|Ship ‘G’ went through a number of designs before the final one was selected. Originally, it was to be a continuation of previous aviso designs, equipped with four Scotch boilers. In characteristics, it closely matched the qualities described in Tirpitz’
study of June 1894. However, the displacement was much greater than previous designs. Tirpitz thought that the 105mm guns were too light. He wrote, “A straight reduction in gun calibre from 15cm to 10.5cm would appear unwise even for III.
class cruisers, because the latter gun does not possess sufficient penetrative power against armour, and the explosive effect of its shells is insufficient to ensure success in a fight gainst cruisers of other nations, which are generally equipped with
heavier calibres....To fulfil the requirements under section 3, a main armament of eight 12cm or 12.7cm is deemed necessary...” (Warship 2020, The Development of the Small Cruiser in the Imperial German Navy (Part 1) by Dirk
Nottelmann, Osprey Publishing 2020, at pages 107-108) Tirpitz was soon appointed as head of RMA and it was unfortunate for the fleet that small cruisers still came out carrying 105mm guns instead of the larger sizes for which he had argued.
Alfred Dietrich was the chief designer for ship ‘G’. The OKM wanted to increase the speed of the design to 21-knots, the size and quantity of the main armament and the displacement to 4,000 tons. Dietrich replied that to work in the desired qualities
would require a ship of at least 3.400-tons, 112m in length and cost 26% greater funds than what was approved. OKM somewhat relented, when it realized that asking the Riechstag for more money would be akin to rolling the dice. With Tirpitz
having left OKM and now head of RMA, the new head of OKM, Admiral Eduard von Knorr wrote Tirpitz a protest, “Cruiser ‘G’ has been opposed as inadequate by the OKM since its first appearance in 1894. I was anticipating a convergence of
opinion between the two most eminent naval offices after the definition of the Naval Law, particularly as the views of the OKM have not changed since the days when Your Excellency was a member of this institution.... If Your Excellency is
claiming...that these demands could only be fulfilled by raising the displacement by 800 tonnes and the cost by 1.2 million Marks, I can only state in return that in my view it would have been better to make these sacrifices instead of providing
the Navy with a cruiser type of little utility.” (Warship 2020, The Development of the Small Cruiser in the Imperial German Navy (Part 1) by Dirk Nottelmann, Osprey Publishing 2020, pages 109-110) Reinforcement of von Knorr’s
complaint came when Rear Admiral Paul Hoffmann, former commander of the East Asia Cruiser Division, chimed in claiming that the ‘G’ design was only an improved Bussard Class, which Tirpitz himself had called of inferior quality. To combat
these critics Tirpitz talked to his ultimate ally, his buddy Kaiser Bill, who listened to Tirpitz. The Kaiser also intervened in the design of SMS Gazelle. He believed the initial designs for the ship did not have a sufficiently grand ram. The Kaiser admired
the gigantic rams found on the bow of French designs. Hey, if the Kaiser wants it, the Kaiser gets it. Gazelle’s bow was redesigned to feature a huge ram, which was strengthened by the inclusion of a torpedo tube below the ram. A subsequent study
showed that the torpedo tube and torpedo room behind it would probably be crushed by ramming and it was better to design a break off point for the ram, rather than have a torpedo tube there. Hence Gazelle was the first and only member of the
class to have this torpedo tube. Another design feature found only on Gazelle was the location of the conning tower and bridge. In order to provide all around visibility they were positioned midship, between the two funnels. Gazelle had her two
broadside torpedo tubes were above the waterline, mounted on the main deck, while all others of the class had submerged torpedo tubes.