S38b and S100 E-boats class were german fast attack craft (Schnellboot in german) built for the Kriegsmarine during World War Two.
The E-boats (a British designation using the letter E for Enemy) were defined by many naval experts as the best carrying out of their category. Initially these units were called Unterseebot Zerstörer (Hunting Submarine) and Anti-Submmarine Motorboats or Armored Motorboats, as they had an important anti-submarine mission. Later the Kaiserliche Marine (imperial german navy) adopted the designation of Luftschiffmotorenboot (boat with an airship engine) or L-Boote and, therefore, from November 1917, the units became LM-Boote, with the same meaning, but their use, especially in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, was not particularly successful.
After the defeat in the First World War, Germany was subject to heavy military restrictions, sanctioned by the Treaty of Versailles, but the Winning Powers did not consider to put particular attention to the torpedo boats, leaving the Reichsmarine free hand.
In 1923 the Reichsmarine entrusted the Captain of vessel Walter Lohmann and the Lieutenant of vessel Friedrich Ruge to start a program of development of fast coastal units, hiding the projects under cover codes and applying to private technical offices. Their activity went unnoticed by the Allied Armistice Control Commission, but not by the parliamentary opposition, which opposed the rearmament of Germany, and in 1928 Lohmann was forced to resign. New officers and new dummy corporations were quietly put in place soon after the Lhoman scandal and the program went ahead anyway. Already in 1926, the Abeking & Rasmussen studio designed the experimental K-Boot, taking its inspiration from the British Thornycroft Coastal Motor Boat. The result was a motorboat of about 18m in length, with two 450hp petrol engines, armed with two rear-facing 457mm torpedo tubes. At the same time, the Lürssen shipyards built a slightly larger torpedo, designated as Lür, a little less than 20m long and driven by three Maybach 450CV engines. Both these units were carefully evaluated, but the attention of the German Admiralty felt on the Oheka II, a 22.50m “motoryacht” with three 550hp Maybach engines, built by Lürssen for banker Otto Herman Kahn. This boat had a light alloy structure covered in wood and offered excellent sea quality. A unit of this type was ordered by the Reichsmarine in November 1929 as UZ(S)16, that is Unterseeboot Zerstörer (Schnell), but in 1932 it became Schnellboot 1, S-boot 1 or S-1.
The S-1 entered service on 7 August 1930 and since then the Kriegsmarine received a great variety of types and classes of torpedo boats. These small units did not have an individual name and were identified by the prefix S and by a number; the acronym of the first unit of each new class was its name.
After the S-1 prototype four S-2s were built, extremely similar to the previous one but slightly larger and with different detail changes.
The development of the E-boats was characterized by continuous growth and, in fact, the S-7s, which entered service between October 1934 and December 1935, were beautiful motorboats with an extended stem of 4.50m and a displacement of 68t. These boats had a traditional line, with a rather vertical stem but they were not fast enough for the Kriegsmarine. The S-14 class of 1936 was even larger and in 1938 the construction of eight S-18s was started. On the basis of the same project, in 1939 and 1940 four S-26s were built, immediately recognizable by a bow castle that hid the two 533mm torpedo tubes, giving the bow of these units a characteristic appearance that will be maintained by all successive classes. While the S-26s were in production, Lürssen developed a new type at the request of China, based on the design of some S-7 class ships. It was the S-30, a slightly smaller boat but the German government blocked the sale and the Kriegsmarine appropriated the first eight units and obtained eight more, all with a modified bow to incorporate the torpedo launchers.
The production of the S-26 taken up in 1939 with a new version, the S-38, with some modifications and variations.
The subclass S-38b, was the result of a mature and highly effective project, with a length of about 35m, a standard displacement of 84t and 104t at full load, and thedistinctive armored Kalotte.
With only a few modifications, the S 38 class gave life, in 1943, to the S-100, built in 81 units, some of which had experimental modifications.
With the eight S-151s they returned to much smaller units, that were the Gusto, dutch torpedo boats, produced under English license. These units had been captured incomplete in Netherlands, in May 1940 and were subsequently completed.
Design, propulsion and armor
The E-boats design was chosen because the theatre of operations of such boats was expected to be the North Sea, English Channel and the Western Approaches. The requirement for good performance in rough seas dictated the use of a round-bottomed displacement hull rather than the flat-bottomed planing hull that was more usual for small, high-speed boats.
Construction of the S38b and S100 class hulls started with a keel made from heavy oak bolted together. The hull’s longitudinals were made from either Oregon and Scotch pine. Around the engines, pine was replaced by oak. The alluminium alloy frames were spaced at intervals of 575mm (22.6 inch). The pine longitudinals were bolted to the frames, then diagonal stringers were riverted to the frames. Bulkheads were designed to withstand flooding and light splinter damage and they were stiffened with alluminium bracing. Seven bulkheads separated eight waterlight compartments. The engine foundations were made of steel.
The early S38s were similar to the S26s but they were continuously modified according to experience. They finalized the ventilation arrangement with three large type ventilators over the engines and a significant design change was an increase in firepower to counter steadily increasing enemy MTBs and MGBs opposition. All the modifications were not uniforme and were made according to the needs of the boats’ deployment area.
S-38b hulls, built by Vegesack’s Lürssen, by the Schlichtling shipyards of Travemünde, by the Taste of Schiedam (in the Netherlands) and by the Danziger Waggonfabrik from Gdansk, were made of oak and pine wood with light aluminum alloy trims, with some steel bulkheads, and steel supports of the engines. The outer part of the hull was in cedar and mahogany wood, while the bridge was in Oregon pine wood covered with painted canvas.
The armored dome, called “Kalotte” (skull cap) was standardized in late 1942 on the S38b, due to increasing casualties among bridge crews and all these E-boats were delidered from the yards with the armored Kalotte fitted in place.
S-38b class was 35 m (114 ft – 10 in) long, with a beam of 5,1 m (16 ft 9 in) and a draught of 1,5 m (5 ft).
S-38b had a propulsion system consisting of three Daimler-Benz MB 511 12-cylinder, liquid cooled, 2200CV that allowed a maximum speed of 39.5 knots. These engines were, in practice, the MB 501 Diesel with 20 V-cylinders equipped with mechanical superchargers that increased its power to 2500CV.
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