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History of Karlsruhe

Date: 09 September 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

The Karlsruhe, a light armoured cruiser, was the last of the big German World War II-era warships to remain missing – until its wreckage was found on June 30.

 

Background

The wreckage of the ship, sunk by a British submarine in 1940, was discovered around 11 nautical miles (20 km) off Kristiansand, Norway, during a routine inspection of undersea electricity cables. 

 

Details

  • The Karlsruhe was built in the mid-1920s and commissioned into the German Navy in 1929. It was used mostly as a training vessel until World War II.

  • By the time it was used in battle, its structure and weapons systems had been upgraded several times, making it one of Germany’s most effective warships of its class.

  • As German forces set out to invade Norway, the Karlsruhe led a fleet of warships to attack the city of Kristiansand.

  • The advanced guns and cannons on the ship, supported by other smaller ships in the fleet, destroyed the city’s maritime defences in just a few hours.

  • The fleet dropped off soldiers in Kristiansand, and they, with the help of German warplanes, would go on to take over the city and eventually occupy the whole of Norway.

  • When British submarine HMS Traunt spotted the Karlsruhe emerging from the harbour, the submarine fired multiple torpedoes in its direction, hitting it twice and causing severe damage.

  • The exact location of the Karlsruhe’s wreckage had remained a mystery for the past 80 years due to the discrepancies in the testimonies given by the captain and crew of the ship and others who witnessed its sinking.

  • The wreckage was first discovered in 2017 though it wasn’t identified then as belonging to the Karlsruhe.

  • Experts estimate that thousands of litres of oil and other substances could still be inside the shipwreck, and that it could cause an ecological disaster in case of a leak.

  • For this reason, salvaging the wreck could be dangerous, apart from being a very expensive process. It is also not yet clear whether the site will be classified and protected as an underwater war grave.

  • This would depend on whether any of the Karlsruhe’s crew went down with it, though most of them were known to have been evacuated before the ship was sunk.

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