Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - SMS Dresden
SMS Dresden was the second and final ship of the Coln class of light cruisers (the other of course was SMS Coln). She was originally ordered under the name Ersatz Ariadne and her keel was laid down at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Hamburg in 1916. The Dresden was launched on 25 April 1917 and after fitting out she was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 28 March 1918. The ships were an incremental improvement over the preceding Konigsbergclass cruisers.
The new ship was 155.5 metres long and had a beam of 14.2 metres and a draft of 6.01 metres. She displaced 7,486 tons at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two steam turbines (31,000 shp total) powered by eight coal-fired and six oil-fired Marine-type boilers. This gave her top speed of 27.5 knots and a range of approximately 6,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.
|SMS Dresden |
The ship was armed with eight x 15 cm SK L/45 guns in single pedestal mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, four were located amidships (two on either side) and two were arranged in a super firing pair aft. These guns fired a 45.3-pound shell to a range of 17,600 metres. Dresden also had three x 8.8 cm L/45 anti-aircraft guns mounted on the centreline astern of the funnels, though one was removed in 1918. She was also equipped with a pair of 60 cm torpedo tubes with eight torpedoes in deck-mounted swivel launchers amidships. She also carried 200 mines. Her crew consisted of 17 officers and 542 enlisted men.
SMS Dresden was the second and final ship of the Coln class of light cruisers to be completed and commissioned in the Kaiserliche Marine. The ship was laid down in 1916 and launched on 25 April 1917; she was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 28 March 1918. She and her sister Coln were the only two of her class to be completed; eight of her sisters were scrapped before they could be completed.
|A simplified diagram of SMS Coln, sistership to SMS Dresden |
The Dresden was commissioned into service with the High Seas Fleet only eight months before the end of World War I and as a result she saw little service and took part in no action. She participated in a fleet operation to Norway over 23 to 24 April 1918 to attack British convoys but they failed to locate any and so returned to port. Like most other ships, Coln was to have participated in a climactic sortie in the final days of the war but a revolt in the fleet forced the cancellation of the operation.
During the sailors' revolt, Dresden was ordered to steam to Eckernforde to serve as a relay to Kiel as communications had been disrupted by major unrest. The battleship Markgraf laid in Dresden's path and her crew refused to move her out of Dresden's way. It is reported that Markgraf aimed one of her 30.5 cm gun turrets at Dresden but then her crew backed down. Dresdenwas permitted to leave the port.
The ship then went to Swinemonde where she was partially scuttled by her crew. They did this because of rumours that ships crewed by the mutineers were on their way to attack the cruisers at Swinemonde. After this proved to be incorrect, Dresden was re-floated and returned to a relatively seaworthy condition.
Dresden was among the ships interned, but owing to her poor condition following the naval mutiny, she was not able to steam with the rest of the fleet in November. She arrived on 6 December, leaking badly.
Along with the most modern units of the High Seas Fleet, Dresden was included in the ships specified for internment by the victorious Allied powers. The ships steamed out of Germany on 21 November 1918 in single file, commanded by Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. They were met at sea by a combined fleet of 370 British, American and French warships. The fleet arrived in the Firth of Forth (Edinburgh) later that day. Then, between 25 and 27 November 1918 they were escorted to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Upon arrival, all wireless equipment was removed from the ships and the breech blocks of their heavy guns were removed to prevent their use. Crews were reduced to minimum levels.
The fleet remained in captivity during the negotiations that ultimately produced the Treaty of Versailles. Reuter believed that the British intended to seize the German ships on 21 June 1919 which was the deadline for Germany to have signed the peace treaty. Unaware that the deadline had been extended to 23 June 1919, Reuter ordered the ships to be sunk at the next opportunity. On the morning of 21 June 1919 the British fleet left Scapa Flow to conduct training manoeuvres, and at 11:20 am Reuter transmitted the order to his ships. Dresden sank at 1:50 pm.
Today the remains of SMS Dresden lie on the bottom of Scapa Flow at GPS N58° 52.976' W3° 8.414'.
The SMS Dresden has a shotline attached to the forward part of the bridge. As you descend, you will see that she is laying on her port side and facing north. The starboard side of the hull is at a depth of 20 metres. Drop over the bridge to 30 metres. The wreck is on a bit of a slope, with the shallowest part of the wreck on a bottom of 26 metres and the deepest 36 metres. The bow is shallower.
|Not sure what this is||The base of the main mast|
The top part of the bridge is pretty well wrecked, but the lower section, including the conning tower, is relatively intact. The conning tower has slits in it for windows and you can look through these to the inside. Behind this the main mast runs out onto the sand.
Above the bridge (on the starboard side) there is a 5.9 inch gun. The barrel faces forward towards the bow. Behind the bridge there are two huge liefboat davits which curve all the way from the starboard side to the sand. In this area you can see three oval holes just above sand level. These are where the funnels were originally attached to the ship. The depth here is about 32 metres. There are yellow bricks falling out of each hole, presumably they are fire bricks which insulated the deck from the heat of the boilers.
Another 20 metres or so past here is the engine room salvage area. This is about 35 metres deep and very broken up. There are pieces of turbine, piping and more all over the place. From here head back along the starboard railing to the gun above the bridge. Drop down and you will see that the deck has peeled outwards and you can easily enter the lower deck here.
|I think this was a boiler||One of the firebricks from the boiler room|
It is possible to enter into the ship and exit out the bottom of the ship as there are many holes. This is very safe to do. Come around the bottom of the hull towards the bow. As you reach the bow and ascend higher than it, look down towards the stern and you can clearly see the mount where the ship's crest/shield used to be mounted. The crest was apparently removed at some time, perhaps when the 1960s/70s salvage work was done.
When you come around to the deck side, you will see two very large anchor capstans. There is an anchor chain running from the port (lower) capstan through the hawser and across the sand. It is said that it is five minutes to the anchor. There were two 5.9 inch guns here but they must have been salvaged as well.
As you come back to the bridge area you will notice that there is still a lot of timber decking on the deck. Amazing that after nearly 100 years it has survived as well as it has. From here we ascended to the bridge and then up the shotline.
|Michael and the 5.9 inch gun above the bridge||I think this is the bow|
We did a bottom time of 31 minutes (using 32% Nitrox and 50% deco mix) and had to do two minutes at six metres and three minutes at three metres. Water temperature in early August was 11.5° and visibility only five metres (the worst we had on 12 dives in Scapa). I really wish we had done another dive on this wreck so that we could have went to the stern. An excellent wreck from what I saw of it.
|A download from my computer showing our profile for the dive from midships to the bow and back of SMS Dresden |
All underwater photos taken from video using a GoPro camera.
Kelly and I dived with Radiant Queen and would recommend them as we thought the operation was the best overall day charter boat we have used anywhere in the world.
Click here to see the list of wrecks