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Like many navies, the German Navy of the World War II era used letters and numbers to identify their smaller craft; generally, ships of destroyer size and smaller.  (The first three classes of destroyers -- the Type 1934, Type 1934A, and Type 1936 -- destroyers Z-1 through Z-22 -- carried both a name and a number.  It is my observation that in most reference works, they are known by their "number"; for example, I find many more references to the designation Z-1 rather than the name LEBERECHT MAASS.)  Following is a list of initial letters, the German category these letters were derived from, and an "English translation" of that category.  The latter is not an exact translation, but that of a generally accepted comparable vessel.

 

Source:

NAVIES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR:

   GERMAN SURFACE VESSELS 2

   Lenton, H. T.

   Macdonald and Co. (Publishers), Ltd.

   London, England - 1966

   pp. 156-159

 

Initials Category (German) Equivalent (English)
AFP Artillerie-Fahr-Prahme Naval store ferry (gun)
FR Fluss Räumboote Esturial / river motor minesweeper
F Geleitboote Escort vessel
G Geleitboote Escort vessel
GR Geleit Räumboote Motor launch
HSK Handels-Stör-Kreuzer Armed merchant cruiser
K Kanonenboote Gunboat
KFK Kriegsfischkutter Naval drifter
KM Kleine offensive Minenleger Motor minelayer (small)
KS Kleine Schnellboote Motor torpedo boat (small)
KSB Kriegssperrbrecher Naval mine destructor
KT Kriegstransporter Naval transport
KT Küsten Torpedoboote Torpedo boat (coastal)
KUj Kriegs U-Jäger Naval anti-submarine trawler or corvette
LAT Leichte-Artillerie-Träger Auxiliary gunboat (light)
LS Leichte Schnellboote Motor torpedo boat (light)
M Minensuchboote Minesweeper and auxiliary minesweeper
MA Minensuchboote ausländisch Ex-enemy minesweeper
MAL Marine-Artillerie-Leichter Naval gun lighter
MFP Marine-Fahr-Prahme Naval store ferry
MNL Marine-Nachschub-Leichter Naval store lighter
MR Mittlere Räumboote Coastal motor minesweeper
MRS Minen Räum(bootmutter) Schiffe Depot ship for minesweepers
MZ Mehrzwecke-Fahrzeuge General purpose vessels
PA none Ex-enemy escort vessels
R Räumboote Motor minesweeper
RA Räumboote ausländisch Ex-enemy motor minesweeper
RD none Motor launch
S Schnellboote Motor torpedo boat
SA Schnellboote ausländisch Ex-enemy motor torpedo boat
SAT Schwere-Artillerie-Träger Auxiliary gunboats (heavy)
SB Sperrbrecher Mine destructors
SG Schnelle Geleitboote Fast escort vessels
T Torpedoboote Torpedo boat
TA Torpedoboote ausländisch Ex-enemy torpedo boat
TF Torpedofangboote Torpedo recovery boat
TFA Torpedofangboote ausländisch Ex-enemy torpedo recover boat
TS Tragflachen Schnellboote Hydrofoil craft
U U-boote Submarine
UA U-boote Ex-Turkish submarine
UB U-boote Ex-British submarine
UC U-boote Ex-Norwegian submarine
UD U-boote Ex-Dutch submarine
UF U-boote Ex-French submarine
UIT U-boote Ex-Italian submarine
Uj U-Jäger Sub-chaser
V Versuchsboote Experimental vessel
Vp Vorpostenboote Auxiliary patrol vessel (sea-going)
Vs Vorposten-Sicherungsboote Auxiliary patrol vessel (coastal)
VS Versuchs-Schnellboote Experimental motor torpedo boat
WBS Wetter-Beobachtungs-Schiffe Weather ship
Z Zerstörer Destroyer
ZF Zerstörer französisch Ex-French destroyer
ZG Zerstörer griechisch Ex-Greek destroyer
ZH Zerstörer holländisch Ex-Dutch destroyer
ZN Zerstörer norwegisch Ex-Norwegian destroyer

An exception to the above were the coastal minesweepers (Kustenschutzboote), where the initial letters designated the geographical areas they were employed.

Letters Area employed
BO Belgium (Ostend)
DB Germany (Borkum)
DC Germany (Cuxhaven)
DK Germany (Kiel)
DPk Germany (Pommeranian coast)
DW Germany (Wilhelmshaven)
DWo Germany (Western Baltic)
FB France (Brest)
FBo France (Boulogne)
FC France (Calais)
FGi France (Gironde)
FK France (general)
FL France (Lorient)
FN France (St. Nazaire)
FO France (Oleron)
FP France (La Pallice)
FT France (Toulon)
FV France (general)
GA Greenland (Attika)
GD Greece (Dodecanese)
GK Greece (Crete)
GL Greece (general)
GM Greece (general)
GP Greece (Peloponese)
GPi Greece (Piraeus)
HD Netherlands (Den Helder)
HF Netherlands (general)
HI Netherlands (Ijmulden)
HJ Netherlands (Ijmulden)
HOe Netherlands (Den Oever)
HM Netherlands (Maas)
HR Netherlands (Rotterdam)
HS Netherlands (Scheveningen)
HV Netherlands (Flushing)
JA Jutland / Aalborg
JBe Jutland / Little Belt
KK not listed
NB Norway (Bergen)
NH Norway (Hammerfest)
Ni Norway (general)
NK Norway (Christiansand)
NKj Norway (Kirkennes)
NM Norway (general)
NN Norway (Narvik)
NO Norway (Oslo)
NS Norway (Stavanger)
NSa Norway (Sandnessjoen)
NW Norway (general)
RS Russia (Sevastopol)
RT Russia (Temryuk)
TJM not listed