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Weapons of World War Two

Scharnhorst battlecruiser

Scharnhorst battlecruiser

Launched in 1936, the battlecruiser Scharnhorst, as her twin Gneisenau, was one of the units built with very modern criteria that should constitute the backbone of the reborn Kriegsmarine. She took her name from another battlecruiser which during the First World War had distinguished herself as one of the most powerful and robust units of the High Seas Fleet, and it seemed indeed that in this war the name of General Gerhard von Scharnhorst would be kept high.

Already at the beginning of the war the new unit had started to get fame; the 23rd November 1939 she had sunk by gunfire the British auxiliary cruiser Rawalpindi and later, along with her twin Gneisenau, she had been used for the corsair war in the Atlantic. The results had been good, because during a sole campaign the two ships managed to sink 22 enemy units. Later, the 22nd February 1942, the Scharnhorst, this time along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, had forced her way across the English Channel in broad daylight in front of the eyes of the British to arrive to German docks departing from her base in Brest. The humilliation was big for the British, who from the times of the Spanish Armada had not seen enemy ships in the Channel.

After the success of her transfer, it was decided that the Scharnhorst would operate, from September, as complement of the Tirpitz against the Allied convoys in the Atlantic. This decision was fatal for the excellent ship which, after the midget submarines managed to damage the Tirpitz, immobilizing her during several months, had to fight on her own. In the encounter of the 26th December 1943, after the attempt of intercepting the convoy JW 55B in route towards Russia, the Scharnhorst fell in a trap and found herself in front of the battleship Duke of York, one of the most modern British units, armed with ten 356-millimeter cannons versus the nine 280-millimeter cannons of the German battlecruiser.

The fight was long, but in the end, as it was logical, the Scharnhorst had to succumb. To the ears of the mariners from the British destroyers that navigated the area to gather the castaways, arrived weakly words from an old song of the German Navy: "In the tomb of the mariner roses do not bloom". They were 36 survivors out of 1900 men, who kept united within the waves while singing. This was what remained from the crew of the battlecruiser. Not even an officer was among them.

Launched: 3 October 1936 in the shipyards Wilhelmshaven

Length: 235 meters

Beam: 30 meters

Draught: 9.90 meters

Displacement: 38900 tonnes at full load

Propulsion: Turbines Brown-Bovery in three axes fed by twelve boilers Wagner, for a total power of 160000 horsepower with three propellers

Maximum speed: 31.5 knots

Operational range: 15500 kilometers at 17 knots

Armor: 330 millimeters in waterline; 51 millimeters in deck (102 millimeters above magazines); 355 millimeters in conning tower; 362 millimeters in main turrets front; 205 millimeters in secondary turrets front

Armament: Nine 280-millimeter cannons (3 x 3); twelve 150-millimeter cannons (4 x 2 plus 4 x 1); fourteen 105-millimeter cannons (7 x 2); eighteen 37-millimeter cannons (9 x 2); fourty-four 20-millimeter cannons (6 x 4 plus 4 x 2 plus 12 x 1); six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes (2 x 3); one catapult and four aircraft

Complement: 1900

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