SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm

SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm
A large gray battleship with two tall masts sits idly in calm waters. Three small boats are tied alongside.
SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm
Career (German Empire)
Name: Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm
Namesake: Friedrich Wilhelm
Builder: Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven
Laid down: May 1890
Launched: 30 June 1891
Commissioned: 29 April 1894
Fate: Sold to Ottoman Empire
Career (Ottoman Empire) Ottoman Navy Ensign
Name: Barbaros Hayreddin
Namesake: Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa
Acquired: 12 September 1910
Fate: Sunk by the British submarine E11, 8 August 1915
General characteristics
Class and type: Brandenburg-class battleship
Displacement: 10,500 tons (10,668 tonnes)
Length: 379 ft (116 m)
Beam: 64 ft (20 m)
Draught: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Propulsion: 2 shafts triple expansion
10,000 ihp (7,500 kW)
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
Range: 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 568
Armament: 4 × 28 cm (11 in) / 40 caliber guns
2 × 28 cm (11 in) / 35 caliber guns
8 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns
8 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
3 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: Belt 12–16 inches (305–406 mm)
turrets 9 inches (230 mm)
deck 3 inches (76 mm)

SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm[Note 1] was one of the first ocean-going battleships[Note 2] of the German Imperial Navy. The ship was named for Friedrich Wilhelm, a 17th century Duke of Prussia and Margrave of Brandenburg.[Note 3] She was the fourth pre-dreadnought of the Brandenburg class, along with her sister ships Brandenburg, Weißenburg, and Wörth. She was laid down in 1890 in the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven, launched in 1891, and completed in 1893 at the cost of 11.23 million Marks. The Brandenburg class battleships were unique for their era in that they carried six large-caliber guns in three twin turrets, as opposed to four guns in two turrets, as was the standard in other navies.

Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm saw limited active duty during her service career with the German fleet. She, along with her three sisters, saw one major overseas deployment, to China in 1900–01, during the Boxer Rebellion. The ship underwent a major modernization in 1904–1905. In 1910, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm was sold to the Ottoman Empire and renamed Barbaros Hayreddin, where she saw heavy service during the Balkan Wars, taking part in two lost naval engagements with the Greek navy in December 1912 and January 1913[1] and providing artillery support to Ottoman ground forces in Thrace. On 8 August 1915, during World War I, the ship was torpedoed and sunk off the Dardanelles by the British submarine HMS E11 with heavy loss of life.



Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm was the fourth and final ship of the class. She was ordered as battleship D,[2] and was laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven in 1890. She was the first ship of the class to be launched, which she was on 30 June 1891. She was commissioned into the German fleet on 29 April 1894, the same day as her sister Brandenburg.[3] Construction of Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm cost the German navy 11.23 million marks.[4]

Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm was 115.7 m (380 ft) long overall, had a beam of 19.5 m (64 ft) which was increased to 19.74 m (64.8 ft) with the addition of torpedo nets, and had a draft of 7.6 m (25 ft) forward and 7.9 m (26 ft) aft. The ship displaced 10,013 t (9,855 long tons; 11,037 short tons) at its designed weight, and up to 10,670 t (10,500 long tons; 11,760 short tons) at full combat load. She was equipped with two sets of 3-cylinder triple-expansion engines that provided 10,228 indicated horsepower and a top speed of 16.9 knots (31.3 km/h; 19.4 mph).[2]

The ship was unusual for its time in that it possessed a broadside of six heavy guns in three twin gun turrets, rather than the four guns typical of contemporary battleships.[5] The forward and after turret carried 28 cm (11 inch) K L/40 guns,[Note 4] and the center turret was armed with shorter L/35 guns. Her secondary armament consisted of eight 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/35 quick-firing guns mounted in casemates and eight 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns, also casemate mounted. Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm's armament suite was rounded out with six 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, all in above-water swivel mounts.[2]

Service history

Upon her commissioning, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm was assigned to the I Division of the I Battle Squadron alongside her three sisters.[6] The I Division was accompanied by the four older Sachsen class armored frigates in the II Division, though by 1901–2, the Sachsens were replaced by the new Kaiser Friedrich III class battleships.[7] The ship was a training ground for later commanders in chief of the High Seas Fleet, including both Admirals Reinhard Scheer and Franz von Hipper, who both served aboard the ship as navigation officers from Spring to Fall 1897 and October 1898 to September 1899, respectively.[8][9]

Boxer Rebellion

Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm saw her first major operation in 1900, when the I Division was deployed to China during the Boxer Rebellion.[5] Chinese nationalists laid siege to the foreign embassies in Peking and murdered the German minister. Those soldiers that were in China at the time could not defeat the Boxers.[10] The German East Asia Squadron consisted of the protected cruisers Kaiserin Augusta, Hansa, Hertha, the small cruisers Irene, Gefion, and the gunboats cruisers, 10 freighters, three torpedo boats, and six regiments of marines, under the command of Marshal Alfred von Waldersee.[12] Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz opposed the plan, which he saw as unnecessary and costly.[13] The force arrived in China in September 1900. By that time, the siege of Peking had already been lifted.[14] As a result, the task force suppressed local uprisings around Kiaochow. In the end, the operation cost the German government more than 100 million marks.[13]

Reconstruction and service with the Ottoman Navy

In 1904, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm entered the Kaiserliche Werft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven for a significant reconstruction.[2] After she emerged from her refit in 1905, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm rejoined the active fleet. However, she and her sisters were rapidly made obsolete by the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906. As a result, their service careers were limited.[5] On 12 September 1910, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm and Weißenburg, the more advanced ships of the class, were sold to the Ottoman Empire and renamed Barbaros Hayreddin and Turgut Reis respectively (after the famous 16th-century Ottoman admirals, Hayreddin Barbarossa and Turgut Reis).[15][16][17] The Ottoman navy, however, had great difficulty equipping the two ships; the navy had to pull trained enlisted men from the rest of the fleet just to put together crews for them.[18] A year later, in September 1911, Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Barbaros Hayreddin, along with Turgut Reis and the ancient central battery ironclad Mesudiye—which had been built in the mid 1870s—had been on a summer training cruise since July, and so were prepared for the conflict. Despite this, the ships spent the war in harbor.[19]

Balkan wars

The First Balkan War broke out in October 1912, when the Balkan League attacked the Ottoman Empire. The condition of Barbaros Hayreddin, as with most ships of the Ottoman fleet, had deteriorated significantly. During the war, Barbaros Hayreddin conducted gunnery training along with the other capital ships of the Ottoman navy, escorted troop convoys, and bombarded coastal installations.[16] On 17 November 1912, Barbaros Hayreddin and Mesudiye bombarded Bulgarian positions in support of the I Corps, with the aid of artillery observers ashore.[20] The battleships' gunnery was poor, though it provided a morale boost for the defending Ottoman army dug in at Çatalca.[21]

Painting depicting the Greek fleet during the Battle of Elli

Late in 1912, the Ottoman fleet attempted to attack the Greek navy blockading the Dardanelles. Barbaros Hayreddin was the flagship of the fleet at the time. Two engagements took place, the Naval Battle of Elli on 16 December 1912, followed by the Naval Battle of Lemnos on 18 January 1913. The first action was supported by Ottoman coastal batteries; both Greek and Ottoman forces suffered minor damage during the engagement, but the Ottomans were unable to break through the Greek fleet and retired back into the Dardanelles.[1] The Ottoman fleet sortied from the Dardanelles at 9:30; the smaller craft remained at the mouth of the straits while the battleships sailed north, hugging the coast. The Greek flotilla, which included the armored cruiser Georgios Averof and three Hydra class ironclad warships, sailing from the island of Lemnos, altered course to the northeast, in order to block the advance of the Ottoman battleships. The Ottoman ships opened fire on the Greeks at 9:50, from a range of about 15,000 yd (14,000 m); the Greeks returned fire 10 minutes later, by which time the range had decreased significantly to 8,500 yd (7,800 m). At 10:04, the Ottoman ships completed a 16-point turn, which reversed their course, and headed for the safety of the straits.[22] Within an hour, the Ottoman ships had withdrawn into the Dardanelles. The battle was considered a Greek victory, because the Ottoman fleet remained blockaded.[1]

The Naval Battle of Lemnos resulted from an Ottoman plan to lure the faster Georgios Averof away from the Dardanelles. To do so, the protected cruiser Hamidiye evaded the Greek blockade and broke out into the Aegean sea. Despite the threat posed by the cruiser, the Greek commander refused to detach Georgios Averof. Presuming that the plan had worked, Barbaros Hayreddin, Turgut Reis, and other units of the Ottoman fleet departed the Dardanelles on the morning of 18 January, and sailed towards the island of Lemnos. Georgios Averof intercepted the flotilla approximately 12 miles from Lemnos, which prompted the retreat of the Ottoman ships. A long range artillery duel that lasted for two hours began at around 11:25; towards the end of the engagement, Georgios Averof closed to within 5,000 yd (4,600 m) and scored several hits on the fleeing Ottoman ships.[22] During the battle, both Barbaros Hayreddin and her sister had a barbette disabled by gunfire, and both caught fire as a result. Between Barbaros Hayreddin and her sister Turgut Reis, the ships fired some 800 rounds, mostly of their main battery 28 cm (11 in) ammunition but without success.[23] This was the last attempt of the Ottoman fleet to enter the Aegean during the war.

On 8 February 1913, the Ottoman navy supported an amphibious assault at Şarköy. Barbaros Hayreddin and Turgut Reis, along with several cruisers provided artillery support, from about a kilometer off shore.[24] The ships supported the left flank of the Ottoman army once it was ashore. The Bulgarian army provided stiff resistance that ultimately forced the Ottoman army to withdraw, though the withdrawal was successful in large part due to the gunfire support from Barbaros Hayreddin and the rest of the fleet. During the battle, Barbaros Hayreddin fired 250 rounds from her 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and 180 shells from her 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns.[25]

In March 1913, the ship returned to the Black Sea to resume support of the Çatalca garrison, which was under renewed attacks by the Bulgarian army. On 26 March, the 28 cm (11 in) and 10.5 cm (4.1 in) shells fired by Barbaros Hayreddin and Turgut Reis helped to turn back the advance of the 2nd Brigade of the Bulgarian 1st Infantry Division.[26] On 30 March, the left wing of the Ottoman line turned to pursue the retreating Bulgarians. Their advance was supported by both field artillery and the heavy guns of Barbaros Hayreddin; the assault gained the Ottomans about 1,500 m (1,600 yd) by nightfall. In response, the Bulgarians brought the 1st Brigade to the front, which beat the Ottoman advance back to its starting position.[27]

World War I

In the summer of 1914, World War I broke out in Europe, though the Ottomans remained neutral until early November, when the actions of the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben, which had been transferred to the Ottoman navy, resulted in declarations of war by Russia, France, and Great Britain.[28] Between 1914–15, some of the ship's guns were removed and employed as coastal guns to shore up the defenses protecting the Dardanelles.[23] On 8 August 1915, Barbaros Hayreddin was en route to support the Ottoman defenses at the Dardanelles when she was intercepted by the British submarine E 11[29] off Bolayır in the Sea of Marmara.[23] The submarine hit Barbaros Hayreddin with a single torpedo; the ship sank with the loss of 253 men.[5]


  1. ^ "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship" in German.
  2. ^ At the time she was laid down, the German navy referred to the ship as an "armored ship" (Panzerschiffe in German), instead of "battleship" (Schlachtschiff), see Gröner, p13.
  3. ^ Kurfürst is the title Freidrich Wilhelm held; it translates as "Elector", which denoted his position as an elector of the Holy Roman Emperor.
  4. ^ In Imperial German Navy gun nomenclature, "K" stands for Kanone (cannon), while the L/40 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/40 gun is 40 calibers, meaning that the gun barrel is 40 times as long as it is in diameter.


  1. ^ a b c Hall, pp. 64–65
  2. ^ a b c d Gröner, p. 13
  3. ^ Gardiner, Chesneau, & Kolesnik, p. 247
  4. ^ Weir, p. 23
  5. ^ a b c d Hore, p. 66
  6. ^ Gardiner and Gray, p. 141
  7. ^ Herwig, p. 45
  8. ^ Sweetman, p. 401
  9. ^ Philbin, p. 94
  10. ^ Holborn, p. 311
  11. ^ Perry, p. 28
  12. ^ Herwig, p. 106
  13. ^ a b Herwig, p. 103
  14. ^ Sondhaus, p. 186
  15. ^ Gröner, p. 14
  16. ^ a b Erickson, p. 131
  17. ^ Sondhaus, p. 218
  18. ^ Childs, p. 24
  19. ^ Sondhaus p. 218
  20. ^ Hall, p. 36
  21. ^ Erickson, p. 133
  22. ^ a b Fotakis, p. 50
  23. ^ a b c Gardiner and Gray, p. 390
  24. ^ Erickson, p. 264
  25. ^ Erickson, p. 270
  26. ^ Erickson, p. 288
  27. ^ Erickson, p. 289
  28. ^ Staff, p. 19
  29. ^ Halpern, p. 119


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