Admiral John Fisher in his first tour as 1st Sea Lord had been the driving force behind the design and construction of HMS Dreadnought, the first all big gun battleship
to be completed in the world. Although the “Battleship Committee” tasked with selecting a new battleship design for the Royal Navy had its primary mission as selection
of a battleship design, they had more on their plates. As soon as the design for
Dreadnought was selected for construction, they launched into the task of selecting a
new armored cruiser design. In the prior seven years the Royal Navy had built seven classes of armored cruisers. Just as British pre-dreadnought battleships had a
mixed battery, so too did the RN armored cruiser designs. Although the
County class and Improved County class had mounted all 6-inch guns for the Counties and a
combination of 7.5-inch and 6-inch guns for the
improved Counties in an economy measure, the other five classes had the tried and true 9.2-inch gun as their main
guns with 6-inch or 7.5-inch guns as the secondary. The Imperial German Navy had followed suit but their designs used 8.2-inch guns for the main battery and 5.9-
inch guns for the secondary.

If the
Dreadnought marked a watershed from previous battleship designs, the new armored cruiser design selected by the committee was an even greater change from
prior armored cruiser designs in that it incorporated all big guns in the design but of 12-inch battleship caliber, far larger than the 9.2-inch guns of previous designs. The
chief constructor, Phillip Watts, was in favor of a uniform armament of 9.2-inch guns for the new design, making them an armored cruiser equivalent to the
Dreadnought design but Jackie Fisher insisted on the 12-inch gun as main armament. By weight of his personality and position of 1st Sea Lord, he got his way and the
HMS Invincible class was created. At first they were still called armored cruisers but the novelty of having a uniform 12-inch gun armament on ships faster and larger
than previous cruiser designs actually created a new type of warship, the battle cruiser. Although details for the new
Dreadnought design were published, Fisher chose
to employ a deception operation in regard to the
Invincible design. It was deliberately leaked that the new armored cruiser design would have 9.2-inch guns, rather than
12-inch guns. The German navy swallowed the bait and accordingly designed a new armored cruiser with uniform cruiser armament of 8.2-inch guns. This was
. When the German navy finally tumbled to the truth, it was too late. They were committed to a design that was not only significantly slower than the Invincible
but also far weaker in armament.

Although often described as a hybrid and neither fish nor fowl, the
Blucher still serves as the link between armored cruisers and battle cruisers, a link jumped by Jackie
Fisher for the Royal Navy.
SMS Blucher was authorized in the 1906-1907 program. In appearance and turret layout, the ship was miniature of the Nassau class
battleships in large measure. Built at the Kiel Navy Yard, the cruiser was laid down on February 21, 1907, launched April 11, 1908 and completed March 24, 1910. In
an odd ammunition supply arrangement, the two forward beam turrets had to receive their ammunition from the magazines located under the two aft beam turrets. Each
round was placed on an ammunition rail, which provided a conveyor belt type of arrangement. This placed ammunition in transit outside of the armored barbettes and
turrets protected only by the thinner side belt armor. This design error was directly involved in the loss of the ship at the Battle of Dogger Bank.
Blucher went through
a lengthy trials period, starting on October 1, 1909 and latter participated in gunnery experiments. However, the
Blucher did have one characteristic, which was
superior to the British battlecruiser designs, her armor scheme. The significantly larger and more powerful
Invincible and following Indefatigable classes both had six-
inch armor belts, which was the same as the last armored cruiser design. With
Blucher the German designers incorporated a main armored belt and turret armor of
seven-inches (180mm). The wisdom of the heavier armor was amply demonstrated in 1915.  

With the first true battlecruiser design, typed as Grosen Kreuzer, German designers turned the table on the British. One could see the size of a ship and count her guns
but could not see or measure armor protection. British writers did not know that the
Blucher had a stronger armor scheme than the British battlecruisers and assumed a
six-inch belt as in previous armored cruiser designs. “
Of the successors of the Blucher, being German Indomitables or Dreadnought-cruisers, little is known. The Von
der Tann, launched in March, 1909, is to be completed in the spring of 1910.
” (The Naval Annual 1910, page 32) This first mention of Von der Tann attributed her
with twelve 11-inch gun, presumably arranged as the 11-inch guns of
Nassau or the 8.2-inch guns of Blucher. Nothing was mentioned about armour, except in a table
at the back of the volume, which mentioned an eight-inch belt for
Von der Tann, but put in the caveat “particulars doubtful”. With the Von der Tann German
designers set the pattern for the entire line of battlecruiser construction for the High Seas Fleet. The ship had minimalist superstructure, presenting a low target, inferior
main armament to British contemporary construction (11-inch vs 12-inch) but most importantly, far superior protection. Although always classified as battlecruisers,
the German designs were more akin to fast battleships. Gone was the mistake of the wing turrets of
Blucher, instead the Von der Tann improved upon the British
practice of spacing amidship turrets far enough apart to allow cross deck fire. The
Von der Tann was a direct reply to the Invincible class but was far superior in
every category but main armament.
On March 25, 1908 Von der Tann was laid down at the Blohm and Voss yard, five days after the completion of HMS Invincible. She was launched a year later on
March 20, 1909 and completed in September 1910. Not only did she greatly improve on the characteristics of
Invincible but also incorporated unique design features
for German capital ship construction. She was the first German capital ship to use turbines instead of triple reciprocating machinery and four propeller shafts. During
construction, in an effort to counter rolling characteristics encountered in the
Nassau class battleships, Frahm anti-rolling tanks were worked into the design. However,
certain design sacrifices were made to achieve the end result. Since German ships were designed to operate in the North Sea instead of the world wide arena, they could
be given a lower freeboard and decreased crew habitability than the corresponding British equivalent.
Von der Tann did have a raised forecastle deck but she was still
wet, compared to British battlecruisers with their higher freeboard. Another sacrifice was in the hull frames. In order to save weight, lighter hull framing was worked
into the ship, compared to British designs. The consequence was that upon firing her main guns, the ship shook considerably. When
Von der Tann was commissioned,
she and
Blucher were placed with the 1st Cruiser Squadron, which comprised the main units of the Scouting Force under Admiral Hipper, which provided the advance
guard and reconnaissance for the battleships of the High Seas Fleet. As further German battlecruisers were completed, they too were added to the Scouting Force.

Disturbing Fisher Folk - Prior to November 3, 1914 the German battle cruisers had not seen any significant action. They were unable to respond in time at the Battle of
Heligoland Bight, in which the British battle cruisers under Admiral Beatty had sunk several light cruisers and destroyers. They had put to sea in conjunction with sorties
of the High Seas Fleet but there had been no run-ins with the Royal Navy on these occasions. Although Kaiser Wilhelm had ordered the German Fleet to act defensively
with the battleships, in late October plans were laid to use the battle cruisers, plus
Blucher, offensively in raids on the English coast. This was to serve as bait to draw
out the British forces and hopefully attrit it with submarines and mines or draw an isolated component into the guns of the German fleet.

Late in the afternoon of November 2, Hipper with
Seydlitz, Moltke, Von der Tann, Blucher, light cruisers and destroyers had left the Jade for a high speed run across
the North Sea during the night for a dawn raid on the port of Yarmouth. It was the aged cruiser
Halcyon that unwittingly provided the door greeter for the German
Scouting Force. At first
Halcyon spotted two unknown ships in the mist, both of which were German light cruisers. Halcyon was totally outclassed by these ships but
bad turned to worse as the light cruiser shell splashes were soon joined by the towering splashes of the 11-inch and 8.2-inch shells from the main German ships. There
were so many shell splashes around
Halcyon that the small target was obscured from the sight of the German gunners. Fortunately for Halcyon, none of the shells hit
and she scooted into the mist to escape. The only true RN warships that could respond to the arrival of the Germans were destroyers and submarines but they valiantly
put to sea as puny Davids against the German Goliaths. Hipper saw that he was just wasting ammunition on his tiny foes and turned back to Germany. As he left a few
haphazard shells were fired off towards Yarmouth but all they did was to churn up some sand on the beach. The only loss was the RN submarine D-5, which struck a
mine and sank leaving only four survivors. Three trawlers were also destroyed. The Admiralty had not responded in a timely manner and had been caught flat-footed.
First Lord Winston Churchill justified the delay in stating, “
The last thing it seemed possible to believe was that first-class units of the German fleet would have been
sent across the North Sea simply in order to disturb the fisher-folk of Yarmouth.
” Churchill said that it was believed that this was a feint to hide a much more significant
operation of the German Fleet and that the Admiralty simply was awaiting developments.
The Baby Killers of the Assassin Squadron - Hipper was bitterly disappointed and embarrassed by the meager results of the raid on Yarmouth and was eager for
another mission. Plans were prepared for another raid on the British coastline in December with a number of ports selected as targets. The targets would be further
north on the Yorkshire coast, closer to the base of the British battle cruisers. This time maybe they would get a response from British heavy units. As the German force
neared the Yorkshire coast they divided with
von der Tann and light cruisers moving south to Scarborough and Seydlitz, Moltke and Blucher heading for Hartlepool. At
08:00 on December 16, 1914 the populace of Scarborough were jolted by the explosion of German shells.
Von der Tann was back and this time closed to within a mile
and a half of the town. Shells were pumped into the town and a medieval castle and resort hotel were also targeted. After half an hour the German ships left, having
killed 17 and wounded 99 civilians. At 09:00 the ships appeared off of Whitby, 21 miles south of Scarborough. The main target was a coast guard signal station and the
German ships came within a mile of the beach. Civilian losses were 2 dead and 2 wounded.

By 9:30 the two German forces had joined together and headed back toward Helgioland. The original plan had called for the High Seas fleet to support the battle cruisers
but Hipper soon discovered that the fleet had returned to harbor. By the time of this raid the British had deciphered captured German code books and knew something
was afoot. On the 14th Jellicoe was informed that there was a strong possibility that the German battle cruisers would appear off of the British coast. Jellicoe wanted to
sortie the entire Grand Fleet but this was vetoed by the Admiralty. He was only allowed to use the Battle Cruiser Squadron and one division of battleships. It could have
been a tremendous disaster for the Royal Navy if the High Seas Fleet had remained in support of Hipper as originally envisioned and if contact had been made. As it
was, contact between Hipper’s ships and Beatty’s battle cruisers was missed by a matter of minutes. The Admiralty did not know where Hipper would strike so Beatty
and the battleships steamed to Dogger Bank with the plan to ambush the German battle cruisers of their way back to Germany. Beatty was down to four ships,
Queen Mary, Tiger and New Zealand, as three of his ships had been dispatched to hunt Graf von Spee’s force and others were still in the Mediterranean. The tactical
command was with Vice Admiral George Warrender of the 2nd Battle Squadron and he ordered Beatty to stay within five miles of his battleships. As dawn broke on the
16th and Hipper’s ships started shelling the three towns, the ten British ships approached Dogger Bank in ignorance of the fact that the High Seas Fleet was heading
straight for them and only a few hours away. At 05:15 the screening forces of both forces made contact. Three British destroyers were damaged but when
fired a torpedo at the light cruiser SMS Hamburg, a decision point was reached. Fleet commander von Ingenohl was convinced that this was the screen for the
entire Grand Fleet and ordered a turn about for the fleet to skeedaddle for home. At that point where von Ingenohl lost his nerve, the ten isolated British capital ships
were only ten miles away to the southwest. This was the greatest opportunity that the High Seas Fleet would ever have to decisively engage an isolated portion of the
Grand Fleet. Later Sir Julian Corbett, the official RN historian of the First World War, would say of von Ingenohl for this action, “
…fairly turned tail and made for
home, leaving Hipper’s raiding force in the air.

Now the tables were turned and Hipper was isolated with ten capital ships between his force and the safety of home port. By 9:30 Hipper had consolidated all of his
forces detached to the two bombardment forces and set course for home, steaming southeast at 23 knots. Initially Hipper thought he was falling back onto the High
Seas Fleet. He was unaware that von Ingenohl had cut him off and run. Equally as troublesome, reports were coming in from light forces that they were encountering
heavy British units in the area of Dogger Bank. As Hipper steamed towards home, he had a light screen of light cruisers in front of his main force. Beatty and his battle
cruisers also had a screen of four light cruisers. Visibility was poor and the two screens made contact and started trading fire, with
Southampton engaging Stralsund.
The cruiser squadron commander, Commodore Goodenough, reported that he was engaged with a light cruiser but failed to report the arrival of
Strassbourg and
Graudenz in support of Stralsund. The rest of Goodenough’s squadron, Birmingham, Nottingham and Falmouth, turned to steam in support of their flagship. Beatty
had to have a cruiser screen for advance guard against the German battle cruisers or to warn of a destroyer attack.
Birmingham had already left to support
Goodenough and then his last two screening cruisers turned to port to go south without a by or leave to Beatty.
Flags to the Rescue - If Goodenough had signaled that he had encountered three light cruisers not just one, Beatty probably would have realized that this was the screen
for Hipper’s force. Because of Goodenough’s error, Beatty now made his own mistake. Beatty told Flag Lieutenant Ralph Seymour, “
Tell that light cruiser to resume
” But he did not specify which light cruiser and Flags Seymour did not seek clarification. Flags was a congenital bumbler and here was the chance for his first
major gaff and he took advantage of it in spades. With unerring skill in misadventure Flags simply told the signal man to flash a message to “light cruiser” without
identifying which light cruiser to return to the battle cruisers. It was aimed towards
Nottingham and Falmouth but since there was no identifier, the message was
passed on to Goodenough where
Southampton and now Birmingham were in action. Goodenough thought the order was for his entire squadron and against his better
judgment ordered
Southampton and Birmingham to break off action and return to the north to join Beatty. This gaff allowed Hipper to evade Beatty and then in turn
Warrender’s battleships and they safely made it back home. Beatty blamed Goodenough for the German escape, rather than accept that his order to the light cruisers
was ambiguous and was greatly magnified by his bumbling Flags. Jackie Fisher pronounced Goodenough a fool and stated that heads would roll. As it was Goodenough
had more powerful friends in his corner in Jellicoe and Churchill and he was not relieved. However, Flags had now demonstrated his skill at a faux pas and this talent
would again come to the fore in the story of Dogger Bank and Jutland.

The British papers went into a rage and the Germans were branded as baby killers and as an assassin squadron. However, one London newspaper, although condemning
the shelling of Scarborough and Whidby, correctly observed that Hartlepool was a legitimate target. A jury wanted to indict the German officers of the ships until it was
pointed out to them that it would be rather difficult for the local police to arrest the culprits. Everyone in the RN was bitterly disappointed about the failure to bring
Hipper’s ships to justice but they would be even better prepared for the next of Hipper’s raids. Hipper was disturbed by the fact that heavy British ships always seemed
to appear when he was on a raid. Neither he nor any other admiral of the High Seas Fleet thought that the reason was through capture of code books and that the
German naval code had been broken, nor that German wireless discipline was extraordinarily lax. For Hipper he thought that the reason was the British fishing smacks
operating on Dogger Bank. They had to be spies, radioing the Admiralty every time his ships passed nearby. For his next operation Hipper was determined to wipe out
this nest of spies. His goal would be to destroy the multitude of fishing boats operating around Dogger Bank. However,
von der Tann was not to be part of this mission
and accordingly missed the Battle of Dogger Bank.

In August 1915
von der Tann, Seydlitz and Moltke were sent to the eastern Baltic as heavy support for operations in the Gulf of Riga against the Russians. On August
10 the trio silenced Russian shore batteries on the island of Utoe at the entrance of the Bay and also took pot shots against a Russian cruiser, which quickly left the area.
In addition to the constant threat of mines, British submarines posed the greatest threat to the German heavy ships. On August 16
Seydlitz caught the British E9 on the
surface and opened fire.
E9 managed to safely dive before she received a hit. It was the British turn on August 19. The E1 found the German battlecruisers at close
range. The
Seydlitz was very close but the torpedo from E1 passed ahead of Seydlitz but luckily hit Moltke, which took on 1,500 tons of water but maintained her
operations. After the Riga operation was called off, the trio returned to the North Sea base.  On April 24, 1916 the fleet sortied but on the way across the North Sea
Seydlitz hit a mine and had to return to port with 1,400 tons of water. The remaining battlecruisers completed their mission, bombarding Lowestoft and Yarmouth
without interruption.
Battle of Jutland and the Death Ride - Although the Royal Navy knew something was afoot, the British didn’t know exactly what the Germans were up to but the
Grand Fleet steamed out of Scapa Flow and Beatty’s battlecruisers left their separate base at Rosyth, on the night of the 30th, before the High Seas Fleet left the next
morning. The German Fleet steamed north paralleling the Danish coast, while the Grand Fleet steamed eastward. As Hipper steamed north 50 miles ahead of the German
battleships, he flew his flag in
Lutzow. This time he had all five of his available ships. At 3:00PM Beatty and Hipper were 50 miles apart and may have missed each other,
except for the presence of the Danish tramp steamer
N. J. Fjord. The steamer was midway between the British and German battlecruisers and both sides could see the
steamer. Both sent out light ships to investigate and accordingly sighted each other. At 3:28PM British opened fire on German torpedo boats and the greatest naval battle
of World War One, the Battle of Jutland, had begun. The first portion of the battle has been called the run to the south, as Hipper tried to lure Beatty south to be
destroyed by Scheer’s battleships. Hipper had five battlecruisers in column,
Lutzow (flag), Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and von der Tann against Beatty’s six ships
Lion (flag), Princess Royal, Queen Mary, Tiger, New Zealand and Indefatigable. However, Beatty was also supported by the 5th Battle Squadron of Barham,
Warspite, Valiant and Malaya of Queen Elizabeth Class, armed with eight 15-inch guns. There was separation between the British battlecruisers and battleships caused
when the battlecruisers turned south and the battleships continued east, having missed the signal flags on
Lion due to the heavy smoke emitted by the battlecruisers.

Sixty miles separated Hipper from Scheer’s main fleet and at 4:00PM Hipper signaled for each ship to engage its opposite number. Visibility aided Hipper as the sun was
to the west, highlighting Beatty’s ships, while the low-profile, light gray German battlecruisers merged with their darker background to the east. Although Beatty had an
advantage in maximum range of main guns, he didn’t use it, as the range between the battlecruisers rapidly closed. It was Hipper’s ships that opened fire at 4:48PM.  
One of the significant factors in the Run to the South was fire distribution. Both Admirals wished to engage all of the enemy battlecruisers but Hipper had one less ship so
one of the British ships had to be uncovered. This was
New Zealand as von der Tann engaged Indefatigable last in line, rather than New Zealand, 5th in line.  However,
for Beatty, he had the advantage of numbers and wanted to have two ships fire on
Lutzow, while the remaining four German battlecruisers would receive fire from one
Queen Mary, which had not received the distribution of fire signal, engaged the Seydlitz, 3rd in line, leaving Derfflinger uncovered. For ten minutes Derfflinger
was left unmolested by British fire. Without shell splashes obscuring her fire,
Derfflinger could fire very accurate salvos at her target, the Princess Royal. From the
start, the German ships struck early and often. Both
Princess Royal and Tiger had turrets put out of action. Queen Mary, always a crack gunnery ship, knocked out X
turret of
Seydlitz when one of her 13.5-inch shells penetrated the barbette armor at 4:57PM and ignited four charges (compared to the 62 ignited in a similar hit on the
barbette of Y turret at the Battle of Dogger Bank). The anti-flash precautions put in place after Dogger Bank contained the damage just to X turret. At 5:00PM a 12-inch
shell from
Lutzow hit Q amidship turret on Lion. The armor roof was peeled off and except for the bravery of mortally wounded Major F.J.W. Harvey, RM, who
ordered the magazine doors closed and magazine flooded, burning charges most likely would have reached the magazine, destroying the ship. The British had not learned
the lesson that the Germans did at Dogger Bank and still had lax anti-flash procedures.

Three minutes later these lax anti-flash procedures were more dramatically demonstrated.
Von der Tann and Indefatigable had been engaged in a ship to ship duel for
fifteen minutes.
Indefatigable was hit aft by two or three 11-inch shells and then by two more forward with her next salvo. Initially no smoke or flames were observed
but after over 30 seconds the
Indefatigable exploded. The lengthy delay from the hits to the explosion strongly indicates the loss was caused by a lack of proper anti-
flash procedures, rather than a direct penetration of a magazine.
Von der Tann had little time to enjoy her victory because at 5:06PM Barham of the 5th Battle Squadron
opened fire on
von der Tann. As the other Queen Elizabeth class battleships entered firing range, they concentrated fire on the last two German battlecruisers with two
von der Tann and two on Moltke.  He range was initially over 19,000 yards and with the tremendous amount of smoke lying between the German battlecruisers and
Queen Elizabeths, the British battleships could only fire intermittently. Nonetheless the von der Tann and Moltke were surrounded by the towering splashes of the
15-inch shells. At 5:09PM
von der Tann was hit in the stern. This hit flooded the steering compartment but the excellent damage control parties on von der Tann kept
the ship’s steering operational and limited the water intake to 600-tons. At 5:16PM came
Moltke’s turn, as a 15-inch shell knocked out one of the 5’9-inch secondary

Also by 5:16PM
Derfflinger shifted fire from Princess Royal to Queen Mary and the crack gunnery ship of the British battlecruisers was engaged by Seydlitz and
Derfflinger. Queen Mary was hit by three shells out of a four shell salvo and nothing seemed to happen until the next salvo arrived at 5:25PM when there were two more
hits. Again there was nothing initially apparent, other than some black smoke. Suddenly, the
Queen Mary was enveloped in a massive explosion amidships and forward,
as the
Queen Mary broke in half. As with the Indefatigable, the substantial delay between the shell hits and magazine explosion, demonstrates the loss of the ship was
caused by lax anti-flash procedures, rather than penetration of a magazine.
Beatty was still confident, the 5th Battle Squadron had rapidly closed the German battlecruisers and he still foresaw the destruction of Hipper’s force. A very ominous
portent arrived at 5:38PM when the light cruiser
Southampton reported sighting the entire High Seas Fleet deployed in battle column, approaching from the south. This
report was followed by the same report from the light cruiser
Champion. Beatty ordered at turn to the northwest, towards the Grand Fleet, at 5:43PM. The “Run to the
South” had lasted 58 minutes, during which the German battlecruisers had scored 42 major hits on the British battlecruisers, destroying two of them, and two more hits
on battleships of the 5th Battle Squadron. In turn Hipper’s ships had been hit 17 times, eleven from the battlecruisers and six from the 5th Battle Squadron.
Von der Tann
Seydlitz each had one turret permanently put out of action and Lutzow had a large hole on the forecastle, which would eventually play a part in the loss of the ship.
Now began the “Run to the North” during which Hipper and Scheer, confidently expected bagging a significant portion of the British Fleet. Just as Hipper had led Beatty
to the High Seas Fleet, Beatty was now returning the favor by leading the entire German Fleet to the Grand Fleet. At 5:46PM Scheer ordered the leading German
battleships to open fire but the range of 21,000 to 22,000 yards was still too great. The 5th Battle Squadron had missed Beatty’s signal to turn to the northwest, The
squadron commander, Rear Admiral Evan Thomas, saw no reason why Beatty had reversed course and kept steaming south after Hipper. It was only when his four
battleships were abreast of Beatty’s four battlecruisers that he almost simultaneously saw Beatty’s signal and the German High Seas Fleet. He accordingly ordered his
squadron to reverse course and fall in behind the battlecruisers at 5:58PM.

Hipper had reversed his battlecruisers at 5:50PM to be in the van of the German battleships. All of his ships were still able to maintain speed. Even after
Seydlitz took a
torpedo hit from a British destroyer at 5:57PM, her speed was unimpaired. Initially Hipper’s ships were still firing on Beatty’s battlecruisers but as they became out of
range, Hipper shifted fire to the 5th Battle Squadron. During this fight Hipper’s ships were slowly but steadily being ponded with 15-inch hits and Hipper slowed his force
to 15-knots in order to allow the German battleships to close the gap. At 6:50PM Beatty’s battlecruisers were sighted by the lead battleship of the starboard column of the
Grand Fleet. Hipper and Scheer were still unaware of the presence of the Grand Fleet. In the van of the Grand Fleet was the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron, consisting of the
three ships of the
Invincible Class. Earlier the squadron commander Rear Admiral Horace Hood ordered his squadron to increase speed so that they could rejoin Beatty’s
battlecruiser force. At 6:55PM, Hood’s ships were already 25 miles ahead of the battleships, when they engaged German light cruisers of the fleet screen. It was another
half an hour before Hipper found his ships engaged from two directions with battleships to the north and the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron to the Northeast. Aboard
Derfflinger the gunnery officer clearly sighted Hood’s flagship, HMS Invincible, and opened fire on the very first battlecruiser. At 7:31PM one of Derfflinger’s shells
Invincible amidship and in a short span the amidship magazine. Lutzow also claimed credit but the fatal strike is generally attributed to Derfflinger. However,
before her sudden loss,
Invincible had struck a fatal blow at Lutzow. One of her 12-inch shells pierced the forward armored bulkhead of Hipper’s flagship, allowing
progressive flooding from the bow to amidships. At 7:33PM Scheer ordered his fleet to simultaneously turn south in order to get his ships out of the concentrated gunfire
of the Grand Fleet as quickly as possible. Hipper didn’t get the order but conformed with the turn at 7:38PM. His
Lutzow was losing speed from the progressive flooding
and could no longer keep up with his other ships. The
Lutzow was in such a poor state that Hipper and his staff left the ship and transferred to the torpedo boat G39 a
little before 8 PM. By 7:50PM the British capitol ships had lost sight of the German ships and Jellicoe assumed they had all turned south to reach the safety of German
ports. He accordingly turned the Grand Fleet to the southeast.
Scheer had made another turn to the east with his battlecruisers, led by Derfflinger, to assume the point position ahead of the battleships. This turn put him in a direct
collision course with the Grand Fleet. By 8:12PM the fleets had again made contact. Only the muzzle flashes of the British ships could be made out and battlecruisers and
lead battleships were taking punishment. At 8:13PM Scheer ordered his battlecruisers to attack the enemy fleet and at 8:18 ordered the battleships to again reverse course
simultaneously.  With the four battlecruisers charging the entire British fleet,
Lutzow was separated and out of action, the battlecruisers were each being engaged by
multiple ships.
Derfflinger especially suffered with Bruno (B) and Dora (Y) turrets quickly knocked out, with each turret loosing almost every man of their crews. Again,
the improved German anti-flash precautions proved their worth, as the flash of exploding charges in the turrets and handling chambers didn’t reach the magazines. The
German battlecruisers closed to within 7,700 yards of the nearest British battleships but their “Death Ride” had served its purpose. The High Seas Fleet had disengaged
successfully. At 8:20PM it was time to extradite the battlecruisers from the massed firepower of the Grand Fleet. In coordination with a massed destroyer torpedo
attack, the battlecruisers turned to the west to disengage. For a while they remained unengaged but at 9:18PM they were seen by Beatty’s battlecruisers at a range of
8,500 yards with
Derfflinger and Seydlitz receiving heavy punishment. The German ships turned further to the west to get out of British fire. With the heavy smoke and
steadily failing light conditions of twilight, the firing ceased but Scheer was in a predicament with the Grand Fleet blocking the direct line to the German ports. The
Derfflinger and von der Tann, whose top speed had been reduced to 18-knots, fell in behind the German battleships. Moltke and Seydlitz moved towards the head of the
German line. As the night progressed
Seydlitz and Moltke separated and each ship ran into British battleships at very close ranges. On each occasion they were sighted
but the British chose to withhold fire because they didn’t want to disclose their location with gun flashes. This is somewhat puzzling because their location could be
reported by the German battlecruisers. Scheer turned his fleet to the East and passed behind the Grand Fleet in the darkness. At midnight the lonely
Lutzow was steaming
south at 7 knots and was still hoped to reach safety but the severe punishment taken forward created a cascading damage situation. By 1:30AM the forward boiler room
started to flood and the ship tried to proceed stern first but was unable to do so as the 8,000 tons of water forward caused her propellers to rise out of the water. At 2:20
AM the ship was abandoned and at 2:45 two German torpedoes finished her off.

All four of the surviving battlecruisers required more time to repair than any of the damaged German battleships.  Repairs to
Moltke were completed July 30 with von der
completing three days later on August 2. The heavily damaged Seydlitz and Derfflinger took far longer to repair. Seylitz repairs were completed September 16 and
Derfflinger completed on 15 October. This was the last significant engagement of the German battlecruisers. At the armistice, all of the battlecruisers were interned at
Scapa Flow, where they swung at anchor as peace negotiations were conducted.  All were scuttled June 21, 1919 by their crews.
Although not the most handsome of the German Battlecruisers, that appellation belongs to the Lutzow class, the von der Tann displays its own unique beauty that is
fully reflected in the
Combrig 1:700 scale model of the von der Tann. Hull side detail is abundant. It starts at the cutwater with an undulating armor belt line that goes
up to the anchor hawse openings before dropping down to the main belt line that runs below the casemates before dropping slightly lower at the stern. The anchor
hawse openings, two on the port and one on the starboard, have delicate collar fittings cast onto the hull. The tertiary casmate positions at the bow are depicted with
their doors closed. The first pair are actually sponsons overhanging the hull sides, while the second pair are inset positions. The casemate doors have locater holes for
the gunsThere are three levels of portholes at the bow. When I compared the shape of the belt line, tertiary gun positions and location and numbers of portholes on the
Combrig kit against photographs of the actual von der Tann found in Die Grosen Kreuzer Von det Tann bis Hindenburg by Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmole,
Bernarg & Graefe Verlag, Bonn 1998, the details on the
Combrig kit appear spot on. The von der Tann was 171.5 meters in length at waterline, while the Combrig kit
is 246mm in length, which when multiplied by 700 comes in at 172.2 meters, which is very close to true 1:700 scale. There is a raised forecastle, which tapers inward
and squared off between the forward superstructure and forward funnel. Amidship the hull detail is dominated by the five 5.9-inch secondary casemates on each side.
Again in comparison with photographs in the above reference, the kit casemate shape and positioning on the kit matches the photographs. As with the tertiary
casemates, the secondary casemates also have locater holes for the gun barrels. On the gun deck (casemate level) the hull narrows just aft of the fifth casemate position
creating triangular decks that run to just aft of the aft barbette, where the lower hull merges back with the gun deck hull sides. There are ventilation fittings that are on
the hull sides and slope down to the deck. At the stern there are another two inset tertiary gun positions on each side with shutters closed and locater holes for the gun
barrels. The starboard hull side has a anchor hawse opening with raised collar for the single stern anchor.

The deck detail is equally grand. Deck planking is finely done but lacks butt end detail. Deck detail is especially profuse on the forecastle deck. There are four open
cleat/chock fittings on each side at deck edge. The three deck anchor chain hawses have teardrop shaped collars with solid (steel deck) chain plates leading back to the
anchor chain capstans. Centerline there is a small twin bollard fitting with two larger bollards forward of the first turret. The bollards are the correct hourglass shape.
Other forecastle deck fittings include deck access door coamings, triangular ventilation fittings and skylight fittings with porthole detail.
Combrig has locater outlines to
assist in attaching the superstructure to the hull. Starting amidship, another detail takes over in the form of numerous circular coal scuttles, which are found the length
of the main deck and positioned asymmetrically, as was true in almost any coal fired warship of the period. There are still plenty of deck access door coamings with
door details, skylight, bollard fittings and cleat/chock fittings. With the quarterdeck the coal scuttles are gone but the deck coamings, skylights, bollards and
cleats/chock fittings continue. At the very stern on the starbord side is an anchor hawse fitting for the stern anchor.
As with almost all Combrig kits, the smaller resin parts are cast in one of three forms. The larger superstructure parts are cast singly, decks and other parts on a
casting wafer and the smaller parts on casting runners. For the
Combrig von der Tann, the larger parts, cast separately are the main gun turrets, aft  superstructure,
the two funnel bases and the two funnels. Both of the funnel bases, as well as the aft superstructure, have some of the finest detail of this kit. Coal fired warships
would develop a very high heat in the firerooms, where bare chested stokers would have to continuously shovel coal into the boilers to keep the warship's speed up.
Every major warship had to have large ventilators to get fresh air into the firerooms. Both the Royal Navy and Imperial German Navy had a unique appearance for the
exterior ventilation openings. For the Royal Navy it was a series of large ventilation doors on the top of the funnel bases that could be opened to provide additional
ventilation. For the Imperial German warship large louver slats would be found on the bulkheads of the stack bases and on the superstructure. On the
Combrig von der
, these slats are very finely cast with delicate, thin louver slats. The stack bases are asymmetrical, which adds to their appeal. Not only does the aft superstructure
have ventilation louvers at two different levels but also has vision slits for the aft conning tower and raised anti-splinter bulkheads forward of open mount with splinter
shield 88mm gun positions. The funnels have the characteristic heavy horizontal bands around the funnel and nice flared aprons at their bases. The bands are actually
representations of foot-railing. If you wish to get into heavy super-detailing, you can sand off the bands on the funnels and replace with brass foot-railing. The turrets
have aprons on the sides that are flush with the barbette edge and have good detail. Each turret has two sighting cupolas on the crown, a large one centerline with a
smaller to the right, connected by a bar. This bar actually represent a tube that is above the crown. This presents another opportunity  for super-detailing in that it can
be removed from the crown with a Xacto knife and very judicious sanding so that the cupolas are not impacted, and replaced with brass rod. The turret castings lack
horseshoe shaped ports on the aft face but these can replicated with very thin plastic sheet, or better yet scrap resin film from the resin sheet included in the model, cut
to shape. You just have to make them small enough,which entails having a reference photograph and skill. One last detail not found on the
Combrig turrets, more
specifically one turret, is what appears in a photograph of the aft turret to be a third sighting cupola in front of the centerline cupola between the guns on the forward
slope of the crown with its juncture with the turret face. The reference listed above doesn't have a plan view drawing of
von der Tann and this cupola doesn't appear
on the profile drawing but the plan view drawing of
Moltke shows this third cupola on the aft turret only. The parts on the resin sheet are the forward superstructure,
forward superstructure deck, navigation deck, navigation platform, searchlight platforms, aft navigation platforms, aft navigation binnacle platform, aft superstructure
corner shielding and top mast platforms.

There are 25 resin runners for the smaller parts. Four of the runners are for the guns, one for main guns, one for secondary guns and two for tertiary guns. Two are
for anchors and one is for boat davits. Other runners include, one with anchor windlasses, one with cable reels, one with open mount tertiary gun shields, one with
search lights, one with steam pipes for the aft funnel, one for boat cradles, one with a single director fitting, one with three director fittings and binnacles, six with
different ship's boats, and one with small deck houses, funnel fittings and binnacles. There is also a runner with four parts that appear to be small goose neck boat
cranes that are far too small and
von der Tann was fitted with kingposts with boat booms on either side of the aft funnel. Although the instructions show the kingposts,
I didn't find any parts thick enough for them but plastic rod will be fine. A nice, ship specific, brass photo-etch set is included. This includes front and side bulkheads
for three open back navigation positions, alternate open mount tertiary splinter shields, lattice work for the search light, binnacle and navigation platforms, anchor chain,
inclined ladders with railing, horizontal forecastle cutwater fitting, windlass tops, jack staff, ensign staff, funnel grates, accommodation ladders, vertical ladder and
breakwaters found on either side of the forward superstructure. All you need to do is add generic railing or inclined ladders with trainable treads. The instructions are
poor. Standard
Combrig practice is to include a plan and profile drawing of the ship that significantly helps in assembly and rigging. This is glaringly absent with the
von der Tann instructions that I received. However, it appears that it is just my copy of the instructions that lacked the plan and profile drawing as the Combrig
website shows the plan and profile for the
von der Tann when you click on the von der Tann link. With the instructions that were in my sample, all you get is a one
page isometric view with a template for cutting the correct length masts and yards with the notice that the torpedo net booms, net shelves, boats (as well as boat
cradles), deck winches and ladders are not shown. If your instructions lack the plan and profile drawing, use the drawing found on the
Combrig site. The second best
option is too use the plan view drawing in
Die Grosen Kreuzer Von der Tann Bis Hindenburg of Moltke as a reference, as the general layout was very similar.
The Combrig 1:700 scale kit of SMS von der Tann is a study in contrasts. On one hand the hull casting and superstructure castings are fantastic but on the other hand
the instructions have something to be desired. The ingredients are present for a fine model of the first German battlecruiser.
Free Time Hobbies/Pacific Front carries
Combrig kits in the United States and NNT carries them in Europe.
Steve Backer
Roll Tide, Roll