The Great Capital Ships
At the beginning of World War two, the most important and feared military asset of any country was the capital ship.

These were large, heavy battle ships capable of travelling thousands of miles, armed with guns that could targets tens of miles away and with crews of well over a thousand.

These 20,000+ton leviathans were the symbols of a country's power and prestige as well as powerful weapons capable of destroying land or sea targets, with ease.
Two of the most famous capital ships were Royal Navy's HMS Hood and the German Kriegsmarine's Bismarck which met in battle in 1941. The Hood was destroyed by the Bismarck which in turn was destroyed by the British.

As the war began , it was obvious that the most vital supply link to Britain was the Atlantic route from which American supplies would come for the besieged island.

HMS Hood (click image to view larger)

Bismarck (click image to view larger)

The Scharnhorst
Launched on 3 October 1936 , the Scharnhorst was the first ship of her class and the pattern for her sister ship the Gneisenau.

She was armed with 11 inch guns with had an effective range of more than 10 miles.

Operating independently and with her sister ship, she had participated in many battles including the sinking of HMS Glorious, a British aircraft carrier in 8 June 1940. In this engagement she hit the Glorious at well over 14 miles, one of the longest naval gunfire hits ever recorded.

By 1941, she had also been very effective in attacking the vital supply convoys from the USA. After such a raid on March 15 1941, she sank nine ships of a convoy before escaping HMS Rodney King George V, which had come to aid of the convoy.
Her captain headed the ship to the occupied French port of Brest for safety and remedial work on her faulty boilers.

Length: 234.9 m (771 ft)
Speed: 31 knots (57 km/h)
Range: 7,100 nmi (13,100 km) at 19 kn (35 km/h)
Complement: 56 officers
1,613 enlisted

9 × 28 cm/54.5 (11 inch) SK C/34
12 × 15 cm/55 (5.9") SK C/28
14 × 10.5 cm/65 (4.1 inch) SK C/33
16 × 3.7 cm/L83 (1.5") SK C/30
10 (later 16) × 2 cm/65 (0.79") C/30 or C/38
6 × 533 mm torpedo tubes

Scharnhorst (click image to view larger)

Scharnhorst (click image to view larger)

The Gneisenau
Sister ship to the Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau was completed in May 1938.

She carried the same powerful 11 inch guns and had virtually the same capability as the Scharnhorst.

Operating together they were feared by the Atlantic convoys but in turn were often vulnerable to counter attack from the larger ships of the Royal Navy.

She and her sister ship would have been considered a major threat by the Allies, in the battle of the Atlantic.

After her last successful Atlantic convoy raid, she docked at Brest with her sister ship, the Scharnhorst for refuelling and repairs.
Length: 234.9 m (771 ft)
Speed: 31 kn (57 km/h; 36 mph)
Range: 6,200 nmi (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) at 19 kn (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Complement: 56 officers 1,613 enlisted

9 × 28 cm/54.5 (11 inch) SK C/34
12 × 15 cm/55 (5.9") SK C/28
14 × 10.5 cm/65 (4.1 inch) SK C/33
16 × 3.7 cm/L83 (1.5") SK C/30
10 (later 16) × 2 cm/65 (0.79") C/30 or C/38
6 × 533 mm torpedo tubes

The Gneisenau (click image to view larger)

The Prinz Eugen
Smaller than the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau , the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was launched in August 1938. At 18,710 tons, she was considerable smaller and lighter than the two other ships but was still a powerful adversary, armed with 8 inch guns.

She took part in the sinking of HMS Hood on 24 May 1941 with the Bismarck, a devastating blow to the Royal Navy and British morale.

Although not considered a capital ship, her previous engagements and potential danger made her as a much of a threat as the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau.

On 1 June 1941 she put in to Brest for repairs to her propulsion system where she joined the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau.
Length: 207.7 m (681 ft 5 in)
Speed: 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
Complement: 42 officers 1,340 enlisted

8 × 20.3 cm (8.0 in) guns 12 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns 12 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) guns 8 × 2 cm (0.79 in) guns (20×1) 12 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes

The Prinz Eugen (click image to view larger)

The Prinz Eugen schematic (click image to view larger)

Help & About

Thanks must go to those who gave support to this project and include;

Kent County Councillors
Eileen Rowbotham
Mike Eddy
Mr McKenna
Mr Neaves
Mr Birkby

and the Dover Harbour Board.

This site is owned by the Channel Dash association, registered charity number 1139128.

Copyrights are property of their respective owners . No part of this site may be copied or used with permission. E&OE.


Jim Williams

Jim Williams - Coordinator of the Memorials and Project Leader of Schools IT Project.

Peter Nixon

Peter Nixon - Chairman of Channel Dash Memorial Trust.

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For teachers

This site covers the section "challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day" as defined by the History programmes of study:key stage 3 National curriculum in England (Reference: DFE-00194-2013).

The key area covered is the Second World War and the key historical event is the Battle of The Atlantic.

Study notes are based on understanding the individual events in the context of the consequence of these events to the Battle of The Atlantic.