German destroyer Z4 Richard Beitzen

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Z1 Leberecht Maass
Destroyer Richard Beitzen
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: Richard Beitzen
Namesake: Richard Beitzen
Builder: Deutsche Werke, Kiel
Laid down: 7 January 1935
Launched: 30 November 1935
Commissioned: 13 May 1937
Fate: Scrapped in 1949
General characteristics
Class & type: Zerstörer 1934
Displacement: 2,171 long tons (2,206 t)
Length: 119 m (390 ft 5 in) o/a
114 m (374 ft 0 in) w/l
Beam: 11.3 m (37 ft 1 in)
Draft: 4.23 m (13 ft 11 in)
Installed power: 70,000 shp (52,000 kW)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 × Wagner geared steam turbines
6 × water-tube boilers
Speed: 36 knots (67 km/h; 41 mph)
Range: 1,825 nmi (3,380 km; 2,100 mi) at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Complement: 325
Armament: 5 × 1 - 12.7 cm (5 in) guns
2 × 2 - 3.7 cm (1.5 in) guns
6 × 1 - 2 cm (0.79 in) guns
2 × 4 - 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes
60 mines
32–64 depth charges, 4 throwers and 6 individual racks

The German destroyer Z4 Richard Beitzen was a Type 1934 destroyer in Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, named after Richard Beitzen who commanded the 14th Torpedo boat flotilla in World War I and was killed in action in March 1918.[1][2]

She was launched on 30 November 1935 at Deutsche Werke in Kiel and entered service on 13 May 1937. The ship displaced 3,156 tons, had a length of 119.3 m (391 ft 5 in) and a beam of 11.3 m (37 ft 1 in), and could steam at 38.2 knots. The armament comprised five 12.7 cm guns in single turrets, four 3.7 cm anti-aircraft guns, six 2 cm anti-aircraft guns, and eight 53.3 cm torpedo tubes. The crew numbered about 325.[1]

The ship was the last in a class of four, the others were Z1 Leberecht Maass, Z2 Georg Thiele and Z3 Max Schultz. Of those, only Z4 survived the war. Z3 was sunk alongside Z1 on 22 February 1940 while Z2 was scuttled on 13 April 1940 at Narvik.[1]

Service history[edit]

The destroyer Leberecht Maass was the first destroyer to be built in Germany since the First World War. Richard Beitzen was laid down two and a half months after Z1 and commissioned 28 months later. The ships of this type suffered from a number of problems. They took on large amounts of water during high seas, making the forward guns unusable, had structural weaknesses, and severe vibration caused by the engines. A new turbine system installed in the ships initially proved promising but soon disappointed and caused them to be limited to a short range, this being one of the two decisive factors against the ships during the battles of Narvik, the other being the ships' limited ammunition storage capacity.[3]

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the ship carried out operations in Danzig Bay, along with the cruisers Köln, Leipzig, and Nürnberg. In December 1939, the ship was part of a mine laying operation against Newcastle upon Tyne, again accompanying these three cruisers, during which Nürnberg and Köln were hit by torpedoes from the British submarine HMS Salmon.[4]

The destroyer continued to participate in mine laying operations against the British coast.[4] In early 1940, the ship was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla in the North Sea. On 22 February 1940, Richard Beitzen and five other destroyers, Z3 Max Schultz, Z1 Leberecht Maass, Z6 Theodor Riedel, Z13 Erich Koellner and Z16 Friedrich Eckoldt, sailed for the Dogger Bank to intercept British fishing vessels in "Operation Wikinger". En route, the flotilla was erroneously attacked by a Luftwaffe bomber from the X. Fliegerkorps. Leberecht Maass was hit by one bomb, lost steering and strayed into a British minefield where she hit a mine and broke in half, sinking with the loss of 282 of her crew. During the rescue effort, Z3 Max Schultz also hit a mine and sank with her entire crew.[1]

On 13 April 1940, Richard Beitzen became the last remaining ship of her class of four when Georg Thiele was scuttled at Rombaksbotten, Narvik, after running aground and out of fuel and ammunition.[1]

After spending the first year of the war in the Baltic and the North Sea, Richard Beitzen was transferred to Brest, France, in October 1940. During January 1941, the ship was temporarily transferred to Rotterdam. Upon return to Brest, she took part in escorting the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper on leaving and returning to port. Returning briefly to Germany in March 1941 she was then sent to Bergen, Norway in July 1941.[4]

Transferred to Kirkenes after the outbreak of the war with the Soviet Union, the ship, as part of the 6th Destroyer Flotilla, took part in operations against Soviet shipping. In August 1941 she suffered some damage from coastal artillery when operating in the area of the Kola Peninsula. In January 1942, she served as an escort for the battleship Tirpitz on her way to the Trondheimsfjord. Shortly after, the ship was transferred to Germany again and then on to Le Havre.[4]

Based in France again, Richard Beitzen took part in Operation Cerberus, escorting Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen from Brest to Germany.[5]

The ship returned to Norway once more to take part in the Battle of the Barents Sea on 31 December 1942. After this, the ship was used for escort duties and patrols. On convoy duty, Richard Beitzen was damaged in a night air raid in March 1945.[5]

The ship was captured by the British at Oslo, Norway, on 14 May 1945. She was then transferred to Rosyth in February 1946. The ship's last journey took her to Gateshead in January 1947 and she was scrapped in 1949.[2]

Name and number[edit]

The destroyer, named after Richard Beitzen, carried the number Z4, the Z standing for Zerstörer (English: Destroyer). All German destroyers from Z1 to Z22 Anton Schmitt carried names and numbers. From Z23 onwards, destroyers only carried numbers, no names.[6]

Commanding officers[edit]

Active Service[2][4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe (German), author: Heinz Ciupa, publisher: Erich Pabel Verlag, published: 1979, page: 46
  2. ^ a b c Z4 - Richard Beitzen bismarck-class.dk, accessed: 20 November 2010
  3. ^ Zerstörer 1934 German Naval History website, accessed: 20 November 2010
  4. ^ a b c d e Z4 Richard Beitzen wehrmacht-history.com, accessed: 20 November 2010
  5. ^ a b Z4 Richard Beitzen - History German Naval History website, accessed: 21 November 2010
  6. ^ Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe (German), author: Heinz Ciupa, publisher: Erich Pabel Verlag, published: 1979, page: 46-54

References[edit]

  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Volume 1: Major Surface Warships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • Hervieux, Pierre (1980). "German Destroyer Minelaying Operations Off the English Coast (1940–1941)". In Roberts, John. Warship IV. Greenwich, England: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-87021-979-0. 
  • Koop, Gerhard; Schmolke, Klaus-Peter (2003). German Destroyers of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-307-1. 
  • Rohwer, Jürgen (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945: The Naval History of World War Two (Third Revised ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-119-2. 
  • Whitley, M. J. (1991). German Destroyers of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-302-8. 

External links[edit]