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The fate of the Scharnhorst


Written by Sakhal

The Tirpitz and the Scharnhorst in Norway

Since the beginning of the war Adolf Hitler did not show great sympathy toward Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, the supreme chief of the Kriegsmarine. He disliked, especially, the sympathy of Raeder toward the large surface units, which himself considered to be anachronistical. Totally ignorant of naval strategy, Hitler did not understand the importance of large warships, which he defined as "heavily armored medieval knights, fighting in a modern war". He did not understand that the surface naval forces sent to the northern seas, even if forced to stay docked, exercised upon the enemy the pressure of a potential threat. So, without paying attention to Raeder's arguments, Hitler ordered the immediate disarmament and dismantlement of the large warships, to reuse the scrapped material in the construction of light and aggressive units. Then Raeder resigned.

Losing Raeder was a serious blow for the German Navy, albeit rather softened by the choice of his successor, Admiral Karl Doenitz. Younger, more audacious, triumphant with his submarinists, of whom he was the undisputed and idolized chief, Doenitz seemed "blander" than Raeder in respect of the Nazi party, and this did not displease Hitler. But the chief of the "submarine wolves" was just more diplomatic, as he managed to partly revoke the order of dismantling the large warships and did not tolerate interferences in the Navy from the grand political names. The dismantlement of the large warships was limited to units of little military value or those which were useless for training. They were dismantled the cruisers Admiral Hipper, Leipzig and Koln, besides the old battleships Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein. They were kept in service the battleships Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Lutzow, the cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nurnberg, and the "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer.

The Tirpitz, the Scharnhorst and the Prinz Eugen formed the main core of the defense of Norway and the harassment of the convoys which crossed the Arctic to supply the Soviet Union. But their positions were highly watched by the Anglo-American aerial and naval forces, so in practice they could not do a lot against the enemy traffic. The appalling weather conditions in the first months of the year 1943 made the situation worse; the convoys could transit while suffering only little losses caused by the German aircraft and submarines. From March to December the Allies almost completely suspended the traffic of supply convoys across the Arctic. It was feared a raid from the battleships docked in Norway and it was preferred to cross the Mediterranean, which was no longer dangerous, and then the Persian Gulf to send the materials to the Soviet.

At this time, the most fearsome ship of the German Navy was the Tirpitz, sister of the unfortunate Bismarck, which had been sunk two years before. The Tirpitz had a displacement of 42,900 tonnes, a length of 251 meters, a beam of 36 meters and a draught of 10.6 meters. Her main armament was constituted by eight 380-millimeter cannons installed in four twin turrets, two afore and two abaft. The rest of the armament comprised twelve 150-millimeter cannons, sixteen 105-millimeter cannons, sixteen 37-millimeter cannons and more than seventy 20-millimeter cannons. She could reach a speed of 29 knots and her complement was 2530 men. The diverse installations placed onboard were the best product of the German industry. For example, her rangefinders were capable of measuring distances beyond 70,000 meters.

The Tirpitz had been destined to Norway in the beginning of 1942. Many times attacked by the Royal Air Force and always unscathed from these encounters, she became the ghost of the British warships sent to escort the convoys which crossed the Arctic toward the Soviet port of Murmansk. Since March 1943 the Tirpitz was anchored in the Altenfjord, where the Scharnhorst joined her. The suspension of the convoys crossing the Arctic allowed the two large ships to remain inoperative during a large part of the year. In September, the High Command of the German Navy decided to use them to destroy the coal mines and the facilities in the Spitzbergen. The Tirpitz and the Scharnhorst, escorted by ten destroyers, departed the 6th September toward those waters. After arriving by surprise to Barensburg, one of the main centers, the German disembarked marine infantry units which immobilized the garrison (formed by Norwegian soldiers under British command), set fire on the deposits and destroyed the radio stations. The cannons of the Tirpitz contributed to demolish the facilities. The operation lasted for three days and ended happily for the German.

tirpitz_battleship_firing_upon_spitzbergen.jpg

The Tirpitz firing upon Spitzbergen in September 1943. They are visible in the photograph elements such as the line of the armor belt, the turrets of secondary and anti-aircraft artillery, the hemispheres covering the anti-aircraft fire control directors, the aft fire control turret fitted with optical rangefinder and radar antenna, aiming in the same direction than the main artillery turrets, the larboard crane, and the masts fitted with yards, tops, stays and antenna wires.

In London the intention was to face the German battleship by means of midget submarines of the X class. These were tiny, subaquatic rather than submersible assault units, with a crew of four and fitted with two explosive mines intended for being released under the hull of the enemy ships. The charges were regulated for exploding after the tiny submarines had had enough time to move away. In September 1943, six of these submarines departed from the British bases for attacking the Tirpitz. They traveled towed by normal submarines, onboard which the attack crews were housed. The British thought that, for keeping rested the men who had to operate inside the German base, it would be better to assign two crews to each midget submarine: one for the navigation to Norway and another one for the actual mission.

Returned from her mission against the Spitzbergen, the Tirpiz was secluded in her refuge again. She was anchored in the Kaalfjord, one of the two arms of the Altenfjord, facing to the dock the whole length of her larboard side. The protection against possible submarine attacks was ensured by a triple belt of anti-submarine nets, of 15 meters in depth. The first one protected the prow of the battleship, the second one protected the uncovered starboard side and the third one protected the stern. The Luftwaffe had installed, along the coast of the fjords Alten and Kaal, numerous anti-aircraft emplacements fitted also with smoke launchers, to conceal the area when it were necessary. The enclosure where the great battleship was anchored was practically impenetrable.

The midget submarines attack the Tirpitz

The night of the 20th September the British midget submarines entered the Altenfjord after having been released from their towing in the mouth of the fjord. But the travel was not a happy one for everyone: the X-9 sank along with her crew and nothing else was known about her; the X-8 was abandoned by her crew because of the damages suffered when one of her mines exploded; and the X-10 was not prepared for entering the fjord because of a breakdown. Hence, only three of the six units initially intended were in condition of attacking the Tirpitz.

The morning of the 22nd September, shortly after 9:00 o'clock, life onboard the great battleship was going by as usual. Then, unexpectedly, the scream of a mariner was heard: "Alarm! It is a submarine!". After the initial surprise and confusion, the alarm sirens rang throughout the whole ship. The submarine was very nearby, so much that the crew onboard began to fire at her with rifles and even pistols. Without hesitation, a midshipman and some men leaped into a service boat moored to the battleship and swiftly moved toward the enemy submarine, which was facing difficulties. The crew, which was captured, had to leave the submarine while she was sinking. Shortly after, a second submarine was sighted at a reasonably close distance for shooting at her with the 37-millimeter cannons and sinking her. And finally also the third submarine was spotted and enfiladed by the defenders.

It seemed that the danger had passed when an explosion took place under the stern of the Tirpitz. A mine placed by one of the submarines caused severe damages in the rudders and in the propellers. Two of the three submarines which penetrated inside the fjord, the X-6 and the X-7 commanded by the lieutenants Cameron and Place, managed to place themselves beneath the battleship before being sunk. The British counted six dead and six prisoners. Onboard the German battleship the dead and the wounded were about forty. Through the hole opened by the explosion the ship received 800 tonnes of water. For the repairs more than five months would be necessary.

The British mariners carried with them maps of extreme precision and exact charts about the life onboard the Tirpitz. When the German seized these documents they noticed with certain surprise that the British were extremely well informed and prepared to the minimum detail. It was obvious that the operation had been developed with the valuable help from the Norwegian resistance. Albeit the Tirpitz was not sunk, the raid carried out by the British crews should be considered to be a great success. The most powerful unit of the German Navy was already immobilized.

Encouraged by the success, the British attacked from the air the German convoys in the Norwegian waters where, until then, the navigation had been considered to be safe. Also the British Admiralty took advantage from this new situation, by deciding to retake the traffic of convoys across the Arctic. Two convoys were organized: one going to Murmansk and another one returning from the same port. Being both formed by twenty ships, the first one carried valuable materials for the Soviet Union whereas the second one returned empty. To this latter an escort was assigned, formed by the British cruisers Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield, along with four destroyers; this formation was commanded by Vice Admiral Burnett. Much more imposing was the protection assigned to the other convoy, escorted by cruisers, torpedo boats and corvettes, whose remote escort was entrusted to the battleship Duke of York, the cruiser Jamaica and four destroyers. This esquadron was commanded by the very chief of the Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser.

The 22nd and 23rd December, the German aviation sighted the convoy two times, and the German chiefs had no doubt about the destination of those ships. The U-Boot on the Arctic positioned themselves west of Bear Island, with the purpose of spotting and attacking the convoy if it passed through those waters. In the morning of the 25th December the submarines sighted the convoy, but not the Duke of York, which navigated distanced from the convoy. Consequently, the German command took the appropriate measures without being aware of the presence of the British battleship in the sea. They did not know either that the indicated convoy was about to cross paths with the convoy returning from Murmansk, which was escorted by warships as well.

Considering the partial data that he had on the board to be complete, Doenitz declared that the proportion of forces was favorable for the German despite the neutralization of the Tirpitz, for the Scharnhorst and six destroyers were in the Altenfjord. Therefore he ordered that the combat group stationed in the fjord soon departed to intercept and destroy the enemy formation. The 25th December at 19:00 o'clock the Scharnhorst and five destroyers left the fjord and four hours later they were navigating along the Norwegian coast. The formation was commanded by Rear Admiral Erich Bey. The Scharnhorst had a displacement of 38,900 tonnes, a length of 235 meters, a beam of 30 meters and a draught of 9.9 meters. Her main armament was constituted by nine 280-millimeter cannons installed in three triple turrets, two afore and one abaft. The rest of the armament comprised twelve 150-millimeter cannons, fourteen 105-millimeter cannons, sixteen 37-millimeter cannons and numerous 20-millimeter cannons. Her complement was 1900 men.

hunt_of_the_scharnhorst.png


Once in navigation, Bey found the sea and wind conditions to be worse than how they had been described to him before the departure. Especially the wind, which had been calculated to be of Level 6, was increasing, and in the waters where the convoy should be found it reached for sure the Level 8. Bey had been the commander of the squadron destroyers and in that moment he was worried about those ships. Could the destroyers operate with the wind and the sea in continuous rise? At 23:55 o'clock he sent a radio message to the Fleet Command to show his concern. They replied that, if the destroyers could not endure the sea, the Scharnhorst could act on her own against the convoy. Then Bey ordered to ask through optical signals the opinion from Captain Johannesson, who was in command of the destroyer flotilla. Johannesson replied that they could endure it for the time being, and that he expected an improvement of the weather conditions.

The 26th December at 3:00 o'clock, Admiral Fraser, the British commander, was informed that the German battlecruiser was almost certainly on the sea. Then Fraser ordered that the convoy moved northward, while the destroyers escorting the convoy returning from Murmansk left their convoy to reinforce his own escort. At the same time the cruisers Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield were sent to intercept the Scharnhorst. Meanwhile, this latter tried in vain to intercept the convoy. At 8:30 o'clock the British cruisers set radar contact with the Scharnhorst from a distance of 17 miles. Shortly after 9:00 o'clock, after decreasing the distance, the Norfolk opened fire and the Scharnhorst promptly replied. The British cruisers, whose artillery could not compete against the 280-millimeter cannons of the German battlecruiser, moved away after a brief gunfire.

Bey was determined to find the convoy and at 10:00 o'clock he headed to the northeast. Later he got from the Fleet Command the exact position of the ships which he was searching for, after this important data were immediately transmitted by an U-Boot which had arrived to the middle of the convoy. Then Bey realized that he was in a parallel route, and insisted on going forward, with a plan to outflank the convoy from the north. But due to the sea conditions the German destroyers did not manage to approach the convoy. Meanwhile, an aircraft spotted the British squadron and after a quick reconnaissance the observer communicated to his Command that this squadron very probably included a large unit, perhaps a battleship. This valuable message was transmitted to Bey, but in an incomplete manner. There was no reference to the presence of a large unit and it insisted in the belief that the British formation comprised just five destroyers. The German commander was so unaware of the presence of an enemy battleship which was navigating toward him, and thus he continued his unsuccessful hunt.

The British cruisers again interposed themselves between the convoy and the German battlecruiser, and shortly after the noon the rivals engaged in a new gunfire. It is almost certain that after this encounter Bey realized that it would not be possible for him to fall upon the enemy freighter ships. The enemy cruisers, fitted with a more powerful radar which was in good condition (unlike that of the Scharnhorst, which was damaged because its antenna had been hit during the first encounter), could track his ship with precision. There was nothing else to do than to return to the base. Bey transmitted to the destroyers the order of returning on their own and quickly headed to the south-southeast toward Norway. Unfortunately, the new route crossed the path of the British force commanded by Fraser, which was swiftly approaching.

The cruisers Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield placed themselves after the German battlecruiser without losing contact. So, when shortly before 17:00 o'clock the Duke of York was at shooting distance, the searchlights from the Belfast illuminated the target. The Scharnhorst quickly turned to the east to escape from the most powerful British battleship, which displaced 35,000 tonnes and was armed with ten 356-millimeter cannons. The German battlecruiser increased the speed to the maximum possible, and the Duke of York pursued her while firing her heaviest projectiles at her. After one hour and half Fraser suspended the gunfire because the enemy ship was outside his reach.

hms_duke_of_york_battleship.jpg

The 35,000-ton battleship HMS Duke of York, armed with ten 356-millimeter cannons, was the most powerful ship among the British squadron which attacked the Scharnhorst.

Reduced to a smoking piece of scrap

The Scharnhorst, albeit damaged in the turrets of largest caliber, had not suffered damages in the machinery nor in the hull. Thus Bey believed to be out of danger. Thanks to her superior speed, the German battlecruiser had managed to escape from the slower British battleship. But Fraser did not share the same opinion. When he saw his prey fleeing he ordered his destroyers to attack her. Two destroyers attacked the Scharnhorst from the left and another two from the right. A total of twenty-six torpedoes were launched and the Scharnhorst was hit by three of them. The consequences are clearly imaginable. Forced to reduce her speed because of the damages suffered, the Scharnhorst was caught by the Duke of York.

The German, as usual, fought well, but it seemed useless against the firepower of the British battleship. Reduced to a smoking piece of scrap, the Scharnhorst stopped firing at 19:30 o'clock. Her commander ordered an "every man for himself", but it was too late. Few minutes later the German battlecruiser exploded and sank. To the ears of the mariners onboard the British destroyers, which navigated the area of the sinking to gather the castaways, weakly arrived words from an old song of the German Navy: "There are no flowers on a sailor's grave". The German survivors remained united amid the waves while singing. The British managed to save only 36 out of the 1900 crewmen. Not even one officer was among them.

After having lost the last of surface battles, Admiral Doenitz could only count on his submarines. His last hopes were focused in the entry into service of the new submarines fitted with "schnorkel" and, if they could arrive in time, the electric submarines. However, 1944 was not presenting itself with good auspices for the German Navy.

The Scharnhorst

In 1932 France laid down the "fast battleship" Dunkerque, which outclassed the "pocket battleships" of the Deutschland class. In 1928 the German had prepared the plans for a ship of 19,300 tonnes of standard displacement armed with three 280-millimeter triple turrets, even if these characteristics could have gone against the dispositions from the Versailles Treaty. Circa 1932 a "Panzerschiff" (armored cruiser) armed with four 305-millimeter twin turrets, three 150-millimeter triple turrets and four anti-aircraft cannons was designed. Her 160,000 horsepower could have provided a speed of 34 knots, but the armor was too weak, in the style of a battlecruiser, a type of ship which the latest technical improvements had rendered obsolescent.

The project of the Scharnhorst was officially made for a ship of 26,410 tonnes of standard displacement with armor of medium thickness, three 380-millimeter twin turrets, high speed and a reasonably long operational range. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of projects developed since 1918, none of those made for a heavy artillery turret was valid and, since the design and construction of turrets took longer than that of ships, the 380-millimeter twin turrets were not available until 1938-1939 even if they were based in projects from the First World War. However, four 280-millimeter triple turrets had been already ordered and they were in construction. Their destination would be the fourth and fifth ships of the Deutschland class, which had been already planned. Another two of these turrets were ordered and incorporated to the Scharnhorst project as a provisional measure, as it was intended to replace them by 380-millimeter turrets at a later date.

Because of the lack of experience of the project team regarding large high-speed warships, the hull was based in that of the battlecruiser Mackensen from the First World War. It was initially intended to install the whole secondary armament in twin turrets, but the utilization of machinery of almost twice the power than that of the Mackensen, even if it was one of modern design, did not leave enough available space for the central turrets. Because of this four 150-millimeter single mountings, initially ordered for the fourth and fifth ships of the Deutschland class, were installed amidships, despite having a lesser protection. The best characteristic of the Scharnhorst project was the adequate provision of directors for the anti-aircraft armament, even if a better utilization of the weight could have been made by installing dual-purpose secondary armament.

The Scharnhorst was fitted with new lightweight high-pressure machines, which were notoriously unrealiable because they had been hastily installed before having been adequately tested. The utilization of turbines instead of Diesel engines, to ensure a high speed, meant as well a reduced operational range. One of the characteristics kept from the Mackensen was the low freeboard in the prow. Even after having been modified with the raised "Atlantic bow" the forecastle was too wet. This put these ships in a notable disadvantage when navigating on rough waters, as it happened during the encounter with the Renown and in the Battle of Cape North.

Despite the mixed origins of the project, the units of the Scharnhorst class were powerful ships, albeit they could have been very improved if the 380-millimeter cannons had been installed, for the 280-millimeter ones were inadequate even for facing an outdated capital ship. These ships carried out some incursions with effectiveness, albeit often disturbed by failures in the machinery and a restricted operational range. Besides, the German Admiralty insisted that they should not face even an outdated capital ship, because their armor, and particularly the horizontal one, was totally inadequate for withstanding very heavy projectiles.

After 1939 the Scharnhorst could be differentiated from the Gneisenau because her main mast had been reallocated further aft, from its original position immediately after the funnel. The Gneisenau was launched the 8th December 1936 in the Deutschewerke naval shipyards at Kiel and completed the 21st May 1938, seven months and half earlier than the Scharnhorst. The service historial of the Gneisenau from 1942 is similar to that of the Scharnhorst. The 27th February 1942 she was severely damaged by a bomb which shattered her bow, and then it was planned the reconstruction with a longer and more seaworthy bow, as well as the installation of 380-millimeter cannons. But this project was abandoned and the Gneisenau was eventually scuttled, without ever being repaired, the 27th March 1945.

scharnhorst_battlecruiser_1942.jpg

The Scharnhorst in February 1942, in the time of the very short incursions in the English Channel. Note the artillery radars in the superstructure, the extra 20-millimeter anti-aircraft cannons and the Arado seaplane.

SPECIFICATIONS OF SCHARNHORST

Class: Scharnhorst (Gneisenau and Scharnhorst)

Built in: Wilhelmshaven Shipyards

Authorized: 1934

Keel laid: 16 May 1935

Launched: 3 October 1936

Completed: 7 January 1939

Reconstructed: July-September 1939

Fate: Sunk on 26 December 1943

Length (as built): 229.8 meters

Length (after reconstruction): 234.9 meters

Beam: 30 meters

Draught: 8.2 meters

Displacement (normal): 35,400 tonnes

Displacement (full load): 39,520 tonnes

Engines: Twelve Wagner boilers; Brown-Boveri steam turbines of simple reduction; three propellers

Power (total): 165,000 shaft horsepower

Fuel load (normal): 2800 tonnes

Fuel load (maximum): 6300 tonnes

Speed (maximum): 32 knots

Operational range: 8400 nautical miles at 17 knots

Armor: 170-250 millimeters in main belt; 30 millimeters in ends; 50 millimeters in upper deck; 20-50 millimeters in armored deck; 150-360 millimeters in main turrets; 200-350 millimeters in barbettes; 50-140 millimeters in secondary turrets

Armament: 9 x 280-millimeter 54-caliber cannon (3 x 3); 12 x 150-millimeter 55-caliber cannon (4 x 2 + 4 x 1); 14 x 105-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon (7 x 2); 16 x 37-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon (8 x 2); 8 x 20-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon (increased to 22 x in 1943); 6 x 533-millimeter torpedo tube (2 x 3); 4 x reconnaissance aircraft

Complement: 1840



SERVICE HISTORY OF SCHARNHORST

21-27 November 1939: Sortie in the North Sea alongside the Gneisenau.

23 November 1939: Sank the British merchant ship Rawalpindi.

April-June 1940: Campaign in Norway. Operations alongside the Gneisenau.

9 April 1940: Gunfire with the British battlecruiser Renown in the rough waters of Norway.

8 June 1940: Sank the British aircraft carrier Glorious and the destroyers Acasta and Ardent. Hit by a torpedo from the Ardent; turret C and part of the machinery put out of action; 2500 tonnes of water flooded the hull.

13 June 1940: Hit by bombs dropped by aircraft from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal.

June-November 1940: Repairs in Kiel.

22 January-23 March 1941: Sortie in the Atlantic alongside the Gneisenau. Sank 22 ships of a convoy protected by the British battleships Ramillies (8 February), Malaya (7 March) and Rodney (15 March), which she never faced in combat.

23 March 1941 - 11 February 1942: In Brest.

24 July 1941: Hit by five bombs from British bombers.

11-13 February 1942: Short raids in the English Channel alongside the Gneisenau and the Prinz Eugen.

12 February 1942: Attacked by British aircraft and light units. Hit by mines. Seriously damaged.

15 February-October 1942: Repairs in Kiel.

March 1943: In Norway.

6-9 September 1943: Raid upon Spitzbergen alongside the Tirpitz.

22-26 December 1943: Sortie against the convoy JW 55B in route toward Russia.

26 December 1943: Battle of Cape North. Sunk by the British battleship Duke of York and the cruisers Norfolk, Sheffield, Belfast and Jamaica. Also by the destroyers Savage, Saumarez and Scorpion, and the Norwegian destroyer Stord. The Norfolk was damaged but the Scharnhorst was hit by at least thirteen 356-millimeter projectiles and eleven torpedoes. Only 36 crew members survived.



Battleships thrown to the trash

The following text corresponds to the plan prepared by the chief of the German Navy in pursuance of the order issued by Hitler for the disarmament or dismantlement of those warships considered by the Fuhrer to be useless for a modern war:

1. Dispositions of date 2 February 1943: cessation of all the works in battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers and troop transport ships with exception of the ships destined to training. The cessation of the works comprises also the weapons and equipment intended for these ships, but it will be regulated so as to prevent that an unexpected interruption of the works arrives to the exterior. The disposition refers to the following ships: Modern battleships: Tirpitz. Old battleships: Schlesien, Schleswig-Holstein. Aircraft carriers: Graf Zeppelin. Battlecruisers: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Heavy cruisers: Admiral Hipper. Light cruisers: Koln, Leipzig.

2. a) For the existing anti-aircraft pieces of these units the following is provided: ... b) Besides it is provided that the existing medium-caliber pieces onboard be employed in the coastal defense (14 batteries). However, it will be discarded the disassembly of the heavy artillery (turrets, calibers of 380 mm, 280 mm and 203 mm) because, firstly, the assembly of these turrets in the coast implies another year of work; secondly, the disassembly of the turrets equals to the dismantlement of the ships, whose preservation and later utilization of the hulls and the onboard facilities are impossible. c) The defensive power of the ships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst for repelling enemy landings (Norway) will be also considered to be more effective if it were possible to transfer these ships with the role of mobile heavy batteries every time to the epicenter of the fight, rather than installing their turrets in a certain point in the coast where they would have only a limited effectiveness of local character.

3. They are susceptible of dismantlement: a) ships still not prepared to the point of being operative and which require work in shipyards (Admiral Hipper, Koln, Leipzig); b) ships whose operative employment can not be taken into consideration because of their old age and the conditions in which they are (Schleswig-Holstein, Schlesien, Leipzig, Koln); c) ships no longer necessary for the training of the new promotions of officers, non-commissioned officers and mariners, especially of the submarine weapon; d) ships whose operative employment will be later necessary only for a limited period (Tirpitz in Norway, Scharnhorst in the Baltic Sea); e) it is convenient to take into account the workload capacity of the shipyards and the burden that the dismantlement operations, the available anchorage places, the large crane installations, the tugboats, the storehouses and the housing of the crews as they disembark will be for them; f) they are to be avoided negative repercussions of military and propagandistic nature in the Navy, in the interior of the country and in the exterior, caused by a sudden dismantlement of the large units. The dismantlement, if it is carried out in a slightly patent way and accompanied by the progressive disassembly of all the weapons and equipment, will take place during the turn of permanence in the shipyards, otherwise already set in time or imminent according to the following plan: already dismantled the Gneisenau, still out of service the Graf Zeppelin, to dismantle the Leipzig in February, to dismantle the Admiral Hipper and the Koln before 1 March 1943, to dismantle the Schleswig-Holstein before 1 April 1943, to dismantle the Schlesien before 1 May 1943, to dismantle the Scharnhorst before 1 July 1943, to dismantle the Tirpitz before the autumn of 1943.

4. The following units capable of putting to sea continue in service with the role of training the naval forces: Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer, Lutzow, Nurnberg, Emden. These ships are exactly sufficient for ensuring the basic training of the new promotions for submarines and surface forces (training in the employment of high-pressure steam facilities and engines, as well as the individual training of the mariners), for the specialization centers of naval weapons and for the experimental and developmental activities of the Kriegsmarine.

5. They remain in service the following ships: In the area of Norway, the Tirpitz until the autumn of 1943, the Lutzow and the Nurnberg until 1 August 1943. In the area of the Baltic Sea, the Scharnhorst until 1 July 1943, the Prinz Eugen until 1 May 1943, later training ships. The training ships Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer, Leipzig, Nurnberg and Emden are no longer in condition of fighting due to the continuous change of personnel. Hence they will receive in the shipyards only the necessary assistance for putting them in condition of accomplishing their role of training units.

The Fuhrer has expressed the opinion that an employment of the naval forces limited by restrictions of this genre will no longer allow to achieve true successes. The command organs must set even before its planning whether an operation is worth to be undertaken and justifiable in view of the presumable proportion of forces. Once the operation has been started, the commander of the involved formation must prioritize the will of destroying the enemy through any means, over the scruples relative to the damages and losses of the war units. Only the well-known combative spirit of the fleet can influence in a determinant way the decisions taken by the commanders of the formations and the units. Numerous initiatives have demonstrated that this spirit has not been weakened. I have realized about it in the frequent conversations with the chief commanders, commanders and non-commissioned officers, who once put to sea have only thought of destroying the enemy without recalling limiting restrictions. I hope that the ships and the submarines of the fleet will have the chance of facing the enemy with this spirit. Hence the role of the commanders will be to lead the formations and the ships solely on the basis of experienced tactical principles, to take advantage with good sense of the own combative effectiveness for destroying the adversary within the possibilities that the situation in the sea offers.


lutzow_and_admiral_hipper_cruisers.jpg

In the late 1942, in the attempt of eliminating the convoys in the Arctic, it was launched the "Regenbogen" (Rainbow) operation, in which the "pocket battleship" Lutzow and the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper took part. The failure of the operation led Hitler to decide the dismantlement of the surface fleet.

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Categories: Ships - Naval Warfare - World War Two - 20th Century - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2016-09-20

Article updated: 2020-10-30


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