Remembering Gneisenau

By Rob Morgan

I came upon a three-page article entitled ‘Batterie Austrat’ in the excellent magazine After the Battle, No. 44. Rather an old piece now, it provides an account of one of the 11-inch triple gun turrets from Gneisenau, Scharnhorst’s sister ship, which was removed in 1943 from the unlucky warship, and dragged half way up a cliff near Narvik, where it was emplaced for coastal defence. The article says it didn’t fire a shot in anger, but that the turret was ‘re-activated,’ by the Norwegian coastal artillery, but after 1953, it was gradually left to its own fate. I found on Wikipedia the ‘fort’ with the 11-inch turret intact is still in existence as a visitor attraction.

The article goes on to say that a second 11-inch turret of Gneisenau’s ‘was utilised at Fjeld, near Bergen in Norway.’ However, I can’t find any mention of that battery. Does it still exist I wonder? It must have been an immense task to move this ordnance from the Baltic to Norway. Incidentally, the article, unattributed, says that the three single guns from the ship’s third turret ‘…were earmarked for the Hook of Holland, outside Rotterdam.’ Were they ever emplaced? ‘Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-46,’ suggests they were.

The Gneisenau’s remarkable misfortunes in war are very well known, but this must be the only case in history where the entire armament of a capital ship was used in coast defence? Or is it?

The photograph is of my vaguely accurate Revell 1/1200th Gneisenau, with all her turrets and guns, in the colour scheme of January 1942.

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