After the construction of the first three
Panzerschiffe (Panzerschiff A-C: Deutschland , Admiral
Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee ) various plans for their
successors were made. Projects ranged from only slightly modified
designs, increased main artillery (like 30 cm guns), ships that
later could refitted with a third turret or Panzerschiffe with steam
The developers first weren't allowed to increase
the size of the ships, so all projects sooner or later lead into a
quite similar design as the older Panzerschiffe. Only after a
significant grow in size was allowed, the final development of the Scharnhorst
class started. Although often called "battlecruisers",
those ships were officially labeled as "battleships".
In difference to the Panzerschiffe a high-pressure
steam engine was chosen for these ship to give them a much higher
speed but since those engines never worked without any problems
later operations were often negatively influenced by them. Their
main artillery was increased by 50%, but unlike other foreign
battleships, the Scharnhorst class got only the small
caliber guns of the Panzerschiffe. The decision for those guns
was made because those guns were already in production and at this
time no bigger gun was developed. To complete the ships in the
planed time, the 28cm (11") guns had to be used. But the
construction of the turret mountings allowed it to replace the 28cm
triple turrets with 38 cm (15") twin turrets. It was
planed to do this conversion after the construction of the next
generation of battleships (Battleship F & G) in 1940, but the
start of the war prevented this.
Battleship D, later called Scharnhorst ,
was laid down in May 1935 at the Kriegsmarine Shipyard in
Wilhelmshaven and commissioned in January 1939. The sister ship Gneisenau
(Battleship E) was laid down in March 1935 at the Deutsche Werke in
Kiel and commissioned in May 1938. It soon got obvious that the
straight bow of the ships had to be modified because of the amount
of water taken over at high speed.
During the war, both ships operated together most
time. They did a successful North Atlantic operation, and were the
only battleships that sink a operational fleet carrier.
25.12.1943 (North Cape)
229,8 m (234,9 m
Kurt Caesar Hoffmann:
cm L/51 C/34 (11"):
cm L/55 C28:
cm L/65 C/33:
cm MG L/64:
miles at 15 kn
first trials in the Jade estuary.
and training in the Baltic Sea.
- August 1939:
construction in Wilhelmshaven, bow is modified.
training in the Baltic Sea.
with Scharnhorst , the Gneisenau is sent
south of Iceland to attack the Northern Patrol.
two battlecruisers sink the British auxiliary cruiser Rawalpindi
Scharnhorst , Gneisenau , CA Admiral
Hipper and the destroyers Wolfgang Zenker
, Wilhlem Heidkamp and Karl Galster are sent
to intercept British convoys between Bergen and England, but
no ships are sighted.
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau cover the invasion
of Narvik. West of the Lofoten, they engage the British BC Renown
and the cruiser Birmingham in bad weather.
Flagship in the Polar Sea operations together with Gneisenau
, Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Karl Galster
, Hans Lody , Erich Steinbrink and Hermann
with British CV Glorious and the DDs Ardent
and Acasta . All British ships are sunk, the Scharnhorst
was hit by a torpedo of the DD Acasta , damaging
middle and starboard engine and Turret Cäsar.
emergency repairs in Drontheim, the Scharnhorst is
sent back to Kiel. Unsuccessful air attacks by the RAF.
unsuccessful attempt to break out in the North Atlantic
together with the Gneisenau . Operation is aborted
after the Gneisenau is damaged by heavy seas.
Start of successful Atlantic operation
and Gneisenau break through the Denmark Street.
HX-108 is sighted but the attack is stopped after the BB Ramiles
is detected covering this convoy. Scharnhorst
unsuccessfully tries to pull the British BB away of the convoy
to enable the Gneisenau to attack the unprotected
from Convoy SL-67 after the sighting of the British BB Malaya
and Gneisenau attack a convoy south-east of
ships enter Brest. They sank 22 ships with 115600 t during
their North Atlantic Operations.
Scharnhorst sinks 8 of them with 49300t.
1941 - Feb 1942:
in Brest, target of many British air attacks. Scharnhorst
is hit by 5 bombs while temporarily anchored in La Pallice
which cause severe damage.
Flagship during the escape the English Channel: Scharnhorst
, Gneisenau and CA Prinz Eugen , eescorted
by 6 destroyers (Paul Jakobi , Richard Beitzen
, Friedrich Ihn , Hermann Schoemann , Z25
, Z29 ) and 14 torpedo boats (e.g. Kondor , Jaguar
, T12 , T13 ), return to Germany.
the third attempt, the Scharnhorst sails to northern
Norway and is stationed in the West Fjord/Alta Fjord.
A squadron consisting of Tirpitz , Scharnhorst
and 9 destroyers (Erich Steinbrink , Karl Galster
, Hans Lody , Theodor Riedel , Z27
, Z29 , Z30 , Z31 , Z33 )
attack the enemy base on Spitzbergen.
- Dec 1943:
is first stationed in the Kaa Fjord, then in the Lang Fjord.
the command of Conter-Admiral Bey, the Scharnhorst
and destroyers Z29 , Z30 , Z33 , Z34
Z38 tries to find and attack the convoy JW-55B on its
way to Murmansk. The Scharnhorst is detected by
British Cruisers after she left her escorts. After several
attempts, the British battleship Duke of York locates
the Scharnhorst .
several hours, the Scharnhorst is sunk at 7:45 pm.
Only 36 crew members survive.