SHIPS-IN-CLASS (4): SMS Bayern; SMS Baden; SMS Sachsen (not completed); SMS Wurttemberg (not completed)
OPERATORS: Imperial Germany
PROPULSION: 3 x Schichau steam turbines delivering 56,275 shaft horsepower to 3 x shafts.
Detailing the development and operational history of the SMS Baden Dreadnought Battleship.
Entry last updated on 12/17/2016.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The German Navy attempted to keep pace with the British Royal Navy prior to World War 1 (1914-1918) through five major Naval Laws passed from the period of 1898 to 1912. The fifth and final law of 1912 was passed in June of that year and allowed for the building additional battleships to further extend German sea-going power around Europe and its overseas colonies. This gave rise to the Bayern-class of dreadnought battleship which was intended as a four-strong group headed by lead ship SMS Bayern. She was to be joined by her three sisters - the SMS Baden, SMS Sachsen and the SMS Wurttemberg within years. Each vessel would displace at 35,500 short tons, feature steam turbine propulsion and a primary battery of 8 x 15" turreted guns. The SMS Baden had her keel laid down on December 20th, 1913 by the concern of Schichau-Werke in the port of Danzig which remained under German control during this period of history (today part of modern-day Poland). The vessel was launched on October 30th, 1915 and formally commissioned on March 14th, 1917.
Prior to the vessel's arrival in the German Fleet, war was sparked in Europe on a late June day in 1914 through the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Principe. This single event brought to bear the built up tensions encountered across Europe and led to a formal declaration of war by the Austro-Hungarian Empire against Serbia which prompted all manner of existing allegiances to come into play. Imperial Russia mobilized to protect Serbia which forced Germany to declare war on Russia. From then on, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and others joined as Allies to combat the "Central Powers" made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. By the end of July, the world was in total war.
While much discussion concerning World War 1 eventually falls to the land war with the rise of the machine gun, the tank and its aircraft battles, there proved importance in the outcome of the naval war as well. When the SMS Baden was launched in 1915, the war had been ongoing for over a year and the once-fluid early campaigns on land had bogged down into the slogfest that was "Trench Warfare". Some critical victories would have to be achieved through the naval campaign in an effort to break the stalemate.
As built, the SMS Baden featured a running length of 590 feet, 7 inches with a beam measuring 98 feet, 5 inches and a draft of 30 feet, 10 inches. Power was served through 3 x Schichau steam turbine engines driving 56,275 shaft horsepower to three shafts at the stern. Her top speed in ideal conditions equaled 21 knots while her range could reach 5,000 nautical miles. She was crewed by 42 officers and 1,130 enlisted (1,172 total complement). Key to her design was armor protection which included a belt of up to 13.8 inches, deck armor topping 4 inches and turret armor of 13.8 inches. Her armament was headed by 8 x 15" main guns supplemented by 16 x 6" guns and 2 x 3.5" guns. 5 x 24" torpedo tubes rounded out her armament suite. Her primary battery was concentrated across four individual turrets - two mounted fore and two mounted aft - a full broadside of eight guns brought to bear.
Her profile was of a conventional sea-going shape with a tapered bow and rounded stern. The main superstructure was set at amidships in the usual way and her silhouette showcasing a pair of smoke stacks to aspirate the propulsion system. A main mast was fitted ahead of the first stack and towered well above. The bridge resided just ahead of the mast and aft of Turret No. 2. The vessel was given the name of "Baden" to honor the Grand Duchy of Baden which resided along the East Bank of the Rhine within the borders of the German Empire.
The Baden was categorized as a "dreadnought" battleship which placed her in a specific modernized steel warship class of the period. The Royal Navy's HMS Dreadnought appeared in 1906 and rewrote the battleship specification considerably, applying the perfect blend of armor protection, speed and firepower. It was the first vessel to adopt a unified "all big gun" approach in her design coupled to turbine propulsion. The arrival of the Dreadnought immediately rendered all previous battleship types obsolete to which the name of "pre-dreadnought" was forever assigned them. The HMS Dreadnought was hugely responsible for the British-German naval arms race that followed.
After her requisite sea trials, the SMS Baden was commissioned and assigned to the German "High Seas Fleet" as flagship (her primary enemy force would become the British "Grand Fleet"). In the latter part of 1917, the vessel was called to action against British cargo vessels attempting to reach Norway to which the Baden was able to put her main guns to good use. In April of 1918, under the command of Admiral Hipper, the Baden and the High Seas Fleet set sail along the established convoy lines looking for potential targets though none were found. On a May 24th sail, the vessel delivered Admiral Reinhard Scheer and the Grand Duke Friedrich von Baden himself to visit Helgoland archipelago along the Northwest coast of Germany.
The end of the line for Baden came when the German Empire lay near imminent collapse in 1918. The war had dragged on for over three long years by now and morale was at an all time low across German cities and military branches as conditions worsened. Several high profile mutinies arose across capital and lesser ships that threatened collapse of the Empire from within. On November 9th, the Baden fell victim to its own mutiny and put an end to one last major military naval action being planned by Admiral Hipper and Scheer. World War 1 ended with the November 11th, 1918 Armistice which saw the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The German Empire was equally dismantled and neutered of its war-making capacity.
The SMS Baden was handed over to British authorities in place of the incomplete SMS Mackensen under the terms of the November Armistice. The Baden fell under the watch of the High Seas Fleet which left for Scapa Flow on November 21st, 1918. With the Peace Treaty signing deadline set for 12PM, June 21st, 1919, Rear Admiral von Reuter ordered a fleet-wide scuttling of all German ships lest they come under permanent British control. The scuttling action managed to sink many ships though the Baden was saved by British forces before she could be lost in full at Gutter Sound. Salvaged in July of 1919, the Baden was towed across the English Channel to Invergordon Naval Base in Scotland to undergo a battery of tests on her guns and armor before being sunk as a target herself on August 16th, 1921.
Of the four Bayern-class vessels planned, only the SMS Bayern and SMS Baden were ever completed before the end of the World War 1. The SMS Schsen and SMS Wurtemberg were both incomplete at the end of the war and ultimately scrapped under the terms of the Armistice. The SMS Bayern, scuttled on the June 21st, 1919 action, was then raised, towed to Scotland and ultimately broken up in 1935 just prior to World War 2.