German Battleship Scharnhorst

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

The German battleship Scharnhorst was the lead ship of her class which included just one other ship, the Gneisenau. She was laid down in June 1935, launched in October 1936, and commissioned in January of 1939. Her January 1939 sea trials identified a design flaw in the bow which caused flooded in the bow and forward gun turret during heavy seas. In response, within a few months of commissioning, Scharnhorst went back to the dockyard for six months of refit including converting the bow into an “Atlantic bow.” Collected below are photographs of the Scharnhorst from before her refit.

Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939-1943). In port when first completed, circa early 1939. Note ship’s badge mounted on her bow, and snowy conditions at right.
German Battleship Scharnhorst at sea, circa early 1939

The port forward 150mm turret of the battleship Scharnhorst or Gneisenau, seen from ahead. Single-mounted 150mm guns are beyond, at main deck level, with 105mm twin anti-aircraft guns above. This is a halftone image, clipped by the US Office of Naval Intelligence from the contemporary German booklet Deutsche Seemacht.
German Battleship Scharnhorst at sea, circa early 1939 (unknown postcard/photo)
German Battleship Scharnhorst in port, circa early 1939 (unknown postcard/photo)
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939). Tied to a mooring buoy in Wilhelmshaven Harbor, circa 1939, as men in a boat push off from her bow. Note anchors, ship’s badges on her bow and on the boat, and paired cables running down from her starboard bow chock. In mid-1939, Scharnhorst‘s bow was greatly modified from the configuration seen here. Copied from page 15 of the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst.
German battleships Scharnhorst (left) and Gneisenau. In a German port, circa spring or early summer 1939, after Gneisenau had been refitted with a “clipper” bow, but before Scharnhorst had been similarly fitted. Two rowing shells (one with four oarsmen and a coxwain, the other with two oarsmen only) are in the foreground. Fine screen halftone reproduction, published in the contemporary German booklet Deutsche Seemacht.

[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:

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