The battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were the first major capital ships which had been built in Germany after the First World War. The limitations of the Treaty of Versailles allowed Germany to only build ships with a size of 10.000 tons. The result was the “pocket battleships” of the Deutschland class. After Adolf Hitler has assumed power in Germany the Kriegsmarine thoughts about building bigger ships than was allowed Germany. The plan for two more “Panzerschiffe” of the Deutschland class was improved  in 1934/35. Help was forthcoming with the “Fleet Treaty” between Germany and England in 1935. This treaty allowed Germany to build a fleet with a size of 30% of the English fleet. The limitation of the 10.000 tons size was also cancelled and Germany could build
ships as the other nations up to 35.000 tons. The Gneisenau and Scharnhorst came into service in May 1938 and January 1939. The main weakness of the ships was the small calibre of the main guns. The ships have been built with three triple main turrets with a 28cm calibre. The decision was made about political reasons and the temporary non availability of a bigger gun calibre like the 38cm guns of the later Bismar ck class. From the beginning there were plans to
replace these turrets and guns with a bigger calibre. A precondition therefore was the availability of the following battleships of the Bismarck
class in service and that it would be peace at that time.

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In the first years of the war Gneisenau and Scharnhorst were the only available German battleships and both saw intensive service with the Kriegsmarine. After the channel break through in February 1942 Gneisenau was seriously damaged during the night of 26/27.02.1942 in Kiel in a night attack of the RAF. The whole forecastle, the bow and the first main turret were destroyed after a bomb hit. After that it was made the decision to rebuild und reconstruct the Gneisenau in Gotenhafen. The three triple 28cm turrets should be replaced with three double 38cm turrets. These were now available because the construction of them were started for the planned battle cruisers O class, which were now cancelled. At the same time the bow and the forecastle should be replaced by a new one which gave Gneisenau a greater length overall. Gneisenau decommissioned on 01.07.1942 in Gotenhafen and after that immediately the construction and rebuilding started with the removal of the main guns and turrets. After the disappointing Operation Regenbogen in December 1942 Adolf Hitler ordered to decommission and scrap all major German ships. This decision followed the stopping of all work on the reconstruction of the battleship Gneisenau and at last it followed by his sad end as a “Blockschiff” at the end of the war.

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Last year HP Model released a new kit of the reconstructed Gneisenau as she was to appear in 1943/44. The only available kits of this class up to now were the kits of the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst from Tamiya. Up to now these are overall good kits with the possibility to build a better kit of them with some more work on them. Overall the HP resin kit is from the beginning a nice kit. It has fine casting with a lot of details on the surface. Many of his parts especially of the superstructure are revised components of the Tamiya kit. So the quality is as good and sometimes better as the parts of the Tamiya kit. The new 38cm guns and turrets have metal barrels. The dimensions are correct for the official plan of the reconstruction ship. I have built my kit as a part of a diorama. It should show a typical mooring in a Norwegian fjord in the end of 1943 or early 1944. Gneisenau wear a typical German splinter camouflage as for example Tirpitz and other German ships had worn it at that time in Norway. Several typical small combatants of the Kriegsmarine are also shown with my diorama. Included are a M- battleboat, R Boats, KFK, Vorpostenboat…..all are from HP Models, a small freighter Kriegstransporter from Delphis and several scratch items.

Christoph Mentzel,
Deutschland

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