Honour - NORTH CAPE 1943

Date - 26 December
Type - Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - World War 2; 1939-45

Description The action took place in the Barents Sea, north of North Cape, Norway. About 72 31' N 2815' E.

On 20-Dec-1943 convoy JW55B left Loch Ewe for Russia, and 2 days later convoy RA55A left Kola Inlet bound for home, each convoy had heavy destroyer escort.

The 10th Cruiser squadron comprising Belfast, Norfolk and Sheffield provided detached heavy cover for both convoys. Distant cover was given by the battleship Duke of York, cruiser Jamaica and 4 destroyers.

On 25-Dec in atrocious weather, the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst with 5 destroyers left Alten Fjord in North Norway to intercept the convoys.

On the morning of the 26th the Cruiser squadron located the Scharnhorst by radar, closed at full speed and opened fire at 13,500 yards. Scharnhorst was taken by surprise and turned away and escaped, but not before early salvo's had destroyed her forward radar.

The weather was so bad that the German destroyers were detached to return to port. Scharnhorst resumed course to engage the convoys. When they were sighted by Scharnhorst the Cruisers were again in position to intercept and in a 20 minute engagement inflicted more damage on the German ship, which disengaged and headed south east, straight for the battleship covering force.

Four hours later Duke of York's radar picked up Scharnhorst at 44,000 yards and closed to 12,000 yards before opening fire in conjunction with Jamaica. Again Scharnhorst was surprised with her guns trained fore and aft.

Of 52 broadsides fired by Duke of York, 31 scored straddles. Altogether Scharnhorst was struck by about 30 14" shells, plus 8" and 6". Eleven of 54 torpedoes fired also hit.

By now the German ship was invisible to the eye, just a red glow within a black pall of smoke and at 1945 hrs blew up and sank.

Of her crew of 1,986 only 36 were picked up by Scorpion and Matchless.


HM Ships
Belfast  Duke of York  Jamaica  Matchless  Musketeer 
Norfolk  Opportune  Saumarez  Savage  Scorpion 
Sheffield  Virago       
This page last edited - 16 April, 2013.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.