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12th February 1942.


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#1 Friedrich

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Posted 04 July 2002 - 07:56 PM

The ‘Channel Dash’

by Friedrich vHuH

One morning, all the staff of Boulogne's Security Division was excited by something they did not know. They were ordered to leave all behind and get into lorries and watch the Channel. Hauptmann Von Banc just told them: 'Gentlemen, we just want you to look at the sea'.

Suddenly, they watched the unconciebeable: one, two, three... fifteen ships full-ahead running across the Channel! An entire fleet at noon! It was 12.15 hours and the visibility was like a spring's day, not a winter's day! They could see three big ships at the middle: the heavy cruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, compained by destroyers and Schnellboote (E-boats). Their speed was of over 30 knots! 'What the-hell? Is the English Lyon bloody slept or what?', the men in Cap-Gris-Nez wondered. What was happening on Dover? Who cared! Everybody just cheered and threw their Mützen up into the air.

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Admiral Kurt Fricke, Admiral Karl Dönitz, Großadmiral Erich Raeder

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Colonel general Hans Jeschonnek, Major general Adolf Galland

Just a month earlier, a small train ran from Berlin to Rastenburg in Eastern Prussia. Inside were ten high-ranked officers of the Kriegsmarine, including Großadmiral Erich Raeder and Admiral Karl Dönitz. The Chief of Staff of the Kriegsmarine, Admiral Kurt Fricke, said: 'Remember that the Führer is the one who is going to decide in the end, so tell him it is a dangerous enterprise, but do not show so pesimistic'. At 4 o'clock all the men were in the Wolfsschanze discussing a very important matter with the Führer; there were too generals Hans Jeschonnek and Adolf Galland, the Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe and the commander of its fighter arm. All the men discussed the posibility of getting the major ships in the Kriegsmarine out of Brest, where they had been bombed, up to that day unsucesfully, by the RAF.

'If the ships remain in Brest, it is obvious that, sooner or later, the enemy's air force is going to put them out of action. It is the same case that a person ill with cancer. If I do not operate, he will die, slowly but surely; if I operate he MIGHT be saved. Therefore, I have to operate!!!', cried Adolf Hitler, giving green light to Operation ‘Cerberus’.

Four weeks were needed to make the 'Prachstrasse' (a mine-clear corridor). According to British testimonies they thought that Paris' Admiral had gone insane; the corridors that mine sweepers were clearing had no tactical value nor followed any logical pattern. What they did not know is that if they put all the non-sense corridors to-gether, they get a free-mine corridor along the whole lenght of the Channel. The mission was so secret that it was shown in a funny incident; several officers from mine sweepers' crews, the very same ones who had planned the corridors, were sent to Brest to supervise the run. The commander of the Gneisenau had told them: 'What did you say you are? Mine sweepers' officers? What the-hell are you doing on board of my ship then?' And there were even diversion methods which caused rumours; several thousand tropical uniforms and helmets were ordered to Brest. 'Hey, boys, we're going into the sweet and warm South Atlantic...' 'Yeah! We're going to take the Azhore Isles!...'

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Admiral Otto Ciliax

The date for the run was stablished for February 12th 1942 at 8.00 hours. Manœuvers were ordered to keep everybody at their posts, and suddenly, the alarms were sounded: a visitation of the RAF. Fortunately, no damages reported, but the run was posponed until 10.00 hours. Artifitial fog was used and at that very moment the radars of the British aeroplanes had stopped working. General Koller, from the Luftwaffe, met with Admiral Ciliax, the man in charge of Operation ‘Cerberus’, on board the Scharnhorst, his flagship. 'Do you think you could sail with this fog?', asked Koller. 'Yes, but what about the British aeroplanes?' 'OK, you sail and I will take care of them!', said Koller. The ships departed, protected by the artifitial fog and encountered a British patrol at 11.00. On the beginning, nobody in London could believe what was happening. They knew that the Kriegsmarine was up to something, but they had bigger issues to worry about: that morning, all the radar system on the Eastern coast was not working! The Germans were using for the first time a lot of interfierence stations.

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At 1.15 the British guns near Dover opened fire. The E-boats made fog and the shooting stopped. When the British had finally reacted, the German ships were already in the Belgian coast. Then, six British Swordfishes aeroplanes were sent, commanded by Lieutenant Commander E. Esmonde, DSO (the same who had put his torpedoes in Bismarck's rudder ten months before!). But there were some Messerschmitts and Focke Wulfs waiting. The six Swordfishes were shot down. Then hell started when the Luftwaffe, the Schnellboote, the minor ships and the three enormous cruisers all opned fired simultaneously and reached the coast of Holland.

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Then, at 3.28 hours, the Scharnhorst kind of flew over the water. Admiral Ciliax and all the crew were thrown into the air. A mine had made impact in the hull. Then came the reports: 'No electricity in the ship. The rudder doesn't work. The gyroscopes don't work. Anton's tower is making water. No fire in any boiler...' Then, Admiral Ciliax ordered E-boat 38 to come and pick him up. He had to command the operation. Rapidly, the Scharnhorst found itself at the rear, but, amazingly, 12 minutes later after the mine hit, the Scharnhorst moved again at 32 knots and soon reached the other ships, including E-boat 38, where Ciliax was waiting happily. 'Sir, I think we should slow down so we will not spill the Admiral...'.

On February 1942, the Times said:

"Vice-admiral Ciliax has achieved what duke De Medina Sidonia could not do... Since the XVII century there had not ocurred anything in the Channel so humilliant for our power and pride at sea...'

My own writing, based on: C.D. Bekker, Kampf und Untergang der Kriegsmarine, Düssseldorf, 1953.

[ 13. June 2005, 01:25 PM: Message edited by: General der Infanterie Friedrich H ]
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#2 Martin Bull

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Posted 04 July 2002 - 08:48 PM

As a little-known footnote to Friedrich's detailed account of the 'Channel Dash', Squadron Leader 'Bobby' Oxspring of 91 Squadron was on a 'Milk Run' with his #2 that morning.
Peering down through the rain, he clearly saw the naval force moving fast throught the Channel.

'My first reaction that the Royal Navy was a bit off course was soon dispelled when we saw flak guns on deck firing at us'

He broke strict radio silence to give warning but - 'I got nowhere in conveying the seriousness of the situation...After an interminable and inexcusable delay the various Commands were alerted. By then it was...too late'

from 'Spitfire Command' by Grp. Capt. 'Bobby' Oxspring. :mad:
"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#3 Friedrich

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Posted 05 July 2002 - 04:10 PM

The translation woud be "the Channel Dash"?
OK. Did you guys like it? Any comments or corrections to my post?
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#4 PzJgr

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Posted 05 July 2002 - 04:14 PM

I remember reading about this. I cannot remember what book nor the reason for the dash but the information you provided was interesing. That would have been a sight for the coastal garrisons to watch their fleet defy England's pond. Good Job Friedrich. Interesting post
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#5 Martin Bull

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Posted 05 July 2002 - 07:02 PM

A book has been written about this affair entitled 'Fiasco' which is a good description from the British point of view. It was, and remains, a tremendous blow to British maritime prestige.

Friedrich refers to the Swordfish attack. Six aircraft took off from RAF Manston - each one armed only with a single torpedo and one hand-operated Lewis machine gun in the rear cockpit. Fully loaded, the Swordfish could attain perhaps 85-90 knots

As they approached the warships, they were attacked by at least 20 German fighters. All six aircraft flew through literally a 'storm of steel' to launch torpedoes from 1500 yards.

All six were inevitably destroyed. Of 18 men who set out on this suicidal mission, five returned, only one of whom was unwounded.

These five survivors were awarded four DSO's and a CGM.

Flight Lieutenant Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde,DSO, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross on the recommendation of Manston's commander, Tom Gleave. A unique situation of a Naval officer being awarded the VC on the recommendation of a RAF officer.

To this day, the Fleet Air Arm maintain a Fairey Swordfish in flying condition. It flies so slowly that the rear observer/gunner can easily stand upright at his gun position and salute the crowds at summer airshows.

To think that men flew these antiques against the flak batteries of Bismark and Scharnhorst . . . . .
"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#6 Andreas Seidel

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Posted 06 July 2002 - 01:38 PM

Yes, I've seen a couple of them at airshows in the UK. It's really incredible when you think about it.
„Solange man nicht mit dem Kopf unterm Arm rumläuft geht es doch noch!" Erwin Rommel

#7 Friedrich

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Posted 08 July 2002 - 06:18 PM

Hallo!

Hey, Erich! I posted this thinking a bit about you! ;)
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#8 Jumbo_Wilson

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Posted 30 July 2002 - 03:17 PM

Don't be too unkind to the Stringbag. Who put Bismarck's steering gear out of action? Who raided Taranto? What could be repaired and flown from even the smallest Escort Carrier?

The good old Stringbag.

Some antique....

Jumbo
"Capital! We're nearly out of ammunition! Now we can get at them with the bayonet!" General Paddy Gough, 1st Sikh War

#9 Martin Bull

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Posted 30 July 2002 - 05:02 PM

Hello Jumbo & a warm welcome to the Forums !

Your adding to the 'Stringbag' comments is timely as an obituary appeared in 'The Times' this very day for Lt-Commander Kenneth Pattison,DSO who died on July 13th at the age of 85.

As a Swordfish pilot with 810 Squadron, he was one of the Fleet Air Arm flyers who took part in all three strikes from HMS Ark Royal launched against the Bismarck on May 26th, 1941.

His Swordfish even came back with a lump of shrapnel from the Bismarck's guns lodged in its' airframe.

The passing of another truly gallant gentleman....
"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#10 Friedrich

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Posted 16 February 2003 - 02:52 AM

We have just had the LXI anniversary of the 'Channel Dash' a few days ago. So: *bump* :D
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#11 De Vlaamse Leeuw

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Posted 16 February 2003 - 09:19 AM

I hear this for the first time.
But it is very interesting!!
[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

#12 Friedrich

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Posted 17 February 2003 - 12:25 AM

It is indeed, Erwin. This is without any doubt one of the most intrepid naval operations in History! And I wrote the article very well, I think. :rolleyes:
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#13 Jet

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Posted 17 February 2003 - 08:59 AM

You wwrote the article extremely well :D :D :D
And when he gets to heaven
To Saint Peter he will tell
One more soldier reporting sir
I have served my time in hell

#14 Kai-Petri

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Posted 17 February 2003 - 02:27 PM

Thanx Friedrich! I remember having read it before but it was even better the second time around...

Ok. let´s see if there´s some more info in the net on this:

http://www.militaryh...and/fiasco.aspx

Between the departure of Peirse (January 8) and the arrival of Harris (Feb. 22), Bomber Command was under the interim command of Air Vice-Marshal Baldwin, commander of 3 Group. It was on Baldwin's "watch" that Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen humiliated the Royal Navy by sailing in daylight through the English Channel from Brest on their way to safer harbours.

When the German ships sailed from Brest just before midnight on February 11, they did so with a modest escort of 13 motor torpedo boats and five destroyers, and with expectation of air cover for most of their journey. They sailed in foul weather ­ a sensible precaution ­ and they steamed into the English Channel.

The Royal Navy did not see them until 11:30 a.m., when the ships were almost entering the Straits of Dover, were they spotted accidentally by a pilot with Fighter Command and reported to the authorities. Between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., 242 sorties were flown by Bomber Command against the ships, though many aircraft could not locate them because of the inclement weather. In addition, elements of Coastal and Fighter Command, together with Fleet Air Arm "Swordfish", joined in the attack. So did the Royal Navy, with World War I destroyers and MTBs. No damage was inflicted. Only later did Scharnhorst and Gneisenau strike mines dropped by 5 Group aircraft and incur some damage. By daybreak of 13 February all three ships were safe in German ports.

How this could have happened. The first answer must be that the Royal Navy was husbanding its resources. It had been late in realizing the vulnerability of its capital ships to air attack and to plunging fire, but by early 1942 it had lost a number of ships ­ Hood, Prince of Wales, Repulse and Glorious among them ­ to one type of attack or the other. Despite the threat to Britain implicit in Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen, Sir Dudley Pound, First Sea Lord, was unwilling or unable to commit his capital ships to a test of fire. Instead, he chose to leave the work to smaller ships and to the RAF.

Under the provisions of Operation 'Fuller', set up to counter the expected German move, Bomber Command aircraft were placed on two-hour alert, though on February 10, largely because of the bad weather, this was reduced to 100 aircraft on four-hour alert. Meanwhile, Coastal Command had issued an advisory stating that weather conditions would be favourable for a break-out beginning on February 10. At the same time, it was relatively plain that after February 17 the combination of tides, moon and lengthening hours of daylight would make the break-out from Brest much less attractive to the Germans.

Once they left Brest, there is no conceivable explanation why Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen were not sighted long before they reached Dover. By that time, the three ships had been in the Channel for 12 hours. Granted, the weather was poor: that is why Coastal Command issued its advisory. But it remains a mystery how a combination of radar surveillance, Coastal Command reconnaissance and RN patrols could miss 21 ships doing what was expected of them at a time and place that was quite accurately determined.

Before the end of February, Bomber Command would finally catch up with Gneisenau at Kiel, inflicting severe damage and effectively knocking her out of the war. This attack killed 116 of her crew; the British had lost 127 aircraft in raids on Brest attacking the German warships in the months before the 'Channel Dash'.

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#15 Friedrich

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Posted 25 February 2003 - 12:52 AM

Very interesting support material, Kai!

I am very happy to know that my writing was apprcaited! ;)

Thank you, Jet! smile.gif
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#16 Friedrich

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 06:26 PM

*bump*

The thread has been edited and some pics have been added.

New and old members, enjoy! ;) smile.gif

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The Scharnhorst

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The Gneisenau

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The Prinz Eugen

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The Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen
"War is less costly than servitude, the choice is always between Verdun and Dachau." - Jean Dutourd, French veteran of both world wars

"A mon fils: depuis que tes yeux sont fermes les miens n’ont cessé de pleurir." - Mère française, Verdun

#17 ColHessler

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 11:57 AM

I've been reading about this in a book called, "Run the Gauntlet" by Ken Ford. It's an Osprey book. It's good and mostly from the German point of view, but a reviewer on Amazon pointed out some flaws in it. I just came here to see about what someone here might have. Thanks to Frederich for his anecdotes and the execellent pics.:bow:
:rk:"Today I was given a brigade of Tiger tanks. When I have a brigade of tanks, that is reality."

#18 FalkeEins

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 09:24 PM

commemorated with the unveiling by the First Sea Lord of a new memorial on Marine Parade, Dover this weekend

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DoverForum.com - Members Club

Operation Fuller/The Channel Dash Memorial @ Dover - a set on Flickr

believe it or not, this fine stone was prepared to a budget in China and arrived for installation with a number of very embarrassing spelling and grammatical mistakes...requiring some last minute 're-carving'

DoverForum.com - View Topic

#19 Carronade

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 03:14 PM

very embarrassing spelling and grammatical mistakes

Not to mention factual error - Scharnhorst was not joined by Gneisenau; the two sortied and operated together throughout Operation Berlin, and 115,622 tons sunk (22 ships) was shared between them. They arrived at Brest together and were subsequently joined by Prinz Eugen, which had sortied with Bismarck in May.

Although the Channel Dash was embarrassing to the British, they suffered little real harm by it. It signified the abandonment by the Germans of heavy ship operations in the Atlantic. The German ships were intended to join operations against the Arctic convoy route, although the main threat there was Tirpitz, backed up by Lutzow, Scheer, and Hipper. In the event, thanks to damage suffered during Cerberus, only Scharnhorst ever made it to Norway, and not until 1943. Gneisenau, ironically, having been brought home from Brest largely because of RAF attacks, suffered massive damage in a bombing raid at Kiel.

#20 harolds

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 02:37 PM

I think it can safely be said that CEREBUS was a tactical defeat for the British, but a strategic retreat by the Germans. At the end of the day the British were in a better strategic position, even though thoroughly embarrassed.

#21 harolds

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 11:17 PM

Another note on this operation: Excellent inter-service cooperation between Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. Lots of credit for this goes to the new "General" of Fighters, Adolph Galland.

#22 Martin Bull

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 08:24 AM

To this day, the Fleet Air Arm maintain a Fairey Swordfish in flying condition. It flies so slowly that the rear observer/gunner can easily stand upright at his gun position and salute the crowds at summer airshows.

To think that men flew these antiques against the flak batteries of Bismark and Scharnhorst . . . . .


I'm very pleased that this thread has re-emerged, because here is that Swordfish - a photo I took at last months' Duxford air display....

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"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#23 Skipper

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 09:06 AM

thans for making us dream with all those beauties Martin, not too mention you take good pictures too

Vorsicht+Feind.JPG


#24 Martin Bull

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 05:07 PM

Just for that, I'll add another one !

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"Stand by to pull me out of the seat if I get hit" - Guy Gibson

#25 scipio

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 07:57 PM

Correct Harolds - Raeder himself claimed this was a tactical victory but a strategic defeat.

Still would have been better to sink them.




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