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Launched : 1st May 1939
Launched at Wilhelmshaven in April 1939 and commissioned in February 1941, Tirpitz was the sister ship to the Bismarck and, at the time of her commissioning, the largest battleship in the world. The Tirpitz fully loaded weighed approximately 50,000 tons and had a crew of 2340 men. Her overall length was 253 metres with a beam of 36 metres and a draught of 9 metres. Her armament consisted of four 15 inch twin mounted turrets, six 5.9 inch twin mounted turrets, eight 4.1 inch twin mounted anti aircraft guns and twelve single mounted anti aircraft cannons. After commissioning in February 1941, Tirpitz left Wilhelmshaven in March 1941 bound for Kiel, outfitting there until January 1942. In September 1941 Tirpitz, although non operational, joined the Admiral Scheer, Emden, Leipzig, Köln and Nürnberg, with destroyers, torpedo boats and mine sweepers in an operation off the Aaland Islands in the Baltic to deter the Soviet fleet from venturing out of Kronstadt, the naval base protecting the approaches to St. Petersburg. 10th January 1942. Tirpitz' captain, Friedrich Karl Topp, declared her fully operational and left Kiel two days later for Trondheim (Norway) via Wilhelmshaven. 5 - 9 March 1942 Operation Sportpalast : This was the first combat action against the Russian convoys. Tirpitz sailed, in company with destroyers into the Arctic Ocean to intercept the convoys PQ-12 and QP-8. But, due to bad weather and pack ice, failed to contact the convoys so sailed to Bogen near Narvik. On the way she was attacked by Albacores from the aircraft carrier Victorious. 12 March 1942 Tirpitz left Bogen and headed back to Trondheim. 2 - 6 July 1942 Operation Rösselsprung : Together with 16 other ships, Tirpitz prepared to attack the convoys PQ-17 and QP-13, but was later cancelled after the grounding of several destroyers and the heavy cruiser Lutzov, and returned to Bogen. During passage the Tirpitz was attacked by the Russian submarine K21 which claimed a hit on the battleship, but no attack was recorded by the Germans. 23 October 1942 Tirpitz left Bogen to be refitted at Trondheim. 24 January 1943 Tirpitz was again fully operational and spent the period to 5 March 1943 carrying through trials and exercises. 12 March 1943 Tirpitz, in company with Prinz Eugen, Karl Galster, Jaguar and Greif, left Trondheim for Bogen and met up with the Scharnhorst and Lützow. 22 March 1943 Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, Lützow and 6 destroyers transferred to Altenfjord on the North Cape, where the squadron carried out exercises until July.
6 - 9 September 1943 Operation Sizilien : A squadron consisting of Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and 9 destroyers sailed from Altenfjord to bombard the shore base on Spitzbergen. This was the only occasion on which the Tirpitz used her main armaments. 11 September 1943 Attacked by midget submarines and damaged by mines in Altenfjord. 15 March 1944 Resumed trials after repairs. 31 July 1944 Carried out exercises at sea for the last time. 15 September 1944 Attacked by aircraft and bomb damaged at Altenfjord. 15 October 1944 Transferred to Tromso. No longer seaworthy. 29 October 1944 Attacked by aircraft and damaged by bombs. 12 November 1944 Attacked by aircraft, hit by bombs and capsized. Operations against Tirpitz - Winston Churchill wrote on 25th January 1942, The destruction or even crippling of this ship is the greatest event at sea at the present time. No other target is comparable to it. Churchill was under no illusions that Tirpitz was a target of the utmost importance. From Norway she could strike at shipping in the North Sea and the Atlantic. The mere presence of Tirpitz in Norway would ensure that significant numbers of Allied ships were placed in the Atlantic thus preventing them from being used elsewhere. Even as she was being built, the threat of such a large battleship was not lost on the Admiralty. From July 1940 to February 1941, while still under construction in Wilhelmshaven, no less than seventeen operations were launched against her by various RAF bomber formations comprising mainly of Hampdens and Wellingtons armed with bombs and mines. In none of these attacks were any hits confirmed although a few near misses were recorded. Many attacks were frustrated by bad weather and heavy Anti Aircraft fire.
30 January 1942 Operation Oiled This was the first British attempt to attack Tirpitz in Norway. 7 Stirlings and 8 Halifaxes took off but due to bad weather were unable to attack.
9 March 1942 While returning from the attack on PQ12 was attacked by 23 Albacores torpedo bombers from the carrier Victorious. No hits, 3 aircraft lost. 30 March 1942 Tirpitz was attacked by 32 Halifaxes unsuccessfully due to bad weather. 27 April 1942 Tirpitz was attacked by 30 Halifaxes, again unsuccessfully. 28 April 1942 Tirpitz was attacked by 21 Halifax bombers and 12 Lancasters from 44 and 97 Squadrons, again unsuccessfully.
30 October 1942 Operation Title This was an attempt to put the Tirpitz out of action by using manned torpedoes called Chariots. A Chariot was about 6 metres long, driven by an electric motor and carried a 600lb detachable warhead. It was manned by two crew dressed in diving gear. The idea was for the crews to steer the chariots under the Tirpitz, release and attach the warhead to the hull and make good their escape. Two Chariots were to be towed underwater by the fishing vessel Arthur, which was hoped could approach the Norwegian coast without arousing suspicion. On the 26th October 1942 they set sail from the Shetlands, but due to engine and generator breakdowns, did not arrive at Trondheim Fjord until the 30th. When within 15 miles of the release point the east wind increased and the Arthur started to pitch violently, causing the chariots to break free and be lost. In doing so the propeller was damaged and the Arthur had to be scuttled, the crew making their way overland to Sweden.
22nd September 1943 Operation Source
This was an ambitious operation to attack three heavy German units in Altenfjord by midget submarines (X-craft) laying their two ton mines under the ships. The plan was for six X-craft to be towed by submarines to the Norwegian coast, then make their way independently to their targets. X5, X6 and X7 were to attack the Tirpitz, X8 the Lutzov, and X9 and X10 the Scharnhorst. The little flotilla departed on 11th September but X8 and X9 were lost in transit. Only X6 and X7 were able to lay their charges successfully under the Tirpitz. The first charge exploded on the port side about 6m from the midship engine room followed shortly afterwards by a second explosion, 61m abaft the port bow. The exploding mines caused heavy damage splitting the hull, in fact sinking her but the water was so shallow she merely settled lower into the water. Besides the hull damage, the turbines were put out of action, the propeller shafts and rudder were disabled. The Tirpitz’s casualties were slight, with one dead and 40 wounded. All X-craft were lost together with 9 of their crews killed and 6 captured. Tirpitz was out of commission but the damage was not apparent from aerial photographs.
10 February 1944 Soviet bombers mounted an unsuccessful attack obtaining a claimed near miss.
3 April 1944 Operation Tungsten
The air plan was to attack the Tirpitz in Altenfjod with 2 strikes of Barracuda dive-bombers and fighters from the carriers Furious and Victorious under command of Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Moore. As the first strike was approaching her, Tirpitz was weighing anchor before going to sea on post-repair trials. The fighters came in strafing the AA positions with machine-gun fire as the Barracudas began their bombing runs, attacking in 2 columns along the fore-and-aft line. The attack lasted 1 minute with 6 direct hits and 3 probable claimed. One hour later, the second strike began as the first. The fighters again attacked the AA positions and sprayed the bridge and upper deck with machine gun fire for a minute before the Barracudas came in to attack. In two minutes it was all over with 8 definite and 5 probable hits. Tirpitz casualties were 122 killed and 316 wounded including the captain, many of them by the machine gun fire from the fighters. British casualties were 3 aircraft lost and 9 men killed. Because the armour piercing bombs were released from too low a height, they did not penetrate the armoured deck. Even so, there was considerable damage done to the upper deck, and it was not until 22 June 1944 that Tirpitz could recommence trials.
In April and May 1944, three more operations Planet, Brawn and Tiger Claw, involving Barracudas and escort fighters were aborted because of bad weather.
17 July 1944 Operation Mascot An attack on Tirpitz, involving 44 Barracudas, 18 Hellcats and 30 escort fighters from the aircraft carriers Formidable, Indefatigable and Furious. Tirpitz had been forewarned and the aircraft was unable to hit the German battleship because of a heavy smoke screen.
22 August 1944 Operation Goodwood I and II Tirpitz was attacked by 32 Barracudas escorted by 43 fighters from the fleet carriers Formidable, Indefatigable, Furious and escort carriers Nabob and Trumpeter. Tirpitz received no hits.
24 August 1944 Operation Goodwood III Tirpitz was attacked by 33 Barracudas and 29 fighters from the aircraft carriers Indefatigable, Furious and Formidable. 2 hits.
29 August 1944 Operation Goodwood IV Tirpitz was attacked by 26 Barracudas and 30 fighters from aircraft carriers Formidable and Indefatigable. No hits, several near misses.
15 September 1944 Operation Paravane
Because Altenfjord is beyond the range of bombers based in Britain, on 10 September 1944 21 RAF Lancasters from 9 and 617 Squadrons, equipped with 12,000lb Tallboy bombs, flew to Yagodnik in Russia and waited until the 15th for the weather to clear. The bombers attacked from the South East in waves of six, bombing virtually blind through the smoke screen. One 12,000lb Tallboy bomb hit the bow of the Tirpitz, passed right through and exploded nearby the starboard side causing considerable unobservable damage. The bombing shock so damaged the engines that the Germans assessed the damage as being so severe that it was no longer possible to make her sea and battle worthy again, and only fit for conversion to a semi-static heavy artillery battery. It was the end of the Tirpitz as a fighting ship, but this was completely unknown to the British who still considered her a major threat. On 15 October 1944 Tirpitz transferred to Tromso. The ship was only able to make 10 knots. On arrival she was berthed in shallow water so she would not sink, thus completing her ignominious decline into a floating battery.
29 October 1944 Operation Obviate
Tromso was just within range of Lancaster bombers based in Britain that had been stripped of their upper gun turrets and fitted with extra fuel tanks. Tirpitz was attacked by 39 converted Lancasters, all carrying Tallboys. Because the mid upper gun turret had been removed they were very vulnerable to attack by fighter aircraft. No direct hits were scored, but one near miss on the port quarter bent the port propeller shaft. The Lancasters were unmolested by fighters.
12 November 1944 Operation Catechism
This was the last daylight opportunity because Tromso, lying within the Arctic Circle, was becoming subject to 24-hour darkness. 31 Lancaster bombers attacked the ship with Tallboy bombs. After two hits and several port side near misses the ship rolled over to port and capsized. Although the order had been given to abandon ship, Tirpitz capsized so suddenly that there was no time for the men on the lower decks to get clear. Of the 1,700 men on board 971 were lost, 87 crew members were rescued by cutting holes in the ship's bottom to compartments where they had climbed. Again the Luftwaffe failed to help the Tirpitz, even though there was a fighter station only 40 miles away at Bardufoss specifically to provide air cover for the naval units.
From the beginning to the end, in the three years of her operational life, the Tirpitz was subject to no less than thirty eight separate planned operations to attack her; 17 while under construction, and 21 while in Norway, excluding the Russian submarine claim. Only one was while at sea. The Tirpitz was forever bedeviled by fuel shortages. In 1941 the Kriegsmarine had its fuel allocation cut by 50%. The Sportpalast operation in March 1942 had consumed over 7,500 tons alone, and a subsequent order specified that in all future operations the target had to be clearly located and identified before getting underway, an almost impossible restriction in Arctic Sea conditions. Doenitz demanded aggressive offensive actions from his subordinates, but at the same time ordering them not to take risks, even with a force of equal strength. The consequence of this was the Tirpitz, in the three years of her service, conducted operations only on three occasions, and one of those was on a shore target, the other two were on convoys. The Tirpitz never fired a shot against an enemy ship and never saw an enemy warship. However, her mere existence and presence in Norway tied up significant naval resources, which had to be held in readiness in case the Tirpitz sortied to attack the Russian convoys or Atlantic shipping. That is why she had to be eliminated.
Article written by WNSForum member emason.
Sunk 12th November 1944
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