Brandenburg class battleships

The Brandenburg class was the first class of modern battleships built in Germany. They were preceded by classes of central battery class ships, which were increasingly outdated, and coastal defence ships which were much smaller ships designed to protect Germany’s harbours. At 10,501 tonnes the Brandenburg class ships were three times heavier than the Siegfried class coast defence battleships that were under construction at the same time.

They were the type of battleship that would later come to be known as pre-dreadnoughts. These ships normally carried four or six main guns, all carried in turrets, and supported by secondary armament also normally intended for use against large ships and smaller guns for use against enemy destroyers and torpedo boats. They were designed to be used on the opens seas, and to fight in the line of battle.

The Brandenburg class were contemporaries of the British Royal Sovereign class ships first laid down in 1889, and the first British pre-dreadnoughts (although there was less of a leap between this class and the previous Trafalgar class turret ships other than size and the number of secondary guns). The Royal Sovereigns were 50% bigger than the Brandenburgs, carried a smaller number of bigger main guns (four 13.5in guns) and much better secondary armament of ten 6in guns.

One distinguishing feature of the Brandenburg class ships was the provision of a third central turret, on the centre line of the ship, and using smaller calibre guns to reduce the amount of space needed for it to rotate from one side of the ship to the other.  This turret was mounted rather too low in the ship, and so its guns caused some blast damage to the decks. The idea was not repeated in the next Kaiser class.

Two of the ships - Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm and Weissenburg were given new Krupp nickel steel armour, giving them twice the protection of their sisters ships, which used older compound armour.

The four Brandenburg class ships served together as the first division of the first squadron in what became the High Seas Fleet. They were amongst the ships sent to China during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.  

In 1910, as Germany attempted to win the Ottoman Empire over to its side, the Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm and Weissenburg were sold to the Turks, where they were renamed the Heireddin Barbarossa and the Torgud Reis.

Brandenburg and Wörth were still part of the fleet at the outbreak of the First World War, but in 1915 were reduced to coastal defence ships, and then in 1916 to accommodation ships. Both were scrapped in 1919.

The two ships given to the Turks fought in the Balkan Wars, fighting the Greeks off the Dardanelles in 1912 and 1913. During the First World War Heireddin Barbarossa was sunk by the British submarine E 11, in the Sea of Marmara (8 August 1915), while the Torgud Reis survived the war, becoming a school hulk in 1928 and only being broken up in 1956.



Top Speed


Armour – belt


 - barbettes


 - gun houses



379ft 7in


Six 280mm/ 11in guns
Six 105mm/ 4.1in guns
Eight 88mm/ 3.4in guns
Twelve machine guns
Six 450mm/ 17.7in torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

SMS Brandenburg
SMS Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm
SMS Weissenburg
SMS Wörth

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 September 2007), Brandenburg class battleships ,

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