The Imperial German Navy was the Imperial Navy (German: Kaiserliche Marine) – the navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy (from 1867 the Norddeutsche Bundesmarine), which primarily had the mission of coastal defence. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded the navy, and enlarged its mission. The key leader was Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849–1930), who greatly expanded the size and quality of the navy, while adopting the sea power theories of American strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan. The result was a naval arms race with Britain as the German navy grew to become one of the greatest maritime forces in the world, second only to the Royal Navy. The German surface navy proved ineffective during World War I; its only major engagement, the Battle of Jutland, was indecisive. However, the submarine fleet was greatly expanded and posed a major threat to the British supply system. The Imperial Navy’s main ships were turned over to the Allies, but then were sunk at Scapa Flow in 1919 by German crews.
All ships of the Imperial Navy were designated SMS, for Seiner Majestät Schiff (His Majesty’s Ship).
SMS Prinzregent Luitpold
SMS Prinzregent Luitpold[a] was the fifth and final vessel of the Kaiser class of battleships of the Imperial German Navy. Prinzregent Luitpold ’s keel was laid in October 1910 at the Germaniawerft dockyard in Kiel. She was launched on 17 February 1912 and was commissioned into the navy on 19 August 1913. The ship was equipped with ten 30.5-centimeter (12.0 in) guns in five twin turrets, and had a top speed of 21.7 knots (40.2 km/h; 25.0 mph).
Prinzregent Luitpold was assigned to the III Battle Squadron of the High Seas Fleet for the majority of her career; in December 1916, she was transferred to the IV Battle Squadron. Along with her four sister ships, Kaiser, Friedrich der Grosse, Kaiserin, and König Albert, Prinzregent Luitpold participated in all of the major fleet operations of World War I, including the Battle of Jutland on 31 May – 1 June 1916. The ship was also involved in Operation Albion, an amphibious assault on the Russian-held islands in the Gulf of Riga, in late 1917.
After Germany’s defeat in the war and the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, Prinzregent Luitpold and most of the capital ships of the High Seas Fleet were interned by the Royal Navy in Scapa Flow. The ships were disarmed and reduced to skeleton crews while the Allied powers negotiated the final version of the Treaty of Versailles. On 21 June 1919, days before the treaty was signed, the commander of the interned fleet, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, ordered the fleet to be scuttled to ensure that the British would not be able to seize the ships. Prinzregent Luitpold was raised in July 1931 and subsequently broken up for scrap in 1933.