SMS Ägir was the second and final member of the Odin class of coastal defense ships (Küstenpanzerschiffe) built for the Imperial German Navy. She had one sister ship, Odin. Ägir was named for the norse god, and was built by the Kaiserliche Werft Danzig shipyard between 1893 and 1896. She was armed with a main battery of three 24-centimeter (9.4 in) guns. She served in the German fleet throughout the 1890s and was rebuilt in 1901–1903. She served in the VI Battle Squadron after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, but saw no action. Ägir was demobilized in 1915 and used as a tender thereafter. After the war, she was rebuilt as a merchant ship and served in this capacity until December 1929, when she was wrecked on the island of Gotland.
Lithograph of Ägir in 1899
|Builder:||Kaiserliche Werft Kiel|
|Launched:||3 April 1895|
|Commissioned:||15 October 1896|
|Decommissioned:||14 January 1916|
|Struck:||17 June 1919|
|Class and type:||Odin-class coastal defense ship|
|Beam:||15.20 m (49 ft 10 in)|
|Draft:||5.60 m (18 ft 4 in)|
|Propulsion:||5,129 ihp (3,825 kW)|
|Speed:||15.1 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)|
|Range:||2,200 nmi (4,100 km; 2,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
In the late 1880s, the German Kaiserliche Marine grappled with the problem of what type of capital ship to build in the face of limited naval budgets (owing to parliamentary objections to naval spending and the cost of dredging the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal). General Leo von Caprivi, the new Chef der Admiralität (Chief of the Admiralty), was able to secure approval from the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) for ten small coastal defense ships, the first six of which became the Siegfried class, which carried three main battery guns in individual barbette mounts. Proposals for the last four included redesigning the vessels to add another main battery gun in two-gun turrets came to nothing owing to the cost of other naval programs—most notably the Brandenburg-class battleships. The two Odin-class ships were ultimately built to a modified version of the Siegfried design that incorporated improvements to the armor layout and other minor changes.
Ägir was 79 meters (259 ft 2 in) long overall and had a beam of 15.20 m (49 ft 10 in) and a maximum draft of 5.61 m (18 ft 5 in). She displaced 3,754 tonnes (3,695 long tons) at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two vertical 3-cylinder triple expansion engines. Steam for the engines was provided by eight coal-fired Thornycroft boilers. The ship's propulsion system provided a top speed of 15.1 knots (28.0 km/h; 17.4 mph). She carried 370 t (360 long tons; 410 short tons) of coal, which gave her a range of approximately 1,490 nautical miles (2,760 km; 1,710 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). Because she had twice the number of electrical generators as her sister, Ägir was nicknamed "Elektrische Anna" (Electric Anna). The ship had a crew of 20 officers and 256 enlisted men.
The ship was armed with three 24 cm K L/35 guns mounted in three single-gun turrets. Two were placed side by side forward, and the third was located aft of the main superstructure. They were supplied with a total of 204 rounds of ammunition. The ship was also equipped with ten 8.8 cm SK L/30 guns in single mounts. Ägir also carried three 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, two in swivel mounts on the deck amidships and one in the bow, submerged below the waterline. The ship was protected by an armored belt that was 240 mm (9.4 in) thick amidships, and an armored deck that was 70 mm (2.8 in) thick. The conning tower had 120 mm (4.7 in) thick sides.
Ägir was laid down at the Kaiserliche Werft shipyard in Kiel in 1892. She was launched on 3 April 1895 and completed on 15 January 1896, after which she underwent a somewhat lengthy period of sea trials. The ship was commissioned into the German fleet on 15 October 1896, where she served on active duty for the entirety of her peacetime career. During the 1900 summer maneuvers, Ägir served in the simulated hostile squadron, alongside Heimdall, Hildebrand, and Siegfried. The maneuvers lasted from 15 August to 15 September.
In 1901, Ägir was taken in hand at the Kaiserliche Werft in Danzig for an extensive reconstruction. Her old boilers were replaced with eight new Marine type boilers and her length was increased to 86.15 m (282.6 ft). This increased her displacement to 4,376 t (4,307 long tons; 4,824 short tons) at full load. The lengthened hull, which improved her hydrodynamic shape, and the improved boilers increased her speed by a full knot, to 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph). Her coal storage was increased to 580 t (570 long tons; 640 short tons), which allowed her to steam for an additional 800 nmi (1,500 km; 920 mi). The modernization work was completed by 1903, at which point she returned to active service.
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Ägir was assigned to VI Battle Squadron, along with her sister Odin and the six Siegfried-class coastal defense ships. The squadron was disbanded on 31 August 1915 to free up the ships' crews for more important tasks. Ägir was thereafter used as a barracks ship in Wilhelmshaven through to the end of the war. She was stricken from the naval register on 17 June 1919 and sold. In 1922, she was rebuilt as a merchant ship at the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Rüstringen. She was operated by A. Bernstein Co., out of Hamburg. She continued in this role until she was wrecked on the island of Gotland off the Karlsö lighthouse on 8 December 1929. Her bow ornament is preserved at the Laboe Naval Memorial.
- "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff", or "His Majesty's Ship".
- Dodson, Aidan (2016). The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871–1918. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84832-229-5.
- Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-8317-0302-8.
- Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
- Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6.
- "Notes on Naval Progress". General Information Series. Government Printing Office. XX. 1900.
Media related to SMS Ägir (ship, 1895) at Wikimedia Commons