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"Discovery of WW1 German Cruiser SMS Scharnhorst" Topic

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Martin from Canada05 Dec 2019 5:41 a.m. PST


The Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust is pleased to announce that the wreck of SMS Scharnhorst has been located off the Falkland Islands. The Scharnhorst, an armoured battle-cruiser and the flagship of Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee's East Asia Squadron, was sunk on 8 December 1914 during the Battle of the Falkland Islands, a crucial naval battle in the early days of the First World War.

This discovery is a major breakthrough in the quest to locate all of the ships that comprised the German squadron lost during the battle. The search began on the centenary of the Battle in December 2014 but was initially unsuccessful. Five years later, the mission was resumed using state of the art subsea search equipment. Working from the subsea search vessel, Seabed Constructor, the search operation involved the deployment of four Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), exploring a search box of approximately 4,500km2 of the seabed. Working methodically through the designated search area, and using equipment including side-scan sonar and a multi-beam echo-sounder, Scharnhorst was discovered on the third day of the search 98 nautical miles south-east of Port Stanley at a depth of 1610 meters.


Why do they call her a Battlecruiser? That's just going to cause confusion with the WW2 Scharnhorst.

Martin From Canada

Fitzovich05 Dec 2019 5:48 a.m. PST

Thanks for posting. Very interesting read.

22ndFoot05 Dec 2019 7:39 a.m. PST

Thanks for that.

dwight shrute05 Dec 2019 7:42 a.m. PST


bbc has some good pics

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 8:36 a.m. PST


Because the writers don't know any better. But thanks for the link and the news about her discovery.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 9:35 a.m. PST

Actually neither the WW1 nor the WW2 Scharnhorst was a battlecruiser.

The WW1 vessel was an armoured cruiser and the WW2 one was a battleship. The Germans never referred to her as anything else.

The idea that she was a battlecruiser was a Royal Navy misconception, apparently based either on her speed or the calibre of her main battery as built. That battery was, however, intended to be temporary, with the 9 x 28cm upgradable to 6 x 38cm. She'd then have had the firepower of a Repulse but 14" of armour rather than 6".

The nearest thing the Germans had to a battlecruiser in WW2 was the Deutschland class. Unfortunately, with 6 x 28cm, 25 knots, and 4" of armour, these were mission aside constructive Royal Navy WW1 battlecruisers.

Martin from Canada05 Dec 2019 10:03 a.m. PST


Because the writers don't know any better. But thanks for the link and the news about her discovery.


Authors rarely get to name their articles. That's mostly done by editors in order to optimize for search engines. But I think this is more ignorance than malice.

JimDuncanUK05 Dec 2019 10:18 a.m. PST

This SMS Scharnhorst was a proper warship, and went down fighting as well.

David Manley05 Dec 2019 10:26 a.m. PST

4th – a minor point, but the WW2 Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were not designed to be referred with 15" guns. It was a happy coincidence that the 15" turret fitted the Barnett with some minor modification s, but fitting the heavier turrets required the replacement and extension of the bow.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 11:23 a.m. PST

All lost sailors everywhere, rest in peace.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2019 12:46 p.m. PST

In the press, a boat is a ship and vice versa. A battleship is a battlecruiser and vice versa and anything with a gun on it is a battleship.

Those of us who served in the navy know better, but it's not that different than any vehicle with a gun on it being a tank for press coverage about military vehicles. You just have to take that into account when reading general press coverage of military hardware.

Rest in peace to all the sailors lost in war.

StarCruiser05 Dec 2019 1:43 p.m. PST

And most "rifles" are AK-47s – of course…

(Except the actual AK-47 – which is an AR-14!)

14Bore05 Dec 2019 4:02 p.m. PST

I think it's a great find

Sundance06 Dec 2019 8:57 a.m. PST

The design plans for the Scharnhorst (WWII) identified it simply as an armored ship, not a battleship, as the Tirpitz class design plans. If the OKM referred to the Scharnhorst as a battleship, that's one thing, but just because authors call it a battleship doesn't mean snot.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2019 7:03 a.m. PST

They may have called it an armoured ship for the same reason they called the Deutschlands armoured ships, and, for that matter, the same reason the RN used to call aircraft carriers "through-deck cruisers". That is, the initial/official label was a deliberate obfuscation.

The German navy called Scharnhorst a battleship. The only way she could be considered a battlecruiser would be if the definition of the latter were to be altered ex post to fit her into it. If we redefine battlecruiser to exclude armour scheme and weight, and consider only the number / calibre of main guns and speed, then Scharnhorst could be argued to be a battlecruiser like Renown or Repulse, because on these points they were similar.

To do would be a totally perverse redefinition, however, because the whole point of the -cruiser bit of the label was that these ships had cruiser speed but also cruiser armour. Scharnhorst had 14" of belt armour to Repulse's 6", so there's no way she's an equivalent class. She had battleship armour. A vessel with cruiser speed and battleship armour is in fact properly called a fast battleship.

I am genuinely puzzled as to why anyone would defend the position that a battleship is a battlecruiser. AFAIK only the RN ever called S and G battlecruisers, but they may not have had the complete picture about the extent of these ships' armour.

hindsTMP Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2019 1:57 p.m. PST

@4th Cuirassier

FYI, both Repulse and Renown were upgraded between the wars with 9" belt armor and significant deck armor. So that during WW2, they were roughly equivalent to the Japanese Kongo class. FYI, that sloppy new book "Battleship Bismarck" makes the same error.


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