This was the German second of two abortive naval sorties, of which the first was ‘Fronttheater’, by the battle-cruiser Scharnhorst, heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and a destroyer force, under the command of Kapitän Friedrich Hüffmeier, to break out of the Baltic and reach ports in German-occupied Norway (25 January/8 February 1943).
The heavy ships were escorted initially by the destroyers Z 37 and Erich Steinbrinck from the eastern part of the Baltic and then by Paul Jacobi, Z 24 and Z 25 from Kristiansand South. The ships were sighted off the Skaw by British maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and this persuaded the German commander to turn his force back into the Baltic Sea, the destroyers heading back to Kristiansand South.
Over the same period the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper and light cruiser Köln departed the Altafjord in northern Norway to return to Germany in company with the destroyers Richard Beitzen, Z 29 and Z 30. This force reached Narvik on 25 January and then headed south to reach Trondheim, where it remained between 30 January and 2 February. On 6 February the German force searched in the Skagerrak for Norwegian blockade-runners, and reached Kiel two days later.
Other activities along the Norwegian coast in this time were British torpedo bomber attacks on the destroyers Paul Jacobi, Erich Steinbrinck, Z 24 and Z 25 as the German ships made passage from Kristiansand to Bergen. On 8 February Kapitän Gottfried Pönitz’s 8th Zerstörer-Flottille (Z 23, Z 24, Z 25 and Z 37) was ordered back to Germany before transfer to a port of the Bay of Biscay coast of German-occupied France.