Gazelle class cruisers

Germany (1898)
Ten ships 1898-1902

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

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).


The Ariadne participated in the Battle of Heligoland in August 1914 and was sunk there. The 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 Frauenlob in Kiel canal

Nice lithography of the Gazelle in 1902

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)

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.

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.

Blueprint two-views of the 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.


HD picture
HD 1/400 Illustration of the Scharnhost in late 1914 by David Bocquelet, Naval Encyclopedia

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 showing its pre-refit superstructures

The high sea fleet pre-dreadnoughts battleline

Illustration of the Kaiser Barbarossa in 1914

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa after refit

SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse

SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, full speed.

Dresden class cruisers

German Empire (1906)
Cruisers – Dresden, Emden

Two famous ships

The Dresden class, part of the 1905/1906 program was derived from the previous Königsberg class and shared most of its characteristics, their design merely constituted an improvement. These cruisers were built at Blohm & Voss (Dresden) and Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig yards (Emden) and launched in 1907-1908, entering service in 1908-1909. Larger by one meter, wider by 30 cm and heavier by 200 tonnes, they were slightly faster (23.5 and 24 knots compared to 23), but possessed the same firepower. However, their destinies were among the most interesting, the most adventurous. (See Emden’s Odyssey).

SMS Dresden through the Kiel Canal


Both ships had this characteristic three-funnels silhouette, and its ten 105 mm (4.1 in) guns were placed as follows: Two side by side on the prow and bow, and the others six on the sides, each with its own mask. Propulsion relied on two propellers, and they possessed three 4-cylinder engines, 12 standard boilers, for a total of 13,500 hp, and top speed of 23.5 knots. Their armour was slightly improved, with the deck and turrets protected by 30-50 mm, the hull belt about 30 mm, casemate and conning tower 100 mm. The crew comprised 361 officers and sailors.

Jane’s 1914 Dresden class diagrams and drawing

SMS Emden

Although the subject would by widely covered in an article, in short, the cruiser was stationed in Tsingtao (Kiautschou Bay concession), China, when the war broke out in 1914. Part of the German East Asia Squadron in 1913, she came under the command of Karl von Müller. In 1914, Emden captured a Russian steamer and converted her into the commerce raider Cormoran, then joined the East Asia Squadron, and detached for independent raiding in the Indian Ocean (also as a diversion). In two months she captured nearly two dozen ships and late October 1914, she attacked on Penang, sinking the Russian cruiser Zhemchug and the French destroyer Mousquet, blazing the oil supplies. Then she raided the Cocos Islands, landing a contingent to destroy British facilities and radio. But here she was soon attacked by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney which seriously damage her. To avoid sinking, she was ran aground as 133 of the crew has been killed in action. Most of the survivors were taken prisoner but escaped, captured an old schooner and eventually returned to Germany after an epic trip through the desert…

SMS Emden
SMS Emden in its white colonial livery

SMS Dresden

Dresden was in fact part of the international force deployed during the Mexican Revolution in 1910. When war broke out, she made a hasty retreat in the eastern Indian Ocean. Passing by the Cape of Good Hope, dhe descended on the southern Atlantic in search of preys to hunt. It was one of the “raiders” deployed as privateers against the allied merchant shipping. Being part of Admiral Von Spee squadron, she made her mark in combat during the first Falklands battle, opposed to the units of admiral Sir Cradock. Venturing into the Pacific after the battle, she was pursued by the cruisers Kent and Glasgow and took refuge off the Chilean island of Mas a Fuera. Refusing to surrender, she scuttled herself on March 14, 1915.

SMS Emden, beached at North Keeling Island

Kaiserliches Marine

SMS Emden adventure, by the Great war Channel


The Emden on wikipedia
The Dresden on wikipedia

Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

Dresden class specifications

Dimensions 118,30 x 13,50 x 5.53 m
Displacement 3660 t/4270 t FL
Crew 361
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Brown-Boveri Steam turbines/ TE engines, 15000/13500 cv
Speed 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph)
Range ? nmi (? km, ? mi) 19 knots (35 km/h, 22 mph)
Armament 10x 105 mm, 8x 52 mm, 2 450 mm sub TT.
Armor Belt 50 mm, deck 30mm, bulkheads 50 mm, CT 100 mm


Emden Illustration
Illustration of the Emden, the “white cruiser”, and its colonial livery.

Emden in Tsingtao, early 1914

Cruise of the Emden

Penang raid map

SMS Dresden in New York, in prewar two-tones livery (white hull, canvas brown superstructures)

Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 1909, Dresden in company of other cruisers

WW1 German Destroyers

Germany (1898-1918)

A TBDs division

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.

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.

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).

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 diesels. 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

Magdeburg class cruisers

Germany (1912)
Magdeburg, Breslau, Strassburg, Stralsund

A brand new step in cruiser design

The Magdeburg class marked a new milestone in the design of German cruisers. Significantly larger than the Kolberg (5600 tons against 4900 PC), they focused also on a range of significant improvements (see later). These four ships (Magdeburg, Breslau, Strassburg, Stralsund) were completed in August-December 1912 and had a quite significant and active carrer.

SMS Magdeburg


They were the first to have a belt nickel current of 80% of the waterline, welded to the hull itself, as part of its structure. Hull prop up one using a technique of longitudinal frames, and hydrodynamic features had it been reworked extensively, as evidenced by the clipper bow. Abandoning the quarterdeck was the other a necessity to give these ships a capacity to lay mines.
These ships had different turbines, and admitted speeds between 27.5 and 28.2 knots. 1915-16, the Strassburg et Stralsund were rearmed with 7 parts of 150 mm 2 88 AA and two additional TLT on deck. Breslau ft rearmed with two pieces of 150 mm in 1916 and 8 in 1917.

Diagram of the Breslau.

In service

The SMS Magdeburg was on a minelaying raid in the Baltic, August 26, 1914 when she ran aground on a reef of the island Odensholm and was then pounded into submission by a Russian cruiser. The latter made its crew prisoner and retrieved the secret code book of the Hochseeflotte which was transmitted to the British intelligence service. Breslau was the sailor of Goeben, the other half of Mediterranean squadron of Rear-Admiral Souchon. It took refuge in Constantinople, and was officially acquired by the Turkish navy, renamed later Midilli. It sank 20 January 1918 because of mines off Imbros. The SMS Strassburg survived the war and was transferred to the Italians, becoming the Taranto. The SMS Stralsund experienced a similar fate and was offered to France, renamed Mulhouse and paid off and sold for scrap in 1935 in Brest.

SMS Breslau

Kaiserliches Marine

Breslau, Kleiner Kreuzer Stapellauf: 16.5.1911
SMS Breslau


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

Nassau class specifications

Dimensions 138,6 x 13,4 x 5,1 m
Displacement 4570t – 5587t FL
Crew 1140
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 AEG-Vulcan turbines, 16 standard wt boilers, 25,000-29,000 hp
Speed 27,5 – 28,2 knots top speed
Range 5,820 nmi (10,780 km; 6,700 mi) @ 12 knots
Armament 12 x 105 (singles), 2 TT 500 mm Sub, 120 mines
Armor Belt: 60 mm (2.4 in), Conning tower: 100 mm (3.9 in)


Illustration of the Magdeburg in 1914

Kleiner Kreuzer Breslau Stapell.: 16.5.1911
Kleiner Kreuzer Midilli (Breslau) under Turkish Flag, notice Topcapi palace behind.

Breslau crossing Kiel canal.

SMS Stralsund model.

Brandenburg class Battleships

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.

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

SMS_Kurfuerst_Friedrich_Wilhelm_1903BrandenburgWeissenburgBarbarossa EyreddinSMS_Brandenburg_1893SMS_Brandenburg_(1891)

Nassau class battleships

Germany (1906)
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 arrived after the completion of the HMS Dreadnought, and had their own configuration (more faithful to Cuniberti’s armoured cruiser original plans) of 6 turrets (one for and aft, four sides), but equipped with 280 mm caliber cannons rather than 305 mm. That gave these ships a broadside of 8 cannons, like the Dreadnought.


However comparisons halt there as the German Battleships had a secondary artillery consisting of 150 mm guns in barbettes, and the conventional battery of QF 88 mm, 10 in barbettes and the other on deck houses, plus six SM torpedo tubes. Wide, these ships had such a limited roll that they were provided no keels. Good walkers, forcing their boilers to 26-28 000 hp, they reached more than 20 knots.

Nassau artillery configuration
Nassau artillery configuration

In service

Tests lasted for long and the last two were not accepted in September 1910. Their active service was uneventful. In August 1916, Westfalen was torpedoed by the E23. She took 800 tonnes water at the rear, but returned safely. The Rheinland struck a reef off Lagskär (Norway) in April 1918, and filled with 6,000 tons of sea water. Subsequently unable to sail again she was left there. Eventually part of her armor and all its guns had to be removed on site to gain some buoyancy back, before the power was reengaged and she can be towed up to Kiel. She was never repaired. Nassau and Posen took part in the inconclusive Battle of the Gulf of Riga in 1915, engaging the Russian pre-dreadnought Slava. Unlike other modern battleships of the Hochseeflotte, none sailed to Scapa Flow in 1919: The allies instead ordered these to be demolished in 1920-1924.

Nassau artillery configuration
SMS Rheinland


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

Nassau class specifications

Dimensions 146 x 27 x 9 m
Displacement 18 750 t – 21 000 t FL
Crew 1140
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 TE 3 cyl. engines, 12 Schulz-Thornycroft boilers, 22 000 hp
Speed 20.2 knots (37.4 km/h; 23.2 mph) (19 knots as designed)
Range 8,300 nmi (15,400 km; 9,600 mi) @12 knots
Armament 12 x 280 (6×2), 12 x 150, 16 x 88 mm, 6 TT 450 mm Sub
Armor Belt 300, Battery 160, Internal bulkheads 210, Turrets 280, Blockhaus 300, Barbettes 280 mm


Posen 1918
Illustration of the posen in 1918

SMS Nassau class
SMS Nassau class


Kaiserliches Marine

Derfflinger class Battlecruisers

Germany (1913)
Battlecruisers – Derfflinger, Lützow, Hindenburg

History and design Derrflinger and Lützow

Last prewar Germans battle cruisers (on the drawing board, they were completed after the war broke up), they are considered among the best. For the first time, a flush deck was preferred to the three bridges system used by Seydlitz. Their prismatic shape was accentuated, and they had good maneuverability. Their protection was also excellent and they “digested” heavy shells with surprising strength: It took no less than 24 hits to destroy Lützow at Jutland.

For the first time these ships were given height 305 mm guns, which at the time still feeble compared to the caliber adopted by Royal Navy equivalents. Therefore, these were still were out-ranged in addition to be out-gunned. Central battery was a bit low and prone to spray, and their protection and compartmentalization under the waterline was not excellent. Both battlecruisers were launched at Hamburg (Blohm & Voss) and Danzig (Schichau) respectively, accepted into service in November 1914, and March 1916.

The last German Battlecruiser, SMS Hindenburg

The Hindenburg was distinguished by an increased length for better hydrodynamics, sturdy tripod mast supporting an imposing fire control but the same armament as the previous Lützow (600 mm TT, 14 x 150mm instead of 12), however it received the new SKL 305/55 designed in the fall 1913 which had a better range. Much more powerful she was a knot faster. The ammunition loading system was also revised and more efficient. Like other ships in the German navy, she walked with a mixed coal-oil heater.

The Derfflinger (colorized photo).

Active service

The Derfflinger began its tests in March 1915 but underwent teething turbine problems. They managed to achieve 26.4 knots in trials. The Derfflinger fought at the Dogger Bank, conceding three hits, but at Jutland it was another matter: The Queen Mary was hit 11 times by Derfflinger, but she took herself 21 hits (particularly pounded by Revenge 381mm guns), knocking off the two rear turrets. She took 3300 tons of water, but remained stable due to its ballast, banking only only 2°. She managed to return in Kiel, was repaired, but came out only to be led to Scapa Flow, and its fate.

Derfflinger aft turrets She was salvaged and broken up in 1934. The Lützow has a short career. Due to the war indeed, the yard was deserted, so she was operational only two months before Jutland. She managed to send HMS Invincible to the bottom (conceding two hits herself) and badly damaged HMS Defence before succumbing to a withering fire from other ships, taking 24 impacts of large caliber. Destroyer G38 torpedoes eventually finished her off as she refused to sink.

Started in June 1913 in Wilhelmshaven, the Hindenburg was launched in August 1915 and began tests in May 1917. In November, she was accepted into service. Her career thus barely spanned a year. She did a few raids in the Baltic, but remained mostly inactive until the surrender, and sailed to Scapa Flow to scuttle it in June 1919. In 1930 an official Royal commission of Engineers moved to the ship for a comprehensive study. It was then realized the excellence of its protection, ammunition management systems, modern communication and advanced fire control system.

The Hindenburg at Scapa Flow.


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

Hindenburg specifications

Dimensions 212,8 x 29 x 9,4 m
Displacement 26 500t, 31 000t FL
Crew 1182
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Parsons turbines, 18 Schultze-Thornycroft boilers, 72 000 hp
Speed 26.6 knots (49.3 km/h; 30.6 mph)
Range 6,100 nmi (11,300 km; 7,000 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Armament 4×2 305, 14×150, 4x 88 AA, 4 TT 600mm (2 sides, bow, stern).
Armor Battery 150, citadel 250, turrets 270, belt 300, blockhaus 350, barbettes 260 mm

Video (gallery)


Painting of the Lützow and Derfflinger at Jutland, May, 31, 1916
Painting of the Lützow and Derfflinger at Jutland, May, 31, 1916

Hindenburg at Scapa FlowHindenburg at Scapa FlowSMS_Lutzow_illustrationBundesarchiv_Hindenburg_launchedSMS-Derflinger-cross-sectionDerfflinger_class_battlecruiser_-_Janes_Fighting_Ships_1919SMS_Derfflinger_1918Derfflinger-after-jutland

Kaiserliches Marine

Illustration of the Lützow in May 1916.

Illustration of the Hindenburg.

SMS Seydlitz

Germany (1912)
Battle cruiser

Development and Design

Derived from battle cruisers Moltke class, Seydlitz differed in many respects. She had a revised hull with three successive bridges, and a singular configuration, but with the same arrangement of artillery, again a revised protection, plus three thousand tons more in displacement. Despite of it was more powerful and faster. Probably the most modern battle cruiser ever owned a Nation in 1914, SMS Seydlitz proved the excellence of its fire control systems at the famous battle of Jutland, taking torpedoes and perhaps 25 hits without sinking, whereas the British cruisers blew up at the first salvo (for hazardous storage and ammunition handling procedures).

SMS Seydlitz in Kiel prior to ww1
SMS Seydlitz in Kiel prior to ww1

The “shell magnet”

Her baptism of fire took place at the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1914, against the HMS Lion, conceding three hits that caused a dramatic fire. Repaired, she back into service only to hit a mine in 1916 and again repaired. At the Battle of Jutland, she was hit by two torpedoes from the destroyers HMS Petard and Turbulent, and above 22 hits including 16 from the British latest fast dreadnoughts (381 mm). Managing to survive miraculously, she barely made it to the German coast, beaching with more than 5330 tons of seawater its bulkheads. Again repaired, he reached Scapa Flow like the rest of the Hochseeflotte after the armistice, scuttled it in 1919, and was bailed to be demolished in 1928.

SMS Seydlitz in drydock


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

Seydlitz class specifications

Dimensions 200 x 28,5 x 9,2 m
Displacement 24,600t, 28,100t FL
Crew 1068 ()
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Parsons turbines, 27 Schultze-Thornycroft boilers, 88 500 hp
Speed 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph)
Range 4,200 nmi (7,800 km; 4,800 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Armament 10 x 280 (5×2), 12 x 150, 12 x 88
Armor Battery 200, citadel 220, turrets 251, belt 300, blockhaus 350, barbettes 230 mm

Video: The Seydlitz – specs and battle damage


Steaming to Scapa Flow, 1919

Kaiserliches Marine

Seydlitz in 1914
Illustration of the Seydlitz in 1914