S.M.S. Irene - Searching for the resources...

Category: Research
Published on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 13:45
Written by Super User
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A chinese opium lamp, chinese silk shoes and a small sword resting in an ivory sheath, these are the things my mind connects to my grand grandfather (though I never met him).

These three items were hanging in a lovely ensemble on the wall of my grandmothers appartment. They came - as reported by my grandmother - from the time when my great-grandfather supposedly was participating on a punitive expedition as a crew member of the gunboat S.M.S. Iltis on the Yangtse river. Well all that was not quite true as it turned out.

After my father started his genealogical research and therefore also collected information about my great-grandfather, he came across an excerpt from the berlin Krankenbuchlager (an archive collecting all patient records of the german military). Now it became clear that my great-grandfather never was a crew member of the gunboat S.M.S. Iltis but was sailing the seas on two other ships of the german imperial navy: S.M.S. Irene (1894-1898 as a Maschinenmaat - petty officer second class and 1900 - 1901 as a Obermaschinenmaat) and S.M.S. Beowulf (1898 - 1900 as a Ober Maschinen Maat).

Having always had a soft spot for model ship building and playing from time to time with the idea of building a model of the Iltis on which supposedly my great-grandfather was sailing the seas, my interest now turned to these two vessels. Beowulf is quite well known to model ship builders focussing on the german imperial navy. There are as well excellent modeling plans and fantastic models of S.M.S. Beowulf. The S.M.S. Irene, however, as it appears to me, much less in the focus of model ship builders. So I began my search for material regarding this ship.


An inquiry to the working group of historic shipbuilding brought me finally to the Federal Archives of Germany in Freiburg. There are 94 parts of the original plans of S.M.S. Irene archived in this german institution. Partly with and sometimes without a date. With the help of members of the internet forum Kaiserliche Marine (thanks again) I selected the 16 most important plans. After having received a first cost estimate dropping the project was my first reaction. Scans of the plans should have cost more than 1,000 euros. Too much for a hobby. After several phone calls and research I then tried a different approach. I ordered slides of plans and looked for a scan service in my area. This allowed me to reduce the cost to around 250 euros at an adequate quality.

I also searched for (and of course still do) pictures about this ship. Over several intricate web paths I then came to the Saxon State Library. This library offers parts of the archive Dr. Franz Stoedtner via German Fotothek. Here I received a high-quality scan and as well the permission to publish it on my private website (of course with reference to the source). So many thanks for the permission as well.

S.M.S. Irene 1901?

Now I have some work to do. Above all, the preparation of the plans is currently the focus. Plans which are over 120 years old have suffered over the course of time and two world wars. Accordingly, it is for an ambitious beginner like me, of course, a challenge to prepare these plans.

Unfortunately opium lamp, silk shoes and sword are gone missing before my grandmother moved into a nursing home. At this time, my grandmother was very generous ...