Admiral Scheer was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser (often termed a pocket battleship) which served with the Kriegsmarine of Nazi Germany during World War II. The vessel was named after Admiral Reinhard Scheer, German commander in the Battle of Jutland. She was laid down at the Reichsmarinewerft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven in June 1931 and completed by November 1934. 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.
The ship was nominally under the 10,000 long tons (10,000 t) limitation on warship size imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, though with a full load displacement of 15,180 long tons (15,420 t), she significantly exceeded it. Armed with six 28 cm (11 in) guns in two triple gun turrets, Admiral Scheer and her sisters were designed to outgun any cruiser fast enough to catch them. Their top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) left only a handful of ships in the Anglo-French navies able to catch them and powerful enough to sink them.
- Name: Admiral Scheer
- Namesake: Reinhard Scheer
- Builder: Kriegsmarinewerft Wilhelmshaven
- Laid down: 25 June 1931
- Launched: 1 April 1933
- Commissioned: 12 November 1934
- Homeport: Kiel
- Fate: Sunk by British air attack on 9 April 1945
Admiral Scheer saw heavy service with the German Navy, including a deployment to Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where she bombarded the port of Almería. Her first operation during World War II was a commerce raiding operation into the southern Atlantic Ocean; she also made a brief foray into the Indian Ocean. During the operation, she sank 113,223 gross register tons (GRT) of shipping, making her the most successful capital ship surface raider of the war. Following her return to Germany, she was deployed to northern Norway to interdict shipping to the Soviet Union. She was part of the abortive attack on Convoy PQ 17 and conducted Operation Wunderland, a sortie into the Kara Sea. After returning to Germany at the end of 1942, the ship served as a training ship until the end of 1944, when she was used to support ground operations against the Soviet Army. She was sunk by British bombers on 9 April 1945 and partially scrapped; the remainder of the wreck lies buried beneath a quay.
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Admiral Scheer was 186 meters (610 ft) long overall and had a beam of 21.34 m (70.0 ft) and a maximum draft of 7.25 m (23.8 ft). The ship had a design displacement of 13,440 long tons (13,660 t) and a full load displacement of 15,180 long tons (15,420 t), though the ship was officially stated to be within the 10,000-long-ton (10,000 t) limit of the Treaty of Versailles. Admiral Scheer was powered by four sets of MAN nine-cylinder double-acting two-stroke diesel engines. The ship’s top speed was 28.3 knots (52.4 km/h; 32.6 mph), at 52,050 shaft horsepower (38,810 kW). At a cruising speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), the ship could steam for 9,100 nautical miles (16,900 km; 10,500 mi). As designed, her standard complement consisted of 33 officers and 586 enlisted men, though after 1935 this was significantly increased to 30 officers and 921–1,040 sailors.
Admiral Scheer’s primary armament was six 28 cm (11.0 in) SK C/28 guns mounted in two triple gun turrets, one forward and one aft of the superstructure. The ship carried a secondary battery of eight 15 cm (5.9 in) SK C/28 guns in single turrets grouped amidships. Her anti-aircraft battery originally consisted of three 8.8 cm (3.5 in) L/45 guns, though in 1935 these were replaced with six 8.8 cm L/78 guns. By 1940, the ship’s anti-aircraft battery was significantly increased, consisting of six 10.5 cm (4.1 in) C/33 guns, four twin-mounted 3.7 cm (1.5 in) C/30 guns and up to twenty-eight 2 cm (0.79 in) Flak 30 guns. By 1945, the anti-aircraft battery had again been reorganized and comprised six 4 cm guns, eight 3.7 cm guns, and thirty-three 2 cm guns.
The ship also carried a pair of quadruple 53.3 cm (21.0 in) deck-mounted torpedo launchers placed on her stern. The ship was equipped with two Arado Ar 196 seaplanes and one catapult. Admiral Scheer’s armored belt was 60 to 80 mm (2.4 to 3.1 in) thick; her upper deck was 17 mm (0.67 in) thick while the main armored deck was 17 to 45 mm (0.67 to 1.77 in) thick. The main battery turrets had 140 mm (5.5 in) thick faces and 80 mm thick sides. Radar initially consisted of a FMG 39 G(gO) set, though in 1941 this was replaced with an FMG 40 G(gO) set and a FuMO 26 system.
Class and Type: Deutschland-Class Cruiser
- Design: 13,660 t (13,440 long tons).
- Full load: 15,180 long tons (15,420 t).
- Length: 186 m (610 ft 3 in).
- Beam: 21.34 m (70 ft 0 in).
- Draft: 7.25 m (23 ft 9 in).
- Eight MAN diesel engines.
- Two propellers.
- 52,050 shp (38,810 kW).
- Speed: 28.3 knots (52.4 km/h; 32.6 mph).
- Range: 9,100 nmi (16,900 km; 10,500 mi) at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph).
- As built: 33 officers, 586 enlisted.
- After 1935: 30 officers, 921–1,040 enlisted.
- Sensors and
- 1940: FMG 39 G(gO)
- 1941: MG 40 G(gO), FuMO 26
- As built:
- 6 × 28 cm (11 in) in triple turrets.
- 8 × 15 cm (5.9 in) in single turrets.
- 8 × 53.3 cm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes.
- Main Turrets: 140 mm (5.5 in).
- Belt: 80 mm (3.1 in).
- Deck: 45 mm (1.8 in).
- Aircraft carried: 2 × Arado Ar 196 seaplanes.
- Aviation facilities: One catapult.
Admiral Scheer was ordered by the Reichsmarine from the Reichsmarinewerft shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. Naval rearmament was not popular with the Social Democrats and the Communists in the German Reichstag, so it was not until 1931 that a bill was passed to build a second Panzerschiff. The money for Panzerschiff B, which was ordered as Ersatz Lothringen, was secured after the Social Democrats abstained to prevent a political crisis. Her keel was laid on 25 June 1931, under construction number 123. The ship was launched on 1 April 1933; at her launching, she was christened by Marianne Besserer, the daughter of Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the ship’s namesake. She was completed slightly over a year and a half later on 12 November 1934, the day she was commissioned into the German fleet. The old battleship Hessen was removed from service and her crew transferred to the newly commissioned panzerschiff.
At her commissioning in November 1934, Admiral Scheer was placed under the command of Kapitän zur See (KzS) Wilhelm Marschall. The ship spent the remainder of 1934 conducting sea trials and training her crew. In 1935, she had a new catapult and landing sail system to operate her Arado seaplanes on heavy seas installed. From 1 October 1935 to 26 July 1937, her first officer was Leopold Bürkner, later to become head of foreign intelligence in the Third Reich. By October 1935, the ship was ready for her first major cruise, when on 25–28 October she visited Madeira, returning to Kiel on 8 November. The following summer, she cruised out through the Skagerrak and the English Channel into the Irish Sea, before visiting Stockholm on the return voyage.
Spanish Civil War
Admiral Scheer’s first overseas deployment began in July 1936 when she was sent to Spain to evacuate German civilians caught in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. From 8 August 1936, she served together with her sister ship Deutschland on non-intervention patrols off the Republican-held coast of Spain. She served four tours of duty with the non-intervention patrol through June 1937. Her official objective was to control the influx of war materiel into Spain, though she also recorded Soviet ships carrying supplies to the Republicans and protected ships delivering German weapons to Nationalist forces. During the deployment to Spain, Ernst Lindemann served as the ship’s first gunnery officer. After Deutschland was attacked on 29 May 1937 by Spanish Republican Air Force aircraft off Ibiza, Admiral Scheer was ordered to bombard the Republican-held port of Almería in reprisal. On 31 May 1937, the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, Admiral Scheer, flying the Imperial War Flag, arrived off Almería at 07:29 and opened fire on shore batteries, naval installations and ships in the harbor. On 26 June 1937, she was relieved by her sister ship Admiral Graf Spee, allowing her to return to Wilhelmshaven on 1 July. She returned to the Mediterranean between August and October, however. In September 1936 KzS Otto Ciliax replaced Marschall as the ship’s commanding officer.
World War II
At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Admiral Scheer remained at anchor in the Schillig roadstead outside Wilhelmshaven, along with the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. On 4 September, two groups of five Bristol Blenheim bombers attacked the ships. The first group surprised the anti-aircraft gunners aboard Admiral Scheer, who nevertheless managed to shoot down one of the five Blenheims. One bomb struck the ship’s deck and failed to explode, and two detonated in the water near the ship. The remaining bombs also failed to explode. The second group of five Blenheims were confronted by the alerted German defenses, which shot down four of the five bombers. Admiral Scheer emerged from the attack undamaged. In November 1939, KzS Theodor Krancke became the ship’s commanding officer.
Admiral Scheer underwent a refit while her sister ships set out on commerce raiding operations in the Atlantic. Admiral Scheer was modified during the early months of 1940, including the installation of a new, raked clipper bow. The heavy command tower was replaced with a lighter structure, and she was reclassified as a heavy cruiser. Additional anti-aircraft guns were also installed, along with updated radar equipment. On 19–20, July RAF bombers attacked Admiral Scheer and the battleship Tirpitz, though they failed to score any hits. On 27 July, the ship was pronounced ready for service.
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