German Cruiser Classes of the First World War

Introduction
Protected/ Heavy Cruisers
Armoured/ Heavy Cruisers
Battlecruisers
Light Cruisers

Introduction

The German cruisers in use during the First World War fall into three broad categories – heavy cruisers, battlecruisers and light cruisers.

The heavy cruisers consisted of older protected and armoured cruisers.  Up to the Scharnhorst class they were not especially well designed ships, which carried twice the number of the heaviest 8.3in guns. The final armoured cruiser, SMS Blücher, was a precursor of the battlecruiser, carrying what could be described as all-medium-gun armament, with twelve 8.2in guns.

The battlecruisers were generally excellent ships. Compared the their British equivalents they normally carried slightly lighter guns (11.1in compared to 12in on the earlier classes), with thicker armour. In service they proved to be more survivable than the British battlecruisers.

German light cruisers tended to combine the functions of British second class/ light cruisers and third class/ scouting cruisers. They were generally good ships, but often heavier and less nimble than the lighter British cruisers operating with the fleets. Their main weakness was a reliance on 4.1in guns, retained until the Pillau class of 1913-1915. During the same period British light cruisers normally carried 6in guns.

Protected/ Heavy Cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Victoria Luise

6,388t

18.5kts

2x8.3in
8x5.9in

1897-1898

5

Armoured Cruisers/ Heavy Cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

SMS Prinz Heinrich

9,652t

20.25kts

2x9.4in
10x5.9in

1900

1

Prinz Adalbert

9,719t

20.5kts

4x8.3in
10x5.9in

1901-1902

2

Roon

10,104t

21kts

4x8.3in
10x5.9in

1903-1904

2

Scharnhorst

12,781

23.5kts

8x8.3in
6x5.9in

1906

2

SMS Blücher

15,590

24.25kts

12x8.2in

1908-1910

1

Battlecruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

SMS Von der Tann

21,700t

24.75kts

8x11.1in

1909-1911

1

Moltke

25,300t

25.5kts

10x11.1in

1910-1912

2

SMS Seydlitz

28,100t

26.5kts

10x11.1in

1912-1913

1

Derfflinger

30,700t

26.5kts

8x12in

1913-1916

2

SMS Hindenburg

31,000t

27.5kts

8x12in

1915-1917

1

Mackensen

36,000t

28kts

8x13.8in

1917

-

Ersatz Yorck

38,000t

27.25kts

8x15in

-

-

Light Cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Bussard

1,839t

15.5kts

8x3.5in

1890-1894

4

Hela

2,049t

29jts

4x88mm

1895

1

Gefion

4,208t

19kts

10x4.1in

1893

1

Gazelle

2,916t

21kts

10x4.1in

1898-1902

10

Bremen

3,756t

23kts

10x4.1in

1903-1905

7

Konigsberg

3,814t

23kts

10x4.1in

1905-1908

4

Dresden

4,268t

23.5kts

10x4.1in

1907-1909

2

Kolberg

4,915t

25.5kts

12x4.1in

1907-1911

4

Magdeburg

5,587t

27-28kts

12x4.1in

1910-1912

4

Karlsruhe

6,191t

27kts

12x4.1in

1911-1916

2

Graudenz

6,382t

28kts

12x4.1in

1912-1915

2

Pillau

5,252t

27.5kts

8x5.9in

1913-1915

2

Wiesbaden

6,601t

27.5kts

8x5.9in

1913-1915

2

Königsberg

7,125t

27.5kts

12x4.1in

1914-1917

4

Cöln

7,486t

27.5kts

8x5.9in

1914-1918

2*

* Ten Cöln class cruisers were laid down, seven launched but only two completed

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 September 2007), German Cruiser Classes of the First World War , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/lists_cruiser_classes_german_WWI.html

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