Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst

The large-line ship SMS Großer Kurfürst belonged to the König class, which belonged to the most modern ships of the imperial navy and were put into service shortly before the First World War. Like most other modern ships, the Großer Kurfürst also shared the fate of Scapa Flow's sinking.


Launching and design:

The ships of the König class came from the experience of the Kaiser class. The biggest change was in the arrangement of the heavy guns, which were initially placed in the ship's centerline. Already in April 1910, the General Marine Department presented such a concept to lay down the construction of the usual wing towers. Although the State Secretary in the Imperial Navy Admiral Tirpitz initially rejected this draft, later approved it anyway. A change to a larger caliber of heavy guns from 30.5-cm to 38-cm, however, omitted, as this would have led to significantly higher costs.

The redistribution of heavy guns further reduced the area needed to be armored. This weight saving is used by the developers to increase the thickness of the armor.

The launching took place on May 5, 1913, the commissioning on July 30, 1914.


launching SMS Großer Kurfürst


launching SMS Großer Kurfürst


Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst

Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst



Use in the war:

After the usual test drives the ship of the 5th Division III. Squadron assigned. With this it participated also from 31 May to 1 June 1916 in the Skagerrakschlacht, where it got several hits and 15 crew members died. The repair lasted from 6 June to 16 July 1916 and was carried out in Hamburg.

On a drive off the Danish coast, the Großer Kurfürst was torpedoed and damaged by the British submarine HMS J1, but was able to return to Hamburg on his own, where the subsequent repairs continued until 9 February 1917.

On March 5, 1917, there was an exercise in a collision with the sister ship SMS Kronprinz, the Großer Kurfürst had suffered severe damage to the bow. These were repaired in the imperial shipyard Wilhelmshaven makeshift, which the ship was already on 22 April 1917 again operational.

On October 12, 1917, a Russian mine in the Baltic Sea again damaged the ship. From 18 October to 1 December 1917 it was thus again in Wilhelmshaven for repair.

The last combat mission, the ship on April 23, 1918 off the west coast of Norway.

In the period from 2 June to 9 June and from 21 June to 31 July 1918, the ship was again in Wilhelmshaven in the shipyard.

With the outbreak of the sailor uprising in Kiel on 4 November 1918, the crew of the Großer Kurfürst participated and mutinied aboard the ship.


Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst

Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst


Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst

Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst


Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst

Battleship SMS Großer Kurfürst


The SMS Großer Kurfürst at the company Albion in the fall of 1917





With the terms of the truce the Great Elector was one of the warships that had to be interned in Scapa Flow. When in the course of the peace negotiations it became foreseeable that the ships should not be given back to the German Reich, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter issued the order for self-subversion on June 21, 1919.

The wreck of the ship was lifted in 1938 and scrapped in Rosyth. The ship's bell was previously purchased by a private individual and purchased by the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth in March 2014, which exhibits it there.




Ship data:



SMS Großer Kurfürst


German Empire

Ship Type:  





AG Vulcan, Hamburg


45.000.000 Mark


May 5th, 1913


July 30th, 1914


Sunk on June 21, 1919 in Scapa Flow itself


175,4 meters


29,5 meters


Max. 9,19 meters


Max. 28.600 Tons


1.200 Men




12 coal-fired and
3 oil-fired steam boilers
3 sets of Parson steam turbines


45.100 PSw

Maximum speed:  

21,2 kn (40 km/h)


10 × 30,5 cm L / 50

14 × 15 cm L / 45

6 × 8,8 cm L / 45 (until 1915)

4 × 8,8 cm L / 45 Anti-aircraft guns (from 1915 only 2)

5 × torpedo tube ø 50 cm





Belt: 350 mm
Deck: 60 mm
Towers: 110-300 mm
Casemates: 170 mm
Front control room: 150-300 mm
Control room aft: 50-200 mm






You can find the right literature here:


German Battleships 1914–18 (1): Deutschland, Nassau and Helgoland classes (New Vanguard)

German Battleships 1914–18 (1): Deutschland, Nassau and Helgoland classes (New Vanguard) Paperback – February 23, 2010

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.

Click here!



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 World War I, Vol. 1 Warships: A Comprehensive Photographic Study of the Kaiser’s Naval Forces Hardcover – December 28, 2016

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.

Click here!



German Battlecruisers of World War One: Their Design, Construction and Operations

German Battlecruisers of World War One: Their Design, Construction and Operations Hardcover – November 4, 2014

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.

Click here!



The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918

The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918 Hardcover – March 15, 2016

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.

Click here!






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