One of the many capital ships conceived during the post-'Dreadnought' era of Anglo-German naval rivalry prior to 1914, S.M.S. Lützow was one of the two "Derflinger" class battlecruisers ordered for the Kaisermarine in the autumn of 1911. Named in honour of Adolf von Lützow, a Prussian hero of the Napoleonic Wars, the ship to bear his name was built in the Danzig yards of F. Schichau and laid down in May 1912. Launched on 19th November 1913, she displaced 26,318 tons (30,700 deep loaded) and measured 690 feet in length with a 95 foot beam. Protected by an armour belt up to 12ins. thick, she carried a main armament of 8-12in. guns as well as an impressive array of smaller calibre weaponry and 4-23½in. (submerged) torpedo tubes. Power to her quadruple screws came from four massive Parsons' steam turbines fired from 18 coal-burning double-ended Schulz-Thornycroft boilers to give a maximum speed of 26½ knots, and she had a cruising range of 5,600 nautical miles at 14 knots. As she approached completion, it was generally agreed that she and her sister Derflinger were a significant improvement on the previous "Seydlitz" class although when she ran her trials on 8th August 1915, she was found to have serious turbine defects which delayed her eventual commissioning until the spring of the following year.
With all problems rectified, Lützow finally joined Rear-Admiral Hipper's First Scouting Group (High Seas Fleet) at the end of March 1916 and when Seydlitz hit a mine near Norderney a month later, she was unexpectedly made flagship to the squadron which raided Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth on 24-25th April and caused consternation along the east coast of England. The next month saw the crystallisation of Admiral Scheer's audacious plan to destroy British shipping -- merchant as well as naval -- in and around the Skaggerak, and Hipper's First Scouting Group and a Second [less well-armed] Group sailed for the Norwegian coast as a diversionary tactic. At about 1.30pm on 31st May, Hipper's force was sighted by Beatty's First Battle Cruiser Squadron and the first shots of the so-called Battle of Jutland were exchanged barely twenty minutes later. Lützow soon came under the combined fire of H.M.S. Lion (Beatty's flagship) and Princess Royal but managed a direct hit on Lion's "Q" turret at 4.00pm. which knocked Beatty's flagship right out of the battle. Just after 4.30pm. Hipper's squadron rendezvoused with Scheer's main force and turned towards Jellicoe's Grand Fleet; Lützow suffered severe damage during this "run to the north" and sustained hits from at least 24 heavy shells, the two most serious being below the waterline from H.M.S. Invincible's 12in. guns. Although her own guns sank Invincible and probably H.M.S. Defence as well, Lützow was mortally wounded. Hipper was forced to transfer his flag at 7.00pm. and as the flooding gradually swamped her engine rooms, she became so unmanageable that she had to be taken in tow. Efforts to save her continued until well after midnight but once her crew had been transferred to the destroyer G.38 which was standing by, the same vessel was ordered to torpedo Lützow at 1.45am. on 1st June. When she sank two minutes later, she was the most powerful ship on either side to be lost in the only significant large-scale naval action of the Great War.