Just before World War II broke out, Germany built what was called the Bismarck class battleship. The fast battleships were created explicitly for the Kriegsmarine or the Nazi navy. Not only were they fast, but they were also the largest and most powerful warships that displaced more than 41,000 metric tons with a top speed of 30 knots or 35 miles per hour. The first one released was named Bismarck and was completed in September 1940. Bismarck had a less-popular sister ship named Tirpitz, and she was dubbed the Lonely Queen of the North. Here’s what happened to her.

Exceeding the Limit

Tirpitz was laid down in November 1936 and was completed two and a half years later, in February 1941. She was named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial German Navy. Like her sister, Bismarck, Tirpitz was armed with a main battery of eight 38-centimeter guns in four pairs of turrets. However, she weighed 2000 tons more than Bismarck and was the heaviest battleship built by a European navy at around 46,000 tons.

The weight of both Bismarck and Tirpitz exceeded the 35,000 tons limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty that set limits on battleship construction during the interwar period. Again, a limit widely exceeded by the Bismarck class ships, although the international treaty system had fallen apart before the ships were completed after Japan withdrew from it in 1937.

Tirpitz at a Closer Look

Tirpitz was 251 meters long to increase her speed through a more efficient length-beam ratio. Her top speed was at 30.8 knots or 35.4 mph, thanks to the 160,793 shop Brown, Boveri & Cie geared steam turbine triple screw propulsion system that powered her up. She was also equipped with 360 mm of steel on her gun turret fronts, 220 mm on the turret sides, 320 mm over her central belt, and two 50 mm and 100 mm thickly armored decks to protect her from incoming fire.

Tirpitz slid down the slipway at her launch. (Bundesarchiv, DVM 10 Bild-23-63-40 / CC-BY-SA 3.0CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons)

For offense, Tirpitz was armed with eight 380 mm main guns placed in four superfiring turrets, with one above and behind the other so both turrets could engage targets in the same direction. Apart from that were twelve 150 mm guns, sixteen 105 mm guns, and a tandem of twenty-eight 37 mm and 20 mm anti-aircraft guns.

The ship required 108 officers and 2,500 men to be operated during wartime according to the Battleship Tirpitz, A503 FM30-50 booklet for identification of vessels, published by the Division of Naval Intelligence of the Navy Department of the United States.

Constantly Harrassed

When Tirpitz was launched, she was celebrated with an extravagant ceremony, with Adolf Hitler welcoming the ship. The British, however, had a different feeling toward her. From the entire time she was being constructed until she began her career, Tirpitz was constantly harassed by British bombers.

After losing Bismarck in the Atlantic in 1941, Hitler wanted to keep the remaining Bismarck-class battleship from harm, so they decided to keep her safe in the Fættenfjord in Norway, moored up by a cliff to give some protection from possible aerial attacks. Because of her somewhat lonesome career, she earned the name “Lonely Queen of the North.”