Dresden class light cruisers

The two Dresden class light cruisers were slightly larger versions of the previous Königsberg class, carrying the same armour and armament, arranged in the same way. They were 400 tons heavier when fully loaded, but only 3 feet longer, and less than a foot wider. Visually the most obvious difference was a reduction in the size of the conning tower.

SMS Emden was the last German light cruiser to be powered by triple expansion engines. These gave her a top speed of 24.1kts, one knot slower than the turbine powered Dresden. Later classes would all be turbine powered.

Both Dresden class cruisers were on foreign stations at the outbreak of the First World War. Dresden was in the West Indies. From there she sailed down the east coast of South America and into the Pacific, where she joined Admiral von Spee’s squadron. She took part in the battle of Coronel and was the only German ship to escape from the battle of the Falklands. She was chased down and sunk on 14 March 1915 at the island of Mas a Fuera.

The Emden became the most famous of the commerce raiders. She captured twenty five ships, sinking sixteen British ships totaling 70,360 tons, and had a big impact on trade in the Indian Ocean. She was finally caught by HMAS Sydney on 9 November 1914 in the Cocos Islands, and destroyed in the gun battle that followed. Some of the crew escaped from the Australians and made their way home via the Ottoman Empire.

They were followed by the Kolberg class of light cruisers, which saw a further increase in size and in the number of 4.1in guns carried, but still showed a family resemblance to the previous four classes of German light cruisers.  

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

24kts design
Dresden: 25.2kts
Emden: 24.1kts

Armour – deck


 - conning tower


 - gunshields



386ft 10in


Ten 4.1in guns
Eight 2in quick firing guns
Two 17.7in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

SMS Dresden
SMS Emden

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 September 2007), Dresden class light cruisers , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_dresden_class_cruisers.html

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