Scharnhorst Class Battleship
The Scharnhorst class were the first capital ships, alternatively referred to as battlecruisers or battleships, built for the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) after World War I. The class comprised two vessels: the lead ship Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Scharnhorst was launched first, and so she is considered to be the lead ship by some sources; however, they are also referred to as the Gneisenau class in some other sources, as Gneisenau was the first to be laid down and commissioned. They marked the beginning of German naval rearmament after the Treaty of Versailles. The ships were armed with nine 28 cm (11 in) SK C/34 guns in three triple turrets, though there were plans to replace these weapons with six 38 cm (15 in) SK C/34 guns in twin turrets.
The two ships were laid down in 1935, launched in late 1936, and commissioned into the German fleet by early 1939. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau operated together for much of the early portion of World War II, including sorties into the Atlantic to raid British merchant shipping. The two ships participated in Operation Weserübung, the German invasion of Norway. During operations off Norway, the two ships engaged the battlecruiser HMS Renown and sank the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious on 8 June 1940. In the engagement with Glorious, Scharnhorst achieved one of the longest-range naval gunfire hits in history. In early 1942, the two ships made a daylight dash up the English Channel from occupied France to Germany.
In late 1942, Gneisenau was heavily damaged in an Allied air raid against Kiel. In early 1943, Scharnhorst joined the Bismarck-class Tirpitz in Norway to interdict Allied convoys to the Soviet Union. Scharnhorst and several destroyers sortied from Norway to attack a convoy; the Germans were instead intercepted by British naval patrols. During the battle of North Cape, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Duke of York sank Scharnhorst. In the meantime, repair work on Gneisenau had begun, and the ship was in the process of being rearmed. However, when Scharnhorst was sunk, work on her sister was abandoned. Instead, she was sunk as a blockship in Gotenhafen in 1945; the wreck was broken up for scrap in the 1950s.
Read more about Scharnhorst Class Battleship: Classification
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