Tuesday, September 29, 2015

German Battleship Tirpitz in the Norwegian Fjord

A low quality but perhaps unique original color photograph of the German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord, apparently taken in August of 1943. The British were determined to neutralise Tirpitz and remove the threat she posed to Allied lines of communication in the Arctic. Following the repeated, ineffectual bombing attacks and the failed 'Chariot' attack in October 1942, the British turned to the newly designed X Craft midget submarines. The planned attack, Operation Source, included attacks on Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Lützow. The X Craft were towed by large submarines to their destinations, where they could slip under anti-torpedo nets to each drop two powerful 2 tonne mines on the sea bed under the bottom of the target. Ten vessels were assigned to the operation, scheduled for 20–25 September 1943. Only eight of the vessels reached Norway for the attack, which began early on 22 September. Three of the vessels, X5, X6, and X7, successfully breached Tirpitz‍ '​s defences, two of which—X6 and X7—managed to lay their mines. X5 was detected some 200 m (660 ft) from the nets and sunk by a combination of gunfire and depth charges. The mines caused extensive damage to the ship; the first exploded abreast of turret Caesar and the second detonated 45 to 55 m (148 to 180 ft) off the port bow. A fuel oil tank was ruptured, shell plating was torn, a large indentation was formed in the bottom of the ship and bulkheads in the double bottom buckled. Some 1,430 t (1,410 long tons) of water flooded the ship in fuel tanks and void spaces in the double bottom of the port side, which caused a list of one to two degrees, which was balanced by counter-flooding on the starboard side. The flooding damaged all of the turbo-generators in generator room No. 2, and all apart from one generator in generator room No. 1 were disabled by broken steam lines or severed power cables. Turret Dora was thrown from its bearings and could not be rotated; this was particularly significant, as there were no heavy-lift cranes in Norway powerful enough to lift the turret and place it back on its bearings. The ship's two Arado Ar 196 floatplanes were thrown by the explosive concussion and completely destroyed. Repairs were conducted by the repair ship Neumark; historians William Garzke and Robert Dulin remarked that the successful repair effort was "one of the most notable feats of naval engineering during the Second World War." Repairs lasted until 2 April 1944; full speed trials were scheduled for the following day in Altafjord. The ship was finally being sunk by RAF Lancasters using 12000 lb 'Tallboy' bombs in November 1944.

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