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Seiner Majestät Schiff
On 31 August 1902, the annual fleet maneuvers began. The first portion of the exercise positioned Germany in a naval war against a powerful enemy that had superior forces in the North and Baltic Seas. A German squadron, consisting of the coastal defense ships Hagen, Heimdall, and Hildebrand and a division of torpedo boats were trapped in the Kattegat by a superior enemy unit in the North Sea. The "German" squadron was tasked with returning to Kiel in the Baltic, where it would return to Wilhelmshaven via the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal to rejoin the rest of the fleet. Brandenburg, along with Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm and Weissenburg and the cruisers Nymphe, Amazone, and Hela, was positioned in one of the three main channels from the Kattegat to Kiel to act as an opposing force. Two other battle squadrons were positioned to block the advance of the isolated "German" squadron.
On the morning of 2 September, the operation commenced. At 06:00 that morning, the commander of the "German" squadron decided to take his ships through the channel to which Brandenburg was assigned. The "hostile" torpedo-boat screen sighted the German flotilla, but a dense fog precluded effective pursuit by the battleships. The fog was so thick that Brandenburg and her two sisters had to drop anchor to avoid any unnecessary risks. Later that evening, the three "opponent" forces rendezvoused to pursue the "German" ships. However, the cruiser and the torpedo boat screen was detached to engage the "German" torpedo-boat screen. The lighter ships quickly "destroyed" several of the "German" torpedo boats. This prompted the "German" squadron to retreat northward with the cruisers in pursuit. The German squadron was chased back through the Kattegat before the exercise was called off. On the night of 3 September, the entire fleet anchored off Læsø island to give the crews a rest.
The following day, 4 September, the exercise resumed. The German squadron was reinforced by several battleships and the armored cruiser Prinz Heinrich. The German flotilla was ordered to sail into the North Sea and attempt to reach the safety of the island fortress of Helgoland. A short engagement between the hostile screen and Prinz Heinrich ensued, during which Prinz Heinrich damaged the protected cruisers Freya and Victoria Louise. A torpedo boat attack on the German squadron followed in the early hours of 5 September. The hostile force was unable to prevent the escape of the German squadron, however, which reached Helgoland by 12:00.
The fleet anchored off Helgoland on 8–11 September. During the day the ships conducted training with steam tactics. On 11 September the ships returned to Wilhelmshaven where on the following two days the ships replenished their coal supplies. On 14 September the final operation of the annual maneuvers began. The situation specified that the naval war had gone badly for Germany; only four battleships, including Brandenburg, Baden, Beowulf, and Württemberg, were still in service. This motley force was augmented by a pair of cruisers and a division of torpedo boats. The ships were to be stationed in the mouth of the Elbe river to protect the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and access to Hamburg. On 15 September, the "hostile" force blockaded the Elbe, along with other rivers and harbors on the North Sea. The hostile battleship squadron steamed to the mouth of the Elbe, where Hela, Freya, and the remaining torpedo boats were stationed as lookouts. Nothing happened during the day of 16 September, but that night several German torpedo boats managed to destroy one of the blockading cruisers and badly damage another. The weather began to storm so the operation was postponed until the following day. That morning, the hostile fleet forced its way into the Elbe, past the fortifications at the mouth of the river. The German flotilla made a desperate attack which resulted in the sinking of two of the hostile battleships. The hostile force, however, ultimately overwhelmed the outnumbered German ships and the exercise ended with their victory.
- "German Naval Manoeuvres". R.U.S.I. Journal. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. 47: 90–97. 1903.