First and last heavy cruisers of ww1
In 1914, the Royal Navy aligned dozens of cruisers of the old 3rd, 2nd and 1st rate, protected and armoured, but after the launch of the Dreadnought in 1906, production focused on light cruisers, and this lineage would go through ww1 and beyond. Operations showed however the need for a more heavily armed cruiser type designed to counter German commerce raiders and be posted in far away overseas stations to deal with 170 mm-armed German cruisers (like Von Spee’s Scharnhorst class). Too late for ww1 (the five cruisers were completed 1917-18 for the first two, but operational in 1919), they inspired the model of heavy cruiser defined by the Washington treaty in 1922, had a quite active career in ww2, famously named after Elizabethan corsairs. They also inspired a new type of Interwar “colonial cruiser” known collectively as the “County” class.
HMS Effingham in 1940.
The main attention and focus turned to artillery as everything revolved around it, with an original combination of 190 and 102 mm pieces as designed. Efforts were made to boost their autonomy, for a final displacement of 9000 tons. In their final drawing in 1915, they were also able to face any cruiser of the time thanks to no less than seven 7.5-inch (191 mm) Mark VI guns under masks, distributed along the axis, with two side ones Almost in the center, for a six guns broadside. This was still a far cry to the next evolution (eight 8 in guns) but the path was there. They rendered obsolete armoured and protected cruisers overnight by using fuel instead of coal and were much faster. A new generation of cruisers, that would serve actively in the interwar, but still appeared as “ancestors” in 1939.
Brassey’s naval annual 1923
There were significant differences between the ships at the end prior to ww2. However their uniform design included a radical armament of only heavy pieces and light dual-purpose ones for some (with TB in mind as well as aircraft). In detail, these were all to be equipped with seven 7.5-inch (191 mm) Mark VI guns in single mounts CP Mk.V, eight × QF 12-pounder (76 mm) 12 cwt Mk.II guns in single mounts P Mk.I, four QF 3-inch (76.2 mm) 20 cwt Mk.I guns on single mounts HA Mk.II and two submerged and four fixed surface 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes.
They reached 31 knots thanks to four geared steam turbines fed by eight Yarrow oil-fired boilers, which developed a total of 70,000 shp (52,000 kW) although Frobisher and Effingham had Brow-Curtis ones, the former being fitted with two coal-fired boilers (removed 1929) for a total of 60,000 shp (45,000 kW). All the ships but Effingham (see later) were rearmed at completion by three QF 4-inch (102 mm) Mk.V guns in single mounts HA Mk.III or four QF 3-inch 20 cwt Mk.I guns on single mounts HA Mk.II (Hawkins), four QF 3-inch 20 cwt Mk.I guns on single mounts HA Mk.II and two QF 2-pounder (40 mm) Mk.II guns on single mounts HA Mk.I.
Protection was modeled on previous classes, albeit thicker, up to 76 mm. This comprised a main belt up to 2.5 in (38–64 mm) forward
and 3 in (76 mm) amidships, 2.25–1.5 in (57–38 mm) aft, and for the upper belt 1.5 in (38 mm) forward, 2 in (51 mm) amidships. The Upper deck was protected by 1 to 1.5 in (25–38 mm) over the boilers and the main deck was protected by 1 to 1.5 in (25–38 mm) armour thickness over the engines and 1 in (25 mm) over the steering gear.
All 190 mm Gunshields were 2 in (51 mm) thick at the front, 1 in (25 mm) top and sides.
HMS Vindictive as completed as an hybrid aircraft carrier with a capacity for six reconnaissance aircraft. She was briefly armed with four 7.5 in guns and six 12-pounder guns but in 1923 was converted back as a cruiser, only retaining a forward hangar and instead of ‘B’ gun a crane and catapult were fitted. Fleet repair ship in 1940 she was damaged by an airborne “Dackel” torpedo off Normandy. Repaired she served as a destroyer depot ship (reserve 1945, BU 1946).
HMS Raleigh was lost on an unclassified reef of the Labrador coast in 1922, and the Vindictive was transformed into an hybrid aircraft carrier and converted as a fast supply ship in 1935. The other five ships were modernized in 1936-38, but it was planned to disarm them, but that was suspended when international tension grew. Their underwater torpedo tubes were removed, their old 76 mm AA pieces were replaced by four 102 mm quick-firing guns and ten 40 mm Bofors in quadruple and single mounts plus nine single 20-mm Oerlikon pieces.
They received even more AA guns during the war, plus were equipped with a type 273 centimeter radar, a 286 type aerial surveillance radar antenna, and a 275 electronic fire control systems. The Frobisher additionally received two types 282 For its Bofors mounts. The latter was also freed from her side 190 mm guns in favor of additional 102 mm guns in twin turrets. Their combined heaters went to oil only and their boilers were replaced by more modern models. Most of these ships has been used for escorting convoys. Effingham, for her part, was rebuilt in 1937: Her engine was modernized, chimneys truncated into a single one, artillery replaced by only 152 mm quick firing pieces under masks, three of which were superimposed on stepped gangways. In this configuration she was a bit in a way the prototype of the future “Dido” AA cruisers.
HMS Hawkins in the interwar
The Effingham was lost early in the war, in 1940, on a reef in Norway. But before that she had transported two million pounds of gold from the Bank of England to Nova Scotia, chased German raiders into the Atlantic, and then participated in the Norwegian campaign. Torpedoed by the U38, she survived, was repaired in record time and returned to operations, fighting in particular in Narvik. It was there that she met her destiny. For the anecdote, the map operator drawn a course so thick that it masked a reef off Navik’s passes. She struck this reef in right when racing in the middle of the night, opening an immense breach in her flanks which caused a rapid sinking. Fortunately, most of her crew escaped and swam back to shore. She was then achieved by friendly gunfire to prevent capture and reduced to the state of smoking wreck four days later.
HMS Effingham as rebuilt in 1938
During her peacetime career, Frobisher served in India, the Atlantic and China. She had been disarmed in 1930, and served as a schoolship but was eventually modernized and rearmed between 1940 and 1942. She was sent rapidly to the Far East where the situation deteriorated and fought against the Japanese until his return in late 1943. She served as an escort in the Atlantic and provided fire support in Normandy in June 1944, covering Sword beach. She was torpedoed by night by an unidentified S-Boote in August 1944, repaired and finally partially disarmed to serve as a school ship again, a role she held until set aside, unlisted, sold and broken up in 1949.
HMS Frobisher in the Firth of Forth, 1945
The Hawkins served in The southern Atlantic, based in the Falklands, to intercept potential German corsairs trying to pass Cape Horn. She was then sent to the Indian Ocean, where she carried out a raid on Mogadishu against Italian shipping, capturing a cargo ship. After an overhaul lasting until 1942, she was sent to the Far East to assist the Frobisher against the Japanese. Then she returned in time to participate in D-Day operations at Utah Beach. Afterwards she was broken up after the war in 1949.
HMS Hawkins in 1944
|Dimensions||184oa x18 x5.26 m (605 x58 x17 ft)|
|Displacement||9,750 tons Standard, 12,190 tons FL|
|Crew||712 or 750 as flagship|
|Propulsion||4 shafts and Parsons geared steam turbines, 10 Yarrow boilers, 70,000 hp|
|Speed||31 knots (57 km/h)|
|Range||5400 @14 knots (10,000 km)|
|Armament||7x 190mm, 3x 102 mm, 8x 76mm DP, 2 Bofors 40mm AA, 6 TT 533mm|
|Armor||Belt 38-64 mm (1.5-2.5 in), decks & bulkheads 38-51 mm (2 in).|
Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1922-1947
Frobisher in June 1944 off Normandy (author’s illustration).
HMS Raleigh at Pier D, Vancouver (prow)
HMS Raleigh at Pier D, Vancouver (side)
Raleigh sunk at Point Harbour, 1922.
The new Italian Battleships
The first Italian dreadnought (the irony was the concept was Italian-born, Cuniberti thinking of a glorified, fast armoured cruiser rather than a new class of battleship, but picked up and realized by Admiral Fisher) was the Dante Alighieri (launched 1910). She was started in 1909 because Italy was then completing the last pre-dreadnoughts of the Regina Elena class, already almost a transitional ship with their powerful secondary artillery and speed.
The Dante Alighieri, precursor and first Italian dreadnought (1910)
The Alighieri was designed by Engineer Edoardo Masdea to be literally built around its broadside, bearing four triple turrets, twelve 305 mm guns (12 in), which was the same than the contemporary French Courbet class battleships. But if this configuration allowed a full broadside, in chase or retreat this was far less (three versus eight on the latter). Therefore the next class was an attempt to remedy to this and having a more balance firepower in all situation. The Dante Alighieri (one of the rare, if only BS named after a poet) was eventually scrapped in 1928.
Back on the drawing board
In a relatively short span, Italy would design and built five battleships in two classes, based on roughly the same design. The Cavour class in that sense was almost a super-class, of which most ships entered service when WW1 has broke out. The 1916 Caracciolo design was a radical new approach in size and armament, almost a compromise between battlecruisers and battleships, a new breed soon known as the “fast battleship” quickly stopped by the Washington treaty and resumed in the 1930s.
Design of the class
Design of the Cavour
After the Dante Alighieri, which served as a prototype, the new class designed by Edoardo Masdea at the beginning of 1910 had specifications still including 305 mm pieces (while the Royal Navy was now going 13.5 in or 343 mm), but for an authorized tonnage of 23 000 tons, and a speed of 22 knots. Lessons learned from the Dante made it possible to redefine the plans. The first difference was the previous artillery centerline arrangement, now distributed in front and rear echelons, one turret remaining in the center, in accordance with contemporary designs.
The originality of the Italian concept was to mix triple and double turrets, the latter on the upper level to lighten stresses on the hull, for a total of 13 guns, which was superior to all the dreadnoughts built so far, except the Sultan Osman I, future HMS Agincourt, with its 14 pieces, still in completion at the time in an English shipyard. In 1910 there was turmoil in the Balkans, and Turkey was the most likely opponent for Italy.
Battleship Leonardo Da Vinci in Tarento
The second peculiarity of the Guilio Cesare was to return to the solution of barbettes for all secondary armaments (while Dante had double turrets), assembled in the center, on a diamond-like battery easier to protect but requiring large beaches in the hull for these to fire aft and rear. The two pairs of chimneys of the previous design were replaced by truncated chimneys framing the central turret, and on which the successive observation bridges were fitted, supported by the two tripod masts. This was another originality of the design. Tertiary armament consisted of 19 pieces of 76 mm instead of 13, placed on the main turrets, and on the bridge.
The battery protection was reinforced, and the turret armour raised to 280 mm (11 in). The originality had been to design a large blockhouse with 280 mm thick walls, protecting the command and fire control in the same structure. Its belt armor comprised a complete waterline 2.8 meters (9ft 2 in) tall, of which 1.6 meters was below the waterline and 1.2 meters above. Maximal thickness was 250 mm (9.8 in) reduced to 130 mm towards the stern and 80 mm towards the bow. There was a strake of armor 220 mm thick, extending 2.3 m up to the lower edge of the main deck, and a 130 mm layer above and an upper strake of 110 mm that protected the barbettes. The decks were 24 mm (0.94 in) -with 40 mm slopes, and 30 mm thick in succession.
The powerplant consisted in 20 Blechynden water-tube boilers (Cavour & Da Vinci) and 12 oil-fired and mixed-firing Babcock & Wilcox boilers (Cesare). But all had Parson turbine sets, located in the center engine room (two inner shafts) and side compartments for the outer shafts. Designed speed was 22.5 knots (41.7 km/h; 25.9 mph) not achieved in sea trials, despite having a better rated power as designed. Top speed ranged from 21.56 to 22.2 knots (39.93 to 41.11 km/h; 24.81 to 25.55 mph) at between 30,700 to 32,800 shaft horsepower (22,900 to 24,500 kW). They stored 1,450 long tons of coal and 850 long tons of fuel oil for 4,800 nautical miles range (8,900 km; 5,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), and 1,000 at 22 knots. In addition three turbo generators provided 150 kilowatts at 110 volts to power the main systems before heating the engines.
The Conte Di Cavour was started at La Spezia Arsenale laid down in 10 August 1910, launched exactly one year after and completed in 1 April 1915. Entirely rebuilt in the 1930s, she participated in WW2 as well. The Guilio Cesare was laid down at Gio. Ansaldo & C., Genoa earlier on 24 June 1910, but launched later on 15 October 1911 (hence she was not the class lead ship) and completed on 14 May 1915. The third, “fogotten battleship” of the class was the Leonardo Da Vinci (the choice of a painter after a poet) laid down at Odero, Genoa-Sestri Ponente, launched 14 October 1911 and completed 17 May 1914.
The next Caio Duilio class (1915-16) was closely derived.
Displacement: 23 000-24 250 T. Fully Loaded
Dimensions: 176 x 28 x 9,3 m
Propulsion: 4 propellers, 4 turbines Parsons, 20 Blechynden mixt boilers, 32,200 cv, 23 knots.
Armour: Belt 254 max, decks 111, blockhaus 280, turrets 254, battery 127mm
Armament: 13x 305 mm (12 in), 18 x 120 mm (5 in), 19 x 76 (2 in), 3 TT 450 mm SM (18 in).
All three were thus operational at the declaration of war of Italy to the central empires. These units formed the first division of the line, the spearhead of the Italian fleet. But their rare trips from Taranto, where they were all based, to intervene against a possible exit from the Austro-Hungarian fleet of the Straits of Otranto, were without notable facts, although they participated in bombing raids. Four pieces of 75 mm AA were added during the war, and the Da Vinci sank following a sabotage of Austrian divers, who had succeeded in forcing the way to Taranto on August 2, 1916. It was bailed out in 1919 but finally demolished. The two others were recast twice, and participated in the Second World War.
The most impressive battleship refit ever ?
The Guilio Cesare was launched in 1913 as a Dreadnought (monocaliber battleship). She was originally one in a serie of three sister ships (class Conte de Cavour) started in 1910, launched in 1911, and completed in 1913-14. Leonardo Da Vinci, the third in the class, was destroyed by a bunker explosion in 1916 and scrapped in 1923. In 1932-33 the remaining two ships were placed in reserve and then rebuilt in Genoa (Cesare) and Trieste (Cavour) in October 1933. This absolutely radical overhaul, led by Vice Admiral and General Naval Engineer Francesco Rotundi, included so many modifications, that the new Cesare was practically a brand new ship.
Conte di Cavour at sea
The great refit (1931-37)
The ship was fitted with in short with new engines and boilers, new shafts (from three to two) and new propellers, oil heating, new chimneys, with performance soaring up.
-Above the deck the story was the same, engineers started with a blank page. Two new masts were erected, a new bridge superstructure, conning tower and command tower, new rangefinders and optical instruments, fire table, radio and other modern equipments.
-The artillery pieces were recast, with a caliber raised from 305 to 320mm (), and far better elevation for a greater range, whereas the turrets were completely redesigned as well.
-A secondary artillery with 6 double turrets of 120 mm () was installed, instead of barbettes.
-A brand new AA artillery was installed, with six dual-purpose twin barreled turrets of 102 mm guns (4 in) and twelve twin mounts of 37 mm (2 in), plus twelve twin 13 mm Breda heavy machine guns.
-Moreover since the ship’s hull in drydock was completely overhauled, an elongated hull with a clipper bow and new waterline was also built.
-Last but not least, a completely redesigned armour scheme, with anti-torpedo bulges and completely redesigned vertical protection (decks and engine rooms). In fact, 40% of the old structure of the hull passed through this overhaul.
Even the Warspite, Queen Elisabeth and Valiant, their only equivalents in the Royal Navy, did not went as far. But still they had a 381 mm (16 in) main battery, which at least on paper had a clear advantage over Italian vessels in sheer broadside punch, although the ratio 10/8 guns was in favor of the Italians.
Camouflaged Cavour in Trieste, 1942.
Back into service
In the end, the two ships emerged in June and October 1937 from the drydocks as part of the 1st Naval Division (waiting for the Littorio class to replace them). After a naval review in Naples Bay before Hitler in 1938, their first action was on the coast of Albania in May 1939. Then in July 1940, they took pat in the battle of Punta Stilo (undecided). The Cesare was hit in this occasion. After repair, the two ships attempted to stop convoys to Malta, without success. On November 11, 1940, both ships were attacked by the famous night raid of Fairey Swordfish in Tarento and the Cavour was put out of action for months. In fact, the Cavour was salvaged and towed to Trieste for other repairs, which were not completed when Italy surrendered in 1943. Plans for rearmament after the war never materialized and the Cavour was scrapped in 1949.
Cavour being transferred from Tarento
Catastrophy: Cavour sunk at Taranto
The Cesare went on
For her part the Cesare, spared at Taranto, was back in action on 27 November, at Cape Sparivento, and later hit in Naples during an air attack in January 1941. In December she was in action again at the battle of the Great Syrta. Subsequently, it was necessary to reach Pola, then to be sent after the armistice to Tarento, but she was torpedoed by U-596 on her way in March 1944. The ship was later salvaged and repaired. In 1949, the Soviet navy was given the Cesare as war reparation, then renamed Novorrosiysk and painted in dark grey. She received a modernized AA artillery in 1953. In her new waters, she served as a training vessel on the Black Sea. Ironically in 1955, at night, the ship was again victim of the Germans, struck aloft by a drifting mine dating from the war. More than 600 sailors died, and it became the most severe Soviet Navy maritime disaster…
Caio Duilio of the near-sister Doria class (1940)
Novorosiysk in 1950 at Sevastopol. Notice the dark grey livery
Recoignition drawing Naval Intelligence
Cavour specifications 1940
|Dimensions||186.4 x 33.1 x 9.3m|
|Displacement||29,100 tonnes /29,600 tonnes FL|
|Propulsion||2 screws, 2 reduction turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 75 000 hp|
|Speed||27 knots (40 km/h; mph)|
|Range||6,400 nmi ()|
|Armament||12 x 120mm (6×2), 4 x 100mm AA, 12 x 13mm Breda AA.|
|Armor||Decks 135-166 mm, barbettes 130-280mm, belt 130-250mm, blockhaus 250mm.|
Nazi Germany (1939)
Aircraft Carrier – 1 unfinished
Germany’s aircraft carrier
Contrary to most European powers, Germany never ventured into the Aircraft carrier genre, but perhaps a few ad hoc conversions as seaplane tenders. The appearance and raid of HMS Furious on Zeppelin’s base in 1918 was duly noted by the German admiralty, but it was way too late then to devise any response. If there was any project of carrying aircraft, it was through these famous airships, for self-defense. That’s perhaps not at random that the first ships of a new ambitious class based on Plan Z, which stated four aircraft carriers, was named after the famous count.
Graf Zeppelin being launched in December 1938
While the initial renewal of the Kriegsmarine included as an objective the control of the Baltic, and a war with France (her fleet was mostly in the Mediterranean) Hitler, increasingly confident, decided in 1938 he wanted also the possibility to take on the Royal Navy in a war scenario with UK in home waters. For this, Plan Z (the third proposed by the Admiralty), the most ambitious, was approved in January 1939. This was a Wagnerian-like endeavour, with a plan for 800 ships, including 4 aircraft carriers, 10 battleships (two, Bismarck class), 12 battlecruisers (none), 3 armored ships (Panzerschiffe, improved Deutschland class, none), 5 heavy cruisers (Hipper class, all built), 44 light cruisers (M-class cruiser, none), 158 destroyers and torpedo boats (about 50 destroyers and 48 TDs), 249 submarines (much more). By the beginning of the war, despite M-class cruisers, H-class battleships and O-class battlecruisers being just started, Plan Z was just 20% advanced. In all that, the Graf Zeppelin was the first of its class, but was also started way before Plan Z was approved, back in 1936.
Genesis of the Graf Zeppelin
Building an aircraft carrier from scratch was not an easy endeavor. At least the first enemy targeted, France, had some experience with seaplane carriers in WW1 and converted a Washington-banned battleship, Bearn, into its first aircraft carrier in the 1920s, gaining a considerable experience. All top three best navies also had many of these in service and planned more. Initial researches for the design could be found in Wilhelm Hadeler, a member of the Kriegsmarine construction department, which followed with attention developments in other countries in particular UK. There were heated discussions as naval aviation technology leaped forward a considerable way in the 1930s, and the lack of anything resembling pilot training for naval operations was a concern too. Everything was to be done from scratch. First sketches were presented to Hitler in 1933 and 1934, planning for a 22,000 tonnes, 35 knots ship with 50 aircraft was agreed. Eventually with the Anglo-German naval agreement, Hitler felt time was come to authorize these ships and fixed the tonnage to 19,250 about 35% of British carrier tonnage.
US Naval intelligence 1942 recoignition plate.
Design had to be reworked to keep much of the original specs. Eventually before construction started, technical design studies were given to a specially setup Deutsche Werke AG design bureau. Final specs were redacted in close cooperation with the Kriegsmarine’s construction department and assistance by the Luftwaffe, which however was anything but motivated for the project and never specified requirements for their aircraft.
The general opinion of the day was an aircraft carrier was to be able to defend herself, and she was aligned on that of heavy cruiser in terms of armament and protection. Later this also included preventing destroyers night attacks and a battery of quick-firing 150mm guns was added. HMS Furious was visited in 1935 (a waste of time according to the report) and another delegation made a more fruitful trip to see the Akagi, helping to confirm the design path. Eventually the blueprints were ready and construction approved.
As the cornerstone of a future blue water navy, the lead ship of a class of two sisterships, “A”, was approved in 1935 and on 16 November 1935 a contract was awarded to Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel. However at that time the largest slip was occupied by Gneisenau, so construction had to wait for it to be cleared, which left time to refine the blueprints. The navy also tested models of elector-hydraulic lifts while the Luftwaffe constructed and tested an arrestor system at Travemünde. In total 2500 tests were made and the design refined until completion. To cope with wind pressure on such a tall hull, German engineers added retractable Voith-Schneider propellers in the bow for extra handling maneuvers. To prevent for aviation fuel fires, tanks fuelling systems non-liquid filled parts were filled with dry gas while serving pipes were surrounded by inert gas pipes. In addition sprinklers were added in all hangars.
Flugzeugträger “A” keel in Kiel AG, 28.12.1936
Concerning the superstructure, which was rather long to accommodate the staged AA artillery 105 mm batteries, the funnel height was reduced for clearing out the belt bridge near Fredericia. This imposed mast and aerials to be retractable, which was proven later unfeasible and all such height limits were dropped. In 1939 also the hull design was altered, the straight stem be converted as a “clipper” bow. The design was altered again in 1941 and 1942.
The 1938 design planned a 250 m long (820 fts 2 in on the waterline) ship, 31.50 m wide at bulge width (103 feets 4 in) and 7.20 draught (23 feets 7 in). Power comprised four shafts, each propelled by a Brown Boveri turbine, fed by 16 La Mont boilers for a total of 200,000 hp and 35 knots top speed. However 1942 design extra weight and bulges reduced that to 33 knots.
Armor protection comprised a 3.5 in belt, 1.5 in hangar deck, 3,5 in flight deck, and 1.5 in casemates.
Armament included eight double 150 mm guns 55 caliber C28 in casemates, six twin 105 mm/65 C33 dual-purpose guns, twenty-two 37mm/83 C33 AA guns in eleven twin mounts, and twenty-eight single 20 mm C38 mounts and possibly quad mounts C38M.
Eventually the Luftwaffe took on the program more seriously and began modifying the three planes intended to make the onboard complement: These were initially 10 Messerschmitt 109T (T for “träger”), 13 Junkers 87G, a navalised version, and 20 Fieseler Fi 167s torpedo reconnaissance bombers. For simplification it was later modified to 12 BF109T and 30 Ju87G acting as dive bombers and torpedo launchers. The choice a the Stuka in general seemed a good one as shown by Mediterranean operations (in Crete and elsewhere). It was also a way to simplify maintenance and supplies. In September 1939, Trägergruppe 186 had been formed and tested by the Luftwaffe at Kiel Holtenau, with the planned final complement, for the pilots to be properly trained to operate from mid-1940.
On 28 December 1936, Flugzeugträger A keel was laid down and she was launched on 8 December 1938, the 24th anniversary of the Battle of the Falkland Islands. She was christened by Helene von Zeppelin, daughter of the famous Count. At the outbreak of war projected completion by the middle of 1940 was realistic. However, despite all the efforts put into such project, and progresses, the graf Zeppelin was a casualty of war: Whereas construction was almost 85% complete (the “A” being christened “Graf Zeppelin”) U-boat construction priorities saw the project suspended. There were several nails in the coffin, though.
Graf Zeppelin in Stettin 8.12.1938
The first was linked to the conquest of Norway in April 1940. Whereas priorities to defend the Norwegian coastline asked for coastal guns and anti-aircraft batteries, Raeder also argued that fitting out the ship with the planned fire control system (just sold to USSR) and final guns would take another ten month. Therefore, Hitler suspended work on the aircraft carrier and all the planned guns and FLAK artillery were diverted to Norway.
Moving from places to places and back
In July 1940, Graf Zeppelin hulk was towed from Kiel to Gotenhafen (Gdynia) for a future completion. However when war erupted in the summer of 1941 with the Soviet Union, the ship was towed again this time to Stettin, out of reach of Soviet aviation. This further complicated an hypothetical completion as teams and materials were simply not there. By November, the ship was moved again to Gotenhafen as the German advance pushed back enough the Soviets to stay out of harm’s way. She layed there as a store ship for timber.
1942 design modifications
Raeder meeting with Hitler on naval strategy in April 1942, however, pushed the project again out of obscurity as operations clearly shown the usefulness of such a type of capital ship. Work resumed on 13 May 1942, with Hitler’s authorization. Raeder wanted newer planes, but Göering had him rebuffed due to the meager industrial resources of a hard-pressed Luftwaffe then, and stick to the initial planned provision of modified planes while training of new pilots resumed at Travemünde. But since the planes were heavier than 1938 versions, numerous designs changes had to be made.
In Kiel’s drydock 24.3.43 (Bundesarchiv)
Catapults needed modernization, stronger winches for the arrestor system were also needed, flight deck, elevators and hangar floors required reinforcement, new updated radars and fire control systems were also required, new radio equipment, armored fighter director cabin mounted and new reinforced main mast, better armored bridge, new curved funnel cap, an all-quad Flakvierling 38 guns complement and finally additional bulges fitted to improve stability on a ship that passed from 26.931 tonnes to 28.090 and then nearly 30,000 for this 1942 final design. That was ambitious, but the Kriegsmarine planned completion for April 1943. As sea trials were planned to began in the summer of that years, Chief Engineer Wilhelm Hadeler was reassigned to the prject and worked on a 26-knots capable powerplant. Service was estimated to start in the winter of 1944. Graf Zeppelin was back at Kiel on 5 December 1942, and placed on a drydock for this completion.
Although light seemed to be at reach in the tunnel for the unfortunate ship, fate turned again as Hitler became so disenchanted with the surface fleet that in late January 1943 he ordered in one of these famous hot-headed decisions that all large surface ships had to be scrapped and the material recycled to built U-boats. Raeder was relieved of command and Dönitz appointed as C-in-C. Little work was done when the hull in April was towed again to Gotenhafen but she was eventually moored at a back-water wharf in the Parnitz River near Stettin. She layed there without much progress but a guarding 40-man custodial crew until the Soviets reached her in April 1945. The crew scuttled the ship by opening the Kingston valves, preventing any attempt to tow her while demolition and depth charges were placed and detonated by order on 6pm on 25 April 1945. What about her sister ship ? “B” was ordered at Germaniawerft but if work started she was cancelled in March 1940 and broken up in situ. It was envisioned she would be modified during construction after changes made on A design.
Model of the ship at the Aeronauticum, German maritime aircraft museum
A controversial fate after the war
Attributed to USSR after the war by the allied tripartite commission she was designated “Category C” ship, unable to be retrieved and operated, and therefore had to be broken up. But she was ultimately refloated in March 1946, then towed to Leningrad and according to historian Erich Gröner struck a mine en route off the coast of Finland. According to other sources she survived the hit, made it to Leningrad and was to be broken up in 1948–1949. However declassified Soviet records revealed that on 14 August Graf Zeppelin was towed into Swinemunde harbor to be sunk five series of controlled explosions and torpedo hits at Swinemunde harbor. Her exact position was rediscovered on 12 July 2006 by Polish research vessel RV St. Barbara which made a three days dive campaign and confirmed its identity. All what’s left from this ship is the shipyard’s model, now displayed at the at the Aeronauticum, German maritime aircraft museum located in Nordholz (close to Cuxhaven).
Reconstruction of the initial 1939 design by DG_alpha
trumpeter-china.com/Uploads/201701/586def418cc50.jpg (what-if livery)
(Planned torpedo-bomber v25 by Vincent Bourguignon)
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
Graf Zeppelin specifications
|Dimensions||262.5 x36.2 x8.5 m (861, 118, 27 ft)|
|Propulsion||2 geared turbines, 16 LaMont boilers, 200,000 shaft horsepower (149,140.0 kW)|
|Speed||33.8 kn (62.6 km/h; 38.9 mph)|
|Range||8,000 nmi (14,816.0 km; 9,206.2 mi) at 19 kn (35.2 km/h; 21.9 mph)|
|Armament||16× 15 mm, 12× 10.5 mm, 22× 37 mm, 28× 2 mm FlaK|
|Aviation||12 M109 fighters & 30 Ju87 Stuka dive bombers|
|Armor||Belt: 100 mm (3.9 in) Flight deck: 45 mm (1.8 in) Main deck: 60 mm (2.4 in)|
The little known “E” class
The two Enterprise (Enterprise and Emerald) or “E” class vessels were the last British light cruisers built during the Great War. However, the lack of manpower and shipbuilding priority given to destroyers meant that their launch only took place in 1920. They were only completed, with much revisions, in 1926. They were originally built to counter Fast cruisers, the German minelayer Brummer and Bremse, operating at the end of 1917. They could achieve 33 knots, using engines from the Shakespeare class flotilla leaders mounted in pairs, with classical artillery derived from “D” class.
Three ships has been laid down, the third called HMS Euphrates being laid down at Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Govan in 1918 but cancelled shortly after on 26 November 1918. The first pencil lines had been laid in 1917 and much of their equipment was 1916 standard. With a complement of four sets of torpedo tubes, these ships were quite formidable for 1918, but in 1926 after their lengthy completion, this design was quite dated.
The two ships were thin, being longer without increase in beam. To afford the extended machinery and double the power available, reaching 33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph), gaining 30 m in length at the expense of almost 50% more displacement. Four propellers were driven from two engine rooms, four boiler rooms, the 2 and 3 being arranged side-by-side and trunked into a common funnel, while the 1 and 4 each had their own funnel, but the 4 was much further aft, which gave this very recognizable and unusual silhouette. The truth was they emphasised high speed at the cost of other qualities.
The class would be reclassified as light cruisers thereafter. Their artillery comprised only one more gun than previous Danae class, with the last 152 mm single mounts: Seven pieces including port and starboard on the fore deck for the Emerald, and a twin turret for the Enterprise, the first to experiment one at that time for this light caliber. The twin turret was a prototype, successfully tested, that led to its adoption on the Leander, Amphion and Arethusa classes. In consequence the bridge was of a new design, and some features like a single block topped by a director tower would soon appear also on the ‘County’ class cruisers.
The two ships received a catapult for a seaplane in 1936, which will be deposited in 1944, because in the meantime they were equipped with efficient radars. Their torpedo tubes were replaced in 1929. Finally, their AA artillery was reinforced in 1940, with the addition of two quadruple Bofors 40 mm mounts, while in 1942 their benches of torpedo tubes were deposited in favor of 16 to 18 20 mm pieces Oerlikon AA. Until 1939 they were both stationed in the Far East and also in the Mediterranean.
Detail of the front twin turret, HMS Enterprise 1936
Career: HMS Enterprise
The HMS Enterprise served off the coast of France, carried out escort missions, participated in the Norwegian campaign, fought in Narvik and was badly hit there. After repairs, she joined H force in the Mediterranean, participating in operation “Catapult” against the French navy anchored at Mers-el-Kebir.
She then departed for the Indian Ocean and the Far East. later she returned to France for a refit and was assigned to the hunt for the German raiders. In December 1943 she engaged and destroyed a German destroyer and two torpedo boats, taking part in escort missions until June 1944, assisting the landing by battery cover. In January 1945 she was transferred to the reserve and made only secondary missions such as the repatriation of troops. She was disarmed and demolished in 1948.
Career: HMS Emerald
The HMS Emerald received radars and new tripod masts in 1940, losing a 152 mm piece. She crossed the North Atlantic, carrying the British gold reserves to Halifax (58 million pounds). She was then assigned to the Indian Ocean. She returned in 1941 to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. She operated on the Iraqi coast (to support the repression of a pro-German revolt in the summer of 1941) and the Red Sea. In December, she was part of famous Z force at Singapore (also Prince of Wales and Repulse). She did not departed with the ships of Tom Philips on their fatal raid, and became after their loss the only major ship left in the “Asian Gibraltar”. She had to leave nevertheless before the fall of Singapore and made it home despite Japanese lookouts and reconnaissance over the area.
HMS Enterprise in Haifa, 1936.
After her overhaul she returned in 1943 to attend the 4th cruiser squadron in the Indian Ocean. In the summer of 1944, at D-Day she assisted the landings by covering Gold Beach sector. After being paid to the reserve shortly thereafter, she was reduced to sub-divisional roles before being struck off and broken up in 1948.
HMS Emerald in the interwar. The livery would have been white/pale grey with dark sand superstructures
Considerations about the class
All in all, the Emerald class in 1939 could have been obsolete and costly compared to new classes, but they were still the fastest cruisers in the Royal Navy and the heaviest torpedo-armed at the outbreak of World War II.
They were made “bankable” in the interwar and still found their place in the Navy despite the arrival of the large “County” colonial cruisers and the modern “Town” class to chasing German raiders thanks to their long range.
They very much had the same fate and career as the “C” or Cavendish class, mainly employed on the ocean trade routes and the Far East in 1942-43 with the East Indies Fleet. The small but successful naval battle of the Enterprise against a well-armed German destroyer and torpedo boat force in December 1943 in the Bay of Biscay was considered a feat for such an old cruiser.
The HMS Enterprise on wikipedia
British Light Cruisers 1939–45 By Angus Konstam
British Cruisers: Two World Wars and After. By Norman Friedman
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
HMS Enterprise in November 1943
|Dimensions||173.7 x16.6 x6.6 m (570 x54 x16 ft)|
|Displacement||8250 tons S, 10220 tons FL|
|Propulsion||4 screws, 4 BC turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 80,000 hp|
|Speed||33 knots (61 km/h; 38 mph)|
|Range||1,350nm @32 knots to 8,000nm @15 knots|
|Armament||7x 152mm, 5x 102mm MK VIII AA, 8 Bofors 40mm AA, 16(4×4) TT 533mm|
|Armor||Sides 38-76 mm (1.5-3 in), deck 25 mm (1 in).|
Profile of the HMS Enterprise at Haifa in 1936
Same, port side view
HMS Enteprise in June 1944, operation Overlord.
Nazi Germany (1930-44)
About 50 ships
German expertise on destroyers proceeded from humble beginnings: The weak TBs from 1910-1914, barely fit for the high seas. However the influence of Royal Navy designs and an order from the Russian navy before the war gave the experience of large, well armed oceanic destroyers. In particular, the “Russian” B97 and G101 class and the S113 class. For more see German destroyers of ww1. This development was halted and all these ships had to be conducted to Scapa Flow for internment, and Versailles treaty conditions later only allowed for a police fleet for the Reichsmarine of 12 destroyers and 12 torpedo-boats. The “destroyers” were still very much of ww1 style, 1300 tons fully loaded, six built of the 1923 type and six of the 1924 types, all reclassed as TBs after the Z1 was launched. Their lineage was the basis for more modern torpedo-boats of the 1935 class with their flush-deck hull. 36 were built, plus 30 more in Dutch and German yards, mostly unfinished. But that’s another story.
There was a rebirth after the arrival of Hitler, and the first 1933 design was based on the D106 class of 1918. These were equal, if not superior to the best allied designs of destroyers leaders, with solid hulls for the north sea and reliable turbines. Soon, classed armed with cruiser-size artillery will be launched. All were denominated “Z-” (for “zestörer”), together with proper namesakes. Z1 Leberecht Maas (launched 1935) was followed by three sister ships, followed by the 1934A class (twelve units) 1936 class (six) and 1936A class (six) others being scheduled until 1946: The 1936B, 1936C designs, the smaller 1942 class, large 1944 class, and the super-destroyers of the 1940/41 class.
Interwar 1923 class
Albatross (AT2) as built.
These small vessels were inspired by the S113 and B114 design. They had a raised forecastle, two funnels far apart, three 105 mm partially under masks and two banks of three 500mm TTs. AA artillery consisted in two 20mm guns. The 1923 type were all but Albatross (Schichau) built in Whilhelmshaven, laid down in 1924-25, launched in 1925 and completed and commissioned in 1926-28. They were named after birds of prey (“Raubvogel”), Möwe (which tested a rounded bow, all the others had transom sterns), Greif, Seeadler, Albatros, Kondor, and Falke. In 1931 they were standardized with the 533 mm TTs, and funnels were shortened while the control and superstructure were modified and enlarged. Their old 105mm/45 C16 were replaced by C28 and C32 models. By 1944 they had received radars and their AA artillery was augmented to seven C38 guns (one in quad mount, three singles). They served heavily and were all lost in action: Albatros by artillery duel inh Oslofjord in 1940, Seeadler off Boulogne (Torpedoed by British MTB) in 1942, Greif bombed by the RAF in 1944 off Cherbourg as well as the remainder in Le Havre.
Möwe in April 1944
1923 type specifications
|Dimensions||87.7 x 8.25 x 3.65 m|
|Propulsion||2 shaft geared Blohm & Voss turbines (Albatross: 3 boilers) 24,000 hp|
|Speed||33.6 knots (62.2 km/h; 38.7 mph), 1,700 nmi (3,100 km; 2,000 mi)|
|Armament||3x 105 mm, 3x 20mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 500 mm|
Interwar 1924 class
Several ships of the type
These six ships named after predators or “Raubtier” (Wolf, Itlis, Jaguar, Leopard, Luchs, Tiger) were slightly enlarged versions of the former, longer, wider, slightly more powerful with new shaft-geared turbines and more modern 105mm/45 C28 guns. They were built at the same yards but completed one year later in 1928-29. In 1931 they received the same modifications, new TTs, new superstructure, sights and fire control systems. However Leopard and Luchs were rearmed three 127mm/45 C34 guns, testing these for the new class of destroyer. Past 1943 the remainder received eight 20mm AA guns. All six were lost in action but Tiger in 1939 and Leopard because of collisions, Luchs torpedoed by HMS Swordfish in 1940, Wolf mined off Dover in 1941, Itlis by a MTB off Boulogne in 1942, and Jaguar bombed at le Havre in 1944 by the RAF.
Jaguar in 1942
1924 type specifications
|Dimensions||92.6 x 8.65 x 3.52 m|
|Propulsion||2 shaft geared B&V/Schichau/Brown-Boveri turbines, 3 boilers, 25,500 hp|
|Speed||35.2 knots (65.2 km/h; 40.5 mph), Radius 2,000 nmi (3,700 km; 2,300 mi)|
|Armament||3x 105 mm, 3x 20mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 500 mm|
Both class counted as Torpedo Boats from 1934
1934/34A class: Z1-4 and Z-5-16
Destroyers Bernd von Arnim and Wolfgang Zenker in Bremerhaven, 1938.
Also called Leberecht Maas class after the lead ship, this was a radical departure over all previous German designs. This new class flirted with 3200 tons limits fully loaded, being twice as large as the previous 23/24 classes of the Reichsmarine. In addition to large dimensions, they had a wide and very marine prow, and a square stern. Their tonnage and size were slightly above International standards, but their armament remained standard with regard to treaties. They were handsome, powerful and fast (almost 40 knots as shown in tests for some).
The series Z1 to Z4 was designed in 1933-34 and launched in 1935. All had a straight prow, converted into a clipper prow from 1943 for the sole survivor Z4 (Richard Beitzen). The Z1 class served as pre-series for the next 1934A class. The next 1934A included the Z5 to Z16.
Launched in 1936-37 and finished in 1937-39, they were longer by 1.70 meters. All had also a straight prow, but in 1943 the Z5 and Z6 had a clipper bow, rising to 125 meters in length, and a tripod main mast. The Z5 (above), will see its armament AA reinforced by 4 bofors of 40 mm, 12 guns of 20 and 4 of 37mm in double shafts.
Z5 of the 1934A class, May 1941
They survived the war and two became the French Kleber and Desaix, remaining in service until 1951 and 1957. The Z9, 11, 12 and 13 will be sunk during operations in Norway in 1940, the Z7 sunk by HMS Edinburgh in 1942 During the attack of a convoy and the Z16 by HMS Sheffield during similar circumstances in December 1942. The Z8 was blown by a mine in January 1942 near Calais. The Z1 and Z3 were sunk in February 1940 by mines and the Z2 at Narvik in April. The Z4 survived the war and was given to UK as war reparations, soon BU.
1934 Type, various destroyers
Z1 as built, wikipedia commons, uploaded by Alexpl.
1934A Type specifications
|Dimensions||121 x 11.30 x 3.90 m (119,70m 1934 class)|
|Propulsion||2 geared steam turbines Wagner/Blohm & Voss, 6 Wagner/Benson boilers, 70 000 hp.|
|Speed||38,4 knots (71 km/h; 44 mph) Radius 2000 Nautical Miles|
|Armament||5x 127 mm, 4x 37mm AA, 4x 20mm AA, 8 TT 533 mm|
1936/36A class: Z17-22, Z23-30
Modern ships derived from class 1934a but larger. The serie 1936 comprised the Z17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. They were completed in 1938-39. The first three had a straight bow and the other three had a clipper one and so raised from 123 to 125 meters. They were also wider by 50cm, with a 300 tons more of displacement. They were also more powerful and faster (40 knots versus 38.2), had a better AA artillery. All survivors except the Z20 survived the war and were handed over to the Soviets. However four would be famously sunk at Narvik, Z21 and 22 on April 10 and Z17, 18 and 19 on April 14, 1940 all by the battleship HMS Warspite.
The eight ships of the following class 1936A (Z23-Z30) were brand new in 1940. They were launched from December 1939 to December 1940 and completed in the end of 1940 for the first and 1941 for the others. They are (often) referred to as the “Narvik” class because they were mostly assigned to the 8 destroyers’ squadron based in Narvik from 1941 to 1944 and had nothing to do with the fighting of early 1940. Of the main changes, they all had a clipper bow, were slightly longer, their displacement increasing and their speed logically returning to 38.5 knots.
Z30 in may 1943
Z20 in 1940
On the other hand, they were heavily armed for destroyers, with 4 guns of 150 mm, usually reserved for light cruisers. In 1941, the Z28 received a modified command superstructure, and the Z30 a flight deck over its rear torpedo tubes, designed to operate a Flettner reconnaissance helicopter. The Z25s and 29s received a “Barbara” AA configuration, including 12 guns of 37 mm in single mounts and 18 of 20 mm in double and quadruple mounts. The Z26 was sunk during a 1942 convoy attack, and the Z27 in 1943 during a Homeric fight against the cruisers HMS Glasgow and Enterprise, “opening the way” to the Alsterufer blockade force. The Z24 was sunk by the RAF in 1944.
The so-called “Narvik” class was not yet operational when the Norwegian campaign started.
1936 Type specifications
|Dimensions||123.20 x 11.80 x 4 m|
|Displacement||1811 standard, 3415t FL|
|Propulsion||like type 1934 but 70,000 hp|
|Speed||40 knots (74 km/h, 46 mph) Radius 2,050 nmi (3,800 km; 2,360 mi)|
|Armament||Like Type 1934, but 7x 20mm AA|
Destroyer brendt Von Arnim wreck, sunk in Oslofjord by the Warspite and scuttled.
Shipyard Model of the 1936A class on display at the Deutschen Schiffahrtsmuseum Bremerhaven
Z-29, type 36A in 1945 (USN photo).
1936A destroyer shortly after completion.
1936A destroyer – booklet for identification of ships, published by the Division of Naval Inteligence of the Navy Department of the United States.
Three Type 36A in an unindentified port (Australian Archives)
1936A (“Mobilization”) class: Z31-39
Z39 underway off Boston, September 1945
Derived from class 1936A, these 7 units (Z31-Z34 and Z37-Z39, the Z35 and 36 being reported to type 1936b), were part of the mobilization program (“Mob”). They were launched in 1941 and completed in 1942. They were virtually identical to the previous ones except for their armament, with a heavy 150 mm double turret forward. These ships were far superior to their allied counterparts. Their 20 mm AA batteries were split into two of the new quadruple mounts and two singles. The Z32 was the only loss in action during the war, and was seriously damaged by the Canadian destroyers HMCS Haida and Huron in June 1944 off the lower island. The Z34 and 37 were scuttled in 1944-45 and the others went as war reparations after the war to France (Marceau), Great Britain, the USA (Z39) and the USSR.
The 1936 B Mob were equipped with a revised weaponry (returning to 127 mm pieces after a mixed experience with their heavy turrets) also to carry more AA weaponry. They were notably lighter than the previous ones. The class included the Z35 and the 36, the Z43, 44 and 45. These were the last German destroyers of the war. However, their construction was slowed down and the Z44s and 45s were never finished, bombarded in their slipway in 1944 and 1945. The Z35 and 36, finished in 1943, were sunk across a dam of German mines. The Z43 was scuttled shortly after its completion in 1945 in Geltinger Bay. They carried their 37 mm in double mounts and their 20 mm in three quadruple ones plus two doubles.
Z32 in April 1942
Z35 in 1942
Closeup of the Z39 artillery – USN Archives, Boston NY.
1936A Type specifications
|Dimensions||127 x 12 x 3.92-4.62 m|
|Displacement||3600t FL (3530t Z25,26,27)|
|Propulsion||Like 1934 class but 70,000 hp|
|Speed||38,5 knots Radius ?? Nautical Miles|
|Armament||4x 150 mm, 6×2 105mm, 2×2 37mm AA, 5x 20mm AA, 2×4 TT 533 mm|
Z39 in Annapolis, 1945.
Nice photo of an handsome destroyer, Z39 at full speed.
Details of the mast of the Z39, 1936(mob) type in 1945.
Wartime was not tender for surface ships building program, and despite the plan Z new series being approved and ordered to various shipyard, lack of manpower and soon materials, sabotages and shortages of all sorts, plus allied air raids all but condemned these series. Only a few ships were launched, and none but two were really operational.
1936B class: Z35-45
Z36 at sea, 1942
The Type 1936B destroyers abandoned the twin 15-centimetre (5.9 in) turrets because of stability concerns in heavy seas. They reverted to five single 15 cm (5.9 in) turrets and had better AA artillery, but for other aspects remained copies of the 1936A class. At 2,527 tonnes (2,487 long tons) of displacement they still can reach 36.5 knots (67.6 km/h; 42.0 mph) with a 2,600 nautical miles range at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). The 12.7 cm SK C/34 naval guns fired 28-kilogram (62 lb) HE shells at 830 m/sec. up to 17,400 metres at 30° max. elevation. like previous classes they had rails long enough to laid 76 mines.
Of the eight ships laid down at DeSchiMAG Bremen and Germania Werft of Kiel, only a few were completed: Z35, 36 and Z43, although the latter was scuttled in situ on 3 May 1945 after being commissioned on 24 March 1944. The first two were commissioned on 22 September 1943 and 19 February 1944 and sunk in December 1944 in the Gulf of Finland after hitting friendly mines. Z44 and 45 were bombed by the RAF before completion.
1936B Type specifications
|Dimensions||127 x 12 x 4.21 m|
|Displacement||3100/3540 t FL|
|Propulsion||2 Wagner shaft geared turbines, 70,000 shp|
|Speed||36.5 knots (42.0 mph; 67.6 km/h) range 2,600 nmi (4,800 km)@ 19 kn (35 km/h)|
|Armament||5x 127 mm, 4-10x 37 mm, 16x 20mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm|
1940/41 scout cruiser class: German super-destroyers
Spährkreuzer design, rendition by Atlas publications, 1984
Classed as scout cruisers/destroyers they took advantage of the artillery developed for the 1936A class, with a 6300t displacement. Studies for these get back to the 1938 Z plan. After the cancellation of the 1938B type, these three ships were planned as “spährkreuser” 1 to 3. The first, Sp1, was laid down at Germaniawerft in 1941 but work was suspended and she was eventually broken up on slip to be recycled into other ships. The Sp2 and 3 were planned but never started.
1st design, with a floatplane. scr: unknown
How these unique “scout-cruisers” looked like ?: They were 162-169 m long by 16m wide with 4.90 draught, had three shaft and two geared turbines plus four Wagner boilers that gave an output in excess of 80,00 hp for a top speed of 36 knots, cruise and long range being assured by two MAN diesels, double acting 2-stroke, producing 32,000 hp on the central shaft. complement was 520 and they were armed with three turrets with 150 mm/48 guns, two 88mm AA guns, and 12 20mm AA guns in quad-mounts plus two banks of five 533 mm TTs.
1940 Type specifications
|Dimensions||162 x 16 x 4.9 m|
|Propulsion||3 screws, 2 geared turbines, 4 Wagner boilers 80,000 hp|
|Armament||6(2×3)x 150 mm, 2x 88 mm, 12x 20mm AA, 2×5 TT 533 mm|
1936C class: The 128mm dual purpose destroyers
Although relatively conventional in general layout these destroyers relied on a set of three double turrets with brand new 128mm guns, dual-purpose, meaning they had enough elevation and speed to tackle aircrafts as well, a powerful asset by the time allied air superiority seems to be the most present threat for the German Navy. This was completed by three twin 37mm/83 and six 20mm mounts, plus the usual quadruple TT mounts. At 3030t standard, these 1936C were 500 tons heavier than the previous 36B, but kept the same propulsion system with Wagner turbines and boilers, and same 38 knots top speed. Five ships were to be built in 1943 at Deschimag of Bremen from Z46 to Z50, but due to the shortage of materials and relentless allied bombings, construction stalled and was eventually abandoned in 1944, while the ships were broken up in 1946.
1936C Type specifications
|Dimensions||126,20 x12.20 x 4 m|
|Propulsion||2 Wagner shaft geared turbines, 6 Wagner boilers 70,000 hp|
|Armament||6(3×2)x 128 mm DP, 6×2 37mm AA, 6x 2mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm|
1942 class: The diesel experiment
Turbines procured advantages in terms of speed but were also known gas-guzzlers and could be troublesome as experience with the Hipper shown. A type of destroyer was launched to test an all-diesel propulsion while not sacrificing speed, but for the sake of reliability and range. The 1942 type was not however daring in layout which remains consistent with previous designs, but somewhat smaller and lighter and less well-armed than previous classes. Mass production was also in mind. The powerplant consisted in six diesels, four one the central shaft and one for each outer shaft, totalling 57,000 hp. AA artillery was impressive with four twin 37mm 83 cal. M42, and three quadruple mounts 20mm C38 FLAK.
The single Z51 was started at Deschimag, launched in 1944 and its completion was well advanced when an air raid all but destroyed it. Never repaired, the hull lays untouched until she was broken up in situ in 1946.
1942 Type specifications
|Dimensions||114,30 x 11 x 4 m|
|Propulsion||3 shafts, 6V double acting 2-stroke diesels 57,120 hp|
|Armament||4x 127 mm, 4×2 37mm AA, 3×4 20mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm|
1944 class: The most modern
Capitalizing on the new tendency to built all-diesel powered destroyers, the new 1944 type is generally considered by experts and historians as the most modern class of destroyers (perhaps worldwide) at that time, a culmination of the Z-type started ten years ago. In addition to larger dimensions than the previous type 1942, these new kids on the block had a whole set of features that were way ahead of previous designs. For starters, they combined a powerful punch with three turrets, for six of the new and successful, semi-auto, rapid fire 128mm/50 and /45 C41M, their next evolution.
These were deadly accurate dual purpose guns, well served by advanced, radar-guided fire control systems. These guns were the navalized version of the Flakwilling 40, a gun that all but eclipsed the legendary 88mm late into the war. Some experts esteemed these would have been more likely fully automatic cannons. Second, they would have the new 55mm mid-range quick-firing Flak Gerät 58 in development (eventually rejected by Hitler and Speer for the Army).
At last, they also get rid of their combination of 37 and 20mm for short range, swapping over a brand new, revolutionary superfast fully automated 30mm gun/13 C38 also rejected by the Army, in no less than 14 mounts. The entire battery was directed by optical/electronic range-finder cupolas. The powerplant consisted in eight MAN diesels, double-acting two-stroke delivering 76,000 on two shafts, for a top speed of 37.5 knots, nearly the same speed as turbine destroyers, which was a remarkable feat for the advantages this solution procured in terms of range and reliability. Five ships were ordered and started at Deschimag, Bremen in early 1944, but due to intense allied bombings and shortages, none even reached launching point. The hulls were dismantled in 1946.
1944 Type specifications
|Dimensions||132.10 x 12.60 x 4.30 m|
|Propulsion||2 shafts, 8 MAN double acting 2-stroke diesels 76,000 hp|
|Armament||3×2 128 mm DP, 3x 55m AA, 14x 30mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm|
According to http://german-navy.de there were paper-only destroyers projects that also deserve attention:
Zerstörer 1938A/Ac : In 1937/38 a large Atlantic destroyer was studied, about 50% larger than usual classes they also had a mixed propulsion reminiscent of the Köln and Leipzig, missing Diesels and turbines and a light armor protection. Z-plan included 24 of these, and 10 were programmed for 1943, the remainder to be delivered until 1945, but the program was cancelled in 1939, and some of these studies were recycled into the larger Spähkreuzer. Their appearance was very singular, with three 128mm turrets (for and aft and one center next to the two TT banks, a twin 105mm AA mount, several 37mm twin mounts and probably 20mm mounts also, and funnels far apart.
Zerstörer 1938B : These were in appearance large torpedo boats, with their characteristic flush deck, but were designed for the coastal waters and especially the Baltic Sea. This 1938 design was small, but well armed with two 128 mm armed turrets, two banks of three TTs but a weak AA artillery. 12 were planned within Z plan in the summer of 1939, only to be cancelled three weeks after the beginning of the war.
Zerstörer 1945 : This very last class of destroyer was studied in 1945, amidst devastating air raids and low priority that left little chance for the ships to be built, if any. Nevertheless these destroyers on paper looks interesting. They were compact, reverted to a full steam turbine power for extra speed, well armed with three 128mm turrets and an impressive AA battery reminiscent of the type 1944, and the same optical/electronic range-finder cupolas and advanced radar-guided controlled systems. Needless to say no order ever came for a production.
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
Nazi Germany (1944)
Fast Attack Craft
A daring concept born from desperation
At the end of the war, Nazi Germany desperately needed new, essentially technological ways to deal with the allied steamroller, on land, air and sea. This led to an engineering fest of epic proportion, spawning some of the most amazing and advanced projects and ideas ever seen. Some were impractical, other were so advanced that they were realized twenty to fifty years afterwards. Although there are tons of records for advanced missiles, rockets, and jet planes, naval concepts were fewer in between but no less exciting to consider.
German naval secret weapons
The most advanced of these “secret weapons” was of course the superfast submarine, originally to be powered by an advanced closed loop propulsion (Walter system). But as researches dragged on, a cut was made by Albert Speer leading to the mass-production Type XXI to be propelled by a hybrid system, combining conventional diesels with twice as many batteries to double the underwater speed, a brand new streamlined hull, and snorkel. Interesting also were the mass-built mini-subs Delphin, Hecht (53), Seehund (138), Biber (324), Molch (393), human torpedoes like the Neger class (100), Marder (500) and Hai (the only prototype of a Marder enlarged by 36 meters).
German researches on hydrofoils
But one of the most amazing project of that era of 1944-45 was the array of fast surface ships using jets, catamaran hulls, or hydrofoils. Hans von Schertel worked before and during the war on many such prototypes and paper projects aimed at replacing the traditional S-boote and R-boote. The idea was such kind of ship were so fast they could not be destroyed, either for launching torpedoes or laying mines.
Attack Hydrofoil VS 6
These innovative fast attack crafts were the brainchild of Baron Hanns von Schertel, and realized by shipbuilder Sachsenberg. The prototype was tested in 1941. It was a 17-ton vessel, capable of 47 knots (80 kph) and laying mines. 52.5 feet in length, it was powered by two Hispano-Suiza gasoline engines of 560 hp each.
The Tietjens VS-7 followed, this time designed by Oscar Tietjens. It was largely based on a 1932 prototype with a patented surface-piercing hoop foil system, tested with success in the USA. The light vessel was able to reach 25 mph with a 5 hp outboard engine. The VS-7 largely emulated the previous VS-6, built at Schleswig, Germany, Vertens Yacht Yard. Also 17 tons, about the same specs, but fitted with these revolutionary hoop foils. It was tried and reached a blazing 55 knots (101 kph) but was found slow to accelerate and had poor handling and maneuverability.
Transport Hydrofoil VS 8
One of the most remarkable project of the time was the fast transport VS 8, which could carry and land a light tank Type 38T up to a Panzer IV, stored on a tailored back deck, which was flooded as the self-propelled pontoon reached the beach (two 40 hp engines) with its load, in less than two minutes. This vessel was propelled by a 1800 hp Mercedes Benz diesel, not up to the task.
Other applications has been as an fast minelayer with 15-20 mines. The VS8, ordered in 1940 was commissioned on 01.03.1943 but was found underpowered and the project was dropped after September 1944 total engine failure and failed rescue, apparently also a casualty due to sabotage. The VS9 ordered in 1941 was never started.
Hydrofoil “VS 8” at Sachsenber-Shipyard- Picture from Fock Schnellboote Vol. 2
The following VS-10 was even larger, at 46-tons, 92 feets long, 60 knots and torpedo-carrying. The prototype was completed and made ready for launch but completely destroyed in an air raid just a few days before it could happen.
The final TR5b or TRAGFLÜGELBOOT was probably the most advanced of all these. It combined to a rather conventional hull twin turbojets Jumo 004s or He S 011s and three VS-type foils which housed the propellers. That way, the propellers helped reaching the final attack phase, and to escape. Tests were performed in 1944 with a radio-controlled jet powered boat, the Tornado, which showed calm sea was required. K-Verband once planned the building start in early 1945, only to cancel it as low priority compared to more immediately useful and simpler vessels.
Size comparison with a German SdKfz.234 reconnaissance car
Second fictional livery, with periscopes up
UGS Manta: Origins
The Manta was an even more extreme prototype, that found its origins in the collaboration between the Walter facility and Versuchskommando 456. Named Untersee-Gleitflächen-Schnellboot Manta or UGS Manta, it was driven by the limitations of midget submarines, speed and range limitations, and the drag caused by the torpedoes when underwater. The obvious solution was to have these in the air instead, meaning this was to led to a completely new type of craft.
The Manta which resulted from these researches looks stunning in its radical aproach, and the only possible comparison were the 1960-1980s Ekranoplanes series built for the Soviet Navy. Indeed, that kind of hybrid between a plane and a ship used a well-known fluid property, the “wing-in-ground effect”, which allowed for a very large plane (the “Caspian Monster” remains the largest “plane” ever built in that occurrence), much longer than the 747, C5 Galaxy or Antonov An-225 Mriya at 92.00 m (301 ft 10 in) and heavier at 240 tons. A small serie of operational anti-ship and landing versions were operational in the 1980s and we will dig soon into these interesting crafts.
The Manta only used this effect when in surface to lower drag at its minimum, thanks to a trimaran configuration: Three cylindrical hulls and large vertical keels/tanks that captured the air flow under the main wing when up. However the acronym is loosely translated as “Submarine sliding speedboat”, in fact these were indeed submarines unlike the Soviet Ekranoplanes, and only raised above the surface thanks to the keel/tanks that provided buoyancy. When above water (final phase of the attack), the Manta could reach 50 knots (93 kph) which made it difficult to hit, in addition presenting a rather hollow frontal target. It can then launch up to eight torpedoes.
Basically the Manta was made of three tube-like hulls linked by a main wing and two vertical keels. The central tube was housing the two-men crew cabin (each had a bubble-like canopy) and contained the diesel-electric propulsion and diesel-hydraulic transmission to link these to the lower keels propeller. The outer cylinders are Schwertwal-I type, but with the batteries, fuel tanks filled with Ingolin, trim tanks and compensating tanks. The wing was divided into an upper and lower part and sandwiched in between were located the tow to eight torpedoes, or 8 TMA or 12 TMB mines. These were the same as the rest of the midget submarine fleet, aviation type, 450 mm in diameter, or the larger marine type (four carried). mines. They could also carry 4 “projectiles”* which are not precisely described but would have been likely heavy rockets.
The Manta was about 15 m long, 6 m wide, with 1.5 m diameter cylinders, and weighted 15 tons empty/ 50 tons loaded. This was compensated by two 600 hp engines or 800 hp Walter turbines coupled with 440 Kw electric motors. The maximum surface speed was noted as 50 kts, the maximum submerged speed: 30 kts (55 kph) which was impressive enough. Range was 200 nm @50 kts/600 nm @20 kts on the surface, and 120 nm @30 kts/500 nm @10 kts when submerged.
Navigation equipment was similar to that of the Schwertwal, and safety equipment was well-thought with marker buoy with an antenna, self-inflating dinghy and special diving suits. In addition, the crew could jettison the two very heavy electric batteries from the keels, providing extra buoyancy, and helping the craft when submerged, to reach more easily the surface in emergency.
When surfacing, the propulsion mode is even more exotic you can think: With less drag, the speed was to be in excess of 90 kph and the keels where not even supposed to surf, but to roll over the waves thanks to four encased massive aviation wheels. This way, the drag was even more limited and at that speed the water surface was hard enough for the Manta to roll over. For extra lift there were two extra pairs of foils, for and aft of the keels before the wheels took over.
The ultimate naval V-weapon
The Manta was a submarine/flying/fast attack craft way ahead of its time. In fact, it left the paper phase, but only for a small mockup model stage. All documents produced after the Kleinst-U-Bootwaffe (Miniature Submarine Command) blessed this project has been burnt. Only the model remained, which was used to draw 3-view blueprints after the war.
Would those had been built in numbers prior to June 1944, they could have disable or destroy many allied ships assembled at the D-Day landings. Only AA anti-artillery would have been fast enough to catch these when surfaced, provided they had the right depression. Does this idea still means something today ? The Russian Ekranoplanes are mothballed, FAC hydrofoils has been retired for the most as well as hovercrafts that are known gas-guzzlers. This kind of submarine/wing-in-ground craft was only meant to deal the enemy with torpedoes, that is too dangerously close to be safe when modern sensors/radars can spot you early on, and when missiles and deadly accurate 57 to 120 mm fast to 30 mm CIWS superfast cannons (Phalanx-type) are aiming at you.
However the same concept applied to a missile-launching craft is much more appealing. Indeed, these could approach the enemy’s inner radar/outer sonar detection limits and try a saturation fire after surfacing. The enemy ships could have quickly fired back missiles and destroy the bogeys, but MACH 3 missiles in large numbers within reach would had left little time to respond, especially if the attacking crafts are coated and stealthy shaped.
|Dimensions||15 x6 m, hull diam. 1.5 m|
|Displacement||15 – 50t FL|
|Propulsion||2 props, 2x 600 hp diesels, 2x 440 Kw elect. mot.|
|Speed||50 knots/sub 30 knots (90 km/h; 55 mph)|
|Range||200 nm @50 kts/600 nm @20 kts, 500 nm @10 kts sub|
|Diving depth||50-60 m|
|Armament||2-8 Torpedoes or 8/12 TMA/TMB mines or 4 rockets|
France’s most successful ww2 subs
This class of “diamonds” became the best known during the war among french subs, the only ones to gain fame within the allied forces and pass to posterity with a new class of nuclear attack submarines named in homage. This fame also came partly because of their very nature: They were the only allied minelayer submarines available then.
Constructed between 1928 and 1935 in Toulon shipyard, this class, was designed to lay mines, and carefully derived from the German UCs of the last war, but with modern solutions and innovations. The class comprised the Diamant, Nautilus, Perle, Rubis, Saphir, and Turquoise. All named after precious gems.
In particular, they had lateral mine wells of large capacity, designed by Normand-Fenaux. The system, simple and effective, will prove very useful. 32 mines could be housed in these 16 wells. The torpedo armament was reduced to two bow tubes and three (including two 400 mm) in a movable bench at the rear and less refills than usual. These mines were of the Sautier-Harlé HS 4 type, with oar. They exploded on contact with a 220 kg tolite charge, and can be laid down 200 m deep. They were lodged by pairs in each of the sixteen vertical wells inside ballasts, slightly larger than usual.
In service in 1936, one of these units gained prominence during the war. Not only did it escape the fate of the French navy by crossing the channel and joining the allies, but it was also the only allied submarine capable to lay mines, and its Career was meritorious.
The Sapphire, Turquoise and Nautilus were all captured at Bizerte and transferred to the Italians in 1942, and two served for some time under the name of FR112 and 116, in Bizerte. One of them will be sunk on the spot, the others scuttled. The Diamond will sabotaged and scuttled in Toulon in November 1942, while the Perle, which like the Rubis passed early on the allied side, would be sunk by mistake in 1944, a lot common to many French ships.
This most famous sub, laid down on 3 April 1929, launched 30 September 1931 and commissioned 4 April 1933, served in Toulon with the 7th, then 5th Submarine Squadrons. In 1937 she was transferred to Cherbourg on the Atlantic coast and by May 1940, she participated actively in the Norwegian campaign, laying mines off the Norwegian coast that allegedly sank four Norwegian vessels and later three merchantmen in July 1940.
The Rubis was captured in the port of Dundee, Scotland during Operation Catapult. However she turned to the Free French Forces quickly under Captain Georges Cabanier command. From there, Rubis career became quite epic, with 22 missions leading to the direct and indirect destruction of twenty-four ships of the axis (for 683 mines laid down) in addition to Norway, adding the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic to its playgrounds. In fact she operated again in 1944 off Stavanger, claiming two auxiliary submarine chasers and two merchantmen and damaging later two others, and at the end of the year, three auxiliary submarine chasers, a German merchantman, and a minesweeper. In total she sank some 21,000 GRT by far the highest kill ratio of any French vessel.
She was visited by Royal Navy officials, and her crew was decorated notably with De Gaulle’s order of liberation in October 1941. After 1946, she was used as a training ship, retired from service in 1948 and used as a target sonar in the Mediterranean. Her wreck is still visible off Cavalaire, now a lush reef after 70 years.
Saphir class specifications
|Dimensions||66 x 21,5 x 8,4 m|
|Displacement||761/925 t. FL|
|Propulsion||2 screws, 2 electric motors 550 hp each, 2 diesels, 650 hp each.|
|Speed||12/9 knots surf./sub. (22/17 km/h)|
|Range||7000 NM (12 964 km) @7,5 knots, 80 NM sub.|
|Armament||1 x 65 mm, 2 bow, 4 TT sides 533 mm, 32 oarsmines Sautier-Harlé HS 4.|
wikimedia photo of the Rubis in grave difficulties in a minefield off Norway, Coastal Command, Ministry of Information, 1942.
Rubis crew, posing with mascot
British Pathe 1941 Footage of Free French Sailors marching along in the grounds of Dartmouth naval college. General Charles de Gaulle meeting crews of the submarines ‘Rubis’ and ‘Minerva’.
The blueprints – Rubis in wartime markings and FNFL service, 1942
Another profile, as found in Cape Camaret.
Nazi Germany (1944-45)
Not a part of the series of famous “V-weapons”, these ultra-modern miracle weapons supposed to reverse the fate of the Reich, these very light units of the Kriegsmarine appeared late, as a last-ditch naval bulwark to the enormous means deployed by the allies. With the massive intensification of anti-submarine warfare in the Atlantic, the efficiency of classical U-Bootes – particularly those of type VII – was diminishing while seeing the losses increasing, at a point of rupture.
Classical U-boote operations shown their limitations. Costly in men, oil and raw materials, large U-boats were no longer efficient.
The general staff was beginning to think of a massive production of lightweight units, much more economical, in particular to meet well-localized objectives. These units were produced by the hundreds (in total more than 1200), and two main types could be distinguished: “Pocket subs” commonly called midget submersibles, and human torpedoes.
A serie of Seehunds – perhaps the best midget submarine of the war.
German Midget Submersibles:
Four types of “Kleine Unterseeboote” (KU) saw successively the day. They were characterized by a crew of one or two men, a classic or torpedoid hull, an electric or mixed gasoline propulsion, two torpedoes, built in prefabricated sections. Their handling was in principle easy and their hull was pressurized. They were not “disposable weapons” but rather reusable submersibles. Relatively light, they could be transported by rail to see by air, and thus operate from many defense zones including large rivers. In operations, however, they were rather disappointing.
The “Salamanders” were the first German pocket submersibles in use. They were inspired by torpedo technology and had a cylindrical hull, housing a huge Nickel-Cadmium battery. The latter gave them a great submerged autonomy, but a radius of action of only 40 nautical miles at 5 knots. The pilot was sitting behind the battery, between the two ballast tanks. In coastal use, submerged and silent, they were dedicated to special operations against allied landings. The first copy was only operational in June 1944, delivered by AG Weser in Bremen. In the south of France, 12 units entered operation during the desperate attempt of the flotilla K-Werband 411 to oppose the landing in Provence (operation Anvil-Dragoon).
The failure was total, with the loss of 10 units out of the 12, the other two being later destroyed by a bombardment of San Remo. Deployed in Holland, notably in Antwerp, other Molch attempted unsuccessfully to threaten the Allied transports. There were a total of 107 sorties until March 1945, with no notable success and most of the 393 Molch built went to training, an aspect previously neglected by Kriegsmarine cadres for this type of unit and which Would produce such low results.
-Dimensions 10,8 x 1,8 m
-Weight 11 tonnes
-1 Electric motor 13 hp, 4,3/5 kn surface/sub
-Armament 2 G7e 533 mm torpedoes (21 in)
The “Castor” were created from a submersible captured in Norway on Nov. 22, 1943, the Welman W46, which was then trying to blow up the doors of the dry docks of Bergen. This type of single-seater, two-tonne British submersible was produced at more than 100 units and did not have a periscope or torpedoes. They simply had to approach his target and deliver his explosive head of 540 kg. Replicated satisfactorily from 1944, the Biber was the second German pocket submersible in use. Unlike the relatively poor English model, the Biber had two standard 533 mm torpedoes and a periscope, was capable of spinning 6 knots on the surface and traveling 130 nautical miles. It was the Flenderwerke shipyards in Lübeck which were responsible for its production series, starting in May 1944, after a prototype in March, and 24 of pre-production in April.
Biber at the Technik Museum Speyer in Germany, rear view.
A total of 324 units were produced, the last in December 1944. The massive raids on Lübeck and the surrounding area disrupted production, as the Biber was pre-assembled into three sections merely joined together. The operational career of the Biber was not to be significant: Apart from the cargo ship Alan A. Dale, sent by the bottom in 1944, the tonnage sunk was only 4910 tons. The Biber never worried about the allied lines of communication, particularly at the level of the landing craft. As for the Biber II and III future two-seaters, they never past the the drawing board stage.
Biber’s control surfaces
-Dimensions 10,4 x 1,6 m
-Weight 6,3 tonnes
-Prop. 1 Opel Blitz 32 hp, 13 hp electric generator, 6,5/5,3 kn surface/sub
-Armament 2 G7e torpedoes 533 mm (21 in)
Bieber exhibited at the Imperial War Museum
These “pikes” were designed to deposit a time-lag explosive charge on the flank of a ship at anchor, a role entrusted by the British to their units of the Welman and X type, and dating back to the Fulton and Bushnell experiments in the eighteenth century. This kind of “mission-suicide” remains eminently random. In fact, these triple-shell units with cylindrical hulls, the front part of which (a 1000 kg suction cup) was detached, were practically never used in this role, any more than those carrying magnetic mines. They were therefore grafted two torpedoes, but in general these units were considered mediocre.
Their range was limited to 78 miles and their speed to 3 knots, or 6 submerged, with 40 miles in diving. Built at Germaniawerft in Kiel from May 1944, 53 units were created (numbered as U-2111, 2112 and 2113, and U2251-2300). Finally they were used for the training of the Seehund and Biber crews.
Hecht type at Dresden.
-Dimensions: 10,5 x 1,7 m
-Weight: 12,5 tonnes
-Propulsion: 1 Electric motor 13 hp, 5,6/6 knots surface/sub
-Armament: 2x G7e 533 mm torpedoes (21 in), or a mine
Seehund (Type XXVII)
Literally “sea dogs” these were the last, largest and best pocket submersibles built by Nazi Germany. While 138 units were eventually taken into account by the Kriegsmarine, an initial series of 1,000 units was planned, all in service for January 1945. This production began in September 1944 and ended in April 1945. With a solid hull welded by sections, Equipment simplified and automated to the extreme, it was even considered to be given to the Hitler youth. This was not the case because their handling required weeks of practice for every sailor.
They carried two standard G7a torpedoes 533 mm (21 in), dived at 38 meters, surfaced at 7 knots even with a force-formed sea on the Beaufort scale. However the simple relief when launching their torpedoes required a stationary position during firing. Two-seaters, designed as true submersibles with mixed propulsion, they should in principle successfully support the XXI and XXIII series, although limited to operations from the coast. Some 50 units in 1945 obtained a substantial extension of their oil tank, their autonomy rising to 300 nautical miles (550 km).
In the end, these units sank 8 allied ships for a total of 17,300 tons and damaged three others. It was the best performances of German mini-subs so far, for 142 sorties and 32 losses. They operated for the first time from the Banks of Holland on December 31, 1944, and throughout January. Kwinte’s raid on an allied convoy resulted in the loss of 16 units out of the 17 sent, most of which ran aground on sandbanks, others sunk by the RN, and others lost in heavy weather. The other raids were hardly happier.
In February 1945 (and as of late January), the units attempted to obstruct maritime traffic on the south-eastern coast of England, particularly in the Ramsgate area. Operations continued with a bit more success in March (3 sunken ships), while units based in Ijmuiden in Norway practically did not made any outings due to the heavy weather. The latter operated in the Danish Strait in April 1945. On the 28th, all exits were canceled. Most of the losses were due to poor weather conditions and the lack of experience of their operators. Many Seehunds have been captured or recovered, and are nowadays museum pieces.
-Dimensions 10,9 x 1,7 m
-Weight 14,9 tonnes
-Prop. 1x Büssing diesel 60 hp, 1x Electrical engine 25 hp, 6,5 to 5,3 knots surface/sub
-Armement: 2 G7e 533 mm (21 in) torpedoes.
Three types were tested during the war, and two series became operational. Overall, the concept of “torpedo carrier” was reduced to its simplest expression since the torpedo was launched from another torpedo summarily arranged to allow a basic piloting. They were not, however, genuine “suicide torpedoes” such as those used by the Japanese and in which the operator was directing the torpedo itself until explosion. Nevertheless, this type of arrangement, although very economical to produce in mass, proved practically unfit for service due to a far too small radius of action. The “cockpit” was submerged to allow pressure balancing, and the pilot was helmeted, equipped with a breathing apparatus borrowed from the Luftwaffe and a frogman suit. He launched his torpedo after monitoring summary graduations on the hood, but no navigation marks nor speed calculator (For moving ships).
The neger (“nigger”) was perhaps an extrapolation of the name of its inventor, Richard Mohr (“Moorish” in German, who headed the engineering firm Kleinkampfverbände). Moreover, these torpedoes were invariably black, for mostly nocturnal operations. This was the first type of steered torpedo. The first was operational in March 1944 and 200 were to follow. Equipped with an electric motor, the neger could sail at 3.7 to 4 knots over 48 nautical miles (88 km). At worst, given the rudimentary and economic nature of the craft, its pilot could bring it within range and then evacuate it once the batteries were empty, swimming for safety.
The pilot had a (relative) good vision thanks to a plexiglass bubble. Nevertheless, the respirator mask provoked several deaths by asphyxiation. The other big black dot was the inability of these units to dive. Their cockpit bubble, though small, was still very visible even at night, and in heavy weather this kind of craft was simply not maneuverable. In spite of these limitations, volunteers were recruited for missions intended to carry severe blows to the landing fleet.
The first intervention took place in front of Anzio, on April 20, 1944, 30 units were to attack the north of the bridgehead from Torre Vaianica. It was a total failure, only 17 were launched, losing their way en route, the commander of the squadron perishing from the beginning of the operation of a CO2 intoxication. Three units were lost, all the others ran aground and were captured. The second implementation began in June 1944, in the night of 5 to 6, from Villers-sur-mer in the Bay of Seine and north of Honfleur. This time the 26 units arrived in sight of their objectives in spite of the detestable weather, and sank three minesweepers (HMS Cato, Magic and Pylades) and several small transports, and from June 7 to 8 the best success was to damage The Polish Dragon cruiser, which was deemed unfit for service and was subsequently submerged as a breakwater of the artificial harbor, which earned medals for two of these pilots. Others gave up without having seen the objective.
-Dimensions: 8 x 0,53 m
-Weight: 2,7 tonnes
-Propulsion: 1 Elect. mot. 12 hp, 4,2/3,2 knots surface/sub
-Armament: 1 G7e torpedo 533 mm (21 in)
The Marder was simply an extrapolation of the Neger. Unlike the first, limited to the surface, the Marder could dive to 40 meters. This allowed her to escape a potential “predator” or in case of very bad weather. 500 units were produced, until May 1945. Again, equipments were reduced to the bare minimum, only a few graduations on the cockpit and a stem at the front of the nose which allowed to aim the enemy ship. Stress on board was considerable and many losses were due to physical exhaustion, despair, utter claustrophobia, carbon dioxide poisoning, or simply execrable weather (most volunteers were not even sailors).
Marder at the Bundeswehr Museum
Their first sortie was attempted on the night of August 2-4, 1944 from Houlgate, and Marders sank the escort destroyer HMS Quail, a minesweeper, an LST, a liberty-ship and another 7,000-ton transport, and damaged one cruiser. However, the Allied counter-attack was vigorous and only 17 units returned to port. This loss rate – which was not going to improve later – would quickly make these units, which were supposed to return to their base after the action, real one-ticket “coffins”, and volunteers quickly rarefied. Another action was attempted on 16-17 August, 42 Marders attacking the old French battleship Courbet (two hits with no great consequences), and the small balloon-boat HMS Fratton and a transport were also sunk. 26 Marder were lost during this attack. Finally in September 1944 another “K-Verbänd” of 30 units attacked the allied landing fleet in Italy. No victory was recorded and at the same time 17 units were lost at sea, the others who had survived the mission and hoisted dry were destroyed by a coastal bombardment at Vertimiglia.
-Dimensions: 8,30 x 0,53 m
-Weight: 3 tonnes
-Propulsion: 1 Elect.motor, 12 hp, 4,2/3,2 knots surface/sub
-Armement: 1 G7e 533 mm torpedo
Hai prototype schematics
The “shark” was a very improved model of the Marder, sometimes called “super-Marder”. Enlarged, and with bigger batteries, for a top speed of 20 knots in the final attack phase. Longer from 2.40 m, they also offered a radius of action of 78 km at 3 knots. However, its long development due to numerous technical problems resulted in the cancellation of the program in April 1945, which ended with just three prototypes.
other German pocket subs Projects
The Seeteufel was an interesting submarine tank, perhaps the only one of its kind built in ww2.
Experimental Delphin midget sub
Three prototypes of the Dauphin were produced. It was a derivative of the Marder, but with a specially designed hull and a bigger battery. He had to be able to sail at 17 knots at the time of the attack. The three prototypes were lost after the testing began in January 1945.
Blueprint of the Seeteufel
The “seas devils” were an interesting concept of “submersible tank” inspired among others special versions of Italian tracked MAS like the Grillo in 1917-18. Basically this was an amphibious unit capable of moving on the sea bottom to its objective before launching its two torpedoes. Two-seater, weighing 35 tons, 14.2 meters long, it was one of the most fantastic German submarine projects. The only prototype was deliberately destroyed in its test field near Lübeck at the time of the German surrender. A longer article will be done in collaboration with Tank Encyclopedia.
The “Orca” (or Grampus) also officially known as SW1 was a prototype of a fast mini-submersible equipped with a Walter turbine. It was on paper capable to sail 30 knots not only during its approach phase but cruising all the way while being submerged. The prototype made only rare attempts (known to be the problems of these revolutionary turbines) in Plöner’s seawater trial area before being scuttled in May 1945. British engineers sought it out and bailed it out for detailed study after the war.
There was also the V.80, a four man, 76-ton prototype completed in 1940 to test Walther geared turbine propulsion system. Her Range was 50 nautical miles at 28 knots. A serie named “Orca” were also built postwar. The midget submarines were swimmer delivery vehicle, for covert operations. Another cold war type called Narwal was also used until the Berlin wall fall.
V80 experimental midget sub, notice the camouflage
Blueprint of the V80
Sources and links
Although the war at sea in Europe saw few “big guns” engagements (no Jutland equivalent here), Admirals still played a major part in many operations, from the long battle of the Atlantic to shore bombardments in North Africa, Sicilia, Italy, and France, and naval battles in the Mediterranean. However this was in the pacific that things really get nastier for these top brass, obliged to take history-making decisions, sometimes responsible of the fate of their entire nations on a dice roll. No Top ten here, although some of these admirals would deserve fully-fledged biopics as their career was long and outstanding.
Cunningham, Andrew Browne (1883-1963)
Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, born in Dublin, son of a distinguished Scottish doctor who had become dean of the University of Edinburgh, young Cunningam served early on the Britannia, Fox and Doris, taking part in the Boer War. Then he was promoted commander of a torpedo boat, and destroyer during the great war. Andrew Browne (nicknamed “ABC” in the Navy), crossed the ranks and in 1937 became vice-admiral with the command of cruisers, then the battleship Rodney. He then commanded a squadron of destroyers in the Mediterranean, then battle cruisers, and became Deputy Chief of Staff in 1938. As a great connoisseur of the Mediterranean (over 30 years of service), he became commander-in-chief Of the Royal Navy in this sector in 1939.
He finds himself faced with the worst of situations when Italy entered the war in June 1940, with a powerful Italian fleet, a French fleet about to be captured, and its own fleet weakened by transfers in the Atlantic. With great skill he managed as ordered to “deactivate” the French fleet in his area of Alexandria (Operation Catapult). Later adopting a decidedly aggressive tactic, he managed to inflict several crushing blows to the Regia Marina, including the famous Taranto raid that inspired Pearl Harbor.
In general, he was the pivot of British defense in North Africa, protecting with his means the vital Suez canal against the regia marina assisted by the Luftwaffe. He received the surrender of the Italian fleet at La Valette harbour in 1943, then became first Lord of the Sea, following Sir Dudley Pound. Honored Admiral for life, he remains one of the most emblematic Royal Navy officers in history, the “Nelson of the Second World War”.
Darlan, François (1881-1942)
Probably the most famous and controversial French admiral of the war, he was above all a convinced “vichyst”, known paradoxically for his action of turning the fleet to the allies, following Operation Torch. An officer instructor on the Jeanne d’Arc cruiser, then commanding a mobile navy battery on the front during the great war, he was promoted commander of the fleet, including the Atlantic squadron in 1939. Well introduced into the political spheres and personal friend of Georges Leygues, Minister of the Navy, he was promoted by Leon Blum in 1937 to the supreme rank of “Admiral of the Fleet”, Commander-in-Chief of all naval forces.
Nicknamed “the Red Admiral” for his political loyalties to the popular front by his opponents, he effectively reorganized the navy and launched large-scale programs, including those of the first French carriers, and made accurate suggestions for the defense of the northern front, not retained by Gamelin. Faithful of Petain, he would enclose the fleet in a dead end, only leading to British attacks and captures. Hardly struck by the drama of Mers-el-Kebir, he became openly Anglophobic, fervent supporter of the collaboration. He went so far as to lend to the Kriegsmarine in Syria several naval bases, and it was even assumed that he had prepared for a joint offensive with the axis in that sector.
Following the allied landings in North Africa and under the pressure of General Juin, he signed a ceasefire. He was gradually marginalized by Vichy, loosing the confidence of the Nazis. Disavowed by Petain, he eventually took command of the empire as high commissioner, under the close surveillance and support of the Americans, only to see the scuttling of the fleet he promised. He was assassinated on 24 December 1942 by a young pro-Gaullist student, Fernand Bonnier de la Chapelle.
Dönitz, Karl (1891- 1980).
Born in 1914 on board the Breslau, he moved to submarine command in 1916, with a beautiful “chart”. He was taken prisoner in the Mediterranean in 1918 following the destruction of his U-Boote, interned in Malta, and was released and assigned to various positions in the German temporary navy. In 1934, the Anglo-German naval agreement gave him the freedom to reconstitute the submarine fleet, but he found himself in the face of the backward views of Grand Admiral Raeder.
However, he developed the “Rudeltaktik”, or pack tactics, which was successfully undertaken until 1943. In 1939 he was able to hire only a handful of ocean submersibles. However, with the fall of France and the new bases gained on the Atlantic, this strategy takes on its full meaning. In spite of the ASDIC, the subtle shots of submarines (like the U-47 of Prien) begin to make Hitler doubt of the resistances of Raeder, especially as surface actions are often disappointing (Graf Spee, Bismarck).
After May 1940, Hitler was more circumspect, forbidding even more surface exits, but gave carte blanche to Dönitz, and in particular impressive means: The construction of U-Bootes will increase, in spite of the programs of classic construction. In 1942, the packs of gray wolves are at the top of their action, with 400 units engaged in the Atlantic, saturating the defense of the convoys. The situation became critical for the Admiralty, which urged the US to go to war. Dönitz was promoted Grand-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, succeeding Raeder, disavowed. But shortly after his appointment, the US entry into the war and its tremendous material means gradually blurred the U-Boats, then in 1943, making it almost impossible in view of the losses.
However Dönitz is relying on a new generation of U-Bootes, the revolutionary types XXI. Faithful to Hitler, Dönitz will retain his confidence and become his official dolphin after his suicide in his blockhouse in Berlin in 1945. In a week, he will only transfer his armies to the west to avoid their capture by the Red Army And will negotiate with the allies, without success, for a common front against the “reds”. He signed the capitulation, and was arrested two weeks later with his collaborator Albert Speer. He was brought before the Nuremberg court and sentenced to ten years for having prepared a war of aggression and supposed to have condoned the killings (controversial after the “Laconia” affair) of shipwrecked.
Halsey, William (1882-1959)
An officer in 1904, commander of the destroyers during the great war, he became naval attache in Berlin in 1919, then in Scandinavia, will still have some commandments before graduating from the Naval Aviation School at the age of 52, obtaining his pilot’s license. Very popular, he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral commanding Saratoga, then the 2nd Division of Aircraft Carrier, and Vice Admiral with the command of the Pacific fleet.
Following Pearl Harbor and the destruction of the bulk of the classic fleet, he has to face with the remaining aircraft carriers and is conducting an offensive to the Marshall Islands and Gilbert, taking over the Doolittle raid. The “Taurus”, impulsive, energetic and tenacious, is absent for health reasons in Midway, but then exercises all its authority on the South Pacific, organizing in particular the offensives of Guadalcanal and the Carolinas. He was the artisan of the reconquest of New Guinea, of the New Georgia, of the Bougainville.
He was then appointed to the head of the powerful Third Fleet and had to take the decisive blow to the Philippines in 1944. His impulsiveness almost caused the Japanese plan to succeed in Leyte, but the crews would behave wonderfully, reestablishing the situation. With Spruance, he completed the reconquest by destroying the rest of the Nippon fleet in Kure and Tokyo, and preparing for the landing on the island of Honshu. It is aboard his battleship Missouri that will be signed the capitulation of Japan putting an end to the war.
Kinkaid, Thomas Cassin (1888-1972)
An officer in 1908, he participated in the Great War as an observer with the Royal Navy, then became shooting director of the battleship Arizona. While specializing in artillery, he obtains other commands and becomes a diplomat, participating in the disarmament commission in Geneva within the American delegation. Then he became naval and air attache to the Italians and Yugoslavs from 1938 to 1941.
After Pearl Harbor, he became engaged as rear admiral, commander of the fleet of cruisers of the Pacific, and then commanded a task force grouped around Of the Enterprise Carrier. With this force, Kinkaid will be the hardest engagements from 1942 to 1944, showing qualities of remarkable cold blood, organization and tactical genius. (Gilbert, Marshall, Wake, Marcus, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Santa cruz, Solomons).
He was then sent to expel the Japanese from the Aleutians, to occupy Attu and Kiska, and was then propelled to the head of the Fifth Fleet under the direction of Marc Arthur and engaged during the whole reconquest of the Philippines. Participating in the Battle of Leyte and Surigao, he was the main craftsman of the destruction of the Nippon fleet. He was then engaged for the reconquest of Luzon, Borneo, and then went to Korea in 1945 to receive the Nippon capitulation. He became the Admiral and took over as head of the Atlantic Reserve Squadron until 1950.
Leahy, William Daniel (1875 – 1959)
Leahy left the Annapolis naval school in 1897 and fought in the Philippines in 1898, in China in 1901 (the Boxers revolt), then in Central America, Nicaragua and Cuba in 1912-14, commandant of the gunboat Dolphin, As in Mexico in 1916.
He is a very experienced man who is entrusted with a cruiser, operating in the Mediterranean, then in the Atlantic from which he climbs the ranks: In 1921 during the Greco-Turkish War, In charge of the command of the American fleet in the Aegean Sea. Rear-Admiral in 1927, he was Vice-Admiral in 1935 and Admiral in 1936, and Head of US Naval Operations. Eminence gray of Roosevelt, he advised firmness to him during the Japanese offensive in China, when the gunner USS Panay is destroyed, but is not followed.
Reached by the age limit in 1939, he became governor of Puerto Rico, then joined to Vichy as ambassador in 1940, of which he denounced the collaborationist drift. Recalled to Washington, and still having Roosevelt’s confidence, he will accompany him as chief of interallied staffs, participating in major conferences until the end of the conflict, being assigned a function of Allied defense organizer To the USSR by Truman after the war.
Muselier, Emile (1882 – 1965)
After leaving the naval school of Toulon, and a campaign in the Far East in 1902-05, Emile Muselier fought n the front in the great war, as an artillery batery officer, first under the command of Admiral Ronarc’h, in champagne, and in Belgium. After the war, he was heading the naval control delegation in Germany. In 1933 he became Rear Admiral, commanding the Tunisian fleet and the 2nd Division of Cruisers. He was in charge of the defense of Marseilles and was appointed Vice-Admiral By darlan in October 1939.
Refusing the armistice, he joined Gibraltar on board a cargo ship, and then by plane London where De Gaulle appointed him commander-in-chief of the FNFL (Free French Navy) and provisionally he organized the FAFL (Free French Air Force). Despite Operation Catapult, he continued his recruitment, and famously proposed a new navy pavilion showing a cross of Lorraine (symbolizing Jeanne d’Arc), lated adopted by the Free French at large. Difficult relations with De Gaulle have him assigned to Algeria in 1943 with General Giraud to maintain order. Compromised in a Putsch against De Gaulle, he was deprived of any official function until his appointment as head of a naval delegation charged with German affairs in 1945.
Nagano, Osami (1880-1947)
Descendant of an illustrious family of samurai, Nagano is one of the pillars of the imperialist party Nippon. Released in 1900 from the naval academy, he entered the war school but also made his right to Harvard. Having become a commander, but without participation in the Russo-Japanese war or the great war, he was an officer on the Nisshin, the Iwate and the Hirado. He told the naval attache of the Nipponese Embassy in Washington. Against Admiral, he was appointed head of the fleet of the Yangtze, and the squadron command, and holds leadership positions as the direction of the Naval Academy, or as head of state of the Assistant Or assist the Director of the Naval Training Office.
He participated in the London naval conference in 1930, trying to get more resources for his fleet. He was then delegated to the Geneva and London Conferences of 1936, withdrawing Japan for lack of agreement on the limitation of armaments in his favor. He then became Minister of Marine of Hirota Cabinet in 1936. In April 1941 he became chief of staff of the navy, and directs all naval strategy, well attended by Yamamoto. But the back of the fleet in 1942 and its inaction in 1943 are reported to be his responsibility, he assumed and resigned in 1944. Captured in 1945, prosecuted, convicted of war crimes Japanese diet, And dies in prison.
Nagumo, Chuichi (1887-1944)
An officer in 1908 and a torpedo specialist, he commanded a destroyer in 1917 before entering the war school, then climbed the ranks quickly, captain, then rear-admiral and finally vice-admiral in 1939 Destroyers flotillas, but also Takao and Yamashiro. Curiously then, he took the command of the naval aviation, still little considered. At the head of this first fleet he led brilliantly the attack on Pearl Harbor, the destruction of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, the Dorsetshire and Cornwall cruisers, the Hermes aircraft carrier, the Dutch fleet, the ABDA force, Chased the Royal Navy from the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and ensured effective coverage of all operations of conquest until the end of 1942.
But he also made the unfortunate decision to change, at the last minute, armaments of aircraft which would eventually lead to the destruction by the American naval aviation of the bulk of its force at Midway. Then it will be the Solomons. Santa Cruz will be a Pyrrhic victory, and he will not be able to clear Guadalcanal. His disgrace would only be temporary, for in 1943 he returned to the head of a new carrier force but wiped another defeat to the Mariana in an attempt to defend Saipan. Associated until the end with General Saito defending the island, he eventually committed Seppuku.
Nimitz, Chester Williams (1885-1966)
This quiet and introverted Texan left the school of Annapolis in 1905, served in Manila before preferring the submersibles and became the chief of staff of this fleet in 1917. Affected in Hawaii, School of War, he joined the naval staff. He was noted for his qualities as a captain, was assigned to the training of reserve officers, then became director of the shipping office in Washington, and became a rear admiral in 1939. He then trained naval officers.
Following the Japanese attack in the Hawaiian Islands, he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and became Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. Under his vigorous leadership, the staff is reorganized and priorities set. His first major decision will be to launch the bulk of the oceanic submersible force in the Pacific to ensure the disruption of Nippon traffic, and a total underwater warfare. He directs and creates the task forces that will bomb the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, as well as Doolittle’s bold raid. He also heads the US forces during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and indirectly saves Port Moresby. He took a major part in the victory of Midway, well supported by spruance and Fletcher.
He then committed his forces to Guadalcanal, leading to a very aggressive and also very risky solution: The remaining Pacific fleet’s fate then had for a brief moment little more than one carrier, the USS Enterprise, and he did the most of it. Nimitz then embarked on a slow and costly reconquest of the Solomons, and in 1943 found himself at the head of a huge new fleet from the gigantic industrial efforts of the United States under the leadership of Admiral King. But a different one will quickly oppose him to Mac Arthur, a proponent of a reconquest of the Pacific West, including the Philippines, while Nimitz wants to go up the island to Okinawa. He devised a combined tactic promised to a great success, operating against the bases of Rabaul and Truk, which he took over, and advanced gradually towards the Mariana.
In September 1944, however, he rejoined MacArthur’s forces in the Philippines and confronted the Japanese forces in the immense battle of Leyte. Despite Halsey’s impulsiveness, he managed to trap the big units of the Nippon fleet and destroy his last aircraft carriers. He later engaged a real Maelstrom in front of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, wiping away swarms of kamikazes almost without loss. He again opposed Mac Arthur on the question of whether or not to conquer Japan, Nimitz preferring a blockade and naval operations designed to bend the Japanese government. But the atomic bomb will solve this question and it is Nimitz who will sign the act of surrender aboard the battleship Missouri.
The press will finally be grateful to him for his efforts in the face of a Mac-Arthur hitherto more media and he will be entitled to a triumph in Washington on his return. He was appointed “Admiral of the Fleet”, an honorary higher rank, and then fully engaged in politics as a UN administrator, regulating the Indian question. He retired in 1951 from politics as well as from his command.
Ozawa, Jizaburo (1886-1963)
He joined the navy in 1906 and was enthusiastic about the victory of Port Arthur, who quickly specialized in the question of torpedoes and destroyers in 1916. Captain of a frigate, then of ship, he commanded the cruiser Maya then the ship of line Haruna.
Rear-Admiral in 1936, then Chief of Staff of the Combined Fleet, he commanded the 1st and then the 3rd Naval Aviation Squadron. Vice-Admiral in 1941, after serving as Director of the Naval High School, playing his role at Pearl Harbor, he then took over Nagumo’s leadership of the forces that destroyed the Dutch fleet and led to the conquest of Java and Sumatra. In 1944, he was to face Mitscher Task Force 38 in the Marianas, an offensive that turned into a disaster.
In Leyte, he will take the lead of the “bait fleet” including aircraft carriers deprived of air force. He realizes his share but the plan fails following the unexpected withdrawal of Kurita. He will finally take the lead of Kamikazes training for the defense of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After the capitulation, he will not be disturbed by justice, having had no role in the decision-makers of the regime.
Pound, Sir Dudley (1877-1943)
Sailor by blood (born on the Isle of Wight), Pound entered the naval school in 1891, then became commanding officer in 1909 and instructor at the Portsmouth naval school in 1913. Captain and Lord Fisher’s deputy, He commanded the battleship Colossus and participated in the battle of Jutland. He served in the Mediterranean, commanding the Hood and the Repulse, and in 1927, after having commanded under Keyes, was appointed Rear Admiral, Deputy Chief of Staff.
Vice-Admiral in 1930, he became commander of the Mediterranean squadron, then gave up his post at Cunningham, to be appointed in 1939 Admiral and First Lord of the Sea, and as Chief of Staff of the Navy , Will become a close counselor of Churchill. Particularly dynamic, although with a failing health, he spends without counting during the pursuit of the Graf Spee, the operations in Norway, the Dynamo operation (the Dunkerque embarkation), then the bismarck affair. He organized the best defense of the convoys of the Atlantic (despite the total loss of the PQ-17) until his deaths of exhaustion in 1943, in London.
Raeder, Erich (1876-1960)
He entered the naval school in 1894 and retired as an officer in 1897, campaigned in the Far East, moved to the naval academy in 1904, and rapidly climbed the ladder. He was first assigned to the naval information service, then to the Imperial Yacht Hohenzollern, Lieutenant-Commander in 1912, and then Chief of Staff to Admiral Hipper during the Great War.
He will see the battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. Captain of a frigate, then captain of cruiser, commander of the Köln, was called to berlin to direct the central section of the ministry of the navy, and was finally captain of ship in 1919. Rear-Admiral in 1922, Raeder commands the forces of The North Sea, then head of the Baltic station, and the Nazis out of respect for his career, offered him the command of the Kriegsmarine then reconstituted thanks to the naval agreement of 1935.
He then developed an ambitious program , Plan Z, whose completion is planned in 1944, with the construction of 6 to 8 battleships, two aircraft carriers, and other surface vessels of which he is an unconditional of the old guard.
Opposed to the visions of Dönitz, he enjoys the confidence of Hitler until the disastrous exit of the Bismarck against the English traffic. His views on Hitler’s strategy, including the attack on the USSR, brought him a growing animosity by the leader of the Third Reich, consummated when the Hipper group operating in the Arctic was destroyed.
Hitler decides to disarm the surface fleet in favor of the submarines, and Raeder resigns in January 1943, replaced by Dönitz. Having never been a proponent of the Nazis, Raeder frequently opposed attempts to “purge Aryan” naval personnel. He was nevertheless tried and sentenced in Nuremberg to life imprisonment and released in 1955 on account of his age. He died 5 years later.
Sommerville, Sir James Fownes (1882-1949)
A commanding officer, after being appointed lieutenant in 1898, Sommerville was at the head of various staffs during the Great War. He was recognized and decorated (DSO) for his service during the Dardanelles expedition (Amiral Robeck), and became director of communications at the Admiralty during the 1920s and before the command of Norfolk.
Admiralty staff, and was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Squadron. He became interested, then specialized in radars, and was recalled to the Admiralty, assistant Ramsay during the evacuation of Dunkirk. It is Sommerville who will have the heavy task of firing on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir near the capitulation. He then engaged the Italians and fled them to Punta Stilo, bombed Italian cities, including Genoa, and in May 1941 brilliantly engaged his forces from Gibraltar to sink the Bismarck.
He then returned to the Far East fleet in April 1942, succeeding Layton, himself a follower of Philips, but undergoes the attacks of Nagumo and Ozawa and is obliged to replicate his surviving forces on the East African coasts . Vice-Admiral, he was seconded as a delegate of the British Admiralty in Washington and in 1945 was appointed Admiral. He then left his post and died shortly thereafter.
Spruance, Raymond Ames (1886-1969)
Released from Annapolis in 1903, “Ray” Spruance served aboard Iowa and Minnesota as an officer, with the skills of an electrical engineer. Recognized in these skills, he will be assigned to the technical services of the navy and large shipyards. He made war school in 1926-27, was ship’s captain in 1932, commanded the battleship USS Mississippi in 1937, freshly rebuilt. He will also command the naval district of central america, before becoming chief of naval operations in Washington.
At the head of a division of cruisers of the Pacific fleet in 1941, he replaced Halsey, sickly, with happiness at Midway. Impressed, Nimitz then appointed him vice-admiral, and he became his chief of staff. He then commands the Fifth Fleet in charge of the peaceful center, brilliantly resumes the Gilbert Islands, Marshall, and develops and executes the Truk raid. He became Admiral and began his campaign in the Marianas in 1943. He then commanded the naval forces deployed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. He was then Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and later Diplomat at the request of Truman, In 1955.
Tovey, Sir John Cronyn (1885-1971)
Lieutenant of the ship during the great war, he served aboard the Faulknor and the light cruiser Amphion. Known for his brilliant maneuver on the Onslow in Jutland, he was appointed frigate captain in 1916. He was subsequently deployed to the 2nd lord of the sea, then became captain of the ship, commanding the battleship Rodney and the Cruiser Chatham.
Rear Admiral in 1938, he commanded a squadron in the Mediterranean, and directed the convoys to Malta and the Middle East. In July 1940 he was vice-admiral and commanded the light forces of the Mediterranean, illustrated at Punta Stilo, and was summoned to London to take over as head of the Home Fleet, succeeding Admiral Forbes. He then took on the heavy task of escorting the convoys, and directed the combined actions against the Bismarck, before organizing and controlling the convoys of the Arctic.
He will be responsible for the destruction of the PQ17 by giving the order of his dispersion, which will earn him the wrath of Churchill. But protected from Cunningham, under whose command he had served, he remained at his post. In 1943, he became an admiral and actively prepares the “D-Day” operations.
Vian, Sir Philip (1894-1968)
Of French origin (Huguenot), Vian leaves as an officer the naval school of Dartmouth and served aboard destroyers during the great war. He climbed the ladder and in 1934 became captain. In 1939, he was awarded the honors of the press by capturing the tanker Altmark (supplier of the Graf Spee), as commander of HMS Cossak, carrying out an old school boarding commando operation.
Speaking French, he headed the Franco-British operations at Narvik at the head of the 4th flotilla of destroyers. He then committed his forces against the Bismarck and was named afterwards at the head of the XVth Division of Cruisers under the orders of Cunningham in the Mediterranean. It is Vian who will keep the supplies of Malta at the worst hours of his siege, and will illustrate himself during the second battle of the Great Sirte.
Under the orders of Ramsay, in 1943 he went to protect the landing in Sicily and then in Normandy the following year. He then took the lead at the end of 1945 of the British Carrier Task Force which will engage the reconquest of the sector of the Indian Ocean. He also participates in the assault of Okinawa. Vice-Admiral and Fifth Lord of the Sea in 1946, he became Admiral and Commanding Officer of Home Fleet in 1950.
Yamamoto, Isoroku (1884-1943)
Undoubtedly the most famous Japanese admiral of the war, Yamamoto was recognized as an unparalleled tactician, a talented organizer fully aware of the possibilities of the plane in naval warfare. Orphaned and adopted by the Yamamoto family, he entered the naval school of Yetajuma, and it is as a young officer that he engages during the Russo-Japanese war, on the Nisshin. Wounded at Tsushima (loses two fingers), he is fascinated by the possibility of torpedoes and consequently attends classes at the torpedo boats school.
He left in 1908 with the rank of lieutenant. After further studies at the Navy High School, he returned to the Staff of the Second Fleet in 1916 and then to the Military Affairs Office. In 1919 he studied at Harvard, and in 1925 he returned to the United States as naval attache and then delegated to the London conference in 1929 where he pleaded in vain for the parity of the Japanese fleet with those of the USA and Great Britain, likewise at the second conference which will see Japan withdraw.
He was then Rear Admiral, and Deputy Minister of Marine, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Violently anti-American, he urged the government to accelerate the arms programs, introduced very advanced methods of training for the crews, and was an indefatigable advocate for aircraft carriers of which he knew the potential. The performance of the combined fleet at the beginning of 1942 is entirely due to him.
In 1941, he was promoted to Admiral, set up the main lines and led Operation “Tora”, the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the direction of the forces of the Pacific he unfolded his forces with great success, and personally commanded his forces at Midway. He is surprised at the American response and in the face of disaster, is obliged to give up the operation against the island.
He was then criticized for not having committed his remaining considerable forces in the Solomons, leaving the Americans the initiative, winning with his “tokyo night express” still some successes at the expense of the American cruisers and supplying his troops. Although he was a virulent critic from the USA, he had warned the Tojo government against aggression in the country. The admiral died when his transport was abased by American fighters in the Solomons, who were ignorant of his precious passenger.
An introduction to Soviet Riverine Gunboats
The immensity of the Russian territory and the vast and deep rivers which traversed its land from the Urals or the Caucasian chains played the same role as the Mississippi and its tributaries during the American civil war: Convoying troops and carrying out missions Fire support and surveillance. As a result, the USSR was the country that built the most units of its kind during the war. They proved valuable to the Wehrmacht, not being held back by the natural conditions of the bad roads during the break-up. The most common lightweight models were equipped with heavy tank turrets and machine guns, and were armored, and these units sometimes faced German panzers. Others served as fire support ships during the great offensives, notably thanks to their “Stalin organs”.
Shkval class Gunboats (1910)
These monitors dating from before the Great War had been so well realized that they were still in proper condition after the Civil War. The Lenin, Sverdlov, Trockiy and 4 other units were re-started in 1927-34 and then in service with the fleet: Dalchevostolchnoi Komsomolec, Dzerzhinskiy *, Kirov * and Sun Yat-Sen . All survived the conflict. Some served on the Amur, on the Chinese border.
* double or triple denomination: Also name of a coastguard, and a Kirov class cruiser.
Specs: 950 tonnes standard, Dimensions 65 m x 8.2m x 0.82 m
Propusion: 2 screws, 2 diesels, 2200 hp.
Top speed: 14 knots
Armament : 5 x 130 mm, 1 x 45 mm, 6 12,7 mm AA Heavy MGs
Second class Gunboats (1910-1925)
These old gunboats were recovered in more or less good condition in the mid-twenties and kept in service. In 1941, the fleet included the Pionyer (formerly Korshun, coastguard of 1903), and the Khraby, another coast guard that was modernized in 1944 to take on the new configuration above and named Krasnoye Znamya. The Pionyer was lost in 1941 (mines?), And the Znamya survived the war and still served in the sixties…
Specs: 1 020 t. standard
Dimensions: 66 m x 9,9 m x 2,30 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 diesels, 3200 hp.
Top speed: 16 knots
Armour: 20 mm+
Armament (1941): 5 canons x 130 mm, 8 x 37 mm AA
BK-213, 322 in night action
2 views of the Udarnyi class
Udarnyi class riverine monitors (1932)
Built in Kiev, these two powerful sister-ship monitors of 1932 served on the Dnieper. It was there that the Udarnyi was sunk in 1941 by the Luftwaffe.
Specs: 385 t. standard
Dimensions: 51 m x 8,2 m x 0,82 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 diesels, 1600 hp.
Top speed: 13 knots
Armour: Up to 35 mm?
Armament: 2 x 130 mm, 4 x 45 mm, 6 12,7 mm HMG AA
Flyagin riverine Monitor, two views
Zheleznyakov class riverine monitors (1934)
These 6 monitors were built in 1934-39 in Kiev to serve on the Dnieper. They were armored, and were all lost in combat except the Zheleznyakov, preserved and showcased today in Kiev.
Specs: 263 t. standard
Dimensions: 48 m x 7,6 m x 0,75 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 diesels, 300 hp.
Top speed: 7,6 knots
Armament: 2 x 102 mm, 4 x 45 mm, 4 x 12,7 mm HMG AA
Khasan class riverine monitors (1943)
These two monitors were built in 1943-45 in Kiev to serve on the Dnieper. They were clearly inspired by the Udarniy, and were joined by a third unit in 1946.
Specs: 1 900 t. standard
Dimensions : 75 m x 11 m x 0,90 m
Propusion: 2 screws, 2 diesels, 1000 hp.
Top speed: 8 knots
Armament: 4 x 130 mm, 8 x 45 mm, 6 x 12,7 mm HMG AA
World War Two Dniepr Flotilla
First constituted in June 1931, a small flotilla was disbanded in June 1940, and the ships realocated to the new Danube Flotilla created with Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina and the Pinsk Flotilla. A new Dnieper Flotilla was also constituted from ships of the Volga Flotilla in September 1943.
By the time of spring 1944 offensive, the Dnieper flotilla consisted of no less than 140 boats and ships, included, in out case, 16 armored gunboats. Commander was Rear Admiral Vissarion Grigoriev. The flotilla operated on the Dnieper River and tributaries, like the Berezin, Pripyat River, Vistula and tributary the Western Bug, Oder and Spree. The Dnieper ended into the Black Sea, while the Bug, Vistula, Oder, and Spree drain into the Baltic sea. Existing canals provided links between these.
BK type gunboat preserved as a monument at Pinsk.
The Flotilla’s contributed to the protect the flanks of advancing Soviet troops in Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland. Outside of logistic support, it also performed amphibious landings (Pinsk, Zdudichi, Petrikovsky, Borkinsky, and Doroshevichinsky). Units also fought on the Oder and Spree and throughout the battle of Berlin, bringing close support. The Dnieper Flotilla was disbanded afterwards.
The BK armored gunboats were certainly the most common and useful. In 1941, no less than 85 of these were in service, 68 under construction, 110 on order. They paid a heavy price in operations, as about 90 were lost. Outside a T34/76 tank turret (early types had T-28 and T-35 turrets) as main armament, they also had lighter 7.62 PKT in T-28/35/26 light secondary turrets. The BK-1124 had two main turrets and BK-1125 one, with a 12.7mm DshK machine gun AA and two PKT 7.6mm machine guns, sometimes a Katiusha type rocker launcher. There were several combination known, and many vessels were camouflaged.
Preserved BK-1125 at Kiev, showing its T-34/85 turret and twin 12.7 mm above the bridge.
Zheleznyakov class river monitor, of which five were built at Kiev also served with the Dnieper Flotilla. Outside a twin 4-inch (100 mm) main armament, they also had 2 x 2 45 mm (1.7 in) guns, and four PKT standard machine guns. The Flotilla was awarded the Order of the Red Banner in 1944, and the Order of Ushakov, First Class, in 1945. Some subunits were made Guards or received honorary battle names (Pinsk, Bobruisk, Luninets, Berlin) as well as Three thousand soldiers and sailors has been awarded, twenty of which were made Hero of the Soviet Union.
Nowadays a monument at Pinsk (BK serie ship) stands to commemorate the flotilla but others are showcased in Kiev, Mariupol, Blagoveshchensk, even Khabarovsk (far east).
BK-1125 closeup, T-34/76 turret
Camouflaged BK-1125, rear platform, 12.7 mm DSHK Heavy Machine Gun. (cmchant.com)
The BKA 1124 class (1934)
Constructed in mass since 1935, these units relied on the numerous armored gunboats deployed successfully during the civil war as well as the armored trains and on the prototypes N and K. Their peculiarity was to use turrets of Tanks, and to have the corresponding shielding. The former had heavy tank turrets T-28 and T-35, then in 1939, T-34, the standard tank of the Soviet army. About 60 were in service during the German invasion, and more than 150 were built, some equipped with rocket launchers ROFS-82 (Katiucha) fire support.
BKA-1125 type profiles
Displacement: 42 tonnes standard
Dimensions: 25 m x 3,80 m x 0,80 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 gasoline engines, 1600 hp.
Top speed: 28 knots
Armour: 15 to 50 mm
Armament: 2 x 76 mm, 2 12,7 mm HMG AA
The BKA 1125 class (1938)
These armored gunboats, built in 1938, were derived from the 1124 BKA, they were smaller and had only one tank turret, and were always propelled by two gasoline engines. Approximately 20 were in service before the German invasion, with the others taking office during the years 1942 to 1944. A total of more than 150 since the total number of BKAs represents at least 270 units. In 1943, their turrets of T34 were those of model T34 / 85, with longer range. Some had rocket launchers. About 90 gunboats 1124 and 1225 will be cast in combat.
Displacement: 29 tonnes standard
Dimensions: 22.6 m x 3,50 m x 0,50 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 gasoline engines, 720 hp.
Top speed: 28 knots
Armour: 12 to 50 mm
Armament: 1 x 76 mm, 1 x 12,7 mm HMG, 2 x 7.62 mm LMG AA
MBK class (1943)
These twenty large units, project 161, were intended to operate in the Baltic Sea coast, enlarged versions of the 1124 BKA. The prototype was built in Leningrad 1941-43 and the others in 1944-45. The latter used guns of 100 mm rather than those of 85 mm. These boats derived from pre-war project 138, originally adapted for quick building in Leningrad, with simplified rectilinear hull form, lend-lease engines and widely available T-34 tank turrets. The BKA were better suited to estuarine and coastal operations and the design was essentially an enlarged version of the Type 1124, for use on the shallow waters of the Baltic. The previous type 1124/1125 BKA carried T-34/76 tank turrets, but the BKM was given the much more potente T-34/85 turrets armed with the high-velocity (3.35-in) ZiS-53 gun, and later eventually a 100-mm (3.94-in) gun. Recoil problems were certainly less acute for a large ship than for the suspensions of a tank.
The BKA received a substantial protection, 50 mm (2 inches) plates on either sides, and the conning tower, which made them able to compete with German tanks, at least the most common models. In addition to their main 3.35- or 3.94-in gun, they received one 37-mm L/67 AA QF gun and four 12.7-mm (0.5-in) heavy machine guns for anti-aircraft defense.Initially the BKA were given 2 x 82mm mortars, but 45 mm guns were given instead. Two models were apparently built, the early one showing a prominent bow-guard and different armament disposition.
They were all built at 194 Yd, Leningrad, the first one, БК-501, being laid down on 10/1942, launched in 11/4/1943 and completed in 9/1943, whereas the last of 20, БК-520 was started in June 1944, launched in September and completed in October 1944. Surviving MBKs in 1946-1949 were classified as small gunboats.
BK-506, date unknown
Ship protection: Belt had 52-50 mm thickness abreast citadel and was closed by 14 mm fore and 48-30 mm aft bulkheads, it was connected with 35-30 mm deck. Ship ends outside citadel were protected by 18-14 mm belt and 18-12 mm deck.
Profile of the MBK-161, early type.
Displacement: 151 tonnes standard, 158 fully load.
Dimensions : 36.2 m x 5.50 m x 1,28 m
Propulsion: 2 screws, 2 Packard petrol engines 2400 hp.
Endurance: 450 nm @10 knots
Top speed: 13 to 18 knots
Armour: Belt: 50 mm – 25 mm, deck: 30 – 15 mm, turrets up to 45 mm, CT: 8 mm
Armament: 2 x 76/40 F-34 85 mm, 1 x 37 mm 45/65 21KM or 37/63 70K, 4 x 12,7/79 mm HMG AA
MBK gunboats in action
The Battle of Nerva Island (20 june 1944) took place when Germans attacked the Gulf of Finland, sending two large Elbing-class torpedo boat T-30 and T-31. “Operation Drosselfang” had the purposed of “cleaning” light units around Nerva Island. On the area, soviet forces possessed 14 motor torpedo boats, 10 sub chasers (of MO-4 class) and 4 small gunboats. The submarine chaser MO-106 was lightly damaged as well as two small gunboats MBK-503 and MBK-505. At that point, the Soviet counter attacked with the TK-53, TK-63 and TK-153, followed by TK-101 and TK-103, all lightly damaged. Eventually a third attack succeeded with a pincer movement (one sunk, one forced to retreat).
The BK-504 was sunk on 4/7/1944, as the BK-509, and the БК-514 by German mines. Surviving ships were renamed on 11/1946 МКЛ-1 to 38, and reverted to their original name on 2/1949. They were eventually all striken from 10/1949 to 3/1958.