67 years ago tonight

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
Djoser
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67 years ago tonight

Post by Djoser » Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:18 pm

Battle of North Cape. As tragic in its own way as the sinking of the Bismarck. Almost 2,000 men and boys dying in the freezing waters, including Bey who apparently was almost rescued but didn't make it. A beautiful ship going to the bottom in dramatic fashion.

I have read that they have recently photographed the wreck! Anyone know about this??

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Terje Langoy
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Post by Terje Langoy » Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:46 pm

G´day all
Djoser wrote: I have read that they have recently photographed the wreck! Anyone know about this??
A documentary was made for Norwegian television after they found the wreck site of the Scharnhorst back in 2001. It should be available in English as well ...

Best regards

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RF
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by RF » Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:40 pm

Djoser wrote:Battle of North Cape. As tragic in its own way as the sinking of the Bismarck. Almost 2,000 men and boys dying in the freezing waters, including Bey who apparently was almost rescued but didn't make it. A beautiful ship going to the bottom in dramatic fashion.
Yes indeed - had German intelligence not failed the ship might have been recalled in time and the lives saved.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:10 pm

The Germans had intelligence which they failed to heed. Prior to Scharnhorst sailing, the Germans had intercepted radio transmissions from Fraser which were fixed to point only 180 miles east of the convoy's track. Schniewind did not stress this information in his repeated reccomendations to Doenitz to scrub the mission. Schniewind only pointed out that there was at best a very narrow window in which SH could fall on the convoy and then withdraw without probably being intercepted and cut off itself. Captain Peters at Narvik also opined that due to the worsening weather, the convoy may be difficult to locate and additional time spent locating the convoy would probably result in the Scharnhorst enccountering heavy enemy covering forces instead. The Germans were breaking all their own rules in ordering SH to sea without confirming the existence of and relative locations of the enemy battle groups. Doenitz had not counted on Bey being 3 hours late in getting underway though.

Even after the Scharnhorst had been in battle the authorities failed to make sure that Bey received vital new intelligence as to the evolving dispositions of the enemy. Fraser's battle group had been located and tracked via airborne radar and also intercepted radio transmissions. Bey was not aware of the danger and did not take the necessary evading actions which in all likelyhood would have allowed the Scharnhorst to escape.
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: 67 years ago tonight

Post by Djoser » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:09 am

Thanks for the informative post, Dave. I'm trying to remember if the RN was made aware of the SH's location, or aided in the search through ULTRA, as was the case I believe at Matapan?

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Dave Saxton
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:28 am

Ultra played a major role in ambushing the Scharnhorst. It was Ultra which revealed to Fraser after he had arrived in Murmansk on the 21 or 22 Dec that the Luftwaffe had discovered the east bound JW55B convoy and that the KM put SH on 3 hours notice to put to sea. Fraser had to immediantly travel to Iceland to top off his battle groups fuel tanks from American tankers. The order for SH to put to sea at about 2:00PM Christamas day was given by land line, but the order was repeated by Enigma from Narvik. It was only the word "Ostfront" and some numbers though, so the British were left guessing what it really meant once they decyphered it. It took about 7 hours for the British to decypher naval Enigma messages at that time. However, Bey and authorities ashore exchanged Enigma messages just as SH was clearing the fjords. Doenitz sent a detailed Enigma message instructing Bey to press his attacks at around 9:00pm. When this message was decyphered about 0300 the next morning the Admiralty sent an emergency message to Fraser: " Admiralty appreciates that SH is at sea". If it had not been for Ultra it's rather unlikely that the British could have known about the SH sorti in time, and the SH could have probably destroyed the convoy and returned to base without being intercepted by either covering force.

Shortly after Fraser was given confirmation that SH was at sea the SH received a signal suppossedly from U-601 locating the convoy west of its expected location. U-601 never sent this message according to its KTB and was actually submerged at the time. This was probably a deceptive message to divert SH away from the convoy. It was not picked up by German listening stations ashore. Duke of York was still at least 15 hours steaming away and Burnett's cruisers were badly positioned. Fraser also broke radio silence to re-direct the convoy northward of its normal track. SH didn't pickup these radio transmissions from DoY to the convoy or to Burnett. SH did not have the fleet B-dienst team embarked and so it didn't have the normal radio intelligence capabilities.

When the SH arrived at the expected location of the convoy and found it not there, Bey set up a search pattern toward the west by southwest. The destroyers fanned out ahead with SH following about 18km behind. Bey had forbad the use of active radar by the German battlegroup without his order. The destroyer leader Johannnessen cursed this restriction in his KTB at that time. The SH suddenly turned away toward the south east. Bey did not break radio silence even then, so the German destroyers lost contact with SH never to be regained. But since Bey maintained strict radio silence Ultra could not assist in locating SH, by decypherment or by DF. The reason Bey had altered course was because radar detectors on SH had picked up British radar pulses from Burnetts cruiser group. At this time the British cruisers were still at least 60km south by southeast of the SH and the SH was actually between Burnett's cover force and the convoy, which was only about 30 miles to the north. BTW, at that time it was still pitch dark with a force 9 gale blowing, scattered snow squals, and very rough seas. Visibility was 300 meters. It was at this time that Bey committed his ultimately fatal mistake of not switching on his active radars.
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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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:29 pm

Ciao all,

I have made years ago a detailed re-construction of this battle you can read here :

http://www.scharnhorst-class.dk/scharnh ... front.html

In my personal opinion Adm Donitz condamned Scharnhorst to his fate by telling Adm bey : ... " we ( me and the Fuhrer ) are confident on your willingness to fight " , and knowing Adm Bey personal career record situation after Narvik and what happened on the Barents sea ( Adm Hipper+Lutzow disaster on JW51) the year before that was a kind of ultimatum for him to say the least.

You can understand now how much pressure was placed on Adm Bey and Scharnhorst that night.

On the other hand for Adm Fraser was a "piece of cake" to take, helped both by ENIGMA decoded messages and Norwegian underground agents very precise infos ( even the ship camouflage patterns he knew and all departure infos precisely ) he made some trials on Iceland to set up the hunting team and especially the destroyers attack with torpedoes using HMS Jamaica as dummy Scharnhorst target before sailing to make a very easy catch due to the superiority he can count at sea plus the surprise effect of the trap and it worked perfectly.

Than as usual many lucky/unlucky factors, on radar received hit, speed drop, escorting zerstorers lost, .. etc etc ,.... but you can read and make your own opinion about it.

Many do not know that there were many young cadets on board Scharnhorst and many Tirpitz crew members substituting Scharnhorst sailors being gone home for Christmas.


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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RF
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by RF » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:21 pm

Scharnhorst was considered a ''lucky ship'' - those crew members on Christmas leave indeed were very lucky. Not so those unfortunate cadets.....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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celticmarine10
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by celticmarine10 » Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:59 pm

A book that was recommended to me in my on Scharnhorst post was the book "Die Scharnhost" by Alf R. Jacobsen, one of the discoverers of the wreck. Contact Glasisch for more details! As far as I know the only photos are in a documentary (recomended by Antonio Bonomi) and a sonar image in that book! :D
regards,
Celticmarine
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celticmarine10
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Re: 67 years ago tonight

Post by celticmarine10 » Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:05 pm

"Permission to Fire!" - Kapitan Lindemann

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