TIRPITZ was the second of the two Bismarck-class ships built. Named for Alfred von Tirpitz, architect of the German Imperial Navy she was slightly larger than BISMARCK. At 823.5’ in length, a beam of 118’ her general size was comparable. Her top speed was nearly 35 knots/40 mph. What made the difference was tonnage. She had a displacement of 42,200 tons, but fully fitted out with armament it shot to over 52,600 tons, 2,000 tons more than BISMARCK. This made TIRPITZ the heaviest battle ship ever built by a European navy. The ship was commissioned February 25th of 1941, less than a year after BISMARCK. Her life was short as well, sunk on November 12, 1944.
Like BISMARCK, she saw limited true action. TIRPITZ armed with 8-15” guns spent most of her time stationed in the waters around Norway as a threat to allied ship convoys headed to Russia. In September of 1943 she was working with SCHARNHORST, acting against allied forces working off of Spitzbergen, a northern island off the coast of Norway. British submarines in the area planted mines under the heavily armored ship, causing damage that required six months to repair.
There were other attempts to take her down that caused damage, however her demise was a well formed plan devised over years. Sir Barnes Wallis had designed a heavy bomb, dubbed the “Tallboy”. Realizing that the concussion force of a bomb could be more devastating than the actual detonation, this bomb had the ability to detonate below ground causing an earthquake effect felt within a 29 acre radius. The 21’ long, 38” diameter bomb was initially designed for terrestrial use in disabling munitions plants, bridges, canals and other facilities that supplied the Germans during the war. It was decided they’d use it to take out the large battleship.
On November 12th of 1944, 30 Lancaster bombers, "Dam Busters" from the Royal Air Force (RAF) deployed the bomb from 15,000 feet against TIRPITZ. At least two of the Tallboys dropped on TIRPITZ made direct hits and pierced the heavy armor, killing approximately 1,000 of her men. She capsized in the shallow Norwegian fjord west of Tromso, and that was the end of the supership era for Germany. An interesting aside, it was women munitions workers who built this bomb. Another indicator of the importance of women in the effort to win WW2.
I’ve barely scratched the surface here for brevity’s sake. Below are a few great resource links, one a documentary on YouTube that tells in entirety the British operations to take out TIRPITZ.
On His Majesty’s Service by Joseph H. Wellings: http://www.ibiblio.org/anrs/docs/1002wellings_onhismajestysservice.pdf
Photo of TIRPITZ from Bomber Command Museum of Canada: http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/tirpitz.html
Tirpitz: The Battle for Hitler’s Supership: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GJGZov-ZOM