The German torpedo boats of World War II were armed principally, if not exclusively, with torpedoes and varied widely in size. They should not be confused with the larger destroyers, nor with the smaller, torpedo-armed Schnellboote (known to the Allies as E-boats).
WW I Leftovers
Certain old torpedo boats from WW I were still on active service during WW II. While most were converted to various auxiliary duties, several were still used in their original torpedo boat role. Examples included T107, T108, T110, T 111 and T196.
1923 Type (Raubvogel)
The six Type 23 torpedo boats (also known as the Raubvogel (German:"Bird of prey") class) were developed from earlier designs shortly after World War I and came into service in 1926 and 1927. All built by the Naval Dockyard at Wilhelmshaven, they were named Albatross, Falke, Greif, Kondor, Möwe and Seeadler. They were the first to use electrical welding for hull construction to reduce displacement and they also introduced geared turbines. Despite the innovations, and unlike contemporary German destroyers, the Raubvogels were successful sea-boats, although limited to coastal waters, and most remained in service until 1944, by which time all had been lost.
1924 Type (Raubtier)
The immediately following six ships of 1924 Type (Raubtier ("predator") class) had been intended to mount 12.7 cm guns but, instead, received updated 10.5 cm weapons. All six were again built by the Wilhelmshaven Naval Dockyard, and were named Iltis, Jaguar, Leopard, Luchs, Tiger and Wolf. Speed and range were improved, but otherwise, they displayed the same good and bad points as the Raubvogels and experienced similar operational conditions and upgrades. They entered service in 1927 and 1928 and all but one had been lost before mid-1942.
The 1935 class were a new design, to be a maximum "declared" displacement of around 600 tons in order to come within a clause in the Washington Naval Treaty, and higher speeds than the older 1923 and 1924 classes. In practice these ships were overweight, though still too light to be seaworthy, while their high pressure turbines were unreliable and difficult to repair and maintain. Twelve 1935s were built; unlike the preceding vessels of the 1923 and 1924 designs, these were given numbers (T.1 to T.12) but no names. Six were sunk, and two others scuttled, by the end of the war. Of the survivors, three were transferred abroad as war reparations and the last was scrapped in Germany.
The 1937s incorporated some modifications to the 1935 design, including lower pressure turbines, but with little real improvement. They displayed the same limitations as their predecessors Nine ships were built, all at Schichau, Elbing; these were unnamed, but numbered T.13 to T.21. Three were sunk, and one scuttled, by the end of the war; of the survivors, four were transferred abroad as war reparations and the last was scrapped in Germany.
The 1939 Type (sometimes referred to as the Elbings) were classed as "Fleet torpedo boats" (Flottentorpedoboot) and were a radical design departure from their predecessors, larger and with a more balanced weapons mix. With a full load displacement of 1,754 tons and carrying a main armament of four 105mm (4.1 inch) single guns and six 21in torpedo tubes in two triple mounts, they were comparable with British destroyers of the period. Fifteen ships were built, again all at Schichau, Elbing; again, these were unnamed, but numbered T.22 to T.36. Eleven were lost during World War II; of the four survivors, T.24 and T.28 were briefly taken into service by the British Navy, T.33 by the Soviet Navy, and T.35 by the United States Navy.
After the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, the Dutch shipyards were almost undamaged. Therefore the German Navy contracted three Dutch shipbuilders to build some smaller vessels for the Kriegsmarine. Classed as "Fleet torpedo boats" (Flottentorpedoboot) the 1940 Type was more a destroyer than a torpedo boat, with a full load displacement of 2,566 tons and carrying four 5-inch guns and eight 21-inch torpedo tubes in two quadruple mountings, and was based on Dutch designs. Twelve were ordered in 1940-1941, and numbered T.61 to T.72; but only eight were laid down by 1942 of which three were launched (the other five were destroyed on the slips); in 1944 these three incomplete ships (T.61, T.63 and T.65) were transferred to the Baltic Sea to be completed, and T.61 was torpedoed off the West Frisian Islands in September 1944, while the other two were captured by the Allies at Kiel and scuttled after the war.
The 1941 Type Fleet torpedo boat was an improvement of the 1939 class with more powerful engines and additional anti aircraft artillery was added. Fifteen of these boats were ordered in 1942-1944, once again all at Schichau, Elbing; these were unnamed, but numbered T.37 to T.51, but none of them was completed. At the end of the war, three of the few ships already launched (T.37, T.38 and T.39) were in different stages of construction, and one of them (T.37) was very close to completion. These ships were towed away from Elbing, but their construction was not continued and they were later scuttled. Of the other vessels, T.40, T.41, T.42 and T.43 were launched but were scuttled incomplete at Elbing, while the remaining vessels (T.44 to T.51) were destroyed on the slips when East Prussia was evacuated in May 1945.
The 1944 Type Fleet torpedo boats were planned after a radical change in torpedo boat tactics. They were designed to be able to operate with other fleet units in the North Atlantic. This class had the main focus of armament changed to anti-aircraft artillery. Therefore the main armament were four 10,5 cm flak guns, plus an increased number of smaller antiaircraft guns, but those ships kept the torpedo and mine laying abilities of their predecessors. To enable those ships for ocean operations, their range had to be dramatically enlarged. As a technical innovation, all auxiliary machinery were electrical powered instead of the usual steam powered ones. Nine vessels were planned, again all at Schichau, Elbing; these were unnamed, but numbered T.52 to T.60. All were cancelled before being laid down.
The Torpedoboot Ausland ("foreign torpedo boats") were small destroyers or large torpedo boats captured by Nazi Germany and incorporated into the Kriegsmarine. They were assigned a number prefixed with "TA". They were numbered from TA.1 to TA.47; some never entered service for one reason or another. Additionally, some small destroyers and torpedo boats captured from Norway and Denmark were given names instead of TA prefixes.
- Motor Torpedo Boat British MTBs
- Fairmile D motor torpedo boat British response to the E-boat
- Steam Gun Boat British E-boat hunter
- Torpedo boat general history
- Gardiner, Robert (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1922–1946. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
- Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Volume 1: Major Surface Warships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9.
- Lenton, H. Trevor (1966). German Surface Vessels: Volume 1. (Navies of the Second World War series). London: Macdonald & Co.
- Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2.
- Whitley, M. J. (1991). German Destroyers of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-302-8.
- - page on Type 23 from German Navy.de
- - page on Type 24 from German Navy.de
- Classe: Raubtier (French)
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