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Deutschland Class BB

Graf Spee off Kiel in 1939
Graf Spee off Kiel in 1939
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Deutschland Deutsche Werke, Kiel 5 Feb 29 19 May 31 1 April 33 Scuttled 4 May 45
Admiral Scheer Wilhelmshaven Navy Yard 25 June 31 1 April 33 12 Nov 34 Lost 9 April 45
Admiral Graf Spee Wilhelmshaven Navy Yard 1 Oct 32 30 June 34 6 Jan 36 Scuttled 17 Dec 39

Displacement: Deutschland 11,700 tons/11,887 tonnes (standard); 15,200 tons/15,443 tonnes (full load); Admiral Graf Spee 12,100 tons/12,293 tonnes (standard); 15,900 tons/16,154 tonnes (full load)
Length: 610ft 3in/186m (oa); 596ft 1in/181.7m (wl)
Beam: Deutschland 67ft 11in/20.7m; Scheer 70ft 3in/21.4m;Spee71ft3in/21.7m
Draught: 19ft/5.8m (mean)
Machinery: eight double-acting 2-stroke 9-cyl MAN diesels, two shafts
Bunkerage: 3,300 tons diesel
Performance: 52,050hp = 28kts
Range: 18,650nm at 15kts
Protection: main belt 80mm (max.) (Spee 100mm); deck 45mm (Scheer 40mm); torpedo blkhd 45mm; CT 150mm, turrets face 140mm, sides 75mm-90mm, rear 152mm, roof 85mm-105mm; barbettes 125mm (Deutschland 100mm)
Guns: six (2x3) 28cm; eight (8x1) 15cm; six (3x2) 8.8cm AA; eight (4x2) 3.7cm; four (4x1) 2cm
Torpedo tubes: eight (2x4) 50cm
Aircraft: two, catapult one

The construction of this class was a direct consequence of the Treaty of Versailles, imposed on the Germans after their defeat in 1918. Under the terms of this treaty they were prohibited from building certain types of vessel, such as aircraft carriers and submarines, and such ships as were allowed to them were strictly limited as to size. Battleships were not to exceed 10,000 tons - this at a time when battleships of other naval powers were of the order of 30,000 tons. These constraints on the Reichsmarine when they were allowed to begin new building were very severe, as indeed they were meant to be. No new ship could be laid down as a replacement until twenty years after the laying of the keel of the existing ship. In the event, the oldest German battleship extant was Preussen, laid down in 1902, so she could legally be replaced by laying down a ship in 1922. The naval staff realised that they could not hope to produce a ship of international standard while adhering to the treaty restrictions, and were obliged to limit their horizons to either a slow monitor-type or a fast, well-armed cruiser-type with little protection. Various sketches on these lines were produced from 1920 on, but without result, not surprisingly. The restrictions were proving too tight. By 1924, thinking had reverted to a true battleship-type, and because for some reason main calibre had not been restricted by the Treaty, it was believed that a 15in gun could be specified, but this was never a realistic option and 12in was chosen instead. However, despite this calibre being permitted by the Allies, it was for coast-defence purposes only and just one gun a year could be built. Politically, an 11in gun was the best that could be hoped for. Numerous designs were studied during the period up to the summer of 1928, when the first ship was actually ordered.

Design

The Deutschland class caused a sensation when the details of their design were released, or to be more accurate the 'official' design particulars, for all was not as it seemed, as many naval constructors of the period suspected. On a declared standard displacement of 10,000 tons, the ship was to carry six 11in guns, eight 5.9in and have a speed of 26 knots, using diesel propulsion. In fact, Panzerschiff A (Armoured Ship A) displaced 11,700 tons standard and no less than 15,200 tons full load. Note that they were never classified as battleships (Schlachtschiffe), but despite the fact that they were subsequently reclassified as 'Heavy Cruisers' (Schwerekreuzer), they were constructed as capital ships.

The hull, which was divided into twelve watertight compartments by twenty-eight watertight bulkheads, was longitudinally framed and of mixed welded and riveted construction. A double bottom was worked in for some 92 per cent of the length and extended up to the armoured deck as a bulge. In addition, internal longitudinal watertight bulkheads gave added integrity to the hull. These latter however did result in some cramping of the machinery spaces, a feature which was to become common in German warship construction until the end of WW2. Welding was utilised as a weight-saving measure and applied wherever possible, including parts of the skin plating and superstructure.

The protective scheme included an 80mm side belt which covered the machinery spaces and most of the magazines. Below this was a 50mm strake, which extended for the same length. This main belt was inclined at 13.5° inboard from top to bottom and continued down behind the bulges. Forward and aft of this belt was a 60mm belt, which reduced to 30mm at the stern and 18mm at the bow. Inboard of the main belt was a 45mm thick torpedo bulkhead. Horizontal protection included a main deck, 45mm in thickness, outside the longitudinal bulkheads and generally 30mm elsewhere, and 20mm armour was applied to the 'tween deck. The main barbettes were 100mm and the turret fronts 140mm, the conning tower had 140mm vertical armour plating. The total weight of armour represented 6 per cent of the standard displacement. There were notable differences in the armour schemes for the three ships built broadly to this design -Panzerschiff B, named Admiral Scheer, had the juxtaposition of the main belt armour thicknesses reversed, i.e., the 50mm belt was on top of the 80mm strake, the torpedo bulkhead reduced to 40mm, the after transverse armoured bulkhead increased to 50mm and the barbettes increased to 125mm. Various other modifications increased the total weight of protection to 20 per cent above that of Deutschland and approximated to 9.2 per cent of the standard displacement. For the third ship, Panzerschiff C, later named Admiral Graf Spee, there were further changes in that the side belt was 80mm thick for its full depth and increased to 100mm forward and aft in the way of the main magazine spaces, where it joined the transverse armoured bulkheads, which had also been increased to 100mm. These latter were at frames 30 and 148. This ship also had the torpedo bulkhead extended down to meet the bottom plating between frames 49 and 135. The horizontal protection of Panzerschiff C also differed in that the areas outboard of the torpedo bulkheads were given 30mm plating and the areas over the magazines were increased to 70mm.

The main machinery consisted of a twin-shaft diesel arrangement, with four 9-cylinder MAN two-stroke double-acting Type M9Z 42/58 7,100bhp engines coupled to each shaft via a Vulcan gearbox. There were four separate motor rooms, two per shaft, the after pair driving the port shaft. There were some differences in layout between the first ship and the other two and in fact by the time that Admiral Graf Spee was programmed there had been some thought as to the use of HP steam for her, but she received diesels like the others.

The ships were to receive 11in guns, carried in two triple turrets, one forward, one aft. This Krupp weapon, designated 28cm SK C/28, fired a 7391b AP shell to a maximum range of 39,890 yards at 40°. The secondary armament consisted of eight 5.9in/15cm SK C/28 guns in single shielded pedestal mountings disposed on the beam amidships. These were capable of engaging surface targets only. The heavy AA outfit was originally to have comprised two twin 3.9in/8.8cm SK C/25 mountings disposed on the centre-line forward of the after 11in turret, but this gun was a failure and the elderly 3.9in L/45 of First World War vintage was shipped as an interim measure; at the same time the number of heavy AA mountings increased to three by the expedient of deleting one of the after guns and splitting the secondary battery by a deckhouse on each beam for a heavy AA mounting. Eight 3.7cm in twin mountings and four 2cm singles completed the gunnery outfit, but production delays meant that the first ship completed without 3.7cm guns. Eight 19.7in torpedo tubes in two quadruple banks were fitted on the quarterdeck. Provision for operating aircraft was made, but the Treaty of Versailles currently prevented aircraft fittings being installed.

Modifications

Deutschland had the torpedo calibre replaced by 21in tubes and armoured shields were fitted to the mountings because of blast danger from the after 11in. The other ships completed with 21in tubes. Directors for the heavy AA were fitted in 1934, one forward, one aft, the 3.9in singles were replaced by more modern 3.9in twin LC31, and the 3.7cm guns were finally fitted. The catapult was eventually fitted during her refit from November 1935 to January 1936. The aircraft initially issued was the He60c floatplane, later replaced by the Arado 196, operated by 1/ or 5/Bordfliegerstaffel, these being responsible for all shipboard aircraft. Modifications to her rig had been made during the 1930s, but during the repairs of the damage incurred off Spain in 1937, the searchlights were re-arranged and a shallow raked funnel cap was added in 1938. In 1940 she received four extra 2cm, two each in single mountings on the forecastle and quarterdeck. When repairs were in hand following torpedo damage incurred during the invasion of Norway in 1940, she received 4.1in/10.5cm guns in modified 3.9in twin mountings, and the bows were given more rake. In 1942 a much larger funnel cap was fitted, and she was given two army-pattern quadruple 2cm as a temporary measure (one on the forward turret top) as well as extra 2cm guns. By 1944 her light AA consisted of eight 3.7cm and eleven 2cm, the latter all in single mountings. By the summer of that year, however, she had been given two 40mm Bofors, which replaced the forward pair of 3.7cm mountings and possibly four more. She now had three quadruple 2cm, six twin and two singles, in shielded mountings. The planned outfit of ten fully automatic 37mm and twenty-eight 2cm was never implemented. Radar was added in 1940 and updated later in the war.

Admiral Scheer received only minor modifications until after the outbreak of the Second Word War when, during her refit at Wilhelmshaven from February to July 1940, the heavy tower structure was removed and replaced by a lighter tubular structure on the lines of Deutschland (now renamed Lutzow), although the layout differed. The bows were rebuilt and raked, and a large funnel cap was added. The 3.9in were replaced by 4.1in and two army-pattern quadruple 2cm were fitted, one on the forward 11in turret, the second under the after main turret. Radar was also fitted. In 1942 radar was fitted to the after range-finder and the funnel cap increased in size. By mid 1944 the AA outfit had been increased to twenty-nine 2cm in five quadruple and nine singles, plus the original 3.7cm. She was eventually to receive four 40mm single Flak 28, four 3.7cm (in two twins) and no less than forty-two 2cm in six quad and nine twin, but this was never completed.

Admiral Graf Spee received practically no modifications other than a rearrangement of the searchlights and the addition of radar.

Service

Deutschland
Deutschland
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Deutschland commissioned at the beginning of April 1933 and after completing for sea, made a sortie to the Faeroes for proving trials from 20 May to 1 June. The remainder of the year was given over to work-up in the Baltic, interspersed with periods in yard hands and with the experimental and trials establishments. This pattern of events continued into 1934, but on 10 April that year she made a cruise to Norway, visiting Sogne-fiord and Hardangerfiord, having first conveyed Hitler, Admiral Raeder and senior generals to Konigsberg. In May, she participated in the spring manoeuvres but the following month passed down the English Channel bound for a cruise in the western Atlantic, where she visited Funchal in the Azores before returning to Germany towards the end of June. In August she paid a visit to Gothenburg and on 1 October hoisted the flag of Flag Officer (Battleships) which she wore until relieved by Admiral Scheer on 13 December. She was in refit at Wilhelmshaven from 29 November 1934 to 21 February 1935. On 16 March she left for a cruise to South America and visited Port of Spain and Aruba before arriving home on 19 April. Normal peacetime routines continued until the Spanish Civil War caused Germany to send ships to that area in the summer of 1936. During this conflict the ship made several tours, including July-August and October-November 1936, February-March and May-June 1937. On 29 May 1936 Deutschland was damaged by bombing while lying at Las Palmas and had to return home for repairs. In March 1939 she participated in the occupation of Memel. Just prior to the outbreak of WW2she was ordered to take up a waiting position in the Atlantic and sailed from Germany on 24 August 1939. Her raiding career was brief and unsuccessful for she sank only two ships and captured a third before returning home on 15 November. She was now renamed Lutzow (and at the same time re-rated as a Heavy Cruiser) and was under refit, or otherwise non-operational until March 1940, after which she was allocated to the forces detailed for the invasion of Norway. She became part of Group 5, charged with the taking of Oslo, despite the High Command's intention to send her into the Atlantic again. In the course of this operation she was damaged by shore batteries in Oslofiord at the time when the new cruiser Blucher was sunk, On her way home to Kiel she was hit by torpedoes from the British submarine Spearfish on 11 April and so badly damaged that she was almost lost. Repairs took until 31 March 1941 following which it was intended to carry out another Atlantic sortie, but this was cancelled as a result of the invasion of Russia. Instead, on 10 June she sailed for Norway but on the following day was hit by a torpedo from an RAF aircraft and badly damaged yet again. This time repairs took until January 1942 after which she remained in the Baltic until May when she again sailed for Norway. Her activities in the Norwegian theatre were limited by oil shortages and High Command timidity, but she did sail on the abortive sortie against PQ17, only to run aground and be obliged to go back to Germany for repairs. Lutzow returned yet again to the Arctic, arriving in Kaafiord on 18 December 1942. She participated in the disastrous attack on JW51B, when Admiral Hipper was badly damaged and a destroyer sunk for little return, and afterwards lay inactive in Arctic waters until leaving the north on 23 September. She arrived back in Gotenhafen on 1 October 1943. At the end of that year she began a refit at Libau which was completed in March 1944 when she joined the training squadron. But the deteriorating situation in the east saw her return to active duty by the summer of that year when she participated in a sortie to the Aaland Islands in June. In July she was based at Libau as part of that port's defences, then in September made a second sortie to the Aaland Islands. Her next operations were as part of Task Force 2, bombarding the advancing Soviet forces around Memel (6-13 October) and the Sworbe Peninsula (23-24 October), and covering the evacuation of the latter at the end of November. She was present in Gotenhafen during the major RAF raid on 18 December, but survived unscathed despite several near misses. On 8 February 1945 Lutzow sailed to bombard targets off Tolkemit and Elbing and in March-April she was in action bombarding targets in the Gotenhafen-Danzig areas, until ordered to Swinemunde on 8 April. On 16 April she was badly damaged by near-misses in an attack by the RAF and settled on the bottom, although remaining in action as a stationary battery until finally put out of action by her crew on 4 May 1945. The hulk was raised by the Soviets in September 1947 and towed to Kalingrad (formerly Konigsberg), or possibly Leningrad, for scrapping.

Admiral Scheer at Gibralter 1936 with Spanish Civil War neutrality markings (the black, white and red stripes) painted on her forward gun turret.
Admiral Scheer at Gibralter 1936 with Spanish Civil War neutrality markings (the black, white and red stripes) painted on her forward gun turret.
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Admiral Scheer spent the remainder of 1934 undergoing tests, trials and training following her commissioning. This continued into 1935 and it was not until October of that year that she made her first foreign cruise, visiting Madeira 25-8 October and returning to Kiel on 8 November. In the summer of 1936 she cruised in the Irish Sea via the Skagerrak and the Channel, as well as visiting Stockholm. The following year saw her in Spanish waters, sailing for the first time on 24 July 1937 and operating in the Mediterranean. During the following years she made five more patrols, the last in May 1939. During this time she bombarded Almeria in reprisal for the damage to Deutschland. In March 1939 she participated in the occupation of Memel. At the outbreak of war she was at Wilhelmshaven where she received minor damage during one of the first RAF attacks. Between that time and 1 April 1940, when she started a major refit at Wilhelmshaven, she was operating in the Baltic and local North Sea areas. This refit was completed in July and, after working-up in the Baltic, she sailed on a raiding cruise to the Atlantic on 24 October. During this cruise, which lasted until 1 April 1941 and took her into the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Admiral Scheer sank 17 ships totalling 113,233grt. On her return she immediately went into refit at Deutsche Werft, Kiel, which extended until 1 July 1941, after which she worked-up in the Baltic. In September she was deployed to Oslo as a training exercise in preparation for her next breakout, where she was unsuccessfully attacked by the RAF. This breakout was cancelled and she joined the short-lived Baltenflotte in the Aaland Islands, formed to prevent any possible sortie by the Soviets from Kronstadt. On 20 February 1942 she sailed for Norway where she was stationed until November. During this period Admiral Scheer joined a couple of abortive sorties against the Allied convoys to Russia, including PQ17, as well as making a lone sortie into the Kara Sea 16-30 August. She sank an icebreaker and bombarded Port Dikson. The ship left Kaafiord on 20 October bound for Germany and refit, arriving in Swinemunde on 12 November. Her refit at Wilhelmshaven lasted until March 1943 when she was allocated to the training squadron, one of the consequences of the debacle in the Barents Sea in December 1942. Employed as a cadet training ship, her battle training state was poor and despite the advancing Soviet threat, she was not initially employed against it. In October 1944 Admiral Scheer was ordered to join the Second Task Force for bombardment duties, shelling targets on the Sworbe Peninsula 22-24 November and later targets near Frauenburg 9-10 February 1945, followed by action against targets around Wollin on 9 March. After these operations she was ordered to refit at Kiel where she arrived on 18 March. During a heavy RAF raid on that port on 9-10 April, she was badly hit and capsized at her berth. Admiral Scheer was scrapped in situ after the war.

Graf Spee
Graf Spee
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Admiral Graf Spee, the last to complete and the first to be lost, had a relatively brief career. She assumed the role of Fleet Flagship on entering service and carried out the usual round of peacetime duties. A refit at Deutsche Werke was carried out from 9 October 1936 to 11 February 1937, after which in May of that year she represented Germany at the Coronation Spithead Review. She toured in Spanish waters from 27 June to 7 August 1937 and a second, shorter sortie 7-18 February 1938. That year she also participated in the Fleet Review at Kiel in honour of the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Horthy, and twice cruised in the Atlantic, visiting Tangier and Vigo. In March 1939 she conveyed Hitler to the newly sequestered Memel. and from 18 April to 17 May cruised again in the Atlantic, visiting Ceuta and Lisbon Admiral Graf Spee sailed for her war station in the Atlantic on 21 August 1939, sinking nine ships of 50,089grt in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean before being engaged by the British cruisers Exeter, Achilles and Ajax off the River Plate on 13 December 1939. Having inflicted serious damage on Exeter and Ajax, and herself not seriously damaged, she sought sanctuary in the neutral port of Montevideo. On 17 December her captain, Langsdorf, believing that escape was impossible, scuttled her in the Plate estuary. He then committed suicide, possibly because he had disobeyed orders not to engage enemy warships.

Deutschland - May 1937
Deutschland - May 1937
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Admiral Scheer and Deutschland.
Admiral Scheer and Deutschland.
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Admiral Scheer
Admiral Scheer
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Lutzow, (former Deutschland) at Gotenhafen - winter of 1939/40
Lutzow, (former Deutschland) at Gotenhafen - winter of 1939/40
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Admiral Scheer, Kiel Canal
Admiral Scheer, Kiel Canal
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Admiral Scheer leaving Kiel just before the war - note heavy tower mast
Admiral Scheer leaving Kiel just before the war - note heavy tower mast
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Deutschland
Deutschland
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Graf Spee
Graf Spee
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Graf Spee
Graf Spee
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Graf Spee at Hamburg. The Church is Saint Michel
Graf Spee at Hamburg. The Church is Saint Michel
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Graf Spee in the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal
Graf Spee in the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal
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nice view of Graf Spee
nice view of Graf Spee
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Graf Spee, Spithead review 1937
Graf Spee, Spithead review 1937
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nice view over the stern of Graf Spee
nice view over the stern of Graf Spee
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Graf Spee forward 28cm/52 (eleven-inch) triple gun turret, taken circa 1939. NH104024
Graf Spee forward 28cm/52 (eleven-inch) triple gun turret, taken circa 1939. NH104024
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Graf Spee, Montevideo December 14 1939
Graf Spee, Montevideo December 14 1939
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Deutschland
Deutschland
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Deutschland
Deutschland
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Deutschland
Deutschland
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Deutschland
Deutschland
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Lutzow, Norway summer 1943
Lutzow, Norway summer 1943
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Scheer, 1944
Scheer, 1944
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