Bussard class light cruisers

The Bussard class cruisers were some of the oldest warships still to be in service with the German navy at the start of the First World War. They were originally built to serve in Germany’s overseas colonies, and were classified as Fourth Class cruisers. They were amongst the last German warships to be powered by a combination of steam and sail, being equipped with a barque rig and a horizontal triple expansion engine.

During their career they were reclassified twice, first as light cruisers (1899) and then downgraded to gun boats in May 1914. Falke and Condor retained their barque rigs for their entire careers, while the remaining members of the class were given schooner rigs. Their active careers came to an abrupt end in 1914.

By the start of the First World War Bussard and Falke had already been broken up. Seeadler and Condor were in Germany, where they were decommissioned and used as mine storage ships. Seeadler was destroyed when her mines exploded while moored in the Jade River in 1917.

Cormoran was at Tsingtao, Germany’s Chinese colony, when the war broke out. She was scuttled on 28 September 1914. Her 4.1in guns were removed and used to arm the Russian auxiliary cruiser Rjäsan, captured on 4 August 1914 by the Emden. The new commerce raider was then renamed Cormoran.

Geier was visiting Honolulu when war broke out, and was interned by the neutral United States. When America joined the war in 1917, the Geier was seized and taken into the U.S. Navy as U.S.S Carl Schurz. On 21 June 1918 she was involved in a collision and sank.

Displacement (loaded)

1,834t (Seeadler, Condor, Cormoran)
1,838t (Bussard, Falke)
1,888t (Geier)

Top Speed



275ft 3in (Geier)


Eight 4.1in/ 105mm guns
Two 13.8in/ 350mm torpedo tubes (Falke)
Two 17.7in/ 450mm torpedo tubes (Geier)

Crew complement






Ships in class

SMS Bussard
SMS Falke
SMS Seeadler
SMS Condor
SMS Cormoran
SMS Geier

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 September 2007), Bussard class light cruisers , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_bussard_class_cruisers.html

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