Military Wiki
Bremen-class cruiser
SMS Bremen 1907.jpg
SMS Bremen in 1907
Class overview
Operators:  Kaiserliche Marine
Preceded by: Gazelle class
Succeeded by: Königsberg class
Completed: 7
Lost: 2
Scrapped: 5
General characteristics
Displacement: 3,797 metric tons (3,737 long tons)
Length: Length overall: 111.1 meters (365 ft)
Beam: 13.3 m (43.6 ft)
Draft: 5.53 m (18.1 ft)
Installed power: 11,750 ihp (8,760 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range: 4,270 nmi (7,910 km; 4,910 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 14 officers
274 enlisted men

10 × 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns

2 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: Deck: 80 mm (3.1 in)

The Bremen class was a group of seven light cruisers built for the Imperial German Navy in the early 1900s. The seven ships, Bremen, Hamburg, Berlin, Lübeck, München, Leipzig, and Danzig, were an improvement upon the previous Gazelle class. They were significantly larger than the earlier class, and were faster and better armored. Like the Gazelles, they were armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns and a pair of torpedo tubes.

The ships of the Bremen class served in a variety of roles, from overseas cruiser to fleet scout to training ship. Bremen and Leipzig were deployed to the American and Asian stations, respectively, while the other five ships remained in German waters with the High Seas Fleet. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Leipzig was in the Pacific Ocean in the East Asia Squadron; she saw action at the Battle of Coronel in November and was sunk a month later at the Battle of the Falkland Islands. Bremen was sunk by a Russian mine in December 1915, but the other five ships of the class survived the war.

Three of the surviving ships, Lübeck, München, and Danzig, were seized by Britain as war prizes after the end of the war and sold for scrapping. The other two ships, Hamburg and Berlin, were used as training cruisers through the 1920s. They were converted into barracks ships in the mid-1930s, a role they filled for a decade; in 1944, Berlin was sunk by British bombers and later broken up for scrap, while Hamburg was scuttled in deep water after the end of World War II to dispose of a load of chemical weapons.


The 1898 Naval Law authorized the construction of 30 new light cruisers by 1904;[1] the Gazelle-class cruiser filled the requirements for the first ten vessels.The design for the Bremen class was an improved version of the preceding Gazelle class, the improvements chiefly being in size and speed. To accommodate the more powerful propulsion system, a third funnel was added. The armored deck was also thickened significantly. The fourth ship of the class, Lübeck, was fitted with steam turbines, so the quality of turbine engines could be compared with otherwise identical vessels.[2] The Bremen class was followed by the Königsberg class, which was very similar to the Bremens, including the same armament. And like the Bremens, one ship of the class, Stettin, was equipped with turbine engines while the rest had traditional triple-expansion engine.[3]

General characteristics

The Bremen-class ships were 110.6 meters (363 ft) long at the waterline and 111.1 m (365 ft) long overall. They had a beam of 13.3 m (44 ft) and a draft of 5.28 to 5.68 m (17.3 to 18.6 ft) forward. They displaced 3,278 metric tons (3,226 long tons; 3,613 short tons) as designed and between 3,652 to 3,816 t (3,594 to 3,756 long tons; 4,026 to 4,206 short tons) at full combat load. The ships' hulls were constructed with transverse and longitudinal steel frames, and incorporated twelve watertight compartments. The hulls also had a double bottom that ran for 56 percent of the length of the hull.[4]

All seven ships were good sea boats, but they were crank and rolled up to twenty degrees. They were also very wet at high speeds and suffered from a slight weather helm. Nevertheless, the ships turned tightly and were very maneuverable. In a hard turn, their speed fell up to 35 percent. They had a transverse metacentric height of .58 to .61 m (1 ft 11 in to 2 ft 0 in). The ships had a standard crew of fourteen officers and between 274 and 287 enlisted men, though later in their careers, these figures increased to 19 and 330, respectively. The Bremen-class ships carried a number of smaller boats, including one picket boat, one pinnace, two cutters, two yawls, and one dinghy.[5]


With the exception of Lübeck, the ships' propulsion system consisted of two triple-expansion engines, designed to give 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW) for a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). Lübeck was instead fitted with a pair of Parsons steam turbines, rated at 11,500 shaft horsepower (8,600 kW) and a top speed of 22.5 kn (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph), though all seven ships exceeded these speeds on trials. All seven ships had ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers, which were trunked into three funnels amidships. The ships carried up to 860 tonnes (850 long tons) of coal, which gave the first three ships a range of 4,270 nautical miles (7,910 km; 4,910 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph); Lübeck's less efficient turbine engines cut her cruising radius to 3,800 nmi (7,000 km; 4,400 mi), while the last three ships of the class had a longer range, at 4,690 nmi (8,690 km; 5,400 mi).[6] Bremen and Hamburg had three generators that produced a total output of 111 kilowatts at 110 volts; the rest of the ships had two generators rated at 90 kilowatts at the same voltage.[5]

Armament and armor

10.5 cm gun, without its gun shield, on board Bremen

The ships of the class were armed with ten 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns in single mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, six were located amidships, three on either side, and two were placed side by side aft. The guns could engage targets out to 12,200 m (40,000 ft). They were supplied with 1,500 rounds of ammunition, for 150 shells per gun. Later in their careers, Bremen and Lübeck had two 15 cm SK L/45 guns installed in place of the two forward and two rear 10.5 cm guns. They retained the six broadside 10.5 cm guns. All seven ships were also equipped with two 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes. These tubes were submerged in the hull on the broadside. Lübeck later had a pair of 50 cm (20 in) torpedo tubes installed in deck mounts, with four torpedoes.[5]

Armor protection for the members of the class consisted of two layers of steel with one layer of Krupp armor. The ships were protected by an armored deck that was up to 80 millimeters (3.1 in) thick. Sloped armor 50 mm (2.0 in) thick gave some measure of vertical protection, coupled with the coal bunkers. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides and a 20 mm (0.79 in) thick roof. The ships' guns were protected by 50 mm thick shields.[4]


Berlin after her modernization in 1921–1923

The seven ships of the Bremen class were built between 1902 and 1907, at various German dockyards, including private firms and government shipyards.[7]

Name Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned
Bremen AG Weser, Bremen 1902 9 July 1903 19 May 1904
Hamburg AG Vulcan, Stettin 1902 25 July 1903 8 March 1904
Berlin Kaiserliche Werft Danzig 1902 22 September 1903 4 April 1905
Lübeck AG Vulcan, Stettin 1903 26 March 1904 26 April 1906
München AG Weser, Bremen 1903 30 April 1904 10 January 1905
Leipzig AG Weser, Bremen 1904 21 March 1905 20 April 1906
Danzig Kaiserliche Werft Danzig 1904 23 September 1905 1 December 1907

Service history

The ships of the Bremen class served in a variety of roles throughout their careers. Bremen and Leipzig served abroad from 1905 to 1914; the former returned to Germany shortly before the outbreak of World War I, and the latter remained with the East Asia Squadron. Hamburg, Berlin, Lübeck, and Danzig served in the reconnaissance forces of the High Seas Fleet after they entered service. München meanwhile was used as a torpedo test ship during her pre-war service. All seven of the ships saw action during the First World War, though only Bremen and Leipzig was lost during the conflict.[8]

Bremen visiting the United States in 1912

Danzig was present during the Battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914, but did not directly engage the British ships. She did, however, rescue survivors from the sinking cruiser Ariadne.[9] Hamburg was present for the raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby in December 1914, where she briefly encountered—but did not engage—British light forces.[10] Only one ship, München, saw action at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May and 1 June 1916,[11] where she was hit by five medium-caliber shells and moderately damaged.[12] Three of the ships, Bremen, Lübeck, and Danzig, saw action against Imperial Russian forces in the Baltic Sea during the war, including during the assault on Libau and the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in 1915 and during Operation Albion in 1917.[13][14][15] Bremen struck Russian mines in December 1915 and sank with the majority of her crew going down with her.[16] Leipzig, still overseas at the start of the war, saw action at the Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands in late 1914. At the former, she engaged the British cruiser HMS Glasgow,[17] and at the latter, was sunk by Glasgow and HMS Cornwall.[18]

Berlin was withdrawn from service in 1916 and disarmed. München was badly damaged by a British mine in October 1916, and thereafter decommissioned for use as a barracks ship. Hamburg was also used as barracks ship later in the war, and Leipzig became a training ship in 1917. Danzig was the last ship to leave active service, in late 1917. Of the five surviving ships, Berlin and Hamburg were retained by the newly reorganized Reichsmarine as training ships. The remaining three, Lübeck, München, and Danzig, were surrendered as war prizes to the United Kingdom, which sold them for scrapping in the early 1920s. Hamburg and Berlin soldiered on as training cruisers into the late 1920s and early 1930s; by the mid-1930s, they had again been converted into floating barracks.[8] Hamburg was sunk by British bombers in 1944,[19] and later raised and broken up for scrap in 1949. Berlin survived World War II and was loaded with chemical weapons and scuttled in the Skaggerak after the war to dispose of the munitions.[8]


  1. Herwig, p. 42
  2. Gardiner, p. 259
  3. Gardiner & Gray, p. 157
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gröner, p. 102
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Gröner, p. 103
  6. Gröner, pp. 102–103
  7. Gröner, pp. 102–104
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Gröner, pp. 103–104
  9. Staff Battle on the Seven Seas, p. 24
  10. Massie, p. 340–341
  11. Tarrant, p. 62
  12. Tarrant, p. 296
  13. Halpern, pp. 191–192
  14. Halpern, p. 197
  15. Staff Battle for the Baltic Islands, p. 4
  16. Halpern, p. 205
  17. Staff Battle on the Seven Seas, pp. 34–37
  18. Staff Battle on the Seven Seas, pp. 74–76
  19. Rohwer, p. 264


  • Gardiner, Robert, ed (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-133-5. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds (1984). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1922. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-907-3. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-352-4. 
  • Herwig, Holger (1980). "Luxury" Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books. ISBN 1-57392-286-2. 
  • Massie, Robert K. (2003). Castles of Steel. New York City: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-40878-0. 
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2. 
  • Staff, Gary (2008). Battle for the Baltic Islands. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Maritime. ISBN 978-1-84415-787-7. 
  • Staff, Gary (2011). Battle on the Seven Seas. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Maritime. ISBN 978-1-84884-182-6. 
  • Tarrant, V. E. (1995). Jutland: The German Perspective. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 0-304-35848-7. 

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).