North Cape 1943 The Sinking of the Scharnhorst is a new title from Osprey Publishing LTD. The 356th title in their Campaign series, it is the story of the last sortie of the veteran German battlecruiser and the British efforts to stop her from destroying life-sustaining convoys to Russia.

Introduction

North Cape 1943 is available in softcover, PDF, and ePUB.  The softcover is catalogued with IBSN 978-1-4728-4211-4, and with Osprey’s short code CAM 356.   Authored by Angus Konstam, this 96-page book is illustrated by Edouard Groult.

For almost four years Scharnhorst had an eventful career, including the sinking of an aircraft carrier, humiliating the British during The Channel Dash, and tying down elements of the British fleet.  She was considered both a battlecruiser and a battleship, with armament powerful enough to destroy all but a modern battleship, armor impervious to all except another battleship, and speed fast enough to escape a battleship.  Intended as a commerce raider, she covered the Nazi invasion of Norway, engaged warships, swept the ocean for convoys, and met her end attacking a convoy to Russia.  As Osprey tells us:

The German battleship Scharnhorst had a reputation for being a lucky ship. Early in the war she fought off a British battlecruiser and sunk a carrier, before carrying out two successful forays into the Atlantic. In the spring of 1943, the Scharnhorst was redeployed to Norway. There, working in concert with other German warships such as the battleship Tirpitz, she posed a major threat to the Arctic convoys - the Allied sea lifeline to Russia. Her presence, alongside Tirpitz, forced the British to tie down ships in Arctic waters.

When Tirpitz was put out of action, and Hitler demanded naval support for the war in Russia, the crew of the Scharnhorst under Rear-Admiral Bey, had to act.In late December 1943, she put to sea, her target an Allied convoy passing through the Barents Sea on its way to Murmansk. Unknown to Bey, the British were using the convoy as bait to draw the Scharnhorst into battle. What followed was a two-day running battle fought in rough seas and near-perpetual darkness, ending with the destruction of the Scharnhorst and all but 36 of her crew, ending any serious German naval threat to the Arctic convoy lifeline.

In this illustrated study, leading naval historian Angus Konstam offers a fascinating new insight into this key engagement. He combines expert analysis with his unique knack for storytelling to offer a fascinating new perspective on the battle which sank the Scharnhorst.

Osprey publishes an extensively detailed book about Scharnhorst in their Anatomy of the Ship series, which you can see here: The Battleship Scharnhorst.

Content

North Cape 1943 is presented through 93 pages of  text and images, organized into eight chapters and several subchapters:

Origins of the Campaign

·        The strategic situation

Chronology

Opposing Commanders

·        The Kriegsmarine

·        The Royal Navy

Opposing Forces

·        The Kriegsmarine

·        The Royal Navy

·        Order of battle

Opposing Plans

·        The Kriegsmarine

·        The Royal Navy

The Campaign

·        The forces gather

·        Into the Barents Sea

·        The forces converge

·        First contact

·        Bey’s second attempt

·        The chase

·        The ambush

·        The final battle

Aftermath

The Wreck of the Scharnhorst

Further Reading

Index

Before the title page Osprey includes a list of naval ranks, and a key to military symbols.

I find the book well organized and well written by author Konstam.    Origins of the Campaign, Chronology, and Opposing Commanders provide 14 pages explaining the background and circumstances that led to this campaign, and the men who planned, commanded, and executed the events.  It also reveals a critical advantage the Royal Navy enjoyed.

Opposing Forces is the exploration of the ships involved.  I find it interesting about the difference in RN (Royal Navy) and KM (Kriegsmarine)radars, and the comparative qualities of RN and KM ships.

While Opposing Plans is only five pages, The Campaign is the bulk of the content with 52 pages narrating the campaign.  It is surprising how the KM employed its radar and destroyer assets.  Several 3-D ‘bird’s-eye-views’ refine the text with illustrations, keyed to significant events and actions.  Personally, I find these very helpful in understanding and following complex situations like naval engagements.   Aftermath recounts the strategic change the end of Scharnhorst meant for both the Nazis and Allies, and The Wreck of the Scharnhorst is a poignant postscript.

This is an interesting story and broadened my understanding of the Kriegsmarine’s battlecruisers effect on the Battle of the Atlantic, and Nazi Germany’s maritime mayhem in general. Scharnhorst and sister Gneisenau were beautiful ships and are popular model subjects, and this book can be the inspiration to build kits of them.

Photographs, Artwork, and Graphics

Photographic support of the text is good with numerous black-and-white images enhancing the written word.  There are, of course, many photos of ships and key personnel, aerial reconnaissance views, specific components and items of equipment, and icy scenes of the northern Atlantic.  Many are grainy but the majority are good quality.

Edouard Groult created several original color illustrations to capture what the camera missed.  Several maps orient the reader to the operational arena while 3-D ‘bird’s-eye-views’ provide ship movements keyed to specific events and times.

1.       Map, The strategic situation, late 1943: The North Sea to Bear Island, showing German and Allied bases and airfields, and the extent of the ice pack.

2.       Map, The Altenfjord

3.      Two-page scene, Scharnhorst At Anchor in the Kafjord, September 1943: six ships and installations.

4.       Map, Operation Ostfront: Scharnhorst’s sortie: German and Allied bases and airfields; extent of the ice pack; front line with Soviets.

5.       Period diagram cutaway showing typical gunnery layout of a RN destroyer.

6.       Map, Bey’s initial attempts to reach Convoy, 26 December 1943: two hours of naval cat and mouse in the arctic gloom.

7.      Two-page battle scene, Force 1 Against the Scharnhorst, 0930hrs, 26 December 1943: Scharnhorst surprised and fleeing cruisers, taking fire, illuminated by star shells.

8.       Line drawing of Scharnhorst armor.

9.      3-D ‘bird’s-eye-view,’ The Defense of the Convoy, 0834-1015hrs, 26 December 1943: narrated and keyed to 13 actions; six Kriegsmarine units; two RN forces.

10.   Map, Bey’s further attempts to reach the convoy, 26 December 1943.

11.   Map, The pursuit of Scharnhorst, 1530-1800hrs, 26 December 1943.

12.   3-D ‘bird’s-eye-view’, The Ambushing of the Scharnhorst, 1600-1820hrs, 26December 1943: narrated and keyed to 15 events; two Allied units; Scharnhorst.

13.   Map, The sinking of the Scharnhorst, 1800-1945hrs, 26 December 1943.

14.   3-D‘bird’s-eye-view’, The Sinking of the Scharnhorst, 1820-1945hrs, 26 December 1943: narrated and keyed to 13 events; 11 RN units; Scharnhorst.

15.   Two-page battle scene, The Sinking of Scharnhorst, 1930hrs, 26 December 1943: dramatic moody view of the ship pummeled into pieces.

Table

Convoy JW 55B formation: each ship in each of six columns.

Conclusion

I found North Cape 1943 The Sinking of the Scharnhorst to be enjoyable to read and informative as it increased my knowledge of the campaign to eliminate the Scharnhorst.  The text is set out well and easy to follow.  I understand why Osprey considers author Konstam to be a leading naval historian.  Artwork and graphics supports the text.

I found nothing to criticize about this book.  Modelers should be inspired and the photographs can provide excellent source material for them.  Osprey has created another good title for students and modelers of the Scharnhorst, the Battle of the Atlantic, Royal Navy ships and German destroyers.  Recommended.

We  thank Osprey for providing this review sample.  Please mention to them and to retailers that you saw this product here - on Model Shipwrights.

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