KMS Leberecht Maass (Z1) headed the Leberecht Maass-class (or Type 34) of destroyers for the German Navy in the lead-up to World War 2 (1939-1945). The group became the first such warships to be constructed by / for Germany since the close of World War 1 in November of 1918. The class eventually numbered twenty-two built across three major batches: "Type 34", "Type 34A" and "Type 36". The series was of great value during the early-going for the Germans, particularly for their mining capability and torpedo armament.
Leberecht Maass was ordered on July 7th, 1934 and constructed at the Deutsche Werke yard in Kiel beginning October 15th of that year. Launched on August 18th, 1935, the vessel was commissioned into service on January 14th, 1937. Shortly after she was built, Maass was given additional armoring and her bow section was slightly lengthened.
As a Type 34 destroyer, the warship displaced 2,360 tons under standard load and 3,210 tons under full load. From bow to stern the vessel measured 390.4 feet with a beam of 37 feet and a draught of 37 feet. These ships had deep water capability but their relatively shallow draughts allowed for close-to-shore, coastline function. Power was from 6 x Water-tube boilers feeding 2 x Geared steam turbines developing 70,000 horsepower and driving 2 x Shafts under stern. Maximum speed in ideal conditions was 36 knots, making them quite fast, and range was out to 1,530, which quite restricted long patrolling endeavors.
Aboard there was a crew of about 325 men. The silhouette was conventional with a forward-set superstructure containing the bridge and main mast. A pair of smoke funnels was set aft of the superstructure near midships. A second mast was located aft of the rear smoke funnel and just ahead of the aft superstructure. Gun positions were fore and aft with torpedo launchers in between.
Armament centered on 5 x 5" turreted primary guns in single-gunned mountings with two over the forecastle and the remaining three set towards the stern. These guns were new to the German Navy and not of Dual-Purpose (DP) nature as the proven 4.1" models may have been - but they put the warships on par with French offerings. 2 x 37mm guns in twin-gunned mountings and 6 x 20mm guns in single-gunned mountings provided Anti-Aircraft (AA) defense. The warship was outfitted with a pair of 21" quadruple torpedo launchers and could carry up to sixty naval mines and up to sixty-four depth charges (the latter launched through four throwers or six racks).
The arrival of the class marked a resurgence in German naval capabilities during the interwar period. However, the lull in design and construction of such ships meant that ship engineers lacked familiarity with practical modern methods and so the class was one of mixed technologies and practices, some of them largely untested in naval warfare. One of the issues with the design of this slim, long warship was its propensity to take on water at the bow, making for poor sea-keeping in rough sea states.
The first four of the group were completed to the Type 34 standard and the next sixteen were completed to the Type 34A standard with slight differences between. The related Type 36 ships were nearly 20 feet longer than the original models and this served to help resolve the poor sea-keeping trait of the earlier vessels - however this also reduced endurance some.
Leberecht Maass was one of the ships called by the Navy to shell Polish targets at Gdynia during the opening rounds of World War 2 (September 1939). Maass took a hit to her superstructure from coastal artillery during this entanglement and was forced to sail away for repairs the following day. She was not readied until September 10th and, from there, she was used to mine the North Sea in the hopes of containing the British Fleet. Before the end of the month, the warship was recalled for a refit.
On February 22nd, 1940, the vessel, and other accompanying German ships, was mistakenly attacked by German bombers resulting in Maass losing control of her steering facilities and ultimately sinking with 280 aboard. Other sources state, based on more recent evidence, that the warship may have fallen victim to British naval mines before the end.