Armed cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert – cultural and historical heritage under the waves

Armored cruiser Prinz Adalbert

This is a story about interesting sunken wrecks near Latvia. Cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert is one of the notable sunken shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea. Ship SMS Prinz Adalbert is available to divers with appropriate training and LR Border Guard permits.

The sinking of the armored cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert to the bottom of the sea

SMS "Prinz Adalbert", a gun ship of the First World War, sank off the coast of Latvia on October 23, 1915 and is located at a depth of 60 meters, near Liepāja. “SMS” is short for Seiner Majestät Schiff, which means "His Majesty's Ship" in German. Next follows a description of the wreck of a sunken ship near Latvia and its life story.

Description of SMS Prinz Adalbert

  • Type Wreck
  • Location in the Baltic Sea - 12 nautical miles from the coast
  • Near Liepāja, at a depth of 60 meters
  • The period 1904-1915

SMS Prinz Adalbert was a German armored cruiser built in 1904. It served mainly as a gunnery training ship until the First World War. After the outbreak of war, the ship was sent to the Baltic Sea, where it participated in shore bombardment missions. On October 23, 1915, the cruiser, along with accompanying destroyers, was patrolling approximately 40 km west of Liepāja, when it was intercepted by the British submarine E8. The spread of torpedoes hit the front of the ship and detonated the forward magazines, resulting in a catastrophic explosion. The ship broke in two and sank immediately, with the loss of 672 crew members and only 3 survivors. It was the largest single loss of life of the German Navy in the Baltic Sea during the First World War. The wreck, located at a depth of 55 meters, was found in June 2007 by Swedish divers from Deep Sea Productions.

After commissioning Prinz Adalbert served as a gunnery training ship, a role she held for most of her career. In the early 1900s, she trained Heimatflotte (home navy), which was later renamed Hochseeflotte (high seas navy) and she visited foreign countries several times. After the outbreak of World War I in July 1914, she was assigned to intelligence units in the Baltics and was tasked with protecting the German coast from Russian attacks. After the sinking of a similar sister ship in November 1914, she became the flagship of the cruiser squadron in the Baltic.

Operation of the armed cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert in the Baltic Sea

  • The cruiser carried out operations against Russian forces, including shelling Liepāja (Libau) harbor in support of the German army.
  • She was torpedoed by a British submarine in July 1915, but was able to return to port and was repaired.
  • Second time "SMS Prinz Adalbert” was torpedoed on October 23, 1915; the torpedo detonated the ship's ammunition stores and destroyed the ship. The cruiser quickly sank, losing the lives of many sailors - soldiers;
  • Of the 675-man crew, only three men were saved. It turned out to be the biggest German naval disaster in the Baltic Sea during the First World War.

Wreck of the sunken ship "SMS Prinz Adalbert" materials used in the article

The article was prepared using materials from the archives of the diving club (photo Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons) and the book "Invisible Heritage Beneath the Waves", published by the author group "Baltic Sea Region Underwater Cultural Heritage Working Group". You can see this book about sunken wrecks in the Baltic Sea "Invisible heritage under the waves" at the underwater diving club "Divings".

Armored cruiser Prinz Adalbert

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Imperial German Navy cruiser SMS Prinz Adalbert before 1914 (Photo Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)