Gunboat SMS Panther

The SMS Panther belonged to the Iltis class, which were designed and built at the end of the 19th century exclusively for service in the German colonies. For this the ships were particularly seaworthy and equipped with a large radius of action. In addition to the steam engine, all ships also had sailing rigging to save on longer trips fuel. The Panther was one of the most famous pre-war ships of the German Empire, which caused a stir during the so-called Panther Leap to Agadir during the second Moroccan crisis of 1911.


Launching and design:

From the Iltis class a total of 6 ships were built, which were all intended exclusively for the German colonies. For this reason, the ships were also installed a sailing rigging, which was no longer the case with all other warships of the imperial navy. The sails should allow ships to save fuel on their long journeys as the destinations were in both East-Central America, Africa and Asia and at that time the German Empire had few overseas stations serving as a base.

For the defense of the ships served only two 10.5cm fast charging guns and six 3.7cm revolver guns. Larger or more guns were not possible due to the compact design.

The launch of the SMS Panther took place on April 1, 1901, the commissioning on March 15, 1902.


Gunboat SMS Panther

Gunboat SMS Panther




History of the SMS Panther:

After the commissioning and the test drives, the Panther was first moved to the industrial exhibition in Düsseldorf on June 7, 1902 to represent the imperial navy and its ships. Since the interest of the population on the ship was greater than expected, the stay was extended and the Panther arrived only on 13 July again in Wilhelmshaven. Then the ship sailed into the, at that time still Danish Saint Thomas on the Caribbean islands.

The first military mission was the SMS Panther during the Markomannia incident. In this incident, the German Hapag steamer Markomannia was searched by Haitian rebels for weapons and ammunition, which were, according to the rebels, intended for the government troops, with whom the rebels delivered a civil war. After some weapons were found, these were loaded onto the rebel ship Crête à Pierrot and the German steamer could continue driving. The German Minister Resident then demanded from the German Empire, the posting of a German warship to the rebel ship and to protect the German interests, as already some residents came to harm. On September 5, 1902, the SMS Panther, already lying in the waters, was ordered to search for and make the Crête à Pierrot. Already on 6 September, the ship was discovered in the port of Gonaives. The German Corvette Captain Richard Eckermann let the crew leave the ship and pull off, as he had no opportunity to disarm or capture them. As German sailors with small boats approached the Crête à Pierrot to board them, there were some explosions on the ship. Eckermann then decided to take the ship under attack and sink.

After the political situation calmed down in Haiti, in October 1902 the Panther was sent to Ciudad Bolívar in Venezuela. However, when the tensions between Venezuela and the German Reich came to a head, the Panthers, together with the large cruiser SMS Vineta, the small cruisers SMS Gazelle and SMS Falke, the training ships SMS Charlotte and SMS Stosch and the confiscated Venezuelan gunboat Restaurador became the East American cruiser division summarized. On January 4, 1903, the port of Puerto Cabello was occupied and on January 17, the San Carlos Fort in Maracaibo was shot at by SMS Vineta. Shortly thereafter, the conflict could be resolved diplomatically.

On the subsequent route of the squadron towards Canada, the Panther was overtaken in April 1903 in Newport News in the United States. After the visit to Canada and on the way back, a major overhaul took place, again in the USA.

During a visit to Brazil on November 27, 1905, the so-called Itajahy incident occurred. In this a German sailor deserted after drinking with a German traveler in a pub. Without coordination with the local police other crew members of the ship went in search of the deserted. He could be found and returned to the ship. In the press, however, this was printed as a kidnapping followed by interrogation. The German diplomat denied these statements, but the Brazilian ambassador had already complained to the Foreign Office and the Brazilian cruiser Almirante Barroso had been ordered to observe the German ship.

Until August 5, 1907 trips were still made to Paraguay and Canada until the SMS Panther was sent to Africa.

At the beginning of September 1907, the ship reached Africa and carried out surveying work in the German colonies. In 1910 it was decided to bring the ship to Germany for a major overhaul. In 1911, the SMS Panther then left the German colony of Cameroon and was to take up coal in Morocco on the way home. As a result of the ongoing crisis in Morocco, the Admiral's staff made a request to the Federal Foreign Office for the ideal location for accepting coal on 8 March 1911. The office called the location Agadir, as it is far enough from the French area, but still close enough to signal German interests. In this so-called Panther Leap to Agadir the diplomatic situation between France and England and the German Empire became more acute, as France saw its interests threatened by the German ship. The SMS Panther was in the harbor in the period from 1 to 20 July 1911 until it was replaced by the small cruisers SMS Berlin and SMS Eber. Then the ship arrived in Hamburg on August 19, 1911, to be overhauled in Danzig.

In early 1912, the Panthers left the German Empire again and visited first Southampton and Lisbon until it was sent to Liberia in November to watch there together with the SMS Eber and SMS Bremen, the local unrest. In April 1913, the Panther took again surveying tasks in the German colonies true.

From May 13 to July 9, 1914, the ship in Gdansk was overhauled again. A subsequent trip to Mexico was canceled because of the tense political situation in Europe.




Use in the war:

After the outbreak of the First World War, the SMS Panther was assigned to the Coast Guard Division. Apart from hauling submarine SM U-3 near Gotland to fight Russian ships, the Panther did not participate in any further operations.

After the war, the ship was decommissioned on December 18, 1918. Due to their old age, the Panther did not have to be handed over to the victors.





From July 1921, the SMS Panther was added to the new Imperial Navy, but the weapons were expanded because the ship should only serve for the training of the crew for the upcoming survey ship Meteor.

On December 15, 1926, it was finally decommissioned and in 1931 deleted from the list of warships and scrapped.


Gunboat SMS Panther 1931

Gunboat SMS Panther 1931




Ship data:


SMS Panther


German Empire

Ship Type:  





Imperial shipyard, Gdansk


1.675.000 Mark


April 1st, 1901


March 15th, 1902


Scrapped in 1931


66,9 meters


9,7 meters


Max. 3,62 meters


Max. 1.193 Tons


130 Men


4 Marine boiler
2 x 3-cylinder compound machines


1.344 PS (989 kW)

Maximum speed:  

13,7 kn (25 km/h)


2 × 10,5 cm L / 40 Rapid Fire Gun (482 rounds)

6 × 3,7 cm machine gun (9.000 rounds)









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