Operation Bremen

This was the German element of ‘Weserübung’ concerned with the capture of Bergen on the west coast of Norway by elements of Generalmajor Hermann Tittel’s 69th Division delivered by the warships of Gruppe III (9 April 1940).

The light cruisers Köln and Königsberg, gunnery training ship Bremse, transport Karl Peters, torpedo boats Leopard and Wolf, and S-boote S-19, S-21, S-22, S-23 and S-24 delivered 1,900 troops of the 69th Division to Bergen in the region garrisoned by the 9th and 10th Regiments of Major General William Steffens’s Norwegian 4th Division. The German troops were landed after a brief engagement between the German ships and Norwegian coastal artillery, and soon took control of Bergen.

So far as the Germans were concerned, the worst loss of ‘Bremen’ was the sinking of Königsberg. After steaming from Wilhelmshaven to Bergen with 600 men of the 69th Division, Königsberg offloaded part of the landing party to several smaller vessels, and then made a high-speed run into the port in an attempt to land the remainder of the infantry directly into the city. A 210-mm (8.27-in) Norwegian coastal battery at the Kvarven fortress fired on the German cruiser and achieved three hits, all forward. The hits caused severe flooding and fires in her boiler rooms that cut the ship’s power. Adrift and unable to manoeuvre, Königsberg dropped anchor, while she and Köln, warplanes and the infantry neutralised the Norwegian guns.

Königsberg required major repairs before she could return to Germany, so she was temporarily moored in the harbour with her side facing the harbour entrance so that she could bring all nine of her 150-mm (5.91-in) main guns to bear against any British naval attack. The rest of Gruppe III returned to Germany. On the evening of 9 April, Königsberg came under attack by British bombers, but suffered no damage. During the morning of the following day, the British launched another air raid, this time in the form of 16 Blackburn Skua dive-bombers of the Fleet Air Arm (seven of No. 800 Squadron and nine of No. 803 Squadron), from the naval air station at Hatston in the Orkney islands group.

Königsberg’s 40-mm (1.57-in) deck armour was inadequate in the face of dive-bomber attack. The Skua aircraft attacked in three groups: the nine of No. 803 Squadron, six of No. 800 Squadron, and finally one of No. 800 Squadron which had lost contact during the outward flight but found Königsberg independently. The dive-bombers attacked at 07.20, catching the ship’s crew off guard. Half of the dive-bombers had completed their dives before the crew even realised their ship was under attack. Only one of the two 88-mm (3.465-mm) anti-aircraft gun was reported as being manned with shells being fired once every five seconds from the aft of the ship, and lighter anti-air weapons from the shore and nearby ships started to respond even later in the engagement.

Königsberg was hit by at least five 500-lb (227-kg) bombs: one penetrated the deck armour, went through the ship, and exploded in the water, causing significant structural damage; another destroyed the auxiliary boiler room; and two more detonated in the water alongside the ship, the concussion from the blasts tearing large holes in the hull. Königsberg took on a heavy list, and the captain ordered the crew to abandon the ship. In less than three hours from the start of the attack the ship capsized and sank, and many of the dead and wounded were evacuated in this time. The crew also had time to remove a significant amount of ammunition and other equipment. Only 18 men were killed in the attack.

The wreck was raised on 17 July 1942, and was then slowly broken up for scrap.