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SMS Prinz Heinrich in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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SMS Prinz Heinrich

2nd July 1915 Battle of Áland Islands 1915   The Battle of Aland Islands, or the Battle of Gotland, which occurred on the 2nd July 1915, was a naval battle between the German and Russian forces, assisted by a submarine from the British Baltic Flotilla. It took place in the Baltic Sea off the shores of Gotland, Sweden which was neutral in World War I. The German mine-laying cruiser SMS Albatross, screened by the armoured cruiser SMS Roon, the light cruisers SMS Augsburg and Lübeck with seven torpedo boats, under Kommodore Johannes von Karpf, was laying mines off the Åland Islands. On the morning of 2 July, they were intercepted by a Russian squadron consisting of the armored cruisers Admiral Makarov and Bayan with the light cruisers Oleg and Bogatyr, under Rear Admiral Mikhail Bakhirev. In the artillery duel that followed, Albatross was badly damaged and beached on the Swedish coast. In the second phase of the battle, German armoured cruiser Roon and Russian Bayan fought each other at distance without serious damage. Reinforcements on both sides sailed to join the engagement. The Russian armoured cruiser Rurik joined the fight as the German force retreated and met the old light cruiser Lübeck, which took her for the destroyer Novik. Lübeck managed to escape in the short but fierce fighting when Roon intercepted Rurik. Both sides duelled each other at far distance, but again no damage was inflicted by either side. As the German armored cruisers SMS Prinz Adalbert and Prinz Heinrich sailed to reinforce the German squadron, Prinz Adalbert was torpedoed by the British.

8th August 1915 Battle of the Gulf of Riga 1915  The Battle of the Gulf of Riga was a World War I naval operation of the German High Seas Fleet against the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea in August 1915.The operation's objective was to destroy the Russian naval forces in the Gulf and facilitate the fall of Riga to the German army on the Eastern Front in 1915. The German fleet, however, failed to achieve its objective and was forced to return to its bases. Riga remained in Russian hands until it fell to the German Army on 1st of September 1917.

In early August 1915, several powerful units of the German High Seas Fleet were transferred to the Baltic to participate in the foray into the Riga Gulf. The intention was to destroy the Russian naval forces in the area, including the pre-dreadnought battleship Slava, and to use the minelayer Deutschland to block the entrance to the Moon Sound with mines. The German naval forces, under the command of Vice Admiral Hipper, included the four Nassau-class and four Helgoland-class battleships, the battlecruisers SMS Moltke, Von der Tann, and Seydlitz, and a number of smaller craft.


On 8th of August, the first attempt to clear the gulf was made. The old battleships SMS Braunschweig and Elsass kept Slava at bay while minesweepers cleared a path through the inner belt of mines. During this period, the rest of the German fleet remained in the Baltic and provided protection against other units of the Russian fleet. However, the approach of nightfall meant that Deutschland would be unable to mine the entrance to the Suur Strait in time and so the operation was broken off. In the meantime, the German armored cruisers SMS Roon and Prinz Heinrich were detached to shell the Russian positions at the Sõrve Peninsula in the Saaremaa island. Several Russian destroyers were anchored at Sõrve and one was slightly damaged during the bombardment. The battlecruiser Von der Tann and the light cruiser SMS Kolberg were sent to shell the island of Utö. On 16th of August, a second attempt was made to enter the gulf. The dreadnoughts SMS Nassau and Posen, four light cruisers and 31 torpedo boats breached the defenses to the gulf. On the first day of the assault, the German minesweeper T46 was sunk, as was the destroyer V99. On 17th of August, Nassau and Posen engaged in an artillery duel with Slava, resulting in three hits on the Russian ship that prompted her withdrawal. After three days, the Russian minefields had been cleared and the flotilla entered the gulf on 19 August, but reports of Allied submarines in the area prompted a German withdrawal from the gulf the following day. Throughout the operation, the German battlecruisers remained in the Baltic and provided cover for the assault into the Gulf of Riga. On the morning of the 19th, Moltke was torpedoed by the British E-class submarine HMS E1. The torpedo was not spotted until it was approximately 200 yd away. Without time to manoeuver, the ship was struck in the bow torpedo room. The explosion damaged several torpedoes in the ship, but they did not detonate themselves. Eight men were killed and 480 short tons of water entered the ship. The ship was repaired at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg between 23 August and 20 September.

Order of battle

  • Battleship: Slava
  • Gunboats: Grozyashchiy, Khrabry, Sivuch, Korietz
  • Minelayer: Amur
  • Flotilla of 16 destroyers


  • Battleships: SMS Nassau, SMS Posen, SMS Braunschweig, SMS Elsass
  • Battlecruiser: SMS Moltke, SMS Seydlitz, SMS Von der Tann
  • Cruisers: SMS Augsburg, SMS Bremen, SMS Graudenz, SMS Pillau, SMS Roon, SMS Prinz Heinrich
  • Flotilla of 56 destroyers

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SMS Prinz Heinrich

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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