KMS Scharnhorst

KMS Scharnhorst was one of the most potent German warships of the Second World War and operated for much of her career in tandem with her sister ship KMS Gneisenau. The pair's first victim was the British armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi, sunk in the North Sea on 23 November 1939. During the Norway campaign they destroyed the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious, and two escorting destroyers, on 9 June 1940. In early 1941 they broke out into the Atlantic Ocean and preyed on Allied merchant vessels, sinking 22, before putting in at the French port of Brest on 22 March 1941. Both vessels remained at Brest until the night of 11 February 1942 when, in company with the KMS Prinz Eugen, they commenced a run through the English Channel to return to Germany. A series of communication failures undermined British attempts to mount a co-ordinated air and naval attack on the vessels and they docked in Wilhelmshaven virtually unscathed on 12 February.

Scharnhorst was subsequently deployed to Norwegian waters to operate against Allied arctic convoys. With the Tirpitz she bombarded Spitzbergen on 8 September 1943, and on 25 December the same year sailed to attack convoys JW55B and RA55A. The Royal Navy, however, had access to ULTRA decrypts of Scharnhorst's orders and on 26 December she was surrounded by the 10th Cruiser Squadron, led by the battleship HMS Duke of York, and sunk. Only 36 of her 1,900 crew survived.


Class:   Scharnohorst Class battleship
Launched:   3 October 1936
Commissioned:   7 January 1939
Complement:   1669-1911
Length:   234.9 m
Beam:   30 m
Draught:   8.3 m
Displacement:   32,100 tons
Speed:   31.5 knots
Armament:   9 x 28 cm guns
12 x 15 cm gums
14 x 10.5 cm anti-aircraft guns 16 x 3.7 cm anti-aircraft guns
10 x 2 cm anti-aircraft guns (later increased to 38) 6 x 53.3 cm torpedo tubes (added 1942)
Armour:   15 cm deck
30 cm hull belt