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SMS Thetis

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For the earlier sailing frigate, see HMS Thetis (1846).
SMS Thetis Daressalam1907-14.jpg
SMS Thetis at Dar es Salaam, German East Africa
Career (German Empire)
Name: Thetis
Namesake: Thetis
Laid down: 1899
Launched: 3 July 1900
Commissioned: 14 September 1901
Struck: 27 March 1929
Fate: Scrapped, 1930
General characteristics
Class and type: Gazelle-class light cruiser
Displacement: 3,017 tonnes (2,969 long tons)
Length: 105.1 m (344.8 ft) overall
Beam: 12.2 m (40.0 ft)
Draft: 4.92 m (16.1 ft)
Installed power: 8,000 ihp (6,000 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph)
Range: 3,560 nmi (6,590 km; 4,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 14 officers
243 enlisted men
Armament: 10 × 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns
2 × 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: Deck: 20 to 25 mm (0.79 to 0.98 in)

SMS Thetis was the fourth member of the ten-ship Gazelle class, built by the Imperial German Navy. She was built by the Imperial Dockyard in Danzig, laid down in 1899, launched in July 1900, and commissioned into the High Seas Fleet in September 1901. Armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, Thetis was capable of a top speed of 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph).

Thetis served in the reconnaissance forces of the High Seas Fleet during her peacetime career. After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, she was deployed as a coastal defense ship in the Baltic, where she saw heavy service against the Russians. She supported the German drive on Libau in April–May 1915, and was damaged by mines during the Battle of the Gulf of Riga. She was repeatedly attacked by Allied submarines, though she was never hit. In 1917, Thetis was withdrawn from front-line service for use as a gunnery training ship. She survived the war and continued on in service with the Reichsmarine through the 1920s. She was stricken from the naval register on 29 March 1929 and broken up for scrap the following year.


Main article: Gazelle-class cruiser

Thetis was ordered under the contract name "C" and was laid down at the Imperial Dockyard in Danzig in 1899 and launched on 3 July 1900, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 14 September 1901.[1] The ship was 105.1 meters (345 ft) long overall and had a beam of 12.2 m (40 ft) and a draft of 4.92 m (16.1 ft) forward. She displaced 3,017 t (2,969 long tons; 3,326 short tons) at full combat load.[2] Her propulsion system consisted of two triple-expansion engines manufactured by AG-Germania. They were designed to give 8,000 shaft horsepower (6,000 kW), for a top speed of 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph). The engines were powered by ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers. Thetis carried 560 tonnes (550 long tons) of coal, which gave her a range of 3,560 nautical miles (6,590 km; 4,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). She had a crew of 14 officers and 243 enlisted men.[1]

The ship was armed with ten 10.5 cm 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 (40,000 ft). They were supplied with 1,000 rounds of ammunition, for 100 shells per gun. She was also equipped with two 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes. They were submerged in the hull on the broadside.[3] The ship was protected by an armored deck that was 20 to 25 mm (0.79 to 0.98 in) thick. The conning tower had 80 mm (3.1 in) thick sides, and the guns were protected by 50 mm (2.0 in) thick shields.[4]

Service history[edit]

After her commissioning, Thetis was assigned to the reconnaissance forces of the High Seas Fleet, a role she served in until the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. She was thereafter reduced to a coastal defense ship.[3] 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. Thetis was assigned to the naval support for the attack; on the first day of the attack, she and the cruiser Lübeck shelled the port of Libau. Ten days later, the Army was poised to seize Libau, and so requested naval support for the attack. Thetis and several other cruisers and torpedo boats covered the assault on the city and patrolled to ensure no Russian naval forces attempted to intervene.[5]

On 14 May 1915, Thetis had taken the U-boat U-4 under tow off Bogskär island in the Gulf of Finland. The Russian submarine Drakon attacked the two German vessels, launching three torpedoes at Thetis and a fourth at U-4, all of which missed. From the recently captured naval base at Libau, the Germans began to make offensive operations further into the Baltic.[6] On 3 June, Thetis, four torpedo boats, and a seaplane tender attempted to force the Irben Strait into the Gulf of Riga, where they intended to lay a minefield. Russian and British submarines intercepted the flotilla in the Strait, however. The Russian submarine Okun attempted to move into position to attack Thetis, but one of the torpedo boats spotted her periscope and forced it off. On 5 June, the British submarine HMS E9 arrived on the scene, while Thetis was resupplying from a collier. E9 launched a spread of torpedoes at the two ships; the one fired at Thetis missed, but the collier was hit, as was the torpedo boat S148. The collier sank, but the torpedo boat survived and made it back to port.[7]

In August, Thetis was assigned to the fleet that was to break into the Gulf of Riga to support the German Army's attempt to capture the city. On 8 August, the Germans made their first attempt to force the Irben Strait, during which Thetis and the torpedo boat SMS S144 were damaged by mines. Thetis had to be towed back to Windau.[8] The attack failed due to heavy Russian resistance, and the operation had to be postponed.[9]

In 1917, Thetis was rearmed with nine newer 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns in U-boat mountings; in this configuration, Thetis was used as a gunnery training ship. She was one of six light cruisers Germany was permitted to retain by the Treaty of Versailles. She served in the newly reorganized Reichsmarine through the 1920s. In 1922, the ship was assigned to the Reserve Squadron on the Baltic Station, along with the battleships Hessen and Schleswig-Holstein and the cruiser Berlin.[10] Thetis was stricken from the naval register on 27 March 1929 and sold to Blohm & Voss, along with the torpedo boats V1 and V6 for a total of 351,000 Reichsmarks. She was broken up for scrap the following year in Hamburg.[3]


  1. ^ a b Gröner, pp. 99–101
  2. ^ Gröner, p. 100
  3. ^ a b c Gröner, p. 101
  4. ^ Gröner, p. 99
  5. ^ Halpern, pp. 191–192
  6. ^ Polmar & Noot, p. 40
  7. ^ Polmar & Noot, pp. 40–41
  8. ^ Polmar & Noot, p. 42
  9. ^ Halpern, p. 197
  10. ^ Robinson, p. 1014


  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1991). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0773507787. 
  • Polmar, Norman; Noot, Jurrien (1991). Submarines of the Russian and Soviet Navies, 1718–1990. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-570-1. 
  • Robinson, F.M., ed. (January 1922). United States Naval Institute Proceedings (US Naval Institute) 48.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Hans H. Hildebrandt, Albert Röhr und Hans-Otto Steinmetz: Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe. Band 6, Herford: Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft mbH 1983 ISBN 3-7822-0497-2.