After losing in the First World War and signing the Treaty of Versailles, Germany faced severe restrictions in terms of its military power and the creation of new weapons. As a result, for example, Germany was forbidden from building new cruisers until the service life of those remaining after the war had reached 20 years. However, even in those cases, Germany was not allowed to go beyond strictly defined technical specs when designing a future ship. In 1921, construction of a new light cruiser began in the Wilhelmshaven naval shipyard. The ship was meant to replace the Niobe cruiser, which had been built way back in 1899. After several delays, the cruiser was launched in January 1925 and solemnly named “Emden.” The ship inherited the name from a well-known World War I cruiser that had been sunk in the Indian Ocean.
Due to the country’s dire economical state, the tactical technical specifications of the new ship ended up being way below those that Germany was allowed to implement in the project. In essence, Emden was obsolete from the construction stage. However, this light cruiser ended up becoming the most upgradable ship of the German fleet. During the 1926-1945 period, extensive work was performed on the cruiser: the coal-fired boilers were replaced with oil-fired ones, new 533 mm torpedo tubes were fitted onto ship, the anti-air armament was significantly improved, the obsolete 150 mm armament of the kaiser era were substituted with more powerful alternatives, and the radar system became subject to numerous upgrades. The cruiser was involved in a lot of adventures during her service time before the start of the war – with eight long-distance cruises under her belt (pun intended), Emden had practically been in every corner of the world. During the Second World War, Emden was primarily used as a training ship and a military communications centre. In 1945, the Emden light cruiser was fatally damaged by a British air dropped bomb and subsequently sunk.