Big cruiser (battle cruiser) SMS Von der Tann

The SMS Von der Tann was a reaction of the imperial navy on the launching of the British battlecruiser HMS Dreadnought on 10 February 1906. First classified as a large cruiser, the Von der Tann was later awarded at the completion of planning as the first German battlecruisers. In contrast to the British ships, the German side of the armor and the underwater protection paid more attention than a heavier armament.


Launching and design:

After the HMS Dreadnought was launched on February 10, 1906 in the UK, the idea of ​​a ship of equal rank on the German side began. Opinions about the new type of ship differed widely between Secretary of State of the Imperial Navy Admiral Tirpitz and the Kaiser. While Tirpitz demanded larger and more powerful calibres as the main weapon, the Emperor's armor and the protection of the ships were higher.

Decisions lasted until mid-1907, when the navy was able to agree on the caliber of heavy artillery, armor, and other features.

The main armament for the ship was to consist of the hydraulically powered 28cm twin towers Drh LC / 1907, which were also installed in the last two ships of the Nassau class. Although these had a smaller caliber than the new British ships, the German guns had a greater penetration and a faster cadence.

The namesake was the Bavarian General Ludwig von der Tann-Rathsamhausen, who had distinguished himself in the German-French War and in the first war in Schleswig-Holstein.


Ludwig von der Tann-Rathsamhausen


The launch of SMS Von der Tann took place on March 20, 1909, the commissioning on February 19, 1911.


Big cruiser (battle cruiser) SMS Von der Tann

Big cruiser (battle cruiser) SMS Von der Tann


The SMS Von der Tann as a motif of a contemporary postcard




History of SMS Von der Tann:

After the commissioning and the subsequent test drives the Von der Tann ran on February 20, 1911 to a trip to South America, where it arrived on March 14, 1911 in Rio de Janeiro.

The ship was there in the harbor until March 23 and was visited by, among others, the Brazilian President, Marshal Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca, who sought closer cooperation between his navy and the imperial navy. Then the ship still Itajahy and Mar del Plata in Argentina, until it made its way back to Germany, where it arrived on May 6, 1911 in Wilhelmshaven and was assigned to the reconnaissance forces of the High Seas Fleet.

Until 1914, the ship participated in the annual maneuvers that were interrupted only with the visit to Britain, as in June 1911, the celebrations of the new British King George V. took place and the SMS Von der Tann brought the German crown prince couple.


Big cruiser (battle cruiser) SMS Von der Tann

Big cruiser (battle cruiser) SMS Von der Tann


Drawing of the SMS Von der Tann in the state of construction from summer 1916

Drawing of the SMS Von der Tann in the state of construction from summer 1916




Use in the war:

At the beginning of the First World War, SMS Von der Tann was tasked with the bombardment of British coastal towns. Among others, Yarmouth, Scarborough and Whitby were shot at while accompanying small cruisers laid mine locks.

After a longer docking season in early 1915, the Von der Tann was relocated to the Baltic Sea to participate in the thrust into the Riga Bay. During this operation, the ship shelled before Utö several coastal targets and the Russian cruiser Gromoboi.

On the night of May 31 to June 1, 1916 was involved Von der Tann in the Battle of Jutland, where it was possible the ship to sink the British battle cruiser HMS Indefatigable with 2 hits. During the further engagement with the ships HMS Tiger, HMS Barham and the HMS Revenge the ship received several heavy hits and had to complain 11 dead. Following the ship ran to Wilhelmshaven where it was repaired until July 29, 1916.

At the end of 1916 and mid-1917, there was damage to the turbine system, which is why the ship each had to go to the shipyard for about 2 months.





According to the terms of the ceasefire agreement, SMS Von der Tann belonged to the ships that had to be interned in Scapa Flow, UK.

When at the end of the talks on the Treaty of Versailles it was foreseeable that the interned warships would no longer be returned to Germany, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter issued the order on June 21, 1919, to open the seacocks of the ships and thereby sink them themselves these do not fall into British hands.

The wreck was lifted from 7 December 1930 and scrapped from 1931 to 1934 in Rosyth.




Ship data:


SMS Von der Tann


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Big cruiser


Single ship


Blohm & Voss, Hamburg


36.523.000 Mark


March 20th, 1909


February 19th, 1911


Sunk on June 21, 1919 in Scapa Flow itself


171,7 meters


26,6 meters


Max. 9,17 meters


Max. 21.300 Tons


923 Men


18 steam boiler
4 Parsons turbines


79.007 PS (58.110 kW)

Maximum speed:  

27,4 kn (51 km/h)




8 × Rapid Fire Gun 28,0 cm L / 45 (660 shots)

10 × Rapid Fire Gun 15,0 cm L / 45 (1.500 shots)

16 × Rapid Fire Gun 8,8 cm L / 45 (3.200 shots)

4 × Torpedo tube ⌀ 45 cm (1 stern, 2 sides, 1 bow, under water, 11 shots)


Belt: 250 mm
Sides: 75 mm
Barbettes: 230 mm
Towers: 230 mm
Deck: 25-50 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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