Tag Archives: German battleship Tirpitz

The story of the battleship Tirpitz — Bismarck’s sister ship — and the desperate British efforts to destroy it .

Tirpitz : the life and death of Germany’s last super battleship  Niklas Zetterling & Michael Tamelander  Philadelphia ; Newbury : Casemate, 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 360 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930), Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office from 1897-1916.

Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930), Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office from 1897-1916.

After the Royal Navy’s bloody high seas campaign to kill the mighty Bismarck, the Allies were left with an uncomfortable truth — the German behemoth had a twin sister. Slightly larger than her sibling, the Tirpitz was equally capable of destroying any other battleship afloat, as well as wreak havoc on Allied troop and supply convoys. For the next three and a half years the Allies launched a variety of attacks to remove Germany’s last serious surface threat.

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The Germans, for their part, had learned not to pit their super battleships against the strength of the entire Home Fleet outside the range of protecting aircraft. Thus they kept Tirpitz hidden within fjords along the Norwegian coast, like a Damocles Sword hanging over the Allies’ maritime jugular, forcing the British to assume the offensive. This strategy paid dividends in July 1942 when the Tirpitz merely stirred from its berth, compelling the Royal Navy to abandon a Murmansk-bound convoy called PQ-17 in order to confront the leviathan. The convoy was then ripped apart by the Luftwaffe and U-boats, while the Tirpitz returned to its fjord.

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In 1943, the British launched a flotilla of midget submarines against the Tirpitz, losing all six of the subs while only lightly damaging the battleship. Aircraft attacked repeatedly, from carriers and both British and Soviet bases, suffering losses — including an escort carrier — while proving unable to completely knock out the mighty warship.

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Trying an indirect approach, the British launched one of the war’s most daring commando raids — at St. Nazaire — in order to knock out the last drydock in Europe capable of servicing the Tirpitz. Of over 600 commandos and sailors in the raid, more than half were lost during an all-night battle that succeeded, at least, in knocking out the drydock. It was not until November 1944 that the Tirpitz finally succumbed to British aircraft armed with 10,000-lb Tallboy bombs, the ship capsizing at last with the loss of 1,000 sailors.

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In this book military historians Niklas Zetterling and Michael Tamelander, authors of Bismarck: The Final Days of Germany’s Greatest Battleship, illuminate the strategic implications and dramatic battles surrounding the Tirpitz, a ship that may have had greater influence on the course of World War II than her more famous sister.

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The water is calm and still below, For the winds and waves are absent there, And the sands are bright as the stars that glow In the motionless fields of upper air.

X-craft versus Tirpitz : the mystery of the missing X5  Alf R. Jacobsen ; translated from the Norwegian by J. Basil Cowlishaw World War 1939-1945 Naval operations Submarine Stroud : Sutton, 2006 Hardcover. 287 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Norwegian journalist Jacobsen relates one of the most incredible tales of the Second World War, in which Royal Navy X-craft midget submarines attacked the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. A daring plan was hatched by the Admiralty to sink Tirpitz using midget submarines to plant high explosive mines beneath the ship’s keel.

On 22 September 1943, six X-craft midget submarines set out from Scotland to sink the battleship at anchor in Norway. Three never reached the fjord and X5, commanded by Lt Henty-Creer, was presumed sunk by the Germans, so only X6 and X7 made the attack. Both Lt. Donald Cameron in X6 and Lt Godfrey Place in X7 placed their charges successfully, but were forced to surrender. Both were awarded the Victoria Cross. Although Tirpitz was not sunk she was put out of action until April 1944.

Lt. Henty-Creer, the commander of X5, and his crew were never seen again. Neither he nor any of his crew received any posthumous gallantry awards. Did X5 actually penetrate the anti-submarine defenses around Tirpitz and lay its explosive charges beneath the battleship? If it did, then Henty-Creer and his crew deserve to be honored for their bravery.

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