The combination of nationalism and militarism inherent in the push for a greater German naval capability quickly found its greatest patron after the German unification; in the form of one Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930).
Tirpitz took the modest Imperial Navy and, starting in the 1890s, turned it into a world-class force that could threaten their greatest rival and leading sea power of the day; the British Royal Navy.
By 1897, as the Secretary of State of the Imperial Navy Department, Tirpitz had gained considerable access to Kaiser Wilhelm II – access Tirpitz used to launch the Imperial German Navy on a breathtaking expansion primarily focused on building a modern and powerful battle fleet.
After World War I, Tirpitz turned to submarine warfare, which antagonized the United States. He was dismissed in 1916 and never regained power. +
Tirpitz on wikipedia
The 3.7cm Maxim was the standard close-in defence weapon
on heavy cruisers and battleships prior to the Great War.
In Marine service it was called the 3,7 cm Masch. K. (3.7 cm Machine Cannon).
SM Grosser Kreuzer Hansa
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Hansa served abroad for the first nine years of her career in the German navy. In 1884, it was found that her iron hull was badly corroded, which rendered the ship unfit for further active service. She was therefore removed from active duty and used for a variety of secondary roles; a guard ship in Kiel, where she also trained engine and boiler room personnel, then later a barracks. In 1906 she was sold to ship-breakers and dismantled for scrap. +
SM kleiner kreuzer Gefion
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SMS Gefion (1892) – The only ship of her class and the first ship of this size of the Imperial Navy which by design did not have any auxiliary sails. Keel laying was held on 28 March 1892 at the shipyard in Danzig, launched on 31 March 1893, commissioned on 2 October 1894.
She proved to have several design flaws (poor ventilation) which could only be partly alleviated. Served as a companion ship of the Imperial yacht SMY Hohenzollern on her usual summer trips.
On 10 August 1914 she was mobilized for the First World War but staff shortages kept her from active service. By 1916 she was being used as an accommodation barge in Danzig. Scrapped in 1923. +
SM Linienschiff Weisenburg
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SMS Weissenburg (1890) – one of the first ocean-going battleships She was the third pre-dreadnought of the Brandenburg class, along with her sister ships Brandenburg, WÃ¶rth, and KurfÃ¼rst Friedrich Wilhelm.
Laid down in 1890 in the AG Vulcan dockyard in Stettin, launched in 1891, and completed in 1894.
The Brandenburg class battleships were unique for their era in that they carried six large-caliber guns in three twin turrets, as opposed to four guns in two turrets, as was the standard in other navies. The British Royal Navy derisively referred to the ships as “whalers”.
She and her sisters saw one major overseas deployment, to China in 1900–01, during the Boxer Rebellion. . In 1910, Weissenburg was sold to the Ottoman Empire and renamed Turgut Reis, after the famous 16th century Turkish admiral Turgut Reis.
Largely inactive during World War I, due in part to her slow speed. In 1924, Turgut Reis was used as a school ship, before eventually being scrapped in the mid-1950s. +
SM Grosser Kreuzer Hertha
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SMS Hertha was a protected cruiser of the Victoria Louise class, built at the AG Vulcan shipyard in 1895. Her engines provided a top speed of 19 kn (35 km/h; 22 mph) and a range of approximately 3,412 nautical miles (6,319 km; 3,926 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph). She had a crew of 31 officers and 446 enlisted men.
Starting in 1899, Hertha served as a colonial cruise in the German East Asia Squadron for the first six years of her career; serving briefly as the Squadron flagship in 1900. At the outbreak of World War I, served in front-line duty only briefly. She was designated as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920. +
SM kleiner kreuzer Gazelle
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The Gazelle class was a group of ten light cruisers built for the Imperial German Navy at the turn of the 20th century. Their design attempted to merge the fleet scout with the colonial cruiser, and were capable of of 21.5 kn (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph).
All ten ships served with the fleet when they were first commissioned, and several served on foreign stations in the decade before the outbreak of World War I. Most were used as coastal defense ships early in the war.
SM Linienschiff Mecklenburg
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SMS Mecklenburg (Wittelsbach class pre-dreadnought) Laid down 1899 at AG Vulcan Stettin, finished in May 1903. Her sisters were Wittelsbach, ZÃ¤hringen, Wettin, and Schwaben; the first capital ships built under the Navy Law of 1898, (Flottengesetze)brought about by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. +
The Kaiser had long wanted a large naval force to assure Germany of what he called “a place in the sun”. A large German navy could assist in German attempts to attain colonies, as well as further the country’s economic and commercial interests elsewhere in the world.
Most importantly, he committed Germany to building up a navy capable of competing with the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.
From his autobiography:
There awoke in me the will to build ships of my own like these some day, and when I was grown up to possess a fine navy as the English.”
The Ring: German Coastal Defense
coastal defense ship SMS Hagen
Launched 21 October 1893 – Builder: Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel. Named after the character Hagen in the Nibelung saga. Scrapped in the Netherlands after German defeat in WWI; c.1919
see also: S.M. kÃ¼stenpanzerschiff Hagen â€Ž(7,872 Ã— 5,230 px)
SM KÃ¼stenpanzerschiff Heimdall
â€Ž(7,896 Ã— 5,184 px)
Heimdall – 3,700 ton Siegfried class coastal armored ship, launched 1892
The Siegfried class was a group of six coastal defense ships built by the German Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) in the late 19th century. Intended to protect the German coastline from naval attacks; the class comprised the lead ship Siegfried, along with her sisters Beowulf, Frithjof, Heimdall, Hildebrand, and Hagen; all six ships named after Norse mythological figures. Two further vessels, the Odin class, were built to a similar design but were not identical.
Translated from Dutch:
The former German cruiser SMS Hildebrand. It was on December 19, 1919 behind the tug Pole on the way to Rotterdam as booty commissioned by the victors to be scrapped. The ship hit the tug and stranded on the quiet beach of Scheveningen.
S.M. KÃ¼stenpanzerschiff Beowulf
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SMS Beowulf – second ship of the Siegfried class. Construction began in January of 1890 at AG Weser‘s works in Bremen, launched on 8 November the same year. Completed in autumn 1891, commissioned on 1 April 1892. Prince Henry of Prussia (Wilhelm II of Germany‘s brother) was her first captain.
Struck from the list of warships on 17 June 1919 and sold to the Norddeutsche Tiefbaugesellschaft in Berlin. It was scrapped in 1921 in Danzig. +
SM KÃ¼stenpanzerschiff Frithjof
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SMS Frithjof – third ship of the Siegfried class, construction began at the AG Weser in February 1890 and she was launched on 21 July 1891. Completion took another 14 months, first sea trials in November 1892, commissioned 23 February 1893.
In 1923 the Frithjof was turned into a motorised cargo ship at the Deutsche Werft in RÃ¼stringen, by the removal of her superstructure, armour, machinery and her few remaining guns. Her machinery was replaced by two 550 horsepower motors from U-boats. She was used as a cargo ship until 1930, when she was scrapped in Danzig. +
SM KÃ¼stenpanzerschiff Odin im Salut
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lead ship of the Odin class of coastal defence ships
Laid down 15 April 1893 at Kaiserliche Werft in Danzig – Launched 3 November 1894 – Commissioned: 2 October 1894 – Struck from naval list, 16 December 1919;
Odin and her sister SMS Ã„gir were obsolete by the time World War I had started. The ships were described as good sea boats; they had gentle motion and were very responsive to commands from the helm. The ships lost significant speed in heavy seas, however. The ships had a crew of 20 officers and 256 enlisted men, with an additional 6 officers and 22 men when serving as a flagship.
Sold to the A. Bernstein Company in Hamburg who had the ships rebuilt as freighters. +
SMS Odin in 1895
SM KÃ¼stenpanzerschiff Ã„gir
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SMS Ã„gir was the second and final ship of her class as well as the last of eight such armored coastal defence ships built for the Imperial German Navy which at the time was primarily concerned with protecting Germany against invasion, rather than about a significant presence on the high seas.
Laid down in 1892 by Kaiserliche Werft Kiel; launched 3 April 1895, and commissioned on 15 October 1896. Served performing coastal defence during WWI. In 1916, the main armament was removed and the ship was converted into a hulk.
Ã„gir survived the war intact. Unlike some of her classmates, she avoided the scrapyard after the war and was converted into a merchant ship in 1922. She was lost in December 1929 after running aground off KarlsÃ¶ lighthouse, Gotland, Sweden.
inset: Mythology Wiki
In Norse Mythology, Ã†gir and his daughters brew ale in a large pot.
SM Kleiner Kreuzer Hela
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SMS Hela (1893) – The only ship of her class, Hela was launched on 28 March 1895 in Bremen. Fleet tender prior to WWI, then returned to active service as a support ship for the torpedo boats stationed off Helgoland. On 13 September 1914, Hela was torpedoed and sunk by the British submarine HMS E9; two of her crew died. +
SMS FÃ¼rst Bismarck (1897) – Germany’s first armored cruiser. Primarily intended for colonial duties, rebuilt between 1910 and 1914. After the start of World War I, she was used briefly as a coastal defense ship.
She proved inadequate to this task, and was withdrawn from active duty and served as a training ship for engineers until the end of the war. Decommissioned in 1919 and sold for scrap. +
pictured: Imperial Yacht SMY Hohenzollern II
Tsingtau Postkarten ca 1900 Kiautschou, China
The last of the five Deutschland-class battleships built by the German Kaiserliche Marine. Laid down in Kiel in August 1905, commissioned into the fleet nearly three years later.
Schleswig-Holstein fought in both World Wars; saw action (and was hit) during the Battle of Jutland before being relegated to guard duties in the mouth of the Elbe River before being decommissioned in late 1917.
As one of the few battleships permitted for Germany by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Schleswig-Holstein was again pressed into fleet service in the 1920s. By 1935, the old battleship had been converted into a training ship for naval cadets.
Schleswig-Holstein fired the first shots of World War II when she fired at the Polish base at Westerplatte in the early morning hours of 1 September 1939.
SMS Deutschland (1904) first of five pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Kaiserliche Marine between 1903 and 1906. Built at the Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel, launched on 20 November 1904. She was already obsolete before she ever hit the water.
Deutschland was tasked with defending the mouth of the Elbe and the German Bight from possible British incursions while the rest of the fleet was being mobilized in mid-1914. After the Battle of Jutland, Deutschland was assigned to coastal defense duties, ultimately used as a barracks ship in Wilhelmshaven until the end of the war. Broken up for scrap in 1922.
SMS Pommern 1905 – One five pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Kaiserliche Marine between 1904 and 1906. Commissioned into the navy on 6 August 1907; ships of her class were already outdated by the time they entered the service, being inferior in size, armor, firepower, and speed.
She briefly engaged the British battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916. During the confused night actions, the ship was hit by one, possibly two, torpedoes from the British destroyer HMS Onslaught, which detonated one of Pommern’s 17 cm gun magazines. The resulting explosion broke the ship in half and killed the entire crew. +
SMS Emden (1908) – Allied shipping raider in the Indian Ocean early in WWi, sinking or capturing thirty Allied merchant vessels and warships.
Launched at Danzig on 26 May 1908, commissioned into the Kaiserliche Marine on 10 July 1909; she was the last German cruiser to use reciprocating engines. Emden’s sister SMS Dresden and all subsequent cruisers were equipped with steam turbines.
On 1 April 1910, the Emden officially entered the fleet and was assigned to the East Asian Station at Tsingtao in Germany’s Chinese Kiautschou colony.
Emden left Kiel on 12 April 1910, transited the Kiel Canal, and entered the open sea. She would never to see German home waters again. +
SMS Augsburg (1909) – Kolberg class light cruiser with three sister ships, SMS Kolberg, Mainz, and CÃ¶ln. Built by the Kaiserliche Werft in Kiel, laid down in 1908, launched July 1909, commissioned in October of 1910.
Spent her peacetime career first as a torpedo test ship and then as a gunnery training ship. Assigned to the Baltic Sea at the outbreak of hostilities and remained there for the entire war. Ceded to Japan as a war prize, and broken up for scrap in 1922. +
SMS Rheinland (1908) one of four Nassau-class battleships. The navy built Rheinland and her sister ships in response to the revolutionary British HMS Dreadnought, which had been launched in 1906. Rheinland was laid down in June 1907, launched the following year in October, and commissioned in April of 1910.
Rheinland’s extensive service with the High Seas Fleet during World War I included several fleet advances into the North Sea, some in support of raids against the English coast conducted by the German battlecruisers of the I Scouting Group. These sorties culminated in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916, in which Rheinland was heavily engaged by British destroyers in close-range night fighting.
Decommissioned in 1918 after a hard grounding; used as a barracks ship the remainder of the war. ceded to the Allies who, in turn, sold the vessel to ship-breakers in the Netherlands. Her bell is on display at the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden. +
SM Linienschiff Oldenburg
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SMS Oldenburg 1909 – second vessel of the Helgoland class; built Kaiserliche Werft dockyard in Wilhelmshaven; launched on 30 September 1909, commissioned into the fleet on 1 May 1912. Top speed of 21.2 knots (39.3 km/h; 24.4 mph).
Along with her three sister ships, Helgoland, Ostfriesland, and ThÃ¼ringen, Oldenburg participated in all of the major fleet operations of World War I in the North Sea against the British Grand Fleet, including the Battle of Jutland.
The four Helgoland-sisters were eventually ceded to the victorious Allied powers as war reparations; Oldenburg was given to Japan, which sold the vessel to a British ship-breaking firm in 1920. She was broken up for scrap in 1921. +
SM Linienschiff Baden
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Baden saw little action during her short career; the only major sortie in April 1918 ended without any combat. Following the German collapse in November 1918, Baden was interned with the majority of the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow.
And well, we all know what happened there…
Kaiserliche Marine; 100’s of photos and postcards
header image: SMS KÃ¶nig Wilhelm in Flensburg
Large scale color lithos from Deutschland zur See (1902)
kindly shared on Wikimedia Commons by OgreBot