From: Winnipeg, MB
7th – 9th October 1939 (North Sea)
With the two Panzerschiffe having been ordered to commence operations, the OKM put in place an operation designed to a) provide the Royal Navy with something else to worry about (and thus take some pressure off the Deutschland and Graf Spee), and b) to hopefully draw the Home Fleet onto a fleet of bomber aircraft ready and waiting for the purpose.
On the 7th October the battlecruiser Gneisenau sailed from Kiel with the light cruiser Koln, escorted by nine destroyers. As hoped, the ships were spotted by a Coastal Command aircraft and, assuming a break-out into the Atlantic was on the cards, both the RAF and the Royal Navy went into action. The Home Fleet, consisting of the carrier Furious, the battleships Nelson and Rodney, the light cruiser Newcastle and their accompanying destroyers sailed from Scapa Flow, as did the Battlecruiser Squadron, consisting of the battlecruisers Hood and Repulse, the light cruisers Aurora and Sheffield and their destroyer screen. The plan was for these two forces to trap the German vessels in a pincer movement. Meanwhile the old battleship HMS Royal Oak was left behind, with two destroyers, to patrol around the Shetlands in case the Germans slipped past the main fleet.
The RN ships failed to find the Germans as they had turned around as per the plan. However, neither the RAF nor the Luftwaffe bombers sent out against the enemy fleets could cause any damage. The whole operation was distinctly unpleasant for both sides as the weather was appalling – so bad that ships were damaged.
The ships returned to base – although, in an incredibly lucky twist of fate – not to Scapa Flow. A Luftwaffe aircraft had flown over the fleet anchorage a couple of days previously and, fearing a bombing strike, the bulk of the ships sailed for Loch Ewe, Scotland. The only capital ship to return to Scapa Flow was the Royal Oak which had taken a battering by the weather and had been ordered to return there - which she did on the 11th. It was to prove a fateful decision….
The flagship of the Kriegsmarine in 1939: Gneisenau
Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-45 (Jurgen Rohwer)
Can't understand where the Scharnhorst class got the nickname "ugly sisters". I think they are elegant and powerful looking. A few too many gun mounts thanks to separate secondary and heavy AA guns, but not ugly in their installation.
No matter how bad a situation is, you can always make it worse. - Chris Hadfield : An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth