Operation Eisenbahn


'Eisenbahn' was the German naval movement of the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper from Germany to Trondheim in German-occupied Norway (19/21 March 1942).

The movement was escorted by the destroyers Z-24, Z-26 and Z-30, and by the torpedo boats T-15, T-16 and T-17. There were several British submarines in patrol in the area through which the German ships steamed, but none of these intercepted the German squadron. Admiral Hipper and her escorts reached their destination on 21 March, and in Trondheim joined the heavy cruisers Prinz Eugen and Lützow, the latter being the ex-'pocket battleship' Deutschland, though the former soon returned to Germany for repairs.

On 3 July, Admiral Hipper joined the heavy cruisers Lützow and Admiral Scheer (another previous 'pocket battleship[) and the battleship Tirpitz for the 'Rösselsprung' attack on the PQ.17 convoy escorted by the British battleship Duke of York, US battleship Washington and British fleet carrier Victorious. Admiral Hipper, Tirpitz and six destroyers sortied from Trondheim, while a second task force consisting of Lützow, Admiral Scheer and six destroyers operated out of Narvik. Lützow and three of her escorting destroyers struck uncharted rocks while on passage to the rendezvous, however, and had to return to port. Swedish intelligence had meanwhile reported the German departures to the British Admiralty, which ordered the convoy to disperse. Aware that they had been detected, the Germans aborted the operation and turned over the attack to U-boats and the Luftwaffe. The scattered vessels could no longer be protected by their lighter escorts, and the Germans sank 21 of the 34 isolated transports.

The British submarine Tigris made an unsuccessful attempt to torpedo Admiral Hipper on 10 September as the ship was patrolling with Admiral Scheer and the light cruiser Köln. On 24/28 September the heavy cruiser escorted the destroyers Z-23, Z-28, Z-29 and Z-30 on a mission to lay a minefield off the north-western coast of Novaya Zemlya island with the object of funnelling merchant traffic farther to the south and therefore closer to the reach of German naval units in Norway.

After her return to port, Admiral Hipper was transferred to Bogen Bay near Narvik for repairs to her propulsion system. On 28/29 October, Admiral Hipper and the destroyers Friedrich Eckoldt and Richard Beitzen were transferred from Narvik farther north to the Altafjord. From 5 November, Admiral Hipper and Kapitän Alfred Schemmel’s 5th Zerstörer-Flottille (Z-27, Z-30, Richard Beitzen and Friedrich Eckoldt) patrolled for Allied shipping in the Arctic, this squadron being commanded by Vizeadmiral Oskar Kummetz. On 7 November, the heavy cruiser’s Arado Ar 196 single-engined floatplane located the 7,925-ton Soviet tanker Donbas and her escort, the auxiliary warship BO-78, and Kummetz dispatched the destroyer Z-27 to sink the two Soviet ships.