A German transatlantic ocean liner named after Wilhelm I, German Emperor, the first ruler of united Germany.
Constructed in Stettin for the North German Lloyd (NDL), she entered service in 1897 and was the first liner to have four funnels.
The first of four sister ships built between 1903 and 1907 by NDL (the others being SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II and the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie) she marked the beginning of a huge change in the way maritime supremacy was demonstrated in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
The ship began a new era in ocean travel and the novelty of having four funnels was quickly associated with size, strength, speed and above all luxury. Quickly established on the Atlantic, she gained the Blue Riband for Germany, a notable prize for the quickest trip from Europe to America which had been previously dominated by the British.
In 1900, she was involved in a fire in the port of New York which resulted in several deaths. She was also the victim of a naval ram in the French port of Cherbourg in 1906. With the advent of her sister ships, she was then converted to an all third class ship to take advantage of the lucrative immigrant market travelling to the United States.
Converted into an auxiliary cruiser during World War I, she was given orders to capture and destroy enemy ships within the first months of the war.
Relatively successful, she destroyed several enemy ships before eventually being destroyed in the Battle of Río de Oro in August 1914, the first month of the war, by the British cruiser HMS Highflyer.
Her wreck was rediscovered in 1952 and then dismantled. A once popular ship, she has largely been forgotten, having been overshadowed by her British counterparts.
Painting of the fight between the German auxiliary cruiser SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and the British cruiser HMS Highflyer on 26 August 1914. the day after her encounter with Galician
The German ship was caught refuelling off the shore of the then Spanish colony of Rio de Oro in western Africa and was sunk or scuttled after her ammunition ran out.