Scharnhorst

The History

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Operation "Weserübung"

On 7 April a large part of the German Fleet assembled in the German Bight for Operation "Weserübung", the occupation of Denmark and Norway. The invasion force consisted of Admiral Hipper, 12 destroyers plus two more later, and other battle groups made up of light cruisers, destroyers, torpedo-boats, E-boats and numerous auxiliaries. Almost anything capable of raising steam was commandeered. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau was to be part of the main covering force for the invasion of Narvik and Trondheim. Bad weather, low clouds and frequent rain and snow, made visibility very poor. A strong north-westerly gale forced a reduction in speed to 9 knots. Scharnhorst sustained weather damage. A longitudinal bulkhead to starboard was distorted, evidence of metal fatigue and cracks were discovered in the bows, and more structural faults became evident in the upperworks.

At 0430 on 9 April the Gneisenau reported a radar contact, and both ships went to battle stations. About 0507 the enemy opened fire. At 0510 the main guns on the Scharnhorst responded the fire and at the same time the enemy was identified as a battlecruiser of the Renown Class.

In fact it was HMS Renown and she was accompanied by nine "H" class destroyers of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla.

In the engagement with the Renown, the Scharnhorst's radar malfunctioned, and she could not track the target. She came under fire from the HMS Renown, but repeated course changes allowed her to escape undamaged. By 0715 the German battlecruisers had outdistanced their pursuers. However, the Scharnhorst's turret Anton was put out of action by heavy seas that cascaded over the bows and into the turret through the cartridge ejection scuttles, rangefinder gear, and the gun bloomers. The ammunition hoist motor was short-circuited by seawater. When the Scharnhorst increased speed to the maximum possible, the starboard turbine had to be stopped, which slowed the two ships to 25 knots.

Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, after joining the Admiral Hipper, headed back for Germany and reached Wilhelmshaven on 12 April.

After her return the Scharnhorst underwent an extensive overhaul of her guns and propulsion plant.



© John Asmussen, 2001 - 2010. All rights reserved.