Book Review: German Battlecruisers of World War One: Their Design, Construction and Operations


by Gary Staff, with illustrations by Marsden Samuel

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014. Pp. 336. Illus., maps, tables, diagr., appends., biblio., index. $85.00. ISBN: 1591141915

The Kaiser’s Battlecruisers

Staff, author of Battle on the Seven Seas: German Cruiser Battles, 1914-1918, and other works on the Imperial Navy, gives us a masterful look at the German battlecruiser. Aided by a plethora of photographs, plans, diagrams, and artistic renderings, Staff covers more than a dozen ships, including the ill-fated large cruiser Blucher, through the more famous Von der Tann, Moltke, Goeben, and other veterans of the High Sea Fleet, and on to the vessels of the projected ersatz-Yorck Class. 

Save for late war designs, each ship is given its own chapter, which includes a discussion of the origins and design evolution of the vessel, including the rationale for various decisions (e.g., retaining the 28 cm gun or going to 30.5 or 35 or, ultimately, 38), costs, details of construction, engineering, armoring and armament, seakeeping qualities, trials, and more. 

After these technical considerations, Staff gives us a very detailed account of each ship’s service history. This includes prewar movements and courtesy call, such the visit of the Moltke to the United States. Of course wartime activities are well covered, and more merely the ship’s participation in the major sea fights. Staff also covers wartime movements that often omitted from accounts of the war at sea, such as routine patrols, providing cover for light forces, and combat missions against the Russians in the Baltic and the Black Seas. For those ships that received damage, Staff provides us with a very detailed account of the cause and nature of the injury, and its effect on the vessels, plus details about repair. And, of course, he takes the story of these ships through their internment at Scapa Flow and the scuttling of the Imperial fleet.

This is an invaluable resources for those interested in the battlecruisers, the Great War at sea, or the German Navy.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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