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SMS Kaiser Friedrich III

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S.M. Linienschiff Kaiser Friedrich III.jpg
Lithograph of SMS Kaiser Friedrich III in 1900.
German Empire
Name: Kaiser Friedrich III
Namesake: Friedrich III
Builder: Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven
Laid down: 1895
Launched: 1 July 1896
Commissioned: 7 October 1898
Fate: Scrapped in 1919
General characteristics
Class and type: Kaiser Friedrich III-class pre-dreadnought battleship
  • Standard: 11,097 t (10,922 long tons)
  • Full load: 11,785 t (11,599 long tons)
Length: 125.3 m (411 ft 1 in)
Beam: 20.4 m (66 ft 11 in)
Draft: 7.89 m (25 ft 11 in)
  • 3 shafts triple expansion engines
  • 13,000 PS (12,820 ihp; 9,560 kW)
Speed: 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph)
Range: 3,420 nmi (6,330 km; 3,940 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 658–687
  • 4 × 24 cm (9.4 in) 40 cal guns
  • 18 × 15 cm (5.9 in) guns
  • 12 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
  • 12 × 1-pdr guns
  • 6 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
  • Belt: 300 to 150 mm (11.8 to 5.9 in)
  • Deck: 65 mm (2.6 in)
  • Conning Tower: 250 mm (9.8 in)
  • Turrets: 250 mm
  • Casemates: 150 mm

SMS Kaiser Friedrich III ("His Majesty's Ship Emperor Frederick III")[a] was the lead ship of the Kaiser Friedrich III class of pre-dreadnought battleships. She was laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven in 1895, and finished in October 1898. The ship was armed with a main battery of four 24-centimeter (9.4 in) guns in two twin gun turrets.

After she was commissioned on 7 October 1898, the ship became the flagship of Prince Henry in the I Squadron of the German Heimatflotte (Home Fleet). In 1901, the ship was severely damaged after striking an underwater obstacle in the Baltic, though she was subsequently repaired. The ship took part in extensive fleet maneuvers in 1900 and 1902. In 1907, the Heimatflotte was reorganized as the Hochseeflotte (High Seas Fleet). In 1908, Kaiser Friedrich III was modernized; her secondary guns were reorganized and her superstructure was cut down to reduce top-heaviness.

Obsolete by the beginning of World War I, Kaiser Friedrich III and her sister ships served in a limited capacity as coastal defense ships in the V Battle Squadron in the early months of the war. By January 1915, Kaiser Friedrich was withdrawn from service and employed as a prison ship. She was scrapped in 1919, following the end of the war.


Line-drawing of the Kaiser Friedrich III class

Kaiser Friedrich III was 125.3 m (411 ft 1 in) long overall and had a beam of 20.4 m (66 ft 11 in) and a draft of 7.89 m (25 ft 11 in) forward and 8.25 m (27 ft 1 in) aft. The ship was powered by three 3-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines that drove three screw propellers. Steam was provided by four Marine-type and eight cylindrical boilers, all of which burned coal. Kaiser Friedrich III's powerplant was rated at 13,000 metric horsepower (12,822 ihp; 9,561 kW), which generated a top speed of 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph).[1]

Kaiser Friedrich III's armament consisted of a main battery of four 24 cm (9.4 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turrets,[b] one fore and one aft of the central superstructure.[2] Her secondary armament consisted of eighteen 15 cm (5.9 inch) SK L/40 guns and twelve 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns. She also carried twelve machine guns, but these were later removed. The armament suite was rounded out with six 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, all in above-water swivel mounts. The ship's belt armor was 300 mm (11.8 in) thick, and the deck was 65 mm (2.6 in) thick. The conning tower and main battery turrets were protected with 250 mm (9.8 in) of armor plating, and the secondary casemates received 150 mm (5.9 in) of armor protection.[1]

Service history[edit]

Kaiser Friedrich III's keel was laid on 5 March 1895, at the Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven, under construction number 22. Kaiser Wilhelm II, the son of the ship's namesake, hammered the first rivet into the keel. She was ordered under the contract name Ersatz Preussen, to replace the elderly armored frigate Preussen. Kaiser Friedrich III was launched on 1 July 1896 and Wilhelm II was again present, this time to give the launching speech. The ship was commissioned on 7 October 1898 and began sea trials in the Baltic Sea.[3][4]

After commissioning, Kaiser Friedrich III was assigned to the I Squadron of the Heimatflotte (Home Fleet).[5] Prince Henry—the commander in chief of the I Squadron—raised his flag aboard Kaiser Friedrich III.[6] From 15 August 1900 to 15 September, the Heimatflotte conducted a series of fleet maneuvers in the North and Baltic seas. The four Brandenburg-class battleships were deployed to China to assist in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion, so the fleet was greatly reduced in strength. Kaiser Friedrich III and her sister Kaiser Wilhelm II were the only battleships available for the maneuvers. They were joined by the armored frigates Sachsen and Württemberg and six Siegfried and Odin-class coastal defense ships. Throughout the maneuvers, Kaiser Friedrich III was assigned to the "German" force, which had to combat a hostile "Yellow" squadron.[7]

On 17 November 1900, Kaiser Friedrich III was steaming to Kiel after conducting exercises with the fleet. Kaiser Wilhelm II attempted to pass Kaiser Friedrich III, so the latter stopped and allowed the former to pass to port. However, the order to resume steaming was given too quickly, so the ship accidentally rammed Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kaiser Friedrich III suffered minor damage to her bow, while her sister was slightly damaged in the compartment that housed the steering engines. Repairs were completed within three days, without the need for either vessel to enter drydock.[8]

Collision, 1901[edit]

Kaiser Friedrich III in 1902

While en route from Danzig to Kiel on 2 January 1901, Kaiser Friedrich III struck an underwater obstacle while in company with Kaiser Wilhelm II. The impact damaged four of the ship's watertight compartments, which then filled with water and caused the ship to list to port.[9] The shock from the collision damaged the ship's boilers and started a fire in the coal bunkers. All of the ship's ammunition magazines, engine rooms, and storage compartments had to be flooded in order to prevent the fire from spreading.[10] Two men were seriously injured while fighting the fire, and a third died of his injuries.[11] Kaiser Wilhelm II took her sister in tow, although after several hours the fire was extinguished and the engines were restarted. Throughout the incident, Prince Henry adamantly refused requests that he depart the ship, stating "I shall be the last to leave the ship."[10]

The ships reached Kiel, where it was thoroughly examined. The dockyard workers found that eight of the ship's boilers had been badly damaged, and many bulkheads had been bent from the pressure of the water. The keel was extensively damaged, with large holes torn in several places. All three of the ship's propellers were damaged as well.[10] Temporary repairs were effected in Kiel, which included sealing the holes with cement and wood. On 23 April the ship was moved to Wilhelmshaven, where she was completely repaired.[11] A subsequent investigation found that the nearby lightship—which was used to navigate the channel at night—was 700 meters (2,296 ft 7 in) from its assigned location, and there were several uncharted rocks in the area of the accident.[8]

On 31 August 1902, the annual summer maneuvers were begun by the fleet. Kaiser Friedrich III was assigned to the "hostile" force, and was first tasked with preventing the "German" squadron from passing through the Great Belt in the Baltic. Kaiser Friedrich III and several other battleships were then tasked with forcing an entry into the mouth of the Elbe River, where the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and Hamburg could be seized. The "hostile" flotilla accomplished these tasks within three days.[12]

In 1903, the fleet, which was composed of only one squadron of battleships, was reorganized as the "Active Battle Fleet." Kaiser Friedrich III remained in the I Squadron along with her sister ships and the newest Wittelsbach-class battleships, while the older Brandenburg-class ships were placed in reserve in order to be rebuilt.[13]

Fleet reorganization, 1905[edit]

1902 photograph

In October 1905, the Heimatflotte was again reorganized; Kaiser Friedrich III was reassigned to the I Division of the II Squadron, alongside her sister-ship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and the older battleship Wörth. The Heimatflotte in 1905 consisted of another division of three battleships in the II Squadron and two more three-ship divisions in the I Squadron. This was supported by a cruiser division, composed of two armored cruisers and six protected cruisers.[14] The divisions were not organized by ship class, as would be the case in later years.[15] In 1907, the newest Deutschland-class battleships were coming into service; along with the Braunschweig-class battleships, these provided enough modern battleships to create two full battle squadrons. As a result, the Heimatflotte was renamed the Hochseeflotte (High Seas Fleet).[13]

In 1908, Kaiser Friedrich III was taken into drydock for an extensive modernization, which lasted until 1909. Four of her 15 cm guns were removed, though two 8.8 cm guns were added. All twelve machine guns were removed, as was the ship's stern-mounted torpedo tube.[1] Kaiser Friedrich III's superstructure was also cut down to reduce the ship's tendency to roll excessively.[16] The ship's funnels were also lengthened.[2] Kaiser Friedrich III served with the active fleet for a total span of ten years, by which time the ship was moved to the III Squadron. However, in 1910, the new dreadnought battleships were beginning to come into service. Kaiser Friedrich III was then decommissioned and placed into reserve.[5]

World War I[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Kaiser Friedrich III and her sisters were brought back to active service and mobilized as the V Battle Squadron. They were assigned to coastal defense in the Baltic, though they served in this capacity for a very short time. In February 1915, they were again withdrawn from service and placed in reserve.[5] Kaiser Friedrich III was used as a floating prison stationed in Kiel after 1916. The following year, the ship was moved to Flensburg, where she was used as a barracks; later that year she was again moved to Swinemünde. Kaiser Friedrich III was stricken from the navy list on 6 December 1919 and subsequently sold to a ship-breaking firm based in Berlin. The ship was ultimately broken up at Kiel-Nordmole in 1920. Her bow ornament (bugzier) is on display at the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden.[17]



  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).
  2. ^ 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 caliber, meaning that the gun is 40 times as long as it is in diameter. See: Grießmer, p. 177.


  1. ^ a b c Gröner, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b Hore, p. 67.
  3. ^ Gröner, pp. 15–16.
  4. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 28.
  5. ^ a b c Gardiner & Gray, p. 141.
  6. ^ Naval Notes, p. 614.
  7. ^ The Naval Maneuvers of 1900, p. 416.
  8. ^ a b Marine Casualties, p. 175.
  9. ^ Marine Casualties, pp. 173–174.
  10. ^ a b c Naval Notes, pp. 614–615.
  11. ^ a b Marine Casualties, p. 174.
  12. ^ German Naval Manoeuvres, pp. 91–96.
  13. ^ a b Herwig, p. 45.
  14. ^ The British and German Fleets, p. 335.
  15. ^ Tarrant, p. 286.
  16. ^ Burt, pp. 1–3.
  17. ^ Gröner, p. 16.




  • "The British and German Fleets". The United Service. New York: Lewis R. Hamersly & Co. 7: 328–340. 1905. 
  • "German Naval Manoeuvres". R.U.S.I. Journal. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. 47: 90–97. 1903. 
  • "The Naval Maneuvers of 1900". Notes on Naval Progress. Washington D.C.: United States. Office of Naval Intelligence. 20: 363–418. July 1901. 
  • "Marine Casualties". Notes on Naval Progress. Washington D.C.: United States. Office of Naval Intelligence. 20: 161–181. July 1901. 
  • "Naval Notes". R.U.S.I. Journal. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. 45: 611–625. 1901. doi:10.1080/03071840109417599.