When the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau entered Brest in March, 1941, between them they had sunk a total of 22 ships during their North Atlantic operations. Laying in port however, they became a target for constant air attack, Scharnhorst being damaged by bombs, and in February 1942 the decision was made to break out with the famous Channel Dash. Scharnhorst led the flotilla in a daring passage through the English Channel, heading for the sanctuary of Wilhelmshaven. They all got through but, striking two mines en-route, it was March 1943 before the Scharnhorst was able to resume battle operations when, under heavy escort, she sailed for Norway.
Simon Atack’s panoramic seascape depicts a scene from Operation Paderborn as Scharnhorst ploughs through a lively swell with Fw190s of I./JG5, based at Oslo Fornebu, providing fighter cover. Steaming in company with destroyers Z-28 and Erich Steinbrinck, the mighty German battleship has departed Gotenhafen and is heading towards Bogen Bay, near Narvik in Norway. But Scharnhorst’s days were numbered. On 26 December 1943 the huge battleship attacked a convoy off North Cape, but in the heavy seas Scharnhorst became detached from her destroyer escort.
With the British Home Fleet aware of her position, and intentions, she was intercepted, the British battleship Duke of York landing a barrage of 14-inch shells on the mighty German warship. The blows were fatal, the coup-de-grace coming shortly after, when 11 torpedoes sent the magnificent but deadly battleship quickly to the bottom. There were just 36 survivors..
Every copy of “Escort to the Scharnhorst” is individually hand-signed in pencil by the artist Simon Atack, and individually numbered. Each print is authenticated with the original signature of Wilhelm Alsen, the last of Scharnhorst’s thirty-six survivors to be rescued.
Matrosen Obgefreiter WILHELM ALSEN