The Kaiser's armored cruisers: the Blucher

(To Francesco Sisto)

THESMS Blucher it was the last armored cruiser built in German shipyards; the vehicle was named in honor of Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher.

The ship was made to match what German intelligence services believed (incorrectly) to be the characteristics of Royal Navy battlecruisers of the class Invincible. It is good to remember that theInvincible it was part of a class of three units, whose strong points lay in good maneuverability, seaworthiness, great speed and single-caliber main armament. However, they were equipped with decidedly insufficient protection.

THEinvincible, after taking part in the destruction of Admiral von Spee's team (see article: The armored cruisers of the Imperial German Navy: the Scharnhorst) in battle of the Falklands, participated in the Battle of Jutland, raising the insignia of Admiral Hood. L'Invincible, on 31 May 1916, in the clash with German cruisers it was hit near a side tower and broke into two sections and sank quickly.1

THESMS Blucher it was larger than previous armored cruisers, and was equipped with "heavier" naval artillery. Nonetheless, she was unable to match the size and armament of battlecruisers. In any case, the blucher he was discreetly “protected”.

The cruiser was designed and laid down at the Kiel shipyard in 1907. Subsequently, it was launched in April 1908 and entered active service in the autumn of 1909.

In the early years theSMS Blucher it was able to alternate the functions of flagship unit of the exploration forces with those of experimental ship for the use of naval artillery. Furthermore, it was the first unit of the Imperial German Navy equipped with equipment for directing fire and with gyro-stabilisers, as well as stereo rangefinders, which allowed it - during exercises in 1911-12 - to obtain good results. In fact, sailing at just over 20 knots, “the Blucher with the third volley he framed a target 13000 m away while moving at 18 knots, despite the sea moved. In 1913, the single foremast was replaced by a tripod, to mount it the general aiming device”2.

At the beginning of the First World War, the cruiser was sent to the Baltic Sea. Subsequently, on 3 November 1914 she took part in the raid against Yarmouth (England); on December 16, 1914 she the blucher participated in raids on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby (England).

On January 23, 1915 the armored cruiser blucher went out on a mission; the objective was once again to bomb the south-east coast of England. However, Royal Navy ships also went out that day (intelligence was able to decrypt German radio messages).

Admiral Franz von Hipper, having noticed the considerable enemy force, decided to return the team, and the ships reversed course. Finally, the British engaged in battle against the Germans at Dogger Bank in the North Sea (24 January 1915). The blucher it became a target for British naval artillery, and was sunk. The Royal Navy emerged victorious from that battle.

In Battle of Dogger Bank the cruiser was also present Derfflinger (see article Le battleships of the Imperial German Navy: the cruiser Derfflinger).

The armored cruiser blucher It had a full load displacement of 17500 tons. Her dimensions were 161,8 x 24,5 x 8,84 m. The engine apparatus was composed of 3 triple expansion steam engines on three axles, power 31562 hp. The speed was 25,4 knots (47 km/h).

The armament consisted of 12 21 cm SK L/45 guns, 8 15 cm SK L/45 guns, 16 8,8 cm SK L/45 guns and 4 45 cm torpedo launchers.

Armor: midship belt 185 mm, belt at the ends 90 mm, upper deck 35 mm, lower deck 50 mm and barbette 150 mm.

The ship could count on a crew of approximately 853 men (including officers).

1 See A. Santoni, History and naval politics of the contemporary age, HISTORICAL OFFICE OF THE NAVY, Rome, 2003, p.64

2 A. Fraccaroli, The armored cruiser Blucher, in Illustrated History n°177, 1972, p.66

Photo: Bundesarchiv / web