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German battleship Tirpitz, Håkøya, Norway

July 24th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 
 

Remains of German battleship Tirpitz (under water).

Tirpitz was the second Bismarck class battleship of the German Kriegsmarine, sistership of Bismarck. She was named after Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz.

Tirpitz was launched 1 April 1939 and deployed in a manner similar to Bismarck, as a commerce raider to be sent against Allied merchant shipping in the North Atlantic. She was titled the "Lonely Queen of the North" ("Den ensomme Nordens Dronning") by the Norwegians.

As a result of the Arctic convoys and the Commando raid on Vågsøy, Tirpitz was sent to Norwegian waters where she spent most of World War II in the fjords. She made three offensive sorties; an attempt to interdict convoy PQ12 in March 1942 (Operation Sportpalast), a similar attempt against PQ17 in July 1942 (Operation Rösselsprung) and a raid on Spitsbergen in September 1943 (Operation Sizilien). She acted as a fleet in being tying up Royal Navy resources and the decision was taken to sink her while she was in port. Several separate operations were needed to achieve this objective completely.

The first attempt to destroy the Tirpitz was a very risky operation. As part of Operation Source, British X class midget submarines planted explosive charges beneath Tirpitz in September 1943. Lieutenant Basil Place commanding Midget Submarine X.7, and Lieutenant Donald Cameron commanding Midget Submarine X.6, both received a Victoria Cross for their part in the action. The submarines had to travel at least 1,000 miles from base, negotiate a minefield, dodge nets, gun defences and enemy listening posts. Having eluded all these hazards they finally placed the charges underneath the ship where they went off an hour later, doing so much damage that the Tirpitz was out of action for several months. (The story of this raid is told in the film Above Us The Waves.)

The Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces proposed several schemes to attack Tirpitz using Mosquito fighter-bombers, Short Sunderland flying boats or B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers, but none came to anything.

There were three attempts by the RAF. The first attempt, "Operation Paravane", was launched on 15 September by Avro Lancasters of 617 and 9 Squadrons, from a temporary base at Yagodnik, near Arkhangelsk in the Soviet Union. They were equipped with Barnes Wallis' 5-tonne Tallboy bombs and experimental 5,000-pound "Johnny Walker" underwater "walking" mines. On that occasion, a smokescreen successfully protected the Tirpitz from all but one of the bombs, although this, one of 9 Squadron's, disabled the ship to the extent she was no longer a threat to Allied shipping. A German report stated: It was eventually decided at a conference on 23 September 1944 at which the C-in-C and Naval Staff were present, that it was no longer possible to make the Tirpitz ready for sea and action again... However, this was kept secret from the British, who believed that repairs were 'possible' and so the attacks continued.

In October, as Tirpitz was no longer considered to be a major warship, she was moved further south to Tromsø, to act as a floating gun battery against the expected Allied invasion of Norway. She was now within range of air operations from Scotland.

"Operation Obviate", with modified Lancasters from Lossiemouth in Scotland carrying 'Tallboy' bombs, took place on 28 October. At the last moment, sea-cloud hid the Tirpitz and there was only one near-miss that bent a propeller-shaft.

The smokescreen was not active on the third attempt - "Operation Catechism". Tirpitz was finally sunk immediately to the west of Tromsø, in the bay of Håkøybotn, on 12 November 1944 by 617 and 9 Squadron Lancasters with Tallboys on their third attempt. The ship was struck by three Tallboys. One was disrupted by a glancing blow from turret armour, but the other two bombs pierced the ship's armour and blew a 200 foot hole in her port side. Soon after, internal fires set off a magazine and blew off "C" turret. The Tirpitz capsized within minutes of the attack, and close to 1,000 German sailors, out of 1,700 aboard, died.

An aspect of this air raid is the failure of the Luftwaffe to intercept the British bombers (some reports say that one bomber was shot down, but British sources ascribe this to anti-aircraft fire). The aircraft used, the Lancaster B.1 Special, had had one turret (the mid-upper) and some armour removed, so they would have been highly vulnerable to fighter attack. The reasons for this failure are contradictory. The approach route of the bombers may have suggested an attack on the airfield at Bardufoss, and Luftwaffe responses to the Tirpitz's calls for help claimed that there were aircraft "overhead". The local air defence systems may have been inadequate and the German pilots had not yet fully trained on their new Focke-Wulf 190 aircraft.

Postwar, the wreck was sold off and broken up in situ by a Norwegian company. Nearly the entire ship was cut up and hauled away, however a large portion of the bow remains where it sank in 1944. Also nearby are artificial lakes around the shore, bomb craters from Tallboy bombs that missed their target. To this day, sections of Tirpitz' armour plates are used by the Norwegian Roads Authority ("Vegvesen") as temporary road surface material during roadwork.

[Source: Wikipedia]

Send by: Leonard

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