SMS Leipzig (1875)

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SMS Leipzig
Kreuzerfregatte Leipzig 01.jpg
Namesake: Battle of Leipzig
Builder: German Imperial Navy
Laid down: 1874
Fate: Broken up 1921
General characteristics
Sail plan: Corvette

SMS Leipzig was a flush-deck corvette, the lead ship of her class, built by the German Imperial Navy; she had one sister ship, SMS Prinz Adalbert. She was named after the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 rather than after the city of Leipzig.

She was laid down in 1874, launched in 1875, and completed in 1877. She was converted into a 'cruiser frigate' (German: kreuzerfregatte) in 1884. She served abroad until 1893 and frequently became involved in German colonialism and gunboat diplomacy. She was thereafter hulked in Wilhelmshaven, where she was scuttled on 5 November 1919. She was raised and broken up in 1921.[1]

Service history[edit]

World tours[edit]

After her commissioning, the ship was sent on a world tour as a training ship, under the command of Korvettenkapitän Karl Paschen. In March 1878 she formed part of the German naval demonstration in Corinto/Nicaragua during the 'Eisenstuck Affair' - at the end of this crisis, she visited Mexican and American ports. In July 1878 she visited Japan, followed by Chinese ports in April 1879. She then sailed back to Germany via Singapore, Cape Town and Plymouth, arriving in Kiel on 27 September 1879.

After some modifications (including the addition of four torpedo tubes), Leipzig set out on her second world tour on 19 October 1882. In June the following year she was assigned to the German East Asia Squadron and at the end of 1883 she transported Zappe, the German Consul-General in Shanghai, to Chemulpo to sign the first German-Korean trade agreement. During that trip some of the ship's officers and its military band also visited the court of king Taiwen-kun in Seoul. In March 1884 Leipzig left the Squadron and set out for Germany, but suffered problems off Borneo or near Sandakan and had to put into Singapore for seven weeks' repairs. During this time an epidemic fever broke out on board, meaning part of the crew had to disembark.

On resuming her voyage home, Leipzig was ordered to join the German occupation of Cameroon and Togo in southwest Africa. On 6 August 1884, she arrived off Lüderitz Bay in support of the proclamation of the German seizure of southwest Africa. On 30 August 1884 she was sent to anchor off Fernando Po to support the German Imperial Commissioner Gustav Nachtigal. He commanded her to hoist the German flag to secure German domination in various coastal towns in Cameroon - she did so on 5 September 1884 at Porto Seguro and Little Popo, as well as later in Togo. On 9 October 1884 the ship arrived back in Wilhelmshaven.


On 25 November 1884, Leipzig was reclassed as a 'frigate cruiser' and began a refit, receiving a new engine plant and a second chimney. Since the ship was intended as the flagship of the Cruiser Squadron, the refit also altered the cabins, to allow her to host an admiral. After several technical difficulties caused by the refit, the ship only returned to service in April 1888.

Cruiser Squadron[edit]

From 1888 to 1892 she was flagship of the German East Asia Squadron, initially under vice-admiral Karl August Deinhard. As such she took part in the suppression of the Abushiri Revolt in German East Africa. On 8 May 1889 a landing party from the ship also took part in the storming of the Buschiri lager near Bagamojo. Another landing party from the ship took part in the capture of Pangani on 8 July 1889. After the end of the uprising, the ship put into Cape Town for an overhaul.

After a time in the Mediterranean, Leipzig set out for the Far East in the early 1890s, under the squadron's new commander rear admiral Victor Valois. This was a routine period, including visits to Newcastle, Sydney and Jervis Bay in Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand and Samoa during 1890, and at the start of 1891 some visits to Chinese ports.

In May 1891 Valois was ordered to protect German interests in Chile against the Chilean Civil War. She ran out of coal on the way there and had to be towed for 97 hours. As the war came to a head in 1891, Leipzig and the British corvette HMS Champion sent a joint landing party to Valparaíso to protect the British and German quarters of the city. At the end of the Civil War, Leipzig visited various South American ports and then Cape Town. In March 1892 she anchored in Delagoa Bay, from which the Cruiser Squadron's new commander Friedrich von Pawelsz led a delegation to Paul Kruger, the new president of the Boer Republic of Transvaal.


During a second visit to Cape Town later in 1892, the ship turned out to be in need of another major overhaul due to heavy wear and tear. She was replaced as flagship of the Cruiser Squadron and in spring 1893 returned to Wilhelmshaven, where an inspection declared her unfit for overseas service. However, it assessed her hull as sufficiently sound to be used as a hulk, a role in which she served for another twenty-five years. The German Navy's radio-telegraphy school was established on board her and during the First World War she served as her quarter's submarine training school. On 5 May 1919 she suddenly keeled over to one side - nobody was on board at the time and nobody was hurt. She was raised in 1921 then scrapped.


  1. ^ Gröner, p. 43


  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • Paschen, Carl (1908). Aus der Werdezeit zweier Marinen. Erinnerungen an meine Dienstzeit in der k.k. österreichischen und kaiserlich deutschen Marine (in German). Berlin.