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German Balkenkreuz

Germany's Scharnhorst class battlecruisers

KMS Gneisenau with the KMS Scharnhorst (left) in 1939:
Germany's KMS Gneisenau with the KMS Scharnhorst (left) in 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-97538
KMS Scharnhorst being commissioned on January 7, 1939:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst being commissioned on January 7, 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-97536

KMS Scharnhorst in 1939 just after being completed:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst in 1939 just after being completed
US Naval Historical Center, NH-59670

KMS Scharnhorst with ice accumulation while sailing in the Baltic Sea in January 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst with ice accumulation while sailing in the Baltic Sea in January 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-102526

KMS Scharnhorst conducting exercises in 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst conducting exercises in 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-102530

KMS Scharnhorst in heavy seas in March 1941:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst in heavy seas in March 1941
US Naval Historical Center, NH-83099-KN
KMS Scharnhorst welcomes U-47 back to Kiel after sinking the HMS Royal Oak:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst welcomes U-47 back to Kiel after sinking the HMS Royal Oak
US Navy, NH-97503

KMS Scharnhorst with the KMS Gneisenau (right) in the summer of 1939:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst with the KMS Gneisenau (right) in the summer of 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-97537

KMS Scharnhorst iced up while in the Baltic Sea in January 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst iced up while in the Baltic Sea in January 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-101561

KMS Scharnhorst iced in Kiel in 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst iced in Kiel in 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-101560

KMS Scharnhorst with the KMS Gneisenau (right) in 1941:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst with the KMS Gneisenau (right) in 1941
US Naval Historical Center, NH-42203
KMS Scharnhorst after its refit in the fall of 1939:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst after its refit in the fall of 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-101558

KMS Scharnhorst in 1939:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst in 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-97504

KMS Scharnhorst iced up while in the Baltic Sea in January 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst iced up while in the Baltic Sea in January 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-101563

KMS Scharnhorst in Kiel in 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst in Kiel in 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-101571

KMS Scharnhorst at Alta Fjord, Norway in December 1943:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst at Alta Fjord, Norway in December 1943
US Naval Historical Center, NH-71392
KMS Scharnhorst after its refit in the fall of 1939:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst after its refit in the fall of 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-101559

KMS Scharnhorst in Wilhelmshaven Harbor in 1939:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst in Wilhelmshaven Harbor in 1939
US Naval Historical Center, NH-102537

KMS Scharnhorst firing on the HMS Glorious on June 8, 1940:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst firing on the HMS Glorious on June 8, 1940
US Naval Historical Center, NH-83981

KMS Scharnhorst looking forward:
Germany's KMS Scharnhorst looking forward
US Naval Historical Center, NH-102529

Design

With new French ships being built, the Dunkerque class, it was decided to design a more powerful ship than the Deutschland class. Other consideration for the size was that there weren't large slipways and docks in Germany. Hitler was also concerned that he not antagonize the British by building warships that would break the Versailles Treaty.

Two ships were ordered on January 25, 1933. Initially the design had only two turrets. In July 1934 Hitler gave the ok for the addition of a third turret.

Armament

Though the ships were fitted with 11" guns it was thought that they would be rearmed at a future date to 13".

The 28 cm SK C/34 fired a 727.5 lb shell out to 44,760 yards.

To economize on weight some of the twin turrets were replaced by single open shielded mounts.

The 15 cm SK C/28 fired a 100 lb shell out to 25,150 yards.

The 10.5 cm SK C/33 fired a 33 lb shell up to 41,000'.

Aircraft

The Scharnhorst class had two catapults for Arado Ar 196s.

Ships

KMS Gneisenau

  • Manufacturer: Deutsche Werke at Kiel, Deutsche Werke
  • December 8, 1936: Launched.
  • May 21, 1938: Completed.
  • Late 1938: Clipper bow added. Funnel cap added.
  • 1939 - 1940: Atlantic.
  • November 23, 1939: Sank A.M.C. Rawalpindi southeast of Iceland.
  • 1940: Norwegian campaign.
  • June 8, 1940: Sank HMS Glorious, HMS Ardent, and HMS Arcasta near Norway.
  • June 20, 1940: Hit by torpedo from HMS Clyde.
  • February - March 1941: Atlantic raids with KMS Scharnhorst. 22 ships sunk for 115,622 tons.
  • February 1941, March 22, 1941: Brest.
  • April 6, 1941: Hit by aircraft torpedo.
  • April 10/11, 1941: Hit by four bombs.
  • February 12, 1942: Operation Cerberus (aka Channel Dash).
  • February 26 - 27, 1942: Heavily damaged by RAF in Kiel. Moved to Gdynia.
  • July 1, 1942: Decommissioned. Two turrets moved to Norway and the third to Hook of Holland.
  • March 28, 1945: Sunk as block ship in Gdynia.

KMS Scharnhorst

  • Manufacturer: Wilhelmshaven Dock Yard, Wilhelmshaven
  • June 30, 1936, October 3, 1936: Launched.
  • January 7, 1939: Completed.
  • Summer 1939: Clipper bow added. Funnel cap added. Torpedo tubes added from KMS Nürnberg.
  • 1939 - 1940: Atlantic.
  • November 23, 1939: Sank AMC Rawalpindi southeast of Iceland.
  • 1940: Norwegian campaign.
  • April 7, 1940: Support of Norway operation.
  • June 1940, June 8, 1940: Sank HMS Glorious, HMS Ardent, and HMS Arcasta near Norway. Damaged by torpedo from HMS Acasta.
  • February - March 1941: Atlantic raids with KMS Gneisenau. 22 ships sunk for 115,622 tons.
  • February 1941, March 22, 1941: Brest.
  • July 24, 1941: Hit by five bombs.
  • February 12, 1942, February 1942: Operation Cerberus (aka Channel Dash).
  • February - August 1942: Repairs.
  • March 1943: Norway.
  • September 6, 1943, September 1943: Bombarded Spitzbergen with KMS Tirpitz.
  • December 26, 1943, December 1943: Sunk in the Battle of North Cape by the HMS Duke of York. There were only 30 / 46 survivors from the crew.

 

Usage

Norway Operation

On April 7, 1940, the KMS Gneisenau, KMS Scharnhorst, and ten destroyers were to cover the flank of the Norway operation.

On April 9, 1940, they fought the HMS Renown off the Lofoten Islands. The KMS Gneisenau was hit by three shells and the KMS Scharnhorst suffered weather damage. The HMS Renown was hit twice.

After evading British patrols they returned to Wilhelmshaven on April 12, 1940.

On June 8, 1940, the KMS Gneisenau and KMS Scharnhorst sank the HMS Glorious, HMS Ardent, and HMS Acasta. KMS Scharnhorst was damaged by the HMS Acasta. The KMS Scharnhorst then went to Trondheim for repairs.

Operation Cerberus

The KMS Gneisenau, KMS Prinz Eugen, and KMS Scharnhorst left Brest on February 11, 1942 / February 12, 1942 on the famous channel dash. The KMS Gneisenau and KMS Scharnhorst was damaged by mines.

 

 

Specifications

  Scharnhorst Class
Crew 1,461, 1,669 - 1,840, 1,700, 1,800
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 26,000 tons, 32,000 tons, 34,841 tons, 35,540 tons
Displacement - Loaded 37,710 tons, 38,900 tons
Length 753' 11"
229.8 m
Length - Water Line 741' 5", 741' 6"
226 m
Beam 98' 5", 98' 6"
30 m
Draft / Height 24' 6", 24' 8", 27', 30'
8.23 m, 9.1 m
Draft / Height - Maximum 32' 6"
9.91 m
Performance  
Speed 29 knots, 31.5 knots, 32 knots
Range at 15 knots 9,020 nautical miles
Range at 19 knots 10,000 nautical miles
Armament 11": 9
11", 28 cm SK C/34 triple turrets: 3
28 cm L/54.5 C28 triple turrets: 3
11" triple turrets: 3
5.9": 12
5.9 twin turrets: 6
15 cm SK C/28 twin turrets: 4
15 cm SK C/28 single mounts: 4
15 cm L/55 C28 twin turrets: 4
15 cm L/55 C28 single mounts: 4
Anti-Aircraft 4.1": 14
4.1" twin mount: 7
10.5 cm SK C/33 twin mounts: 5
10.5 cm L/65 C33 twin mounts: 7
37 mm: 16
37 mm twin mounts: 6, 8
37 mm L/83 C33 twin mounts: 8
20 mm: 10
20 mm C30: 8
Anti-Aircraft - Late 20 mm: 38
Torpedo Tubes None
21" triple: 2
Aircraft 2, 3 - 4, 4
Armor  
Belt 6.75" - 13.75", 12" -13"
32 cm
Bulkhead - Torpedo 1.75"
4.5 cm
Deck 2", 6"
Deck - Armored 3"
Deck - Main 15 cm
Turrets - Main 6" - 14", 12"
Turrets - Secondary 2" - 5.5"
Turret - Front 36 cm
Turret - Rear 17 cm
Turret - Sides 11 cm - 20 cm
Turret - Top 9 cm - 15 cm
Engines  
Boilers Wagner: 12
Shafts 3
Turbines Geared
HP 160,000, 160,080, 165,000
Oil 5,355 tons
  KMS Gneisenau
Armament  
Torpedo Tubes 53.3 cm triple mounts: 2
Engines  
Turbines Deschimag geared, Germania geared
  KMS Scharnhorst
Crew 1,840
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 32,000 tons
Displacement - Loaded 38,900 tons
Length 770' 8"
234.9 m
Length - Water Line  
Beam 98' 5"
30 m
Draft / Height 29' 10"
9.1 m
Performance  
Speed 32 knots
Armament 11", 28 cm: 9
5.9", 15 cm: 12
Anti-Aircraft 4.1", 10.5 cm: 14
37 mm: 16
Torpedo Tubes 21", 53.3 cm: 6
Aircraft Arado float planes: 2
Armor  
Belt 13"
33 cm
Deck 2" - 4.25"
5 cm - 11 cm
Turrets 14"
35.5 cm
Engines  
Shafts 3
Turbines Brown-Boveri geared, Geared Steam
HP 160,000

Sources:

  1. German Warships of World War II, J. C. Taylor, 1966
  2. Battleships of World War Two An International Encyclopedia, M. J. Whitley, 1998
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Robert Gardiner, 1987
  4. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  5. Janes' Fighting Ships of World War II, 1989
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site