SMS Deutschland (1904)

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SMS Deutschland in a lock in 1912
Career (Germany) Kaiser
Name: Deutschland
Namesake: Germany (Deutschland in German)
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Laid down: 20 June 1903
Launched: 19 November 1904
Commissioned: 3 August 1906
Struck: 25 January 1920
Fate: Scrapped in 1920
General characteristics
Class and type: Deutschland-class battleship
Displacement: 13,200t normal; 14,218t full load
Length: 127.6 m (419 ft)
Beam: 22.2 m (73 ft)
Draft: 7.7 m (25 ft)
Propulsion: 19,330 hp, three shafts = 19.1 knots (35 km/h)
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h)
Range: 5,000 nautical miles (9,000 km); 10 knots (20 km/h)
Complement: 743
Armament: 2 × 2 - 28 cm (11 in) SK L/40 guns
14 × 17 cm (6.7 in) guns (casemated)
22 ×8.8 cm (3.5 in) (casemated)
6 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: 230 mm in belt
280 mm in turrets
76 mm in deck

SMS Deutschland was the first of five Deutschland class pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Kaiserliche Marine between 1903 and 1906. She was named after Germany (Deutschland in German), and built at the Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel, where she was launched on 20 November 1904. She was commissioned into the navy on 3 August 1906, only a few months before the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought was commissioned. Dreadnought rendered Deutschland and the other ships of her class obsolete, as they were inferior in size, armor, fire power and speed to the new "all-big-gun" battleships.

After commissioning, Deutschland was made the flagship of Prince Heinrich, the commander of the German battle fleet. She participated in numerous fleet exercises in the North and Baltic Seas, as well as the Atlantic Ocean, up until 1914. With the outbreak of World War I in mid-1914, Deutschland and her sisters were tasked with defending the mouth of the Elbe River and the German Bight from possible British incursions while the rest of the fleet was being mobilized. Deutschland and the other four ships of her class were then attached to the High Seas Fleet as the II Battle Squadron; the unit participated in most of the large-scale fleet actions in the first two years of war, culminating in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916. Late on the first day of the battle, Deutschland and the other pre-dreadnoughts briefly engaged several British battlecruisers before retreating.

After the battle, Deutschland and her three surviving sisters were assigned to coastal defense duties. By 1917, they had been withdrawn from combat service completely and tasked with auxiliary roles. Deutschland was used as a barracks ship in Wilhelmshaven until the end of the war. She was struck from the naval register on 25 January 1920, sold to ship breakers that year, and broken up for scrap by 1922. Her bow ornament is preserved at the Eckernförde underwater weapons school and her bell is on display at the Mausoleum of Prince Heinrich in Hemmelmark.


Deutschland was intended to fight in the German battle line with the other battleships of the High Seas Fleet.[1] The ship was laid down on 20 July 1903 at the Germaniawerft dockyard in Kiel.[2] She was launched on 19 November 1904 and commissioned for trials on 3 August 1906; her trials lasted until September. On 26 September the ship officially joined the fleet, when Admiral Prince Heinrich made her his flagship.[3] However, the new British battleship HMS Dreadnought—armed with ten 12 inch (30.5 cm) guns—was commissioned just three months after Deutschland, in December 1906.[4] Dreadnought's revolutionary design rendered obsolete every ship of the German navy, including the brand-new Deutschland.[5]

Deutschland was 127.6 m (418 ft 8 in) long, had a beam of 22.2 m (72 ft 10 in), and a draft of 8.21 m (26 ft 11 in). She had a full-load displacement of 14,218 metric tons (13,993 long tons). The ship was equipped with triple expansion engines that produced a rated 16,000 indicated horsepower (11,931 kW) and a top speed of 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph). At a cruising speed of 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph), she could steam for 4,850 nautical miles (8,980 km; 5,580 mi).[2]

The ship's primary armament consisted of four 28 cm (11 in) SK L/40 guns in two twin turrets.[Note 1] She was also equipped with fourteen 17 cm (6.7 in) guns mounted in casemates and twenty 8.8 cm (3.46 in) guns in pivot mounts. The ship was also armed with six 45 cm (17.72 in) torpedo tubes, all of which were submerged in the hull.[6]

Service history

After joining the German fleet, Deutschland was tactically assigned to the II Battle Squadron, though she was the fleet flagship and so not subordinate to the Squadron commander. She took part in training exercises in the North Sea in December 1906 before returning to Kiel. On 16 February 1907, the fleet was officially renamed the High Seas Fleet.[3] Fleet maneuvers in the North Sea followed in early 1907 and again in May–June. A summer cruise to Norway followed the fleet training in June. After returning from Norway, Deutschland went to Swinemünde. Another round of fleet training followed in September 1907. In November, Deutschland was taken into drydock for an annual refit.[7]

Deutschland participated in fleet maneuvers in February 1908 in the Baltic Sea; in May–June training was conducted off the island fortress of Helgoland in the North Sea. In July 1908, Deutschland and the rest of the fleet sailed into the Atlantic Ocean to conduct training on the open ocean. During the cruise, Deutschland stopped at Funchal and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The fleet returned to Germany on 13 August. The following month another set of training maneuvers was conducted in the Baltic and North Seas, with a winter cruise into the Baltic afterward.[7]

The following year—1909—followed much the same pattern. Another cruise into the Atlantic was conducted from 7 July to 1 August, during which time Deutschland stopped in Bilbao. After the conclusion of another round of exercises in the autumn, Deutschland went in for another periodic overhaul. During the refit, she was given additional pedestal-mounted search lights, as well as an X-ray machine; Deutschland was the first ship in the German navy to be equipped with an X-ray.[7] In May 1910, the fleet conducted training maneuvers in the Kattegat, between Norway and Denmark. For the first time, the annual summer cruise went to Norway. Fleet training followed in the fall. In November, Deutschland hosted Kaiser Wilhelm II during the celebration of the opening of the Naval Academy at Mürwik. A training cruise into the Baltic followed at the end of the year.[7]

The next two years followed the same pattern of training exercises and cruises to Norway in the summer, with the exception of the summer cruise in 1912. Due to the Agadir Crisis, the cruise only went into the Baltic. In September, following the autumn maneuvers, Deutschland was slightly grounded in the Baltic; the damage necessitated dry-docking, though the repairs were completed by the winter cruise in November.[7] In January 1913, the new dreadnought battleship Friedrich der Grosse replaced Deutschland as the flagship of the fleet. The golden bow ornament that denoted the flagship was removed, and Deutschland returned to the ranks of the II Battle Squadron.[8]

World War I

Deutschland remained with the High Seas Fleet in the II Battle Squadron throughout the first two years of the naval war. At the outbreak of war, the ship was deployed to the mouth of the Elbe River to guard the area. While her sisters covered the raid on the English coast on 15–16 December, Deutschland remained on picket duty in the mouth of the Elbe. On 21 February 1915, Deutschland went into dock in Kiel; work lasted until 12 March. Afterward, Deutschland returned to the Elbe for guard duty. On 21 September the ship went to the Baltic for training, which was completed by 11 October. Deutschland subsequently went into the dockyard in Kiel again for periodic maintenance. Deutschland then went to the AG Vulcan drydock in Hamburg for additional work from 27 February to 1 April 1916. After returning to the fleet, Deutschland was made the flagship of the II Battle Squadron under the command of Admiral Franz Mauve.[8]

On 24–25 April 1916, Deutschland and her four sisters joined the dreadnoughts of the High Seas Fleet to support the battlecruisers of the I Scouting Group on a raid of the English coast.[8] While en route to the target, the battlecruiser Seydlitz was damaged by a mine; she was detached to return home while the operation proceeded. The battlecruisers conducted a short bombardment of the ports of Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Visibility was poor, so the operation was quickly called off before the British fleet could intervene.[9] On 4 May, Deutschland took part in the resultless sortie against British ships off Horns Reef.[8]

Battle of Jutland

Admiral Scheer immediately planned another foray into the North Sea, but the damage to Seydlitz delayed the operation until the end of May.[10] Deutschland was the first ship in the III Division of the II Battle Squadron and the flagship of Rear Admiral Franz Mauve. The II Battle Squadron, composed of the weakest battleships to put to sea that day, was positioned at the rear of the German line.[11] During the "Run to the North," Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the commander of the fleet, ordered the fleet to pursue the retreating battleships of the British V Battle Squadron at top speed. Deutschland and her sisters were significantly slower than the faster dreadnoughts and quickly fell behind.[12] By 19:30, the Grand Fleet had arrived on the scene and confronted Admiral Scheer with significant numerical superiority.[13] The German fleet was severely hampered by the presence of the slower Deutschland class ships; if Scheer ordered an immediate turn towards Germany, he would have to sacrifice the slower ships to make good his escape.[14]

Admiral Scheer decided to reverse the course of the fleet via the Gefechtskehrtwendung, a maneuver that required every unit in the German line to turn 180° simultaneously.[15] As a result of their having fallen behind, the ships of the II Battle Squadron could not conform to the new course following the turn.[16] Deutschland and the other five ships of the squadron therefore were located on the disengaged side of the German line. Admiral Mauve considered moving his ships to the rear of the line, astern of the III Battle Squadron dreadnoughts, but decided against it when he realized the movement would interfere with the maneuvering of Admiral Franz von Hipper's battlecruisers. Instead, he attempted to place his ships at the head of the line.[17]

Later on the first day of the battle, the hard-pressed battlecruisers of the I Scouting Group were being pursued by their British opponents. Deutschland and the other so-called "five-minute ships" came to their aid by steaming in between the opposing battlecruiser squadrons.[18][Note 2] The ships were very briefly engaged, owing in large part to the poor visibility. Deutschland fired only one round from her 28 cm guns during this period.[18] Admiral Mauve decided it would be inadvisable to continue the fight against the much more powerful battlecruisers, and so therefore ordered an 8-point turn to starboard.[19]

Late on the 31st, the fleet organized for the night march back to Germany; Deutschland, Pommern, and Hannover fell in behind König and the other dreadnoughts of the III Battle Squadron towards the rear of the line.[20] British destroyers conducted a series of attacks against the fleet, some of which targeted Deutschland. In the melee, Deutschland and König turned away from the attacking destroyers, but could not make out targets clearly enough to engage them effectively.[21] Shortly thereafter, Pommern was struck by at least one torpedo; the hit detonated an ammunition magazine which destroyed the ship in a tremendous explosion. Fragments of the ship rained down around Deutschland.[22] Regardless, the High Seas Fleet punched through the British destroyer forces and reached Horns Reef by 4:00 on 1 June.[23] The German fleet reached Wilhelmshaven a few hours later, where the undamaged dreadnoughts of the Nassau and Helgoland classes took up defensive positions.[24]

Later career

After Jutland, Deutschland and her sisters returned to picket duty in the mouth of the Elbe. The ships were also occasionally transferred to the Baltic for guard duty there. From 22 December 1916 to 16 January 1917, Deutschland sat idle in the Bay of Kiel. On 24 January, the ship was taken down the Elbe to Hamburg where she went into the drydock for maintenance; this work lasted until 4 April. Deutschland sailed out of the Altenbruch roads at the mouth of the Elbe and then proceeded to the Baltic for continued guard duty. However, on 15 August, the II Battle Squadron was disbanded; two weeks later, on 31 August, Deutschland arrived in Kiel. Here she was decommissioned ten days later on 10 September. Deutschland had her guns removed in Kiel before she was transferred to Wilhelmshaven to serve out the rest of her career as a barracks ship.[8] On 25 January 1920 the ship was struck from the naval register and sold for scrapping, which lasted until 1922. The ship's bow ornament is on display at the Eckernförde underwater weapons school and Deutschland's bell is located in the mausoleum of Prince Heinrich in Hemmelmark.[25]



  1. Herwig, p. 45
  2. 2.0 2.1 Staff, p. 5
  3. 3.0 3.1 Staff, p. 7
  4. Gardiner & Gray, pp. 21–22
  5. Herwig, p. 57
  6. Staff, p. 6
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Staff, p. 8
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Staff, p. 10
  9. Tarrant, pp. 52–54
  10. Tarrant, p. 58
  11. Tarrant, p. 286
  12. London, p. 73
  13. Tarrant, p. 150
  14. Tarrant, pp. 150–152
  15. Tarrant, p. 152–153
  16. Tarrant, p. 154
  17. Tarrant, p. 155
  18. 18.0 18.1 Tarrant, p. 195
  19. Tarrant, pp. 195–196
  20. Tarrant, p. 241
  21. Tarrant, p. 242
  22. Tarrant, p. 243
  23. Tarrant, pp. 246–7
  24. Tarrant, p. 263
  25. Gröner, p. 22



es:SMS Deutschland (1906) ja:ドイッチュラント (戦艦)
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