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April 25 - Focus: SMS Dresden (1917)

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Well, today once again enough ships to cover, so I'll keep this short (for a change)!


Ships/events of interest for today


1894 – Repulse - Royal Sovereign class - Commissioned

1914 – Regensburg - Graudenz-class - Launched

1917 – Dresden - Cöln class - Launched

1922 – Nagara – Nagara-class - Launched

1929 – Haguro  - Myōkō class - Commissioned

1929 – Pensacola – Pensacola- Launched

1940 – Wasp – Wasp class - Commissioned

1943 – Ravager – Attacker-class – Commissioned

1944 – Amsterdam – Cleveland-class– Launched


General stats

Allies: 26 surface ships laid down, 35 launched, 31 commissioned, 5 lost

Germany: 2 ships launched

Great Britain (pre-WW1): 1 ship commissioned

Japan: 1 ship launched, 1 ship commissioned



Ah German WW1-era light cruisers, you soooo sexy. Todays subject is, in a sense, a bit sad though, for today in 1917 the new Cöln-class light cruiser SMS Dresden was launched...and she would be the last ship bigger than a destroyer to be commissioned into the Kaiserliche Marine.


Now, I've written quite a lot about German light cruisers already (just check our big list of topics) but lets talk a bit in general about German light cruisers first.

Two days ago, when I wrote my topic on the various naval treaties, I mentioned that only in the First London Naval Agreement the difference between heavy and light cruisers was made. This might be true on paper, but the German Kaiserliche Marine had started this trend a lot earlier, as early as 1899 in fact!



SMS Dresden


In contrast to the other navies of the world, the German navy realised quite early that in order for its fleet to be effective they needed cheap, multi-role ships if they wanted to accomplish the goals set before it by the German government, especially with the German ambition to become a world-spanning empire like the British one.


But where the Royal Navy had countless armored and protected cruisers to rely on, the German Kaiserliche Marine had to start from scratch. But this wasn't as bad as it sounds, for they had the opportunity to see how the ships of other navies performed and could implement these lessons learned in their own ships.

What they saw was that most navies relied on the big and expensive armored cruisers for most of the work, while the cheaper protected cruisers were mostly used for scouting missions.

Germany realised that it didn't have the money to build endless numbers of armored cruisers, but the traditional protected cruiser would be too weak for what Germany wanted: patrol their empire.



SMS Dresden


So German designers started work on what they would call "Kleiner Kreuzers" or small cruisers. These ships were, generally speaking, more heavily armed and armored than the protected cruisers of other nations, yet not as expensive to build and use as armored cruisers (nor as heavily armed and armored). In essence the ideal ships for partolling Germany's assets around the world.


This design philosophy was so succesful that in total eleven classes of these German small cruisers would be built, and other naval poweres soon followed and as such the light cruiser class of ships was born.



Postcard of SMS Dresden


But there was one aspect of the German light cruisers designs that was unique in the world: where most other navies built cruisers for a specific task (like: scouting, destroyer-leaders etc) those of German design were all multi-role ships. The all carried a mix of guns, torpedoes and mines, making them the well known "jack of all trades, master of none". While this would seem like an unwise thing to do, keep in mind that Germany did not have the resources nations like the UK and US had to just keep building ships without regard of costs and resources. Ultimately, Germany did look into cruiser designs for specific roles towards the end of WW1, but these never left the drawing board.


Anyway, on to our subject for today! SMS Dresden.


The Dresden was one of only two ships (out of ten ships laid down) of the Cöln class of 1917 that would actually be commissioned into the navy. She was laid down sometime in 1916 at Howaldtswerke in Kiel, launched on 04-25-1917 and commissioned into the navy at 03-28-1918. She would only serve with the navy for a few months before WW1 ended.


The Cöln-class was, ultimately, the final evolution of German WW1 light-cruiser design. Armed with eight 15cm (5.9")/45 SK L/45 guns in single turrets, three 8.8cm AA guns, four 60cm (24") single torpedo tubes and 200 mines they were slightly heavier armed than the preceding cruisers of the Königsberg-class of 1916. Armor was kept pretty much the same with roughly 60mm of Krupp cemented armor all-round and power was provided by two parsons geared turbines, driving the ship up to speeds of 27.5 knots.


While, on paper, a quite powerful design (the British Danae-class of 1918 came close firepower-wise) Dresden and her sister Cöln would never see any proper action. Cöln only responded to some false alarms of British cruiser forces and laid down some mines off the Dutch island of Texel, while Dresden was reserved for the planned final sortie of the Hochseeflotte. This plan actually sparked the large scale mutiny in Kiel and Dresden saw her most intense moments during this mutiny.


As her crew were loyal to the navy, they intended to follow their orders and leave the port...only to be blocked by the dreadnought Markgraf, which actually aimed one of her 12" turrets at Dresden. She was ultimately allowed to leave port after which she traveled to Swinemünde where she was partially scuttled by her crew after receiving reports of ships under mutineer command were following her. These reports proved to be false, afther which the ship was refloated and brought back to active service.


That wouldn't take long, as Germany capitulated in November of 1918.


Together with her sister she was interned at Scapa Flow, where they were scuttled on the 21st of June, 1919. Both ships were never raised and the wrecks remain where they sank at around 25m depth.



Sonar image of how Dresden looks now: on the bottom of Scapa Flow



Length (Total): 155.5m

Length (Waterline): 159.8m

Beam: 14.2m

Draft: 6.01m

Displacement: 7,486 tons



15cm/45 SK L/45: 8

8.8cm/45 Flak L/45: 3

60cm torpedo tubes: 4

Mines: 200



Deck: 20mm-40mm

Belt: 18mm-60mm

Command Tower: 100mm

Gunshields: 50mm



Shafts: 2

Turbines: 2

Type: Parsons geared turbines



Total Performance: 49,000shp

Speed: 27.5kn

Range: 6,000nm at 12kn



Officers: 17

Enlisted men: 542



Outlines of the Cöln-class of 1917




  • Cool 6

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Supertester, Members, Alpha Tester, In AlfaTesters, Beta Testers
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Good stuff!

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Alpha Tester
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25m is pretty dive-able depth, though I gather Scapa is a terrible place for diving; not only cold but high crosscurrents.

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3,592 posts

25m is pretty dive-able depth, though I gather Scapa is a terrible place for diving; not only cold but high crosscurrents.

Well, you can actually make diving trips there!

See HERE for an example.

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