KMS Graf Zeppelin (1939)

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
Graf Zeppelin being launched in December 1938

Plan Z

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
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.

A class aircraft carrier at Kiel
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.

Details specifications

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.

Aircraft complement
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.

Final Cancellation
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
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

Links/src (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)
Displacement 33.550/34.088t FL
Crew 1760+ aircrew
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)


German Destroyers of WW2

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
Displacement 923/1290t FL
Crew 127
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
Displacement 932/1300t FL
Crew 127
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)
Displacement 1625/3165t FL
Crew 315
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
Crew 1600
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)
Crew 321
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.

Unfinished projects
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
Crew 330
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.

Blueprint (Russian)

1940 Type specifications

Dimensions 162 x 16 x 4.9 m
Displacement 6300t FL
Crew 520 est.
Propulsion 3 screws, 2 geared turbines, 4 Wagner boilers 80,000 hp
Speed 36 knots
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

German reconstitution of the 1936C class design - JüEi
German reconstitution of the 1936C class design – JüEi

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
Displacement 3030/3594t FL
Crew 320
Propulsion 2 Wagner shaft geared turbines, 6 Wagner boilers 70,000 hp
Speed 38 knots
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

German reconstitution of the 1942 class design - JüEi
German reconstitution of the 1942 class design – JüEi

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
Displacement 2330/2630t FL
Crew 235
Propulsion 3 shafts, 6V double acting 2-stroke diesels 57,120 hp
Speed 36 knots
Armament 4x 127 mm, 4×2 37mm AA, 3×4 20mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm

1944 class: The most modern

Impression of the 1944 class design - combo JüEi
Impression of the 1944 class design – combo JüEi

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
Displacement 3170/3703t FL
Crew 308
Propulsion 2 shafts, 8 MAN double acting 2-stroke diesels 76,000 hp
Speed 37.5 knots
Armament 3×2 128 mm DP, 3x 55m AA, 14x 30mm AA, 8(2×4) TT 533 mm

Paper Projects

According to 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.

Manta (paper project)

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.

VS6 hydrofoil
VS 6

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.

VS 8

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

Camouflaged Manta UGC
Reconstruction in what-if camouflage

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.

General description

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.

Mockup model of the UCS Manta
Mockup model of the UCS Manta


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.

Three-view drawing of the Manta, from the model.

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.

UGS Specifications
Dimensions 15 x6 m, hull diam. 1.5 m
Displacement 15 – 50t FL
Crew 2
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

Reminds something ?

Sources, Links

German mini-subs and human torpedoes

Nazi Germany (1944-45)

K-verband projects

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)
-Crew 1



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)
-Crew 1

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
-Crew: 2

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.
-Crew 2

Human 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)
-Crew: 1


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
-Crew: 1

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

Type II Class submarine

Nazi Germany (1935)
50 Submarines Types IIa, IIb, IIc, IId

Beach Patrol

In 1930, the false Dutch company NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw den Haag (set up in the Netherlands to develop submarines for Germany after WW1) set out to design a new class of submarine as a means of coastal patrol and defense. This submarine was bought by the Finnish government and was called the CV-707 Vesikko. This became the basis for development of a new class of submarine for the German Kriegsmarine.

Finnish Vesikko, CV-707 prototype submarine in service and camouflage livery during the war.

In 1933, NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw den Haag designed a new and improved CV-707 that would be built for the German navy at the Kiel shipyard. This class became the Type IIA, with the U-1 being the first built. It’s primary roles were training of new crews and coastal defense.


The Type IIA had a length of 134 feet, a beam of 13 feet, and a draft of 12 feet, meaning that the sub was small and could only operate in coastal waters. A conning tower was located in the center of the boat and housed the periscopes that the sub would use to see while underwater. A single anti-aircraft gun may be mounted here.

Displacement for the Type IIA was 250 tons surfaced and 298 tons submerged. A test depth of 150 meters could safely be reached, although captains of submarines would regularly take their subs deeper than the test depth. With a crew of up to 25 men, the Type II was cramped and uncomfortable, although proportionate as other submarines such as the American Gato Class were 3 times the size and had 3 times the crew.

Cutaway plans of the U Boat type II


Armament of most Type II submarines was 3 533mm torpedo tubes, all forward facing, with 5 torpedoes carried in total. In addition, 1-2 20mm anti-aircraft cannons were carried. No deck gun or heavy anti-aircraft was carried.
In addition to the underwater and surface weapons, small arms such as MP-40 submachine guns and P-38 handguns were carried for self defense and boarding.
Interestingly, all German submarine crews were also trained in land combat, so it can be assumed that the crews were at least somewhat skilled with their small arms.


German submarines, while having diesel and electric engines, were not true diesel-electrics. They used their louder diesel engines on the surface and their electric engines underwater.
Powering the Type II were 2 diesel engines and 2 electric motors allowing for up to 13 knots surfaced and 7 knots submerged.
Type IIA subs could travel 1,600 nmi at 8 knots while surfaced and 35 nmi at 4 knots while submerged.
Type IID subs could travel 5,650 nmi at 8 knots while surfaced and 56 nmi at 4 knots while submerged.

Active Service

The first Type II submarines were completed in 1934, although most of the world did not know of their existence until 1935, when Germany and Great Britain signed a treaty allowing Germany to match England’s submarine fleet.

Type II submarines would be used in the beginning years of the war as a training and coastal patrol boat until a shortage of U-Boats in 1942 and 1943 would see them supplementing the larger Type VII class in anti-ship roles.
In total, there were at least 4 combat flotillas that operated the Type II. These included the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 30th Flotillas. Most of these operated out of Kiel, with one notable exception.

Starting in 1942 with the formation of the 30th U-Boat Flotilla, Type IIBs would be used in the Black Sea, attacking Russian shipping and reinforcements making their way to the front line. The Flotilla was disbanded in 1944 after the destruction of all remaining U-Boats.
At the start of hostilities with France and England, the Type II was more used for coastal patrol and training, but as the war dragged on, it saw more combat in the English Channel. Eventually, the Type II was to be replaced by the Type XXIII “Elektroboot”, although the Type II was never fully replaced in the Kriegsmarine.



U-Boat Type IIa waterline profile (1/400)

U-Boat Type IIc full profile for comparison

U1 in service with the Kriegsmarine before the war

U9, of the following IIb class.

The Vesikko preserved at Susisaari island in Suomenlinna near Helsinki as of today. It has been restored and opened as a museum in 1973.

Hipper class cruisers

Nazi Germany (1937)
Heavy Cruisers: Hipper, Blücher, Prinz Eugen, Seydlitz, Lützow

Cruisers to rule them all

The first heavy cruisers of the Kriegsmarine were separated from their only possible ancestors by nearly 40 years, the last two Scharnhorst 1906 class armoured cruisers, which served Admiral Von Spee well. They had been succeeded only by “leichtes kreuzer”, Armed with 150 mm pieces. Any study on this subject was impossible under the Reichsmarine, Versailles prohibiting anything but eight light cruisers of less than 6,000 tons. The Anglo-German Treaty of 1935 however de facto recognized the harshness of it and allowed a capacity to produce “Washington” cruisers (10,000 tons, 8 pieces of 203 mm), but not before 1943.

However with the arrival of Hitler, all these limitations would soon goes by the drain. Under the advice of Raeder and based on the experience of the latest light cruisers, a new ambitious program was set up with the same idea of individual superiority to compensate for numbers. Therefore the new German cruisers of the Hipper class would just mockingly outclass limits by more than a safe margin: At full load, in battle order, the Hipper of the second sub-class of 1940 were nearing 20,000 tons, so double Washington’s limits ! Only the American Des Moines Class in service in 1948 would me these. Despite of this the armament stayed inside the limits
but the size and choice of propulsion were a direct result of a design meant to be the ultimate, long range commerce raider.

KMS Admiral Hipper

While the design was barely sketched in 1935, Russia announced its intention to produce heavy cruisers armed with 180 mm pieces. In addition, the new class had to respond to the French heavy cruisers of the Algeria class, and Italian Zara class. The Hipper were in fact the first five Schwerer kreuzer of Plan Z. Two sister-ships of the following “subclass” (often separated according to sources), included the Prinz Eugen (in tribute to the defunct Austro-Hungarian fleet), the Seydlitz, and the Lützow. Started in 1936-37, they were significantly larger and heavier.

The project was therefore revised on the express order of Hitler, and the ships put on hold according to the new plans, much more ambitious. Their width had been carefully restrained to fit the panama canal. Unlike previous generation, the largest part of the ship, including the hull, was riveted and reinforced. Construction took place from 1935 to 1937 for the Hipper (in service in 1939), and from 1936 to 1939 for the Blücher, the first two.

105 mm mount on the Prinz Eugen

Both had very sophisticated gunnery control systems, sights, radars, a powerful anti-aircraft battery, but lacked range due to the lack of diesels for the revised commerce raiding duties. They had instead highly sophisticated and somewhat capricious high-pressure turbines creating constant mechanical problems in service. Their silhouette recalled the Scharnhorst battleships in reduction, but still at launch they were the most powerful cruisers in the world. The Hipper saw its prow rebuilt in 1942 as an Atlantic clipper style.

The Hipper in action

The Hipper made two raid cruises in 1939, totaling 60,000 tons of merchant vessels. She took part in the Norwegian campaign (Weserübung), and off Trondheim badly damaged the destroyer HMS Glowworm. The latter managed however to maneuver just before sinking, ramming the Hipper, which left a deep hull depression and significant internal damage. However, this did not prevented Hipper’s landing party to erect the Nazi flag on Kristiansand, taking all the city’s organs (Telecommunication, energy, etc.) without the inhabitants noticing. The Hipper than departed and patrolled along the Norwegian coast accompanied by the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, then returned to Kiel for repair.

KMS Prinz Eugen launch at Kiel, 22 August 1938

Two new raids in the Atlantic has been later canceled due to turbine failures. From December she returned to the Atlantic, undetected, and from Brest, made some sorties against British trade, notably against convoy WS-5A in December 1940 and SLS64 in February 1941. She then joined Kiel for minor improvements and the addition of additional oil tanks, and returned to Norway. She remained there to operate against the Arctic convoys. She was severely damaged during an attack of one of These convoys in December 1942. After returning to Wilhelmshaven for repair, she remained there, set aside by Hitler’s order, completely disillusioned with surface ships. In January 1945 her partial repairs served her to evacuate civilians and troops from the ports of East Prussia, from the fury of the Russian troops (Operation Hannibal). She was broken up in Kiel in May 1945.

KMS Blücher heavy cruisers

The Blücher in action

The Blücher had a power plant slightly different from its twin, but unchanged speed. She took part in the attack on Norway (Weserübung), as flagship of naval group 5 (including Lützow, Emden, three torpedo boats and 8 minesweepers under Oskar Kummetz), intended to land troops and men of the Gestapo destined to take organs of communication and power in Oslo. As she advanced by night in the fjord, her weapons remained perfectly aligned in a gesture of disdain against Norwegian fortifications, but she was nevertheless surprised by the patrol boat Pol III just before midnight. The latter raised the alarm, and Oscarborg battery’s gunners, although inexperienced and having only old 280 mm Krupp guns dating back from 1890, fired at 1600-1800 meters, seriously damaging the cruiser, who then could not reply. As a result, this first blood was followed by practically firing pieces of the coast, even minor ones.

Prinz Eugen through Panama Canal in 1946
Prinz Eugen through Panama Canal in 1946

Blücher was rapidly in flames, and sunk later at point-blank range by the Dröbak fjord batteries, 280 mm from Oscarborg and 150 mm from the Kopas battery, completed by torpedoes from Kaholm fort (old Austro-Hungarian Whitehead models from 1895). Nevertheless, and despite the icy waters, there were few victims, the banks being close. During the same event, the pocket battleship Lützow (former Deutschland) was also severely damaged and had to retreat. Oslo was saved, allowing the Royal family to leave the country. The Blücher still lies at 90 meters in the middle of the fjord, an attraction for divers. In 1994 an operation was carried out to extract the oil escaping from its rusting tanks. That gave an opportunity to retrieve an anchor, now exposed to Aker Brygge, and an Arado seaplane, now exposed in Stavanger Museum.

Unfinished Lützow being transferred to USSR, 1940

KMS Prinz Eugen

The Prinz Eugen, named after Prince Eugene of Savoy (in honor of the Austrian part of the new third Reich) was nicknamed the “lucky”. Launched in 1938, her construction had costed some 104 million Reichsmarks. She was to participate in the operations in Norway but was not yet ready for service. On 2 July 1940 she was attacked and damaged by the RAF. On 23 April 1941 after substantial repairs, she was again put out of action by a magnetic mine. On 24 May, 1941 she was ready for Operation Rheinübung in the company of Bismarck.

This was her most famous action. Opening fire against the Hood, at maximum angle, it is very possible that her shells set fire to the rear boats deck (spreading into more vital parts of the ship, that blew her up). Then she was ordered to concentrate fire on the HMS Prince of Wales (which the Germans had taken for HMS King George V), scoring four hits. When the Bismarck was defeated, PE had to divert to France, to continue her mission against British trade. On her first sortie she was to find the tanker Spichern, but turned back on 29 May because of turbine failures. Anchored in Brest, she was the target of constant attacks by the RAF. On the night of July, 1st, she was severely damaged by a bomb hitting the rear artillery control center, killing 60. On 11-12 February after repair, she escorted the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau through the channel, to the Baltic (operation Cerberus) with success. In February she went back to Trondheim Fjord.

Soviet Tallinn (ex-Lutzow) at Leningrad circa 1949, still unfinished.

In another raid she was torpedoed by HMS Trident, lost her stern and remained almost a year in repair at Kiel, only back into service in January 1943. Because of her troublesome turbines however she could not join Norway and spent the remainder of her service time in the Baltic, as an escort vessel and training ship. From October 1944 she assisted troops in East Prussia with her artillery, and later helped evacuating troops and civilians during the siege of Danzig in 1945. On October 15, by foggy weather, she collided with the KMS Leipzig, and was sent to Gdynia (Gotenhafen) for repairs. After a final evacuation, she went to Copenhagen on 20 April.

KMS Seydlitz being launched

KMS Prinz Eugen remained in Denmark due to lack of fuel. She was captured by the British on May 8, and after the war was attributed to the US Navy, renamed USS Prinz Eugen/IX300, and thoroughly examined by engineers. Her sonar was recovered and tested on a submersible, her magnetic amplifiers were reverse-engineered. She was eventually sent into the Pacific, through the Panama Canal. Stationed in the Bikini atoll for Operation Crossroads, she was badly irradiated by two nuclear explosions (tests Abel and Baker). In September 1946, he was towed and sunk in the Kwajalein atoll where she remains. Her bell is currently exposed in the Washington DC Museum, and her propeller was repatriated in 1978, and is currently exposed in Laboe, Germany.

Unfinished business: Seydlitz and Lützow

Both heavy cruisers were sister-ships of the Prinz Eugen, larger than the first Hipper. They were built at the Deutsche Schiff und Maschinenbau of Bremen, laid down in 29 December 1936 and 2 August 1937, launched in January and August 1939.

Seydlitz‘s construction was approximately 95 percent complete when halted. In March 1942 it was decided to convert her into an aircraft carrier. She was renamed Weser, and conversion work began in May 1942: All superstructures were erased (about 2400 tons), and a hangar was started, which could have housed ten Bf 109 fighters and ten Ju 87 dive-bombers. AA artillery was to comprise 10x 10.5 cm SK C/33 guns in dual mounts, 10x 3.7 cm SK C/30 guns also in dual mounts, plus 24x 2 cm Flak 38 guns in quad-mounts. Work was halted again in June 1943, she was towed to Königsberg and stayed there unfinished, only to be scuttled in January 1945. Briefly seized by the advancing Soviet Army she was later sold for scrap.

The Lützow was the object of intense negotiations between the 3rd Reich and the USSR from October 1939 to February 1940, that thought to acquire her. Concluded, the transfer took place in April, but then she lacked half her battery and most of ther superstructure was missing. renamed Petropavlovsk she was to be completed by a German-advised Soviet shipyard in Leningrad. After Operation Barbarossa began of course all was halted, and the ship took part in the defense of Leningrad, before being silenced by German heavy artillery. Sunk, then raised again in September 1942 she was repaired as Tallinn, and took part in the operations for taking back the city in 1944. After the war she served as floating barracks until broken up from 1953.

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

KMS Hipper specifications

Dimensions 205,90 x 21.30 x 7.90 m (207,70 m x 21,50 m x 7,20 m Prinz Eugen)
Displacement 14 000/18 200t FL (17 000/19 000t Prinz Eugen)
Crew 1600
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 Blohm & Voss turbines, 12 Lamont boilers 132,000 hp
Speed 32,5 knots (xx km/h; xx mph) Radius ?? Nautical Miles
Armament 8(4×2)x 203 mm, 6×2 105 mm, 6×2 37mm AA, 12(4×3) TT 533 mm, 2 planes
Armor Belt: 85 mm (), Deck: 38 mm (), Turrets 162 mm, Conning tower: 152 mm ()

KMS Hipper

KMS Prinz Eugen

KMS Admiral Hipper recoignition plate

Leipzig class cruisers

Nazi Germany (1936)
Light Cruisers: Leipzig, Nürnberg

The last light German cruisers

Started in 1927 on behalf of the Reichsmarine in Whilelmshaven, the Leipzig was an improved version of the previous “K” class, while keeping the essential, but also the flaws. The main part of its structure, especially the hull, was persevered, resulting in structural weaknesses and a “limiting” stability of the width of the hull. The chimneys were grouped together in a single structure, and the superstructure of the forecastle prolonged, the triple turrets rearranged in the axis, and the bow of “classical” again, for a longer length and an increased width.

The Nuremberg, on the other hand, was attacked for the Kriegsmarine, and the frontiers of the Treaty of Versailles were freed. It resulted in an increase in size, protection, and weight… Moreover its bridge superstructure was revised, more massive and better protected. His diesels were a new, more economical model. At the end of Nürnberg was the only really successful cruiser of this series of “Leichte Kreuzer”.

Before the conflict, the two ships participated in the naval blockade of arms to Spain (1936-39). At the time of the war, Leipzig was involved in mine clearance operations off the coast of England when it was torpedoed by British submarine HMS Salmon, along with its “twin”, the Nürnberg. The Leipzig returned to Germany and was converted into a training vessel, in particular two boilers were replaced to make chambers and its speed had fallen to 27 knots.

She returned to service on the occasion of Operation Barbarossa (June 1941), bombing Russian advanced bases in the Baltic. He then remained in the Baltic for training, and entered during an outing in foggy weather in collision with the Prinz Eugen. Repaired, but suffering from problems, he was less and less active. In 1945, he was serving as a dock ship and DCA support at Whilelmshaven. Then he operated off Gdynia to try to slow down the Russian lead. He eventually surrendered to the British. It was scuttled in the North Sea in 1946.

Cruiser Leipzig seen from the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal

The Nuremberg, on the other hand, also torpedoed by the Salmon when it was wetting its mines, missed the operations in Norway. However, he gained a fjord for operations launched against the convoys of the great north, and alternated these missions with those in the Baltic. He eventually surrendered to the allies in Copenhagen in 1945 and was attributed to the USSR as a war-warrant, renamed Admiral Makharov. He retired from service in 1959, the only surviving German cruiser.

KMS Nürnberg

Nürnberg surrendering to the allies in 1945

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

KMS Nürnberg specifications

Dimensions 177 x 16.30 x 5.65 m
Displacement 6200 t/8380 t FL
Crew 1150
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Brown-Boveri turbines, 66,000 hp, 2 MAN diesels 12 400 hp
Speed 32/19 knots (xx km/h; xx mph) Radius 5700 Nautical Miles
Armament 9(3×3)x 152 mm, 6x 88 mm AA, 8x 37mm AA, 12(4×3) TT 533 mm, 120 mines, 2 planes
Armor Belt: 30 mm (), Deck: 25 mm (), Turrets 30mm, Conning tower: 30 mm ()

KMS Leipzig

KMS Nürnberg

Nurnberg recoigniation drawing – US Navy

Scharnhorst class battleships

Nazi Germany (1936)
Battleships: Scharnhorst, Gneisenau

Battleships, Battlecruisers, or what?

The two Scharnhorst class somewhat escape classifications. They were in essence a German answer to the French since the 1935 naval agreement with the British, the latter being even more likely than before, enemies. Ordered in February 1934 to Kiel, and named after the famous generals of the Napoleonic armies, taken from the famous cruiser-battleships of Admiral Von Spee who defeated Admiral Cradock’s squadron at Coronel in 1914 Not far from the Malvinas Islands), these two “twins” who practiced practically all the time together, presented themselves as improved derivatives of the previous Deutschland. They also had to respond to the two French “Dunkerque” recently begun.

KMS Schanhorst – Bundesarchiv

Carrying a faster artillery, better garnished (especially the DCA) and especially carried now three turrets, they were equally destined to carry out a race war. This artillery of 280 mm was superior to that of the vast majority of heavy cruisers, but insufficient in front of the 380 mm and 406 mm guns deployed by modern battleships, not to mention their protection, totally ineffective against heavy projectiles. Like the old battle-cruisers, their speed remained an excellent protection, now imperiled by the release of the first “super-dreadnoughts” in 1939-1940.

They had planned a variant equipped with 380 mm pieces, but this caliber was still experimental and was reserved for the Bismarck class. This scan, though smaller than the original standard for battleships (406 mm or 16 inches), had a range significantly greater than the British Admiralty’s 406 mm. When the German 280 mm, they were fast and outclassed in range and velocity the 203 mm of the cruisers. Some countries like the USA with their “Alaska”, briefly renewed with this kind of building. But the loss of the Hood and the disaffection for the surface classic fights to the prefect of the aeronautical threat would condemn them.

Scharnhorst guns
Scharnhorst’s 280mm turrets

In 1938-39, their right prow was covered in Atlantic type clipper, better suited to the northern Atlantic, and their length increased to 235 meters overall. The catapult of the rear turret on the Scharnhorts was dismantled, and its mast moved and rebuilt in tripod. Both ships received 20 mm AA artillery, the Scharnhorst two triple benches of 533 mm torpedo tubes (coming from Nurnberg) to meet the threat of the destroyers. In October 1939, the twins (“zwillig”) attack convoys in the North Atlantic.

The British auxiliary cruiser HMS Rawalpindi, courageously defending the convoy, faces the two ships, and with its 150 mm artillery, tries to keep them at a distance as the convoy moves away, and it is sunk. In 1940, in Norway, the Gneisenau fought only the HMS Renown, another battle cruiser (1917) whose artillery was superior, undergoing severe damage. In 1940 he was forced to return to Kiel because of the severe damage suffered by touching a magnetic mine.

Scharnhorst in Port

On June 8, 1940, off the northern Atlantic, the “twins” surprised a squadron bringing in British troops, and managed to sink the Glorious aircraft carrier, two destroyers and two escorts and damage other buildings. The Gneisenau will be torpedoed at the end of the month and thus again immobilized. From January to March 1942, they set out against the convoys (Operation Berlin) and sank 22 ships. Based in Brest, they are repeatedly attacked by the RAF.

In Brest, the two buildings were under constant threat from the RAF, unlike submersibles, well protected under heavy concrete bunkers. The Führer, who no longer believed in their use in the fight against the Atlantic convoys, ordered them to be transferred to Norway to fight Russian sea supplies (convoys from the far north), anchored in Fjords well protected by their geographical configuration. This was Operation Cerberus. Rising in a short time, it was the bold attempt to cross the sleeve to return to the North Sea. This meant passing a few coastlines of the English coast, under a flawless radar cover, the RAF, the Coastal Command and of course the Royal Navy still on the alert.

In spite of all expectations, on February 12, 1942, the two twins escorted by a heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and a squadron of a Me 109 fighter sail across the Calais, in broad daylight, to the nose and beard of the British. A series of misfortunes. Their only desperate attempt was the sending of swordfish torpedo biplanes, all of which were shot down. The success of the Kriegsmarine, however, was short-lived: destroyers attempted to torpedo the buildings, and heavy weather prevented them, the HMS Worcester being Even severely damaged by a fired shot of the two fleeing ships. The Gneisenau in view of the Strait of Skagerrak later leaped on a magnetic mine. He even had to stop completely for thirty minutes for repair, and went off to Heligoland for brief repairs before.

Finally at Kiel for further repairs, the RAF found the Gneisenau trace. A heavy bomber attack on the night of 26 February severely damaged it: A bomb penetrated the rear ammunition bunker, causing a huge explosion, missing to completely destroy the building and causing more than 112 victims. The repairs were postponed, and it was envisaged to replace the three triple turrets with 380 mm duplicates of the same model as the Bismarck, which would have greatly increased his chances of survival in a duel at sea (which was initially foreseen).

Gneisenau after her second bow refit in 1942

It was also planned to replace its prow, destroyed by the explosion, by a longer one, intended to compensate the weight of the new turret back. The original turrets were later transported to Norway, where they were used to defend the Tirpitz and Scharnhorst anchorage, which had returned to Norway in the meantime. In February 1943, after the latter’s loss at the Battle of the Barentz Sea, Hitler decided to stop work on his sister ship. The Gneisenau remained in Gotenhafen for the rest of the war, deprived of its artillery, and was scuttled in March 1945 in the entrance to the port.

In the North Sea, the Scharnhorst has a reclusive existence, made of too few exits against convoys, well protected by the Royal Navy, and sometimes even the US Navy. The hour of glory of the Scharnhorst will arrive with the battle of the North Cape (Sea of ​​Barentz). On December 22, 1943, an important convoy (JW55) was reported with defenses plagued as weak by luftwaffe and submersibles. The Scharnhorst, without the Tirpitz under repair, was escorted by five destroyers and commanded by Rear Admiral Erich Bey. He was to face the three cruisers of Admiral Burnett’s 10th Squadron (Belfast, Sheffield, Norfolk).

Only the last one benefits from “heavy” pieces (203 mm), the other two have a reduced range with their 152 mm. Nevertheless, the Scharnhorst, counting on his speed, withdrew from the fight after a brief pass of arms. His first objective remaining the convoy, he resumed the road due north. The weather is big and visibility abysmal, and the building is wasting time trying to locate the convoy. Meanwhile, the 10th Squadron now joined by the destroyers of 36th Division, guided by the powerful Norfolk radar, finds the building and engages in combat. This time the pass of arms is more fierce, but Bey decides once again, without protection and fault to find the convoy, to withdraw further south, which sends him on the road of the HMS Duke of York, joined By the King Georges V.

This time it is 20 pieces of 356 mm opposed to the 6 of 280 mm of the Scharnhorst (the British “bar T”) classic tactical maneuver which gives them a whole flank to oppose to the front parts of the German ship. Even though this last maneuver to present its flank, the range and precision of the British firings partially blunder its direction of fire and destroy two front turrets. Thanks to his superior speed, Bey once again breaks the fight, but too late: One of the sides of the Duke of York enters the engine compartment, destroys the chimney and boilers. With his speed no longer allowing him to escape, Bey sends a last message announcing to Hitler his intention to “fight until the last shell”. The ensuing artillery duel is a real execution, the British pounding the building, which will receive nearly 2000 projectiles and will be completed by destroyers torpedoes, once silenced. 36 survivors will be recovered.

Scharnhorst firing against HMS Glorious

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

KMS Deutschland specifications

Dimensions 155.10 x14.30 x6.60 m
Displacement 11,700t/16,200t FL
Crew 1150
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 diesels 9-cyl MAN, 54 000 hp
Speed 28 knots (42 km/h; 20 mph)
Armament 6(2×3)x 280 mm, 8x 150 mm, 6(2×3)x 105 mm AA, 16(8×2)x 37mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 533 mm
Armor Belt: 76 mm (), Deck: 38 mm (), Turrets 140mm, Conning tower: 152 mm ()

KMS Gneisenau in november 1943, in the “Norway” pattern.

Profile of the Schanhorst

Profile of the Gneisenau in 1942

Deutschland class Battleships (1931)

Nazi Germany (1931)
Deutschland, Graf Spee, Scheer

Compromised ships for the Interim Navy

The three units of the Deustchland class (Deustchland, Admiral Scheer, Admiral Graf Spee), incorrectly called “panzerschiff”, from which allies despised their protection were not battleships but rather small battle cruisers.

Compromises indeed were made in the face of the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles: 10 000 tonnes (tonnage of a heavy cruiser). In order to remain within this limit while possibly having any military value as battleships, they were the first products of the tactical conceptions of Erich Raeder, a champion of commerce raiding warfare. Thus these ships were designed to attack trade and facing all kind of escorting vessels in two ways: Fight the weak (cruisers), with a superior fire power, range, and equal protection, or flee the strong (true battleships) thanks a cruiser’s speed, 30 knots instead of 20-25.

The Deutschland did not take yet into account a largely paper-borne generation of rapid battleships still blocked by Washington’s moratory. They would eventually make this class vulnerable. These interwar limitations were perfectly demonstrated during the events of the Graf Spee and the Battle of the Rio de la Plata in 1939, soon throwing a veil of suspicion over the concept of these ships and surface raiders as a whole in the eyes of Hitler.

KMS Admiral Scheer before the war

Designed to deliver a privateer’s war to merchant traffic, these vessels had large holds to receive the captured crews, and were to receive the assistance of a supply ship. For the Graf Spee, it was the famous Altmark. The Graf Spee commander, Hans Langsdorff, played at the start of the cat and mouse war with the French and British allied fleets, successfully attacking the trade (he sank 50,000 tons of ships) Southern hemisphere (see the story about it).

The Deustchland, for its part, sank 7,000 tons and the Scheer 137,223 tons. After the misfortune of the Graf Spee, Hitler ordered that the Deustchland be renamed in Lützow, for an obvious question of national prestige in case of similar fate… The Admiral Scheer and the Lützow participated in the attack of the convoys of the North Atlantic from their Norwegian fjords. They were eventually wiped out by the “Tall Boy” bombs of the RAF lancaster in 1945, and also came out of the Tirpitz.

    Note: This is essentially a translation of a former work, this post will be completed later

KMS Graf Spee before the war

Rear triple 280mm turret of the Lützow

KMS Deutschland in 1939, with the early superstructure design

Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

KMS Deutschland specifications

Dimensions 155.10 x14.30 x6.60 m
Displacement 11,700t/16,200t FL
Crew 1150
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 diesels 9-cyl MAN, 54 000 hp
Speed 28 knots (42 km/h; 20 mph)
Armament 6(2×3)x 280 mm, 8x 150 mm, 6(2×3)x 105 mm AA, 16(8×2)x 37mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 533 mm
Armor Belt: 76 mm (), Deck: 38 mm (), Turrets 140mm, Conning tower: 152 mm ()

KMS Graf Spee
KMS Graf Spee in 1939, with its superstructures-only green camouflage

KMS Deutschland
KMS Lützow en 1944 (former Deutschland) with the standard straight pattern, shades of gray and blue of the Northern Sea.

Königsberg class cruisers

Nazi Germany (1927)
Light Cruisers -3 built

The “K class”, Reichsmarine’s innovative ships

After the launch of Emden (1925), light ‘K’ class cruisers were immediately started on the basis of a modernized armament, three triple turrets, of which the last two were offset from the axis, one further to starboard and the other to port. This strange configuration, never used again, was intended to improve stability as the turret No.2 was barely higher than the N°3. In addition, their open fire traverse area was improved. The engines themselves were also slightly shifted on the other sides to compensate. Moreover they innovated by adopting a square stern, which was extremely rare in time for large ships, again a condition dictated by weight saving considerations.


The Köln, Königsberg and Karlsruhe keels were laid in Whilhelmshaven in 1925-1926 on behalf of the Reichsmarine (for a 36 million Reichsmarks contract order each). They were launched from 1927 to 1928, and completed for testing in 1929-30. Their construction necessitated welding instead of riveting, also in order to save weight: Due to the 6000 tonnes limit imposed by the Treaty of Versailles for cruisers, it was the only assembly method fitting the bill. Furthermore protection was reduced, and it appear later in service that the superstructure twisted much in the rough northern seas and the weldings were deemed fragile, requiring additional internal supports. Designed for long distances, they had been fitted with turbines and diesels.

K Class cruisers official photo

Other particulars and early career

All three ships participated in the peaceful cruise of the German fleet in 1931, carrying besides many cadets. The Karlsruhe showed such structural weaknesses that she had to be refitted in 1936 in San Diego, the hull being strengthened and widened, and as a result displacement jumped to 8350 tonnes fully loaded. At the origin they had a catapult installed between the second chimney and rear firing post, for two Arado 196 observation seaplanes. The Köln had it removed in 1942, as well as its torpedo tubes. Their tripod mast judged too fragile in bad weather was replaced by a “military mast” for observation. Their career was active, but short: The Köln was indeed the only one to survive the Norwegian campaign, and was confined in the Baltic for the remainder of the conflict.

The Königsberg in action

In 1939, the Königsberg served as a minelayer in the North Sea when she was sent to Norway in order to support the landings (operation Weserübung). She was finally severely damaged in a fjord by Norwegian shore batteries. She was then stationed in Bergen, while the rest of the fleet returning to Kiel. Attacked in April 1940 by a squadron of Royal navy’s Blackburn Skua torpedo planes, she was so badly damaged that she capsized in shallow water and remained there until 1943. Unlisted, she was never salvaged or repaired but dismantled in situ after the war.

The Karlsruhe in action

The Karlsruhe had an even shorter career: Having laid mines and embarked troops to Norway whe was torpedoed at Kristiansand in April 1940 by HMS Truant, being scuttled to avoid capture and achieved by the Torpedo Boat Greif.

Königsberg after an air attack, Bergen April 1940

The Köln in action

The Köln also served as a minelayer in the North Sea between September and October 1939, and was also sent in Norway, but emerged without major damage. She then participated in various operations in the Baltic until 1942, receiving a modernization of her AA artillery and much needed hull reinforcements. She sailed again to Norway to remain at anchor in a fjord, waiting orders to help attack convoys to Russia, teaming with the Hipper. In February 1943, she was damaged in operation and had to return for repairs in Germany. She then was confined in the Baltic, converted into a cadet training ship. She also doubled as an escort, to protect in particular against the threat of Soviet destroyers and submarines. She was bombed December 12, 1944 by the RAF, and joined Whilsmehaven for extensive repairs. In March 1945, several Lancasters night raids destroyed all port facilities, city and ships present. The Köln sank in shallow water, its artillery still emerging, playing a role in delaying US troops advancing towards the town. The Köln was scrapped in 1946.


The Königsberg class on wikipedia
The Koeln in World Naval ships
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

KMS Emden specifications

Dimensions 174 x 15.30 x 6.30 m
Displacement 6200 t, 5830 t FL
Crew 850
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Brown-Boveri turbines, 69 800 hp
Speed 32 knots (xx km/h, xx mph)
Range 7,300 nmi (xx km; xx mi) at 15 knots (28 km/h, 17 mph)
Armament 9 x152mm SK C/25 (3×3), 6 x88 mm AA, 8 x37 mm AA SK C/30, 8 x20 mm AA, 12 x533 mm TT (4×3), 120 mines, 2 Arado 196 Floatplanes.
Armor Belt: 30mm, Deck: 25mm, Conning tower: 30mm

Video archive footage on the K class


K class turret planKönigsberg launchedKönigsberg 1936Königsberg in Gdinya harbour Poland 1937Köln sunk in Wilhelmshaven march 1945K-class cruisers engine room detailsKönigsberg hull armour details sectionKöln aerial view 1930sKöln with Arado 196Karlsruhe 1934Königsberg artilleryKarlsruhe top viewKöln in the Kiel canal

Karlsruhe Blueprint
Karlsruhe Blueprint

Recoignition drawing
Recoignition drawing

US Navy recoignition and specs sheet
US Navy recoignition and specs sheet

KMS Köln
The Köln in 1941. The only K class cruiser to survive the Norwegian campaign.