Light cruiser SMS Bremen – cultural and historical heritage under the waves

This is a story about interesting sunken wrecks near Latvia. Light cruiser SMS Bremen is one of the prominent sunken shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea, which has a unique appearance, it has been painted in an unusual color, white. Ship SMS Bremen is an archaeological monument of national importance and is available to divers with appropriate training and permits from the LR Border Guard. “SMS” is short for Seiner Majestät Schiff, which means "His Majesty's Ship" in German.

cruiser SMS Bremen
Cruiser SMS Bremen, ammunition and dishes

Cruiser SMS "Bremen" wreckage data

  • Light cruiser SMS Bremen
  • Type Wreck
  • Location: Territorial sea, about 20 kilometers northwest of Ventspils
  • The period 1903-1915
  • Included in the register of monuments 09/08/2016 – The object is a German navy cruiser sunk in the Baltic Sea in 1915, it has a high historical, scientific and educational significance.
  • The object is older than 50 years. It was built in 1903 at the AGWeser Werft shipyard in Bremen.
Cruiser Bremen
Cruiser Bremen

Description of the wreck of the cruiser SMS "Bremen".

The wreck of the cruiser is located at a depth of 38 meters; it stands on a keel and is well preserved apart from the bow of the ship which was destroyed in the explosion. The ship's cannons, officers' cabins and steering mechanism are especially well preserved. The ship's lifeboat lies next to the wreck, partially covered with sand.

The light cruiser SMS Bremen was built in Bremen in 1903 and entered service with the German Navy in 1904. Until 1914, the ship was in South America, then returned to Germany and was modernized. In 1915, Bremen was sent to the Baltic Sea and operated from the port of Ventspils. On 17 December 1915 Bremen went on a patrol mission and was lost to Russian mines along with one of the two escorting torpedo boats V-191. 11 officers and 187 sailors from Bremen lost their lives in the incident. The wreck was discovered in July 2011 by members of the Ventspils diving team. Bremen was the second shipwreck to be included in the list of protected monuments in 2016.

The wreck is well preserved, an internationally important World War I wreck of high historical value. Remains preserved: hull, structures, individual parts, equipment, ammunition and cargo remains.

Letter "B" on the side planks of the Bremen lifeboat image by Alguis Zibobs
The letter "B" on the picture of the side boards of the Bremen lifeboat

Cruiser SMS "Bremen" operation and buoy passage in the Baltic Sea

In 1915, SMS Bremen was sent to the Baltic Sea as part of the German Baltic Sea Command. The ship sailed from the port of Ventspils and participated in both attempts by the German Navy to forcefully enter the Gulf of Riga. During the Battle of the Gulf of Riga. SMS Bremen engaged the gunboat Chrabryi and shelled the Russian positions at Kuressaare.

On December 17, 1915, SMS Bremen went on a patrol mission together with two torpedo boats V-186 and V-191. At 17.10, the torpedo boat V-191 hit a Russian mine and the two other ships went to help. While V-186 attempted to pick up the badly damaged V-191, SMS Bremen lowered her boats to pick up the survivors. As the boats returned to the cruiser, the survivors were hoisted aboard.

SMS Bremen collided with two sea mines which detonated the forward ammunition store. A huge explosion tore off the front of the ship and it sank within minutes. The surviving torpedo boat V-186 believed they were under attack by a submarine and began maneuvering to avoid the torpedo attack. When rescue efforts finally began, many of the sailors who survived the explosion were frozen in the icy waters. 11 officers and 187 sailors of the SMS Bremen lost their lives as a result of the sinking.

Mechanism on the wreck of Bremen. Cruiser SMS Bremen
Mechanism on the wreck of Bremen

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Materials used in the article of the sunken shipwreck "Bremen".

The article was prepared using materials from the archives of the National Cultural Heritage Administration (photos from Wikimedia Commons) and the book "Invisible Heritage Under the Waves", published by the "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". The author of the pictures of the cruiser "Bremen" is A. Zibolis.