Tuesday, May 4, 2010

SMS Seydlitz


Figure 1: SMS Seydlitz (German battlecruiser, 1913-1919) photographed prior to World War I, circa 1913-1914, by M.L. Carstens, Hamburg. Note the photographer's distinctive mark in the lower right. The ship's anti-torpedo nets and booms were removed in 1916. This print was received from the US Office of Naval Intelligence in 1935. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 2: SMS Seydlitz underway, probably between the time she entered service on 22 May 1913 and the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. The original print was transferred from the Office of Naval Intelligence. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 3: SMS Seydlitz underway, circa 1914-1916. The original print is marked on the reverse side: "Photogr. Atelier Heinr. Meents, Wilhelmshaven, MarktStr.19." Courtesy of Master Sergeant Donald L.R. Shake, USAF, 1981. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 4: SMS Seydlitz moored in harbor, circa 1913-1916. Note the anti-torpedo nets stowed along the ship's side. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 5: SMS Seydlitz badly damaged but underway while en route to port after the Battle of Jutland, circa 1-2 June 1916. Note that her bows are nearly submerged due to torpedo and shell hits forward. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 6: SMS Seydlitz in port for battle damage repairs after the Battle of Jutland. Photographed on 6 June 1916, after the guns had been removed from her forward gun turret. Note her list to port and the nearly submerged condition of her bow. The inscription in the upper left is a German security warning notice. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 7: View of damage to the port bow of SMS Seydlitz, including a missing section of side armor plate, taken in dry dock in June 1916 following the Battle of Jutland. The inscription in the upper left is a German security warning notice. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 8: View of torpedo damage to the hull of SMS Seydlitz, forward, taken in dry dock in June 1916 following the Battle of Jutland. Note the effect that the armor belt (at top) had in limiting the upward extent of the hole. The inscription in the upper left is a German security warning notice. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 9: SMS Seydlitz steaming to Scapa Flow to be interned, 21 November 1918. Collection of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) A. Alvin Booth, USNRF. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 10: SMS Seydlitz steaming to Scapa Flow to be interned, 21 November 1918. Collection of Lieutenant (Junior Grade) A. Alvin Booth, USNRF. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 11: SMS Seydlitz leads the German battle cruisers toward Scapa Flow and internment, 21 November 1918. SMS Moltke is next astern, followed by the two remaining Lutzow class ships, Hindenburg and Derfflinger. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 12: German battle cruisers steaming toward Scapa Flow for internment, 21 November 1918. The British blimp N.S.8 is flying overhead. SMS Seydlitz is leading, at left, with Moltke next astern followed by the two remaining Lutzow class ships, Hindenburg and Derfflinger. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 13: SMS Seydlitz capsized at Scapa Flow, probably shortly after she was scuttled by her crew on 21 June 1919. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


Figure 14: SMS Seydlitz capsized at Scapa Flow, after she was scuttled by her crew on 21 June 1919. Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation. Collection of Admiral Joseph Strauss, USN. Admiral Strauss commented (in pencil) on the original print "I saw this one sink." US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.


SMS (which stands for Seiner Majest├Ąt Schiff or His Majesty's Ship) Seydlitz, was a 24,988-ton battle cruiser that was built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg, Germany, and was commissioned in May 1913. Seydlitz was the fourth battle cruiser built for the German High Seas Fleet and was named after Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz, a Prussian general who served King Frederick the Great. Seydlitz was approximately 658 feet long and 94 feet wide, had a top speed of 26 knots, and had a crew of 1,068 officers and men. The ship was armed with ten 11.2-inch guns, twelve 5.9-inch guns, and twelve 3.45-inch guns.

Seydlitz was commissioned slightly more than a year before the outbreak of World War I and during that time patrolled the North Sea and the Baltic with other units in the German High Seas Fleet. After hostilities began in August 1914, Seydlitz participated in two of the most famous naval battles of World War I. The first occurred on 24 January 1915, when Seydlitz served as the flagship of the German battle cruiser force in the Battle of the Dogger Bank. During that confrontation, three German battle cruisers and one large armored cruiser under the command of Admiral Franz von Hipper were intercepted by five British battle cruisers under the command of Admiral David Beatty. The ships met at the Dogger Bank in the North Sea, located roughly midway between Germany and Great Britain. During the battle, Seydlitz was hit by a 13.5-inch shell from HMS Lion. The shell went through her after turret and ignited a large fire. The fire spread rapidly and consumed a number of compartments, gradually making its way to the aft ammunition magazines. Only the quick thinking of the ship’s executive officer, who decided to flood the magazines, prevented the ship from blowing up in a massive explosion. The shell hit and resulting fire, though, killed 160 members of the crew and put both of the ship’s rear turrets out of action. One of the German battle cruisers, Bl├╝cher, was sunk by the British, but the other three German warships were able to escape back to Germany where Seydlitz was repaired after several months.

The next major confrontation involving Seydlitz was the famous Battle of Jutland, which occurred on 1 June 1916. The battle took place in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark, where the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet under Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer clashed with the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet, under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. Jutland was by far the largest naval battle of World War I and most of the major units in both the German and British fleets participated in the action. During this battle, Seydlitz and the German battle cruiser SMS Derfflinger unleashed broadsides against the British battle cruiser HMS Queen Mary, hitting her five times. The hits caused a huge explosion on board Queen Mary and the ship broke in two and sank with heavy loss of life. But then Seydlitz was pounded by several British warships. In all, Seydlitz was struck by approximately two dozen large-caliber shells, which caused extensive damage and fires and put several of the ship’s guns out of action. The German battle cruiser also was hit by a torpedo that was fired by a British destroyer. The torpedo hit Seydlitz below the forward turret, ripping a 40-foot-long by 13-foot-wide hole in her hull. More than 5,000 tons of water rushed into the forward part of the ship, which reduced her freeboard at the bow to almost nothing. In fact, the forward part of the ship was barely above water, but she remained afloat. Miraculously, Seydlitz was able to make it back to port in Germany on her own power. She lost 98 crewmembers killed and 55 wounded, although these casualties could have been much worse considering the damage sustained by the ship. Seydlitz proved that German battle cruisers could take an enormous amount of punishment and still remain afloat, unlike British battle cruisers, which had a tendency to catch fire and be ripped apart by massive explosions after being hit.

It took almost four months to repair Seydlitz. Once the repairs were completed, the ship remained active within the German fleet until the end of the war on 11 November 1918, although she never participated in another major battle. On 24 November 1918, Seydlitz (along with 73 other warships from the German High Seas Fleet) steamed into the British naval base at Scapa Flow, Scotland, to be interned. While the ships were interned at Scapa Flow, diplomats at the Versailles Treaty Conference were holding negotiations on how the ships of the German Fleet were to be divided amongst the victors. But rather than have to endure the humiliation of officially handing over their warships to the Allied Powers for distribution, the German officers and men decided to commit one final act of defiance. On 21 June 1919, the remaining German crewmembers aboard the interned ships scuttled all of them. Seydlitz was one of the 52 ships to go down, although she didn’t actually sink. Seydlitz capsized, with the bulk of her hull remaining above water. The wreck remained that way until raised in 1928. What was left of the ship was scrapped in 1930.