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.

Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) The ship’s commanding officer, Kapitan zur Zee Kurt Caesar Hoffman, addresses his officers and crew from a platform by the after main battery gun turret, circa winter 1939-40. Part of the aircraft catapult is visible atop the turret.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) View from the foretop, looking down at the base of the funnel, during the winter of 1939-40. Note crewmen working on what appears to be a minesweeping paravane in the lower part of the image.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) Crewmen cleaning one of the ship’s 283mm (11″) guns, during the winter of 1939-40.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) Crewmen cleaning one of the ship’s 283mm guns, during the winter of 1939-40. Note sleeve around the gun’s muzzle, to direct liquid waste from the cleaning into a bucket on deck below.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) The Boatswain of the Watch at his duty station amidships, during the winter 1939-40. One of the ships 15cm (5.9″) secondary battery gun turrets is in the right background.

[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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