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VON DER TANN
Sister ships: None
Notes: The first of the German battlecruisers, the VON DER TANN was built under the 1907-08 Program, and was a considerably better fighting ship than any of the British 12"-gunned battlecruisers. A short forecastle extended to the mainmast. Frahm anti-rolling tanks were fitted during construction, but these were later converted to take 200 extra tons of coal, and bilge keels were fitted instead. The main turrets were mounted fore and aft, while the two midships turrets were offset enough to give a 125º firing arc on the opposite beam. Except for the aft turret, the magazines were directly above the shell rooms. On her trials, VON DER TANN's engines developed 79,000shp, and she reached a speed of 27.4 knots. She was the only ship in the German Navy with her officers' quarters in the bow. She was noted as a very good sea boat, handy, and with a gentle motion. Steering while running astern was noted as being very difficult. VON DER TANN had a spotting top fitted to her foremast in 1914, and her torpedo nets were removed in 1916. There were plans to fit VON DER TANN with a lattice mast, but these were never carried out.
In 1911, VON DER TANN made a cruise to South Africa. During World War I, she was assigned to the 1st Scouting Group. On 16 December 1914, VON DER TANN took part in a bombardment on the British coast. When screening destroyers encountered British destroyers (and smoke could be seen from heavier ships), the German commander, Admiral Friedrich von Ingenhol, thought he'd been ambushed by most of the Grand Fleet, and ordered a return to base. In August, 1915, she took part in operations in the Gulf of Riga against Russian forces, but with little effect. VON DER TANN also took part in a bombardment of Lowestoft and Yarmouth on 25 April 1916.
VON DER TANN took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, where she was part of Admiral Hipper's 1st Scouting Group. During the battle, her gun crews fired 170 rounds of 11" and 96 rounds of 5.9" ammunition. VON DER TANN is credited with seven 11" hits on British ships; one on BARHAM, one on NEW ZEALAND and five on INDEFATIGABLE, one of which penetrated her "X" magazine -- the resulting explosion sank the ship within less than four minutes.
In return, VON DER TANN suffered four hits by British heavy guns; two by 15" and two by 13.5" shells. One of the 15" hits was from the REVENGE; the shell exploded against VON DER TANN's aft CT, and while the shell did not penetrate, splinters entered through the viewing slits; four crewmembers inside were killed, and all of the rest were wounded. The other 15" was scored by the BARHAM. The two 13.5" hits were scored by the TIGER. One heavy shell hit penetrated her "X" barbette, but the magazine did not catch fire -- which was very fortunate, since the flooding valves for the magazine were buried under wreckage. (Campbell, JUTLAND, p. 376 - see Bibliography) At one point, only the two guns of VON DER TANN's forward 11" turrets were operable, and those only by hand training. VON DER TANN was also attacked by torpedoes twice; two fired by the destroyer NERISSA, and one by the BARHAM; all three missed. In all, 11 of VON DER TANN's crew were killed, and another 35 were wounded.
Following the battle, repairs to the VON DER TANN were made at Wilhelmshaven. These were not completed until 2 August 1916; delays occurred when weakening was noted around the "A" turret. But after Jutland, the High Seas Fleet saw little action. VON DER TANN was laid up twice for repairs to her turbines -- in November-December 1916, and again in May-June, 1917.
After World War I, VON DER TANN was interred with the majority of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow; upon hearing rumors that war would soon resume and that she would be used against her former country, VON DER TANN was scuttled by her German crew on 21 June 1919. . She was raised on 7 December 1930, and broken up at Rosyth in 1931-34.