Pre-WWI German Battleship Wreck In English Channel Given Protection

The SMS Grosser Kurfürst has been granted protection by Historic England.

The wreck of a pre-First World War German battleship sank off the coast of Kent has been given protection by Historic England.

The ship was one of only three experimental Preussen-class ‘ironclad’ warships, authorised under the naval programme of 1867.

She sank in 1878 with 284 losing their lives.

While preparing for summer training in the English Channel, the vessel was accidentally rammed by another German warship while it was turning to avoid a collision with two sailing ships.

The strengthened ram bow of the Konig Wilhem ripped the ships armour plating away, creating a huge hole that would rapidly sink the ship.

Many of the bodies were recovered and buried in Cheriton Road Cemetery in Folkestone.

Their graves are marked by a memorial, which has also been granted protection.

The memorial in Folkestone to the shipwreck has also been given protection (Picture: Historic England).

Heritage minister Nigel Huddleston said: "The listing of the SMS Grosser Kurfurst and the memorial plaque is a fitting tribute to the 284 men who died when the ship sank more than 130 years ago.

"I hope that the increased protection for both sites will ensure that the ingenuity of the early ironclad ships and their influence on modern navy vessels is not forgotten."

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: "This historic shipwreck tells the story of Germany’s increasing naval strength in the late-19th century at a time when Britain and Germany were on friendly terms.

"The SMS Grosser Kurfurst is important as the only non-Royal Naval warship recorded as wrecked in English waters for the period 1860-1913."

Cover image: A picture depicting the rescue efforts as the ship sank (Picture: Historic England).