SMS Dresden in Scapa Flow
|Builder:||Blohm und Voss|
|Launched:||25 April 1917|
|Commissioned:||28 March 1918|
|Fate:||Scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919|
|Status:||Wreck remains in Scapa Flow|
|Class and type:||Cöln-class light cruiser|
|Length:||155.5 m (510 ft)|
|Beam:||14.2 m (47 ft)|
|Draft:||6.01 m (19.7 ft)|
|Speed:||27.5 knots (50.9 km/h)|
|Range:||5,400 nmi (10,000 km; 6,200 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
SMS Dresden was the second and final ship of the Cöln class of light cruisers to be completed and commissioned in the Kaiserliche Marine. The ship was laid down in 1916 and launched on 25 April 1917; she was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 28 March 1918. She and her sister Cöln were the only two of her class to be completed; eight of her sisters were scrapped before they could be completed. The ships were an incremental improvement over the preceding Königsberg-class cruisers.
Dresden was commissioned into service with the High Seas Fleet eight months before the end of World War I; as a result, her service career was limited and she did not see action. She participated in a fleet operation to Norway to attack British convoys to Scandinavia, but they failed to locate any convoys and returned to port. Dresden was to have participated in a climactic sortie in the final days of the war, but a revolt in the fleet forced Admirals Reinhard Scheer and Franz von Hipper to cancel the operation. The ship was interned in Scapa Flow after the end of the war and scuttled with the fleet there on 21 June 1919, under orders from the fleet commander Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.
Dresden was 155.5 meters (510 ft) long overall and had a beam of 14.2 m (47 ft) and a draft of 6.01 m (19.7 ft) forward. She displaced 7,486 t (7,368 long tons; 8,252 short tons) at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two sets of steam turbines powered by eight coal-fired and six oil-fired Marine-type boilers. These provided a top speed of 27.5 kn (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph) and a range of approximately 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km; 6,900 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph). Her crew consisted of 17 officers and 542 enlisted men.
The ship was armed with eight 15 cm SK L/45 guns in single pedestal mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, four were located amidships, two on either side, and two were arranged in a super firing pair aft. These guns fired a 45.3-pound (20.5 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 840 meters per second (2,800 ft/s). The guns had a maximum elevation of 30 degrees, which allowed them to engage targets out to 17,600 m (57,700 ft). They were supplied with 1,040 rounds of ammunition, for 130 shells per gun. Dresden also carried three 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 anti-aircraft guns mounted on the centerline astern of the funnels, though one was removed in 1918. She was also equipped with a pair of 60 cm (24 in) torpedo tubes with eight torpedoes in deck-mounted swivel launchers amidships. She also carried 200 mines. The ship was protected by a waterline armored belt that was 60 mm (2.4 in) thick amidships. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides, and the deck was covered with 60 mm thick armor plate.
Dresden was ordered under the contract name "Ersatz Ariadne" and was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in 1916. She was launched on 25 April 1917, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 28 March 1918. After her commissioning, Dresden joined the reconnaissance screen for the High Seas Fleet. She was the last light cruiser built by the Kaiserliche Marine. The ship was assigned to the II Scouting Group, alongside the cruisers Königsberg, Pillau, Graudenz, Nürnberg, and Karlsruhe.
The ships were in service in time for the major fleet operation to Norway in 23–24 April 1918. The I Scouting Group and II Scouting Group, along with the Second Torpedo-Boat Flotilla, were to attack a heavily guarded British convoy to Norway, with the rest of the High Seas Fleet steaming in support. The Germans failed to locate the convoy, which had in fact sailed the day before the fleet left port. As a result, Admiral Reinhard Scheer broke off the operation and returned to port.
In October 1918, Dresden and the rest of the II Scouting Group were to lead a final attack on the British navy. Dresden, Cöln, Pillau, and Königsberg were to attack merchant shipping in the Thames estuary while the rest of the Group were to bombard targets in Flanders, to draw out the British Grand Fleet. Großadmiral Reinhard Scheer, the commander in chief of the fleet, intended to inflict as much damage as possible on the British navy, in order to secure a better bargaining position for Germany, whatever the cost to the fleet. On the morning of 29 October 1918, the order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven the following day. Starting on the night of 29 October, sailors on Thüringen and then on several other battleships mutinied. The unrest ultimately forced Hipper and Scheer to cancel the operation.
During the sailors' revolt, Dresden was ordered to steam to Eckernförde to serve as a relay to Kiel. Communications had been disrupted by major unrest there. The battleship Markgraf laid in Dresden's path, and her unruly crew refused to move out of Dresden's way; Markgraf aimed one of her 30.5 cm (12.0 in) gun turrets at Dresden, but then her crew backed down and let Dresden leave the port. The ship then went to Swinemünde, where her crew partially scuttled her following reports that mutinous ships were en route to attack the cruisers stationed there. After these proved false, Dresden was re-floated and returned to seaworthy condition. This involved removing the ammunition for all of the guns and allowing them to air-dry. Following the capitulation of Germany in November 1918, most of the High Seas Fleet's ships, under the command of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, were interned in the British naval base in Scapa Flow. Dresden was among the ships interned, but owing to her poor condition following the naval mutiny, she was not able to steam with the rest of the fleet in November. She arrived on 6 December, leaking badly.
The fleet remained in captivity during the negotiations that ultimately produced the Versailles Treaty. Von Reuter believed that the British intended to seize the German ships on 21 June 1919, which was the deadline for Germany to have signed the peace treaty. Unaware that the deadline had been extended to the 23rd, Reuter ordered the ships to be sunk at the next opportunity. On the morning of 21 June, the British fleet left Scapa Flow to conduct training maneuvers, and at 11:20 Reuter transmitted the order to his ships. Dresden began to sink at 13:50. Her wreck lies to this day on her port side at the bottom of Scapa Flow to the south east of the island of Cava, in a depth of 25 to 45 meters (82 to 148 ft). Her upper decks have been badly damaged; her weather deck has fallen off, exposing her internal structure. Her guns are buried in mud. In 2017, marine archaeologists from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology conducted extensive surveys of Dresden and nine other wrecks in the area, including six other German and three British warships. The archaeologists mapped the wrecks with sonar and examined them with remotely operated underwater vehicles as part of an effort to determine how the wrecks are deteriorating.