WW2 German Cruisers (Kriegsmarine Kreuzer)

As we know, the development of German cruisers was cut short by the war starting in 1939 and the plan Z being postponed and finally cancelled during WW2. It left the Kriegsmarine with just ten light cruisers and four heavy cruisers, just completed, and some in completion. A force of 15 cruisers was certainly not able to turn the tables during the war and indeed they fought and were lost in different occasions, some for which they were not well prepared for (like the Invasion of Norway) and never gave their full potential as commerce raider as part of Raeder’s strategy. In this post we will see the full development of German Cruiser lineage from reserve Reichsmarine vessels to Plan Z projects.

The inheritance of WW1 cruisers

Reichsmarine cruisers

http://www.navypedia.org/ships/germany/ger_cruisers.htm

Reservenkreuzer: Gazelle class (1900)

KMS Niobe
KMS Niobe in Yugoslavian service as Dalmacija in Kotor harbour, 1941.

SMS Frauenlob
SMS Frauenlob in 1915

http://www.navypedia.org/ships/germany/ger_cr_niobe.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gazelle-class_cruiser


Gazelle appearance in 1914

KMS Niobe (later Dalmacija)

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes had initially been given the ships of the old Austro-Hungarian Navy after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the closing days of World War I, but the Allied powers quickly seized the majority of the ships and allocated them to the various Allied countries. Left with only twelve modern torpedo boats, the new country sought more powerful vessels. It therefore purchased Niobe when Germany placed her for sale in 1925.[11] Since Germany was forbidden from exporting armed warships, Niobe was taken to the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel and disarmed. She also had her conning tower removed. On 7 August 1926, she began sea trials before being transferred to her new owners. Niobe was taken to the Tivat arsenal in the Bay of Kotor, arriving on 3 September 1927.[12] There, she was renamed Dalmacija (Dalmatia), and received her new armament before she entered Royal Yugoslav Navy service, though the details are uncertain. According to Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, she was equipped with six Škoda 8.5 cm (3.35 in) L/55 quick-firing guns, and initially four and later six 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft (AA) guns were added.[10] The naval historian Henry Lenton states that the main battery caliber was 8.6 cm (3.4 in), states that they were dual-purpose guns, and specifies four 2 cm single-mount AA guns.[13] But naval historian Milan Vego states that she carried six 8.3 cm (3.27 in) L/35 anti-aircraft guns, four 47 mm (1.9 in) guns, and six machine guns.[14] The historian Aidan Dodson concurs with Vego that the ship received six 8.3 cm guns, but instead states that they were 55-caliber guns of the Skoda M27 type. Dodson also agrees that she had four 47 mm guns but states her armament was rounded out by two 15 mm (0.59 in) Zbrojovka ZB-60 anti-aircraft machine-guns.[12]

After entering service, Dalmacija was employed as a gunnery training ship.[15] In May and June 1929, Dalmacija, the submarines Hrabri and Nebojša, the submarine tender Hvar and six torpedo boats went on a cruise to Malta, the Greek island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, and Bizerte in the French protectorate of Tunisia. According to the British naval attaché, the ships and crews made a very good impression while visiting Malta.[16] In 1930, the ship underwent a minor refit and her foremast was modified, including by the addition of supporting struts that converted it into a tripod mast. Throughout the 1930s, the ship went on several training cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, and during this period she served as a flagship on a number of occasions.[12]
Dalmacija in Kotor after the German invasion in April 1941

In April 1941, during the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia, Dalmacija remained in Kotor and did not see action. Some forty years old by that time, the ship was kept in port as a harbor defense vessel, since her relatively heavy anti-aircraft armament could be used to defend against air attacks.[17] Following the Yugoslav surrender, the ship was captured by the Italians in Kotor on 25 April.[18] Renamed Cattaro, the ship was placed in service with the Regia Marina as a gunboat and gunnery training ship, based in Pola. On 31 July 1942, the cruiser was attacked by the British submarine HMS Traveller south of the village of Premantura on the Istrian coast, but all of the torpedoes missed.[19][20]

The ship’s fate is somewhat unclear; according to Hildebrand et al., Cattaro was later transferred to the Navy of the Independent State of Croatia, where she was commissioned as a training ship under the name Znaim. She returned to German service in September 1943 after Italy surrendered to the Allies, which significantly reduced the warships operating in the Adriatic Sea. A German and Croatian crew operated the ship, once again named Niobe, under the German flag.[8] According to Twardowski, however, the ship remained in Italian hands until Germany seized it in September 1943, thereafter turning her over to the Independent State of Croatia as Znaim before retaking the ship and restoring her original name at some point thereafter.[15] Aidan Dodson concurs that the ship remained in Italian hands until their surrender, and states that she was undergoing boiler repairs at Pola at the time. After falling into German hands, there was some debate as to what her name should be, with consideration given to Zenta or Novara in honor of Austro-Hungarian cruisers, but the Germans eventually settled on reverting to her original name.[20]

Nevertheless, after leaving Italian service the ship’s armament was six 8.4 cm (3.3 in) AA guns, four 47 mm AA guns, four 20 mm Oerlikon AA guns, and twenty-six 20 mm Breda AA guns, and she was commissioned on 8 November.[10] On the night of 21/22 September, while she was still refitting, two British Motor Torpedo Boats—MTB 226 and MTB 228—attacked the ship to the northwest of Zara without success.[21] Niobe began escorting convoys in the Adriatic, the first taking place on 13 November,[8] in support of Operation Herbstgewitter.[20] This convoy consisted of several transports carrying units from the 71st Infantry Division to the islands of Cres, Krk, and Lussino.[22]

On 19 December, Niobe ran aground on the island of Silba at around 18:00 as a result of a navigational error. The crew requested tugboats from Pola, but they were unable to pull the ship free. Local Partisans informed the British about the ship’s location, and three days later, the British Motor Torpedo Boats MTB 276 and MTB 298 attacked the ship and hit her with two torpedoes, and the tug Parenzo, which had been moored alongside to assist the salvage effort, was hit by a third torpedo and sunk.[23][24] Nineteen men were killed in the attack. The Germans then abandoned the wreck, apart from a small group tasked with removing or destroying weapons and other equipment. The wreck was then damaged further by the Germans before they abandoned it, and it was later cannibalized for spare parts by the Partisans. The wreck remained on Silba until 1947, when salvage operations began. She was raised and broken up for scrap by 1952.[10][23]

KMS Nymphe

“Nymphe was among the six light cruisers that Germany was permitted to retain under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war. She was taken to Wilhelmshaven on 4 November 1920, where from November 1922 to early 1924 she was modernized at the Deutsche Werke shipyard. Her original ram bow was replaced with a modern clipper bow, which increased her overall length to 108.7 m (357 ft). She also received a new mast, along with a new battery of 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns in U-boat mountings. A pair of 50 cm (20 in) torpedo tubes in deck-mounted launchers were also installed. She was recommissioned on 30 November 1924 for sea trials, with KzS Ernst Bindseil as her first commander in the new Reichsmarine (Navy of the Realm). She was then assigned to serve as the flagship of light Naval Forces of the Baltic Sea on 18 December, under the command of Konteradmiral (KAdm—Rear Admiral) Iwan Oldekop. FK Georg Kleine relieved Bindseil as the ship’s commander in January 1925. In addition to routine training exercises that year, the ship visited Merok, Norway, from 25 to 30 June. KAdm Franz Wieting replaced Oldekop as the unit commander on 25 September.[7][8][9]

In 1926, Nymphe took part in a major training cruise into the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, during which she made several stops in Spain, including Cadiz from 20 to 24 May, Mahón, Menorca, from 27 to 29 May, Málaga from 1 to 8 June, and Vigo from 12 to 13 June. After returning to Germany, she took part in the fleet maneuvers held in August. From 4 to 5 September, she visited Skagen, Denmark, after which FK Fritz Conrad replaced Kleine as the ship’s captain. KzS Wilfried von Loewenfeld replaced Wieting on 16 March 1927. The ship made more foreign visits that year, and while in the Bay of Biscay, she was damaged in severe weather that saw wind strength in the range of 10–12 on the Beaufort scale. She stopped in El Ferrol from 2 to 14 April, Santa Cruz from 17 to 20 April, La Luz in Málaga from 24 April to 2 May, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands from 3 to 9 May, Horta and Ponta Delgada in the Azores from 14 to 23 May and from 24 to 29 May, respectively, Seville from 3 to 7 June, and Cadiz from 7 to 8 June. She once again took part in fleet maneuvers upon her return to Germany.[10]

Nymphe participated in a fleet cruise to Norway in July 1928, which included stops in Bergen and Ulvik. Following the fleet’s return to Germany, it conducted another set of training exercises, and in September, FK Wolf von Trotha relieved Conrad, serving as the ship’s last commander. On 15 October, KAdm Walter Gladisch replaced Loewenfeld, though Nymphe remained the flagship for just six months, being decommissioned on 16 April 1929 in Kiel; her role was taken by the new light cruiser Königsberg. Nymphe was briefly retained as a barracks ship until 31 March 1931, when she was struck from the naval register. She was sold on 29 August and then broken up the following year in Hamburg.[7][11] ”

KMS Thetis

“She was one of six light cruisers Germany was permitted to retain by the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war. Modernized in the early 1920s, she was recommissioned on 2 April 1922 and assigned to the Marinestation der Ostsee (Baltic Sea Naval Station). Her first commander during this period was FK Walther Kinzel. The year 1922 passed uneventfully, apart from routine training exercises with other elements of the small German fleet. In 1923, the ship made a pair of visits abroad; the first, to Mölle, Sweden, was from 11 to 15 July; the second, to Loen, Norway, lasted from 18 to 24 July. In October, Kapitän zur See (KzS—Captain at Sea) Ernst Bindseil replaced Kinzel. At the same time, the fleet was reorganized and Thetis became the flagship of light naval forces in the Baltic, which also included her sister ship Medusa and I Torpedo-boat Flotilla. The commander of the unit was KzS und Kommodore (and Commodore) Iwan Oldekop, who was promoted to konteradmiral on 1 November.[12]

Thetis made another pair of foreign visits in July 1924, both to ports in Estonia, one of the countries that had been created from the dissolution of the Russian Empire after the war. The first was to Tallinn (formerly Reval) from 5 to 10 July, and the second to Pärnu from 12 to 14 July. On 30 November, the ship was decommissioned in Wilhelmshaven, with her sister Nymphe replacing her as flagship. The vessel was thereafter used as a barracks ship in Wilhelmshaven until early 1929; struck from the naval register on 27 March, she and the torpedo boats V1 and V6 were sold to Blohm & Voss. Thetis was broken up in Hamburg in 1930.[11][8] ”

KMS Amazone

KMZ-Amazon-and-Admiral_Hipper_Blohm__Voss_shipyards_1939
KMS Amazon and Admiral Hipper at Blohm and Voss shipyards, 1939

“The Treaty of Versailles that ended the war permitted Germany to retain six light cruisers, and Amazone was among those kept in service of the newly reorganized Reichsmarine. She was modernized and rearmed at the Reichsmarine Werft in Wilhelmshaven between 1921 and 1923. Her ram bow was replaced with a clipper bow, and she received a new battery of ten 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns in U-boat mountings and two 50 cm (20 in) torpedo tubes in deck launchers. She was recommissioned on 1 December 1923 under the command of Kapitän zur See (KzS—Captain at Sea) Walter Gladisch to replace her sister Arcona She joined the light forces of the Marinestation der Nordsee (North Sea Naval Station), operating with the light cruiser Hamburg and II. Torpedo-boat Flotilla. She spent the year 1924 conducting training exercises and visits abroad, including a summer training cruise with the fleet to Bodø, Norway.[12][13]

In March 1925, KzS Eduard Eichel relieved Gladisch. Amazone repeated the same pattern of training with the fleet and visits to foreign ports that year, including a cruise to Rotterdam, Netherlands and fleet exercises in the Eidangerfjord in Norway from 25 June to 1 July. She went on a longer cruise to the Mediterranean Sea in May and June 1926, in addition to her normal training duties, and in September, FK Alfred Saalwächter took command of the ship. In 1927, she embarked on a major cruise into the Atlantic with the rest of the fleet, which lasted from 28 March to 16 June; in September, FK Albrecht Meißner took command of the vessel. During a visit to Norway in mid-1928 in company with the battleship Schlesien, she stopped in Molde and Merok. Fleet maneuvers were thereafter held off Skagen, Denmark. Amazone largely remained in German waters in 1929 and saw little activity of note, apart from a trip to Gothenburg, Sweden in August.[13]

The Reichsmarine conducted a reorganization of the fleet on 1 January 1930, dividing the ships into tactical units. Amazone was initially assigned to the Reconnaissance Forces Command, under now-KAdm Gladisch, but it was quickly determined that she had little value as a warship by this point, some thirty years after her launch. She was accordingly decommissioned in Wilhelmshaven on 15 January and thereafter used as a barracks ship. She was then struck from the naval register on 31 March 1931 and assigned to the Submarine Acceptance Commission in Kiel. In addition to serving as a barracks, she was later used as an auxiliary for the Warship Construction Test Office. During World War II, she was towed to Bremen, and after the conflict she was used as an accommodation hulk for refugees who had fled from formerly-German occupied territories in eastern Europe. She lay idle and unused from 1951 to 1954, and plans to convert her into a floating youth center came to nothing. The old cruiser was ultimately broken up for scrap in 1954 in Hamburg; she was the last member of the Gazelle class to be scrapped.[14][8] ”

KMS Medusa

“Medusa was among the six light cruises Germany was permitted to retain under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles that ended the war. The postwar Reichsmarine was obligated by the treaty to clear the minefields that had been laid in the North Sea during the war, and the command initially planned to convert Medusa into a mother ship for the planned 12th Minesweeper Half-Flotilla, but the unit was not created and Medusa therefore was not converted. Instead, she was recommissioned on 17 July 1920 with FK Alexander Werth as her captain, the first major warship to be commissioned in the interwar period. At that time, she was assigned to the Marinestation der Ostsee (Baltic Sea Naval Station), which also included two torpedo boat flotillas and the survey ship Triton. One of her first activities was to carry President Friedrich Ebert on a trip to East Prussia. She later visited foreign ports between 30 August and 5 September, including Fårösund and Visby on the island of Gotland in Sweden.[10]

On 10 February 1921, the battleship Hannover was recommissioned, and at the same time relieved Medusa as the flagship. The two ships, along with both torpedo boat flotillas, conducted training exercises in June and July in the western Baltic. Medusa then made another series of visits to ports in the Baltic between 28 July and 2 August, including Uddevalla and Gothenburg, Sweden. She operated as an icebreaker in the Gulf of Riga from 24 January to 12 February 1922, and during this period she visited Windau, Latvia from 2 to 9 February. She next visited Gävle, Sweden from 22 to 26 June, followed by ports in Finland between 29 June and 3 July. In September, KK Ernst Meusel replaced Werth as the ship’s captain; he was to be the vessel’s last commanding officer. Medusa returned to Gothenburg from 11 to 15 July 1923 along with I Half-Flotilla, followed by stops in Molde on 19 July and then Åndalsnes, both in Norway. In October, the Marinestation was reorganized, since by this time enough battleships had been recommissioned to create a separate Battleship Division; Medusa became part of the light naval forces unit. From 5 to 12 July 1924, she visited Gävle again and on 26 September, she was decommissioned.[10]

From 1 February 1928, Medusa began to serve as a barracks ship for torpedo boat and destroyer crews in Wilhelmshaven. On 29 March 1929, she was stricken from the naval register. In July 1940, during World War II, Medusa was converted into a floating anti-aircraft battery at the Rickmers Reederei shipyard in Bremerhaven.[11][9] Her armament at that point consisted of one 10.5 cm SK C/32 gun, four 10.5 cm SK C/33 guns, two 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 guns, and four 2 cm (0.79 in) Flak guns.[12] She was then assigned to Naval Anti-aircraft Group 222, and remained in the harbor at Wilhelmshaven, anchored off Varel, beginning on 13 August 1940. She remained there for the duration of the war. On 19 April 1945, she was badly damaged by an Allied air attack that killed twenty-three and wounded forty-one of her crew. Her remaining crew scuttled the ship on 3 May, days before the end of the war in Europe. British occupation troops found the wreck lying next to the Wiesbaden Bridge [de]. The wreck was ultimately salvaged in 1948–1950 and broken up for scrap.[11][13]”

KMS Arcona

KMS Arcona (Reichsmarine) off Wilhelmshaven, stationed in Kiel, circa 1925.

“Following Germany’s defeat in the war, much of the German fleet was decommissioned, but there is no record of Arcona having been removed from service.[13] The Treaty of Versailles that ended the war mandated that Germany was responsible for clearing the mines that had been laid in the North Sea during the conflict,[14] and Arcona was selected in early 1919 to serve as a mother ship for the minesweepers that were tasked with clearing the mines; this decision was made after the old pre-dreadnought battleship Preussen proved to be unsuited to the task. Arcona was modified for the role at what was now the Reichsmarine Werft (formerly the Kaiserliche Werft) in Wilhelmshaven; all of her guns except the stern pair were removed, with those being retained to detonate mines that were encountered. After the work was completed, Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant) Erich Haeker took command of the vessel in May. She was then assigned to support V Minesweeping Flotilla and operated with the unit until February 1920, by which time the work was completed. Arcona was thereafter decommissioned to be rebuilt for fleet service.[15]

Arcona was modernized and rearmed, which included the reconstruction of her bow into a clipper-style prow that improved seakeeping. On 25 May 1921, she was recommissioned and assigned to the Marinestation der Nordsee (North Sea Naval Station), at that time commanded by KAdm Konrad Mommsen. Her first commander after returning to fleet service was FK Friedrich Hermann. Arcona visited Arendal and Sandefjord in Norway in August and then she steamed to Frederikshavn, Denmark, where a monument to the sailors who had died in the Battle of Jutland during the war. The ship was used as an auxiliary icebreaker in February 1922 in the western Baltic Sea and the Kattegat, and in the Gulf of Riga in March. While in the gulf, she was damaged by the sea ice and had to be relieved by the battleship Hessen so she could return to port for repairs. In mid-1922, she visited Balestrand, Norway, and in 1923, she steamed to Åbo, Finland and Karlskrona, Sweden. In July of that year, KzS Walter Gladisch relieved Hermann as the ship’s commander. On 1 December 1923, Arcona was decommissioned, her place in the fleet being taken by her sister ship Amazone.[15][16]

The ship remained in reserve for the next seven years, before being struck from the naval register on 15 January 1930. She was then used as a barracks ship for ships’ crews in Wilhelmshaven, later being moved to Swinemünde in 1936 and then to Kiel in 1938, by which time the Reichsmarine had been renamed as the Kriegsmarine (War Navy). She remained there after the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. In May 1940, Arcona was converted into a floating anti-aircraft battery in Swinemünde, where she was stationed initially.[17] Her armament now consisted of one 10.5 cm SK C/32 gun, four 10.5 cm SK C/33 guns, two 3.7 cm SK C/30 guns, and four 2 cm guns.[18] She was later moved to Wilhelmshaven, where she was assigned to Naval Anti-Aircraft Group 233, and she was transferred to Brunsbüttel later in the war. In closing days of the war in Europe, her crew scuttled the ship to prevent her from being captured, on 3 May 1945.[13][17]

Following Germany’s surrender, the British Royal Navy took control of the naval installation at Brunsbüttel on 7 May. Arcona was among the warships that were seized, including four U-boats and the badly damaged destroyer Z31. Their German crews unloaded ammunition and removed weapons from the ships under British supervision.[19] She was subsequently broken up for scrap in 1948–1949.[17]”

Reservenkreuzer: Bremen class (1903)

None of these were active in WW2, but some served in the interwar

The case of the Deutschland class (1931)


Graf Spee at the 1937 Spithead Coronation naval review – Colorized by Irootoko Jr.

KMS Emden (1925)

K class (1927)

Kriegsmarine’s cruisers and Plan Z

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Leichtes Kreuzer Leipzig class (1936)

KMS Leipzig

Design of the last German light cruiser class

Started in 1927 on behalf of the Reichsmarine in Whilelmshaven, the Leipzig was an improved version of the previous “K” class, while keeping the essential, but also the flaws. The main part of its structure, especially the hull, was persevered, resulting in structural weaknesses and a “limiting” stability of the width of the hull. The chimneys were grouped together in a single structure, and the superstructure of the forecastle prolonged, the triple turrets rearranged in the axis, and the bow of “classical” again, for a longer length and an increased width. The Nuremberg, on the other hand, was attacked for the Kriegsmarine, and the frontiers of the Treaty of Versailles were freed. It resulted in an increase in size, protection, and weight… Moreover its bridge superstructure was revised, more massive and better protected. His diesels were a new, more economical model. At the end of Nürnberg was the only really successful cruiser of this series of “Leichte Kreuzer”.

The Leipzig class in action

Before the conflict, the two ships participated in the naval blockade of arms to Spain (1936-39). At the time of the war, Leipzig was involved in mine clearance operations off the coast of England when it was torpedoed by British submarine HMS Salmon, along with its “twin”, the Nürnberg. The Leipzig returned to Germany and was converted into a training vessel, in particular two boilers were replaced to make chambers and its speed had fallen to 27 knots.
She returned to service on the occasion of Operation Barbarossa (June 1941), bombing Russian advanced bases in the Baltic. He then remained in the Baltic for training, and entered during an outing in foggy weather in collision with the Prinz Eugen. Repaired, but suffering from problems, he was less and less active. In 1945, he was serving as a dock ship and DCA support at Whilelmshaven. Then he operated off Gdynia to try to slow down the Russian lead. He eventually surrendered to the British. It was scuttled in the North Sea in 1946.
The Nuremberg, on the other hand, also torpedoed by the Salmon when she was laying mines, missed operations in Norway. However, she sailed to a fjord for operations against the convoys of the great north, and alternated these missions with those in the Baltic. She eventually surrendered to the allies in Copenhagen in 1945 and was attributed to the USSR as a war-warrant, renamed Admiral Makharov. She retired from service in 1959, the only surviving German cruiser.


KMS Leipzig


KMS Nürnberg

KMS Nürnberg specifications

Dimensions: 177 x 16.30 x 5.65 m
Displacement: 6200 t/8380 tonnes FL
Crew: 1150
Propulsion: 2 shafts, Brown-Boveri turbines, 66,000 hp, 2 MAN diesels 12 400 hp
Speed: 32/19 knots (xx km/h; xx mph) Radius 5700 Nautical Miles
Armament: 9(3×3)x 152 mm, 6x 88 mm AA, 8x 37mm AA, 12(4×3) TT 533 mm, 120 mines, 2 planes
Armor: Belt: 30 mm (), Deck: 25 mm (), Turrets 30mm, Conning tower: 30 mm ()

Schwere Kreuzer Hipper class (1937)

The case of KMS Seydlitz (1938)

M class (1939)

M class specifications

Dimensions: 177 x 16.30 x 5.65 m
Displacement: 6200 t/8380 tonnes FL
Crew: 1150
Propulsion: 2 shafts, Brown-Boveri turbines, 66,000 hp, 2 MAN diesels 12 400 hp
Speed: 32/19 knots (xx km/h; xx mph) Radius 5700 Nautical Miles
Armament: 9(3×3)x 152 mm, 6x 88 mm AA, 8x 37mm AA, 12(4×3) TT 533 mm, 120 mines, 2 planes
Armor: Belt: 30 mm (), Deck: 25 mm (), Turrets 30mm, Conning tower: 30 mm ()

Other Z-Plan cruiser projects

German WW2 Torpedo Boats
Dornier Leichte Schnellboote (1942)

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