The Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen

At 13.00, the German task force anchored in Grimstadfjord (near Bergen) and began bunkering fuel. At 20.40, the ships steamed on their way to Trondheim. On February 23, at 07.00, near the entrance to the fjord leading to Trondheim, two explosion tossed the Prince Eugen. These were the torpedoes launched by the British submarine Trident. Shock of the explosions extinguished all lights and the turbines stopped. The damage reports were soon received. The stern broke off, the rudder was lost along with the steering engine. However, only 11 crewmen were killed and 25 wounded. After 11.00, the port side turbine was started. To lighten the flooded stern, the ammunition was transferred from the aft magazines. At 19.40, the Prinz Eugen traversed Trondheim, where 3 tugboats came to her aid. On February 23, at midnight she dropped anchor alongside the battleship Tirpitz. Repairs began on February 25, when the repair ship Huascaran anchored at her side. The damaged stern was removed and the opening was closed with a bulkhead. The Germania shipyard at Kiel was contracted to rebuilt the stern and install new rudders. The repair work lasted for two months. Only on April 21, the supply ship Karntchen delivered new rudders. Meanwhile, the British air force launched two air raids (on April 28/29 and on April 29/30) and as the result the Prinz Eugen suffered some minor damage. On May 9, the installation of the rudders were finally completed and the cruiser steamed to Beistadfjord on her own, where she performed steering trials. They were successful and ship was able to steam at 18 to 20 knots. On May 16, escorted by 2 destroyers and 2 torpedo boats, the Prinz Eugen headed for Kiel (Operation Zauberflote). While changing the heading, both rudders jammed and the ship turned towards the nearby rocks at high speed. Only “astern full speed!” command prevented her from being seriously damaged. On May 17, after 20.00, an air raid conducted by 27 torpedo bombers and 19 horizontal bombers, escorted by 8 fighters took place. The aircraft belonged to 86th Squadron RAF. Heavy anti-aircraft fire and evasive manoeuvres helped the ship avoid any hits. The second wave of 22 aircraft from the 42th Torpedo Bomber Squadron also failed to score any hits. On May 18, the cruiser anchored at Kiel and was drydocked for further repairs. On July 31, the command of the cruiser was taken by Captain Hans-Erich Voss, who replaced the promoted Captain Brinkmann. On October 18, there was a tragic accident. A boat carrying some of the cruiser’s crewmen was rammed in the fog by the tugboat Najade. Thirty-three men lost their lives. On October 20, the cruiser began loading ammunition and on the following day, upon the completion of that task, she put to sea heading to base in Gotenhafen, where further repairs were made. The equipment was supplemented and exercises were performed. On January 6, 1943, the Prinz Eugen bunkered fuel and on January 9, along with the battleship Scharnhorst with Adm. Schniewind on board and the escort of 3 destroyers, she departed for Norway (Operation Fronttheater). On January 13, the information was received that the task force had been detected. In fear of aerial strikes, Admiral Schniewind decided to turn back to Gotenhafen. The Prinz Eugen again dropped her anchor in the Gothenhafen roadstead on January 12. On February 23, another attempt was made to break through to Norway (Operation Domino), but the German task force was detected again and returned to Gotenhafen on February 27. Following Admiral Dönitz’s suggestion, Adolf Hitler consented to attach the cruiser to the training squadron. On March 15, 1943, Captain Voss was replaced by Captain Werner Ehrhardt, who became the cruiser’s new commanding officer. In order to make room for cadets, 450 crewmen were landed. On April 1, 300  navigation and artillery department cadets were embarked, plus 150 cadets of the engineering department. The training lasted until September 30. Since October the cruiser was reassigned to combat duty and became the flagship of the surface task force. Until the end of the year various exercises in group operations, shore target location and their bombardment were performed. In January 1944, the command of the Prinz Eugen was given to Captain Hans-Jürgen Reinicke. On June 19, 1944, the cruiser along with 2 torpedo boats (T10 and T-11) departed Gotehafen and headed for the Gulf of Finland to support German and Finnish forces at the Karelian Peninsula and help with their evacuation. The torpedo boats headed for Libava, while the Prinz Eugen returned to Gotenhafen. On August 19, the cruiser left the harbour again, escorted by the 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla. In the Irben Strait (western entrance to the Gulf of Riga), the task force was joined by 4 destroyers (Z 25, Z 28, Z 35 and Z 36). On August 20, at 08.00, the cruiser’s battery shelled the land targets near the town of Tubums, situated near Riga. The escort vessels also laid heavy fire directed by Prinz Eugen’s floatplanes. On the way back, the cruiser bombarded the Red Army units attacking German troops near the town of Saremaa. On August 21, the ship returned to Gotenhafen. On September 20, the task force composed of the Prinz Eugen, the Lützow, 4 destroyers and 3 torpedo boats protected the evacuation of the German troops from Finland (Kemi) The group operated in vicinity of the Ǻland Islands. They escorted a convoy on the way to Ventspil in Latvia. The task force returned to Gotenhafen on September 25. On October 10, the Kriegsmarine’s High Command planned to support the troops in vicinity of Memel (Klajpeda), sending there the 2nd Kampfgruppe which comprised the Prinz Eugen, the Lützow, 4 destroyers and 4 torpedo boats. The ships departed Gotenhafen and between October 11 and 12, shelled the designated area. A total of six hundred and thirty-three 203mm shells were fired