Warship Wednesday Sept 25 The Lucky O

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 Sept 25 The Lucky O

sms oldenburg in norway summer 1914
Here we see the class Helgoland-class battleship Seiner Majestät Schiff (SMS) Oldenburg of the Imperial German Navy chilling in a fjord in the Kingdom of Norway just before World War One.



Oldenburg was named for the German Duchy of Oldenburg, much like US battleships were named after states. She was laid down in 1909 at the height of the Kaiser’s lust for new, sophisticated Drednought-style battleships. Built at Schichau-Werke, Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland), she was the second of four ships of her class. The design was a significant improvement over the previous (Nassau-class, Germany’s first Drednoughts) ships. They had a larger main battery using 305mm (12.0 in) main guns instead of the puny 280mm (11 in) weapons mounted on the earlier vessels. The Helgolands were easily distinguished from the preceding Nassaus by the three funnels that were closely arranged, compared to the two larger funnels of the previous class. The ships retained the unusual hexagonal main battery layout of the Nassau-class but handled much better in heavy seas and were capable of crossing the Atlantic without coaling assistance. The ships had 17 watertight compartments and a double bottom for 86% of the length of the hull.


Oldenburg participated in all of the major fleet operations of World War I in the North Sea against the British Grand Fleet, including the Battle of Jutland on 31 May and 1 June 1916, the largest naval battle of the war. It was in this action that the battleship fired 53x 305mm, 88x 15mm, and 30x 88mm shells at the British fleet, helping to sink a pair of destroyers (Ardent and Fortune). She was hit by one of the 4-inch shells from Fortune in the process, causing only minor damage. It was the only damage she received in her extensive wartime service, making her a lucky ship indeed.


The four ships of the class fought together as the I Division of the I Battle Squadron of the High Seas Fleet.  As such they raided Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby in 1914, fought in the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic, and her crews took place in the Naval Mutiny that ended the war.

All four of the class were seized by the Allies and, as luck turned out, escaped destruction at Scapa Flow like the rest of the German battleships. At the time she was commanded by Hermann Bauer who had served as commander of the U-boat forces of the Kaiserliche Marine during World War I.

One each of the class went to Britain, France, the US, and Japan. Three of which were scrapped while the US sank their’s as a target for early aerial bombers.

Oldenburg was surrendered to the Japanese (yes, the Japanese owned a German battleship for a minute) but they did not take possession of the ship. Instead, they sold the vessel to a British salvage firm that scrapped it in Dordrecht in 1921. It turned out that they had enough of their own ships without using a Teutonic one.




22,808 metric tons (22,448 long tons) (designed)
24,700 t (24,300 long tons) (full load)

Length:     167.20 m (551.76 ft)
Beam:     28.50 m (94.05 ft)
Draft:     8.94 m (29.50 ft)
Installed power:     22,000 ihp (16,000 kW)
15 water-tube boilers

3 shafts
3 Vertical triple-expansion steam engines

Speed:     20.8 knots (38.5 km/h; 23.9 mph)
Range:     5,500 nautical miles (10,190 km; 6,330 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)

42 officers
1027 enlisted


12 × 30.5 cm (12.0 in) guns
14 × 15 cm (5.9 in) guns
14 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns
6 × 50 cm (19.7 in) torpedo tubes

Armor:     Krupp cemented armor

Belt: 300 mm (11.8 in)
Turrets: 300 mm
Deck: 63.5 mm (2.5 in)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO)

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval lore http://www.warship.org/naval.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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