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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of the Atlantic (Dec 1943)

Scharnhorst battlecruiser

Scharnhorst battlecruiser

Launched in 1936, the battlecruiser "Scharnhorst", like her twin "Gneisenau", was one of those units built with very modern criteria which should constitute the backbone of the reborn Kriegsmarine. She took her name from an armored cruiser which during the First World War had distinguished herself as one of the most powerful and robust units of the High Seas Fleet, and it seemed indeed that also in this war the name of General Gerhard von Scharnhorst would be kept in a high position. Already at the beginning of the war the new unit had begun to get fame; the 23rd November 1939 she had sunk the British auxiliary cruiser "Rawalpindi" through gunfire and later, along with her twin "Gneisenau", she had been used for the corsair war in the Atlantic. The results had been good, because during a single campaign the two ships managed to sink 22 enemy units. Later, the 22nd February 1942, the "Scharnhorst", this time along with the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen", had forced her way across the English Channel, in broad daylight and in front of the eyes of the British, departing from her base in Brest to reach the German ports. The humiliation was big for the British, who since the times of the Spanish Armada had not seen enemy ships in the Channel. After the success of her transfer, it was decided that the "Scharnhorst" would operate, from September, as a complement of the battleship "Tirpitz" against the Allied convoys in the Atlantic. This decision was fatal for the excellent ship which, after midget submarines managed to damage the "Tirpitz", immobilizing her during several months, had to fight alone. In the encounter of the 26th December 1943, after the attempt of intercepting the JW 55B convoy which was heading to Russia, the "Scharnhorst" fell into a trap and found herself in front of the battleship "Duke of York", one of the most modern British units, armed with ten 356-millimeter cannons versus the nine 280-millimeter cannons of the German battlecruiser. The fight was long, but in the end, as it was logical, the "Scharnhorst" had to succumb. To the ears of the mariners of 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 roses on a sailor's grave". They were 36 survivors out of 1900 men, who kept themselves united within the waves while singing. They were all of what remained from the crew of the battlecruiser. Not even one officer was among them.

Launched: 3 October 1936 in the Wilhelmshaven shipyards

Length: 235 meters

Beam: 30 meters

Draught: 9.90 meters

Displacement: 38900 tonnes at full load

Propulsion: Brown-Boveri steam turbines on three shafts fed by twelve Wagner boilers, for a total power of 160000 horsepower; three propellers

Maximum speed: 31.5 knots

Operational range: 15500 kilometers at 17 knots

Armor: 330 millimeters in waterline; 51 millimeters in deck (102 millimeters above magazines); 355 millimeters in conning tower; 362 millimeters in main turret front; 205 millimeters in secondary turret front

Armament: Nine 280-millimeter cannons (3 x 3); twelve 150-millimeter cannons (4 x 2 plus 4 x 1); fourteen 105-millimeter cannons (7 x 2); eighteen 37-millimeter cannons (9 x 2); forty-four 20-millimeter cannons (6 x 4 plus 4 x 2 plus 12 x 1); six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes (2 x 3); one catapult and four aircraft

Complement: 1900

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