Tuesday, June 30, 2015
High-speed torpedo-firing patrol craft used by the German Kriegsmarine during World War II for naval interdiction and coastal defense. Named “E-boats” (for “enemy torpedo boats”) by the Royal Navy, the craft of Germany’s Schnellbootwaffe constituted a fearsome threat to Allied shipping, particularly in the Narrow Seas. Constructed largely of wood but bearing aluminum-reinforced keels and frames, E-boats cruised at 30–35 knots. Their flank speed, however, could be as high as 43 knots, driven as they were by three (sometimes supercharged) diesel engines.
Crewed by 26 to 30 officers and men, the boats measured some 115′, displaced approximately 113 tons, and possessed good sea-keeping qualities. For offensive strikes, they carried up to four torpedoes and could lay mines. Supplemental armament included a 20 mm Oerlikon mounted on the forecastle and a 40 or 37 mm gun at the stern. Amidships they boasted a twin 20 mm mount, as well as assorted removable machine guns on the bridge, which carried armored plating on late-war models.
Ranging as far as 750 nautical miles, E-boats tormented coastal shipping and convoys around the British Isles, as well as in parts of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. With a low silhouette and gray paint, they were “stealthy” by World War II standards and achieved a record of at least 160,000 tons of shipping sunk in 1940–1941 alone. Subsequently, growing Allied strength in the air and on the sea diminished the threat posed by the Schnellboote, although they were rightly feared as late as D-Day 1944.
Cooper, Bryan. The E-Boat Threat. London: Macdonald & Jane’s, 1976.
Lenton, H. T. German Warships of the Second World War. New York: Arco Publishing Co., 1976.
Tent, John Foster. E-Boat Alert: Defending the Normandy Invasion Fleet. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996.