SMS Wiesbaden[a] was a light cruiser of the Wiesbaden class built for the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). She had one sister ship, SMS Frankfurt; the ships were very similar to the previous Karlsruhe-class cruisers. The ship was laid down in 1913, launched in January 1915, and completed by August 1915. Armed with eight 15 cm SK L/45 guns, Wiesbaden had a top speed of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph) and displaced 6,601 t (6,497 long tons; 7,276 short tons) at full load.
|Launched:||20 January 1915|
|Commissioned:||23 August 1915|
|Fate:||Sunk at the Battle of Jutland, 1 June 1916|
|Class and type:||Wiesbaden-class light cruiser|
|Length:||145.30 m (476 ft 8 in)|
|Beam:||13.90 m (45 ft 7 in)|
|Draft:||5.76 m (18.9 ft)|
|Speed:||27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph)|
|Range:||4,800 nmi (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
Wiesbaden saw only one major action, the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916. The ship was badly damaged by gunfire from the battlecruiser HMS Invincible. Immobilized between the two battle fleets, Wiesbaden became the center of a hard-fought action that saw the destruction of two British armored cruisers. Heavy fire from the British fleet prevented evacuation of the ship's crew. Wiesbaden remained afloat until the early hours of 1 June and sank sometime between 01:45 and 02:45. Only one crew member survived the sinking; the wreck was located by German Navy divers in 1983.
Wiesbaden was 145.30 meters (476 ft 8 in) long overall and had a beam of 13.90 m (45 ft 7 in) and a draft of 5.76 m (18 ft 11 in) forward. She displaced 6,601 t (6,497 long tons; 7,276 short tons) at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two sets of Marine steam turbines driving two 3.5-meter (11 ft) propellers. They were designed to give 31,000 shaft horsepower (23,000 kW). These were powered by ten coal-fired Marine-type water-tube boilers and two oil-fired double-ended boilers. These gave the ship a top speed of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph). Wiesbaden carried 1,280 tonnes (1,260 long tons) of coal, and an additional 470 tonnes (460 long tons) of oil that gave her a range of 4,800 nautical miles (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). Wiesbaden had a crew of 17 officers and 457 enlisted men.
The ship was armed with eight 15 cm SK L/45 guns in single pedestal mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, four were located amidships, two on either side, and two were placed in a superfiring pair aft. The guns could engage targets out to 17,600 m (57,700 ft). They were supplied with 1,024 rounds of ammunition, for 128 shells per gun. The ship's antiaircraft armament initially consisted of four 5.2 cm (2.0 in) L/44 guns, though these were replaced with a pair of 8.8 cm SK L/45 anti-aircraft guns. She was also equipped with four 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes with eight torpedoes. Two were submerged in the hull on the broadside and two were mounted on the deck amidships. She could also carry 120 mines. The ship was protected by a waterline armored belt that was 60 mm (2.4 in) thick amidships. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides, and the deck was covered with up to 60 mm thick armor plate.
Wiesbaden was ordered under the contract name "Ersatz Gefion"[b] and was laid down at the AG Vulcan shipyard in Stettin in 1913 and launched on 20 January 1915, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 23 August 1915, after being rushed through sea trials.
Commanded by Captain Fritz Reiss, Wiesbaden was assigned to the II Scouting Group of light cruisers under Konteradmiral Friedrich Boedicker, which took part in the Battle of Jutland on 30 May and 1 June 1916. Wiesbaden's sister ship Frankfurt served as Boedicker's flagship. The unit was assigned to screen for the battlecruisers of Vizeadmiral Franz von Hipper's I Scouting Group. At the start of the battle, Wiesbaden was cruising to starboard, which placed her on the disengaged side when Elbing, Pillau, and Frankfurt first engaged the British cruiser screen.
At around 18:30, Wiesbaden and the rest of the II Scouting Group encountered the cruiser HMS Chester; they opened fire and scored several hits on the ship. As both sides' cruisers disengaged, Rear Admiral Horace Hood's three battlecruisers intervened. His flagship HMS Invincible scored a hit on Wiesbaden that exploded in her engine room and disabled the ship. Konteradmiral Paul Behncke, the commander of the leading element of the German battle line, ordered his dreadnoughts to cover the stricken Wiesbaden. Simultaneously, the light cruisers of the British 3rd and 4th Light Cruiser Squadrons attempted to make a torpedo attack on the German line; while steaming into range, they battered Wiesbaden with their main guns. The destroyer HMS Onslow steamed to within 2,000 yards (1,800 m) of Wiesbaden and fired a single torpedo at the crippled cruiser. It hit directly below the conning tower, but the ship remained afloat. In the ensuing melee, the armored cruiser HMS Defence blew up and HMS Warrior was fatally damaged. Wiesbaden launched her torpedoes while she remained immobilized, but with no success.
Shortly after 20:00, the III Flotilla of torpedo boats attempted to rescue Wiesbaden's crew, but heavy fire from the British battle line drove them off. Another attempt to reach the ship was made, but the torpedo boat crews lost sight of the cruiser and were unable to locate her. The ship finally sank sometime between 01:45 and 02:45. Only one crew member survived the sinking; he was picked up by a Norwegian steamer the following day. Among the 589 killed was the well-known writer of poetry and fiction dealing with the life of fishermen and sailors, Johann Kinau, known under his pseudonym of Gorch Fock, who has since then been honored by having two training windjammers of the Kriegsmarine and the German Navy, respectively, named after him. The wreck of Wiesbaden was found in 1983 by divers of the German Navy, who removed both of the ship's screws. The ship lies on the sea floor upside down, and was the last German cruiser sunk at Jutland to be located.
- "SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" (German: His Majesty's Ship).
- 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)".
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