Coastal Defense Ship SMS Frithjof

The coastal armored ship SMS Frithjof belonged to the Siegfried class, whose concept was in the defense of the German coasts and the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal and based on the tactical design of Leo von Caprivis.


Launching and design:

At the end of the 1880s, the focus of the Imperial Navy was still on the protection of German coastal areas. For this purpose, mainly warships were built, which met the appropriate requirements.
This expansion was driven by the captain of the Navy Leo Caprivis, who saw at that time the role of the Navy only in the defensive sector and accordingly gave the torpedo boats and coastal protection ships the priority to large warships.

The design of the Siegfried class was created in this context. The ships were intended only for the protection of the coast in the North and Baltic Sea in cooperation with the torpedo boats.

The launching took place on July 21, 1891, the commissioning on February 23, 1893.

The name Frithjof was derived from the Old Norse hero saga around Frithjof, son of the great farmer Torstein Vikingson and his love for Ingibjorg, the beautiful daughter of Beles, king of Sogn on the Sognefjord in Norway.


Drawing of Frithiof's saga by Esaias Tegnér (1876)




History of SMS Frithjof:

After commissioning, the ship was initially assigned to the 2nd Division of the maneuver fleet and completed there their test drives. On October 1, 1893, it was assigned as a mastership of the newly formed Reserve Division of the North Sea where it participated in several maneuvers and exercises in the next few years.

At the beginning of 1902 all ships of the Siegfried class were modernized. For this, the ships were divided to add another section in which more coal could be stored. In addition, a new boiler plant was installed and replaced the armament. The reconstruction took until September 29, 1903, after which the ship was assigned to the II Squadron of the High Seas Fleet, where it also carried out several trips abroad.

With the detachment by the battleship SMS Kaiser Barbarossa as the base ship of the reserve squadron, the Frithjof was decommissioned on 15 September 1909.


SMS Frithjof


SMS Frithjof




Use in the war:

With the outbreak of the First World War, the ships of the Siegfried class were reactivated, the VI. Squadron assigned and relocated for coastal protection tasks in the North Sea. In September 1914, the Frithjof was relocated to the Ems estuary.

At the beginning of January 1916, the ship was first transferred to Kiel, then to Gdansk where the ship was decommissioned on 16 January.


SMS Frithjof


Seal of the SMS Frithjof

Seal of the SMS Frithjof





After decommissioning, the ship was used as a living ship until the end of the war. Since it was already obsolete at the beginning of the war, the victorious powers did not insist on extradition. On June 17, 1919, it was removed from the list of warships.

The Hamburg shipowner Arnold Bernstein later bought the Frithjof, together with the sister ships Odin and the Aegir and let this rebuild 1923 to motor cargo ship. As a freighter Frithjof served until 1930 until it was scrapped in Danzig.




Ship data:


SMS Frithjof


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Coastal Defense Ship




AG Weser, Bremen


5.375.000 Mark


July 21st, 1891


February 23rd, 1893


Scrapped in Danzig in 1930


79 meters


14,9 meters


Max. 5,74 meters


Max. 3.741 Tons


276 Men


4 steam locomotive boilers
2 standing 3-cylinder compound machines


5.250 PS (3.861 kW)

Maximum speed:  

15,0 kn (28 km/h)


3 × Ring Cannon 24,0 cm L / 35 (204 shots)

8 × Rapid Fire Gun 8.8 cm L / 30 (1.500 rounds)

6 × machine gun 3.7 cm

4 × torpedo tube ∅ 35 cm (1 stern, 2 sides above water, 1 bow under water, 10 shots)





Waterline: 100-240 mm
Deck: 30 mm
Towers: 30 mm
Barbettes: 200 mm
Command tower: 30-80 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.

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