Did the Tirpitz have torpedoes?

Did the Tirpitz have torpedoes?

Tirpitz moored in Kaafjord. Visible in a British aerial reconnaissance photograph in spite of artificial smoke generated on shore

When Tirpitz was launched Germany aimed her to be the most modern battleship in all of the European Navies. Tirpitz would be the second of two Bismarck-class battleships that the German Navy. Laid down in 1926. And launched in 1939. She boasted an incredible 52,600 tons of displacement. And almost 800 feet in length

So why did the Tirpitz carry torpedoes when all other navies deemed them obsolete on a battleship?

The recommendation for arming Tirpitz with torpedo tubes came from the Chief of Fleet, Admiral Günther Lütjens in late Spring of 1941. And was based on the experiences he encountered during the successful raiding cruise of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. 

The German planning staff had dropped the requirement for battleships to have torpedo tubes and so Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau had been built without them. 

Tirpitz under attack by British carrier aircraft on 3 April 1944

However, the outbreak of war with Great Britain caused the Germans to adopt the kleiner Krieg strategy. Whereby if one was too weak to fight the enemy fleet. Moreover, the weaker navy could attack the vital merchant shipping that supplied the enemy with the goods needed to fight the war.

The Bismarck and Scharnhorst classes, though, had not been designed as merchant raiders.
Tirpitz capsized

But being pressed into that role by circumstance. Lütjens noted that the ammunition expenditure required to quickly dispatch a merchant ship was extremely high. 

This was costly, both in the cost of ammunition and the cost of wear and tear on the guns. Which would naturally have to be relined or replaced sooner as a result.

Lütjens felt that a torpedo from close range was much more effective than pumping dozens of shells into a steamer.

The German Naval War Directorate agreed with him, and ordered the battleships to be so equipped. Tirpitz and the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau received theirs in late 1941. And Bismarck would have gotten hers as well had she returned from her first and only war cruise.

Written by Harry Gillespie

Back To News