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SMS Elsass

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SMS Elsass.jpg
Elsass underway c. 1904–1908
German Empire
Name: Elsass
Namesake: Alsace
Builder: Schichau-Werke, Danzig
Laid down: 1901
Launched: 26 May 1903
Commissioned: 29 November 1904
Fate: Scrapped in 1936
General characteristics
Class and type: Braunschweig-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 14,394 t (14,167 long tons; 15,867 short tons)
Length: 127.7 m (419 ft 0 in)
Beam: 22.2 m (72 ft 10 in)
Draft: 8.1 m (26 ft 7 in)
  • 3 shafts triple expansion
  • 17,000 ihp (13,000 kW)
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 5,200 nmi (9,600 km; 6,000 mi); 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • 35 officers
  • 708 enlisted men
  • 2 × 2 – 28 cm (11 in) SK L/40 guns
  • 14 × 17 cm (6.7 in) guns
  • 18 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
  • 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
  • Belt: 100 to 255 mm (3.9 to 10.0 in)
  • Turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
  • Deck: 40 mm (1.6 in)

SMS Elsass.[a] was the second of five pre-dreadnought battleships of the Braunschweig class in the German Imperial Navy, laid down in 1901 and commissioned 1904. She was named for the German province of Elsass,[b] now the French region of Alsace. Her sister ships were Braunschweig, Hessen, Preussen and Lothringen.

The ship served in the II Squadron of the German fleet after commissioning, though by the outbreak of World War I, she had been moved to the IV Squadron. Elsass saw action in the Baltic Sea against the Russian Navy. In August 1915, she participated in the Battle of the Gulf of Riga, during which she engaged the Russian battleship Slava. In 1916, however, she was placed in reserve because of crew shortages, and spent the remainder of the war as a training ship.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, she was retained after the end of the war and was modernized in 1923–24. Elsass served in the Reichsmarine with the surface fleet until 1930, when she was again placed in reserve. She was stricken in 1931 and used for a short time as a hulk in Wilhelmshaven. The out-dated battleship was sold to Norddeutscher Lloyd in late 1935 and was broken up for scrap the following year.


Line-drawing of the Braunschweig class

Elsass was laid down in 1901 at the Schichau-Werke in Danzig under construction number 97. The second unit of her class, she was ordered under the contract name "J" as a new unit for the fleet. She cost 24,373,000 marks.[1] Elsass was launched on 26 May 1903 and commissioned into the fleet on 29 November 1904.[2]

The ship was 127.7 m (419 ft 0 in) long overall and had a beam of 22.2 m (72 ft 10 in) and a draft of 8.1 m (26 ft 7 in) forward. The ship was powered by three 3-cylinder vertical triple expansion engines that drove three screws. Steam was provided by eight naval and six cylindrical boilers, all of which burned coal. Elsass's powerplant was rated at 16,000 indicated horsepower (12,000 kW), which generated a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).[1]

Elsass's armament consisted of a main battery of four 28 cm (11 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turrets,[c], one fore and one aft of the central superstructure.[3] Her secondary armament was composed of fourteen 17 cm (6.7 inch) SK L/40 guns and eighteen 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/35 quick-firing guns. Her armament was further increased by six 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, all mounted submerged in the hull.[2]

Service history[edit]

Upon her commissioning in November 1904, Elsass was assigned to the IV Division of the II Squadron of the German fleet. She joined her sister Braunschweig and the old battleship Weissenburg. The German Navy in 1905 consisted of four divisions of three battleships each, with two divisions per squadron. This was supported by a cruiser division, composed of two armored cruisers and six protected cruisers.[2][4] Kapitän zur See Reinhard Scheer assumed command of the vessel in 1907;[5] he would go on to command the entire High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland and eventually serve as the Chief of Naval Staff.[6] Scheer held command of the ship for two years.[7]

In 1909, the ship was transferred to the III Division, II Squadron alongside her sisters Hessen and Preussen; by this time, enough battleships had been built to increase the size of each division from three to four vessels.[8] In March 1909, a mine exploded aboard the ship during training in Kiel. Two sailors were killed and six more were wounded.[9]

After World War I began in August 1914, Elsass was assigned to the IV Battle Squadron of the High Seas Fleet.[10] The squadron was commanded by Vice Admiral Ehrhard Schmidt.[11] In July 1915, following the loss of the minelaying cruiser SMS Albatross in the Baltic, the IV Squadron ships were transferred to reinforce the German naval forces in the area.[12] On 11 and 19 July, German cruisers, with the IV Squadron ships in support, conducted sweeps in the Baltic, though without engaging any Russian forces.[13]

In August 1915, the German fleet attempted to clear the Gulf of Riga of Russian naval forces to assist the German Army then advancing on the city. The IV Squadron was joined by the I Squadron, which consisted of the eight Nassau and Helgoland-class battleships, from the High Seas Fleet, as well as three battlecruisers and many smaller craft. The task force commanded Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper, though operational command remained with Vice Admiral Schmidt.[13] On the morning of 8 August, the German fleet made its initial push into the Gulf. Elsass and Braunschweig were assigned to engage the Russian pre-dreadnought Slava and preventing her from disrupting the German minesweepers. When it became clear that the minesweepers could not clear the minefield before nightfall, however, Schmidt called off the attempt.[14] A second attempt was made on 16 August. Elsass remained outside the Gulf, while the dreadnoughts Nassau and Posen dealt with Slava.[15] By 19 August, the Russian minefields had been cleared and the flotilla entered the Gulf. However, reports of Allied submarines in the area prompted the German fleet to call off the operation the following day.[16]

Due to manpower shortages, the ships of the IV Squadron were demobilized.[10] On 25 July 1916, Elsass became a drill ship and a floating barracks, based in Kiel.[2] The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war, specified that Germany was permitted to retain six battleships of the older "Deutschland or Lothringen class."[17] Elsass was kept and used as a training ship in the Reichsmarine.[2]

In 1923, the aging ship underwent a major overhaul. Elsass was dry-docked in the Reichsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven,[1] where the conning tower was rebuilt. Work was completed the following year.[2] She and Braunschweig, with the Deutschland-class battleship Schlesien, were assigned to the North Sea Station.[18] Elsass served with the fleet until she was withdrawn from active service on 25 February 1930. She was stricken from the naval register on 31 March 1931 and served as a hulk in Wilhelmshaven until 31 October 1935, when the Reichsmarine sold her to Technischer Betrieb des Norddeutscher Lloyd. Elsass was broken up for scrap the following year.[2]



  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (English: His Majesty's Ship).
  2. ^ Alsace is now spelled Elsass in German; it was also spelled Elsaß until around the time of the German orthography reform of 1996, using the German "sharp S". See ß.
  3. ^ In Imperial German Navy gun nomenclature, "SK" (Schnelladekanone) denotes that the gun is quick firing, while the L/40 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/40 gun is 40 calibers, meaning that the gun is 40 times as long as it is in diameter. See: Grießmer, p. 177.


  1. ^ a b c Gröner, p. 18.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Gröner, p. 20.
  3. ^ Hore, p. 68.
  4. ^ "The British and German Fleets", p. 335.
  5. ^ Sweetman, pp. 391–392.
  6. ^ Tarrant, pp. 278, 280.
  7. ^ Sweetman, p. 392.
  8. ^ "German Naval Notes", p. 1053.
  9. ^ "Germany", p. 125.
  10. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 141.
  11. ^ Scheer, p. 15.
  12. ^ Halpern, p. 195.
  13. ^ a b Halpern, p. 196.
  14. ^ Halpern, pp. 196–197.
  15. ^ Halpern, p. 197.
  16. ^ Halpern, pp. 197–198.
  17. ^ Treaty of Versailles Section II: Naval Clauses, Article 181.
  18. ^ Chisholm, p. 258.



  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). Encyclopædia Britannica. 31. London: The Encyclopædia Britannica, Company. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-907-8. OCLC 12119866. 
  • Grießmer, Axel (1999). Die Linienschiffe der Kaiserlichen Marine (in German). Bonn: Bernard & Graefe Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7637-5985-9. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-352-7. OCLC 57447525. 
  • Hore, Peter (2006). The Ironclads. London: Southwater Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84476-299-6. OCLC 70402701. 
  • Scheer, Reinhard (1920). Germany's High Seas Fleet in the World War. London: Cassell and Company. 
  • Sweetman, Jack (1997). The Great Admirals: Command at Sea, 1587–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-229-1. 
  • Tarrant, V. E. (2001) [1995]. Jutland: The German Perspective. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-304-35848-9. OCLC 48131785. 


  • "The British and German Fleets". The United Service. New York: Lewis R. Hamersly & Co. 7: 328–340. 1905. 
  • "German Naval Notes". Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers. Washington D.C.: American Society of Naval Engineers. 21: 1052–1056. 1909. 
  • "Germany". Street's Pandex of the News. Chicago: The Pandex Company. 7: 124–127. 1909. 

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.