SMS Danzig (1851)

For other ships with the same name, see SMS Danzig.
Kaiten in January 1868
Name: SMS Danzig
Laid down: 1850
Completed: June 1853
Struck: 1 September 1862
Fate: Sold, 1864?
Tokugawa Shogunate
Acquired: 1864
Renamed: Kaiten Maru (回天丸)
Republic of Ezo
Acquired: 1869
Fate: Destroyed by fire, 20 June 1869
General characteristics
Type: Paddle frigate
Displacement: 710 long tons (721 t)
Length: 68.4 m (224 ft 5 in)
Beam: 10.6 m (34 ft 9 in)
Installed power: 400 ihp (300 kW)
Propulsion: Marine steam engine
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 153
Armament: 13 cannon

The SMS Danzig was the first steam-powered warship in the Prussian Navy. It is most notable for its part in the Battle of Tres Forcas in 1856. It was later decommissioned from the Prussian Navy and served in the navy of the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate as the Kaiten (Japanese: 回天) from 1864 until 1869, and then briefly with the breakaway Ezo Republic until its destruction later the same year.


Danzig's design was conceived by the British engineer John Scott Russell and it was originally planned to build it in the United Kingdom. However, Prince Adalbert of Prussia (1811–1873) decided to build it in Danzig instead to stimulate the local economy. It was begun at JW Klawitter's works there on 24 August 1850, with its copper mined near Berlin, the wood for its hull coming from the outskirts of Danzig and the iron imported from England. It entered service in June 1853.


First voyage

Danzig's first voyage was on 12 July 1853 to pick up its armament of ten 68-pounder guns from Deptford (they had to be picked up directly, since they could not be exported due to the demands of the Crimean War). It had a crew of 220 officers and men.

Battle of Tres Forcas

Main article: Battle of Tres Forcas


Due to severe dry rot damage to the hull, the navy considered replacing Danzig's wooden hull with iron, but this plan was ultimately scotched on cost grounds. It was therefore only occasionally in service from 1859 to 1860 and was finally struck from the navy list on 1 September 1862, especially since paddle steamers like it were now technically obsolete compared to steam screw. It was sold to the English firm Dorset and Blythe for 56,000 taler.

Service with Japanese forces

Now renamed the Eagle, the ship sailed to England in 1864, where it was bought later the same year by the Tokugawa Shogunate, which renamed it the Kaiten. She was armed with 13 cannons, and during the Boshin War was operated by forces loyal to the Shogun.

She was the key actor in the Naval Battle of Miyako Bay, in which, after a failed attempt to board and overtake the Kōtetsu, she was forced to flee ahead of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was then the flagship of the rebel navy during the Naval Battle of Hakodate Bay.

Later in the war, Kaiten was beached at Aomori Bay near Hakodate on 6 May 1869 and burned by its crew on 20 June the same year to prevent it falling into enemy hands – the Prussian corvette Medusa happened to be present and observed the burning.

In the late Meiji Era, Arai Ikunosuke, once the Navy Minister of the Republic of Ezo, wrote an extensive article on the Kaiten in the historical journal "Kyū Bakufu".

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