SMS Hamburg

An unidentified member of the Bremen class
German Empire
Name: Hamburg
Laid down: 1902
Launched: 25 July 1903
Commissioned: 8 March 1908
Out of service: 1944
Struck: 31 March 1931
Fate: Scrapped, 1956
General characteristics
Class and type: Bremen-class light cruiser
Displacement: 3,651 metric tons (3,593 long tons)
Length: Length overall: 111.1 meters (365 ft)
Beam: 13.3 m (43.6 ft)
Draft: 5.28 m (17.3 ft)
Installed power: 10,000 ihp (7,500 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range: 4,270 nmi (7,910 km; 4,910 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 14 officers
  • 274 enlisted men
Armor: Deck: 80 mm (3.1 in)

SMS Hamburg ("His Majesty's Ship Hamburg")[lower-alpha 1] was the second of seven Bremen-class cruisers of the Imperial German Navy, named after the city of Hamburg. She was begun by AG Vulcan Stettin in Stettin in 1902, launched on 25 July 1903 and commissioned on 8 March 1904. Throughout her over 40-year long career, she served with the Imperial Navy, the Reichsmarine, and the Kriegsmarine. Armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, Hamburg was capable of a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph).

Hamburg served with the High Seas Fleet for the first eight years on active duty. For the rest of her career, she served with U-boat flotillas, first as a flagship for the I U-boat Flotilla and later as a barracks ship for U-boat crews during World War I. she returned to fleet duty with the Reichsmarine after the end of the war, but returned to barracks ship duties starting in 1936, though 1944. She was towed to her namesake city in early July 1944 for scrapping, but was sunk by British bombers toward the end of the month. The wreck was raised in 1949 and subsequently dismantled in 1956.


Main article: Bremen-class cruiser

Hamburg was ordered under the contract name "K"[lower-alpha 2] and was laid down at the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin in 1902 and launched on 25 July 1903, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 8 March 1904.[1] The ship was 111.1 meters (365 ft) long overall and had a beam of 13.3 m (44 ft) and a draft of 5.28 m (17.3 ft) forward. She displaced 3,651 t (3,593 long tons; 4,025 short tons) at full combat load.[2] Her propulsion system consisted of two triple-expansion engines, designed to give 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW) for a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). The engines were powered by ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers. Hamburg carried up to 860 tonnes (850 long tons) of coal, which gave her a range of 4,270 nautical miles (7,910 km; 4,910 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). She had a crew of 14 officers and 274287 enlisted men.[1]

The ship was armed with ten 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns in single mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, six were located amidships, three on either side, and two were placed side by side aft. The guns could engage targets out to 12,200 m (40,000 ft). They were supplied with 1,500 rounds of ammunition, for 150 shells per gun. She was also equipped with two 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes. They were submerged in the hull on the broadside.[3] The ship was protected by an armored deck that was up to 80 mm (3.1 in) thick. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides, and the guns were protected by 50 mm (2.0 in) thick shields.[2]

Service history

After her commissioning, Hamburg served with the fleet. She was assigned to I Subdivision of the Cruiser Division of the Active Fleet. The unit consisted of the light cruisers Frauenlob and Arcona and the armored cruiser Friedrich Carl, the flagship. The ships were attached to the I Squadron of the Active Fleet. A second subdivision, composed of an armored cruiser and three light cruisers was attached to the II Squadron.[4] In April 1909, Hamburg was cruising in the Mediterranean. On 21 April, she was dispatched from Corfu to Mersin, where rioting threatened German interests.[5] She was joined there the following day by several British and French warships, including the battleship HMS Swiftsure.[6] By 1912, she was withdrawn from front-line service for use as the second command flagship for the I U-boat Flotilla. After the outbreak of World War I, she rejoined the fleet, but continued in her role as the I Flotilla flagship.[3] On 6 August, she and the cruiser Stettin escorted a flotilla of U-boats into the North Sea in an attempt to draw out the British fleet, which could then be attacked by the U-boats. The force returned to port on 11 August, without having encountered any British warships.[7]

On 15–16 December, Hamburg participated in the bombardment of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby. She was assigned to the cruiser screen of the High Seas Fleet, which was providing distant cover to Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper's battlecruisers while they were conducting the bombardment.[8] Following reports of British destroyers from Hamburg and the armored cruiser Roon, Admiral von Ingenohl ordered the High Seas Fleet to turn to port and head for Germany.[9] At 06:59, Hamburg, Roon, and Stuttgart encountered Commander Jones' destroyers. Jones shadowed the Germans until 07:40, at which point Hamburg and Stuttgart were detached to sink their pursuers. At 08:02, Roon signaled the two light cruisers and ordered them to abandon the pursuit and retreat along with the rest of the High Seas Fleet.[10]

On 21 April 1915, Hamburg collided with the German torpedo boat S21 in the North Sea off the mouth of the Weser river.[11]

Hamburg was assigned to the IV Scouting Group during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1 June 1916. The IV Scouting Group, under the command of Commodore Ludwig von Reuter, departed Wilhelmshaven at 03:30 on 31 May, along with the rest of the fleet.[12] Tasked with screening for the fleet, Hamburg and the torpedo boat V73 were positioned on the port side of the fleet, abreast of the II Battle Squadron.[13] Hamburg and the IV Scouting Group were not heavily engaged during the early phases of the battle, but around 21:30, they encountered the British 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron (3rd LCS). Reuter's ships were leading the High Seas Fleet south, away from the deployed Grand Fleet. Due to the long range and poor visibility, only München and Stettin were able to engage the British cruisers. Hamburg only fired one salvo, since the haze rendered it impossible to spot the fall of shot. Reuter turned his ships hard to starboard, in order to draw the British closer to the capital ships of the German fleet, but the 3rd LCS refused to take the bait and disengaged.[14]

Later in the war, Hamburg was reduced to a barracks ship for the U-boat flotilla in Wilhelmshaven. During this period, among others, her commanding officers was Korvettenkapitän Friedrich Lützow, who commanded Hamburg from 16 March 1917 to 12 May 1918. She was among the six light cruisers Germany was permitted to retain by the Treaty of Versailles. In the service of the newly reorganized Reichsmarine, Hamburg served in the active fleet starting in 1920.[3] In 1922, Hamburg was assigned to the North Sea Squadron, with the old battleship Braunschweig and the cruiser Arcona.[15] She remained in the fleet until 1923, when she was withdrawn from active service for use as a training cruiser for naval cadets. She served in this capacity from 1924 to 1927; she remained in the Reichsmarine inventory until she was stricken from the naval register on 31 March 1931. Promoted to Kapitän zur See, Lützow again served as her commander form 27 September 1924 to 2 May 1925. She was again used as a barracks ship for submarine crews starting in 1936 by the Kriegsmarine, this time in Kiel. She continued in this duty until 1944, when the Kriegsmarine decided to break her up for scrap. She was towed to her namesake city on 7 July 1944 for dismantling,[3] where she was later sunk by British bombers on 27 July.[16] The wreck was raised in 1949 and ultimately broken up in 1956.[3]



  1. "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).
  2. German warships were ordered under provisional names. For new additions to the fleet, they were given a single letter; for those ships intended to replace older or lost vessels, they were ordered as "Ersatz (name of the ship to be replaced)".


  1. 1 2 Gröner, pp. 102–103
  2. 1 2 Gröner, p. 102
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Gröner, p. 103
  4. Naval Notes — Germany, p. 1319
  5. "German Cruiser Sails". New York Times. 22 April 1909. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  6. "Foreign Cruisers at Mersina". New York Times. 23 April 1909. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  7. Scheer, pp. 3435
  8. Scheer, p. 69
  9. Massie, p. 340
  10. Massie, p. 340–341
  11. Wilmott, p. 343
  12. Tarrant, p. 62
  13. Tarrant, p. 68
  14. Tarrant, pp. 192193
  15. Robinson, p. 1014
  16. Rohwer, p. 264


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