The end of Scharnhorst

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
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Antonio Bonomi
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The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Jul 11, 2007 7:58 pm

Ciao Gary and all,

...that is what somebody said,.....but where are the evidences .. it was never supported by anybody,..as far as I know,.... ???

..and do you think that a machinery leading engineeer like Kpt Konig was,.... was going to commit back to Kpt Hintze 22 knots within 20 minutes,..... after a 14 inch shell exploding on that area, ...... :think: :think: :think:

.... the german thought about a torpedo hit ....obviously wrongly.....

..what about a serious machinery fault of her own engines under the maximum pressure conditions ( already occurred sevaral times on Scharnhorst )... :think: :think:

Ciao Antonio :D

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Tiornu » Wed Jul 11, 2007 9:20 pm

Twice in 1940, while in the midst of battle, Scharnhorst suffered serious propulsion casualties. However, her crew had never experienced anything like what happened at North Cape. As I recall, they sealed off the effected boiler room which was flooding through penetrations of the bottom.

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Scharnhorst end

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Thu Jul 12, 2007 1:06 pm

Ciao all,

there is no doubt at all that Scharnhorst was surrounded by many enemy ships ( 13 of them ) and under heavy guns fire by HMS Duke of York scoring hits.

Surely everything happened was forced by those dramatic conditions and the desperate need of the Scharnhorst to utilize her max speed to try to escape from that trap very well prepared for her.

But under those circumstances it is easy to imagine they used all the ship power ( and extra power solutions :wink: ) available to try to make it.

Scharnhorst machinery had demonstrate several times ( 1940 on Juno, 1941 on Berlin, and 1942 on the English channel dash ) that while under pressure for maximum speed,.. a machinery failure occurred all the time, .. while Gneisenau machinery ( different constructor ) never had those problems.

If you read end of 1942 Scharnhorst KTB ( war diary ) machinery repair reccomendations while on the Baltic sea trials you will realize how poor was her general machinery status ( sailed to Norway using only 2 propellers out of 3 ),... a 9 months repair and a complete machinery overhaul was strongly reccomended,.. but never executed.

In Norway just some temporary fix by Neumark and Huascaran ( KM repair ships ).

Now put together all those assumptions and than try to imagine what could have really happened to Scharnhorst, .. on reality :wink: .

We are never going to have the final word o this one I suppose... but at least we can try to come close to the real reasons, .. that all together caused the ship to slow down so dramatically,... determining her final destiny.

Many Scharnhorst survivor statements about damages were not linked directly to the real timing of events, .. and all the torpedo damages occurred surely all well after this first occurrence,.... :think:

Ciao Antonio :D

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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:09 pm

Ciao all,

I asssume many will be interested on reading this ( mix German and English but with lot of good infos and maps ) :


http://forum-marinearchiv.de/smf/index.php?topic=6940


Ciao Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Bgile » Thu Jul 10, 2008 7:04 pm

Thank's so much for that link, Antonio! When I first looked at the thread it was all German and I couldn't follow it at all, but later there were the diagrams you describe and a lot of english.

Personally I think it's very likely that a shell from DoY exploded above the forward turbine room and the resulting shock broke a steam line in the adjoining boiler room ... one of the hypotheses in that thread.

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Re:

Post by fred1451 » Mon Aug 04, 2008 1:04 am

Gary wrote: Maybe like trying to shoot a butterfly with a 12 guage.
Loaded with a deer slug.

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Dec 26, 2012 10:22 am

Hello everybody,

69 years ago the Scharnhorst was sunk after the North Cape battle.

Lets remember that heroic crew ... and all the sailors ( both sides 1932 + 18 ) which lost their life on that battle.

In order to celebrate this day, to maintain a promise I made to some german friends on another forum, and to honour the Scharnhorst heroic crew, tonight at 19.48 ( Scharnhorst sinking time ) I will upload the correct Scharnhorst Baltic camouflage both sides ( tarnschema )


Bye Antonio :D
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In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:06 pm

Hello everybody,

dedicated to the Scharnhorst brave crew and to her commander Kpt zur See Hintze.

Here the Scharnhorst Baltic camouflage with both sides being different.

Bye Antonio :D
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In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:59 pm

Hello everybody,

dedicated to the heroic crew of the Scharnhorst : R.I.P. brave sailors.

Operation "Ostfront" - The Battle off the North Cape (25-26. December 1943)

After Tirpitz got damaged (6 months of repairs needed) during Operation "Source" by the British X-Craft attack on 23. September 1943, Scharnhorst remained alone being the only German capital ship available to be utilized against the Arctic convoys from United Kingdom to Russia.
From 1. November 1943 the Arctic convoys restarted, until the middle of 5. December convoys (RA 54A, JW 54A, RA 54B, JW 54B and JW 55A) sailed through the Arctic Sea without any trouble.
On 19. December 1943 Admiral Dönitz reported to Hitler that the next convoy sailing through the Barents Sea was going to be attacked by Scharnhorst escorted by the 4th Destroyer Flotilla.
Convoy JW 55B left Loch Ewe on 20. December 1943.
Meanwhile Admiral Fraser (C-in-C Home Fleet) decided to increase the escort to the convoy and by using the Norwegian resident agent informations to prepare a trap for the German battleship in case the Scharnhorst was going to leave the safety of the Langfjord (Altafjord).
Convoy JW 55 B was going to be escorted by Force 2 (battleship H.M.S. Duke of York, light cruiser H.M.S. Jamaica and 4 destroyers, Norwegian KNM (Kongelige Norske Marinen) Stord, British H.M.S. Scorpion, H.M.S. Saumarez and H.M.S. Savage), the homecoming convoy RA 55A was escorted by Force 1 (heavy cruiser H.M.S. Norfolk, light cruisers H.M.S. Belfast and Sheffield), both convoys were also escorted by several other destroyers and armed ships.
Admiral Fraser briefed the Force 2 ships commander of the Scharnhorst attack strategy on 23. December on Iceland anchorage at Akureyri and sailed on 23. December, with Force 2 ships.
During the 24. December, the ships exercised the attack formation established using H.M.S. Jamaica as Scharnhorst/dummy target.
During 25. December 1943 Admiral Fraser decided to detach a group of 4 destroyers from RA 55A to support the convoy escort and the RA 55A convoy escort leader decided (because of the fuel situation) to detach the 36th Division (H.M.S. Musketeer, Matchless, Opportune and Virago ).
During same day the German reconnaissance (U-boat U-601 and a Dornier Do 18 aircraft) intercepted the convoy and issued a report to German Navy high command (SKL).
At 14:15, on Christmas day 1943 Admiral Dönitz issued the order to Rear-Admiral Erich Bey on board Tirpitz to execute operation "OSTFRONT-17.00/25/12", which meant the attack to the convoys using Scharnhorst and the 4th Destroyers Flotilla.
Rear-Admiral Bey moved the sailing time from 17:00 to 19:00 due to the need to transfer his staff from Tirpitz to Scharnhorst (using R 121) and at 19:00 with Z 29, 34 and 38 escorted by minesweepers R 56, 58 and 121 sailed from Langfjord (Altafjord) through Stjernsundet moving to "Lucie point" were the German group met the destroyers Z 30 and Z 33, then the formation sailed north.
Norwegian agents (Torsten Raaby group) immediately informed via radio transmission UK Intelligence agency that Scharnhorst had left the fjord and was at sea.
At midnight on 25. December 1943 convoys were converging from east (RA 55A) escorted by Force 1 and 36th Div. and from west (JW 55B) escorted by Force 2 to the Bear Island area, while German group was approaching the same area from south.
At 07:55, on 26. December 1943 Rear-Admiral Bey ordered the 4th Destroyers Flotilla to search for the convoy placing each destroyer 5 miles from each other while Scharnhorst following went on course 230° on South West and later turned to west-north-west.
Partly as a consequence of this and bad transmitted/executed orders, the Scharnhorst and the German destroyers lost contact with each other.
At 08:30, Norfolk radar got the Scharnhorst on bearing 280° at 30.500 meters, immediately after at 08:40 Belfast got Scharnhorst on radar too on 295° at 32.500 meters.
Scharnhorst was unaware being already picked up by Royal Navy ships radar.
At 09:24, H.M.S. Belfast opened fire from 12.000 meters on Scharnhorst immediately followed by Norfolk and Sheffield, Scharnhorst responded fire, but disengaged speeding up to 30 knots.
Scharnhorst got hit several times, one very critical shot put her main radar out of action, now the German battleship was sailing almost blind on the rough and dark artic sea.
At 09:40, the firing action ceased and Force 1 started shadowing the Scharnhorst at a distance of 22.300 meters.
At 09:51, the 36th Destroyer Division left RA 55A and joined the Force 1 cruisers.
At 10:09, the German destroyers were sailing on course 230° at 12 knots looking for the convoy.
At 10:27, they received an order from Rear-Admiral Bey to change course to 070° and increase speed to 25 knots.
On same time at 10:12 a German B&V 138 reconnaissance aircraft spotted Force 2 and reported a presence of several ship, including a big one (this was H.M.S. Duke of York).
At 10:25, Force 1 lost radar contact with Scharnhorst while sailing on course 325°, the German battleship was sailing North-East when this occurred and consequently Admiral Burnett ( Force 1 commander ) placed Force 1 and the 36th Division between Scharnhorst and the Convoy JW 55B.
At 12:10, H.M.S. Sheffield's radar spotted Scharnhorst coming back toward the convoy on bearing 079° at 24.500 meters on course 240°.
At 12:24, the Force 1 cruisers Norfolk, Belfast and Sheffield opened fire from 10.000 meters on Scharnhorst.
The 36th Divison opened fire when Scharnhorst was at 6.400 meters, the German battleship responded fire to both the cruisers and the destroyers.
Several hits were observed on both sides, on Scharnhorst as well as on Norfolk and Sheffield.
Fired ceased by Force 1 at 12:41, and at 12:47 by the 36th Division.
At 12:50, Scharnhorst was sailing south on course 138°, apparently disengaging with the intention to sail back to Norway.
The Force 1 and the 36th Division were following shadowing the German battleship on course 110° from 12.300 meters at 28 knots.
At 13:00, the German destroyers passed 8 sea miles south of the convoy, without intercepting it.
At 14:18, Rear-Admiral Bey issued to Captain Johannesson (4th Destroyer Flotilla commander) the order to disengage and sail back to Altafjord.
At 15:25, Rear-Admiral Bey reported to Group North-SKL the planned arrival time on Langfjord of Scharnhorst sailing back to her Norway base.
The Force 1 followed shadowing Scharnhorst for more than 3 hours at a distance of 7,5 sea miles (13.800 meters) at average 30 knots.
Now Scharnhorst was sailing south to Norway unaware that between her and the safe place on Langfjord the Force 2 was rapidly approaching, the German airplane report at 10:12 was not properly evaluated by SKL and now was too late to avoid been intercepted on the way back.
The planned trap for the German battleship was closing and Scharnhorst commanders were not aware of the destiny they were soon going to face.
Admiral Fraser on board H.M.S. Duke of York was evaluating enemy contact between Force 2 and Scharnhorst around 17:15, given course and speed.
Scharnhorst changed course to south on course 160° closing distances with Force 2 and at 16:17 Duke of York radar spotted Scharnhorst at 41.500 meters on bearing 020°.
Scharnhorst aft position radar, the only one still working did not picked up Force 2 presence and this allowed the British battleship to come rapidly very close to the German battleship.
Distances now were rapidly decreasing between an unaware blind Scharnhorst and a powerful well radar equipped Duke of York that was fine tuning her main guns with the Type 284 artillery radar detection and pointing system.
The trap now was perfectly close, and Scharnhorst was in the middle of it.
Duke of York turned on course 080° to allow all of her main armament guns (10 by 356 mm) to be used against the enemy.
At 16:47, Admiral Fraser ordered Belfast to open fire with star shells from 17.500 meters, at 16:50 the starboard side 133 mm guns of Duke of York did the same from 11.000 meters, Scharnhorst got illuminated and was caught by surprise and unprepared especially by the presence of heavy ships between her track to south and Norway.
Duke of York thundered her 356 mm main guns broadside and Jamaica joined in, Scharnhorst got hit with first salvo and immediately reacted firing at Duke of York and Jamaica, turned to east and than to north increasing speed to the maximum.
Scharnhorst A turret was hit and put out of action permanently with her guns elevated against the enemy blocked on the starboard side unable to rotate, fire involved also turret B as well and the turret was flooded to avoid explosions, later restarted firing.
At 16:57, Force 1 joined in opening fire on Scharnhorst that was speeding up trying to increase distance with Force 2 ships sailing to north and than to east at 30 knots.
After having exchanged fire with Force 1 Scharnhorst turned back her guns on Force 2 again, Scharnhorst was sailing east, turning to starboard just to fire and than sailing east again.
At 17:08, another shot by Duke of York hit the Scharnhorst between the C turret and the airplane catapult damaging the aircraft hangar starting a fire due to aircraft fuel, fire was immediately extinguished.
At 17:20, Scharnhorst was sailing east at 26 knots followed close by Force 1 and the destroyers, both ready to attack the German battleship with the torpedoes, Duke of York and Jamaica on her wake were still firing at the Scharnhost from 13.000 meters.
At 17:25, Rear-Admiral Bey sent a message to SKL informing German high command that Scharnhorst was surrounded by heavy units and engaged by them.
At 17:30, Force 2 was still firing and following Scharnhorst from south west, Norfolk, Belfast and Sheffield were following close and the "S" group of destroyers (Stord, Scorpion, Savage and Saumarez) previously escorting Force 2 were getting closer and ready for a torpedo attack.
At 17:42, distance between Scharnhorst and Force 2 was 16.500 meters and Jamaica ceased fire, while Duke of York was still firing at the German battleship.
At 18:00, distance was 18.000 meters between Force 2 and Scharnhorst that was at least 3 knots faster than Duke of York and was hoping to be able to sail away and then head for a fiord in Norway.
Admiral Bey sent a message to SKL stating: "Scharnhorst ever onwards".
Now Scharnhorst's turret B went out of action at 18:15, when a hit from Duke of York broke the turret ventilation system making the turret unusable because of smoke from the guns when fired.
Consequently Scharnhorst could now only use her three guns in C turret, but the German battleship still had her possibility to escape because of the superior speed.
German sailors were ordered to manually bring 280 mm ammunitions from turret A and B aft to turret C that was the only one still in use.
At 18:19, a new message was sent from Rear-Admiral Bey to SKL: "The enemy is firing by radar at a range of more than 18.000 meters. Position AC4965, Course 110°, Speed 26 knots".
At 18:24, Duke of York was at 19.500 meters and ceased fire (after 52 broadsides), a shell from Scharnhorst passing through the mast had broken some wires of the Type 284 Artillery Radar consequently firing was going to be only a waste of ammunition.
Lieutenant Bates climbed to the mast and repaired the radar giving again Duke of York the vital advantage of firing using the radar.
Nobody yet knew that one of the last Duke of York shells at 18:24 had hit a vital spot on the German battleship, penetrating the Nr. 1 boiler room, severing a steam-pipe that fed the turbines.
The situation suddenly became desperate on board Scharnhorst as the speed rapidly felt down to 10 knots.
Rear-Admiral Bey realizing the situation communicated to SKL: "We shall fight to the last shell".
At 18:40, Admiral Fraser signalled to Admiral Burnett: "I see little hope to catch Scharnhorst and I am proceeding to support convoy" while ordering a turn to south.
But before the order was executed something happened, the plotting room realized Scharnhorst was loosing speed and Admiral Fraser called back the order: "I had already decided to turn towards to the Norwegian coast, hoping the enemy would also lead round and so give my destroyers a chance to attack. When, however, I saw the speed reduction, I turned in straight at the Scharnhorst" he wrote.
On board Scharnhorst on the engine room the Engineers were desperately repairing the damage to give back the steam to the turbines and the possibility to develop high speed and run away.
The British destroyers immediately closed in at 18:50 on Scharnhorst and while Savage and Saumarez were firing star shells Scorpion (8 from 2.000 meters) and Stord (8 from 1.800 meters) fired their 533 mm torpedoes to the German battleship.
At 18:55, was the turn of Savage (8 from 3.200 meters) and Saumarez (4 from 1.600 meters) to launch their torpedoes at Scharnhorst while Stord and Scorpion were firing star shells.
Scharnhorst responded fire to the destroyers and Saumarez got it by a 280 mm shell that killed 11 sailors and wounded other 11, the destroyers was able to sail away at 10 knots under smoke screen.
But the torpedoes launched by the 4 British destroyers were on the run and 4 out of the 28 so far launched found the target.
One from Scorpion and 3 from Savage hit the Scharnhorst on her starboard side and determined the end of her possibilities to escape.
One hit the stern area damaging a shaft, 2 hit the center ship causing flooding and one hit the bow area.
Scharnhorst was now unable to sail faster than Duke of York with her speed at 20 knots, but rapidly reducing again and with all British ships (13) converging on her.
At 19:01, on board Duke of York the Type 284 artillery radar was back working again and the British battleship followed by Jamaica re-opened fire with her main guns to Scharnhorst from 9500 meters.
Soon Duke of York started scoring again big hits on Schanhorst that was now on fire again on the hangar area, while turret C was the only one responding fire.
At 19:07, with distance around 7.000 meters and Scharnhorst only able to sail at 10 knots Force 1 was ordered to join in on course 180°.
At 19:11, Rear-Admiral Bey received last communication from SKL ensuring that all U-boats, destroyers and aircrafts were sent on the area to help Scharnhorst.
At 19:12, Belfast opened fire from 15.500 meters and appears to have scored twice with 3rd salvo.
At the same time turret C on Scharnhorst ceased fire and left only a couple of 150 mm still firing.
At 19:17, Belfast ceased fire after her 5. salvo with 12 guns.
At 19:19, Admiral Fraser ordered Belfast to attack the Scharnhorst with torpedoes, the light cruiser closed in and from 5.700 meters at 19:26 on course 075° delivered her first set of torpedoes from her starboard side on bearing 170°, than turned in circle to be ready to launch from port side.
British ships now were attacking in shifts, the area was very crowded and to avoid damages fire was ceased from long distance to allow the torpedoes to be launched from closed distance safely.
At 19:28, Duke of York ceased fire after having fired 80 broadsides on Scharnhorst (446 rounds).
Jamaica closed in as well after having fired 22 salvos to attack with torpedoes too, at 19:25 she launched 2 torpedoes from port side from 3.200 meters, then fired 36 rounds with her 152 mm guns.
At 19:30, Scharnhorst was only sailing at less than 5 knots, the ship was heavily listed to starboard side and slowly running in circle, Captain Hintze ordered the crew to abandon ship.
Meanwhile 36th Division destroyers were arriving to the area as well, and Belfast was delivering her last torpedo from port side.
At 19:33, Musketeer (4 torpedoes from 900 meters) and Matchless (no launch due to heavy sea) attacked with torpedo from port side while Opportune (8 torpedoes from 2.300 meters) and Virago (7 torpedoes from 2.600 meters) attacked from starboard side at 19:34.
Jamaica turned and launched at 19:37 other 3 torpedoes from starboard side scoring 2 hits.
Scharnhorst was only sailing at 3 knots with her bow underwater on the starboard side and the ship heavily listed, she got hit with 3 torpedoes from Musketeer, 2 from Virago and probably 2 from Opportune.
After those hits the Scharnhorst was on extensive fire, explosions all over and the ship heavily listed to starboard into a huge cloud of smoke that star shell and searchlight could not penetrate.
At 19:45, a tremendous explosion, probably caused by the forward turrets ammunition deposit caused the Scharnhorst to sink rapidly on her starboard side by the bow (looking at the recent analysis of the wreck it is possible that the forward section got separated by the explosion under forward section of main turrets from the rest of the ship and this was the cause of the fast sinking of Scharnhorst) on 72° 16' N and 28° 41' E.
At 19:48, Belfast and Matchless came in again for another torpedo attack, but Scharnhorst was no more.
After the order to abandon ship was given there were hundreds of German sailors swimming on the sea, it seems that Captain Hintze and Konteradmiral Bey gave their life-jackets to some cadets on board who had none before jumping into the sea.
British ships started rescuing the survivors, Matchless took on board 6 survivors and Scorpion rescued 30 more.
Admiral Fraser asked at 20:16 with a radio message: "Please confirm Scharnhorst is sunk".
Only after he got sure from Scharnhorst survivors witness on board Scorpion at 20:30 that the German ship was sunk he ordered all the British ships to abandon the area joining him on the way to Kola.
Officially due to risk of U-boat attack, several hundreds survivors were left at sea to die in the ice-cold water.
Later that evening Admiral Fraser briefed his officers on board Duke of York: "Gentlemen, the battle against Scharnhorst has ended in victory for us. I hope that if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today".
Battle was over, 36 survivors out of 1.968 crew members from Scharnhorst.
The British lost 18 men in total on Norfolk and Saumarez.

Against Scharnhorst were launched 55 torpedoes, of which probably 11 hit the warship.

She was targeted by more than 2.000 shells, of which:

- 446 were 356 mm (14 inch) shells from Duke of York
- 161 were 203 mm (8 inch) shells from Norfolk
- 874 were 152 mm (6 inch) shells from Jamaica, Sheffield and Belfast
- 686 were 133 mm (5,2 inch) shells from Duke of York
- 126 were 120 mm (4,7 inch) shells from the destroyers

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Dec 26, 2013 5:27 pm

A few comments on the above timeline based on primary documents, and also Fritz Otto Busch’s very good: The Drama of the Scharnhorst: A Factual Account From the German Viewpoint.

After the battle when the Kapitan Zur See Giessler (the KM’s radar boss) was able to review the KTBs of German destroyers he was shocked to realize that Rear Admiral Bey had simply carried over the operational orders for the use of radar equipment from the Spitzbergen Operation during September. During that operation Vice Admiral Kummetz had ordered radar silence during the approach to the operations area because the visibility was nearly unlimited and there was more than 15 hours of daylight out of 24 hours at that time. The weather was clear. However, during December and in the mist of a major winter storm these obsolete orders were in violation of KM guidelines. Bey should have ordered the radars into continuous operation if the visibility was less than 18km and had operated radars every 10 minutes for two minutes if the visibility exceeded 18km. Most likely the Scharnhorst was still operating on condition of radar silence prior to the first skirmish. However, it may be yet more complicated than that.

After ½ hour (0800 hours) of following the German destroyers from a distance of ten miles searching for the convoy toward the south west, the Scharnhorst suddenly turned away to the north (which was where the convoy was located some 60km away). This may have been based on reception of British radar emissions from the convoy escort ships. Bey did not communicate this development with the German destroyers.

Scharnhorst was still on a northeast course making 12 knots when the British contacted the Scharnhorst by radar at 0840. Soon after the radar contact was made, Scharnhorst suddenly turned due south and increased speed to 19 knots. The British cruisers were to the southeast of Scharnhorst on a northwest course. After 20 minutes the Belfast picked up a second radar contact at 24,000 yards on a northeast course making 9 knots. Burnett thought it might have been a convoy ship but the convoy was still 30 miles away. It was German destroyer Z32 trying to find the Scharnhorst and join up with it.

Z32 had broken away from the other destroyers because it had been given orders to stay with the battleship (remember the German destroyers were forbidden to use their own radar with out permission). According to German accounts, the Scharnhorst and Z32 were in radio contact, with Z32 reporting it was coming to join the Scharnhorst before a soon expected combat with the enemy (but SH was now going due south at 20 knots and Z32 passed to its northward without finding it). The British dismissed these claims of survivors because they intercepted no VHF (UKW) communications between the German destroyers and Scharnhorst. However, the Germans had UHF communications systems that the British didn’t know about.

At the same time the German destroyers reported that they may have found the convoy as a ship was fleetingly seen far to the northward. The destroyer commander ordered the radar of his flagship (Z29) switched on and a radar contact was indeed registered. It turned out to be German destroyer Z38 which had strayed off course in the heavy seas or possibly had turned away with Z32. As KzS Johannessen sorted this out and reported to Bey the time had now elapsed to 0925 hours. The British were now passing to northward of Scharnhorst crossing over its wake at 12,000 yards, and Z32 was also to the northward of Scharnhorst still calling over the radio trying to find Scharnhorst.

In Berenbrok’s 1962 account he reported that when the British opened fire the AO on Scharnhorst reported that the fire was coming from the northward from the radar contacts there at 9,800 meters. Had Bey thought radar contacts (if he had ordered the radar switched on before hand) were from his own destroyers instead of the possible enemy? IFF equipment would certainly not be switched on by either British or German in this tactical situation because it would betray their position to the enemy. Only after enemy contact was confirmed would IFF equipment be switched on.

The Scharnhorst received two hits from Norfolk. One was a dud which came to rest in a mess compartment aft. The other shell was not a dud and burst passing through foretop radar station destroying the forward radar and knocking away the antenna into the sea. Only the Norfolk fired among British warships at that time, although Belfast fired star shell.

During the short combat Bey determined the location of the convoy was to the northward and broke away to circle around and approach the convoy from the east, while ordering Johannessen to close on the convoy from the southwest.

Before the second skirmish Scharnhorst gained radar contact using the aft radar set with Burnett’s force at 11:30 hours from a range of 29km on an almost parallel course (northward). At the same time the Norfolk gained a radar contact with Type 273 on the Scharnhorst but lost it soon afterward as the range increased to 32,000 yards.

After the second engagement with Burnett’s cruisers at 12:30 hours the Scharnhorst turned toward the south to make for home at 26 knots cruising speed. If Bey had taken a southwest course, into the storm, he would have soon lost the shadowing cruisers and destroyers because they would not have been able to keep up with the battleship into the wind and seas. But he did not. The aft radar on the Scharnhorst maintained a constant watch on the British cruisers and destroyers following in the Scharnhorst’s wake. The aft radar could not see in the direction that Duke of York was approaching from because it was blocked by the forward superstructure.

Some of the German authorities ashore knew about the approach of Duke of York though out the day because it had been located by a German aircraft with Airborne Hohentwiel radar. This vital Intel was not forwarded to Bey on the Scharnhorst in a timely manner.

At 16:00 hours the alarm was sounded on Scharnhorst based on a radar contact to the southwest. At that time Duke of York and Jamaica was still at least 60km away. It was certainly an interception of British radar emissions by the passive detection equipment. However, Bey took no action or changed course based on this development and 20 minutes later the Duke of York gained radar contact on the Scharnhorst from 42km.

The radars knocked out on Duke of York by hits from the Scharnhorst during the chase phase did not include the Type 284M firecontrol set. This radar became unusable later only because it could not spot the fall of shot according to Howse. The Germans were aware from B-Dienst ashore that Duke of York could not spot fall shot using radar because of Duke of York’s repeated requests for other British warships to spot the fall of shot for it.

Radars knocked out by Scharnhorst hits included the surface search Type 273Q when a shell passed through the Duke of York without exploding under the Type 273 office. Vibration and shock knocked the antenna on the tripod mast from the mounting. This was the one repaired by Bates. The repair restored it to operation but not to accuracy. A hit to one of the masts knocked out the Type 281 radar. This set and the mast was later repaired by Russian workmen at Kola.

A second hit on a mast knocked out the radar jammer apparatus. The radar jammer was being used to jam Scharnhorst’s remaining firecontrol radar. A cat and mouse game was being played between German and British operators. When the jammer had zeroed in the exact frequency of the Seetakt set, the accuracy of the Scharnhorst’s shooting fell off. Then the Germans would change frequency and the accuracy was restored. According to the 1948 revised Battle Summary Number 24; once the Duke of York’s jammer was disabled the Scharnhorst’s shooting improved markedly.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by alecsandros » Fri Dec 27, 2013 5:58 pm

@David

Is it certain what type of damage did the Scharnhorst inflict on her pursuers ?
Norfolk received at least 2 explosive hits, and Sheffield at least 1. 1 of the destroyers was also damaged durign the torpedo attack.
This would imply that the SCH made at least 4 hits on the British ships, an equal number to the number of hits made by the Duke of York on the SCH before the final artillery barrage... not bad for a ship without her main gunnery radar, and later without 1 main turret...

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Dec 27, 2013 8:57 pm

Scharnhorst indeed fought well during the 2nd engagement. Scharnhorst was on a southwest course approaching the convoy dead ahead at high speed coming up to 12:30 hours. Burnett's cruisers, plus four destroyers they had picked up since the first engagement, were fine off the Scharnhorst's starboard bow on a collision course. As soon as the Belfast fired starshell, the Scharnhorst opened fire on Norfolk, followed by the Norfolk opening fire. Scharnhorst adjusted its course slightly to open the field of fire for the aft turret and so also the aft radar could bear. German survivors claim a first salvo straddle.

Norfolk was soon hit by at least two 28cm shells. One penetrated X turret barbet causing a large fire and knocking out X turret of course. The other penetrated the cruisers armoured deck and burst showering the machinery spaces with splinters. All of Norfolk's radar sets were knocked out with the exception of the 284 set on the main director.

Scharnhorst then switched fire to Sheffield and fired HE. It's interesting that SH fired AP at Norfolk and HE at Sheffield. Sheffield was soon showered with splinters from several bursting HE shells which riddled decks and bulkheads and caused a large fire to break out above decks.

In only short time Scharnhorst had basically swept aside Burnett's cruisers and the convoy now lay almost naked only 16km away. Scharnhorst received no hits from the British warships during the second engagement.

However, much to Doenitz's chagrin Bey disengaged and turned for home. I think the reason he did so was because of Musketeer's torpedo attack at that time. Musketeer got fish into the water from 4,800 meters but the angle was bad and they had no chance of scoring. I think it probably scared Bey though. It was against German rules of engagement to expose heavy ships to destroyer torpedo attacks at night. It was of course night 24 hours a day in December. Bey was going by the book by turning away at that time.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by alecsandros » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:18 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
Scharnhorst then switched fire to Sheffield and fired HE. It's interesting that SH fired AP at Norfolk and HE at Sheffield. Sheffield was soon showered with splinters from several bursting HE shells which riddled decks and bulkheads and caused a large fire to break out above decks.
Very Interesting .. this would imply Scharnhorst's crew correctly identified Norfolk as a heavy cruiser, and Shefield as a light cruiser, despite the difficult spotting conditions. Sheffield may have suffered a hit in, or near the machinery spaces... as she dropped out the the pursuit soon after being hit by Scharnhorst.

I wonder why Scharnhorst seized fire though... after evading the torpedo attack, he could have returned and sunk all 3 cruisers, isn't it ?

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:30 am

Well it wasn't their job to sink cruisers for the sake of sinking cruisers. However, Doentiz later lamented that Bey didn't just go ahead and fall on the convoy with Scharnhorst alone at that point. The cruisers and the 4 additional destroyers couldn't have stopped Scharnhorst. Scharnhorst had essentially just blew right by them unscathed. Perhaps the absence of the German destroyers caused Bey to lose hope? Bey sent a message ordering the destroyers to abort the attack at about 13:00 hours. Johannessen delayed for awhile and then asked for confirmation to further delay. Bey's answer was a terse: "Beak off!"

He would still need to deal with the close escort destroyers and pincer attack was the best way to deal with convoys but he could have made a hit run attack, perhaps sinking a few steamers or forced a scattering, and continued on into the wind and sea quickly losing any shadowers.

It was actually the second time Doenitz felt Bey had not been aggressive enough. Doenitz also wrote he should have fought the first skirmish to a conclusion rather than breaking off and circling around. Scharnhorst, in Doenitz's opinion, could easily over power the cruisers and then continue straight on to the convoy to the north, picking up his destroyers along the way. Bey could then have fallen on the convoy in force and with the battleship having an escort.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The end of Scharnhorst

Post by alecsandros » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:27 pm

So Bey badly needed a way to comunicate with his own destroyers, in order to keep the enemy DDs in check. As it was, with his forces divided, it wasn't to much he could do...

If only he could have rallied his DDs, than Scharnhorst would have had a much better chance in tackling the escort and the convoy itself...

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