German Merchant shipping?

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the Kriegsmarine except those dealing with the U-Boat forces.
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stril
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Post by stril » 15 Feb 2005 17:08

Hello
I add a couple of scans, taken from "Norges Skipsfart, hva den var og hva den er" Oslo 1940( Norways shipping, Oslo 1940)
First one show the the merchant fleet of the world pr. 1st july 1939. Second show the br.t pr. inhabitant and country(not sure if its the right word.. :) )
Third show the percentage of tankers in the fleet.
regards
stril

Paul Lakowski
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I finally got around to crunching some numbers....

Post by Paul Lakowski » 16 Oct 2005 08:05

http://www.wwiidaybyday.com/

German Merchant shipping numbers and tabulated inventory, with build and losses per year. First number is last years balance. Second number is the new builds . The third number is the loses and figure after = is the end of year balance, which then becomes the first number of the next row down.

V Large >7000ton Merchants
1939 : 167 + 8 -10 = 165
1940 : 165 + 5 -24 = 146
1941: 146 + 1 -33 = 114
1942 : 114 + 0 -15= 99
1943 : 99 + 1 -16 = 84
1944 : 84 + 2 -19 = 67
1945 : 67 + 2 -34 = 35

Large 5000-7000 ton Merchants
1939 : 148 + 8 -10 = 146
1940 : 146 + 1 -41 = 106
1941: 106+ 2 -19 = 89
1942 : 89 + 2 -16= 75
1943 : 75 + 1 -11 = 65
1944 : 65 + 9 -33 = 41
1945 : 41 + 1 -28 = 14

Medium 3000-5000 ton Merchants
1939 : 184 + 11 -10 = 185
1940 : 185 + 0 -24 = 161
1941: 161 + 2 -33 = 130
1942 : 130 + 2 -15= 117
1943 : 117 + 3 -16 = 104
1944 : 104 + 0 -19 = 85
1945 : 85+ 0 -34 = 51

Small 1000-3000 ton Merchants
1939 : 476 + 13 -9 = 480
1940 : 480 + 4 -29 = 455
1941: 455 + 2 - 43 = 414
1942 : 414 + 4 -33= 385
1943 : 385 + 15 -28 = 372
1944 : 372+ 10 -69 = 313
1945 : 313 + 2 -102 = 213

Steamers 100-1000 tons
1939 : 424 + 16 -7 = 433
1940 : 433 + 4 -20 = 417
1941: 417 + 2 - 19 = 400
1942 : 400 + 4 -19= 385
1943 : 385 + 4 -20 = 369
1944 : 369+ 6 -64 = 311
1945 : 311 + 2 -92 = 221

Allies sunk 793 out of 1085 german merchants and 241 out of 462 steamers.

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redcoat
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Post by redcoat » 16 Oct 2005 08:55

In Stephen Roskill's book 'The Navy At War' a study of the Royal Navy in WW2, it lists the German merchant fleets losses to the RN/RAF in Northern European waters.

The losses by cause were as follows;

604 ships totalling more than 660,000 tons to mines laid by the RAF/RN
289 ships totalling more than 574,000 tons to air attacks from the RAF's Coastal Command.
104 ships totalling more than 314,000 tons to RN submarines.
86 ships totalling more than 303,000 tons to RN suface ships (including MTB's )

Jon G.
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Post by Jon G. » 16 Oct 2005 09:11

Paul, I think you will find this link about the Italian merchant navy useful.

Here is a link to a very comprehensive German site about the war at sea 1939-1945. Unfortunately it is in German, but I think you will still find the site useful. If you click the 'Operationen/Unternehmungen' sub-link, you will get a nice long index of sometimes clickable sub-links - for example, a highly useful table of German merchantmen in the Mediterranean 1941-1943

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 16 Oct 2005 20:05

Shrek wrote:Paul, I think you will find this link about the Italian merchant navy useful.

Here is a link to a very comprehensive German site about the war at sea 1939-1945. Unfortunately it is in German, but I think you will still find the site useful. If you click the 'Operationen/Unternehmungen' sub-link, you will get a nice long index of sometimes clickable sub-links - for example, a highly useful table of German merchantmen in the Mediterranean 1941-1943


Thanks for the useful links and info. I will digest it.

When comparing loss figures reported by one side against those claimed by the other side, I always defer to the info from the side that lost the ships.The attacker figures are always suspect ,because these are only claims. However it could be that both sides figures are the same just seen from different POV...IE different criteria for defining 'Merchant' etc.

Also the figures I provided were painstakingly crunched down from the charts provided on the link indicated, so their could be a few errors, but those should not amount to much.

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Post by Jon G. » 16 Oct 2005 21:48

Raw tonnage numbers will only tell half the story of the state of the German merchant navy, if that much. According to the site about the Italian merchant navy, more than half of Germany's merchant fleet was lost for quite prosaic reasons:

In August 1939, Germany, because of its failure to provide a precautionary warning to its merchant ships steaming in faraway oceans, had lost over half of them, as they were stranded in neutral ports, captured by the enemy or self-destroyed to avoid capture.


Probably a too simplistic notion and I would think the number of ships lost immediately is exaggerated. The first warning that war was imminent was issued to German ships overseas on August 24th, the day after British ships were ordered not to dock at German ports according to the German site I linked to. A second warning sent out on August 27th urged German merchantmen to sail to 'neutral or friendly' ports within four days. Fair warning one would assume - I would in fact be tempted to substitute 'lost' with 'not in Germany on September 1st 1939', and some of the ships stuck overseas became mighty useful later on, for example the not insignificant German merchant tonnage in the Mediterranean.

The Italian merchant navy also suffered a serious setback due to Italy's poor preparation for war:

In spite of this precedent, in June 1940 the Italian Government avoided giving accurate instructions to its merchant ships, probably harboring the illusion that the conflict would end quickly. Shipping owners and captains, for their part, in their desire to take advantage of extremely favorable market conditions, failed to take any precautions even after March 1940, when everyone was convinced that Italy's decision to enter the fray was imminent.

This situation led as many as 256 ships to be stranded outside the Straits of Gibraltar or in enemy waters when war broke out.
(still quoting from the Italian merchant navy website)

...though again the ships weren't necessarily lost strictly speaking, they just weren't in the Mediterranean.

Captured ships were an important part of the German merchant ship inventory - sizeable chunks of the Greek, Vichy French and Italian merchant navies were added in 1941, 1942 and 1943 respectively for example. There's no way the Germans could have shipped the 5th Panzer Army off to Tunisia if they had not seized French merchantmen first.

Some of the Italian ships were confiscated outright, but apparently the majority sailed on under lease contracts, which muddles your picture of available German merchant tonnage.

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 09 Dec 2005 08:23

Follow up to this ~51 Hospital ships were converted from freighters steamers and liners over the course of the war.
http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gli ... chiffe.htm
Also 18 additional ships were modified to transport wounded troops.

http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gli ... chiffe.htm

About 100 medium sized merchants 5000tons or so were converted to highly specialized "Sperrbrecher" role of mine crushing or pathmaking. The boats were specially modified for the task. These ships were reinforced 2500 tons of cork and copper in the hull to help degauss against magnetic mines plus a special Magnetic field “ VES” generator, that exploded magnetic mines at a distance from the ships.

Over 100 were converted as the war progress and while ½ where destroyed , about 13 remained operational at the end of the war. After WW-I a supply of ~ 200 x 4” guns were stored to be mounted [ mostly]on these converted merchant ships in WW-II. At the end of the war some converted merchants had 88mm flak guns mounted in place of the 4” guns.

http://dkepaves.free.fr/html/sperrbrecher.htm Reports hulls had copper reinforcement and Cork for neutral buoyancy.

“These ships were equipped with a double copper hull (against the magnetic mines), of a long pole with before (traversed by an electrical current to make jump the mines) and equipped with anti-aircraft guns.”

http://limouz1.free.fr/sites_plongee/ep ... lke134.htm


Any one know any more details about these since double copper hull with cork ? It sounds very expensive to me?

If its true this could possibly translate into hulls with ~ 3-4 inches steel mass. Since copper is same density of Steel and cork is know to be used [~ 1.0g/cc?] , this mass could be 1 inch copper hull plus 20 inches cork and another 1 inch outer copper hull sandwiched together. First approximation has hull resistance similar to ~ 3-4 inches or 8.5cm RHA ???

John T
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Post by John T » 14 Dec 2005 22:51

Paul Lakowski wrote:
In the meantime I came across these converted merchant ships called Sperrbrecher. Heres what I got so far.
..



As my limited German get's it Sperrbrecher actually means two things- Blockade runner or this "suicide minsweeper".
or a direct translation -Brecher -Breaker Sperr - blockade(or mine barrage).

If I got it right any German ship outside of the North sea trying to return to Germany when the war started where considered "sperrbrecher".

Fun to be at help for you Paul, this more of my home turf than details of armour penetration ;)


Best regards
/John T.

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 14 Dec 2005 23:45

IIMU that Sperrbrecher refers quite specifically to the ships Paul described. Merchant ships trying to break the blockade would be called Blockadebrecher - a minefield is also called Minensperre, while the German word for blockade is Blockade.

So a Sperrbrecher and a Blockadebrecher are not the same type of ships, and a ship running the blockade would not be called a Sperrbrecher.

See also:

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/seekrieg/km/blbr.htm and

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/seekrieg/km/spbr1-8.htm

All the best

Andreas

Paul Lakowski
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Post by Paul Lakowski » 15 Dec 2005 04:01

Thanks for the links and information; WW-II history was always my first passion. I was reading that Admiral Raeder set up a string of auxiliary conversions starting in September 1939 [I think?]. The result of these were programs like the Sperrbrecher conversion [from medium sized merchants]...

http://www.german-navy.de/kriegsmarine/ ... index.html

It looks like by the fall of 1940 up to 25-26 such converted ships were operating in four flotillas from France through Denmark. They look reasonably well armed with couple of 4" guns and 1/2 dozen flak. It occurred they could easily repel fire from similar numbers of enemy ships up to minesweeper level, but if the hull is indeed double hulled with cork in-between it would act as an 'unintentional' composite armor and offer enough protection to make a difference and raise its combat potential.

Vorpostenboote were another auxiliary conversion program [patrol craft converted from large (900 ton) Trawlers/whalers] . Over 200 were available by the fall of 1940 [something like 18 out of 20 flotillas].

http://www.wlb-stuttgart.de/seekrieg/km ... frames.htm
http://www.german-navy.de/kriegsmarine/ ... index.html


Kriegsfischkutter [Armed Fishing boats] ~ 700 built from 1940-1945 [other source suggest 1942-45] .kind of mini Vorpostenboote and reportedly 40 available by fall of 1940 [?]

http://www.deutsches-marinearchiv.de/Ei ... tillen.htm

http://lexikon.donx.de/?action=details& ... ischkutter

At first I dismissed these Vorpostenboote as mere coastal patrol boats ,but in Oharra's book they show up several times in operations like invasion of Norway. The also look to be well armed for trawlers [couple 88mm guns plus 1/2 dozen flak , Depth Charges and I guess hydrophones]. At the end of the war they were even plans to mount radars on these patrol boats. Likewise I dismissed the 'Kriegsfischkutter', but they also show up here on the lists for the invasion of Denmark, along with the Minenräumboot.

http://www.marine.de/01DB070000000001/C ... J082INFODE

I suspect the 'Auxiliary Cruiser' program [converted from large freighters] was also part of this overall program?

http://www.german-navy.de/kriegsmarine/ ... index.html

Since the first Sperrbrecher units are not formed until July 1940, does that mean it took at least 6-7 months for this conversion? Would it take long to go from 'ship converted' to 'operational'?

TRose
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Post by TRose » 17 Dec 2005 06:20

a quick quiston on number of German merchant ships. Does anyone know if the numbers above include boats built for River /canal work as Germany during the war moved a lot of traffic over river and canals.
also it should be keppt in minda number of the "lost" German and Italian ships that where caught outside Europe when the war started ended up in the pacific under Japanese protection where they still seved the Axis.

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Alter Mann
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Sperrbrecher

Post by Alter Mann » 24 Dec 2005 06:07

I would think that the places where the Sperrbrechers would be used most would be narrow areas in the Baltic and the Bay of Biscay. Since submarines could lay minefields, as could aircraft (?) I suspect that the Allies would have tried to keep the German Navy bottled up in the Baltic as much as possible, and there would definitely have been a lot of incentive to try to destroy subs in the Bay of Biscay.

One of my favorite fictional accounts about the German Navy during WWII was partly about Naval officer cadet training that involved crewing on mineswepers as enlisted or strikers. From the book it sounded like pretty grim duty.

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Bronsky
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Post by Bronsky » 30 Dec 2005 15:54

TRose wrote:a quick quiston on number of German merchant ships. Does anyone know if the numbers above include boats built for River /canal work as Germany during the war moved a lot of traffic over river and canals.


Unless an error cropped in, they shouldn't. Barges and merchant ships are not the same thing, although you will find merchant ships in large rivers (when the port is upriver e.g. London).

TRose wrote:also it should be keppt in minda number of the "lost" German and Italian ships that where caught outside Europe when the war started ended up in the pacific under Japanese protection where they still seved the Axis.


Most were captured by the Allies, though. The Germans caught some ships in their 1940 advances, some 250,000 tons of French ships IIRC. Also, regarding Italy's "carelessness" I've read it claimed (by an Italian with a strong nationalist bias, although he tends to be well-documented) that Italy really couldn't avoid having a significant amount of shipping abroad, as it would take months of no trade just to repatriate all the ships (assuming the Allies didn't detain them anyway on various blockade running excuses).


Paul, regarding the Sperrbrecher the thing to keep in mind is that it wasn't all that expensive. Germany found itself with plenty of merchant hulls that it couldn't really use, so it kept the best ones for itself and used the others as auxiliary naval vessels.

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Post by Jon G. » 30 Dec 2005 16:23

Here is a very comprehensive list of early war German merchantmen losses, taken from the brilliant German website I linked to earlier. The overall number of interned ships appears to be relatively modest, compared to eg. the number of ships lost to collisions or mines.

I would surmise, as earlier, that ships counted as 'lost' simply weren't in German ports at the outbreak of war. The vast majority of ships outside German waters no doubt ended up as lost anyway as the war went on, but they could and did provide valuable service to the German war effort before being sunk - an example being the not insignificant amount of German merchant ships in the Mediterranean.

I recall reading that no less than 700,000 tons worth of Vichy merchant ships were put to use by the Germans following the invasion of the demilitarized part of France. To give an idea of proportion, 700,000 tons of merchant ships constituted ~½ the size of the Italian merchant navy at the time, or approximately what Dönitz' U-Boats would sink in a month when they did best.

By the end of the Tunisian campaign, only about 100,000 tons of the commandeered Vichy merchant fleet remained - the rest had been sunk by Allied air and sea forces.

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Post by Paul Lakowski » 03 Jan 2006 01:14

Bronsky wrote:


Paul, regarding the Sperrbrecher the thing to keep in mind is that it wasn't all that expensive. Germany found itself with plenty of merchant hulls that it couldn't really use, so it kept the best ones for itself and used the others as auxiliary naval vessels.


Your probably right, I was just trying to image what the cost of adding a second hull, if that hull was made of copper??? Have you or any one heard anything to confirm that? I do recall that each auxiliary cruiser cost only 200,000 RM and took ~ 6 months to convert.Given that even one of their pukie 'torpedoboot 35/37' cost 8-9 MRm & 3 years to build , I think I know where I would have spent my money and resources.

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