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World War II: Admiral Scheer

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World War II: Admiral Scheer

Admiral Scheer at Gibraltar, 1936

Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command

Admiral Scheer - Overview:

  • Nation: Germany
  • Type: Heavy Cruiser/ "Pocket Battleship"
  • Shipyard: Kriegsmarinewerft, Wilhelmshaven
  • Laid Down: June 25, 1931
  • Launched: April 1, 1933
  • Commissioned: November 12, 1934
  • Fate: Sunk on April 9, 1945

Admiral Scheer- Specifications

  • Displacement: 15,420 tons
  • Length: 610 ft., 3 in.
  • Beam: 70 ft.
  • Draft: 23 ft. 9 in.
  • Speed: 28.3 knots
  • Complement: 1,070 men

Admiral Scheer - Armament

Guns (as built)

  • 6 × 28 cm (11 in.) SK C/28 (2 x 3)
  • 8 × 15 cm SK C/28
  • 8 × 53.3 cm torpedo tubes

  • Admiral Scheer - Design & Construction:

    A Deutschland-class panzerschiffe (armored ship), Admiral Scheer's design was intended to nominally conform to the naval limitations set forth by the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I. These restricted future German warships to 10,000 long tons. Though the ships of Deutschland-class somewhat exceeded this displacement, the German designers devised numerous techniques to reduce weight. These included the incorporation diesel propulsion and the large-scale use of welding. The class' armament centered on six 11 in. guns mounted in two triple turrets. As a result, the Deutschland-class ships were able to deliver a potent punch despite their relatively small size. As a result of this, they became know in other nations as "pocket battleships." Capable of around 28 knots, they were able to out-gun many of the foreign warships that were fast enough to catch them.

    Approved in 1931 after extensive debate in the German Reichstag, construction of Admiral Scheer was assigned to the Reichsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven. Laid down June 25, 1931, work progressed and the vessel was ready for launching in April 1933. Sliding down the ways on April 1, it was sponsored by Marianne Besserer, the daughter of Admiral Reinhardt Scheer who had led the German fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. On November 12, 1934, Admiral Scheer was completed and commissioned with Captain Wilhelm Marschall in command. Much of the new ship's crew was taken from the recently decommissioned battleship Hessen. Departing Wilhelmshaven, Admiral Scheer conducted sea trials and training for the remainder of 1934 and into 1935.

    Admiral Scheer - Prewar Service:

    With the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, Admiral Scheer was ordered south to aid in evacuating German civilians from the country. Returning later that summer, it conducted non-intervention patrols off the Spanish coast in conjunction with Deutschland. On May 29, 1937, the ship was attacked by aircraft from the Spanish Republican Air Force while operating off Ibiza. In the wake of the incident, the ship was directed to bombard Almería in reprisal. Approaching the port on May 31, Admiral Scheer opened fire on Republican shore installations, ships, and harbor facilities. Though relieved by Admiral Graf Spee the following month, Admiral Scheer returned to the Spanish coast in August. Sailing to Germany in October, the ship entered the yard in Wilhelmshaven for an overhaul.

    Admiral Scheer - World War II Begins:

    With work completed, Admiral Scheer conducted crew training until February 1938 before returning to Spain. Operating in the Mediterranean until June, it steamed north and spent the remainder of the year and part of 1939 conducting fleet maneuvers and training in home waters. With the beginning of World War II on September 1, 1939, Admiral Scheer was anchored with the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper in the Schillig roadstead near Wilhelmshaven. Three days later, the two ships were unsuccessfully attacked by Royal Air Force Bristol Blenheim bombers. As the bulk of the Kriegsmarine commenced commerce raiding operations in the Atlantic, Admiral Scheer was held back for an overhaul. Remaining in the yard until mid-1940, the work included altering the ship's bow, enhancing its anti-aircraft defenses, and changes to its superstructure. Completed in late July, the ship was re-classified as a heavy cruiser.

    Admiral Scheer - Commerce Raiding:

    Sailing in October, with Captain Theodor Krancke in command, Admiral Scheer succeeded in slipping through the Denmark Strait and entering the Atlantic. Attacking Convoy HX-84 on November 5, it sank the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay. Despite this victory, the brief battle allowed all but five of the convoy's ships to escape the German guns. The following month, Krancke sank the refrigerator ship Duquesa before leading pursuing British naval forces away from the Denmark Strait to allow Admiral Hipper to pass into the Atlantic. Utilizing a network of German supply ships, Admiral Scheer continued raiding in the Atlantic until passing into the Indian Ocean in February 1941. Attacking Allied shipping, it remained there until early March when pressure from British naval forces compelled Krancke to return to the Atlantic.

    Moving north, Admiral Scheer steered for Germany and evaded British ships in the Denmark Strait on March 26/27. Reaching Bergen, Norway, the cruiser picked up a destroyer escort for the final voyage to Kiel. In the course of its voyage, Admiral Scheer sank or captured sixteen Allied merchant ships. Though German planners wished to send the ship back to the Atlantic later in the year, the loss of the battleship Bismarck and the destruction of the supply ship system led them to send the cruiser to Norway in September. Arriving in Oslo, with Captain Wilhelm Meendsen-Bohlken in command, the ship was unsuccessfully attacked by British B-17s on September 5 and 8.

    Admiral Scheer - Fighting from Norway:

    After a brief return to Swinemünde, Germany, Admiral Scheer joined the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and sailed for Trondheim, Norway in February 1942. Remaining there until July, it took part in the abortive surface component of Operation Rösselsprung. This called for large-scale surface attack on Arctic convoy PQ-17 by Admiral Scheer, the heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper and Lützow, as well as the battleship Tirpitz. Alerted to the enemy's intentions, the British ordered the convoy to disperse leading the Germans to call off the attack. Though the surface component failed, German U-boats and aircraft sank 24 ships.

    The following month, Admiral Scheer received orders to conduct Operation Wunderland. This required the ship to conduct a sortie into the Kara Sea to attack enemy shipping and targets of opportunity. Picking its way through the ice, Admiral Scheer sank the Soviet icebreaker Sibiryakov on August 25 before bombarding the port of Dikson. After returning to Norway, the cruiser continued on before arriving in Wilhelmshaven for an overhaul in December 1942. Though work had begun, the ship was moved to Swinemünde after a series of Allied air attacks. When work was completed, the ship was assigned to the Fleet Training Group and spent much of the next two years training recruits.

    Admiral Scheer - Final Actions:

    In November 1944, Admiral Scheer returned to action as part of a naval group supporting German troops in the island of Ösel (Saaremaa) in the Baltic. After withstanding two days of air attacks, naval forces successfully completed the evacuation of the island. With Soviet forces advancing, Admiral Scheer provided naval gunfire support for German forces in Samland (Sambia) in February 1945. Needing repairs, the ship embarked refugees and wounded in March and sailed for Kiel. Blocked by a minefield from reaching its destination, Admiral Scheer instead disembarked its passengers at Swinemünde before bombarding Soviet troops near Kolberg.

    Low on ammunition and with its guns worn out, Admiral Scheer made its way to the Deutsche Werke at Kiel. While there, it came under intense air attack by British aircraft on the night of April 9. Hit by five massive Tallboy bombs, Admiral Scheer was critically damaged and capsized at its berth. In the years after the war, the wreck was partially salvaged with the remaining being incorporated into a newly constructed wharf on the Kiel waterfront.

    Selected Sources

  • Deutschland-class: Admiral Scheer
  • Wehrmacht History: Admiral Scheer
  • German Navy: Admiral Scheer

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