Operation Ausverkauf

clearance sale

This was the German codeword to start the despatch of ships from the anchorage off the Sworbe peninsula of the Estonian island of Saaremaa (Ösel in German) to support the evacuation of German troops from the island (18/24 November 1944).

On 18 November General Leytenant Filipp N. Starikov’s Soviet 8th Army went over to the offensive on the peninsula with support from strong artillery and air formations and fire support from the gunboats Volga, Bureya and Zeya as well as 11 armoured cutters on the peninsula’s eastern side. There followed several engagements between German minesweepers and the Soviet vessels, in the course of which M 328 sank one armoured cutter and on 21 November the minesweeper Shpil.

From the west the torpedo boats T 23 and T 28 intervened, and on 19 November they too moved to the peninsula’s eastern side despite heavy Soviet air attacks. On 20/21 November Vizeadmiral August Thiele’s Kampfgruppe ‘Thiele’, comprising the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, Kapitän Friedrich Kothe’s 6th Zerstörer-Flottille (Z 25, Z 35, Z 36 and Z 43), and Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Verlohr’s 3rd Torpedoboots-Flottille (T 13, T 16, T 19 and T 21) intervened from the west.

On 22, 23 and 24 November the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, together with the destroyers Z 25 and Z 35 and Korvettenkapitän Friedrich-Karl Paul’s 2nd Torpedoboots-Flottille (T 3, T 5, T 12, T 13 and T 16) relieved the force, and also beat off several air attacks. The pocket battleship Lützow, approaching as a relief for 24 November, was able to return to base as the German evacuation of the Sworbe peninsula had been completed during the night 23/24 November, by which time 4,694 men had been removed by naval ferry barges.