The 12th of November 1944 AD
The story of the battleship Tirpitz exemplifies the failure of German surface vessels in WWII , her career one with little offensive action and a somewhat inglorious end sheltering off a Norwegian island. For perhaps good reason we tend to thank the RAF for saving Britain from the Nazi threat in a close run thing. The Royal Navy, though German submarines were a huge threat to our supply lines, effectively ruled the European waves throughout the conflict.
Those two British forces, of course, often cooperated closely against the German Navy, and such was the case with the destruction of Tirpitz.
Tirpitz was the largest WWII battleship built by the Germans, of the Bismarck class but somewhat heavier than the Bismarck itself. Her only serious offensive engagement was the shelling of allied positions on Spitsbergen in early September 1943, destroying much of the port. She was a threat in the Arctic and Baltic seas, however, and so was constantly sought by allied forces and regularly attacked from the air by aircraft launched from carriers, and also on one occasion by midget submarines which inflicted serious damage on the ship on September 22 1943.
The following year Tirpitz was attacked seven times by Soviet and British planes before a final decisive raid – Operation Catechism - sunk her on November 12 1944. Some 32 Lancaster bombers began dropping five ton Tallboy bombs, designed by Barnes Wallis , a little after 9:30am. These munitions, their giant casings made in Sheffield , are often described as earthquake bombs and had first shown their devastating power at the Ashley Walk bombing range in the New Forest . Two bombs hit the target, and four others came close enough to cause damage to the ship and to the sandbank erected to protect her. Tirpitz began to list, and within minutes capsized with the loss of around 1000 men, estimates varying between 950 and 1204. It was a major propaganda coup for the allies, a disaster for Germany.
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