Tirpitz

The History

Operation "Title"
Photo: Hoisting a chariot out of the water.

An attempt by the British to put the Tirpitz out of action by using human torpedoes (Chariots) took place 30-31 October 1942. The attempt was codenamed Operation "Title".

Photo: Leif Larsen

A Norwegian, Leif Larsen, who escaped from Norway to Britain earlier, was put in charge of the operation. The idea was to tow 2 chariots using a newly completed fishing boat "Arthur" until they were close to the target (Tirpitz).

Photo: The fishing boat "Arthur" at Lunna Voe on the Shetlands.

On the morning of 26 October Arthur sailed for Norway and sighted the mountains around Smølen on the evening of Tuesday 27 October. During the afternoon of Wednesday 28 October as Arthur was approaching the entrance to the fiord the engine stopped. It was 3 hours before they could get it going again.

During Thursday 29 October the generator was started to recharge the Chariots' batteries but after a quarter of an hour it broke down, damaged by the rough crossing, and there was nothing to do but to throw it overboard and hope that the Chariot batteries had retained their original charge.

On 30 October at 1400 Arthur started for the entrance to Trondheimsfjord, the Chariots towing below. By late afternoon the engine began making unsatisfactory noises and at 2300 Arthur anchored off Hestvik for repairs. At 0900 on Saturday 31 October Arthur was again under way.

Arthur continued without trouble for the rest of the forenoon and all afternoon up the fiord towards Trondheim, east-north-east to the Agdenes lighthouse, then south-south-east to Gjeiten and the entrance to Korsfjord, where the main fiord again turned so that the course up to Trondheim where it widened was again north of cast.

There remained about 24 kilometer (15 miles) to go to the slipping position before the final approach by the Chariots. The east wind increased steadily and Arthur began to pitch into the steep sea set up in the fiord. There was nothing to do but press on at reduced speed in the hope that the sudden storm would blow itself out before they reached the entrance to Åsenfjord. Their luck was out. The Chariots could be heard bumping erratically against Arthur's keel and just after 2200 they heard a loud, grinding, tearing noise and then a jerk and a shudder as something hit Arthur's propellor. One of the Chariots had broken adrift.

Arthur was eased into sheltered water and one of the crewmembers was told to go over the side and inspect the remaining chariot. It too was gone. Both chariots had broken adrift and were lost, the towing lugs torn from them and still shackled to the wires secured to Arthur's keel. They had come undetected within 16 kilometers of their target and their disappointment was intense.

They could only scuttle the boat and make their way to Sweden as planned. At about 0100 on 1 November, in flat calm water in the lee of the land, they went ashore in two parties by dinghy and scuttled Arthur by opening the sea-cocks and boring holes in her bottom. They were in the wrong place for help from the Norwegian resistance movement as arranged and so had to walk to the Swedish frontier.

The Germans also located Arthur which had drifted inshore and finally sunk with her masts still above water. A careful investigation revealed the hidden compartment and the Germans were able to make an intelligent deduction of the kind of attack which had been attempted. Operation "Title" had only just faded.

Tirpitz remained at her anchorages in Fættenfjord/Lofjord until January 1943 , carrying out an extensive programme of self-maintenance. The loss of Gneisenau, bombed in dry dock after the Channel dash, had dissuaded Hitler from risking the return to Germany of Tirpitz and there was no dry dock big enough to take her in Norway.

24 January 1943, Tirpitz was again fully battleworthy and spent the intervening period to 5 March 1943 carrying through trials and exercises in nearby waters.

11 March 1943, Tirpitz, in company with Prinz Eugen, Karl Galster, Jaguar and Greif, was transferred to the Bogen and met up with the Scharnhorst and Lützow. They arrived in Bogen the night between 12/13 March 1943.

22 - 23 March 1943, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, Lützow and 6 destroyers was transferred to Kåfjord/Altenfjord, where the squadron carried out exercises until July 1943.