Attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz

On the 22nd of September 1943, six midget submarines (X Craft) of the flotilla XII, left their base in the highlands of Scotland, tasked with attacking the German Battleship Tirpitz, moored over 1000 miles away in the protected anchorage of Kaafiard, Northern Norway

Towed by standard submarines, the X Craft left from Loch Cairnbawn, Scotland for Norway.

To reach the heavily fortified anchorage necessitated the penetration of an enemy minefield and a passage of fifty miles up the fiord, known to be vigilantly patrolled by the enemy and to be guarded by nets, gun defences and listening posts. But this was not the only hazard these small, four man craft, would face.

During the ten day tow, two of the X Craft were lost. One was abandoned close to the target because of mechanical failures and one was sunk after comming under fire.

Having successfully eluded all these hazards the last two X Craft entered the fleet anchorage, and with a complete disregard for danger, manouvered past the close anti submarine and torpedo nets surrounding the battleship, and from a position inside these nets, carried out a cool and determined attack.

Even then enemy action was not the only danger they faced. As a further craft was forced to abandon the mission when it first struck an uncharted rock, before a leak in the periscope resulted in a fire onboard. Despite this the crew managed to release their charges close to the battleship before finally scuttling their craft and surrendering.

The last remaining X Craft successfully completed its mission and placed its charges onto the battleship and detonated them, disaster however struck as the X Craft was severely damaged when they exploded. This resulted in two of the crew being killed and the remainder captured.

The attack which resulted in all six X Craft being lost along with many men, was ultimately incredibly successful in that it resulted in damage to the battleship which meant the ship was unable to deploy into the North Atlantic, were she would undoubtedly have wreaked havoc on the allies.

The Turpitz was eventually sunk by bombing attacks by Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aircraft in 1944.

Various members of the initial X Craft operation were later recognised for their actions. Two Victoria Crosses (Lieutenants Place and Cameron), three Distinguished Service Orders and one Conspicuous Gallantry Medal were awarded.

On Saturday. 23rd September 2023 at 12:00 pm there will be a short commemorative wreath laying ceremony at the XII submarine flotilla Memorial at Kylesku, Sutherland, to mark the 80th anniversary of this mission.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

Join the Submariners Association

Why Join Us?

Belong to a community dedicated to promoting and recognising submarine heritage, history, connecting with past, present, and future submariners.

Membership prerequisites

Serving or retired Royal Navy submariners and those undergoing formal submarine training. Qualified submariners from other navies residing in the UK (exceptionally).

Membership is free, join us and together, we can honour our history and shape our future.

Join now and become a valued member of the Submariners Association.