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Under Water Warfare The Struggle Against the Submarine Menace 1939 -1945
The Sinking of the Scharnhost

The Sinking of the "Scharnhost"
The Battle Cruiser "Scharnhorst," based in Norway, continued to be a potential threat to our Russian Convoys. In late 1943, the East bound Convoy J.W.55 B, the returning West bound Convoy R.A.55 A. were supported by Force 1, commanded by Vice Admiral Robert Burnett consisted of 3 Cruisers, "Belfast," "Sheffield," and "Norfolk," and Force 2, with Vice Admiral Fraser in the Battleship, "Duke of York," supported by the Cruiser "Jamacia" and 4 attending Destroyers, were all located around Bear Island which lies South of Spitzbergen at 74 degrees North, and 19 degrees East.

Given that this area was in the grip ofa Northern Winter, at such a high latitude, darkness and poor visibility would prevail ( I recall sailing in this location in the Summer of 1940, when the converse was true, the sun dipped below the horizon, to immediately rise again resulting in perpetual daylight.)

Admiral Donltz ordered "Scharnhorst," and 5 Destroyers to sea on Christmas evening, to seek out and destroy the East bound Convoy JW55B.

The Scharnhorst at speed...

Scharnhorst at speed

The three British Cruisers found "Scharnhorst" with their Radar, and a running battle took place, the Cruisers claiming hits. "Norfolk," lost a turret, and "Shetfield," was also damaged.

A British Destroyer Torpedo attack was aborted, and "Scharnhorst" was now all alone as her Destroyers had been ordered to return to Norway, as they could not find the Convoy.

At 1617 (4 17 PM ) "Duke of York's" radar located the German Battle Cruiser at a range of 6 miles, and subsequently opened fire on her at 1650 (1 50 PM.) The "Scharnhorst" was hit and forced to reduce speed. It was now the turn of Fraser's Destroyers to attack with Torpedoes, some of which struck home, further slowing her down

"Duke of York" and "Jamaica" now systematically destroyed this once proud ship with both gunfire and torpedoes. Although stubborn to the end, she was finally subdued about 1945, (7 45 PM ) and sank, taking all but 36 of her crew with her, the freezing water their icy grave.

The Scharnhorst


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