Prinz Adalbert class heavy cruisers

The two Prinz Adalbert class heavy cruisers were more heavily armed versions of the SMS Prinz Heinrich, herself the oldest German armoured cruiser to see service in the First World War. The main change made to the two Prinz Adalbert class cruisers was the use of twin 8.3in guns in the main turrets, giving them four main guns compared to the two carried on the older ship. The 8.3in gun was also quicker firing than the 9.4in gun, giving them double the main firepower of the earlier ship. They carried their secondary armament in a central citadel. The lower deck of this citadel was prone to flooding, making six of the ten 5.9in guns useless in anything other than calm weather.

The Prinz Adalbert served as an overseas station cruiser until 1904, when she became a gunnery schoolship. Friedrich Carl served overseas until 1909, when she became a torpedo schoolship.  

Both ships served in the Baltic from the start of the First World War where the Friedrich Carl was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Behring. On 16-17 November both ships took part in an attack on the Russian port of Libau. This port had been largely dismantled by the Russians and was protected by minefields, but the Germans believed that it was about to become a base for British submarines. On the morning of 17 November the Friedrich Carl hit two Russian mines, thirty miles off Memel. She was kept afloat until 6.30am, by which time her crew had been evacuated and she was left to sink.

The threat from British submarines in the Baltic actually developed during 1915. Prinz Adalbert was possibly torpedoed in July by the British submarine E 9 (when she was described as a battleship), but returned to Kiel safely. On 23 November E 8 got a chance to attack her, firing a single torpedo from a range of 1,300 yards as the Prinz Adalbert was leaving Libau (now in German hands). The torpedo hit the front of the ship, causing an explosion in the forward magazine. The Prinz Adalbert was destroyed in the blast, with heavy loss of life.  



Top Speed


Armour – belt


 - turrets


 - deck



415ft 4in


Four 210mm (8.3in) guns
Ten 150mm (5.9in) guns
Twelve 88mm (3.5in) guns
Four machine guns
Four 450mm (17.7in) torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

SMS Prinz Adalbert
SMS Freidrich Carl

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 November 2007), Prinz Adalbert class heavy cruisers ,

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