Leon Gambetta armoured cruisers (1905-1907)


Léon Gambetta underway.

The ‘Gambetta’ class were excellent steamers, able to make over 17 kts on half boilers and to maintain 18 kts for 72 hours continuously. Noted tor their very clear gun decks, the ‘Gambettas’ were better armed than their British contemporaries.

On the night of 27 April 1915, when 15 miles (24 km) south of Santa Maria di Leuca (the south-eastern tip of Italy in the Ionian Sea) in position 39°30′N 18°15′ECoordinates: 39°30′N 18°15′E, she was torpedoed twice by Austro-Hungarian submarine U-5 under the command of Korvettenkapitän Georg Ludwig Ritter von Trapp, patriarch of the Von Trapp Family Singers.

Léon Gambetta was part of the French fleet based at Malta blockading the Austrian Navy in the Adriatic, usually from a position south of the Strait of Otranto. At this time the blockade line was moved further north because of expected Austrian naval activity – the Allies were negotiating with the Italians which shortly led to them declaring war on Austria-Hungary. In spite of the growing threat from Austrian and now German U-boats in the Mediterranean, the armoured cruiser was patrolling unescorted at a reported 7 knots (13 km/h) on a clear, calm night just to the south of the Otranto Straits when she was torpedoed by the U-5.

Léon Gambetta sank in just 10 minutes. Out of 821 men on board, 684 including Rear Admiral Victor Baptistin Senes, commander of the 2nd Light Division, were lost along with all commissioned officers. There were 137 survivors. The French cruiser patrol line was moved South to the longitude of Cephalonia, western Greece. Other sources place her loss 20 miles (32 km) off Cape Leuca.


The return of armored cruisers also seemed like a favorable one to naval officials in many maritime powers owing to the ideas on naval warfare advanced by the U. S. naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan. His book, The Influence of Sea Power on History, was published in 1890. Mahan asserted that, contrary to the French policy of war on commerce as the chief function of a navy, a country must have a strong oceangoing fleet to win control of the sea. This object, known as command of the sea, could be won only in battles where one fleet destroyed the opposing force of another. Once that goal was attained, the power whose fleet controlled the sea-lanes could project its strength around the world. The fleet of that nation could also protect worldwide trade and guarantee its place as a world power. Armored cruisers, despite the fact that Mahan called for a force of battleships at the expense of all smaller ships, still fit into this dogma. They and the largest protected cruisers were increasingly viewed, because of the large growth in size, protection, and armament, as second-class battleships rather than traditional cruisers.

The prime example of the return to the armored cruiser was Great Britain. Faced with the threat of France, Russia, and to an ever-growing extent Germany, the British completed a tremendous number of cruisers. The vast majority were large armored cruisers; the construction of second-class protected ships was discontinued. The Cressy-class comprised six ships completed between 1901 and 1904. These ships were a response to the French Dupuy de Lome and were designed to act as fleet reconnaissance and as a fast battle wing if necessary. This latter role was partially the product of the impression made by cruisers in the line of battle during the Sino-Japanese and Spanish-American wars.

The advantage of steel armor was obvious in these ships. Instead of a narrow armored belt, the new steel extended from the main deck to a depth of 5 feet below the waterline and covered the center of the hull, where the ammunition, barbettes, and engines were housed. This belt had a maximum thickness of 6 inches. Complementing this armor was a limited protective deck. They also had steel bulkheads, essentially walls that separated the compartments of the ship, which added strength to the hull. Finally, the vessel had armor of the same maximum thickness as the belt on its turrets and the barbettes underneath them, while the conning tower had 12 inches of armor. In all respects, this ship was an armored cruiser in the literal sense of the term rather than past ships with limited belt and deck protection.


France followed much the same course as Great Britain in the years leading to 1905. Although the French built seven protected cruisers, the emphasis turned to armored cruisers. France had already been the forerunner with steel armor when its naval constructors built Dupuy de Lome, but attention was paid to reviving this type because of the British building program. It was also partially the result of a continued emphasis on the commerce-raiding ideas of the Jeune École, although the power of the school had declined as each minister of marine that succeeded Admiral Théophile Aube pursued their own policy on the best course to strengthen the navy. Indeed, the chaos that ensued from this situation led in many instances to cruisers built solely for the reason that others were doing the same. From 1899 to 1905, France commissioned 15 armored cruisers. In general terms, these vessels had good speed and sufficient protection, but they suffered greatly as a result of light armament. Some of the last of France’s armored cruisers, the Leon Gambetta-class, were large ships that displaced 12,351 tons on a hull that measured 480 feet, 6 inches by 70 feet, 3 inches, but they mounted only four 7.6-inch guns as primary armament. This deficiency was offset a bit by a secondary armament of 16 6.4-inch quick-firing guns. These weapons, however, were shorter-range ones and could not all train on a target at once, as they were mounted on the sides of the ship. In a long-range battle, cruisers such as these would be severely hampered if they faced enemy armored cruisers, whose weaponry was generally larger.

These cruisers formed the bulk of the modern French Navy because by 1906 the battleships that existed were obsolete as a result of stagnation in their construction. Indeed, the French Navy as early as 1898 was no longer a threat to British naval power. This problem resulted from the disastrous effects of the Jeune École, which created a state of flux in French grand naval strategy, and consequently the building programs, as debates continued to break out between proponents of that school and traditionalists. Lack of clear naval policy hampered the standardization of design, so the fleet comprised a collection of test ships by the turn of the century. France was still a powerful force, but it was no longer number two in the world. By 1905, French weakness and the fear of Germany had led to the Entente Cordiale, a loose defensive understanding with Britain, the year before. Part of this agreement was rough naval plans for use in case of a common war with Germany.

CB Lutzow




Deutschland was the lead ship of her class of heavy cruisers (often termed a pocket battleship) which served with the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II. Ordered by the Weimar government for the Reichsmarine, she was laid down at the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel in February 1929 and completed by April 1933. Originally classified as an armored ship (Panzerschiff) by the Reichsmarine, in February 1940 the Germans reclassified the remaining two ships of this class as heavy cruisers. In 1940, she was renamed Lützow, after the Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser Lützow was handed over to the Soviet Union.

The ship saw significant action with the Kriegsmarine, including several non-intervention patrols, during which she was attacked by Republican bombers in the Spanish Civil War. At the outbreak of World War II, she was cruising the North Atlantic, prepared to attack Allied merchant traffic. Bad weather hampered her efforts, and she only sank or captured a handful of vessels before returning to Germany. She then participated in Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. Damaged at the Battle of Drøbak Sound, she was recalled to Germany for repairs. While en route, she was torpedoed and seriously damaged by a British submarine.

Repairs were completed by March 1941, Lützow returned to Norway to join the forces arrayed against Allied shipping to the Soviet Union. She ran aground during a planned attack on convoy PQ 17, which necessitated another return to Germany for repairs. She next saw action at the Battle of the Barents Sea with the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, which ended with a failure to destroy the convoy JW 51B. Engine problems forced a series of repairs culminating in a complete overhaul at the end of 1943, after which the ship remained in the Baltic. Sunk in the Kaiserfahrt in April 1945 by Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers, Lützow was used as a gun battery to support German troops fighting the Soviet Army until 4 May 1945, when she was disabled by her crew. Raised by the Soviet Navy in 1947, she was subsequently sunk as a target in the Baltic.

World War II

On 24 August 1939, a week before the German invasion of Poland, Deutschland set sail from Wilhelmshaven, bound for a position south of Greenland. Here, she would be ready to attack Allied merchant traffic in the event of a general war following the attack on Poland. The supply ship Westerwald was assigned to support Deutschland during the operation. Deutschland was ordered to strictly observe prize rules, which required raiders to stop and search ships for contraband before sinking them, and to ensure that their crews are safely evacuated. The ship was also ordered to avoid combat with even inferior naval forces, as commerce disruption was the primary objective. Hitler hoped to secure a negotiated peace with Britain and France after he overran Poland, and he therefore did not authorize Deutschland to begin her raiding mission against British and French shipping until 26 September. By this time, Deutschland had moved south to hunt in the Bermuda-Azores sea lane.

On 5 October, she found and sank the British transport ship Stonegate, though not before the freighter was able to send a distress signal informing vessels in the area of Deutschland ’s presence. She then turned north to the Halifax route, where on 9 October, she encountered the American ship City of Flint. The 4,963 gross register tons (GRT) freighter was found to be carrying contraband, and so was seized. A prize crew was dispatched to the ship; they took the ship with the original crew held prisoner to Germany via Murmansk. The ship was seized by Norway when she anchored in Haugesund, however, and control of the ship was returned to the original crew. Meanwhile, on 14 October, Deutschland encountered and sank the Norwegian transport Lorentz W Hansen, of some 1,918 GRT. The same day, she stopped the neutral Danish steamer Kongsdal, though when it became apparent that she was headed for a neutral port, the prisoners from Lorentz W Hansen were placed aboard her and she was allowed to proceed. Kongsdal would eventually report to the British Royal Navy the incident and confirm Deutschland as the raider operating in the North Atlantic.

Severe weather in the North Atlantic hampered Deutschland ’s raiding mission, though she did tie down several British warships assigned to track her down. The French Force de Raid, centered on the battleship Dunkerque, was occupied with protecting convoys around Britain to prevent them from being attacked by Deutschland. In early November, the Naval High Command recalled Deutschland; she passed through the Denmark Strait on 15 November and anchored in Gotenhafen on the 17th. In the course of her raiding mission, she sank only two vessels and captured a third. In 1940, the ship underwent a major overhaul, during which a raked clipper bow was installed to improve the sea-keeping qualities of the ship. At this time, she was re-rated as a heavy cruiser and renamed Lützow. Hitler in person made the decision to rename the ship, recognizing the propaganda value of the sinking of a ship that bore the name of its country. Admiral Erich Raeder, the commander in chief of the Kriegsmarine, also hoped that renaming the ship would confuse Allied intelligence; the Admiral Hipper-class cruiser Lützow was designated for sale to the Soviet Navy, and it was hoped that the usage of her name for Deutschland would hide the transaction. The refit lasted until March 1940, after which it was intended to send the ship on another commerce raiding operation into the South Atlantic. In April, however, she was assigned to forces participating in the invasion of Norway.

Operation Weserübung

Lützow was assigned to Group 5, alongside the new heavy cruiser Blücher and the light cruiser Emden, under the command of Konteradmiral Oskar Kummetz. Kummetz flew his flag in Blücher. Group 5 was tasked with capturing Oslo, the capital of Norway, and transported a force of 2,000 mountain troops from the Wehrmacht. Lützow embarked over 400 of the soldiers for the voyage to Norway. The force left Germany on 8 April and passed through the Kattegat. While en route, the British submarine HMS Triton attacked the flotilla, though her torpedoes missed. German torpedo boats attacked the submarine and drove her off.

Shortly before midnight on the night of 8 April, Group 5, with Blücher in the lead, passed the outer ring of Norwegian coastal batteries. Lützow followed directly behind the flagship, with Emden astern. Heavy fog and neutrality requirements, which required the Norwegians to fire warning shots, permitted the Germans to avoid damage. The Norwegians, including those manning the guns at the Oscarsborg Fortress were on alert, however. Steaming into the Oslofjord at a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), the Germans came into range of the Norwegian guns; the 28 cm, 15 cm and 57 mm guns opened fire on the invaders. During the ensuing Battle of Drøbak Sound, Blücher was hit by many shells and two torpedoes. She quickly capsized and sank with the loss of approximately 1,000 sailors and soldiers. Lützow was hit three times by 15 cm shells from Oscarsborg’s Kopås battery, causing significant damage.

Lützow ’s forward gun turret was hit by one of the 15 cm rounds, which disabled the center gun and damaged the right barrel. Four men were wounded. A second shell struck the ship’s deck and penetrated the upper and main armored decks; starting a fire in the cruiser’s hospital and operating theater, killing two soldiers and severely wounding six others. A third struck her superstructure behind the port-side aircraft crane. One of the aircraft on board was damaged, and four gunners were killed by the third shell. The ship was only able to fire her secondary battery in return. The heavy damage forced Lützow and the rest of the squadron to reverse course and exit the fjord. She eventually landed her troop complement in Verle Bay, after which she used her operational 28 cm guns to provide fire support. By the afternoon of 9 April, most of the Norwegian fortresses had been captured and the commander of the remaining Norwegian forces opened negotiations for surrender. The delay had, however, allowed enough time for the Norwegian government and royal family to flee Oslo.

The damage Lützow sustained prompted the Kriegsmarine to order her to return to Germany for repairs. The rest of Group 5 remained in Norway, so Lützow cruised at top speed to avoid submarines. Regardless, the British submarine HMS Spearfish attacked the ship and scored a serious hit. The torpedo destroyed Lützow ’s stern, causing it to collapse and nearly fall off, and blew off her steering gear. Unable to steer, she was towed back to port and decommissioned for repairs, which lasted for nearly a year. During the attack on Norway, the ship suffered nineteen dead, and another fifteen were killed by the torpedo strike. Despite the setback, KzS August Thiele, Lützow ’s commander, was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions during the Battle of Drøbak Sound, during which he took command of the task force after the loss of Blücher.

She was recommissioned for service on 31 March 1941, after which the Kriegsmarine initially planned to send the ship on the commerce raiding operation planned the previous year. Her sister Admiral Scheer was to join Lützow for the operation, and on 12 June, she departed for Norway with an escort of destroyers. British torpedo bombers attacked the ship off Egersund and scored a single hit that disabled her electrical system and rendered the ship motionless. The crew effected emergency repairs that allowed her to return to Germany; repair work in Kiel lasted for six months. By 10 May 1942, the ship was finally pronounced ready for action.

Deployment to Norway

Lützow left Germany on 15 May 1942 for Norway; by 25 May she had joined Admiral Scheer in Bogen Bay. She was made the flagship of the now Vizeadmiral Kummetz, the commander of Kampfgruppe 2. Fuel shortages restricted operations, although Lützow and Admiral Scheer were able to conduct limited battle training exercises. Kampfgruppe 2 was assigned to Operation Rösselsprung, a planned attack on the Allied convoy PQ 17, which was headed to the Soviet Union. On 3 July, the force left their anchorages, and in heavy fog Lützow and three destroyers ran aground and suffered significant damage. The British detected the German departure and ordered the convoy to scatter. Aware that surprise had been lost, the Germans broke off the surface attack and turned the destruction of PQ-17 over to the U-boats and Luftwaffe. Twenty-four of the convoy’s thirty-five transports were sunk. Lützow returned to Germany for repairs, which lasted until the end of October. She began a brief set of trials starting on 30 October. She returned to Norway in early November with a destroyer escort, arriving in Narvik on the 12th.

On 30 December, Lützow, the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, and six destroyers left Narvik for Operation Regenbogen, an attack on convoy JW 51B, which was reported by German intelligence to be lightly escorted. Kummetz’s plan was to divide his force in half; he would take Admiral Hipper and three destroyers north of the convoy to attack it and draw away the escorts. Lützow and the remaining three destroyers would then attack the undefended convoy from the south. At 09:15 on the 31st, the British destroyer Obdurate spotted the three destroyers screening for Admiral Hipper; the Germans opened fire first. Four of the other five destroyers escorting the convoy rushed to join the fight, while Achates laid a smoke screen to cover the convoy. Kummetz then turned back north to draw the destroyers away. Captain Robert Sherbrooke, the British escort commander, left two destroyers to cover the convoy while he took the remaining four to pursue Admiral Hipper.

Lützow meanwhile steamed toward the convoy from the south, and at 11:42 she opened fire. The harsh conditions negatively affected her shooting, which ceased by 12:03 without any hits. Rear Admiral Robert Burnett’s Force R, centered on the cruisers Sheffield and Jamaica, standing by in distant support of the Allied convoy, raced to the scene. The cruisers engaged Admiral Hipper, which had been firing to port at the destroyer Obedient. Burnett’s ships approached from Admiral Hipper ’s starboard side and achieved complete surprise. Lützow was then ordered to break off the attack on the convoy and reinforce Admiral Hipper. Lützow inadvertently came alongside Sheffield and Jamaica, and after identifying them as hostile, engaged them, though her fire remained inaccurate. The British cruisers turned toward Lützow and came under fire from both German cruisers. Burnett quickly decided to withdraw in the face of superior German firepower; his ships were armed with 6 in (150 mm) guns, while Admiral Hipper and Lützow carried 20.3 cm (8.0 in) and 28 cm (11 in) guns, respectively.

Operations in the Baltic

Hitler was furious over the failure to destroy the convoy, and ordered that all remaining German major warships be broken up for scrap. In protest, Raeder resigned; Hitler replaced him with Admiral Karl Dönitz, who persuaded Hitler to rescind the order to dismantle the Kriegmarine’s surface ships. In March, Lützow moved to Altafjord, where she experienced problems with her diesel engines. The propulsion system proved to be so problematic that repairs in Germany were necessary. She briefly returned to Norway, but by the end of September 1943, a thorough overhaul was required. The work was completed in Kiel by January 1944, after which she remained in the Baltic Sea to conduct training cruises for new naval personnel.

On 13 April 1945, twenty-four Avro Lancaster bombers attacked Lützow and Prinz Eugen without success due to cloud cover. The RAF made another failed attack two days later, but on 16 April, a force of eighteen Lancasters scored a single hit and several near misses on Lützow with Tallboy bombs in the Kaiserfahrt. The water was shallow enough that her main deck was still 2 m (6 ft 7 in) above water, permitting her use as a stationary gun battery against advancing Soviet forces under control of Task Force Thiele. She continued in this role until 4 May, by which time she had expended her main battery ammunition. Her crew rigged scuttling charges to destroy the hull, but a fire caused the explosives to detonate prematurely. The ultimate fate of Lützow was long unclear, as with most of the ships seized by the Soviet Navy. According to historians Erich Gröner and M. J. Whitley, the Soviet Navy raised the ship in September 1947 and broke her up for scrap in 1948–1949. Historians Hildebrand, Röhr and Steinmetz, in their book Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe, state that she instead sank off Kolberg, claiming that the Lützow broken up in the late 1940s was instead the Admiral Hipper-class cruiser Lützow that had been sold to the Soviet Union in 1940. The historian Hans Georg Prager examined the former Soviet archives in the early 2000s, and discovered that Lützow actually had been sunk in weapons tests in July 1947.

Units: Deutchland (Lutzow), Admiral Scheer, Admiral Graf Spee

Type and Significance: German heavy cruisers that are popularly called pocket battleships owing to the size of their primary weaponry.

Dates of Construction: Laid down between 1929 and 1932. All were completed by January 1936.

Hull Dimensions: 610′ 3″ x 70′ 10″ x 19′

Displacement: 11,700 tons

Armor: A belt between 2.25 and 3 inches thick, a deck 1.5 inches deep, and turret armor up to 5.5 inches thick.

Armament: Six 11-inch guns in two triple-gunned turrets, one each being located fore and aft. Also armed with eight 5.9- inch guns, six 4.1-inch pieces, eight 20.8-inch torpedo tubes, an assortment of antiaircraft guns, and two aircraft.

Machinery: Diesel engines that generated 54,000 horsepower.

Speed: 28 knots

Complement: 619-1,150

Summary: Although these vessels caused a great deal of concern in other countries such as France due to their armament, the protection was that of a regular cruiser rather than a more powerful vessel suggested by the nickname pocket battleship. None survived World War II. The Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled on 17 December 1939 after the Battle of the River Plate. The Admiral Scheer was sunk on 9 April 1945 by an Allied bombing raid. The Deutchland, renamed the Lutzow, was scuttled on 4 May 1945 after being badly damaged in an Allied bombing raid.

Destroy Tirpitz! Part I



From an Post-WWII Report


There was nothing sensational about the design of Tirpitz; she was merely a very large battleship, designed on conventional lines, propelled by three screws driven by steam turbines and mounting eight 38 cm. (approx. 15-in.) guns in twin turrets, arranged in the conventional way, two forward and two aft. This German mastodon was designed to a standard displacement of 42,600 tons, although the displacement reported for Treaty conditions was 35,000, the same as that of the King George V and Washington classes of battleship, which were genuinely designed to this size. In the deep condition she displaced 50,000 tons and had a draught of nearly 34 ft. Other things being equal this greater displacement would have been accompanied by greater ability to withstand damage. Although she measured 822 ft. overall, her most impressive dimension was her beam of 118 ft. which would have prevented her from passing through the Panama Canal. It was always thought that this implied a very deep “bulge” for protection against underwater attack, but it is now known that there was nothing remarkable about her underwater protection which was, in fact, inferior to that fitted in both British and American contemporary Capital Ships. The very large beam was adopted to provide an abnormally high initial stability. Such measures, however, may often reduce the resistance of the ship to the more severe states of damage. It is doubtful whether Tirpitz was at all better than her allied counterparts in this respect.

Information gained from a survey of the wreck and numerous drawings brought from Germany confirm that Tirpitz’s reputed fine watertight subdivision, and consequent “invincibility”, were a complete myth; her subdivision was very similar to that of our own Capital Ships, and indeed those of all major sea Powers. Her watertight integrity was in several ways subordinated to requirements of convenience; for example, every transverse watertight bulkhead in the ship was pierced by watertight doors on the lower and middle platform decks, a menace which has been eliminated from H.M. ships for many years, and the engine rooms seemed to contain far more space than was needed.

Some of the available weight was used to secure a very high speed. Tirpitz was designed to develop 150,000 shaft horse-power which enabled her to make over 30 knots in the average action condition, and she was capable of developing 165,000 shaft horse-power for sudden bursts of over 31 knots. Her range based on an oil fuel capacity of 5,000 tons was over 10,000 sea miles. More fuel could be carried in an emergency.

More of the extra displacement in Tirpitz was accounted for by the fact that her 38 cm. guns were mounted in twin turrets rather than the weight saving triple and quadruple arrangements used in modern American and British Capital ships. Also the Germans fitted separate low angle and high angle secondary batteries rather than the dual purpose mountings used in Allied ships. She thus had twelve 15 cm. (5.9-in.) low angle guns in twin turrets, three on either side of the amidships superstructure, and sixteen high angle 10.5 cm. (4.1-in.) guns in twin mountings – four on each side. A further battery of sixteen 3.7 cm. (1.46-in.) mountings for close range anti- aircraft work was also provided.

This powerful armament was controlled by range-finders and director sights on the forward and after conning towers, and on the fore top. There were smaller range-finders for the secondary armament, one on each side of the bridge. The 10.5 cm. H.A. armament was controlled by four special gyro stabilized directors, one to port and one to starboard of the bridge, and two on the centre line abaft the main mast.

Tirpitz’s general layout is illustrated by the small-scale drawing (Figure 2) which has been prepared for this report from larger scale drawings found in the Naval Arsenal at Kiel. It will be seen from the drawing that the machinery spaces, consisting of six boiler rooms, three engine rooms and miscellaneous compartments housing auxiliary machinery, the magazines and shell rooms, and other vital compartments such as fire control rooms, were well protected by a long armoured citadel. The sides were of 320 mm. (12.6-in.) thick cemented armour plates from 8 ft. below the waterline up to the battery deck and thinner plating of 145 mm. (5.7-in.) thickness to the upper deck. In addition, the third deck down was armoured with 80 mm. (3.15-in.) non-cemented plating over the machinery spaces and 100 mm. (3.94-in.) over the magazines between the torpedo bulkheads, while the sloping deck armour between the centre portion and the base of the side armour was 110 mm. (4.33-in.) in way of machinery spaces and 120 mm. (4.72)-in.) in way of magazines. There were extensions of the citadel by thinner armour, the lower belt being 60 mm. (2.36-in.) plating forward and 80 mm. (3.15-in.) aft and the upper belt being 35 mm. (1.38-in.) forward and aft. While there was no deck armour before the forward magazines, deck protection aft over the steering gear compartments was 110 mm. (4.33-in.) in thickness. This armoured citadel, re-inforced by a strength deck (the upper deck) which was 50 mm. (1.97-in.) thick generally, afforded efficient protection against splinters and all but the largest bombs dropped from a considerable height. Barbettes, and turret sides and roofs, and conning towers were protected by armour on the same generous lines.

Four sea-planes which were carried for spotting and reconnaissance were accommodated in special hangars abreast the funnel and under the main mast. They were launched by a fixed athwartships catapult between the funnel and the main mast.

Attack by Fleet Air Arm Torpedo Bombers

On 6 March, 1942, H.M. Submarine Sealion, on patrol off the northern entrance to Trondheim, reported an enemy heavy ship proceeding on a north-easterly course. As a convoy on passage from Iceland to North Russia had been shadowed by a Focke-Wulf aircraft on the previous day, it was thought possible that the battleship Tirpitz might have left Trondheim to attack it. The C.-in-C., Home Fleet, in the King George V, with the Duke of York, Renown and Victorious, were at sea covering the convoy. On the following day C.–in-C., Home Fleet, intercepted a distress message from the Russian Ijora in position 72° 35’ N, 10° 50’ E. Early on 9 March six Albacores were flown off Victorious to search the area in which Tirpitz was believed to be operating. She was sighted at 0800 and a striking force of 12 Albacores armed with torpedoes, which had been flown off Victorious at 0735, was guided to the target by the shadowing aircraft. At 0842 Tirpitz was sighted by the torpedo planes which attacked in two waves, one on each side of the ship. The torpedoes appear to have been dropped at an excessively long range which enabled Tirpitz to “comb the tracks”, turning sharply first to port and then to starboard. No hits were scored, but the German command seemed to have been somewhat scared because Tirpitz retired at high speed to her safe anchorage in the Foetten Fjord near Trondheim.

Early Bomber Command Attacks

In the Foetten Fjord she was immune from most forms of attack; she lay surrounded by mountains and was moored close in to the cliffs on one side and surrounded by torpedo nets on all others. On the occasional fine day which made air attack just possible she had only to put up a smoke screen to rectify the climatic defect. Despite these difficulties she was attacked by Bomber Command aircraft during the early hours of 31 March, and 28 and 29 April, 1942. The weather conditions during the first of these attacks were so bad that only one aircraft succeeded in finding Tirpitz at all, the usual smoke screen was in use and the attack was abortive. During the second and third attacks, most of the aircraft despatched, 32 and 30 respectively, managed to find the ship but again the smoke screen prevented useful results from being achieved. The Germans who were interrogated after the surrender reported that in one of these attacks the bombs (probably hydrostatically fused mines) rolled down the cliff into the sea – a mode of attack which they regarded as worthy of more success than it achieved.

Although the difficulties of carrying out an attack against a Capital Ship under these conditions are fully appreciated, the 4,000 lb. blast bombs with instantaneous fuses which seem to have constituted the major part of the bomb loads carried in these early attacks, were rather unsuitable. A hit would have caused only superficial damage to superstructures, while near misses would have detonated on the surface with little fragmentation and practically no effect on such a heavy ship. 2,000 lb. A.P. bombs dropped in level flight would have been a better choice, since twice as many of these bombs could have been carried and any hits would have had a direct effect on the vessel’s fighting efficiency. The small Mk.XIX mines containing 100 lbs. of explosive and fitted with hydrostatic fuses to operate at 30 ft. depth had an almost negligible target, and the 500 lb. and 250 lb. G.P. bombs had little chance of producing serious damage against a ship of this size.

Operation Source

Tirpitz had a very quiet time from April, 1942, until March, 1943, during which period nothing useful was accomplished. At the end of this period Scharnhorst and Lutzow joined forces with her in the Altenfjord; these three ships with their attendant destroyers constituted a serious menace to the Russian convoys, which were suspended during the long daylight of the summer months for this reason. In early September, 1943, the squadron made a raid on Spitzbergen, showing that it was beginning to feel somewhat more aggressive, then returned to the anchorages in various branches of the Altenfjord. Tirpitz lay moored in Kaa Fjord – an arm of the Altenfjord some fifty miles from the sea – completely protected by torpedo nets. Though he disposed a superior Naval Force, it was extremely difficult for the C.-in-C., Home Fleet, to tempt the three ships to action from over 1,000 miles away, or to lay on a successful air or submarine attack against such secluded foxholes. It was finally decided to attack them with the new midget submarines officially known as X-Craft, which each carried two special ground mines, and which had been evolved after a careful study of the specific problem of attacking enemy units in such anchorages.

Six of these novel craft (X5 to X10) which had recently joined the Fleet, set out on the night of 11/12 September, 1943, on the hazardous journey to a position off the Norwegian coast, towed by ‘S’ and ‘T’ Class submarines. Two of them, X8 and X9, failed to complete this passage but the remaining four reached their rendezvous on 20 September, slipped their tows and proceeded independently to the attack.

X10’s periscope and compasses immediately began giving much trouble and eventually failed completely; as a result, she had to retire from the attack. (The plan had been for X5, X6 and X7 to attack Tirpitz, X8 to attack Lutzow and X9 and X10 to attack Scharnhorst). During 20, 21 and 22 September, X5, X6 and X7 successfully negotiated the Altenfjord as far as the anchorage of Tirpitz in Kaa Fjord, passing en route mine fields, enemy surface vessels and the anti-submarine boom defence at the entrance to the Kaa Fjord.

X6 entered the torpedo net enclosure around Tirpitz at about 0705

G.M.T. using the official entrance which was open at the time for the passage of store ships (see Figure 3). After a series of instrumental defects had caused her to surface three times (she was mistaken for a porpoise on the first occasion, correctly identified on the second (at 0710) and attacked with machine-gun fire and hand grenades on the third), X6 succeeded in releasing her two charges under the ship abreast ‘B’ turret. As escape was then impossible, she was scuttled and her crew surrendered. Meanwhile, X7 endeavoured to penetrate the net defence by passing under it. She experienced a number of setbacks but eventually succeeded in entering the anchorage. Passing down it under the keel of Tirpitz, from forward to aft, she released one charge abreast ‘B’ turret and the other further aft, under the after Engine Room. This X-Craft left the enclosure at 0740, this time sliding over the nets, and then dived. During the manoeuvre she was sighted by the Germans and hit several times with machine-gun bullets. At 0812, while still submerged, the crew heard a tremendous explosion which they thought to be due to the explosion of the X-Craft charges. X7 subsequently became uncontrolled; it was decided to scuttle her and at 0835 she was brought to the surface, but sank again with her hatch open after only one member of the crew had managed to escape. The full movements of X5 are not known but she was seen at 0835 on the surface some 500 yards outside the nets, when she was fired upon by Tirpitz and appeared to sink.

There were thus four charges laid under or near Tirpitz, namely, one placed by X7 under the after engine room and three from X6 and X7 abreast ‘B’ turret.

From the German point of view, the first intimation that an attack was in progress came at about 0713 when a small craft (X6) – correctly identified as a submarine – was observed to break surface momentarily inside the torpedo nets about 200 to 250 ft. off the port beam. The submarine alarm was sounded, watertight doors were brought to the action state and the anti- aircraft guns were manned. The submarine was sighted again at 0720 and was attacked with 20 mm. and 37 mm. fire from Tirpitz and hand grenades thrown from a motor boat which had been despatched to attack her. The X-Craft was eventually brought to the surface and abandoned in a sinking condition by her crew. The motor boat tried to tow the submarine, which the Germans suspected might contain explosives, away from the battleship but it sank at 0732, some 50 to 60 yards off the port bow.

The Germans were aware of the existence of British midget submarines but had no information as to their armament. They were, therefore, undecided as to whether an attack by torpedoes, mines, or limpet charges had been made. To clear any limpets which might have been attached to the bottom, they pulled from stem to stern a wire strop slung around the ship under the keel. At the same time, preparations were made to get underway but, in view of the unknown menaces awaiting the ship in the fjord, it was ultimately decided to remain inside the nets. However, Tirpitz’s bow was moved away from the submarine known to have sunk off the port bow by tightening and slackening the port and starboard forward mooring cables. Unbeknown to the Germans this had the effect of clearing the forward part of the ship from the three charges placed abreast ‘B’ turret. The single charge aft remained effective.

Shortly after this evolution was complete at least two heavy explosions occurred in quick succession; spray was thrown up over the ship which shuddered violently. The other two X-Craft were destroyed in turn soon after this. An intensive depth charging of the fjord followed.

Although only one of the six charges originally intended for Tirpitz was effective, the results were undoubtedly worthwhile. Only a relatively small quantity of water entered the ship but damage to main machinery was enough to immobilize her for six months. It is doubtful whether the repairs carried out in Kaa Fjord restored the ship to her original standard of mechanical efficiency.

Destroy Tirpitz! Part II

Gillies-Cole, Ralph; Operation Tungsten, 3 April 1944; Fleet Air Arm Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/operation-tungsten-3-april-1944-40617

Gillies-Cole, Ralph; Operation Tungsten, 3 April 1944; Fleet Air Arm Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/operation-tungsten-3-april-1944-40617

Operation Tungsten

The repair of damage caused by the X-Craft attack was complete by the beginning of March, 1944; Tirpitz then began a series of trials to test the efficacy of these repairs. These were to have culminated in prolonged sea trials in early April.

The first movements in Altenfjord were observed by our reconnaissance aircraft and C.-in-C. Home Fleet was therefore asked to lay on a bombing attack using Fleet Air Arm Aircraft. This attack took place on 3 April. Forty Barracudas were escorted by 81 Corsair, Hellcat and Wildcat fighters. Enemy reconnaissance was avoided by sending the Carrier force about a day behind a large Russia bound convoy. Complete surprise was achieved, the striking force reached the ship just as she was about to get underway for the open sea trials. Weather conditions were good.

The first strike began its attack at 0530 just as the second anchor was being weighed. Before a smoke-screen could be developed and before the flak batteries had been fully manned, the accompanying fighters were strafing the upperworks with machine-gun fire. Diving attacks by Barracudas carrying 1,600 lb. armour-piercing, 500 lb. semi-armour-piercing, and medium capacity bombs followed. A few 600 lb. anti-submarine bombs were also used. In all, nine hits (with one profitable near miss) were scored by this strike on the German ship. The second strike attacked at 0630 but found Tirpitz obscured by smoke, this time five hits and three near misses were obtained.

Unfortunately, owing to the low height from which the bombs were released (the Germans gave figures between 300 and 1300 ft.) none succeeded in penetrating the armour deck – in fact only two reached it. Two other bombs ricochetted off the 2-in. thick upper deck, and one lodged half-way through this deck. As all the vital parts of a large capital ship lie below armour, only superficial damage to living spaces and other unessential compartments was caused by the direct hits. This damage, however, was fairly extensive and several large fires resulted. Heavy casualties were caused both by the bombs and by the fighters. The greatest nuisance value was achieved by a bomb, probably 1600 lb. A.P., which struck the water a few ft. from the ship’s side, penetrated the side plating beneath the armour belt and detonated near the main longitudinal protective bulkhead. This bomb flooded bulge compartments nearby and extensive work by divers was required to effect a repair.

In about a month Tirpitz was again operationally fit, no significant damage to armament or main machinery having been sustained in the attack. About two more months were required to complete the less important repairs.

Fleet Air Arm Attacks

Although Tirpitz showed no signs of leaving the Kaa Fjord it was suspected that the attack on 3 April had not inflicted any vital damage as it was realised that the bombs might not have been dropped from a height sufficient to enable them to penetrate the thick deck armour. Intelligence reports and reconnaissance photographs also indicated that the battleship was ready for further action. Attacks on the above dates were therefore made by bomber forces flown from Carriers of the Home Fleet in an attempt to prolong Tirpitz’s stay in the Kaa Fjord.

The first of these attacks developed during the early hours of 17 July, the Arctic summer being then at its height. Warning of the attack had been received about half-an-hour before the planes arrived and all necessary preparations, including the smoke-screen, had been made in Tirpitz. The aircraft dropped 1600 lb. armour piercing and 500 lb. bombs; no hits were scored.

Two attacks made at noon and in the evening of 22 August were also anticipated; again Tirpitz was enveloped in a smoke-screen, and no hits were registered. 500 lb. semi-armour-piercing bombs were used in these strikes. The attack on 24 August was made during the afternoon, 80 aircraft being employed. The defences were once more in fully effective operation when the planes reached the Tirpitz, but this time, despite the difficulty of aiming through smoke, two of the 23 large armour-piercing bombs and 10 smaller semi-armour-piercing bombs which were dropped, scored hits. One of these detonated on the armour roof of ‘B’ turret which was only slightly damaged but the other – a 1600 lb. armour-piercing bomb – hit the port side of the upper deck abreast the forward conning tower, and penetrated through the armour deck to the lower platform (inner bottom) where it came to rest but – because of a fuse failure – did not detonate. Had this bomb been effective the main fire control rooms, switchboard rooms, etc., would have been put out of action. The resultant flooding would probably have extended to the forward auxiliary boiler room. In their official report on this attack the Germans stated:

“The attack on 24 August, 1944, was undoubtedly the heaviest and most determined so far experienced. The English showed great skill and dexterity in flying. For the first time they dived with heavy bombs. During the dive-bombing, fighter planes attacked the land batteries which, in comparison with earlier attacks, suffered heavy losses. The fact that the armour-piercing bomb of more than 1,540 lbs. did not explode must be considered an exceptional stroke of luck, as the effects of that explosion would have been immeasurable. Even incomplete smoke screening upsets the correctness of the enemy’s aim, and it has been decided from now on to use smoke in wind strengths up to 9 m. per second irrespective of possible gaps.”

The last of this series of attacks made on 29 August by 26 Barracudas, seven Hellcats, 10 Fireflies and 17 Corsairs from Indefatigable and Formidable, was carried out in exactly similar conditions. No hits were obtained.

Attack by Bomber Command Lancasters

A great improvement in technique was made on 15 September, 1944, when Tirpitz was attacked with the newly-developed Tallboy bombs. These massive bombs contained 5100 lbs. of desensitized torpex in a comparatively thin streamlined case and were fitted with fuses having a slight time delay of 0.07 sec. Although it was anticipated that they might be damaged in passing through the heavy deck armour, it was hoped that the very large charge would compensate for any loss of efficiency and that even near misses would have considerable destructive value.

The operation was carried out by about 30 Lancasters which had previously flown from Scotland to North Russia, where they were based for the attack. The aircraft approached the target at high altitude from the South-East, descending to about 12,000 ft. for their attacks which they made in groups of about six, in close formation. The battleship was found moored at her berth; she had been given warning by shore radar installations so that shortly after the attack commenced an extensive and effective smoke-screen covered the greater part of the fjord, leaving only the boom surrounding Tirpitz and small portions of the ship visible. The main armament, directed by the shore radar installations, was used for putting up a barrage in way of the attacking aircraft.

Out of the 21 heavy bombs dropped, only one fell sufficiently close to Tirpitz to damage her. This bomb hit the upper deck on the extreme starboard side some 50 ft. abaft the bow, passed out through the flare of the forecastle into the water and detonated below keel level close to the ship. The explosion wrecked a large portion of the fore end, particularly that part below the waterline, and as a result of this damage the first 120 ft. of the ship became flooded to the waterline. Although this single hit did not seriously affect either machinery or armament, the damage to the fore end of Tirpitz could not be repaired without docking her, and she was henceforth unfit to undertake a voyage in the open sea and in consequence ceased to be an effective fighting unit.

The following resume, extracted from the translation of a captured German document shows the German reaction to this attack:–

“It was estimated that repairs, if they could be carried out without interruption, would take at least nine months.”

“It was eventually decided at a conference on 23 September, 1944, at which the C.-in-C. and Naval War Staff were present, that it was no longer possible to make the Tirpitz ready for sea and action again. It was therefore considered that, in order to preserve the remaining fighting efficiency of the ship, she should be used as a reinforcement to the defences in the Polar Area. For this purpose Tirpitz was to be moved as soon as possible to the area west of Lyngenfjord, moored in shallow water and brought into the operation as a floating battery. A suitable berth had to be selected which would be reasonably secure and would offer favourable operational possibilities for the ship’s armament. Adequate anti-aircraft, smoke-cover and net protection were to be provided. Makeshift repairs were to be made and the Tirpitz moved with the assistance of powerful tugs.”

“The operation of moving the Tirpitz was carried out on 15 October, 1944. A berth was selected near Tromsø, Haakoy net enclosure, by F.O.I.C., Polar Coast in co-operation with Flag Officer, First Battle Group. The ship was protected against underwater attacks and aerial torpedoes by means of a double net barrage. Shore anti-aircraft guns and smoke-screen units were moved from Kaa Fjord to Tromsø. As the ship was only partially seaworthy, the crew, particularly the engine room complement, was decreased. It was found that there were varying depths of water at the selected berth; in particular there was a hollow below the midship section. Too many difficulties would have arisen if the ship were to be moved again, so it was decided to fill in the hollow till the water was 2 m. deep below the keel. Work was commenced by dredgers on 1 November, and by 12 November about 14,000 cm. had been filled in at both sides below the midship section.”

Second Bomber Command Tallboy Attack

On 29 October, 1944, the lame Tirpitz now moored at Tromsø off Haakoy Island was again attacked by Bomber Command. A force of 32 Lancasters flying this time from British bases and carrying one Tallboy each, began bombing her at 0850. The target was seen obliquely as the aircraft approached, but low clouds obscured her from view during the bombing runs and made accurate bomb-aiming impossible. Once again, prior warning of the approaching raid was received and the ship was in a high state of readiness when the attack commenced. No direct hits were scored but the end was brought one stage nearer by a near miss off the port quarter, which damaged the port shaft and rudder and flooded about 100 ft. of the aft end of the ship on the port side.

Final Bomber Command Attack

The struggle between the British armed forces and Tirpitz came to an end on 12 November, 1944, when Bomber Command aircraft executed what was undoubtedly one of the most effective British air operations of the late war. 29 Lancasters, again carrying one 12,000 lb. M.C. bomb each, attacked the ship as she lay in her anchorage at Tromsø. Bombing commenced at 0941 and finished eight minutes later in clear weather and excellent visibility. Tirpitz had received ample warning by radio of the approach of the bombers and was again prepared when the attack developed. Intense anti-aircraft fire was augmented from nearby flak ships and shore batteries, but there was no effective smoke-screen. The bombing runs were made at heights varying between 12,500 ft. and 16,500 ft. Tirpitz received severe structural damage from, at least, two direct hits and one near miss, and as a result of this damage she capsized to port about ten minutes after the first bomb was dropped. Part of the starboard side of her hull is still to be seen above the surface – a reminder of the inability of a capital ship without adequate fighter cover to resist a determined and concentrated attack with modern airborne weapons.

The Porpoise Class


Porpoise, the first post-war operational submarine design. For their day, they were exceptionally quiet.


By 1948 it was recognised that anti-submarine warfare (ASW) would be the primary role of the Royal Navy’s submarine force. Subsidiary to this, it was clear that they would have to spend much operational time providing targets for the training of surface ASW vessels and aircraft and the development of ASW tactics. In addition, it was thought likely that British submarines could operate against Soviet merchant ships supporting their army in the Arctic and possibly the Baltic and Black Sea. The German Type XXI had shown what conventional technology could do when required. The concept was brilliant and original but the individual techniques used for increased diving depth, greater battery capacity, more powerful electric motors and streamlined hull form were all well known. First priority was to use such techniques in modernising existing submarines and then to build a new design diesel-electric boat.

Six Porpoise class submarines, designed by R N Newton and E A Brokensha, were ordered in April 1951, and two more in 1954. They were a little bigger and somewhat shorter than the ‘T’ conversions, but improved design methods and UXW steel together with new structural design methods gave them a considerably increased diving depth. A model of the very long engine-room collapsed during tests at NCRE and a number of extra deep frames were fitted in the final design. They were exceptionally quiet for their day, mostly by careful attention to detail in the design and support of their machinery.

The engines were Admiralty Standard Range I (ASR I) designed at AEL, West Drayton and built first at Chatham Dockyard, an unusual case of ‘in-house’ machinery development. They were to prove very successful even though some of the design aims proved over-ambitious. Great attention was paid to habitability, including air-conditioning. The six bow tubes had rapid reloading gear so that a second salvo could follow very soon after the first, but this was heavy and not very reliable. Torpedoes could be fired at much greater depth than in previous classes. Submerged endurance was expected to be 55 hours at 4kts, about three times that of any previous RN boat.

The DNC, Sir Victor Shepherd, explained in 1955 that the submerged speed had come down from 17kts to 16kts, which he blamed on the use of reduced-noise propellers of lower propulsive efficiency and on caution in estimating full size performance from model tests. Submerged endurance on batteries had been further reduced following a re-assessment of auxiliary load by the Director of Electrical Engineering. At 4kts the auxiliary load was equal to the power for propulsion. In consequence, the nominal endurance at 4kts was reduced from 55 hours to 40 hours. Problems with the UXW steel, led to a reduction in diving depth from 625ft to 500ft. In 1953 the design had been lengthened 4ft to accept an increase in machinery weight. Despite the fact that they fell short of performance targets, they were probably the best submarines of the day within NATO, and considerably superior to the Soviet ‘Whiskey’ class. They were deeper diving than either the ‘Whiskey’ or the German Type XXI (both 400ft), faster than the ‘Whiskey’ but 1kt slower than the XXI, and far quieter than either.

They had noise-reduced propellers, benefiting from trials on surface ships and on Scotsman. Initially, these were very prone to ‘sing’, in which eddies are shed from the trailing edge, alternately from one side and then the other, exciting a resonant vibration of the blade which, in turn, makes the eddy shedding worse. It is said that Rorqual could be heard leaving the Clyde on the west coast of Scotland from a listening station on Long Island. The USN had similar problems and there was much interesting discussion on both theoretical and empirical solutions either seeking to control the eddy shedding or to prevent vibration by damping. Luckily, the Porpoise propellers had been designed before Conolly’s work on propeller strength and were stronger than necessary. This made it possible to cut grooves in the blades, which were filled with a damping material which gave a complete cure.

They had a good sonar fit aided by their low noise level and proved successful in a long service life. Top speed was about 16kts submerged and they had an endurance of 9000 miles on the surface.



Moltke. She was fitted with ten 28cm guns, trainable within a wide arc on both sides. The antitorpedo nets, initially fitted on most capital ships, were removed during the war due to their limited effectiveness and burdensome handling.


Goeben at La Spezia in early 1914. Since Italy was part of the Triple Alliance, until she declared her neutrality in early August 1914, Goeben was entitled to have access to Italian naval bases. Her main support harbour in the Mediterranean was, however, the Austrian base of Pula on the Adriatic.


Moltke, 1914


Goeben, 1912

In defining the designs of Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ and ‘H’, included in the 1908 and 1909 building programmes, the RMA avoided the mistake made by Britain, which failed to introduce in the Indefatigable class significant improvements over the Invincibles. In comparison to Von der Tann, the new German battlecruisers were, in fact, much larger, equipped with a more powerful main battery and better protected. This was possible thanks to the increased budget allocated to battlecruisers, which rose from RM36.7 million in 1907 to RM44.1 million in each of the two following years.

Design, Construction and Cost

The design process of Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ started in April 1907. Faced with the alternatives of switching to a larger calibre (30.5cm) main gun, as in the new Helgoland class battleships, or increasing the number of existing 28cm guns, Tirpitz and Department K choose the latter. Given that Britain was building a larger number of battlecruisers than Germany, it was indeed advisable to have a greater number of guns, rather than increase their calibre. Moreover, the RMA considered the 28cm was sufficient even to engage battleships.

Initially, the 28cm SK L/45 was selected and a preliminary design – dubbed ‘G2i’ – for a 22,000t battlecruiser equipped with five twin turrets and capable of developing 24 to 24.5 knots, was approved by the Kaiser on 28 May 1907. The project definition continued at a slow pace, due to both the many changes gradually introduced and the work overload affecting Department K. At one point, building Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ as a repeat of Von der Tann to save time was even considered, postponing the introduction of improvements to the next ship, Grosse Kreuzer ‘H’. This proposal, however, was set aside, and on 15 May 1908 Tirpitz decided that Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ and ‘H’ had to be identical. On 17 September, the RMA entrusted the construction of ‘G’ to the Blohm & Voss shipyard, which had submitted the lowest bid in anticipation of winning the contracts for both ships. The order for the first battlecruiser was signed on 28 September and, on 8 April 1909, Blohm & Voss also secured the contract for Grosse Kreuzer ‘H’.

Moltke11 was laid down on 7 December 1908, launched on 7 April 1910 and declared ready for the acceptance tests on 30 September 1911. She entered service on 31 March 1912. Goeben12 was laid down on 12 August 1909, launched on 28 March 1911, declared ready for acceptance tests on 2 July 1912 and commissioned on 2 August. Moltke cost RM44.08 million, spread over four budget years (1908-11), and distributed as follows: hull and propulsion, RM29.15 million; guns, RM14 million; and torpedo armament, RM0.93 million. The cost of Goeben was almost identical: RM44.125 million over 1909-12.

General Features

The main design features of the Moltke class (overall length 186.6m, beam 29.4m, design displacement 22,979t) were largely superior to those of Von der Tann. In particular, the greater size of the hull caused an overall increase of about 3,600t in the design displacement. The table on pages 156-7 shows displacement, dimensions and the ships’ main characteristics. This overall increase was due to several features. 1,000t came from a hull that was finer at the ends and wider amidships. An additional 1,000t were due to a greater freeboard and the installation of an additional 28cm turret and the consequent lengthening of the ship’s citadel caused an increase of 900t. The installation of more powerful machinery resulted in an additional 450t and, finally, larger ammunition stowage accounted for 100t.

The hull was divided longitudinally into fifteen watertight compartments and horizontally into six decks. Extensive compartmentalisation and a double bottom extending for 78% of the hull length provided underwater protection. In addition, there were side longitudinal bulkheads that provided further compart-mentalisation in the central and aft sections of the hull. There were two passageways located along the hull sides in the upper, lower platform and hold decks, running from approximately the foremost boiler rooms to ‘C’ turret magazine. Another two middle passageways, only in the upper platform deck, ran along the boiler rooms.

The forecastle rose up gently up to 7.6m far forward, while aft it continued up to the superfiring turret. The freeboard was increased by about 1m at the battery deck but reduced at the stern. The stem was nearly straight, instead of the pronounced ram bow fitted on Von der Tann.

The forward superstructure included the main control tower, two 8.8cm guns, the chart room and the bridge and the flag bridge. The rear part of this superstructure supported the forward funnel, which was higher than the aft funnel because it had a hood. The foremast was just forward of the fore funnel. Two searchlight platforms were fitted on each side of the fore funnel; the air vents for the boilers were located at its base, which also supported two derricks for handling the service boats. The aft superstructure included the secondary conning tower and a lattice frame with two platforms, each supporting two searchlights.13 These were installed aft, rather than on the sides of the aft funnel, to move them away from the flash and blast of the 28cm wing turrets. The aft funnel was not fitted with an outer coating; it was no longer needed since the aft searchlights were moved onto separate platforms. At the base of the aft funnel, there were the air intakes for the ventilation of the lower decks.

The barrels of the 28cm guns were 1.4m longer than Von der Tann’s, due to the transition from 45 to 50 calibres. This resulted in a corresponding increase of the traversing radius, thus requiring an adjustment of the funnels’ positioning, with a consequent increase in length of the ship’s citadel. The original design foresaw lattice masts; concerns related to the increased volume of these structures, their stability in case of hits, and potential interference in the operation of the W/T equipment led to the adoption of metal pole masts. After 1914, a fire-control position was added on the foremast. The Moltkes were equipped with bilge keels to improve stability. Six turbo generators supplied 1,500kW at 225V, powering the lighting and communication systems and the training servo-mechanisms of the large calibre turrets. The turbo-generators were housed in four dynamo rooms, two positioned along the centreline and the other port and starboard of the forward engine room, in the upper platform deck. W/T fitting was the same as on Von der Tann. Anti-torpedo nets were originally fitted but they were removed in 1916.

The Moltkes’ metacentric height was 3.01m. The angle of maximum stability was 34° and the angle at which stability vanished was 68°. Complement included forty-three officers and 1,010 men; when serving as flagship, there were an additional thirteen officers and sixty-two men.


The increase in displacement allowed for a considerable strengthening of the Moltkes’ protection, compared to Von der Tann. However, the weakness represented by the thinner armour of the barbettes behind the main armour belt was not eliminated. The main belt, consisting of KC steel plates, extended over 112m between the barbettes of the forward and the aftermost large calibre turrets. Maximum thickness was 270mm on a height of 175cm, 35cm of which was below the waterline. The belt tapered upwards to 200mm at the battery deck level (or at the upper deck outside the citadel) and to 130mm at the lower edge, 175cm below the waterline. The main belt was closed by 200mm bulkheads fore and aft. Beyond the main belt, side armour extended towards the bow and stern with a reduced thickness of 100mm.

The citadel enclosing the 15cm guns was protected by 150mm side armour between the upper and battery decks and was closed by bulkheads of equal thickness. The side protection of the main conning tower was 350mm, with an 80mm roof. The aft conning tower featured 200mm in side protection and a 50mm roof. The main gun turrets’ armour was unchanged from Von der Tann (230mm front, 180mm sides and 90mm flat roofs). The thickness of the barbettes was 200-230mm above the main belt but it was reduced to 80mm behind the battery side armour and to 30mm behind the main belt. Horizontal protection was 75mm inside the citadel, equally divided among the upper, battery and armoured decks. The thickness of the sloping sides of the armoured deck was 50mm. Outside of the citadel, protection was provided by the armoured deck, with a thickness between 50 and 75mm. A longitudinal torpedo bulkhead ran 3.75m inside the main belt with a thickness of 30mm, increasing to 50mm on the sides of the ammunition magazines.


Moltke and Goeben were equipped with twenty-four coal-fired Schulz-Thornycroft boilers. They were housed in groups of three in eight separated rooms amidships. The watertight compartment that housed ‘B’ turret magazine and some auxiliary equipment separated the two forward boiler rooms from the aft boiler rooms. In turn, these were split into six compartments, obtained by dividing two adjacent boiler rooms with two longitudinal bulkheads.

Steam was raised at 16atm and fed two groups of Parsons turbines, powering as many shafts fitted with three-blade propellers, 3.74m in diameter. The Moltkes, like Von der Tann, featured two side longitudinal bulkheads, which split the engine rooms into port and starboard compartments. The two forward engine rooms housed the HP turbines, which operated the outer shafts. The aft engine rooms housed the MP turbines, which ran the inner shafts.

Design power was 52,000shp, providing 25.5 knots at 260rpm. This value was greatly exceeded during speed trials, in which Moltke attained 85,782shp at 332rpm, and a top speed of 28.07 knots. Goeben achieved 85,661shp at 330rpm, and 28 knots. Design coal stowage was 1,000t; the maximum 3,100t and endurance was 4,120 miles at 14 knots. After 1916, the boilers were equipped with tar oil sprayers, thus obviating the poor quality of available coal; oil capacity was 200t.

Moltke and Goeben had two rudders in tandem. Since the rudders were 12m apart, this layout increased manoeuvrability at slow speed and the ship’s survivability. However, this also remarkably increased the ship’s turning diameter at slow speed. When turning at full rudder, speed loss could reach 60%, while heeling could reach 9°.


The main armament consisted of ten 28cm L/50 guns in five Drh. LC/08 twin mountings: a bow turret (‘A’), two aft (‘C’ superfiring over ‘D’) and two wing turrets (‘B’ to starboard and ‘E’ to port).14 As in Von der Tann, this layout allowed firing a full broadside of ten guns within a wide arc (about 75°) on both sides. The height of the gun axis was 8.79m above the waterline for the forward turret, 8.43m for the wing turrets and 8.61m and 6.25m for the aft turrets. Each mounting weighed about 445t, and had a crew of seventy.

Elevation of the large-calibre guns was -8°/+13.5°, 6.5° less than Von der Tann. Therefore, the maximum range was limited to 18,100m.15 When the maximum elevation was increased to 16° in 1916, range was extended to 19,100m. As Yavuz (ex-Goeben), the maximum elevation was further increased to 22.5°, in order to enable her to deal with the newest Russian battleships, armed with 30.5cm guns, operating in the Black Sea. The guns of Yavuz could then achieve a maximum range of 21,700m. Thanks to the increased length of the barrel when compared with the 28cm L/45, the new gun fired the 302kg AP shell with a muzzle velocity of 880 mps and corresponding muzzle energy of 116.9MJ. Maximum rate of fire was three rounds per minute while the weight of the full broadside (ten rounds) was 3,020kg. Ammunition outfit totalled 810 rounds. The capacity of the magazines was 150 rounds for the wing and aftermost turrets and 180 rounds for the other two turrets.

The secondary battery consisted of twelve 15cm L/45 guns on MPL C/06 mountings, casemated on both sides of the ship’s citadel. Each gun’s axis was 5m above the waterline. Ammunition outfit was 150 rounds per gun (1,800 in total). Two 15cm guns were removed from Yavuz in May 1915 and used to strengthen the fortress of In Tepe, on the Dardanelles.

To defend against torpedo boats and destroyers, the Moltkes were initially armed with twelve 8.8cm L/45 naval guns: four were placed near the bow, two in the fore and four in the aft superstructure, and two on the upper deck, aft of the 15cm battery. These 8.8cm guns were first reduced to eight, removing the bow guns because they were flooded when the ship steamed at full speed; another four guns were removed in 1916. The remaining 8.8cm guns were replaced by four AA guns on MPL C/13 single mounts, which were installed on the aft superstructure. Ammunition outfit for these guns totalled 3,200 rounds (200 per gun). Moltke and Goeben were also equipped with four 50cm underwater torpedo tubes (one forward, one aft and two on the broadside), with eleven torpedoes carried.


In April-May 1912, Moltke paid a visit to the United States along with the light cruisers Stettin and Bremen. In July, she escorted the Kaiser’s yacht during a visit to St. Petersburg. Back in Germany, Moltke became the flagship of 1. Aufklärungsgruppe and served as such until Rear-Admiral Hipper transferred his flag to the new Seydlitz, on 23 June 1914. Moltke was interned at Scapa Flow on 24 November 1918 and scuttled by her crew on 21 June 1919. Raised in June 1927, she was scrapped in Rosyth in 1927-9.


In October 1912, after the outbreak of the First Balkan War, Germany decided to send a naval Division to the Mediterranean to exert influence in the area. On 4 November, Goeben, escorted by the light cruiser Breslau, sailed from Kiel to Constantinople, where they arrived on 15 November. At the end of the war in May 1913, the ships were supposed to return to German waters but the reopening of hostilities, in the Second Balkan War, dispelled this notion. On 28 June 1914, the day Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Goeben was cruising in the eastern Mediterranean, from where she immediately sailed for repairs at the Austro-Hungarian naval base of Pola (today, Pula in Croatia). Goeben was formally transferred to Turkey on 16 August 1914 and renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim. However, the German crew continued to man the battlecruiser until November 1918. Yavuz remained in service under the Turkish flag until 20 December 1950, when she was placed in reserve. Deleted from the navy register in 1954, she was offered to Germany in 1963, with the proposal to turn her into a floating museum. Following the rejection of this idea by the German government, in 1971 Yavuz was sold for dismantling and scrapped in 1973-6.

The Project 1143.4 Improved Kiev Class, Baku



The Project 1143.4 Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, Gorshkov (formerly Baku) was obtained by India and converted, in Russia, to a CTOL aircraft carrier (top), drawing on some of the design work embodied in the Project 1143.5 Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, Kuznetsov operating with the Russian Federation Navy (above).


A further improvement of the Project 1143, the Project 1143.4, named Baku (later renamed Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, Gorshkov), was the fourth and last of the Kiev Class, developed under chief designer V.F. Anikiev, and, like her three predecessors, was built at Chernomorsky shipyard where she was laid down on 17 February 1978, launched on 1 April, 1982 and commissioned on 11 December 1987. Although ostensibly referred to as the fourth unit of the Kiev Class, the Baku, which was designed during the period 1979-1980, unlike the Novorossiysk, which had herself introduced a number of improvements over the Kiev and Minsk, was to all intents and purposes a new generation of HACC, featuring an extensive sensor/weapons suite, including enhanced radio-electronic weapons capability and a new design of automated electrical systems documentation was introduced, much of which was a generation ahead of those of her half-sisters – Kiev, Minsk and Novorossiysk.

There were a number of changes to the sensor/electronics suite of the Baku, the most radical being the incorporation of a Mars Passat air/surface search radar complex, an MR-700M enhanced derivative of the MR-700 Fregat air surface search radar, the MR-600 of her predecessors being omitted. A new combat data management system, apparently referred to as the MVU-410 Lesorub-434, replaced the MI-110R system of the other Kiev Class units. There were changes to the sonar suite, although the MGK-355 complex introduced on the Project 1143.3 was apparently retained in the Project 1143.4. There were a number of other changes to the communications systems and additions the fire controls systems for the new generation weapon complex’s equipping the vessel.

The Baku featured an enhanced anti-ship missile capability – the number of launchers for the P-500 ASCM of the Bazalt missile complex being increased from eight to twelve, a factor of 1.5. The M-11 surface to air missile systems were omitted, a vertical launch system for 192 Tor M-1 derivative surface to air missiles being introduced in their stead. This system consisted of four groups each of a six launch tube cell for 9K330 (also referred to as 9M330/1) missiles – two six tube cells located ahead of the forward P-500 battery, another six tube cell located on the starboard deck aft of the island and a fourth six tube cell on the port side on the after part of the ship. Other changes to the weapon suite included the substitution of two single 100 mm gun mounts in place of the two twin 76.2 mm mounts and apparently the substitution of two RBU-12000 ASW rocket launchers for the two RBU-6000 units installed in the Kiev, Minsk and Novorossiysk.

The Project 1143.4 featured a number of other improvements including, as stated in JPSC Nevskoe Design Bureau documentation, increased survivability courtesy of “above water structural protection”. The enhancements came at the price of a slightly reduced air wing of 35 aircraft in comparison to the 36 of the Novorossiysk, although this was still superior to the 32 aircraft air group of the Kiev and Minsk.

While the Kiev Class had a primary SSBN defense role, being major surface combatants, it was inevitable that the Class would form element of various task groups and detached squadrons operating in various distant stations such as the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. For instance, a task group centered on a Kiev Class vessel was deployed to the Indian Ocean in 1982, this group also participating in a worldwide Soviet naval exercise that year. In 1983, the Novorossiysk operated with a task group in the Indian Ocean, despite the decline that year, that had continued each year since 1981, of the Soviet presence (in ship days) in that region. In general, despite 1983 being regarded as the peak year of Soviet operations outside home waters (recorded as around 60,000 ship days, a 6% increase on the previous year), there was a decline in such operations by surface combatants, the increase being attributed to increased operations by the general purpose submarine force and amphibious warfare ships. From late 1985, at the commencement of the Admiral Chernarvin era (Chernarvin replaced Gorshkov as commander of the Soviet Navy in 1985), large scale Soviet naval operations began to contract to areas closer to the Soviet homeland in line with the defensive doctrine that was advocated when Gorbachev took office as the Soviet Premier that year, remaining until ousted as a result of a Coup in 1991, the year the Soviet Empire would break-up.

As far as can be ascertained through available documentation all four Kiev Class vessels had been decommissioned by Russia by 1995, although there is a degree of ambiguity. It is clear that Kiev and Minsk were sold to commercial enterprises, ultimately being displayed as Museum exhibits in China, being preserved in this manner in early 2016 at Tianjin and Shenzhen respectively. Novorossiysk was sold for scrap and commenced break-up in 1997 and the Baku (Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, Gorshkov) was sold to India in 2004, the sale including the modernisation and conversion of the vessel to a conventional take-off and landing) aircraft carrier for operations with MiG-29K/KUB strike fighters and Ka-28/31 helicopters. The ship re-commissioned in her new incarnation as the INS Vikramaditya in 2013.