SMS Princess Wilhelm

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Imperial war flag
SMS Princess Wilhelm
Construction data
Shipyard Germania shipyard in Kiel
Keel laying 1886
Launch September 22, 1887
completion November 19, 1889
Whereabouts From 1914 mine hulk
Technical specifications
Displacement Construction: 4,271 t
Maximum: 5,027 t
Length between the perpendiculars:
Length of the waterline :
Length over all:
L pp : 94 m
L KWL : 98.9 m
L o.a. : 103.7 m
width 14.2 m
Draft 6.4 - 7.63 m
  • Rk 14 - 15 cm L / 30
  • 6 Rev - 3.7 cm
  • 3 torpedo tubes 35 cm 1 bow under water, 2 laterally on deck
Armament from 1893
  • 4 rows - 15 cm L / 30
    400 shots, 85 hm
  • 8 Sk - 10.5 cm L / 35
    736 rounds, 108 hm
  • 6 Sk - 5 cm L / 40 (from 1893)
    1500 rounds
  • 3 torpedo tubes 35 cm
Armor Deck: 76 mm
Propulsion system 4 double cylinder boilers
2 horizontal two-cylinder compound machines
2 four-wing screws 4.7 m
Machine performance 5,000 PSi
Fuel supply 400–550 tons of coal
speed 18 kn
Driving range 2,490 nm at 9 kn
crew 365 men

SMS Princess Wilhelm was the second of two ships in a new class of cruiser corvettes or small cruisers of the Imperial Navy that were for the first time equipped without a sail rig . Type ship was the only sister ship SMS Irene . The cruisers were planned for foreign service and should wage trade wars in the event of war.

Technical specifications

The ship was launched on 22 September 1887 at the Germania shipyard in Kiel from the pile and was approved by the then Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein - Sonderburg - Augustenburg and later Empress Auguste Victoria , the wife of Emperor Wilhelm II. , In the name of Princess William baptized .

On November 19, 1889 it was first put into service for test drives. In order to make minor corrections, it was taken out of service again on March 25, 1890.

The ship was 94 meters long and 14 meters wide, had a draft of 6.4 meters and displaced 4,300 tons. The maximum speed was 18 knots and the crew numbered 365 men.

The armament consisted of fourteen 15-cm ring cannons , six 3.7-cm revolver cannons and three torpedo tubes. In 1893 ten of the main guns were replaced by eight 10.5 cm rapid fire guns, and six 5 cm rapid fire guns were brought on board for the revolver cannons.

First years of service

SMS Princess Wilhelm

The construction work and the improvement dragged on for a very long time, so that the cruiser could not be assigned to the II. Division of the maneuvering fleet until April 1891. From June 28th he accompanied the imperial yacht to Cowes , Leith (Scotland) , Tromsø and as far as the North Cape . On the way back she broke the boiler tube and then had to go to the shipyard.

From February 11, 1892, the Princess Wilhelm undertook a trip around the British Isles. She first ran to the Isle of Wight, where necessary to help the express steamer Eider of the North German Lloyd (NDL) which ran aground on January 31 . She then continued the journey around Ireland and Scotland to Kristiansand and was back in Kiel on March 24th. After another mission as an escort cruiser of the imperial yacht on a visit to Russia, a trip to Spain and Italy followed from August, where the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was celebrated 400 years ago. This was followed by a visit to Egypt, where she was in Alexandria from September 20th to 25th and the commandant from there visited the Khedive Abbas II Hilmi Bey in Cairo to deliver medals awarded by the emperor. After returning, the ship was temporarily decommissioned in Wilhelmshaven on November 14, 1892 in order to modernize its armament.

After that, the Prinzess Wilhelm served as a training ship in the North and Baltic Seas for two years. During this time she ran aground near Rønne / Bornholm in September 1894 and could only be removed after some time. The damage was repaired at the Imperial Shipyard in Wilhelmshaven .

Service in East Asia

On April 27, 1895, the Princess Wilhelm left for East Asia to replace the Corvette SMS Marie . In the Red Sea there were several deaths due to insufficient ventilation of the ship. The burial of the victims took place in Aden . On July 4, she joined the East Asian Cruiser Division in Shanghai , which was commanded by Rear Admiral Paul Hoffmann on the sister ship Irene . A few days later, the newly arrived ironclad SMS Kaiser became the division's flagship, which subsequently served Japanese ports as far as Hakodate on Hokkaidō in northern Japan. After that, the ships were mostly off the Chinese coast. The Princess Wilhelm examined an estuary of the Huangpu Jiang north of Wusong near Shanghai for its suitability as a naval base. Then on December 6th, she went to the dock in Nagasaki .

In March and April 1896 the division stayed in Yokohama for a long time in order to improve relations with Japan, which had been somewhat gloomy in the course of the Sino-Japanese war . In Nagasaki , the personnel exchange of part of the crews, which was customary in this form until 1914, took place, who arrived there with a steamer of the North German Lloyd (NDL). In May, the Princess Wilhelm on the Korean archipelago Geomundo (called Port Hamilton by the British) in the Jeju Strait was commissioned to go to Nanjing with the gunboat SMS Iltis , where there were attacks on German military instructors. After staying there for four weeks and enforcing the German demands, the commander decided to go further up the Yangtze and reached Hankau on July 11th as the largest ship to date. At the end of July, the cruiser before Tschifu rejoined the division, which Rear Admiral Tirpitz had since taken over. His assignment also included the exploration and, if necessary, the acquisition of a suitable base. A major overhaul of the Prinzess Wilhelm in Nagasaki took place from September to November . In December she had to go back to Nagasaki because of a serious machine failure and was out until January 1897.

In March 1897, the division moved back to Japan (Yokohama) for the upcoming change of crew, after the Samsah Bay on the Fujian coast in the Formosa Strait near Amoy had previously been examined for its suitability as a base. Tirpitz was then ordered to return to Germany in Nagasaki, as he had been appointed State Secretary in the Reichsmarineamt . Rear Admiral Otto von Diederichs arrived in June as the new head of division . Under the new boss there was a trip to Japan, Prince Wilhelm ran to Hakodate and then back to Yokohama, where the division met in Yokohama on September 8 and then moved to Shanghai.

Cast of Kiautschou

After the two German Catholic missionaries Nies and Henle of the Steyler Mission in China were murdered on November 1, 1897 , Emperor Wilhelm II, who had been looking for an excuse to establish a German base in China, ordered the occupation of Kiautschou . The cruiser division under von Diederichs steamed with the Kaiser , the Prince Wilhelm and the small cruiser SMS Cormoran to Kiautschou and occupied the city and port of Tsingtau on November 14th . Since the imperial government and the naval leadership expected considerable resistance and protests, a 2nd division was formed at home and marched on to East Asia. Diederichs became head of the newly created East Asian cruiser squadron and was promoted to vice admiral.

Operation off the Philippines

From May 1898 the service of the cruiser squadron was determined by the Spanish-American War . The Irene was dispatched to Manila at the end of April , which the Cormoran followed. Since the Kaiser had to go to Nagasaki for an overhaul, the squadron chief went to Manila on June 12th on the SMS Kaiserin Augusta to get an idea of ​​the situation. When Prince Wilhelm arrived in Manila on the 18th and Kaiser on the 20th  , there was considerable tension with the Americans. The Germans explained the clustering of their ships with the planned routine crew exchange that came from home with the Lloyd steamer Darmstadt . On July 8th, Irene was the first ship to leave Manila, which had had the most problems with the Americans, and on the 15th, Cormoran too . On August 13th, after consultation with the Americans, the Empress Augusta ran on board with the Spanish captain general to Hong Kong, and on the 21st the Kaiser left Manila with the squadron chief. After the Manila incident , only the Princess Wilhelm remained on site to protect German interests and was replaced in November by the sister ship Irene .

She ran back to Tsingtau, where Diederichs chose her as the flagship until February because the Kaiser was in Hong Kong for repairs. Shortly after the squadron was taken over by the previous commander of the 2nd Division, Rear Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia , the Emperor's brother, Princess Wilhelm ended her service in East Asia and started her journey home from Tsingtau on April 26, 1899. It reached Wilhelmshaven on July 22, 1899 and was decommissioned.


After returning, the ship was modernized until 1902 due to a lack of modern cruisers. The Princess Wilhelm never came back into service. In October 1912 she was transferred to the local ship reserve in Danzig without being commissioned .

On February 17, 1914, it was removed from the list of warships and during the war it was used as a mine warehouse, first in Danzig, and last in Wilhelmshaven. The demolition took place in 1922.


November 19, 1889 to March 25, 1890 Corvette Captain Baron Armandt von Erhardt
April 16, 1891 to November 14, 1892 Sea captain Oscar Boeters
October 10, 1893 to September 30, 1894 Corvette Captain Georg Sarnow
October 1, 1894 to. April 1895 Corvette captain / sea captain Ludwig Borckenhagen
. April 1895 to. August 1896 Corvette Captain Henning von Holtzendorff
. August 1896 to. January 1898 Corvette captain / with the rank of lieutenant colonel Adolf Thiele
. January 1898 to. July 1899 Corvette captain with the rank of lieutenant colonel Oskar Truppel 1901 to 1911 Governor Tsingtau
. February 1898 to. April 1898 Lieutenant Ludwig Bruch , deputy Commander in Tsingtau
Commander of the land forces



  • Terrell D. Gottschall: By order of the Kaiser: Otto von Diederichs and the rise of the Imperial German Navy, 1865-1902 , Naval Institute Press, 2003 Annapolis ISBN 1-55750-309-5
  • Hildebrand, Hans H./Albert Röhr / Hans-Otto Steinmetz: The German warships. Biographies - a mirror of naval history from 1815 to the present. Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Herford.
  • Klaus Hildebrand : The past realm. German foreign policy from Bismarck to Hitler 1871–1945 . Study edition Göttingen, 2008, here: p. 207 Partial digitization
  • Manfred P. Emmes: Germany and the rise of the United States of America to a world power . Berlin u. a., 2007, here: p. 41 partial digitization

Web links


  1. L pp = length between perpendiculars or length between perpendiculars: distance between the axis of the rudder stock and the trailing edge of the leading edge in the construction waterline.

Individual evidence

  1. Why, in contrast to the sister ship, the naming was not based on the first name but on the title of the princess is incomprehensible
  2. Nagasaki and Hong Kong were the only options for the ships used in East Asia to go into a dock. In order to maintain operational capability, such investigations had to be planned in advance for a relatively long time.
  3. On July 10, 1898, a conversation between the flag lieutenant of the cruiser squadron, Paul von Hintze and the US Admiral Dewey , who is said to have threatened acts of war