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Seiner Majestät Schiff Zähringen was third ship of the Wittelsbach-class of pre-dreadnought battleships of the Germanmarker Imperial Navy. Laid down in 1899 at the Germaniawerft shipyard in Kielmarker, she was launched on 12 June 1901 and commissioned on 25 October 1902. Her sisters were Wittelsbach, Wettin, Schwaben and Mecklenburg.

Technical Data

Dimensions and machinery

Zähringen was 127 m (416 ft) long overall, and 125 m (410 ft 9 in) at the waterline. The ship's beam was 22.8 m, and her draught was 8.0 m, and displaced 11.800 tons. Three triple-expansion engines gave her 13,900 shp and a top speed of . Her range at was . The crew numbered 683 officers and sailors.


The main armament consisted of four 24 cm (9.2 inch) guns in twin turrets, mounted fore and aft of the superstructure. Eighteen 15 cm guns, twelve 8.8 cm rapid fire guns as well as twelve 3.7 cm machine guns comprised the secondary battery, all of which were mounted in single mounts along the length of the ship. Most of the secondary weapons were mounted in turrets or casemates. Zähringen was also armed with six 45 cm torpedo tubes.


Her armor measured 22.5 cm at the strongest point of the belt (tapering off fore and aft, down to 10.1cm at the thinnest points), 5 cm on the main deck, and 25 cm for the command tower and the main gun turrets.


Imperial Navy

Although outdated once the dreadnoughts came into service from 1906 onward, all five ships of the class saw fleet service in the early years of World War I, but were deactivated in 1916.

SMS Zähringen was in service with the High Seas Fleet until 20 September 1910, when she was transferred to the reserve fleet in the Baltic Sea. In May 1912 she was transferred to Kiel and recommissioned on 14 August that year. On 4 September 1912 she accidentally rammed and sank the torpedoboat G 171 during fleet maneuvers. Decommissioned again on 28 September 1912, she was reactivated with the outbreak of WWI on 1 August 1914 and assigned to the IV Battle Squadron, operating initially in the Baltic Seamarker, from December 1914 to July 1915 in the North Seamarker, and then again in the Baltic. In November 1915 she was transferred to Kielmarker, where she served as a target ship for torpedoboat crews. Her conversion into a cadet training ship, begun in July 1918, was stopped when the war ended in November, and she was decommissioned on 13 December 1918.

Reichsmarine and Kriegsmarine

Too old to be demanded as war booty by the victorious Allies, the Zähringen served as a hulk until 1926. The Reichsmarine then modified her 1927-1928 into a radio-guided target ship. Almost the entire superstructure and all the guns and engines were removed, and only the command tower and one funnel remained. 1,700 tons of cork were packed into the hull to help her stay afloat. The removal of so much weight reduced her draft to 7.9 m and her displacement to 11,800 tons. She was fitted with a single automatically-controlled, oil-fired triple expansion steam engine and only two shafts, and her top speed was now a mere . When not in use as a target, her crew numbered only 67.

From 1928 until 1944 she served as a target ship for the Reichsmarine and then the Kriegsmarine.

The End

On 18 December 1944, the old ship was hit by bombs during an air raid on Gotenhafen (today Gdyniamarker) and sank in shallow water. She was temporarily refloated and towed to the harbor entrance, where she was scuttled as a blockade ship on 26 March 1945. The wreck was raised and scrapped in 1949-1950.

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