Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - SMS Konig
SMS Konig was the first of four Konig (King) class dreadnought battleships and was ordered under the provisional nameS. Her keel was laid in October 1911 at the Kaiserliche Werft dockyards in Wilhelmshaven (construction number 33) . She was launched on 1 March 1913 by King William II of Worttemberg's cousin, Albrecht, Duke of Worttemberg. After fitting out she was commissioned into the navy on 9 August 1914. She had cost the 45 million Goldmarks. Konig would later be joined in service by her sisterships Grosser Kurforst, Markgraf and Kronprinz.
Konig displaced 28,600 tons fully loaded and was 175.4 metres (I have also seen it reported as 154 or 146 metres - I think the longer one is correct when you compare the plans below)) long with a beam of 29.5 metres and a draft of 9.19 metres. She was powered by three Parsons steam turbines which developed a total of 43,300 hp. Driving three props, this gave her a maximum speed of 21 knots. The steam came from 3 oil-fired and 12 coal-fired boilers. She carried 600 tons of oil and 3,000 tons of coal. She had a maximum speed of 21 knots with a range of 8,000 nautical miles.
The new ship was armed with ten x 30.5 cm SK L/50 guns arranged in five twin gun turrets. Two were superfiring turrets, two each fore and aft and one turret amidships between the two funnels. Konig was the first German battleship to mount all of her main battery artillery on the centreline. Like the earlier Kaiser battleships, Konig could bring all of her main guns to bear on either side with a wider arc of fire due to the arrangement. Secondary armament consisted of fourteen x 15 cm SK L/45 quick-firing guns, six x 8.8 cm SK L/45 quick-firing guns and five x 50 cm underwater torpedo tubes, one in the bow and two on each beam. Her crew consisted of 41 officers and 1,095 enlisted men.
|A painting of SMS Konig |
Directly after commissioning Konig conducted sea trials which were completed by 23 November 1914. After this she was attached to the V Division of the III Battle Squadron of the German High Seas Fleet where she would later be joined by her sisterships. On 9 December 1914 Konig ran aground in the Wilhelmshaven roadstead. Her sister ship Grosser Kurforst, which was straight behind her, rammed the stern of Konig causing some minor damage. Konig was then freed and taken back to Wilhelmshaven where repair work lasted until 2 January 1915.
Due to her grounding outside Wilhelmshaven, Konig missed the first of the major sorties of the war which took place on the night of 15-16 December 1914. On 22 January 1915 Konig and the rest of III Squadron were detached from the fleet to conduct manoeuvre, gunnery and torpedo training in the Baltic. They returned to the North Sea on 11 February 1915 which was too late to assist the I Scouting Group at the Battle of Dogger Bank.
On 17 and 18 April 1915 Konig supported an operation in which the light cruisers of the II Scouting Group laid mines off the Swarte Bank. Another fleet advance occurred on 22 April 1915 again with Konig in the lead and the next day they returned to the Baltic for more exercises which lasted till 10 May 1915. The battleship again supported more minelaying on 17 May 1915.
Konig participated in a fleet advance into the North Sea which ended without combat from 29 to 31 May 1915. The ship again ran aground on 6 July 1915 but there was minimal damage. The ship supported a yet another minelaying operation on 11 and 12 September 1915, this time off Texel, an island in the Netherlands. After another fleet advance on 23 and 24 October 1915 Konig went into drydock for maintenance. She rejoined the fleet on 4 November 1915.
The ship then went to the Baltic for more training from 5 to 20 December 1915. On the way back she was slightly damaged after grounding in the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal during a snow storm. Konig was in the Baltic on 17 January 1916 for further training, returning to the North Sea on 24 January 1916. Two fleet advances followed on 5 and 6 March 1916 and 21 and 22 April 1916.
|Plans of the SMS Konig |
On 24 April 1916 Konig was as part of the support for the German battlecruiser force for a raid on the English coast. They left the Jade Estuary at 10:55 am and the rest of the High Seas Fleet followed at 1:40 pm. The battlecruiser Seydlitz struck a mine on the way and had to withdraw. The other battlecruisers bombarded the town of Lowestoft (east of Norwich) unopposed, but during the approach to Yarmouth, they encountered British cruisers. A short gun duel ensued before the British ships withdrew. Reports of British submarines in the area and the departure of the Grand Fleet from its base in Scapa Flow, the German fleet withdrew back to Germany. Konig then went to the Baltic for yet more exercises (seems the German fleet spent most of the war doing exercises rather than engaging the enemy). This included torpedo drills off Mecklenburg.
Konig was present during the Battle of Jutland which took place on 31 May and 1 June 1916. This was the only real naval battle of the war. The German fleet sought to draw out and isolate a portion of the British Grand Fleet and destroy it before the main British fleet could retaliate. Konig was the lead ship of the V Division of the III Battle Squadron, the vanguard of the fleet.
She was followed by her sisterships Grosser Kurforst, Markgraf and Kronprinz,. Shortly before 4:00 pm, the battlecruisers of I Scouting Group encountered the British 1st Battlecruiser Squadron under the command of David Beatty. The opposing ships began an artillery duel that saw the destruction of HMS Indefatigable, and HMS Queen Mary within 90 minutes.
Konig, Grosser Kurforst, and Markgraf were the first German ships to have British ships come within effective gunnery range of 21,000 yards. They started an artillery duel with the battlecruisers HMS Lion, HMS Princess Royal and HMS Tiger respectively. When Konig's first shells fell short of Lion she shifted her fire to the nearer Tiger . At the same time Konig and her sisterships started firing on the destroyers HMS Nestor and HMS Nicator with their secondary battery.
The two destroyers closed in on the Germans and despite heavy gunfire, they maneuvered into a position so as to fire torpedoes. Each ship launched two torpedoes at Konig and Grosser Kurforst although all four missed. While this happened, a shell from one of the battleships hit Nestor and destroyed her engine room. She was crippled and lying directly in the path of the advancing German line ship (along with the destroyer HMS Nomad). Both of the destroyers were sunk. At around 6:00 pm Konig and her three sisterships shifted their fire to the approaching Queen Elizabeth-class battleships. Konig initially engaged HMS Barham until it was out of range and then shelled HMS Valiant. The faster British battleships moved away and out of range.
Shortly after 7:00pm the German cruiser Wiesbaden was disabled by a shell from the British battlecruiser HMS Invincible. The Konig and her sisterships attempted to manoeuvre to cover the cruiser. Conteracting, the British began a torpedo attack on the Germans and while advancing to torpedo range they fired on Wiesbaden from their main guns. Konig and her sisterships returned sustained fire from their main guns. Even this failed to drive off the British cruisers. In the ensuing battle the British armoured cruiser HMS Defence was struck by several heavy calibre shells, possibly from Kronprinz. The ship's ammunition magazines were hit and a massive explosion destroyed the cruiser.
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|SMS Konig ||SMS Konig |
Shortly after 7:20 pm Konig again entered gunnery range of HMS Warspite and she and other ships opened fire on the British battleship. Warspite moved out of range but other British ships attempted to make a torpedo attack against the leading German ships, including Konig. At 7:30 pm the British battleships opened fire on both the German battlecruiser force and the Konig-class ships. Konig came under especially heavy fire during this period and in the span of 5 minutes, HMS Iron Duke fired 9 salvos at Konig from a range of 12,000 yards. Luckily, the only shell that hit the ship struck the forward conning tower and ricocheted off, exploding 50 yards past the ship. This injured Rear Admiral Behncke on the ship. The ship was then obscured by smoke that enabled some respite.
At 8:00 pm the German line turned westward to disengage from the British fleet. Konig, at the head, completed her turn and then reduced speed to allow the vessels behind her to return to formation. When four British light cruisers resumed the attack on the crippled Wiesbaden, the leading German battleships (including Konig) opened fire on the cruisers in an attempt to drive them off. During another turn Konig was struck just aft of the rearmost gun turret by a 13.5-inch shell from HMS Iron Duke. Konig suffered significant structural damage and several compartments filled with smoke. There was a lot of confusion around this time so Konig laid a smokescreen between the German and British.
The Battle of Jutland was over, with the Germans probably considered the winners. In the course of the battle, 45 men were killed and 27 wounded on Konig. This was the highest tally for any surviving battleship in the German fleet.
During the battle Konig suffered a fair bit of damage. A shell penetrated the main armoured deck toward the bow while another hit the armoured bulkhead at the corner and pushed it back five feet, breaking off a large piece from the armour plate in the process. Shrapnel penetrated several of the casemates that held the 15 cm secondary guns and as a result, two were disabled. The ammunition stores for these two guns were set on fire and the magazines had to be flooded to prevent an explosion.
Through all this the ship remained useable as her primary batteries and most of her secondary guns remained in operation. She could also steam at close to her maximum speed. Other areas of the ship had to be flooded to maintain stability and as such, 1,600 tons of water entered the ship, either as a result of battle damage or the deliberate flooding. The additional water caused the battleship to sink lower in the water than normal. This prevented the ship from being able to cross the Amrum Bank until 9:30 am on 1 June 1916. Konig was taken to Kiel for initial repairs (it had the only floating dry dock large enough to fit the ship) which took from 4 to 18 June 1916. After that she moved to the Howaldtswerke shipyard for full repairs.
On 21 July 1916 Konig rejoined the fleet and went to the Baltic for training. This lasted till 5 August 1916 when Konig moved to the North Sea. On 18 August 1916, Konig took part in an operation to bombard Sunderland. This was an attempted repeat of the original 31 May plan. A number of ships were to bombard the coastal town of Sunderland in an attempt to draw out and destroy the British battlecruisers. The rest of the fleet, including Konig, would trail behind and provide cover. In the end, the British were aware of the German plan and sent the Grand Fleet to meet them. Unwilling to engage the whole of the Grand Fleet just eleven weeks after the decidedly close call at Jutland, the Germans turned around and retreated to their ports.
After this Konig remained in port until 21 October 1916 when the ship was again sent to the Baltic for training. The ship returned to the fleet on 3 November 1916. Konig and the rest of III Squadron then steamed out to Horns Reef on 5 and 6 November 1916. Konig was then assigned various tasks, including guard duty in the German Bight and convoy escort in the Baltic.
In 1917 Konig undertook a number of training exercises in the Baltic Sea. These were 22 February 1917 to 4 March 1917, 14 to 22 March 1917 and 17 May 1917 to 9 June 1917. On 16 June 1917 Konig went to Wilhelmshaven for maintenance and the installation of a new heavy foremast. This and other work was completed on 21 July 1917. On 10 September, Konig again went into the Baltic for training manoeuvres.
Konig departed Kiel on 23 September for Putziger Wiek, where the ship remained until 10 October. She was now part of the Special Unit for Operation Albion.
In early September 1917, following the German conquest of the Russian port of Riga, the German navy decided to eliminate the Russian naval forces that still held the Gulf of Riga. The Navy High Command planned an operation to seize the Baltic island of Osel, and specifically the Russian gun batteries on the Sworbe Peninsula. The Konig was part of a naval fleet that included the other Konig-class ships. The entire force numbered some 300 ships, supported by over 100 aircraft and six zeppelins. There were approximately 24,600 officers and enlisted men in the land-based group.
The attack began on 12 October 1917 when at 3:00 am the Konig anchored off Osel in Tagga Bay and disembarked soldiers. Around 5:50 am the Konig opened fire on Russian coastal artillery emplacements and was soon joined by the Moltke, Bayern and the other three Konig-class ships. At about 7:30 pm after the bombardment, the Konig departed for Putziger Wiek where she refuelled, returning to the Irben Strait on 15 October 1917.
On 16 October 1917 it was decided to send the Konig and Kronprinz along with the cruisers Strassburg and Kolberg and a number of smaller vessels to engage the Russian battleships in Moon Sound. The next day they arrived and found that the 30.5 cm guns of the Russian battleships out-ranged their own 30.5 cm guns. A minefield stopped the German ships getting closer to the Russians. At 10:00 am minesweepers cleared a path through the minefield. The Konig and Kronprinz moved into the bay and shortly after the Kronprinz opened fire on Tsarevitch and Bayan, scoring hits on both. At the same time, Konig sank the Slava. In addition, Konig landed one shell on the cruiser Bayan. The Russian ships were hit dozens of times and only 30 minutes after it started, the Russian naval commander ordered the withdrawal of his ships. Following the engagement, Konig fired on shore batteries on Woi and Werder.
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|The forward 12 inch guns of SMS Konig ||One of the condensers of SMS Konig |
On 20 October 1917 Konig was towed by mine sweepers into the Kuiwast roadstead. Here she transferred soldiers to the island of Schildaum which was then occupied. On the return voyage Konig struck the bottom during a heavy swell. The ship was repaired in Kiel and was not completed till 17 November 1917.
Following Konig's return from repairs, she was stationed on guard duties in the North Sea and provided support for minesweepers. On 22 December 1917 Konig returned to the Baltic for further training exercises which lasted till 8 January 1918. Another round of exercises was conducted from 23 February 1917 to 11 March 1917. On 20 April 1917 she steamed out to assist a German patrol that was engaged with British forces.
On 23 to 25 April 1917 Konig was part of the force that steamed to Norway to intercept a heavily escorted British convoy. This was cancelled when the battlecruiser Moltke suffered mechanical damage. Konig was briefly grounded in the northern harbour of the island of Helgoland on 30 May 1917. On 31 July 1917 Konig and the rest of III Squadron covered a minesweeping unit in the North Sea before going to the Baltic for training. This ran from 7 to 18 August 1917 after which Konig returned to the North Sea. Konig conducted her last exercise in the Baltic starting on 28 September 1917 till 1 October 1917.
Konig and her three sisters were to have taken part in a final fleet action at the end of October 1918, just days before the Armistice was to take effect. The bulk of the High Seas Fleet was to have sortied from their base in Wilhelmshaven to engage the British Grand Fleet with the idea of inflicting as much damage as possible on the British navy. This was an attempt to get a better bargaining position for Germany in the now certain to come armistice.
Many of the German sailors were sick of the war and felt the operation would disrupt the peace process and prolong the war. On the morning of 29 October 1918 the order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven the following day. Starting on the night of 29 October 1918, sailors on Thoringen and then on several other battleships, including Konig, mutinied. The unrest ultimately forced the cancellation of the operation. In an attempt to stop the mutiny, Konig was sent to Kiel. During the mutiny, Konig's captain was wounded three times and her first officer and adjutant were killed.
Along with the most modern units of the High Seas Fleet, Konig 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. Scapa Flow is a protected water within the Orkney Islands, off the top of Scotland, United Kingdom. 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. Konig sank at 2:00 pm.
A total of 52 ships totally sank, the rest were either too shallow or were dragged into shallow water and run aground. This is the greatest loss of shipping ever recorded in a single day.
The majority of the German ships were salvaged in the 1920s and 1930s. A number of companies salvaged some wrecks and then Ernest Cox of Cox & Danks raised the majority of the ships. Later work by Metal Industries Ltd in the 1930s raised more. After all this work, only seven of the 52 ships remained, although there are parts of others which are still on the bottom of Scapa Flow. Later salvage work in the 1960s and 1970s by Nandy (Marine Metals) Ltd and then Scapa Flow Salvage Co Ltd under Dougall Campbell removed materials from the remaining ships.
The salvage work on the Konig included remove the props (by Metal Industries), a lot of the 14 inch armour plating along the sides of the hull (by Scapa Flow Salvage) as well as torpedo tubes and engine turbines (Nandy I think).
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|Kelly just after we drop over the side of the hull||A porthole on the SMS Konig |
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|Salvage damage near the stern torpedo tubes||The curved stern of SMS Konig |
Today the wreck of the Konig lies in just under 40 metres on a sandy bottom at N58Âș 53.13' W3Âș 09.07' with her bow pointing to the north-west. She is about 1.1 kilometres south-east of the northern point of Cava Island. The wreck is almost totally upside-down, with the starboard side a little higher off the sand than the starboard side which is on or in the sand. In 2013 there was a shotline on some wreck just off the starboard side about mid-ships at 35 metres
Due to the huge size of this wreck as well as the depth of about 39 metres to the bottom, you need two dives to even get a good understanding of the wreck. For a first dive, I would recommend diving from the shotline to the stern and back forward and then surfacing from wherever you get to (unlikely to be the bow). A second dive would be to the bow (which I did not do).
After descending the shot line to the wreckage, hopefully you will be able to see the main part of the wreckage. Swim over and turn right. This will take you to the stern. As you go, you will see the area of salvage where the 14 inch plating was removed. The blasting has caused other parts to fall off onto the sand. As you go, drop towards the bottom gradually. Most of the casemate 5.9 inch guns are buried under the wreck where it has collapsed, but one is visible. The barrel faces the stern.
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|Kelly approaches the stern||Another photo of the stern area|
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|Damage at the stern||One of the huge rudders of SMS Konig |
As you go you will see lots of doors where the armour plating was removed. Like those on the SMS Markgraf, they lead inside the wreck, but it would be foolish to enter unless you are extremely experienced at wreck penetration. The hull side near here is a slope, as the wreck is not entirely upside-down. Soon you will see that the hull bottom drops down towards the sand. You are approaching the stern.
Stay on the sand level and as you approach the stern you will see that the once graceful underside of the stern is now quite damaged. If you have reasonable visibility, you should be able to see the rudder area as you come towards the actually stern of the ship. On the sand level there are a number of portholes that lead into the crew accommodation. These are not as obvious as the ones on the Markgraf. Once at the stern, you will see that it is opened up a bit.
Come up the middle of the hull and you will pass between the two rudders. The port rudder is still in place, but the starboard one is crumpled on the hull. From here head over to the right and there is a salvage hole. This is where the rear torpedo tubes were located. Inside there are a large number of cylinders which were for charging the torpedos with compressed air.
Come back towards the centre of the ship and you will start ascending up the hull. Ahead is the huge salvage cut over the engine room. This is where the 1960s and 1970s salvage work was done. As you approach you will see the 12 inch armour wall that surrounds the "citadel". This huge almost square box contained all the important parts of the ship, the five 12 inch gun turrets and the boilers and engines. The hope was that this armour, in conjunction with the hull armour, would protect these vital parts in case of torpedo or shell strike.
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|One of the prop shafts visible in the engine salvage area||Kelly and the citadel wall as it curves|
around the rear gun turret
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|Kelly and one of the steam turbines, huge!||The top of the turbine at left|
The citadel has straight sides but at the bow and stern it is curved in the middle to accommodate the front and rear 12 inch gun turrets. As you come over the salvage hole, you will see the 12 inch steel and, more interestingly, the curve where it goes around the turret. You can also see the bottom of the number four turret forward of this.
We started our ascent from 26 metres at about 26 minutes. This gave us about 2 minutes at 9 metres (which disappeared by the time we got to 9 metres) and 6 minutes at 6 metres (using 30% Nitrox and 50% deco mix - shallow deco at 6 metres). I used a 15 litre tank on this dive, starting with about 230 bar and ending up with about 100 bar at the end. We used GFs of 30/85 on our computers.
|A download from my computer showing our profile for the dive to the stern and midships of SMS Konig |
This is an extremely good wreck, probably one of the best at Scapa Flow. The huge size means that you need many dives to really appreciate it and understand it. If this wreck was anywhere else in the world, you would spend a whole week diving on it. There are normally currents on the wreck, running either from bow to stern or stern to bow. The current when we dived was very light from the bow and this was near the time when tides should have been the strongest for the month. Water temperature was 12ÂșC when we dived in August. It gets as low as 6ÂșC in the early part of the season (April) and up to 13ÂșC in early September. Visibility on this wreck was not great, perhaps seven metres at the best and averaged about five metres.
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
A video I shot on our dive on the wreck, edited by Kelly.