Scharnhorst file photo [1790]


Ship ClassGneisenau-class Battlecruiser
Yard Number125
Slip/Drydock NumberII
Ordered25 Jan 1934
Laid Down15 Jun 1935
Launched3 Oct 1936
Commissioned7 Jan 1939
Sunk26 Dec 1943
Displacement31,552 tons standard; 38,900 tons full
Length772 feet
Beam98 feet
Draft32 feet
Machinery3 Brown-Boveri geared turbines with 3 screws
Power Output161,164 shaft horsepower
Range10,100nm at 19 knots
Armament9x280mm, 12x150mm, 14x105mm anti-aircraft, 16x37mm anti-aircraft, 38x20mm anti-aircraft, 6x533mm torpedo tubes


ww2dbaseThe battlecruiser Scharnhorst was commissioned early 1939, but returned to the shipyards in mid-1939 for a new main mast and a new bow that was more fitting for North Atlantic duties. Her first operation was a sweep into the Iceland-Faroes passage in Nov 1939 along with her sister ship Gneisenau; she sank the British Armed Merchant Cruiser Rawalpindi. On 9 Apr 1940, the two sister battlecruisers engaged the British battlecruiser Renown, but the engagement was inconclusive. Two months later, the pair sank the British carrier Glorious and her escorting destroyers Arcasta and Ardent off Norway, but Scharnhorst incurred torpedo damage and was under repairs until late Dec 1940. As soon as her repairs were completed, she paired up with Gneisenau once again to raid the merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, but was turned back by heavy seas. She continued to participate in the raider role in early 1941, avoiding British capital ships and air power while preying on lightly escorted convoys in the North Atlantic off Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland. She ported in Brest on the French coast on 22 Mar after a successful run sinking 8 ships totaling 49,300 tons.

ww2dbaseWhile in Brest, Scharnhorst and the other German ships were subjected to British air attacks, keeping her unavailable for operations until late 1941 or early 1942. In Feb 1942, she left Brest along with Gneisenau and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen for Germany through the English Channel. Much to the embarrassment of the British, the ships were unable to stop the fleet; however, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were damaged by mines.

ww2dbaseRepair work and various troubles kept Scharnhorst in the shipyards until Mar 1943 when she left for Norway for training exercises. On 25 Dec 1943, she left port under the command of Rear Admiral Erich Bey to hunt down convoys JW 55B and RA 55A destined for northern Russian ports. With the aid of code breakers, British Admiralty learned of her approximate locations, and sent out a fleet to hunt her down. A force of three cruisers consisting of Belfast, Norfolk, and Sheffield damaged Scharnhorst's radar before Scharnhorst broke away from combat. That afternoon, British battleship Duke of York and her escorts caught up with Scharnhorst and opened fire, damaging a turret and the hangar in the first round of battle, then caught up with Scharnhorst again for a second round, this time detonating Scharnhorst's magazines. At 1820 another round from Duke of York destroyed a boiler room, reducing her speed to about 22 knots leaving her open to attacks from the destroyers. Scharnhorst was then chased by Duke of York, the cruiser Jamaica, and the destroyers Musketeer, Matchless, Opportune, and Virago. After sustaining a series of attacks by gunfire and torpedoes, she sank at 1945 on 26 Dec 1943. Only 36 survived.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Feb 2006

Battlecruiser Scharnhorst Interactive Map


A boatswain aboard Scharnhorst, date unknownScharnhorstScharnhorstHitler, Blomberg, and Raeder at Scharnhorst
See all 45 photographs of Battlecruiser Scharnhorst


Map of the Battle of the North Cape, 26 Dec 1943 as published in the Feb 1944 issue of the US Navy’s All Hands magazine.

Scharnhorst Operational Timeline

7 Jan 1939 Scharnhorst was commissioned into service.
18 Feb 1940 German battlecruiser Scharnhorst embarked on Operation Nordmark, aiming to intercept British convoy traffic in the North Sea.
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.
21 Jun 1940 Jaguar began escorting battleship Scharnhorst from Norway to Kiel, Germany.
23 Jun 1940 Jaguar completed escorting battleship Scharnhorst from Norway to Kiel, Germany.
21 Nov 1940 German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Köln, and Leipzig departed for a sweep against Allied shipping between Iceland and the Faroe Islands.
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.
27 Feb 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau refueld from tankers Ermland and Friedrich Breme 1,000 miles west of the Azores. They also transferred 180 prisoners taken from Allied ships sunk on 22 Feb.
3 Mar 1941 German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau reached the Cape Verde Islands area in Central Atlantic.
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.
9 Mar 1941 German cruiser Scharnhorst sank Greek ship Marathon 250 miles north of Cape Verde Islands after taking the entire crew prisoner.
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.
28 Mar 1941 In atrocious weather, Pilot Officer Gordon Green, flying a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire fighter from RAF St Eval in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom, took a brief break in the clouds covering Brest, France to make two swift passes over the harbour. Despite facing ferocious German anti-aircraft fire he managed to bring home precious photographs revealing the location of the missing battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
31 Mar 1941 Before dawn, 109 RAF bombers attacked German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest, France, scoring no hits.
3 Apr 1941 Overnight, RAF unsuccessfully attacked German cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest, France, but some German naval officers were killed when a bomb struck the Continental Hotel in the city.
23 Jul 1941 Scharnhorst was detected by British RAF Coastal Command aircraft at La Pallice, La Rochelle, France by the results of a photo reconnaissance flight at 0915 hours.
19 Dec 1941 In a daring daylight raid by 41 RAF Manchester bombers on the French port of Brest, the gates to the dock containing the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst were so badly damaged that the mighty warship would be confined at the port for a further month. Two aircraft of No. 97 Squadron were lost to ground fire and Luftwaffe fighters.
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.
11 Mar 1943 Jaguar and Greif escorted battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst as they sailed from Trondheim, Norway to the German Navy base in Bogen Bay, Norway.
6 Sep 1943 Operation Sizilien: Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and 9 destroyers departed Kåfjord, Norway for an attack on the Allied base on Spitzbergen.
8 Sep 1943 Operation Sizilien: Scharnhorst attacked the Allied base at Spitzbergen.
26 Dec 1943 British cruiser HMS Belfast detected German battlecruiser Scharnhorst by radar 30 miles east of Allied convoy JW-55B at 0900 hours. Three British cruiser attacked, disabling Scharnhorst's fire control radar. Scharnhorst turned north to escape, and British Vice Admiral Robert Burnett chose not to give pursuit until 1200 hours, this time damaging Scharnhorst and receiving damage on HMS Norfolk. As Scharnhorst fled southward, she was intercepted by HMS Duke of York and other British warships at 1650 hours. Scharnhorst was surrounded by 1725 hours, overwhelmed and hit repeatedly. She was subsequently abandoned and sank at 1948 hours; 1,927 were killed during the combat and her sinking in what was later named Battle of North Cape. The British picked up only 36 survivors before fleeing the scene due to submarine threat.
26 Dec 1943 Norwegian destroyer Stord closed to within 400 yards of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst to fire a spread of torpedoes at Scharnhorst's starboard side.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
30 Nov 2007 05:51:08 AM

The British Armed Merchant Cruiser Rawalpindi was commanded by Captain Edward Coverley Kennedy RN. He had been retired from the Navy for eighteen years, and was by 1939 nearing his sixtieth birthday. He was therefore rather pleased at being recalled to the service and given his own command. Captain Kennedy was also the father of the famous British journalist, broadcaster and author-Sir Ludovic Kennedy, who also served as a Lieutenant on Destroyers during the war.
2. Anonymous says:
5 Feb 2012 08:20:49 PM

This ship is not a Battlecruiser by any standard definition but a Battleship.
3. Anonymous says:
12 Mar 2015 07:00:09 PM

It is a Battlecruiser not a Battleship, the definition of which is it is designed to outrun what it cannot outfight, its paltry 11 inch guns would be found wanting against all Battleships, unless very old or obsolete.
4. Anonymous says:
12 Apr 2015 07:22:35 PM

Yes, it is indeed a battlecruiser with speed to outrun a battleship at the expense of armour and guns to outfight anything less than a battleship. The British has 3 during WW2 in the Hood, Repulse and Renown but they were armed with 15" guns instead of 11" of the German Scharnhorst and Gneisenau

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Event(s) Participated:
» Start of the Battle of the Atlantic
» Invasion of Denmark and Norway
» Operation Cerberus
» Battle of the North Cape

Battlecruiser Scharnhorst Photo Gallery
A boatswain aboard Scharnhorst, date unknown
See all 45 photographs of Battlecruiser Scharnhorst

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