SS Scharnhorst (1934)

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Werftprobefahrt Scharnhorst.jpg
Nazi Germany
Owner: Norddeutscher Lloyd[1]
Operator: Norddeutscher Lloyd
Port of registry: Bremen
Route: Bremen – Far East
Builder: DeSchiMAG, Bremen[1]
Yard number: 891[2]
Launched: 14 December 1934[3]
Completed: 1935[1]
In service: 3 May 1935[2]
Homeport: Bremen
Fate: sold
Name: Japanese aircraft carrier Shin'yō
Operator: Imperial Japanese Navy
Acquired: 1942
Commissioned: 15 December 1943[2]
General characteristics
  • as built: 18,184 GRT[1]
  • tonnage under deck 13,618
  • 10,712 NRT[1]
Beam: 74.1 ft (22.6 m)[1]
Depth: 41 ft (12 m)[1]
Installed power: 26,000 shp (19,000 kW)[citation needed]
Propulsion: twin steam turbines, turbo-electric transmission, twin screw[1]
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)[5]
Sensors and
processing systems:
direction finding equipment, echo sounding device, gyrocompass[1]

SS Scharnhorst was a Norddeutscher Lloyd ocean liner, launched in 1934, completed in 1935 and made her maiden voyage on 8 May 1935.[7] She was the first big passenger liner built in the German Third Reich. Under the German merchant flag she was the second liner named after General Gerhard J. D. von Scharnhorst (1755-1813), the famous Prussian army reformer and military theorist. She was one of three ships that operated the Far Eastern route between Bremen and Yokohama; her sister ships were the SS Potsdam and the SS Gneisenau. These three ships were planned to shorten the journey time between Bremen and Shanghai from the usual 50 days to 34. She was trapped in Japan in September 1939 and later converted into an Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier named Shinyo in 1942 and sunk by US submarine USS Spadefish in 1944.


DeSchiMAG in Bremen built Scharnhorst and her sister ship Gneisenau for NDL, completing them in 1935.[1] Blohm + Voss in Hamburg built another sister ship, Potsdam.[1]

Scharnhorst was used as a test-bed for new high-pressure, high-temperature boilers, as the Kriegsmarine wanted to evaluate the performance of the machinery before it installed the boilers in new capital ships.[8] Gneisenau' had conventional reduction gearing from her turbines to her propeller shafts, but Scharnhorst and Potsdam had turbo-electric transmission.[1][5][6] Scharnhorst had twin AEG turbo generators that supplied current to electric motors on her propeller shafts.

SS Scharnhorst was launched in Bremen on 14 December 1934. The occasion was attended by Hitler. A report appeared in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 15 December 1938.[3].

FOR THE FAR EAST. Hitler Attends Launch of The Scharnhorst
Bremen, Dec. 14. President Hitler attended the launch of the Scharnhorst, the new liner for Germany's Far East service. The Minister of Communications, who christened the ship, announced that work will begin shortly on two sister ships. Reuter.
Newspaper: The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser | Place: Singapore | Type: Article | Words: | Page: | Tags: none

Regular Passenger Service, May 1935 to September 1939[edit]

The three sister ships SS Scharnhorst, SS Potsdam and SS Gneisenau worked the Norddeutscher Lloyd express service between Bremen and the Far East, and at 21 knots (39 km/h)[5] were some of the fastest ships on the route.[6]

SS Scharnhorst's maiden voyage on 8 May 1935 was reported in the newspapers. One report in the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List (Sydney, NSW),[7] dated 24 April 1935, read as follows:

The first N.D.L. vessel for the new German Far East service to start on her maiden voyage will be the S.S. Scharnhorst on May 8, and will be followed at the beginning of July by the S.S. Potsdam. The third ship, the S.S. Gneisenau, the launching of which will take place shortly at a Bremen ship yard, will start out at the beginning of December, 1935. The schedule for the new German Far East service, which has been definitely drawn up in all its details, has been notably augmented by the regular calling at Palma de Majorca and Naples, both on the outward and homeward voyages.
Newspaper: Daily Commercial News and Shipping List | Place: Sydney, New South Wales | Type: Article | Words: 118 | Page: 5 | Tags: none

The UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960,[9] show, for example, that, in 1938, SS Scharnhorst arrived at Southampton, England, at the end of the voyage from Yokohama, Japan, on four occasions, 21 Jan 1938, 23 Apr 1938, 24 Jul 1938 and 19 Oct 1938. Other years show a similar timetable; that is, four round trips between Europe and the Far East each year.

For example, SS Scharnhorst sailed from Yokohama, Japan, early in December 1937, and arrived at Southampton, England, on 21 Jan 1938, before continuing to Bremen. The details recorded in Southampton in the UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960[9] are as follows:

   Port of Departure: Yokohama, Japan
   Arrival date: 21 Jan 1938
   Port of Arrival: Southampton, England
   Ports of Voyage: Yokohama; Kobe; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Manila; Singapore; Penang and Port Said
   Ship Name: Scharnhorst
   Shipping line: Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen
   Official Number: 2737

UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960[9] show Scharnhorst docking in Southampton on the return journey to Bremen on the following sixteen occasions:

Year Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
1935 - - 2 Aug 20 Dec
1936 - 23 Apr 24 Jul 23 Oct
1937 21 Jan 24 Apr 25 Jul 24 Oct
1938 21 Jan 23 Apr 24 Jul 19 Oct
1939 10 Jan 5 Apr 28 Jun -

SS Scharnhorst was mentioned in newspapers in 1937. The Western Daily Press, Bristol, England, on Monday 27th September 1937, published an account of SS Scharnhorst's arrival in Hong Kong carrying survivors of an attack on Chinese fishing boats by Japanese aircraft:

... aeroplanes on this occasion appear to have been aiming at the railway stations outside the two cities. The German liner Scharnhorst, arriving at Hong Kong yesterday, brought a few survivors from a fleet of Chinese fishing junks. WHILE THEY WERE FISHING ...
Newspaper: Western Daily Press | County: Bristol, England | Type: Article | Words: 1151 | Page: 12 | Tags: none

The route to Shanghai developed from 1938 to become one of the main escape routes of German and Austrian Jews, since in Shanghai emigration visas were not required.[10]

The timetable of round trips from Bremen to Yokohama and back continued until 1939. In the UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960,[9] the last occasion when SS Scharnhorst docked in Southampton on the return journey to Bremen was on 28 June 1939. SS Scharnhorst does not appear in the UK records again. SS Scharnhorst set sail for Japan in July 1939 and did not return to Europe.

End of Passenger Service, Outbreak of War[edit]

In September 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, SS Scharnhorst was trapped in Japan. Being a belligerent nation's ship in a neutral nation, the Scharnhorst was seized by the Imperial Japanese Government and held until ships of the German Navy arrived to escort her back to Europe.

A report appeared in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 2 September 1939.[11] The article was written in Kobe. Scharnhorst had set off from Kobe on 18 Aug 1939 on her return journey to Hamburg but had returned to Kobe, apparently in view of the current war threat in Europe.

GERMAN LINER STAYING AT KOBE "INDEFINITELY" Kobe, Sept. 1. THE NORDDEUTSCHER LLOYD liner Scharnhorst will stand by here indefinitely in view of the current war threat in Europe. The German ship left Kobe for Shanghai and Hong Kong on her return voyage to Hamburg on Aug. 18 but returned here again. - Eastern News
Newspaper: The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser | Place: Singapore | Type: Article | Words: | Page: | Tags: none

A newspaper report in the Nottingham Evening Post, in England, Tuesday 19 September 1939, reported the following:

A report in the Hochi Shimbun to-day states that the German Norddeutscher-Lloyd liner Scharnhorst, which is now at Kobe, is being converted into an armed raider
Newspaper: Nottingham Evening Post | Place: Nottingham, England | Type: Article | Words: 822 | Page: 8 | Tags: none

A similar report appeared in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 9 September 1939.[11]

JAPANESE WANT TO BUY Scharnhorst Kobe, Sept. 8. JAPANESE steamship companies, it is understood, have offered to purchase the 18.000-ton Norddeutscher Lloyd liner Scharnhorst. The Kobe agents of the Norddeutscher Lloyd say that the vessel is under the control of the German Embassy in Tokyo.
Newspaper: The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser | Place: Singapore | Type: Article | Words: | Page: | Tags: none

Another report appeared in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 20 September 1939".[12]

Tokio, Sept. 19. A REPORT that the Norddeutscher Lloyd liner Scharnhorst, now at Kobe, is being converted into an armed raider appears in the Hochi Shimbun. The paper adds the liner is surrounded by launches and there is much fuss and bustle aboard. This is taken by some observers as meaning she is being refitted as an armed vessel - Reuter.
Newspaper: The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser | Place: Singapore | Type: Article | Words: | Page: | Tags: none

In July 1942 SS Scharnhorst was sold to the Japanese government.[13] Subsequently the Imperial Japanese Navy acquired her and had her converted into the escort carrier Shin'yō.[14] Her conversion began in September 1942, using steel from the cancelled fourth Yamato-class battleship, and she was commissioned in December 1943 after a month of trials. She was sunk in the Yellow Sea on 17 November 1944 by the United States Navy submarine Spadefish.[4]

SS Scharnhorst after her conversion to the Shin'yō

The story of SS Scharnhorst continues on the Wikipedia page for the Shin'yō.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Lloyd's Register, Steamships and Motor Ships (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1937. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "NDL Page 3: 1915-1939". Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL). Simplon – The Passenger Ship Website. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b "The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 15 December 1934, Page 1".
  4. ^ a b Stille 2006, p. 43
  5. ^ a b c d Harnack 1938, p. 549
  6. ^ a b c Talbot-Booth 1942, p. 405
  7. ^ a b "Daily Commercial News and Shipping List (Sydney, NSW)". Retrieved 2 Oct 2018.
  8. ^ Polmar, Genda & et al. 2006, p. 262.
  9. ^ a b c d "UK, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960".
  10. ^ Astrid Freyeisen (2000). Shanghai und die Politik des Dritten Reiches. Königshausen & Neumann. p. 398. ISBN 978-3-8260-1690-5.
  11. ^ a b "The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 2 September 1939, Page 2".
  12. ^ "The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 20 September 1939, Page 1".
  13. ^ Claus Rothe. Deutsche Ozean-Passagierschiffe 1919–1985. p. 129. ISBN 978-3921564806.
  14. ^ Stille 2006, p. 42.


  • Harnack, Edwin P (1938) [1903]. All About Ships & Shipping (7th ed.). London: Faber and Faber. p. 549.
  • Polmar, Norman; Genda, Minoru; et al. (2006). Aircraft Carriers : A History of Carrier Aviation and its Influence on World Events. Washington, DC: Potomac Books. ISBN 1-57488-663-0.
  • Stille, Ben (2006). Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carriers: 1921–1945. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-84603-009-3.
  • Talbot-Booth, E.C. (1942) [1936]. Ships and the Sea (Seventh ed.). London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd. pp. 405, 518.

External links[edit]