Warship Wednesday, March 6
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, March 6
Here we see the Gazelle class cruiser SMS Ariadne of Kaiser Wilhelm’s Imperial German Navy. The Ariadne and her nine ship class were built to scout for a growing battle fleet, and most importantly show the German flag around the world in ports both tropical and frozen.
Just over 344-feet long, smaller today that a typical frigate, they were powered by two triple-expansion engines that generated 8,000shp and gave the ship a 21.5-knot speed. Armed with ten 105mm naval guns and a pair of torpedo tubes, they were capable of sinking anything faster than them when designed and outrunning anything bigger. She was built at AG Weser, Bremen, and commissioned in 1901.
Largely obsolete by the time WWI erupted in 1914, the cruiser was placed in patrol work. At the Battle of Heligoland Bight, she found herself facing the five battlecruisers of Admiral Beatty’s force which included the Lion, Queen Mary, Princess Royal, Invincible, and New Zealand. Outgunned to an immense degree, she turned to starboard and attempted to flee. She was hit several times by the British guns, and one hit the forward boiler room. The coal bunker caught fire and five boilers were disabled; her speed fell to 15 knots. Two battlecruisers, HMS Lion and Princess Royal closed in until they were firing their 13.5-inch guns at a distance of 3,000 m (9,800 ft), the point-blank range for guns of that caliber. Ariadne returned fire as best she could but to no effect.
With fires raging forward and aft, Ariadne had her forward magazine flooded so the fires would not reach the propellant charges.
At 14:15, the British ceased fire and allowed Ariadne to limp away. The surviving crew that was able to escape the ship assembled on the forecastle and prepared to abandon the ship. The cruiser Danzig arrived shortly before 15:00 and began to pick up survivors, and Stralsund joined the rescue effort shortly thereafter.
At 16:25, Ariadne capsized, though she remained afloat for some time before she finally sank. In all, nine officers, including her commander, and fifty enlisted men were rescued. Her crew escaped from the flames and stood on the forecastle, singing “Deutschland Über Alles” as they awaited rescue. The rescue effort was hampered by frequent explosions of ammunition stored on Ariadne’s deck, which prevented boats from getting too close to the wrecked cruiser.
Most of her sisters outlived her, if only just for a few years. Some were sunk during the war, others scrapped just after or given away as reparations. One, SMS Amazone, lived until 1954 as a barracks ship in Bremen until she too went under the torch.
Today the Ariadne is a popular wreck site and is still inspirational to those who breathe salt air.
Displacement: 3,017 tonnes (2,969 long tons)
Length: 105.1 m (344.8 ft) overall
Beam: 12.2 m (40.0 ft)
Draft: 4.93 m (16.2 ft)
Installed power: 8,000 ihp (6,000 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h; 24.7 mph)
Range: 3,560 nmi (6,590 km; 4,100 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 14 officers
243 enlisted men
10 × 10.5 cm SK L/40 guns
2 × 45 cm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes
Armor: Deck: 20 to 25 mm (0.79 to 0.98 in)
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