Small cruiser SMS Magdeburg

The small cruiser SMS Magdeburg belonged to the eponymous cruiser class, which should replace the ships of the buzzard class. Due to the increase in caliber of the warships of other countries, a side armor was introduced in the waterline for the first time in the Magdeburg class, so that the construction of the ships had to be completely redesigned. The SMS Magdeburg was lost shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and Russia fell the imperial signal books for the decoding of the radio messages in the hands.


Launching and design:

The designs for the ships of the Magdeburg class originated from 1908. The 4 small cruisers were to replace the completely obsolete ships of the buzzard class. Since the warships of the other naval powers had already gone over to larger calibers of their guns, the naval superintendent Hans Bürckner made the request for a side armor in the waterline, since the usual execution of a vaulted armored decks with cork dams was no longer sufficient.

In order to maintain the weight of the new ships relatively balanced, it was necessary to disregard the mixed transverse and longitudinal sweeper system and to develop a longitudinal frame system, where the outer skin itself became the carrier of the ship's resistance.

Another innovation was the construction of a Kreuzerbug with a straight stem, this solved the Rammbug.

As in the Kolberg class, all ships of the Magdeburg class were equipped with different turbine systems. At SMS Magdeburg, this led to a significant reduction in space in the engine rooms for maintenance work. At high speeds also occurred strong vibrations, which further limited the mileage.

The launch of the SMS Magdeburg took place on May 13rd, 1911, the commissioning on August 20th, 1912.


Small cruiser SMS Magdeburg

Small cruiser SMS Magdeburg




Use in the war:

Due to the problems with the drive system, the SMS Magdeburg could not be used like the other ships of the class for the originally planned service in the imperial navy. Instead, the ship served as a torpedo test ship, the two front guns were replaced by torpedo tubes.

With the outbreak of the First World War, Magdeburg was relocated to the Baltic Sea, where it was entrusted with the laying of mine barriers and the shelling of the Latvian coast.

During an operation from 25 to 26 August 1914, the ship sailed into the Gulf of Finland when it ran aground in the early morning in heavy fog near the island Odensholm. Attempts of the crew as well as the brought in torpedo boat V26 and the small cruiser Amazone to solve the Magdeburg again from the reason failed. When the Russian cruisers Bogatyr and Pallada came in sight, the crew decided to blow up the ship itself. 15 crew members died, Lieutenant Commander Habenicht, and his adjutant were taken captive by the approaching Russians.

During the search of the ship, the Russians found two of the three signal books in hand, the third could be salvaged by a Russian diver as the book weighed down with lead was thrown overboard. One of the books handed over the Russians Great Britain, who were able to decipher the encrypted radio communications of the German Navy and thus had a huge strategic advantage.


The stranded SMS Magdeburg





The Russian Navy developed from the wreck of the SMS Magdeburg the remaining guns to equip some of their own ships. During the winter of 1914 to 1915, the Russians blew up the wreckage.




Ship data:


SMS Magdeburg


German Empire

Ship Type:  

Small cruiser




AG Weser, Bremen


8.058.000 Mark


May 13th, 1911


August 20th, 1912


Stranded and blown up on August 26, 1914


138,7 meters


13,5 meters


Max. 5,16 meters


Max. 4.570 Tons


354 to 377 Men


16 Marine Boiler
3 set steam turbines


29.904 PS (21.994 kW)

Maximum speed:  

27,6 kn (51 km/h)


12 × Rapid Fire Gun 10,5 cm L / 45 (1.800 rounds)

2 × torpedo tube ⌀ 50.0 cm (5 shots)

120 mines



Belt: 18-60 mm
Deck: 20-60 mm
Collision bulkhead: 40 mm
Sole: 20 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.

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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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