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SMS Gneisenau  was an armored cruiser of the German Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy), part of the two-ship Scharnhorst class. Named for the earlier screw corvette of the same name, the ship was laid down in June 1904 at the AG Weser shipyard in Bremen, launched in June 1906, and commissioned in March 1908. She was armed with a main battery of eight 21 cm (8.3 in) guns, a significant increase in firepower over earlier German armored cruisers, and she had a top speed of 22.5 knots (42 km/h; 26 mph). Gneisenau initially served with the German fleet in I Scouting Group, though her service there was limited owing to the British development of the battlecruiser by 1909, which the less powerful armored cruisers could not effectively combat.

Accordingly, Gneisenau was assigned to the German East Asia Squadron, where she joined her sister ship Scharnhorst. The two cruisers formed the core of the squadron, which included several light cruisers. Over the next four years, Gneisenau patrolled Germany's colonial possessions in Asia and the Pacific Ocean. She also toured foreign ports to show the flag and monitored events in China during the Xinhai Revolution in 1911. Following the outbreak of World War I in July 1914, the East Asia Squadron, under the command of Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee, crossed the Pacific to the western coast of South America, stopping for Gneisenau and Scharnhorst to attack French Polynesia in the Bombardment of Papeete in September.

After arriving off the coast of Chile, the East Asia Squadron encountered and defeated a British squadron at the Battle of Coronel; during the action, Gneisenau disabled the British armored cruiser HMS Monmouth, which was then sunk by the German light cruiser Nürnberg. The defeat prompted the British Admiralty to detach two battlecruisers to hunt down and destroy Spee's squadron, which they accomplished at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914. Gneisenau was sunk with heavy loss of life, though 187 of her crew were rescued by the British. wiki

SMS Gneisenau WL print

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