The Sperrbrecher ("obstacle breaker"), of which Germany has a
fairly large number along the western coast of Europe, is a converted,
medium-sized merchant ship that bristles with guns. The number of
its weapons, of various types, ranges from 8 to 13, the average
number being 9. A typical example of the armament of one of these
ships is as follows: two
Sperrbrechers are especially useful as antiaircraft ships, but they are
often seen acting as escorts for convoys of
b. Means of Recognition
Some characteristics which usually distinguish the Sperrbrecher from the normal merchant ship are as follows:
(1) One of the masts have been removed.
(2) One or more of the masts have been cut down one-half to one-third the usual height, in order to carry a platform for a light antiaircraft gun or searchlight.
(3) The forward well deck is partly covered by a light deck, which is about the height of the bulwarks; this deck is believed to cover the electrical mine-sweeping gear. The German swastika is nearly always painted in a prominent position on the deck mentioned above, on a hatch, or on the roof of the deckhouse, so that it can be clearly seen from the air. It is between 10 and 15 feet in diameter.
(4) Motor launches, additional boats, and life-saving floats are carried on deck.
(5) A light mast is usually placed amidships, attached to the navigating bridge or funnel, to carry the wireless aerial and the signal halyards.
(6) A small number of derricks are carried; sometimes only one is visible, in a position to handle motor launches.
(7) The large number of guns is always a conspicuous feature.
(8) Gun platforms on these vessels are usually circular; only a few square
ones have been noticed.