German Battleship Hessen

The German Battleship Hessen is one of the few ships that the Germans were allowed to keep after World War One for use in coastal defense. Laid down in 1902, Hessen was a pre-dreadnought battleship that was made virtually obsolete by 1906 with the construction of dreadnought battleships so allowing the Germans to keep her as one of the few ships kept was a cruel joke. She served in the role of coastal defense until 1934 when the process was begun to outfit her as a radio controlled target for other ship’s firing practice. Hessen served in this capacity throughout World War Two in addition to being an icebreaker in the Baltic and North Atlantic. After the war, Hessen was ceded to the Soviet Union and renamed Tsel where she served until being broken down for scrap in 1960.

The second battleship squadron of the German Navy in the North Sea before the First World War. The 2nd Squadron consisted of seven older battleships (visible are eight ships), two of the Braunschweig-class (SMS Preußen (flagship) and SMS Hessen) and five of the Deutschland-class (SMS Deutschland, SMS Hannover, SMS Pommern, SMS Schleswig-Holstein and SMS Schlesien).
German Battleship Hessen
German Battleship Hessen
German Battleship Hessen in 1926.
Schleswig-Holstein (German battleship, 1908), in the foreground. Photographed circa 1930. Battleship Schlesien is at left, and battleship Hessen is in the right background.
Hessen (German battleship, 1905) Passing under the Levensau Bridge while transiting the Kiel Canal, circa 1925-1934.
Hessen (German target ship, 1905) Photographed from on board the battleship Scharnhorst during January 1940, while she was acting as an icebreaker in the western Baltic Sea. The heavy ice there forced cancellation of planned target practice by the Scharnhorst.
The former German light cruiser Nürnberg under the flag of vice-admiral Yu.F. Rall’ and target ship Hessen after being ceded to the Soviet Union under the terms of the Potsdam Conference, 2 Jan 1946.

[Images courtesy of the Department of the Navy – Naval Historical Center and Wikimedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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