruhe: The general map
Operations of SMS Karlsruhe in October 1914
At 20:15 however, HMS Bristol spotted underway the cruiser and opened fire. Karlsruhe gunners replicated and scored two hits on Bristol, forcing her to slow down. Karlsruhe turned east and evaded her. By 9 August, SMS Karlsruhe reached Puerto Rico. It was time: She only had 12 tons of coal left, and resupplied from a HAPAG freighter before departing for Brazil, hoping to prey on large merchant traffic and not well patrolled.
She alsto stopped in Willemstad, Curaçao to take more coal and oil and reached the northern coast of Brazil, spotting and sinking a first British steamship (18 August). Until 23 August, she roamed off Maraca island, on the mouth of the Amazon river, replenishing coal again from a German steamship. One of those planned in advance as colliers to support such operations in neutral waters, at pre-planned meeting points. Captain Köhler also preferred to capture vessels and take all the coal he could onboard.
He kept prizes also for target training. Patrolled the eastern coast of South America down to La Plata (Argentina) she sank/captured sixteen merchant ships, of which 15 British, 1 Dutch for 72,805 GRT. Next SMS Karlsruhe headed to the West Indies, to prey on Barbados, Fort-de-France, and Trinidad.
Underway on 4 November she had a spontaneous internal explosion however, at 18:30. The hull broke in two, the bow section sinking rapidly with a large portion of the crew, including Köhler and his staff. The stern remained afloat saving the lived of the 146 that escape onto the attending colliers: The SS Rio Negro and SS Indrani. At 18:57 the stern sank in turn, and Commander Studt became the senior surviving officer. The crew was trasferred to the SS Rio Negro while he scuttled SS Indrani and proceeded to Iceland, going through the British blockade of the North Sea in a storm, dropping anchor at Ålesund, Norway. Germany kept the loss of the ship a secret to keep the British occupied until they learned about it on March 1915. This smart move had tied down eleven British cruisers for almost six months after her loss.
SMS Rostock was ordered as “Ersatz Geier”, laid down at Howaldtswerke, Kiel in 1911, launched on 12 November 1912 (christened by the mayor of Rostock, Dr. Magnus Maßmann) and commissioned on 5 February 1914, assigned as a torpedo boat flotilla leader. She trained until the war broke out, not showing the same coal cinsumtin exceses of her sister ship. Her career was also less adventurous.
On 24 January 1915, SMS Rostock was part of the screen force dedicated to Admiral Franz von Hipper’s I Scouting Group Battlecruisers. She took part in a first sortie near the Dogger Bank with three other light cruisers and 19 torpedo boats. Rostock stayed with a TB flotilla to screen the port flank of the battlecruiser squadron until five British battlecruisers were spotted, leading to the Battle of Dogger Bank. Rostock later took part in in the raid on Yarmouth and Lowestoft (24 April 1916), engaging the Harwich Force and other sorties in between all along 1915.
The Battle of Jutland was her final test: On 31 May 1916 she was still leader of two torpedo boat flotillas, flagship of Kommodore Andreas Michelsen. They were to screen for the battle squadrons and at 17:30, the British destroyers HMS Nestor and Nicator attempted an attack, while Rostock engaged them, quickly disabling both with assistance of the Battleships.
At 19:32, SMS Rostock and her torpedo boats layed a smoke screen to cover the general withdrawal. Michelsen later detached several torpedo boats to assist the badly damaged SMS Lützow. The fleet took its night cruising formation while Rostock escorted the light cruisers of IV Scouting Group, port of the formation. They sumbled upon the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron after midnight, and later the British 4th Destroyer Flotilla. Rostock followed the cannonade and went right into the path of incoming destroyers, which immediately launched several torpedoes. Rostock and the other cruisers turned away, which sent them right uinto the bows of the battleships in I Battle Squadron. Rostock avoided collision but Elbing was rammed.
Rostock’s search lights at some point uncovered the destroyer leader HMS Broke. Gunfire from the German cruiser sters, soon joined by Westfalen and Rheinland. Broke was heavily damaged but managed to reach port. Next Rostock ws attacked by HMS Ambuscade and Contest, firing a single torpedo each, at max speed settings and just 1,000 yd (910 m). This was a right decision, which cost a single hit on Rostock at 1:30, followed by firce gunfire, where she was hit by three 4 in shells, which disabled her. The destroyer S54 joined to assist, taking her in tow at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph), soon joined by V71 and V73 detached from the flotilla.
But luck ran out: At around 03:55, 1 June 1916, British cruiser HMS Dublin spotted the slow-moving formation, easy prey. The three destroyers evacuated her crew before flashing the first two letters of the British signal challenge to gain time, then laid down Smoke screens, leaving some extra ten minutes for S54 to depart with Rostock’s crew aboard. V71 and V73 stayed behind to scuttle the crippled cruiser with charges set completed by three torpedoes fired. The cruiser sank bow-first at around 04:25, with 14 men killed, 6 wounded during the battle. The cruiser had spent some 500 rounds for her main guns, the most of any other German cruiser present, but had little to show for it.
The battleship “Bayern” does not represents the culmination of the German Dreadnought, but at least its wartime epitaph. The very last projected German dreadnoughts were indeed the “L20 alpha” class, reaching almost 50,000 fully loaded, 26 knots, and with eight 16.5 in (42 cm) guns. The battlecruisers of the Mackensen class were the most advanced in construction, more than the Sachsen class, a modified Bayern design. There are integrated in this study for practicity as very close, near sister-ships.
Th Bayern were at least quite a major leap forward in design, eclipsing all previous classes of German dreadnoughts. Indeed, the previous class, the Königs, completed as late as in 1915, were still armed with 12-in guns (30.5 cm), as all their precedessors but the Nassau. This was a considerable issue explained by many factors, which clearly made on paper German battleships inferior in range and hitting power to their British counterparts. The Royal Navy had in its divisions the 13.5-in (343 mm) armed Orion, King Georges V and Iron Dukes. They made indeed the bulk of the RN (12 in all) when the König class was just getting started. German intel also new of a new class in construction since October 1912, one year after the start of the Königs, and they were all armed with 15-in guns (381 mm). This of course caused a lot of concerns with the German admiralty, understandably as their hitting power was almost double than 12-in shells. One response was improving the armour again, but admiral Tirpitz at the time was very aware that an appropriate answer was needed asap in gunnery also. That’s what made the Bayern so special: They leapfrogged directly from the 12-in to the 15-in caliber !
In 1911, when the König class was started, all armed with the 30.5 cm/50 (12″) SK L/50 which was quite an improvement over the Nassau’s 28 xm, the admiralty was aware that no gun beyond 12-in was available in the works, but a 12.7 in (323 mm) which was basically a relined and reinforced 12-in as a stopgap measure. In fact, the fourth König authorized under the 1912 program was considered by naval command to be quipped with this 32.3 cm (12.7 in). The increase in weight would be offset by reducing the secondary battery with 12 cm (4.7 in) guns instead of 6-in. There was also a possible alternative, the 35 cm/45 (13.78″) SK L/45 planned for the Mackensen class battlecruisers. Design started in 1914, but as the class was never completed, the thirteen produced ended on railways carriage for the western front. The 12.7-in caliber planned for the fourth König however never passed the drawing board stage. None was built.
The proposal was ultimately rejected for a sister-ship of 1911 vessels, in order to create a homogeneous four-ship division, mirroring the British ones. This allowed to simplify tactical command. The Kronprinz’s diesel was dropped, never ready in time, for classic turbines, but was the first fitted was a larger tubular foremast to support a heavier, more capable fire direction top, later later retrofitted to the other members of the class and the Hindenburg, as well as the Bayern class. Meanwhile, work has started in 1913 on a much better proposition, a 38 cm/45 (14.96″) SK L/45. This was retained for the genesis of the next dreadnoughts, specifically to counter the QE class.
Design development of the Bayern class
Design work for this new class began in fact way earlier than the British QE class was known about, as early as 1910. At the time indeed, the admiralty already envisioned for the König class an upgrade in artillery, as it had become clear that other navies moved away from the 12 in and larger guns were to be envisioned for the German Navy in the near future. In November 1909 indeed, the British laid down the HMS Orion, first of their “super dreadnoughts”, armed with 13.5 inches guns.
If the Weapons Department suggested a 32 cm (13 in) gun to answer it, during a meeting on 11 May 1910, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz State Secretary of the Reichsmarineamt announced that budgetary constraints at that time precluded the adoption of anything else than the existing 12-in. The 1912 Agadir Crisis had Tirpitz surfing on the resulting public outcry over British involvement in it to have the Reichstag quicky appropriating funds for the Kaiserliches Marine. Tirpitz obtained that a 34 cm (13.4 in) gun design would be started in mid-1911.
In August 1911, the design staff was also asked to start studies of larger ordnance, a 35 cm (13.8 in), a 38 cm (15 in), and even a 40 cm (15.7 in) artillery piece, that would have given quite an advantage over the Royal Navy at the time. The 40 cm was defined as a possible maximum caliber as it was assumed that British wire-wound guns could not be larger. A meeting in September secured preferred designs, and one with ten 35 cm guns in five turrets was put on the table and dicusses, as well as a 40 cm guns, four turrets.
The Weapons Department wanted to puh forward the 35 cm gun design, stating that it had a 25% greater chance of hitting its target. Tirpitz on the other hand wanted to try a mixed battery of twin and triple turrets. After examining the gun turrets of the Austro-Hungarian dreadnoughts of the Tegetthoff class, it was determined that triple gun turrets were problematic still so this option was dropped. Their increased weight as well as reduced ammunition supply, rate of fire, loss accuracy, abrupt loss of fighting capability if one was disabled, were all cited as arguments.
Still working on the 35 cm ship design, displacement was estimated around 29,000 t. Its cost was about 59.7 million marks. The 40 cm proposal was rated just as 60 million marks, but displaced even less, at 28,250 t, yet Tirpitz estimated they were both too expensive. The Construction Department then proposed a 28,100 t, eight 38 cm gun design, curtailing the overall cost to 57.5 million marks. This was adopted 26 September 1911 for the next design, but this meant studies made for previous guns might be redirected in this new compromise 38 cm caliber formally adopted on 6 January 1912.
The same year, design work progressed, while improvements in the armor layout were also studied to create a real difference with the König class. In addition, they were to be armed with eight 8.8 cm (3.5 in) anti-aircraft guns, a bold more given the state of aviation in 1912. Neverteless, this was reduced when completed to just two. Powerplant-wise, the admiralstaff still wanted to try the idea of diesel engines, but previous experiences showed, this time again, it was wiser to fit steam turbines again, hoping that over time a thord of fourth ship could adopt such powerplant, which would have given a much greater range. No reliable diesel engines existed either in 1913 ot even 1914 for that scale. They stuck to less demanding U-boats instead. Note that this German obsession for diesel power for battleships was never realized for any navy, but the concept was sound enough to see the light of day for smaller ships in the cold war, notably frigates and even destroyers thans to combined powerplants. Meanwhile in the USA, engineers wanted to go full electric.
Funding for the new battleships was allocated at last under the fourth Naval Law in 1912. This however only secured three new capital ships, two light cruisers, and salaries for 15,000 officers and men. Eventually the capital ships laid down that year were the Derfflinger-class battlecruisers. Bayern and Baden were funded only in 1913. Sachsen in 1914, Württemberg at last, in the War Estimates. As usual they went in pair with justified replacement for older pre-dreadnoughts, which in that case were the last Brandenburg-class pre-dreadnought SMS Wörth and the SMS Kaiser Friedrich III, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiser Friedrich III.
Italian plans of SMS Bayern, 1921, published in Rivista Marittima, IVth quarter. src.
In 1920-21, a British team make a thorough description of the largely intact SMS Baden, before testing her through and through, making her the best known German battleship. The result of these reports was condensed and published in “Engineering”, March 18, 1921 in several plates up to page 335.
Reconstitution of Baden’s design from the 1920-21 studies.
Bayern and Baden, with their very modern design perfectly embodied the future evolution of this type. Responding to British Queen Elizabeth, they have equivalent artillery caliber while being shorter by 49 feets (15 meters) but wider by 9.5 fts (three meters), they had the same displacement, slightly lower speed, but arguably a much better armour design, which was the point in German thinking. The QE on their side were almost designed as intermediary between dreadnoughts and battlecruisers, with speed in mind -Fisher obliges- their firepower somewhat compensating in that area. The Bayern’s fire control system was similar to that of the Hindenburg but however much more advanced than the QE equivalent, attracting after the war great interest from the Royal Navy authorities in Scapa, where both were scuttled.
Hull and general design
SMS Bayern and Baden both had the same lenght at the waterline of 179.4 m (588 ft 7 in), but 180 m (590 ft 7 in) overall. The next Sachsen and Württemberg were two meters longer, but all four had the same beam, of just 30 m (98 ft 5 in). Draft for the first two was 9.3-9.4 m (30 ft 6 in-30 ft 10 in). Standard displacement as designed was calculated at 28,530 t (28,080 long tons) and fully loaded 32,200 t (31,700 long tons). The Sachsen pair were were slightly heavier. All four however has the same hull construction using transverse and longitudinal steel frames, with an outer hull made of reiveted plates. The underwater protection comprised 17 watertight compartments, a double bottom on 88% of the total length of the hull.
Crew as designed comprised 42 officers, 1,129 enlisted men but Baden, fitted as squadron flagship, carried in addition 14 officers and 86 sailors. Their small boat fleets, mostly located under the funnels amidships, comprised notably a single picket boat, three barges, two launches, two yawls, and two dinghies.
Armor scheme view
The Bayern-class had arguably the best “classic” protective scheme so far of any German battleship, although it was still “pre-jutland”. Krupp cemented steel armor all round, with an armor belt 350 mm (14 in) thick for the central citadel. It was covering also the ammunition magazines and the machinery spaces.
-The belt then tapered down to 200 mm (7.9 in) forward and 170 mm (6.7 in) aft of the barbettes, leaving the last sections ends unprotected. There was a 50 mm (2 in) torpedo bulkhead over the entire lenght behind the main belt.
The main armored deck was just 60 mm (2.4 in) thick, but up to 100 mm (3.9 in) over the magazines, machinery and steering room. Again, this was “pre-jutland”.
-The forward conning tower (CT), had 400 mm (16 in) thick walls. The roof was 170 mm in thickness. The aft CT was much lighter, with 170 mm thick walls, 80 mm (3.1 in) thick armor plated roof.
-The main battery gun turrets had 350 mm thick faces and sides, 200 mm thick roofs.
-The 15 cm guns casemates were protected by 170 mm thick armor plated walls while behind there was enxtra shield, 80 mm thick to protect the crews from shell splinters.
SMS Bayern and Baden were planned with the standard, and properly German configuration of three shafts: The central one could be used to test different configurations (like a VTE) for economic cruise, and better range. However, since Germany took some advance in the design of diesels, it was hope to install one instead of a VTE. But the planned diesel, properly enormous and able to deliver the record power of 12,000 bhp, was still not ready in 1914, nor in 1915. It was postponed for the next Sachen but in the end, never ready before the war ended. Eventually, it was found wiser to give both ships the same three sets of Parsons turbines, driving three-bladed screws, 3.87 m (12.7 ft) in diameter.
Steam came from eleven coal-fired Schulz-Thornycroft boilers, plus three oil-fired Schulz-Thornycroft boilers, so mixed-heating, planed in nine separated boiler rooms. This powerplant was calculated to deliver and estimated output of 34,521 shaft horsepower (25,742 kW), at 265 revolutions per minute. On trials in 1916-17, both vessels in fact achieved the much greater output of 55,201 shp (41,163 kW) and 55,505 shp (41,390 kW) respectively, for a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph).
They were designed to carry in peacetime 900 t (890 long tons) of coal, 200 t (200 long tons) of oil. In wartime, by filling all safety void spaces in the hull, this went largely up, at 3,400 t (3,300 long tons) of coal, 620 t (610 long tons) of oil, so basically more than triple. This enabled 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 12 knots, reduced at 4,485 nmi on the more sustained 15 knots and 3,740 nmi, 2,390 nmi at 17 and 21 knots respectively. Electrical output was alrso greater than previous ships, with no less than eight diesel generators to provide a total of 2,400 kilowatts combined, at 220 volts.
On trials, both vessels showed to be exceptional sea boats in all reports. They were were both very stable and very maneuverable, which was difficult to achieve together. They of course lost bled speed in heavy seas, but just slightly, and lost up to 62% speed with the rudders hard over, heeling over 7 degrees which was not bad overall. Their metacentric height was rather excellent at 2.53 m (8 ft 4 in), in fact larger than British Queen Elisabeth and Revenge, making them excellent, very stable gun platforms with a gentle, predictive motion, perfect for the conditions of the Baltic. All these were conformed later by the British long study of the Baden, just by calculating her hull shape and proportions.
Main: 4×2 38 cm SK L/45
Main armament, top view scheme
The Bayern class main battery comprised eight 38 cm (15 in) SK L/45 guns. They were paired in four Drh LC/1913 turrets, a new pattern which allowed a depression/elevation of −8 + 16°. Reload however could only be done at 2.5°, which of course slowed down the rate of fire, of around one shell every 38 seconds, or less than 2 rpm. Gun mountings for Bayern were later modified, the barrels going up to 20° at a cost of a lower depression at −5°.
Maximum range initially at 16° was 20,250 m (66,440 ft). Later, Bayern’s modified cradle authorizing 20° translated into 23,200 m (76,100 ft). All turrets were also fitted with their own stereo rangefinder. In total, 720 shells (90 per gun) were carried. They were in standard 750-kilogram (1,650 lb) AP shells, relatively light for this caliber, lighter than the British 16-in shells. They also carried less high explosive shells, in general only 1/3 of the total. At 20,000 m (66,000 ft), their AP shells was calculated (and tested) able to defeat up to 336 mm (13.2 in) of steel plate. Muzzle velocity was 805 meters per second (2,640 ft/s).
Post-war tests of these guns, conducted by British Royal Navy engineers in 1919-21 showed their readiness to fire after a 23 seconds process after firing, faster than British Queen Elizabeth class (36 seconds between salvos). Paradoxally, they found also German anti-flash precautions to be inferior of those practiced after Jutland. German brass propellant cases however proved safer, less susceptible to flash detonations.
The Bayern (and Sachsen) classes secondary battery comprised sixteen 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 quick-firing guns, all in armored casemates along the the side of the top deck, relatively high to avoid water spray.
This was two more than for the König class. They were intended to deal against destroyers and torpedo boats. In total they carried for these a total of 2,240 shells, presumably all HE. These 45.3 kg (99.8 lb) shells used a separated 13.7 kg (31.2 lb) RPC/12 propellant charge, in a brass cartridge, avoiding flash detonations. Muzzle velocity was 835 meters per second (2,740 ft/s), rate of fire 5-7 rpm, practical mage range 13,500 m (44,300 ft) and after changes of cradles in 1916-17 at 16,800 m (55,100 ft). Barrel life was approximatively 1,400 shots.
The Bayern class were originally design to also have just two light guns for dual/AA purpose. In 1914, aviation was not the threat it became in 1917. Therefore, from the two 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 flak guns, masked and supplied with 800 rounds, six more were installed during the war on the battery deck, so eight total.
-MPL C/13 mountings (−10 +70° elevation)
-9 kg (19.8 lb) HE shell
-Ceiling 9,150 m (30,020 ft)/70°
Torpedoes: 2×60 cm (24 in) TTs
Unlike the previous König class, which had six 50 cm torpedo tubes, the Bayerns swapped onto a new caliber, 60 cm (24 in), on five submerged torpedo tubes: One in the bow, two on each broadside, none in the stern. Also, some 20 torpedoes were carried for reloads. “H” designated the 60 cm caliber and “G” the more standard 53 cm, “F” for airborne torpedoes. Technically “J” (70) and “M” (75 cm) also existed. Only J9 was planned in 1912-1915 but never entered service, able to reach 18 km (19,700 yds).
No doubt it inspired the Japanese to create their “long lance”, at least in concept ater the war. The H8 was also used on the Mackensen, Lützow, Hindenburg, Cöln II and Dresden II class, and the destroyer S 113. Design started in 1912, and the H8 model entered in service in 1915, powered by a Brotherhood system wet-heater.
H8 type torpedoes: 8 m (315 ft) long, 210 kg (463 lb) Hexanite warhead.
Range 8,000 m (8,700 yd) at 35 knots, or 6000 at 36 kts, 15,000 m at 28 knots or 14,000 (15.310 yds) at 30 kts.
However after Jutland, where these capital ships torpedoes proved useless, Bayern and Baden struck mines in 1917 and this trigerred a structural overhaul which first consequence was to get rid of the torpedo tubes, rooms, removed and plated over, for extra protection instead.
Author’s illustration of the Bayern class
conway’s profile of the bayern, in 1916 and as modernized in 1918. Main changes are the added maintast and reduced foremast, better wireless telegraphic system, and extended bridge with now a new admiral bridgewrapped around the tripod base. In 1916 she already had eight 8,8 cm AA guns.
8 x 38cm (4×2), 16 x 15cm, 2 x 8,8 cm AA, 5 x 60 cm TTs.
Belt 350, Battery 170, Citadel 250, Turrets 350, Blockhaus 350, barbettes 300 mm
Construction of the Bayern class (1913-1917)
-Bayern (“Bavaria”) was regarded as a simple addition to the fleet, ordered under the provisional name “T”. She was laid down as construction number 59 in Howaldtswerke, Kiel on 22 December 1913, launched on 18 February 1915 and completed on 15 July 1916.
-Baden (another ancient kingdom) was ordered as Ersatz Wörth (a replacement for the latter), as construction number 913 at Schichau-Werke in Danzig, on 20 December 1913. She was launched 30 October 1915 and only commissioned on 14 March 1917.
-Sachsen was ordered as Ersatz Kaiser Friedrich III in Germaniawerft, Kiel as construction number 210 on 15 April 1914, launched on 21 November 1916 but never completed.
-Württemberg (Saxony province) was ordered as Ersatz Kaiser Wilhelm II at AG Vulcan, Hamburg as construction number 19 on 4 January 1915, launched at last on 20 June 1917, but also never completed.
Now let’s study the war consequences on their construction time: It took fifteen month to launch for SMS Bayern, and 17 months to completion, for Baden 21 months to launch and 18 months to completion, and for Sachsen and Württemberg, 32 and 30 respectively or more than two years and several months for each. They were, also respectively however only nine and twelve month from completion.
To put it simply both were suspended when the war broke up, and work resumed afterwards, with a reduced workforce and materials. A classic scheme for every major warship construction project in wartime.
The Sachsen class (1916)
The incomplete Sachsen, still with all her decks complete and funnels in place, CT, barbettes, main turrets, casemates and part of the superstructure but no barrels, in 1918.
It’s the appearance of the Queen Elisabeth class which prompted extensive modifications on the Sachsen, resulting in a sister class, classed as independent in most publications due to the amount of specificities.
The German Navy started to begin construction for FY 1914 battleship “Ersatz Kaiser Friedrich III”, voted 1912 as replacement for the pre-dreadnought Kaiser Friedrich III. But the design staff at that stage were aware of the new Queen Elizabeth class high top speed. There was yet another attempt to fit a diesel engine, at least on her center propeller shaft, both as a reduced size power addition and main propulsion for economical cruise. This was envisioned earlier for the König but the diesels were never ready in time. It nevertheless added 200 t more in the displacement, required the engineers to lengthen the hull by 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in), in order to keep the draft intact (and therefore the verstical position of the armour belt). This allowed to refine the hull lines, improve hydrodynamics, which added to the new engine, increasing top speed as expected. Some historians like Dirk Nottellmann considered these changes alone were sufficient to make Sachsen and Württemberg, a sub-class.
Hull & general characteristics
SMS Sachsen and Wurttemberg had aboy the same increased dimensions: 181.8 m (596 ft 5 in) long at the waterline, 182.4 m (598 ft 5 in) overall for a beam of just 30 m (98 ft 5 in) and draft between 9.3 and 9.4 m (30 ft 6 in–30 ft 10 in aft). Calculated displacement was to be 28,800 metric tons standard as designed and unloaded. The fully loaded displacement was evaluated to be over 32,500 metric tons. The crew was comparable to the previous vessels, but greater, with 42 officers and 1,129 enlisted men. The profile was very similar by the Conway’s profile shows exactly the same appareance with perhaps taller funnels for a better air draft and an aft mainmast from the start, also supporting projectors platforms.
Sachsen and Württemberg were intended to be one knot faster than the earlier vessels, thanks to a slightly more powerful machinery (Württemberg) and finer hull lines. SMS Württemberg had the usual three shafts, with AEO-Vulcan geared steam turbines 47,343 shp (35,304 kW), for the calculated speed of 22 knots. Sachsen also had three shafts, but with a planned MAN diesel rated at 11,836 bhp (8,826 kW) on the center shaft, and Parsons steam turbines on the outer shafts. This choice caused concerns: The diesel engine was not ready still in 1918, but in 1919, captured and seized by the Naval Inter-Allied Control Commission. Also the Parsons were likely to be ordered to UK, unless licenced-built in Germany, also causing an abrupt end in 1914. All in all, this mixed powerplant was rated at 53,261 shp (39,717 kW) for 22.5 knots. Cruising range would have been calculated about 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 12 knots.
Both were planned to be armed with the same eight 38 cm (15 in) SK L/45 guns, also arranged in four twin-gun turrets fore and aft in deck and superfiring pairs. The secondary armament comprised also sixteen 15 cm (5.9 in) guns, but four 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns instead of just two. They also were supposed to carry five 60 cm (23.6 in) torpedo tubes, all submerged and fixed in the bow and broadsides in pairs. Also, the guns that had been constructed for them, and never installed, were eventually recycled as heavy siege guns used on the Western Front and during WW2, coastal guns on the Atlantic wall, and railway guns on various fronts, called “Langer Max”.
SMS Sachsen’s armor layout was modified as per the installation of the taller planned diesel engine. This meant that a glacis was added over the diesel, 200 mm thick (7.87 in) for its sides, 140 mm (5.5 in) on noth ends, 80 mm thick for the top plates (3.14 in). Sachsen’s belt was modified, as she was exteded to 30 mm (1.2 in) past the forward 200 mm thick section, rather than northing at all like on the Bayerns.
Württemberg on the other hand a 170–350 mm (6.7–13.8 in) armoured belt, 60–100 mm (2.4–3.9 in) thick armored deck, same 400 mm (15.7 in) forward conning tower, same plating for the main battery turrets (350 mm thick sides, 200 mm roofs) as other details of the casemates.
The incomplete Württemberg alongside SMS Prinz Eitel Friedrich (Macksensen class) in Hamburg in 1920.
Conway’s Profile of the sachsen
⚙ Specifications Sachsen class
182.4 x 30 x 8.4 m (598 x 98 x 30 feets)
28,800 tons standard, 32,500 tons Fully Loaded
22 knots (39 km/h)
8 x 38 cm (4×2), 16 x 15 cm, 4 x 8,8 cm AA, 5 x 60 cm TTs.
42 + 1129
The Bayern and Baden in action
Bayern and Baden were launched in 1915 but only entered served in July 1916 and March 1917, too late to participate in major naval operations, and moreover the important Battle of Jutland. Their career was rather uneventful. SMS Baden hit on a mine in the Gulf of Riga and was never repaired full until 1921, she only left to serve as a target. Bayern was interned in Scapa Flow and scuttled like the rest of the fleet in June 21, 1919.
Profile of SMS Bayern at sea
Bayern, Bundesarchiv, forward view
Salvage Bayern, Scapa Flow
Bayern in the Spithead, 1921
Drawing SMS Bayern October 1918
Markgraf and Bayern in the Firth of Forth, November 1918
SMS Bayern sinking in Scapa Flow
A long pre-commission workout
SMS Bayern emerged from Howaldtswerke, Kiel after fitting-out to be commissioned on 18 March 1916, so weeks before the Battle of Jutland. Her total cost has been 49 million Goldmarks, among the highest of any German ship ever. However she remained largely idle in port in April, with a limited crew and undergoing initial tests. These also included inclination tests, to see her response to controlled flooding. Her first trip at sea was on 15 April, for her proper trials and her first live fire tests for her brand new main battery. SMS Bayern made her full-power speed test on 25 April off Alsen island, until 2 May. Back home for fixes, she was at last declared ready for service on 15 July. By that time context had changed dramatically for the Hochseeflotte.
She joined the III Battle Squadron but was not pressed into exercizes as her new crew, coming from the decommissioned SMS Lothringen was given leave at that time. Her first commander was Kapitän zur See Max Hahn, and Ernst Lindemann (yes, that one, onboard Bismarck in May 1941) was back then a wireless operator on board. On 25 May 1916, while still in trials and training, she was visited by Ludwig III of Bavaria, last King of Bavaria. She became fleet flagship on 7-16 August.
August and October 1916 sorties
The Hochseeflotte was not completely inactive from Jutland up to the end of the war though: Admiral Reinhard Scheer wanted a fleet sortie in force on 18–19 August 1916, with the usual bait: A bombardment by I Scouting Group (battlecruisers), to draw out and destroy Beatty’s own battlecruisers on a pre-positioned Hochseeflotte battle group. But by that time, SMS Moltke and Von der Tann were the only ones not in repairs or completion (like Hindenburg), so he decided to assign three modern dreadnoughts to their unit: SMS Bayern and the König-class SMS Markgraf and Grosser Kurfürst.
Scheer would then follow behind with the High Seas Fleet (15 dreadnoughts) in cover. This Ist Scouting Group had different speeds and needed familiarization exercises, starting on 15 August. Hipper reported the slow speed of the battleships to Scheer as an hinderance, while Hipper insisted them not to exceed a distance of 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi) from the main fleet to avoid being cut off. Basically this was just beyond the maximal sighting abilities of British lookouts in pristine weather.
The fleet sorties on 18 August as planned, but the British were soon aware of it thanks to communications decoded by Room 40 and the Grand Fleet departed to meet them. At 14:35, on 19 August, Admiral Scheer had been warned of the the British by a picket ship, and turned his forces waya, retreating. It was found too risky so close to the battle of Jutland. But this was wildly criticized. There was another sortie into the North Sea on 18–20 October, but this time they met no British naval forces and just went back home. The High Seas Fleet was reorganized on 6 December 1916: SMS Bayern was made second, III Squadron, not outfitted as a squadron flagship.
In early September 1917, as German troops managed to capture Riga, the German navy was assigned the task of completely evicting Russian naval forces in the Gulf of Riga to complete operations in thi sector. The Admiralstab wanted to seize Ösel Island and neutralize the Sworbe peninsula Russian batteries. On 18 September, a joint Army-Navy operation was planned, which also included Moon island, led by flagship SMS Moltke and the III Battle Squadron: Vth Division (Bayern, four König-class battleships), VIth Division (Kaiser-class battleships), accompanied by nine light cruisers, 3 torpedo boat flotillas, and a score of minesweepers to screen their way. This operation featired the largest fleet ever assembled in the Baltic so far, 300 ships, supported by over 100 aircraft, 6 zeppelins. In the gulf, the only force availanle on the Russian size was the old Russian pre-dreadnoughts Slava and Tsesarevich, and the armored cruisers Bayan, her sister ship Admiral Makarov, and Diana plus 26 destroyers, plus torpedo boats and gunboats. The garrison of Ösel however was a force 14,000 strong, with bunkers, trenchs, barb wire and fortified guns positions, plus numerous machine-guns nests.
The operation started on 12 October. Bayern, second in line behind Moltke, followed by the four Königs, placed on a broadside position, out of range of the suppose d lighe Russian guns to fire her main battery on Tagga Bay. The five Kaisers engaged on their side, the Sworbe peninsula’s batteries. Both positions indeed defended the narrows between Moon and Dagö islands: This was the only escape for the Russian fleet in the gulf and only option to mopup the Russian anaval forces in this operation.
Bayern however soon struck a naval mine at 5:07 as she shifted position to Pamerort. The blast close to the bow killed a officer and six sailors. She was also flooded by 1,000 metric tons of seawater and plunged forward to 2 m (6.6 ft), but was still able to engage Cape Toffri’s battery (south of Hiiumaa). She departed at 14:00 to be examined on 13 October, in Tagga Bay. Temporary repairs were not sufficient and she was sent back to Kiel for full repairs, that she joined in 19 days. This had her inoperative until 27 December 1917. Engineers took the occasion to get rid of her forward torpedo tube room, freeing the compartment and sealing the port turned into an additional watertight compartment. She also saw the addition of four 8.8 cm SK L/30 AA guns, making now a total of six. Meanwhile, operations saw the indecisive battle of the Gulf of Riga, with Slava and Bayan engaged and forced to withdrawn. The Operation was a success.
Last Operations (1918)
SMS Bayern was assigned to “security duties” in the North Sea, with a few sorties not far fro the shores, and far in between. Meanwhile, Scheer changed tactics, mobilizing his light surface forces to attack British convoys bound to Norway from early 1917. Ths trigerred the RN to commit battleships to the escort. This division allowed Scheer to destroy this detached squadron. Now feeling his communications had been intercepted in the past, her ordered strict wireless silence. Hipper’s battlecruisers were sent to attack the convoy on 23 April, while the High Seas Fleet was placed in distant cover as usual.
On 22 April, Bayern with the fleet assembled at Schillig Roads (Wilhelmshaven) departing at 06:00 and mking their way in heavy fog which delayed them, remaining inside their defensive minefields. Hipper’s couting force arrived 60 nmi (110 km; 69 mi) west of Egerö (Norway) on 24 April, the expected convoy route but due to faulty intelligence from U-boats he completely missed the convoy and had to fold down. In addition Moltke lost a propeller, further weakining his force, and forcing to break radio silence, which of course prompted the Royal Navy into action, Beatty soon at sea with 31 battleships, four battlecruisers. Moltke was later torpedoed by E42 underway. This was basically the last active sortie of Bayern.
Fate of Bayern
SMS Bayern Illustration in Scapa Flow
from 23 September to early October, SMS Bayern became flagship of III Squadron (Vizeadmiral Hugo Kraft). She was mobilize in Octoer for the famous “death ride”, last planned sortie in force of the High Seas Fleet as the end was near, to openly engage the British Grand Fleet in a last stand for honour. Scheer, Großadmiral wanted to inflict maximal damage in order to gain a more favorable bargaining position to Germany in the future peace negociations, but this plan backfired: Disgruntled and war-weary sailors, influenced by revolutionary spitit in Berlin, started to desert, riot and mutiny in numerous ship.
On 24 October 1918 as order was given to join Wilhelmshaven, on 29 October ships of III Squadron saw crew refusing to weigh anchor, sabotages on Thüringen and Helgoland. On Bayern however the crew seemed mostly loayal, but the whole operation was cancelled and the III Squadron, was sent back to Kiel, to await her fate. After the capitulation of November 1918, the bulk of the High Seas Fleet sailed out to be interned in Scapa Flow, under a massive allied escort. SMS Bayern was listed among these, departing on 21 November 1918.
She would remain in captivity during negotiations. On 21 June, Von reuter, having sent back already large portions of his most troublesome sailors, saw the deadline to sign the treaty and a providential British fleet sortie for training maneuvers as an opportunity to order a general scuttling. Bayern sank at 14:30 that day. She gently settled on the bottom, but with a considerable list, mostly emerging. She would be only raised on 1 September 1934, BU in 1935 in Rosyth. Her bell is now in Bundesmarine’s Kiel Fördeklub.
Prow SMS Baden underway 1917
SMS Baden was not completed at Schichau-Werke dockyard, Danzig soon after 30 October 1915. Indeed, the war crippled the workforce and starved the yard from resources, redirected elsewhere. Delays amounted as in addition, the surprisingly fast initial Russian advance into East Prussia threatened directly the shipyards. It was only with the Battle of Tannenberg that it was stopped. Work resumed but low on the list compared to the completion of SMS Lützow and the ex-Russian light cruisers Elbing and Pillau to be pressed into German service.
Early service 1916-1918
SMS Baden was at least ready for sea trials by 19 October 1916, long after Jutland. Further tests and balic training went on from December 1916 and January 1917 before she was officially commissioned on 14 March. Meanwhile her near sister-ships Sachsen and Württemberg laid incomplete in their respective yards until November 1918. Her first captain, Victor Harder, came from SMS Lützow, recently completed and sunk at Jutland, as well as her crew. Baden became flagship, fleet Commander (Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper) until the end of the war. This was helped by the fact she has been completed with flagship facilities unlike her sister, traduced notably with new accomodations and a distinctive two-decked bridge. There was nothing much to do but training the following months, without notable event.
By late August 1917, Baden carried Kaiser Wilhelm II in a visit to the garrison of the fortified island of Helgoland, escorted by Derfflinger, Emden (ii) and Karlsruhe. She brought him back to Cuxhaven, but while doing so, struck the sea bottom. No visible damage was was later seen so she resumed activity. She was not present, contrary to her sister, in Operation Albion in the Gulf of Riga. She remained idle until early 1918, to the relief of a growingly frustrated crew.
The 23 April 1918 Sortie
In late 1917 already a new tactic emerge, to prey on British convoys to Norway, and oblige the RN to sent escorting capital ships, a bite-size portion of the Grand Fleet that can be destroyed by the Hochseeflotte. On 17 October, Brummer and Bremse intercepted one of such convoys, sinking nine of twelve and two escorting destroyers. This caused a stir in Britain and on 12 December, four German destroyers made shot work of another convoy of five cargo vessels and two British destroyers, sinking all cargoes and of the letter.
Admiral David Beatty was ordered to detach capital ships as planned, so Hipper prepared for a sortie the Ist Scouting Group battelcruisers, reinforced by capital ships like Bayern. The rest of the High Seas Fleet was in stand by on 23 April 1918, in the Schillig roadstead. Admital Hipper had his mark, as usual, aboard Baden and ordered no wireless transmissions to achieve surprise; Later Moltke lost her inner starboard propeller and had to return back, when later when Hipper arrived, he learnt that U-boat intel has been wrong. There was nothing on the convoy route… planned that day. He just had to fold down back to Germany.
On 24 May, SMS Baden again steamed to Helgoland, bringing the new commander in chief of the fleet, Admiral Reinhard Scheer, accompanied by Grand Duke Friedrich von Baden (namesake of the battleship), to visit the fortified island in turn. She was escorted by SMS Karlsruhe. In August 1918, SMS Baden was in drydock maintenance, until Hipper replaced Scheer again at the head of the fleet. Badend maintenance was over on 24 August, and prepared for the last ever major training fleet exercise, on 6 September.
The “doomsday sortie” and Scapa Flow
SMS Frankfurt and Baden, scuttled, 21 June 1919
SMS Baden was the centerpiece in October 1918 of the last ever planned sortie of the German Navy. It was to be committed an a final major action, a straithforward push to meet the Royal Navy, in part to quell the growing frustration of the crews, seeing inaction for too long, but mostly to try to cripple the RN, hoping to gain a better bargaining chip for future probable peace negociations. It was launched a few days before the armistice but the “crew factor” has not be acertained correctly, and the project massively backfired on the German staff.
War-weary sailors did not shared this final “for honor” stand, and on 29 October 1918, the gathering at Jade roadstead, saw, especially in the night of 29 October, widespread mutinies on many ships. On the 30th for example, the one started on Thüringen extended on Helgoland, just behind Thüringen, until forced to surrender by two loyalist torpedo boats, the crew later taken ashore and incarcerated. Officers noted the mood abord Baden as “dangerous”. Event soon went further as on 3 November, about 20,000 sailors, joined to dock workers and civilians took up arms and attempted free the jailed mutineers. On 9 November, a Socialist red flag was hoisted aboard SMS Baden. At that point, Hipper and Scheer abandoned all hopes for their sortie.
SMS Baden was not cited in the list of ships to be interned during the discussions of the Armistice. She was however substituted for the the incomplete Mackensen, which could not sail. She was not part of the High Seas Fleet departure to Scapa Flow on 21 November 1918 but remained in Germany until 7 January 1919. On arrival, Von Reuter had most of her crew taken off on SMS Regensburg, back to Germany. He knew the crew’s mood and wanted to have reduced, but loyal men under his orders to prepare for all eventuality.
The Royal Navy inspected SMS Baden tow days after her arrival. They hoped to find valuable equipments but found none of the technical and gunnery equipments, all removed before departure. There was therefore no chance for the vessels to commit uinto battle, because of this and the reduced crews, which only left the option of scuttling, prepared for months by Reuter with his officers. Negotiations in Versailles which would decide the fate of the fleet were ongoing and Reuter knew he would never allow his ships to fall into the entente’s hands as war reparations as planned.
Closeup SMS Baden 21 June 1919
New arrived often after days, noytably copies of The Times, so Rear Admiral von Reuter was left in the ignorance of new developments in Paris. He only knew in June, that the armistice was about to end at noon on 21 June 1919, a deadline to sign that also meant his ships would be probaby seized soon after. Von Reuter hoped to see the British fleet leaving Scapa Flow for exercizes at sea, which eventually happened precisely the very day of the deadline, to the amazement of his staff. Little he knew the deadline has been postponed to the 23th. Nevertheless, at 11:20 her ordered a general scuttling, which was promptly made.
Some men from Baden were helped unload a supply ship this morning far from their ship, and were were unavailable to open seacocks, while the remaining skeleton crew was insufficient for this, until man ashore returned. This made SMS Baden the last major warship of the Germany Navy to scuttle herself. Meanwhile, British forces remaining in the harbor managed to secure her, cutting her anchor chains. She derived and ran aground before sinking in deeper water, and soon, Lieutenant Commander Bruce Fraser led an armed party onboard Baden, visibly furious about the event. They managed to prevent firther actions at gunpoint. Therefore Baden was not successfully sunk and therefore she was also quickly refloated, on 19 July 1919, towed to Invergordon base.
Inspected by British Royal Engineers (1919-1921)
Baden inspected by Royal Engineers in 1919
A new strange career started for Baden “under british flag” – in fact she was never recommissioned, nor named, just used as an anonymous hulk for testing purposes. After she arrived in Invergordon with a British crew, SMS Baden was carefully examined by Royal Navy technicians, teams of Royal naval engineers inspected for weeks, months on end, in tunovers and living onboard, so inspect at first her hull in drydock, in great detail, taking measurements and detailed notes of her screws, bilge keels, rudders, to get a picture of her hydrodynamic properties and overall water resistance. They estimated her hull shape at least as good as the British Revenge-class battleships.
The armor system was aso thoroughly examined, as of utmost importance. Indeed that part was considered at the time “top secret” for any navy. The investigation took weeks and would generate a considerable literrature. The main conclusion however, was that the design did not incorporated any lessons from the battle of Jutland. Which was true and evident as their completion was far too advanced for this at the time. Also scrutinzed were detailed of her watertight bulkhead and underwater protection systems. The teams tried pumping and counter-flooding equipment, showing they worked quite well and efficiently.
Also examined in detail were Baden’s main battery turrets, location and working of the ammunition magazines. The tech team went so far as making the whole loading process live test, noting notably how fast the magazines could be flooded (in 12 minutes as it happened). The gunnery school HMS Excellent arrived too to process to complete loading trials, and noted an average 23 seconds, at their amazement. Indeed the RN also prided herself for their record-loading (which cost Beatty dearly at Jutland), but still Baden can load a shell 13 seconds faster than on the Queen Elizabeth class battleships, using the same caliber.
Overall, Commander W M Phipps Hornby, which lived on board Baden for weeks, told in 1969 naval historian Arthur Marder that his own opinion was that he considered the German design overall “markedly in advance of any comparable ship of the Royal Navy”. Once the inspection complete, the admiralty decided to naturally convert the battleship into a gunnery target.
No option was ever given to press her into British service at the time: First, every scripture were to be converted, ammunitions standards were different, parts were unavailable, a special training was required, and the ship was alone, so not to be integrated in the usual five-battleships divisions the RN was accustomed to. The overall picture was that she was more valuable to perform a last telling test instead: Live firing.
In January 1921, after some preparations to more easily locate damage, she was fired upon by HMS Excellent, using the latest armor-piercing (AP) shells developed after Jutland. This was to determine the most efficient ratio of explosives in the detonator caps, as the pre-Jutland shalled tended to fragment when striking heavy armor, not penetrate. The monitor HMS Terror was moored just 500 yd (460 m) away to test point-blank fire with her own 15 in (38 cm) guns and these new shells.
Baden at anchor as target ship 1921
Baden listing as a target ship, 1921
After standard straight trajectories, engineers created an artificial list for Baden by removing of coal and armor from the port side (towards the monitor) so that she would met the shells at an angle (parabolic fire). They also removed when moored, her forward-most gun turret. Terror fired 17 times, testing various ammunitions on Baden. Conclusion was that the new shells were good eneough to penetrate her heavy armor, much more effective as expected than previous models. Heavy seas after the tests caused Baden to sink in shallow waters and teams worked for three months to have her relfoated, towed in drydock and repaired for more service. She was prepared for a second round of testing in August 1921. Meanwhile discussions for the Washington treaty went on, and she was excluded from the talks as a “target ship”, partially demlitarize, through she still was armed and protected as a regular battleship.
The second test round was to take place from 16 August 1921, with this time the monitor HMS Erebus. The latter fired again several shell types, all 15 inches (381 mm). They seemed not to perform however that well, as one failed to explode and two semi-armor piercing models (SAP) shattered on impact. This was not limited to ship to ship tests: To simulate planes dropping bombs, six aerial bombs were placed on board, nose against deck on derricks and detonated remotely. They did little damage, unlike Mitchell’s tests in USA (again against a German battleship).
Probably the most important finding was that Baden’s 7-inch (18 cm) medium armor was easily penetrated by large-caliber shells. From there, the British adopted the US approach of “all or nothing” armor, also from the US. It weight much in their design of the G3 class and Nelsons. They were to receive extremely heavy armor or nothing at all. After the second serie was over, it was decided that Baden was not to be kept, and she was scuttled, in Hurd Deep, under 180 m (600 ft) where she could not cause any threat for maritime trade.
Bayern colorized by hirootoko JR
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1906-1921
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The Nautilus class were two minelaying cruisers planned for the Imperial German Navy, both built by the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen with different designs, at least in appearance. They never operated together, one being kep for training or in maintenance. They laid at the start of WWI a serie of strategic minefields, to protect the German coast and on known pathways for the British Royal Navy.
SMS Albatross was assigned to the Baltic Sea, ambushed by Russian cruisers, damaged and beached after the Battle of Åland Islands in July 1915, in neutral swedish waters, interned. SMS Nautilus participated in Operation Albion in 1917 and modified for amphibious operations in 1918. She was retained as a hulk until 1928, stricken since 1919.
SMS Albatross in port
Nautilus had a clipper bow, while Albatross had a bow similar to contemporary German light cruisers. The ships were armed with a light battery of just eight 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns and had a capacity of 168–288 naval mines. However they were slow and completely unprotected.
Hull Design in detail
SMS Albatross model
the two cruisers varied slightly in their dimensions and shapes: SMS Nautilus had a clipper bow, but still she was shorter, measuring 98.20 meters (322 ft 2 in) long overall for a beam of 11.20 m (36 ft 9 in). Her average draft (deeper aft) was 4.42 m (14 ft 6 in) forward. SMS Albatross was larger, 100.90 m (331 ft) long with a straight bow, 11.50 m (37 ft 9 in) of bream, 4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) of draft. The first displaced 1,975 metric tons (1,944 long tons), 2,345 t (2,308 long tons) fully loaded and her sister ship 2,208 tons normal, 2,506 t fully laden. Nautilus was modernized in 1908 at the Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel with her original stern overhang extended by 2.70 m (8 ft 10 in) so shat she was now 100.90 m (331 ft) long, and her superstructure deck extended further aft.
Hulls construction called for transverse and longitudinal steel frames. Under the waterline, it was subdivided into nine watertight compartments. Below there was a double bottom for 60% of her total length. Superstructyes were close, but diverged. Both had two pole masts with spotting tops, two slightly raked funnels, like the masts, but the mast location and bridge shape diverged. The foremast was behind the bridge on Albatross, but in center on Nautilus. On Albatross it was also higher, her forecastle extending to the base of the main mast. Nautilus had superstructure deck starting aft of the fore mast. The idea was to test both ships with different configurations. Nautilus was essentially a “yacht” in disguise order to operate in a more clandestine way.
Their crew comprised ten officers and 191 enlisted men, and in wartime, extended to 11 officers and 197 ratings. Their small boats fleet included two picket boats, a launch, two yawls, a dinghy, handled with a large derrick at the base of the main mast aft. There was no protection at all, no armour figure are given by any source, including Conways.
The ship’s Propulsion system comprised two 3-cylinder, triple-expansion steam engines. They each drove a single four-bladed screw propeller 3.20 m (10 ft 6 in) in diameter. Four coal-fired marine-type boilers provided steam, each in their own individual boiler room. They were trunked into two closely spaced funnels. Electricity on board came from two turbo generators rated at 90 kilowatts (120 hp)/110 volts each.
Performances wise, their top speed as designed was 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), obtained from an output of 6,600 indicated horsepower (4,900 kW). This was exceeded on trials, Nautilus reaching 20.8 knots and Albatross at 20.2 kn. For range, they carried 200 t of coal. In wartime however, when using auxiliary storage spaces, SMS Nautilus could carry up to 490 t and Albatross even 526 t, giving them a 3,530 to 3,680 nautical miles (6,540 to 6,820 km; 4,060 to 4,230 mi) range 9 knots cruise speed. Steering was done via a single axial rudder and they handled well, with a tight turning radius. However they had a high weather helm and hard time not drifting underway.
8,8 cm gun (here a FLAK version of 1932) The primary armament for the Nautilus-class was purely defensive and short range: It consisted in a battery of eight 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/35 guns, all in individual mounts:
Two side by side on the forecastle, four amidships (two on each broadside) and a pair at the stern. A total supply of 2,000 rounds was carried. These 8.8 cm guns had a maximum range of 9,100 m (29,855 ft 8 in) only. Mines:
Their main asset of course was their mine capacity and facilities: SMS Nautilus carried 186 naval mines, and up to 205 in wartime, 288 for Albatros which hull was better shaped to carry more. German naval mines of WWI were of the following type: Type I Moored Hertz horn contact mine (Total mass 560 lbs./254 kg, Diameter 31.5 inches/80 cm, Wet gun guncotton 180 lbs. 81.6 kg explosive charge.
Read more: http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WAMGER_Mines.php
Nautilus 1918 Conversion
In 1918, Nautilus was rearmed with two 7.6 cm (3.0 in) guns, four 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft guns, twenty-four machine guns, two flamethrowers, and four mine-launchers, in addition to her normal capacity of mines. Her new armament was intended to allow the ship to support amphibious operations.
SMS Nautilus was launched at AG Weser shipyard on 28 August 1906 (laid down as “mine steamer A”, completed and commissioned for sea trials on 19 March 1907. From 25 May she starting training for for mine warfare in Cuxhaven. She took part in the annual fleet maneuvers in 1906, 1907 and 1908 and decommissioned as her sister ship Albatross took her place in peacetime. In 1909–10 she was modernized at the Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel. Her stern overhang was extended by 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in), her superstructure deck extended further aft.
On 23 January 1910, SMS Nautilus retuned to minelaying training and participated in the 1910 annual fleet maneuvers. After a new overhaul in Kiel until 27 January 1911 she returned to training and on 4 April was replaced again by Albatross. She later experimented with minesweepers in the North Sea and took part in the annual fleet exercises. On 30 October 1911, she was replaced by light cruiser Arcona and remained in reserve until the crisis developed in the Balkans, replacing on 5 June 1914 the older minelayer SMS Pelikan in long overhaul.
From July 1914 she was reclassified as a coastal defense mine cruiser and temporarily sent to the Baltic , laying defensive minefields in the path of the Russian Baltic Fleet. On 25-26 August, back to the west, and teaming with her sister ship, she layed a minefield off the Humber and Tyne on the English coast. That risky operation was performed by night, and two minelayers proceeded independently, covered each by a light cruiser and destroyers.
SMS Nautilus was protected by Mainz and she laid two mine fields 5 nmi (9.3 km; 5.8 mi) long across the known usual merchant pathways. When back, her group spoted and sank six British trawlers. SMS Nautilus, Albatross and the auxiliary minelayer SMS Kaiser later laid a defensive minefield on the Bight on 9–10 September. On 14 October 1914, protected by SMS Kolberg, she was to lay another minefield in the North Sea, off the Firth of Forth, but as they spotted the enemy off the Dogger Bank, they broke off.
Colorized photos of the SMS Albatross underway
In April 1916, SMS Nautilus was sent again in the Baltic after the modern modern SMS Brummer entered service, dedicated to western operations. The rest of 1916 and early 1917 were relatively uneventful with few sorties but she laid a serie of minefields for tactical funneling. In October 1917, she was assigned to the VI Scouting Group (light cruisers Kolberg, Strassburg, Augsburg, aviso Blitz), for Operation Albion. She stayed outside the Gulf of Riga until Russian forces were cleared off from the area and she then sailed off Arensburg on 18 October to lay defensive minefields. On the 21 she was planned to lay mines west of Schildau but it was found too shallow and she transferred her mines to smaller vessels of the II Minesweeper Flotilla to perform the mission, and she was later based in Arensburg.
In 1918, her armament was modified to act as an amphibious support ship. She received two 76 mm (3.0 in) SKL guns, four 20 mm (0.79 in) AA guns, 24 machine guns and two flamethrowers, plus four mine-launchers in addition to her mines. In February 1918 she joined the Sonderverband (Special Unit) tasked of cmbating the anti-communist faction during the Finland’s civil war. On 30 April 1918, Konteradmiral Ludolf von Uslar made Nautilus his flagship, but the operations ceased and the unit was disbanded in May. The minelayer stayed in the northern Baltic and patrolled off Åland island until December. She was decommissioned.
The Treaty of Versailles excluded her from the new Reichsmarine and instead she was stricken on 21 March 1919, in Kiel and used from 1921 as an unarmed storage hulk in Bremen, (“Hulk I”) from 1923, then “Hulk A” (April 1928) in Bremerhaven, with the Training Inspectorate. She was sold and BU in Copenhagen.
SMS Albatros stranded 1915
SMS Albatross was built at AG Weser shipyard, Bremen, laid down as “mine steamer B”, 24 May 1907, launched on 23 October and commissioned for sea trials on 19 May 1908, until 25 July. She took the head of her minesweeping unit while the older SMS Pelikan was under overhaul and took part in the annual fleet maneuvers. On 26 October 1908 and 1909 she became a training ship in Cuxhaven. In 1910 she was ovehauled at the Kaiserliche Werft and modernized, with her mine-launching equipment moved to the upper deck. In 1911, she rammed the steamer Wartburg and needed three weeks repairs; In September she was sent into the Baltic Sea. In 1912, 1913, and early 1914 she had the same same routine.
In July 1914 as a “mine cruiser” she laied defensive fields in the Baltic Sea and later with Nautilus off the Humber and Tyne. Albatross’s group comprised SMS Stuttgart and on her return, hit some of the six British fishing vessels sunk. By June 1915 she was in the Baltic with the auxiliary minelayer SMS Deutschland under Konteradmiral Albert Hopman’s command. Her first operation, codenamed V, was performed on 20 June escorted by SMS Roon, Prinz Heinrich, Prinz Adalbert, Augsburg, Lübeck, she laid a large minefield off Bogskär. Later she laid 350 mines escorted by Prinz Adalbert, Prinz Heinrich, Thetis (operation VI), screened by eight torpedo boats. She was based in Neufahrwasser all this time.
SMS Albatross stranded, crew evacuating photo by Bruzelius 1915
Battle of Åland Islands
For operation, VII (29-30 June night) she was escorted by Roon, and five TBs, meeting out of the Vistula later Kommodore (Commodore) Johannes von Karpf—Lübeck’s ships and more TBs. She laid her minefield off Bogskär and later Roon and Lübeck separated to guard a channel between minefield, while Albatross proceeded north to Bogskär, laying 160 mines. Augsburg went south to join Roon and Lübeck while Kdt. Karpf received via wireless a report over her position, intercepted and decrypted by the Russians, which were about t lauinch a bombarding sortie on Memel the following day.
Led by the armored cruiser Rurik four cruisers sorties on 1st July, trying to ambush the Germans, but Karpf dispersed his force and Albatross, Augsburg plus three TBs speamed to Rixhöft, the remainder to Libau. At 06:30 on 2 July, lookouts from SMS Augsburg spotted the Russians and Karpf ordered Albatross to seek refuge in neutral Swedish waters, the others using their speed to escape and possibly draw the Russians on Roon and Lübeck. However soon the latter catch up with them and turned to port to bring their full battery to bear, firing from 8,000 m (26,000 ft). Bogatyr and Oleg concentrated on SMS Albatross, but this was innacurate due to Heavy fog.
Soon, the monelayer was found alone, with all four Russian cruisers shelling her. At 07:20, she was hit and more were to come as the range closed. At some point she was close enough to replicate with her 8.8 guns, with little effect on the armoured cruisers. Her forecastle was soon crippled, foremast knocked down, conning tower destroyed, with the staff inside but eventually at 07:45, she entered Swedish territorial waters. However in violation of international laws, the Russians pressed on and kept firing for twenty minutes, stopping only at 08:07, after Albatross reached Östergarn Sound. She was badly damaged, listing heavily to port and her captain ordered her to be beached and made preparatios to evacuate and scuttling.
Hopman considered sending a torpedo boat for towing Albatross, but the Russian vessels were a serious thrat. Prinz Adalbert and Prinz Heinrich reinforced Karpf’s ships and sailed out to rescue Albatross, but en route, HMS E9 torpedoed Prinz Adalbert, so making Karp break off the operation. Albatross was interned by Sweden for the remainder of the war, never repaired and not scuttled as the Russian would not dare approaching. 26 German sailors were buried east of Östergarn Church and two at Björke cemetery. The survivors were interned in Roma, and Blåhäll, Tofta. The Swedish salvage company Neptun refloated Albatross on 23 July, towed to Fårösund, then Oskarshamn, to be interned, only returned (as her crew) to Kiel in January 1919, and decommissioned on 23 January, stricken on 21 March, then sold for BU in Hamburg.
Surviving SMS Albatross sailor on the Swedish island of Gotland, 1915
The Dresden class followed the Königsberg class, but improved in size and speed a bit. Launched in 1907-1908, their fates were among the most interesting of the war: Both Königsberg and Dresden were part of the overseas squadrons of the Kaiserliches Marine in 1914. Dresden was in Mexican waters and has to quickly head for the eastern Indian Ocean via Good Hope, and became one of the most famous German commerce raiders, joining Admiral Von Spee’s squadron at the Coronel battle, duelled at the Falkands with Kent and Glasgow, but ended scuttled in the maze of islands of Chile in March 1915. Emden was in China, heading with Graf Spee’s East Asia Squadron and was detached for independent raiding in the Indian Ocean, also attacking Penang and the Cocos Islands, but lost a duel to HMAS Sydney. The Crew then managed to get back to Germany, in a true odyssey which was turned into two movies.
SMS Dresden through the Kiel Canal
Profile overview in a German publication
The origins of the design could be found in the 1898 Naval Law, authorizing construction of no less than thirty new light cruisers. The Gazelle class has been the first, developed into the Bremen, and then Königsberg class. Both had many incremental innovations and improvements over globally the same basic design. The two Dresden class just proceeded with the same caution, design-wise. Ordered in the 1905–1906 construction program, they were not just a repeat of the Königsberg but consituted an improvement. Keeping the same main battery they had a slightly greater displacement, the internal machinery space be generous enough to accommodate an additional boiler, and thus, increase engine power. Like on the previous class, engineers differentiated both vessels by testing different machinery: VTE for SMS Emden and steam turbine for the lead ship, in order to compare their performances. But it was the last and decisive test of tht kind. After this, the admiralty decided from then on all cruisers would be fitted with turbines only.
The previous Bremen class – Illustrated London News, 20 March 1915
These cruisers were built at Blohm and Voss shipyard (Dresden) and Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig (Emden). They were launched in 1907-1908, and entered service in 1908-1909. Larger by one meter, wider by 30 cm and heavier by 200 tonnes, they were slightly faster (23.5 and 24 knots compared to 23), but possessing the same firepower, they really shows this almost timid incremental process. The next Kolberg class (1909) were much larger and faster, and better armed.But the true really first innovative designs were the Magdeburg (1912).
Hull & general characteristics
Model of the Emden: Note she was not in overall grey in 1914
Model of the Dresden
Both ships had this characteristic three-funnels silhouette. Their hull measured 117.90 meters (386 ft 10 in) long at the waterline and 118.30 m (388 ft 1 in) long overall, for a beam of 13.50 m (44 ft 3 in), with a draft iif 5.53 m (18 ft 2 in) forward, greater aft. Standard displacement was 3,664 metric tons, reaching 4,268 t (4,201 long tons; 4,705 short tons) fully loaded. Construction called like previous ships for transverse and longitudinal steel frames. They had a transverse metacentric height of .59 m (1 ft 11 in), which was reasonable. This ensure a gentle, predictable motion.
Dresden and Emden carried 18 officers for 343 enlisted men. Like all vessels of that era, they carried many small boats, a fleet including a single picket boat, a barge, a cutter, two yawls and two dinghies. The last four were mostly used for physical training, sailors making regattas against themselves or other crews, and to carry personal, or land armed parties, somehing which will proved handy for Emden in two occasions. The steam picket boat was the standard laison all-weather vessel used to carry officers to port or used to carry dispatch to other ships in the fleet at sea. The barge was used for coaling and carry supplies, and the cutter as a fast dispatch vessel with ample sail. It was used generally by captains as their own leizure boats when not in service;
Jane’s 1914 Dresden class diagrams and drawing
Their armour was slightly improved, with the deck and turrets protected by 50 mm (2.5 in) to 80 mm (3 in) of armor: It was thicker on the slopes either side.
To be more precise, the main armoured deck at the waterline reached up to 80 mm (3.1 in) amidships with sloped 50 mm (2 in) thick, but tapered down to 30 mm (1.2 in) aft and 20 mm (0.79 in) toward the stern.
The main belt was about 30 mm thick (1.8 in), only on the central section, between the forward bridge and extending to the aft gun. An extra stray of armour of 50 mm was fitted over the machinery spaces aft.
The conning tower had walls 100 mm thick (4 in) with a saller communication tube going two decks below.
The gun masks were 50 mm thick (2.5 in) and in addition the forward and aft guns were protected by a partial structure. The four on the corner of the main battery were inside casemates.
The hull was subdivided under the waterline into thirteen watertight compartments, with a double bottom below, extendeding for 47% of the length of the keel.
Binnacle of Emden, salvaged in Australia
Propulsion relied on two propellers, and they possessed three 4-cylinder engines, 12 standard boilers, for a total of 13,500 hp, and top speed of 23.5 knots.
The Dresden were reputed to be good sea boats, but cranking and rolling up to 20° in heavy weather, being also very wet at high speeds. they also suffered a slight weather helm. But they turned tightly, and were very maneuverable and agile. Their relatively small size and hull design made speed losses on a hard turn limited to 35%, which was very reasonable for this class of ship.
10.5 cm SK/L40 salvaged on the Emden’s wreck by the Australians after the war, AWM.
Main armament: Ten 105 mm (4.1 in) (4 in) SK L/40 guns, which were placed as follows: Two side by side on the prow and bow, and the others six on the sides, the two amidship with their own masks and the remainder in casemates. They reached 12,700 m (13,900 yd) and were supplied with 1,500 rounds of ammunition (150 per gun).
Secondary armament: Both cruisers were armed with eight 5.2 cm (2 in) SK L/55 guns, with 4,000 rounds of ammunition. This was an improvement over the previous Königsberg, which had none. The danger indeed of torpeod boats was recoignised as it was estimated that the main guns had not enough rate of fire to deal with them until reaching critical distance. The 5.2 cm had a short career in the Kaiserliches Marine. The next Kolbergs had only four of them, and the Magdeburg class has none, but gaining the excellent 8.8 cm SK L/45 from 1917, which became the de facto standard light gun in the Navy.
Torpedo armament: Like all previous cruisers, the Dresden class were provided with two 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. They were submerged, fixed in the broadside, with five reloads.
Old author’s illustration of the SMS Emden, in 1914 white colonial livery, Tsingtau, China.
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1906-1921.
Delgado, James P. (2004). Adventures of a Sea Hunter: In Search of Famous Shipwrecks. Douglas & McIntyre
Forstmeier, Friedrich (1972). “SMS Emden, Small Protected Cruiser 1906—1914”. Warship Profile 25.
Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels.
Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis
Herwig, Holger (1980). “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Humanity Books.
Lenz, Lawrence (2008). Power and Policy: America’s First Steps to Superpower, 1889–1922. Algora Pub
Levine, Edward F. & Panetta, Roger (2009). Hudson–Fulton Celebration of 1909. Arcadia Pub.
Mueller, Michael (2007). Canaris: The Life and Death of Hitler’s Spymaster. Annapolis
Nottelmann, Dirk (2020). “The Development of the Small Cruiser in the Imperial German Navy”. Osprey.
Staff, Gary (2011). Battle on the Seven Seas: German Cruiser Battles, 1914–1918. Pen & Sword Maritime.
Von Mücke, Hellmuth (2000). The Emden—Ayesha Adventure: German Raiders in the South Seas and Beyond, 1914.
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2004). Kleine Kreuzer 1903–1918: Bremen bis Cöln-Klasse. Bernard & Graefe Verlag.
Movies about the Emden:
“How We Beat the Emden” and How We Fought the Emden and in 1928 The Exploits of the Emden, all produced in Australia. On the German side 1926 the silent Unsere Emden (footage) later incorporated in Kreuzer Emden, a 1932 feature film, and Heldentum und Todeskampf unserer Emden (1934). All three films were directed by Louis Ralph.
More recently, in 2012,Die Männer der Emden (The men of the Emden) was released, but only covering how Von Mücke’s stranded crew made their way back to Germany after the Battle of Cocos.
SMS Dresden in New York, in prewar two-tones livery (white hull, canvas brown superstructures)
Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 1909, Dresden in company of other cruisers
Battle painting (cc)
Emden stranded, painting by Hans Bohrdt
Transferring wounded on Empress of Augusta after the battle
Aft view of the wreck
Battle damage of the Emden
Forward deck damage
The deck of SMS Eden, showing extensive damage
French article on the end of Dresden
SMS Emden entered service in 1909, taking part in autumn manoeuvers and escorting the imperial yacht Hohenzollern with the Kaiser aboard. She was decommissioned after completing trials and on 1 April 1910 assigned to the Ostasiengeschwader (East Asia Squadron) in Tsingtao, 1897 Kiautschou concession (China). She left Kiel on 12 April 1910, but made a goodwill tour of South America (12 May, Montevideo to meet Bremen, Ostamerikanischen Station), and headed for Buenos Aires, to participate in the celebrations of the hundredth anniversary of Argentinian independence. They passed the Horn and stopped in Valparaíso, and separared off Peru, as Emden headed for the Pacific, stuggling at frst to get good quality coal.
Emden carried 1,400 t of coal from the Chilean naval base at Talcahuano and was en route on 24 June, making her long-term shakedown cruiser along the way. Everything was noted on a report for future cruiser designs. She met severe weather along the way, notably off Easter Island, stopped in French Papeete, Tahiti, and made the next 4,200 nautical miles trip to German Samoa (22 July) to meet the East Asia Squadron (Konteradmiral Erich Gühler).
The crew of SMS Emden before the war
In October, the squadron headed for Tsingtao and for the first time, Emden entered the Yangtze River, exploring it from 27 October to 19 November and stopping in Hankou. Next she headed to Japan, stopping at Nagasaki and was back in Tsingtao on 22 December, and a refit, interrupted by the the Sokehs Rebellion at Ponape in the Carolines. She was ordered there, departing on 28 December, and joined by SMS Nürnberg from Hong Kong.
They met at Ponape the old Cormoran and all three bombarded rebel positions, completing the mission by sending a large combined landing force, which were added to the colonial police troops. This ground offensive was made on mid-January 1911 and by late February the revolt was suppressed. On 26 February the old cruiser SMS Condor arrived arrived to relieve them and Emden departed on 1 March for Tsingtao, via Guam, arriving on 19 March and starting her overhaul.
Emden in Tsingtao, early 1914
By mid-1911, she toured Japan and accidentally rammed a Japanese steamer, during a typhoon, which caused enough damage to sent her in drydock in Tsingtao. Next she was ordered in the Yangtze to protect Europeans as the Chinese Revolution broke out on 10 October and by November she was placed under ordered of Vizeadmiral Maximilian von Spee. The cruiser won the Kaiser’s Schießpreis for her gunnery marksmanship, in the whole East Asia Squadron. She was sent off Incheon to assist the steamer Deike Rickmers, grounded, and by May 1913 Karl von Müller took command, soon promoted Fregattenkapitän. In mid-June she cruise German colonies in the Central Pacific. In between she was sent to Nanjing to protect nationals during a fight between Qing and revolutionary forces and in August, she was attacked by rebels believing she sided with Qing. Her gunners returned fire, which was efficient.
In August 1914, Commander Von Müller decided to leave the base quickly so as not to be cornered by a superior forced and to join Von Spee’s squadron in the Pacific through the Strait of Korea. In between the spotted and caught a Russian liner, the Riasan, take the crew in custodu, recoaled and scuttled the ship. Müller learnt in between Admiral Jerram’s squadron had arrived off Tsing tao, Von Spee then having no other option but to make for home, or die trying. The Japanese went at war in turn on 23 August but after a conference between Spee and Müller, Emden was to be left in the Indian Ocean as a diversion, while the squadron was steaming to the Cape Horn.
The Indian Ocean raider
The SMS Emden at sea.
By leaving Spee, Emden started a formidable raiding spree that would enter the annals of the Kaiserliches Marine as one of the most successful. After roaming off Indonesia, with a fourth fake funnel built to look like a British cruiser, she missed her coaler, the Markomannia on September 8th but persuaded the captain of the neutral Greek coaler Pontoporos to supply him. Later she seized the freighter “Indus” loaded with food a welcome addition.
The latter was abandoned as too slow, the crew transferred to Markomannia. Next, Emden captured the cargo “Lovat”, the Kabinga, the small coaler Killin, the large steamer SS Diplomat. Next he sized the Italian Loredano, sunk the coaster Trabboch, but was betrayed by a communicaion by the captain of the Loredano, passing his position to the Admiralty, that scrambled all available forces.
Leaving her small fleet, Emden loaded all she could and started to steam fast, now trying to attack British ports on the Indian coast. On September 22, she raided the oil tanks of Madras, and the shelled Colombo, also sinking a large transport of sugar.
Emden and Captain Müller in medallion
Next, she raided Diego Garcia, an important British colonial base, on the Mauritius islands. Von Müller briefed his staff of not to divulgate there was a state of war, and camed as for a “courtesy visit”. He was well received by the Governor and be able to replenish serenely. By wireless however he soon learned about the arrival of British vessels, and left the island precipitately, leaving behind the Markomannia. She hid behind the island of Minnikoy, sinking five English steamers. Eventually Von Müller decided to leave the area and rally Von Spee via Malacca strait.
The Emden arrived on the 28th of October before dawn off Georgetown, Penange, all light shut and surprised four French ships at anchor, including the cruiser d’Iberville. One destroyer, the Mousquet, was patrolling nearby but failed to see her. The Russian cruiser Jemtchug was also there, a more deadly opponent. Emden opened fire from the best position, at point-blank while hoisting the flag of war and launched a torpedo on the Jemtchoug, whichremained afloat but was crippled by artillery. The latter counter-fired but without effect and she launched a second torpedo, apparently striking her ammunition store. The Russian cruiser blew up and sank. D’Iberville came, but was fooled by a change of flag, and reassuring morse about an accidental explosion, until her captain saw the Emden fourth fake funnel trembling in the wind, realizing his error. But it was too late, with the Aviso’s light artillery and engines cold, she could do little before Emden escaped.
Steaming for the other side of the harbour she captured the steamer Glen Turret, but was surprised by the French destroyer Mousquet, which aptain decided to make a torpedo run. Emden’s fire battered the French TB during her approach and she eventually capsized and sank. A second destroyer approached, but again Emden managed to escape. She was chased off by the French destroyer for hours, until running out of coal.
The Cocos Islands Battle and return home
Battle engraving emden and sydney, Imperial War Museum, Galleries at the Crystal Palace
The Emden arrived next in the Cocos Islands, one of which had a radio station that Von Müller needed to destroy, in order to refuel there. When the cruiser arrived, a message was sent nevertheless, intercepted by the Australian cruisers HMAS Melbourne and Sydney escorting a convoy nearby. The two ships steamed towards the Cocos Islands just half an hour later, while 50 of the crew (a demolition landing party) just were now on the island, including the second Von Mücke, proceeding to the destruction of the radio station of Direction Island.
HMAS Sydney soon spotted and engaged Emden, with her numerous longer range, hard-hitting 6-in guns. With a reduced crew, Emden could not fleet not answer effectively and she was soon blasted. Her telemetry was destroyed, and her guns silenced one by one as the funnels were falling. Soon, this was over.
Emden’s wreck on North Keeling Island, took the day after.
Von Mücke’s company saw the unequal action from the roof of one building. They greeted the apparent 18 hits by Emden on Sydney (killing three, wounding 13) but she ended ablaze and dead in the water after 670 rounds spent, 100 claimed on target. Von Müller managed to beach her on the reefs of North Keeling, saving most of the remaining crew. Captain Glossop sent an injunction to surrender and two warning salvoes until a German white flag was hoisted. Emden lost 133 officers and men in this fight, out of 376. The remainder left the ship, which was scuttled properly.
The wreck of Emden
Survivors of SMS Emden under guard on a boat, to become POW in Australia and Malta
Sydney left quickly to head for Direction Island and land her own company of riflemen to engage Von Mücke’s men, but the latter in between seized the governor’s schooner, Ayesha, and sailed to the island of Padang, Dutch East Indies. Von Müller’s men were later made POW, some interned in Australia, the others in Malta, back home in 1920. The rest of the trip was near-legendary. Von Mücke managed to conduct the Ayesha to Sumatra on November, 7, later waited and embarked in a German steamer for Yemen. They reached Bab-el-Mandeb, crossed all the Arabian peninsula and arrived in Constantinople in june 1915. Latter they took the train and reached in June 1915 the fatherland, greeted as heroes. The rampage of Emden would span 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km; 35,000 mi), added to the formidable tally she could claim.
Reunion of former adversaries in Germany, 1967
SMS Dresden, ordered as “Ersatz Comet” in Blohm & Voss shipyard (Hamburg), was laid down in 1906, launched on 5 October 1907, commissioned on 14 November 1908. On 28 November during her sea trials she collided with the small Swedish coaster Cäcilie off Kiel. Her starboard propeller shaft however was moved 1.2 in off-axis, requiring six months of repairs. Sea trials only resumed 1909, leading to a turbine accident, having her in repairs again until September.
Dresden had botched trials, declared over on 7 September by an impatient admiral, and she made her shakedown cruiser while visit the United States, representing Germany at the Hudson–Fulton Celebration (New York) in company of the cruisers Hertha and Victoria Louise as well as Bremen, sailing on 11 September, arriving at the gathering point at Newport, and arriving in New York on 24 September. She stayed there until 9 October and was back in Germany on 22 October.
Next, SMS Dresden was assigned to the reconnaissance force, High Seas Fleet and started her peacetime routine of squadron exercises alternated with training cruises and yearly fleet exercises. On 16 February 1910, really unlucky by this point, she collided with SMS Königsberg. The one caused again significant damage and furter repairs in Kiel for eight days. After visiting Hamburg on 13–17 May she was assigned to the Training Squadron on 14-20 April 1912 with Friedrich Carl and Mainz. She earned the 1911–12 Schießpreis (Shooting Prize) for light cruisers. Until September 1913 she was under orders of Fregattenkapitän Fritz Lüdecke, also her wartime captain.
On 6 April 1913 she sailed with SMS Strassburg to the Adriatic Sea and the Mittelmeer-Division (Mediterranean Division), flanking SMS Goeben (Konteradmiral Konrad Trummler). By late August, Dresden was ordered back to Kiel and sent to the Kaiserliche Werft for an overhaul until December. Her January planned Mediterranean service was cancelled by the Admiralstab and she was sent to the North American station instead, due to the Mexican Revolution. She replaced Bremen, due for replacement by SMS Karlsruhe. Dresden arrived off Vera Cruz on 21 January 1914, still under Erich Köhler, watching over German interests there, and she was later recalled and replaced by SMS Hertha, on a training cruise for naval cadets, and soon Bremen, watching over the evacuation of European nationals on the German HAPAG liners.
Dresden and HMS Hermione rescued also 900 American citizens trapped in the Vera Cruz hotel, transferred to US warships, by far the largest contingent there. The German consul in Mexico City asked for a landing party from Dresden, created with a Junior Petty Officer and ten sailors armed with two MG 08 machine guns. On 15 April 1914, the cruiser headed for Tampico, Mexico’s Gulf coast. In the meantime, the SS Ypiranga arrived in sight of Mexico with small arms for the Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta. But the United States put in place an arms embargo in between, and they intercepted Ypiranga on 21 April. As she was German, Dresden arrived to confiscate officially the merchantman, and officially carry out German refugees out of Mexico, but delivering the weapons and ammunition nevertheless.
On 20 July 1914 the Huerta regime was toppled and SMS Dresden carried Huerta and Aureliano Blanquet (Vice Pdt.) and their families to Kingston in Jamaica, where they were granted asylum. Köhler learned there the situation degrading in Europe and set sail as she needed a refit. She met SMS Karlsruhe in Haiti and on the 31st, under captain Lüdecke, she was prepared for Handelskrieg (commerce raiding war) in the Atlantic instead.
Firing on the steamer SS Mauretania, August 1914
Dresden sailed south under radio silence and was conformed the state of war on 4–5 August, so she started her operations in the South Atlantic, and Brazilian coast. Close to the mouth of the Amazon River, she intercepted her first British merchantman on 6 August, SS Drumcliffe. Next she refuelled with the German collier SS Corrientes and sailed to the Rocas Atoll, escorting the HAPAG steamers Prussia, Baden, and Persia. She set sail for Trinidad, and intrcepted on her way the SS Hyades, then captured the British collier SS Holmwood (24 August). In Trinidade, she met the gunboat Eber and several steamers, replenishing.
On 26 August off Río de la Plata she caught two more British steamers. However due to her worn out condition at this point, her captain decided to stop operations and on 5 September, went to Hoste Island for urgent engine maintenance. Informed by the HAPAG steamer Santa Isabel’s captain from Punta Arenas, on 18 September Dresden’s captain decided to transit via the cape horn, and in the Pacific, she stopped in the Juan Fernández Islands, contacting Leipzig. On 12 October she was affected to Vizeadmiral Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron, coaling at Easter Island.
On 18 October she joined her sister ship Emden and the East Asia Squadron in a rampage along the South American coast, down to Más a Fuera island (26 October), escorting the auxiliary cruiser SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich and the SS Yorck and SS Göttingen to Chile. While Off Valparaiso they received intel about a British cruiser at Coronel, later identified as HMS Glasgow, forced to leave port due to neutrality rules. However he did not knew he was with the 4th Cruiser Squadron (RAdm Cradock) with Monmouth, Good Hope and MAC Otranto. This encounter led to the battle of Coronel.
On 1 November, at around 16:00, SMS Leipzig spotted first smoke from the British squadron, and the two squadrons closed the distance until fire broke out at 18:34, at 10,400 m. Dresden fired on Otranto making her fled at the third salvo and claimed to have started a fire. Next, she shifted on Glasgow, already duelling with Leipzig. She made five hits and at 19:30, was ordered to launch a torpedo attack. She increased speed in the heavy weather and deterioating sight, briefly spotting Glasgow withdrawing. Dresden met Leipzig and near fired on her in the semi-darkness. By 22:00, with other light cruiser she was deployed in a searching column but never took sight of the British again. She was not hit a single time.
Dresden in Valparaiso, Chile, 13 Nov. 1914
On 3 November Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Nürnberg sere ordered back to resupply in Valparaiso under neutrality laws (three belligerent warships only) while Dresden and Leipzig remained with the colliers in Más a Fuera. Spee was back on 6 November, sending in turn Dresden and Leipzig to Valparaiso, arriving on 12 November and back on the 18th. On the 21th, the squadron sailed to St. Quentin Bay (Gulf of Penas) to coal while the British Amiralty ordered Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee south with the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible, en route from 11 November. They arrived in the Falklands on 7 December, soon joined by the Cornwall, Kent, and Carnarvon, Glasgow and Bristol. The trap was set.
Spee left on 26 November and caught on 2 December the Canadian sailing vessel Drummuir carrying 2,750 t of excellent Cardiff coal. The squadron recoaled at Picton Island, and Spee made a council on 6 December, planning for an attack on the Falklands, to eliminate the large British wireless station there and all coal stocks, despite Lüdecke and Leipzig, Nürnberg captains opposition, preferring to raid La Plata area. Seniority won and ordered were given.
On 6 December afternoon, the squadron departed Picton Island and on 7 December arrived off Tierra del Fuego, and then sighted the Falklands at 02:00. At 05:00, Gneisenau and Nürnberg were detahced to send landing parties and were en route when they spotted at 08:30 smoke raising from Port Stanley’s harbor. Spee realized his error and gave orders to fleet eastwards, rejoining his squadron at 10:45, leaving the German auxiliaries to hide in the islands off Cape Horn. They were soon taken in hot chase by the British. At 12:50, the battlecruisers catched SMS Leipzig and Spee ordered the three light cruisers to escape south, while he would engage the British with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Sturdee then ordered his armored and light cruisers to chase off the German light cruisers. While Spee died in his gallant fight, Dresden’s worn out turbine could not out-run her opposition and Lüdecke wanted her to hide in the islands off South America.
SMS Dresden’s prow, date unknown, Bundesarchiv
On 9 December, she rounded the Cape Horn and entered the Pacific, first dropping anchor at Sholl Bay with just 160 t of coal in store. Oberleutnant zur See Wilhelm Canaris convinced the Chilean naval representative a extra 24h delay to stock extra coal at Punta Arenas, starting on 12 December. She embarked 750 t from a German steamer and the admiral staff hoped she could make a run through the Atlantic and head for home. But still, her turbines would not allow this and Lüdecke wanted to continue his raiding spree in the Pacific, via Easter Island, then heading for the Solomon Islands, Dutch East Indies and operating in the Indian Ocean.
After taking on board 1,600 t of coal on 19 January, she headed for another hideout, making maintenance whith whatever available. On 27 February underway, she captured the British barque Conway Castle, south of Más a Tierra, was resupplied by the German liner Sierra Cordoba, and made another coaling at Juan Fernández Islands. On 8 March, while underway in dense fog, lookouts spotted HMS Kent, engines off, just 15 nautical miles away. Both raised steam, but Dresden recoignising she was a greater adversary managed to escape after a five-hour chase. This depleted her coal stocks and further deteriorating the state of her engines until Lüdecke estimated his ship was no longer operational, and he wanted her to be interned instead. He set sail to Más a Fuera, Cumberland Bay, later confirmed by the German Admiralty, and contacting Chilean officials.
On 14 March however, Kent and Glasgow arrived off Cumberland Bay, but Dresden was stuck. Lüdecke signaled she was no longer a combatant but the British disregarded this and HMS Glasgow soon opened fire, even in violation of Chile’s neutrality, soon joined by Kent. German gunners just had to time to be on battle station and fired three shots until British gunfire knowked them out. Lüdecke signalled “Am sending negotiator”, dispatching Canaris in a pinnace while Glasgow went on shelling Dresden. Lüdecke soon raised the white flag at last. Canaris met Captain John Luce, receiving terms of unconditional surrender, the latter perotesting they were already interned by Chile and saked for scuttling instead. This was done at 10:45 with charge detonated in the bow’s ammunition magazines, crew evacuated. Dresden sank after 30 minutes and as it did, the second scuttling charge exploded in the engine rooms.
Dresden’s white flag, before scuttling
The crew mostly managed to escape, 8 sailors had been killed and 29 wounded in the shelling. The British MAC HMS Orama took the most wounded to Valparaiso. The officeres eventually picked up Chilean warships, then a German passenger ship to be interned in Quiriquina Island. Canaris however would escape on 5 August 1915, making it back to Germany two months later and on 31 March 1917, others escaped and captured the Chilean barque Tinto, reaching in turn the fatherland after 120 days. The wreck was inspected in 2002.