SMS Scharnhorst (1915); Warship; Cruiser; Armoured cruiser

Scale: about 1:320. An ill-proportioned, roughly-made model of SMS ‘Scharnhorst’ (1906), made from scraps of wood, but with a fascinating provenance. A paper label attached to the bottom of its display case tells us that it was made in 1915 by German prisoners-of-war from ‘Scharnhorst’s’ sister ship the ‘Gneisenau’, interned at Stobs Military Camp, Scotland, using wood found in HMS ‘Invincible’.

The camp began accommodating prisoners of war in October 1914 and the numbers swelled greatly over the course of the following year. German survivors from the ships sunk at the Battle of the Falkland Islands were detained there.

The model is a relic of the action: the label states ‘SMS Scharnhorst, Admiral Graf von Spee. Sunk 8/12/1914 Falkland Islands’. On that day the German battle-cruisers, ‘Scharnhorst’ and ‘Gneisenau’, were being hotly pursued by their British equivalents HMS ‘Invincible’ and HMS ‘Inflexible’, and by the trailing HMS ‘Carnarvon’. At 14:50 the British brought their broadsides to bear on both German ships but especially ‘Scharnorst’, which suffered severe damage from over fifty hits. By 16:17 she had disappeared under the waves and her entire crew, including Spee, was lost. ‘Gneisenau’ could not attempt to rescue her comrades, because she was still firing her guns, so kept going, alone, zig-zagging on a south-west course. At 17:15 her ammunition ran out and the burning ship ground to a halt. ‘Gneisenau’s’ crew opened the sea-cocks and abandoned her. One hundred ninety crew out of 765 were rescued but many of these died from their wounds.

Object Details

ID: SLR1371
Collection: Ship models
Type: Full hull model; Rigged model
Display location: Display - Forgotten Fighters
Creator: Prisoners from SMS 'Gneisenau'; Prisoners-of-War from SMS Gneisenau
Vessels: Gneisenau 1906; Invincible (1869) Scharnhorst 1906
Date made: 1915
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall model and case: 398 x 662 x 222 mm
Parts: SMS Scharnhorst (1915); Warship; Cruiser; Armoured cruiser

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