May 1878 GROSSER KURFURST Sunk
SMS Grosser Kurfürst
was an ironclad turret ship of the German Kaiserliche Marine. She
was laid down at the Imperial Dockyard in Wilhelmshaven in 1870 and
completed in 1878; her long construction time was in part due to a
redesign that was completed after work on the ship had begun. Her
main battery of four 26 cm (10 in) guns was initially to be placed
in a central armored battery, but during the redesign this was altered
to a pair of twin gun turrets amidships. (wiki)
On May 31st 1878,
while three German warships were holding an exercise in the channel,
the "Grosser Kurfurst" and the "Koenig Wilhelm"
found themselves on a collision course as they changed direction to
avoid a Norwegian barque.
The German turret
ironclad warship "Grosser Kurfurst" which had been sent
out on her maiden voyage on 29th May 1878, was rammed by "Konig
Wilhelm" as she tore away she left a 20 foot long by 14 feet
wide opening on "Grosser Kurfust" port side in her armour
plating below the waterline. She went down with 287 lives.
The German government
in 1881 erected a stone obelisk memorial to the mass grave in Folkestone's
Cheriton Road cemetery.
REMEMBER THE GROSSER
off Folkestone on
31st May 1878
Ober Fw. Maat HENSEL
Ober Fw. Maat RÜBNER
Fw. Maat HAGEN
Schreiber (Maat) MEYER
Maat GRAWE gnt. FISCHER
Maat DEHN gnt. KOCK
Maat von LENGEN
Maat von OESEN
30.05.1878, Folkstone S.M.S. Grosser Kurfürst
shipwreck is protected
The wreck has
been scheduled and added to the National Heritage List for England.
Scheduling means that recreational divers have permission to dive
the wreck but its contents are given a level of protection. The
associated memorial at Cheriton Road Cemetery in Folkestone has
been listed at Grade II. Spring 2020.
Wessex Archaeology dated 5th September 2019: On Friday, subject to
weather, a Wessex Archaeology dive team will begin a non-intrusive
survey of the wreck of the Grosser Kurfürst for Historic England.
Using data supplied by the UKHO, our marine geophysicists have processed
this multibeam sonar plan-view image of the wreck. Although it is
partially collapsed, you can see that the hull is upside-down, just
as the historical records suggest the ship sank. However, this data
does not tell us everything and, using hand-held imaging sonar and
sharp eyes, our divers will be trying to answer a number of questions
about this large wreck.
As an ‘ironclad’,
the ship is from a revolutionary period in naval warfare in which
navies moved from reliance upon wooden to armoured ships and which
saw the emergence of the forerunners of the great Dreadnought battleships
of the First World War. It was a highly experimental time that briefly
saw the return of the ancient ram, but ended with the dominance of
armour plate and the big gun. It is rare for European ocean-going
ironclad warships to be studied archaeologically, so we hope that
this work will contribute to our knowledge of this fascinating period
in naval history.
Note: The wreck is upside down on the seabe. To stop
the dead bodies from being washed up on the beaches, a number of nets
was put on the wreck to keep the dead in the vessel,and the area was
a dumping ground for clinker (used to coal from railway ships).
died while visiting this shipwreck.