Small cruiser SMS Königsberg

The small cruiser SMS Königsberg belonged to the same class of ships, which consisted of a total of 4 ships and were built mainly for the German colonies in East Africa. After the outbreak of the First World War, the Königsberg was able to bind large British forces for a 3/4 year without a real naval battle.


Launching and design:

The development of the ships of the Königsberg class go back to the experience of the Bremen class. The development was begun in 1903, the ships of this class are still among the last ships of the imperial navy had a Rammbug.

The launching of SMS Königsberg took place on December 12, 1905, the commissioning on April 36, 1907.


Small cruiser SMS Königsberg

Small cruiser SMS Königsberg




History of SMS Königsberg:

Already during the test drives the ship was used as escort ship for the imperial yacht Hohenzollern. After the completed test drives, he traveled to Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden to bring a delegation of the Naval Officers Corps to the funeral of the Swedish King Oskar II in Malmö.

In the following years, the Königsberg was also involved mainly in foreign trips or used as a support ship for the imperial yacht.

On June 10, 1911, the ship was replaced by the SMS Kolberg and put out of service on June 14. In the period from January 22 to June 19, 1913 was the brief use as a replacement ship of the small cruiser SMS Mainz, as this turned out for a longer repair.

At the beginning of April 1914, the Königsberg was ordered to reinforce the German colonies in East Africa. On April 28, the ship ran out of Wilhelmshaven and drove over Almería, Cagliari, Naples and Mersin until it reached Daressalam on June 6, 1914.

During the months of June and July, exercises were conducted with the crew. On July 31, 1914, the command to leave the ship Daressalam because of the threat of war not to be encircled in the harbor.


The imperial yacht Hohenzollern 1907 with the accompanying cruiser SMS Königsberg and SMS Sleipner on Nordland travel


Small cruiser SMS Königsberg

Small cruiser SMS Königsberg


Small cruiser SMS Königsberg

Small cruiser SMS Königsberg


Small cruiser SMS Königsberg

Small cruiser SMS Königsberg




Use in the war:

Shortly after leaving the harbor, the Königsberg discovered the British Cape Squadron consisting of 3 cruisers. These began to pursue the German ship, but since there was no state of war between the countries, no side opened the fire. Through a fast zig-zag course, the Königsberg gave the impression of wanting to run south. When the ship was out of range of British ships, it turned and drove north.

On August 6, the Königsberg was able to raise the British freighter City of Winchester, because at that time now also war between the Empire and Great Britain prevailed. Then there was a gathering with several German ships, including the Reich Post Steamer Zieten and the auxiliary ship Somali, which accompanied the Königsberg thereupon.

After no other enemy ships were found in the Gulf of Aden and in front of the city of Majunga in Madagascar, the Königsberg, together with the Somali, headed for the Rufiji delta in German East Africa in order to increase its coal reserves. On another trip, on 20 September 1914, the port of Zanzibar saw the British light cruiser Pegasus, anchored with machinery damage. After about 300 shots sank the SMS Königsberg the British ship, but then had to start because of own damage to the machinery back to the German colony and drove into the widespread delta of the river Rufiji, so as not to be discovered by British ships. In the delta, the crew could make the necessary repairs, because the spare parts could be brought over the land to the ship. The British naval leadership, however, had for a long time no indication of the whereabouts of the German ship. Only when the German merchant ship president was searched in the port of Lindi, British soldiers found a receipt for a coal shipment to the Königsberg and the location in the Rufijidelta. Then the light cruiser HMS Chatham and other modern British cruisers were sent to the delta to sink the Königsberg.

On October 30, 1914, the British discovered the Königsberg, whose masts were not cut short and towered over the trees. Until November 5, HMS Chatham, HMS Weymouth and HMS Dartmouth arrived, which were clearly superior to the Königsberg in terms of effectiveness. In the meantime already fired the existing British ships on the two German ships. The Königsberg then withdrew further into the delta, the Somali but received a hit in the coal stocks and burned out.

Since the British could continue to bombard the Königsberg neither, nor approaches by foot soldiers have succeeded, the naval line decided to lug the two monitors HMS Mersey and HMS Severn to Rufijidelta. These monitors were originally intended for the Amazon, but by their shallow draft they were now the ideal weapon to get to the SMS Königsberg. On June 3, 1915, the monitors reached the lying before the Rufiji delta and occupied by British troops island Mafia. There they were then prepared for the attack and equipped.

The first attack began in the early morning hours of 6 July 1915 when the two monitors with their tugs, 3 small whalers to secure against mines and the cruiser HMS Weymouth and HMS Pyramus in the delta imports. On the way, the German troops and observation posts lying on the shore were under attack until the monitors anchored scarcely 9 kilometers before the Königsberg. From there, they tried to attack the German ship. Although the monitors landed a few hits, but the damage on the German ship were too low. In contrast, the HMS Mersey was badly damaged and the bow gun dropped out.

On July 11, 1915, the second attack took place, this time around noon. Unlike the first attack, the two monitors were further apart this time and at different positions. This made it difficult for the German observation post to pass on the target to the German ship, so that the guns of the Königsberg shot quite inaccurately. The position of the HMS Severn allowed the monitor to take the Königsberg much better target and land heavy hits.


Small cruiser SMS Königsberg

Small cruiser SMS Königsberg


Gun crew of the SMS Königsberg


The blockage of the small cruiser Königsberg in the Rufiji River





After several heavy hits, the stern of the SMS Königsberg began to burn. By 13:40 clock, the ammunition was also used up. Frigate captain Max Looff therefore ordered to leave the ship, take the gun caps and prepare the demolition. In the forecastle exploded then 2 torpedo heads that tore a leak, with which the ship slowly began to sink.

At 16:00 o'clock the British ships left again.

Since the ship did not sink completely, the crew could subsequently salvage the still usable material and proceeded by land to Dar es Salaam, where it for the most part joined the German colony troops under the leadership of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. The guns of the Königsberg were expanded and served for some time the German troops.

The wreck of the ship could be seen for a few decades at low tide until it finally sank completely in the silt.


Wreck of SMS Königsberg


Wreck of SMS Königsberg


Wreck of SMS Königsberg


Wreck of SMS Königsberg


Wreck of SMS Königsberg


Wreck of SMS Königsberg




Ship data:


SMS Königsberg


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Small cruiser




Imperial shipyard, Kiel


5.407.000 Mark


December 12th, 1905


April 6th, 1907


Sunken on July 11th, 1915


115,3 meters


13,2 meters


Max. 5,29 meters


Max. 3.814 Tons


322 Men




11 Marine Boiler
2 3-cylinder compound machines


13.918 PS (10.237 kW)

Maximum speed:  

24,1 kn (45 km/h)


10 × rapid fire contactor 10,5 cm L / 40 (1.500 rounds)

10 × jacketed gun 3,7 cm

2 × torpedo tube ⌀ 45 cm (5 shots)



Armor deck: 20-80 mm
Sole: 100 mm
Command tower: 20-100 mm
Shields: 50 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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