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German Balkenkreuz

Germany's Hipper class heavy cruisers

Photos

KMS Admiral Hipper's picture being taken by a Spitfire PR Mark IG during a fly by over Brest, France:
KMS Admiral Hipper's picture being taken by a Spitfire PR Mark IG during a fly by over Brest, France
Imperial War Museum, C-2576
KMS Admiral Hipper:
KMS Admiral Hipper
Imperial War Museum, HU-1009
KMS Admiral Hipper in Kiel on May 19, 1945:
KMS Admiral Hipper in Kiel on May 19, 1945
Imperial War Museum, TR-2882
KMS Prinz Eugen under attack by Coastal Command off Norway on May 17, 1941:
KMS Prinz Eugen under attack by Coastal Command off Norway on May 17, 1941
Imperial War Museum, C-2448
KMS Prinz Eugen in Bergen, Norway in 1941 right before Operation Rheinübung:
KMS Prinz Eugen in Bergen, Norway in 1941 right before Operation Rheinübung
Imperial War Museum, HU-343
KMS Prinz Eugen:
KMS Prinz Eugen
Imperial War Museum, HU-1026

Design

Though the Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from having heavy cruisers they were still being considered in the 1930s. Designs were called for in 1934 that had to be a match to French warships and able to be used in the Atlantic. This work had to be done in secret.

On October 30, 1934, the order was placed for the Admiral Hipper and the Blücher. On March 16, 1935, Adolf Hitler abrogated the Treaty of Versailles.

On November 16, 1935, the Prinz Eugen was ordered.

On July 18, 1936, the Lützow and Seydlitz were ordered.

Admiral Raeder decided the ships should have eight 20.3 cm / 8" guns instead of twelve 15 cm / 6" guns as was being considered.

Aircraft

On the Hipper class heavy cruisers the aircraft were launched by a single catapult with compressed air. They were the Arado Ar 196.

The Admiral Hipper and Blücher had one hanger and the Prinz Eugen, Lützow and Seydlitz had two.

Armament

Type Rounds Carried Shell Weight Velocity Range
20.3 cm, 20.3 cm Sk L/60 C34 950 - 1,400, 960      
10.5 cm, 10.5 cm FlaK L/65 C33 6,740, 7,200      
40 mm Bofors   0.96 kg 854 m/s 7,000 m
37 mm, 37 mm FlaK L/83 C30 4,000 per barrel      
20 mm, 20 mm FlaK L/65 C30 3,000 per barrel      

Engines

On the port, starboard, and in the center the engines rooms were located. Each fed a shaft that went to a three blade 4 m propeller. The single rudder was moved electrically.

Named For

The KMS Admiral Hipper was named after Admiral Franz Ritter von Hipper (1963 - 1932). He commanded the battlecruiser fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

The KMS Blücher was named after Generalfeldmarschall Gebhard Leberecht Fürst Blücher von Wahlstatt. He commanded the Prussian forces that helped secure the victory against Napoleon at Waterloo.

The KMS Prinz Eugen was named after Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663 - 1736). He had had become a Feldmarschall in the Austrian army and had key victories over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. He also defeated the Turks at Peterwardein. Shortly after which he conquered Belgrade in 1717.

The KMS Seydlitz was named after Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz (1721 - 1773). He was a successful Prussian general.

The KMS Lützow was named after Adolf Freiherr von Lützow (1782 - 1843). At 13 years old he entered the military. He was key to the opposition against Napolean. He led guerrilla forces that were successful against the French.

Ships

KMS Admiral Hipper

  • Cost: 85,860,000 RM
  • Manufacturer: Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Deutsche Werke in Kiel
  • July 6, 1935: Laid down.
  • February 6, 1937, February 1937: Launched.
  • April 29, 1939: Completed.
  • July - September 1939: Refit. Bow replaced. Admiral's bridge altered. Funnel cap added.
  • 1940: Norway.
  • February 1940: Hunted convoys going to Scandinavia.
  • February 17, 1940: Declared operational.
  • April 1940: Two 20 cm guns added to B and C turret roofs.
  • April 1940, April 8, 1940: Supported capture of Trondheim. Sunk HMS Glowworm. Sustained damage in collision.
  • May 1940: Repairs at Wilhelmshaven.
  • June 1940 - February 1941: Raided North Atlantic. Sunk twelve ships for 66,131 tons.
  • June 4, 1940: Operation Juno. Against Allied forces near Harstaad. Sank troopship Orama, oiler Oil Pioneer, and trawler Juniper.
  • September 1940: Overhaul in Wilhelmshaven.
  • November 27 - December 27, 1940: Raided in Atlantic. Sank single ship. Returned to Brest.
  • February 1 - 14, 1941: Sank seven ships for 32,806 tons in a convoy.
  • February 15, 1941: Returned to Brest.
  • March 15, 1941: Sailed through Denmark Strait, stopped at Bergen on way to Kiel.
  • March 28, 1941: Refit at Kiel. At the Deutsche Werke yard.
  • 1942: Two 20 mm quad mounts added.
  • January 1942: Refit of turbines in Hamburg. Degaussing coil added to hull.
  • March 1942, March 21, 1942: Sailed to Norway.
  • July 1942: Attacked convoy PQ17.
  • July 3, 1942: Operation Rösselsprung,
  • September 1942: Laid minefield off Novoya Zemelya.
  • December 1942: Heavily damage in action against HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica.
  • December 31, 1942: Battle of Barents Sea.
  • January 1, 1943: Arrived in Alta Fjord.
  • January 24 - February 7, 1943: Temporary repairs allowed for sailing back to Kiel for repairs.
  • February 28, 1943: Decommissioned.
  • April 17, 1943: Towed to Pillau.
  • 1944, April 30, 1944: Member of Training Squadron.
  • April 3, 1945: Scuttled in Kiel.
  • April 9 - 10, 1945: Sunk.
  • May 1945, May 2, 1945, May 3, 1945: Damaged by bombs. Scuttled in Heinkendorferbucht.

Blücher

  • Cost: 87,855,000 RM
  • Manufacturer: Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Deutsche Werke in Kiel
  • August 15, 1935, August 15, 1936: Laid down.
  • June 8, 1937, 1937: Launched.
  • September 20, 1939: Completed.
  • November 1939: Refit.
  • November - December 1939: Trials at Gotenhafen.
  • December 1939: Refit at Kiel.
  • January 1940: Iced in at Kiel.
  • February - March 1940: Refit at Deutsche Werke.
  • April 5, 1940: Ready for operational duty.
  • April 1940: Participated in invasion of Norway, Operation Weserübung. Lead of Task Force 5. Carried parts of the 163rd Infantry Division.
  • April 9, 1940, April 1940: Sunk by shore batteries and land based torpedoes in Oslo Fjord.

Prinz Eugen

  • Cost: 104,490,000 RM
  • Manufacturer: Germania Werft in Kiel, Krupp in Germania, Krupp-Germania in Kiel, Krupp-Germania-Werft in Kiel
  • April 23, 1936: Laid down.
  • August 22, 1938, 1938: Launched.
  • July 1940: Damaged by bombs.
  • August 1, 1940: Completed.
  • December 1940: Four 20 mm quad mounts added.
  • April 23, 1941: Damaged by RAF laid mine in Kielerförde. A fuel tank was ruptured, electronic equipment damaged, and a propeller shaft damaged.
  • April 23 - May 11, 1941: Repairs.
  • May 1941: With KMS Bismarck.
  • May 18, 1941: Sailed from Gotenhafen to Cape Arcona to meet KMS Bismarck.
  • May 21, 1941: Operation Rheineubung. Sailed with KMS Bismarck from Bergen.
  • May 24, 1941: Battle of Denmark Strait.
  • June 1, 1941: Arrived in Brest.
  • July 2, 1941: Hit by bombs in Brest. Over 100 crewmen were killed or injured.
  • January 1942: A 20 mm quad mount added.
  • February 1942, February 11, 1942, February 12, 1942: Channel Dash with KMS Gneisenau and KMS Scharnhorst.
  • February 23, 1942: Hit by torpedo from HMS Trident. Rudder was blown off and was taken to Lofjord.
  • May 18, 1942: After temporary repair in Trondheim sailed to Kiel.
  • May - October 1942, May 18 - October 27, 1942: Repairs.
  • November - December 1942: Trials in Baltic.
  • January - September 1943: Member of Fleet Training Squadron.
  • October 1, 1943: Put back into active duty.
  • June 1944: Covered German withdrawal in Gulf of Finland.
  • August 1944: Bombarded Soviet forces in Tukkum.
  • September 1944: Supported unsuccessful attempt to take the Finnish island of Hogland.
  • September 1944: Escorted evacuation ships from Kemi, Finland, to Danzig.
  • October 11, 1944: Supported German troops at Memel by firing over 600 rounds.
  • October 13, 1944: Fired 370 rounds, after replenishing ammunition, in support at Memel.
  • October 15, 1944: Collided with KMS Leipzig.
  • October - November, 1944: Repairs at Gotenhafen.
  • November 1944: Fired over 500 rounds at Soviet troops at Sworbe.
  • November 1944: Refit at Gotenhafen. Barrels re-bored.
  • January 1945: Fired over 870 rounds in support at Cranz.
  • March 1945: Fired at Soviet positions around Gotenhafen, Zoppot, Danzig, and Hela.
  • April 10 - April 20, 1945: Sailed to Copenhagen.
  • May 7, 1945: Decommissioned.
  • May 8, 1945: Handed over to Royal Navy.

Seydlitz

  • Cost: 84,090,000 RM
  • Manufacturer: Deschimag in Bremen
  • December 29, 1936: Laid down.
  • January 19, 1939: Launched.
  • 1942, June 1942: Work started to convert to carrier.
  • 1943: Ordered to be completed as carrier by Adolf Hitler.
  • January 1943: Work halted.
  • April 2, 1944: Arrived in Königsberg for conversion work.
  • January 1945, January 28 - 29, 1945, April 10, 1945: Scuttled in Königsberg.

Lützow

  • Cost: 83,590,000 RM
  • Manufacturer: Deschimag in Bremen
  • August 2, 1937: Laid down.
  • July 1, 1939: Launched.
  • January or February 1940, February 11, 1940, April 1940, 1940: Sold to Soviet Union. Became the Petropavlovsk.

Usage

Operation Weserübung

The Admiral Hipper, and destroyers Paul Jakobi, Theodor Riedel, Bruno Heinemann, and Friedrich Eckholdt formed No. 2 Warship Group that was to carry the 138th Gebirgsjäger Regiment to take Trondheim. They sailed on April 7 with No. 1 Warship Group which included the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.

In the morning of April 8, 1940 the Blücher sailed for Norway with the Lützow and Emden. The HMS Triton (submarine) saw them and fired a torpedo at the Blücher while passing through Kattegat and Skagerrak.

The ships arrived in Oslofjord around midnight and were lit up by Norwegian searchlights. Initially no shots were fired but that soon changed when a warning shot was fired and the navigation lights turned off.

Blücher offloaded her infantry to the escorting ships at 12:46 AM. Then at 4:40 AM the searchlights were back on and at 5:21 AM shore batteries at Oskarsborg opened fire. Several hits were scored and the Blücher tried to get past the batteries.

At 5:30 AM two torpedoes hit the Blücher. The Norwegian batteries stopped firing at 5:34 AM as they couldn't traverse enough to bring the Blücher into their sights.

Seeing the damage done on the Blücher, the Lützow reversed course.

Fires raged on the Blücher out of control with ammunition from the infantry troops and her own magazines started to explode.

The crew was ordered to abandon ship and the Blücher rolled over at 7:30 AM.

Operation Rheinübung

Surprise was lost when a Swedish warship reported seeing the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen on May 20, 1941, and the British heard the message.

On May 21, 1941, British aircraft sighted the pair in Kalvenes Bay.

On May 22, 1941, the destroyer escort was sent back and the two warships went on alone.

On May 23, 1941, the pair rounded Iceland headed through the Denmark Strait. The HMS Norfolk and HMS Suffolk sighted them on radar, the mist was very heavy, but shell fire made them keep their distance.

On May 24, 1941, the pair detected British ships on hydrophone and assumed they were still the cruisers but they were in fact the HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales. Hood opened fire at the Prinz Eugen 5:53 AM. Prinz Eugen fired a broadside back and on the third salvo made hits.

Prinz Eugen then started firing on the Prince of Wales and the Bismarck started firing on the Hood. A direct hit was scored on the Hood and at 6:01 AM was destroyed by a massive explosion. Prince of Wales also sustained some hits and turned away. Firing stopped at 6:09 AM.

The Bismarck was hit and suffered a bow down attitude due to flooding which reduced speed and caused a fuel leak.

Admiral Lütjens decided to send the Prinz Eugen on and continue with the mission while the Bismarck would return to France.

On May 26, 1941, the Prinz Eugen met up with a tanker and refueled. Contaminated fuel and other mechanical issues caused the Prinz Eugen to cancel the rest of the mission and return to port.

On May 31, 1941, the Prinz Eugen arrived in Brest.

Operation Cerberus

Adolf Hitler ordered the Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen to return to Germany from Brest by going through the English Channel.

In the dark on February 11, 1942, the ships, with a large escort of destroyers and torpedo boats, set out and were undetected by British submarine patrols and radar. Heavy air cover was provided.

The group was discovered by a reconnaissance aircraft when they were off Le Touquet and identified as a merchant convoy.

Shore batteries at Dover fired on the ships and missed. British torpedo boats went in for an attack but the German escorts drove them off. Four Swordfish torpedo aircraft were then shot down and the rest of the force was driven away.

Prinz Eugen fired on and hit some British destroyers.

On February 13, 1942, the Prinz Eugen arrived in Brunsbüttel.

Operation Rösselsprung

Admiral Hipper, Tirpitz, Lützow, and Admiral Sheer were ordered to attack convoy PQ17 going to Murmansk. Lützow and two destroyers ran aground. The convoy dispersed and the ships were ordered home. The Luftwaffe and U-Boats sank 21 ships.

Battle of Barents Sea

Admiral Hipper, Lützow, and destroyers sortie to intercept Convoy JW 51B on its way to Murmansk. The British only had five destroyers escorting the convoy. After several hours the German force got the upper hand when the HMS Sheffield and HMS Jamaica arrived on the scene.

The Admiral Hipper was hit in the hull by one of the British cruisers. As the damage was heavy she retired from battle.

Icing of rangefinders impeded accurate firing on both sides during the battle.

With no damage to the convoy done the Germans returned to Alta Fjord. After this failure Adolf Hitler ordered the navy scrapped and all guns moved to land. Grossadmiral Raeder was forced to resign and Karl Dönitz became Commander in Chief of the German Navy.

Some German naval units were taken out of service after Adolf Hitler was persuaded to not scrap the fleet.

 

Specifications

  Hipper class 1st group
Crew 830, 1,600
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 10,000 tons, 14,050 tons, 14,247 tons
Displacement - Loaded 18,200 tons, 18,208 tons
Length 665' 8", 675' 4"
205.9 m
Length - Water Line 636' 9", 638' 5"
194.2 m, 194.6 m
Beam 69' 9", 69' 10.5"
21.3 m
Draft / Height 15' 6", 19'
5.8 m, 5.83 m
Draft / Height - Maximum 25' 11"
7.9 m
Performance  
Speed 32 knots, 32.5 knots
Range  
Range at 17 knots 6,500 nautical miles
Armament 8" L/55: 8
8", 20.3 cm twin turrets: 4
8", 20.3 cm L/60 C34 twin turrets: 4
Anti-Aircraft 10.5 cm L/65 C33 twin turrets: 6
4.1": 12
4.1" twin mounts: 6
37 mm: 12
37 mm twin mounts: 6
37 mm L/83 C34 twin mounts: 6
20 mm: 8
20 mm C30: 8
Aircraft 3, 4
Torpedo Tubes 21", 53.3 cm: 4 tubes in each of 3 mounts
Armor  
Belt - Main 1.5" - 3.25", 5"
7 cm - 8 cm
Control Tower 2", 2" - 6"
5 cm - 15 cm
Deck - Main 0.5" - 1.25"
2 cm - 5 cm
Deck - Upper 1.2 cm - 3 cm
Torpedo Bulkheads 0.75"
Turrets 2.25" - 6.25"
7 cm - 10.5 cm
Turrets - Front 16 cm
Turrets - Rear 6 cm - 9 cm
Turrets - Sides 7 cm
Turrets - Top 7 cm
Engines  
Boilers Wagner: 12
Engines Diesels
Shafts 3, 4
Turbines Deschimag
Deschimag SR
Geared
HP 80,000, 132,000, 133,631
Oil 3,050 tons
  Admiral Hipper
Crew Officers: 50
Men: 1,500
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 14,247 tons
Displacement - Loaded 18,208 tons, 18,600 tons
Length 202.8 m
Length - After Modifications 205.9 m
Length - Water Line 194.2 m
Length - Water Line - After Modifications 194.6 m
Beam 21.3 m
Draft / Height 7.74 m
Performance  
Speed 32 knots, 32.5 knots
Range 6,800 nautical miles
Range at 17 knots 6,500 nautical miles
Range at 19 knots 6,800 nautical miles
Armament 20.3 cm twin turrets: 4
Anti-Aircraft 10.5 cm twin turrets: 6
37 mm twin mounts: 6
20 mm: 8
Torpedoes 53.3 cm: 3 tubes in each of 4 mounts
Aircraft 3
Armor  
Belt - Main 8 cm
Deck - Armored 3 cm
Deck - Main 1.2 cm - 2.5 cm
Turrets - Front 16 cm
Turrets - Rear 6 cm - 9 cm
Turrets - Side 7 cm
Engines  
Boilers La Mont: 12
Turbines Blohm & Voss
Blohm & Voss: 3
HP 110,000, 133,631
Oil 3,050 tons
  Blücher
Crew Officers: 50
Men: 1,500
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 14,475 tons
Displacement - Loaded 18,500 tons, 18,695 tons
Length 202.8 m
Length - After Modifications 205.9 m
Length - Water Line 194.2 m
Length - Water Line - After Modifications 194.6 m
Beam 21.3 m
Draft / Height 7.74 m
Performance  
Speed 32.5 knots
Range at 19 knots 6,800 nautical miles
Armament 20.3 cm twin turrets: 4
Anti-Aircraft 10.5 cm twin mounts: 6
37 mm twin mounts: 6
20 mm: 8
Torpedoes 53.3 cm: 3 tubes in each of 4 mounts
Aircraft 3
Engines  
Boilers Wagner: 12
Shafts 3
Turbines Blohm & Voss: 3
HP 132,000
  Hipper class 2nd group
Crew 1,600
Displacement 16,974 tons
Displacement - Loaded 19,042 tons
Physical Characteristics  
Length 679' 11"
207.7 m
Length - Water Line 654' 6"
199.5 m
Length - Between Perpendiculars  
Beam 70' 6", 71'
21.5 m
Draft / Height 15', 21' 8"
6.6 m
Draft / Height - Maximum 23' 7.5"
7.2 m
Performance  
Speed 32.5 knots
Engines  
Boilers Wagner: 9
Shafts 3
Turbines Deschimag geared
HP 132,000
  Prinz Eugen
Crew 1,450, 1,600
Officers: 50
Men: 1,500
Physical Characteristics  
Displacement 14,271 tons, 14,475 tons
Displacement - Loaded 18,400 tons, 18,500 tons, 18,700 tons, 19,042 tons
Length 681' 3", 690' 4"
201.7 m, 207.7 m, 210.4 m
Length - After Modifications 212.5 m
Length - Water Line 654' 4"
199.5 m
Beam 71' 9", 71' 10"
21.9 m
Draft / Height 20' 9", 25' 10"
6.37 m, 7.9 m, 7.95 m
Performance  
Speed 32 knots, 33.4 knots
Range at 15 knots 5,050 nautical miles, 6,100 nautical miles
Range at 19 knots 7,850 nautical miles
Armament 8" / 20.3 cm: 8
20.3 cm twin turrets: 4
Anti-Aircraft 4.1" / 10.5 cm DP: 12
10.5 cm twin mounts: 6
37 mm: 12
37 mm twin mounts: 6
20 mm: 8, 24
Anti-Aircraft - 1941 20 mm quad mounts: +5
Anti-Aircraft - 1942 20 mm quad mounts +2
Anti-Aircraft - 1944 40 mm: 9
37 mm twin mounts: 2
20 mm quad mounts: 6
20 mm twin mounts: 2
Anti-Aircraft - 1945 40 mm: 17
Torpedo Tubes 21" / 53.3 cm: 3 tubes in each of 4 mounts, 12
Aircraft 2, 3
Armor  
Belt - Aft 7 cm
Belt - Forward 4 cm
Belt - Main 2.75" - 3.1"
7 cm - 8 cm, 8 cm
Deck - Armored 3 cm
Deck - Main 0.5" - 2"
1.2 cm - 2 cm, 1.2 cm - 2.5 cm
Turrets 2.75" - 4.1"
7 cm - 10.5 cm
Turrets - Front 16 cm
Turrets - Rear 6 cm - 9 cm
Turrets - Side 7 cm
Engines  
Boilers La Mont: 12
Shafts 3
Turbines Brown Boverie, Brown Boveri geared
Germaniawerft: 3
HP 110,000, 132,000
Oil 3,250 tons
  Seydlitz
Physical Characteristics  
Length 207.7 m
Length - After Modifications 212.5 m
Length - Water Line 199.5 m
Beam 21.9 m
Draft / Height 7.94 m
Engines  
Boilers Wagner: 9

Sources:

  1. Cruisers of World War Two An International Encyclopedia, M. J. Whitley, 1995
  2. German Warships of World War II, J. C. Taylor, 1966
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Robert Gardiner, 1987
  4. Janes' Fighting Ships of World War II, 1989
  5. German Heavy Cruisers 1939-45, Gordon Williamson, 2003
  6. Heavy Cruisers of the Admiral Hipper Class, Gerhard Koop, Klaus-Peter Schmolke, 2001
  7. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site