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SMS Arminius

sms arminius
SMS Arminius [a] was an ironclad warship of the Prussian Navy, later the Imperial German Navy The ship was designed by the British Royal Navy Captain Cowper Coles and built by the Samuda Brothers shipyard in Cubitt Town, London as a speculative effort; Prussia purchased the ship during the Second Schleswig War against Denmark, though the vessel was not delivered until after the war The ship was armed with four 21 cm 83 in guns in a pair of revolving gun turrets amidships She was named for Arminius, the victor of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

Arminius served as a coastal defense ship for the first six years of her service with the Prussian Navy She saw extensive service in the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars during the process of German unification The vessel was the primary challenge to the French blockade of German ports during the latter conflict After the wars, Arminius was withdrawn from front-line service and used in a variety of secondary roles, including as a training ship for engine-room crews and as a tender for the school ship Blücher The ship was eventually sold in 1901 and broken up for scrap the following year


  • 1 Design
    • 11 General characteristics and machinery
    • 12 Armament and armor
  • 2 Service history
  • 3 Notes
  • 4 References


General characteristics and machinery

The warship that came to be SMS Arminius was designed by Captain Cowper Coles,[1] a British Royal Navy officer and advocate of turret-armed ironclad warships[2] Arminius was nearly identical to the Danish ironclad Rolf Krake, also designed by Coles[3] The vessel was constructed with transverse frames and constructed with an iron hull, which contained eight watertight compartments The ship was 6160 meters 202 ft 1 in long at the waterline and 6321 m 207 ft 5 in long overall The ship had a beam of 1090 m 35 ft 9 in and a draft of 432 m 14 ft 2 in forward and 455 m 14 ft 11 in aft She was designed to displace 1,653 metric tons 1,627 long tons but at combat load, Arminius displaced up to 1,829 t 1,800 long tons[1]

The ship's crew consisted of ten officers and 122 enlisted men She carried a number of smaller boats, including two pinnaces, two cutters, and one dinghy[3] Arminius was not a particularly successful design; she suffered from severe, fast rolling, especially in heavier seas She also shipped a great deal of water over the bow and was unbalanced in steering The ship turned rapidly to starboard but was sluggish in turning to port Indeed, the ship was required to have the rudder at 15 degrees to port in order to remain on a straight course It was also impossible to control the ship with only sail power[3]

The ship was powered by a single two-cylinder single expansion engine built by J Penn & Sons, Greenwich The engine drove a single two-bladed screw that was 396 m 13 ft 0 in in diameter Four transverse trunk boilers, each of which had four fireboxes apiece, supplied steam to the engine The boilers were also built by J Penn & Sons, Greenwich, and were arranged in a single boiler room Limited electrical power was provided by a single generator, which supplied 19 kilowatts at 55 volts The ship was equipped with a schooner rig with a surface area of 540 square meters[3] The propulsion system was rated at 1,200 metric horsepower 1,200 ihp and a top speed of 10 knots 19 km/h; 12 mph, though on trials, Arminius reached 1,440 PS 1,420 ihp and 112 kn 207 km/h; 129 mph The ship carried 171 t 168 long tons; 188 short tons of coal, which enabled a range of 2,000 nautical miles 3,700 km; 2,300 mi at a cruising speed of 8 kn 15 km/h; 92 mph[1]

Armament and armor

As built, Arminius was equipped with a main battery of four rifled, bronze 72-pounder cannon, but after delivery to the Prussian Navy they were replaced with four 21 cm 83 in L/19 guns manufactured by Krupp These guns were supplied with a total of 332 rounds, and could elevate to 12 degrees At maximum elevation, the guns could engage targets out to 2,800 m 9,200 ft After 1881, four machine guns were installed, along with a single 35 cm 14 in torpedo tube mounted in the bow above the waterline[3][4]

Arminius's armor consisted of wrought iron backed with teak plating The conning tower was protected by 114 mm 45 in of wrought iron on 229 mm 90 in of teak The armored belt ranged in thickness from 76 mm 30 in of iron on the bow and stern to 114 mm amidships, the entire length of which was backed by 229 mm of teak The two turrets were armored with 114 mm of iron on 406 mm 160 in of timber[1]

Service history

Illustration of one of Arminius' 4 guns

She was built by the Samuda Brothers shipyard in London as a speculative project, possibly to sell to the Confederate Navy[5] The ship was laid down in 1863 and launched on 20 August 1864[6] Prussia instead purchased the ship on 20 August 1864 for some 1,887,000 gold marks, paid in part through public donations, and commissioned her on 22 April 1865 as SMS Arminius The Prussians had hoped to secure the vessel by September,[4][5] but delivery was delayed by the British government over the Second Schleswig War between Prussia and Denmark As the British were sympathetic to Denmark,[7] they prevented the ship from being delivered until after the war was concluded[6] Arminius served as a harbor defense ship for six years, through 1871[8] Along with the ironclad ram Prinz Adalbert, Arminius was the first armored warship acquired by the Prussian Navy[9]

At the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian War in mid-1866, Arminius was mobilized along with Prinz Adalbert, the only other Prussian ironclad The ships were initially based in Kiel, but in the opening days of the war, Arminius raced to Hamburg via the Skagerrak and the Kattegat, a distance of some 940 nautical miles 1,740 km; 1,080 mi, in 100 hours, an impressive feat for an early ironclad warship[10] Without a naval threat from Austria, the Prussian navy therefore concentrated its effort against the Kingdom of Hanover For the remainder of the conflict, Arminius operated out of Geestemünde, under the command of Reinhold Werner, and the mere appearance of Arminius caused several Hanoverian coastal batteries to surrender[11] On 15 June, Arminius and a pair of gunboats, Tiger and Cyclop, covered the crossing of the Elbe river by General Edwin von Manteuffel and some 13,500 soldiers to attack the city of Hanover[11][12] By the end of the month, the Prussian army had decisively defeated the Austrians at Königgrätz and ended the war[11]

On 3 October 1866, the ship raced the US Navy's monitor USS Miantonomoh in Kiel; Arminius was two knots faster than the American vessel[7] In November 1868, the ship was laid up for an overhaul that included replacing her original rig with a lighter rigging with pole masts A weather deck, which extended from just astern of the forward turret to her stern, was also fitted and ventilators for the hull were extended up through the new deck[13] In 1870, the ship had her sailing rig removed altogether,[14] as it had been determined that she could not be steered while under sail, and the masts blocked the firing arcs of the gun turrets[4]

Arminius left with Prinz Adalbert right

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the Prussian Navy concentrated Arminius and the armored frigates Kronprinz, Friedrich Carl, and König Wilhelm in the North Sea naval base Wilhelmshaven[15] Arminius was stationed in Kiel at the outbreak of war, but managed to break through the French blockade by hugging the Swedish coast, which her shallow draft permitted Her passage through Swedish territorial waters also protected the ship from French attack[16] Despite the great French naval superiority, the French had conducted insufficient pre-war planning for an assault on the Prussian naval installations, and concluded that it would only be possible with Danish assistance, which was not forthcoming[15] The four ships, under the command of Vice Admiral Jachmann, made an offensive sortie in early August 1870 out to the Dogger Bank, though they encountered no French warships The three armored frigates thereafter suffered from chronic engine trouble, which left Arminius alone to conduct operations[17]

Captain Otto Livonius commanded the ship during the war In the course of the war, she sortied from the port over forty times; these also failed to result in major combat, though she occasionally traded shots with the blockading French warships[18] For the majority of the war, Arminius was stationed in the mouth of the Elbe along with the ironclad ram Prinz Adalbert and three small gunboats The three armored frigates remained off the island of Wangerooge[19] On 11 September, the three frigates were again ready for action; they joined Arminius for another major operation, though it too did not encounter French opposition The French Navy had by this time returned to France[17]

After being removed from front-line service in 1872, she was used as a training vessel for naval engineers[3] The ship was decommissioned in 1875 and placed in reserve[8] Her ram bow allowed her to be used as an ice-breaker in Kiel in the 1880s In 1882, she was used as a tender for the cadet training vessel Blücher The ship was rebuilt in 1888; during the refit the propulsion system was overhauled and replaced with German-built equipment and two searchlights were installed Four machine guns were installed, along with a 35 cm 14 in torpedo tube The ship was ultimately stricken from the naval register on 2 March 1901 and sold to shipbreakers for 72,000 gold marks Arminius was broken up for scrap the following year[3][20]


  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship"
  1. ^ a b c d Gröner, p 1
  2. ^ Sondhaus Naval Warfare, p 80
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Gröner, p 2
  4. ^ a b c Dodson, p 15
  5. ^ a b Sullivan, p 17
  6. ^ a b Gröner, pp 1–2
  7. ^ a b Greene & Massignani, p 199
  8. ^ a b Sullivan, p 18
  9. ^ Sondhaus Naval Warfare, p 93
  10. ^ Sondhaus Weltpolitik, pp 83–84
  11. ^ a b c Sondhaus Weltpolitik, p 84
  12. ^ Greene & Massignani, p 219
  13. ^ Dodson, p 18
  14. ^ Gardiner, p 242
  15. ^ a b Sondhaus Naval Warfare, p 101
  16. ^ Wilson, p 277
  17. ^ a b Sondhaus Naval Warfare, p 102
  18. ^ Sondhaus Weltpolitik, p 95
  19. ^ Wilson, p 278
  20. ^ Dodson, p 32


  • Dodson, Aidan 2016 The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871–1918 Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing ISBN 978-1-84832-229-5mw-parser-output citecitationmw-parser-output citation qmw-parser-output id-lock-free a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-free amw-parser-output id-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output id-lock-registration a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-registration amw-parser-output id-lock-subscription a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-subscription amw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registrationmw-parser-output cs1-subscription span,mw-parser-output cs1-registration spanmw-parser-output cs1-ws-icon amw-parser-output codecs1-codemw-parser-output cs1-hidden-errormw-parser-output cs1-visible-errormw-parser-output cs1-maintmw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registration,mw-parser-output cs1-formatmw-parser-output cs1-kern-left,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-leftmw-parser-output cs1-kern-right,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-rightmw-parser-output citation mw-selflink
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed 1979 Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905 Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press ISBN 978-0-8317-0302-8
  • Greene, Jack; Massignani, Alessandro 1998 Ironclads at War: The Origin and Development of the Armored Warship, 1854–1891 Pennsylvania: Combined Publishing ISBN 978-0-938289-58-6
  • Gröner, Erich 1990 German Warships: 1815–1945 Vol I: Major Surface Vessels Annapolis: Naval Institute Press ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6 OCLC 22101769
  • Sondhaus, Lawrence 2001 Naval Warfare, 1815–1914 London: Routledge ISBN 978-0-415-21478-0
  • Sondhaus, Lawrence 1997 Preparing for Weltpolitik: German Sea Power Before the Tirpitz Era Annapolis: Naval Institute Press ISBN 978-1-55750-745-7
  • Sullivan, David M 1987 "Phantom Fleet: The Confederacy's Unclaimed European Warships" Warship International Toledo, Ohio: Naval Records Club 24 1: 13–32
  • Wilson, Herbert Wrigley 1896 Ironclads in Action: A Sketch of Naval Warfare from 1855 to 1895 London: S Low, Marston and company

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