Bad Design on Light Cruiser Köln at Sea

I have written about the German light cruisers previously including the Köln. The Köln was the third of the three ‘K’ class light cruisers built.

The K class light cruisers suffered from many design problems since they were designed and built in the late 1920’s and had to adhere to the strict limit’s imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. As the design problems became increasingly apparent, the duties of the ships were limited to compensate and they increasingly failed to serve in the role they were intended to.

The Köln patrolled the coasts of Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and then spent the remainder of her life in the Baltic and North Sea. She participated in the Invasion of Norway and then she resumed mining operations and limited attacks on Allied Convoy shipping. In February 1943, the Köln was damaged in a submarine attack and remained out of service until March 1944 receiving repairs. She recommissioned as a training ship for cadets. On 12 December 1944, she was heavily damaged by a British bombing raid. She was transferred to Wilhelmshaven in February 1945 to begin extensive repairs. Once there, she was sunk on even keel during another British bombing raid on 3 March 1945. Her turrets remained above water and continued to shell the oncoming Allied advance.

The Köln was captured on 5 May 1945 by the Polish First Armored Division along with 200 other ships of the Kriegsmarine in the surrender of the Wilhelmshaven garrison. She was finally scrapped in 1946. Collected below are photographs of the Köln during the 1930’s.

Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Underway in confined waters, circa 1930. Note the offset arrangement of her after two triple 150mm gun turrets.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945)


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Underway in confined waters, circa 1930.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Photographed from astern, while manning her rails in 1935. Note the decorative National Socialist eagle mounted on her transom, and the recessed anchor stowage.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Underway with rails manned, circa 1936. Note the heraldic shield mounted on her bow and the large flag flying from her foremast peak.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Underway during the later 1930s. A He 60 floatplane is flying overhead.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Photographed from a Royal Air Force aircraft from Thorney Island, United Kingdom, 2 March 1939. Plane’s altitude was 150 feet. Distance from ship was 800 yards. Ship’s speed was 12 knots.

[Images courtesy of Wikimedia, the Department of the Navy – Naval History & Heritage Command, and Die]

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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:

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