TIRPITZ was the second of two Bismarck-class battleships built for
After completing sea trials in early 1941, Tirpitz briefly served as
the centrepiece of the Baltic Fleet, which was intended to prevent a
possible break-out attempt by the Soviet Baltic Fleet . In early 1942,
the ship sailed to Norway to act as a deterrent against an Allied
invasion. While stationed in Norway, Tirpitz was also intended to be
used to intercept Allied convoys to the Soviet Union, and two such
missions were attempted in 1942. This was the only feasible role for
her, since the
St Nazaire Raid
In September 1943, Tirpitz, along with the battleship Scharnhorst , bombarded Allied positions on Spitzbergen , the only time the ship used her main battery in an offensive role. Shortly thereafter, the ship was damaged in an attack by British mini-submarines and subsequently subjected to a series of large-scale air raids. On 12 November 1944, British Lancaster bombers equipped with 12,000-pound (5,400 kg) "Tallboy" bombs scored two direct hits and a near miss which caused the ship to capsize rapidly. A deck fire spread to the ammunition magazine for one of the main battery turrets, which caused a large explosion. Figures for the number of men killed in the attack range from 950 to 1,204. Between 1948 and 1957 the wreck was broken up by a joint Norwegian and German salvage operation.
* 1 Construction and characteristics
* 2 Service history
* 2.1 Deployment to Norway * 2.2 Operations against Allied convoys
* 2.3 British attacks on Tirpitz
* 2.3.3 Operations Planet, Brawn, Tiger Claw, Mascot and Goodwood
* 2.3.4 Operations Paravane and Obviate
* 3 Footnotes * 4 Citations * 5 References * 6 Further reading * 7 External links
CONSTRUCTION AND CHARACTERISTICS
Tirpitz was ordered as Ersatz Schleswig-Holstein as a replacement for
the old pre-dreadnought Schleswig-Holstein , under the contract name
"G". The Kriegsmarinewerft shipyard in
Wilhelmshaven was awarded the
contract, where the keel was laid on 20 October 1936. The hull was
launched on 1 April 1939; during the elaborate ceremonies, the ship
was christened by the daughter of Admiral
Alfred von Tirpitz
Tirpitz displaced 42,900 t (42,200 long tons) as built and 52,600 tonnes (51,800 long tons) fully loaded , with a length of 251 m (823 ft 6 in), a beam of 36 m (118 ft 1 in) and a maximum draft of 10.60 m (34 ft 9 in). She was powered by three Brown, Boveri 119,903 kW ) and yielded a maximum speed of 30.8 knots (57.0 km/h; 35.4 mph) on speed trials. Her standard crew numbered 103 officers and 1,962 enlisted men; during the war this was increased to 108 officers and 2,500 men. As built, Tirpitz was equipped with Model 23 search radars mounted on the forward, foretop, and rear rangefinders. These were later replaced with Model 27 and then Model 26 radars, which had a larger antenna array. A Model 30 radar, known as the Hohentwiel, was mounted in 1944 in her topmast, and a Model 213 Würzburg fire-control radar was added on her stern 10.5 cm (4.1 in) Flak rangefinders.
She was armed with eight 38 cm SK C/34 L/52 guns arranged in four twin gun turrets : two superfiring turrets forward—Anton and Bruno—and two aft—Caesar and Dora. Her secondary armament consisted of twelve 15 cm L/55 guns, sixteen 10.5 cm L/65 and sixteen 3.7 cm (1.5 in) L/83, and initially twelve 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 antiaircraft guns. The number of 2 cm guns was eventually increased to 58. After 1942, eight 53.3 cm (21.0 in) above-water torpedo tubes were installed in two quadruple mounts, one mount on each side of the ship. The ship's main belt was 320 mm (13 in) thick and was covered by a pair of upper and main armoured decks that were 50 mm (2.0 in) and 100 to 120 mm (3.9 to 4.7 in) thick, respectively. The 38 cm turrets were protected by 360 mm (14 in) thick faces and 220 mm (8.7 in) thick sides.
After sea trials, Tirpitz was stationed in
DEPLOYMENT TO NORWAY
Tirpitz camouflaged in the Fættenfjord
The ship left
Wilhelmshaven at 23:00 on 14 January and made for
OPERATIONS AGAINST ALLIED CONVOYS
Several factors served to restrain Tirpitz's freedom of operation in
Norway. The most pressing were shortages of fuel and the withdrawal of
the German destroyer forces to support
In March 1942 Tirpitz and Admiral Scheer, along with the destroyers
Z14 Friedrich Ihn , Z5 Paul Jakobi , Z7 Hermann Schoemann and Z25 and
a pair of torpedo boats , were intended to attack the homebound
convoy QP 8 and the outbound
Convoy PQ 12 as part of Unternehmen
Sportpalast (Operation Sports Palace). Admiral Scheer, with a
design speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), was too slow to operate
with Tirpitz and was left in port, as was the destroyer Paul Jakobi.
The two torpedo boats were also released from the operation. On 5
Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft spotted PQ 12 near Jan Mayen
Island ; the reconnaissance failed to note the battleship HMS Duke of
York or the battlecruiser HMS Renown , both of which escorted the
convoy, along with four destroyers. Unknown to the Germans, Admiral
Tovey provided distant support to the convoys with the battleship HMS
King George V , the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious , the heavy
cruiser HMS Berwick , and six destroyers. Enigma intercepts again
forewarned the British of Tirpitz's attack, which allowed them to
reroute the convoys. Admiral Tovey attempted to pursue Tirpitz on 9
March, but Admiral
The actions of Tirpitz and her escorting destroyers in March used up
8,230 metric tons (8,100 long tons) of fuel oil , which greatly
reduced the available fuel supply. It took the Germans three months to
replenish the fuel spent in the attempt to intercept the two Allied
Convoy PQ 17 , which left Iceland on 27 June bound for the
Soviet Union, was the next convoy targeted by Tirpitz and the rest of
the German fleet stationed in Norway, during Unternehmen
Rösselsprung (Operation Knight\'s Move ). Escorting the convoy were
the battleships Duke of York and USS Washington and the carrier
Victorious. Tirpitz, Admiral Hipper , and six destroyers sortied from
Trondheim, while a second task force consisting of Lützow , Admiral
Scheer, and six destroyers operated out of
Narvik and Bogenfjord.
Lützow and three of the destroyers struck uncharted rocks while en
route to the rendezvous and had to return to port. Shortly after
Tirpitz left Norway, the
Soviet submarine K-21 fired two or four
torpedoes at the ship, all of which missed. The Soviets claimed two
hits on the battleship. Swedish intelligence had meanwhile reported
the German departures to the British
Following Rösselsprung, the Germans moved Tirpitz to Bogenfjord near
Narvik . By this time, the ship needed a major overhaul. Hitler had
forbidden the ship to make the dangerous return to Germany, and so the
overhaul was conducted in Trondheim. On 23 October, the ship left
Bogenfjord and returned to
Fættenfjord outside Trondheim. The
defences of the anchorage were further strengthened; additional
anti-aircraft guns were installed, and double anti-torpedo nets were
erected around the vessel. The repairs were conducted in limited
phases, such that Tirpitz would remain partially operational for the
majority of the overhaul. A caisson was built around the stern to
allow the replacement of the ship's rudders. During the repair
process, the British attempted to attack the battleship with two
Chariot human torpedoes , but before they could be launched, rough
seas caused the human torpedoes to break away from the fishing vessel
which was towing them. By 28 December, the overhaul had been
completed, and Tirpitz began sea trials. She conducted gunnery trials
on 4 January 1943 in
By the time Scharnhorst arrived in Norway in March 1943, Allied convoys to the Soviet Union had temporarily ceased. To give the ships an opportunity to work together, Admiral Karl Dönitz , who had replaced Raeder in the aftermath of the Battle of the Barents Sea on 31 December 1942, ordered an attack on the island of Spitzbergen, which housed a British weather station and refuelling base. Several settlements and outposts on Spitzbergen were defended by a garrison of 152 men from the Norwegian Armed Forces in exile . The two battleships, escorted by ten destroyers, left port on 6 September; in a ruse de guerre , Tirpitz flew the white ensign on the approach to the island the following day. During the bombardment, Tirpitz fired 52 main-battery shells and 82 rounds from her 15 cm secondaries. This was the first and only time the ship fired her main battery at an enemy surface target. An assault force destroyed shore installations and captured 74 prisoners. By 11:00, the battleships had destroyed their targets and headed back to their Norwegian ports.
BRITISH ATTACKS ON TIRPITZ
Main article: Operation Source Tirpitz in the Ofotfjord /Bogenfjord
The British were determined to neutralise Tirpitz and remove the threat she posed to Allied lines of communication in the Arctic. Following the repeated, ineffectual bombing attacks and the failed Chariot attack in October 1942, the British turned to the newly designed X Craft midget submarines . The planned attack, Operation Source , included attacks on Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Lützow. The X Craft were towed by large submarines to their destinations, where they could slip under anti-torpedo nets to each drop two powerful 2 tonne mines on the sea bed under the bottom of the target. Ten vessels were assigned to the operation, scheduled for 20–25 September 1943. Only eight of the vessels reached Norway for the attack, which began early on 22 September. Three of the vessels, X5, X6, and X7, successfully breached Tirpitz's defences, two of which—X6 and X7—managed to lay their mines. X5 was detected some 200 m (660 ft) from the nets and sunk by a combination of gunfire and depth charges.
The mines caused extensive damage to the ship; the first exploded
abreast of turret Caesar, and the second detonated 45 to 55 m (148 to
180 ft) off the port bow. A fuel oil tank was ruptured, shell plating
was torn, a large indentation was formed in the bottom of the ship,
and bulkheads in the double bottom buckled. Some 1,430 t (1,410 long
tons) of water flooded the ship in fuel tanks and void spaces in the
double bottom of the port side, which caused a list of one to two
degrees, which was balanced by counter-flooding on the starboard side.
The flooding damaged all of the turbo-generators in generator room No.
2, and all apart from one generator in generator room No. 1 were
disabled by broken steam lines or severed power cables. Turret Dora
was thrown from its bearings and could not be rotated; this was
particularly significant, as there were no heavy-lift cranes in Norway
powerful enough to lift the turret and place it back on its bearings.
The ship's two
Arado Ar 196
Main article: Operation Tungsten Tirpitz under attack by British carrier aircraft on 3 April 1944
The British were aware that Neumark and the repair crews left in March, which intimated Tirpitz was nearly operational. A major air strike— Operation Tungsten —involving the fleet carriers Victorious and Furious and the escort carriers Emperor , Fencer , Pursuer , and Searcher , was set for 4 April 1944, but rescheduled a day earlier when Enigma decrypts revealed that Tirpitz was to depart at 05:29 on 3 April for sea trials. The attack consisted of 40 Barracuda dive-bombers carrying 1,600-pound (730 kg) armor-piercing bombs and 40 escorting fighters in two waves, scoring fifteen direct hits and two near misses. The aircraft achieved surprise, and only one was lost in the first wave; it took twelve to fourteen minutes for all of Tirpitz's antiaircraft batteries to be fully manned. The first wave struck at 05:29, as tugs were preparing to assist the ship out of her mooring. The second wave arrived over the target an hour later, shortly after 06:30. Despite the alertness of the German antiaircraft gunners, only one other bomber was shot down.
The air strikes did not penetrate the main armor but nonetheless
caused significant damage to the ship's superstructure and inflicted
serious casualties. William Garzke and Robert Dulin report the attack
killed 122 men and wounded 316 others, while Hildebrand, Röhr,
destroyers ferried important equipment and workers from
Operations Planet, Brawn, Tiger Claw, Mascot And Goodwood
A series of carrier strikes was planned over the next three months, but bad weather forced their cancellation. A repeat of Operation Tungsten, codenamed Operation Planet, was scheduled for 24 April. Operation Brawn, which was to have been carried out by 27 bombers and 36 fighters from Victorious and Furious, was to have taken place on 15 May, and Operation Tiger Claw was intended for 28 May. Victorious and Furious were joined by Indefatigable for Operation Mascot , which was to have been carried out on 17 July by 62 bombers and 30 fighters. The weather finally broke in late August, which saw the Goodwood series of attacks . Operations Goodwood I and II were launched on 22 August; a carrier force consisting of the fleet carriers Furious, Indefatigable and Formidable and the escort carriers Nabob and Trumpeter launched a total of 38 bombers and 43 escort fighters between the two raids. The attacks failed to inflict any damage on Tirpitz, and three of the attacking aircraft were shot down. Goodwood III followed on 24 August, composed of aircraft from the fleet carriers only. Forty-eight bombers and 29 fighters attacked the ship and scored two hits which caused minor damage. One, a 1600-pound bomb, penetrated the upper and lower armour decks and came to rest in the No. 4 switchboard room. Its fuze had been damaged and the bomb did not detonate. The second, a 500-pound (230 kg) bomb, exploded but caused only superficial damage. Six planes were shot down in the attack. Goodwood IV followed on the 29th, with 34 bombers and 25 fighters from Formidable and Indefatigable. Heavy fog prevented any hits from being scored. One Firefly and a Corsair were shot down by Tirpitz's gunners. The battleship expended 54 rounds from her main guns, 161 from the 15 cm guns and up to 20 percent of her light antiaircraft ammunition.
Operations Paravane And Obviate
The ineffectiveness of the great majority of the strikes launched by
Fleet Air Arm in mid-1944 led to the task of Tirpitz's destruction
being transferred to the RAF's No. 5 Group . The RAF used Lancaster
bombers to carry 6-short-ton (5.4 t) Tallboy bombs to penetrate the
ship's heavy armour. The first attack,
Operation Paravane , took
place on 15 September 1944; operating from a forward base at Yagodnik
in Russia, 23 Lancasters (17 each carrying one Tallboy and six each
carrying twelve JW mines ), scored a single hit on the ship's bow.
The Tallboy penetrated the ship, exited the keel, and exploded in the
bottom of the fjord. 800 to 1,000 t (790 to 980 long tons) of water
flooded the bow and caused a serious increase in trim forward. The
ship was rendered unseaworthy and was limited to 8 to 10 knots (15 to
19 km/h; 9.2 to 11.5 mph). Concussive shock caused severe damage to
fire-control equipment. The damage persuaded the naval command to
repair the ship for use only as a floating gun battery. Repair work
was estimated to take nine months, but patching of the holes could be
effected within a few weeks, allowing Tirpitz to be moved further
The RAF made a second attempt on 29 October, after the ship was moored off Håkøya Island outside Tromsø. Thirty-two Lancasters attacked the ship with Tallboys during Operation Obviate . As on Operation Paravane, No. 9 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron carried out the attack together, which resulted in only one near miss, partially the result of bad weather over the target. The underwater explosion damaged the port rudder and shaft and caused some flooding. Tirpitz's 38 cm fragmentation shells proved ineffective in countering the high-level bombers; one aircraft was damaged by ground-based anti-aircraft guns. Following the attack, the ship's anchorage was significantly improved. A large sand bank was constructed under and around the ship to prevent her from capsizing, and anti-torpedo nets were installed. Tirpitz retained a one-degree list to port from earlier damage, and this was not corrected by counter-flooding to retain as much reserve buoyancy as possible. The ship was also prepared for her role as a floating artillery platform: fuel was limited to only what was necessary to power the turbo-generators, and the crew was reduced to 1,600 officers and enlisted men.
In the aftermath of the attack, 82 men trapped in the upturned hull were rescued by cutting through the bottom hull plates. Figures for the death toll vary from approximately 950 to 1,204. Approximately 200 survivors of the sinking were transferred to the heavy cruiser Lützow in January 1945.
The performance of the Luftwaffe in the defence of Tirpitz was heavily criticised after her loss. Major Heinrich Ehrler , the commander of III./ Jagdgeschwader 5 (3rd Group of the 5th Fighter Wing), was blamed for the Luftwaffe's failure to intercept the British bombers. He was court-martialled in Oslo and threatened with the death penalty. Evidence was presented that his unit had failed to help the Kriegsmarine when requested. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but was released after a month, demoted, and reassigned to an Me 262 fighter squadron in Germany. Ehrler was exonerated by further investigations which concluded poor communication between the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe had caused the fiasco; the aircrews had not been informed that Tirpitz had been moved off Håkøya two weeks before the attack.
The wreck of Tirpitz remained in place until after the war, when a joint German-Norwegian company began salvage operations. Work lasted from 1948 until 1957; fragments of the ship are still sold by a Norwegian company. Ludovic Kennedy wrote in his history of the vessel that she "lived an invalid's life and died a cripple's death".
* ^ Tirpitz's draft at full load was 10.60 metres (34 ft 9 in). * ^ Crew could be augmented up to 108 officers and 2,500 enlisted men. * ^ According to naval historians Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke, Tirpitz displaced 53,500 metric tons (52,700 long tons) at full load in 1944. * ^ Named FuMO for Funkmessortungsgerät (Radio direction-finding device). * ^ SK stands for Schiffskanone (ship's gun), C/34 stands for Constructionjahr (Construction year) 1934, and L/52 denotes the length of the gun in terms of calibres , meaning that the gun is 52 times long as it is in internal diameter. * ^ John Sweetman states that 1,000 out of a crew of 1,900 were killed, while Niklas Zetterling and Michael Tamelander estimated nearly 1,000 deaths. Siegfried Breyer and Erich Gröner agree on 1,204 deaths, and Gordon Williamson gives the death toll at 971. William Dulin and Robert Dulin place the number of deaths at "about 950."
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J Gröner , p. 33. * ^ A B C D E F Gröner , p. 35. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , p. 203. * ^ Kemp , p. 153. * ^ Sieche , p. 44. * ^ A B C Williamson , p. 35. * ^ A B Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz , p. 239. * ^ A B Garzke & Dulin , p. 247. * ^ Koop & Schmolke , p. 18. * ^ Williamson , p. 42. * ^ Williamson , p. 43. * ^ Campbell , p. 219. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 247–248. * ^ Sweetman , p. 11. * ^ Gröner , p. 20. * ^ A B Sweetman , p. 12. * ^ A B C Garzke & Dulin , p. 248. * ^ A B C Williamson , p. 40. * ^ Sweetman , p. 16. * ^ Sweetman , p. 17. * ^ A B Garzke & Dulin , pp. 248–250. * ^ A B C Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz , p. 240. * ^ Ottosen, pp. 39–41 . * ^ Sweetman , p. 19. * ^ Zetterling & Tamelander , p. 207. * ^ A B C D E Garzke & Dulin , p. 250. * ^ Sweetman , pp. 23–24. * ^ Sweetman , pp. 24–25. * ^ Sweetman , pp. 25–26. * ^ Sweetman , p. 27. * ^ Gröner , p. 60. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 250–251. * ^ Rohwer , p. 149. * ^ A B C Garzke & Dulin , p. 253. * ^ Rohwer , p. 156. * ^ Rohwer , p. 162. * ^ Sweetman , p. 54. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 253–255. * ^ A B C Garzke & Dulin , p. 255. * ^ Polmar & Noot , p. 115–116. * ^ Blair , p. 644. * ^ Bishop , pp. 165–172. * ^ A B C D E F Garzke & Dulin , p. 258. * ^ Sweetman , pp. 73–74. * ^ A B Torkildsen , p. 221. * ^ Sweetman , p. 76. * ^ Sweetman , p. 77. * ^ Sweetman , pp. 76–77. * ^ Zetterling & Tamelander , pp. 195–196. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 258–259. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , p. 259. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 259–261. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , p. 262. * ^ A B C Garzke & Dulin , p. 264. * ^ A B C D E F G H I J K Breyer , p. 26. * ^ Brown, Carrier Operations , pp. 25, 27. * ^ A B Garzke & Dulin , p. 265. * ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz , p. 243. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 265–267. * ^ A B Garzke & Dulin , p. 267. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , pp. 267–268. * ^ Brown, Carrier Operations , p. 28. * ^ Brown, Tirpitz , p. 39. * ^ Sweetman , pp. 132–139. * ^ A B C Garzke & Dulin , p. 268. * ^ Sweetman , p. 193. * ^ Garzke & Dulin , p. 270. * ^ A B Garzke & Dulin , p. 272. * ^ A B Garzke & Dulin , p. 273. * ^ Sweetman , p. 248. * ^ Zetterling & Tamelander , p. 327. * ^ Prager , p. 287. * ^ Morgan & Weal , p. 60. * ^ Schuck , p. 177. * ^ Hafsten , p. 221. * ^ Van der Vat , p. 508.
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* Blair, Clay (1996). Hitler's U-Boat War. 1 The hunters,
1939–1942. New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 978-0-304-35260-9 . OCLC
* Breyer, Siegfried (1989).
* Bishop, Patrick (2012). Target Tir