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SMS Kaiser (1874)

SMS Kaiser [a] was the lead ship of the Kaiser-class ironclads; SMS Deutschland was her sister ship Named for the title "Kaiser" German: Emperor, held by the leader of the then newly created German Empire, the ship was laid down in the Samuda Brothers shipyard in London in 1871 The ship was launched in March 1874 and commissioned into the German fleet in February 1875 Kaiser mounted a main battery of eight 26 cm 102 in guns in a central battery amidships

Kaiser served with the fleet from her commissioning until 1896, though she was frequently placed in reserve throughout her career The ship was a regular participant in the annual fleet training maneuvers conducted with the exception of the mid-1880s, when she was temporarily replaced by newer vessels She participated in several cruises in the Baltic and Mediterranean, often escorting Kaiser Wilhelm II on official state visits Kaiser was rebuilt in the early 1890s as an armored cruiser, though she was too slow to perform satisfactorily in this role Nevertheless, she spent several years as the flagship of the East Asia Squadron before returning to Germany in 1899 She was used in secondary roles after 1904, until after the end of World War I in 1919, when she was broken up for scrap


  • 1 Design
  • 2 Service history
    • 21 Service in East Asia
  • 3 Notes
  • 4 References


Main article: Kaiser-class ironclad Line-drawing of SMS Kaiser

The two Kaiser-class ironclads were authorized under the naval program of 1867, which had been approved by the Reichstag to strengthen the North German Federal Navy in the wake of the Second Schleswig War, when the weak, then-Prussian Navy had been unable to break the blockade imposed by the Danish Navy Designed by Edward James Reed in 1869, the ships were among the most powerful casemate ships built by any navy, though they were rendered obsolescent by the time they were completed by the advent of the turret ship[1][2]

The ship was 8934 meters 2931 ft long overall and had a beam of 1910 m 627 ft and a draft of 739 m 242 ft forward[3] Kaiser was powered by one 2-cylinder single-expansion steam engine, which was supplied with steam by eight coal-fired trunk boilers The ship's top speed was 146 knots 270 km/h; 168 mph, at 5,779 metric horsepower 5,700 ihp She was also equipped with a full ship rig Her standard complement consisted of 32 officers and 568 enlisted men[4]

She was armed with eight 26 cm 102 in L/20 guns mounted in a central battery amidships As built, the ship was also equipped with a single 21 cm 83 in L/22 gun[3] After being rebuilt in 1891–1895, her armament was increased by six 88 cm 35 in L/22 and one 88 cm L/30 guns, four and later twelve 37 cm 15 in auto-cannons, and five 35 cm 14 in torpedo tubes, all mounted in the ship's hull[4]

Kaiser's armor was made of wrought iron and backed with teak The armored belt was 127 to 254 mm 5 to 10 in thick; this was backed with 90 to 226 mm 35 to 89 in of teak[3]

Service history

Kaiser was ordered by the Imperial Navy from the Samuda Brothers shipyard in London; her keel was laid in 1871[3] Kaiser and her sister Deutschland were ordered shortly after the end of the Franco-Prussian War, under the assumption that the French would quickly attempt a war of revenge[5] The ship was launched on 19 March 1874 and commissioned into the German fleet on 13 February 1875[6]

After commissioning in February 1875, Kaiser spent the spring working up her engines to be ready for the annual summer training cruise She joined the older ironclads Kronprinz and König Wilhelm and the new Hansa, under the command of Vice Admiral Ludwig von Henk The four-ship squadron remained in German waters for the entirety of the cruise, which finished with a review of the flotilla in Rostock by Kaiser Wilhelm I in September The squadron was reactivated the next spring; Rear Admiral Carl Ferdinand Batsch replaced Henk as the squadron commander Kaiser served as the flagship of Batsch's squadron, which also included Kaiser's sister Deutschland, Kronprinz, and Friedrich Carl[7]

At around the time Batch's squadron was working up for the summer cruise,[7] Henry Abbott, the German consul in Salonika, then in the Ottoman Empire, was murdered[8] Further attacks on German citizens living in the area were feared, and so Batsch was ordered to sail to the Mediterranean Sea to stage a naval demonstration in June 1876 After arriving with the four ironclads, he was reinforced by three unarmored vessels After the threat of violence subsided in August, Batsch departed with Kaiser and Deutschland; the other two ironclads remained in the Mediterranean for the rest of the summer[7]

Kaiser joined the 1877 summer squadron, composed of Deutschland, Friedrich Carl, and the new turret ironclad Preussen The squadron was again sent to the Mediterranean, in response to unrest in the Ottoman Empire related to the Russo-Turkish War; the violence threatened German citizens living there The squadron, again under the command of Batsch, steamed to the ports of Haifa and Jaffa in July 1877, but found no significant tensions ashore Batsch then departed and cruised the Mediterranean for the remainder of the summer, returning to Germany in October[7] The newly commissioned Friedrich der Grosse and Grosser Kurfürst, sister ships of Preussen, replaced Kaiser and Deutschland in the 1878 maneuvers, during which Grosser Kurfürst was accidentally rammed and sank with great loss of life[9]

Kaiser in 1887

Kaiser and her sister Deutschland remained in reserve for the next six years They were reactivated in the spring of 1883 for the summer maneuvers under the command of Wilhelm von Wickede Due to their long period out of service, their engines proved troublesome during the training cruise Regardless, the 1883 cruise was the first year the German navy completely abandoned the use of sails on its large ironclads Kaiser went into reserve during the 1884 maneuvers, which were conducted by a homogenous squadron composed of the four Sachsen-class ironclads[10] The ship did not see active duty again until August 1887, when she joined König Wihelm and Oldenburg as the I Squadron for three weeks of maneuvers with the rest of the fleet[11]

In May 1888, Kaiser represented Germany at Barcelona's World Fair, which held a naval review[12] During the summer of 1889, Kaiser joined the fleet that steamed to Great Britain to celebrate the coronation of Kaiser Wilhelm II; the ship joined her sister Deutschland and the turret ships Preussen and Friedrich der Grosse in II Division The fleet then held training maneuvers in the North Sea under command of Rear Admiral Friedrich Hollmann Kaiser and the rest of II Division became the training squadron for the fleet in 1889–1890, the first year the Kaiserliche Marine maintained a year-round ironclad force The squadron escorted Wilhelm II's imperial yacht to the Mediterranean; the voyage included state visits to Italy and the Ottoman Empire The squadron remained in the Mediterranean until April 1890, when it returned to Germany[13]

Kaiser participated in the ceremonial transfer of the island of Helgoland from British to German control in the summer of 1890 She was present during the fleet maneuvers in September, where the entire eight-ship armored squadron simulated a Russian fleet blockading Kiel II Division, including Kaiser, served as the training squadron in the winter of 1890–1891 The squadron again cruised the Mediterranean, under the command of Rear Admiral Wilhelm Schröder[14] Between 1891 and 1895, Kaiser was rebuilt in the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven[3] The ship was converted into an armored cruiser; her heavy guns were removed and replaced with lighter weapons,[15] including one 15 cm 59 in, six 105 cm 41 in, and nine 88 cm 35 in guns Her entire rigging equipment was removed and two heavy military masts were installed in place of the rigging[2] Despite the modernization, she remained quite slow Deutschland and König Wilhelm were similarly converted[15]

Service in East Asia

In 1895, commanded by Paul Jaeschke, Kaiser reinforced the East Asia Division, which also included the cruisers Irene and Prinzess Wilhelm and several smaller vessels[16] During the period of diplomatic tension between Britain and Germany caused by the Kruger telegram sent by Wilhelm II, Kaiser and several other overseas cruisers were ordered to return to German waters This order was quickly reversed, as it was decided it would be seen as an act of weakness by Britain[17] In April 1896, while entering the port of Amoy, Kaiser struck an uncharted rock Only minor damage was done to the hull, but the ship was still out of service for twenty-two days for repairs in Hong Kong[18] Kaiser served as the flagship of Rear Admiral Otto von Diederichs during his tenure as the division commander Diederichs was tasked with locating a suitable concession to be used as the main port of the East Asia Division; after surveying a number of sites aboard Kaiser, Diederichs settled on Kiautschou Bay[19] In the wake of two violent incidents against Germans in China, Wilhelm II gave Diederichs permission to seize Kiautschou by force in November 1897[20]

After dusk on 10 November, Kaiser left Shanghai and headed toward Kiautschou Prinzess Wilhelm and Cormoran were to leave the following day to allay suspicion The three ships rendezvoused on the 12th at sea; Diederichs intended to steam into Kiautschou on the 14th and seize the port[21] At 06:00 on the 14th, Cormoran steamed into the bay to bring the Chinese forts under fire, while Kaiser and Prinzess Wilhelm sent a landing force of some 700 men ashore In the span of two hours, Diederichs's forces had captured the central and outlying forts and destroyed the Chinese telegraph, preventing them from notifying their superiors of the German attack[22] After negotiating with General Chang, the commander of the Kiautschou garrison, Diederichs succeeded in forcing the Chinese concession of Kiautschou to Germany, which he proclaimed at 14:20[23] Diederichs was promoted to Vice Admiral following the successful seizure of the port, and the division became enlarged to squadron size with the addition of several warships, including Kaiser's sister Deutschland[24]

Kaiser as the harbor ship Uranus

In May 1898, Diederichs sent Kaiser to Nagasaki for periodic maintenance[25] The Spanish–American War, which saw action in the Philippines at the Battle of Manila Bay, necessitated a German naval presence in the area to protect German nationals Kaiser was still in Nagasaki undergoing repairs, so Diederichs ordered her and Prinzess Wilhelm, also in dock for maintenance, to meet him in Manila as soon as was possible Crew transfers during the repair process necessitated Irene and Cormoran to meet in Manila as well; this concentration of five warships in the Philippines caused a serious crisis with the American Navy[26] Rear Admiral George Dewey objected to the size of the German force and to a meeting between Diederichs and Governor General Augustin, the Spanish governor of the Philippines[27] The German naval forces left the Philippines after the fall of Manila in August, though tensions with the United States continued for some time after[28]

Following his departure from Manila in August 1898, Diederichs took Kaiser south to the Dutch East Indies There, the ship represented Germany during celebrations for the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina[29] The ship then returned to Hong Kong via Singapore, before proceeding to Fuchow for gunnery practice While steaming into the bay, however, the ship ran aground on an uncharted rock Arcona and Cormoran arrived to tow Kaiser off the rocks, after which Diederichs sent her back to Hong Kong for repairs[30] Kaiser remained overseas until 1899, when she returned to Germany She was reduced to a harbor ship on 3 May 1904 and renamed Uranus on 12 October 1905 The ship was stricken from the naval register on 21 May 1906 and used as a barracks ship for Württemberg in Flensburg Uranus was ultimately broken up in 1920 in Harburg[6]


  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship"
  1. ^ Dodson, pp 14, 23
  2. ^ a b Gardiner, p 245
  3. ^ a b c d e Gröner, p 6
  4. ^ a b Gröner, pp 6–7
  5. ^ Sondhaus, p 109
  6. ^ a b Gröner, p 7
  7. ^ a b c d Sondhaus, p 122
  8. ^ Hidden, p 370
  9. ^ Sondhaus, p 124
  10. ^ Sondhaus, p 161
  11. ^ Sondhaus, p 171
  12. ^ Sondhaus, p 173
  13. ^ Sondhaus, p 179
  14. ^ Sondhaus, p 192
  15. ^ a b Sondhaus, p 190
  16. ^ Sondhaus, p 206
  17. ^ Sondhaus, p 214
  18. ^ Gottschall, p 141
  19. ^ Gottschall, pp 146–150
  20. ^ Gottschall, pp 156–157
  21. ^ Gottschall, p 158
  22. ^ Gottschall, p 161
  23. ^ Gottschall, p 162
  24. ^ Gottschall, p 163–165
  25. ^ Gottschall, p 179
  26. ^ Gottschall, pp 190–191
  27. ^ Gottschall, pp 192–193
  28. ^ Gottschall, pp 216–217
  29. ^ Gottschall, p 218
  30. ^ Gottschall, pp 219–220


  • 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
  • Gottschall, Terrell D 2003 By Order of the Kaiser Annapolis: Naval Institute Press ISBN 978-1-55750-309-1
  • Gröner, Erich 1990 German Warships: 1815–1945 Vol I: Major Surface Vessels Annapolis: Naval Institute Press ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6 OCLC 22101769
  • Hidden, Alexander W 1912 The Ottoman Dynasty New York: Nicholas W Hidden
  • Sondhaus, Lawrence 1997 Preparing for Weltpolitik: German Sea Power Before the Tirpitz Era Annapolis: Naval Institute Press ISBN 978-1-55750-745-7

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