The Kaiser Wilhelm der Große was a passenger ship of the North German Lloyd and had been built for the transatlantic passage between Bremerhaven and New York. With the beginning of the First World War, the ship was used by the Imperial Navy for war purposes and used as an auxiliary cruiser off the West African coast.
Launching and design:
At the end of the 19th century, the North German Lloyd had the world's largest fleet of high-speed steamers. However, the expansion of the fleet to larger ships was limited by the limited area of the lock in Bremerhaven, as this could not pass at the time of larger ships. In order to remain competitive, the company, with the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II, put enough pressure on Bremerhaven to enable it to expand the lock. Thus, larger ships could now be built and purchased for the North German Lloyd, under the imperial condition to have them built on a German shipyard.
1896 then the order was made to the A.G. Vulcan shipyard in Stettin for the construction of Kaiser Wilhelm der Große. The launching took place already on 4 May 1897, the commissioning on 19 September 1897.
History of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große:
The maiden voyage from Bremerhaven to New York ran to the complete satisfaction of the company management. The board praised the ship as a successful construction with excellent services. Already in November of the year of the maiden voyage the ship broke the record for the eastward transatlantic trip, in February 1898 the record fell in the opposite direction. In the same year the ship was then released for commercial passage and used.
The first damage got the ship already on June 30, 1900 when a fire hit the piers in Hoboken, New York. The Kaiser Wilhelm der Große was able to run out in time and carried only minor damage, the German passenger ships Main, Bremen and Saale, however, completely burned. The fire cost about 300 lives.
In November 1906 there was an accident with the RMS Orinoco, when the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große crossed their fairway and the Orinoco the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große rammed amidships. A 21 x 8 meter area was torn open and 5 passengers died.
Shortly before the First World War, the ship was rebuilt in 1914 to accommodate more passengers of the 3rd and 4th class to be able to promote the growing demand for emigrants to the United States.
Use in the war:
When the First World War broke out, the ship was in Bremerhaven when the naval command decided to use it for war purposes. For this purpose, a screen was applied and installed four 10.5 cm fast charging guns. As an auxiliary cruiser, the ship should now be used against British and French ships, mostly merchant ships.
Immediately after the reconstruction, the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große ran under the leadership of frigate captain Max Reymann, was able to break through the not yet completely closed British blockade of the North Sea and arrived in his area of operation off the west coast of Africa.
The first British ship was launched on 7 August 1914. It concerned the fish steamer Tubal Cain which was sunk after the admission of the crew with explosive cartridges. Subsequently, the passenger ships Galicean and Atalante were still applied, but were released after the search, as there were many women and children on the ships and its fixing was excluded by the German captain.
The British cargo steamer Kaipara and Nyanga followed on 16 August.
On August 17, Kaiser Wilhelm der Große moved from the coast of Spanish Sahara at Río de Oro into neutral waters to receive coal from the German ships Magdeburg and Bethania. On August 26, the British cruiser HMS Highflyer arrived, who immediately opened fire on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große in defiance of Spanish neutrality. After about half an hour, the German ship had fired all its ammunition. On the order of the captain, the ship sailed into shallow waters and let the crew mount explosive charges to self-sink the ship. After ignition of the charges, the crew went on the lifeboats and went ashore.
After the self-sinking on August 26, 1914, the wreck still remained at the point of sinking, since it could not completely sink due to the shallow water. It was not until 1952 (or 1960, an exact time is not available) that the wreck was lifted and scrapped.
Kaiser Wilhelm der Große
Passenger ship, from 1914 conversion to auxiliary cruiser
AG Vulcan Szczecin
May 4th, 1897
September 19th, 1897
Sunk on 26 August 1914 by his own crew and scrapped in 1952 and 1960, respectively.
Max. 8,3 meters
Max. 20.380 Tons
4 quadruple expansion steam engines
28.000 PS (20.594 kW)
22,35 kn (41 km/h)
4 × 10,5 cm fast charging guns
You can find the right literature here:
German Battleships 1914–18 (1): Deutschland, Nassau and Helgoland classes (New Vanguard)
Supported by official documents, personal accounts, official drawings and specially commissioned artwork, this volume is an enlightening history of the Deutschland to Osfriesland classes. Detailing the last of the pre-dreadnaught battleship classes, this book goes on to explain the revolutionary developments that took place within the German Imperial Navy as they readied themselves for war. This included creating vessels with vast increases in size and armament. This account of design and technology is supplemented by individual ship histories detailing combat experience complete with first-hand accounts. The specially commissioned artwork also brings this history to life with recreations of the battleship Pommern fighting at Jutland and ships of the Osfriesland class destroying HMS Black Prince in a dramatic night-time engagement.
The Imperial German Navy of World War I, Vol. 1 Warships: A Comprehensive Photographic Study of the Kaiser’s Naval Forces
The Imperial German Navy of WWI is a series of books (Warships, Campaigns, & Uniforms) that provide a broad view of the Kaiser's naval forces through the extensive use of photographs. Every effort has been made to cover all significant areas during the war period. In addition to the primary use of photographs, technical information is provided for each warship along with its corresponding service history; with a special emphasis being placed on those warships that participated in the Battle of Skagerrak (Jutland). Countless sources have been used to establish individual case studies for each warship; multiple photos of each warship are provided. The entire series itself is unprecedented in its coverage of the Kaiser's navy.
German Battlecruisers of World War One: Their Design, Construction and Operations
This is the most comprehensive, English-language study of the German Imperial Navy's battlecruisers that served in the First World War. Known as Panzerkreuzer, literally "armored cruiser," the eight ships of the class were to be involved in several early North Sea skirmishes before the great pitched battle of Jutland where they inflicted devastating damage on the Royal Navy's battlecruiser fleet. This book details their design and construction, and traces the full service history of each ship, recounting their actions, drawing largely from first-hand German sources and official documents, many previously unpublished in English.
The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918
The battleships of the Third Reich have been written about exhaustively, but there is little in English devoted to their Second Reich predecessors. This new book fills an important gap in the literature of the period by covering these German capital ships in detail and studying the full span of battleship development during this period. The book is arranged as a chronological narrative, with technical details, construction schedules, and ultimate fates tabulated throughout, thus avoiding the sometimes disjointed structure that can result from a class-by-class approach. Heavily illustrated with line drawings and photographs, many from German sources, the book offers readers a fresh visual look at these ships. A key objective of the book is to make available a full synthesis of the published fruits of archival research by German writers found in the pre-World War II books of Koop & Schmolke, Großmer's on the construction program of the dreadnaught era, Forstmeier & Breyer on World War I projects, and Schenk & Nottelmann's papers in Warship International. As well as providing data not available in English-language books, these sources correct significant errors in standard English sources.