SMS Kaiserin Augusta (1892)

SMS Kaiserin Augusta (1892)

Germany (1892)

The second German protected cruiser:
The design of this wooden-sheated protected cruiser started in 1887, however design speed as specified was larger than for the Irene class. In order to achieve it with just two propellers, decision was taken to swap to three shafts. This was the first time for a German warship and the configuration was repeated on further vessels.

Kaiserin August was laid down in Germaniawerft in 1890, launched 15 january 1892, and completed in 29 august 1892. She displaced 6218 tons, and was larger than Irene with 123.2 m overall, 1536 m wide and 7.4 m draft. Her triple shaft arrangement, each linked to a triple expansion steam engine, rated for a total of 15,650 hp, for a top speed of 21.5 knots, 4.5 knots better than the Irene.

Note: This post is a placeholder. There will be a complete overview of the class in the next future, officially released on Facebook and other social networks

Kaiserin Augusta in New York

The Kaiserin Augusta was armed with four 150 mm guns fore and aft, and eight 150 mm broadside guns, plus eight 88 mm dual purpose, and four Revolver cannons and five 350 mm torpedo tubes. She has a 2.75 inch protective deck but overall protection was rather light. Her armament was revised, at first it was seen as transitory, and in 1898, rose to twelve 150 mm guns, eight 88 mm dual purpose guns. In 1903 she was sent to drydock for another refit, where she was fitted a larger bridge, and her TTs removed but the bow axial one.

In 1914 she was obsolete and transferred as a training ship. In 1916 her armament was revised to one 150 mm, four 105 mm, fourteen 88 mm of four different types to train gunners. She survived the war and was BU in 1920.


Displacement: 6218t FL
Dimensions: 123.2 x 30 x 8.50 m
Propulsion: 3 shaft TE, ? boilers, 15,650 hp and 21.5 knots.
Armour protection: Deck 50 mm
Crew: 430.
Armement: 4 x 150, 8 x 105 mm, 8 x 88 mm AA, 4 Rev cannons, 3 x 350 mm TTs.

Braunschweig class battleships (1902)

Braunschweig class battleships (1902)

Germany (1906)
Battleships Braunschweig, Elsass, Hessen, Prussen, Lothringen

Improved pre-dreadnoughts with three funnels

The Braunschchweig were another group of five German pre-dreadnought battleships ordered as part of Tirpitz 1898 naval law. After the Kaisers and Wittlesbach, they proceeded in a straightforward fashion, improving all what they could compared to the previous design; In protection, speed, and armament, with secondary barbettes with 170 mm guns instead of 140, giving them much appreciated punch and range over standard 6-in guns used by the Royal Navy. Much like the other classes they remained mostly inactive during WW1and were eventually disarmed between 1916 and 1917, their guns recycled onto railways and being converted to minor duties, training or depot ships, surviving into the 1930s.

HD illustration of the SMS Essen
Era Postcard of the SMS Essen

Note: This post is a placeholder. There will be a complete overview of the class in the next future, officially released on Facebook and other social networks

Improved Battleships with a powerful secondary battery

The Braunschweig class were essentially heavier versions of the previous Wittelsbach, but with a more powerful armament, 280 mm instead of 240 mm for the main battery and for the secondary battery 170 mm instead of 150 mm. The idea was to compensate for the lighter caliber of the main artillery with a secondary one that can engage the enemy at an intermediary range, pummelling the superstructures. In any case it was a true leap forward and gradually closing to the British classes.

Design of the Braunschweig

This class of 5 battleships (second set of “regions”) included the Braunschweig, Elsass, Hessen, Preussen, and Lothringen. They were started in 1901-1902 in Schichau, Germaniawerft and Vulcan. Elsass and Lothringen carried a significant weight for the French, since they were German translation of former French border regions “Alsace” and “Lorraine” obtained after the war of 1870 and a constant hot point behind French motivations to war and revenge over Germany.


They drifted closely from the previous Wittlesbach, but their secondary artillery, partly in barbettes and partly in simple turrets, was changed to 170 mm caliber, which was unique at the time, and included some of the weakness of the 280 mm in range and to penetrating power lower than English 12-inch pieces.


They had a new boiler system, with the power and speed increasing, and this time they had three fireplaces. They reached 25.6 meters wide, and in fact remained fairly stable. Their front turret was returned to normal position.


As said above the Braunschweig drifted closely from the previous Wittlesbachs, but with a more potent main artillery, and a powerful secondary one partly in barbettes and partly in simple turrets, 170 mm caliber, quite unique at the time. This somewhat compensated for the weakness of the 280 mm in range and to penetrating power, always lower than the British 12-inch pieces.

Active service

By far the heaviest German pre-dreadnoughts, they remained relatively inactive at the beginning of the war. They formed the 4th squadron based in the Baltic and intended for the possible exits of the Russian fleet. Because of the lack of crews, they were partially put in reserve, being officially ranked as coastguard. In 1916, their secondary battery was removed and they kept only a few pieces of 88 mm.

In 1919, Preussen and Lothringen were converted into type F star-holders. The experiment was interrupted in 1938, and the Preussen was broken up, as were the other units of the class in 1931. Hessen, on the other hand, was radio-controlled target ship, survived the Second World War and was awarded war damage to the USSR in 1946 renamed Tsel.

Links/read more
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905, 1906-1921.

Braunschweig specifications

Dimensions 127,7 x 25,6 x 8.1 m
Displacement 14 167 t FL
Crew 743
Propulsion 3 shafts, 3 TE engines, 12 boilers, 17 000 hp
Speed 18.5 knots ( km/h; mph)
Range 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) @10 knots
Armament 4 x 280mm (2×2), 18 x 170mm, 12 x 88 mm, 6 x 450 mm TTs
Armor Belt 150mm, deck 65mm, CT 150mm, turrets 250mm

Author’s rendition of the Braunschweig class

Gazelle class cruisers (1898)

Gazelle class cruisers (1898)

Germany (1898)
SMS Gazelle, Niobe, Nymphe, Thetis, Ariadne, Amazone, Medusa, Frauenlob, Arcona, Undine

The first modern light cruisers:
The Gazelle class has been often dubbed as the “first modern light cruisers”. They had indeed all the trademark of the type and formed the basis for Germany of a long lineage which will go straight through ww1 and the interwar, and culminated with the KMS Nürnberg in 1937.

The Gazelle were started from 1898 to 1902 at Germaniawerft (3 ships), Weser (4), Dantzig Dyd (Thetis), and Howaldswerke (Undine) and launched between March 1898 and December 1902. The class comprised the Gazelle, Niobe, Nymphe, Thetis, Ariadne, Amazone, Medusa, Frauenlob, Arcona and Undine, all in service between June 1900 and January 1904. Their fate varied heavily, but three were lost in action in ww1.

SMS Hela
SMS Hela

Origins and inspiration: From aviso to light cruiser

Precursors has been an aviso (sort of fast, slim gunboats for colonial service), Hela (1895), Gefion, a unique cruiser-corvette or 3rd rate cruiser (1893), Meteor class avisos (1888), Wacht class (1887) while the Greif (1886), Blitz class (1882), Zieten (1876) were composite ships.

The SMS Gefion was probably the greatest inspiration for the Gazelle, with a rather tall hull and ten 105 mm guns. Interestingly, she was reduced as an accommodation ship from 1916 and converted as a merchantmen in 1920, so bad was German shipping then.

She not very successful as a frail, light and narrow military ship would be for that purpose. The term “aviso” is French, meaning a “dispatch vessel”. This originated as a kind of small, light, very fast ship that passed admiral’s detailed orders to specific ships of the line while in battle, since signals then would be hard to catch amidst the explosions and smoke.

The term was kept as a tradition well into the end of XXth Century (through the cold war) but had little meaning in a modern context. Corvettes and Frigates replaced them.

SMS Undine launch in 1902
SMS Undine launch in 1902

Design of the Gazelle

These so-called “4th class” cruisers were in fact defined as good compromises between fast, large colonial gunboats (avisos) and squadron scouts.

They had some similarities with the Hela (1895), but their stern was raised to form a forecastle, and their armament was markedly reinforced. Instead of the few 88 mm, a battery of 10 pieces of 105 mm to deal with TBs and destroyers, like the Gefion.

They were also better protected with an armoured deck, but used the same powerplant than the Hela. In the end, these ships were well armed and able to assume their role of destroyers hunters, wile being able to deal with opposite cruisers.

The Gazelle were also recognizable at their two funnels, and their old fashioned rams. However the lead ship, SMS gazelle differed in two points from her sister-ships: She has a bow TT and above water side TTs, while the others had only submerged TTs.

Not only that, but she also had her charthouse placed between her two funnels, whole the others had it in front of the forefunnel.

SMS Niobe launch


The main protective deck was 50mm (2in) amidships. The deck otherwise was 20 to 25 mm (0.79 to 0.98 in). Construction of the hull comprised transverse and longitudinal steel frames, and wooden planks covered with Muntz metal (to prevent fouling) up to a meter above the waterline. Twelve watertight compartments and a double bottom for 40% of the length prevented flooding.

SMS Undine at full speed


The Germans thought lighter 105mm were best suited due to their rate of fire to deal with TBs and destroyers rather than the usual 6-in gus found previously on those kind of ships. This was not either the too light battery of 88mm guns found on the Hela.

These ten 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns were placed fore and aft in pairs (4) then followed six in sponsons, the further aft and rear being enclosed. Their range was 12,200 m (40,000 ft) and they were supplied with 100 rounds each. There were also ten machine-guns and two 450 mm (17.7 in) TTs with five torpedoes in reserve.

SMS Niobe in 1902


Gazelle, the lead ship differed from the others in having 2 shafts, 2 triple expansion engines for 6,000 ihp (4,500 kW). The others’s triple expansion engines developed 8,000 ihp (6,000 kW).

Speed for the first was 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph), and the others 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph). Their range was 3,560 to 4,400 nmi (6,590 to 8,150 km; 4,100 to 5,060 mi). Although agile these ships tended to roll severely, being wet and to suffer from lee helm after modernization.

SMS Niobe at Kiel in 1903


All ships served either, or in succession as fleet reconnaissance force, and on foreign stations. by 1914 they were in reserve due to their age. Gazelle has been reconstructed in 1905-1907 and Arcona in 1911-1912 but with apparently little change.
Earlier ships were used for coastal defence with reduced crews. In 1916, they were in second-line duties or even disarmed. Arcona was used as a minelayer (200 mines).


-SMS Ariadne participated in the Battle of Heligoland in August 1914 and was sunk there.
-SMS Undine was torpedoed in the Baltic by the E19 and the Frauenlob sank during the Battle of Jutland, torpedoed by the cruiser HMS Southampton.

Post War Career

The Gazelle was broken up in 1920, but the others survived for a while. The Nymph, Niobe and Amazon were completely rebuilt (new clipper prow, 500 mm TTs) and served until 1931-32, the first being sold to the Yugoslavs, renamed Dalmacija in 1925 and then was captured by the Italians in 1941 and renamed Cattaro.

She was then used with a new armament of 6x 8.5 in Skoda guns and 6×20 mm Breda guns until 1943. Form then on she was recaptured by the Germans and used a short time before being transferred to the puppet Croatian regime, and back again German control when she was sunk by British MTBs 276 and 298 in the Adriatic in 22/12/1943.

Nymphe was struck off in 1931 but Amazone went on as an accomodation huk until 1954, while Medusa and Arcona were taken in hands for rebuilding as Flak ships in 1942. In this new configuration they had five 105 mm AA, 2×35 mm and 4×20 mm guns. They survived the war and were eventually broken up in 1948.

SMS Amazone in 1903
SMS Amazone in 1903

SMS Frauenlob in Kiel canal
SMS Frauenlob in Kiel canal

Nice lithography of the Gazelle in 1902
Nice lithography of the Gazelle in 1902

Ex-Niobe (Dalmacija) in Yougoslav service
Ex-Niobe (Dalmacija) in Yougoslav service

Amazone and Hipper at Blohm & Voss in 1939

SMS Ariadne at Heligoland in 1914

SMS Amazone at anchor


The Gazelle class on wikipedia
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

Gazelle class specifications

Dimensions 105 x12.2 x5.4 m
Displacement 2916/3013/3130t/t FL
Crew 249-259
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 VTE engines, 6 boilers, 8500-9000 ihp
Speed 20-21.5 (Niobe 22) knots
Range 4400 nmi at 19 knots
Armament 10x 105 mm, 8x 8mm MGs, 2x 450mm TTs.
Armor Decks 20-25 mm belt 50 mm


Illustration of the SMS Gazelle by the author, as built in 1901.

Scharnhorst class armoured cruisers (1906)

Scharnhorst class armoured cruisers (1906)

Germany (1906) Scharnhorst, Gneisenau

The last German armoured cruisers: Before the ones you probably know better from ww2, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau has been Imperial Navy’s most recognizable and famous German cruisers.
Named after famous Prussian generals during the Napoleonic wars, they had been were the ultimate and very best German armoured cruiser, at the end of their lineage, just before the first battlecruisers came out (1906).

SMS Scharnhorst by Arthur Renard


They had been ordered at Blohm & Voss and Weser shipyards in 1905, launched in March-June 1906 and completed in 1907 and 1908.
Much inspired by previous Roon class of 1903 they retained their general appearance. However, they were much larger, better protected and better armed, thanks to the choice of giving them a new battery of eight 210 mm in turrets and barbettes.
They were designed specifically to successfully oppose their British equivalents, also end of their line, the Minotaur and Shannon.

The Roon class was in many ways similar to the Scharnhorst class.



Both ships had a Krupp armor belt, 150 mm (5.9 in) thick (center), decreasing to 80 mm (3.1 in) on both end of the citadel, down to nothing on ends, and backed with teak planking.
The deck was protected from 60 mm (2.4 in) to 35 mm (1.4 in) and it sloped down to the belt at 40–55 mm thick. Forward conning tower was 200 mm (7.9 in) with a 30 mm roof.
The rear one was 50 mm only with a 20 mm roof. Main battery was 170 mm (6.7 in) with 30 mm roofs. Amidships guns had 150 mm (5.9 in) shields and 40 mm roofs. The secondary guns had 80 mm shields.

Brassey’s diagram of the class


The machinery was globally the same as the previous Roon class: Three 3-cylinder triple expansion engines, that drove a single propeller each.
Gneisenau’s screws were slightly smaller than her sister-ship. The engines were fed by 18 coal-fired marine-type boilers, and 36 fire boxes.
Total output was about 26,000 metric horsepower (19,000 kW; 26,000 ihp), but on trials bot ships achieved higher speeds at 28,782 ihp for Scharnhorst and 30,396 ihp for Gneisenau.
Scharnhorst topped 23.5 knots and Gneisenau reached 23.6 knots (43.7 km/h; 27.2 mph). Both carried 800 t of coal but had a maximal storage for 2,000 tin case of war.

This made for a 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) radius at about 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph). Their electrical plant was made of four turbo-generators for a total of 260 kilowatts at 110 volts, the last time this voltage was used. In the next Blücher, generators were rated at 225 volts.

Janes diagram of the class
Jane’s diagram of the class.


The main armament of these ships was equivalent to the interwar heavy cruiser standard, with eight 210 mm (8.3 in) SK L/40 guns. There were two main turrets fore and aft, and four under single wing turrets at each ends.

Projectiles were 108 kg (238 lb) armor-piercing shells flying at 780 metres per second (2,600 ft/s). The guns achieved a 4–5 rounds per minute, and 700 rounds were carried total. With a 30° elevation, these guns achieved a 12,400 metres (single turrets) to 16,300 metres (17,800 yd) range.

Scharnhorst rear turret
Scharnhorst rear turret

Secondary armament comprises six 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/40 guns in casemates, capable of 4-5 rpm, with 1,020 rounds in storage. With 20° elevation they were capable of a 13,700 metres (15,000 yd) range.
Their tertiary artillery, quick-firing for anti-torpedo warfare, comprised eighteen 8.8 cm (3.46 in) guns in casemates, firing 10 kg (22 lb) shells at 620 m/s (2,000 ft/s). There was a total of 2,700 rounds in store, and they can fire at 11,000 m (12,000 yd).
There were also four 45 cm (18 in) submerged torpedo tubes, launching a C/03 type torpedo. The latter carried a 176 kg (388 lb) HE warhead at 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph), and a range of 1,500 metres (1,600 yd). 11 torpedoes were carried.

Active carrer

Of little use in the Hochseeflotte against because of the profusion of faster, modern battlecruisers, they were transferred to the Pacific squadron under the command of Von Spee, with whom they were going to forge a true legend. In 1909 they were based at Tsing-Tao. With the outbreak of the war and the entry of Japan into the central empires, their place was no longer secure, and the squadron began to wage war on commerce in the eastern Pacific and on the coast West of South America.

SMS Scharnhorst prewar
SMS Scharnhorst prewar

The following is known: The only possible pitfall in the Cape Horn area was Admiral Cradock’s squadron, based in the Malvinas Islands. The latter had no choice but to face his rival with inferior forces, in order to forbid him to cross the Atlantic.

The clash took place at Coronel on Nov. 1, 1914. The Good Hope and Monmouth were sunk there, while the Germans took almost no damage. The squadron passed Cape Horn and found itself harassing convoys from Argentina and Brazil.
But a British force was quickly assembled to track down Von Spee. The latter had to fight the awaited return battle on 8 August 1914 off the Falklands.
Faced this time with battle cruisers, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau stand little chance but fought with gallantry. Both were sunk but their crew was partly saved.

2-views of the type
Two views of the Scharnhorst type.

More on SMS Scharnhorst

Generalleutnant Gerhard von Scharnhorst laid down at Blohm & Voss, Hamburg on January 1905 was commissioned on 24 October 1907. She was Admiral Maximilian von Spee’s flagship at the German East Asia Squadron.
Her crew was esteemed one of the best trained, and like her sister-ship, she won awards for their excellence at gunnery. The declaration of war caught her in the Caroline Islands on a routine cruise.
Japan’s declaration of war soon convinced Spee to depart from Asia, and join Leipzig and Dresden from the American station, and heading for Chile to refuel. The goal was then to return to Germany via the Atlantic Ocean.
However en route he planned also to attack shipping and get rid of Admiral Christopher Cradock’s squadron.

On 22 September, the Scharnhorst attacked Papeete but declined taking the coal stockpiled in the harbor by fear of mines, the coal being burnt anyway in the end. On 1st November 17H PM, Von Spee’s squadron met Admiral Cradock fleet off Coronel.
The German armoured cruiser excelled in this battle, engaging British cruisers at 18 kilometers, then closing to 12 km at about 19H PM. She scored 34 hits on the HMS Good Hope, at least on landing in the ship’s ammunition magazines, which detonated.
The rest of the British ships escaped by the favor of night. While the result was perceived by the First Lord of the admiralty as “the saddest naval action of the war”, the Kaiser ordered 300 iron crosses for the crews upon return.

Scharnhorst sinking, with the Gneisenau behind.

However the squadron’s next objective was to destroy the Falklands island radio station after refueling in Valparaiso. Meantime Fisher ordered Admiral John Jellicoe to detach battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible to catch and destroy Von Spee, under the orders of Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee.
The squadron also comprised cruisers Carnarvon, Cornwall, Defence, Kent, soon reinforced by the light cruisers Bristol and Glasgow, escaped from Coronel. They arrived at the Falklands by the morning of 8 December, spotting the Germans at 9H40 AM.

HMS Inflexible picking up Scharnhorst’s survivors.

In turn, Von Spee also spotted them and ordered a retreat. However the worn out ships could not escape the fast battlecruisers, that catch them at 13H20, opening fire at 14 km (8.7 mi), and not ceasing until 15H00, leaving the Scharnhorst a burning wreck, riddled of dozens of 305 mm impacts, listing and later sinking rapidly.
Gneisenau was hit too, by no less than 50 rounds, and sank rapidly, her crew cheering the kaiser before going down. Although hundreds of survivors were picked up, some 2,200 men perished, among which Admiral von Spee, that became a tragic national hero back in Germany.
His memory would be revived through a pocket battleships, one of the three Deutschland class, which also operated in the South Atlantic, while both cruisers would be revived in the next class of German interwar battleships.

Links/Sources Scharnhorst class cruiser

HD picture
HD 1/400 author’s Illustration of the Scharnhost, late 1914

Kaiser Friedrich III class Battleships

Kaiser Friedrich III class Battleships

Germany (1896)
Friedrich III, Wilhelm II, Wilhelm der Grosse, Karl der Grosse, Barbarossa

The “Emperors” class – This class of 5 battleships (the “emperors”) included the Friedrich III, Wilhelm II, Wilhelm der Grosse, Karl der Grosse and Barbarossa. Very different from the Brandenburg in all respects, they would formed the basis of the other following three classes of pre-dreadnoughts. In 1914 these ships were in the second line.
In 1916, never having fired a shot in anger, they were disarmed and used as utility pontoons. Too slow and with insufficient artillery, they were no longer compatible with the German Hochseeflotte, especially after Jutland. Officially they had been known as the Kaiser Friedrich III class.

Lithograph of the Kaiser Wilhelm II
Lithograph of the Kaiser Wilhelm II

The Friedrich III was approved in 1894 and laid down in 1895, 1896 for Wilhelm II, 1896, 1898 for the others. They were launched in 1896-1900 and completed in 1898-1902. Their main artillery comprised two turrets armed with two 240 mm guns (vs 305mm in the Royal Navy), but they had an impressive secondary artillery:
No less than eighteen 150 mm guns divided into six single turrets and the others in barbettes. They were quite top-heavy and suffered from a lack of stability, and thus rebuilt in 1907-1910.

Design of the Kaiser class

They have been heavily influenced by Japanese cruisers victory a Yalu in 1894 and therefore opted for smaller quick-firing guns instead of large heavy guns usually used by contemporary battleships.

One idea was to raze the superstructures and demoralize the crew, rather than attempting to sink the ship. The armour scheme remains similar to the one used on the Brandenburg, but the propulsion system was improved and reorganized, incorporating a third propeller shaft.

Brassey’s naval annual schematics of the configuration

That propulsion included 3-cylinder vertical triple expansion engines, driving three 3-bladed screws, and the first ship was given four Thornycroft and eight cylindrical boilers, the others having Marine type boilers in alternative.

Their arrangements differed, also to give an idea of the best combination for future developments. Top speed was 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) which was rather good for the time, back in the mid-1890s. The ships also had 320 kW 74 and 240 kW 74 Volt generators.

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa
SMS Kaiser Barbarossa

They were generally regarded as excellent sea vessels, agile with a tight turning circle and responsive. They suffered only minor speed loss in heavy seas. It should be noted that they carried its own flotilla, two picket boats, two launches, one pinnace, two cutters, two yawls, and two dinghies.

The armament consisted in four 24 cm (9.4 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turrets mounted in Drh.L. C/98 turrets, allowing elevation to 30° and depression to −5°. Max range was 16,900 meters (18,500 yd). They fired 140-kilogram (310 lb) shells at 690 m/s (2,263 ft/s), and at a 4 rpm. 75 shells were carried per gun for a comfortable total of 300.

Launching of the SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse

The eighteen 15 cm (5.9 inch) SK L/40 guns were in turrets and barbettes and fired at 4-5 rpm. In addition twelve 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns were mounted in casemates.

For close combat, they were fitted with six 45 cm torpedo tubes, four amidships, one bow and one stern. Each carried a 87.5 kg (193 lb) TNT warhead and could be set to speeds up to 26 to 32 knots.

SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II after refit

1907 refit

All but Kaiser Karl der Grosse were so rebuilt. Their superstructures were lowered, as their funnels, the military masts were lightened, four 150 mm pieces in barbettes were removed and replaced by four 88 mm quick firing guns, also replaced on the superstructure. Stern TTs were also removed. Smoke stacks were lengthened.

Active service:

The five battleships were assigned to the 1st Squadron of the Heimatflotte (German home fleet) after commissioning. They conducted annual training maneuvers and after ten years of fleet service, were transferred to the 3rd Squadron (High Seas Fleet) and joined the reserve. They were recalled at the outbreak of World War I, but saw no action.

SMS Kaiser Friedrich III in 1900

The Wilhelm II was the flagship of the Hochseeflotte in Kiel until 1906. The other four were part of the 1st Squadron of the Heimatflotte, five taking part in extensive training maneuvers in September 1902. Kaiser Wilhelm II hosted Wilhelm II and staff during several of the mock engagements.

By 1911, the class was relegated to the 3rd Squadron, placed into reserve and by 1914 joined the Vth Squadron, but in February 1915, they leaved active service one again, and were disarmed by 1916. The first became a torpedo training ship, the Kaiser Wilhelm II a headquarters ship for the commander of the High Seas Fleet (Wilhelmshaven), the other three ships served as floating prisons.

All but Kaiser Wilhelm II were stricken from the navy register on 6 December 1919, sold for scrapping. All had been scrapped by 1922, but the bow ornaments from Kaiser Friedrich III and Kaiser Wilhelm II could still be seen at the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden.


Kaiser Friedrich III class on wikipedia
The SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II (wikipedia)
Profile of the Barbarossa
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1906.

Kaiserliches Marine

Kaiser Friedrich III class specifications

Dimensions 125.3 x 20.4 x 7.9 m (411 x 66 x 25 ft)
Displacement 11,097 t – 11,785 t FL
Crew 658 -687(wartime)
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 shaft TE 13,000 PS (12,820 ihp; 9,560 kW)
Speed 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph)
Range 3,420 nmi (6,330 km; 3,940 mi) @10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 4 x 240 mm (9.4 in), 18 x 150 mm (5.9 in), 12 x 88 mm (3.5 in), 12 x 1-pdr (37 mm), 6 TT 450 mm (18 in) Sub
Armor Belt 150-300 mm (11.8 in), casemates 150 mm, Turrets 250 mm (9.8 in), Blockhaus 250 mm, deck 65 mm (2.6 in)


Kaiser Friedrich III lithograph
Kaiser Friedrich III lithograph showing its pre-refit superstructures

The high sea fleet pre-dreadnoughts battleline
The high sea fleet pre-dreadnoughts battleline

Illustration of the Kaiser Barbarossa in 1914

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa after refit
SMS Kaiser Barbarossa after refit

SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse
SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse

SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II
SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, full speed.
SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, full speed.

WW1 German Destroyers

WW1 German Destroyers

Germany (1898-1918)

German Destroyers of the great war

By their denomination alone “Hochseetorpedoboote”, these ships were not only bigger derivatives of torpedo-boats. By range, size and armament they were meant to escort the Hochseeflotte in the high seas, and not staying in close vicinity of German naval bases.

Compared to the Italian and French navies that favoured large fleets of torpedo-boats for coastal defence, German TBDs were regarded as part of the battle fleet. These High Seas Torpedo Boats however were still not really destroyers if compared to the British ones.

Their general conception was related to their intended purposes: First breaking up enemy formations and deal with battleships in torpedo attacks, and only second, deal with other TBDs with their gunnery range.
A TBDs division

SMS S113, probably the best TBD of the German High Sea Fleet

Admiral Von Tirpitz defined himself their role: “A torpedo boat has to be big enough to be able to operate in waters beyond our coasts together with the high seas fleet, but it has to be small enough to be commanded by one single officer”

This imposed drastic limitations in crew and crew effectiveness, therefore size. Their main appearance was dictated by a front raised, but short forecastle, giving them the summary appearance of “toothbrushes”.

Their hull was still shaped as the one of any torpedo-boat, with a pronounced turtleback and low freeboard in order to reduce the silhouette. They were also singular in that they had an auxiliary rudder under the bow. But these light designs, adequate for the baltic in peacetime, lacked seaworthiness for the North Atlantic.

The Germans were slow to catch up in terms of propulsion with adoption of steam and geared turbines, and oil fuel. Only late in the war (with the parenthesis of the Russian
orders), did German naval engineers produced a large design where the well-deck was deleted and the forecastle extended.

V170, one of the last German destroyers of the war
V170, one of the last German destroyers of the war

Previous German “Division Boats”

Previously, German experience with these small ships expressed itself in “Division Boats” which were essentially flotilla leaders for other torbedo boats built (mainly) by Schichau, but also Germaniawerft, Vulcan, Dantzig, Kiel, Wilhelmshaven, Weser and in the 1880s when Germany did not appeared yet as a threat, by Yarrow and Thornycroft (which helped shaping the German ones).

From 1884 to 1898 they were all classed as “First class torpedo boats”, 90 to 180 tonnes, the latter being armed with 3 torpedo tubes with one spare torpedo, and one 50mm gun. Even before that in the 1870s were used a serie of 10 “spar torpedo vessels” later reclassified as minelayers or tugs (never served in ww1).

However, Weser built in 1883 the first serie of seven TBDs, largely failed and retired in 1891, followed by an experimental 1st class, 140 tonnes torpedo-gunboats by Weser and four 60 tonnes TBs ordered at Thornycroft and White.

Schichau D9 Division boat -1894 (Navypedia)
Returning to these “Division Boats”, they were very enlarged torpedo-boats, 300 to 450 tonnes. Four were 295 tonnes, four were 400-404 tonnes, and one 451 tonnes.

Their size ranged from 56 to 63 meters, their larger size was meant to accomodate the extra staff (crew 46 to 52), with their map tables and communication equipments. Their usual armament was three torpedo tubes, and six hotchkiss guns.

The single D9 (1894) was the most interesting of the lot, along with larger dimensions, it had three 50 mm QF Hotchkiss guns (adopted by the whole serie in 1893), and the beginning of a “trawler” bow. D1 and D2 were used for coastal defence patrols or training tasks in ww1.

V44 in battle
V44 in battle at Jutland as painted by Willy Stower in 1917. The V44 and V82 has been given postwar to the UK in war reparation, used as target practice vessels and sunk in Portsmouth harbour.

Their partly visible remains had been examined by archeologists (see The Independent article)

Build-up of this force

The German naval act of 1900 asked for no less than 16 TBDs divisions (later “half-flotillas” of 6 ships each), or 96 ships, in 1906 pushed to 144 ships or 24 half-flotillas, half in reserve with 60% nucleus crews.

However these series were ordered to gain time in different yards, resulting in considerable changes in modifications, tonnage details, dimensions, even armament, which made for quantities of sub-classes.

This all can be summarized however into the 1898 type, 1906 type, 1911 type, 1913 type, and the “Zestörers” or destroyers, first to be named so. As part of the mobilization programme, they were much larger ships, first based on a model built for Russia, as well as domestic models, however too late to be engaged en masse.

Nomenclature by Shipyards

B: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg – 9 ships
G: Germaniawerft, Kiel – 58 ships
H: Howaldtswerke, Kiel – 24 ships
S: Schichau-Werke, Elbing – 135 ships
V: AG Vulcan, Stettin and Hamburg – 109 ships
Ww: Wilhelmshaven Imperial Shipyard – 1 ship

V99 blown up by a mine in 1915
V99 blown up by a mine in 1915 (Bundesarchiv)

Development was incremental, mostly from the 1906 type, with small changes in displacement, deck arrangements, and propulsion. In the fiscal years 1903 to 1907 the turbines were subjects of all attention and comparative tests done.

Next year, an all-turbine propulsion was chosen for all boats. At some point there were requests for better speed, range and seaworthiness, and a serie was built, but the fleet officers were displeased with this evolution and asked for nimbler ships and better manoeuverability.

Therefore, the 1911 ships were scaled down, and lost some seaworthiness in the result.

These V1 series were named “admiral Lans’ cripples” and not a success. By 1913 it was back to larger designs, but they swapped to oil-burning only.

The German large high seas TB S132 underway while in US service circa 1920.

There was also an evolution in gunnery, from the 8,8cm/30 to the 45 caliber model for the range and penetrating power. The 1915-16 ships even went to the 10,5cm/45.

Excellent seaworthiness and armament proved to the admiralty that size do actually matter and these ships were already more than a match for British destroyers.

By 1916-18, a new serie with 15.2cm guns was started but actually only two ships made it in operational service. By their size and configuration they had closed the gap with their British equivalents, but it was too little, too late.

Many TBDs went either as war reparations, were scrapped, or served for some time with the Weimar fleet in the 1920s.

German ww1 destroyers
A general overview of WW1 German destroyers

S90-125 class Destroyers (1898-1904)

The T-108 in 1914.

Called “Torpedoboote Zestörers” (destructive torpedo boats) these vessels perfectly matched their nomenclature to their function. The term “destroyer” was then used in any marine without mentioning their main weapon, the torpedo.

It was not a true homogeneous class, but a collection of small series generally built Schichau, Elbing, the specialist of these crafts. These were the first German destroyers.

Here can be distinguished seven sub-series, the S90 (12 units), S102 (6), G108 (6, by Germaniawerft), S114 (6), S120 (5), the sole S125 and S126 (6 units). These made for seven squadrons in all.

They were inspired by the torpedo-boats D9 and D10, all had two boilers, three torpedo tubes, partly in the center including a behind the forecastle, feature deployed to all other German destroyers until 1918.

They were rearmed during the war with 88 mm quick firing guns and classified as destroyers (“T”). Losses of the war: Five sunk in battle, one scuttled in Tsing Tao, one hit a mine, two lost by collision.

German TBDs in US LOC Custody

Displacement and dimensions: 388-474 tons standard, 420-490 t FL; 63-65 x 7 x 2.7 m.
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 TE engines, 2 standard boilers, 3900-6500 hp and 26.5 to 28 knots
Crew: 57-61
Armament: Three 50 mm guns, Three 450 mm TTs.

Destroyers type G137 et S138 (1906)

The S138 in 1914.

These 12 units Germaniawerft were modeled on the “prototype” G137. The design was developed from the S138 series but differed only by a few small details: Increased width, reduced draft, reduced length, smaller tonnage, power and top speed but an armament which remained rigorously identical.

This is the machinery that went on with two most notable differences: G137 experimented 6 Parsons turbines associated with propellers and 3 – 4 standard boilers, while the series was using two vertical triple expansion machines.

They were launched from September 1906 to October 1907, the S138 to S149, the G137 was launched January 24, 1906.


The G137 moreover had two low pressure turbines and two high pressure for cruising. It served as training ship in 1914, and in 1916 was was renamed T137 and remained assigned to the instruction until 1921.

The G138 series lost only two ships in action, the S138 (mine in 1918) and S143 (mine in 1914), the other served in the Reichsmarine as destroyers and were removed from service from 1920 to 1928.

Two other were kept into service, renamed Pfeil, and Blitz, and were used as radio-controlled target ships, remaining into service until 1933 and 1945.

Displacement and dimensions: 533t, 684t FL; 70,7 x 7,8 x 2,75 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 TE engines, 2 standard boilers, 11,000 hp and 30.3 knots
Crew: 80
Armament: One 88 mm gun, three 52 mm guns, Three 450 mm inline TTs.

Destroyers type G132 (1906)

The G132 in 1914.

Destroyers of the G132 class inaugurated a more solid construction compared to the G108s. Germaniawerft approached thus Schichau to produce ships with more open sea abilities.

Within this class of 5 ships, G132 to G136, there were few weapons variants, the first having four 52 mm guns and two other ships with one 88 mm gun and two 52 mm guns. None were lost in mission during the war and they met the demolition torch in 1921.

Displacement and dimensions: 414t, 544t PC. 65,7 x 7 x 2.6 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 VTE engines, 4 standard boilers, 7,000 hp and 28 knots
Crew: 69
Armament: Four 52 mm guns, three 457 mm TTs (simple)

Destroyers type V150 (1907-08)

These 10 destroyers were built at AG Vulcan, Stettin, launched in August 1907 and July 1908. Vulcan for the first time, previously known for its destroyers made for the international market, introduced a cannon on their forecastle.

For the first time, these destroyers relied on these guns rather than the 52 mm short barrel, too weak against the latest destroyers in service. Yet very active, they do not wiped losses operations, otherwise the V150 after a collision.

Two were transferred to Great Britain in war damage and the other remained in service in Weimar’s Reichsmarine. In 1939, some were classified as destroyers but participated in operations. (A loss, three transferred for war damage in the USA and USSR).

Displacement and dimensions: 558t, 691t PC ; 72,5 x 7.8 x 3 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 engine VTE, 4 standard boilers, 10 500 cv. and 30 Knots max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns or SKL/35, three 450 mm TT inline.

Destroyers V161-162 (1907-08)

The G197 in 1914.

This unique unit built in Vulkan, Stettin was the 13th of the fiscal year 1907, but also was designated V162. The V161 had two AEG Turbine and standard boilers, but dimensions and tonnage were virtually identical to the V150. The 88 mm guns were KL/30 rather than SKL/35.

The V161 survived the conflict and was awarded in war reparations to UK which had it scrapped. The V162 series consisted of only three units, all three launched in May 1909. They were two meters longer and 10 cm wider, were equipped with AEG Mames turbines.

Tonnage was greater than their 33-32 knots speed. However, operational radius was clearly increased, from 2815 to 3960 km. From there, the German Imperial Navy class definitively adopted turbines for its destroyers.

The V162 hit a mine in August 15, 1916 and the other two were scrapped in 1920-21. The following S165 by Schichau were virtually identical.

Displacement and dimensions: 639 – 739 tons FL, 73,9 x 7,9 x 3 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 AEG turbines, 3 standard boilers, 10,100 cv. and 32 Knots max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns, three 450 mm TT inline.

Destroyers of the V180 class (1909-11)

The 11 units of this class were built in Vulkan AG, and had a virtually identical hull than previous V162s, however, the arrangement of the tubes was different, with two tubes in line at the rear and two side tubes in front, a sensitive configuration because of their very low free board.

They were a little heavier, had higher draft, their guns were two 88 mm. The last entered service in 1911. Three were sunk, five offered as war reparations in 1919 and the other demolished.

Displacement and dimensions: 650t, 783t PC ; 74 x 7,9 x 3.1 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 AEG turbines, 4 standard boilers, 18,000 cv. and 32 noeuds max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns, four 450 mm TT inline and sides.


Destroyers V1 class (1911)

From these series built in Vulkan, Stettin, the Hochseeflotte was moving towards a new type of destroyer smaller because it was believed firmly the rule of maneuverability in line of battle without listening to complaints about their lack of reliability in heavy weather (force 6 winds, where guns and torpedo tubes become unusable).

Distribution of torpedo tubes remained the one adopted with the S176, two in line at the rear and two on the sides behind the forecastle. The quarterdeck was raised, but the hull remained very low and cramped.

Top speed remained unchanged at 32 knots. These six units launched from September 1911 was followed by two additional ships launched in 1913, following the V5 and 6 in replacement of the original purchased in urgency by Greece at war against Turkey. Outside the V4, torpedoed and sunk on June 1, 1916, the others served in the Reichsmarine until 1928-30.

Displacement and dimensions: 569- 697 tons FL, 71,1 x 7,6 x 3,1 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 AEG turbines, 4 standard boilers, 17,000 cv. and 32 noeuds max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns, four 450 mm TT inline (2×2).

Wow’s details of V25

Destroyers S165 class (1910)

S166 en 1916

These four units were built at Schichau and originally sold to Turkey, along with two old battleships. But in order to keep intact the workforce Schichau was forced to replace these by producing four other units, which became the S165 to S168 replacements.

They closely derived from standard V161. The first two became Royal Navy war reparations (scrapped immediately), the S167 was scrapped in Kiel in 1922 and the S168 served some time in the Reichsmarine of Weimar before being scrapped in 1925.

Displacement and dimensions: 665t, 765t PC; 74,2 x 7.9 x 3 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 Schichau turbines, 4 standard boilers, 17,500 cv. and 32 knots max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns, three 450 mm TT inline.

Destroyers G169 class (1908-1910)

S166 en 1916

These 8 ships of this group were built at Germaniawerft, Kiel, launched in December 1908 and February 1910. Apart from the G173, they had three propellers and turbines with different arrangements, which changed the position of their chimneys and their torpedo tubes.

The G171 sank in 1912 after a collision, and was therefore no longer referenced in 1914. The G172 hit a mine in July 1918, three more were granted to Great Britain in war damage, and two others took a few years more of service in the Reichsmarine.

SMS G169

Displacement and dimensions: 670 tonnes 777 t PC ; 74 x 7,9 x 2,8 m.
Propulsion: 3 screws, 6 Parsons turbines, 4 standard boilers, 15,000 cv. and 30 knots max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns, three-four 500 mm TT inline.

Destroyers G192 class (1908)

S166 en 1916

Six destroyers of the G192 class were akin the 1910 type, very close to the units of the S165 and S176 classes, descendant of the V161 class, the prototype of 1908. The G194 was the only one being rammed by HMS Cleopatra.

The others were assigned in war reparations to UK and scrapped, while the G196 survived MEMC test-building in the new Kriegsmarine. She survived the Second World War and was awarded to Russia who used a few years as the Pronsitelnyi. The G7 class was essentially similar.

Displacement and dimensions: 660t, 810t FL 74 x 7.6 x 3.1m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 Germania turbines, 4 standard boilers, 18,200 cv. and 32 knots max.
Crew: 84
Armament: Two 88 mm KL/30 guns, four 500 mm TT inline.

Destroyers B97 class (1915)

B97 en 1916

These 8 great destroyers, the most powerful in service before the Hochseeflotte’s S113 and V116 at the end of the war, were initiated in 1913 following an express order of Tsar Nicolas II in part to give a shipbuilding experience to St.

Petersburg under supervision of Blohm & Voss. The design was Russian, inspired by the Novik, then the most powerful destroyer of the world. It was the departure of Ilin, Kononsotoff, Gavril and Mikhail.
Their turbines were then completed at Blohm & Voss when the war started and the shipbuilder proposed to the Admiralty to build four destroyers around these turbines.

Despite opposition from the Admiralty who argued that such vessels were not compatible with the fleet, four were quickly built, and four others, the latest launched in June 1915, approved by Von Tirpitz. Very fast, they were reclassified as “Zestörer” (destroyers) and not as Hochseetorpedoboote”.
The B99 was sunk in the Baltic, facing Russian ships, the B97 became the Italian Cesare Rossarol in Service, served until 1939, and the others were scuttled in Scapa Flow.

Displacement and dimensions: 1374 tonnes, 1843 t FL; 98 x 9,4 x 3,4 m.
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 AEG-Vulcan turbines, 4 standard boilers, 40,000 cv. and 36.5 knots max.
Crew: 114
Armament: Four 88 mm KL/30 guns, six 500 mm TT (2×2, 2×1), 24 mines.

Destroyers G101 class (1915)

G101 en 1916

Called “Zestörers” (destroyers) these units marked a break from the usual productions of the Hochseeflotte. Like the B97, controlled by Russia which originally had ordered the G101, these have been ordered by Argentina as the Santiago, San Luis, Santa Fe and Tucuman in 1913.
Requisitioned, they were launched in August, September and November 1914, completed in 1915 for the German navy.
Besides their tonnage and higher dimensions, these had a step above the top of the half-bridge deck, and their armament was similar to the B97, while their propulsion was provided by a set of two turbines and two Germania cruise types of diesel.

Wow’s rendition of the G101 class

They were slower than the B97. They had a very active career until 1918, and were taken to Scapa Flow where they were scuttled.
Refloated, the G103 sank during its transfer due to bad weather in 1925, the G103 was ceded to the USA and ended his career as a target in 1920, and the other two were scrapped in 1926.

G108 and S102
G108 and S102

Displacement and dimensions: 1136 tonnes 1734 t FL; 95,3 x 9,5 x 3,7 m.
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 Germania turbines, 2 standard boilers, 28,000 cv. and 33.5 knots max.
Crew: 104
Armament: Four 88 mm KL/30 guns, six 500 mm TT (2×2, 2×1), 24 mines.

Destroyers S113 class (1918)

TBD V116
V116 design (wikipedia)

This class of large ocean destroyers will be one of the last built before the end of the war. With 12 units planned, 3 from Blohm & Voss and three from Vulcan, two were actually completed and entered service in 1918, one of the S113 class and one of the V116 class.

In many ways, these were very modern units, out of the G96 scheme, called “mobilization” class. These ships with their large dimensions and front deck more in line with the British standards, catching up with the new generation of destroyer design in 1917 and breaking with the torpedo-boat types of the past.

They caused a stir in the Admiralty as soon as the British secret services got wind of these.

It was decided to build in 1917 a series of large “Wing drivers” destroyers to counter them. These new German units were equipped with guns and torpedo tubes of larger caliber (150 and 600 mm) without equivalent in the Royal Navy, not to mention their speed. In the end, only the S113 and V116 were completed before the armistice.

The S113 which was conducting its trials the last days of the war, was immediately claimed by France as war damage, being used under the name Admiral Sénès until 1935. The V116 was offered to Italy and became the Premuda, retired from service in 1937.

Displacement and dimensions: 2060t, 2415t PC; 106 x 10.2 x 3.4 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 Schichau turbines, 2 standard boilers, 45,000 cv. and 36 knots max.
Crew: 176
Armament: Four 152 mm guns, four 500 mm TT (2×2, 2×2), 40 mines.


High sea fleet boats on Wikipedia
Reddit (WoW)
German TBDs on
List of all German ww1 torpedo ships on

Kaiserliches Marine

Brandenburg class Battleships (1892)

Brandenburg class Battleships (1892)

Germany (1892) – Brandenburg, Wörth (1914)

Germany’s first pre-dreadnoughts

Certainly the oldest battleships German Navy in 1914, two were left (two other sold, see later) in active service. Originally the class was composed of Brandenburg, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm, Weissenburg, and Wörth. They were approved in 1889, laid down at Vulcan, Germaniawerft, and Wilhelmshaven in 1890, launched in 1891-92 and completed in 1893-94 as first-line pre-dreadnoughts. They featured a unusual arrangement of three turrets of the main caliber. Most importantly they were the first sea going battleships built by the new German Empire. Before that only coastal battleships of the Siegfried and Odin classes were in service.

Note: This post is a placeholder. There will be a complete overview of the class in the next future, officially released on Facebook and other social networks

Armour scheme – Brassey’s naval annual.


They were an unusual design, with three turrets instead of two, the central turret being given guns of a lower caliber (cal.35 instead of 40) to fit between the two deck houses, centerline. These artillery pieces were only of 280 mm whereas 305 mm was the norm in most battleships of the time, however most pre-dreadnoughts only had four of them (six for the Brandenburg). The secondary battery was quickly reinforced by two additional pieces of 105 mm, and 88 guns in barbettes.

Thick military masts in the French style were adopted, housing 4 Spandau heavy machine guns of questionable usefulness against torpedo boats. However, they were the first Germans ships fitted with a radio. In general they were considered as excellent seaboats, but by 1914 they were nicknamed by Royal Navy sailors by derision “whalers”.

Drawing of the Torgud Reis

In service

In 1910, Turkey, out of a conflict in the Balkans and preparing for a new confrontation bought 2 battleships of this class, the Wilhelm and Weisenburg, renamed Heirredine Barbarossa and Torgud Reis. The Brandenburg and Wörth were still serving in the first line in 1914, but the following year, they were switched to coastal defense. In 1916, they were anchored and used as tankers and commercial docks, and disarmed in 1919.

Kaiserliches Marine


Brandenburg class on wikipedia
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1907.

Brandenburg class specifications

Dimensions 115,7 x 19,5 x 7,9 m
Displacement 10 500 t FL
Crew 568
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 TE engines, 12 boilers, 10 200 hp
Speed 16.5 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
Range 4,500 nmi (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) @10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 6 x 280 (3×2), 8 x 105, 8 x 88 mm, 6 TT 450 mm Sub
Armor Turrets 380, belt 400, barbettes 305 mm


Illustration of the Brandenburg in 1914

Battleship Wörth circa 1900

Leo_Graf_von_CapriviSMS_Kurfuerst_Friedrich_Wilhelm_vor_StapellaufSMS_Kurfuerst_Friedrich_Wilhelm_1900SMS_Kurfuerst_Friedrich_Wilhelm_1903BrandenburgWeissenburgBarbarossa EyreddinSMS_Brandenburg_1893SMS_Woerth_1893SMS_Brandenburg_(1891)Brandenburg-ships-lineTurcironshipSMS_Kurferst_Friedrich_Wilhelm_1903

Nassau class battleships (1906)

Nassau class battleships (1908)

SMS Nassau, Rheinland, Posen, Westfalen

Germany’s first dreadnoughts

The four Nassau (Nassau, Westfalen, Rheinland, Posen) were the first monocaliber battleships of the German Navy. They were not however ordered or designed in response to the HMS Dreadnought as often assumed but predated her in the Admiralstab. Another confirmation the monocaliber type was “in the air” since at least 1903 and Cuniberti’s famous Jane’s publication. The Nassau class were the first of about twenty German dreadnoughts which quickstarted a famous prewar rivalry and naval arms race between Wilhelm II and Georges V, Fisher and Tirpitz.

SMS Westfalen, colorized by Irootoko JR
Note: Updated 28/02/2022

The Kaiser’s “cruiser killer”

Warrior class diagram

Indeed, design work on what would eventually become the Nassau class started in 1903. Long-term design phase was scheduled to start in 1906. Kaiser Wilhelm II was instrumental in this, arguing his navy was to possess large armored cruisers instead of traditional, slow capital ships. In December 1903, Wilhelm II suggested himself a 13,300 metric tons displacement design, armed with four 28 cm (11 in) guns, and eight 21 cm (8.3 in), a type of late armoured cruiser type in the fashion or late pre-dreadnoughts, with a powerful secondary armament. This was not far from Cuniberti’s own armoured cruiser, with the difference the latter had only 8-in guns all around. The cruiser advocated by the Kaiser was more in line with the British Warrior class laid down in 1903, which had a pair of 23,4 cm (9.2 in) completed by four 19,1 cm (7.5 in).

Emperor’s personal sketch submitted in December 1903

Top speed however was not the greatest concern, cruiser-wise, defined to be 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) (The Warrior class made 23 knots). The reasoning was that a longer-range caliber could ideally slow down the chased vessel, allowing to close for the finish. Wilhelm requested the Construction Office to submit him proposals and the latter complied, by January 1904. They presented three designs: “5A”, “5B”, and “6”.

The first two designed had in common eight 21 cm guns in four single-gun turrets plus four in casemates (“5A”) or in twin-gun turrets (“5B”). This too, was pretty close to Cuniberti’s design. The “6” design had ten guns in four casemates and six in a central battery, a more conservative approach. The naval command, participating in discussion settled on “5B” as possessing the best firing arcs. The “6” was sidelined until further evaluation, but it was eventually concluded it offered significant improvement over the Deutschland-class battleships (laid down 1903), which had single turrets already (and barbettes) with 17 cm guns.

Review of a mixed design (1904)

Eventually, as it seems the Kaiser’s design was to be placed in “reserve”, the latter intervened again, in February 1904. He wanted a 14,000 t (13,779 long tons) armoured cruiser, but with a secondary battery with ten 21 or even or 24 cm (9.4 in) guns. There again, the Construction Department and Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel submitted their own proposals (lost and thus, details unknown). “6B-D” was basically a variant of “6”, while “10A” and “10B” had the combination of 28 and 24 cm guns.

Kaiser Wilhelm interrupter the research work based on this design design, requesting a higher speed at a cost of a main battery made entirely of 24 cm guns. This resulted in further studies and delays resulted ending in April 1904. However the results were judged unacceptable, requiring more design work in the Reichsmarineamt (Imperial Naval Office), trying to obtain realistic figures. Officers, which for some participated to the debates, suggested that the secondary battery was to be limited to 21 cm (not 24 cm) guns, to spare weight and have more of them, and also on consifderations about fire corrections with very similar water plumes.

The sum of all these observations resulted in “Project I”, with an uniform battery of twelve 21 cm guns, and “Project II”, with sixteen, and “Project III”, with eight 24 cm guns but all with a 28 cm main battery. Deliberations went on until late April and “Project I” came as a winner since on cost concerns and avoiding to modify the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal. The approved design led to refined variants, “IA” and “IB”, with casemates and single turrets respectively.

The Kaiser reviewed these and eventually approved “IA” in May 1904, but the secondary guns arrangement remained a point of contention for the following months. It’s only in December 1904 that the “7D” variant, with eight secondary guns in twin turrets was eventually adopted. From there, work went on an improved underwater protection system, which the Emperor approved on 7 January 1905. However everything was halted as German spies reported the contruction of the lord Nelson class, pre-dreadnoughts with a secondary battery of ten 9.2 in (230 mm) guns, plus estimates on the next class believed to be even much heavily armed. “7D” was sidelined as no longer sufficient to answer the pre-dreadnoughts. It was necessary to start over again.

Note: So far i cannot find the original blueprints projects leading to the Nassau class. These are reconstitutions of various projects by Dirk Nottelman published in “Warship International” as part of “From Ironclads to Dreadnoughts: The Development of the German Navy 1864-1918 serie. Part VI-A: “The Great Step Forward”, Vol. 52, No. 2 (June 2015), pp. 137-174 (38 pages) available in JSTOR.

The “Ersatz Sachsen”

The design team started wotking again on a six 21 cm twin-turrets variant and the first German “all-big-gun” battleships with this time an uprated battery of eight 28 cm guns: It was chosen a mixed approach again with twin axis turrets (two, fore and aft) and the rest in single wing turrets, lighter and narrower. The Kaiser approved the latter design, on 18 March 1905. The work was refined, notably by increasing the beam for better stability, making a ship closer to a pre-dreadnought battleship, and no longer a cruiser by any standard.

It was decided also to rearrange the secondary battery with eight 17 cm (6.7 in) guns in casemates, plus improved main battery turrets. The Kaiser in between received the specs and design of the Italian Regina Elena-class battleships capable of 22 knots and wanted a similar vessel and a return to the previously approved 1903 design.

Before the understandably incoming massive delays in redesign, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz intervened. He pointed out that merging the battleship (monocaliber 28 cm) and armored cruiser (high speed) categories were contradicting the German Naval Law of 1900 clearly separating types, and previously approved. He also argued that the Construction Office was already too busy with other projects, and he manoeuvered to have the Kaiser’s project in the next Naval Law to pushed things forwards.

Based on the new design, he originally requested six of them, plus six armored cruisers (remarkably close to the Japanese naval program by the way). Capital ship designs however had a spiralling cost upward and political opposition increased in the Reichstag, which eventually forced Tirpitz to tone down his request to the six armored cruisers, including one in peacetime reserve -sparing a crew), and 48 xheaper torpedo boats. Tirpitz, to his dismay, would have no battleship approved in 1906.

Ersatz Sachsen, alternative lattice masts proposal

Voted on 19 May 1906, the new program registered as the First Amendment to the Naval Law. Funds were allocated however later for two 18,000-ton battleships and a 15,000-ton armored cruiser plus funds to widen the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and enlarge dock facilities, planning for the future. All this largely explained why the Germans seemed late on the game of dreadnoughts: The Emperor’s own direction changes, external competition, and final opposition by the parliament. The first German dreadnoughts could have been programmed in 1904 already. Meanwhile Fisher pressed on with the keel laying in October 1905 and express launch 10 February 1906 of his HMS Dreadnought, creating an international sensation in all admiralties overnight.

Project F (1905), rejected by Tirpitz

Meanwhile, the design staff continued to refine the new capital ship. It’s only by September 1905 (before the Dreadnought had her keel laid down in HM Dockyard, Portsmouth), that several, supposedly final variants were proposed. Among these, was proposal “F”, which replaced the single-gun by twin-gun turrets, and 17 cm by twelve 15 cm (5.9 in) gun, offering a greater rate of fire. The underwater protection was reworked and greatly improved as well, with a ship even more beamy, now the canal enlargement was approved.


Design “G” was ultimately approved on 4 October with rearranged magazines and boiler rooms on “G2” and a radical variant G3 with all gun turrets on the broadside, soon proved unworkable. “G2” was evetually chosen, but still for continued refinement, as “G7”, then “G7b”, at last approved by the Kaiser, on 3 March 1906, one month after the Dreadnought. The original three funnels was truncated to two, the bow was redesigned as straight, and the very last design “G7d” was approved by the Kaiser on 14 April. Construction was authorized on 31 May and in between, the race to create the blueprints went on. Soon, Tirpitz had the satisfaction (Dreadnought effect!) to have a sister-ship programmed the same fiscal year, and another two in FY1907.


Nassau general design

The Nassau class still had a short hull compared to the Dreadnought, only 146.1 m (479 ft 4 in) long, but they were quite beamy at 26.9 m (88 ft 3 in), with a draught of 8.9 m (29 ft 2 in), while their width ratio was 5.45, making them “stubby” or “potty” for the time. Al last, they were supposed a bit more agile and stable. It’s mostly explained by the choice of twin wing turrets rather than single. The admiralty was not diconcerted by the general allure of the ship as they repeated the design (with 12-in guns) for the next Helgoland class. The Nassau class displaced 18,873 metric tons (18,575 long tons) standard and 20,535 t (20,211 long tons) at full load, a bit “light” for dreadnoughts.

Hull and general design

Nassau top view

Construction was classic, with steel sections and frames, then rivered outer plating. For ASW protection below the waterline, they had nineteen watertight compartments (Nassau had sixteen), a double bottom for 88% of the keel. The turrets took a large space onboard,so they were two small lozenge-like superstructures fore and aft shaped to maximize the arc of fire of the wings turret, then an intermediate flying deck between the fore and main funnels. There two pole masts fore and aft, the second located at the aft island, with projectors on platforms (eight in all). The superstrcture was quite reduced, with just an enclosed command bridge in front of the conning tower, a formula that was repeated on the next classes. Later in the war, an additional narrow flying bridge was constructed above with repeaters and extending from the platform in front of the main funnel.

Nassau class double gaff pole masts design

The ships carried a number of boats located in the gangway in between funnels and wings turrets, served by two gooseneck cranes abeam the aft funnel: A picket boat (which could be armed with a gun for landing parties), three admiral’s barges, two launches, two cutters, and two dinghies. The peacetime crew reached 40 officers and 968 enlisted men, but the ship could be equipped as squadron flagships and took onboard an extra 13 officers and 66 enlisted men. As flagships, they carried two extra officers and 23 sailors.

Nassau’s turrets sections


The Nassau class were all equipped with VTE engine, vertical tubes, tripe expansion systems instead of turbines as for HMS Dreadnought. There were reasons behind this choice: Both Tirpitz and the Navy’s construction department resisted the adoption of Parsons turbines “for heavy warships” in 1905. A cost-based decision at first, as Parsons had the monopoly on steam turbines. Appoached by the German admiralty, the company asked one million marks in royalty fee, for every turbine exported. Also, German companies were not ready to produced their own turbines until 1910, at least on a large format. This will have a consequence for the following series, as the Helgoland repeated VTE, and the next Kaiser mixed Turbines and VTE, as the König. But it was not before 1912 Germany had Turbine-driven capital ships.

The Nassau vertical, 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines were protected, each in their own engine room and each shaft-driving a 3-bladed screw propeller 5 meters (16 ft) in diameter. Twelve coal-fired, Schulz-Thornycroft water-tube boilers provided steam, themselves separated in their own three boiler rooms (four boilers each). These boilers were ducted into a pair of funnels instead of the three initially planned. In all, this powerplant delivered a maximal output of 22,000 metric horsepower (22,000 ihp) for a 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) top speed.

The Nassau class carried 950 t (930 long tons) of coal in peacetime, normal conditions. In wartime, they can carry up to 2,700 t (2,700 long tons), so thrice that amount, filling usually void underwater bunkers. At 10 knots cruising speed (19 km/h; 12 mph) they could reach 9,400 nautical miles (17,400 km; 10,800 mi), which fell at 12 knots to 8,300 nmi (15,400 km; 9,600 mi), at 16 knots to half that, 4,700 nmi (8,700 km; 5,400 mi) and at battle stations, 19 knots, 2,800 nmi (5,200 km; 3,200 mi). In 1915 during their overhaul, all ships received boilers modifications, with oil sprayers installed to boost their combustion rates. For this, they obtained an extra storage for 160 t of fuel oil.


On trials, these somewhat pessimistic, or restrained figures were all exceeded, by a wide margin. The Nassau class in fact delivered an output of 26,244 to 28,117 metric horsepower (25,885 to 27,732 ihp) depending on the ships, reulting in top speeds of 20 to 20.2 knots (37.0 to 37.4 km/h; 23.0 to 23.2 mph), which was completely unexpected from their stubby appearance. By comparison, HMS Dreadnought, despite her steam turbines, could only reach 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)! – This made the four German battleships, not only the fastest VTE-powered vessels in service, but also fastest German capital ships to date, although the Italians still had 22-23 knots dreadnoughts. The Kaiser has its high speed equivalent. Electrical power was provided by eight turbo-generators (1,280 kW – 1,720 hp) rated at 225 V.

Steering power came from two rudders side-by-side. The Nassau class were fast but contrary to what was expected, did not handle particularly well even in calm seas. Their motion appeared quite “stiff” and they rolled excessively in heavy weather, mostly due to the side wight of their wing turrets, which also caused a large metacentric height. They were designed to be very stable gun platforms and it appeared their roll period coincided with the average North Sea swell. To mitigate the roll, bilge keels were later installed. Nevertheless, the ships proved maneuverable enough, with a small turning radius and minor speed loss in heavy seas but 70% at hard rudder, after the roll keels were added especially, which “braked” the motion.

Armour scheme

Nassau class armour scheme.

As there were no particular requirements there, engineers started on the known (but unproven) base of the Deutschland class Battleships, but with improved underwater protection as learnt from the Russo-Japanese war. They used Krupp cemented steel armor all around. The basic layout divided comprised three sections: The bow, stern, and central citadel, between the two main barbettes. The citadel comprised a main belt armor at waterline level, connected closed by transverse armored bulkheads. It was supported by a bottom curved armor deck at mid-deck level over the vitals: Machinery spaces and ammunition magazines.

The citadel varied in thickness, lowered to the waterline level forward but aft, it remained at mid-deck level. If the main portion of the belt armor was 29 cm (11.5 in) thick over 1.2 m (4 ft), then 30 cm (11.8 in) it tapered to 17 cm (6.7 in) on the bottom edge over 1.60 m (5.25 ft), below the waterline. The top edge was also thinner, at 17, then 16 cm (6.3 in), reaching the upper deck. The belt outside the citadel was just 14 cm (5.5 in) thick, the tapered dow to 10 cm (4 in) at its extremity. Aft it fell to 13 cm (5 in) and then to 9 cm (3.5 in), closed before reaching the stern proper, enclosed by a 9 cm transverse bulkhead.

The torpedo bulkhead, about five meters behind the belt, was just 3 cm (1.2 in) thick. The underwater compartmentation was split in two, with a serie of void compartments followed by another serie of coal-filled ones. It should be noted that the downward sloped 5,8 cm section behind the main belt was also filled with coal. Behind the torpedo bulkhead, protecting the machinery room proper, was a last internal compartment layer with a 1 cm separation, also full with coal. Engineers found it difficult to mount the torpedo bulkhead during construction, due to the four wing turret’s disruption and their thick barbettes, so close to the hull’s sides.

The casemate battery, was above the central portion of the belt, 16 cm thick as seen above, containing casemated guns and backed by a bulkhead 2 cm (0.8 in) thick. If the main armor deck was 3.8 cm (1.5 in) with same thickness slopes downward, they connected to the bottom edge of the belt, a common design. The slope was 5.8 cm (2.3 in) thick. When all coal bunkers were full, they added some protection by absorbing and distributing the blast energy. The bow and stern sections had 5.6 cm (2.2 in) decks, which went up to 8.1 cm (3.2 in) over the steering compartment. The forecastle deck was protected by 2.5-3.0 cm (1 to 1.2 in) thickness, protecting the secondary battery above the torpedo bulkhead.

Nassau precise armor scheme

The forward conning tower had 30 cm walls, and was topped by a 8 cm (3.1 in) roof, with a smaller gunnery control tower above curved with a 40 cm (15.7 in) thick face. The aft conning tower was of course lighter, with 20 cm (7.9 in) sides and a 5 cm (2 in) roof. Main battery turrets were protected by sloped 28 cm faces, then 22 cm (8.7 in) sides, but 26 cm (10.25 in) rear plates, more for balance than protection. The sloped artificially increased their thicknes in direct fire, estimated above 32 cm. The roof were partly sloped at 9 cm, then flat at 6.1 cm (2.4 in). The secondary casemated gun had 8 cm thick gun shields and separated fro the others by a 2 cm transverse screen stopping fragments. As most dreadnoughts of the time, the Nassau aso received heavy anti-torpedo nets strapped along their side to be deplyed at anchor. They were seen as a liability at sea, causing stablity problems, and were removed after 1916.

Nassau's conning tower

  • Main Belt: 30 cm (11.8 in)
  • Main turrets: 28 cm face and sides
  • Battery: 16 cm (6.3 in)
  • Conning Tower: 40 cm (15.7 in)
  • Torpedo bulkhead: 3 cm (1.2 in)


Nassau artillery configuration

Nassau artillery configuration

Turret arrangement as the Japanese Kawachi class, 4 wing turrets, 2 axis fore and aft, 8 guns broadside. Broadly similar performance to the British 12 in guns. This was a common configuration at the time, as nobody yet tried the superfiring concept, which allowed to add more on the centerline. The vertical triple expansion engines also consumed a lot of internal space, forbidding magazines, which mostly precluded in that case, superfiring centerline turrets. As such, the six twin-gun turrets were placed in an hexagonal configuration.

In a sense it was almost a pre-dreadnought configuration, with two main turrets in the axis fore and aft, and several side turrets (three per side in the case of Nelson, two twin and one single). The Nassau as a result had six guns to bear in chase or retreat, and eight in broadside, on paper, same as HMS Dreadnought and its successors, but with an extra turret in the case of the Nassau-class. It was also believed this arrangement shielded some guns from enemy fire. In fact it made such sense for German engineers, that the scheme was also adopted without change for the next Heligoland class, which were started in 1908. At the time, British battleships still mixed echelon turrets and superfiring ones (St Vincent, Colossus, Neptune). The revolutionary Orion class superdreadnoughts only came a year later.

Main Artillery: 6×2 28 cm SK L/45

Nassau C07 turrets

Nassau’s C07 turret design

Wings turrets were Drh LC/1906 mounts (as well as centerline for the first two), but Drh LC/1907 for the other pair, with a longer trunk. Both the Drh LC/1906 turrets and 28 cm SK/L45 guns were tailored-designed for the Nassau class. The main battery propellant magazines were located above shell rooms for wings turrets, but not for centerline turrets in Nassau and Westfalen. The shells themseves weighted 302 kgs (666 lb), and they were propelled by a combo of a 24 kg (52.9 lb) fore propellant charge, in silk bags, and a 75 kg (165.3 lb) main charge, in a brass case to reduce risk and make for easier manipulations. Despite of this the process was streamlined enough to procure a rloading rate of 20° the fastest of any capital ship at the time.

  • Elevation/depression +20/-8°
  • 302 kgs shell, 24 kg fore propellant, 75 kg main charge
  • Fast reload time: 20 seconds
  • Muzzle velocity 855 m/s (2,810 ft/s)
  • Maximum range at 20°, 20,500 m (67,300 ft)

Nassau turrets distribution

Nassau’s turret distribution

Secondary Artillery: 12x 15 cm SK L/45

In six per side individual casemates along the upper battery deck, part of the hull above the main belt, in indidividual recesses and approximative arc of fire of about 160-180°. They fired exclusively armor-piercing shells. The elevation/traverse and reloading process as well as targeting were all performed manually.

  • Elevation/depression +20°/−7°
  • Rate of fire: 4-5 per minute.
  • 51-kilogram (112 lb) shells, in solidary brass case
  • Muzzle velocity: 735 m/s (2,410 ft/s).
  • Maximum range: 13,500 m (14,800 yd).

Tertiary Artillery: 8x 8,8 cm SKL

Close-range defense against torpedo boats, designed in 1903 and introduced in 1905. Classic caliber which would eventually last until 1945 in many iterations and for many roles. On the Nassau class, they were placed in casemates: in hull casemates under recesses and semi-sponsons fore and aft (eight), and the remainder in superstructure islands for and aft (eight). The scheme was partially reproduced for the next Helgoland class but eliminated afterwards for superstructure shielded guns, and dual purpose mounts. Aviation was still an unknown factor in 1906. Elevation/training, targeting and loading were all manual. The 22-lb projectiles (9.97 kgs) had solidary brass casings.

  • +22° elevation
  • Muzzle velocity: 2,133 ft/s (650 m/s),
  • Maximum range: 10,500 yards (9,600 m)

In 1915 two hull casemate guns were eliminated and opening plated over, two 8.8 cm Flak guns installed on the superstructures instead and in 1916-17 they were all eliminated (which also freed crew members). These AA guns fired a lighter shell at 2,510 ft/s (765 m/s) and 45° up to 12,900 yards (11,800 m).

Torpedo Tubes: 8x 8,8 cm SKL

A classic at that time, as it was planned to discharged torpedo broadsides during a classic battleline engagement, early on, the Nassau class were provided with with six 45 cm (17.7 in) submerged torpedo tubes. One in the bow (with a characteristic semi-external tube emerging from the underwater icebreaker bow which could be trained thirty degrees to either side. There was another one in the stern, fixed, and two per broadside, outwards of the torpedo bulkhead, which could aimed thirty degrees forward, sixty degrees aft.

  • C/06D torpedoes
  • Warhead: 122.6 kg (270 lb)
  • Top speed (1 setting): 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph)
  • Range 6,300 m (20,700 ft)

Posen 1918
Author’s illustration of the Posen in 1918

⚙ Nassau class specifications

Displacement 18,750 t – 21,000 t FL
Dimensions 146.1 x 26.9 x 8.76 m (479 x 88 x 28 ft)
Propulsion 3 shafts 3 cyl VTE, 12 Schulz-Thornycroft boilers, 22,000 hp
Speed 19-20.2 knots (37.4 km/h; 23.2 mph) (23.2 knots best trials)
Range 8,300 nmi (15,400 km; 9,600 mi) @12 knots
Armament 12 x 280mm (6×2), 12 x 150mm, 16 x 88mm, 6 TT 450mm Sub
Armor Belt 300, Battery 160, Internal bulkheads 210, Turrets 280, Blockhaus 300, Barbettes 280mm
Crew 1,140

SMS Nassau

SMS Nassau class

SMS Nassau was ordered as Ersatz Bayern (replacing SMS Bayern), laid down on 22 July 1907 in Kaiserliche Werft, Wilhelmshaven, number 30 under absolute secrecy with detachments of soldiers tasked with guarding the shipyard itself and all sub-contractors such as Krupp. Launched on 7 March 1908, christened by Princess Hilda of Nassau in presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Prince Henry of the Netherlands for the House of Orange-Nassau. Fitting-out work was delayed when a dockyard worker accidentally removed a blanking plate from a large pipe, which flooded the ship, without yet her watertight bulkheads installed.

In fact SMS Nassau even sank 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) to the bottom of the dock, but water was pumped dry and she was cleaned out for weeks and months, son only completed by the end of September 1909, then commissioned on 1st October 1909, making her sea trials, many months after HMS Dreadnought, but showing she was faster. On 16 October 1909 with SMS Westfalen she took part in the opening ceremony of the Wilhelmshaven Naval Dockyard’s 3rd entrance. After annual maneuvers in February 1910 (still on trials, until 3 May), she joined the I Battle Squadron.

Four four years, her routing comprised series of squadron maneuvers, training cruises, and the annual fleet manoeuvers. The summer training cruise of 1912 (Agadir Crisis) saw her confined in the Baltic. On 14 July 1914, she was to start her Norway summer cruiser, soon cancelled by Wilhelm II after two weeks, back in late July in port, preparing for war, which broke off between Austria-Hungary and Serbia on the 28th. In a week, full conflict had Germany at war with Russia and France.

Nassau as part of her unit was in all Hochseeflotte deployments in the North Sea, at first to cover Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper, at the head of the battlecruisers wing raiding Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby on 15–16 December 1914, and covered by 12 dreadnoughts and eight pre-dreadnoughts, on 15 December, just 10 nmi of a six British battleships squadron. Darkness between screening destroyer convince Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, under the Kaiser’s orders to not risk the fleet, broke off.

Battle Riga Gulf (August 1915)

In cover of the capture of Riga by the German Army, and in search of the Russian pre-dreadnought battleship Slava, a German naval force was sent, preceded by minesweepers and TBs into the gulf entrance. Nassau and her three sister ships were mustered as well as the four Helgoland-class and the battlecrusiers Von der Tann, Moltke, and Seydlitz under Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper’s command. The battleships stayed at a distant cover on 8 August and the operations started again on 16 August 1915.

SMS Nassau and Posen this time went further, covered by four light cruisers, 31 torpedo boats. The German minesweeper T 46 and V 99 were lost in minefields, but Nassau and Posen engaged the Russian Slava, managing three hits which forced her to retreat. On 19 August, minefields being cleared, the flotilla entered the gulf but was repelled by reports of British submarines in the area, Nassau and Posen remaining however in the Gulf until 21 August, destroying with other vessels the Russian gunboats Sivuch and Korietz. Later Riga was capture and the gulf entirely secured. Further advances would take place in 1917, but focus soon returned to the north sea.

Battle of Jutland (May 1916)


SMS Nassau underway, Jane’s postwar illustration

SMS Nassau was largely inactive for the rest of 1915 and early 1916, but made sweeps in distant cover in other operations. At last, she took part in the Battle of Jutland with the II Division, I Battle Squadron. The latter formed the center of battle line, preceded by Rear Admiral Behncke’s III Battle Squadron, followed by Rear Admiral Mauve’s II Battle Squadron’s pre-dreadnoughts. SMS Nassau was third in line, behind Rheinland, in front of Westfalen while SMS Posen was at the head as squadron’s flagship. The night time reorganization for a cruising formation was inadvertently reversed: SMS Nassau now became the second ship in line, and ws soon found in action.

At 17:48-17:52 indeed, the eleven German dreadnoughts were engaged by the Grand Fleet, duelling with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron first, Nassau targeting HMS Southampton and believed to score at least one one hit from 20,100 yd (18,400 m), on the cruiser’s port side but causing little damage. Next Nassau targeted HMS Dublin but the exchange was over at 18:10, and later at 19:33, Nassau spotted HMS Warspite, both briefly exchanging before making a 180-degree turn away, and thus beyond range.

Nassau, while proceeding home, crossed again during the night (at 22:00) British light forces (SMS Caroline, Comus, Royalist) and with Westfalen, made a 68° turn to evade possible torpedoes from them. Both targeted HMS Caroline and Royalist from 8,000 yd (7,300 m), but the latter turned away and soon back, making another torpedo run, Caroline firing two at SMS Nassau, the first close to her bows, the second under her belly.

HMS Caroline

HMS Caroline

Midnight, 1 June, saw a large manoeuver behind the British Grand Fleet in its way when the Hochseefotte crossed the path again of British destroyers. SMS Nassau was torpedo assaulted by HMS Spitfire, which missed, and the latter was at such close distance her captain attempting a ramming, that could undoubtely cut her in half. The destroyer was caught and tried to evade but too late, and collided with Nassau in an oblique angle, while the battleship fired her main battery at point-blank range, max depression. But if the shells went above, the blast however was itself sufficient to destroy Spitfire’s bridge, incinerating all the staff onboard.

HMS Spitfire

HMS Spitfire, showing her battle damage after Jutland.

Crippled, Spitfire disengaged but with a 6 m (20 ft) Nassau’s side plating chunk strapped on her hull. Nassau had a 15 cm casemated gun disable and a 3.5 m (11.5 ft) gash above the waterline, which caused some flooding, slowin her down to 15 knots until she reached home. British destroyers present landed on her two 4 inshells, damaging her searchlights.

After 01:00, Nassau and Thüringen crossed the path of the armored cruiser HMS Black Prince, and Thüringen opened fire first, making 27 heavy-caliber hits, 24 secondary in quick succession. Nassau and Ostfriesland soon also opened fire and later SMS Friedrich der Grosse, which disabled the cruiser, soon ablaze and immobilized, then, she exploded and sank. But as she did, Nassau as steaming on her wreck, and manoeuvered to avoid it, steering hard towards III Battle Squadron, at reversed steam to avoid collision with SMS Kaiserin.

Nassau came back in line, but between the pre-dreadnoughts SMS Hessen and Hannover. She was attacked agains at 03:00 by British destroyers and tne minutes later her lookouts spotted three to four of them, port. Sjhe immediately opened fire at circa 5,500 yd-4,400 yd, but soon made a hard turn to avoid possible torpedoes. This was the last tense moment of the battle. Back in German waters, Nassau, Posen and Westfalen took up defensive positions in the Jade roadstead, waitiong a possible arrival of the pursuing British Grand Fleet. Unbeknown to them, Jellicoe folded up in between.

Nassau received two hits, only by secondary shells, with little damage. Apart her hull damage and casualties or 11 men killed, 16 wounded she was still fully operational. She spent 106 main battery shells, 75 secondary and even some 8,8 cm at the destroyers. After repairs, she was back in her unit on 10 July 1916.

Later operations


With the 1st and second squadron

She took part, as distant cover, to the 18–22 August fleet advance, behind the I Scouting Group battlecruisers shelling Sunderland. The battlecruisers were assisted by Markgraf, Grosser Kurfürst, and Bayern. On 19 August, SMS Westfalen was torpedoed by the HMS E23, just 55 nautical miles north of Terschelling and she had to return to port while the Grand Fleet departed. By 14:35, Admiral Scheer retreated.

Nassau’s second sortie on 19–20 October 1916 was uneventful. She ran aground on 21 December, in the mouth of the Elbe however, and if she was able to free herself, repairs were needed on Hamburg (Reihersteig Dockyard), until 1 February 1917. She took part in the cover for the raid on Norway on 23–25 April 1917, soon canceled when Moltke lost her propeller. Nassau, Ostfriesland, and Thüringen became a special unit for Operation Schlußstein, the planned assault and captured of Saint Petersburg.

On 8 August, Nassau embarked some 250 soldiers in Wilhelmshaven for this mission, but as the the three ships reached the Baltic on 10 August, the operation was postponed and later canceled., their unit being dissolved on 21 August, and they headed back to Wilhelmshaven. Nassau was schefuled to take part in the final fleet action planned in late October 1918, under overall command of Großadmiral R. Scheer. On the morning of 29 October 1918, order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven, but on this night, sailors on Thüringen mutinied, soon spreading on other battleships, including Nassau, leading to the cancellation of the whole operation.

After November 1918, most of the High Seas Fleet was interned in Scapa Flow but Nassau and her three sisters were not listed for internment, remaining in German ports, in part, like the pre-dreadnoughts, to their age. Hermann Bauer became SMS Nassau’s last commander. On 21 June 1919 the scuttling took place at Scapa and back in Germany, it was decided to hand over the four Nassau class to the various Allied powers, as replacements for ships sunk. Nassau was awarded to Japan, on 7 April 1920, but the latter declined and ordered her to be scrapped instead by a British ccompany in Dordrecht, by June 1920.

SMS Westfalen


SMS Westfalen underway

SMS Westfalen was ordered as “Ersatz Sachsen”replacing the old 1880s Sachsen-class ironclad of the same name. The Reichstag in fact secretly approved and provided funds by late March 1906, construction was delayed however unlike Nassau, waiting for arms and armor to procured, under very strict security. Laid down on 12 August 1907 (AG Weser shipyard, Bremen), she was launched on 1 July 1908 without much fanfare, was fitted-out and transferred to Kiel on mid-September 1909 to gather her final crew, as she transited with dockyard workers, helped by pontoons as the Weser River was very low at this time of year, and it took two attempts before cleared the river.

On 16 October 1909, before commission, she took part in the third set of locks, Kaiser Wilhelm Canal opening ceremony like her sister ship and she was commissioned a month later, making fleet training exercises in February 1910. It’s only by 3 May she completed her full trials. Assigned to the I Battle Squadron and in 1912, squadron flagship in place of SMS Hannover, she performed the same training routine as Nassau.

Early Operations

Westfalen’s wartime service was very much the same as Nassau, as they operated in the same unit; She participated the raid of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby (15–16 December 1914) as rear cover, and then took part in the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in August 1915, also to provide cover for the forces engaging the Russian flotilla. She did not really saw action on the second attempt on 16 August 1915, as only Nassau and Posen were detach to attack Slava. Reports of Allied submarines in the area had everyone packing on the 17.

Back in the north sea via the Kiel canal at the end of August, SMS Westfalen took part in a sweep into the North Sea on 11–12 September, but seeing no action. Yet again, she was in another on 23–24 October and again on 21–22 April 1916. Westfalen was part of the battleship support for Hipper’s battlecruisers attacking Yarmouth and Lowestoft also on 24–25 April and the whole operation was soon called off. The real test came out in the last day of May 1916:

SMS Westfalen at Jutland

Under overall command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer, and under Captain Redlich’s command, she departed the Jade at 03:30 on 31 May as distant cover with the II Division, I Battle Squadron (Rear Admiral W. Engelhardt), last ship in line, astern of her three sisters. Also the II Division was the last unit of dreadnoughts in the fleet, followed by pre-dreadnoughts of II Battle Squadron. There were few chances they would be engaged, however the confusion of the evening and night action had it all reversed. The veteran dreadnought suddenly were found at the hearth of the storm.

At 17:48-17:52, eleven German dreadnoughts opened fire on the British 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, in poor visibility and unclear results. At 18:05, SMS Westfalen spotted again and fired on a light cruiser, assumed later to be HMS Southampton. Shells were fired from 18,000 metres (19,690 yd), but she scored no hits. Like the rest of the battle line she was ordered at maximum speed in pursuit (20 knots) and at 19:30, Scheer signaled “Go west”, as spotting the Grand Fleet deployed to face them a second time. With the battle line reversed her Squadron was now in the lead, Westfalen now assuming a lead position.

Around 21:20, SMS Westfalen therefore was the first spotted and engaged by the British battlecruisers of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron, soon straddled and showered with seawater and splinters. lookout soon spotted two torpedo tracks that turned out to be imaginary, but she was forced to slow down, allowing the battlecruisers of I Scouting Group to pass ahead. At around 22:00, SMS Westfalen and Rheinland spotted an unknown force in the falling darkness, flashing a challenge via searchlight, ignored, and immediately turning away to starboard, to avoid possible incoming torpedoes, the rest of the I Battle Squadron following behind. Westfalen fired seven main shells in afew miniuted of visibility, and was still in the lead, Scheer still weary about torpedoes.

At about 00:30, the line spotted British destroyers and cruisers, followed by an intense exchange at close range. Westfalen engaged HMS Tipperary, with her 15 cm and 8.8 cm guns at just 1,800 m (2,000 yd). Her bridge and forward deck gun were soon blasted out, and she fired 92 secondary, 45 tertiary rounds at Tipperary, then turned to 90 degrees to starboard, to evade her possible torpedoes. Nassau soon joined in the attack on Tipperary, which was finished off and sank, not before launching her two remainder starboard torpedoes.

Westfalen’s bridge was also hit by a 4-inch shell, killing two men in the staff, wounding eight, including Captain Redlich. At 00:50, Westfalen spotted HMS Broke, a British destroyer leader, briefly engaged her with her 15 cm battery. In 45 seconds she fired about 40 shells (plus 30 8.8 cm shells) and turned away again to avoid possible torpedoes. Broke was later engaged by other battleshps and the cruiser Rostock and soon was in “an absolute shambles” but withdrawned successfully to tell the tale. At about 01:00, Westfalen’s searchlights fell on HMS Fortune soon targeted point-blank and set ablaze with also Westfalen and Rheinland. She also spotted HMS Turbulent and wrecked her too, as she soon sank in turn.

The night fighting kept all onboard Westfalen in high alert, but eventually the High Seas Fleet managed to punch through the curtain of British destroyer, ultimately reaching Horns Reef before dawn, at around 4:00 AM, on 1 June. She was still in the lead, with little damage, and many shells spent, guns barrels still hot. She reached Wilhelmshaven in the early hours, taking up defensive positions in the outer roadstead for a possible arrival of Jellicoes’s Grand Fleet. When counts were made, it was reported she fired 51 28 cm shells, 176 15 cm rounds, and 106 8.8 cm shells. Repair was performed quickly in Wilhelmshaven, over by 17 June.

Sunderland Raid (18–19 August 1916) and aftermath

Westfalen was part of the fleet advance of 18–22 August, in cover of the I Scouting Group battlecruisers shelling the city of Sunderland, in the hope drawing out Beatty’s battlecruisers. Westfalen was at the rear of the line, lioke at jutland. At 06:00 on 19 August, she was spotted and torpedoed by the British submarine HMS E23, 55 nautical miles (102 km; 63 mi) north of Terschelling. 800 metric tons of seawater entered her gash, but the torpedo bulkhead held form and nothing happened to her powerplant, still dry and fully operational. However it was decided to send her back to port, with an escort of three torpedo-boats, at 14 knots all the way. German plans were known and so, the Grand Fleet was en route to block their way back home and at 14:35, Admiral Scheer, warned of this, retreated.

Westfalen’s repairs were over on 26 September and she trained in the Baltic Sea, being back in the north sea on 4 October. She took part in a sortie to the the Dogger Bank on 19–20 October, without action. She remained inactive for the majority of 1917 and was not called for Operation Albion in the Baltic, staying in Apenrade to prevent a British incursion there.

Invasion of Åland and fate

On 22 February 1918, Westfalen and Rheinland departed to Finland, in support of the German army deployed as the Finns were in-fighting for their independence and between the “Whites” and the “Reds”. On 23 February, they carried the 14th Jäger Battalion on 24 February, heading for Åland island, to become the German forward operating base in reach of the port of Hanko and a stepping point to seize the capital, Helsinki. The task force arrived on 5 March, metting the neutral fleet deployed there: The Swedish coastal defense ships Sverige, Thor, and Oscar II. Negotiations followed and the Germans were granted to land German troops on Åland as planned, on 7 March, and as it was done, Westfalen was ordered back to Danzig.

She remained there until 31 March, and returned to Finland with SMS Posen, off Russarö, the outer defense of Hanko on 3 April, bombardrded. Soon the army took the port and both Battleships proceeded to Helsingfors, and on 9 April, Reval, where Westfalen took command of the invasion force. On the 11th, she passed off Helsingfors, landed troops and supported their advance until the Red Guards were defeated. She remained there until 30 April, until a Finn White government was installed.

Soon, SMS Westfalen was back to the North Sea, assigned to the I Battle Squadron. On 11 August with Posen, Kaiser, and Kaiserin she was ordered to patrol off Terschelling, but she suffered en route serious damage to her boilers (near explosion) that limuted her for 16 kn until she reached her support position and back to port. It was judged not sound to repair or change her boilers se she remained stationary, decommissioned, employed as an artillery training ship for the remainder of the war.

In November 1918, she was not interned to Scapa Flow and so remained where she was, and after the scuttling, the Allies demanded replacements for the ships sunk in Scapa, so Westfalen was struck on 5 November 1919, handed over as “D” on 5 August 1920, but promptly sold to ship-breakers in Birkenhead, BU on 1924.

SMS Rheinland

Rheinland 1910

SMS Rheinland

SMS Rheinland was ordered as “Ersatz Württemberg” to replace this third Sachsen-class ironclad, laid down on 1 June 1907 at AG Vulcan shipyard, Stettin. Construction proceeded under absolute secrecy until she was launched on 26 September 1908, christened by Queen Elisabeth of Romania, Clemens Freiherr von Schorlemer-Lieser. Fitting-out ended in February 1910 and she was commissioned under Kapitän zur See (KzS) Albert Hopman, in command until August. Limited sea trials until 4 March 1910 off Swinemünde ended on Kiel for full commission on 30 April 1910, followed by additional sea trials in the Baltic Sea.

From 30 August 1910, Rheinland was taken to Wilhelmshave as her first crew was transferred to the new battlecruiser SMS Von der Tann. Her new captain (temporarily) was Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Bunnemann in limited commission, in September 1910. (KzS) Albert Hopman returned to the ship later that month, until September 1911. He was replaced by KzS Richard Engel, until August 1915.

After autumn fleet maneuvers new crewmembers from the pre-dreadnought Zähringen arrived, and she was assigned to the Ist Battle Squadron. In October 1910 she took part in the annual winter cruise, then fleet exercises in November, alternated with summer cruises to Norway, eaxch time in August 1911, 1913, and 1914.

SMS Rheinland participated in distant cover of the Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby raid, but also at the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in August 1915, under overall command of Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper. The operation was successful on 16 August 1915 but only Nassau and Posen saw action. She was later back in the north sea, made a sweep on 11–12 September, then 23–24 October. KzS Heinrich Rohardt took command until December 1916. From 12 February 1916, she underwent an extensive drydock overhaul until 19 April. She participated next in another north sea sweep on 21–22 April and later, as cover again of the I Scouting Group battlecruisers, for the planned Yarmouth and Lowestoft raid of 24–25 April, called off when Seydlitz was damaged.

The first real test of SMS Rheinland came with the Battle of Jutland: As part of the III Battle Squadron she departed the Jade at 03:30 on 31 May, and was reassigned to the II Division, I Battle Squadron (Admiral W. Engelhardt), second ship in the division astern of Posen, ahead of Nassau and Westfalen, in the last unit of dreadnoughts in the fleet followed by pre-dreadnoughts. She engaged the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron and engaged in bad weather HMS Southampton, scoring no hit.

After a complete reverse manoeuvers, SMS Rheinland became third behind Westfalen and Nassau. At 21:22, her spotters Rheinland spotted two fancy torpedo tracks, slowing down to make the battlecruisers pass ahead. Around 22:00, Rheinland and Westfalen spotted light forces, challenged by searchlight, followed by a torpedo evading measure, and later the group identified a large dark gray warship motionless in the water, with four tall and thin smoke stacks which happened to be HMS Black Prince.

A night clash erupted with British destroyers and cruisers at 3:00, with close range firing from Rheinland on HMS Black Prince at 2,200-2,600 m (2,400 to 2,800 yd), followed by a torpedo avoiding manoeuver. At 00:36, Rheinland was hit by two 6-inch (15 cm) shells from HMS Black Prince, one cutting cables to the four forward searchlights also piercing the forward funnel. The second exploded on the forward armored transverse bulkhead, doing little damage as it was not penetrated. 45 minutes of intense exchanges interrupted by the arrival of HMS Ardent, saw Black Prince eventually pounded to oblivion by SMS Ostfriesland.

The Hochseeflotte reached Horns Reef by 04:00 on 1 June and SMS Rheinland was in Wilhelmshaven a few hours later to be refueled and re-armed for a possible Grand Fleet arrival with her three sisters stood out in the roadstead. Reported stated she had fired 35 28 cm (11 in) shells, and 26 15 cm (5.9 in), had 10 men killed, 20 wounded but Repair work was completed by 10 June.

The rest of the war was calmer, apart a fleet advance on 18–22 August behind the I Scouting Group battlecruisers attacking Sunderland, but followed by a quick a retreat to German ports. She later was detached to cover a sweep by torpedo boats on 25–26 September. She also took part in the fleet advance on 18–20 October. In early 1917 she was placed as permanent sentry, in the German Bight. In the summer, her crew showed signs of rebellion mostly bevcause of the poor quality of the food, and she was left behind during Operation Albion. She stayed in the western Baltic, guarding the Skagerrak against a possible British sweep in the aid of the Russians.

On 22 February 1918 like SMS Westfalen, Rheinland (Now under command of Korvettenkapitän Theodor von Gorrissen, until September 1918), were tasked to a support mission in Finland with the German army. It was seen above already for her sister-ship for the details. The operations proceeded from 6 March, under a Senior Naval Commander, until 10 April. She proceeded to Helsinki, encountered heavy fog en route to refuel in Dantzig, and ran aground on Lagskär Island at 07:30, killing two men, and causing great damage.

The rocks pierced the hull, which was flooed, loosing three boiler rooms. A small fleets of tuges and tother ships tried to have her refloated without success on 18–20 April and the crew was removed temporarily, reassigned to the pre-dreadnought SMS Schlesien. On 8 May 1818, a floating crane came from Danzig to lift out the main guns and turret armor, bow and citadel armor, ill about 6,400 metric tons , almost 1/3 of her normal displacement. She was strapped with floating pontoons to add buoyancy and eventually refloated by 9 July 1918. Towed to Mariehamn for limited repairs, on 24 July she departed for Kiel with two tug boats but it was decided upon arrival repairs were not worth it. She was decommissioned on 4 October, becaoming a barracks ship in Kiel. Her last captains were KzS Ernst Toussaint for a month and then Fregattenkapitän Friedrich Berger from September 1918 until her decommissioning on 4 October, as depot/barrack ship.

Struck from the German naval list on 5 November 1919 she was handed over to the allied commission, which sold her on 28 June 1920 to ship-breakers in Dordrecht. Towed there, she was BU from 29 July until late 1920. Her bell could be seen at the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden.

SMS Posen


SMS Posen underway, USN archives (Lib. of Congress).

SMS Posen started life as “Ersatz Baden” replacement for her namesake in the Sachsen-class ironclads, laid down on 11 June 1907 at Germaniawerft shipyard, Kiel. Like the others, built under absolute secrecy she was launched on 12 December 1908 with Wilhelm August Hans von Waldow-Reitzenstein in the attendence, making her trials in April 1910 before being fitting-out in May, and be commissioned on the 31rh, making her final Sea trials until 27 August.

After completing her trials in August 1910, she headed from Kiel for Wilhelmshaven, and from 7 September was crewed by the old pre-dreadnought Wittelsbach decommissioned on 20 September. Later she integrated the II Division, I Battle Squadron, as a flagship. She entered the prewar years of routine training, fleet exercizes and summer cruises in Norway, starting with a training cruise into the Baltic. Her 1914 cruise was however interrupted by the incident in Sarajevo. She was back in Wilhelmshaven on 29 July.

On 4 August, the UK was at war with Germany and the Hochseeflotte was mobilized to take on the Royal Navy in the north sea. SMS Posen made a serie of covering sorties for the I Scouting Group, at first raising the coast and shalling cities in the hop to draw out Beatty’s battlecruisers and destroy them. After the first raid on 15–16 December, Posen took part in the the expedition and Battle of the Gulf of Riga, starting in August 1915. As part of the “special unit” her only opposition was to be the pre-dreadnought battleship Slava.

In addition to the four Nassau, the four Helgoland-class were also mobilized, plus the battlecruisers Von der Tann, Moltke, and Seydlitz and some pre-dreadnoughts as cover against a sortie of the Russian flotilla. The second minesweeping attempt was successful on 16 August, Posen and Nassau being detached to lead the charge though the defenses of the gulf, Posen being Admiral Schmidt’s flagship in this operation. They were screened with four light cruisers and no less than 31 torpedo boats.

The first day, the minesweeper T46 and the destroyer V99 were sunk but Posen and Nassau sank or badly damaged the Russian gunboats Sivuch and Korietz. On the 17th, Posen and Nassau also engaged Slava at long range, scoring three hits, forcing her back to port. From 19 August, all Russian minefields were cleared for the flotilla to proceed into the gulf, until reports of Allied submarines had everydone packing up.

By late August, Posen was back in the North Sea, making a sweep on 11–12 September, without result, another on 23–24 October. On 4 March 1916, with her sisters and Von der Tann they sailed to Amrumbank, protecting the returning cruiser Möwe from a raiding mission. She made another sortie on 21–22 April and was in support for Hipper’s battlecruisers raiding Yarmouth and Lowestoft on 24–25 April, called off due to Seydlitz’s damage;

Posen’s real test in this war came at Jutland: On 31 May, as part of the II Division, I Battle Squadron, flagship, Rear Admiral W. Engelhardt, Posen was leading the division. II Division was last in the battle order though. After engaging the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, in poor weather, she started to straddle British destroyers, notably HMS Nomad and Nestor, in particular the later with her secondary battery. She exploded and sank, notablyt due to the combined fire of eight dreadnougts. At 20:15, the whole lined veered away as encountering the Grand Fleet for a second time and Posen ended fourth in line, not a favourable command position for a flagship…

At 21:20, Posen and the others engaged the British battlecruisers of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron. Posen was the only one to effectively spot and fire on HMS Princess Royal and Indomitable, from 21:28, at 10,000 m (11,000 yd), scoring one hot on Princess Royal and straddling Indomitable, until 21:35. From then, darkness engulfed the combatants, and having no radar, the situation became stressful. The order was not to steam away and back to port. The Britush meanwhile launched their light forces in the hope of catching up, shadowing the fleet, attacking it with vigorious torpedo strikes and slowing it down for the Grand fleet at dawn.

At about 00:30, there was a violent firefight at close range. Posen fired on several unidentified British warships, narrowly friendly-fired on SMS Elbing, passing through the German line, just in front of Posen, so close in fact she was rammed by the later. If Posen’s strenghtend bow was undamaged, Elbing had her engine rooms flooded and two hours later while in repairs, she spotted approaching British destroyers, her captain order to scuttle his ship.

About 01:00, a fierce firefight with British destroyers started, Posen engaging HMS Fortune, Porpoise, and Garland at around 800 and 1,600 m (870 and 1,750 yd), using projectors and its 8,8 cm guns. HMS Porpoise was almost destroyed, Fortune quickly too, but torpedoes were fired, that Posen evaded, breaking its fire. At 01:25, Westfalen illuminated Ardent, crippled at 1,000 to 1,200 m.

The High Seas Fleet eventually made it through to Horns Reef on 1 June, taking up defensive positions in the outer roadstead. it was time for a report: Posen expended 53 28 cm shells, 64 15 cm rounds, and 32 8.8 cm shells, with no casuatly on board, which was northing short of a miracle considering the action, and compared to her sisters.

From June 1917, Posen had a new captain, Wilhelm von Krosigk, until November 1918. No notable sortie was done after Jutland. In February 1918, however, Posen and her unit was mobilized for a sortie in Finland, support of the German army, and in support of the “White Finns” trying to keep away the Soviet Red Guards and “red finns” from their newly constituted country. On 23 February, Westfalen and Rheinland were assigned to the Sonderverband Ostsee while Posen stayed in Dantzig.


SMS Posen underway

She departed on 31 March Posen with Westfalen for Russarö, outer defense ring of Hanko on 3 April and the port was seized. Next they steamed to Helsingfors on 11 April landing soldiers. Posen’s crew suffered however had four men killed and twelve wounded in the cover attack. From 18 to 20 April, SMS Posen assisted tried to free Rheinland, grounded, wthout success. She later struck a sunken wreck in Helsingfors harbor. On 30 April, she was detached from the Sonderverband Ostsee back to to Germany for repairs, being back in Kiel on 3 May and its drydock. Repairs ended on 5 May. Nothing much happened in June-July.

On 11 August 1918, with her sister SMS Westfalen, and Kaiser, Kaiserin, she sortied from Wilhelmshaven in support of a torpedo boats raid off Terschelling. On 2 October, she steamed in the outer roadsteads of the Jade this time in cover of returning U-boats from the Flanders Flotilla. She was part of the fleet planned to ake the famous “last stand” attack on 30 October, which never took place due to widespread mutiny withing the Kaiserliches Marine. Posen and the other ships of I Battle Squadron were sent back to the roadstead on 3 November, and from there, to Wilhelmshaven on 6 November 1918.

On 11 November 1918, Posen was seized as replacement for ships lost in Scapa and, while stricken, she was handed over to Great Britain, transferred on 13 May 1920 and in November, driven ashore at Hawkcraig, Fife, Scotland, then sold Posen for BU in the Netherlands, Dordrecht, in 1922.

Links & resources


SMS Rheinland, postcard

SMS Rheinland, postcard

SMS Nassau, stern view, colorized by Irootoko JR

SMS Nassau, stern view, colorized by Irootoko JR


Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1906-1921.
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905–1970: Historical Development of the Capital Ship. Doubleday.
Campbell, N. J. M. (1977). Preston, Antony (ed.). “German Dreadnoughts and Their Protection”. Conway
Dodson, Aidan (2016). The Kaiser’s Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871–1918. Seaforth Publishing
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines and ASW Weapons of All Nations
Grießmer, Axel (1999). Die Linienschiffe der Kaiserlichen Marine: 1906–1918; Konstruktionen zwischen Rüstungskonkurrenz und Flottengesetz
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 (1998) [1980]. “Luxury” Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Humanity Books
Ireland, Bernard (1996). Jane’s Battleships of the 20th Century. New York: Harper Collins Publishing
Lyon, Hugh; Moore, John E. (1987) [1978]. The Encyclopedia of the World’s Warships.
Massie, Robert K. (2003). Castles of Steel. New York: Ballantine Books.
Nottlemann, Dirk (2015). “From Ironclads to Dreadnoughts: The Development of the German Navy 1864–1918
Philbin, Tobias R. III (1982). Admiral Hipper: The Inconvenient Hero. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Staff, Gary (2010). German Battleships: 1914–1918. Vol. 1: Deutschland, Nassau and Helgoland Classes. Osprey
Tarrant, V. E. (2001) [1995]. Jutland: The German Perspective. Cassell Military
Dodson, Aidan; Cant, Serena (2020). Spoils of War: The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars. Seaforth
Koop, Gerhard & Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (1999). Von der Nassau – zur König-Klasse. Bernard & Graefe Verlag
Linienschiffe: Von der Nassau- zur König-Klasse, Gerhard Koop, Klaus-Peter Schmolke
Die Linienschiffe der Nassau- bis König-Klasse Eine Bild- und Plandokumentation, Gerhard Koop, Klaus-Peter Schmolke


From Ironclads to Dreadnoughts: The German Navy 864-1918 by Dirk Nottelmann
Cutaway of the SMS Rheinland
Nassau class on wikipedia

Model Kits

Nassau, general query on scalemates
The 1/250 paper model HMV
Not much: SMS Nassau, ModellbauRay 1:700, or the paper model 3046 by HMV, 2017 1:250, or the rare De Agostini Warships DAKS34 Nassau-class Diecast Model at 1:1250 Scale.

3D rendition gallery

The German Battleship SMS Posen, Super Drawings in 3D Nr. 16053, Marsden Samuel, Gary Staff
Kaiserliches Marine
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Deutschland class battleships (1906)

Deutschland class battleships (1906)

Germany (1906)
Battleships Deutschland, Hannover, Pommern, Schleisen Schleswig-Holstein

The last German pre-dreadnoughts

The five battleships of the Deutschland class (not to confound with Pocket Battleship class of 1929!) were the last of their kind built in Germany. They were ordered in 1903-1905, even as the HMS Dreadnought was under construction. They were completed and accepted into service in 1906-1908, at the time or the first Dreadnoughts appeared. In fact, they were virtually obsolete in 1914. But Tirpitz eluded these criticisms by arguing that future German battleships would require to refit the Kiel Canal, a long and especially costly endeavour, worth the price of other battleships. These were the Deutschland, Pommern, Hannover, Schlesien, and Schleswig-Holstein.

Note: This post is a placeholder. There will be a complete overview of the class in the next future, officially released on Facebook and other social networks

Deutschland class Linienschiffe off Kiel.


They relied heavily on the design of previous Braunschweig, but were a little smaller, had rearranged chimneys and a higher power-to-weight ratio but an unchanged speed, and a secondary battery fully occupied by barbettes. Similarly, their tertiary artillery, going from 18 to 20 guns 88 mm was new. Their bridge armour was slightly decreased, but the turrets and barbettes was armour increased.

SMS Schliesen
SMS Schliesen.

Fought at Jutland

As they were still fresh, even in 1914, they were affected to the front line 2nd squadron. In May 1916, during the Battle of Jutland, they had the opportunity to make talk their powder and show their metal. The Pommern barely had time to fire some volleys before being literally ripped open by the explosion of a torpedo in an ammunition bunker, launched by British destroyers of the 12th squadron. Until 1917 these ships remained inactive, withdrawn from Hochseeflotte. Outside of Deutschland, scrapped in 1920, they formed the core of the naval force of the Weimar’s Reichsmarine. They were converted into training ships and rebuilt. In September, 1st, 1939, battleship Schleswig-Holstein fire the first shots of ww2, on polish Westerplatte arsenal.

illustration of the class in 1914.
illustration of the class in 1914.


The Deutschland class on wikipedia
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

Deutschland class specifications

Dimensions 127,6 x 22,2 x 8,2 m
Displacement 13,200t/14,300t FL
Crew 35+708 (officers+sailors)
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 TE engines, 16 Wagner boilers, 19 000 hp
Speed 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph)
Range 4,800 nmi (8,900 km; 5,500 mi); 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 2×2 280 mm, 14×170 mm, 22x88mm, 8x450mm TT.
Armor Belt 240, Turrets 280, Barbettes 305mm, Deck 40 mm


armour schematics deutschland
Deutschland class armour schematics

SMS deutschland front view
SMS deutschland front view

SMS PommernSMS SchliesenSchleswig-Holstein 1936

Kaiserliches Marine