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SMS Friedrich Carl (1867)

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SMS Friedrich Carl (1867)
SMS Friedrich Carl.jpg
Friedrich Carl in the late 1880s or early 1890s
Class overview
Operators:  Kaiserliche Marine
Preceded by: Arminius
Succeeded by: Kronprinz
Built: 1866—67
Completed: 1
Scrapped: 1
German Empire
Name: SMS Friedrich Carl
Builder: Societé Nouvelles des Forges et Chantiers La Seyne, Toulon
Laid down: 1866
Launched: 16 January 1867
Commissioned: 3 October 1867
Struck: 22 June 1905
Fate: Scrapped, 1906
General characteristics
Type: Broadside ironclad
Displacement: 6,932 t (6,823 long tons)
Length: 94.14 m (308 ft 10 in)
Beam: 16.60 m (54 ft 6 in)
Draft: 6.90 m (22 ft 8 in)
Installed power: 3,550 ihp (2,650 kW)
Sail plan: Barque-rigged
Speed: 13.5 knots (25.0 km/h; 15.5 mph)
Range: 2,210 nmi (4,090 km; 2,540 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • 33 officers
  • 498 enlisted men
  • 2 × 21 cm (8.3 in) L/22 guns
  • 14 × 21 cm L/19 guns

SMS Friedrich Carl[a] was an ironclad warship built for the Prussian Navy in the mid-1860s. The ship was constructed in the French Societé Nouvelles des Forges et Chantiers shipyard in Toulon; her hull was laid in 1866 and launched in January 1867. The ship was commissioned into the Prussian Navy in October 1867. The ship was the third ironclad ordered by the Prussian Navy, after Arminius and Prinz Adalbert, though the fourth ship to be acquired, Kronprinz, was ordered after but commissioned before Friedrich Carl.

Friedrich Carl served with the fleet from her commissioning in 1867 until 1895, when she was removed from front-line service to serve as a training ship. During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–1871, the ship formed part of the main German squadron commanded by Vice Admiral Jachmann. Engine trouble, however, plagued the ship and two of the other three vessels in the squadron; as a result, they made only two sorties from the port of Wilhelmshaven to challenge the French blockade. Neither resulted in combat.

Friedrich Carl was also deployed to Spain during an insurrection in 1873, during which she assisted in the seizure of three rebel vessels in two engagements. The ship was refitted at the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven in the 1880s. She was renamed Neptun in 1902 and used as a harbor ship until June 1905, when she was removed from the naval register. The following year, she was sold to ship breakers in the Netherlands and dismantled for scrap.


General characteristics[edit]

Friedrich Carl was 91.13 meters (299.0 ft) long at the waterline and 94.14 m (308.9 ft) long overall. She had a beam of 16.60 m (54.5 ft) and a draft of 6.90 m (22.6 ft) forward and 8.05 m (26.4 ft) aft. The ship was designed to displace 5,971 metric tons (5,877 long tons; 6,582 short tons) at a normal loading, and up to 6,932 t (6,823 long tons; 7,641 short tons) with a combat load. The ship's hull was constructed with transverse and longitudinal iron frames. It contained eight watertight compartments and a double bottom that ran for 76 percent of the length of the vessel.[1]

Friedrich Carl was an excellent sea boat; the ship was responsive to commands from the helm and had a moderate turning radius. She was somewhat unbalanced, however, and a 6 degree rudder to port was required to keep the ship on a straight course. The ship's crew numbered 33 officers and 498 enlisted men, and while serving as a flagship, the crew was augmented with a command staff of 6 officers and 35 enlisted men. Friedrich Carl carried a number of smaller boats, including a large tender, two launches, a pinnace, two cutters, two yawls, and one dinghy.[1]

A horizontal two-cylinder single expansion steam engine powered the ship. It drove a four-bladed screw 6 m (20 ft) in diameter. Six trunk boilers, divided into two boiler rooms with 11 fireboxes in each, supplied steam to the engine at 2 standard atmospheres (200 kPa). The propulsion system was rated at 3,300 indicated horsepower (2,500 kW) and a top speed of 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph), though on trials Friedrich Carl managed to make 3,550 ihp (2,650 kW) and 13.5 knots (25.0 km/h; 15.5 mph). The ship carried 624 t (614 long tons; 688 short tons) of coal, which enabled a maximum range of 2,210 nautical miles (4,090 km; 2,540 mi) at a cruising speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). A barque rig with a surface area of 2,010 square meters supplemented the steam engine, though in service they added little to the ship's performance. Steering was controlled with a single rudder.[1]

Armament and armor[edit]

As built, Friedrich Carl was equipped with twenty-six rifled 72-pounder cannon. After her delivery to Germany, these guns were replaced with a pair of 21-centimeter (8.3 in) L/22 guns and fourteen 21 cm L/19 guns. The L/22 gun could depress to −5 degrees and elevate to 13 degrees, which provided a range of 5,900 m (6,500 yd). The shorter barreled L/19 guns had a wider range of elevation, from −8 to 14.5 degrees, but the shorter barrel imposed a lower muzzle velocity, which correspondingly reduced the range of the gun to 5,200 m (5,700 yd). The two types of gun fired the same shell, of which the total supply numbered 1,656 rounds of ammunition. The fourteen L/19 guns were placed in a central battery amidships, seven on either broadside. The L/22 guns were placed on either end of the ship.[2] Later in her career, six revolver cannon and five 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes were added.[3] Two of the tubes were placed in the bow, two on the ship's sides, and one in the stern on the port side. All were placed above water, and were supplied with 12 torpedoes.[2]

Friedrich Carl's armor consisted of wrought iron backed with heavy teak planking. The waterline armored belt consisted of 114 millimeters (4.5 in) of iron backed with 254 mm (10.0 in) of teak. The central battery was protected by 114 mm of sloped iron plating on 260 mm (10 in) of timber. The battery's roof was protected by 9-millimeter (0.35 in) thick iron plating. The ship's conning tower had 114 mm thick iron armor mounted on 400-millimeter (15.7 in) of teak.[1]

Service history[edit]

The Prussian Navy ordered Friedrich Carl from a French shipbuilder in 1865. She was laid down at the Societé Nouvelles des Forges et Chantiers La Seyne shipyard in Toulon the following year. The ship was launched on 16 January 1867; fitting out work was completed rapidly, and the ship was completed before the end of the year. Friedrich Carl was delivered to Prussia in October 1867 and commissioned into the fleet on the 3rd of the month.[1]

Franco-Prussian War[edit]

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the greatly numerically inferior Prussian Navy assumed a defensive posture against a naval blockade imposed by the French Navy.[4] Friedrich Carl and the broadside ironclads Kronprinz and König Wilhelm, along with the small ironclad ram Prinz Adalbert, had been steaming in the English Channel before the French declared war; they had left Plymouth on 10 July with the intention of steaming to Fayal in the Azores. On the 13th, however, they put into port and learned of the rising tension between France and Prussia. The ships therefore returned to Wilhelmshaven immediately, arriving on 16 July.[5] France declared war on Prussia three days later on 19 July.[4] Friedrich Carl, Kronprinz, and König Wilhelm were concentrated in the North Sea at the port of Wilhelmshaven.[4] They were subsequently joined there by the turret ship Arminius, which had been stationed in Kiel.[6]

Despite the great French naval superiority, the French had conducted insufficient pre-war planning for an assault on the Prussian naval installations, and concluded that it would only be possible with Danish assistance, which was not forthcoming.[4] The four ships, under the command of Vice Admiral Jachmann, made an offensive sortie in early August 1870 out to the Dogger Bank, though they encountered no French warships. Friedrich Carl and the other two broadside ironclads thereafter suffered from chronic engine trouble, which left Arminius alone to conduct operations.[7] Friedrich Carl, Kronprinz, and König Wilhelm stood off the island of Wangerooge for the majority of the conflict, while Arminius was stationed in the mouth of the Elbe river.[8] On 11 September, the three broadside ironclads were again ready for action; they joined Arminius for another major operation into the North Sea. It too did not encounter French opposition, as the French Navy had by this time returned to France.[7]

Deployment to Spain[edit]

In early 1873, the First Spanish Republic was beset with the Cantonal Revolution. Friedrich Carl, under the command of Vice Admiral Reinhold Werner, steamed to Spanish waters along with a pair of unarmored vessels. The ships joined a British squadron that had been patrolling the southern Spanish coast. A rebel faction of the Spanish Navy had seized four of the country's seven ironclads. Admiral Werner, the senior commander in the group, was given command of the Anglo-German force.[9] The squadron blockaded two rebel ironclads in the port of Cartagena after they had bombarded a coastal town.[10] While steaming off Alicante, Friedrich Carl encountered the rebel armed steamer Vigilante, seized the vessel, and returned it to the national government.[11]

Friedrich Carl and the British ironclad HMS Swiftsure attacked two of the rebel ships—Vitoria and Almansa—without authorization from London or Berlin. The rebel vessels had attempted to extort the port of Almería. In the brief engagement, the Anglo-German force overwhelmed the rebels and seized both ships, which were subsequently turned over to the Spanish government. The rebels considered declaring war on Germany over the affair, but eventually decided against it.[12] A captured rebel leader was briefly held on board Friedrich Carl. Admiral Werner's blockade eventually forced the rebels to surrender, after which Friedrich Carl returned to Germany. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck ordered a court-martial for Admiral Werner, whose actions Bismarck considered to be excessive. Bismarck prohibited the Imperial Navy from conducting "gunboat diplomacy" in the future.[10]

Later service[edit]

In 1885, Friedrich Carl had torpedo nets installed; these remained on the ship until 1897. In 1895, the ship was disarmed; she was placed into service as a torpedo test ship on 11 August of that year. She served in this capacity until 21 January 1902, when she was renamed Neptun and used as a harbor ship. Her name was then freed to be reused on the new armored cruiser Friedrich Carl,[1] which was launched on 22 June 1902.[13] Neptun was formally stricken from the naval register on 22 June 1905 and sold to a Dutch ship-breaking firm in March 1906 for 284,000 gold marks. The ship was then towed to the Netherlands and broken up for scrap.[1]


  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship".
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gröner, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b Gröner, p. 2–3.
  3. ^ Gardiner, p. 243.
  4. ^ a b c d Sondhaus, p. 101.
  5. ^ Wilson, p. 273.
  6. ^ Wilson, p. 277.
  7. ^ a b Sondhaus, p. 102.
  8. ^ Wilson, p. 278.
  9. ^ Sondhaus, p. 121.
  10. ^ a b Sondhaus, p. 122.
  11. ^ Greene & Massignani, p. 279.
  12. ^ Greene & Massignani, p. 280.
  13. ^ Gröner, p. 51.