Liner SMS Kaiser Karl der Große

The SMS Kaiser Karl der Große was the 4. of 5 ship of the Kaiser-Friedrich-III.-class ships which were still built and put into service as unitary ships. For the first time German warships were equipped with the new fast-charging cannons as the main armament and the middle artillery began to gain in importance.


Launching and design:

The ships of the Kaiser Friedrich III class originated from the experiences of the preceding Brandenburg class. The vast difference was in the armament, which consisted for the first time of fast charging guns and replaced the previously installed casing ring guns. Although the caliber was reduced from 28cm to 24cm, the better shooting performance in cadence, range and penetration, the downgrading could be more than offset. The medium artillery was also significantly strengthened, as the Naval Office recognized the benefits that it had in shelling the less armored areas of enemy ships. For this purpose, the middle artillery fire should be specially focused on the bridge and other less armored superstructures.

Further improvements were the integration of continuous ammunition lifts the new towers of heavy artillery, the first two ships of the Kaiser Friedrich III class still had the old turrets C / 1897 and only later the new C / 1898 towers were installed. So the shot order could be increased from 2 to 5 per minute.

In addition, the improved KC steel (Krupp cemented) with a depth of up to 300mm was used to increase the armor.

The Kaiser Karl der Große was the first order of a ship of this size for the Hamburg shipyard Blohm & Voss. Thanks to the speedy work, the ship was launched half a year ahead of SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, which had previously been laid on a keel. By strikes of the shipyard workers in the autumn of 1900, however, then shifted the work and the ship was completed as the last of its class.

The launching of SMS Kaiser Karl der Große took place on 18 October 1899, the commissioning on 4 February 1902.


The ship was named after Emperor Charlemagne

The ship was named after Emperor Charlemagne




History of SMS Kaiser Karl der Große:

After commissioning the ship was assigned together with 3 other of the Kaiser Friedrich III class and the 4 ships of the Brandenburg class the I. squadron.

Until 1905, the Kaiser Karl der Große participated in several maneuvers and training trips. The only ship in the squadron, Kaiser Karl der Große, arrived in Antwerp on 18 July 1905 to represent the imperial navy during the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Kingdom of Belgium.

On September 18, 1909, the ship was assigned to the reserve formation of the Baltic Sea. At that time, the Marineamt had already decided to modernize the ships of the Kaiser Friedrich III. Class. The SMS Kaiser Karl der Große was the only ship of the class, for which no modernization was intended but only a general overhaul, which was accomplished in 1911.


Liner SMS Kaiser Karl der Große

Liner SMS Kaiser Karl der Große




Use in the war:

With the outbreak of the First World War, the ships of the Kaiser Friedrich III. Class were again assigned to active duty in the newly founded 5th Squadron and entrusted with security tasks in the North Sea.

Since the ship, as well as the other 4 of the ship class, were completely outdated at the beginning of the war, the naval command began in March 1915 with the partial deduction of the crews of the ships to use them on the more modern ships. The SMS Kaiser Karl der Große resigned accordingly also from the squadron and then served the chief of the naval base of the North Sea as a drill and training ship until the ship was finally put out of service on 19 November 1915.

In 1916, the Kaiser Karl der Große was towed to Wilhelmshaven to expand the armament of the ship and use it as artillery predominantly on the Western Front. Until the end of the war, the rest of the ship was used as a houseboat for prisoners of war.


Liner SMS Kaiser Karl der Große

Liner SMS Kaiser Karl der Große





Since the ship was uninteresting after the capitulation because of the age and the disarmament for the victorious powers, it remained in Germany, was deleted on December 6, 1919 from the list of warships and scrapped 1920 in Rönnebeck.

However, the ship's bell could be preserved and is now exhibited in the Museum Schloss Schönebeck in Bremen.




Ship data:


SMS Kaiser Karl der Große


German Empire

Ship Type:  





Blohm & Voss, Hamburg


20.385.000 Mark


October 18th, 1899


February 4th, 1902


On December 6, 1919 painted as a warship and scrapped in 1920


125,3 meters


20,4 meters


Max. 8,25 meters


Max. 11.785 Tons


667 to 681 Men




4 marine kettles
6 transverse cylinder boilers
3 standing 3-cylinder compound machines


13.874 PS (10.204 kW)

Maximum speed:  

17,8 kn (33 km/h)


4 × Rapid Fire Gun 24,0 cm L / 40 (300 shots)

18 × Rapid Fire Gun 15,0 cm L / 40 (2.160 rounds)

12 × Rapid Fire Gun 8,8 cm L / 30 (3.000 rounds)

12 × Revolver cannon 3,7 cm

6 × torpedo tube ∅ 45 cm (4 sides, 1 bow, under water, 1 stern over water, 16 shots)



Waterline: 100-300 mm on 250 mm teak
Deck: 65 mm
Heavy Artillery:
Tower fronts: 250 mm
Tower ceilings: 50 mm
Medium artillery:
Towers: 150 mm
Shields: 70 mm
Casemates: 150 mm
Front control station: 250 mm
Aft 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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