SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse

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SMS Kaiser Friedrich III.PNG
Kaiser Friedrich III, nearly identical to Kaiser Karl der Große
Career (Germany) Kaiser
Name: Kaiser Karl der Große
Namesake: Charlemagne (spelled Karl der Große in German)
Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Laid down: September 1898
Launched: 18 October 1899
Commissioned: 4 February 1902
Fate: Scrapped in 1920
General characteristics
Class and type: Kaiser Friedrich III-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: Standard: 10,790 t (10,620 LT; 11,890 ST)
Full load: 11,599 t (11,416 LT; 12,786 ST)
Length: 125.3 m (411 ft)
Beam: 20.4 m (67 ft)
Draft: 7.89 m (25.9 ft)
Propulsion: 3 shafts triple expansion engines
13,000 ihp (9,700 kW)
Speed: 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h)
Range: 3,420 nmi (6,330 km; 3,940 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 658–687
Armament: 4 × 24 cm (9.4 in) 40 cal guns
18 × 15 cm (5.9 in) guns
12 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
12 × 1-pdr guns
6 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: Belt: 300 to 150 mm (12 to 5.9 in)
Deck: 65 mm (2.6 in)
Conning Tower: 250 mm
Turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
Casemates: 150 mm

SMS Kaiser Karl der Große (His Majesty's Ship "Karl the Great") was a German pre-dreadnought battleship of the Kaiser Friedrich III class, built around the turn of the 20th Century for the German Imperial Navy. Kaiser Karl der Große was built in Hamburg, at the Blohm and Voss shipyard. She was laid down in September 1898, and completed in February 1902, at the cost of 20,385,000 Marks. The ship was armed with four 24 centimeters (9.4 in) guns in two twin gun turrets and had a top speed of 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h).

Kaiser Karl der Große served with the active fleet until 1910, by which time the new "all-big-gun" dreadnought battleships were entering service. As the ship was completely obsolete, she was withdrawn from active service and placed in the Reserve Fleet. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the ship was placed back in active duty as a coastal defense ship, though by February 1915 she was again placed in reserve. Kaiser Karl der Große ended her career as a prison ship in Wilhelmshaven. Following the German defeat in November 1918, the ship was sold to ship-breakers and scrapped in 1920.


Kaiser Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany, believed that a strong navy was necessary for the country to expand its influence outside of continental Europe. As a result, he initiated a program of naval expansion in the late 1880s; the first battleships built under this program were the four Brandenburg class ships. These were immediately followed by the five Kaiser Friedrich III class battleships, of which Kaiser Karl der Große was a member.[1] Kaiser Karl der Große's keel was laid in 1898 at the Blohm and Voss in Hamburg under construction number 136. She was ordered under the contract name "B" as a new ship of the fleet.[2] Karl der Große was launched on 18 October 1899 and commissioned on 4 February 1902.[3]

The ship was 125.3 m (411 ft) long overall and had a beam of 20.4 m (67 ft) and a draft of 7.89 m (25.9 ft) forward and 8.25 m (27.1 ft) aft. The ship was powered by three 3-cylinder vertical triple expansion engines that drove three screws. Steam was provided by four Marine-type and eight cylindrical boilers. Kaiser Karl der Große's powerplant was rated at 13,000 indicated horsepower (9,700 kW), which generated a top speed of 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h).[2]

Kaiser Karl der Große's armament consisted of a main battery of four 24 cm (9.4 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turrets,[Note 1] one fore and one aft of the central superstructure.[4] Her secondary armament consisted of eighteen 15 cm (5.9 inch) SK L/40 guns and twelve 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns. The armament suite was rounded out with six 45 cm torpedo tubes, all in above-water swivel mounts.[2]

Service history

Kaiser Karl der Große joined the German fleet in February 1902.[3] On 31 August 1902, the fleet conducted the annual summer training maneuvers. Kaiser Wilhelm der Große was assigned to the "hostile" force, as were several of her sister-ships. The "hostile" force was first tasked with preventing the "German" squadron from passing through the Great Belt in the Baltic. Kaiser Wilhelm der Große and several other battleships were then tasked with forcing an entry into the mouth of the Elbe River, where the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and Hamburg could be seized. The "hostile" flotilla accomplished these tasks within three days.[5]

In 1903, the fleet, which was composed of only one squadron of battleships, was reorganized as the "Active Battle Fleet." Kaiser Karl der Große remained in the I Squadron along with her sisterships and the newest Wittelsbach class battleships, while the older Brandenburg class ships were placed in reserve in order to be rebuilt.[6]

In 1905 the fleet was rearranged; Kaiser Karl der Große and her sister SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II remained in the I Squadron, while their sisters were moved to the II Squadron. The German Navy in 1905 consisted of four squadrons of three battleships each, with two squadrons per division. This was supported by a cruiser division, composed of two armored cruisers and six protected cruisers.[7] In September 1906, Karl der Große and the rest of the fleet conducted major training maneuvers in the Baltic. During the exercises, the fleet traveled to Swinemünde to conduct a goodwill operation with the British Channel Fleet, which was anchored in the port at the time.[8]

In 1908, the ship was assigned to the II Division of the I Squadron of the High Seas Fleet, along with three of her sister-ships.[9] The ships of her class were rebuilt between 1908 and 1910, though Kaiser Karl der Grosse did not receive this treatment.[2] However, in 1910, the new dreadnought battleships were beginning to come into service with the fleet. Thoroughly obsolete compared to the new "all-big-gun" battleships, Kaiser Wilhelm der Große was then decommissioned and placed into reserve.[10] By 1914, the ship had been assigned to the V Squadron of the Reserve Fleet, alongside her four sisterships and the battleship Wettin.[11]

World War I

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Kaiser Karl der Große and her sisters were brought back to actice service and mobilized as the V Battle Squadron of the High Seas Fleet. They were assigned to coastal defense in the Baltic, though they served in this capacity for a very short time. In February 1915, they were again withdrawn from service and placed in reserve.[10] In 1916, Kaiser Karl der Große was employed as a prison ship in Wilhelmshaven.[3] According to Article 181 of the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, Germany was permitted to retain only six battleships of the "Deutschland or Lothringen types."[12] On 6 December 1919, the ship was struck from the naval list and sold to ship-breakers. The following year, Kaiser Karl der Große was broken up for scrap metal in Rönnebeck.[3]


  1. Herwig, pp. 24–26
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Gröner, p. 15
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Gröner, p. 16
  4. Hore, p. 67
  5. German Naval Manoeuvres, pp. 91–96
  6. Herwig, p. 45
  7. The British and German Fleets, p. 335
  8. Germany, p. 197
  9. Naval Notes: Germany, p. 709
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gardiner & Gray, p. 141
  11. European War Notes: Organization of the German Fleet, p. 1564
  12. See: Treaty of Versailles Section II, Article 181


  • "European War Notes: "Organization of the German Fleet"". Proceedings (London: United States Naval Institute) 40: 1564–1565. 1914. 
  • "Naval Notes: Germany". R.U.S.I. Journal (London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies) 52: 707–712. 1908. 
  • "German Naval Manoeuvres". R.U.S.I. Journal (London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies) 47: 90–97. 1903. 
  • "Germany". Hazell's Annual (London: Hazell, Watson and Viney) 21: 195–203. 1906. 
  • "The British and German Fleets". The United Service (New York: Lewis R. Hamersly & Co.) 7: 328–340. 1905. 

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