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SMS Friedrich der Grosse (1874)

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For the battleship of the same name, see SMS Friedrich der Grosse (1911).
SMS Friedrich der Grosse (1874)
SMS Friedrich der Grosse 1887.jpg
Friedrich der Grosse in 1887
Name: SMS Friedrich der Große
Namesake: King Frederick the Great
Builder: Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel
Laid down: 1871
Launched: 20 September 1874
Commissioned: 22 November 1877
Struck: 21 January 1919
Fate: Scrapped 1920
General characteristics
Class and type: Preussen-class ironclad
  • Design:
  • 6,821 t (6,713 long tons; 7,519 short tons)
  • Full load:
  • 7,718 t (7,596 long tons; 8,508 short tons)
Length: 96.59 m (316 ft 11 in)
Beam: 16.30 m (53 ft 6 in)
Draft: 7.11 m (23 ft 4 in)
  • 1 single expansion steam engine
  • 4,998 ihp (3,727 kW)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Range: 1,690 nmi (3,130 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)
  • 46 officers
  • 454 enlisted men
  • 4 × 26 cm (10 in) L/22 guns
  • 2 × 17 cm (6.7 in) L/25 guns
  • Upper belt: 203 mm (8.0 in)
  • Lower belt: 102 to 229 mm (4.0 to 9.0 in)
  • Turrets: 203 to 254 mm (8.0 to 10.0 in)

SMS Friedrich der Grosse[a] (or Große[b]) was an armored frigate of the German Kaiserliche Marine. She was the second of three Preussen-class ironclads, in addition to her two sister-ships Preussen and Grosser Kurfürst. Named for Frederick the Great, she was laid down at the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel in 1871 and completed in 1877. Her main battery of four 26 cm (10 in) guns was mounted pair of twin gun turrets amidships.

Friedrich der Grosse served with the fleet from her commissioning until 1896, though she was frequently placed in reserve throughout her career. The ship was a regular participant in the annual fleet training maneuvers conducted with the exception of the mid-1880s, when she was temporarily replaced by newer vessels. She participated in several cruises in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, often escorting Kaiser Wilhelm II on official state visits. The ship was removed from active service in 1896, after which she was used in secondary roles until 1919, when she was stricken from the naval register and sold to a scrapyard. Friedrich der Grosse was broken up for scrap the following year.


Line-drawing of Friedrich der Grosse

Friedrich der Grosse was ordered by the Imperial Navy from the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel; her keel was laid in 1871 under construction number 1.[1] The ship was launched on 20 September 1874 and commissioned into the German fleet on 22 November 1877.[2] Although laid down a year before her sister Preussen, Friedrich der Grosse was not completed until a year after; this was because she was built at a newly established and inexperienced Imperial Dockyard, while Preussen was built by AG Vulcan, an experienced private shipbuilder.[3] The ship cost the German government 7,303,000 gold marks.[1]

The ship was 96.59 meters (316.9 ft) long overall and had a beam of 16.30 m (53.5 ft) and a draft of 7.12 m (23.4 ft) forward.[1] Friedrich der Grosse was powered by one 3-cylinder single expansion steam engine, which was supplied with steam by six coal-fired transverse trunk boilers. The ship's top speed was 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph), at 4,998 indicated horsepower (3,727 kW). She was also equipped with a full ship rig. Her standard complement consisted of 46 officers and 454 enlisted men.[4]

She was armed with four 26 cm (10.2 in) L/22 guns mounted in a pair of gun turrets placed amidships.[c] As built, the ship was also equipped with two 17 cm (6.7 in) L/25 chase guns.[2] After being rebuilt in 1888–1890, her armament was increased by six and later ten 8.8 cm (3.5 in) L/30 quick-firing guns, a pair of machine guns, and five 35 cm (14 in) torpedo tubes, all placed in the ship's hull below the waterline.[4] Preussen's armor was made of wrought iron and backed with teak. The armored belt was arrayed in two strakes. The upper strake was 203 mm (8.0 in) thick; the lower strake ranged in thickness from 102 to 229 mm (4.0 to 9.0 in). Both were backed with 234 to 260 mm (9.2 to 10.2 in) of teak. The gun turrets were protected by 203 to 254 mm (8.0 to 10.0 in) armor on the sides, backed by 260 mm of teak.[1]

Service history[edit]

Friedrich der Grosse under construction

After her commissioning in November 1877, Friedrich der Grosse served with the fleet.[2] In April 1878, Friedrich der Grosse was reactivated to participate in the annual summer fleet maneuvers, under the command of Rear Admiral Carl Ferdinand Batsch. Her newly commissioned sister-ship, Grosser Kurfürst, joined the squadron shortly before maneuvers were scheduled to begin. At the time, Friedrich der Grosse suffered from mechanical problems, and on 22 May, she ran aground off Nyborg while steaming from Kiel to Wilhelmshaven. The ship suffered serious damage to her hull, which, coupled with her chronic engine problems, forced her to miss the fleet maneuvers. While the squadron steamed in the English Channel on 31 May, the armored frigate König Wilhelm accidentally rammed Grosser Kurfürst; the latter quickly sank with the loss of 276 men.[5]

In the aftermath of the loss of Grosser Kurfürst, the Navy canceled the summer 1878 maneuvers. Apart from the small ironclad Hansa, all armored warships were put in reserve until the following year. In May 1879, the armored squadron was reactivated, under the command of Rear Admiral Franz Kinderling. Friedrich der Grosse and Preussen were joined by the older ironclads Friedrich Carl and Kronprinz; the squadron remained in the Baltic for the majority of the training period. Kinderling took his four ships out into the North Sea in June for a visit to Norway. The four ships returned to Kiel in September, when the squadron was disbanded for the winter.[6]

In the spring of 1880, the squadron was again reestablished. The new armored corvette Sachsen replaced Kronprinz in the squadron that year. Wilhelm von Wickede, a former Austrian naval officer, replaced Kinderling as the squadron commander. In June, the Italian frigate Cristoforo Colombo visited the armored squadron in Kiel. Again, the squadron remained in the Baltic for the summer cruise, with the exception of a short visit to Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven in August.[6] The summer cruise in 1881 followed the same pattern as the year previous, though Kronprinz returned in place of Sachsen, which was plagued with engine problems.[7] Wickede again served as the commander. In July, the ships hosted a visit by the British reserve squadron, which by this time included the first British ironclad, HMS Warrior. Preussen and the rest of the squadron visited Danzig in September during a meeting between Kaiser Wilhelm I and the Russian Tsar Alexander III.[8]

The 1882 summer cruise included the same four ironclads from the previous year, and was again commanded by Wickede, who had by then been promoted to Rear Admiral.[9] Friedrich der Grosse was kept in reserve during the annual summer maneuvers starting in 1883, as new ships, including the rest of the Sachsen-class ironclads entered service.[10] The ship was reactivated in July 1888 to participate in a tour of the Baltic for the newly enthroned Kaiser Wilhelm II. The voyage included visits to St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. They met Tsar Alexander III and the Swedish King Oscar II, who inspected the German warships and conferred decorations on the senior officers.[11]

In August 1889, Friedrich der Grosse participated in Kaiser Wilhelm II's visit to Great Britain. The ship was assigned to the II Division, along with her sister Preussen and the central battery ironclads Kaiser and Deutschland, under command of Rear Admiral Friedrich Hollmann. The fleet then conducted maneuvers in the North Sea before returning to Germany. Friedrich der Grosse and the rest of the II Division became the training squadron for the fleet in 1889–1890, the first year the Kaiserliche Marine maintained a year-round ironclad force. The squadron escorted Wilhelm II's imperial yacht to the Mediterranean; the voyage included state visits to Italy and the Ottoman Empire. The squadron remained in the Mediterranean until April 1890, when it returned to Germany.[12]

Friedrich der Grosse participated in the ceremonial transfer of the island of Helgoland from British to German control in the summer of 1890. She was present during the fleet maneuvers in September, where the entire eight-ship armored squadron simulated a Russian fleet blockading Kiel. The II Division, including Friedrich der Grosse, served as the training squadron in the winter of 1890–1891. The squadron again cruised the Mediterranean, under the command of Rear Admiral Wilhelm Schröder.[13] Friedrich der Grosse again saw service in the II Division in the winter of 1891–1892 and the 1892 maneuvers, under the command of Rear Admiral Hans Koester.[14]

The ship participated in the 1893 maneuvers, which included a simulation of a French naval attack in the North Sea.[15] The following year, Friedrich der Grosse, König Wilhelm, and Deutschland joined the new battleship Brandenburg as re-designated II Division of the Maneuver Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral Otto von Diederichs. The ships simulated a Russian attack on Germany's Baltic coast in the 1894 maneuvers.[16] She was reduced to a harbor ship on 16 November 1896. The ship was stricken from the active register on 21 May 1906, after which she was used as a coal hulk for torpedo boats. Friedrich der Grosse served in this capacity until after the end of World War I; she was removed from the naval register on 27 January 1919. She was sold to shipbreakers and broken up for scrap the following year in Rönnebeck.[2]



  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship".
  2. ^ This is the German "sharp S"; see ß.
  3. ^ "L/22" denotes the length of the gun in terms of caliber. A 22 caliber gun is 22 times as long as it is wide in diameter, so a 26 cm L/22 gun is 572 cm (225 in) long.


  1. ^ a b c d Gröner, p. 5.
  2. ^ a b c d Gröner, p. 6.
  3. ^ Gardiner, p. 244.
  4. ^ a b Gröner, pp. 5–6.
  5. ^ Sondhaus, p. 124.
  6. ^ a b Sondhaus, p. 140.
  7. ^ Sondhaus, pp. 140–141.
  8. ^ Sondhaus, p. 141.
  9. ^ Sondhaus, pp. 141–142.
  10. ^ Sondhaus, pp. 161–163.
  11. ^ Sondhaus, p. 177.
  12. ^ Sondhaus, p. 179.
  13. ^ Sondhaus, p. 192.
  14. ^ Sondhaus, p. 194.
  15. ^ Sondhaus, p. 195.
  16. ^ Sondhaus, p. 196.


  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-8317-0302-8. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6. OCLC 22101769. 
  • Sondhaus, Lawrence (1997). Preparing for Weltpolitik: German Sea Power Before the Tirpitz Era. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-745-7.