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The ship was launched on April 1, 1933 and christened by Frau Marianne Besserer, daughter of Admiral Reinhard Scheer.
During World War II, Admiral Scheer, under Captain Theodor Krancke, was by far the most successful capital ship commerce raider of the war, with a raid as far as the Indian Ocean. Near the end of the war, she was bombed by the RAF while docked in Kiel, causing her to capsize and sink. After the war the upturned hull was partially scrapped, with what remained being buried under rubble as the dock was filled in to make a 'car park'.
World War II
Admiral Scheer's wartime career began on 4 September 1939 when RAF Bristol Blenheim bombers attacked her at Wilhelmshaven. She was hit by three bombs, which failed to cause major damage, and flak downed four of the attackers. Scheer underwent an overhaul whilst her sister ships set out on commerce raiding. Deutschland accounted for two ships before returning home, but Admiral Graf Spee sank nine before she was discovered by the Royal Navy, damaged, and then scuttled following the Battle of the River Plate. Although these pocket battleship raids had not been hugely successful, the concept of commerce raiding had been demonstrated. Admiral Scheer was modified during the early months of 1940: the heavy command tower was replaced with a lighter structure, and she was reclassified as a heavy cruiser.
Admiral Scheer sailed on 14 October 1940 and her first target was convoy HX-84 from Halifax Nova Scotia, which had been identified by B-Dienst radio intercepts. Admiral Scheer's seaplane located the convoy on 5 November 1940 and, believing it to be unescorted, the Scheer closed in. However, as the convoy appeared over the horizon, one vessel sailed out to challenge her. The Jervis Bay, commanded by Captain Edward Fegen, was an armed merchant ship and was the only defence for the convoy. Owing to insufficient Allied warship numbers at this early stage in the war, convoys received destroyer escorts only on the last three days of their journey. Jervis Bay was hopelessly outclassed, but the German ship had to deal with her before pursuing the convoy, which had already begun to scatter and make smoke. Admiral Scheer succeeded in sinking five other ships, and setting the tanker San Demetrio on fire - later salvaged, but her haul would have been far greater, had it not been for the sacrifice of Jervis Bay. The attack led to a change in Admiralty policy: subsequent large convoys were usually escorted by battleships or battlecruisers — which had significant implications for the Royal Navy's other commitments.
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