The SMS Nassau, launched in 1908, was the first dreadnought battleship built for the German Imperial Navy, quickly followed by the other
three ships of her class. When the British HMS Dreadnought entered the scene the German projectists were not prepared to realize such a
ship. The first German battleships that followed the new formula had their keels laid nine months after the completion of the HMS
Dreadnought. The Nassau class kept the 280-millimeter cannon used in previous German battleships because the Germans preferred to use
lighter projectiles of high muzzle speed.
The weight saved by avoiding the installation of larger cannons could be used to increase the protection. In this regard the ships of the
Nassau class were superior to the British counterparts, even if the central turrets were very close to the hull flanks. Unlike the British,
the Germans kept a heavy secondary armament, for they considered - erroneously - that the battles in the North Sea would take place at
short distances because of bad visibility. But also because the Germans, also unlike the British, considered that the battleships should
have a capital responsibility regarding the escort destroyers.
The wide beam of the hull and the heavy turrets placed next to its flanks promised a solid artillery platform in the North Sea, but in the
trials it was discovered that the harshness of that sea would render those expectations as not feasible. Another limitation was the propulsion
plant based in engines of alternative movement, since the German industry was not prepared to produce turbines in the required time. These
ships possessed, however, an excellent operational range.
The four ships of the Nassau class took part in the Battle of Jutland, where the SMS Westfalen and the SMS Possen were slightly damaged.
The SMS Westfalen was as well hit by a torpedo launched from the British submarine E-23 in August 1916. The SMS Rheinland was damaged when
running aground on the Finnish coast in April 1918. In the end, the four ships survived the First World War only to be seized as war prizes
for the victorious Triple Entente and sold for scrapping in 1921-24.
Class: Nassau (4 units - Nassau, Possen, Rheinland, Westfalen)
Length: 146.1 meters
Beam: 26.9 meters
Draught: 8.5 meters
Displacement (normal): 19200 tonnes
Propulsion: 3 x shaft, triple-expansion steam engines, 12 x boiler Naval, 26244 horsepower
Speed: 20 knots (37 kilometers/hour)
Range: 8300 nautical miles (15000 kilometers) at 12 knots
Armament: 12 x 280-millimeter 45-caliber cannon, 12 x 150-millimeter 45-caliber cannon, 16 x 88-millimeter 45-caliber cannon,
6 x 450-millimeter torpedo tube
Armor: 100-300 millimeters in belt, 30 millimeters in torpedo bulges, 55-100 millimeters in deck, 280 millimeters in barbettes,
90-280 millimeters in main turrets, 160 millimeters in casemates, 300 millimeters in conning tower