Konig Class battleships

The König class battleships were improved versions of the previous Kaiser class, with one major change. The Kaiser class had carried its ten guns in three centre-line and two offset turrets. On the König class all five turrets were placed on the centre line, with two turrets at each end and one in the middle of the ship. This gave all five turrets a good arc of fire on both sides of the ship, and allowed them to fire ten gun broadsides.

The König class ships were not ready to enter service at the outbreak of the First World War. All four ships had been launched, but only the Grosser Kurfürst had been commissioned to undergo trials (30 July 1914), and even she would not be ready for service until September. The remaining ships of the class only came into service during December 1914-January 1915. According to Admiral Scheer’s own account, the final ship to enter service was Kronprinz, which joined his Third Squadron on 2 January 1915. The squadron then needed to time to train together, and so on 21 January they sailed through the Kiel canal into the Baltic.

As the newest battleships in the fleet, the König class ships led the line as the battle fleet sailed north towards the battle of Jutland, with the König at the front of the line, followed by Grosser Kurfürst, Kronprinz and then Markgraf. The Kronprinz apparently avoided damage, but König took the heaviest losses of any German dreadnought at Jutland, being hit by 10 large shells, and suffering 45 dead and 27 injured. Grosser Kurfürst came next, hit by 8 large shells but escaping with only 15 dead and 10 wounded. Finally Markgraf was hit by five heavy shells, and suffered 11 dead and 13 wounded. All three ships were fully repaired by the end of July.

The König class ships were clearly robust. Grosser Kurfürst and Kronprinz both survived being torpedoed by J 1 on 5 November 1916, while Grosser Kurfürst and Markgraf both survived hitting mines in the Gulf of Riga in October 1917. All four ships survived the war, and were interned at Scapa Flow, where they were scuttled by their crews on 21 June 1919.

The Grosser Kurfürst was named after Frederick William, elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia (1520-1688), known as the Great Elector.

Displacement loaded


Top Speed


Armour – belt


 - bulkheads


 - battery


 - barbettes


 - turrets


 - conning tower



575ft 6in


Ten 12in guns
Fourteen 5.9in guns
Six 3.45in guns
Four 3.45in Flak guns
Five 19.7in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement

1136, up to 1,315 in battle





Ships in class

SMS König
SMS Grosser Kurfürst (Great Elector)
SMS Markgraf
SMS Kronprinz

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 September 2007), Konig Class battleships , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_konig_class_battleships.html

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