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The "Suehneprinz" is aboard

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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 great-grandfather (though I never met him but own several photos of 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 german 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 S.M.S. Beowulf (1898 - 1900 as a Ober Maschinen Maat).


After the boxer-uprise in china one chinese prince had to travel the world and excuse for the boxer uprise. This prince was quickly known as the "Suehneprinz" in germany by that time. My great-grandfather after leaving the german imperial started working for Rheinmetal as an engineer. His colleagues, knowing he was stationed in east asia during his career at the navy, as well quickly gave him the nickname "Suehneprinz". This is the reason why I chose this as a nickname here.
Having always had a soft spot for model ship building (Having build several ships as a kit - Mohaganny runabouts) 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, is 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 in germany 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 an internet forum dealing with the german imperial navy 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.


Searching for information about how I can model the hull of the Irene (and maybe Beowulf) I finally came across a thread regarding Freecad in this forum. Currently I am still at the very beginning of putting all the pieces together. Currently I am trying to learn how to create a good plan for the model out of the scan and slides I own.

A (german) description with some images of S.M.S. Irene can be found here: S.M.S. Irene on deutsche-schutzgebiete.de

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Yes it was a beautiful ship especially in the tropical color scheme (white and sand yellow). One of the first protected cruisers of the german imperial navy that didn't have a rigging for sails (I am not sure if the term is correct as I am not an native english speaker). Don't expect anything soon. As I wrote I am currently trying to learn how to recreate the linesplan based on the scans of the official plans. So for now I think I am going to stay a silent reader and maybe I will ask one or two questions in the future. I want to create a RC controlled ship with the hull being separated at the waterline. This way the top can be completely removed providing a good access to the interior without having to deal with the rig.

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Yes, we also see the term "protected cruiser" in English-language sources, though I could not tell you exactly what the differences were between "armored cruisers" and "protected cruisers." It implies differences in the degree of armoring, perhaps in thickness and what parts of the ship were protected, but I'm not knowledgeable on that particular subject.

Chris Coyle
Greer, South Carolina

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
- Tuco

Current builds: Brigantine Phoenix, Speeljacht

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In the dutch navy we had protected and armoured cruisers.

Protected cruisers had an armoured deck (pantserdek kruisers in Dutch) armoured cruisers had an armoured belt at the waterline. (Pantserkruiser in Dutch)

 My favourit dutch protected cruiser is the Gelderland-class. No model available :( 

Slighty later than the german cruiser described above.



There is a very nice cardmodel of beowulf (by hmv, scale 1:250). Is on my wishlist.


I guess you are aware of the german forum dedicated to the Kaiserliche Marine?

(Edit: I checked: unless your name is used by someone else you are ;) )




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Hi Jan,

yes I am the same one there... It's the successor forum of another forum which was given up by the owner. Fuzzy the owner of the new forum tried to rescue as much information as possible and I think he did a very good job. If you're interested in the Beowulf, there's a very good plan by Wolfgang Bohlayer (Schiffbauer in the Forum) based on the original shipyard model.

The Gelderland class looks very nice as well. Mabe some day Irene and Gelderland meet on a nice little lake 😉


To my understanding protected cruisers had as well an armored belt at the waterline and only one deck was armored so the most important machinery and storage for amunition was protected whereas upper decks were not armored. The reason was that by having it that way the ships were not that heavy and were able to be faster.

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Welcome to MSW,   This sounds like an interesting project.  I would suggest that you open a topic here on the ship:  https://modelshipworld.com/forum/13-discussions-for-ships-plans-and-project-research-general-research-on-specific-vessels-and-ship-types/.  


"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans - ON HOLD           Triton Cross-Section   

 NRG Hallf Hull Planking Kit                                                                            HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               


Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         



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Welcome to Model Ship World!


Really interesting background information. I enjoyed greatly reading it all, including your great-grandfather's history.


When you have your plans under way, it would be great to see them - even before you start building!

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Welcome to Model Ship World suehneprinz.  I too look forward to seeing your plans of your cruiser.  The naval history of the late 19th and early 20th century really fascinates me.  I enjoyed the website on the Irene.  She had quite a history.



Member - Hampton Roads Ship Model Society

            - Ship Model Society of New Jersey

               - Nautical Research Guild



Current Build - Armed Virginia Sloop, 18th Century Longboat

Completed Build - Medway Longboat

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