Admiral Graf Spee

Admiral  Graf Spee

The hull was predominately constructed with ST 52 and ST 45 ship steel as well as aluminium. Ninety percent of hull plates were electrically welded, which was then a novel method and allowed for up to 20% hull weight reduction in comparison to traditional riveting. Numerous alterations were introduced in construction of the Admiral Graf Spee’s hull in comparison to her predecessors, such as 13 degrees inclination of the side armour, which stretched between frames 29½ and 148. Armoured decks of the previous two units did not cover the entire beam as was the case with the Admiral Graf Spee. Moreover, Panzerschiff C received a longitudinal anti-torpedo bulkhead which reached as far as the outer bottom, while in the previous two units it only reached the inner bottom. The armour thickness of the transverse anti-torpedo bulkheads was increased and so was that of the walls and floors of the superstructure.


The ship was powered by four sets of Diesels, each comprised two MAN M 9 Zu 42/58 engines. Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg was contracted to manufacture the ship’s engines on June 8, 1933, and they underwent the first shipyard trials on December 5, 1935. The M9 Zu 42/53 were nine cylinder, two-stroke, medium-speed engines. The power output of a single engine was 6655 HP and for a short period of it could generate the maximum of 7100 HP. The engines were installed in four separate engine rooms located in compartments VI and VIII (engine room I and II) for the port side shaft and compartments IX and XI (engine room III and IV) for the starboard shaft. Two sets of engines transferred their power through transmission gears and clutches to propeller shaft with 3.83 m diameter propeller, smaller than that installed on the Deutschland (4.40 m). Transmission gears manufactured by Vulcan were installed in two separate rooms located in compartment VII for the port side shaft and compartment X for the starboard shaft. Propeller shafts rotated with the maximum of 250 rpm. Designed power output for the Admiral Graf Spee was 54 530 HP which would allow for the maximum speed of 26 knots, but during trials she reached 28.5 knots at 53 650 HP. There were also auxiliary engines installed along each of the main engine sets. These were MAN M 5 Z 42/48 five-cylinder, two-stroke Diesel motors, each with the power output of 3500 HP at 425 rpm. They powered pumps, compressors, fire-fighting equipment, etc. Electricity was provided by eight generators manufactured by A.E.G., Berlin with combined power output of 3360 kW, powered by 375-400 HP, six-cylinder Diesels manufactured by Linke Hoffmann, Breslau.


The main battery consisted of six 28 cm SK C/28 quick-firing guns on C 28 mounts (in two triple turrets). Their arc of fire was 290 degrees (from 0° - the axis of symmetry to 145° on each side). The secondary battery was made of eight 15 cm SK C/28 quick-firing guns on single MPL C/28 mounts, four on each side. The Admiral Graf Spee also received six 8.8 cm SK C/32 guns on three twin C/31 triaxially stabilised mountings. These were mounted on the superstructure, one on each side of the funnel and one behind the main battery gun turret “B”. In 1938, they were replaced by more effective 10.5 cm  L/56 C 33 guns on C 31 mounts. Their location was identical to that of the 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns. Eight 2.7 cm SK/L 83 C 30 guns on four C 30 mounts located abreast the forward and after superstructure were mounted to provide protection against low-flying aircraft. The light anti-aircraft artillery was supplemented by ten 2 cm MG C/30 guns on single mounts. Before setting off for her commerce raiding sortie, the ship received two more 2 cm guns mounted on the sides behind the main battery gun turret “B”, thus increasing the number of these guns to twelve pieces. During construction two quadruple 533 mm torpedo launchers was mounted on the quarterdeck. They were about five metres above the waterline. That turned out to be unfortunate, as at high speed or in heavy sea they were constantly wet which prevented their combat use. The torpedo launchers had characteristic armoured shields. Apart from the already loaded torpedoes only two spare ones were carried.

Overall views of the after superstructure. [Visualization 3D: Stefan Dramiński]

The main and secondary battery fire was directed from the forward command centre, which transferred target bearing to the artillery control room. The necessary data was acquired by rangefinders. The main battery fire was directed by two 10.5-metre rangefinders mounted in armoured rotating housings at the ship’s foretop and atop the aft command centre. Moreover, each of the main battery turrets had a 10.5-metre rangefinder installed as a backup in case the other two were damaged or broken. The secondary battery fire was directed by 7-metre rangefinder installed atop the forward command centre. The heavy anti-aircraft battery fire was directed by three self-stabilising SL 4 rangefinders. Two mounted on both sides of the funnel and one in front of the bridge slightly behind the forward command centre.
The Admiral Graf Spee was one of the first German warships to be equipped with radar equipment. In January 1938 the prototype “Seetakt” FuMG 39G (g) was installed on board the ship with 0.8 x 1.8 metre “mattress” antenna mounted on the rotating housing of the foretop rangefinder.
The ships complement was 951 seamen (1188 according to other sources).

Operational history 1936–1939