Ships of Plan Z:
Rime of the Ancient Torpedo Boat
by Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
The Treaty of Versailles left Germany’s Weimar Republic with a small fleet suitable only for coastal defense: six battleships, six cruisers, twelve destroyers and twelve torpedo boats plus spares of each to provide spare parts. All of these were older vessels, most more than a decade old and thus preceding the revolutionary changes of the dreadnought age like turbine propulsion.
The dozen destroyers came from the old Imperial Navy’s first group of ocean-going torpedo boats, known as the V1 class (Imperial German torpedo boats were denoted by a latter signifying their builder and a number). They did sport turbine propulsion, but by 1922 were by no means the equivalent of foreign destroyers.
Though they were small boats, displacing 573 tons standard and 713 full load, they saw a great deal of action during the Great War and were present at all of the major actions in the North Sea: Helgoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland, where they formed the 5th Torpedo Flotilla. Afterwards, they were not sent to Scapa Flow with the more modern units of the High Seas Fleet, and so survived the order to scuttle issued in June 1919.
Except for their turbine propulsion, the 1911 Type Large Torpedo Boat (their official designation) repeated many features of the triple-expansion-driven 1906 Type. They carried two 88mm guns, in single mounts fore and aft, and increased their torpedo armament from three single tubes to four. The provision of turbines gave the new design a good deal more speed, and they could make 34 knots when new.
G7 (later T107) after her first reconstruction.
The twelve boats selected for the Weimar Navy went to Wilhelmshaven’s Navy Yard in 1921 for a major overhaul. The 88mm guns were replaced by 105mm weapons, and the torpedo tubes reduced to two. Coal stowage increased from 110 to 156 tons, while oil remained at 80 tons; range increased from 1,150 nautical miles to 1,700. Those changes increased the boats’ displacement to 660 tons standard and 775 full load, dropping their speed to 31 knots.
The boats served the Reichsmarine through the 1920’s, and in 1929 the four built at Germaniawerft, G7, G8, G10 and G11, returned for much more extensive rebuilding. The hull was extended by five meters, and the four boilers (three fired by coal, one by oil) were replaced by three new ones (two single and one double). Fuel stowage became 220 tons of oil, with a range of 1,900 nautical miles but a speed now reduced again to 30 knots.
Displacement now grew to 772 tons standard and 884 tons full load. Weaponry changed as well. The forward 105mm gun was removed, and the single torpedo tubes replaced by a single triple-tube mount.
G7 (later T107) in 1938, following her second reconstruction.
A final change came in April 1944, when the four boats – all had survived the war to this point – were refitted for more efficient escort service. The boats gained a pair of 20mm anti-aircraft guns, and the torpedo tubes were replaced by a pair of depth-charge throwers. The boats were also now fitted to lay mines; they could carry 18 of them, making them rather useless in this role.
In April 1939 the boats received new names, becoming T107 (G7) through T111 (G11). Their near-sister S23, which had not received the 1928 major upgrade, became T123. There was no T109; G9 had been sunk by a mine during the Great War.
The unreconstructed T123, sometimes referred to as Komet, served as the control ship for the radio-controlled target ship Hessen, a former pre-dreadnought battleship. The four G-boats went to the Torpedo School, where they acted as training ships and also as torpedo recovery vessels, tracking down practice torpedoes. They had apparently been intended to remain in front-line service at least for a few more years – they were not “replaced” until the Germans began commissioning new destroyers in 1937, after the Anglo-German Naval Agreement had rendered the Versailles limits moot. But even as re-constructed they had little military value, and the Germans did not count them against their destroyer or torpedo boat tonnage.
Even so T107 saw action in the war’s very first days, joining the destroyer Richard Beitzen for an anti-shipping sweep in the Kattegat, the channel between Denmark and Sweden. There they had close encounters with the Polish destroyer flotilla on its way to Britain and the Polish submarine Wilk, but in both cases the Poles pressed on without opening fire and the Germans seem to have been unaware of their enemies’ presence.
However, the ancient torpedo boats were not deployed in the April 1940 operations against Denmark and Norway, when even the old battleships Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein were sent to sea, escorted by patrol boats and experimental vessels but not the old torpedo boats.
Otherwise, the boats continued to train German sailors in the Baltic. British fighter-bombers sank T111 in Kiel’s harbor in early April 1945. The three survivors worked to rescue German refugees in the last days of the war, bringing civilians from the Hela Peninsula to ports to the West. On 5 May British bombers sank T110.
The British took T108 as a war reparation and promptly scrapped her. T107 went to the Soviet Union as a war reparation and was commissioned as Porazajuski and apparently used as a training ship. In December 1950 she was renamed Kazanka and disarmed for use as a hulk for training firefighters. In March 1951 one of those fires grew out of control – apparently the training exercise did not go as planned – and she was declared a total loss and scrapped.
T107 appears in Second World War at Sea: Sea of Iron in the scenarios covering the early days of World War II in the Baltic. She’s on a small, square piece in that game like other minor warships. Her sisters, apparently none of which were ever deployed on a military mission, do not appear at all.
Ships of Plan Z depicts T107 in all of her nearly-useless military glory, on a “long” playing piece just like other major warships in Second World War at Sea games (along with every other German torpedo boat of the Second World War at Sea, including many never completed boats). Now she makes an even better target for Polish gunnery.
Click here to order Ships of Plan Z right now.
Click here to order Sea of Iron right now.
Sign up for our newsletter right here. Your info will never be sold or transferred; we'll just use it to update you on new games and new offers.
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and NASA Journalist in Space finalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.