SMS Meteor (1903)

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SMS Meteor on fire - IWM SP 1087.jpg
SMS Meteor on fire, shortly before she sank, 9 August 1915
German Empire
Name: Meteor
Builder: Ramage & Ferguson, Leith
Launched: 1903
Acquired: Aug 1914
Commissioned: 6 May 1915[1]
Fate: Scuttled to avoid capture 9 August 1915
General characteristics
Displacement: 3,640 t (1,912 GRT)[2]
Length: 89.1 m
Beam: 11.3 m
Draught: 5.1 m
Propulsion: 1×3 cyl III Exp, 2 boilers, 2,400 hp
Speed: 14 knot
Range: 9,000 nm at 9 kn
Complement: ?[3]

SMS Meteor was an auxiliary cruiser of the Imperial German Navy which operated against Allied shipping during World War I.

Early career[edit]

Originally built as the British freighter Vienna in 1903 by Ramage & Ferguson, of Leith, for Curries shipping line. At the outbreak of war in August 1914 Vienna was at Hamburg and was seized as a prize there. To take advantage of her unmistakably British appearance the Imperial German Navy decided to convert her into an auxiliary cruiser and minelayer. She was moved to the Kaiserliche Werft (KWW) in Wilhelmshaven where she was equipped with two 88mmm guns and two machine guns. She had minelaying equipment installed and a capacity for 347 mines. She was renamed Meteor and commissioned in May 1915 under the command of KK Wolfram von Knorr.[5]

Service history[edit]

On 29 May 1915 Meteor set out on her first mission, to lay mines in the White Sea and attack Allied merchant ships engaged in taking coal and other materiel to Russia. In this she had several successes, sinking three freighters and laying her mines which accounted for another three ships. She returned unharmed in June 1915.[6]

Her second mission, in August 1915, was to lay mines in the Moray Firth but this was less successful. In the course of this operation, while attempting to run the British blockade, Meteor was challenged by the British armed boarding vessel HMS Ramsey, which stopped her for inspection. While stopping to be boarded Meteor was able to manoeuvre into a firing position, and, suddenly opening fire, she quickly overwhelmed Ramsey, which sank.[7]

Retribution was swift and several British cruisers in the area, which had received Ramsey′s report, closed in on her. Notified by an Imperial German Navy airship, which was scouting in the area, Meteor's captain decided to scuttle her to avoid capture. This took place on 9 August 1915. Her crew, and the survivors from Ramsey, were rescued by the approaching British cruisers.[7]


Though Meteor had some success, this was short-lived, and she did not survive to repeat her exploits. Also, of the eight ships sunk by her, four were neutral Scandinavian vessels, which did nothing for Germany’s relations with her neighbours.

Raiding career[edit]

In two voyages Meteor sank five ships, and her mines another three, with a total tonnage in excess of 15,000 GRT.

Ships sunk by Meteor on her first raiding voyage[8]
Date Ship Type Nationality Tonnage GRT Fate
15.6.15 Verdandi freighter Swedish 950 sunk
16.6.15 Granit freighter Norwegian 662 sunk
16.6.15 Thorsten freighter Swedish 1.634 sunk
Sunk by mines from Meteor on her first raiding voyage[9]
Date Ship Type Nationality Tonnage GRT Location
7.6.15 ? freighter Russian ca 800 Archangel .
7.6.15 ? freighter Russian ca 5,000 Archangel
7.6.15 ? freighter Russian ca 5,000 Archangel
Ships sunk by Meteor on her second raiding voyage[8]
Date Ship Type Nationality Tonnage GRT Fate
8.8.15 Jason sailing ship Danish  ? sunk
8.8.15 Ramsey ABV British 1,621 sunk in action


  1. ^ Schmalenbach p132
  2. ^ Schmalenbach p48
  3. ^ Schmalenbach p24
  4. ^ Schmalenbach p71
  5. ^ Schmalenbach p16
  6. ^ Halpern p33
  7. ^ a b Hawkins p121
  8. ^ a b Schmalenbach p137
  9. ^ Schmalenbach p140


Coordinates: 55°56′N 6°43′E / 55.933°N 6.717°E / 55.933; 6.717