German Light Cruiser Köln

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 Wilhelshaven garrison. She was finally scrapped in 1946. Collected below are photographs of the Köln during her ceremonial launch on 1 May 1928.

The ceremonial launch of the new German cruiser Köln on the state shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. The baptism ceremony was performed in the presence of the Imperial War Minister Groener, Admiral Zenker, Mayor of Cologne, Adenauer and President of the Upper Hanover Noske and vieltausenköpfigen crowd.

The ceremonial launch of the new German cruiser Köln on the state shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. The baptism ceremony was performed in the presence of the Imperial War Minister Groener, Admiral Zenker, Mayor of Cologne, Adenauer and President of the Upper Hanover Noske and vieltausenköpfigen crowd.

The ceremonial launch of the new German cruiser Köln!

The ceremonial launch of the new German cruiser Köln on the state shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. The baptism ceremony was performed in the presence of the Imperial War Minister Groener, Admiral Zenker, Mayor of Cologne, Adenauer and President of the Upper Hanover Noske and vieltausenköpfigen crowd.

[Images courtesy of 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/

2 thoughts on “German Light Cruiser Köln”

  1. thank you. Except for a handful like the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen and the Graf Spee, German ships built for th Kriegsmarine were poorly designed and built. The royal dockyards and private ship building facilities had been shut down after World War One and the thousands of highly skilled workers were let go. Reassembling these people with designers and manufacturers proved very difficult to do. The three cruisers of the Königsberg class or “K class” had a lot of problems. Karlsruhe, one of Koln’s sister ships, came close to breaking up in a hurricane while on a training cruise. Basically, the deck of the ship started to separate where the welds had been made (all these ships were welded and not riveted” and this began to extend downward and the gap became bigger. The ship limped into the US Navy yard at San Diego and it took months to make her seaworthy. The designs are interesting as they represent some of the first attempts by post WW One Germany to design and build warships.

  2. I thought this was a very interesting and informative article. I have an interest in the German Light Cruiser ‘ Koln’ having obtained an original photograph of this German naval vessel taken in Adelaide, South Australia in March 1933 during her World Cruise from 1932 to 1933. I applaud Mr McCain for his articles and interest in the Naval vessels of the German Kriegsmarine.

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