SMS Graf Spee

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The Mackensen class was the last class of battlecruisers to be built by Germany in World War I. The class was to have comprised four ships: Mackensen, the name ship, Graf Spee, Prinz Eitel Friedrich, and F├╝rst Bismarck. None of the vessels were completed, as shipbuilding priorities were redirected towards U-boats. They were broken up in the early 1920s.

The design of the Mackensens was a much improved version of the previous Derfflinger. They featured a new, more powerful 35 cm (13.8 inch) gun. The Mackensen class ships featured more powerful engines that gave the ships a higher top speed and a significantly higher cruising range. The Mackensen design provided the basis for the subsequent Ersatz Yorck, which incorporated even larger 38 cm (15 inch) main-battery guns, as a response to the Royal Navy's Renown class battlecruiser. These last three ships are referred to as the Ersatz Yorck class, as the first ship of the class was designed to replace the armored cruiser Yorck, which had struck German mines early in the war and sunk. However, very little construction progress was made on these later ships.

In response to the Mackensen class ships, the British laid down the Admiral class battlecruisers for the Royal Navy, all but one of which would eventually be canceled; the sole survivor, HMS Hood, was completed after the end of the war.



The fourth and final Naval Law, passed in 1912, governed the building program of the German navy during World War I. The Navy Office decided the Navy should construct one battleship and one battlecruiser every year between 1913 and 1917, with an additional unit of both types in 1913 and 1916. By February 1915, the German High Command had realized that the war would not be won with a lightning campaign as in 1870[Notes 1]. Therefore, the Navy department decided to replace the six armored and seven light cruisers that had been sunk by that point in the war. Kaiser Wilhelm II requested the new ships be armed with 38 cm (15 inch) guns; Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, the commander in chief of the High Seas Fleet, preferred the 30.5 cm gun of the preceding Derfflinger class ships. As a compromise, the new battlecruisers were to be armed with eight 35 cm (13.8 inch) guns.[1]

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