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SMS Derfflinger

Battlecruiser Warship

Imperial Germany | 1914

"Causing considerable damage to Allied ships during the Battle of Jutland in World War 1, SMS Derfflinger also suffered mightily in the engagement."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/27/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

SMS Derfflinger served the Imperial German Navy of World War 1 (1914-1918) as a "battlecruiser". She was the lead-ship of the three-strong Derfflinger-class which included sisters SMS Hindenburg and SMS Lutzow. As designed, the warships were a fearsome trio and considered very capable capital ships for their day - being well-armed and armored while capable of good ocean-going speeds and acceptable range.

SMS Derfflinger was ordered during the German naval program of 1912-1913 in the lead-up to war and her keel was laid down by Blohm und Voss of Hamburg on March 30th, 1912. On July 17th, 1913, the warship was launched to see for her requisite trials and outfitting. The vessel was formally commissioned on September 1st, 1914 - just in time for war with Britain. She earned herself the fighting nickname of "Iron Dog".

While out of style by modern standards, the battlecruiser was a typical surface combatant of the period and followed the form and function of the mighty battleship. Key differences included lighter displacement and longer hulls coupled with powerful engine sets, light-class main batteries, and reduced armor protection. The result was a warship that was relatively fast in ideal conditions and could hold its own in a firefight. Once again Germany followed the British lead in the realm of battlecruisers, as did the Japanese, Americans, and Turks.

As completed, SMS Derfflinger held a standard displacement of 26,600 tons and this increased to 31,200 tons under full loads. Her length reached 690.2 feet with a beam of 95.1 feet and a draught down to 30.1 feet. Power was from 18 x Boiler units feeding 4 x Parsons turbines developing 75,585 horsepower to 4 x Shafts. The warship could make haste at speeds up to 26.5 knots and range out to 5,600 nautical miles.

Aboard was a crew of 1,112 including forty-four officer-level candidates. Armor protection reached 12 inches at the belt, 12 inches at the conning tower, up to 3 inches at the deck, and 11 inches at the primary turrets.

Armament centered on 8 x 30.5cm (12") SK L/50 main guns set in four twin-gunned turrets, two fore and two aft. Beyond this there were 12 x 15cm (5.9") SK L/45 secondary guns set in twelve single-gunned turrets for added firepower. 4 x 8.8cm (3.5") SK L/45 guns were also carried in four single-gunned emplacements. Wrapping up the armament suite were 4 x 20" torpedo tubes.

Her profile included the stepped forward guns offering excellent firing arcs at the forecastle. The superstructure directly aft contained the bridge section and forward mast as well as the forward smoke funnel. Midships was home to a pair of rescue boats which was bookended by the second inline smoke funnel and aft-mast. The remaining two main gun turrets were equally-stepped and set to overlook the stern. With relatively clean firing arcs, a complete broadside attack from Derfflinger could cause considerable damage from all of the included armament.

Some of Derfflinger's earliest actions included the shelling of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby, England in a German naval raid taking place on December 16th, 1914. A resulting German victory, the assault caused some 592 casualties and 137 dead for the enemy while one British cruiser was damaged and three destroyers joined it. For their commitment, the Germans suffered 20 casualties, 8 dead, and three cruisers damaged. She then took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank on January 24th, 1915 - though this went down as a British victory and cost the Germans an armored cruiser, a battlecruiser, and 954 men were Killed-In-Action (KIA).

The Battle of Jutland, the most notable naval engagement of World War 1, was had from May 31st, 1916 to June 1st, 1916 with Derfflinger being a part of the action. In the fighting, Derfflinger, along with SMS Seydlitz, claimed HMS Queen Mary, a British battlecruiser, with no fewer than eleven shells fired onto her. In turn, SMS Derfflinger was handed ten 15" and ten 12" shells herself, resulting in considerable damage but the German vessel managed to survive despite her spreading fires and taking on water. The battle was hailed as a victory by both sides as the German fleet remained contained, lost eleven vessels of varying sizes, and suffered 2,551 KIA at the cost of fourteen British warships and 6,094 KIA.

Derfflinger's end was to take part in the major naval assault on the British Grand Fleet in one final desperate action for the faltering Germans during 1918. With plans drawn up for the attack in late October, German sailors began massive desertions, mutinies, and acts of sabotage which derailed the attack. With Germany in shambles, the Empire capitulated and was forced to surrender by way of the Armistice of November 1918.

SMS Derfflinger was one of the many German warships expected to be taken over by the Allies at Scapa Flow and scrapped. However, Derfflinger was instead sunk by the Germans on June 21st, 1919 by way of scuttling. In 1939, her remains were finally raised and, after World War 2 in 1948, her hulk was sold off for scrapping.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one sea-going vessel design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for SMS Derfflinger.
18 x Boilers feeding 4 x Parson steam turbines developing 76,635 shaft horsepower to 4 x shafts.
27.0 kts
31.1 mph
Surface Speed
5,561 nm
6,400 miles | 10,300 km
The bow-to-stern, port-to-starboard physical qualities of SMS Derfflinger.
690.3 ft
210.41 meters
O/A Length
95.2 ft
29.00 meters
30.2 ft
9.20 meters
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of SMS Derfflinger.
8 x 30.5cm (305mm; 12") SK L/50 main guns (4 twin-gunned turrets).
12 x 15cm (150mm; 5.9") SK L/45 guns (12 single-gunned turrets).
4 x 8.8cm (88mm) guns
5 x 500mm (20") torpedo tubes
Ships-in-Class (3)
Notable series variants as part of the SMS Derfflinger family line as relating to the Derfflinger-class group.
SMS Derfflinger; SMS Lutzow; SMS Hindenburg
Global operator(s) of the SMS Derfflinger. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national naval warfare listing.
National flag of the German Empire

[ German Empire ]
1 / 1
Image of the SMS Derfflinger
Image from the Public Domain.

Going Further...
SMS Derfflinger Battlecruiser Warship appears in the following collections:
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