Yorck is the second member of the Roon-class of armored cruisers built for the German Imperial Navy as part of a major naval expansion program aimed at strengthening the fleet. She was laid down in April 1903, launched in May 1904, and commissioned in November 1905. She spent the first seven years of her career in "I. Scouting Group", the reconnaissance force for the High Seas Fleet (Hochseeflotte), initially as the group flagship. During this period, she was occupied with training exercises and made several cruises in the Atlantic Ocean. Yorck was involved in various accidents, including an accidental explosion aboard in 1911 and a collision with a torpedo boat in 1913. In May of the same year, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve until the outbreak of World War I in July 1914. She was thereafter mobilized and assigned to "III. Scouting Group". On November 3, she formed part of the screen for the High Seas Fleet as it sailed to support a German raid on Yarmouth.