SMS Lützow

SMS Lützow was a Derfflinger class battlecruiser that became the only German dreadnought of any type to be lost during the First World War. The Lützow had a short service career. She took part in the fleet sorties of 25 March and of 20-21 April, and in the Lowestoft raid of 23-24 April. There she became the flagship of Admiral Boedicker (standing in for Admiral Hipper), after the Seydlitz hit a mine.

Although the Seydlitz returned to the fleet in time for Jutland, the Lützow served as Admiral Hipper’s flagship for the first part of that battle. In the battlecruiser phase of the battle, the Lützow came under fire from both HMS Lion and HMS Princess Royal. She scored her first hit on the Lion at 3.51pm, and at 4.00 came close to destroying her target, when a shell hit the Lion’s “Q” turret. Only the quick thinking of the officer commanding the turret, who flooded the magazine, saved the Lion from exploding.

At the same time the Lützow took her first hit, on the forecastle. At 4.15pm she was hit again, and her forward dressing station was wrecked. At 4.30 she was the target of an unsuccessful torpedo attack. The fight was then joined by the fast battleships of the British 5th Battle Squadron. The Lützow scored a hit on Barham, but at 5.25, in almost the last action of the first phase of the battle, her radio rooms were destroyed.

The battle now developed into a chase to the north, with the German High Seas fleet chasing Beatty’s battlecruisers and the 5th Battle Squadron and the Grand Fleet rushing south. Towards the end of this chase, the Lützow fired on the British cruiser Defence, destroying her in three salvoes (6.16pm).

Fighting broke out again at 6.26pm, when the Lützow came under fire from the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, under Admiral Hood. This had been attached to the Grand Fleet, and was ahead of Jellicoe’s main line. The Lützow was hit four times by 12in shells, in the port broadside and bow torpedo rooms. Five of her seventeen internal compartments filled with water. The Lützow may have played a part in the destruction of the Invincible, although it is equally possible that she had fallen out of the fight. It was at around this time that Admiral Hipper transferred his flag to a destroyer, and began a long search for a battlecruiser that was in good enough condition to act as his new flagship. By 7.15 the Lützow had taken another five hits, knocking out “A” and “B” turrets. She was being protected by two half flotillas of destroyers, and was still taking on water.

At midnight the Lützow was reported to be heading south at 7kts, but she was sinking at the bows. An attempt to steer stern first, to reducing the pressure on the surviving bulkheads, failed because her propellers and rudder were out of the water. Finally, at 1.20am on 1 June she was abandoned, and at 1.48am she was sunk by a torpedo fired from the destroyer G 38. During the battle she suffered 115 dead and 50 wounded, but the rest of her crew were successfully rescued during the night.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

27.9kts on trials


5,600 nautical miles at 14kts

Armour – deck


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - battery


 - barbettes


 - turrets


 - conning tower



690ft 3in


Eight 305mm (12in) SK L/50 guns
Fourteen 150mm (5.9in) SK L/45 guns
Four 600mm (23.6in) submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement

1112 normal
1391 at Jutland


29 November 1913


March 1916


1 June 1916



Kapitän zur See Harder

British and German Battlecruisers - Their Development and Operations, Michele Cosentino & Ruggero Stanglini. A useful volume that covers the development, design and construction of British and German battlecruisers, their wartime deployments and both side's plans for the next generation of battlecruisers, of which only HMS Hood was ever completed. Having all of this material in a single volume gives a much better overview of the two Navy's battlecruisers, their advantages and flaws, and their performance in and out of battle. Concludes with a look at other nation's battlecruisers and battlecruiser designs [read full review]
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German Battlecruisers 1914-1918, Gary Staff. This book gives a very good history of each of the seven Battlecruisers that served with the Germany navy during the First World War, looking at the reasons they were built the way they were, the details of their construction, and their service careers before and during the war [see more]
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Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (pending), Title,

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