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.]

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.]

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 after her refit.

U-47 (German Submarine, 1938-1941) arrives at Kiel, Germany, on 23 October 1939, with her crew at quarters. The battleship Scharnhorst is in the background. U-47 was returning from the mission in which she sank the British battleship Royal Oak inside Scapa Flow on 14 October. This is a halftone image, copied from a contemporary publication.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939-1943) in a German port with her crew manning the rail, circa late 1939, after she had been fitted with a “clipper” bow. This is a halftone image, clipped by the US Office of Naval Intelligence from the contemporary German booklet Deutsche Seemacht. The picture was published on two pages, and has been pieced together at right.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) photographed by A. Klein, Kiel, in the fall of 1939, after completion of her July-August 1939 refit. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 1.
Scharnhorst (German Battleship, 1939) photographed in the fall of 1939, after completion of her July-August 1939 refit. Copied from the contemporary German photo album Meine Kriegserinnerungen auf Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst, page 3.
German battleship Scharnhorst in port, circa 1939-1940
Scharnhorst (German battleship, 1939-1943) recognition drawing, prepared for intelligence purposes, depicting the ship as refitted in 1939. This image was received from Lt. Matthews, Navy office OP 16 F-28 in November 1942.
German battleships Scharnhorst (left) and Gneisenau in a German port, circa 1939-41. The photograph was received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with their letter of 2 October 1941.

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

Daily Factoid

U-Boat Bases and Bunkers: Kiel: After the war, the ruins of the Kilian U-Boat Bunker were cleared in 1959 by the city of Kiel including removing the walls and roof and infilling both pens. Part of the workshop area and the dividing walls can still be seen today at low tide.

Daily Factoid

U-Boat Bases and Bunkers: Kiel: After the war, the British drilled hundreds of holes in the Kilian U-Boat Bunker and packed them with explosives. In September 1945, they detonated these explosives with a stockpile of German Luftwaffe bombs collapsing the dividing wall and bringing down the roof.