Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the German navy was reduced a shell of obsolete or obsolescence warships. It was not just battleships impacted
by the harsh, punitive terms, but also smaller combatants. Germany was only allowed to retain twelve torpedo boats and twelve destroyers and all of these predated
1914. With a country in chaos and on the verge of revolution, little could be done in the early 1920s to remedy the situation. The first tentative steps were taken in
1925 with a new torpedo boat design. German torpedo boats were more akin to the World War Two destroyer escort, so any lessons learned in the construction of
the new torpedo boat designs could be applied to new destroyer designs. Six units of the
Torpedoboote Type 23 were laid down in 1925, followed in 1927 with six
units of the similar
Torpedoboote Type 24 class. Because of the low permitted displacement allowed under the Treaty, it was in the period of the Weimar Republic that
the practice of grossly understating/lying about the true displacement of every warship type was inaugurated.

It was another nine years before the first post World War One German destroyer design was finalized. It was 1934 and Hitler and the National Socialists (Nazis) had
replaced the German Republic. Because of lack of construction facilities, it was realized that Germany couldn’t compete against France and especially Great Britain in
terms of numbers of destroyers. Accordingly, German designers sought to obtain a qualitative superiority of German destroyers over the French and British
destroyers. Although this approach was similar to that taken by the Japanese Navy, the German Designers were less successful than the Japanese Designers.
Ironically, the features incorporated into German destroyer designs, intended to make them superior, proved to be the weaknesses of the design. This centered around
two main warship systems, power plant and armament.
When German destroyers first turned their attention to a new destroyer design, the initial sketch designs were in line with contemporary destroyers in other navies.
It would displace 1,500-tons and be armed with four 5-inch guns and two triple torpedo tubes. The initial design would not offer any significant qualitative
advantage over contemporary foreign designs, so Admiral Raeder mandated a new design that would be larger, have five 5-inch guns and quadruple torpedo tubes
instead of triple. Additionally, a new type of power plant would be used using significantly higher pressure than contemporary plant designs. Contemporary designs
had steam pressure around 300 psi but the new plant would use much higher pressures. Theoretically, this would allow significant advantages. A higher power to
weight ratio offered more power, and reduced space requirements and less weight for the plant. The saved space and weight could be used to enhance other ship’s
systems, further increasing superiority over foreign destroyers.

The high pressure design was not entirely untested, as a few German merchant steamers had selected high pressure designs but they had not yet gone into service,
so there was no operational history yet available when the same technology was selected for the first German destroyer design. Contemporary steam plants
operated around a boiler pressure of around 300psi, however, the new German high pressure designs were designed to operate up to 1,600psi. The boilers selected
for the new destroyer design were manufactured by Benson and operated at 1,325psi. The high pressure design was not ready for prime time and its deficiencies
far outweighed the theoretical advantages. The high pressure caused frequent failures and breakdowns. The problem was not just confined to the destroyers, The
Scharnhorst class battleships and especially the Admiral Hipper class heavy cruisers were also plagued with power plant breakdowns due to the use of high
pressure boilers.
The first four ships (Z1 – Z4), designated Type 34, were completed with a straight stem and trials soon proved that the design of the bow left a lot to be desired, as
the forward part of the ship was very wet. They also had a round front face to the bridge. The bow of the first four was redesigned with an angled cutwater, raised
forecastle and bow sheer and a square bridge added to for more space for bridge personnel. The next twelve were built with these modifications and designated
Type
34A
. Two Type 34 were laid down in October 1934 and the second two in January 1935. The twelve Type 34A ships were laid down between July 1935 to
November 1935. The design was larger in size and heavier in displacement and stronger in armament than most contemporary designs, although the French
Mogodor class was even larger. However, the only real innovation was the use of the high pressure boilers. The destroyers were far ahead of most contemporaries
in terms of anti-aircraft armament. At a time when foreign designs relied on machine guns for AA, the
Type 34 mounted two twin 37mm AA mounts and six 20mm
AA guns. The ships were 390-feet 5-inches oa for
Z1 through Z8 and 397-feet oa for Z9 through Z16. Beam was 37-feet. Displacement ranged between 2,171-tons
to 2,239-tons standard (3,110-tons to 3,160-tons full load. Total armament was five 5-inch (5x1) guns, four 37mm AA guns (2X2), six 20mm AA guns (6x1), eight
21.7-inch torpedoes (2x4) and 60 mines. The high pressure steam plant of six Benson boilers drove two shafts and developed 70,000shp (when not broken) with a
maximum speed of 38-knots. Range was 1,900 nm at 18-knots. The
Type 34 and 34A ships were given names. In a harbinger of things to come, the Bruno
Heinemann
(Z8) was completed was completed with four 5.9-inch guns (150mm) instead of the five 5-inch guns. She was a test unit to see if destroyers gun carry
a heavier main battery successfully. However, the actual tests were done at low speeds in good weather and produced grossly over-optimistic reports.

The next design was called
Type 36. It was basically an improvement of the previous Type 34 design with reduced top weight achieved through the reduction in
height of the forward funnel and amidships superstructure. The hull was lengthened and beam slightly increased with better underwater hull lines making the class
better sea boats than the
Type 34/34A ships. Six ships were in the class, all launched with names. The first three, Z17 through Z19 were completed with a bow
design of the
Type 34A but for the last three, Z20 through Z22, were given clipper bows, further increasing their length. Steam pressure was reduced by switching
to Wagner high pressure boilers operating at 850psi but even with a drop of more than 500psi, these boilers were still plagued by failure and breakdowns.
Z17 to
Z19 were laid down in September and October 1936 but there was a slight delay in start up for the next three because of the redesign with the clipper bow. Z20
through
Z22 were laid down September 1937 through January 1938. The only change in armament over the Type 34 ships was the addition of a seventh 20mm gun.
Length for
Z17 through Z19 was 403-feet 6-inches and for Z20 through Z22 410-feet 1-inch because of their clipper bows. Beam for all units was 38-feet 8-inches.
Displacement ranges from 2,411-tons to 2,449-tons standard and 3,415-tons to 3,469-tons full load. The Wagner boilers and turbine plant produced the same power
and speed as the Benson boiler plant of the
Type 34 ships. Range was slightly increased to 2,100nm at 18-knots by increased fuel oil bunkerage.
The German designs staff was working on a destroyer design, designated Type 37, that would be well suited for operations in the Atlantic but it would take more
time to finalize. Admiral Raeder did not want to lose construction time from the completion of the
Type 36 ships waiting for the new design so an interim hybrid
design was developed and designated
Type 36A. Using a modified Type 36 hull but incorporating five 5.9-inch guns, as a result of the problematic test report from
the
Z8 trials. To save weight the destroyer was designed to carry a twin gun mount in a waterproof gun house forward to replace the two single gun mounts of
earlier designs. The eight ship class,
Z23 through Z30, were laid down between November 1938 through April 1940. Production delays for the new light-weight
forward twin gun turret, caused the ships to be fitted with a temporary single gun 5.9-inch open mount with gun shield to be mounted forward in lieu of the turret.
The
Type 36A hull could be differentiated from the Type 36 hull in that the Type 36A replaced traditional hull anchor hawse fittings on the side of the hull with
slanted anchor bed channels at the upper hull. This feature was also used for
Hipper Class cruisers and the capitol ships. There were also changes to the underwater
form and the use of twin rudders in an effort to shorten the turn radius from that of the
Type 36 ships.

When the turrets became available, they were fitted to the ships and the
Z23 was the last to receive the twin turret in 1942. The twin turret was heavier than
anticipated causing the bow to ride deeper and be very wet. This, coupled with the fact that the gun housing was not water tight, caused electrical shorts and power
failures for the twin turret. The length increased to 416-feet 8-inches oa with a beam of 39-feet 4-inches. Displacement ranged from 2,603-tons to 3,079 tons
standard, 3,543-tons to 3,605-tons full load. The power plant was unchanged with six Wagner high pressure boilers and because of heavier weights and decreased
bow freeboard, maximum speed varied from 36 to 38.5-knots. Range was again slightly increased to 2,174-2,239 nm at 19-knots. Only five instead of seven 20mm
guns were carried. None of the
Type 36A ships were given names. One the ships, the Z28, was further modified to allow it to be a destroyer leader, with flagship
space and capabilities. The
Z28 was laid down November 30, 1939, launched August 20, 1940 and commissioned August 9, 1941 and was the flagship for
Commander Destroyers. To accommodate the increased personnel as a type flagship, superstructure was increased and only four guns carried with two forward
and two aft single gun mounts, creating a unique one-off design.
All of the Type 36A ships were built by Deschimag in Bremen, which was the primary contractor for most of the German destroyers. The seven ships of the class
were laid down between November 15, 1938 and April 15, 1940. All were launched after World War Two started.
Z26 was laid down April 1,1939, launched on
April 2, 1940 and completed January 11, 1941. In common with all of the ships in the class,
Z26 completed with four 5.9-inch guns, tripod foremast, radar and
degausing cables. The class formed the 8th destroyer (Narvik) flotilla.  Originally based in Germany by the end of 1941.
Z23 through Z27 were based at Kirkenes,
Norway with a primary mission of sorties along the coast off Murmansk. In January 1942 the 8th flotilla was sent back to Germany. In March
Z24 through Z26
went back to Norway as Destroyer Group Arctic at Kirkenes. The east bound convoy PQ 13 sailed from Reykjavik, Iceland on March 20. The convoy
encountered a heavy storm on March 24, which scattered the convoy over an area stretching 150 miles. On March 27 the worst of the storm was over and the
cruisers,
HMS Trinidad and HMS Nigeria, set about collecting the stragglers to reform the convoy. The next day the convoy was sighted by a German BV 138B
and the convoy sighted the German flying boat as well.  Destroyer Group Arctic, under the command of Kapitan zur See Ponitz, whose flagship was the
Z26, was
sent after the convoy.  When the three destroyers reached the estimated line of advance, Ponitz deployed them in a line with three miles between ships and swept
to the northwest.  The only thing sighted was a boat of survivors of a merchant sunk by the Luftwaffe. Rescuing these survivors ended the day. Very early on
March 29 the
Z26 encountered the merchant ship Bateau. After removing the crew the Z26 sank the ship with shells and torpedoes. Ponitz moved his destroyers
southward and they continued on this course from 01:40 to 05:30 and sighted nothing.  Ponitz then steamed north three hours and then turned west. During this
time the weather turned bad and the range of visibility dropped greatly.
PQ 13 was now in two groups of ships with the groups separated by 80 miles with another four ships still stragglers.  The western portion of the convoy had
eight merchant ships escorted by destroyers
HMS Eclipse and HMS Oribi, trawler HMS Paynter and Soviet destroyers Gremyashchi and Sokrushitelny. To the
east were the light cruiser
HMS Trinidad and destroyer HMS Fury steaming east to shepherd the four ships of the eastern portion of the convoy back to the
main body. On radar at 08:43
Trinidad picked up a contact to the east at a range of six and a half miles. In another six minutes Z26 stumbled into the Trinidad
with the range down to 2,900 yards.
Z26 twisted and turned to escape into the mist while Trinidad started hitting the German flagship and set her on fire.
Trinidad turned to avoid possible German torpedoes and at 09:22 launched torpedoes of her own. Actually only one was launched, as the other two were frozen
in their tubes. For the next minute
Trinidad continued to hit Z26 with her six-inch main guns. However, at 09:23 a torpedo was sighted 200 yards from the
Trinidad’s port bow. Trinidad tried to avoid it but failed. The torpedo hit the port side of Trinidad and she took a 17 degree list and speed fell to 8-knots. The
torpedo could have been German but more likely was the
Trinidad torpedo running in a circle, which would mean that Trinidad torpedoed herself. Z26
disappeared into the mist but
HMS Fury continued the pursuit. What followed was a true furball, as Z26 with her two sisterships and HMS Fury continued to
the west and ran into the western portion of PQ 13. Now the odds were three German destroyers with a damaged
Z26 versus three British and two Soviet
destroyers and a British trawler.
HMS Eclipse sighted the Z26 but mistook her for HMS Trinidad and held firm, however, the Soviet destroyers fired away at
the unfortunate
Z26. Suddenly HMS Fury broke through the mist and opened fire on the Eclipse. Before any hits were made identification was made and Fury
turned back to the east to protect the
Trinidad. It is fortunate Fury did so because she arrived in time to drive off U-585, which was stalking the crippled
Trinidad. Eclipse continued after Z26, leaving the other escorts behind. At 09:50 Eclipse found the wounded Z26 in a snow storm and opened fire. After
continuous fire
Z26 was dead in the water, on fire, and had her stern awash. Suddenly the other two German destroyers appeared and Eclipse broke off the
engagement.  
Eclipse was hit severely but managed to disappear into the mists. Z24 and Z25 didn’t pursue Eclipse. They stood by the mortally wounded Z26 and
removed 96 of her crew. At 10:57
Z26 rolled over and sank. At this point the two German destroyers returned to Kirkenes.

The first
Dragon 1:350 Scale German Destroyer just happened to be Z39, the last German destroyer to be built mounting 5.9-inch (150mm) guns, and in her
final fit with the full “
Barbara” AA suite. This particular model shows her appearance from February 16, 1945 through her service in the USN as DD-939. It
certainly is a one-off subject, as only
Z39 was the only German destroyer to receive the full Barbara refit. The Dragon Z26 goes in another way with a Type
36A
destroyer as of 1942 without a forward twin 5.9-inch gun mount versus the Z39, a Type 36A Mob B in the final fit of 1945. There certainly is some
commonality in parts but there are certainly significant differences. As always, the
Dragon 1:350 scale Z26 is an impressive, beautiful kit. It can be built full hull
or in water line format as the hull is in two parts with a separate lower hull for those who prefer full hull models in this larger scale. Including the stand there are
at least 19 sprues of plastic parts included with the kit. Detail is outstanding. The box states that the kit has 440 parts and I believe it. If all that plastic was not
enough,
Dragon provides two frets of relief-etched brass.        
The upper hull is clean with an interesting flared stern. The hull port holes have eyebrows (rigoles). In common with other larger German warship designs, the
narrow bow lacked hull mounted anchor hawse and instead had chutes slanting from the forecastle to the upper hull. The lower hull has the usual bilge keels but also
has underwater bilge pump exits and interesting aft lines, due to the unusual stern design. The lower hull in both kits appear identical, except the
Z26 hull does have a
protrusion from the keel near the bow. It looks like a small sonar fin but I am uncertain of its purpose. The upper hulls are identical, except that the Z26 hull does not
have the horizontal reinforcing strake carried by the
Z39. The decks are different on the forecastle. The Z26 has a longer locater outline for the forward
superstructure, whereas the
Z39 base has a shorter superstructure but has the turret ring for the forward twin gun 5.9-inch turret. Both decks have mine rails but
only
Z26 comes with mines.

Sprue C concentrates on the superstructure, superstructure decks and the funnels. Just look at the detail of those parts in the photographs, Square windows,
bulkhead mounted life buoys, circuit wiring, circuit boxes and molded on bulkhead doors with dog detail. However, some doors are open allowing the modeler to use
the photo-etch doors to be positioned open or closed. The funnels also exhibit elaborate detail with rivets, steam lines, strengthening bands, foot/hand rungs and
separate caps with open grates. One of the decks has an open grate deck pattern. The C Sprue for
Z-26 is identical with that for Z-39 but ten of the parts on the
sprue for
Z26 are not used. Sprue D is a small one but it does show how fine Dragon can mold the parts. It concentrates on small details like davits, jack staff and
ensign staff. The sprue is identical in both kits but four of the parts are not used for
Z26 for the masts, although some mast parts are used., for the Z26 other mast
parts are on a sprue not found in the
Z39 kit. For Sprue E only one part is used, which is a rear face bulkhead for the superstructure. There are two F sprues, which
have an assortment of parts from the quadruple torpedo tubes with superb detail, cable reel frames, life rafts, deck windless, binnacles, and search light. The sprues
are identical to the F sprues in the
Z39 kit but a couple of these parts are not used for the Z26. The same two small G sprues are in both kits and concentrate on
ship's boats with the powered launch featuring wood planked decks. However, the
Z26 doesn’t use all of these parts.
With the Z39, with her full throttle “Barbara” AA fit, the two H sprues are crammed with very finely detailed AA guns. It doesn’t matter if it is the 37mm gun or the
20mm gun, the guns are finely molded with flared flash suppressors and exquisite detail. With the
Z26 about 20% of the parts are used because Z26 lacked the AA fit
of
Z39. Four K sprues have the aft single gun 5-inch gun turrets. What is striking about these is their rivet construction and numerous openings. The Z39 had only
two of these sprues because the
Z39 had a twin gun turret forward. L Sprue, which is not found in the Z39 kit, has the decks for the forward superstructure and for
the aft superstructure mounting two of the 5.9-inch guns. Other
Z26 parts, such as the mast are on this sprue. M sprue is another one found in the Z26 and not in the
Z39 kit. These are ten mines with individual bases and mines. The bases have reel detail and the mines have individual contact horn bases. They are fitted on the mine
rails at the stern found in the
Z26. The N Sprue also is in the Z26 but not Z39 kit. These include the bridge deck, bulkheads, different caps & clinker screens (top
grates are photo-etch), aft deck house deck and bridge face parts. The standard
Dragon standing and pedestals is included if the full hull version is
built.                        

There are two brass photo-etch frets with
Z26. They are different from the frets with Z39. The  first (MA) of the brass frets is the smaller. It has hand wheels,
seats, elevation mechanism and brackets for the main guns, as well as director wheels, search light wheels, mine horns, and mine base brackets. The MB fret is large.
It has mast ladders with brackets, life buoy frames, radar array, bridge face bars, fitted vertical ladders, funnel top grates & foot railing, search light platform railing,
ventilator louvers, doors with dog detail, anchors & chain, and boat crane parts.
Dragon uses relief-etching on many of these parts. One sheet of the decals has two
flags, one straight and one furled German flag, and the swastikas for the German ensigns. Which needed to be pieced together.

Instructions are in the standard competent
Dragon format. A single back printed sheet is fan folded to create ten pages of instructions. Each page is as follows: (1)
parts laydown; (2) 5-inch gun turrets and color guide; (3) bridge and fore mast assembly;  (4) forward superstructure and final mast assembly; (5) forward funnel,
torpedo tubes and final bridge assembly; (6) aft funnel and start of art superstructure assembly; (7) final aft superstructure assembly and forecastle fittings
attachment; (8) amidship & stern fittings attachment lower hull assembly; (9) final assembly; and (10) plan & profile.
The Dragon 1:350 scale of the German destroyer, Z26, presents an excellent model of the Type 36A destroyer at the height of the naval war in the Arctic. The kit
portrays the ship when she was lost attacking convoy PQ 13 on March 29, 1942 and includes 19 sprues of plastic parts and two relief-etched brass photo-etch frets.
Steve Backer
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