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SMS Lübeck

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SMS Lubeck.png
SMS Lübeck
German Empire
Name: Lubeck
Laid down: 12 May 1903
Launched: 26 March 1904
Commissioned: 26 April 1905
Struck: 5 November 1919
Fate: Scrapped, 1922–1923
General characteristics
Class and type: Bremen-class light cruiser
Length: Length overall: 111.1 meters (365 ft)
Beam: 13.3 m (43.6 ft)
Draft: 5.4 m (17.7 ft)
Installed power:
Speed: 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph)
Range: 3,800 nmi (7,000 km; 4,400 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 14 officers
  • 274–287 enlisted men

SMS Lübeck ("His Majesty's Ship Lübeck")[a] was the fourth of seven Bremen-class cruisers of the Imperial German Navy, named after the city of Lübeck. She was begun by AG Vulcan Stettin in Stettin in 1903, launched in March 1904 and commissioned in April 1905. Armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, Lübeck was capable of a top speed of 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph).

Lübeck served with the High Seas Fleet for the first decade of her career, and after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, she was transferred to the Baltic Sea to defend Germany's coast from potential Russian attacks. She saw extensive service in the first three years of the war, during which time she participated in the seizure of Libau and was attacked by Allied submarines on two occasions. She struck a mine in 1916 but was repaired; in 1917, she was withdrawn for secondary duties. She survived the war, and was ceded to the British as a war prize in 1920, and subsequently broken up for scrap.


The German 1898 Naval Law called for the replacement of the fleet's older cruising vessels—steam corvettes, unprotected cruisers, and avisos—with modern light cruisers. The first tranche of vessels to fulfill this requirement, the Gazelle class, were designed to serve both as fleet scouts and as station ships in Germany's colonial empire. They provided the basis for subsequent designs, beginning with the Bremen class that was designed in 1901–1903. The principle improvements consisted of a larger hull that allowed for an additional pair of boilers and a higher top speed.[1]

Lübeck was 111.1 meters (365 ft) long overall and had a beam of 13.3 m (44 ft) and a draft of 5.4 m (18 ft) forward. She displaced 3,265 metric tons (3,213 long tons) as designed and up to 3,661 t (3,603 long tons) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of two Parsons steam turbines, with steam provided by ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers. Her propulsion system was rated at 11,500 metric horsepower (11,300 shp) for a top speed of 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph).[2] She was the first warship in the German Navy to be equipped with turbine propulsion.[3] Lübeck carried up to 860 t (850 long tons) of coal, which gave her a range of 3,800 nautical miles (7,000 km; 4,400 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), a shorter range than her sisters, due to her less efficient turbines. She had a crew of 14 officers and 274–287 enlisted men.[2]

The ship was armed with ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/40 guns in single mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, six were located amidships, three on either side, and two were placed side by side aft. The guns could engage targets out to 12,200 m (13,300 yd). They were supplied with 1,500 rounds of ammunition, for 150 shells per gun. She was also equipped with two 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes with four torpedoes, mounted on the deck. She was also fitted to carry fifty naval mines. The ship was protected by an armored deck that was up to 80 mm (3.1 in) thick. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides, and the guns were protected by 50 mm (2 in) thick gun shields.[2]

Service history[edit]

SMS Lübeck before 1908. The photo has been retouched to add bands on funnels.

Lübeck was ordered under the contract name Ersatz Mercur[b] and was laid down at the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin in 1903 and launched on 26 March 1904, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 26 April 1905.[4]

After her commissioning, Lübeck was assigned to the High Seas Fleet. She served with the fleet until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I. She was then relegated to service as a coastal defense vessel in the Baltic.[5] As the Central Powers prepared to launch the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive in early May 1915, the extreme left flank of the German Army was ordered to launch a diversionary attack on 27 April. Lübeck was assigned to the naval support for the attack; on the first day of the attack, she and the cruiser Thetis shelled the port of Libau. Ten days later, the Army was poised to seize Libau, and so requested naval support for the attack. Lübeck and several other cruisers and torpedo boats covered the assault on the city and patrolled to ensure no Russian naval forces attempted to intervene.[6]

An unidentified member of the Bremen class

Rear Admiral Hopman, the commander of the reconnaissance forces in the Baltic, conducted a major assault on Libau, in conjunction with an attempt by the German Army to seize the city. The attack took place on 7 May. Lübeck joined the armored cruisers Prinz Heinrich, Roon, and Prinz Adalbert, the elderly coast defense ship Beowulf, and the light cruisers Augsburg and Thetis. They were escorted by a number of destroyers, torpedo boats, and minesweepers. The IV Scouting Group of the High Seas Fleet was detached from the North Sea to provide cover for the operation. The bombardment went as planned, though the destroyer V107 struck a mine in Libau's harbor, which blew off her bow and destroyed the ship. German ground forces were successful in their assault however, and took the city.[7] A week later, on 14 May, Lübeck was to lay a minefield off the Gulf of Finland with Augsburg, but Russian submarines in the area convinced the Germans to cancel the operation.[8]

On 1 July, the minelayer SMS Albatross, escorted by the cruisers Lübeck, Roon, and Augsburg and seven destroyers, laid a minefield north of Bogskär. While returning to port, the flotilla separated into two sections; Augsburg, Albatross, and three destroyers made for Rixhöft while the remainder of the unit went to Libau. Augsburg and Albatross were intercepted by a powerful Russian squadron commanded by Rear Admiral Bakhirev, consisting of three armored and two light cruisers. Commodore Johannes von Karpf, the flotilla commander, ordered the slower Albatross to steam for neutral Swedish waters and recalled Roon and Lübeck. Albatross was grounded off Gotland and Augsburg escaped, and the Russian squadron briefly engaged Roon before both sides broke contact. Upon being informed of the situation, Hopman sortied with Prinz Heinrich and Prinz Adalbert to support von Karpf. While en route, the cruisers encountered the British submarine E9, which scored a hit on Prinz Adalbert. Hopman broke off the operation and returned to port with the damaged cruiser.[9]

On 9 August, Lübeck was attacked by the Russian submarine Gepard outside the Irben Strait at the entrance to the Gulf of Riga. Gepard fired a spread of five torpedoes at a range of 1,200 m (3,900 ft), but Lübeck successfully evaded them. On 6 November, Lübeck again came under attack from an Allied submarine; on this occasion, it was the British HMS E8. Again, Lübeck managed to evade the torpedoes and escape undamaged.[10] The Allies finally had success against the ship on 13 January 1916, when a Russian mine damaged Lübeck; she nevertheless returned to port and was repaired.[11] At the same time, she and her sister Bremen were rearmed with two 15 cm SK L/45 and six 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns. A new bow was fitted and her funnels were replaced with new models.[12]

In 1917, she was withdrawn from front-line service and employed as a training ship, as well as a target ship. Lübeck served in this capacity until the end of the war in November 1918. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the ship was surrendered to the British as a war prize. She was formally ceded on 3 September 1920 under the name P; the British in turn sold her for scrapping in 1922, and she was dismantled in Germany over the following year.[5]



  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).
  2. ^ German warships were ordered under provisional names. For new additions to the fleet, they were given a single letter; for those ships intended to replace older or lost vessels, they were ordered as "Ersatz (name of the ship to be replaced)".


  1. ^ Hildebrand, Röhr & Steinmetz Vol. 2, p. 124.
  2. ^ a b c Gröner, pp. 102–103.
  3. ^ Gardiner, p. 259.
  4. ^ Gröner, pp. 102–104.
  5. ^ a b Gröner, p. 104.
  6. ^ Halpern, pp. 191–192.
  7. ^ Halpern, pp. 191–193.
  8. ^ Polmar & Noot, p. 40.
  9. ^ Halpern, pp. 194–195.
  10. ^ Polmar & Noot, p. 43, 45.
  11. ^ Halpern, p. 205.
  12. ^ Gröner, p. 103.


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