Admiral Hipper

Back to the cold waters!

On 19 March 1942, Admiral Hipper steamed to Trondheim and later joined the cruisers Lützow and Admiral Scheer and the battleship Tirpitz for Operation Rösselsprung, for an attack on convoy PQ 17, which was escorted by the battleships HMS Duke of York and USS Washington and the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious.

Swedish intelligence had meanwhile reported the German departures to the British Admiralty, which ordered the convoy to disperse. Aware that they had been detected, the Germans aborted the operation and turned over the attack to U-boats and the Luftwaffe, which with a great success sunk 21 out of 34 isolated and unprotected transport ships.

Troops being loaded on Hipper, Cuxhaven

In December 1942, Großadmiral Raeder ordered a plan, to launch an attack on the Soviet convoys on the Barents Sea. Admiral Hipper and three destroyers were flanking the convoy from the north to attack it and draw away the escorts while Lützow and the remaining three destroyers would then attack the undefended convoy from the south. As the groups got closer to their prey, British destroyer Obdurate spotted the three destroyers screening for Admiral Hipper and the fight began. Four of the other five destroyers escorting the convoy rushed to join the fight, while Achates laid a smoke screen to cover the convoy. Admiral Hipper fired several salvos at Achates, raining shell splinters on the destroyer that severed steam lines and reduced her speed to 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph). Captain Robert Sherbrooke, the British escort commander, left two destroyers to cover the convoy while he took the remaining four to pursue Admiral Hipper.

Another British force consisting of the cruisers Sheffield and Jamaica, raced to the scene. The cruisers engaged Admiral Hipper, which had been firing to port at the destroyer Obedient. Burnett’s ships approached from Admiral Hipper‘s starboard side and achieved complete surprise.

Hipper’s Arado Ar 196 scout seaplane readied for launch in 1942

In the initial series of salvos from the British cruisers, Admiral Hipper was hit three times. One of the hits damaged the ship’s propulsion system; the No. 3 boiler filled with a mix of oil and water, which forced the crew to turn off the starboard turbine engine. This reduced her speed to 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). The other two hits started a fire in her aircraft hangar. Hipper tried to get in cover of smokescreen but once it disappeared, British curisers started to fire again. Hipper’s commander issued the order to retreat to the west. Meanwhile Lützow approached the convoy from the south, but due to bad weather conditions and low visibility, Lützow didn’t open the fire. Lützow inadvertently came alongside Sheffield and Jamaica and engaged them. The British cruisers turned toward Lützow and came under fire from both German cruisers. Admiral Hipper‘s firing was more accurate and quickly straddled Sheffield, though the British cruiser escaped unscathed. Burnett quickly decided to withdraw in the face of superior German firepower. His ships were armed with 150 mm guns, while Admiral Hipper and Lützow carried 203 mm and 280 mm guns, respectively. Based on the unpredictable situation, enemy forces and bad weather conditions, Germans decided to abort the attack. In the course of the battle, the British destroyer Achates was sunk by the damage inflicted by Admiral Hipper. The Germans also sank the minesweeperBramble and damaged the destroyers Onslow, Obedient, and Obdurate. In return, the British sank Friederich Eckoldt and damaged Admiral Hipper, and forced the Germans to abandon the attack on the convoy.

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