SS Bremen (1929)

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The Bremen in 1931
Name: SS Bremen
Owner: Norddeutscher Lloyd
Builder: Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau AG
Launched: 2 August 1928
Maiden voyage: 16 July 1929
Fate: Caught fire, gutted at Bremerhaven dock in 1941; scrapped in 1946.
General characteristics
Tonnage: 51,656 gross tons
Length: 938.6 feet (286.1 m)
Beam: 101.7 feet (31 m)
Installed power: Four steam turbines generating 25,000 horsepower (19,000 kW) each
Propulsion: Quadruple propellers
Speed: 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h)
Capacity: 2,139; 811 first class, 500 second class, 300 tourist class, 617 third class
Crew: 966 total

The SS Bremen of 1929 was one of a pair of ocean liners built for the Norddeutscher Lloyd line (NDL) for the transatlantic passenger service. The Bremen was notable for her low streamlined profile, and modern approach to her design. Her sister ship was the Europa, later renamed Liberté. The German pair sparked the building of the large and very expensive express liners of the 1930s. She was the fourth ship of NDL to carry the name Bremen.


Also known as TS Bremen - for Turbine Ship - the Bremen and her sister were designed to have a cruising speed of 27.5 knots, allowing a crossing time of 5 days. This speed enabled Norddeutsche Lloyd to run regular weekly crossings with two ships, a feat that normally required three. It was claimed that Bremen briefly reached speeds of 32 knots (59 km/h) during her sea trials.

Construction and design

Bremen was built by the new German shipbuilding company Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau AG. She was built from 7000 tons of high-strength steel with 52 kg/mm² (500 N/mm²), allowing a weight saving of some 800 tons on the structure. She was also the first commercial ship to be designed with the Taylor bulbous bow. She was launched 2 August 1928 by President Paul von Hindenburg. SS Bremen and her sister ship SS Europa were considered for their time as the most modern liners in the world. The high speeds and the comfort and luxury level on board made high demands of technical personnel. Each ship required an engineering crew of some 170 men.

As on her sister ship Europa, Bremen had a catapult on the upper deck between the two funnels with a small seaplane, which facilitated faster mail service. The airplane was launched from the ship several hours before arrival, landing at the seaplane base in Blexen.

The boiler and the machine equipment were designed by Professor Dr. Gustav Bauer. Bremen had four airtight boiler rooms. The combustion air for the oil burners of the boilers was blown into the boiler rooms by eight steam turbine blowers. The resulting positive pressure meant that the boiler rooms were only accessible through airlocks. The steam was generated in 20 oil-fired water tube boilers, eleven double-enders and nine single-enders in four banks fired by a total of 227 oil burners. The operating pressure was 23 atm = 24 bar with a steam temperature at the superheater discharge of 370 °C. The maximum steam generating capacity was 500 tons/h. For harbour operation three boilers with their own blower were available, so that during work periods the main boiler airlocks could remain open. The total heating surface amounted to 17,050 m ², the superheater surface 3,875 m ² and the air preheater surface 8,786 m ². The feed water was preheated to 130 °C and the fuel oil consumption was 33 tons/h or 380 g/HP/h or 800 tons/Day, fed from oil bunkers with a capacity of 7,552 tons.

SS Bremen had four geared steam turbines that could generate approximately 135,000 sHP. Each of them had a high pressure, a medium pressure, low pressure and a reverse turbine. In reverse, 65% of the forward power was available. At cruise speed the turbines made 1800 rpm while the propellers made 180 rpm for a power output of 84,000 sHP. The four propellers were bronze and had a diameter of 5,000 mm, pitch of 5,200 mm and weighed 17 tons each. The 230 V electric power on the ship came from four diesel generators with a total output of 520 kW. On board, there were total of 420 electric motors, approximately 21,000 lamps, electric cookers and 20 elevators.

Blue Riband

Bremen was to have made her maiden transatlantic crossing in the company of her sister Europa, but Europa suffered a serious fire during fitting-out, so Bremen crossed solo, departing Bremerhaven for New York City under the command of Commodore Leopold Ziegenbein on 16 July 1929. She arrived four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes later, capturing the westbound Blue Riband from the Mauretania with an average speed of 27.83 knots (51.54 km/h). This voyage also marked the first time mail was carried by a ship-launched plane for delivery before the ship's arrival. A Heinkel HE 12, piloted by Jobst von Studnitz, was launched a few hours before arrival in New York with a number of mailbags. On her next voyage Bremen took the eastbound Blue Riband with a time of 4 day 14 hours and 30 minutes and an average speed of 27.91 knots (51.69 km/h). This was the first time a liner had broken two records on her first two voyages.[1][2] The Bremen lost the westbound Blue Riband to her sister Europa in 1930, and the eastbound Blue Riband to SS Normandie in 1935.

Before World War II

As Nazism gained power in Germany, Bremen and her pier in New York were often the site of Anti-Nazi demonstrations. On 26 July 1935 a group of demonstrators boarded Bremen just before she sailed and tore the Nazi party flag from the jackstaff and tossed it into the Hudson River. On 15 September 1935 Hitler declared the Nazi Flag to be the exclusive national flag of Germany in response to this incident, removing the status of the original flag of the Weimar Republic as co-national flag.[1][3][4] The Bremen started her South America cruise on 11 February 1939, and was the first ship of this size to traverse the Panama Canal. On 22 August 1939, she began her last voyage to New York. After ten years of service, she had almost 190 transatlantic voyages completed.

World War II

On 26 August 1939, in anticipation of the invasion of Poland, the Kriegsmarine high command ordered all German merchant ships to head to German ports immediately. Bremen was on a westbound crossing and 2 days from New York when she received the order. Bremen’s captain decided to continue to New York to disembark her 1770 passengers. She left New York without passengers on 30 August 1939 and on 1 September, coincident with the start of the Second World War, she was ordered to make for the Russian port of Murmansk. Underway, her crew painted the ship grey for camouflage. She made use of bad weather and high speed to avoid Royal Navy cruisers, arriving in Murmansk on 6 September 1939. With the outbreak of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union, on 10 December 1939 Bremen made a dash to Bremerhaven, arriving on 13 December. On the way she was sighted and challenged by the S class submarine HMS Salmon. While challenging Bremen, an escorting Dornier Do 18 seaplane forced the Salmon to dive for safety. After diving, the Salmon's commander decided not to torpedo the liner because he believed she was not a legal target.[5] His decision not to fire on Bremen likely delayed the start of unrestricted submarine warfare.[1]

The Bremen was used as a barrack ship; there were plans to use her as a transport in Operation Sealion, the intended invasion of Great Britain. In 1941, the Bremen was set alight by a crew member while at her dock in Bremerhaven and completely gutted. A lengthy investigation discovered that the arson was the result of personal grudge against the ship's owners and not an act of sabotage. She was broken up in 1946.


File:Stamp Bremen (1929).jpg
Stamp of the Bremen

In 2004, a stamp was issued, which shows Bremen before the Manhattan skyline.

In 2003, Radio Bremen produced a one-hour radio feature, Königin der Meere – Die Geschichte des Schnelldampfers „Bremen“ (queen of the seas - The story of the rapid steamer "Bremen") by Detlef Michelers and other former sailors on Bremen.

In the stairwell in the Bremen Overseas Museum, there is a 1:100 scale model of Bremen, while in the shipping exhibit there is a model of her significantly smaller earlier namesake in the same scale.

View of the Bremen

File:SS Bremen 1929 profile NYC.png
The profile of the Bremen as originally built - the funnels were raised by five meters in 1930.

Further reading

  • Adolf Ahrens: Die Siegesfahrt der „Bremen“. Berlin 1939
  • Nils Aschenbeck: Schnelldampfer Bremen – Die Legende/Express Liner Bremen – The Legend. Delmenhorst 1999 ISBN 3-932292-16-2
  • Nur das Gästebuch bezeugt den alten Glanz. Erinnerungen an Julius Hundt, Chief-Ingenieur der „Bremen“ / Besuch an Bord war ein Erlebnis. In Weser-Kurier. Bremen 1999
  • „Bremen“-Fotos aus privaten Alben. Bildband über den Schnelldampfer. In Weser-Kurier, Bremen 1999
  • Hermann Haarmann / Ingrid Peckskamp-Lürßen: Mit der Kamera um die Welt – Richard Fleischhut (1881–1951). Kettler-Verlag, ISBN 3-937390-67-7


Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
[[Commons: Category:TS Bremen

| TS Bremen

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Huchthausen, Peter A. (2005). Shadow Voyage: The Extraordinary Wartime Escape of the Legendary SS Bremen. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0471457582. OCLC 55764562. 
  2. Huchthausen, Peter A.. "The SS Bremen Article". Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  3. Bailey, Bill (1993). "Chapter XIV: Ripping the Swastika off the Bremen". The kid from Hoboken : an autobiography. San Francisco: Circus Lithographic Prepress. OCLC 27835027. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  4. "Historical flags (Germany)". Flags of the World. 2003-12-27. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 

External links

Preceded by
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound)
1929 – 1930
Succeeded by
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1929 – 1935
Succeeded by

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