75 Years ago today the pride of the German Kriegsmarine, the Hipper-class heavy cruiser Blücher, met an unlikely end. Built to raid British shipping and help screen Hiter’s new grand blue water navy, the massive 16,000-ton super cruiser with her 8 203mm guns and up to 3-inches of armor never saw it coming on the morning of April 9, 1940, when she sailed quietly and darked out into neutral Norwegian waters.
Without a declaration of war, Operation Weserübung, the German invasion of Norway had begun with a series of sea and air penetrations of the Scandinavian county, one of which Blucher was leading.
As the flag of Konteradmiral Oskar Kummetz, she was packed with an 800-man contingent of the 163rd Infantry Division who would be landed in the nation’s capital of Oslo and quickly seize the government. Passing through the Oslofjord in the dark of that morning, two of the ancient 28cm Krupp (!) guns mounted at Oscarsborg Fortress opened fire on the German cruiser at point blank range, damaging the ship severely and setting it alight.
Then, a hidden and unknown battery (although it had been installed in 1901!) of shore-based torpedo tubes with 30-year old Whitehead torpedoes made in Austria-Hungary engaged the ship. Though they had but 220-lb warheads, the good Austrian tin fish held true and holed Blucher at 04:34.
Between 1887 and 1913, Norway ordered no less than 377 torpedoes of various marks from Whitehead Di Fiume S.A., with the largest buy (of 100 fish) in 1912.
She rolled over and sank by 0730 in 210 feet, with heavy loss of life. This allowed the Norwegian King and government from being taken a prisoner, enabling them to escape to the north and eventually Britain. In all, the Blucher had only been in service for six months and 18 days.
The guns, torpedo tubes, and the Blucher are still in their respective places as on that fateful morning 75 years ago today. That’s a lesson to never underestimate decades old but simple gear, especially if you park your brand new cruisers right in front of it.
She is also remembered at the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg, where a detailed scale model and one of her practice shells are on display.