Derfflinger-class battlecruiser

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S.M.S Derfflinger.jpg
SMS Derfflinger in 1918.
Class overview
Name: Derfflinger
Preceded by: SMS Seydlitz
Succeeded by: Mackensen class battlecruiser
Completed: 3
General characteristics
Type: battlecruiser
Displacement: 26,180 tons standard, 30,707 tons full load
Length: 210.3 m (690 ft)
Beam: 29.0 m (95.1 ft)
Draught: 8.22 m (27.0 ft)
Propulsion: 4 Parsons shaft turbines, 18 boilers, 77,000 shaft horsepower (57,000 kW)
Speed: 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h)
Range: 5,600 nmi at 14 knots (26 km/h), 6,100 nmi (11,300 km) at 14 knots (26 km/h) (Hindenburg)
Complement: 1,112 (1,392 in wartime)

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8 × 30.5 cm SK L/50 (12"/50 cal) main guns in 4 twin turrets
12 × 15 cm SK L/45 (5.9"/45 cal) single guns (+2 more in Lützow & Hindenburg)
12 × single 8.8 cm (3.5"/45 cal) (after 1916 only 2 in Derfflinger and 4 in Hindenburg)

4 × 50 cm (19.7") torpedo tubes (60 cm/23.6" in Lützow & Hindenburg)

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Belt 99 to 300 mm (3.9 to 11.8 inches)
Barbettes 30.48 to 259 mm (1.2 to 10.2 inches)
269 mm (10.6 inches) Turrets

350.5 mm (13.8 inches) Conning Tower

The three units of the Derfflinger-class battlecruisers (German: Schlachtkreuzer) of the Deutschen Kaiserliche Marine were ordered for the 1912 to 1913 Naval Building Programme of the Imperial German Navy as a reply to the Royal Navy's three new Lion class battlecruisers that were launched a few years earlier. At this time Germany and Great Britain had been engaged in a naval arms race. The preceding Moltke class and the incrementally improved SMS Seydlitz, represented the end of the evolution of Germany's first generation of battlecruisers. The Derfflinger class had considerable improvements, including carrying a larger primary armament, and that all main turrets were fore or aft which eliminated the restricted arc of the amidships turret.


The SMS Derfflinger and her sisters the SMS Lützow and the SMS Hindenburg were designed to complement the König class battleships. Both classes mounted their main battery in twin turrets on the centerline, all mounted fore or aft which eliminating the restricted arc of the amidships turret. Both classes were also outfitted with a partially oil-fired boiler arrangement. Of the three, only Derfflinger was constructed as a new addition to the fleet, since the other two were to be replacements for obsolete ships; Lützow for the corvette/cruiser SMS Kaiserin Augusta and Hindenburg for the heavy cruiser SMS Hertha.

The Derfflingers were the first German battlecruisers to be armed with 30.5 cm (12 in) main guns, and the first German capital ships to have a flush deck design, and the absence of secondary casement mounts in the hull itself was a preview of more modern naval designs that would not come along until the 1930s.

SMS Derfflinger and her newly commissioned sister-ship, SMS Lützow, were active at the Battle of Jutland, and between them they are credited with sinking and/or assisting in the sinking of HMS Invincible and HMS Queen Mary. Derfflinger, with 17 heavy and 4 medium hits plus 3,000 tons of water aboard, limped home while trying not to foul her propellers on the loosened anti-torpedo nets trailing along her side. Lützow took over 24 hits, including four 15" shells, but still made it part the way back to the entrace of the Kiel Canal. However, she was abandoned when she was unable to make it over the sand bank, as flooding started to submerge her 'B' turret while the rudder and screws came out of the water, leading to fears that the ship would capsize, so she scuttled by an escorting torpedo boat, G38. As Lützow was one of the best-designed and newest battlecruisers in the fleet, her sinking was a significant cost for the Kaiserliche Marine, as she represented a larger loss proportionally compared to the Royal Navy.

Originally fitted with straight pole masts, during repairs following Jutland the Derfflinger (and Hindenburg while she was being built) was fitted with a tripod mast in place of her foremast, and had several 8.8 cm guns removed. Also, as a result of the Jutland experience, the anti-torpedo nets were removed from all combatants.

Delayed by other construction priorities and built to a modified Derfflinger design, SMS Hindenburg was commissioned too late to participate at Jutland. She was the fastest of the three, coming in at 26.6 knots (combat load), but never saw combat. She holds two distinctions:

1. The last battlecruiser completed for the Imperial German Navy
2. The last ship to sink during the Grand Scuttle at Scapa Flow.

Derfflinger and Hindenburg survived the war to be interned at Scapa Flow, where they both were scuttled on June 21, 1919. The class remains the last battlecruisers completed by the German Navy, as the succeeding Mackensen battlecruisers was never finished.


SMS Derfflinger

Built by Blohm und Voss in Hamburg, the Derfflinger was laid down in January 1912 and launched on 1 July 1913. Commissioned on 1 September 1914 and fully operational by November 1914, she sustained 21 major hits at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, and was out of commission for repairs for four months. Scuttled at Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919 she sank at 1445 hrs on that day. She was raised in 1939 and scrapped in 1946.

SMS Lützow

Built by Schichau-Werft in Danzig, the Lützow was laid down in May 1912 and launched on 29 November 1913. Commissioned on 8 August 1915 and fully operational by March 1916, the Lutzow was armed with two more of the 15 cm (5.9"/45 cal) as well as four 60 cm (23.6 in) torpedo tubes instead of the four 50 cm (19.7 in) ones in the lead ship. At the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 she was hit by four 15-inch (380 mm), twelve 13.5-inch (340 mm) and eight 12-inch shells, severely damaging and eventually dooming her. She was scuttled the next day, 1 June 1916. At the time of her scuttling the waterline had reached the top of the #2 barbette. The Lützow is presently preserved as a war grave by Germany.

SMS Hindenburg

Built by Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven in Wilhelmshaven, the Hindenburg was the last battlecruiser completed for the Imperial German Navy. She was laid down 30 June 1913 and launched on 1 August 1915. Commissioned 10 May 1917, she was fully operational by 20 October 1917, too late to see any action in World War I. Like the Lützow she was armed with two more of the 15 cm (5.9"/45 cal) and four 60 cm (23.6 in) torpedo tubes instead of the four 50 cm (19.7 in) ones in the Derfflinger. She was scuttled at Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919, and finally sank at 1700 hrs. An attempt to raise her was done in 1926 which proved unsuccessful, and she sank again. On 23 July 1930 another attempt was made to raise her, this time successfully. From 1930 to 1932 she was scrapped at Rosyth.

External Links & References

Plan and elevation view of a cruiser of the Derfflinger class, from Jane's Fighting Ships 1919