Helgoland class battleships

The Helgoland class battleships were the second class of dreadnoughts built in Germany. They were similar in layout to the previous Nassau class, carrying their twelve guns in six turrets, one fore, one aft and two on each side. They were the first German battleships to carry 12in guns, as did the next two classes. They were also significantly heavier and longer than the Nassau class, giving them a rather more elegant appearance.

They were still powered by triple expansion engines, and were only slightly quicker than the earlier ships, with a top speed of 20.3kts under normal power.

The Helgoland class battleships formed the First Squadron of the High Seas Fleet at the start of the First World War. They were all present at Jutland, but escaped any significant damage during the battle. Helgoland was hit by one heavy shell, apparently without suffering any casualties, while Oldenburg was hit by a smaller shell, suffering eight dead and fourteen wounded. On the way back to harbour Ostfriesland ran into a mine that had only just been laid by the British destroyer flotilla leader HMS Abdiel, suffering one dead and ten wounded. This explosion caused a minor submarine panic amongst the German fleet, causing Ostfiesland to turn rapidly, taking on more water, but no other damage was sustained.

All four ships survived the war (as did all of Germany’s dreadnoughts). Ostfriesland was used as a target, and sunk in 1921, while the other three ships were broken up between 1921 and 1924. They were followed by the Kaiser class of dreadnoughts, which were significantly different in design to their predecessors.

Plans of Helgoland Dreadnought Battleships
Plans of Helgoland Dreadnought Battleships

Displacement loaded


Top Speed


Armour – belt


 - bulkheads


 - battery


 - barbettes


 - turrets


 - conning tower



548ft 7in


Twelve 12in guns
Fourteen 5.9in guns
Fourteen 3.45in guns
Six 19.7in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement

1113 normal
1284-1390 at Jutland





Ships in class

SMS Helgoland
SMS Ostfriesland
SMS Thüringen
SMS Oldenburg

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 September 2007), Helgoland class battleships , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_helgoland_class_battleships.html

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