Recalling the Schleswig-Holstein

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It’s interesting that the first shots of World War II, which featured tactical and technological advances practically undreamed of even a decade before, were fired by an obsolete warship that was fortunate to have survived the First World War.

The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein sailed to Danzig at the end of August 1939 under the pretext of a courtesy visit and anchored in the channel near Westerplatte. At 4:45 a.m. on Sept. 1 1939, she began to fire at the Polish garrison there.

Following the capitulation of Westerplatte, Schleswig-Holstein battered Gdynia, Kepa Oksywksa, and the Hel Peninsula.

The bombardment of Westerplatte by Schleswig-Holstein marked the first action in the conflict which introduced such advances as Blitzkrieg, or lightning war, rocket bombs, jet fighters and the atomic bomb.

But the fact was, the ship was one of five pre-dreadnought battleships, built in 1908. Schleswig-Holstein fought in World War I at the Battle of Jutland, where she was hit by British fire.

After the war, she was one of six obsolete battleships Germany was permitted to keep, escaping the fate of much of the rest of the German fleet, which was scuttled at Scapa Flow in 1919.

From 1926 to 1935 she was the flagship of the German navy. In 1936 Schleswig-Holstein was converted into a training ship, according to Wikipedia.

In April 1940, Schleswig-Holstein took part in the occupation of Denmark, and then served again as a training ship from 1941 to 1944.

In September 1944 she returned to service as an anti-aircraft ship. On 19 December 1944, in Gdynia, she was struck by three bombs dropped by British planes, caught fire and sank in 39 feet of water. The ship was further damaged by her crew with scuttling charges in March, 1945.

After World War II, she was raised by the Soviet Union and towed to Tallinn where she may have been renamed Borodino, according to Wikipedia.

She was scuttled near Osmussaar Island in the Baltic Sea in 1948 and used as a target ship until the 1960s. The remains of the ship still exist and the site has been protected by the Estonian National Heritage Board as a historic shipwreck since 2006.

(Hat tip: New Wars)

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