Just two warships were planned (and ultimately realized) in the Dresden-class by the Imperial German Navy prior to World War 1 (1914-1918). These were light cruiser warships of modest size with the protection of a true armored cruiser. The class was made up of SMS Dresden herself and her sister SMS Emden. SMS Emden was laid down on November 1st, 1906 by Kaiserliche Werft of Danzig and launched on May 26th, 1908. She was formally commissioned on July 10th, 1909.
As built. the warship displaced 4,270 tons with a length of 388 feet, a beam of 44.2 feet and a draught of 18 feet. Installed power was from 12 x water-tube boilers feeding 2 x triple-expansion steam engines developing 13,500 horsepower to 2 x shafts (this was less than the 15,000hp generated by the SMS Dresden). Speeds in ideal conditions reached 23.5 knots with an operational range out to 4,330 miles.
The ship's profile incorporated three smoke funnels ahead of midships. These were bookended by masts and the overall general approach to design of the warship was conventional for the period. Internally, she was crewed by 361 personnel that included 18 officers. Armor protection included 3.1" of plate at the deck, nearly 4" at the conning tower and 2" at the gun shields.
Armament constituted 10 x 10.5cm (105mm, 4.1") SK L/40 main guns followed by 8 x 5.2cm (52mm, 2") secondary guns. 2 x 45cm (450mm, 17.7") torpedo tubes were carried for ranged surface work - a common practice for warships of the day.
SMS Emden was posted with the German East Asia Squadron out of Tsingtao (China) for most of her sea-going days. When World War broke out in Europe in the summer of 1914, Emden moved quickly to capture an enemy Russian steamer (which became the "Cormoran" raider for the German Navy following conversion). From there she was stationed in the Indian Ocean under orders to detect and engage enemy shipping in the region. From that point on she claimed over twenty enemy vessels.
On October 28th, 1914, she participated in the Battle of Penang against a combined Russian-French fleet. The battle resulted in a German victory with the Russians losing a protected cruiser (Zhemchug) and the French a destroyer (Mousquet). The Germans incurred no losses in the action.
The warship was then positioned off the coast of the Cocos Islands northwest of Australia to target British positions. On November 9th, 1914, she then came under fire from HMAS Sydney, an Allied cruiser, which damaged the Emden quite severely. This forced the German warship to run aground to save her and her crew. The vessel was eventually overtaken but, in time, fell under the waves. Sections of the vessel were scrapped on-site during the 1950s by Japan with the rest of the warship strewn about the ocean floor.
The Emden name was resurrected once more for the German warship SMS Emden of 1916 (detailed elsewhere on this site).