Liner ship SMS Hessen

The Liner ship SMS Hessen belonged to the Braunschweig class and was one of the few ships that was left after the First World War Germany, formed the basis of the later Navy of the Weimar Republic and survived the Second World War.


Launching and design:

The keel laying of SMS Hessen took place on April 15, 1902 as a single-line ship of the Braunschweig class. The 5 mounted ships should replace the older ships of the Wittelsbach class and were in contrast to those due to the new armament significantly heavier.

For the first time, the 28 cm SK L / 40 guns developed by Krupp were used in double towers on bow and stern on ships. The medium artillery got also for the first time guns of the type 17 cm SK L / 40. Thus, the ships of the Braunschweig class belonged to the most heavily armed of the imperial navy in the time.

The launching took place on 18 September 1903, the commissioning on May 19, 1905.


SMS Hessen


SMS Hessen in the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal under the Levensauer high bridge




History of SMS Hessen:

After the usual test drives, the Hessen was assigned to the II. Squadron of the High Seas Fleet on 4 March 1906 and participated in numerous fleet maneuvers and foreign trips, including to Norway, Canary Islands and Spain.


SMS Hessen


SMS Hessen




Use in the war:

When the First World War broke out, the ships of the Braunschweig class were already considered obsolete. Thus, the Hessen remained in the II Squadron, which took over cover services at the mouth of the Elbe security services and in some operations in the Baltic Sea.

In June 1915, the drive system of the Hessen was extended by an additional oil burner, then the Hesse was turned off for Sundeguard.

On the night of 31 May to 1 June 1916, the Hessen took part as the only ship of the Braunschweig class at the Battle of the Skagerrak, which was survived without hits.

On December 12, 1916, the ship was ordered to Kiel, where it was decommissioned on 18 January 1917 and the armament was expanded. Subsequently, it served as the abode of the first submarine flotilla in Brunsbüttel until the end of the war.




Use in the Navy of the Weimar Republic (Reichs- und Kriegsmarine):

According to the provisions of the Versailles Treaty, SMS Hessen was one of the few ships that did not have to be delivered after the war, which was due to the fact that the ship was already completely outdated at that time. With the 4 sister ships and 4 ships of the German class, the Hesse formed the basis for the remaining Navy of the Weimar Republic.

In 1924, the ship was overhauled, with the 8.8-cm guns reduced and the torpedo tubes were replaced. On 5 January 1925, the ship was operational again.

Until 1934, the Hessen, along with the other ships of the Imperial Navy, took part in foreign trips, which led, inter alia, to Norway, Libau, Reval, Lisbon and Venice.

On November 12, 1934, the Hessen was replaced by the battlecruiser Admiral Scheer and decommissioned.

Subsequently, the ship was converted to a target ship by masts, armament and two chimneys were removed. Furthermore, a new turbine drive system was installed to increase the speed. On April 1, 1937, the reconstruction work was completed.


SMS Hessen as target ship

SMS Hessen as target ship





After the Second World War, the Hessen had to be extradited together with 5 other ships to the Soviet Union. There, the ship was renamed Tsel and served in the Soviet Navy until it was painted in early 1960 from the list of military ships and scrapped.




Ship data:


SMS Hessen


German Empire

Ship Type:  





Germaniawerft, Kiel




September 18th, 1903


May 19th, 1905


Delivered to the Soviet Union in 1946 and scrapped in 1960


127,7 meters


22,2 meters


Max. 8,16 meters


Max. 14.394 Tons


743 Men


3 standing 3-cylinder
Triple expansion reciprocating engines
14 oil / coal fired steam boilers
(of which 6 cylinder boilers)


16.000 PSi

Maximum speed:  

18,2 kn


4 x rapid-fire gun 28 cm L / 40

14 × rapid-fire gun 17 cm L / 40
(from 1931: 12 × 17 cm)

18 × rapid-fire gun 8,8 cm L / 35
(from 1921: 8 × 8,8 cm)

6 × 45 cm torpedo tubes (from 1921: 2 × 50 cm)



Belt: 225 mm
Towers: 250 mm
Citadel: 140 mm
Deck: 40 mm
Slope: 75 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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