The new Imperial German Navy started building torpedo boats after 1883 and had 100 by 1900, the largest of which were around 350 tons and designated as flotilla leaders. In contrast the Royal Navy developed the Torpedo Boat Destroyer, subsequently shortened to destroyer. The destroyer was larger and more powerful than the torpedo boat. Meant to hunt and destroy torpedo boats, destroyers also mounted torpedoes. By 1914 the standard British destroyer was the L or M Class with three 4-Inch (102mm) guns and four torpedo tubes on 950 tons. In contrast the largest German vessels of a similar nature had four torpedo tubes and two 88mm guns on 650 tons. German design philosophy was to keep their boats as small as possible to maximize their chances of being unobserved in their primary mission, night torpedo attack. "In the Battle of Jutland one of them picked up the boatswain of a British ‘M’ class destroyer. When he stepped on the narrow deck, littered with coal bags, he is said to have vividly expressed his indignation at having to stay on board such an unsatisfactory craft." (SM Torpedo Boat B110, Warships in Profile Volume 3, by Vice Admiral F. Ruge)
The German designs started getting larger. The twelve boats numbered V-25 to S-36 were of 800 tons with six torpedo tubes and three 88mm guns. The prefix letter of a destroyer’s designation denoted the shipyard that constructed that particular ship. S for Schichau at Danzig, V for Vulkan at Stettin and G for Germania at Kiel. In 1911 a ship was launched in the far eastern Baltic that changed German destroyer policy. That was the Novik of the Imperial Russian Navy, launched at St. Petersburg in 1911. The Novik was huge in comparison with other destroyers. Displacing 1,280-tons and mounting four 102mm guns and four torpedo tubes, she was also the fastest destroyer in the world. Her four boilers and German made machinery gave her a speed of 37 knots. The Russian Admiralty was so pleased with their big destroyer that they ordered another 36 of the big ships to be delivered from 1914 to 1916. The machinery was again ordered from Germany.
When World War One started in August 1914 the Schichau yard offered to build nine large destroyers using the machinery ordered for the successors to the Russian Novik. They were turned down by the Navy Department, who thought 18 months was to long to build a destroyer and distrusted the large design. Then two other firms offered to use this same machinery to build large destroyers for the German Navy but with delivery in 1915 with each firm building two ships. One was the existing destroyer builder, Vulkan, the other was a shipyard that had not constructed destroyers, Blohm and Voss. Blohm and Voss was used to building large ships, cruisers and battlecruisers, not destroyers. The Navy Department agreed to this proposal and the two to be built by Blohm and Voss were given the prefix B.
These first four boats were B-97, B-98, V-99 and V-100. In October 1914 Blohm and Voss proposed to build another two ships and this was accepted. They became B-109 and B-110. In January 1915 another two was offered and they became B-111 and B-112. In 1915 twelve large destroyers, although still called torpedo boats, joined the High Seas Fleet. Eight of the twelve were the large boats patterned after the four boiler Novik, B-97, B-98, V-99, V-100, B-109, B-110, B-111 and B-112. The other four were slightly smaller ,200 ton ships, that Germania had been constructing for Argentina. These only had three boilers and were slightly slower at 33 knots, rather than the 36 to 37 knots of the large B and V boats and could be distinguished by three equal size funnels. The big B and V boats’ middle funnel was thicker as it served two boilers. These Germania boats were numbered G-101 to G-104. The missing numbers between G-104 and B-109 went to some very small boats of 350 tons which had been building by Vulkan for the Netherlands, which became V-105 through V-108.
Upon joining the fleet, the B and G boats became the 4th Torpedo Boat Half Flotilla, which was part of Torpedo Boat Flotilla II and served in the scouting forces in the North Sea. The two V boats went to the Baltic. The first mission for the North Sea boats came in July 1915 with a merchant ship sweep up to Scandinavia. They caught a Danish ship with railway sleeper cars bound for Britain and sank it.
On month later the V boats were in action in the Gulf of Riga. In the first German attempt to force the Gulf of Riga, the German naval force was thwarted by heavy defensive minefields. On August 16, 1915 V-99 and V-100 were ordered to attack the Russian predreadnought battleship Slava, which was the only survivor of the Borodino Class battleships, three of which were sunk and one captured at the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905. The two boats could not find Slava but were in turn sighted and attacked their original pattern, Novik and three smaller Russian destroyers. The 102mm guns on Novik proved to be superior to the 88mm guns on the German boats and V-99 was soon set afire. She then ran into two mines and was beached in sinking condition. V-100 took of the men but V-99 was lost as well as having 21 dead and 22 wounded of her crew.
Far to the west the B and G boats of the North Sea were involved in action the next night. They were hunting British submarines off of Horns Reef and also checking German and Danish fishing trawlers. After nightfall they saw to the west what they thought was a British cruiser and some destroyers. Actually it was the mine-layer Princess Margaret with escorting destroyers. The German boats attacked but only B-98 launched torpedoes, one of which blew the bow off of the destroyer, HMS Mentor. Mentor however, did manage to reach the safety of a British port. A series of similar sweeps, all without result, were made in the last part of 1915.
Having learned a lesson from the V-99 loss to Novik, the big destroyers started replacing their 88mm guns with 105mm guns. On February 10, 1916 the cruiser Pillau along with many torpedo boats (destroyers) made a sweep to Dogger Bank. Around midnight a group composed of three of the big G boats spotted four ships that turned out to be new Flower Class minesweeping sloops of 1,270 tons. The German boats fired 19 torpedoes but only the HMS Arabis was hit and sunk. By April all of the big boats had their 105mm guns in place and improved torpedo tubes. Admiral Scheer, commander of the High Seas Fleet, planned for a sweep at the end of May and put to sea early on May 31. This resulted in the Battle of Jutland, in which the big destroyers were actively involved.
Flotilla II was in the van with the German battlecruisers. In fact they were eight miles ahead of the famous, Lutzow, Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann. The light cruiser Elbing, along with B-109, B-110 and B-111 were on the left side of the force and spotted a steamer, which proved to be the Danish U. Fjord. B-109 and B-110 were dispatched to investigate but also G-102 also showed up. This is what triggered the Battle of Jutland. HMS Galatea and HMS Phaeton on the right side of the British force, spotted steam from the stopped Danish steamer and in turn went to investigate. The British light cruisers spotted the B boats and Elbing came to the rescue of her smaller consorts. Elbing scored the first hit in the Battle of Jutland when she hit Galatea under the bridge.
In the "Run to the South" the big boats of Flotilla II were on the disengaged side of the German battlecruisers, being ring-side spectators. When Beatty saw the main body of the High Seas Fleet and reversed course to make the "Run to the North" there was a destroyer melee between to two forces but Flotilla II was too far away to make it in time to that particular fight. In the "Run to the North" Flotilla II was following the cruiser Regensburg on the starboard bow of Hipper’s flagship Lutzow. This ended when the RN 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron, led by HMS Invincible in the van of the main body of the Grand Fleet, appeared out of nowhere, along with light British forces. The units of Flotilla II fired in turn on the light cruiser, HMS Chester, destroyer HMS Acasta and destroyer HMS Shark, which was sunk. B-98 was hit once, which destroyed her aft torpedo mount and killed two and wounded 11 of the crew. After the German Fleet first disengaged, Scheer again reversed course to get by the Grand Fleet but instead ran right into them again. This was when the German battlecruisers, along with escorting German torpedo boats, were ordered on their famous "Death Ride" in order to allow the main body of the German Fleet to again reverse course. Flotillas VI and IX went in with the battlecruisers and Flotilla II was about to follow, when British fire died off, when Jellicoe turned away from the perceived torpedo attack. Flotilla II missed contact with British forces in the night portion of the battle and mad it back to Kiel with only the single hit on B-98 for damage.
On June 7, 1916 Flotilla II was dispatched to reinforce German naval forces operating out of Zeebrugge. It was hopped to have sufficient forces to win a daylight surface attack but the Royal Navy had five big gun monitors as well as light forces loitering around. G-102 hit a mine and had to be towed to safety by B-112. During this period the Flotilla captured two British steamers and the B-110 went on a mine-laying mission. At the end of July Flotilla II went back to the main fleet. The last significant sweep that year for the fleet happened on August 19, 1916. It was to be a raid on Sunderland and a second battle between the High Seas Fleet and Grand Fleet was narrowly missed. A German airship scouting for the fleet observed and reported a light force of light cruisers and destroyer, the Harwich Force, coming northwards from the Channel. The German fleet turned southwards towards it. In turning south Scheer missed the Grand Fleet which was also steaming south towards the High Seas Fleet.
The next year was fairly inactive for the big boats of Flotilla II. There was some search and rescue missions, guard duty for the fleet, anti-submarine patrol for anchored battleships but nothing that resulted in contact with the British. In the summer of 1917 the activity of the big destroyers mostly involved protecting minesweepers. On September 18, 1917 the Flotilla was ordered to the Baltic to take part in the largest German amphibious operation of the war. In 1915 the German fleet failed in its attempt to force the Gulf of Riga and V-99 was wrecked. Two years later came a far more ambitious operation to force the Gulf. 16,000 men from the 42nd Infantry Division, with another 10,000 to follow, were loaded aboard ships, including the destroyers of Flotilla II. They were to be landed on the island of Oesel, which guarded the north approaches to the Gulf and to take the island and the Russian shore batteries that guarded the passages. Each big destroyer embarked one infantry company, which was to be landed by two 12-oared cutters. The 138th Infantry Regiment was assigned to embark of the 4th Half Flotilla.
The operation kicked off on October 11, 1917 with troops embarked and escorted by two battle squadrons of the High Seas Fleet. Flotilla II led the run into the island, which was reached in the morning of the 12th. The infantry was disembarked. B-110 was engaged by a Russian field artillery battery as she was disembarking her infantry company. She wasn’t hit and the Russian battery ceased firing. It was never discovered if the Russian battery had been silenced by counter battery fire from B-110 or was taken by German infantry.
On October 14, supported by the battleship, Kaiser, the Flotilla entered a body of water known as Kassar Wik, in which Russian destroyers, many of them based on Novik, were operating. Flotilla II ran into about 12 of their "Russian Cousins" which opened fire at about 10,000 yards. No hits were made but G-103 was damaged by a near miss and earlier G-101 had been damaged in a grounding. The Russian ships made off to the east but B-98 and V-100 cornered one of them, the destroyer Grom, which was on fire and listing when a Russian gunboat removed her crew. Crew from B-98 boarded the Grom, undercover of a smoke screen from B-110, captured five prisoners, secured a code book and finally took the captured Grom under tow. However, Grom could not be brought safely home as a trophy of war. Her list increased and she turned over in shallow water. Russian heavy ships were still to the east in Moon Sound and Flotilla II came under fire of the Russian cruisers and predreadnought battleships. Flotilla went back to anchor for the night near the wreck of the Grom and B-98 hit a mine, which blew off her bow. She lost 14 killed and seven injured but made it back to Libau, where she was rigged with a temporary wooden bow for her trip back to Kiel. B-110 and B-112 were both damaged in hitting uncharted rocks. By 17 October the German Fleet had forced the Gulf and approached the southern end of Moon Sound. All of the large Russian ships, except Slava, escaped northward to the Gulf of Finland. Slava drew too much water from damages and could not make it through the shallow part of Moon Sound. She was beached and her crew blew her up. On October 18 B-111 suffered the same damage as B-98, when she too hit a mine which blew off her bow with five dead and 16 wounded.
The October Revolution occurred shortly afterwards and Russia left the war. Flotilla II made its way back to Kiel as escorts for the battleships. On November 16, 1917 the undamaged boats of Flotilla II just missed a dust up between the light forces of the British and German navies that had been broken up when Kaiser and Kaiserin made their appearance. On December 11 Flotilla II went on a merchant interception mission. Half Flotilla 4 consisting of B-97, B-109, B-110 and B-112 made for the English coast, while the other half of the Flotilla, Half Flotilla 3 consisting of V-100 and three of the big G boats made for the area between Norway and Scotland. Half Flotilla 4 managed to sink two steamers, stragglers from a convoy and two minesweepers. Half Flotilla 3 encountered a British convoy off of Norway consisting of destroyers HMS Pellew and HMS Partridge, along with four armed trawlers escorting eight small steamers. German shooting was very good and all the whole convoy was massacred. Only HMS Pellew survived, making it to Norway on one engine.
There were some additional missions in which no contact was made until February 14, 1918 when Flotilla II led by the light cruiser Emden, steamed to the Straight of Dover to attack the anti-submarine barrage installed there to bottle up U-Boats. Some small British vessels were shot up and the Flotilla returned to Zeebrugge but not before G-102 struck a small mine, which caused minimal damage, which sufficiently repaired in four days. The Flotilla went back to Kiel after refueling at Zeebrugge, except for G-102, which followed after the four days of repair work. Flotilla II was part of a High Seas sweep to Norway in April 1918 but there was no action except for the torpedoing of Moltke by the British submarine E42.
On October 29, 1918 Flotilla II was to be part of the last sortie of the High Seas Fleet, which was cancelled because of incipient mutiny in the capital ships. The crews of the boats of Flotilla II remained loyal and helped remove mutineers from the battleship Thuringen. The B boats of Half Flotilla 4 were not popular with crews of the capital ships because of that, so the B boats stayed at sea until November 10. When Soldier’s Council sent a representative aboard B-110 to give the commander orders, he was treated roughly and thrown off the boat by the enlisted men.
Flotilla II was consigned to be part of the German Fleet at Scampa Flow as part of the armistice agreement. The Half Flotilla 4 had to supply officers to the boats of Half Flotilla 3, whose officers had been sent home by the Soldier’s Council. One a watch crew of 20 enlisted and one officer were allowed on each boat at Scampa Flow. When the High Seas Fleet scuttled itself in June 1919, the big boats of Blohm and Voss went with their larger consorts. B-112 was first to go down, followed by B-109, B-110 and B-111. Of the large German destroyers of 1,374-tons built with the machinery contracted for the successors of the Russian Novik, B-97 and B-98 the first two ships to be launched survived B-97 was ceded to Italy in 1920, where she was renamed Cesare Rossol and B-98, which had been the German Fleet mailship at Scampa Flow, was taken over by Britain and scrapped. The Vulkan built V-100 was scrapped in France in 1921. (History from SM Torpedo Boat B110, Warships in Profile Volume 3, by Vice Admiral F. Ruge, who served on the B-110 as a young officer)
The NNT B-98
The hull is distinctive, having a short, raised forecastle. The cutwater has a slight forward flair, which adds a degree of grace from the more common straight cutwaters normally found in destroyers of World War One. Although there are another 34 resin detail parts, NNT has included plenty of detail on the hull. There is a low superstructure running 1/3 of the length of the ship, starting with the bridge, right behind the raised forecastle to just past the half way point of the hull. Nine ventilator funnels are cast on the hull and not one was broken when the kit arrived. Mine-laying rails on the starboard deck are very cleanly defined. The torpedo mounts have circumference railings also clearly delineated. There are many more, smaller fittings on the deck. The bollards are very fine and are easily overlooked at first. I am somewhat puzzled by presence of what appears to be eight coal scuttles, four per side. Since the class was fueled exclusively by fuel oil, so there was no need for coal scuttles. However the plan of B-110 found in SM Torpedo Boat B110, Warships in Profile Volume 3, by Vice Admiral F. Ruge, also shows these scuttles but three per side. These circular plates have hinges cast on them and perhaps are the fuel oil access ports. That could have been one difference between the B-98 and B-110. NNT also has placed cross-hatching to identify locations of smaller parts attachment. This greatly assists the modeler in locating the stacks and other superstructure parts. One other item. The forecastle of the B boats was rounded at the junction of the deck and hull sides. The NNT B-98 appears to be slightly rounded at these locations but not as greatly as the photographs seem to indicate.
The 34 smaller resin parts include the three stacks, seven torpedo tubes (one is a spare), five life rafts, two searchlights, two ship’s boats, five guns (one is a spare) on runners. A separate resin film contains the bridge of two parts, two gun platforms, after superstructure, three small platforms and two large ventilator intakes that are placed one on each side of the center stack. These are all very well done with very fine, delicate splinter shielding and significant smaller detail cast integral to the bridge, superstructure and gun positions. The stack end caps are solid with scribed stack gratings, rather than hollow stack ends.
NNT has produced a fine kit of the largest of the German World War One destroyers, the B-97 Class. Easily assembled with quality parts, the kit is suitable for almost any builder. With 55 total parts, the NNT B-98 is probably suitable for many beginners to resin model construction. The only caveat would be the small size of some of the photo-etch parts.