Big cruiser SMS Hertha

The big cruiser SMS Hertha belonged to the Victoria Louise class and was one of the last armored cruisers built for the Imperial Navy before this ship was replaced by more modern classes.


Launching and design:

The Victoria Louise class was a type of cruiser II. Class and thus not directly designed for conflict with other major naval forces. Main tasks of this class were mainly overseas services and the training of sailors.

The development of the ship class begins at the beginning of the 90s of the 20th century. During this time, there was a controversial dispute between the High Command of the Navy and the Imperial Navy Office on the new direction of the imperial navy. Although it was agreed beforehand to dispense with coastal defense and to build an imperial deep-sea fleet. However, the offices could not agree on a ship type, which can take over the corresponding tasks. Under Rear Admiral Wilhelm Büchsel, who temporarily led the Reichsmarineamt from March 31 to June 15, 1897, came the plan for the expansion of a large cruiser fleet. This should also include a total of 30 ships of the Victoria Louise class, with the first ships were already launched from the stack. After Alfred Tirpitz took office in June 1897, he promptly deleted this plan, but could no longer prevent the commissioning of the already almost finished ships of the Victoria Louise class.

The development came from the insights that the designers had gained from the single ship SMS Kaiserin Augusta. There was only minimal change in length and armament.

Initially, the drive system at Hansa consisted of 18 transverse Belleville boilers. Only after the fundamental modernization in this ship, the uniform marine boiler were installed.

The heavy guns consisted of two 21-cm rapid-fire cannons, which were supplemented with eight 15-cm fast-charging cannons.

The launching of the SMS Hertha took place on April 14, 1897, the commissioning on July 23, 1898.


SMS Hertha


SMS Hertha




History of SMS Hertha:

Already at the first test drives, SMS Hertha, as well as its sister ships, had major problems with the installed boiler system. This tended to expel hot smoke, causing the chimneys and chimneys to overheat and gradually collapse. Despite the known shortcomings, the Hertha was assigned as an escort of the imperial yacht Hohenzollern to accompany them on their journey to the Orient, which ended on 11 November 1898.

Just a few days after the end of the journey, the ship had to Genoa in the Ansaldo shipyard to overhaul the boiler plant. The work lasted until March 1899.

In the meantime, Hertha was ordered to head for Asia after the overhaul to replace one of the outdated ships of the East Asia squadron. On April 14, 1899, the ship ran out and reached the port of Tsingtau on June 8. In the next few months, visits were made to the various regions of influence, which were to last until May 1900. The final visit to the Chinese imperial court had to be canceled on May 29, 1900, however, as riots spread in the region around Tanggu.

With the Boxer Rebellion, the respective embassies requested protection from their respective security forces. For this reason, some ships gathered around the end of Mau 1900 around Tanggu for any evacuation, including the German ships SMS Iltis and on June 8, the Hertha. Due to the growing threat to boxers and Chinese troops for the Legation, British commander Admiral Edward Hobart Seymour landed a portion of his crew and asked for support from other major powers. The crew of Hertha participated with the landing of 4 officers and 120 men.

After the suppression of the uprising Hertha was replaced by the recently completed battleship Prince Bismarck as a squadron flagship on 17 August 1900. By the end of the year, the ship was still involved in some operations against forts and visiting several Chinese ports.


Sailors of SMS Hertha during deployment in China


SMS Hertha on the roadstead in the port of Daressalaam


Until December 31, 1904, Hertha repeatedly visited the Japanese city Nagasaki, as well as several ports in the Philippines and in Indonesia and Singapore for representation tasks. Due to the wear and the urgency of a major overhaul, the ship was finally ordered back to the German Empire, where it arrived on May 12, 1905 in Kiel and was decommissioned.


To replace the used as training ships cruiser frigates of the Bismarck class, the naval leadership resorted to the ships of the Victoria Louise class back, although only a few years old, by the technical development, however, were considered outdated. For this purpose, the Hertha from 1906 not only overhauled but also converted as a training ship. Among other things, the old drive system was removed and replaced by the new marine boiler. The armament was adjusted accordingly. As a result of these alterations, the ship lost one of the three chimneys, which also changed the silhouette of the ship. At the beginning of 1908, the reconstruction work was completed and Hertha was again put into service on April 7, 1908.

The training trips led first to Bornholm, Swinemünde and Bremerhaven until the Hertha ports started in Norwegian, Scottish and Irish waters. On December 30, the ship anchored in Corfu, where the crew received the news that a heavy earthquake had broken out in the Strait of Messina two days earlier. Together with SMS Victoria Louise, the ship provided humanitarian aid, bringing blankets, food and medicines to the affected population.

Until July 1914 further training trips were carried out worldwide. From 22 to 25 July 1914, the Hertha anchored in the port of Edinburgh, making it the last imperial ship, which was before the First World War in a British port.


SMS Hertha after the conversion to the training ship in 1909 in New York


SMS Hertha after the conversion to the training ship in 1909


Seal of SMS Hertha




Use in the war:

With the outbreak of the First World War, the SMS Hertha was again assigned to the military service and transferred to the newly formed V. reconnaissance group. The missions were limited only to security tasks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Due to the early lack of personnel on larger and more modern warships, the reconnaissance group was dissolved on 16 November 1914 and the Hertha decommissioned. For the remainder of the war, the ship served only in Flensburg as a barge for the air station.





After the war, the Hertha was removed from the list of warships on 6 December 1919 and scrapped in Rendsburg.




Ship data:


SMS Hertha


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Big cruiser




AG Vulcan, Stettin


9.932.000 Mark


April 14th, 1897


July 23rd, 1898


On December 6, 1919 deleted from military list and scrapped


110,6 meters


17,4 meters


Max. 6,78 meters


Max. 6.491 Tons


477 Men


12 Belleville steam boilers
3 stationary 4-cylinder compound machines


10.312 PS (7.584 kW)

Maximum speed:  

19,0 kn (35 km/h)


2 × Rapid Fire Gun 21,0 cm L / 40 (116 shots)

8 × Rapid Fire Gun 15,0 cm L / 40 (960 rounds)

10 × Rapid Fire Gun 8,8 cm L / 30 (2.500 rounds)

10 × Revolver cannon 3,7 cm

3 × torpedo tube ø 45 cm (2 sides, 1 bow, under water, 8 shots)



Deck: 40 mm
Slopes: 100 mm
Tower fronts: 100 mm
Tower ceilings: 30 mm
Casemates: 100 mm
Control station: 150 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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