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Sister ships: BRAUNSCHWEIG, ELSASS, PREUSSEN, LOTHRINGEN
Notes: The BRAUNSCHWEIG class, ordered in the 1900-01 Program, was an improvement on the preceding WITTLESBACH class in nearly every facet; they were larger, faster, carried slightly heavier armor and introduced both the 11" gun into the German Navy as a main battery weapon, and the 6.7" gun as a secondary weapon. The forward 11" turret was mounted on the forecastle deck (instead of a deck higher in preceding designs), and the class had three funnels. The class was considered to be the first German battleships to compare favorable with the counterparts in other navies. They were noted as good sea boats with a tight turning circle, but were given to severe pitching in heavy seas. Throughout her career, HESSEN suffered from unstable steering; this "wavering" caused her radius to be nearly 500 nautical miles less than her sisters.
At the beginning of World War I, HESSEN (and her sister ships) formed the 4th Squadron, stationed in the Baltic. She was then transferred to the 4th Division of the High Seas Fleet, with the DEUTSCHLAND class battleships SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN and HANNOVER. While serving with the 4th Division, HESSEN took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May, 1916. As darkness fell, she was briefly the target of the British battlecruiser TIGER; no hits were scored. HESSEN did not return fire, as all that could be seen were a few flashes from TIGER's guns in the distance. During the night actions, HESSEN's crews fired 5 rounds of 11" ammunition, 34 rounds of 6.7" and 24 rounds of 3.45" at what were believed to be British submarines; however, no British subs were in the area at the time, and the "targets" were erroneous sightings. Following the Battle of Jutland, a manpower shortage in the Kriegsmarine forced the "conversion" of the HESSEN to the role of a harbor guardship; she was stationed at BrunsbŁttel. In 1916 and 1917, the entire class was disarmed; their secondary and 88mm guns were used aboard other ships.
Following World War I, HESSEN (along with her sisters) was taken into the Reichmarine's thoroughly antiquated battleship force and re-armed; HESSEN had four 11", 14 - 6.7", four 88mm AA guns, and four 20" torpedo tubes in a quadruple mount on her battery deck. In 1935-36, HESSEN was taken in for conversion to a radio-controlled target ship at Wilhelmshaven; she was disarmed again, her hull was lengthened, almost all of her superstructure was removed and additional armor was added, and she was reboilered with four new oil-fired boilers. With her new boilers, her top speed increased to 20 knots. As a target ship, HESSEN had a crew of 80. HESSEN survived World War II. Following World War II, she was ceded to the Soviet Union and re-named TSEL. Her further fate is unknown.