World of Warships

The new German DDs – a historical breakdown

Content of the article: "The new German DDs – a historical breakdown"

Good afternoon gentlemen, I wanna give a short historical talk about the German destroyers that WG announced in their most recent waterline video. Where applicable I will also give a brief overview over the service history and historical innaccuracies that are obvious to the naked eye, but will otherwise try to stick to the design of the ship, what the Germans were hoping to achieve and how it worked out/why it didn't come to be.

Z-31

We start with the one ship that was actually put into service, the "nameship" of the 1936A (Mob) type destroyers.

Brief history: Laid down on September 1st 1940, Z-31 entered active service one and a half years later on April 11th 1942. She spent her first year with mine duties in Norway with her first true combat experience happening in late 1943, when she was part of the German Naval force that attacked the Allied radio station at Spitzbergen. Initial return fire from the defenders caused two casualties as eight shells hit the ship. Minor repairs and then numerous escorting duties followed for another year, before the order came to return to Germany as the situation on mainland Europe took a turn for the worse. While underway to Germany on January 25th 1945 Z-31 as well as her sisterships Z-37 and Z-38 were ambushed by the British light cruisers HMS Mauritius and HMS Diadem. A gun duel followed, which resulted in Z-31 taking numerous hits including a hit to her forward 150mm twin turret, which was penetrated and burnt out. Taking cover near the coastline and their coastal batteries the German destroyers managed to break contact, and following some emergency repairs Z-31 made her trip back home safely. Here she would receive the late war German AA refit that was being applies on all surface combatants that had a minute to spare, and due to the no longer operational forward turret a dual purpose 105mm single mount was installed, with an AA fire control radar following some time after. The rest of her German career was spent shelling coastlines and towing the hulk of the battleship Gneisenau to her final destination to be used as blockship. After the war Z-31 was handed over to the French Navy, which commissioned her into service as Marceau. Here she would spend another six years before being decommissioned on February 1st 1954, and waiting until the 60s to be scuttled.

The design: The 1936A type destroyers were built as a means to compensate for the Kriegsmarine's lack of scout cruisers, which was deemed a severe shortcoming during WW1 (which also gave birth to similar designs during said war with S-113). For that reason the preceeding 1936 type destroyers were taken, somewhat enlarged to fit 150mm guns and also given a few upgrades which resulted from the experience made on earlier German destroyers (and their machineries). As main armament five 150mm L/48 guns were envisioned, with one enclosed twin on the foreship and the remaining three guns in open single mounts aft. The machinery repeated the 1936 type with six boilers and two sets of turbines, but an increase in maneuverability was achieved by adopting a twin rudder setup instead of a single rudder. The usual eight 533mm torpedo tubes in two quadruple mounts, depth charges, the space to carry 60 mines as well as four 37mm C30 guns and a handful of 20mm guns would complete her armament. With the outbreak of WW2 a simplification of the design and it's construction was sought, which resulted in the 1936A (Mob) type. Beyond visual changes these ships were virtually identical.

As with the preceeding 1936A type, the ships' faults were numerous and mainly revolved around the main armament and the propulsion. The heavy 150mm shells were difficult to load, as no loading aids were given and the resulting crew fatique would lower the effective shell output that was deemed critical for short ranged destroyer combat. The heavy 150mm twin turret would further result in the ships being bowheavy, causing a wet foreship and limiting the effectiveness of these ships in rough weather conditions. Finally, the machinery was still suffering under similar issues as those experienced by the very first large German destroyer types. The cruising range was too short to allow prolonged operations on open water, and the demand for highly skilled machinery personell would result in reliability issues if not met.

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Historical inaccuracies: WG really missed the mark here. To understand why one has to see the ship that WG showed, so here a screenshot. What we can see is a twin 150mm turret in front and that the platform on which the third 150mm gun (or the second gun mount, depending on how you count) does not carry the gun but instead a bunch of medium AA guns. So from that perspective she looks very similar to the already in-game Z-39. And therein lies the issue. While this AA enhancement that WG executed here would make sense on almost every German 150mm armed destroyer, and could be justified as historical since it either happened (or was executed in nearly the same way) or would've most likely happened, had the ship been available for the refit. Except Z-31 (and Z-28 since she by design didn't carry a twin turret). WG literally managed to use the name of the one ship where this is bogus. When Z-31 received her Barbara refit her forward 150mm twin had already been turned into Swiss cheese, and would never return. Congratulations Wargaming. Likewise there are some inaccuracies with the amount of 20mm and 37mm guns, some of which are the direct result of the issue already described, some are not such as the missing 20mm single mount on her bow.

Gustav-Julius Maerker

Starting off with the ship identification game, GJM looks like she is a 1937 J type design. The immense spacing between the two funnels, the layout of the visible main armament and the platform around the rear funnel leave little doubt about this. To give the most important figures as given in Gerhald Koop's Die Deutschen Zerstörer 1935-1945:

Displacement, standard 3,776t
Displacement, full 4,427t
Length, overall 137.5m
Beam 14.2m
Draft 4.34m
Propulsion Two geared turbines driven by steam generating 90,360shp
Top Speed 36kn
Fuel capacity 1052t of oil
Cruising range 4,500nm at 19kn
Main armament Five single mounted 150mm L/48 guns
Auxiliary Armament One 105mm dual purpose gun, four 37mm guns, eight 533mm torpedo tubes in one quadruple mount and two twins, one on each side

The 1937 row of destroyer designs was the answer to the shortcomings of the 1936A type. The design goal was to create a ship capable of escorting duties on the high seas with the required seaworthiness and resiliance against tropical conditions. They were also built with French destroyers in mind, which they would have to counter. The reason for these ships not being further considered was two-fold:

  1. Despite being built to counter French destroyers, they would not have any speed advantage over them and would thus be unable to evade an engagement should the opponent so desire.
  2. Despite being nearly the size of a cruiser, the cruising range was well below the expectations and would make prolonged operations in the Atlantic dependent on refuelling.

This led to the abandonment of the 1937 row and instead a new set of designs was drawn up, the 1938 type destroyers which will be the next stop on our list.

Historical inaccuracies: From what I can see on that preview picture, there is no inaccuracy to be seen.

Felix Schultz

Again starting off with the identification, I assume her to be the 1938Ac design. The reason for that assumption is the arrangement of the main armament in twin turrets, one in front of the superstructure and one between the funnels, the lowering of the deck in front of the second turret down to weather deck level and the funnel arrangements. However, I must stress here that I can not make out enough ship to make a definitive statement on the exact design variant, but since I have good enough data for the 1938Ac and the rest matches I shall continue based on the assumption. I shall once again give data from Koop's book:

Displacement, standard 3,914t
Displacement, full 4,902t
Length, overall 144.5m
Beam 13.9m
Draft 4.35m
Propulsion Two sets of geared turbines driven by steam, plus diesel motors on a third, central shaft
Top Speed 37.5kn
Fuel capacity 860t of fuel combined
Cruising range 8,000nm at 17kn
Main armament Six twin mounted 150mm L/48 guns
Auxiliary Armament Ten 533mm torpedo tubes in quintuple launchers, two 88mm guns, two 37mm guns, eight 20mm guns, up to 100 mines
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As previously mentioned, the 1938 type of destroyer designs were the continuation of the 1937 types. A subdivision took place into 1938A and 1938B, with former being meant to operate on the high seas while the latter was to be used for coastal duties and be in return smaller and cheaper to produce. The adoption of a third shaft on the 1938A designs for a diesel propulsion allowed for a much improved cruising range, making Atlantic operations possible again. Why these designs were no longer considered came down to them being a bad combination of destroyers and light cruisers. They were still not faster than foreign destroyers, yet inherited their nonexistent protection. So as a result, these designs would be reworked again, and just like before we shall see them soon enough.

Historical inaccuracies: Wargaming, oh Wargaming… The good thing is regardless of which design variant they choose, they screwed up the armament. The main armament, as can be on this screenshot, consists of twin mounted 150mm L/55 guns mounted in the same turrets as one can see on capital ships. Now unfortunately the archives do not have the blueprint for that particular design, however as I shall prove later the preceeding designs used the L/48 gun with the twin turrets seen on the 1936A type, and the succeeding design, the Spähkreuzer, would also use that armament. For the 1938Ac type destroyer to deviate from this and randomly adopt a different gun in a wtf turret is highly unlikely, and so far every book I have read on this matter also lists the design with the L/48 gun.

The AA armament is a rather long topic as well, but I need some time to roll this one up in a proper manner. From what I can tell on the screenshot, she carries 30mm quadruple mounts just like München and Pommern. In short: Only 30mm guns are bogus. In long: When German ground and naval forces came under aerial attacks more and more often during the war, it became apparent that their older AA weapons were no longer up to the task. 20mm machine cannons barely had any effect, anything smaller was useless and even the 37mm automatic or semi-automatic guns would lac the punch against certain planes (the plane typically cited here is the IL-2 btw). So demands for a larger automatic AA gun came up, which resulted in 30mm automatic cannons and first the 50mm, after its abandonment the 55mm automatic cannon. The 30mm was to replace the 20mm guns as short range defense, whereas the 55mm gun would replace the 37mm guns in new, quadaxially stabilized and externally directed mounts as medium range weapon. A prime example for this is the 1944 type destroyer, in-game known as Z-52, which was to carry an automatic array of three 55mm single mounted guns and seven 30mm twins (note that WG gave her 37mm in place of the 30mm guns). And now WG gives us the 1938Ac type with 30mm guns as the entire short range defense. If you want an example for how pointless that is, imagine a Fletcher where all 40mm Bofors get removed to fit more 20mm Oerlikons. Yeah… not gonna happen.

Elbing

This one is most likely the finalized design of the Spähkreuzer project, SP-38, which was ordered and laid down. Two torpedo tubes in between the funnels, as well as the layout of the main armament, led to this conclusion. Data time:

Displacement, standard 4,589t
Displacement, full 5,900t
Length, overall 152.2m
Beam 14.62m
Draft 4.66m
Propulsion Two sets of geared turbines driven by steam, additionally four Diesel motors driving a central shaft
Top Speed 35.5kn
Fuel capacity 820 tons of fuel combined
Cruising range 8,000nm at 17kn
Main armament Six twin mounted 150mm L/48 guns
Auxiliary Armament Ten 533mm torpedo tubes in quintuple mountings, Two 88mm guns, Eight 37mm guns, Twelve 20mm guns, capacity for up to 50 mines

An improvement over the preceeding design came in the form of hull protection, as the ship was to have the vital areas covered against splinters. This drawing visualizes the intended protection fairly well.

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This is not quite the final evolution of the German plans to build a destroyer for high sea operations, but it is as big as it got before ships were actually laid down. Three ships were ordered of which one, SP-1 was laid down in 1941. However due to an air raid burning down construction plans work was first halted in 1942, and the hull broken up in 1943. Further development into the design took place to make these ships even bigger, with the addition of more armor up until a 40mm main belt, as well as the adoption of a catapult. Eventually the designers came to the realization that what they were trying to design already existed in the M-class, so work on the design was ceased to open up resources elsewhere.

Historical inaccuracies: As I promised before, I want to prove that WG's choice of turrets is wrong. And that can easily be done by just looking at some blueprints provided by the German federal archive and how the turret has been drawn there. And what do we see? A turret that very much resembles the 150mm twin as seen on the 1936A type. insert mic drop

Also remember the earlier point about AA guns? WG seems to be able to do things right, since I can see 55mm guns and 30mm guns on Elbing.

That concludes my short writeup about these ships. WG did also announce ZF-2, an ex-French destroyer where work was started to put her into service under the German flag, but as WG hasn't given me any visual data to work with for her I won't be covering her.

Most of what I wrote here can be found either in Koop & Schmolke's Die Deutschen Zerstörer 1935-1945 or Erich Gröner's Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815-1945 ; Band 2 Torpedoboote, Zerstörer, Schnellboote, Minensuchboote, Minenräumboote. Z-31's line drawing has been taken from Harald Fock's Z-Vor! 1940-1945, the other drawings have been taken either from Gröner's or for Elbing's turret from the archives.

Source: reddit.com

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