Flottenbegleiter (Fleet Escort / Escort Destroyer)
F for failure
The Flottenbegleiter was concieved in the early thirties by the German Navy in regards to their Deutschland
-class pocket battleships. These new ships needed an escort that would protect them from attacks from the air and below the surface and could clear a path through minefields. Additionally, these escorts would need a high speed, to ceep up with the ships they would have to escort. The only restriction for these ships would be a displacement of 600t: The London treaty of 1930 did not limit these small ships in numbers or function.
The first designs for this class came up in 1932-1934 and in 1934, the first ten units, designated Flottenbegleiter A
. Originally 17 ships were planned, but after the poor performance of the first batch, the next batch was cancelled. Plans also included two torpedo tubes, but that would have made the ships bigger than the 600t-limit, which the ships already exceeded by around a 100t (not officially, of course). It would have been logical to equip these ships with diesel engines, but those were a new type and still too large to be fitted on these small ships, so instead high-pressure hot steam engines were chosen, equally new for the navy and untested. Construction for all ships began in 1934 and entered the fleet from 1935 onwards. The ships were divided into two Flotillas, the 1. Geleitflotille (1. Escort Flotilla) was composed of F1
and the 2. Geleitflotille had F3
The ships carried two 105mm SK L/45 C/32 in shielded single mount C/32, four 37mm Flak SK L/83 C/30 in twin mount C/30 and four 20mm single FlaMG. They also had capacities for 50-62 mines. In fact the mine rails were the reason for the aft 105mm gun to be mounted a deck higher. Targeting was handled by two 3m-Rangefinder. The Flottenbegleiter had a lenght of 75,94m, a top speed of 28kn and a crew 121. They had no bilge keels, but a new type of Frahm anti-roll system.
Here are the first Flottenbegleiter that entered the fleet around 1935-1936. F3
was the only one to be equipped with 105mm SK L/45 C/32 in 8,8cm single mount MPL C/30, but F2
also carried this gun during her career. Contrary to the normal C/32 mounts, the 8,8cm MPL C/30 was a DP mount, but didn't seem to satisfy, the normal C/32 mounts remained the main gun of choice. Characteristically were the boxed bridge structures, except for F6
, which had a round bridge.
It soon became obvious that the ships were a colossal failure. They were too top-heavy, the aft keel, originally intented for equal stability, pushed the bow deep into the water and the anti-roll system was too complex and would even increase
instability at even the slightest handling error. The new engines proved to be a constant maintenance horror and forced the ship back to repairs more often than not. For that, the ships became known as the 'Horst-Wessel-Flotilla' (because they only marched with the fleet 'in spirit' (marschieren im Geiste mit
)) or the 'Train-Station-Flotilla', because the could be often seen near the Kiel Main Station - at the Germania shipyards. Consequently, they performed poor at their intended duties: They were too slow, too unrealible and had a too small range to be escorts. They were too instable to provide air cover or to even carry
mines (even in training). They were only mediocre at minsweeping and could not operate in pairs, once again they were too instable. The were acceptable for anti-submarine warfare, but lacked the required detection equipment.
To counter the stability problems, a lot was done to reduce the weight. First the bridge area was rebuilt, and in later refits, the second funnel was recuded by 1,6m and the second mast by 3,2m. The second searchlight and rangefinder were also removed, as was the keel and the two 20mm FlaMG mounted midships. To counter the engine problems, the operating pressures were reduced. The later Flottenbegleiter, from F7
forward, were apparently already built with reduced superstructure.
By 1938/1939 it had become obvious that the class had been a failure. As a consquence, the two escort flotillas were summarized into one and several of the ships rebuilt. F1, F3 and F6 were rebuilt into fleet tenders. F1
was decomissioned in 1939 and left the shipyards again in 1941. Named Libelle
(Dragonfly) for a short time, she was ultimately named Jagd
(Hunt). The main changes were an enlarged and heightened hull for staff rooms, degaussing cable, a new second mast and a rebuilt bridge structure. The 37mm twins were gone, replaced by the 20mm singles that once were placed next to the bridge. The funnels were once again raised to equal height and five waterbomb throwers added aft to each side. The anti-roll system was removed and bilge keels added to the hull.
Duing the war she served as torpedo retrieval vessel and destroyer tender and was one of the few German ships to survive the war. She was in Kopenhagen at the point of the capitulation and given to the USA as war prize. However, Jagd
did serve in the German MineSweeping Administration in the post-war years and was given to France in 1947, where she was scrapped.
returned to the shipyards in October of 1938 and underwent a refit as fleet tender until April 1st, 1940. Renamed Hai
) (originally planned name: Königin Luise
), she had a more massive superstructure and the second mast had been reinforced with two additional posts. Later in the war, the second 105mm cannon was replaced by a new 37mm twin, two additional 20mm singles on elevated positions were added as well. After her refit, Hai
was assigned to mine warfare units in the Baltic Sea and also participated in escort missions. Her end came in 1945, when she was sunk by missile attack of British Typhoon bombers.
entered the shipyards from November 1938 to September 1939 and was rebuilt as fleet tender Königin Luise
(originally planned name: Hai
). In April of 1940 she participated in the occupation of Denmark and Norway as part of Warship Group 10, with the target of Esbjerg and Nordby. After that, she was assigned as a guard ship along the French Atlantic coast. In 1943 Königin Luise
was put out of service because she was too repair- and maintenance intensiv and was consequently ordered back to Wilhelmshaven. There, in 1945, she was sunk by British bombers on March 30th. In 1955 the wreck was raised and scrapped.
were rebuilt as torpedo retrieval ships. These refits included (but not on all ships) a lenghtened hull, bilge keels instead of anto-roll-system, degaussing cable, a torpedo workshop and room for up to seven torpedos on the afterdeck. Also a new second mast with a long torpedo handling crane was added. Weapons were removed except for the 20mm singles that replaced the 37mm twins midships.
was the only ship not modified and still used for its original purpose when the war started. She was also one of the first German ships to be lost: When F9
and five other destroyers escorted the light cruiser Leipzig
, the fleet came under attack by the British submarine HMS Ursula
on December 14th, 1939. Ursula
fired all her torpedos at the cruiser, but missed Leipzig
, hitting F9
instead. The escort sunk, taking 120 of her crew with her.
wasn't rebuilt when the class proved unsuccessful. However, she was removed from escort duty and assigned to the Sperrwaffen-Versuchskommando (Mine trial command). The only minor refit was the addition of a degaussing cable.
In 1941 F7
was given the role of a British torpedoboat/destroyer in the German war-time-movie "U-Boote westwärts!" (U-boats westward). For that, her appearance was altered: Fake guns and torpedo tubes were installed and superstructure and funnels modified.
With war situation in the east becoming more and more desperate in 1944/1945, many of the Flottenbeleiter-turned-torpedo retrieval ship returned to escort duty, especially with dedicated torpedo retrieval ship entering service over the course of the war. The 105mm guns were re-installed as well as additional AA armament. F2
revieved a third 20mm single and a 20mm quad on an elevated platform. F4
recieved two 105mm guns, as well as a 37mm twin. For F5
, the aft 105mm single moved a deck lower, the place now taken by a 20mm quad. F7 had her second mast replaced with an elevated platform for a 20mm quad. All ships also recieved waterbomb throwers.
survived the war and were given to Great Britain as war prizes. F2
sank in a storm in 1946, while ankored at a bouy in Scapa Flow and F4
was scrapped in 1949. F8
were scrapped in the Netherlands in 1950 by the order of Great Britain. F5
hit a mine on January 29th, 1945, and was severly damaged, but still afloat. Fleet tender Main
took the ship in tow, but during this F5
hit a wreck below water and sunk, taking 64 men with her. F7
survived the war and was one of the ships given to the Soviet Union. The Soviets renamed her Buran
and assigned her to the Baltic Fleet in 1946. Her career was relatively short and after a few years, in 1951, she was renamed Dubna
and used as a target ship. She was finally stricken in 1956 and scrapped in 1957-1958.