SMS Stosch was a Bismarck-class corvette built for the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) in the late 1870s. The ship was named for Admiral Albrecht von Stosch, the first chief of staff (from 1872 to 1883) of the newly created Imperial Navy. She was the third member of the class, which included five other vessels. The Bismarck-class corvettes were ordered as part of a major naval construction program in the early 1870s, and she was designed to serve as a fleet scout and on extended tours in Germany’s colonial empire. Stosch was laid down in November 1875, launched in October 1876, and was commissioned into the fleet in June 1879. She was armed with a battery of ten 15 cm (5.9 in) guns and had a full ship rig to supplement her steam engine on long cruises abroad.
Stosch embarked on a major overseas cruise in the 1880s, first as the flagship of the East Asia Squadron from 1881 to 1885. In early 1885, she was transferred to the East Africa Squadron, where she also served as the flagship, though this stint lasted just six months, when she was transferred again, briefly, to the West African Squadron, before returning to Germany in late 1885. During these four years abroad, she was involved with mediating disputes over Germany’s growing colonial empire in the Pacific Ocean and in Africa. Beginning in early 1886, Stosch underwent an extensive modernization in preparation for her service as a training ship for naval cadets and later apprentice seamen.
The ship served in this capacity from 1888 to 1907, during which time her activity consisted primarily of fleet training exercises and overseas training cruises. These cruises frequently went to the West Indies and Mediterranean Sea, though she also made visits to South America and West Africa. She also engaged in settling disputes involving foreign governments, including over the murder of a pair of German citizens in Morocco in 1895 and during the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–1903. After being decommissioned in April 1907, she was briefly used as a hulk in Kiel before being sold for scrap in October that year.
The six ships of the Bismarck class were ordered in the early 1870s to supplement Germany’s fleet of cruising warships, which at that time relied on several ships that were twenty years old. Stosch and her sister ships were intended to patrol Germany’s colonial empire and safeguard German economic interests around the world.
Stosch was 82 meters (269 ft)long overall, with a beam of 13.7 m (44 ft 11 in) and a draft of 5.2 m (17 ft 1 in) forward. She displaced2,994 metric tons (2,947 long tons) at full load. The ship’s crew consisted of 18 officers and 386 enlisted men. She was powered by a single marine steam engine that drove one 2-bladed screw propeller, with steam provided by four coal-fired fire-tube boilers, which gave her a top speed of 12.6 knots (23.3 km/h; 14.5 mph) at 2,419 metric horsepower (2,386 ihp). She had a cruising radius of 2,380 nautical miles (4,410 km; 2,740 mi) at a speed of 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph). As built, Stosch was equipped with a full ship rig, but this was later reduced.