German Battleship Scharnhorst

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

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 crew and ship during the winter of 1939/40 during their early winter port stay in Wilhelmshaven and their late winter stay in Kiel.

Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) Sailors standing on the ship’s after deck with a Christmas tree, circa December 1939. The ship was then under repair at Wilhelmshaven.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) View looking northeast from within the Hipperhafen, with the Seydlitz pier at right, the Gazelle pier at left and the Kaiser Wilhelm bridge in the distance, circa winter 1939-40. Photographed from the battleship Scharnhorst. Her sister ship, Gneisenau, is ahead with a large floating crane alongside.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) The ship’s forward control tower, with a 10.5-meter rangefinder at its top, seen from abreast the funnel looking forward. Photographed at Kiel or Wilhelmshaven during the winter of 1939-40.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) View of the mainmast, looking up from the platform below. Probably photographed in 1939-40, possibly during early 1940.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) In the ice in Kiel harbor, Germany, during the winter of 1939-40, probably in late January 1940 when the ship was working up after refit.

[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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