Gneisenau file photo [1285]


Ship ClassGneisenau-class Battlecruiser
BuilderDeutsche Werke Kiel
Yard Number235
Slip/Drydock NumberI
Ordered25 Jan 1934
Laid Down14 Feb 1934
Launched8 Dec 1936
Commissioned21 May 1938
Sunk23 Mar 1945
Displacement31,500 tons standard; 38,900 tons full
Length772 feet
Beam98 feet
Draft32 feet
Machinery3 Germania geared turbines with single reduction 3 three-bladed propellers
Power Output151,893 shaft horsepower
Speed31 knots
Range8,400nm at 19 knots
Armament9x280mm, 12x150mm, 14x105mm anti-aircraft, 16x37mm anti-aircraft, 16x20mm anti-aircraft, 6x533mm torpedo tubes
Armor80-95mm deck, 350mm belt, tower, and turrets


ww2dbaseGneisenau was the second ship to carry the name of the Prussian general August von Gneisenau. The battlecruiser's construction was delayed due to a design change mid-way through the construction. She was a treaty ship with the displacement under the limit of 35,000 tons. She was sent back for refitting immediately in winter 1938 after realizing that her low profile brought too much water on her deck; the problem was resolved after placing a new bow on the ship.

ww2dbaseWhen WW2 started militarily in Europe, Gneisenau was attacked by British Royal Air Force at Brunsb├╝ttelkoog on 4 Sep 1939, though was not damaged. She then was assigned to the North Atlantic to attack merchant ships that transported vital supplies to Britain. In 1940, she participated in the invasion of Norway from the sea, which included an inconclusive duel with the British battlecruiser Renown. Her second major engagement for her came on 8 Jun when she surprise attacked the British task force centered around carrier Glorious. Her last major engagement was conducted alongside her sister ship Scharnhorst in Mar 1941, destroying 14 ships (22 total for the task force) on a raiding mission against British shipping.

ww2dbaseIn 1942 Gneisenau participated in the Channel Dash, a German fleet daylight movement from the French coast back to Germany (Operation Cerberus). She was able to make it to her destination of Kiel, but she was damaged by a mine en route. Although she had survived a number of mine and other battle damages before, this time she was not as fortunate; while still in the shipyards, she was attacked by aircraft on 26-27 Feb 1942 and was so badly damaged further that repairs never completed. Her guns were removed for shore-based batteries in Denmark and Norway, and the hull was eventually sunk in Gotenhafen harbor to prevent Allied usage of the port within.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Feb 2006

Battlecruiser Gneisenau Interactive Map


Gneisenau, Admiral Graf Spee, Admiral Scheer, and Deutschland steamed in a line during the German Naval Review of Aug 1938Battlecruiser Gneisenau, date unknownClose-up of GneisenauGerman battleships Scharnhorst (left) and Gneisenau (right), circa 1939
See all 12 photographs of Battlecruiser Gneisenau

Gneisenau Operational Timeline

3 Mar 1935 The keel of the German battlecruiser Gneisenau was laid down in Dry Dock I of Deutsche Werke Kiel, Germany.
21 May 1938 Gneisenau was commissioned into service.
18 Feb 1940 German battlecruiser Gneisenau embarked on Operation Nordmark, aiming to intercept British convoy traffic in the North Sea.
4 Jun 1940 Jaguar began escorting battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper between Kiel, Germany and the Skaggerak.
5 Jun 1940 Jaguar completed escorting battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper between Kiel, Germany and the Skaggerak.
8 Jun 1940 During Operation Juno, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau opened fired on British carrier HMS Glorious and her escorts HMS Acasta, HMS Ardent, HMS Acheron, HMS Highlander, and HMS Diana about 170 miles west of Narvik, Norway at 1627 hours. British destroyers made smoke, but did not prevent the Germans from hitting the carrier, causing her to list. In an attempt to save Glorious, destroyer HMS Acasta charged at the German ships, firing two salvos of torpedoes while being struck by German gunfire. One torpedo in the second salvo struck Scharnhorst, tearing a 12-meter (39-foot) hole, at 1734 hours, disabling her starboard engine room. Shortly after, commanding officer Commander C. E. Glasfurd gave the order to abandon ship. Acasta sank stern first at about 1820 hours. Meanwhile, HMS Ardent sank at 1720 hours (killing 151). As for the HMS Glorious, the main German target, Captain Guy D'Oyly Huges of HMS Glorious was blamed for the attack being a surprise, for that he had failed to launch scouting aircraft ahead of the task force. As the flight deck became damaged during the battle, the carrier could not launch any of her aircraft to participate in the engagement. She was ultimately sunk at 1910 hours; 1,474 naval officers and ratings and 41 RAF personnel were killed, 43 survived. Scharnhorst suffered one torpedo hit by HMS Ardent.
20 Jun 1940 German battlecruiser Gneisenau and heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper departed Trondheim, Norway for operations near Iceland as a diversion for battleship Scharnhorst's cruise to Kiel, Germany for repairs. British submarine HMS Clyde detected Gneisenau and hit her with a torpedo 80 miles northwest of Trondheim and forced her to return for repairs.
25 Jul 1940 German battleship Gneisenau completed its torpedo damage repairs and departed Trondheim, Norway for Kiel, Germany for more thorough repairs. She was escorted by cruiser N├╝rnberg and destroyers Galster, Lody, Jacobi, and Ihn; torpedo boats Luchs, Jaguar, Kondor, Iltis, and T.5 would join the convoy overnight near Stavanger, Norway.
22 Jan 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau departed from Kiel, Germany for Operation Berlin.
23 Jan 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were spotted in the Great Belt between mainland Denmark and the island of Zealand by a British agent who alerted the Admiralty in London, England, United Kingdom.
28 Jan 1941 British cruiser HMS Naiad spotted German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in the Iceland-Faroes passage at 0649 hours. Fearing this might lead to the arrival of a stronger British fleet, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau turned to the north, attempting to enter the Atlantic Ocean via the Denmark Strait instead.
4 Feb 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau broke out into the Atlantic Ocean via the Denmark Strait undetected by the British Royal Navy.
8 Feb 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau detected Allied convoy HX-106, but did not attack due to the presence of British battleship HMS Ramillies.
9 Feb 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau detected Allied convoy HX-106 off Newfoundland at 0830 hours. Because it was escorted by British battleship Ramilies, the German fleet withdrew at 1000 hours per orders not to engage British capital ships.
22 Feb 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau attacked a convoy of unescorted empty cargo ships en route to the United States, sinking three British cargo ships and two tankers, totaling 25,431 tons. 10 were killed and 180 were taken prisoner.
7 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sighted an Allied convoy near Azores, but did not attack due to the presence of British battleship HMS Malaya.
15 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau attacked an Allied convoy 950 miles east of Nova Scotia, Canada, sinking 3 tankers (killing 7, most of the survivors were captured) and capturing 3 tankers.
16 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau attacked an Allied convoy 950 miles east of Nova Scotia, Canada between 0428 and 1550 hours, sinking or capturing 10 ships. Danish ship Chilean Reefer sent distress signals and returned fire with her deck gun, and was sunk by Gneisenau's 11-inch shells, killing 9. British battleship HMS Rodney received the distress signals, but arrived only after the German ships had already departed the area.
19 Mar 1941 Scharnhorst and Gneisenau began their return voyage to Brest, France.
20 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were detected by aircraft of the British Coastal Command.
21 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were detected by aircraft of the British Coastal Command. They were met by German aircraft at 1900 hours, escorting them as they headed for Brest, France.
22 Mar 1941 Jaguar and Iltis escorted battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into Brest, France.
22 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were met by friendly destroyers at 0300 hours as they approached Brest, France. They docked shortly after 0700 hours, ending Operation Berlin.
6 Apr 1941 RAF Beaufort aircraft torpedoed German battlecruiser Gneisenau at Brest, France. During this attack, Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell of No. 22 Squadron RAF Coastal Command, who scored the hit with an Mk XII torpedo, was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed with the loss of the entire crew. Campbell would be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his gallantry.
10 Apr 1941 Overnight, RAF aircraft attacked German battlecruisers in Brest, France, hitting Gneisenau with 4 bombs and causing extensive damage.
18 Dec 1941 British bombers attacked Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest, France during the daylight hours at about 1230 hours.
5 Feb 1942 60 British RAF Bomber Command aircraft attacked German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest, France, causing little damage.
12 Feb 1942 2 RAF Spitfire fighters on patrol unexpectedly spotted a large German fleet escorted by torpedo boats sailing through the English Channel at 1042 hours. British coastal guns at South Foreland, England, United Kingdom fired 33 rounds at the fleet, all of which missed. A number of aircraft were launched to attack, which failed to destroy the fleet, while 37 aircraft were shot down in the process, killing 23 airmen. The only damage sustained by the Germans were by mines; Scharnhorst struck two and Gneisenau struck one.
26 Feb 1942 49 British RAF bombers attacked Gneisenau in the drydock at Kiel, Germany. A bomb penetrated the armored deck, triggering a detonation in the forward turret which caused great damage to entire bow section of the ship; 112 were killed, 21 were wounded.
4 Apr 1942 Gneisenau arrived at Gotenhafen (Gdynia), occupied Poland.

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. The corrector says:
15 Jun 2011 10:37:34 PM

These ships were BB and not BC.
2. Anonymous says:
5 Sep 2011 11:16:07 AM

No, they were clearly BC class, with 11 inch guns as compared to the BB Bismarck with 15 inchers. (Big tonnage diffeence as well)
3. Anonymous says:
5 Feb 2012 08:22:21 PM

The size of a ships guns other than that they be of capital ship size has no bearing on what is a BB or A BC by any standard definition. definately a BB and not a BC
4. Kristopher says:
7 Dec 2012 01:36:25 PM

The two ships were battlecruisers based on their main armament and their displacement. Look at the American battlecruisers and compare thier tonnage and main armament.
5. Kurt Greiner says:
28 Sep 2013 10:16:48 AM

The plans for the ship say Schlachtshiffe, not Schalchtkreuzer. The German Navy paid for them, and considered them battleships. The US Navy considreed them battleships, listing them in ONI-204 a BB-1 and 2 for the German Navy. The consensus on Wikipedia is that they are battleships. Only Anglocentric sources consider them otherwise.
6. Anonymous says:
6 Nov 2014 03:17:53 AM

Both ships were Battlecruisers.There is no dout. German ship design went into decline after 1918 and they were an improved MACKERSTINE CLASS b/c of 1916 orign. Bismark was basically an improver Beyen class BB. Basicaly they were hybrids who were to replace there 11ins guns with 15ins at a later date. Only 6 15ins 3x2.They were fast enough but had bad machinery which caused many problems. Suprising for Germans.
7. June Courts says:
31 Aug 2016 05:37:28 AM

Battleship or Battlecruiser ,who cares. They were beautiful ships,clean lines, neat bridge superstructure, and fast, very fast. Is it not a pity that man designs such a marvellous ship and then blows it to hell? War is so stupid, destructive, wasteful, and costly. When will we ever learn to talk, shake hands before millions of lives are lost, not after?...

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments


1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB
More on Gneisenau
Event(s) Participated:
» Start of the Battle of the Atlantic
» Invasion of Denmark and Norway
» Operation Berlin
» Operation Cerberus

Battlecruiser Gneisenau Photo Gallery
Gneisenau, Admiral Graf Spee, Admiral Scheer, and Deutschland steamed in a line during the German Naval Review of Aug 1938
See all 12 photographs of Battlecruiser Gneisenau

Famous WW2 Quote
"With Germany arming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, America remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?"

Winston Churchill, 1935

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!