Figure 1: Starboard broadside view of the Minensuchboot M1, an M35 class German minesweeper from World War II. The M35 class was the backbone of the Kriegsmarine’s minesweeper force during World War II. M1 was the lead ship in the class. This illustration is from Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 9. This book gives an excellent account of the German minesweeping forces, as well as all of the other coastal warships used by the Germans during World War II. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Overhead view of Minensuchboot M1. This overhead view shows the rails running along the afterdeck, along which mines were rolled and dropped over the stern. This illustration is also from Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 9. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Actual photograph of M1, date and place unknown. The wartime censor attempted to disguise the ship’s pennant number “1,” but the number can still be seen in the picture. The number is located on the hull just below the forward 4.1-inch gun turret. Courtesy Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 8. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: German coastal vessels were almost always under the threat of being attacked by British aircraft. This is the bridge of an M35 minesweeper and it shows the number of aircraft shot down or damaged by this particular ship. There are nine plane silhouettes, all dated 1941 or 1942. Six are in solid black, three show outlines only, and two at the tips of the arc-shaped display are twin-engined aircraft. In the center of the arc is a white outline of what looks like a British motor gunboat, or MGB. Courtesy Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 11. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: German sailors undergo training on the forward 4.1-inch gun of a minesweeper. Later versions of this gun were fitted with a protective turret. Operating an open gun mount like this one while steaming in the rough North Sea or Norwegian Sea probably took a terrible toll on the gun crews, so the addition of a protective turret must have been welcomed by the sailors on board this class of warship. Courtesy Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 7. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Three German M35 minesweepers at sea, date and place unknown. These ships not only performed mine-clearing and mine-laying duties, they also escorted small coastal convoys and were used for anti-submarine patrols as well. Note the life raft attached to the bridge of the nearest ship. Courtesy Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 11. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 7: Each German minesweeper carried a paravane (seen here on the left) which resembled a tiny aircraft or winged bomb. Paravanes were towed on cables from either side of the minesweeper, their vanes being set to steer them away from the hull of the ship on each side to form an arrowhead-shaped swept area. They were designed to snag the anchor cables of enemy mines, which slid down the tow cables into a cutting mechanism on the paravane. Once the mine popped up to the surface, it could be detonated from a safe distance by gunfire. In the above illustration on the right is a standard German mine from World War II. It was usually attached by cable to a small trolley which also acted as its anchor. Once it was dropped from the minelayer, the cable would unreel, allowing the mine to rise to just below the surface. This illustration is from Kriegsmarine Coastal Forces, by Gordon Williamson and illustrated by Ian Palmer, published by Osprey Publishing in 2009, page 9. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 8: A small flotilla of German M35 minesweepers at sea, date and place unknown. German Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
The German Kriegsmarine’s 870-ton M1 was the lead ship in the M35 Minensuchboot, or minesweeper, class. M1 was built by the HC Stülcken Sohn Shipyard at Hamburg, Germany, and was commissioned on 1 September 1938. The ship was approximately 223 feet long and 28 feet wide, had a top speed of 18 knots, and had a crew of 107 officers and men. M1 was armed with two 4.1-inch guns, one 37-mm gun, two 20-mm guns, and four depth-charge launchers, and could carry 30 mines. Later on in the war, the anti-aircraft armament was increased by replacing the 20-mm flack guns on either side of the bridge with twin mounts, as well as replacing the single 37-mm gun with a quadruple 20-mm gun mount. Several light machine guns were also carried by all of these ships.
When the German Kriegsmarine was established in 1935, there was an urgent need to replace the few old minesweepers that remained in service from World War I. As a result, the M35 class of minesweepers was created that same year. They turned out to be some of the best minesweepers ever built. These tough, versatile, and very seaworthy vessels were powerfully armed for ships of this type. They were also assigned a wide variety of tasks, including coastal convoy escort, anti-submarine warfare, and mine-laying, along with their normal minesweeping duties. Their major drawbacks were that they were fairly complex and expensive to build and they had to be maintained by skilled technicians, which were hard to come by towards the end of World War II. In addition, the M35 class possessed oil-fired boilers, which was a problem due to the massive fuel shortages in Germany by the end of the war. None of these minesweepers had names, only a pennant number with the letter “M” (for “Minensuchboot” or minesweeper) before it.
M1 was used primarily as a minesweeper and as a coastal escort vessel during World War II. M1 was built from steel (although her superstructure and bridge were made of light alloys) and she had twelve watertight compartments plus a double-hulled bottom, making her a tough little ship to sink. M1 served with the 1. Minensuchflottille and 4. Minensuchflottille during World War II and she operated in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Although her battle history is sketchy, from September to October 1939, M1 probably participated in the German invasion of Poland around Danzig Bay as a unit of the 1. Minensuchflottille. She was initially used for minesweeping and general patrol duties, but later was assigned to anti-submarine missions.
In November 1939, M1 was used as a minesweeper and escort in the North Sea. During “Operation Weserübung,” or the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, M1’s flotilla was used to patrol the North Sea and the waters off the coasts of Holland and northern France. In February 1942, M1’s flotilla was used as a minesweeping escort for the German warships participating in the famous “Channel Dash,” where two German battleships and a heavy cruiser (along with their escorts) ran a British blockade and successfully sailed from Brest in Brittany, France, to their home bases in Germany via the English Channel. For the remainder of the war, M1 was attached to the 4. Minensuchflottille and used for minesweeping, mine-laying, and escort duties in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Eventually, M1 was based in Norway and was used as a minesweeper, mine-layer, and escort along the Norwegian coast. On 12 January 1945, M1 was attacked and sunk by Allied aircraft at Nordbyfjord, near Bergen, Norway. Twenty crew members were lost when the ship went down.A total of 68 M35 minesweepers were built in various shipyards prior to and during World War II. Approximately 30 were lost in action during the war. Of the ships that survived the war, 17 were taken by the US Navy, 13 by the Soviet Union, and 5 by the British Royal Navy. The US Navy returned five of its M35 minesweepers to the new German Bundesmarine Navy in the mid-1950s.