Big cruiser SMS Gneisenau

The SMS Gneisenau and her sister ship SMS Scharnhorst were built at the beginning of the 20th century and were to create a new class of large cruisers, which were mainly intended for use in the German colonies.


Launching and design:

1904 began the construction of the two ships of the Scharnhorst class. These were in contrast to the predecessor cruiser much larger and had a stronger heavy armament, but at the expense of the middle armament went. The ships were designed for use in the waters of the German colonies, which existed at that time in Africa and Asia.

The launching took place on 14 June 1906, the commissioning on 6 March 1908.


Eponym August Neidhardt von Gneisenau

Eponym August Neidhardt von Gneisenau


SMS Gneisenau


Longitudinal section and upper view of SMS Gneisenau (1906)

Longitudinal section and upper view of SMS Gneisenau (1906)



Use in the war:

From 1909 the Gneisenau belonged as well as the Scharnhorst to the cruiser squadron, which was stationed in Asia. When the First World War broke out, the ships were on an inspection trip. A trip to the German colony port Tsingtau was excluded by Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee, as this would fear the entry of Japan on the part of the Allies and thus expose his ships to great danger. He therefore decided to collect the available ships from the then German Marianas. The small cruiser SMS Emden was sent on an independent cruiser war, while the other ships should try to drive over South America to Europe. While driving towards the west coast of South America, the small cruisers SMS Dresden and SMS Leipzig joined the association.

On November 1, 1914, Coronel, on the west coast of Chile, met for the first time with British ships. Despite strong sea conditions and strong winds, the German ships succeeded in sinking the British armored cruisers HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth. The light cruiser HMS Glasgow escaped slightly damaged. After increasing the coal reserves in Valparaíso reached the squadron in early December Cape Horn.

As the British Falkland Islands lay on their way to Europe, Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee's plan was to attack those islands, destroy the radio equipment, pick up the coal reserves, and capture the British governor. Contrary to the concerns of the other commanders of Spee went on the morning of December 8 with the Gneisenau and the small cruiser Nuremberg as the head of the German Federation and the landing corps on board to the islands. After the lost battle of Coronel, however, the British had increased their number of ships in the area and had in addition the battlecruisers HMS Inflexible, HMS Invincible and the armored cruiser HMS Carnarvon, HMS Cornwall, HMS Kent and light cruisers HMS Glasgow and HMS Bristol on the Islands stationed.

After sighting the British ships in the harbor, Spee turned his ships around. What the lookout had not recognized, however, was the fact that the British ships were busy at this moment with the carburizing and thus had been very conditionally prepared for a battle. However, these could run out faster than expected and track the German ships. As they slowly caught up with the Germans, von Spee fired his two small cruisers to at least let them escape.

In the subsequent battle between the British ships Invincible, Inflexible, Carnarvon and the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst was first sunk at 16:17 clock, the Scharnhorst and at 18:02 clock the Gneisenau. 187 crew members survived and could be rescued.


Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Nürnberg leaving Valparaiso, Chile


The last course of SMS Gneisenau


The sinking Scharnhorst, behind the Gneisenau, on a painting William Wyllies of 1918


The inflexible in rescuing Gneisenau survivors shortly after 18:00


Seal brand of the SMS Gneisenau

Seal brand of the SMS Gneisenau




Ship data:


SMS Gneisenau


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Big cruiser




AG Weser, Bremen


19.243.000 Mark


June 14th, 1906


March 6th, 1908


Sunk on December 8, 1914 at the Falkland Islands


144,6 meters


21,6 meters


Max. 8,37 meters


Max. 12.985 Tons


764 to 840 Men


18 Marine Boiler
3 3-cylinder compound machines


30.396 PS (22.356 kW)

Maximum speed:  

23,6 kn (44 km/h)


8 × Rapid Fire Gun 21,0 cm L / 40 (700 shots)

6 × Rapid Fire Gun 15,0 cm L / 40 (1.020 rounds)

18 × Rapid Fire Gun 8,8 cm L / 35 (2.700 rounds)

4 × torpedo tube ∅ 45,0 cm (1 bow, 21 sides, 11 stern, under 1 water, 11 shots)



Belt: 80-150 mm on 50 mm teak
Citadel: 150 mm
Deck: 35-60 mm
Front command tower: 30-200 mm
Aft command tower: 20-50 mm
Towers: 30-170 mm
Casemates: 150 mm
Shields heavy artillery: 40-150 mm
Shields Medium Artillery: 80 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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