The Konigsberg-class was adopted by the German Imperial Navy as a four-strong group of light cruisers just prior to World War 1 (1914-1918). Such vessels were differentiated from traditional armored cruisers of the time by being typically smaller and lighter yet carrying roughly the same type of protection as their larger cousins. The Konigsberg-class was built during the period spanning 1914 to 1917, succeeding the outgoing Brummer-class, and saw service until the last year of the war in 1918. Of the four completed, three survived the war. The class was itself succeeded by the incoming Coln-class cruisers.
The members of the Konigsberg-class were SMS Konigsberg, SMS Karlsruhe, SMS Emden, and SMS Nurnberg.
SMS Emden (named after the city of Emden), saw her keel laid down in 1915 by builder AG Weser of Bremen. The war had been raging for months up to this point, having begun in July of 1914. While many shared blissful thoughts of the new European conflict ending by Christmas of that year, the fronts had bogged down into bloody trench warfare which guaranteed the war would be a years-long commitment for all parties. Emden was launched on February 1st, 1916 and was formally commissioned on December 16th of that year.
As designed, SMS Emden displaced at 6,000 tons (short) and featured a length of 497 feet, a beam of 47 feet and a draught of 19.5 feet. Her propulsion system outputted 31,000 shaft horsepower to 2 x shafts under stern and allowed for speeds reaching 27.5 knots and ranges out to 4,850 nautical miles. Her crew complement totaled 475 men led by an officer staff of seventeen. Her armament suite was headed by 8 x 15cm SK L/45 main guns arranged as two guns per four main turrets, two turrets mounted fore and the other two aft - offering a lethal broadside. These were backed by 3 x 8.8cm (3.5") L/45 Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns and 4 x 50cm (20") torpedo tubes. She also carried 200 naval mines. Protection included 60mm at the belt and 600mm along her deck.
Her profile included a bridge superstructure mounted well-forward of midships and mounting one of the two high-reaching masts. The other was fitted over the aft superstructure. Three smoke funnels at midships completed her silhouette. Her masthead was an iron cross for the original SMS Emden, a warship launched in 1908 and lost during the Battle of Cocos in November of 1914. On the whole, she was a conventionally constructed and arranged surface warship for the period.
Fast, well-armored and armed, SMS Emden began her wartime career in 1917. Her primary role during her early participation was in leading torpedo boat groups and it was not until Operation Albion that she would see her true combat actions of the war. Operation Albion was a joint land-and-sea campaign enacted by the Germans to overtake the West Estonian Archipelago (Baltic Sea area) of the Russian Republic. The operation ended as a German victory and spanned the period of September 29th to October 20th, 1917. During this action, Emden's guns were used to shell Russian positions and keep enemy surface vessels at bay. After this commitment, she was used against British shipping in North Sea waters.
Into 1918, the German Navy planned one massive, fateful operation against the British Fleet but a mutiny of the service ended this endeavor. SMS Emden joined many other German warships in scuttle attempts but her complete sinking was thwarted by the arrival of British warships. After the war, the vessel was handed over to France as a war prize but her condition made her useless to continue her career as a member of the rebuilding French Navy. As such, she was left where she ran aground and eventually expended as an explosives target in 1922 and her remains were given up for scrap in 1926.