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SMS Sachsen

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SMS Sachsen (1877)
SMS Sachsen.PNG
SMS Sachsen
German Empire
Name: SMS Sachsen
Builder: A.G. Vulcan in Stettin
Laid down: April 1875
Launched: 21 July 1877
Commissioned: 20 October 1878
Decommissioned: 1902
Struck: 19 February 1910
Fate: Sold for scrap, 5 May 1919
General characteristics
Class and type: Sachsen-class ironclad
Displacement: 7,677 t (7,556 long tons; 8,462 short tons)
Length: 98.20 m (322.2 ft)
Beam: 18.40 m (60.4 ft)
Draft: 6.32 m (20.7 ft)
  • Two 3-cylinder steam engines
  • Two four-bladed screws
  • 4,917 ihp (3,667 kW)
  • As built: 13.6 knots (25.2 km/h; 15.7 mph)
  • As reconstructed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph)
  • 32 officers
  • 285 enlisted men
  • As built:
    • 6 × 26 cm (10 in) L/22 guns
    • 6 × 8.7 cm (3.4 in) guns
    • 8 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) guns
  • As reconstructed:
    • 6 × 26 cm guns
    • 6 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
    • 4 × 3.7 cm guns
  • Belt: 203–254 mm (8.0–10.0 in)
  • Deck: 50–75 mm (2.0–3.0 in)

SMS Sachsen[a] was the lead ship of her class of four ironclads of the German Kaiserliche Marine. Her sisterships were Bayern, Württemberg, and Baden. Sachsen was built in the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin. She was laid down in April 1875, launched on 21 July 1877, and commissioned on 21 October 1878. The ship was armed with a main battery of six 26 cm (10 in) guns in individual open mounts.

Sachsen was built when the German navy was primarily concerned with coastal defense against either French or Russian fleets. The ship participated in routine fleet maneuvers for the duration of her active career. On her last such fleet exercise, in 1901, she accidentally rammed and sank the aviso Wacht. The following year, Sachsen was placed in reserve, and in 1911, she was used as a target hulk for the fleet. The ship was eventually broken up for scrap in 1919, following the German defeat in World War I.


Illustration of Sachsen

Sachsen was ordered by the Imperial Navy under the contract name "B," which denoted that the vessel was a new addition to the fleet. She was built at the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin; her keel was laid in 1875 under construction number 74.[1] The ship was launched on 21 July 1877,[2] and commissioned into the German fleet on 20 October 1878.[3] She was the first large, armored warship built for the German navy that relied entirely on engines for propulsion.[4]

The ship was 98.20 meters (322.2 ft) long overall and had a beam of 18.40 m (60.4 ft) and a draft of 6.32 m (20.7 ft) forward.[3] Sachsen was powered by two 3-cylinder triple expansion engines, which were supplied with steam by eight coal-fired Dürr boilers. The ship's top speed was 13.6 knots (25.2 km/h; 15.7 mph), at 4,917 indicated horsepower (3,667 kW)[1] Her standard complement consisted of 32 officers and 285 enlisted men, though while serving as a squadron flagship this was augmented by another 7 officers and 34 men.[3]

She was armed with six 26 cm (10 in) guns, two of which were single-mounted in an open barbette forward of the conning tower and the remaining four mounted amidships, also on single mounts in an open barbette. As built, the ship was also equipped with six 8.7 cm (3.4 in) L/24 guns and eight 3.7 cm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss revolver cannons.[3][5] Sachsen's armor was made of wrought iron, and was concentrated in an armored citadel amidships.[4] The armor ranged from 203 to 254 mm (8.0 to 10.0 in) on the armored citadel, and between 50–75 mm (2.0–3.0 in) on the deck. The barbette armor was 254 mm of wrought iron backed by 250 mm of teak.[6]

Service history[edit]

After her commissioning, Sachsen joined the German fleet,[3] which was tasked primarily with coastal defense against France and Russia, who were presumed to be the most likely enemies in a continental war.[7] In the early 1880s, heightened tensions with Russia prompted the naval command developed more offensively-minded contingencies. These formed the basis for the annual summer fleet maneuvers, in which Sachsen took part.[8]

Kapitän zur See Otto von Diederichs took command of the ship in 1889. Sachsen took part in a goodwill visit to Portsmouth to take part in the Cowes Regatta. Following the trip to England, Sachsen and the rest of the fleet conducted the annual summer exercises.[9] At 15:45 on 27 February 1890, Sachsen ran aground outside Kiel in foggy weather. The grounding dented the bottom of the hull and tore it open. However, on 2 March, the ship was able to get underway at high tide. Repairs lasted for two weeks.[10] In 1891, the German navy stopped the practice of deactivating the fleet in the winter months and instead kept the front-line units on permanent active duty. The fleet was also reorganized, to form two four-ship divisions. Sachsen and her sisters were assigned to the I Division, under the command of Admiral Hans von Koester. Annual fleet training cruises were conducted in April. The summer fleet maneuvers, which occurred during mid-August to mid-September, up through 1894 were always centered on defensive actions in the North and Baltic seas.[11]

Starting in 1896, Sachsen was dry-docked at the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel for an extensive modernization. The ship's entire propulsion system, including screws, boilers, and engines were replaced with new equipment.[12] The single-expansion engines were replaced with compound engines that offered higher performance.[5] Wood construction was replaced with steel and the vessel was lightened by 300 t (300 long tons; 330 short tons). The four funnels were trunked into a single stack and a new conning tower was built, protected by nickel-steel.[12] The secondary battery was also improved: the 8.7 cm guns were replaced with 8.8 cm SK L/30 quick-firing guns and the eight 3.7 cm machine guns were replaced with four newer models.[3] On 1 May 1897, the ship was re-commissioned for trials, during which the ship reached 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph).[12]

On 4 September 1901, Sachsen collided with the aviso Wacht while on extensive training maneuvers with the rest of the fleet. Wacht was sunk, but the crew was safely evacuated and neither ship suffered casualties. During the maneuvers, Wacht attempted to pass between Sachsen and her sistership Württemberg. However, Wacht's helmsman misjudged the distance and passed too closely in front of Sachsen. Sachsen immediately attempted to reverse course to avoid ramming the cruiser, but the ships collided. Sachsen's ram bow tore a large hole in Wacht, which began to slowly sink. The battleship Weissenburg attempted to tow Wacht to shallow water, but several of Wacht's internal bulkheads collapsed under the strain and the ship quickly sank.[13]

In 1902, Sachsen was withdrawn from active service and placed in the reserve fleet. The ship remained as a reserve vessel until 19 February 1910, when she was stricken from the navy list. The following year, Sachsen was used as a target hulk off the coast of Schwansen for the fleet. Following the German defeat in World War I in 1918, the vessel was sold to Hattinger Co., which broke the ship up for scrap in Wilhelmshaven in 1919.[3]


  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship".
  1. ^ a b Gröner, pp. 7–8.
  2. ^ King, p. 307.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Gröner, p. 8.
  4. ^ a b Hovgaard, p. 111.
  5. ^ a b Gardiner & Chesneau, p. 245.
  6. ^ Gröner, p. 7.
  7. ^ Gottschall, p. 89.
  8. ^ Gottschall, p. 90.
  9. ^ Gottschall, p. 108.
  10. ^ "Germany", p. 105.
  11. ^ Gottschall, pp. 118–121.
  12. ^ a b c "Warships and Torpedo-boats", p. 222.
  13. ^ "Naval Notes: Germany", pp. 1505–1506.


  • "Germany". Notes on Naval Progress. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office. 13: 105–106. 1900.
  • "Naval Notes: Germany". R.U.S.I. Journal. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. 45: 1501–1508. 1908.
  • "Warships and Torpedo-boats". Journal of the United States Artillery. Fort Monroe, Virginia: Artillery School Press. 13: 217–222. 1900.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-133-5.
  • Gottschall, Terrell D. (2003). By Order of the Kaiser. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-309-1.
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6. OCLC 22101769.
  • Hovgaard, William (1971). Modern History of Warships. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-040-6.
  • King, James Wilson (1881). The Warships and Navies of the World. Boston: A. Williams & Co.