Helgoland class: Much more than improved Nassau
The Helgoland marked a breakthrough in the design of German battleships. Although by the provision of artillery, they remained very influenced by the previous Nassau, their main innovation was to finally move to the “standard” caliber developed by the other nations, the 12 inches (305 mm).
However, when these ships were completed in 1911 (1912 for the Oldenburg), Great Britain just has changed to 14 inches (343 mm). Much larger than the Nassau, their three grouped funnels distinguished them immediately. But their size and displacement was so much more. Their secondary armament was reinforced with two guns to the detriment of their tertiary artillery, and the caliber of their torpedo tubes was increased to 500 mm.
They were also faster, and reached 21.3 at the trials (Oldenburg). Their armor was also singularly reinforced, true to the German principle that protection is the most important asset for a battleship.
The Helgoland in action
These vessels formed a squadron, the 1st, commanded by Vice Admiral Von Lanz, with the 4 units of the Nassau class. They participated in the Battle of Skaggerak (Jutland for the Anglo-Saxon world). On June 1, 1916, Osfriesland struck a mine, and quickly gave the band. His commander believed in the attack of a submarine, so he made his ships make ample zigzags to escape any further torpedoing.
She returned at 10 knots safely. In November 1918, the Hochseeflotte was ordered to go to Scapa Flow, but these four ships, like the Nassau, were considered by the British “second-class” dreadnought battleships, and were allowed to remain in France, but were broken up in 1921-24. Ostfriesland was converted into a target ship and sunk during exercises.
Author’s illustration of the Helgoland
Displacement: 22 440 t – 25 200 t FL
Dimensions: 167,2 x 28,5 x 9 m
Propulsion: 3 shaft VTE engines, 4 cyl., 15 Schulz-Thornycroft boilers, 28 000 hp and 20,3 noeuds max.
Armour protection: Ceinture 300, Batterie 160, coffrage interne 210, Tourelles 300, Blockhaus 300, barbettes 300 mm
Armement: 12 x 305 (6×2), 14 x 150, 14 x 88 mm DP, 6 x 500 mm TTs.
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1906-1921