Battleship SMS König

The battleship SMS König belonged to the same class of ships, which belonged to the most modern ships of the imperial navy and were put into service shortly before the First World War. However, like most other modern ships, the king shared the fate of self-absorption in Scapa Flow.


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 Secretary of State 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 of SMS König took place on 1 March 1913, the commissioning on 9 August 1914.


SMS König during the construction phase


SMS König shortly before launch


Battleship SMS König

Battleship SMS König


Side view and view from above of the König-Class




Use in the war:

When the ship was put into service, Europe was already at war. On the usual test drives was dispensed with the König but the ship already on August 12, the III. Squadron assigned.

By the beginning of 1916, several attempts were made in the North Sea, but ran without enemy contact. Only during the Battle of the Skagerrak from May 31, 1916 to June 1, 1916, when the SMS König served as flagship under Rear Admiral Paul Behncke, it came to the first firefights with British ships. During the battle, the king had to take around 16 hits of heavy and medium artillery, killing 45 crew members. Due to the excellent construction of the ship, the hits had no effect on the stability or firepower. Thus, after the skirmish, SMS König was able to return to Kiel on his own strength, where the repairs were started immediately in the Imperial Shipyard. These were completed on July 26, 1916 and the ship was operational again.

Until October 1917, the König was still involved in some attacks on the British coast, but ran without enemy contact. As of October 11, Operation Albion, which had the conquest of the Baltic islands as its destination, was carried out in the Baltic Sea. The König participated in this operation by bombing the land battery of Cape Kinast on Osel.

On October 17, 1917, the ship hit the Russian liner Slawa, which was so heavily damaged by shelling that it could no longer drive at Moon Sound through the shallow water and had to be blown up by their own crew. On the way back, the king himself had ground touch on 26 October and had to be repaired in Kiel until 17 November.

When an end to the war was foreseeable in October 1918, the Naval Office issued a naval order on October 24 to order the High Seas Fleet to make a decisive battle against the British ships. As the flagship of the III. Squadron was also the König scheduled for this battle. As the command became known among the crew, the unrest among the crew became apparent on the König. With the demolition of the command III. Squadron back to Kiel ordered.

With the uprising of the sailors on 4 November in Kiel, the ships of the squadron were relocated to the Bay of Lübeck. The König, however, remained at the shipyard in Kiel, where sailors stormed the ship on 5 November to tear down the Reichskriegsflagge. Captain Carl Wilhelm Weniger was injured 3 times while defending the flag, while First Lieutenant Corvette Commander Bruno Heinemann and Lake Leutnant Wolfgang Zenker lost their lives.


Battleship SMS König

Battleship SMS König


Battleship SMS König

Battleship SMS König


Battleship SMS König

Battleship SMS König


Damage after the Battle of the Skagerrak





With the terms of the truce the SMS König was one of the ships that were to be delivered to the victorious powers and interned in Scapa Flow. Since at the time of delivery, the king was not ready to drive, she joined the small cruiser Dresden, the crossing only later and reached Scapa Flow on 6 December 1918.

As at the end of the negotiations of Versailles was foreseeable that the ships will not be returned to Germany, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave to the crew members remaining on the ships on June 21, 1919 the order for self-subsidence.

The wreck of the SMS König was sold in 1962 to a Scottish salvage company, which then began with the salvage. However, the company managed to blast off only parts of the stern and to lift, the rest of the ship is still in about 39 meters depth and is a popular destination among recreational divers.


Middle ship of the SMS König

Middle ship of the SMS König


Middle ship of the SMS König

Middle ship of the SMS König


Front guns of the SMS König




Ship data:


SMS König


German Empire

Ship Type:  





Imperial Shipyard, Wilhelmshaven


45.000.000 Mark


March 1st, 1913


August 9th, 1914


Sunk on 21 June 1919 in Scapa Flow, 1962 partially scrapped


175,4 meters


29,5 meters


Max. 9,19 meters


Max. 28.600 Tons


1.136 Men




15 marine kettles
3 set of Parsons turbines


43.300 PS (31.847 kW)

Maximum speed:  

21,0 kn (39 km/h)


10 × 30,5cm Rapid fire gun L/50

14 × 15cm Rapid fire gun L/45

6 × 8,8cm Rapid fire gun L/45

4 × 8,8 cm L/45 anti-aircraft guns

5 × torpedo tube ø 50 cm





Belt: 120-350 mm
Citadel: 120-180 mm
Armor deck: 60-100 mm
Upper deck: 30 mm
Panzer transverse bulkheads: 170-200 mm
Torpedo bulkheads: 40 mm
Barbettes: 300 mm
Tower: 110-300 mm
Casemates: 170 mm
Front command tower: 150-300
Aft command tower: 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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