Grosser Kurfürst: 19th Century warship wreck off Kent protected

The wreck of a German battleship that was sunk in 1878 off Folkestone, with the loss of nearly 300 lives, has been granted government protection.

The experimental ironclad warship SMS Grosser Kurfürst was accidentally hit by another German ship as it prepared for naval exercises off Kent.

The König Wilhelm had a strengthened ram bow designed to sink enemy ships, Historic England said.

Armour plating on SMS Grosser Kurfürst was ripped away and it sank rapidly.

Many of the 284 men who lost their lives on 31 May 1878 were recovered and buried in Cheriton Road Cemetery in Folkestone, where a large memorial stands in their honour.

Speaking that day, William Smith, the First Lord of the Admiralty told Bedford Pimm, the MP for Gravesend: “A collision occurred between the König Wilhelm and the Grosser Kurfürst in an endeavour to avoid a collision with a merchant vessel.

“The Grosser Kurfürst appears to have sunk at once.

“The coastguard at Folkestone rendered immediate assistance.”

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