Reichsmarine German Light Cruiser Köln

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Reichsmarine German Light Cruiser Köln

The Köln was the third of the three ‘K’ class light cruisers built.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945) Underway during the later 1930s. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

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.


Köln underway 1936 photo US Navy History and Heritage Command. Many photos such as this were taken by American Naval Attaches for intelligence purposes.

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 plans produced by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence of the Köln for use during World War Two.

Silhouette of the German light cruiser Koln. August 1942.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). Plan for making a recognition model of the ship. Dated November 1942, it is part of the World War II “Master Models” series, which was probably prepared by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence.


Description of a Königsberg-Class light cruiser.


Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945). World War II recognition drawings, probably prepared by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence.

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

About the Author:

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: