She was launched on 18 August 1935 at Deutsche Werke in Kiel and entered service on 14 January 1937. The ship displaced 3,156 tons, had a length of 119.3 m and a beam of 11.3 m, and could steam at 38.2 knots. The armament comprised five 12.7 cm guns in single turrets, four 3.7 cm AA guns, six 2 cm Anti-aircraft guns, and eight 53.3 cm torpedo tubes. The crew numbered about 325.
The ship was the first in a class of four, the others having been Z2 Georg Thiele, Z3 Max Schulz and Z4 Richard Beitzen. Of those, only Z4 survived the war. Z3 was sunk alongside Leberecht Maass on 22 February 1940 while Z2 was scuttled on 13 April 1940 at Narvik.
The destroyer Leberecht Maass was the first destroyer to be build in Germany since the First World War. The ships of this type suffered from a number of problems. They took on large amount of water during high seas, making the forward artillery unusable, had structural weakness and severe vibrations caused by the engines. A new turbine system installed in the ships proved initially promising but soon disappointed and caused them to be limited to a short range, this being one of the two decisive factors against the ships during the battles of Narvik, the other being the ships limited ammunition storage capability.
Leberecht Maass, after being commissioned in January 1937, became the flag ship of the Führer der Torpedoboote (Chief of Torpedo Boats), a position held by Günther Lütjens at the beginning of the Second World War.
On 3 September 1939, Z1 Leberecht Maass and Z9 Wolfgang Zenker took part in an attack on the Polish ships Gryf and Wicher in Gdynia harbour, and Leberecht Maass was hit in a gun shield by a 15 cm grenade and suffered her first four war deaths (the German ships caused only minor damage to the Gryf). It is not clear if Leberecht Maass was hit by the Gryf or the Polish 152 mm coastal battery at Hel.
In early 1940, the ship was part of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla in the North Sea. On 22 February 1940, Leberecht Maass and five other destroyers, Z3 Max Schultz, Z4 Richard Beitzen, Z6 Theodor Riedel, Z13 Erich Koellner and Z16 Friedrich Eckoldt, sailed for the Dogger Bank to intercept British fishing vessels in "Operation Wikinger". En route, the flotilla was erroneously attacked by a Luftwaffe bomber from the X. Fliegerkorps. Leberecht Maass was hit by one bomb, lost steering and strayed into a British minefield. The ship hit a mine and broke in half, sinking with the loss of 282 of her crew, among them the ships commanding officer, Korvettenkapitän Fritz Bassenge. Only 60 were saved. During the rescue effort, Z3 Max Schultz also hit a mine and sank with her entire crew.
The destroyer, named after Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass, carried the number Z1, the Z standing for Zerstörer (English: Destroyer). All German destroyers from Z1 to Z22 Anton Schmitt carried names and numbers. From Z23 onwards, destroyers only carried numbers, no names.
Korvettenkapitän Friedrich Traugott Schmidt: 14 January 1937-29 September 1937
Korvettenkapitän/Fregattenkapitän Willy Wagner: 5 October 1937-4 April 193
Korvettenkapitän Fritz Bassenge: 5 April 1939-22 February 1940
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