Big cruiser (Battle cruiser) SMS Derfflinger

The large cruiser SMS Derfflinger belonged to the same class of ships and was a new development based on the experience of SMS Seydlitz and the ships of the Moltke class. The Derfflinger class was one of the last built in the Empire battlecruisers, but already showed the construction of groundbreaking progress and belonged to the strongest fighting ships of the German Navy.


Launching and design:

The design of the Derfflinger class stems from the ships of the Moltke class and the large cruiser SMS Seydlitz, which came out as an evolution from the Moltke class. Completely new was the construction with a smooth deck and the height-adjusted turrets. Of the newer small cruisers, the novel Längsspantsystem was taken over. In addition, the bow was redesigned and was designed completely vertically above the waterline, which increased the speed of the ship.

The combat strength was increased by the use of 30.5-cm fast charge guns in four twin towers, also unlike the predecessor ships. Although British ships had already used the caliber 35.5-cm, but the slightly smaller German caliber were due to the quality and bullet speed equal to those of the British.

The launching of the Derfflinger was planned on June 14, 1913. Due to a breakdown, the ship slipped only a few inches. It was not until July 12, 1913, that the ship could be launched.


SMS Derfflinger


Drawing of SMS Derfflinger


SMS Derfflinger firing the main guns




Use in the war:

The commissioning took place on 1 September 1914. After some test drives the Derfflinger had its first mission on 16 December 1914, where small German cruisers fired at the British coastal towns of Scarborough and Whitby.

On January 24, 1915, a large push by the German federation on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea to attack the local British outpost boats. The British navy, informed by the interception of radio messages, in turn sent its fleet to meet the Germans. In the following battle on the Dogger Bank Derfflinger received some hits.


SMS Derfflinger on the way to the Dogger Bank


The next and last battle for the Derfflinger took place on 31 May 1916 at the Battle of the Skagerrak. There, the ship could sink the British battlecruisers HMS Queen Mary and HMS Invincible, but had to take even heavy hits. Despite the heavy damage, the 157 dead and the invaded 3,000 liters of water, the ship was able to move to Wilhelmshaven on its own. Then it moved to Kiel where the repairs were carried out until November 1916.

After the recovered readiness Derfflinger participated in any further major operation more.


Battle damage to the SMS Derfflinger





According to the terms of surrender of November 1918 Derfflinger was one of the German ships that had to intern in Scapa Flow. When it became known that the German ships lying there are no longer given back to Germany, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter issued the order for self-subversion on June 21, 1919. The Derfflinger sunk around 14:45 clock.

In November 1939 the salvage of the wreck was started. However, as a result of the outbreak of the Second World War, this work was discontinued, as the capacities needed to be used for the war economy. Only in 1948 was the scrapping continued. As a sign for the reconciliation of peoples, the ship's bell and the official seal of the Derfflinger were handed over to the German Marineattaché on August 30, 1965.


SMS Derfflinger with other ships on the way to Scapa Flow


SMS Derfflinger interned in Scapa Flow


SMS Derfflinger during the sinking




Ship data:


SMS Derfflinger


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Big cruiser (Battle cruiser)




Blohm & Voss, Hamburg


56.000.000 Mark


July 12th, 1913


September 1st, 1914


Sunk on June 21, 1919 in Scapa Flow itself


210,4 meters


29 meters


Max. 9,56 meters


Max. 31.200 Tons


1112 to 1182 Men


18 Marine Boiler
2 steam turbines


76.634 PS (56.364 kW)

Maximum speed:  

26,5 kn (49 km/h)


8 × 30.5 cm L / 50 Rapid Fire Protection (720 rounds)

12 × 15 cm L / 45 Rapid Fire Gun (1,920 rounds)

4 × 8,8 cm L / 45 Rapid Fire Gun

8 × 8,8 cm L / 45 Air Defence Cannon (total 3,000 rounds)

4 torpedo tubes ∅ 50 cm (1 stern, 2 sides, 1 bow, under water, 12 shots)



Belt: 30-300 mm
Deck: 30-80 mm
Citadel: 270 mm
Casemate: 150 mm
Towers: 110-270 mm
Torpedo bulkhead: 45 mm
front command tower: 130-300 mm
Aft command tower: 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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