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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945


The Reichsmarine was renamed Kriegsmarine on 12.06.1935. At that time she had at her disposal  the S-boats " S 1" to "S 8", which were organized under the 1. Schnellboothalbflottille. Also Begleitschiff "Tsingtau" was subordinate to it.


Boats "S 9" to "S 13" of the series ordered in 1933 were commissioned until December 1935. 

On 12th of June 1935  „S 9“ was commissioned and the unit was renamed into 1. Schnellbootflottille (1.SFltl). Boats "S 10" to "S 13" were delivered also in 1935.


On 10th of December 1936 the old gasoline-motor-boats "S 1" to "S 5" were decommissioned and sold to the National-Spanish government. "S 6" with its MAN-diesel-motors was decommissioned in 1937 and was also sold to Spain. The commander of the 1. SFllt thus was commanding boats "S 7" to "S 13".

Subordinated to the commander of the 1. SFltl were boats "S 7" to "S 14". The boats commissioned in 1937 and 1938 were also assigned to the 1. SFltl.

Between 1935 and the outbreak of WW II the 1. SFltl performed a number of propaganda-voyages in Germany and abroad. 

When the 2. SFltl was formed boats "S 6" through "S 9" and "S 14" through "S 17" had to be turned over to ist. With that the 1. SFltl had only assigned to it boats "S 10" through "S 13" and "S 18". However, the following boats of the series from "S 19" were also assigned to it.


On 12th of Aufgust 1938 with the delivery of boats "S 14" to "S 18" the new 2. SFltl under command of Kptlt. Rudolf Petersen was established. He got originally minesweeper "M 112" as tender until the tender "Tanga" having been planned for China was commissioned on 21st of January 1939 for the Kriegsmarine. The following boats were assigned to the flotilla: "S 6" through "S 9" as well as "S 14" through "S 17".

After delivery of the boats "S 19" to "S 23" the Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of the war owned 17 thereof 15 ready for action (KB = kriegsbereite) S-boats. "S 24" was only commissioned eight days after the outbreak of the war. "S 25" , "S 30" to "S 33" were under construction at Lürssen but could only be taken over after the outbreak of the war. "S 30" to "S 33" had been ordered for China but were confiscated at the outbreak of the war and continued to be constructed for the Kriegsmarine. Also a boat under construction for Bulgaria ("F 5"  in accordance with the plans for "S 2" to "S 5" was confiscated and finished as "S 1" for the Kriegsmarine.


Marking of the boats

To distinguish the boats they were marked with their numbers on both sides of the bow until the outbreak of World War II (see picture below).

"S 14" und "S 15" with bownumbers an mastmarkings - Picture: Archives O. Erlandsson

Additionally the boats of both flotillas carried mastmarkings, angles or dobble-angles open upside or downside rsp. one diagonal cross or two diagonal crosses (see picture above).

In some flotillas during the war uniform flotilla-coat-of-arms were attached to the hull under the bridgehouse. In some flotillas the boats had individual coat-of-arms or letters for differentiation of the boats of the flotilla. 

To be recognizeable from the air as own units the boats for different opportunities  (Polandcampain, Weserübung, Barbarossa, Cerberus) carried yellow or black rectangles and partly the swastikaflag on deck or on the bridgehouse. For operation Cerberus were in the 6. SFltl the foredeck from bow to forward edge of the bridge and the quarterdeck from stern to rear edge of the bridge painted yellow.

Black rsp. yellow deckmarkings of 1. SFltl for the Polandcampain - Picture: Walter Koch - Archives S. Jung


Deckmarkings for Weserübung - Picture: Archives Ola Erlandsson

On 28th September 1939 the Kriegsmarine ordered Lürssen-Werft to build 24 further S-boats, "S 38" to "S 61", thereof eight boats could be commissioned in 1940 and the remaining boats in 1941.  

During the war the Kriegsmarine had Fr. Lürssen-Werft, Bremen-Vegesack to build 148, Joh. Schlichting-Werft, Travemünde to build 52, Gusto-Werft, Schiedam/Holland to build 10, and Danziger Waggonfabrik to build 9, in total 219 S-boats. Additionally "S 501" - "S 507" and "S 511" (former Italian MAS-boats), "S 601" - "S 604" (former Jugoslavian Orjen-class boats), and "S 621" - "S 630" (former Italian MS C.R.D.S. boats) boats taken over from other navies came at least for some time into the service of Kriegsmarine (see S-boat-types of Kriegsmarine).

Additionally the Kriegsmarine had 12 LS-boats to be built and 36 Küstenminenleger (KM), coastal minelayers, to be reconstructed to Küstenschnellboote (KS), coastal S-boats. 

The losses of the S-Boat-Force were:

Killed in action 767 persons
Wounded 620 persons
Prisoner of War 322 persons
Lost 140 boats

On 09.05.1945, the day of the German capitulation, the navy had at its disposal 91 boats in nine flotillas. 

On 10.05.1945 the crews of the S-boats of the so-called "Kurland-flotillas (1. SFltl, 5. SFltl, and 2. S-School-Fltl) gathered in the Geltinger Bucht fell in a last time in "1. Garnitur blau" (full dress) for the last ceremonial colours. After a speech of F.d.S., Kommodore Petersen, the flags were lowered, the command signals continued fluttering. The S-Boat-Force was decommissioned. 

Last Muster in Geltinger Bucht - Picture: H.F. Nitsche - Kirchspielarchiv Steinberg





Organization Pictures
War Zones Bearers of Knights Cross Losses of S-Boots Whereabouts of the S-Boats



In Historisches Marinearchiv under


vitae and success-tables of the boats are to be found. Author is FKpt a.D. Urs Heßling. Both tables are still under construction.