SMS Gefion (1893)

German Empire

One of the oldest German cruisers in 1914

SMS Gefion was the second oldest German cruiser in service when the first world war broke out (After SMS Kaiserin Augusta (1892)). She was planned in 1890 as an unprotected cruiser of the German Kaiserliche Marine, intended for colonial duties and scouting. She was named after an earlier sail frigate, named herself after the goddess Gefjon of Norse mythology.

She had an impressive main battery of ten 10.5-centimeter (4.1 in) guns, was capable of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph) and a 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km; 4,000 mi). This was the longest range of any German warship by then, but her compromised design led to an unsuccessful cruiser, soon made obsolete by the Gazelle class.

SMS Gefion at anchor in the 1890
SMS Gefion at anchor in the 1890s

Design of the Gefion

During peacetime the Gefion was to serve as a gunboat, showing the flag and patrolling German colonial routes, suppress native insurrections. By times of war, she was intended to serve as a commerce raider and fleet scout. A duality forced by a tight, small German naval budget. In many respects, Gefion was a scaled-down Kaiserin Augusta, thinner and without armor. Many compromises were took for this triple role, and she was one time classified as a cruiser-corvette, authorized in the 1890–91 budget. Schichau-Werke Yard was awarded the contract in late 1891 but she was then the last unprotected cruiser built for the Navy. Gefion displaced 4,275 t (4,207 long tons; 4,712 short tons) fully loaded.

The hull was designed with transverse and longitudinal steel frames. However the lower stem and stern were still made of bronze ones. They were all covered with wood planking. A metal sheath extended one meter above the waterline to reduce fouling. She had three heavenly spaced funnels and two main pole mast with spotting tops, but rolled badly and made severe leeway, bad gunnery platform. Metacentric height was .55 m (1 ft 10 in). In addition her decks were wet in heavy seas. But she was also agile despite a single rudder, and had a tight turning radius.


Illustration of the Gefion in the East Asia Squadron

For propulsion, she had two vertical, 3-cylinder triple expansion engines and each shaft was ended by a 3-bladed screw propeller 4.2 m (14 ft) in diameter. Six coal-fired, transverse and cylindrical double water-tube boilers provided the steam. The powerplant was rated for 9,000 indicated horsepower (6,700 kW), top speed as designed was 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). However during her trials with forced heating she reached 9,827 ihp (7,328 kW), producing a top speed of speed of 20.5 kn (38.0 km/h; 23.6 mph). She carried also 860 t (850 long tons; 950 short tons) of coal in wartime. In addition, Electrical power came from three generators, together producing 40 kilowatts (54 hp, 67 volts) in all.

Armament-wise, Gefion was once designed to be armed with 15-centimeter (5.9 in) guns, but due to her expected metacentric height this was wisely turned down to fifteen lighter 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/35 guns. A grand total of 807 rounds of ammunition were stored and dispatched between these. Top range was 10,800 m (35,400 ft), and she carried also six 5 cm (2.0 in) SK L/40 guns with 1,500 rounds total, which were able to deliver their payload up to 6,200 m (20,300 ft) afar.

Two 45 cm (18 in) deck-mounted torpedo tubes completed this arsenal, with five torpedoes in store. Protection was not completely absent though, but was limited to a light armored deck, steel plates a with a wood cover 25 mm (0.98 in) thick, but 30 mm (1.2 in) sloped sides. The engine rooms however were better protected with 100 mm (3.9 in) thick plating on top of 180 mm (7.1 in) of teak.

SMS Gefion htrough the Kiel canal
SMS Gefion htrough the Kiel canal

Career of the Gefion

Kapitän zur See Graf Kurt von Haugwitz was commanding the ship during her sea trials, which started on 27 June 1894 at Kiel, lasting until 2 October. Poor ventilation was noted during this summer, and she returned to Kaiserliche Werft in Kiel to have this problem fixed and other points, until mid-1895. She was commissioned on 5 June 1895 and present for the opening celebration of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal.

She escorted the Imperial yacht Hohenzollern to the king of Sweden and the Cowes Regatta, Leith in the Firth of Forth. From 17 August, she participated in the annual fleet maneuvers, searching for the missing TB S 41 last seen in Jammer Bay on 28 August. She conducted further sea trials to confirm her cruising radius, also as an escort. By February 1896, she was a watch ship in Kiel. She escorted again Wilhelm II's yacht voyage to Norway and helped pull free the stranded French steamer SS Chanzy.

In April 1897 she carried Admiral Hans von Koester to Sassnitz in April to celebrate the first telegraph cable between Germany and Sweden. She also served as a training ship for stokers. She reseumed her escort of the Hohenzollern, once for a meeting with Czar Nicholas II of Russia.

In December SMS Gefion was assigned to the new II Division of the East Asia Squadron commanded by Prince Heinrich, brother of the kaiser. Together with Kaiserin Augusta and the rebuilt Deutschland she left Germany for the newly conquered base at Tsingtau (Kiautschou Bay concession) and arrived on 5 May 1898. The rest of the squadron was already there under command of Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Otto von Diederichs.


SMS Gefion in 1894-95
Her first assignation was to investigate the situation in Manila at the end of the Spanish-American war of 1898, in an attempt to try to secure a position in the Philippines, possibly even to place a German prince on the Philippine throne. However, she returned in late March 1899, sailing to Kiaotschou to protect German missionaries, the captain landing a party of 132 marines and artillerymen to settle matters.

Prince Heinrich arrived in 1899 at the head of the squadron, and Gefion sailed to Wusong to assist a damaged SMS Deutschland. She also afterwards steamed up the Yangtze River as far as Hankou. Later she was received as a guest of several Japanese ports like Nagasaki, and later arrived in Vladivostok. She later escorted a damaged (again) SMS Deutschland to Hong Kong for repairs. She escorted her in Bangkok, carrying Prince Heinrich back to Germany.

Vizeadmiral Felix von Bendemann replaced him while the latter joined his new flagship, the protected cruiser Hertha. The squadron cruised in the German central Pacific colonies before managing the tense situation of the Boxer Rebellion in the Shandong Peninsula. The German base at Tsingtau was particularly stroke by the insurgents and a multinational relief expedition under the command of Edward Hobart Seymour was launched. Gefion and other cruisers bombarded Chinese coastal defenses at Tianjin and landing parties too part in the Battle of Taku Forts on 16–17 June 1900. Kapitänleutnant Otto Weniger became her next captain.

He commanded a landing party which stomed the Great Hsi-Ku Arsenal in Tianjin. Gefion was later stationed outside the mouth of the Yangtze but went to Hong Kong for an overhaul. The next year she temporarily commanded Tsingtau in the name of the governor, sailed to Nagasaki, and ended at Shanghai until September, then back to Germany.

SMS Gefion at the China station
SMS Gefion at the China station, later famous Von Spee's east asia squadron

SMS Gefion was decommissioned for an intended major reconstruction at the Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven, starting by December 1901 and ending in 1904. She received modern and powerful electrical generators. The upper deck was fully enclosed and the upper deck 10.5 cm guns were relocated to protected hull gun ports.

The smaller 50 mm guns abreast of the center funnel were relocated further aft (third funnel). Many other points were modified. After refit she was left in reserve but in August 1914 she was reactivated. On August 10, her Korvettenkapitän Waldeyer could not find a crew however due to manpower shortages, reserved to more modern ships.

Therefore she returned in reserve and Waldeyer was transferred elsewhere a few days later. Gefion was moved to Danzig in 1916 and used as a barracks ship for Kaiserliche Werft yard repaired ships's crews, for the duration of the war. She was stricken and paid off in 5 November 1919, sold to Norddeutsche Tiefbaugesellschaft, and converted into a diesel-powered freighter (propelled by the engines from the unfinished U-115 and U-116) such was the desperation for trade vessels after the war.

Under her new name Adolf Sommerfeld, she carried 2,600 t on a short route briefly in 1920-23 until new merchant ships were acquired by the company, and she was broken up by Danziger Hoch und Tiefbau in Danzig, 1923.

SMS Gefion 1894 specifications

Dimensions110.4 m (362 ft), Beam 13.2 m (43 ft), 6.47 m (21.2 ft)
Displacement4,275 t (4,207 long tons; 4,712 short tons)
Crew13+289
Propulsion 2 TE engines, 6 (coal) WT boilers, 9,000 ihp (6,700 kW)
Speed19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph)
Range 3,500 nmi (6,500 km; 4,000 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Armament10 × 105, 6 × 50, 2 × 450 mm TTs.
ArmorDecks 25 mm



Restored 120 years old Postcard painting by Hugo Graf showing the Gefion before refit.


Alfred Jane's photo showing a view close to what is shown by the postcard.



Postcards of the Gefion and Deutschland.

Links

Conway's all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 & 1906-1921
Dodson, Aidan (2017). "After the Kaiser: The Imperial German Navy's Light Cruisers after 1918
Gottschall, Terrell D. (2003). By Order of the Kaiser
Hildebrand, Hans H.; Röhr, Albert; Steinmetz, Hans-Otto (1993). Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe
Sondhaus, Lawrence (1997). Preparing for Weltpolitik: German Sea Power Before the Tirpitz Era
The Gefion on wikipedia
Previous frigate SMS Gefion
Gefion on militaer-wissen.de Gefion On deutsche-schutzgebiete.de

Naval History

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PC class sub chasers
SC class sub chasers
PCS class sub chasers
YMS class Mot. Mnsp
PT-Boats
ww2 US gunboats
ww2 US seaplane tenders
USS Curtiss ST (1940)
Currituck class ST
Tangier class ST
Barnegat class ST

US Coat Guardships
Lake class
Northland class
Treasury class
Owasco class
Wind class
Algonquin class
Thetis class
Active class

US Amphibious ships & crafts
US Amphibious Operations
Doyen class AT
Harris class AT
Dickman class AT
Bayfield class AT
Windsor class AT
Ormsby class AT
Funston class AT
Sumter class AT
Haskell class AT
Andromeda class AT
Gilliam class AT
APD-1 class LT
APD-37 class LT
LSV class LS
LSD class LS
Landing Ship Tank
LSM class LS
LSM(R) class SS
LCI(L) LC
LCT(6) LC
LCV class LC
LCVP class LC
LCM(3) class LC
LCP(L) class LC
LCP(R) class SC
LCL(L)(3) class FSC
LCS(S) class FSC
British ww2 Royal Navy

WW2 British Battleships
Queen Elisabeth class (1913)
Revenge class (1915)
Nelson class (1925)
King Georges V class (1939)
Lion class (Started)
HMS Vanguard (1944)
Renown class (1916)
HMS Hood (1920)

WW2 British Cruisers
British C class cruisers (1914-1922)
Hawkins class cruisers (1917)
British D class cruisers (1918)
Enterprise class cruisers (1919)
HMS Adventure (1924)
County class cruisers (1926)
York class cruisers (1929)
Surrey class cruisers (project)
Leander class cruisers (1931)
Arethusa class cruisers (1934)
Perth class cruisers (1934)
Town class cruisers (1936)
Dido class cruisers (1939)
Abdiel class cruisers (1939)
Fiji class cruisers (1941)
Bellona class cruisers (1942)
Swiftsure class cruisers (1943)
Tiger class cruisers (1944)

WW2 British Aircraft Carriers
Courageous class aircraft carriers (1928)
HMS Ark Royal (1937)
HMS Eagle (1918)
HMS Furious (1917)
HMS Hermes (1919)
Illustrious class (1939)
HMS Indomitable (1940)
Implacable class (1942)
Malta class (project)
HMS Unicorn (1941)
Colossus class (1943)
Majestic class (1944)
Centaur class (started 1944)

HMS Archer (1939)
HMS Argus (1917)
Avenger class (1940)
Attacker class (1941)
HMS Audacity (1941)
HMS Activity (1941)
HMS Pretoria Castle (1941)
Ameer class (1942)
Merchant Aircraft Carriers (1942)
Vindex class (1943)

WW2 British Destroyers
Shakespeare class (1917)
Scott class (1818)
V class (1917)
S class (1918)
W class (1918)
A/B class (1926)
C/D class (1931)
G/H/I class (1935)
Tribal class (1937)
J/K/N class (1938)
Hunt class DE (1939)
L/M class (1940)
O/P class (1942)
Q/R class (1942)
S/T/U//V/W class (1942)
Z/ca class (1943)
Ch/Co/Cr class (1944)
Battle class (1945)
Weapon class (1945)

WW2 British submarines
L9 class (1918)
HMS X1 (1923)
Oberon class (1926)
Parthian class (1929)
Rainbow class (1930)
Thames class (1932)
Swordfish class (1932)
HMS Porpoise (1932)
Grampus class (1935)
Shark class (1934)
Triton class (1937)
Undine class (1937)
U class (1940)
S class (1941)
T class (1941)
X-Craft midget (1942)
A class (1944)

WW2 British Amphibious Ships and Landing Crafts
LSI(L) class
LSI(M/S) class
LSI(H) class
LSS class
LSG class
LSC class
Boxer class LST

LST(2) class
LST(3) class
LSH(L) class
LSF classes (all)
LCI(S) class
LCS(L2) class
LCT(I) class
LCT(2) class
LCT(R) class
LCT(3) class
LCT(4) class
LCT(8) class
LCT(4) class
LCG(L)(4) class
LCG(M)(1) class

British ww2 Landing Crafts
LCA
LCP
LCM

WW2 British MTB/gunboats.
WW2 British MTBs
MTB-1 class (1936)
MTB-24 class (1939)
MTB-41 class (1940)
MTB-424 class (1944)
MTB-601 class (1942)
MA/SB class (1938)
MTB-412 class (1942)
MGB 6 class (1939)
MGB-47 class (1940)
MGB 321 (1941)
MGB 501 class (1942)
MGB 511 class (1944)
MGB 601 class (1942)
MGB 2001 class (1943)

WW2 British Gunboats

Denny class (1941)
Fairmile A (1940)
Fairmile B (1940)
HDML class (1940)

WW2 British Sloops
Bridgewater class (2090)
Hastings class (1930)
Shoreham class (1930)
Grimsby class (1934)
Bittern class (1937)
Egret class (1938)
Black Swan class (1939)

WW2 British Frigates
River class (1943)
Loch class (1944)
Bay class (1944)

WW2 British Corvettes
Kingfisher class (1935)
Shearwater class (1939)
Flower class (1940)
Mod. Flower class (1942)
Castle class (1943)

WW2 British Misc.
WW2 British Monitors
Roberts class monitors (1941)
Halcyon class minesweepers (1933)
Bangor class minesweepers (1940)
Bathurst class minesweepers (1940)
Algerine class minesweepers (1941)
Motor Minesweepers (1937)
ww2 British ASW trawlers
Basset class trawlers (1935)
Tree class trawlers (1939)
HMS Albatross seaplane carrier
WW2 British river gunboats

HMS Guardian netlayer
HMS Protector netlayer
HMS Plover coastal mines.
Medway class sub depot ships
HMS Resource fleet repair
HMS Woolwhich DD depot ship
HMS Tyne DD depot ship
Maidstone class sub depot ships
HmS Adamant sub depot ship

Athene class aircraft transport
British ww2 AMCs
British ww2 OBVs
British ww2 ABVs
British ww2 Convoy Escorts
British ww2 APVs
British ww2 SSVs
British ww2 SGAVs
British ww2 Auxiliary Mines.
British ww2 CAAAVs
British ww2 Paddle Mines.
British ww2 MDVs
British ww2 Auxiliary Minelayers
British ww2 armed yachts

✙ Axis ww2 Fleets

Japan ww2 Imperial Japanese Navy
WW2 Japanese Battleships
Kongō class Fast Battleships (1912)
Fuso class battleships (1915)
Ise class battleships (1917)
Nagato class Battleships (1919)
Yamato class Battleships (1941)
B41 class Battleships (project)

WW2 Japanese cruisers
Tenryū class cruisers (1918)
Kuma class cruisers (1919)
Nagara class (1920)
Sendai class Cruisers (1923)
IJN Yūbari (1923)
Furutaka class Cruisers (1925)
Aoba class heavy cruisers (1926)
Nachi class Cruisers (1927)
Takao class cruisers (1930)
Mogami class cruisers (1932)
Tone class cruisers (1937)
Katori class cruisers (1939)
Agano class cruisers (1941)
Oyodo (1943)

Seaplane & Aircraft Carriers
Hōshō (1921)
IJN Akagi (1925)
IJN Kaga (1927)
IJN Ryujo (1931)
IJN Soryu (1935)
IJN Hiryu (1937)
Shokaku class (1937)
Zuiho class (1936) comp.40
Ruyho (1933) comp.42
Junyo class (1941)
IJN Taiho (1943)
Chitose class (comp. 1943)
IJN Shinano (1944)
Unryu class (1944)
IJN Ibuki (1942)

Taiyo class (1940)
IJN Kaiyo (1938)
IJN Shinyo (1934)

Notoro (1920)
Kamoi (1922)
Chitose class (1936)
Mizuho (1938)
Nisshin (1939)

IJN Aux. Seaplane tenders
Akistushima (1941)
Shimane Maru class (1944)
Yamashiro Maru class (1944)

Imperial Japanese Navy Aviation

WW2 Japanese Destroyers
Mutsuki class (1925)
Fubuki class (1927)
Akatsuki class (1932)
Hatsuharu class (1932)
Shiratsuyu class (1935)
Asashio class (1936)
Kagero class (1938)
Yugumo class (1941)
Akitsuki class (1941)
IJN Shimakaze (1942)

WW2 Japanese Submarines
KD1 class (1921)
Koryu class
Kaiten class
Kairyu class
IJN Midget subs

WW2 Japanese Amphibious ships/Crafts
Shinshu Maru class (1935)
Akistu Maru class (1941)
Kumano Maru class (1944)
SS class LS (1942)
T1 class LS (1944)
T101 class LS (1944)
T103 class LS (1944)
Shohatsu class LC (1941)
Chuhatsu class LC (1942)
Moku Daihatsu class (1942)
Toku Daihatsu class (1944)

WW2 Japanese minelayers
IJN Armed Merchant Cruisers
WW2 Japanese Escorts
Tomozuru class (1933)
Otori class (1935)
Matsu class (1944)
Tachibana class (1944)
Ioshima class (1944)
WW2 Japanese Sub-chasers
WW2 Japanese MLs
Shinyo class SB

⚑ Neutral

Armada de Argentina Argentinian Navy

Rivadavia class Battleships
Cruiser La Argentina
Veinticinco de Mayo class cruisers
Argentinian Destroyers
Santa Fe class sub. Bouchard class minesweepers King class patrol vessels

Marinha do Brasil Brazilian Navy

Minas Gerais class Battleships (1912)
Cruiser Bahia
Brazilian Destroyers
Humaita class sub.
Tupi class sub.

Armada de Chile Armada de Chile

Almirante Latorre class battleships
Cruiser Esmeralda (1896)
Cruiser Chacabuco (1911)
Chilean DDs
Fresia class subs
Capitan O’Brien class subs

Søværnet Danish Navy

Niels Juel
Danish ww2 Torpedo-Boats Danish ww2 submarines Danish ww2 minelayer/sweepers

Merivoimat Finnish Navy

Coastal BB Ilmarinen
Finnish ww2 submarines
Finnish ww2 minelayers

Nautiko Hellenon Hellenic Navy

Greek ww2 Destroyers
Greek ww2 submarines
Greek ww2 minelayers

Marynarka Vojenna Polish Navy

Polish ww2 Destroyers
Polish ww2 cruisers
Polish ww2 minelayer/sweepers

Portuguese navy ww2 Portuguese Navy

Douro class DDs
Delfim class sub
Velho class gb
Albuquerque class gb
Nunes class sloops

Romanian Navy Romanian Navy

Romanian ww2 Destroyers
Romanian ww2 Submarines

Royal Norwegian Navy Sjøforsvaret

Norwegian ww2 Torpedo-Boats

Spanish Armada Spanish Armada

España class Battleships
Blas de Lezo class cruisers
Canarias class cruisers
Cervera class cruisers
Cruiser Navarra
Spanish Destroyers
Spanish Submarines
Dedalo seaplane tender
Spanish Gunboats
Spanish Minelayers

Svenska Marinen Svenska Marinen

Gustav V class BBs (1918)
Interwar swedish BB projects

Tre Kronor class (1943)
Gotland (1933)
Fylgia (1905)

Ehrernskjold class DDs (1926)
Psilander class DDs (1926)
Klas Horn class DDs (1931)
Romulus class DDs (1934)
Göteborg class DDs (1935)
Mode class DDs (1942)
Visby class DDs (1942)
Öland class DDs (1945)

Swedish ww2 TBs
Swedish ww2 Submarines
Swedish ww2 Minelayers
Swedish ww2 MTBs
Swedish ww2 Patrol Vessels
Swedish ww2 Minesweepers

Türk Donanmasi Turkish Navy

Turkish ww2 Destroyers
Turkish ww2 submarines

Royal Yugoslav Navy Royal Yugoslav Navy

Dubrovnik class DDs
Beograd class DDs
Hrabi class subs

Royal Thai Navy Royal Thai Navy

Taksin class
Ratanakosindra class
Sri Ayuthia class
Puket class
Tachin class
Sinsamudar class sub

minor navies Minor Navies


The Cold War

Royal Navy Royal Navy
Sovietskaya Flota Sovietskiy flot
US Navy USN (1990)


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