SS Berlin (1908)

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Feldpostkarten von Rudolf Kämmerer aus Norwegen Berlin.jpg
Berlin interned at Lofjord, in Trondheim, Norway.
German Empire
Name: Berlin
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen
Launched: 1908
Commissioned: October 1914[1]
Fate: Interned 18 November 1914
General characteristics
Tonnage: 17,324 GRT[2]
Displacement: 23,700 t
Length: 186 m
Beam: 21.3 m
Draught: 8.6 m
Propulsion: 2×4 cyl IV Exp 7 boilers 14,000hp
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 4,000 nm at 10 kn (16 days)

SS Berlin was an express passenger liner of the early 20th century, which saw service as an auxiliary cruiser of the Imperial German Navy during the First World War.

Early career[edit]

Berlin was built in 1908 by AG Weser of Bremen for the North German Lloyd shipping line, and saw service on the Genoa to New York City route prior to the outbreak of the First World War. In August 1914 Berlin was at Bremerhaven undergoing repairs, and was taken over by the Imperial German Navy for service as an auxiliary cruiser.[4]

Service history[edit]

Berlin was intended for use as a fast minelayer and also to operate as a commerce raider. This was part of Germany’s kleinkrieg campaign, to wear down Britain’s numerical advantage by using mines and other devices to sink warships, or to divert them from fleet operations into trade protection. Berlin was converted for the role at Kaiserliche Werft ( KWW ) in Wilhelmshaven and equipped with minelaying equipment and 200 mines. She also carried two 105mm guns, and several heavy machine guns.

Commissioned in October 1914 under the command of KzS Hans Pfundheller, the ship's first mission was laying a mine field off the north-west coast of Ireland against British trade. This she succeeded in doing, laying 200 mines on 23 October off Tory Island. By chance the Grand Fleet had evacuated Scapa Flow under the threat of U-boat attacks (the Flow being undefended at that time) and were stationed temporarily at Lough Swilly.[5] On 27 October vessels of the Grand Fleet sailed into Berlin’s minefield; the new dreadnought battleship HMS Audacious was struck and damaged, sinking later as efforts were made to tow her to safety. The trans-Atlantic liner RMS Olympic was also in the area, with a full complement of passengers, but she escaped hitting any of Berlin’s mines, thus avoiding a further tragedy and a major diplomatic incident.[6]

Berlin sought to return to Germany, but put in at Trondheim with storm damage. Having outstayed her 24 hours grace and unfit to leave port, she was interned by the Norwegians on 18 November 1914.[7]

Despite her short career Berlin was one of the more successful of Germany’s raiders, accounting for the single most grievous loss to the Royal Navy’s strength in the early kleinkrieg campaign.


Berlin remained in Norway for the duration of the war. In 1919 she was transferred to Britain as war reparations and put into service as the British liner SS Arabic. In 1931 she was discarded and broken up for scrap.


  1. ^ Hawkins p63
  2. ^ Schmalenbach p48
  3. ^ Schmalenbach p71
  4. ^ Schmalenbach p46
  5. ^ Halpern p33
  6. ^ Hawkins p64
  7. ^ "Minelayer Berlin Interned in Norway". Retrieved 4 October 2018.


External links[edit]

Media related to SS Berlin (1908) at Wikimedia Commons