Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |

Osprey New Vanguard 164

German Battleships 1914-18
(1) Deutschland, Nassau & Helgoland classes

by Gary Staff

Illustrated by Paul Wright


S u m m a r y

Publisher and Catalogue Details: German Battleships 1914-18 (1) Deutschland, Nassau & Helgoland classes.
By Gary Staff
Illustrated by Paul Wright
New Vanguard. 164 Osprey Publishing.
ISBN: 978-1-84603-467-1
Media and Contents: 250mm x 185mm soft cover with 48 pages, 40 high quality black and white photos, 7 full colour illistrations and 4 line drawings.
Price: GBP£9.99 online from Osprey Publishing
Review Type: FirstRead
Advantages: Well written and easy to read, describes the pros and cons of each class as well as their history.
Conclusion: A must have for anyone interested in WWI maritime history.

Reviewed by
Glen Porter

Osprey's German Battleships 1914-1918 is available online from Squadron.com




The Royal Navy at the end of the First World War was not only on the winning side but was still the biggest and most powerful navy in the world and therefore tends to get most of the limelight in publishing today. When a book titled German Battleships 1914-18 comes along it is incline to attract attention but what is even more interesting about this one is that it's not about the biggest or the best of the German Navy but the last pre-dreadnought and the first two dreadnought classes.

The commissioning of HMS Dreadnought in late 1906 not only made every other Battleship in the world obsolete but gave the Royal Navy an advantage of only one. As remarkable as the design of the ship was, the formula had been talked about in naval circles for some time and in fact the Americans had designed the Michigan class before Dreadnought but it was delayed by Congress appropriating the necessary funds.

Dreadnought's keel was laid down on the 2nd of October 1905, she was launched on the 10th of February 1906 and was ready for trials on the 3rd of October 1906. That's only one year and one day. No one else could build Battleships that quickly and so from an advantage of only one the Royal Navy was able to retail its place of power within the world.

The Germans were aware they could not hope to out build the Royal Navy and so determined to improve the quality of their ships. To this end, the book compares the two German dreadnought classes with the Dreadnought to show where the ships were superior and this is also reflected in the histories.

Each class is dealt with separately beginning with the pre-dreadnought Deutschland class. Smaller in displacement and arms compared to their contemporaries in foreign navies and almost identical to the class before, the five ships of this class were considered good value for money due to their low cost.

One ship, SMS Pommern was lost at the Battle of Jutland on the 1st of June when she was struck by a torpedo from the British destroyer HMS Onslaught, after a series of explosions she broke in two and sank with the loss of all on board. These ships did not have the carefully designed damage control and protective armour of the dreadnought classes and although modifications were made they were not enough.

With many good quality photos of the class there is also two full colour pieces of art-work by Paul Wright, one, a starboard side profile and plan view of SMS Deutschland and the other depicting the loss of Pommern at Jutland.

Next is the first of the dreadnought classes, the four ship Nassau class. This class was a much bigger improvement over the Deutschland class compared to Dreadnought over its predecessors and ton for ton were thought to be a better design. Although they had 11 inch guns compared to Dreadnought's 12 inch, ballisticly they were as good and their weight of armour was a bigger percentage of the over-all weight and protection against shells, torpedoes and mines was considered superior.

One of the class, SMS Westfalen, was hit by a torpedo from a British submarine, E23, at Jutland and although it struck 5m below the waterline and abreast the boiler rooms, the well thought-out protective arrangements prevented damage within the boiler rooms. None of the crew were killed and the ship was detached back to Wilhelmshaven for repairs at a speed of 14 knots.

Again, there are many top quality B&W photos plus three full colour paintings. A starboard profile and plan view of SMS Westfalen, a cut-away view of the same ship and two of the class, Westfalen and Rheinland iced in of Eckero during the liberation of Finland by the German government in 1918.

The four ship Helgoland class was next with an increase in tonnage (22,808 against 18,873 for the Nassaus), an increase in gun size (11 inch to 12 inch) and although perhaps  not quite as handsome as the Nassaus was still considered a more battleworthy design that their equivalent in the Royal Navy.

SMS Ostfriesland was handed over to the USN after the Armistice and was sunk in Mitchell's bombing trials off Cape Henry, Virginia, July 1921.

Among the now standard host of excellent photos there are two bit of art, a profile and plan view of SMS Helgolad and a depiction of SMS Thuringen and her sisters battering the luckless HMS Black Prince at close range in the night action at Jutland.

Throughout this book the Author, Gary Staff, refers to the Skagerrak battle, where sizable German and British fleets faced each other. Now, I thought I knew enough about WW I to know of all of the major naval fights but I'd never heard of that one. Then the penny dropped. What the British refer to as the Battle of Jutland, the Germans consider the Battle of the Skagerrak and as this book is all about German naval units of the First World War, it is written from their prospective.

Well, apart from all of the other advantages of this book, interesting and easy to read, many excellent photos and gorgeous artwork, I've also learnt something new  and that makes it doubly worthwhile.


Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review sample

Review Copyright 2010 by Glen Porter
Page Created 4 May, 2010
Last updated 4 May, 2010

Back to HyperScale Main Page