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SMS Deutschland (1904)

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A large gray battleship sits in a lock, crew members in white uniforms crowd the ship's deck
SMS Deutschland in a lock in 1912
German Empire
Name: Deutschland
Namesake: Germany (Deutschland in German)
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Laid down: 20 June 1903
Launched: 19 November 1904
Commissioned: 3 August 1906
Struck: 25 January 1920
Fate: Scrapped in 1920
General characteristics
Class and type: Deutschland-class battleship
  • 13,191 t (12,983 long tons) normal
  • 14,218 t (13,993 long tons) full load
Length: 127.6 m (418 ft 8 in)
Beam: 22.2 m (72 ft 10 in)
Draft: 7.7 m (25 ft 3 in)
Propulsion: 15,781 ihp (11,768 kW), three shafts
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 4,850 nmi (8,980 km; 5,580 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 743
  • 225 mm in belt
  • 280 mm in turrets
  • 40 mm in deck

SMS Deutschland[a] was the first of five Deutschland-class pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Kaiserliche Marine between 1903 and 1906. She was named after the German name for Germany, and built at the Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel, where she was launched on 20 November 1904. She was commissioned on 3 August 1906, only a few months before HMS Dreadnought was commissioned, the first of a revolutionary new standard of "all-big-gun" battleships which rendered Deutschland and the rest of her class obsolete.

She served as the flagship of Prince Heinrich until 1913. With the outbreak of World War I in mid-1914, Deutschland and her sisters were 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. Deutschland and the other four ships of her class were then attached to the High Seas Fleet as the II Battle Squadron; the unit participated in most of the large-scale fleet actions in the first two years of war, culminating in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916. Late on the first day of the battle, Deutschland and the other pre-dreadnoughts briefly engaged several British battlecruisers before retreating.

After the battle, Deutschland and her three surviving sisters were assigned to coastal defense duties. By 1917, they had been withdrawn from combat service completely and tasked with auxiliary roles. Deutschland was used as a barracks ship in Wilhelmshaven until the end of the war. She was struck from the naval register on 25 January 1920, sold to ship breakers that year, and broken up for scrap by 1922. Her bow ornament is preserved at the Eckernförde underwater weapons school and her bell is on display at the Mausoleum of Prince Heinrich on the Hemmelmark estate.


Line-drawing of the Deutschland class

Deutschland was the second naval vessel to bear the name, after SMS Deutschland (1874) (an armored frigate), and was intended to fight in the German battle line with the other battleships of the Imperial German Navy.[1] She was laid down on 20 July 1903 at the Germaniawerft dockyard in Kiel,[2] and launched on 19 November 1904. Her trials lasted from 3 August 1906 until September. The British battleship HMS Dreadnought—armed with ten 12 inch (30.5 cm) guns—was commissioned in December 1906.[3] Dreadnought's revolutionary design rendered every capital ship of the German navy obsolete, including Deutschland.[4]

Deutschland was 127.6 m (418 ft 8 in) long, had a beam of 22.2 m (72 ft 10 in), and a draft of 8.21 m (26 ft 11 in). She had a full-load displacement of 14,218 metric tons (13,993 long tons) and was equipped with coal-fired triple expansion engines that produced a rated 15,781 indicated horsepower (11,768 kW) and gave her a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). At a cruising speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), she could steam for 4,850 nautical miles (8,980 km; 5,580 mi).[5]

Deutschland's primary armament consisted of four 28 cm (11 in) SK L/40 guns in two twin turrets.[b] She was also equipped with fourteen 17 cm (6.7 in) guns mounted in casemates, twenty 8.8 cm (3.46 in) guns in pivot mounts, and six 45 cm (17.72 in) torpedo tubes were submerged in the hull.[6]

Service history[edit]


On 26 September 1906 the ship officially joined the fleet, when Admiral Prince Heinrich made her his flagship.[7] She was tactically assigned to the II Battle Squadron, though as the fleet flagship she was not subordinate to the Squadron commander. She took part in training exercises in the North Sea in December 1906 before returning to Kiel. On 16 February 1907, the fleet was renamed the High Seas Fleet.[7] Fleet maneuvers in the North Sea followed in early 1907 and again in May–June. A cruise to Norway followed the fleet training in June. After returning from Norway, Deutschland went to Swinemünde. Another round of fleet training followed in September 1907. In November, she was taken into drydock for an annual refit.[8]

Deutschland participated in fleet maneuvers in February 1908 in the Baltic Sea; in May–June training was conducted off the island fortress of Helgoland in the North Sea. In July 1908, Deutschland and the rest of the fleet sailed into the Atlantic Ocean to conduct training there. During the cruise, Deutschland stopped at Funchal and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The fleet returned to Germany on 13 August. The following month another set of training maneuvers was conducted in the Baltic and North Seas, with a winter cruise into the Baltic afterward.[8]

The following year—1909—followed much the same pattern. Another cruise into the Atlantic was conducted from 7 July to 1 August, during which Deutschland stopped in Bilbao. After another round of exercises, Deutschland went in for another periodic overhaul. During the refit, she was given additional pedestal-mounted search lights, as well as becoming the first ship in the German navy to be equipped with an X-ray machine.[8] In May 1910, the fleet conducted training maneuvers in the Kattegat, between Norway and Denmark. The annual summer cruise went to Norway, and was followed by fleet training. In November, Deutschland hosted Kaiser Wilhelm II during the celebration of the opening of the Naval Academy at Mürwik. A training cruise into the Baltic followed at the end of the year.[8]

The next two years followed the same pattern of training exercises and cruises to Norway in the summer, with the exception of 1912 when, due to the Agadir Crisis, the cruise only went into the Baltic. In September, following maneuvers, Deutschland was partially grounded in the Baltic. The damage necessitated dry-docking, and repairs were completed by November.[8] In January 1913, the new dreadnought battleship Friedrich der Grosse replaced Deutschland as the flagship of the fleet. The golden bow ornament that denoted the flagship was removed, and Deutschland returned to the ranks of the II Battle Squadron.[9]

World War I[edit]

Deutschland underway

At the outbreak of war, the ship was deployed to the mouth of the Elbe to guard the area. Deutschland remained with the High Seas Fleet in the II Battle Squadron for the first two years of the war. While her sisters covered the raid on the English coast on 15–16 December, Deutschland remained on picket duty in the mouth of the Elbe. On 21 February 1915, Deutschland went into dock in Kiel, where work lasted until 12 March. Afterward, Deutschland returned to the Elbe for guard duty. On 21 September the ship went to the Baltic for training, which was completed by 11 October, after which she went into the dockyard in Kiel again for maintenance. Deutschland went to the AG Vulcan drydock in Hamburg for additional work from 27 February to 1 April 1916. After returning to the fleet, Deutschland was made the flagship of the II Battle Squadron under the command of Admiral Franz Mauve.[9]

On 24–25 April 1916, Deutschland and her four sisters joined the dreadnoughts of the High Seas Fleet to support the battlecruisers of the I Scouting Group on a raid of the English coast.[9] While en route to the target, the battlecruiser Seydlitz was damaged by a mine; she was detached to return home while the operation proceeded. The battlecruisers conducted a short bombardment of the ports of Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Visibility was poor, and the operation was called off before the British fleet could intervene.[10] On 4 May, Deutschland took part in a sortie against British ships off Horns Reef, without result.[9]

Battle of Jutland[edit]

The German fleet sailed to the north and met the British fleet sailing from the west; both fleets conducted a series of turns and maneuvers during the chaotic battle.
Diagram of the Battle of Jutland showing the major movements
Main article: Battle of Jutland

Admiral Scheer immediately planned another foray into the North Sea, but the damage to Seydlitz delayed the operation until the end of May.[11] Deutschland was the first ship in the III Division of the II Battle Squadron and the flagship of Rear Admiral Franz Mauve. The II Battle Squadron, with the weakest battleships involved in the battle, was positioned at the rear of the German line.[12] During the "Run to the North," Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the commander of the fleet, ordered the fleet to pursue the retreating battleships of the British V Battle Squadron at top speed. Deutschland and her sisters were significantly slower than the dreadnoughts, and quickly fell behind.[13] By 19:30, the Grand Fleet had arrived on the scene and confronted Admiral Scheer with significant numerical superiority.[14] The German fleet was severely hampered by the presence of the slower Deutschland-class ships; if Scheer ordered an immediate turn towards Germany, he would have to sacrifice the slower ships to make good his escape.[15]

Admiral Scheer reversed the course of the fleet via the Gefechtskehrtwendung ('battle turn'), a maneuver that required every unit in the German line to turn 180° simultaneously.[16] Having fallen behind, the ships of the II Battle Squadron could not conform to the new course following the turn.[17] Deutschland and the other five ships of the squadron were therefore on the disengaged side of the German line. Admiral Mauve considered moving his ships to the rear of the line, astern of the III Battle Squadron dreadnoughts, but decided against it when he realized the movement would interfere with the maneuvering of Admiral Franz von Hipper's battlecruisers. Instead, he attempted to place his ships at the head of the line.[18]

Later on the first day of the battle, the hard-pressed battlecruisers of the I Scouting Group were being pursued by their British opponents. Deutschland and the other so-called "five-minute ships" came to their aid by steaming between the opposing battlecruiser squadrons.[19][c] Poor visibility made the subsequent engagement brief. Deutschland fired only one round from her 28 cm guns during this period.[19] Admiral Mauve decided it would be inadvisable to continue the fight against the much more powerful battlecruisers, and so ordered an 8-point turn to starboard.[20]

Late on the 31st, the fleet organized for the night march back to Germany; Deutschland, Pommern, and Hannover fell in behind König and the other dreadnoughts of the III Battle Squadron towards the rear of the line.[21] British destroyers conducted a series of attacks against the fleet, some of which targeted Deutschland. In the melee, Deutschland and König turned away from the attacking destroyers, but could not make out targets clearly enough to engage them effectively.[22] Soon after, Pommern was struck by at least one torpedo and exploded. Fragments of the ship rained down around Deutschland.[23] Regardless, the High Seas Fleet punched through the British destroyer forces and reached Horns Reef by 4:00 on 1 June.[24] The German fleet reached Wilhelmshaven a few hours later, where the undamaged dreadnoughts of the Nassau and Helgoland classes took up defensive positions.[25]

Later career[edit]

After Jutland, Deutschland and her sisters returned to picket duty in the mouth of the Elbe. They were also occasionally transferred for guard duty in the Baltic. From 22 December 1916 to 16 January 1917, Deutschland lay idle in the Bay of Kiel. On 24 January, the ship was taken to Hamburg where she went into the drydock for maintenance; this work lasted until 4 April. Deutschland sailed out of the Altenbruch roads at the mouth of the Elbe and then to the Baltic for continued guard duty. On 15 August, the II Battle Squadron was disbanded; two weeks later, on 31 August, Deutschland arrived in Kiel and was decommissioned on 10 September. Deutschland had her guns removed in Kiel before she was transferred to Wilhelmshaven to serve as a barracks ship.[9] On 25 January 1920 the ship was struck from the naval register and sold for scrapping, which was complete by 1922. The ship's bow ornament is on display at the Eckernförde underwater weapons school and her bell is located in the mausoleum of Prince Heinrich at the Hemmelmark estate.[26]


  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship" in German.
  2. ^ In Imperial German Navy gun nomenclature, "SK" (Schnelladekanone) denotes that the gun is quick loading, while the L/40 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/40 gun is 40 caliber, meaning that the gun is 40 times long as it is in diameter.
  3. ^ The ships were called "five-minute ships" because that was the length of time they were expected to survive if confronted by a dreadnought. See: Tarrant, p. 62.


  1. ^ Herwig, p. 45.
  2. ^ Staff, p. 5.
  3. ^ Gardiner & Gray, pp. 21–22.
  4. ^ Herwig, p. 57.
  5. ^ Gröner 1982, p. 44.
  6. ^ Staff, p. 6.
  7. ^ a b Staff, p. 7.
  8. ^ a b c d e Staff, p. 8.
  9. ^ a b c d e Staff, p. 10.
  10. ^ Tarrant, pp. 52–54.
  11. ^ Tarrant, p. 58.
  12. ^ Tarrant, p. 286.
  13. ^ London, p. 73.
  14. ^ Tarrant, p. 150.
  15. ^ Tarrant, pp. 150–152.
  16. ^ Tarrant, pp. 152–153.
  17. ^ Tarrant, p. 154.
  18. ^ Tarrant, p. 155.
  19. ^ a b Tarrant, p. 195.
  20. ^ Tarrant, pp. 195–196.
  21. ^ Tarrant, p. 241.
  22. ^ Tarrant, p. 242.
  23. ^ Tarrant, p. 243.
  24. ^ Tarrant, pp. 246–247.
  25. ^ Tarrant, p. 263.
  26. ^ Gröner, p. 22.


Further reading[edit]

  • Dodson, Aidan (2014). "Last of the Line: The German Battleships of the Braunschweig and Deutschland Classes". Warship 2014. London: Conway Maritime Press: 49–69. ISBN 978-1591149231.