SMS München

SMS München ("His Majesty's Ship München")[lower-alpha 1] was the fifth of seven Bremen-class cruisers of the Imperial German Navy, named after the city of Munich. She was built by AG Weser in Bremen, starting in 1903, launched in April 1904, and commissioned in January 1905. Armed with a main battery of ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns and two 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes, München was capable of a top speed of 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph).

A prewar photograph of München
German Empire
Name: München
Namesake: Munich
Laid down: 1903
Launched: 30 April 1904
Commissioned: 10 January 1905
Struck: 5 November 1919
Fate: Sunk as target 25 October 1921
General characteristics
Class and type: Bremen-class light cruiser
Length: Length overall: 111.1 meters (365 ft)
Beam: 13.3 m (43.6 ft)
Draft: 5.47 m (17.9 ft)
Installed power:
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range: 4,690 nmi (8,690 km; 5,400 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 14 officers
  • 274–287 enlisted men

München served with the fleet for the majority of her career, and saw extensive service during World War I, including at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1 June 1916. There, she engaged British light cruisers on two instances, and was damaged in both; she contributed to the damaging of the cruiser HMS Southampton during the latter engagement. München was torpedoed by the British submarine HMS E38 on 19 October 1916, and was subsequently withdrawn from service. She spent the final year of the war as a barracks ship, and was surrendered as a war prize to the British in 1920. München was later sunk as a torpedo target.


The German 1898 Naval Law called for the replacement of the fleet's older cruising vessels—steam corvettes, unprotected cruisers, and avisos—with modern light cruisers. The first tranche of vessels to fulfill this requirement, the Gazelle class, were designed to serve both as fleet scouts and as station ships in Germany's colonial empire. They provided the basis for subsequent designs, beginning with the Bremen class that was designed in 1901–1903. The principle improvements consisted of a larger hull that allowed for an additional pair of boilers and a higher top speed.[1]

München was 111.1 meters (365 ft) long overall and had a beam of 13.3 m (44 ft) and a draft of 5.47 m (17.9 ft) forward. She displaced 3,278 metric tons (3,226 long tons) as designed and up to 3,780 t (3,720 long tons) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of two triple-expansion steam engines with steam provided by ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers. Her propulsion system was rated at 10,000 metric horsepower (9,900 ihp) for a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). München carried up to 860 t (850 long tons) of coal, which gave her a range of 4,690 nautical miles (8,690 km; 5,400 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). She had a crew of 14 officers and 274287 enlisted men.[2]

The ship was armed with ten 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK L/40 guns in single mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, six were located amidships, three on either side, and two were placed side by side aft. The guns could engage targets out to 12,200 m (13,300 yd). They were supplied with 1,500 rounds of ammunition, for 150 shells per gun. For defense against torpedo boats, she carried fourteen 3.7 cm (1.5 in) Maxim guns in individual mounts. She was also equipped with two 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes. They were submerged in the hull on the broadside. München was also fitted to carry fifty naval mines. The ship was protected by an armored deck that was up to 80 mm (3.1 in) thick. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides, and the guns were protected by 50 mm (2 in) thick gun shields.[2][3]

Service history

München was ordered under the contract name "M"[lower-alpha 2] and was laid down at the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen in 1903 and launched on 30 April 1904, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 10 January 1905. After her commissioning, München was employed as a torpedo test ship and to conduct experiments with wireless telegraphy. After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the ship was assigned to the High Seas Fleet.[4]

She was moored in Brunsbüttel with her sister-ship Danzig, en route to Kiel via the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal on the morning of 28 August 1914. That morning, the British attacked the German patrol line in the Heligoland Bight. During the ensuing Battle of Heligoland Bight, München and Danzig were recalled and ordered to steam to the mouth of the Elbe and wait for further orders. At 12:25, the two cruisers were ordered to move into the Bight and support the cruiser Strassburg, but at 14:06, München was instead ordered to conduct reconnaissance out to the north-east of Heligoland.[5]

Battle of Jutland

München was assigned to the IV Scouting Group during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1 June 1916. The IV Scouting Group, under the command of Commodore Ludwig von Reuter, departed Wilhelmshaven at 03:30 on 31 May, along with the rest of the fleet. Tasked with screening for the fleet, München and the torpedo boat S54 were positioned on the starboard side of the fleet, abreast of the III Battle Squadron.[6]

Later in the battle, shortly after 21:00, München and the rest of the IV Scouting Group encountered the British 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron (3rd LCS). Reuter's ships were leading the High Seas Fleet south, away from the deployed Grand Fleet. Due to the long range and poor visibility, only München and SMS Stettin were able to engage the British cruisers; München fired 63 shells before she had to cease fire, without scoring any hits. She was hit twice in return, however; the first hit caused minimal damage, but the second struck her third funnel. The resulting explosion damaged four of her boilers, making it difficult for her to keep steam up in all of her boilers. Reuter turned his ships hard to starboard, in order to draw the British closer to the capital ships of the German fleet, but the 3rd LCS refused to take the bait and disengaged.[7]

During the ferocious night fighting that occurred as the High Seas Fleet forced its way through the British rear, the IV Scouting Group encountered the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron at close range in the darkness. As the two squadrons closed on each other, the Germans illuminated HMS Southampton and HMS Dublin and concentrated their fire on the two ships. The two ships were badly damaged and set on fire and forced to retreat, while the Germans also fell back in an attempt to bring the British closer to the battlecruisers Moltke and Seydlitz. In the melee, the cruiser Frauenlob was hit and sunk by a torpedo launched by Southampton,[8] and München nearly collided with the sinking Frauenlob. She managed to evade the wreck, and she then fired a torpedo at Southampton, but it missed. München was hit another three times during this engagement; two of the hits exploded in the water, causing minor splinter damage. The third shell went through the second funnel and exploded on a funnel support on the other side; one of the shell splinters knocked out the starboard rangefinder. The erratic maneuvering bent a wheel shaft in the helm, forcing her crew to steer the ship from the steering gear compartment for about two and a half hours.[9]

At 01:20, München and Stettin briefly fired on the German torpedo boats G11, V1, and V3 before they discovered their identity.[10] Early on the morning of 1 June, around 05:06, the pre-dreadnought battleships of the II Battle Squadron opened fire on what they thought were British submarines; the firing was so hysterical that it threatened to damage München and Stettin, as they were steaming up the side of the German line. The fleet commander, Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, was forced to give a general "cease-fire" order. München in turn spotted an imaginary submarine off Heligoland at 11:40 and opened fire on the empty sea.[11] In the course of the battle, München was hit by a total of five medium-caliber shells, which killed eight men and wounded another twenty. She had fired 161 rounds from her guns.[12]

Later operations

On 1819 October, Scheer attempted a repeat of the original Jutland plan, which had called for a bombardment of Sunderland. While en route, München was hit by a torpedo launched by the submarine HMS E38 off the Dogger Bank. Scheer became convinced the British knew his location, and so he cancelled the operation and returned to port.[13] München took on some 500 metric tons (490 long tons; 550 short tons) of water, and saltwater got into her boilers, contaminating the freshwater used to produce steam. She had to be taken under tow, first by the torpedo boat V73, and then by her sister Berlin. By the following day, her engines were back in operation, and she steamed into the Jadebusen under her own power, where she entered the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven.[14] After returning to port, München was decommissioned in November due to the battle damage incurred the previous month. She was later employed as a barracks ship for patrol ships in 1918. She was stricken from the naval register on 5 November 1919 and ceded to the British as the war prize Q on 6 July 1920 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.[15] She was subsequently sunk as a torpedo target in the Firth of Forth (at position 56° 07’ 00” N, 02° 45’ 50” W) on 25 October 1921.[16]



  1. "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).
  2. German warships were ordered under provisional names. For new additions to the fleet, they were given a single letter; for those ships intended to replace older or lost vessels, they were ordered as "Ersatz (name of the ship to be replaced)".


  1. Hildebrand, Röhr, & Steinmetz Vol. 2, p. 124.
  2. Gröner, pp. 102–103.
  3. Hildebrand, Röhr, & Steinmetz Vol. 6, p. 123.
  4. Gröner, pp. 102–104.
  5. Staff, pp. 13, 25–26.
  6. Tarrant, pp. 62, 68.
  7. Tarrant, pp. 192–193.
  8. Tarrant, pp. 213–214.
  9. Campbell, pp. 281–282, 393.
  10. Campbell, p. 284.
  11. Campbell, p. 320.
  12. Tarrant, pp. 259, 294, 296, 298.
  13. Herwig, p. 194.
  14. Staff, p. 192.
  15. Gröner, p. 104.
  16. "Sms Munchen: Fidra, Firth Of Forth". Canmore: National Record of the Historic Environment. Historic Environment Scotland.


  • Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-1-55821-759-1.
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Vol. I: Major Surface Vessels. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6.
  • Herwig, Holger (1980). "Luxury" Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Amherst: Humanity Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-286-9.
  • Hildebrand, Hans H.; Röhr, Albert & Steinmetz, Hans-Otto (1993). Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe: Biographien: ein Spiegel der Marinegeschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart (Band 2) [The German Warships: Biographies: A Reflection of Naval History from 1815 to the Present (Vol. 2)] (in German). Ratingen: Mundus Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8364-9743-5.
  • Hildebrand, Hans H.; Röhr, Albert & Steinmetz, Hans-Otto (1993). Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe: Biographien: ein Spiegel der Marinegeschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart (Band 6) [The German Warships: Biographies: A Reflection of Naval History from 1815 to the Present (Vol. 6)] (in German). Ratingen: Mundus Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7822-0237-4.
  • Staff, Gary (2011). Battle on the Seven Seas. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime. ISBN 978-1-84884-182-6.
  • Tarrant, V. E. (1995). Jutland: The German Perspective. London: Cassell Military Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-304-35848-9.
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