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German Balkenkreuz

Germany's Deutschland class heavy cruisers, Panzerschiffe (armored ships)

Note: The Deutschland class are a cross between a cruiser and a battleship, sometimes called a pocket battleship, but for this site I'll classify them as heavy cruisers.

Photos

KMS Admiral Graf Spee being launched on June 30, 1934 at Wilhelmshaven, Germany:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee being launched on June 30, 1934 at Wilhelmshaven, Germany
US National Archives, 242-HB-6823

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the Germany Naval Review in August 1938 with the KMS Admiral Scheer and KMS Deutschland:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the Germany Naval Review in August 1938 with the KMS Admiral Scheer and KMS Deutschland
US Naval Historical Center, NH-80978

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in August 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in August 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-81737

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay fixing damage in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay fixing damage in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59660

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59659

KMS Admiral Graf Spee working on damage in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee working on damage in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-83003

KMS Admiral Graf Spee:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee
Imperial War Museum, HU-1029
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in 1936:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in 1936
US Navy Historical Center, NH-81110

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel with an Arado Ar 196A-1 in April 1939:
KMS Prinz Eugen
US Naval Historical Center, NH-80973

KMS Admiral Graf Spee scuttled on December 17, 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee scuttled on December 17, 1939
Imperial War Museum, A-1

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay fixing damage in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay fixing damage in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-83001

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59661

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel with an Arado Ar 196A-1 in April 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel with an Arado Ar 196A-1 in April 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-80974

KMS Admiral Graf Spee:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee
Imperial War Museum, HU-3285
KMS Admiral Graf Spee at the 1937 Fleet Review at Spithead with the HMS Resolution and HMS Hood:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee at the 1937 Fleet Review at Spithead with the HMS Resolution and HMS Hood
Imperial War Museum, MH-2

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in April 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in April 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-104023

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59657

KMS Admiral Graf Spee repairing damage in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee repairing damage in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59662

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59663

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in 1939 with an Arado Ar 196A-1:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in 1939 with an Arado Ar 196A-1
US Naval Historical Center, NH-80897
KMS Admiral Graf Spee at Kiel, Germany in 1937 as seen from the USS Wyoming:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee at Kiel, Germany in 1937 as seen from the USS Wyoming
US Naval Historical Center, NH-50268

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in August 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in the English Channel in August 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-91108

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59658

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NHj-59656

KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59676

KMS Admiral Graf Spee's forward turret:
KMS Admiral Graf Spee's forward turret
US Naval Historical Center, NH-104024
KMS Admiral Scheer:
KMS Admiral Scheer
Imperial War Museum, HU-1030
KMS Admiral Scheer in the Kiel Canal:
KMS Admiral Scheer in the Kiel Canal
Imperial War Museum, HU-1035
KMS Admiral Scheer capsized after a RAF raid on April 10, 1945:
KMS Admiral Scheer capsized after a RAF raid on April 10, 1945
Imperial War Museum, CL-2772
KMS Deutschland in the English Channel in April 1939:
KMS Deutschland in the English Channel in April 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-89566
KMS Deutschland:
KMS Deutschland
Imperial War Museum, HU-1049

Design

The Treaty of Versailles limited Germany to building battleships that couldn't exceed 10,000 tons. To try and meet the limitations a design that was a cross between a cruiser and a battleships was selected. These were seen as excellent long range merchant raiders.

The first was called Panzerschiffe A (armored ship A) and was ordered in 1928. It was never officially called a Schlachtschiffe (battleship) but was later called a Schwerekreuzer (heavy cruiser).

The Deutschland class were built for long range operations. It was felt that the ships didn't need high speed as they could use their main guns against an opponent and there were few large ships in the British and French navies that posed a threat.

Electrical welding was used throughout to save on weight to help with long range.

Aircraft

There was a single catapult that launched the aircraft. Initially the He 60c was used but was replaced by the Arado Ar 196.

Armament

Type Shell Weight Rate of Fire Range Elevation
28 cm SK C/28 AP: 739 lb   39,890 yards 40°
11" 670 lb   30,000 yards 60°

Engines

There were four motor rooms with two engines in each. Two of the rooms powered a shaft.

Ships

Deutschland, Lützow

  • Manufacturer: Deutsche Werke, Deutsche Werke in Kiel
  • February 5, 1929: Laid down.
  • May 19, 1931: Launched.
  • April 1, 1933: Completed.
  • May 20 - June 1, 1933: Trials in the Faeroes.
  • April 10, 1934: Visited Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord in Norway.
  • October 1 - December 13, 1934: Became flagship of Battleships.
  • November 29, 1934 - February 21, 1935: Refit at Wilhelmshaven.
  • March 16, 1935: Visited Port of Spain and Aruba.
  • November 1935 - January 1936: Refit. Catapult added.
  • July - August 1936: Patrol off Spain.
  • October - November 1936: Patrol off Spain.
  • February - March 1937: Patrol off Spain.
  • May - June 1937: Patrol of Spain.
  • May 29, 1937: Bombed by Spanish aircraft at Las Palmas during Non Intervention Patrol.
  • 1938: Funnel cap added.
  • March 1939: Helped with occupation of Memel.
  • August 24, 1939: Sailed to Atlantic to prepare for commerce raiding with the start of World War II. Sank two ships.
  • November 1939, November 15, 1939: Returned to Germany for overhaul.
  • 1940: Four 2 cm added. Curved bow added.
  • February 1940: Renamed to Lützow. Reclassified as a heavy cruiser.
  • April 1940: Norway Campaign. Member of Group 5. Supported taking of Oslo. Hit by shore batteries in Oslofjord.
  • April 11, 1940: Hit by torpedoes from HMS Spearfish.
  • March 31, 1941: Repairs finished.
  • June 10, 1941: Sailed to Norway.
  • June 11, 1941, June 13, 1941: Hit by aircraft torpedo.
  • January 1942: Repairs finished.
  • 1942: Larger funnel cap added.
  • May 1942: Sailed to Norway.
  • December 18, 1942: Arrived in Kaafjord.
  • December 31, 1942: Battle of Barents Sea.
  • September 23 - October 1, 1943: Sailed to Gotenhafen.
  • December 1943 - March 1944: Refit at Libau.
  • 1944: Member of Training Squadron in Baltic.
  • Summer 1944: Two 40 mm Bofors replaced two 3.7 cm mounts.
  • October 6 - 13, 1944: Bombarded Soviet forces near Memel.
  • October 4 - 23, 1944: Bombarded Soviet forces near Sworbe Pennisula.
  • March - April 1945: Bombarded Soviet forces in the Gotenhafen-Danzig areas.
  • April 16, 1945: Heavily damaged at Swinemunde by Tallboy bombs dropped by the RAF.
  • May 4, 1945: Scuttled.

Admiral Scheer

  • Manufacturer: Wilhelmshaven, Wilhelmshaven Dock Yard, Wilhelmshaven Navy Yard
  • June 25, 1931: Laid down.
  • April 1, 1933: Launched.
  • November 12, 1934: Completed.
  • October 8 - 25, 1935: Visited Madeira.
  • November 8, 1935: Arrived in Kiel.
  • 1936 - 1937: Served with Non Intervention Patrol during Spanish Civil War.
  • March 1939: Supported occupation of Memel.
  • 1940, February - July 1940: Refit. Armored control tower removed. Funnel cap added. Reclassified as a heavy cruiser. Bow redone to be raked.
  • October 1940, October 24, 1940: Patrol to Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Sank 17 ships for 113,223 tons.
  • March 1941, April 1, 1941: Returned to Germany.
  • April - July 1, 1941: Refit at deutsche Werft in Kiel.
  • September 1941: Stationed in Oslo to prepare for next sortie.
  • 1942, February 20 - November 1942: Stationed in Norway.
  • August 16 - 30, 1942: Sailed to Kara Sea. Sank 1 ship. Bombarded Port Dikson.
  • November 12, 1942 - March 1943: Refit at Wilhelmshaven.
  • 1943: Member of Fleet Training Squadron in Baltic.
  • 1944: Supported Army.
  • November 4 - 22, 1944: Bombarded Soviet forces in the Sworbe Penisula.
  • February 9 - 10, 1945: Bombarded Soviet forces near Frauenburg.
  • March 9, 1945: Bombarded Soviet forces near Wollin.
  • March 18, 1945: Arrived in Kiel for refit.
  • April 9, 1945: Sunk during RAF raid by Tallboy bombs.

Admiral Graf Spee

  • Manufacturer: Wilhelmshaven Dock Yard, Wilhelmshaven Navy Yard
  • October 1, 1932: Laid down.
  • 1934, June 30, 1934: Launched.
  • January 6, 1936: Completed.
  • 1936: Fleet flagship.
  • October 9, 1936 - February 1937: Refit at Deutsche Werke.
  • 1936 - 1937: Served with Non Intervention Patrol during Spanish Civil War.
  • May 1937, May 20, 1937: At Spithead for Coronation Naval Review.
  • June 27 - August 7, 1937: Patrolled off Spain.
  • April 19 - May 17, 1939: Sailed to Ceuta and Lisbon.
  • August 21, 1939: Headed to Atlantic to prepare for commerce raiding.
  • September - December 1939: Patrolled Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Sank 9 ships for 50,089 tons.
  • December 13, 1939: Battle of River Plate.
  • December 17, 1939: Scuttled.

Usage

Battle of River Plate

The Admiral Graf Spee was damaged by HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, and HMS Achilles and sought refuge in Montevideo. HMS Exeter and HMS Ajax were heavily damaged.

Captain Langsdorf scuttled the Admiral Graf Spee after being lead to believe that the British had much superior forces waiting outside the harbor for him.

After this Adolf Hitler ordered the Deutschland to be renamed Lützow in the event it would be lost, having a ship named after Germany be lost would be a severe propaganda loss.

 

Specifications

  Deutschland Class
Crew 619 - 1,150, 926, 1,150
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 10,000 tons, 11,700 tons, 12,100 tons
Displacement - Loaded 15,900 tons - 16,200 tons
Length 609', 610' 3"
186 m
Length - Water Line 593', 596' 1"
181.7 m
Beam 70', 70' 10"
21.6 m
Draft / Height 19', 21' 6", 21' 8"
5.8 m
Draft / Height - Maximum 24' 3"
7.4 m
Performance  
Speed 26 knots, 28 knots
Range at 15 knots 18,650 nautical miles, 20,000 nautical miles
Range at 19 knots 19,000 nautical miles
Armament 11": 6
11" triple turrets: 2
11", 28 cm SK C/28 triple turrets: 2
28 cm L/54 C28 triple turrets: 2
Anti-Aircraft 5.9", 15 cm SK C/28: 8
15 cm L/55 C28: 8
5.9": 8
4.1": 6
4.1" twin mounts: 3
10.5 cm L/65 C33 twin mounts: 3
3.9", 8.8 cm SK C/25 twin mounts: 4
3 pdr: 8
37 mm twin mounts: 4
37 mm L/83 C30 twin mounts: 4
20 cm: 4
20 mm twin mounts: 14
20 mm C30: 6
Machine guns: 10
Anti-Aircraft - 1934 - 1939 8.8 cm L/45 C32 twin mounts: 3
Torpedo Tubes 21", 50 cm: 4 tubes in each of 2 mounts
53.3 cm: 4 tubes in each of 2 mounts
21": 8
Aircraft 2
Armor  
Barbettes 12.5 cm
Belt 2.25" - 3", 4"
Belt - Main 8 cm
Control Tower 2" - 5", 5", 6"
Deck 1.5", 1.5" - 2.25", 1.5" - 3"
4.5 cm
Deck - Over Magazine 3"
Torpedo Bulkhead 1.5" - 1.75", 4.5 cm
Turrets 2" - 5.5", 3.25" - 5.5", 5.5"
Turrets - Front 14 cm
Turrets - Rear 15.2 cm
Turrets - Roof 8.5 cm - 10.5 cm
Turrets - Side 2" - 3"
7.5 cm - 9 cm
Engines  
Engines Diesels
MAN M9Z 42/58 9 cylinder diesels: 8
MAN diesels: 8
MAN 9 cylinder diesels: 8
Shafts 2, 3
HP 44,200, 54,000, 56,000
Diesel 3,300 tons, 3,500 tons
  Admiral Graf Spee
Crew 1,150
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 12,100 tons
Displacement - Loaded 15,900 tons, 16,200 tons
Length 610'
186 m
Beam 69' 11", 71' 3"
21.3 m, 21.7 m
Draft / Height 19'
5.8 m
Performance  
Speed 28.5 knots
Armament 11" / 28 cm: 6
Anti-Aircraft 5.9" / 15 cm: 8
4.1" / 10.5 cm: 6
37 mm: 8
20 mm: 10
Torpedo Tubes 21" / 53.3 cm: 8
Aircraft 2
Armor  
Barbettes 3.9"
10 cm
Belt - Main 3.1"
8 cm, 10 cm
Deck 1.8"
4 cm, 4.5 cm
Turrets 3.3" - 5.5"
8.5 cm - 14 cm
Engines MAN diesels: 8
Shafts 2
HP 56,000
  Admiral Scheer
Physical Characteristics  
Beam 69' 6", 70' 3"
21.4 m
  Deutschland
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 11,700 tons
Displacement - Loaded 15,200 tons
Beam 67' 6", 67' 11"
20.7 m
Armament  
Anti-Aircraft - 1945 20 mm C38: 26
Armor  
Barbettes 10 cm
Engines  
HP 41,500

Sources:

  1. German Warships of World War II, J. C. Taylor, 1966
  2. Battleships of World War Two an International Encyclopedia, M. J. Whitley, 1998
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Robert Gardiner, 1987
  4. Janes' Fighting Ships of World War II, 1989
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site