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.

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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

Author: naval encyclopedia

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