Magdeburg class light cruisers

The Magdeburg class of light cruisers marked a significant break in the continuity of German light cruiser design that could be traced back through five previous classes to the Gazelle class of 1898. All succeeding classes would bear a family resemblance to the Magdeburg class.

SMS Breslau
SMS Breslau

Rear 4.1in guns on SMS Breslau
The two rear 4.1in
guns on SMS Breslau

The most significant difference was not immediately visible. The Magdeburg class light cruisers were given belt armour 60mm thick running along 80% of their hull, the first German light cruisers to be protected in this way. In earlier cruisers structural strength had come from a wooden base, with the armour plates bolted on top. Here the armour became part of the structure of the ship. This would soon become the standard method of naval construction, reducing the extra weight required to provide belt armour.

The hull was redesigned to make it more efficient, and the slight ram bow (sloping backwards from the waterline) of earlier cruisers was replaced by a slight clipper bow (sloping forward from the waterline), making the forecastle rather drier.

The most obvious visual change was the adoption of a cut-down quarterdeck. The new lower rear deck was used to carry 120 mines.

Each of the four ships carried a different combination of turbines and shafts, producing a range of performance figures. Amongst other things these tests tended to disprove the idea that increasing the number of propeller shafts would make best use of the high rotation speed of the turbine. In each case there was a significant increase in speed from the earlier cruisers.

Ship

Turbine

Shafts

Shaft Horse Power

Speed

Magdeburg

3xBergmann

3

29,904

27.6kts

Breslau

2xAEG-Vulcan

4

33,482

27.5kts

Strassburg

2xNavy

2

33,742

28.2kts

Stralsund

3-Bergman

3

35,515

28.2kts

When built the four Madgeburg class ships carried their main 4.1in guns in the same arrangement as on earlier cruisers, two on the forecastle, two on the quarterdeck and four down each side.

Strassburg and Stralsund had their armament changed in 1915-1916. The 4.1in guns were replaced by seven 5.9in guns, two on each side, one of the forecastle, one of the quarterdeck and one on the mine deck. Two 3.45in (88mm) Flak anti-aircraft guns were carried behind the rearmost funnel and two extra 19.7in torpedo tubes were added, mounted on the decks.

Breslau (by then renamed Midilli) was given two 5.9in guns in 1916, then in the following year the remaining 4.1in guns were replaced by six more 5.9in guns.

SMS Breslau became one of the most famous cruisers of the First World War when at the start of the war she slipped past British and French ships and made her way to Turkey, where with the battlecruiser Goeben she was given to the Turks. There she was renamed the Midilli, and still with her German crew fought in the Black Sea until the start of 1918, when she emerged back into the Mediterranean and was sunk by British mines.

SMS Magdeburg played an important role in the war in a different way. On 26 August 1914 she ran aground in the Baltic and was sunk by Russian cruisers. Her codebooks were retrieved and passed on to British naval intelligence, playing an important part in the breaking of the codes.

Strassburg and Stralsund had more conventional careers, serving with the Scouting Forces of the High Seas Fleet. At the end of the war Strassburg was given to Italy, where she was renamed the Taranto, surviving into the Second World War. In 1944 she was sunk by bombing. Stralsund went to France, where she was renamed Mulhouse. She was broken up in 1935.

Displacement (loaded)

5,587t

Top Speed

27.5kts-28.2kts

Armour – deck

1.5in-2.25in

 - belt

2.25in-0.75in

 - conning tower

4in

 - gunshields

2in

 - collision bulkhead

1.5in

Length

455ft

Armaments as built

Twelve 4.1in guns
Two 19.7in submerged torpedo tubes (beam)
120 mines

Crew complement

354

Launched

1911

Completed

1912

Ships in class

SMS Magdeburg
SMS Breslau
SMS Strassburg
SMS Stralsund

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

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

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies