SMS Dresden

  • Type: Light Cruiser
  • Class: Cöln
  • Length: 115m
  • Beam: 12m
  • Laying on her port side the seabed is 27m below chart datum at the bow and 35m at the stern. The shallowest part of the hull is at 17m.

History of the SMS Dresden

SMS Dresden was a Cöln class light cruiser, one of only two ships of this class to be completed. The other was sister ship SMS Cöln, which also lies on the seabed of Scapa Flow.

SMS Dresden was built by Howaldtswerke in Kiel and launched on 25 April 1917. She was a replacement for the earlier SMS Dresden, which was scuttled at Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile after the Battle of the Falklands in 1915.

Dresden and her sister ship SMS Cöln were completed during World War I. A class of ten ships had been planned, but eight were scrapped before completion.

Cöln and Dresden were slightly larger and faster redevelopments of the Königsberg class of light cruisers. Despite being the final class of light cruisers to be built during the war, they demonstrated the German’s continued interest in building surface warships even after failing to achieve a breakout during the battle of Jutland in 1916.

Dresden did not see full service until August 1918 because priority in manning was being given to the submarine service at the time. Once she had been commissioned the ship joined the reconnaissance screen for the German High Seas Fleet, assigned to the II Scouting Group, alongside SMS Königsberg, Pillau, Graudnez, Nürberg and Karlsruhe.

The cruisers were in service in time to join the major fleet operation to Norway in April 1918. The I Scouting Group and II Scouting Group, along with the Torpedo-Boat Flotilla, were to attack a heavily-guarded British convoy to Norway. But the Germans failed to locate the convoy which had, in fact, sailed the day before the German fleet had left port. As a result Admiral Reinhard Scheer, commander-in-chief of the fleet, broke off the operation.

In October 1918 SMS Dresden and the rest of the II Scouting Group were primed to lead a final attack on the British Navy. The plan was to attack merchant shipping in the Thames estuary, while the rest of the Group were to bombard targets in Flanders in an attempt to draw out the British Grand Fleet. Admiral Reinhard Scheer intended to inflict as much damage as possible on the Royal Navy in order to secure a better bargaining position for Germany, whatever the cost to his Fleet.

On the morning of 29 October 1918 the order was given. However, sailors on several other warships mutinied and the unrest ultimately forced the operation to be cancelled.

During the sailors' revolt SMS Dresden was ordered to steam to Eckernförde in the Baltic Sea. Here she was to serve as a relay to the nearby city of Kiel, as major unrest had disrupted communications.

The ship then went on to Swinemünde in the Baltic Sea. Reports were circulating that mutinous ships were en route to attack the cruisers stationed in Swinemünde and, consequently, SMS Dresden's crew partially scuttled the ship. The reports proved false and SMS Dresden had to be re-floated and returned to seaworthy condition. This involved removing all the ammunition for all the guns and allowing them to air dry.

Following Germany’s surrender in 1918, SMS Dresden became one of the last two ships interned in Scapa Flow. Owing to turbine failure SMS Dresden was unable to steam to Scapa in November alongside the rest of the High Seas Fleet. Instead the cruiser arrived in Scapa Flow on 6 December 1918, leaking badly.

  • Nationality: German
  • Launched: 25 April 1917
  • Commissioned: 28 March 1918
  • Builder: Howaldtswerke, Kiel
  • Construction No: 601
  • Type: Light Cruiser
  • Subtype/class: Cöln Class
  • Displacement (Standard): 5,620 tonnes
  • Displacement (Full Load): 7,486 tonnes
  • Length Overall: 115m *
  • Beam: 12m
  • Draught: 6.01-6.43m
  • Complement: 559
  • Material: Steel
  • Cause Lost: Scuttled
  • Date lost: 21 June 1919. 1350 hrs
  • Casualties: 0
  • Propulsion: Eight coal and six oil marine-type boilers, two sets of geared steam turbines, two propellers
  • Fuel: 1,100 tonnes coal maximum, 1,050 tonnes oil maximum
  • Power: 49,428 shp** maximum
  • Speed: 27.8 knots
  • Armour: ranges from 20-60mm (position dependent), control tower 100mm (on the sides)
  • Armament: 8 x 15 cm, 3 x 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns (reduced to two in 1918), 4 x 60cm deck-mounted torpedo tubes, 200 mines

* measurements taken from ship's plans
**shp - shaft horsepower

NB: Two of the 15 cm guns were mounted on the forecastle of Cöln but were on the upper deck of Dresden.