German Battleship Scharnhorst

I have written in greater depth about the German battleship Scharnhorst.

The streak of bad omens for the Scharnhorst continued when her first commander went on prolonged sick leave after only a short tenure on the ship. Finally, in November 1939, Scharnhorst began her first operation along with her sister ship Gneisenau, with whom she operated throughout the majority of her career.

Scharnhorst‘s first operation was a sortie into the North Atlantic between Iceland and the Faroe Islands where she sank the British axillary cruiser HMS Rawalpindi. (You can read my account of this battle here.) This mission was intended to take British pressure off of the Admiral Graf Spee operating in the South Atlantic and was conducted prior to major training.

After her return to Wilhelmshaven for minor repairs from splinter damage resulting from her first mission, Scharnhorst spent the winter of 1939-40 in the Baltic Sea for gunnery training. This proved to be a longer training session than normal since heavy ice kept Scharnhorst trapped in the Baltic until February 1940. Collected below are photographs of the Scharnhorst from her winter gunnery practice.

Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) View looking aft on the foredeck, with anchor handling gear in the foreground and two triple 283mm gun turrets beyond. Taken during the winter of 1939-40, at Kiel. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 9.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) View of the after 283mm (11″) triple gun turret and its aircraft catapult, circa winter 1939-40. View looks forward, with the tripod mainmast and naval ensign in the background. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 14.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) Detail view of the rangefinder hood on the right side of the after 283mm (11″) gun turret, during the winter 1939-40. View looks forward, with the ship’s mainmast and flag visible in the background. Note light coating of snow or ice on the turret. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 16.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) View from the forward superstructure, looking toward the bow, as the ship throws spray while underway during the winter of 1939-40. Note ice accumulated on her triple 283mm (11″) gun turrets. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 16.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) Firing her forward 283mm (11″) guns, during exercises in the winter of 1939-40. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 16.

[Images courtesy of the Department of the Navy – Naval History & Heritage Command.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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