A brief overview of the German Light Cruiser Emden of 1925
After World War One, and in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, the navy of Germany was left with only eight cruisers, two of them kept in reserve (These cruisers were Niobe
). All of them were pre-WW1 designs, had a displacement of around 3,000t, a top speed of 23kn and were armed with 105mm guns. All of them were outdated and were not very seaworthy due to their age.
In the eraly 1920s, it was planned to build five new cruisers, impossible due to the nation’s financial situation. The treaty limited the displacement to 6000t, but this was considered not a problem as the late-war Cöln
-class was around this size. Originally, it was planned to even use the hull of an unfinished Cöln
-class cruiser and improve upon the design, but that was rejected by the Allied committee.
The first cruiser to be replaced was Niobe
, written down in the budget as Kreuzer ‘A’ (Ersatz Niobe)
in the budget. The final design incorporated lessons learned from the war and was armed with four 150mm twin turrets in superfiring positions. Additional armament consisted of four twin torpedo tubes and two 88mm single Flaks. If necessary, she could also carry up to 120 mines.
The keel was laid down on December 8th, 1921, the anniversary of the Battle of the Falkland Islands. However, the construction was slowed down due to several influences. The original design would have made the cruiser superior to many foreign cruisers and was vetoed. The main armament had to be reduced to WW1-era 150mm single guns, two of the torpedo tubes had to be removed. Additional to the design changes, money and material shortages prolonged the construction. To save weight, Emden
was one of the first ships that used large amounts of electric welding instead of nuts and bolts during the construction, a practice that would be continued in future German ships. Emden
was finally launched on January 8th and commissioned on October 15th, 1925. Following the tradition of the first light cruiser Emden
, she carried the Iron Cross on the bow.
The design proved to be too top-heavy and the masts had to be reduced in height and the tops had been reconstructed. At the same time, the two funnels were brought to the same height.
The cruiser served as a training ship for the new navy. Training courses brought the ship on not less than nine travels to foreign harbors all around the world.
By 1934, the AA armament had been increased: An additional 88mm single was added, which were now arranged side-by-side on extended platform. Also, the torpedo caliber had been increased from 500mm to 533mm. The aft mast was further cut down; the funnels were cut down by 2m and capped, to further reduce top-weight issues. New oil-fired boilers were installed and she got a new bow form.
The reduced mast arrangement did not prove satisfying. By 1937, new masts had been installed.
In the first stages of WW2, Emden
conducted mining and raiding operations. She was part of Warship Group 5 with the target of Oslo. During the remainder of the war, she conducted mining operations and was mostly used for training. With the outbreak of the war, there was also a plan to increase the combat power of the old cruiser. Plans were to replace the 150mm singles with four twin turrets, the same ones that were planned for the Zerstörer 1936A
-class. An additional 88mm and two 37mm Flaks were to be added. Overall the weight would have been increased by 176t. This plan was never executed because of the war.
Still, several modifications were done over the following years. By 1940 a degaussing cable and two 20mm quads had been installed at each side of the aft superstructure. The typical striped camo had been applied as well.
A FuMO 24/25 radar followed in 1942 on the lower searchlight platform. The camoflage had been changed to an overall dark grey. The most significant change was the replacement of the main artillery: With ammunition for the old WW1-era 150mm cannons running out, the guns were replaced with 150mm L/48 C/36 torpedo boat cannons.
By 1944, the camo has been disregarded and it was back to peacetime grey and a lot more rafts were added. The aft pair of 150mm cannons were removed and the old, WW1-era heavy flaks had been replaced by 105mm SK L/45 C/32 g.E., dual purpose guns. The 20mm quads moved up a level on an enlarged platform and their former place was taken by 37mm singles in u-boat mounts. Addtionally, two 40mm Flak Bofor 28 were added at the height of the bridge.
In 1945 Emden
aided the evacuation efforts in the Baltic Sea, which included transporting the coffins of former president Paul von Hindenburg and his wife. On April 9/10th 1945 she was hit by British bombers and heavily damaged. She was consequently towed to a bay and grounded on April 14th and decommissioned on April 26th. The wreck was blown up on May 3rd and broken up after the war. The last remnants were removed in 1948.