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An S-boat flying the white flag, after surrender at the coastal forces base HMS Beehive, Felixstowe, May 1945
Class overview
Name: E-Boot
Builders: Lürssen

Spanish Civil War
 Spanish Navy
World War II
Naval Ensign of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.svg Kingdom of Yugoslavia
 Regia Marina
 Republic of China Navy

Post War
 Royal Danish Navy
 Royal Norwegian Navy
 People's Liberation Army Navy
 Royal Navy
 German Navy
 Spanish Navy
Preserved: 1
General characteristics
Class & type: S-100
Type: Fast attack craft
Displacement: 100 tons (max)
78.9 tons (standard)
Length: 32.76 m
Beam: 5.06 m
Draught: 1.47 m
Propulsion: 3: Daimler Benz twenty-cylinder diesel engines MB 501; 3,960 hp
Speed: 43.8 knots
Range: 800 nm at 30 knots
Complement: 24–30
Armament: 2 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (4 torpedoes)
1 × twin 20 mm C/30 cannon, 1 × single 20 mm cannon
1 × 37 mm Flak 42 cannon

E-boats (German: Schnellboot, or S-Boot, meaning "fast boat") was the designation for fast attack craft of the Kriegsmarine during World War II. It is commonly held that the British used the term E for Enemy.[1][2]

The S-boat was a very fast vessel, able to cruise at 40 or 50 knots, and its wooden hull meant it could cross magnetic minefields unharmed. It was better suited to the open sea and had substantially longer range (approximately 700 nautical miles) than the American PT boat and the British Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB). As a result, the Royal Navy later developed better matched versions of MTBs using the Fairmile 'D' hull design.



As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany's military production was severely curtailed. However, small patrol craft were not subject to any strictures. S-boats can trace their lineage back to a private motor yacht—a 22-ton-displacement, 34-knot craft called Oheka II, which had been built by the German shipbuilding company Lürssen in 1927 for a wealthy financier and patron of the arts, Otto Kahn.

This 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. Lürssen overcame many of the disadvantages of such a hull and, with the Oheka II, produced a craft that was fast, strong and seaworthy. This attracted the interest of the German Navy, which in 1929 ordered a similar boat but fitted with two torpedo tubes. This became the S-1, and was the basis for all subsequent S-boats.

After experimenting with the S-1, the Germans made several improvements to the design. Small rudders added on either side of the main rudder could be angled outboard to 30 degrees, creating at high speed what's known as the Lürssen Effect.[3] This drew in an "air pocket slightly behind the three propellers, increasing their efficiency, reducing the stern wave and keeping the boat at a nearly horizontal attitude".[4] This was an important innovation as the horizontal attitude lifted the stern somewhat, allowing even greater speed, and the reduced stern wave made S-boats harder to see, especially at night.

Operations with the Kriegsmarine

S-boats were often used to patrol the Baltic Sea and the English Channel in order to intercept shipping heading for the English ports in the south and east. As such, they were up against Royal Navy and Commonwealth (particularly Royal Canadian Navy contingents leading up to D-Day), Motor Gun Boats (MGBs), Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs), Motor Launches, frigates and destroyers. They were also transferred in small numbers to the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea by river and land transport. Some small S-boats were built as boats for carrying by auxiliary cruisers.

Crew members could earn an award particular to their work—Das Schnellbootkriegsabzeichen—denoted by a badge depicting an S-boat passing through a wreath. The criteria were good conduct, distinction in action, and participating in at least twelve enemy actions. It was also awarded for particularly successful missions, displays of leadership or being killed in action. It could be awarded under special circumstances, such as when another decoration was not suitable.

Schnellboote of the 9th flotilla were the first naval units to respond to the invasion fleet of Operation Overlord.[5] They left Cherbourg harbour at 5 a.m. on 6 June 1944.[5] On finding themselves confronted by the entire invasion fleet, they fired their torpedoes at maximum range and returned to Cherbourg.[5]

During World War II, S-boats sank 101 merchant ships totalling 214,728 tons.[6] In addition, they sank 12 destroyers, 11 minesweepers, eight landing ships, six MTBs, a torpedo boat, a minelayer, one submarine and a number of small merchant craft. They also damaged two cruisers, five destroyers, three landing ships, a repair ship, a naval tug and numerous merchant vessels. Sea mines laid by the S-boats were responsible for the loss of 37 merchant ships totalling 148,535 tons, a destroyer, two minesweepers and four landing ships.[6]

In recognition of their service, the members of Schnellboot crews were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 23 occasions, and the German Cross in Gold on 112 occasions.[6]

Italian MS boat

The poor seaworthiness of the MAS boats led the Italian Navy to build its own version of S-boats, called simply MS (Motoscafo Silurante). The prototype was designed on the pattern of six German-built S-boats captured from the Yugoslav Navy in 1941. Notably, two of them sank the largest warship (the British cruiser HMS Manchester) that was sunk by this kind of vessel in World War II.[7] Two MS boats were used to infiltrate a party of 14 Italian marines behind the Allied lines in Egypt on 3 September 1942. The marines blew up a railway and an aqueduct before being captured.[8] Thirty-six of these vessels were completed by 1943.[9]

Service in the Spanish Navy

The Kriegsmarine supplied the Spanish Navy with six S-boats during the Spanish Civil War, and six more during the Second World War. Another six were built in Spain with some assistance from Lürssen. One of them, either the Falange or the Requeté, laid two mines that crippled the British destroyer HMS Hunter off Almería on 13 May 1937. The German-built boats were discarded in the 1960s, while some of the Spanish-built ones served until the early 1970s.[10]

S-Boat in China

The Chinese Nationalist Navy had three S-7 S-boats during the Second Sino-Japanese War (World War II in China). One was destroyed by Japanese planes, one was lost, and one was captured by the People's Liberation Army during the Chinese civil war. The People's Liberation Army Navy used it as a patrol boat until 1963. The Chinese Nationalist Government had also ordered eight S-30 S-boats and a boat carrier, but they joined the Kriegsmarine in 1939.

Post-war service

Royal Navy

At the end of the war about 34 S-boats were surrendered to the British. Three boats, S-130 (renamed P5230), S-208 (P5208) and S-212 (P5212) were retained for trials.

Between 1949 and 1956, Operation Jungle, a joint operation was established between MI6, the CIA and the Gehlen Organization to insert agents into the Baltic states and Poland by sea. Royal Navy Commander Anthony Courtney was struck by the potential capabilities of former S-boat hulls, and John Harvey-Jones of the Naval Intelligence Division was put in charge of the project. He discovered that the Royal Navy still had two S-boats, P5230 and P5208, and had them sent to Portsmouth, where one of them, P5230 (ex-S130), was modified to reduce its weight and increase its power with the installation of two Napier Deltic engines of 3000 hp apiece. In the interests of deniability, a former German S-boat captain, Helmut Klose, and a German crew were recruited to man the S-boat. They operated under the cover of the British Control Commission's Fishery Protection Service, which was responsible for preventing Soviet navy vessels from interfering with German fishing boats and for destroying stray mines.[11]

Royal Danish Navy

In 1947, the Danish navy bought twelve former Kriegsmarine boats. These were further augmented in 1951 by six units bought from the Royal Norwegian Navy. The last unit, the P568 Viben, was retired in 1965.[12]

Royal Norwegian Navy

After World War II, the Norwegian Navy received a number of former Kriegsmarine boats. Six boats were transferred to Denmark in 1951.


  •  Nazi Germany
  •  West Germany
  •  Italy
  •  Bulgaria
  •  Spain
  •  Republic of China
  •  United Kingdom
  •  Norway
  •  People's Republic of China


There is just one surviving S-boat, identified as S-130. S-130 was purchased and towed from Wilhelmshaven, Germany to the Husbands Shipyard, Marchwood, Southampton, England in January 2003, under the auspices of the British Military Powerboat Trust. In 2004, S-130 was taken to the slipway at Hythe, where, under the supervision of the BMPT, she was prepared and then towed to Mashfords yard in Plymouth, England to await funding for restoration. In 2008, S-130, having been purchased by Kevin Wheatcroft, was slipped across the Tamar River and set up ashore at Southdown in Cornwall to undergo restoration work involving Roving Commissions Ltd. As of June 2012, this work continues and includes an S130 Members' Club.[13]

Built as hull No. 1030 at the Schlichting boatyard in Travemünde, S-130 was commissioned on 21 October 1943 and took an active part in the war, participating in the Exercise Tiger attack and attacks on the D-day invasion fleet.

According to Dutch military historian Maurice Laarman:

In 1945, S-130 was taken as a British war prize ( FPB 5030) and put to use in covert operations. Under the guise of the "British Baltic Fishery Protection Service", the British Secret Intelligence Service MI-6 ferried spies and agents into Eastern Europe. Beginning in May 1949, MI-6 used S-208, (Kommandant Hans-Helmut Klose) to insert agents into Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland. The operations were very successful and continued under a more permanent organisation based in Hamburg. In 1952, S-130 joined the operation and the mission was enlarged to include signal intelligence (SIGINT) equipment. In 1954/55, S-130 and S-208 were replaced by a new generation of German S-boote.

S-130 was returned to the newly formed Bundesmarine in March 1957, and operated under the number UW 10. Serving initially in the Unterwasserwaffenschule training sailors in underwater weaponry such as mines and torpedoes, she later became a test boat under the name EF 3.[14] S-130 was on display in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, formerly used as a houseboat.

Today "S-130" is undergoing thorough restoration in Southdown Marina, Cornwall, following purchase by the "Wheatcroft Collection" England.[15]


The Schnellboot design evolved over time. The first had a pair of torpedo tubes on the fore deck.

S-2 class
The first productions of the S-Boat in 1931 which were based on S-1.
S-7 class
They firstly built in 1933 and 3 of them were sold to China.
S-14 class
The improvement of S-7 in 1934. The enlarged hull.
S-18 class

Wartime types were:

S-26 class
Entered service in 1940. 40 m hull. Torpedo tubes covered by forward deck.
S-30 class
S-38 class
S-38b class
Improved S-38 class with armoured bridge. Various armament including 40mm Bofors or 20mm Flak aft, MG34 Zwillingsockel midships
S-100 class
From 1943. 1 x 20 mm in the bow, 2 × 20 mm gun amidships and 37 mm gun aft.
S-151 class
Type 700
late war design proposal with stern torpedo tubes and 30 mm gun turret forward. Eight boats built, but completed to S-100 design specification


  • Length: 34.9 m (114 feet 6 inches)
  • Weight: up to 120 tonne
  • Speed: 43.8 kts
  • Engines: Three 20-cylinder 2000 hp Daimler-Benz MB501 diesels driving three shafts.
  • Armament:
    • 2 × 53.3 cm (21 inches) torpedo tubes, with room for 2 more torpedoes (for reloading).
    • 1 × 20 mm gun, (20 mm single on early boats, twin and special bow version on later classes)
    • 1 × 40 mm gun (40 mm Bofors) on some S-38 class boats

Other AA armament carried on different models included two or more pintle-mounted MG-34s, 3.7 cm Flak 42 (S-100) and 8.6 cm RaG M42 (S-100) or, rarely, a quad 2 cm flak mount.

See also


  1. Wilson, Steve. "Enemy Boats".,15240,78723,00.html. 
  2. "E-Boats". British Military Powerboat Trust. 
  3. Saunders, Harold E. (1957). Hydrodynamics in ship design, Volume 1. Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. p. 586. ISBN 99914-0-571-2. 
  4. "Schnellboot! An Illustrated Technical History - Design, Manufacture and Detail". Retrieved Dec 16, 2009. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Tarrant, V.E (1994). The Last Year of the Kriegsnarine. Arms and Armour Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN 1-85409-176-X. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Connelly&Krakow, 2003. p.54
  7. MAS, VAS and MS
  8. Mediterranean Fleet, July to September 1942
  9. Sadkovich, James (1994). The Italian Navy in World War II. Greenwood Press, Westport, p. 39. ISBN 0-313-28797-X
  10. Coello, J.L. (1995). Buques de la Armada española años de la postguerra. S.L. AGUALARGA EDITORES, ISBN 978-84-88959-15-7
  11. Peebles, Curtis (2005). Twilight Warriors. Naval Institute Press. pp. 38–39. ISBN 1-59114-660-7. 
  12. GLENTEN Class (1947-1965), Motortorpedoboats
  14. Schnellboot E-boat S-130


  • Dallies-Labourdette, Jean Philippe (June 2003). German S-boote at War, 1939-1945. Histoire and Collections. ISBN 2-913903-49-5. 
  • Krakow, David (August 2013). Schnellboot in Action (Warships). Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc.. ISBN 0-89747-6603. 
  • Krakow, David; Connelly, Garth (January 2003). Schnellboot in Action (Warships). Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc.. ISBN 0-89747-457-0. 
  • Williamson, Gordon; Palmer, Ian (September 18, 2002). German E-boats 1939-45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-445-0. 
  • Macpherson, Ken. Ships Of Canada's Naval Forces (Warships). Collins Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-00-216856-1. 
  • Williamson, Gordon (2011). E-boat vs MTB : the English Channel 1941-45. Oxford ; Long Island City: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84908-407-9. 

External links

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