SMS Von der Tann

SMS Von der Tann

SMS "Von der Tann""SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship" in German.] was the first battlecruiser built for the German Kaiserliche Marine, as well as Germany's first major turbine-powered warship. At the time of her construction, "Von der Tann" was the fastest dreadnought-type warship afloat, capable of reaching speeds of more than 27 knots. Staff, p. 9 ] Built by Blohm and Voss in Hamburg, [Weir, p. 15] "Von der Tann" was the workhorse of the High Seas Fleet Scouting Squadron.

"Von der Tann" was designed in response to the British "Invincible" class. While the German design had slightly lighter guns—28 cm (11 in),The measurements used here and elsewhere in the article refer to the diameter of the bore of the gun.] as opposed to the 30.5 cm (12 in) mounted on the British ships—"Von der Tann" was faster and significantly better-armoured. She set a precedent that German battlecruisers carried much heavier armour than their British equivalents.

The ship participated in a number of fleet actions during the First World War, including the Battle of Jutland, where it destroyed the British battlecruiser HMS "Indefatigable" within minutes of the engagement. The "Von der Tann" was hit several times by large-calibre shells, but the damage was quickly repaired and the ship returned to the fleet in two months. Staff, p. 11 ]

Following the end of the war in 1918, "Von der Tann", along with most of the High Seas Fleet, was interned at Scapa Flow pending a decision by the Allies as to the fate of the fleet. The ship met her end when the fleet was scuttled in 1919 to prevent them falling into British hands. The wreck of "Von der Tann" was raised in 1930, and scrapped at Rosyth from 1931 to 1934. Hore, p. 71 ]


The preceding German large cruiser design, "Blücher", was an incremental increase over previous armoured cruisers. "Blücher" was armed with twelve 21 cm (8.3 in) guns, and designed to counter what the Germans knew about the British "Invincible" class, which were assumed to be larger iterations of the basic armoured cruiser type. [ Staff, p. 3–4] Once sufficient information about the new British cruisers became available, it was obvious that they were not simply an enlargement on previous designs but a whole new type of warship—the battlecruiser—to which "Blücher" was quite inferior. However, there were insufficient funds to alter "Blücher's" layout, so the cruiser assigned for 1907 would have to be an entirely new design. Staff, p. 4]

Design of "Von der Tann" began in August 1906, under the name "Cruiser "F" , amid disagreements over the intended role of the new ship. Admiral Tirpitz advocated a ship similar to the new British battlecruisers of the "Invincible" class: heavier guns, lighter armour, and higher speed with the intention of using the ship as a fleet scout and to destroy the opposing fleet's cruisers. Tirpitz had no intention of using the ship in the main battle line. Staff, p. 3] Kaiser Wilhelm II however, along with most of the "Reichsmarineamt" (Navy Office), was in favour of incorporating the ship into the battle line after initial contact was made, which necessitated much heavier armour.Staff, p. 5] This insistence upon the capability to fight in the battle line was a result of the numerical inferiority of the German High Seas fleet compared to the British Royal Navy.

Several design proposals were submitted, all calling for heavy main guns, between 30.5 cm (12 in) and 34.3 cm (13.5 in) calibres. However, financial limitations dictated that smaller, less expensive weaponry would be used instead. The final design therefore used the same 28 cm (11 in) double turret used by the "Nassau"-class battleships. [Weir, p. 82] In compensation, the design was given a relatively heavy secondary armament. [Breyer, p. 270]

At a conference in September 1906, many of the disagreements over the ship's design were resolved. The Naval Constructor, von Eickstedt, argued that since the explosive trials for the proposed protection systems for the new battlecruiser hadn't been completed, the construction should be postponed, to allow for any alterations to the design. [Philbin p. 66] He also argued that guns of 21 cm (8.3 in) or 24 cm (9.4 in) calibre would be sufficient to penetrate the armour of the new British battlecruisers. However, Admiral von Heeringen, of the General Navy Department, stated that for the ship to be able to engage battleships, the 28 cm (11 in) calibre guns were necessary. Philbin p. 67]

Admiral Capelle, the deputy director of the Imperial Navy Office, stated that by mid November 1906, the testing for the underwater protection designs would be complete. He suggested that if the torpedo bulkhead needed to be strengthened, the ship might be too heavy for the 28 cm (11 in) guns, if the displacement of around 19,000 t (21,000 short tons) was to be retained. Tirpitz refused to consider using smaller guns, even if it meant increasing the displacement of the ship. Von Eickstedt proposed employing a secondary battery of 17 cm (6.7 in) guns instead of the 15 cm (5.9 in) the design called for, but the increased weight would have made it impossible to mount eight main battery guns.

On 22 June 1907, the Kaiser authorised construction of Cruiser "F", ] to be named "Von der Tann", after Ludwig Freiherr von und zu der Tann-Rathsamhausen, a Bavarian general who fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The contract was awarded to the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg, on 26 September 1907. The keel was laid on 21 March 1908, and the ship was launched nearly a year later, on 20 March 1909. The ship cost 36.523 billion Marks. ]



"Von der Tann" carried eight 28 cm (11 in) SK L/45In Imperial German Navy gun nomenclature, "SK" (Schiffskanone) denotes that the gun is emplaced on a ship, while the L/45 denotes the length of the gun. In this case, the L/45 gun is 45 calibers, meaning that the gun is 45 times long as it is in diameter. ] guns, mounted in four twin turrets: one fore, one aft, and two staggered wing turrets. The guns were emplaced in the Drh.L C/1907 turntable mount, which was traversed electrically, while the guns themselves used hydraulics to change elevation. ] The guns could be elevated up to 20 degrees, which enabled a maximum range of 18,900 m (20,700 yd). A refit in 1915 increased this to 20,400 m (22,300 yd). The main guns fired a 302 kg (670 lb) armoured-piercing shell that had a muzzle velocity of 875 mps; the main propellant charges were encased in a brass cartridge. A total of 660 projectiles were stored in four shell rooms, each containing 165 shells. ] The wing turrets were staggered in such a way that all eight guns were able to fire on broadside on a very wide arc. [ Hough, p. 87]

Unlike her British contemporaries, "Von der Tann" also carried a heavy secondary battery, consisting of ten 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 guns, casemated in MPL C/06 pivot mounts, each with 150 high explosive and armour piercing shells. At construction, these guns could fire their 45.3 kg (100 lb) shells at targets up to 13,500 m (14,800 yd) away; after the 1915 refit, their maximum range was extended to 16,800 m (18,400 yd).Staff, p. 6] She was also armed with sixteen 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 guns, to defend against torpedo boats and destroyers. These were also emplaced in pivot mounts, of the MPL C/01-06 type, with a total of 3,200 shells for these guns. These guns fired a 9 kg (20 lb) shell at the high rate of 15 rounds per minute, up to a range of 10,694 m (11,695 yd), which was quite long for a smaller calibre weapon. In late 1916, following repair work after the damage sustained during the Battle of Jutland, "Von der Tann" had her 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns removed and the firing ports welded shut. Two 8.8 cm flak guns were installed on the aft superstructure. Staff, p. 8]

As was customary for capital ships of the time, "Von der Tann" was equipped with four 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, with a total of 11 torpedoes. These were located in the bow, the stern, and two on the broadside. The torpedoes carried a 110 kg (240 lb) warhead, and had an effective range of 2 km (1.04 nmi) when set for a speed of 32 kn (59 km/h), and 1.5 km (0.81 nmi) at 36 kn (67 km/h). ]


Because the "Von der Tann" was designed to fight in the battle line, her armour was much thicker than that of the British battlecruisers. "Von der Tann" weighed over 2,000 tonnes more than the sclass|Indefatigable|battlecruiser|4, [Butler, p. 50] and used 10% more of her weight for armour than the battlecruisers she faced at the Battle of Jutland. ]

Von der Tann's armour consisted of Krupp cemented and nickel steel. The main belt armour was 80–120 mm (3.1–4.7 in) thick forward, 250 mm (9.8 in) thick over the ship's citadel, and was 100 mm (3.9 in) thick aft. The forward conning tower was protected by 250 mm (9.8 in), while the aft conning tower by 200 mm (7.9 in). The four turrets had 230 mm (9.1 in) faces, 180 mm (7.1 in) sides, and 90 mm (3.5 in) on the roofs. The horizontal armour measured 25 mm (0.98 in) thick, and the sloping deck armour was 50 mm (2.0 in) thick. [ Staff, p. 6–7] Like the armoured cruiser "Blücher" before her, she was protected by a torpedo bulkhead, 25 mm (0.98 in) thick. It was set back a distance of 4 metres (13 ft) from the outer hull skin, the space in between being used to store coal. Staff, p. 7]


"Von der Tann" was powered by 18 naval coal-fueled double boilers, separated into five boiler rooms. The boilers produced steam at a pressure of 235 psi (16 atmospheres). ] "Von der Tann" was the first large German warship to use turbine propulsion. The ship used two sets of turbines: high pressure turbines, which ran the outer two shafts, and low pressure turbines, which powered the inner two shafts. Each shaft had a propeller 3.6-m (12-ft) in diameter. The ship was designed to have a power output of 42,000 shaft horsepower (31,000 kW) at a speed of 300 rpm, which enabled a rated top speed of 24.8 kn (45.9 km/h). However, as was the case with all later German battlecruisers, the ship could be run dramatically higher. During sea trials, the turbines provided 79,802 shp (59,508 kW) at 339 rpm for a top speed of 27.757 kn (51.39 km/h). ] In one instance during a cruise from Tenerife to Germany, the ship averaged 27 kn (50 km/h), and reached a maximum speed of 28 kn (52 km/h). At the time of her launch, she was the fastest dreadnought afloat. The ship had two parallel rudders, which were controlled by steam-powered engines. "Von der Tann's" electrical plant consisted of six steam turbo generators that had a total output of 1,200-kW (1,600-hp). ]

Like many German capital ships,The higher quality coal was generally reserved for the smaller craft, whose crews were less able to clean the boilers at the increased rate demanded by the low-quality coal. As a result, German capital ships were often supplied with poor coal, in the knowledge that their larger crews were better able to perform the increased maintenance.] "Von der Tann" had chronic problems with the often low-quality coal available for the ship's boilers. Following the end of the raid on Scarborough, "Von der Tann's" commander, Captain Max von Hahn, remarked that "the inadequacy of our coal and its burning properties results in heavy smoke clouds and signals our presence." [Philbin, p. 56] During the battle of Jutland, the ship was unable to maintain fires in all of her boilers after 16:00, due to the poor quality coal. [Philbin, p. 56–57] Many other German ships suffered the same difficulties during the battle, including "Derfflinger" and "Seydlitz". [Philbin, p. 57] After 1916, the coal firing in the boilers was supplemented by spraying tar-oil on the coal, which made the coal burn better.

Other characteristics

Frahm anti-roll tanks were fitted during construction, but these proved to be ineffective; ] the tanks only reduced rolling by 33%. Staff, p. 45 ] Bilge keels were later added to improve stability, and the space previously used for the anti-roll tanks was instead used as extra fuel storage. The ship was able to carry an additional 180 t (200 short tons) of coal in the anti-roll tanks. [ Gardiner, Gray, and Budzbon, p. 151] "Von der Tann's" hull was comprised of 15 watertight compartments, and a double bottom extended for 75% of the ship's length. The ship was known to have good manoeuvring characteristics, with a speed loss of 60% and a heel of 8 degrees at full rudder. ]

The ship's crew compartments were arranged such that the officers were accommodated in the forecastle. This arrangement was found to be unsatisfactory, and not repeated in later classes. "Von der Tann" was designed to be fitted with a lattice mast, but the ship received standard masts instead. In 1914, spotting posts were attached to the masts in order to observe the fall of artillery fire. In 1915, seaplane trials were conducted on "Von der Tann", and a crane was attached on the aft deck to lift the seaplane aboard the ship. "Von der Tann" had originally been equipped with anti-torpedo nets, but these were removed towards the end of 1916. ]

ervice record


In May 1910, "Von der Tann" sailed from the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg to receive her final fitting-out in the Imperial Dockyard at Kiel. The German Navy was chronically short of crews at the time, so dockyard workers had to bring the ship to Kiel. On 1 September 1910, the ship was commissioned into the German Navy, with a crew composed largely of crew-members from the dreadnought "Rheinland". During trials, an average speed of 27 kn (50 km/h) was attained over a six-hour period, with a top speed of 28.124 kn (52.086 km/h) with the engines at maximum output.

"Von der Tann" made several long-distance voyages after completion. She visited Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Militar, and Bahía Blanca in South America in early 1911, and returned to Kiel on 6 May 1911. On 8 May 1911, "Von der Tann" joined the Unit of Reconnaissance Ships. In June 1911 "Von der Tann" attended the Fleet Review at Spithead, for the coronation of King George V.

First World War

At the outbreak of the First World War, "Von der Tann" was serving as the flagship of the 3rd Admiral of Reconnaissance Forces, "Konteradmiral" Tapken. The ship was assigned to the I Scouting Group of the High Seas Fleet, under the command of Rear Admiral Franz Hipper. "Von der Tann"'s first major sortie during the war occurred when the ship took part in the unsuccessful search for British battlecruisers, after the Battle of Heligoland Bight, in August 1914.

Battle of Heligoland Bight

During the Battle of Heligoland Bight, "Von der Tann" had been stationed in Wilhelmshaven Roads, and had been ordered to raise steam as early as 08:20, to assist the German cruisers under attack in the Heligoland Bight. At 08:50, Rear Admiral Hipper requested permission from Admiral von Ingenohl, the commander in chief of the High Seas Fleet, to send "Von der Tann" and "Moltke" to relieve the beleaguered German cruisers. [ Massie, p. 107 ] "Von der Tann" was ready to sail by 10:15, more than an hour before the British battlecruisers arrived on the scene. However, the ship was held up by low tide, which prevented the battlecruisers from crossing the bar at the mouth of the Jade Estuary. At 14:10, "Von der Tann" and "Moltke" were able to cross the Jade bar, and Hipper ordered the German light cruisers to fall back on the two heavy ships, while Hipper himself was about an hour behind in the battlecruiser "Seydlitz". At 14:25, the remaining light cruisers, "Strassburg", "Stettin", "Frauenlob", "Stralsund", and "Ariadne", rendezvoused with the battlecruisers. [Strachan, p. 417] "Seydlitz" arrived on the scene by 15:10; "Ariadne" succumbed to battle damage and sank. Hipper ventured forth cautiously to search for the two missing light cruisers, "Mainz" and "Köln". By 16:00, the German flotilla began returning to the Jade Estuary, arriving at approximately 20:23. [ Massie, p. 114 ]

Bombardments of Yarmouth and Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby

Later that year "Von der Tann" was present at the Raid on Yarmouth, on 2–3 November. At 16:30 on the 2nd, "Von der Tann", along with "Seydlitz" (Hipper's flagship), "Moltke", the armoured cruiser "Blücher", and the four light cruisers "Strassburg", "Graudenz", "Kolberg", and "Stralsund", departed the Jade Estuary, bound for the English coast with the intent to lay minefields in British sea lanes. At 18:00, two dreadnought battle squadrons of the High Seas Fleet departed to provide support. Hipper's force veered north in an arc to avoid Heligoland and the British submarines stationed there, and then increased speed to 18 knots. [ Massie, p. 310 ] At approximately 06:30 the following morning, Hipper's battlecruisers spotted the British minesweeper "Halcyon" and opened fire, which drew the attention of the destroyer "Lively". Hipper realised that he was wasting time, and that further pursuit would run his ships into a known minefield, so he ordered his ships back to sea. As the flotilla was turning away, the battlecruisers fired several salvos at Yarmouth, to little effect. By the time the British Admiralty was fully aware of the situation, the German force had retreated back to home waters. [ Massie, p. 311–312 ]

"Von der Tann" also participated in the raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, on 15–16 December. The raid was another attempt to lure out a portion of the Grand Fleet and destroy it, with the whole of the High Seas Fleet standing by in support. "Von der Tann" delayed the raid itself by several days, because Admiral Ingenohl was unwilling to send forth the I Scouting Group at anything less than full strength, and "Von der Tann" was undergoing routine repairs in early December. Strachan, p. 428] The I Scouting Group, along with the II Scouting Group, composed of the four light cruisers "Kolberg", "Strassburg", "Stralsund", and "Graudenz", and two torpedo boat flotillas, left the Jade at 03:20. [ Scheer, p. 68 ] Hipper's ships sailed north, through the channels in the minefields, past Heligoland to the Horns Reef light vessel, at which point the ships turned westward, towards the English coast. [Tarrant, p. 31] The main battle squadrons of the High Seas Fleet left in the late afternoon of the 15th. During the night of 15 December, the main body of the High Seas Fleet encountered British destroyers, and fearing the prospect of a night-time torpedo attack, Admiral Ingenohl ordered the ships to retreat. [Tarrant, p. 32 ]

Upon nearing the British coast, Hipper's battlecruisers split into two groups. "Seydlitz", "Moltke", and "Blücher" went north to shell Hartlepool, while "Von der Tann" and "Derfflinger" went south to shell Scarborough and Whitby. The two ships destroyed the coast guard stations in both towns, along with the signalling station in Whitby. By 09:45 on the 16th, the two groups had reassembled, and began to retreat eastward. [ Scheer, p. 70 ] Hipper was unaware of Ingenohl's withdrawal, and following the bombardment of the target cities, turned back to rendezvous with the German fleet. By this time, Beatty's battlecruisers were in position to block Hipper's chosen egress route, while other forces were en route to complete the encirclement. At 12:25, the light cruisers of the II Scouting Group began to pass the British forces searching for Hipper. One of the cruisers in the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron spotted "Stralsund", and signaled a report to Beatty. At 12:30, Beatty turned his battlecruisers towards the German ships. Beatty presumed that the German cruisers were the advance screen for Hipper's ships, however, those were some 50 km (31 mi) ahead. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, which had been screening for Beatty's ships, detached to pursue the German cruisers, but a misinterpreted signal from the British battlecruisers sent them back to their screening positions.Beatty had intended on retaining only the two rearmost light cruisers from Goodenough's squadron; however, "Nottingham"'s signalman misinterpreted the signal, thinking that it was intended for the whole squadron, and thus transmitted it to Goodenough, who ordered his ships back into their screening positions ahead of Beatty's battlecruisers.] This confusion allowed the German light cruisers to escape, and alerted Hipper to the location of the British battlecruisers. The German battlecruisers wheeled to the northeast of the British forces and made good their escape. [ Tarrant, p. 34 ]

"Von der Tann" was being refitted at the time of the Battle of Dogger Bank, and so she missed this action. She was replaced by the armoured cruiser "Blücher", which was sunk during the battle. [Hawkins, p. 73 ] A detachment of men from "Von der Tann" had been sent to "Blücher" and went down with the ship. [Goldrick, p. 279, p. 285] In 1915 the ship took part in operations in the North and Baltic Seas. On 10 August 1915, "Von der Tann" shelled the island fortress at Utö, in the eastern Baltic, [ Tucker, p. 180] during which she took part in an artillery duel with the Russian armoured cruiser "Admiral Makarov". [ Thomas, p. 40] "Von der Tann" also engaged the Russian armoured cruiser "Bayan" and five destroyers, during which "Von der Tann" was struck by a shell through the funnel, which caused no casualties. Staff, p. 10] On 3–4 February 1916, "Von der Tann" participated in the fleet advance to welcome home the commerce raider "Möwe". The ship was also present during the fleet sorties of 5–7 March, 17 April, 21–22 April, and 5 May.

Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft

"Von der Tann" also took part in the bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft on 24–25 April. Hipper was away on sick leave, so the German ships were under the command of Konteradmiral Friedrich Bödicker. The German battlecruisers "Derfflinger", "Lützow", "Moltke", "Seydlitz" and "Von der Tann" left the Jade Estuary at 10:55 on 24 April, and were supported by a screening force of 6 light cruisers and two torpedo boat flotillas. Tarrant, p. 52 ] The heavy units of the High Seas Fleet sailed at 13:40, with the objective to provide distant support for Bödicker's ships. The British Admiralty was made aware of the German sortie through the interception of German wireless signals, and deployed the Grand Fleet at 15:50. ]

By 14:00, Bödicker's ships had reached a position off Norderney, at which point he turned his ships northward to avoid the Dutch observers on the island of Terschelling. At 15:38, "Seydlitz" struck a mine, which tore a 50-ft (15-m) hole in her hull, just abaft of the starboard broadside torpedo tube, which allowed 1,400-t (1,500-short tons) of water to enter the ship. "Seydlitz" turned back, with the screen of light cruisers, at a speed of 15 knots. The four remaining battlecruisers turned south immediately in the direction of Norderney to avoid further mine damage. By 16:00, "Seydlitz" was clear of imminent danger, so the ship stopped to allow Bödicker to disembark. The torpedo boat "V28" brought Bödicker to "Lützow". Tarrant, p. 53]

At 04:50 on 25 April, the German battlecruisers were approaching Lowestoft when the light cruisers "Rostock" and "Elbing", which had been covering the southern flank, spotted the light cruisers and destroyers of Admiral Tyrwhitt's Harwich Force. Bödicker refused to be distracted by the British ships, and instead trained his ships' guns on Lowestoft. The two 6 in (15 cm) shore batteries were destroyed, along with other damage to the town. KzS Zenker, "Von der Tann's" commanding officer, later wrote:

Mist over the sea and the smoke from the ships ahead made it difficult for us to make out our targets as we steered for Lowestoft. But after we turned [to the north] , the Empire Hotel offered us an ample landmark for effective bombardment. At 05:11 we opened fire with our heavy and medium calibres on the harbour works and swing bridges. After a few "shorts" the shooting was good. From the after-bridge a fire in the town, and from another vantage point a great explosion at the entry [to the harbour] were reported.

At 05:20, the German raiders turned north, towards Yarmouth, which they reached by 05:42. The visibility was so poor that the German ships fired one salvo each, with the exception of "Derfflinger", which fired fourteen rounds from her main battery. The German ships turned back south, and at 05:47, encountered for the second time the Harwich Force, which had by then been engaged by the six light cruisers of the screening force. Bödicker's ships opened fire from a range of 13,000 yd (12,000 m).Tarrant, p. 54] Tyrwhitt immediately turned his ships around and fled south, but not before the cruiser "Conquest" sustained severe damage. Due to reports of British submarines and torpedo attacks, Bödicker broke off the chase, and turned back east towards the High Seas Fleet. At this point, Scheer, who had been warned of the Grand Fleet's sortie from Scapa Flow, turned back towards Germany.

Battle of Jutland

"Von der Tann" participated in the Battle of Jutland, as part of Hipper's First Scouting Group. "Von der Tann" was the rearmost of five battlecruisers in Hipper's line. Bennett, p. 183] Shortly before 16:00 CETIt should be noted that the times mentioned in this section are in CET, which is congruent with the German perspective. This is one hour ahead of UTC, the time zone commonly used in British works.] , Hipper's force encountered Vice Admiral Beatty's battlecruiser squadron. The German ships were the first to open fire, at a range of approximately 15,000 yd (14,000 m). At 16:49, "Von der Tann" fired her first shot at HMS "Indefatigable". Fourteen minutes of firing later, [Hough, xiv] "Von der Tann" had scored five hits on "Indefatigable" out of 52 heavy shells fired, ] one of which caused "Indefatigable" to explode and sink. An observer on the battlecruiser HMS "New Zealand", which was directly ahead of "Indefatigable", later remarked that he saw "the "Indefatigable" hit by two shells from the "Von der Tann", one on the fore turret. Both appeared to explode on impact. After an interval of thirty seconds, the ship blew up. Sheets of flame were followed by dense smoke which obscured her from view." [ Bennett, p. 184–5 ]

Following the destruction of "Indefatigable", Beatty turned his force away, while the British 5th Battle Squadron closed in on the German battlecruisers, opening fire from approximately 19,000 yd (17,000 m). Bennett, p. 185] "Von der Tann" and "Moltke", the two rearmost of Hipper's squadron, came under fire from the three lead British battleships of the 5th BS: "Barham", "Valiant", and "Malaya". [ Massie, p. 594 ] The German battlecruisers began zig-zagging to avoid the gunfire from the British ships. At 17:09, ] six minutes after sinking "Indefatigable", "Von der Tann" was hit by one 15 in (38 cm) shell from "Barham", which struck beneath the waterline and dislodged a section of the belt armour, causing "Von der Tann" to take in 600 tons of water. This hit temporarily damaged the ship's steering gear, and combined with "Von der Tann's" zig-zagging cause her to fall out of line to port. The German Official History commented that "the greatest calamity of a complete breakdown of the steering gear was averted, otherwise, "Von der Tann" would have been delivered into the hands of the oncoming battleships as in the case of "Blücher" during the Dogger Bank action." [Tarrant, p. 97]

At 17:20, a 13.5 in (34 cm) shell from the battlecruiser HMS "Tiger" struck the barbette of "Von der Tann's" A turret. A chunk of armour plate was dislodged from inside the turret, and struck the turret training gear, which jammed the turret at 120 degrees. This put the turret out of action for the duration of the engagement. [ Tarrant, p. 99] At 17:23, the ship was hit again by a 13.5 in (34 cm) shell from "Tiger", which struck near the C turret and killed 6 men. The shell holed the deck and created enough wreckage that the turret was unable to traverse, and the starboard rudder engine room was damaged. The C turret was out of action until the wreckage could be cut away. Smoke from a fire caused by burning practice targets that had been stowed below the turret obscured the ship. Sections of the torpedo nets were knocked loose and trailed behind the ship. However, they were cut loose before they could catch in the propellers. [ Tarrant, p. 100] "New Zealand", which had been engaging "Von der Tann" following "Indefatigable's" destruction, lost sight of her target and shifted fire to "Moltke". [Brooks, p. 244] At 17:18, the range to "Von der Tann" from "Barham" had closed to 17,500 yd (16,000 m), at which point "Von der Tann" opened fire on the British battleship. Shortly thereafter, at 17:23, "Von der Tann" registered a hit on "Barham" which caused serious damage. [ Brooks, p. 246 ] However, after firing only 24 shells, "Von der Tann" had to return to her earlier target, "New Zealand", because her fore and aft turrets had since been disabled, and her amidships turrets were no longer able to target "Barham". [Tarrant, p. 102]

At 18:15, the guns of the last active turret jammed in their mountings, leaving the ship without any working main armament.Tarrant, p. 119] Regardless, the ship remained in the battle line to distract the British gunners. ] Because the ship was no longer firing her main guns, "Von der Tann" was able to manoeuvre in an erratic manner, such that the ship could avoid British gunfire. By 18:53, the ship's speed fell from 26 kn (48 km/h) to 23 kn (43 km/h). Over an hour and a half after having failed due to mechanical difficulties, D turret was repaired and again ready for action. "Von der Tann" sustained her fourth and final heavy shell hit at 20:19, when one 15 in (38 cm) shell from HMS "Revenge" struck the aft conning tower. Shell splinters penetrated the conning tower, killing the Third Gunnery Officer and both rangefinder operators and wounding every other crewman in the tower. Shell fragments and other debris fell through the ventilating shaft and onto the condenser, which put all of the lights in the ship out. [Tarrant, p. 179] Eleven minutes later, at 20:30, B turret was again clear for action, and by 21:00, C turret was also in working order. However, both of the amidships turrets suffered further mechanical difficulties that put them out of action later during the battle. Tarrant, p. 188]

At approximately 22:15, Hipper, with his flag now in "Moltke", ordered his battlecruisers to increase speed to 20 knots, and to fall into the rear of the main German line. Neither "Derfflinger", due to battle damage, nor "Von der Tann", due to the dirtiness of her boiler fires, could steam at more than 18 knots. [Tarrant, p. 205] "Derfflinger" and "Von der Tann" took up positions astern of the II Squadron, and were later joined by the old pre-dreadnoughts "Schlesien" and "Schleswig-Holstein" at 00:05. [Tarrant, p. 240] At 03:37, the British destroyer "Moresby" fired a torpedo at the rear of the German line; this passed closely across "Von der Tann's" bow, and forced the ship to turn sharply to starboard to avoid being hit. [Tarrant, p. 244] Close to the end of the battle, at 03:55, Hipper transmitted a report to Admiral Scheer, informing him of the tremendous damage his ships had suffered. By that time, "Derfflinger" and "Von der Tann" each had only two guns in operation, "Moltke" was flooded with 1,000 tons of water, and "Seydlitz" was severely damaged. Hipper reported: "I Scouting Group was therefore no longer of any value for a serious engagement, and was consequently directed to return to harbour by the Commander-in-Chief, while he himself determined to await developments off Horns Reef with the battlefleet." [Tarrant, p. 255]

During the course of the battle, two of her main turrets were knocked out by British gunfire, while her other two turrets suffered mechanical failures. [ Gardiner, Gray, and Budzbon, p. 152] The ship was firing so fast that several of the main guns in the amidships turrets became overheated and jammed in their recoil slides, and could not be returned to working order. [Massie, p. 604] "Von der Tann" was without her main battery for 11 hours, although three turrets were restored to working order before the end of the battle; [ Staff, p. 10–11 ] D turret only after much cutting away of bent metal with oxyacetylene torches—afterwards the guns could be worked only by hand. Her casualties amounted to 11 dead and 35 wounded. During the battle "Von der Tann" fired 170 heavy shells and 98 secondary calibre shells. [Tarrant, p. 292]

Later actions

After Jutland, she underwent repairs from 2 June until 29 July. After returning to the fleet, "Von der Tann" took part in several unsuccessful raids into the North Sea in 1916, including the advances on 18–19 August, 25–26 September, 18–19 October, 23–24 October, as well as the advance on 23–24 March 1917.

During the fleet advance on 18–19 August, "Von der Tann" was one of two remaining German battlecruisers still in fighting condition (along with "Moltke"), so three dreadnoughts were assigned to the I Scouting Group for the operation: "Markgraf", "Großer Kurfürst", and "Bayern". The I Scouting Group was to bombard the coastal town of Sunderland, in an attempt to draw out and destroy Beatty's battlecruisers. Admiral Scheer and the rest of the High Seas Fleet, with 15 dreadnoughts of its own, would trail behind, providing cover. [ Massie, p. 682 ] The British were aware of the German plans, and sortied the Grand Fleet to meet them. By 14:35, Scheer had been warned of the Grand Fleet's approach and, unwilling to engage the whole of the Grand Fleet just 11 weeks after the decidedly close call at Jutland, turned his forces around and retreated to German ports. [ Massie, p. 683 ]

"Von der Tann" served as the flagship of Rear Admiral von Reuter during the fleet advance to Norway on 23–25 April 1918, as well as in the sortie on 8–9 July.


"Von der Tann" was to have taken part in what amounted to the "death ride" of the High Seas Fleet shortly before the end of the First World War. While the High Seas Fleet was consolidating in Wilhelmshaven, war-weary sailors began deserting en masse. As "Von der Tann" and "Derfflinger" passed through the locks that separated Wilhelmshaven's inner harbour and roadstead, some 300 men from both ships climbed over the side and disappeared ashore. [ Massie, p. 775]

On 24 October 1918, the order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven. Starting on the night of 29 October, sailors on several battleships mutinied; three ships from the III Squadron refused to weigh anchors, and acts of sabotage were committed on board the battleships "Thüringen" and "Helgoland". The order to sail was rescinded in the face of this open revolt. A month later, the German Revolution had begun, which toppled the monarchy and signed the Armistice that ended the war.

The vessel was surrendered with the rest of the High Seas Fleet on 24 November 1918 and interned at Scapa Flow, under the command of "Kapitän-Leutnant" Wollante. [Reuter, p. 154] Believing that the Treaty of Versailles had been signed and his fleet about to be seized by the British, Rear Admiral von Reuter ordered the scuttling of the High Seas Fleet on 21 June 1919, while the British Grand Fleet was away on exercises. The ship sank in two hours and fifteen minutes. [Reuter, p. 153] "Von der Tann" was raised on 7 December 1930 with some difficulty and scrapped at Rosyth between 1931 and 1934.




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*Breyer, Siegfried (1973). "Battleships and Battlecruisers of the World". London: McDonald & Jane's. ISBN 0356-04191-3

*cite book |last=Brooks|first=John|title=Dreadnought Gunnery and the Battle of Jutland|year=2005|publisher=Routledge|isbn=0714657026

*cite book |last=Butler|first=Daniel Allen|authorlink=Daniel Allen Butler|title=Distant Victory|year=2006|publisher=Greenwood Publishing Group|isbn=0275990737

*cite book |last=Gardiner|first=Robert|coauthors=Gray, Randal; Budzbon, Przemyslaw|title=Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906-1922|year=1984|location=Annapolis|publisher=Naval Institute Press|isbn=0870219073

*cite book |last=Goldrick|first=James|title=The King's Ships Were at Sea: The War in the North Sea August 1914–February 1915|year=1984|location=Annapolis|publisher=Naval Institute Press|isbn=0-87021-334-2

*cite book |last=Hawkins|first=Nigel|title=Starvation Blockade: The Naval Blockades of WWI|year=2002|location=Annapolis|publisher=Naval Institute Press|isbn=0850529085

*cite book |last=Hore|first=Peter|title=Battleships of World War I|year=2006|location=London|publisher=Southwater Books|isbn=978-1-84476-377-1

*cite book |last=Hough|first=Richard|authorlink=Richard Hough|title=Dreadnought: A History of the Modern Battleship|year=2003|publisher=Periscope Publishing Ltd.|isbn=1904381111

*cite book |last=Massie|first=Robert K.|authorlink=Robert K. Massie|title=Castles of Steel|year=2003|location=New York City|publisher=Ballantine Books|isbn=0-345-40878-0

*cite book |last=Philbin|first=Tobias R. III|title=Admiral Hipper:The Inconvenient Hero|year=1982|publisher=John Benjamins Publishing Company|isbn=9060322002

*cite book |last=Reuter|first=Ludwig von |authorlink=Ludwig von Reuter |title=Scapa Flow: Das Grab Der Deutschen Flotte |year=1921 |location=Leipzig |publisher=von Hase and Koehler

*cite book |last=Scheer|first=Reinhard |authorlink=Reinhard Scheer|title=Germany's High Seas Fleet in the World War|year=1920|location=|publisher=Cassell and Company, ltd|isbn=

*cite book |last=Staff|first=Gary|title=German Battlecruisers: 1914-1918|year=2006|location=Oxford|publisher=Osprey Books|isbn=978-1-84603-009-3

*cite book |last=Strachan|first=Hew|title=The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms|year=2001|location=Oxford|publisher=Oxford University Press|isbn=0199261911

*cite book |last=Tarrant|first=V. E.|title=Jutland: The German Perspective|year=1995|publisher=Cassell Military Paperbacks|isbn=0-304-35848-7

*cite book |last=Thomas|first=Lowell|title=Raiders of the Deep|year=1928|location=Annapolis|publisher=Naval Institute Press|isbn=1557507228

*cite book |last=Tucker|first=Spencer E.|title=The Encyclopedia of World War I|year=2005|publisher=ABC-CLIO|isbn=1851094202

*cite book |last=Weir|first=Gary E.|title=Building the Kaiser's Navy|year=1992|location=Annapolis|publisher=Naval Institute Press|isbn=1-55750-929-8

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