SMS Blücher

SMS Blücher was the first German armoured cruiser built after HMS Dreadnought had revolutionised naval construction. She was a dramatic improvement on previous German armoured cruisers, and closely resembled a stretched version of the first German dreadnoughts (the Nassau class). Like those battleships she carried her twelve main guns in six twin turrets, one fore, one aft and two on each side, giving her an eight gun broadside. As had always been the case with earlier ships, she carried smaller guns than her battleship contemporaries – 8.2in guns compared to the 11.1in guns used on the Nassau class dreadnoughts. She was significantly better protected then previous German armoured cruisers. In many ways the Blücher was a more logical development of the armoured cruiser than her British near-contemporaries, the Invincible class battlecruisers, with their combination of battleship guns and cruiser armour. News that the Invincible class cruisers were to be armed with 12in guns reached Germany in the week after the design of the Blücher was finalised, too late for her design to be modified.

The Blücher took part in the Gorleston raid of 3 November 1914, the first attack on the east coast of England during the First World War, and in the attack on Hartlepool on 16 December. There she hit and nearly sank the British cruiser HMS Patrol, but in turn came under fire from both gun batteries defending the port.

SMS Blucher capsizing at Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915
SMS Blucher
capsizing at Dogger Bank,
24 January 1915

The Blücher was lost at the battle of Dogger Bank of 24 January 1915. She was at the rear of the line of German battlecruisers during the long chase east, and came under fire from at least three British battlecruisers – HMS Lion, HMS Tiger and HMS Princess Royal. According to prisoners rescued after she sank, the third salve fired at her hit well below the waterline, slowing her down. This was probably a 13.5in shell fired from the Princess Royal, which caused an ammunition fire and holed one of the main steam lines. The fourth salvo was said to have destroyed much of the aft superstructure, disabling two of the after turrets and killing or wounding as many as 300 men. Despite this serious damage, the Blücher was still able to force the British light cruisers to keep their range at this stage of the battle.

At around 10am she was seen turn to the north, out of the main German line, but she was still able to keep ahead of the British fleet. That changed at 10.48, when she finally went out of control and began a wide turn to port. She was then attacked by the British light ships, while Admiral Beatty ordered his last battlecruiser to finish her off. Soon after this Beatty’s flagship HMS Lion was badly damaged, and forced to drop out of the chase. Confusion over his last orders saw the British battlecruisers concentrate on the Blücher, allowing the German battlecruisers to escape. The Blücher was hit by at least two torpedoes, as well as gunfire from the British battlecruisers and light cruisers. Finally, at 11.45 all resistance was over, and the British light cruiser Arethusa was able to close with her in an attempt to rescue the survivors. At 12.10pm the Blücher suddenly capsized. Only 260 survivors were rescued by the British ships.

Displacement (loaded)

17,250t

Top Speed

24.25kts

Range

6,600nm at 12kts
3,520nm at 19kts

Armour – deck

2.8in-1.2in

 - belt

7in-2.4in

 - bulkheads

6in-3.2in

 - battery

5.5in

 - barbettes

7in

 - turrets

7in-2.4in

 - conning tower

10in-3.2in

Length

498ft 8in

Armaments

Twelve 210mm (8.2in) SKL/45 guns
Eight 150mm (5.9in) SKL/45 guns
Sixteen 88mm (3.45in) SKL/45 guns
Four 450mm (17.7in) submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement

847 normal
1026 when lost

Launched

11 April 1908

Completed

24 March 1910

Captains

Captain Erdmann

Sunk

24 January 1915

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 November 2007), SMS Blücher , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_SMS_Blucher.html

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