How The German High Seas Fleet Should Have Deployed SMS Blücher

How The German High Seas Fleet Should Have Deployed SMS Blücher

Blücher during World War I

SMS Blücher was the last armored cruiser built by the German Empire. She was designed to match what German intelligence incorrectly believed to be the specifications of the British Invincible-class battlecruisers.

Photograph of HMS Invincible, British Invincible-class Battlecruiser, launched 1907

The speed and, especially, the large eleven-inch guns of Fisher’s battle cruisers combined to make Blücher, while still a useful asset, obsolescent from her day of commissioning. Scheer’s choice to assign her to Hipper’s battle cruisers was ill-advised. Her guns were too short-ranged and her speed was too slow to serve in that role.

Let me offer three better options for her use by the German Empire:

1) She could have been with Admiral Graf Spee’s ships. 

Coronel would have been over faster, and with three armored cruisers, each with double the shells Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had left historically, they might have made the correct move and engaged the British battlecruisers at the Falklands before they could raise steam. 

Cruiser SMS Scharnhorst (1906–1914), German Imperial Navy

If they escaped with no engineering damage, they could’ve tried to return to Germany through the late autumn nights.  If they escaped with worse damage, they could’ve been interned as a “gift” to Argentina, which was more pro-German than Brazil, or they might have tried a run to the German African colonies to assist in their defense as fixed batteries.

2) She could’ve been in the Mediterranean instead of Goeben. 
Goeben‘s forward main battery turret

She likely would have avoided Goeben’s adventure threatening the transit of the French Foreign Legion, and–depending upon where Troubridge put his armored cruisers–would’ve ended up in Pola or Constantinople. 

Turkey probably would’ve joined the Central Powers in any case, and in either port Blücher would have been a valuable asset.  Goeben would’ve been with her sister ship Moltke in von Hipper’s force. With so few German battle cruisers available, Goeben would have significantly shifted the odds in Hipper’s favor at Dogger Bank and in the opening stages of Jutland.

3) She could’ve stayed in Kiel and not been attached to Hipper’s force. 

Breaking out as a commerce raider, forcing escort of convoys by pre-dreadnought BBs, might have worked to slow British merchant ship turnarounds. She would’ve been an important unit in the Baltic. 

Finally, she might’ve served as a separate scouting unit for the High Seas Fleet. With the North Sea fog, she might’ve survived a battle cruiser encounter, she would have defeated a single British armored cruiser. Furthermore, she could’ve torn apart light cruiser squadrons. But foremost, he would’ve been a second scouting unit for Scheer, who almost lost his fleet at Jutland when Jellicoe surprised him.

Reinhard Scheer

First, had she broken out of the North Sea as a commerce raider, forcing Allied escort of convoys by pre-dreadnought BBs, she might have worked to slow British merchant ship turnarounds. Second, she would’ve been an important unit in the Baltic. Finally, she might’ve served as a separate scouting unit for the High Seas Fleet. With the North Sea fog, she might’ve survived a battle cruiser encounter, and she probably could have defeated a single British armored cruiser. Furthermore, she could’ve torn apart light cruiser squadrons. But foremost, she would’ve been a second scouting unit for Scheer, who almost lost his fleet at Jutland when Jellicoe surprised him. Another ship ahead of the van of Scheer’s battle line would have given the Germans a better chance to avoid the disaster when Jellicoe crossed Scheer’s “T.”

In conclusion, the Blucher was obsolescent, but still valuable, and sadly misused. She was wasted at Dogger Bank. In the Pacific, in the Mediterranean, in the North Atlantic, or in the Baltic, she might have made a significant difference. As an independent scouting cruiser, she might have given the Germans important intelligence.

Back To News

Admiral Scott Sanders on Pirates, Whiskey & USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67)

How The German High Seas Fleet Should Have Deployed SMS Blücher