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Kriegsmarine battleship KMS Bismarck taken from Prinz Eugen 04

Kriegsmarine battleship KMS Bismarck taken from Prinz Eugen 04

Stamp Adolf Hitler

Operation Donnerkeil

For most of 1941, the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen were all but stranded in Brest, where they were in constant danger from the RAF. To safeguard the ships and to protect Norway from any possible British invasion, Hitler ordered that the ships were to be brought back to Germany in a quick dash up the Channel.

While the RAF was working out how to destroy the two battleships at Brest, Hitler was wondering how to bring them home to Germany. The Führer had experienced one of his flashes of intuition. The gist of it was that the war would be won or lost in Norway. Indeed, to be more precise, he was convinced that Britain was preparing to invade that country. Tirpitz was now ready for service and short of further bomb damage the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would both be in fighting trim by February 1942. To send the Tirpitz into the Atlantic would be to invite another catastrophe on the Bismarck scale. She should, on the other hand, be able to make the journey from Gdynia (Gotenhafen) to Trondheim. Joined by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, she could not only reinforce the defences of the Norwegian waters, she would also act as a substantial hazard to convoys carrying war materials to Russia.

..Tirpitz was the least of the problem. The big question was how to bring home Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The genesis of the operation that was to become known as 'Cerberus' occurred almost by accident during a conversation between Hitler and Raeder. They were, in fact, discussing the problem of returning Prinz Eugen to Germany. In an unguarded moment, Raeder wondered whether it might be possible to route the cruiser via the English Channel. Hitler seized on the idea. 'Why not', he asked, 'bring them all home that way?' Raeder was dumbfounded. The very notion sounded preposterous.

..But as they saying goes 'that is history' and Operation Donnerkeil had be begun

This webpage was updated September 8th 2012

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