KMS Richard Beitzen (Z4) Destroyer Warship
The Z4 Richard Beitzen surrendered to British forces in May of 1945 and was ultimately scrapped in 1949.
Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Zerstorer (Destroyer) Type 1934 class was the first group of destroyers built in Germany after the end World War 1. The Z4 Richard Beitzen was a part of this new class and named for the World War 1 torpedo flotilla commander who was killed when trying to rescue crewmembers in the water after their torpedo boat hit a naval mine. She represented the forth vessel in a class totaling four ships that included the lead ship - the Z1 Leberecht Maass - and sisters Z2 Georg Thiele and Z3 Max Schulz. The German government selected the Deutsche Werke Corporation as the primary shipbuilding company and the Z4 was laid down in January of 1935 in Kiel, Germany and officially commissioned in May of 1937.
The Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 limited much of the war-making capacity that was the former German Empire. Additionally, the world powers of the time - the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France and Italy - all converged on Washington, D.C. to sign the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. This served manage and limit the size and firepower of navy warships across the globe. As such, Germany was restricted to just twelve completed destroyers along with a number of reserve ships and nothing more. She was assigned no air power whatsoever and her land army was severely restricted to just a few hundred thousand soldiers and armored cars - no tanks of any kind. However, a rebuilding Germany was already planning new warships for her resurging navy and Japan cared little of the restrictions found in the naval treaty. The treaty indicated future German destroyers must displace less than 800 tons but, by 1930, the destroyer limits had been increased to 1,850 tons. Germany saw neighbors Poland and France building large destroyers themselves and President Hindenburg and his Admirals were expected to comply with the limits of the Versailles Treaty. However, there grew a compounding fear amongst German authorities that she would be out-produced numerically by her historical enemies.
This real concern placed pressure on German builders to design a new class of warship with advanced features in an effort to outdo competing ships of other countries. One of these enhanced features proved to be the mounting of 5 x 5-inch L/45 SK C/34 main guns instead of the four being fielded on French, Polish and British destroyers of the day. The fifth gun emplacement was set just forward of the aft funnel in the sway open area so all five guns could be brought to bear when firing a full broadside to port or starboard. However, the Z4 carried 80 rounds per gun less than British type destroyers. She did carry eight torpedo tubes and one reload while the French destroyers were provided with just six tubes and no reloads. Her anti-aircraft (AA) protection included 2 x 37mm guns with 8,000 rounds carried per gun and 6 x 20mm AA guns with 12,000 rounds provided. For Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) protection, hydrophones were provided as passive defense for active defenses came online later on a few ships. Once submarines were detected, a depth charge run would be made. Two rails fed four depth charge launchers though only 18 depth chargers were stowed aboard - a surprisingly few such installations were fitted on German warships despite the Germans superior knowledge of submarine warfare proven by her U-Boat foray.