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Victoria Louise-class cruiser

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SMS Victoria Luise LOC det.4a19530.jpg
SMS Victoria Louise in 1909
Class overview
Name: Victoria Louise
Operators:  Imperial German Navy
Preceded by: Kaiserin Augusta
Succeeded by: Fürst Bismarck
Built: 1895–1899
In service: 1898–1921
Completed: 5
Retired: 5
General characteristics
Class and type: Victoria Louise class protected cruiser
Displacement: Full load: 6,491–6,705 t (6,388–6,599 long tons)
Length: 110.50–110.60 m (362 ft 6 in–362 ft 10 in)
Beam: 17.40–17.60 m (57 ft 1 in–57 ft 9 in)
Draft: 6.58–7.08 m (21 ft 7 in–23 ft 3 in)
Speed: 18.5 to 19.5 knots (34 to 36 km/h; 21 to 22 mph)
Range: 3,412 nmi (6,319 km; 3,926 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 31 officers
  • 446 enlisted men

The Victoria Louise class of protected cruisers was the last class of ships of that type built for the German Imperial Navy. The class design introduced the combined clipper and ram bow and the blocky sides that typified later German armored cruisers. The class comprised five vessels, Victoria Louise, the lead ship, Hertha, Freya, Vineta, and Hansa. The ships were laid down in 1895–1896, and were launched in 1897–1898 and commissioned into the fleet over the following year.

The first three ships were 110.60 meters (362 ft 10 in) long and displaced 6,491 metric tons (6,388 long tons) at combat load; Vineta and Hansa were a slightly modified design. They were 110.50 m (362 ft 6 in) long and displaced 6,705 t (6,599 long tons) at full load. All five ships were armed with a main battery of two 21-centimeter (8.3 in) guns and eight 15 cm (5.9 in) guns. The first three ships had a top speed of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph); the last two were slightly slower, at 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph). Problems with the Niclausse boilers installed on Freya prompted the Navy to standardize boiler types in future warships.

The ships of the class served in various units in the German fleet, including on the America Station, in the East Asia Squadron, and with the home fleet. Hertha and Hansa participated in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, and Vineta was involved in the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903. All five ships were modernized between 1905 and 1911, after which they served as training ships for naval cadets. They were mobilized into V Scouting Group at the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, but were quickly withdrawn from front-line service. They served in various secondary roles for the rest of the war. After the end of the conflict, Victoria Louise was converted into a merchant ship, but was broken up in 1923. The other four ships were scrapped in 1920–1921.


In the early 1890s, elements in the German naval command structure grappled with what type of cruiser ought to be built to fulfill the various needs of the fleet. The Reichsmarineamt (RMA—Imperial Navy Office) preferred to build a combination of large cruisers of around 6,000 t (5,900 long tons) along the lines of the protected cruiser SMS Kaiserin Augusta and significantly smaller vessels of about 1,500 t (1,500 long tons) to support them, while the Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command) argued that a uniform force of 3,000 t (3,000 long tons) cruisers was preferable.[1] At the time, the German navy lacked the budget to build dedicated overseas cruisers along with vessels optimized for scouting purposes. The budgetary constraints led to designers attempting to build ships that could fulfill both roles, though the high speed, heavy armament, and thick armor necessary for fleet operations necessarily conflicted with the needs of a colonial cruiser, which required a long cruising radius.[2][3]

After failing to secure budgetary approval for the new ships from the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) in 1892, 1893, and 1894, the Reichstag finally authorized construction of three ships for the 1895–1896 budget year. The RMA's proposal was chosen and three 6,000-ton cruisers were begun in 1895. Two more vessels were authorized for 1896–1897.[1]

Compared to Kaiserin Augusta, Victoria Louise had a displacement that was about six percent less, though she carried a much heavier armament The resulting design were smaller scale versions of the contemporary Kaiser Friedrich III-class battleships; they featured the same fore military mast and pole mainmast and a combination of gun turrets and casemates for the secondary battery. As was common practice in the German fleet in the 1890s, the five ships employed different types of water-tube boilers for evaluation purposes.[4] The ships' design set a precedent for later armored cruisers, with large, bulky sides and a combined clipper bow and ram.[5]

General characteristics[edit]

Line-drawing of the Victoria Louise class

The first three ships of the Victoria Louise class—Victoria Louise, Hertha, and Freya—were 109.10 meters (357 ft 11 in) long at the waterline and 110.60 m (362 ft 10 in) long overall. They had a beam of 17.40 m (57 ft 1 in) and a draft of 6.58 m (21 ft 7 in) forward and 6.93 m (22 ft 9 in). These ships displaced 5,660 metric tons (5,570 long tons) as designed and 6,491 t (6,388 long tons) at full load. Vineta and Hansa had slightly different dimensions; they were 109.80 m (360 ft 3 in) long at the waterline and 110.50 m (362 ft 6 in) overall. Their beam was 17.60 m (57 ft 9 in) and drew 7.08 m (23 ft 3 in) forward and 7.34 m (24 ft 1 in) aft. Their displacement was also higher than the first three ships, at 5,885 t (5,792 long tons) as designed and 6,705 t (6,599 long tons) at combat load.[6]

The ships' hulls were constructed with longitudinal and transverse steel frames; a single layer of wood planks were used for the hull. A later of Muntz metal sheathing extended up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) above the waterline to protect against fouling of the hull. This sheathing was later removed from Victoria Louise, Hertha, and Freya. The hull was divided into twelve watertight compartments, which were later reduced to eleven, with the exception of Freya. The hull also incorporated a double bottom that extended for 60 percent of the length of the hull.[6]

The ships' standard crew was 31 officers and 446 enlisted men, with an additional 9 officers and 41 enlisted while serving as a second command flagship. After their reconstruction into training ships, the crew was substantially enlarged to incorporate the trainees, with 26 officers and 658 sailors, 75 of whom were naval cadets and 300 others were cabin boys. The ships carried a number of smaller boats, including three picket boats, one launch, one pinnace, two cutters, two yawls, and three dinghies. After their modernization, the boats were significantly revised; the number of picket boats was reduced to one, a barge and a launch were added, the dinghies were removed, and five more cutters were added.[7]

The ships were good sea boats; they had an easy motion and were dry as a result of their high forecastles. They had a tendency to pitch when steaming downwind, however, and made severe leeway in heavy winds because of their large superstructures. They were difficult to maneuver without the center shaft engaged. Steering was controlled with a single rudder. They lost only around ten percent speed in a head sea or with the rudder hard over. In addition, as the lower coal bunkers were emptied, the ships became increasingly unstable; with empty bunkers, the ships could heel over as much as fifteen degrees in a hard turn. The modernization of the ships between 1905 and 1911 rectified this problem. They had a transverse metacentric height of .56 to .73 m (1 ft 10 in to 2 ft 5 in). As built, the ships were very hot, and ventilation had to be improved before they were commissioned.[8]


The propulsion system of all five ships consisted of three vertical 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines built by AG Vulcan. Steam was provided by twelve coal-fired water-tube boilers from different manufacturers, with the exception of Hansa, which received eighteen boilers. Victoria Louise and Vineta had boilers from Dürr AG, Freya had Niclausse boilers, and Hertha had Belleville boilers. Hansa was equipped with eighteen transverse Belleville boilers. The Niclausse boilers in Freya proved to be particularly troublesome, which led the Navy to use only Schulz-Thornycroft or Marine-type boilers in future vessels. The boilers were ducted into three funnels, though after their modernization between 1905 and 1908, they were trunked into two funnels.[8]

The ships' engines were rated at 10,000 metric horsepower (9,900 ihp) for a top speed of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph) for the first three ships and 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph) for the last two vessels. As built, the ships carried up to 950 t (930 long tons; 1,050 short tons) of coal, which gave them a cruising range of 3,412 nautical miles (6,319 km; 3,926 mi) at a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). The more efficient Marine-type boilers installed in 1905–1911 increased cruising range to 3,840 nmi (7,110 km; 4,420 mi) at the same speed. Victoria Louise and Hertha were equipped with four electricity generators with a combined output of 224 to 271 kilowatts (300 to 363 hp) at 110 Volts; the last three ships had three generators with a total output of 169 to 183 kW (227 to 245 hp) at 110 V.[6]

Armament and armor[edit]

Freya, showing the arrangement of the primary and secondary batteries

The ships' primary armament consisted of two 21 cm SK L/40 C/97 built-up guns in single gun turrets, one forward and one aft. The turrets were C/97 type mounts, which were hydraulically operated and hand-loaded. The turrets had a range of elevation from -5 to 30 degrees, and at maximum elevation, they had a range of 16,300 m (53,500 ft). Muzzle velocity was 780 m/s (2,600 ft/s). The guns were supplied with 58 rounds of ammunition each; these were 238 kg (525 lb) shells.[6][9]

Eight 15 cm SK L/40 guns rounded out the offensive gun armament. Four of these guns were mounted in turrets amidships and the other four were placed in casemates. These guns fired armor-piercing shells at a rate of 4 to 5 per minute. The guns could depress to −7 degrees and elevate to 20 degrees, for a maximum range of 13,700 m (14,990 yd). The shells weighed 51 kg (112 lb) and were fired at a muzzle velocity of 735 m/s (2,410 ft/s). The guns were manually elevated and trained. Two of the 15 cm guns were removed in the refit.[10][11]

For defense against torpedo boats, the ships also carried ten 8.8 cm SK L/30 naval guns, and an eleventh was added during the modernization. These were also mounted individually in casemates and pivot mounts. These guns fired 7.04 kg (15.5 lb) shell at a muzzle velocity of 590 mps (1,936 fps). Their rate of fire was approximately 15 shells per minute; the guns could engage targets out to 6,890 m (7,530 yd). The gun mounts were manually operated.[10][12] Three longer-barreled 8.8 cm SK L/35 naval guns were also added at that time.[6] The gun armament was rounded out by ten 3.7 cm (1.5 in) Maxim machine cannon,[5] which were removed during the refit.[6]

The ships were also equipped with three 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes with eight torpedoes, two launchers were mounted on the broadside and the third was in the bow, all below the waterline.[6] These weapons were 5.1 m (201 in) long and carried an 87.5 kg (193 lb) TNT warhead. They could be set at two speeds for different ranges. At 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), the torpedoes had a range of 800 m (870 yd). At an increased speed of 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph), the range was reduced to 500 m (550 yd).[13]

In 1916, all of the ships of the class were disarmed, with the exception of Freya, which was re-equipped with a single 15 cm gun, four 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns, and fourteen 8.8 cm guns of both the L/30 and L/35 versions, for use as a gunnery training ship.[6]

Armor protection for the ships was composed of Krupp steel. The main deck was 40 mm (1.6 in) thick with 100 mm (3.9 in) thick slopes. The forward conning tower had 150 mm (5.9 in) thick sides and a 30 mm (1.2 in) thick roof. The aft conning tower was given only splinter protection, with just 12 mm (0.47 in) thick sides. The 21 cm and 15 cm gun turrets had 100 mm thick sides and 30 mm thick roofs. The casemate guns were also given 100 mm worth of armor protection. The ships were also equipped with cork cofferdams.[6]


Hansa in drydock at AG Vulcan
Ship Builder[8] Laid down[8] Launched[8] Commissioned[8]
Victoria Louise AG Weser, Bremen 1895 29 March 1897 20 February 1899
Hertha AG Vulcan, Stettin 1895 14 April 1897 23 July 1898
Freya Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig 1895 27 April 1897 20 October 1898
Vineta Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig 1896 9 December 1897 13 September 1899
Hansa AG Vulcan, Stettin 1896 12 March 1898 20 April 1899

Service history[edit]

Victoria Louise[edit]

Victoria Louise served with the fleet for the first seven years of her career.[7] During this time, she represented Germany during the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901.[14] In 1906, she was modernized and after 1908, used as a training ship for naval cadets.[8] In 1909, she visited the United States,[15] and at the outbreak of World War I, was mobilized into V Scouting Group.[2] She was attacked unsuccessfully by the British submarine HMS E1 in October 1914,[16] and at the end of the year she was withdrawn from service. She was used as a minelayer and barracks ship based in Danzig for the rest of the war. Victoria Louise was sold in 1919 and converted into a freighter the following year, though she served in this capacity until 1923, when she was broken up for scrap.[7]


Hertha in Dar es Salaam

Hertha served abroad in the German East Asia Squadron for the first six years of her career; she served briefly as the squadron flagship in 1900.[17] She contributed a landing party to the force that captured the Taku Forts during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.[18] After returning to Germany in 1905, she was modernized and used as a training ship in 1908, following the completion of the refit. She served in that capacity for the next six years. At the outbreak of World War I, Hertha was mobilized into V Scouting Group, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920.[8]


Freya served in the German fleet for the initial years of her career, unlike her sister ships, all of which served abroad on foreign stations. As a result, she led a fairly uneventful career in the fleet. After a modernization in 1905–1907, Freya was used as a school ship for cadets.[7] While visiting Canada in 1908, she accidentally rammed and sank a Canadian schooner, killing nine sailors.[19] At the outbreak of World War I, Freya was mobilized into V Scouting Group, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1921.[7]


Vineta served abroad in the American Station for the first several years of her career.[17] While on station in the Americas, she participated in the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903 and bombarded several Venezuelan fortresses.[20] She returned to Germany in 1905 and was used as a torpedo training ship in 1908. She was modernized in 1909–1911, after which she was used as a school ship for naval cadets.[8] In November 1912, she participated in an international naval protest of the First Balkan War.[21] At the outbreak of World War I, Vineta was mobilized into V Scouting Group like her sisters, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920.[7]


Hansa served abroad in the East Asia Squadron for the first six years of her career. Along with Hertha, she contributed a landing party to the force that captured the Taku Forts during the Boxer Rebellion.[18] In August 1904, she participated in the internment of the Russian battleship Tsesarevich after the Battle of the Yellow Sea during the Russo-Japanese War.[22] After returning to Germany in 1906, she was modernized and used as a training ship in 1909, following the completion of the refit. At the outbreak of World War I, Hansa was mobilized into V Scouting Group, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920.[8]


  1. ^ a b Dodson, p. 44.
  2. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 142.
  3. ^ Herwig, p. 27.
  4. ^ Dodson, pp. 44–45.
  5. ^ a b Gardiner, p. 254.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gröner, p. 47.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Gröner, p. 48.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gröner, pp. 47–48.
  9. ^ Friedman, pp. 141–142.
  10. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 140.
  11. ^ Friedman, p. 143.
  12. ^ Friedman, p. 146.
  13. ^ Friedman, p. 336.
  14. ^ Naval Notes (1901), p. 190.
  15. ^ Levine & Panetta, p. 51.
  16. ^ Compton-Hall, pp. 137–138.
  17. ^ a b Naval Notes (1900), p. 693.
  18. ^ a b Perry, p. 29.
  19. ^ Hadley & Sarty, p. 49.
  20. ^ Mitchell, p. 86.
  21. ^ Willmott, p. 181.
  22. ^ "Togo Bound for the South?" (PDF). New York Times. 14 August 1904. Retrieved 11 May 2012.


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