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SMS Mecklenburg

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S.M. Linienschiff Mecklenburg.jpg
Painting of Mecklenburg from 1902
Career (German Empire)
Name: Mecklenburg
Namesake: Mecklenburg
Builder: AG Vulcan Stettin
Laid down: 15 May 1900
Launched: 9 November 1901
Commissioned: 25 May 1903
Decommissioned: 24 January 1916
Struck: 25 January 1920
Fate: Scrapped in 1921
General characteristics
Class and type: Wittelsbach-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 12,798 t (12,596 long tons)
Length: 126.8 m (416 ft 0 in)
Beam: 22.8 m (74 ft 10 in)
Draft: 7.95 m (26 ft 1 in)
Installed power: 14,000 PS (13,808 ihp; 10,297 kW)
12 water-tube boilers
Propulsion: 3 shafts, triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi); 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement:
  • 30 officers
  • 650 enlisted men
Armament:
  • 4 × 24 cm (9.4 in) guns (40 cal.)
  • 18 × 15 cm (5.9 in) guns
  • 12 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
  • 6 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
Armor:
  • Belt: 100 to 225 mm (3.9 to 8.9 in)
  • Turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
  • Deck: 50 mm (2.0 in)

SMS Mecklenburg ("His Majesty's Ship Mecklenburg")[a] was the fifth ship of the Wittelsbach class of pre-dreadnought battleships of the German Imperial Navy. Laid down in May 1900 at the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin, she was finished in May 1903. Her sisters were Wittelsbach, Zähringen, Wettin, and Schwaben; they were the first capital ships built under the Navy Law of 1898, brought about by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. Mecklenburg was armed with a main battery of four 24-centimeter (9.4 in) guns and had a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).

Mecklenburg spent the first period of her active duty career in the I Squadron of the German fleet. During this period, she participated in the peacetime routine of training cruises and exercises. After the start of World War I in August 1914, the ship was mobilized with her sisters as the IV Battle Squadron. She saw limited duty both in the Baltic Sea against Russian naval forces, and as a guard ship in the North Sea. The threat from submarines and naval mines had grown significantly by 1916, and coupled with severe shortages in personnel, forced the German High Command to withdraw the ship from active service in January 1916. For the remainder of her career, Mecklenburg served as a prison ship and as a barracks ship based in Kiel. The ship was stricken from the navy list in January 1920 and sold for scrapping the following year.

Description[edit]

Line-drawing of the Wittelsbach class

Mecklenburg was 126.8 m (416 ft 0 in) long overall; she had a beam of 22.8 m (74 ft 10 in) and a draft of 7.95 m (26 ft 1 in) forward. The ship was powered by three 3-cylinder vertical triple-expansion engines that drove three screws. Steam was provided by six coal-fired Thornycroft boilers and six coal-fired cylindrical boilers. Mecklenburg‍ '​s powerplant was rated at 14,000 metric horsepower (13,808 ihp; 10,297 kW), which gave her a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). She had a crew of 30 officers and 650 enlisted men.[1]

Mecklenburg‍ '​s main 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. Her weaponry was rounded out with six 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, all submerged in the hull; one was in the bow, one in the stern, and the other four were on the broadside. Her armored belt was 225 millimeters (8.9 in) thick in the central portion that protected her magazines and machinery spaces, and the deck was 50 mm (2.0 in) thick. The main battery turrets had 250 mm (9.8 in) of armor plating.[3]

Service history[edit]

Mecklenburg‍ '​s keel was laid on 15 May 1900,[4] at the AG Vulcan in Stettin, under construction number 248. She was ordered under the contract name "F", as a new unit for the fleet.[3] The vessel was the last member of the first class of battleships built under the direction of State Secretary Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, according to the terms of the Navy Law of 1898.[5] Mecklenburg, the last vessel of her class, was launched on 9 November 1901; the ceremony was attended by Frederick Francis IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.[4] Fitting out work proceeded faster on Mecklenburg than on her sister Schwaben, and so the former was commissioned first, on 25 May 1903, a full year before Schwaben.[6] The ship's cost totaled 22,329,000 marks.[3]

Following her commissioning, Mecklenburg began sea trials, which lasted until mid-December 1903.[4] She was assigned to the II Division of the I Squadron, alongside the battleships Kaiser Karl der Grosse and Kaiser Wilhelm II.[7] Mecklenburg had to enter the drydock at Kaiserliche Werft (Imperial Shipyard) at Wilhelmshaven for minor improvements and repairs following her trials; this work lasted until the end of February 1904. After completion of these modifications, Mecklenburg took part in individual and squadron training exercises, and a fleet review for the visiting British King Edward VII in June. The following month, the German fleet went on a cruise to Britain, the Netherlands, and Norway that lasted until August. Mecklenburg then participated in the annual autumn fleet exercises, which took place in late August and September, and a winter training cruise in November and December.[4]

Starting in mid-December, Mecklenburg went into dock at Wilhelmshaven for periodic maintenance; this work lasted until the beginning of March 1905. After emerging from drydock, Mecklenburg joined her sister ship Wittelsbach on a cruise through the Skagerrak to Kiel. While steaming through the Great Belt on 3 March, Mecklenburg struck the Hatter Reef off Denmark and became stuck. Her other sister Wettin and the light cruiser Ariadne were sent to assist Wittelsbach in pulling Mecklenburg free from the reef. Mecklenburg then steamed to Kiel under her own power, where dockyard workers discovered a large dent in her bottom. Repair work was completed at the Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven by 20 April. She thereafter participated in the normal routine of training cruises and maneuvers with the rest of the fleet for the remainder of the year. During this period, the British Channel Fleet visited the German fleet while it was moored in Swinemünde.[4] From mid-February to the end of March 1906, Mecklenburg was in the Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven for her annual overhaul. The training routine continued without incident through 1907, though in early April 1908, a major accident in one of her broadside torpedo rooms nearly sank the ship. Water began to flood the ship and could only be stopped by sealing the torpedo tubes from the outside. Repairs lasted until May.[8]

Mecklenburg participated in a training cruise to the Azores in July and August 1908. She also won the Kaiser's Schießpreis (Shooting Prize) for the most accurate gunnery in her squadron, along with the battleship Lothringen.[9][10] In mid-December, she returned once again to Wilhelmshaven for the yearly overhaul. The years 1909 and 1910 passed uneventfully for Mecklenburg, with the same pattern of training cruises and maneuvers as in previous years. She began her annual overhaul on 2 December 1910 and returned to service on 7 March 1911, though only briefly. On 31 July, Mecklenburg was replaced by the new dreadnought battleship Ostfriesland; Mecklenburg was then decommissioned. After she was removed from active duty, Mecklenburg was assigned to the Reserve Division in the North Sea. On 9 May 1912, she was transferred to the Reserve Division in the Baltic. She returned briefly to active service in 1912 from 9 to 12 May to move her from the North Sea to the Baltic, and again from 14 August to 28 September to participate in the fleet exercises that year. During the maneuvers, she served in the III Squadron.[9]

World War I[edit]

Map of the North and Baltic Seas in 1911

After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Mecklenburg and the rest of her class were mobilized to serve in the IV Battle Squadron, under the command of Vice Admiral Ehrhard Schmidt.[11] The Squadron was initially allocated to the North Sea, but was temporarily transferred to the Baltic in September.[9] Starting on 3 September, the IV Squadron, assisted by the armored cruiser Blücher, conducted a sweep into the eastern Baltic in the direction of the Svenska Högarna islands. The operation lasted until 9 September and failed to bring Russian naval units to battle. The Squadron participated in a demonstration off Windau the following day.[12][9] From 5 December to 2 April 1915, Mecklenburg and the rest of the Squadron were assigned to guard duty in the North Sea, based in the mouth of the Elbe.[9]

In May 1915, IV Squadron, including Mecklenburg, was transferred to support the German Army in the Baltic Sea area.[13] Mecklenburg and her sisters were then based in Kiel.[14] From 8 to 12 May, she participated in a sweep toward Gotland and Bogskär,[9] which provided support to the assault on Libau. Mecklenburg and the other ships stood off Gotland in order to intercept any Russian cruisers that might try to intervene in the landings, which the Russians did not attempt. On 10 May, after the invasion force had entered Libau, the British submarines HMS E1 and HMS E9 spotted the IV Squadron, but were too far away to make an attack.[14] After the conclusion of the operation, Mecklenburg and the rest of the IV Squadron returned to the Elbe for guard duties, which lasted until 4 July. The following day, Mecklenburg departed for Kiel in preparation for a major operation in the Baltic. She then proceeded to Danzig, and on 11 July departed for a sweep to Gotska Sandön; another patrol to western Gotland followed on 21–22 July. Mecklenburg then steamed from Danzig to Libau on 2 August, where she joined another foray toward Gotska Sandön from 7 to 10 August.[9]

Mecklenburg and her sisters were not included in the German fleet that assaulted the Gulf of Riga in August 1915, due to the scarcity of escorts. The increasingly active British submarines forced the Germans to employ more destroyers to protect the capital ships.[15] Mecklenburg took part in two sweeps to Huvudskär on 9–11 and 21–23 September. On 17 December she ran aground in the entrance to the harbor of Libau, but was towed free without suffering any damage. She was to replace the worn-out armored cruiser Prinz Heinrich in the reconnaissance forces of the fleet in the Baltic, but Mecklenburg and her sisters were removed from service shortly thereafter. By this stage of the war, the German Navy was facing severe shortages of crews, which could be alleviated by the decommissioning of older, less effective warships. In addition, the loss of the armored cruiser Friedrich Carl to Russian mines,[9] and the increasing threat from British submarines and Russian mines by 1916 in the Baltic convinced the German navy to withdraw the elderly Wittelsbach-class ships from active service.[16] On 6 January 1916, Mecklenburg left Libau bound for Kiel, arriving there the following day. She was decommissioned on 24 January and placed in reserve.[9]

Mecklenburg was initially based in Kiel and used as a floating prison. In early 1918, she became a barracks ship for the crews of U-boats being repaired in Kiel. The ship was briefly retained after the German defeat at the end of World War I,[17] but was to be discarded under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which limited the re-formed Reichsmarine to eight pre-dreadnought battleships of the Deutschland and Braunschweig classes, of which only six could be operational at any given time.[18] Accordingly, on 25 January 1920, Mecklenburg was stricken from the naval register. She was sold to Deutsche Werke, a ship-builder based in Kiel, on 16 August 1921 for 1,750,000 Marks, and she was broken up for scrap metal that year at Kiel-Nordmole.[6][19]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes

  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.

Citations

  1. ^ Gröner, pp. 16–17.
  2. ^ Hore, p. 67.
  3. ^ a b c Gröner, p. 16.
  4. ^ a b c d e Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 59.
  5. ^ Herwig, p. 43.
  6. ^ a b Gröner, p. 17.
  7. ^ "The British and German Fleets", p. 335.
  8. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, pp. 59–60.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 60.
  10. ^ "German Naval Notes", p. 1052.
  11. ^ Scheer, p. 15.
  12. ^ Halpern, p. 185.
  13. ^ Scheer, pp. 90–91.
  14. ^ a b Halpern, p. 192.
  15. ^ Halpern, p. 197.
  16. ^ Herwig, p. 168.
  17. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, pp. 60–61.
  18. ^ Treaty of Versailles Section II: Naval Clauses, Article 181.
  19. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 61.

References[edit]

Books

  • Grießmer, Axel (1999). Die Linienschiffe der Kaiserlichen Marine (in German). Bonn, DE: Bernard & Graefe Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7637-5985-9. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-352-7. OCLC 57447525. 
  • Herwig, Holger (1998) [1980]. "Luxury" Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-286-9. OCLC 57239454. 
  • Hildebrand, Hans H.; Röhr, Albert; Steinmetz, Hans-Otto (1993). Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe (Volume 6). Ratingen, DE: Mundus Verlag. ASIN B003VHSRKE. 
  • Hore, Peter (2006). The Ironclads. London, UK: Southwater Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84476-299-6. OCLC 70402701. 
  • Scheer, Reinhard (1920). Germany's High Seas Fleet in the World War. London, UK: Cassell and Company. OCLC 2765294. 

Journals

  • "German Naval Notes". Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers (Washington D.C.: American Society of Naval Engineers) 21: 1052–1056. 1909. ISSN 0099-7056. OCLC 3227025. 
  • "The British and German Fleets". The United Service (New York, NY: Lewis R. Hamersly & Co.) 7: 328–340. 1905. OCLC 4031674.