The antique ‘Light Cruisers’
These Gerlan ship of the fourth class were considered “cruisers” but in reality were more comparable to gunboats. They were intended for colonial service and had a barquentine rigging with ram bows and wooden sheating to diffuse the metal heat in tropical waters. They were built in relative similar plans in different yards, at Dantzig, Kiel, Blohm & Voss and Wilhelmshaven Dyd, laid down in 1888 to 1893, launched in 1890-94 and completed in 1890-95, and all named after seabirds.
During this large gap of time the design was revised. The first batch of three (Bussard and Falke) were 1838 tons standard, 82.6 m overall by 12.5 and 4.45 m draught. All three had two shaft HTE (Horizontal Triple Expansion) steam engines rated for 2,800 hp for 15.5 knots. They were all armed the same way with eight 105 mm guns, 5 QF revolver cannons, and two 350 mm TTs (only on Falke).
The next batch, Seeadler, Cormoran and Condor were wider at 12.7 m and with a larger draught at 5.35 m but other specs were identical. The fifth and last ship, Geier, was narrower at 10.6 m, with 5.22 m draught but longer at 83.9 m overall, 79.62 waterline. Their TTs were upgraded to 450 mm models. Their 105 mm guns were installed by pairs forward and aft and two on the broadsides. The revolver cannons were installed amidship, as it seems. Their general configuration recalled the Schwalbe class “light cruisers”, 1337 ton ships relegated to secondary duties or hulked in 1911-12.
Only Falke and Condor escaped rebuilding. The other underwent refits and reconstructions between 1898 and 1909, re-rigged as topsail schooners. Their bridges were enlarged. The first two were discarded in 1913, the newt two (Seeadler and Condor) were hulked in 1914, while SMS Cormoran was active in Tsingtao when the port was attacked by the Japanese and scuttled on 28.9.1914 to avoid capture. In 1917 Seeadler was used as a mine hulk when she blew up in the Jade. Condor survived the war and was scrapped in 1921.
Geier had already a long overseas service when the war broke out. She sailed to the far east and once carried Graf Von Spee to the East Asia squadron. She served in the pacific and was later rushed to Tsingtao but arrived too late as the harbor was already taken. Her commander decided to follow the East Asia Squadron to South America, but the worn-out ship could only proceed to 8 knots, making her a poor commerce raider. She was eventually towed to the Marshall Islands by Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) steamer Locksun, repaired and later joined Honolulu. She was here when the USA entered the war and was captured. Geier was renamed USS Schurz and served as a gunboat and served in 1917-18 but was eventually accidentally rammed and sank by the merchant ship Florida.