Admiral ScheerAdmiral Scheer launch

This pocket battleship first saw action in the Second World War when she shot down a British aeroplane while lying in the Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven. Her commander at the time was Kpt.z.S. Hans-Heinrich Wurmbach. In 1940 she was withdrawn from active service for a general refit: the solid, rather typical pocket battleship control-tower and bridge were replaced by a lighter type of mast, and she was also given a clipper bow.

Capt. Krancke Commerce Raiding

After trials, she eventually broke out into the Atlantic during October 1940 under command of Theodor Krancke and went into action against convoy HX84. During this engagement she sank the British auxiliary cruiser HMS Jervis Bay. Afterwards,Admiral Scheer refuelled from the supply ship Nordmark and headed south, crossing the equator on 16 December 1940. She captured the refrigerated freighter Duquesa, which replenished the food stores of Admiral Scheer plus those of the raiders Thor and Pinguin and the supply ship Nordmark. All these ships met up on Boxing Day 1940 to exchange Christmas greetings.

Crossing the line ceremony Crossing the line ceremony Crossing the line ceremony

"Crossing the Line" ceremony December 16 1940

Admiral Scheer and Thor

Admiral Scheer and Thor, December 26 1940

Auxiliary Cruiser War Badge - Click for ExplanationAdmiral Scheer continued on her own and managed to capture another ship - this time the Norwegian tanker Sandefjord, which was taken to France by a prize crew. There was another meeting with Nordmark and, later, with the auxiliary cruiser Atlantis , commanded by Bernhard Rogge. Two other captured ships, Speybank and Ketty Brovig, were also present at this gathering on the high seas, plus the blockade-breaker Tannenfels.

High Seas Fleet War Badge - Click for Explanation Admiral Scheer then moved off on her own to operate in the Indian Ocean, off Mozambique, where she received orders to return home. On her way back, she was sighted by a reconnaissance aircraft from the British cruiser Glasgow, and a massive search operation was launched to engage the German pocket battleship. Admiral Scheer managed to dodge through the net of six cruisers and the aircraft carrier Hermes and, early in March 1941, she met up with the auxiliary cruisers Kormoran and Pinguin. She also rendezvoused with U-124 under the command of Kptlt. Wilhelm Schulz, which had brought some vital spare parts for Scheer's radio. She then headed north, crossing the equator on 15 March 1941 and arriving in Bergen fifteen days later. During this successful cruise, she had sunk fourteen ships and one British auxiliary cruiser, and had captured two other ships.

A victim of the Scheer

See a dynamic map of this cruise, part of Michael Emmerich's "Ships of the German Kriegsmarine" site.


After a complete overhaul, Admiral Scheer operated in the Baltic under the command of Kpt.z.S. Wilhelm Meendsen-Bohlken, who, towards the end of the war, was made Fleet Commander. There was no noteworthy action, and eventually the ship sailed to Trondheim, from where she continued up the coast to Narvik and joined a task force in search of Convoy PQ-17 . She remained in the Arctic, near Bear Island, and after very little action she returned to Wilhelmshaven, passing through the Kiel Canal in November 1942.

After a refit, the ship came under the command of Fregkpt. Ernst Gruber, who had been the Communications Officer on the ill-fated Blucher. In February 1943, he was succeeded by Kpt.z.S. Richard Rothe-Roth, under whom Admiral Scheer served as a training ship in the eastern Baltic. From October 1944, when under the command of Kpt.z. S. Ernst Thienemann, she helped the Special Combat Units 'Rogge' and 'Thiele'. (These two units were created very hurriedly to help fight Russian forces in the East; they were named after their commanders, Bernhard Rogge of the legendary Atlantis, and August Thiele, who commanded the pocket battleship Deutschland, later renamed Lutzow, shortly after the start of the war.) Towards the end of the war, Admiral Scheer headed west from Pillau, laden with a thousand refugees and wounded, bound for Kiel. There she was bombed and sunk on 9/10 April 1945.

Excerpt from German Navy in World War Two: An Illustrated Guide to the Kriegsmarine, 1935-1945
by J.P. Mallmann Showell, Naval Institute Press.

A submission by Henning Lagies...

"At war's end I was a boy of not yet ten years of age. My birthplace and the town I called "Home" was the city and naval base of Kiel, Germany. To escape the incessant bombing ( mostly, if not entirely RAF) in '44/'45 we had sought refuge with relatives who owned a country inn at the village of Süderfahrenstehdt near the Danish border. Ironically we were evicted from that haven along with about one hundred French and Belgian POW's to make room for what was left of the northern section of the OKW. However, by the time we made it back to what was left of the city of Kiel the war had ended.

Kiel 1946

At that time the only operational transportation links for that city and its suburbs, strung out, as they were, along both shores of a fifteen km deep fjord, were some ancient and badly shot-up steam-driven harbour ferries - there was no fuel for the diesels; one took the ferries, if possible, and walked the rest of the way.

That is how I got my first post-war glimpse of the "Admiral Hipper", still upright in dry-dock at the Deutsche Werke shipyards, and the "Admiral Scheer", lying on her side, about two hundred meters to the north, her bottom facing west.

Soon after, my father, using his connections (he had been a gunnery officer in the Kriegsmarine) had obtained for us a lease on a waterfront property on the southern shore of the featureless and shallow Heickendorfer Bucht (Bay of Heickendorf). By that time the Hipper had been refloated and beached a stone's throw from our north terrace; the Emden was lying about 500 m astern (to the east) amongst a jumble of torpedo boats, mine sweepers, and landing craft.

By '46 the schools were up and running, and my high school shared quarters (ruins) in shifts with another one in what had been the "Admiral Graf Spee Schule". It had been re-named the "Alexander Humboldt Schule", but it took years for the original signs to be replaced (no money).

During my daily ferry rides to and from school I watched the Scheer being blasted and cut to pieces until nothing was visible above water. What was left was buried under thousands of tons of rubble along with many other lesser craft. Today her grave is a light industrial area.

My information, backed up by a number of German web-sites, is that she capsized without sustaining a direct hit under the force of near-misses of some extremely powerful bombs; some say that her bottom was ripped open by the force of those blasts; others claim that the force of the explosions caused her to roll over. I'm inclined to subscribe to the latter explanation, because I saw no damage whatsoever to her bottom."

End of the Scheer

More wreck photos can be found here...