Big cruiser

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Big cruiser Hertha , training ship of the Imperial Navy

The term was fixed by the naval laws . In 1898, the First Naval Law provided for a number of twelve large cruisers, three of which were to be used abroad and three were assigned to the reserve. The planned number of large cruisers increased to 20 by the last pre-war amendment to the law in 1912.

The Imperial Navy had to categorize its existing ships accordingly. At first, this included very different ships. The King Wilhelm, which was laid on keel for the Turkish Navy at the Thames Iron Works in England in 1865, was bought by Prussia during the construction work in 1867 and launched as an armored frigate in 1868 after a final conversion into a large cruiser in 1897. For this purpose, the two tank frigates of the Kaiser class from 1874, Kaiser and Germany , also built in England, were reclassified as large cruisers.

Ultimately, this category consisted of protected cruisers , such as the Empress Augusta and the five cruisers of the Victoria Louise class ( Victoria Louise , Hertha , Hansa , Freya , Vineta ) as well as the nine German armored cruisers , of which the Prinz Heinrich was the first under the provisions of the Fleet Act arose:

Great cruiser Prince Bismarck
Surname Launch Shipyard Construction displacement Construction designation
Prince Bismarck 1897 KW Kiel 10,690 t Replacement Leipzig
Prince Heinrich 1900 KW Kiel   8,887 t New building A
Prince Adalbert 1901 KW Kiel   9,087 t New building B
Friedrich Carl 1902 Blohm & Voss   9,087 t Replacement King Wilhelm
Roon 1903 KW Kiel   9,533 t Replacement emperor
Yorck 1904 Blohm & Voss   9,533 t Replacement Germany
Scharnhorst 1906 Blohm & Voss 11,616 t New building D
Gneisenau 1906 AG Weser 11,616 t New building C
Blucher 1908 KW Kiel 15,842 t New building E

In Germany, the Blücher was the last armored cruiser, the Von der Tann was the first full-fledged battle cruiser . Nevertheless, in the German Imperial Navy, this ship and its six completed successors were always officially referred to as " Great Cruisers ".

Big cruiser Von der Tann
Surname Launch Shipyard Construction displacement Construction designation
From the Tann 1909 Blohm & Voss 19,370 t New building F
Moltke 1910 Blohm & Voss 22,979 t New building G
Goeben 1911 Blohm & Voss 22,979 t New building H
Seydlitz 1912 Blohm & Voss 24,988 t New building J
Derfflinger 1913 Blohm & Voss 26,600 t New building K
Lützow 1913 Schichau 26,741 t Replacement Empress Augusta
Hindenburg 1915 KW Wilhelmshaven 26,947 t Replacement Hertha
Mackensen 1917 Blohm & Voss 31,000 t Substitute for Victoria Luise
Count Spee 1917 Schichau 31,000 t Replacement Blücher

The main reason for this designation handling was budgetary nature, since the navy could build the capital ships from the cruiser budget of the adopted naval laws . It was also possible to counter the efforts of some parties to save funds by converting to the construction of a "union type" consisting of a ship of the line and a battle cruiser while reducing the number of units.

Unofficially, the term “battle cruiser” was also used during the First World War , because they were also used as such: summarized in the I. Reconnaissance Group, they formed the rapid reconnaissance and attack wing of the battle fleet, for example in the sea ​​battle off the Skagerrak ( English Battle of Jutland ).

Towards the end of World War II, the US Navy had the battlecruisers built like Alaska-class ships that were classified as Large Cruisers (CB) .


  • Hans H. Hildebrand, Albert Röhr, Hans-Otto Steinmetz: The German warships: Biographies - a mirror of naval history from 1815 to the present. Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Herford.
  • NJM Campbell, Battlecruisers. Conway Maritime Press, London 1978.