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SMS Victoria Louise in 1909
|Operators:||Imperial German Navy|
|Preceded by:||Kaiserin Augusta|
|Succeeded by:||Fürst Bismarck|
|Class and type:||Victoria Louise class protected cruiser|
|Displacement:||Full load: 6,491–6,705 t (6,388–6,599 long tons)|
|Length:||110.50–110.60 m (362 ft 6 in–362 ft 10 in)|
|Beam:||17.40–17.60 m (57 ft 1 in–57 ft 9 in)|
|Draft:||6.58–7.08 m (21 ft 7 in–23 ft 3 in)|
|Speed:||18.5 to 19.5 knots (34 to 36 km/h; 21 to 22 mph)|
|Range:||3,412 nmi (6,319 km; 3,926 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
The Victoria Louise class of protected cruisers was the last class of ships of that type built for the German Imperial Navy. The class design introduced the combined clipper and ram bow and the blocky sides that typified later German armoured cruisers. The class comprised five vessels, Victoria Louise, the lead ship, Hertha, Freya, Vineta, and Hansa. The ships were laid down in 1895–1896, and were launched in 1897–1898 and commissioned into the fleet over the following year.
The first three ships were 110.60 meters (362 ft 10 in) long and displaced 6,491 metric tons (6,388 long tons) at combat load; Vineta and Hansa were a slightly modified design. They were 110.50 m (362 ft 6 in) long and displaced 6,705 t (6,599 long tons) at full load. All five ships were armed with a main battery of two 21-centimeter (8.3 in) guns and eight 15 cm (5.9 in) guns. The first three ships had a top speed of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph); the last two were slightly slower, at 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph). Problems with the Niclausse boilers installed on Freya prompted the Navy to standardize boiler types in future warships.
The ships of the class served in various units in the German fleet, including on the America Station, in the East Asia Squadron, and with the home fleet. Hertha and Hansa participated in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, and Vineta was involved in the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903. All five ships were modernized between 1905 and 1911, after which they served as training ships for naval cadets. They were mobilized into the 5th Scouting Group at the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, but were quickly withdrawn from front-line service. They served in various secondary roles for the rest of the war. After the end of the conflict, Victoria Louise was converted into a merchant ship, but was broken up in 1923. The other four ships were scrapped in 1920–1921.
The first three ships of the Victoria Louise class—Victoria Louise, Hertha, and Freya—were 109.10 meters (357 ft 11 in) long at the waterline and 110.60 m (362 ft 10 in) long overall. They had a beam of 17.40 m (57 ft 1 in) and a draft of 6.58 m (21 ft 7 in) forward and 6.93 m (22 ft 9 in). These ships displaced 5,660 metric tons (5,570 long tons) as designed and 6,491 t (6,388 long tons) at full combat load. Vineta and Hansa had slightly different dimensions; they were 109.80 m (360 ft 3 in) long at the waterline and 110.50 m (362 ft 6 in) overall. Their beam was 17.60 m (57 ft 9 in) and drew 7.08 m (23 ft 3 in) forward and 7.34 m (24 ft 1 in) aft. Their displacement was also higher than the first three ships, at 5,885 t (5,792 long tons) as designed and 6,705 t (6,599 long tons) at combat load.
The ships' hulls were constructed with longitudinal and transverse steel frames; a single layer of wood planks were used for the hull. A later of Muntz metal sheathing extended up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) above the waterline to protect against fouling of the hull. This sheathing was later removed from Victoria Louise, Hertha, and Freya. The hull was divided into twelve watertight compartments, which were later reduced to eleven, with the exception of Freya. The hull also incorporated a double bottom that extended for 60 percent of the length of the hull. The ships' design set a precedent for later armored cruisers, with large, bulky sides and a combined clipper bow and ram.
The ships' standard crew was 31 officers and 446 enlisted men, with an additional 9 officers and 41 enlisted while serving as a second command flagship. After their reconstruction into training ships, the crew was substantially enlarged to incorporate the trainees, with 26 officers and 658 sailors, 75 of whom were naval cadets and 300 others were cabin boys. The ships carried a number of smaller boats, including three picket boats, one launch, one pinnace, two cutters, two yawls, and three dinghies. After their modernization, the boats were significantly revised; the number of picket boats was reduced to one, a barge and a launch were added, the dinghies were removed, and five more cutters were added.
The ships were good sea boats; they had an easy motion and were dry as a result of their high forecastles. They had a tendency to pitch when steaming downwind, however, and made severe leeway in heavy winds because of their large superstructures. They were difficult to maneuver without the center shaft engaged. They lost only around ten percent speed in a head sea or with the rudder hard over. In addition, as the lower coal bunkers were emptied, the ships became increasingly unstable; with empty bunkers, the ships could heel over as much as fifteen degrees in a hard turn. The modernization of the ships between 1905 and 1911 rectified this problem. They had a transverse metacentric height of .56 to .73 m (1 ft 10 in to 2 ft 5 in). As built, the ships were very hot, and ventilation had to be improved before they were commissioned.
The propulsion system of all five ships consisted of three vertical 4-cylinder triple expansion engines built by AG Vulcan. Steam was provided by twelve coal-fired boilers from different manufacturers, with the exception of Hansa. Victoria Louise and Vineta had boilers from Dürr AG, Freya had Niclausse boilers, and Hertha had Belleville boilers. Hansa was equipped with eighteen transverse Belleville boilers. The Niclausse boilers in Freya proved to be particularly troublesome, which led the Navy to use only Schulz-Thornycroft or Marine-type boilers in future vessels. In the modernizations between 1905 and 1911, the ships were re-equipped with transverse Marine-type boilers. The ships originally had three funnels, but after their refits, the boilers were trunked into two funnels.
The ships' engines were rated at 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW) top speed of 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph) for the first three ships and 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph) for the last two vessels. As built, the ships carried up to 950 t (930 long tons; 1,050 short tons) of coal, which gave them a cruising range of 3,412 nautical miles (6,319 km; 3,926 mi) at a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). The more efficient Marine-type boilers installed in 1905–1911 increased cruising range to 3,840 nmi (7,110 km; 4,420 mi) at the same speed. Victoria Louise and Hertha were equipped with four electricity generators with a combined output of 224 to 271 kilowatts (300 to 363 hp) at 110 Volts; the last three ships had three generators with a total output of 169 to 183 kW (227 to 245 hp) at 110 V. Steering was controlled by a single large rudder.
The ships' primary armament consisted of two 21 cm SK L/40 guns in single gun turrets, one forward and one aft. The guns were supplied with 58 rounds of ammunition each. They had a range of 16,300 m (53,500 ft). Eight 15 cm SK L/40 guns rounded out the offensive gun armament. Four of these guns were mounted in turrets amidships and the other four were placed in casemates. These guns had a range of 13,700 m (44,900 ft). Two of the 15 cm guns were removed in the refit.
The ships also carried ten 8.8 cm SK L/30 naval guns, and an eleventh was added during the modernization. Three longer-barreled 8.8 cm SK L/35 naval guns were also added at that time. The gun armament was rounded out by ten machine guns, which were removed during the refit. The ships were also equipped with three 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes with eight torpedoes, two launchers were mounted on the broadside and the third was in the bow, all below the waterline. In 1916, all of the ships of the class were disarmed, with the exception of Freya, which was re-equipped with a single 15 cm gun, four 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns, and fourteen 8.8 cm guns of both the L/30 and L/35 versions, for use as a gunnery training ship.
Armor protection for the ships was composed of Krupp steel. The main deck was 40 mm (1.6 in) thick with 100 mm (3.9 in) thick slopes. The forward conning tower had 150 mm (5.9 in) thick sides and a 30 mm (1.2 in) thick roof. The aft conning tower was given only splinter protection, with just 12 mm (0.47 in) thick sides. The 21 cm and 15 cm gun turrets had 100 mm thick sides and 30 mm thick roofs. The casemate guns were also given 100 mm worth of armor protection. The ships were also equipped with cork cofferdams.
Victoria Louise was laid down at the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen in 1895, under construction number 116. She was launched on 29 March 1897 and was commissioned into the fleet on 20 February 1899. She cost the Imperial government 10,714,000 gold marks. Construction of Hertha began in 1895 at the AG Vulcan dockyard in Stettin, under construction number 233. She was launched on 14 April 1897 and was commissioned on 23 July 1898, the first ship of the class to enter service. Her construction cost 9,932,000 marks. The keel-laying of Freya followed in 1895 at the Imperial Dockyard in Danzig. She was launched on 27 April 1897 and was commissioned on 20 October 1898, at the cost of 11,094,000 marks.
Vineta was laid down at the Imperial Dockyard in Danzig in 1896. She was launched on 9 December 1897 and was commissioned into the fleet on 13 September 1899. She cost 10,714,000 marks. Hansa, the last ship of the class, was laid down in 1896 at AG Vulcan under construction number 235. She was launched on 12 March 1898 and was commissioned on 20 April 1899, at the cost of 10,270,000 marks. Victoria Louise and Hansa were rebuilt at the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel in 1906–1908 and 1907–1909, respectively. The other three ships were modernized at the Imperial Dockyard in Danzig: Hertha in 1906–1908, Freya in 1905–1907, and Vineta in 1909–1911. Freya was again modified at the Imperial Dockyard in Danzig in 1911–1913, and Hansa was rebuilt in 1915 at the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel.
Victoria Louise served with the fleet for the first seven years of her career. During this time, she represented Germany during the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901. In 1906, she was modernized and after 1908, used as a training ship for naval cadets. In 1909, she visited the United States, and at the outbreak of World War I, was mobilized into the 5th Scouting Group. She was attacked unsuccessfully by the British submarine HMS E1 in October 1914, and at the end of the year she was withdrawn from service. She was used as a minelayer and barracks ship based in Danzig for the rest of the war. Victoria Louise was sold in 1919 and converted into a freighter the following year, though she served in this capacity until 1923, when she was broken up for scrap.
Hertha served abroad in the German East Asia Squadron for the first six years of her career; she served briefly as the Squadron flagship in 1900. She contributed a landing party to the force that captured the Taku Forts during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. After returning to Germany in 1905, she was modernized and used as a training ship in 1908, following the completion of the refit. She conducted a series of training cruises, and several notable officers served aboard the ship as cadets, including Karl Dönitz and Ernst Lindemann. At the outbreak of World War I, Hertha was mobilized into the 5th Scouting Group, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920.
Freya served in the German fleet for the initial years of her career, unlike her sister ships, all of which served abroad on foreign stations. As a result, she led a fairly uneventful career in the fleet. After a modernization in 1905–1907, Freya was used as a school ship for cadets, one of whom was Günther Lütjens. While visiting Canada in 1908, she accidentally rammed and sank a Canadian schooner, killing nine sailors. At the outbreak of World War I, Freya was mobilized into the 5th Scouting Group, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1921.
Vineta served abroad in the American Station for the first several years of her career. While on station in the Americas, she participated in the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903 and bombarded several Venezuelan fortresses. She returned to Germany in 1905 and was used as a torpedo training ship in 1908. She was modernized in 1909–1911, after which she was used as a school ship for naval cadets. In November 1912, she participated in an international naval protest of the First Balkan War. At the outbreak of World War I, Vineta was mobilized into the 5th Scouting Group like her sisters, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920.
Hansa served abroad in the East Asia Squadron for the first six years of her career. Along with Hertha, she contributed a landing party to the force that captured the Taku Forts during the Boxer Rebellion. In August 1904, she participated in the internment of the Russian battleship Tsesarevich after the Battle of the Yellow Sea during the Russo-Japanese War. After returning to Germany in 1906, she was modernized and used as a training ship in 1909, following the completion of the refit. At the outbreak of World War I, Hansa was mobilized into the 5th Scouting Group, but served in front-line duty only briefly. She was used as a barracks ship after 1915, and ultimately sold for scrapping in 1920.