A History of the Battleships Baden and Bayern

By Andy South

The last two Dreadnoughts to ever be completed for the Imperial German Navy were the Baden and Bayern, one half of what was conceived to be a four ship class. The Bayern class were conceived as Germany’s hope of a design to finally steal the dominance in dreadnought design from other countries and to place Germany firmly into the driving seat.

The Bayern class was part of the fourth Naval Law, which was passed in 1912. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz had made use of the public anger at the British involvement in the Agadir Crisis of 1911, to pressure the Reichstag into allocating additional funds to the Navy. The completed Bayern and Baden were in the end to cost the Reichstag between 49 and 50 million Gold Marks

The Fourth Naval Law authorised the funds for three new dreadnoughts, two light cruisers, and the recruitment of an additional 15,000 officers and men into the ranks of the Navy. The capital ships that grew from the 1912 law were to be the Derfflinger class battlecruisers. The funding for the Bayern and Baden was only allocated in the following year. 1914 saw the funding for the third Bayern class ship, the Sachsen and the fourth vessel, the Württemberg, was funded in the War Estimates. The four Bayern’s were to replace the last remaining Brandenburg class pre-dreadnought, Wörth, two elderly Kaiser Friedrich III class pre-dreadnoughts, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Kaiser Friedrich III. As a result Baden was ordered as Ersatz Wörth, Württemberg as Ersatz Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Sachsen as Ersatz Kaiser Friedrich III. The Bayern was considered an addition to the fleet, and was ordered under the provisional name of “T”.

By August of 1911, Krupp’s had completed the development of their new 35.6 cm(14″), 38 cm(15″) and 40.6 cm (16″), calibre weapons, and reported back to Von Tirpitz. The question of increasing the main calibre with S.M.S Kronprinz, (the last of the König class) had already been debated by the Admiralty. In a report dated September 1911, Tirpitz had recommended to the Kaiser the use of the 40.6 cm barrel for new battleships main armament, and this was duly approved. But a 28,000 ton limit complicated the installation of a larger gun, and this would restricted the calibre length to 35.

Two options were considered during the design process. Firstly to retain the 30.5 cm (12″) gun, but then to increase the number of barrels by the use of the triple, or quadruple gun turret. There were obvious advantages to retaining this tried and tested gun, but concerns in regards to the reliability of the triple turret, (mainly with ammunition supply to the central barrel) were raised. Following a inspection of the Austo-Hungarian triple gun turret design intended for the Tegetthoff class, it was decided that the triple turret made the ship prone to loosing too many guns if a turret was knocked out while in action. The German Admiralty also saw too many problems with the increased weight, reduced ammunition supply and the rate of fire. In addition limitations over both the size and displacement of the 1913 dreadnoughts were relevant. Major engineering work to deepen and expand the Kiel canal was only just being completed. Facilities at the shipyards & naval bases raised similar concern’s. The completed works (at both canal and dockyards) had been envisaged with a service life of ten years, which nessitated that all new ships were required to be as close as possible in size to the König’s. This effectively prevented any major increased in the number or size of the main gun turrets (more guns=increased weight=hull increase size). On the 6th January 1912 a decision was finally made to equip the new dreadnoughts with eight 38.0 cm (15″) guns of 45 calibre in twin turrets.

Both the Bayern and Baden’s length at the waterline was 179.4 meters (588 ft 7 in), and 180.0 meters (590 ft 7 in) overall. The last two ships of the class, Sachsen and Württemberg, were to have been slightly longer at 181.8 meters (596 ft 5 in) along the waterline and 182.4 meters (598 ft 5 in) overall. All four ships shared a beam of 30 meters (98 ft 5 in), and a draft of between 9.3 and 9.4 meters (30 ft 6 in and 30 ft 10 in). The Bayern and Baden were designed with a normal displacement of 28,530 tonne and a full combat load of up to 32,200 tonne. Württemberg and Sachsen were to have been slightly heavier, at 28,800 tonnes (normal) and 32,500 tonnes fully laden.

The ships were constructed with transverse and longitudinal steel frames, and over which the outer hull plates were riveted. The hull was sub-divided into 17 watertight compartments, and a double bottom that ran for 88% of the length of the hull. The forecastle deck extended to the after superfiring turret and the freeboard at normal load was 7.2m forward and 4.6m aft. The funnels were not widely spaced and both ships had a tripod foremast with a small mainmast close to the aft funnel, though as built the Bayern had none. When examined post war in Britain, it was believed that Baden was more than 0.3m (11″) over her designed draught, at normal load.

The two completed vessels, Bayern and Baden, were generally regarded as excellent sea boats by the German navy. Bayern and her sister were both stable and extremely maneuverable. The ships did suffered a slight speed loss in heavy seas and with the rudders hard over, the ships lost up to 62% of their speed and heeled at 7 °. With a metacentric (*) height of 2.53 m (8 ft 4 in), which was larger than their British equivalents, the Bayern’s proved to be stable gun platforms for the confined waters of the North Sea.

( * Metacentric height (the distance between the center of gravity—G—and the metacenter—M—abbreviated as GM) determines a ship’s tendency to roll in the water; if the GM is too low, the ship will tend to roll severely or even risk capsizing)).

The crew compliment for each ship within the class was 42 officers and 1,129 enlisted men. When serving as a squadron or fleet flagship, an extra 14 officers and 86 men were added, (of the additional 15,000 men authorised by the Naval Law just over 30% of the new recruits would be required by the four Bayern’s!)

In June 1912, it was decided to postpone a planned diesel engine installation on the centre shaft for the Bayern’s. It was decided that 21 knots would be sufficient, as all the British Dreadnought since the name sake had been designed to that speed. The revelation that the forthcoming Queen Elizabeth class would have a higher speed of 24 knots was only to reached Germany in March 1913.
It was decided with the Sachsen to pursue the installation of a diesel engine on her centre shaft. This, in addition to further improvements, resulted in the Sachsen and Wiirttemberg having an increased displacement, and their dimensions would also have had to have been slightly enlarged to be able to maintain the 21 knot goal.

The later pair, Sachsen and Württemberg were designed with a one knot increase over Bayern and Baden. Württemberg was also to have received more powerful machinery that would have produced 47,343 shp (35,304 kW) for a designed speed of 22 knots. On Sachsen, a diesel engine supplied by MAN producing 11,836 bhp (8,826 kW) was to have been installed on the center shaft, while steam turbines powered the outboard shafts. The two power plants would have produced 53,261 shp (39,717 kW) for a designed speed of 22.5 knots. But with the outbreak of war in August 1914, the proposed engine designs were changed to match that of Bayern, in order to prevent any delay on the completion.

Both Bayern and Baden had eleven coal-fired and three oil-fired Schulz-Thornycroft boilers installed in their nine boiler rooms. Three sets of Parsons turbines drove the three-bladed propellers that were 3.87 metres (12.7 ft) in diameter. The ships had two rudders located side by side. Bayern’s and Baden’s power plant was designed to run at 34,521 shaft horsepower (25,742 kW) at 265 revolutions per minute. On trials the ships were to achieve 55,201 shp (41,163 kW) at 22.0 knots and 55,505 shp (41,390 kW) at 22.0 knots, respectively. The first two ships of the class were designed to carry up to 3,400 tonnes of coal and 620 tonnes of oil, (oil fuel sprays could be used on the coal furnaces).

Their endurance was a range of 5,000 nautical miles at a speed of 12 knots. At 15 knots the range dropped to 4,485 nautical miles and at 17 knots the range fell further to 3,740 nautical miles. At 21.5 knots the ships could steam for 2,390 nautical miles. From full speed to a dead stop took 1 minute 55 seconds, or 790 meters, or 4.4 times of the ships length.

The ships carried eight diesel generators and these supplied each ship with a total of 2,400 kilowatts of electrical power at 220 volts.

The Bayern class were armed with a main calibre of eight 38 cm (15 in) SK L/45 guns mounted in four Drh LC/1913 twin gun turrets. The 38 cm gun fired a 750-kilogram (1,650 lb) shell while the 30.5 cm gun fired a 405 kg (893 lb) shell. The Bayerns had a broadside weight of 6,000 kg (13,000 lb) using all eight of her main guns, while the König’s ten guns had a broadside weight of 4,050 kg (8,930 lb) which is a 52% weight increase! The turrets could train 150 ° to either side of their centerline, and their barrels could depress to −8 °. The Germans believed that conditions in the North Sea would dictate a short range in action, so they designed their guns to initially elevate only to 16 °, which gave them a maximum range of 20,400 meters. The gun mountings were then modified to increase elevation by 4 °, there by increasing the range to 23,200 meters. To lay one folk tale to rest, most sources agree that the Bayern’s 38cm main armament did not serve as the prototype for the World War DKM Bismarck class.

The munition chambers for the magazines charges were located on the upper platform deck, while the shell-rooms were placed on the lower deck platform beneath them. Due to the weight of both shells and charges, a lift was installed to run from the munition chambers and directly to each turret. This delivered both powder and shells to an area between the two guns. From there they were loaded onto a munition car, which then ran on rails to carry the shell and charges up to to the breech. A hydraulic rammer then concluded the loading sequence. Below A, B and C turrets there was a platform on which ready munitions could be stored.

The magazines held a total of 720 shells or 90 rounds per gun. A rate of fire of 2.5 shells per minute was to be the average. Royal Navy post war tests demonstrated that the guns on the Baden could be ready to fire once more just 23 seconds after firing. This was quite significantly faster than their own Queen Elizabeth class, which took on average 36 seconds between salvos. The German guns were found in the same tests to be less accurate than the earlier German weapons, and in addition used a lighter shell of 750 kg (1,653 lb) than the equivalent British guns at 879kg . The shell was propelled by a 277 kg (610.7 lb) RPC/12 propellant charge contained within a brass cartridge, and were expelled at a muzzle velocity of 800 mps (2,625 fps). Each barrels life was in theory 300 firings, before replacement of the barrel was required.

Once it became clear the ships completion would be delayed, the barrels that had been constructed for the Sachsen and Württemberg were diverted for use as long range, heavy siege guns on the Western Front, as coastal guns in the occupied territories in France and Belgium, and a few as railway guns. These guns were referred to as Langer Max.

a history of the battleships baden and bayern
38 cm/45 as “Long Max” land based artillery.

A “Max” fired the first salvo that was to commence the start of the first German artillery bombardment beginning the Battle of Verdun. Only one barrel was transferred to the Army where it was used to equipped the Saxon Battery (Sächsische Batterie) 1015. The navy retained the rest of their guns and operated them in support of the army. Three “Max” guns participated in the 1918 Spring Offensives and two bombarded the French troops during the Second Battle of the Marne. One gun was found by the Belgian Army in November 1918 abandoned by a railway station west of Brussels. The remaining seven were evacuated to Germany before the Armistice where they were to due to have be emplaced in coast-defenses. All seven were to be destroyed by the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control between 1921 & 22. The Belgians sold their captured gun to the French in 1924 for experimental purposes. In 1940 it was captured once more, but this time by the original owners, the Germans, following the French surrender. But there are no records of it being returned to use by the Germans. One more of the guns was captured by the Australian army during the battle which began on 8 August 1918. This gun was later to be presented to the city of Amiens by General Sir John Monash. In October 2014 a museum called Lange Max dedicated to the “Langer Max” opened in Koekelare. The main subject of the museum is the Pommern Battery, a German 38 cm SK L/45 gun. In addition to the museum, its still possible to visit the remains of the artillery platform.

The ships secondary battery comprised of sixteen 15 cm (5.9 in) SK L/45 quick-firing guns, each mounted into MPL C/13 casemates located in the side of the top deck. These guns main role was as a defense against torpedo boats, and the magazines held a total of 2,240 15cm shells for these weapons. The guns range was out to 13,500 meters, but following improvements in 1915, their range was extended to 16,800 meters. The guns could maintain a rate of fire of 5 to 7 rounds per minute, using shells of 45.3 kg (99.8 lb) in weight. The propellant charge was a 13.7 kg (31.2 lb) RPC/12 propellant charge in a brass cartridge. The guns muzzle velocity was 835 meters per second (2,740 ft/s), and the barrels life was expected to be of 1,400 firings.

The Bayern and Baden were also equipped with a pair of 8.8 cm (3.5 in) SK L/45 flak guns, which had a supply of 800 rounds. The guns were fitted into MPL C/13 mountings, which gave a depression of −10 ° and elevation of 70 °. These guns fired 9 kg (19.8 lb) shell, and had an effective ceiling of 9,150 m at 70 °. The planned 8 AA guns were never shipped and the number was to vary between 2 and 4. The 8.8cm Flak guns were not mounted on completion and only fitted in 1917.

The Bayern’s were armed with five 60 cm (24 in) submerged torpedo tubes. One tube was mounted in the bow and two on each broadside. A supply of 20 torpedoes was carried for these weapons. It was found following both Bayern and Baden striking of mines in 1917, that the damage revealed structural weaknesses caused by the torpedo tubes. As a result both ships had their lateral tubes removed. When Baden was examined post war it was discovered that all three tubes were of different designs. The forward submerged flat had been quite large before the ship was mined and the tubes removal. After that the flat was divided into a number of small store rooms. The forward tube was end loaded using a long tray.The aft flat was 17 feet high and the starboard broadside tube was longer than the port one, with a side loader. The port tube had a rear door and small 4 foot rammer. External angling gear was fitted, but most was missing when examined post war. It was believed the gyro angles could range from 30 ° forward of the tube and 60 ° aft. The tubes could be fired and controlled from both the fore and aft conning chimneys and in addition from No. 1 and 3 casemates.

The torpedoes supplied were the new H8 type, which were 8 meters (26 ft 3 in) in length and carried a 210 kg (463 lb) Hexanite warhead. The torpedoes range was 6,000meters (6,550 yd) when set to a speed of 36 knots. At 30 knots the range increased significantly to 14,000 meters (15,310 yd).

The class carried eight 110cm (43.3″) searchlights mounted with four on the foremast and four on a platform behind the aft funnel. These searchlights were controlled remotely. When completed Bayern had a smaller emergency searchlight mounted on the foremast. The ship’s carried a number of smaller craft, including one picket boat, three barges, two launches, two yawls, and two dinghies.
The Bayern’s were protected by Krupp cemented steel armor, as was the standard for German warships of the period. Their belt armour was 350 mm (14 in) in thickness over the central citadel of the ship, where the most important parts of the ship were located. This included the magazines and the machinery spaces. The belt reduced over less critical areas, to 200 mm (7.9 in) forward and 170 mm (6.7 in) aft. The bow and stern were unprotected by any armor at all. A 50 mm (2.0 in) torpedo bulkhead ran the length of the hull, located several meters behind the main belt. The main armored deck was 60 mm (2.4 in) thick in most places, but the thickness of the sections that covered the more important areas of the ship was increased to 100 mm (3.9 in).

The forward conning tower was naturally protected by a layer of heavy armor. The sides were 400 mm (16 in) and the roof was 170 mm in depth. The rear conning tower was less well protected, and its sides were only 170 mm thick. The roof was covered with 80 mm (3.1 in) of armor plate. The main battery gun turrets were heavily armored, with the sides at 350 mm thick and the roofs, 200 mm thick. The 15 cm guns had 170 mm thick armor plating on the casemates and the guns themselves had 80 mm thick shields to protect their crews from shell splinters.

Bayern when completed lacked the main mast, but in 1917 this was finally installed. The wireless aerials were carried on aerial spreaders. The Bayern was only fitted with a night control position below the foretop in 1917, and the searchlight also was removed from the upper mast. When completed, Baden carried temporary extra yardarms on the foremast. Baden was easy to recognize by the addition of the admiral’s bridge mounted about the tripod mast.One quirky fact, the ship’s piano, one source claims, was made from aluminium to save weight!

The Bayern was laid down at the Howaldtswerke yard in Kiel under the construction number 590, on the 22nd January 1914, launched on 18 February 1915, and completed on 18 March 1916. Her trials were to last a mere ten week’s. Bayern was unfortunate to miss the battle of Jutland, due to crew being on leave at the time. She was to join the lll Battle squadron on the 15th July 1916.

Baden was built by the Ferdinand Schichau shipyard in Danzig, under the construction number 913, being laid down on 20 December 1913. She was launched on 30 October 1915 and only completed on 19 October 1916, due in the main to the yard being overstretched by wartime demands. She commissioned on the 14th March 1917. Her first captain was the man who commanded the Lutzow at Jutland and oversaw her final demisexam, Kapitän zur See Viktor Harder, who occupied Baden’s bridge from the 19 October 1916 until the 5 August, 1918,

The Sachsen was laid down at the Germaniawerft yard in Kiel, under the construction number 210 on 7 April 1914. She was launched on 21 November 1916, but was not to be completed. Sachsen’s construction was to cease 9 months from completion, due to the change in the priority of naval construction programs, from surface ships to U-boats.

Württemberg was constructed by the AG Vulcan shipyard in Hamburg under the construction number 19. She was launched on 20 June 1917, but she too was not to be completed, and work ceased on her when was approximately 12 months from being completed.

Between the 22nd February the 4th March both Bayern and Baden were on training exercises in the Baltic. Then from the 17th May and the 9th June both ships participated in another series of training exercises in the Baltic along with the Konig, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf and the Kronprinz. On 18th March 1917 Admiral Hipper raised his flag on the Baden as his fleet flagship, a role she retained until the wars end.

On the 18 to 19 August 1916, the 1st Scouting Group was ordered to sea to repeat the original Sortie plan that had lead to the battle of Jutland, by bombarding the coastal town of Sunderland, in an attempt to draw out and destroy Beatty’s battlecruisers. Moltke and Von der Tann were the only two battlecruisers in fighting condition after the Battle of Jutland so the Bayern, and the two König class ships, (Markgraf and Grosser Kurfürst), were allocated to 1st SG for the duration of the operation. Admiral Scheer and his 15 serviceable dreadnoughts, would provide the distant support. The British were, as usual, fully aware of the German plans and the Grand Fleet sailed to meet them. But 14.35 Scheer had received warning of the Grand Fleet’s approach and, not unnaturally willing to meet with the Grand Fleet 11 weeks after Jutland, turned his forces around and returned to the German ports.

On the 30th 1917 August the Kaiser boarded the Bayern in Wilhelmshaven, and the next day, with the battlecruiser Derfflinger acting as escort, took Wilhelm to inspect Helgoland. They returned to Cuxhaven on the 1st September, embarrassingly grounding briefly on entering the port but no major damage was caused.

Bayern in 1917. Photo from www.sms-navy.com

In early September 1917, following the successful German occupation of the Russian port of Riga, the German Admiralty decided to remove the Russian naval forces that were still in the Gulf of Riga. The Admiralstab (the Navy High Command) planned an operation to capture the Baltic islands of Ösel, in particular the Russian gun batteries on the Sworbe peninsula. On 18 September an order was issued calling for a joint Army-Navy-Air operation to capture both Ösel and Moon islands. The naval force was to comprise the flagship Bayern and the Moltke. In addition to this the III Battle Squadron of the High Seas Fleet, the V Division, ( included the four König class), the VI Division (comprising of the five Kaiser class), nine light cruisers, 3 torpedo boat flotillas, and dozens of mine warfare ships would be attached. In total the force would numbered some 300 ships, with additional support from over 100 aircraft and 6 Zeppelins. The armies contribution would be of approximately 24,600 officers and enlisted men. Opposing this German sledgehammer was the old Russian pre-dreadnoughts Slava and Tsesarevich, the armored cruisers Bayan, Admiral Makarov, Diana, 26 destroyers, several torpedo boats and gunboats. The garrison on Ösel numbered some 14,000 men.

The operation commenced on 12 October, when Bayern, Moltke, and the Königs began firing on the Russian shore batteries in Tagga Bay. At the same moment the Kaiser’s shelled the Russian batteries on the Sworbe peninsula. The objective of the opening move was to secure the channel between Moon and Dagö islands, which would effectively block the only escape route for the Russian ships trapped in the gulf. But Grosser Kurfürst and Bayern both struck mines while maneuvering into positions on day one. Bayern’s struck her mine at 5.05 while moving into her bombardment position at Pamerort. The mine’s detonation killed one Unteroffizier and six sailors, allowed some 1,000 metric tons of water into the ship and caused the forecastle to sink by 2 meters (6.6 ft). Despite the damage, Bayern engaged the naval battery at Cape Toffri on the southern tip of Hiiumaa until she was released from her position at 14:00. The Bayern was severely damaged, nessesiting temporary repairs on the 13th in Tagga Bay, which proved ineffective. The ship had to be withdrawn from the operation and towed to Kiel for repairs, a journey that was to take 19 days. Bayern was to be in dockyard hands from the 13th November to 29th December in Kiel having arrived on the 2nd November. During her time under repair Bayern was replaced by Friedrich der Grosse as the flagship of the High Seas Fleet.

Between 23 March and the 11th April 1918 Bayern was in Baltic with Konig, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf, Kronprinz on a training exercise.

In late 1917, the High Seas Fleet had began to undertake raids against the Scandinavian bound convoys, in the North Sea between Britain and Norway. On 17 October, the German light cruisers Brummer and Bremse had intercepted a convoy of twelve ships escorted by a pair of destroyers and effectively destroyed it, three transports being the only survivors. On 12 December, four German destroyers intercepted and annihilated yet another convoy of five ships and two escorting destroyers. This German victory forced Beatty to detach a number of battleships and battlecruisers to offer protection to the convoys whilst in the North Sea. This change in strategy presented to Admiral Scheer the opportunity for which he had been waiting the entire war, a chance to finally eliminate the Grand Fleet piecemeal.

On 23rd April 1918 at 05:00 the High Seas Fleet, including both Bayern and Baden, left Wilhelmshaven, with the intention of intercepting one of the heavily escorted convoys. Wireless radio traffic was kept to the very minimum to hide the fleets sortie from the British. But at 05:10 on the 24th April, the battlecruiser Moltke lost a propeller and had to be towed back to Wilhelmshaven. By 14:10, the convoy remained still to be located, so Scheer ordered the High Seas Fleet back towards German waters. There was in fact, no convoy sailing on 24 April, German naval intelligence had miscalculated the sailing date by one day.

Between the 17th May and 8th June Bayern, Konig, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf Kronprinz were again in Baltic training. Meanwhile on the 24th May, Baden steamed to Helgoland, taking the Commander-in-chief of the fleet, Admiral Reinhard Scheer, and Grand Duke Friedrich von Baden to visit the island. The escort was provided by the light cruiser Karlsruhe.

Between the 7th August and 19th September Markgraf, Kronprinz, Bayern and Baden were once again in the Baltic training.

Konig, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf, Kronprinz, Bayern and Baden returned to the Baltic for exercises between the 28th September and the 1st October.

In October 1918 Admiral Hipper, now the commander of the High Seas Fleet, planned a final battle against the Grand Fleet. Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the Chief of the Naval Staff, approved the plan on 27 October and the operation was set for the 30th. But on ordering the fleet to assemble in Wilhelmshaven on the 29 October the war weary crews started to desert or to openly disobey their orders. The crews on board König, Kronprinz, and Markgraf protested in favour of the peace talks but the Thüringen’s crew were the first to openly mutiny. Helgoland and Kaiserin followed their lead and by the evening of the 29th the red flags of revolution flew from the masts of many of the the capital ships in the harbor. On the 29th in spite of this, Hipper decided to hold one last meeting on board Baden, his flagship, to discuss the planned operation with his senior officers. But by the following morning, it was only to clear the mutiny was too far gone to permit any further fleet actions. In an effort to quell the revolt, he ordered one of the battle squadrons to depart for Kiel. But by 5 November, red flags had been raised on every battleship in Kiel, (except König), though it too was commandeered by a sailors’ council by the 6 November. Meanwhile on 9 November, the Socialists’ red flag was hoisted aboard Baden, which finally convinced both Hipper and Scheer to abandon the plan.

The conditions of the Armistice on 11th November 1918, demanded that the majority of the High Seas Fleet be interned in the Grand Fleets naval base at Scapa Flow. The Bayern was listed as one of the ships to be handed over, but Baden was initially not included on the list. The battlecruiser Mackensen, which the British had believed to have been completed was demanded instead. But it became obvious to the Allies that Mackensen was still under construction, and Baden was duly ordered to replace her. On 21 November 1918, the ships destined to be interned, under the command of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, sailed from their bases in Germany for one last time. The fleet rendezvoused with the light cruiser HMS Cardiff, before sailing on to meet a flotilla of 370 British, American, and French warships for the voyage to Rosyth. Baden sailed from Germany on the 7th January 1919, and on her arrival at Scapa Flow, was inspected by the Royal Navy on the 9th January. Most of the the technical instruments, including gunnery equipment, had been removed before the ship left Germany.

The fleet was to remain in captivity while the negotiations that ultimately produced the Versailles Treaty continued. But it became apparent to Admiral Reuter that the British had plans to seize the German ships on 21 June 1919, which was the deadline for Germany to have signed the peace treaty. To prevent this stain on the German fleet, he decided to scuttle his ships at the first given opportunity. On the morning of 21st June the British fleet left Scapa Flow to conduct training maneuvers and at 11.20 Reuter transmitted the scuttle order to his ships. The Baden was for some unknown reason the last vessel to commence scuttling. One British officer, Sub Lieutenant Edward Hugh Markham David, serving on HMS Revenge, recounted the scuttling in a letter to his mother, ‘”We then got alongside ‘Baden’ who was going down fast and hurried below to see what we could do to save her – we closed watertight doors which kept her up temporarily but she eventually had to be towed ashore,” An Admiralty tender had been taking a school party on a tour of the interned ships when the scuttling began. She quickly landed the teachers and children before return to the Baden, where she secured the battleship under tow and successfully beached her. This enabled the Baden to be refloated by the British in July, and taken under tow to Invergordon.

The scuttling of Bayern, 21st June 1919.

Bayern turned turtle and sank to the bottom of Scapa Flow at 14:30 on the 21st June. On the 3 November 1933 the British Admiralty sold the Bayern’s wreck to the salvage company Cox and Danks Ltd for £1000, (£55,790.32 in 2016 prices , but with the following sales, they would increase the prices to £2000 per capital ship.

Bayern lay on the sea bed bottom up, in 20 fathoms with a nine degree list. After an examination of the wreck by Cox’s divers it was decided she was salvageable by using compressed air to raise her. Seven chimneys 70 to 90 feet high were to secured to her hull giving access via ladder and airlock to her interior.The chimneys were built in ten foot sections in Cox’s base at Lyness in Scapa. Once the sections were completed they were towed out to the Bayern. Securing the chimneys was complex and far from easy, but finally access into the interior was possible.

The divers worked inside the hull often up to their necks in water, wearing just ‘diving dresses’ in pressure of 40 to 50 lbs per square inch. They worked at blanking off vents, pipes, valves and a myriad of other items. The goal being to seal any places the compressed air could seep out from.

A chemist named Cowan took daily samples of the air, which grew fouler everyday, from inside the hull, checking for explosive gasses and the condition of the air. He drove home to the divers the importance decompressing using balloons to illustrate how their organs were responding to the pressure they were working under. When a new compartment was opened Cowan was always the first in to check, for toxic gasses. Once when a man was reluctant to descend into the hull afraid of the gas danger, Cowan demonstrated it was safe by sitting in the compartment smoking a cigar!

On the 18th July a drainage pipe burst allowing compressed air to rush into the bow section. The bow shot to the surface, ten feet of bow clearing the water. Escaping air then brought the stern up too. The ship narrowly missed the salvaging craft and lay on the surface rolling as escaping air sent great fountains of water into the air. Then she lost buoyancy and dropped back to the sea bed. Divers checking the hull afterwards found that in the incident Bayern had shed her 2500 tonnes of turret and they dropped free of the hull back to the sea bed. Where they lay to this day.


The ships centre of gravity had now changed and it was decided to let the hull crush down onto the conning tower so it was pushed inside the hull. At this stage a worker, John ‘Busy’ Bee from Portsmouth died due to errors in his decompressing procedure. Bayern now had a 42° list and a number of the chimneys had to be extended to bring their exits above water. With her increased list it was feared she’d roll on the next attempt to raise her, so efforts were made to reduce the list to 3°.

On the 1st September after 8 months work they were ready for a controlled lift. The air pressure was increased and the hull raced to the surface in 30 seconds sending fountains of water 150 feet into the air.

On the 2nd September the Bayern was towed to the salvage base at Lyness where she was prepared for the 250 mile tow to Rosyth. Once there she was broken up and Cox received £110,00 for her metals, fifty percent of which was profit. One irony is the tugs that undertook the towing work for Cox, we’re German.

Scapa Flow sea bed still bears today, nearly a hundred years on, the indention from Bayern’s crash dive. Her turrets sit on a mud bottom in 38 to 45 meters of water. The eastern site contains the remains of Caesar and Dora turrets and they are generally well preserved. They stand 8.3 meters off the seabed. The site also holds the remains of various items such as machinery, transformers, electrics and electrical wires, levers and engine room wheels can be seen. Amoung these is a training pinion, central ammunition hoist press, gun loading hoist press, gun loading tray, and main hydraulic exhaust tank. The ball bearing centring ring is in place and well preserved. Closer to eastern turrets (Caesar) there is a section of the ships mast. It is still possible to enter the turret and see the inside of some of the turret. The gun breach and mount can be still be seen, and its apparent the firing mechanism has been removed as per the terms internment.

Salvage operations on the battleship Baden.

The western turrets (Anton and Bruno) have taken a greater amount damage, from Bayerns first attempt at being raised in 1934. The Bayern had sank at a slight angle and crushed the two turrets.

The barbette of the outermost of the two turrets (Anton) has been pushed over to the west and sits horizontal to the seabed. Pieces of machinery, electrics, wires and piping from the turrets mechanics are still visible. The remains include the central hoist, cordite waiting trays, gun loading cage and top pulley of the gun loading cage lifting wire. The ball bearing centring ring looks to to have been damaged at the time the turret was crushed. On one side of the turret is a hatch and it possible to look into the turret.
The inner of the two eastern turrets (Bruno) stands 3 meters off the seabed. Unlike the other turrets the structures and machinery are not visible at this part of the site, although the ball bearing centring ring can still be seen. There is a hatch to which a ladder leads into the turret and the site is surrounded by several pieces of coal.There is also a davit on the seabed to the south of this inner turret.

Both the incomplete Sachsen and Württemberg were removed from the Imperial Navy under the terms of Article 186 (‘On the coming into force of the present Treaty the German Government must undertake, under the supervision of the Governments of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers, the breaking up of all the German surface warships now under construction’). As a result Sachsen was sold for scrap in 1920 to a ship breakers at the Kiel Arsenal, and Württemberg was sold the following year in 1921, to be broken up in Hamburg.

Bayern’s inverted hull under tow, 1934.

After her journey south, Baden was made secure at the port of Invergordon. It was here that British Naval engineers made their first inspection of the hull, including her screws, bilge keels, and rudders, in an effort to determine the water resistance of her hull shape. They concluded that she had been as efficient as the British Revenge class in the water. The design of the ship’s armor was also examined at this stage it was concluded that the ship’s design had not included any lessons learnt from Jutland. The main turrets and magazines were also the subject of an examination and among the tests inflicted on to the Baden was a trial to see how fast the magazines could be flooded. The magazines had been designed and built with a system that in the event an ammunition fire, would permit them to be flooded in an effort to prevent an explosion, such as the Royal Navy had suffered. The result for the test showed the system took twelve minutes to flood the magazines. The gunnery school of HMS Excellent on Whale Island, Portsmouth, conducted a series of loading trials on the main battery guns. It was discovered the guns could be readied to fire in 23 seconds, which was 13 seconds faster than in the Queen Elizabeth class. The ship’s watertight bulkhead and underwater protection systems was also of interest to the inspection team. They examined the ship’s pumping and counter-flooding equipment.

Commander W M Phipps Hornby lived on board the Baden for several weeks during the period of her examinations and he was to write to the naval historian Arthur Marder in 1969 that in his”considered opinion….which I know coincided with that of others engaged on the same job…that, considered as a fighting machine, anyhow on balance the Baden was markedly in advance of any comparable ship of the Royal Navy”.

After the inspection’s and test were complete, the decision was made to use Baden as a gunnery target. In January 1921 the first round of gunnery tests was ordered. The gunners from HMS Excellent used the new armor piercing (AP) shell that the navy had been introduced following the Battle of Jutland. The tests was used to determine the most efficient combination of explosives in the detonator caps. The shells that had been used at Jutland had an unfortunate tendency to disintegrate on impact with heavy armor rather than penetrate it.

On 2nd February 1921 HMS Terror (Monitor of the Erebus class), and the former SMS Baden lay 500 yards (460 m) apart east of the Horse Tail Bank in the eastern Solent. They were there for firing tests, to allow the Royal Navy to evaluate their former adversary.

Baden was heeled to 11° towards HMS Terror, the angle varying about 2°. either way due to Baden’s roll in the swell. She also grounded at low tide which reduced the heel by about 1° until the tide turned. The Baden’s list was created by the removal of the coal on board, combined with the removal of armour plates on her port side. In addition to all this, some starboard compartments were allowed to flood. Whilst in port all the oil fuel and bilge oil had been removed in order to lessen the hazard of fire. The hull’s list insured the top of the 10 inch belt was about 3 feet above water. The Baden trim was also adjusted in port, by the removal of “A” turret and its considerable weight.

Terror’s gun was a 15 inches (38cm) B.L. Mark I, and the barrel used was the left one in the dual turret. The charges used were adjusted to give a striking velocity of 1,550 feet per second, (472 m.p.s). The adjusted charges matched an angle of descent of 13 ¾°. (*1). The charge’s combined with the Baden”s adjustment simulated a range corresponding to 15,500 yards, (14,173 meters).

Terror’s fired seventeen rounds on that day. Her ninth round was targeted at the barbette armour of “X” turret. The shell fired was a 15 inches A.P.C. (*2). The shells point of impact was 3 feet 9 inches from the top edge of fixed armour and 25 feet. 9 inches from the midship line forward.

The 13 ¾ inch armour was penetrated, leaving a hole 17 inches diameter. It seems the shell burst when it was two thirds of its way through the armour and the cone of the shell as far as the shoulder was found inside barbette 23 feet from outer edge of entry hole. The shell caused considerable damage to the barbettes roller path. There was some damage caused to machinery in the pocket between girders where the cone of the shell was found.

The tenth round, a 15″ C.P.C. shell, was targeted at the barbette armour of “B” turret. (*3) The shell struck 5 feet 3 inches above the forecastle deck and 23 feet 4 inches from the midship line forward. (*4) The shell burst on its impact with the plate and penetrated 1 ½ inches. over a diameter of 9 ½ inches.The angle connecting with the upper deck to the armour was torn off and flattened for a distance of 7 feet.The forecastle deck was found to be bulged downwards for 9 inches and a 6 inch by 4 inch hole was made into the decks metal. A large piece of the base was found on the upper deck. The thin liners between the plates were loosened and partly squeezed out.

Round fourteen was targeted at “B” turret front plate with a 15″ A.P.C shell.
(*5). The point of impact this time was the front plate of the turret situated midway between the guns (*6). The shell completely perforated the armour this time armour, making a number of holes of 18 inches in diameter, and the metal was flaked off to an area of 36 inches by 48 inches on the exterior and 24 inches by 36 inches on the interiors.The shell was found inside turret with its cone resting against left girder of right gun-slide. The turrets center position sight and equipment in the immediate vicinity was wrecked.

A gun cotton charge was used to detonate the shell. The sound of the explosion was undistinguishable from that of the actual gun cotton detonating and the degree of ‘rapidity of burst’ was as a result difficult to estimate. A cloud of thick black smoke seeped from the all the holes within the turret. The gun cotton explosion tore thd left rammer (main cage to transport wagon) free and wrecked it.

The cone of the 15″ shell and a large part of its body was found lying on a platform 2 feet below the burst, and two large fragments of shell were discovered lying where the shell had been. Part of the shells base, weighing 30 lb, passed through the main cage trunk and was found lying in the turret near the trunk. Other fragments were found scattered about the turret and working chamber, but no other serious damage could be found.

Round 15, another A.P.C, was targeted at the thickest part of conning tower (13 ¾ inches) (350mm)). (*7) This time the point of impact was 6 feet from top of the conning tower and 9 feet 6 inches from center line forward (*8). The shell once again on impact leaving a bulge 4 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 6 inches and 4 inches deep, and opening out the plates half an inch at the joints. The inside of the struck was badly flaked and cracked. Two cracks 6 inches by 8 feet 10 inches were made. There was no loosening of plates or of securing bolts inside the conning tower, but outside the join of the plate hit was opened from 1/8 inches at bottom to 7/8 inches at top of conning tower. This was 3 feet from point of impact. The plate hit was driven in 1 ½ inches from the plate immediately below it, the join being 2 feet below point of impact. The upper hinge bracket of the starboard door were broken causing the door to be blown off. The deck round the conning tower under the point of impact was blown away for an area 6 feet 6 inches by 3 feet 6 inches and the storeroom beneath was demolished. The deck over the Admiral’s cabin was holed and several pieces of shell were found inside the cabin. The diameter of the bulge from inside the conning tower was 5 feet and superficial star cracks were made on the bulge. Actual damage to the fittings inside the conning tower was very slight.

These tests showed that an A.P.C. round will penetrate a 13 ¾ inches (350mm) plate where a C.P.C round will explode on impact. Round 15 was fired at an angle of 60 deg° which served to determine by comparison with round 14 the angle of impact at which perforation of 13 ¾ inches armour may be expected. The performance of the A.P.C. shell in regards to its penetration was considered to be satisfactory. The minor damage caused by round 15 to instruments inside the conning tower, which were mounted on plates built up from the deck and not in contact with the side of the tower, shows that this method of fitting instruments stood up well in combat. Round 9 demonstrated that the German system of connecting the roller path support to the barbette armour was unsatisfactory. Round 15, rather obviously, was considered to have demonstrated that an armoured door was a danger unless its hinges were very strong and it was securely fastened.

The Royal Navy concluded after the tests that their new shells were sufficiently powerful to penetrate heavy armor, and were therefore more effective than the model that had been in use at Jutland. Heavy seas following the tests, caused Baden to sink once more, in the Solent’s shallow water. Three months later she was raised for a second time and docked in Portsmouth for repairs. The ship was ready by August 1921 for a second round of tests.

The second series of tests commenced on 16 August 1921. The monitor HMS Erebus fired a mixture of 15″ shell types at Baden. This time the shells failed to perform as well against Baden’s heavy armor. One AP shells failed to explode and two semi-AP shells appeared to have broken up on impact. Six aerial bombs were placed on board and detonated remotely. The ‘aerial’ bombs did not perform as well as they expected either. Immediately after the second round of gunnery trials were concluded, Baden was scuttled. The ship was sent 180 meters down to her final resting place in Hurd Deep northwest of the Channel Islands in a depth of 180 m (590 ft), on the 17th August 1921. Her wreck is described as ‘ lying on its side in orientation 050/230 °. Highest point 1/3 from the southern end, 4 pieces of wreckage 4m high lie 100m to the north (gun turrets?)’ by wreck site.eu.

Bayern turrets resting where they landed in Scapa Flow. Image from Scapaflowwrecks.com

The wreck is deep and it requires an experienced diver to undertake the decent. One diver recounted his visit to the site, ‘On arriving at the wreck, I felt pretty good, considering the depth. The water temperature was 5 ° centigrade, the huge shipwreck’s hull was shrouded in darkness and a blanket of very thick soft corals. My anchor line had got wedged into one of the many holes in the wreck side. The Battleship Baden had met its demise not in conflict, but used as target practice for allied forces at the end of world war one. Typically these monster battle cruisers turned upside down as they sink, caused by the weight of the enormous deck guns. The Baden carried 8 gigantic 15” guns. These had certainly fallen off the ship as it sunk, (he seems to be unaware Baden was stripped of her turrets and many fittings prior to being scuttled). These gun turrets would have made some great video but going on a search mission by torch light in 180 metres depth would have to wait for another day!

I took a seat inside one of the huge propeller tunnels, the propellers had been removed before sinking which was a shame, but the area was free of coral life and would be a good feature to record. After 12 minutes I had ventured far enough from the anchor line as I dared and started my return to the surface. I had three friends acting as support divers. The first one came into view at around 60metres down, We swapped my empty scuba tanks for fresh ones. My journey back to the surface would take over 4 hours and need many different gas mixtures to help with the decompression stops that were necessary’ (http://www.inspired-training.com/index.htm).

There was a debate over the quality of the Bayern’s design following the post war tests by the British. Once source claims that the ‘bad design schools, ‘….only source…. is the sole opinion of Phipps-Hornby RN in a letter to the Naval Review, October 1964 and later used by Arthur Marder. Phipps-Hornby was involved only in salvaging Baden and had no authority to judge her superior to anything other than in his own opinion as a junior officer’.

R A Burt author of British Battleships 1919-1945 claims that ,”after the war (1919) an exhaustive examination of the captured German battleship Baden (Germany’s final answer to the First World War dreadnoughts) revealed that in many ways Royal Sovereign was superior to the German vessel”.

In reference to damage control the same source States, “…. test carried out in 1921 proved in theory at least that British ships were more or less on a par with contemporary German designs”

Burt author of British Battleships of World War One writes on the question of “superior” armour….. it is interesting to note that when tests were carried out in the captured battleship Baden in 1919, only a slight difference was found between British and German steels; and when fired upon during the tests, her plates did not meet the strict standards required of British plates …it was very gratifying for the British to discover that the armour plates used in their later dreadnoughts were slightly superior to the Krupp process”.


A report by Stanley Goodall (Director of Naval Construction), delivered to the RINA in 1921, concluded that Baden was on most levels equal to the Revenge class, but remained superior in a some respects, and inferior in others. It was stated that Badens watertight bulkheads were 25% weaker than British ones. In longitudinal flexing, ( an indicator of the ship’s strength as a girder), it was noted that Baden was 20-25% weaker than British contemporaries, and that the Germans had accepted the weakness to save on weight. Pumping arrangements were rated as better but as they had to be due to the significantly less freeboard (buoyancy) than Revenge, and the protected buoyancy was poorer as the armoured deck was situated lower in the ship. He also wrote that on first sight Baden had a better subdivision of machinery spaces, but this had been lost in many places through the extensive piercing of bulkheads with voice pipes, doors, wiring, etc. which were not shock-resistant. This was not the case with British dreadnoughts where access to adjoining machinery and boiler spaces could only be accomplished by climbing up and down ladders. Even in underwater protection the bulged Revenges were considered superior.

Goodall also claims Badens flash precautions was poorer than British practice. Her guns had greater dispersion and fired a far lighter shell. Safety margins were also lowered it was claimed to reduce weight. He agreed her guns could be reloaded quicker, but since it took longer to observe fall of shot than it did to reload, it was a moot point.

Also they were coal-burners which like all German capital ships of the era with small-tube boilers, they were probe to constant brake down’s.

Goodall’s report is long but the following points may be of interest:
1: There was no evidence of post Jutland alterations suggesting that no more fleet actions were contemplated.

2: Calculations suggest she exceeded her design draft by at least 1 foot.

3: Calculations indicate her maximum possible speed at fighting draught would be 21.75 knots (i.e. maximum possible not actual maximum achieved).

4: Hull form was less efficient than an unbulged Royal Sovereign.

5: Although superficially well subdivided this was negated by the large number of penetrations of the bulkheads by voice pipes, doors, piping etc.

6: Percentage weights of armour for Baden/Royal Sovereign: Vertical armour (excluding gunhouses + conning chimneys): 21.8% to 19.8%, Horizontal protection: 7.2% to 9.6%, Underwater Protection: 2.6 % to 2.3%. (It isn’t clear if the Royal Sovereign weights are for a bulged ship or not.)

7:Main gun mounts not completely flash tight.

8:Turrets are in places very congested and in other places wasteful of space.

9: No handling rooms around the main trunk; charges being stowed in the central space which was open to flash from above. The side magazines when in use would also be open to flash from the central space. Careful search was made for any special safety arrangements, but without success, neither were there signs that any had been removed.

10: Machinery spaces would be described by a naval architect as “compactly arranged” and by a marine engineer as “very congested”.
11: Structural fighting were of good quality castings with designed for lightness without loss of strength and were generally lighter than British fittings.

12: Pumping arrangements were extensive, the crew well drilled in the arrangements and a training model was found on board.

13: 26.9 ft rangefinders fitted to turrets with 10ft models fitted to spotting top, and conning chimneys as well as for secondary armament use.

14: Accommodation “extremely poor” and would not be “tolerated for a moment” by British crews
The most important conclusion the Royal Navy drew from the trials of the Baden was that 7-inch (18 cm) thick medium armor was completely useless against large-caliber shells. As a result of this finding the Royal Navy adopted the “all or nothing” armor pioneered in the United States Navy. The “all or nothing” armor theory favoured protecting the ship’s vitals with the maximum heavy armor possible, whilst leaving the rest of the ship completely unprotected. This system was to be used on Britain’s first post war battleships, Nelson and Rodney.

With all the Royal Navy test results there is an element, to my mind, of ‘we won the war so the Hun’s design must be inferior’. The test results are interesting with the passage of almost a century, but I feel they must be read with an eye on the period of time they were written. Having produced such fine ships prior to the Bayern’s I find it hard to accept the Germans would have dropped the ball so quickly.

And almost finally the ship’s bells? Bayern’s was returned to the German Federal Navy and is on display at Kiel Fördeklub.It’s not known when the bell was returned, but it that it was most likely between the late 1950s and mid 1960s. (The British government returned the bell from SMS Hindenburg on 28 May 1959 and the bells from SMS Derfflinger and SMS Friedrich der Grosse on 30 August 1965).
The Badens ship’s bell is in the possession of the Imperial War Museum in London.

Dates of appointment are provided when known.
Kapitän zur See Viktor Harder, 19 October, 1916–5 August, 1918,
Kapitän zur See Heinrich Retzmann, 24 August, 1918–30 November, 1918
Korvettankapitän Otto Zirzow, 1 December, 1918–21 June, 1919.
Captain to the sea Max Hahn, 18 March to 23 December 1916.
Captain to the sea, Heinrich RohardtAugust, December 24, 1916 to August 10, 1918

Captain to the sea Hugo Dominik, 11 to December 10, 1918

Captain Lieutenant Albrecht Meissner, 12 December 1918 to 21 June 1919.
*1= Charge: 172 lb. 4 oz. M.D. 16.Pressure in tons: 9 14. S.V.: 1,550 fps (472 mps).
*2= (Fuze: 16 D.Filling: 70/30 Shellite. S.V.(striking velocity): 1.550 fps (472 mps).Delay: 3 feet Nature of burst:E.O)).
Angle of impact from normal: Vertical, 11 deg.; horizontal, 0 deg. Resultant from normal, 11 deg.
*3= Shell: 15 inches C.P.C. Fuze: 15 N.D.Filling: Powder.S.V.: 1.550 fps (472 mps).Delay: On impact.Nature of burst: –

*4= Angle of impact from normal: Vertical, 11 deg.; horizontal, 5 deg. 20 inches Resultant, 12 deg. 10 inches
*5= Fuze: 16 D.Filling: 70/30 Shellite.S.V.: 1.550 fps (472 mps).Delay: Blind.Nature of burst: Blind.
*6= Angle of impact: Vertical, 12 deg.; horizontal, 11 deg. Resultant, 18 deg. 40 inches
*7= Fuze: 16 D.Filling: 70/30 Shellite.S.V.: 1.550 fps (472 mps).Delay: On impact. Nature of burst: P.D.
*8= Angle of impact from normal: Vertical, 18 deg.; horizontal, 25 deg. 50 inches Resultant from normal, 30 deg. 10 inches
Footnote: my sources are both the books on my shelfs and from websites. I’ve tried to keep my work original but if I’ve trodden on any toes I apologise.
Jutland to junkyard by S.C.George
Luxury Fleet by Holger Herwig
German Battleships 1914–18 (2): Kaiser, König and Bayern classes by Gary Staff and Paul Wright
From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow by Arthur J Marder and Barry Gough
Janes fighting ships

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