German coastal torpedo boats 1914 - 1918
1. A-I-class (Torpedoboot 1914)
The rapid advance of Germany's armies in Belgium and France in the second half of 1914 rendered Germany in possession of a long stretch of channel coastline. In order to quickly create a force of coastal combatants for dealing with British shipping in this area, 25 small 100-ton torpedo boats were ordered in 1914 and built by the Hamburger Vulcan yard. They were commissioned between January and September 1915 (building times varied between three and ten months). Sixteen of these 'Flanders Boats' were transported in sections by rail to Antwerp and assembled there. Their reputation was not good; they were hastily designed and performed poorly. Their weak VTE machinery was only good for 20 knots, their maneuverability was poor due to the single screw and although they toted two 450mm torpedo tubes, their gunnery was limited to a single 52mm gun aft.
They were not significantly modified during the war, but received three 8mm MGs for dealing with MTBs; although one source claims that the torpedo tubes were removed from some ships, this is not backed up by photographic evidence or any other source available to me.
The class took heavy losses; eight were sunk, three scuttled. Of the survivors, eight were ceded to Belgium after the war and the rest scrapped.
2. A-II-class (Torpedoboot 1915)
As the A-I boats were of little value, the requirement for coastal craft was still not met after their completion. A follow-on design was prepared as soon as the first A-I units had used the opportunity to prove their worthlessness. They had more than twice the size (230 tons) and turbine machinery for 25 knots speed; the number of torpedo tubes was cut to one, but the gun battery was significantly upgraded to two 88mm guns. The guns themselves were an older model (35 calibers); as these boats were built at the same time many older 1906 type torpedo boats were upgunned, it is quite possible that their old guns were reused on these boats (although I have no proof for this theory). The single screw was retained, and their maneuverability remained unconvincing. 30 units (A26 through A55) were ordered from the Schichau yard at Elbing (Elblag) in 1915, laid down in 1916 and completed in 1916 and 1917. Six were assembled at Antwerp.
Their performance was considered much superior to the A-I boats; most served in the channel, although a few were employed in the Baltic. A51 was transported by rail to Pola to serve as a submarine tender. Apart from the addition of machineguns, no significant alterations were made.
Losses were very moderate; only two were sunk and one scuttled. Six were commissioned by the Belgian Navy after the war, the rest became British prizes and were broken up. Of the lost units, one (A32) which had stranded at the Estonian coast was later salvaged and incorporated in the Estonian Navy.
3. A-III-class (Torpedoboot 1916)
Although the A-II-boats were a step in the right direction, the still poor maneuverability made the German navy demand a twin screw design. The result was a ship more than three times the size of the A-I-class. Armament was identical to the smaller A-II-boats. Both Vulcan and Schichau offered slightly different designs, and both types were adopted. In 1917, Schichau built another four of a redesigned type, so the A-III type can be divided into three distinct subclasses. Size was the same for all subtypes at 330 to 335 tons.
3.1. A56 group
The most satisfying and by far most numerous subclass was the A56 group. They were longer than the Schichau boats and two knots faster at 28 knots; maneuverability was excellent. Eight (A56 through A63) were ordered in 1916, sixteen (A64 through A67 and A80 through A91) in 1917 and eighteen (A96 through A113) in 1918. A83 through A85 were built by the Howaldt Yard in Kiel under license, the rest by the Stettiner Vulcan yard.
A80 differed from all others by having her single torpedo tube removed and replaced by a third 88mm gun.
The class served both in the Baltic and the Channel; A81 was rail transported in sections to Pola like A51 and assembled there. Since they were already commissioned with their 8mm machineguns, they received no alterations at all.
A67, A83 through A85 and all 1918 boats remained unfinished and were scrapped after the war. Four of the Vulcan boats were sunk, the rest divided among the victors. Only the Polish Navy commissioned her share of three boats (A59, A64 and A80); the rest were broken up.
3.2. A68 group
The first twelve Schichau boats were ordered in 1916 and completed in 1917 and 1918. They were shorter and slower than the Vulcan boats (only 26 knots), but just as versatile and useful.
Five were sunk, the rest divided among the victors. The Polish Navy commissioned one of them (A68), the rest were scrapped.
3.3. A92 group
For four boats ordered in 1917, Schichau reworked its design. Appearance became a little more attractive, but performance remained pretty much the same. Speed increased by half a knot only. All four commissioned in 1918 and survived the war. They became British and Brazilian prizes, respectively.
When the war started, four oceangoing torpedo boats of 350 tons were under construction at the Vulcan yard for the Dutch Navy. They were requisitioned and commissioned for the German Navy in 1915. Although they were only marginally larger than late A-III-class boats, they received pennant numbers beginning with V. They were much more sophisticated than the mass production boats of the A type and both faster (29 knots) and more heavily armed. The original Dutch specification called for four torpedo tubes (one twin aft, two singles on the well deck) and two 75mm guns; when commissioned for the German Navy, they received only three torpedo tubes and were armed with whatever guns were available. One received two 52mm guns...
...two received two 35-caliber 88mm guns...
... and one was armed with two 45-caliber 88mm guns.
V107 was a war loss, V106 was scrapped; the other two ended up in Polish possession, becoming ORP Mazur and Kaszub. Although the original quartet never reached the Netherlands, Germany assisted the Dutch in building four identical copies during the war, which were commissioned in 1919 through 1921. Their armament conformed to the original specification. They remained in service till 1933; one lingered as TV till scuttled in 1940.