SMS Wittelsbach

Bundesarchiv DVM 10 Bild-23-61-16, Linienschiff "SMS Wittelsbach".jpg
SMS Wittelsbach
German Empire
Namesake:House of Wittelsbach
Builder:Kaiserliche Werft Wilhelmshaven
Laid down:30 September 1899
Launched:3 July 1900
Commissioned:15 October 1902
Struck:8 March 1921
Fate:Sold for scrap, 7 July 1921
General characteristics
Class and type:Wittelsbach-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement:12,798 t (12,596 long tons)
Length:126.8 m (416 ft 0 in) (loa)
Beam:22.8 m (74 ft 10 in)
Draft:7.95 m (26 ft 1 in)
Installed power:
Propulsion:3 shafts, triple-expansion steam engines
Speed:18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range:5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi); 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • 30 officers
  • 650 enlisted men
  • Belt: 100 to 225 mm (3.9 to 8.9 in)
  • Turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
  • Deck: 50 mm (2.0 in)

SMS Wittelsbach (German: Seiner Majestät Schiff Wittelsbach; English: His Majesty's Ship Wittelsbach) was the lead ship of the Wittelsbach class of pre-dreadnought battleships, built for the Imperial German Navy. She was the first capital ship built under the Navy Law of 1898, brought about by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz. Wittelsbach was laid down in 1899 at the Wilhelmshaven Navy Dockyard and completed in October 1902. She was armed with a main battery of four 24 cm (9.4 in) guns and had a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).

The ship served in I Squadron of the German fleet for the majority of her peacetime career, which spanned from 1902 to 1910. During this period, she was occupied with extensive annual training and making good-will visits to foreign countries. The training exercises during this period provided the framework for the High Seas Fleet's operations during World War I. She was decommissioned in September 1910, but was reactivated in 1911 for training ship duties, which lasted through 1914.

After the start of World War I in August 1914, Wittelsbach was brought back to active duty in IV Battle Squadron. The ship served in the Baltic Sea, including during the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in August 1915, but saw no combat with Russian forces. By late 1915, crew shortages and the threat from British submarines forced the Kaiserliche Marine to withdraw older battleships like Wittelsbach. The ship then saw service in auxiliary roles, first as a training ship and then as a ship's tender. After the war, she was converted into a tender for minesweepers in 1919. In July 1921, the ship was sold and broken up for scrap metal.


Drawing of a large ship showing top and side views, with guns labeled and armor protection shaded
Line-drawing of the Wittelsbach class

After the German Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) ordered the four Brandenburg-class battleships in 1889, a combination of budgetary constraints, opposition in the Reichstag (Imperial Diet), and a lack of a coherent fleet plan delayed the acquisition of further battleships. The Secretary of the Reichsmarineamt (Imperial Navy Office), Vizeadmiral (VAdm—Vice Admiral) Friedrich von Hollmann struggled—ultimately successfully—throughout the early and mid-1890s to secure parliamentary approval for the first three Kaiser Friedrich III-class battleships. In June 1897, Hollmann was replaced by Konteradmiral (KAdm—Rear Admiral) Alfred von Tirpitz, who quickly proposed and secured approval for the first Naval Law in early 1898. The law authorized the last two ships of the class, as well as the five ships of the Wittelsbach class,[1] the first class of battleship built under Tirpitz's tenure. The Wittelsbachs were broadly similar to the Kaiser Friedrichs, carrying the same armament but with a more comprehensive armor layout.[2][3]

Wittelsbach was 126.8 m (416 ft 0 in) long overall and had a beam of 22.8 m (74 ft 10 in) and a draft of 7.95 m (26 ft 1 in) forward. She displaced up to 12,798 metric tons (12,596 long tons) at full load.[4] Unlike her sister ships, Wittelsbach was completed with provisions for a squadron commander's staff, including a larger bridge.[5] The ship was propelled by three 3-cylinder vertical triple expansion engines that drove three screws. Steam was provided by six cylindrical and six water-tube boilers, all coal-fired. Wittelsbach's powerplant was rated at 14,000 metric horsepower (13,808 ihp; 10,297 kW), which generated a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). She had a crew of 30 officers and 650 enlisted men.[6]

Wittelsbach's armament consisted of a main battery of four 24 cm (9.4 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turrets,[a] one fore and one aft of the central superstructure.[8] Her secondary armament consisted of eighteen 15 cm (5.9 inch) SK L/40 guns and twelve 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns. The armament suite was rounded out with six 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, all in above-water swivel mounts.[4] The ship was protected with Krupp armor plate. Her armored belt was 225 millimeters (8.9 in) thick in the central portion that protected her magazines and machinery spaces, and the deck was 50 mm (2.0 in) thick. The main battery turrets had 250 mm (9.8 in) of armor plating.[4]

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