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Scharnhorst - Battleship


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 Special thanks to Michael Emmerich of for the use of images and information in this section.


Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst 1943


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 engines.

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.


Construction Data Dimensions Commanders
Laid down:     Kriegsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven, 15.06.1935
Launched:     03.10.1936
Commissioned:     07.01.1939
Fate:     sunk 25.12.1943 (North Cape)
Costs:     143 Mio Reichsmark
Size (Max):     38900 t
Length (Total):  

  229,8 m (234,9 m since 1939)

Length (Waterline):     226,0 m
Beam:     30,0 m
Draft:     9,9 m
Crew:     1669 - 1840


KzS Otto Ciliax:     07.01.1939 - 23.09.1939
KzS Kurt Caesar Hoffmann:     24.09.1939 - 31-03-1942
KzS Friedrich Hüffmaier:     01.04.1943 - 13.10.1943
KzS Fritz Hinze:     14.10.1943 - 25.12.1943




Armour and Aircraft

Engines & Performance

28 cm L/51 C/34 (11"):     9
15 cm L/55 C28:     12
10,5 cm L/65 C/33:     14
3,7 cm L/83:     16
2 cm MG L/64:     10
53,3 cm Torpedoes:     6
Deck:     80-95 mm
Belt:     350 mm (max)
Command Tower:     350 mm (max)
Turrets:     360 mm (max)
Arado Ar 196:     3
Shafts:     3
Turbines:     3
Type:     BBC
Total Performance:     161764shp
Speed:     31,65kn
Range:     9020 miles at 15 kn

Operational History

07.01.1939:   Commissioned, first trials in the Jade estuary.
- July 1939:   Trials and training in the Baltic Sea.
July - August  1939:   Final construction in Wilhelmshaven, bow is modified.
- November 1939:   Battle training in the Baltic Sea.
21.11.1939:   Together with Scharnhorst , the Gneisenau is sent south of Iceland to attack the Northern Patrol.
23.11.1939:   The two battlecruisers sink the British auxiliary cruiser Rawalpindi .
27.11.1939:   Returns to Kiel.
18-20.02.1940:   Operation "Nordmark":  
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.
07-12.04.1940:   Operation "Weserübung":  
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.
04.06.1940:   Operation "Juno":  
Flagship in the Polar Sea operations together with Gneisenau , Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Karl Galster , Hans Lody , Erich Steinbrink and Hermann Schoemann .
08.06.1940:   Battle 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.
10.06.1940:   Return to Drontheim.
June 1940:   After emergency repairs in Drontheim, the Scharnhorst is sent back to Kiel. Unsuccessful air attacks by the RAF.
28.12.1940:   First unsuccessful attempt to break out in the North Atlantic together with the Gneisenau . Operation is aborted after the Gneisenau is damaged by heavy seas.
22.01.1941:   Operation "Berlin":  
Start of successful Atlantic operation
03.02.1941:   Scharnhorst and Gneisenau break through the Denmark Street.
08.02.1941:   Convoy 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 merchants.
07-09.03.1941:   Disengage from Convoy SL-67 after the sighting of the British BB Malaya .
15-16.03.1941:   Scharnhorst and Gneisenau attack a convoy south-east of Newfoundland.
22.03.1941:   Both ships enter Brest. They sank 22 ships with 115600 t during their North Atlantic Operations.
Scharnhorst sinks 8 of them with 49300t.
Mar 1941 - Feb 1942:   Stationed in Brest, target of many British air attacks. Scharnhorst is hit by 5 bombs while temporarily anchored in La Pallice which cause severe damage.
11-12.02.1942:   Operation "Ceberus":  
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.
March 1943:   In the third attempt, the Scharnhorst sails to northern Norway and is stationed in the West Fjord/Alta Fjord.
06-07.09.1943:   Operation "Sizilien":  
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.
Sep - Dec 1943:   Scharnhorst is first stationed in the Kaa Fjord, then in the Lang Fjord.
25.12.1943:   Under the command of Conter-Admiral Bey, the Scharnhorst and destroyers Z29 , Z30 , Z33 , Z34 and
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 .
26.12.1943:   After several hours, the Scharnhorst is sunk at 7:45 pm. Only 36 crew members survive.