The German battleship Tirpitz, launched in 1941 was the sister ship to the now infamous “Bismark”. The Tirpitz fully loaded weighed approximately 50,000 tons and had a crew of 2340 men. Her overall length was 251 metres with a beam of 36 metres and a draught of 9 metres. Her armament consisted of four 15 inch twin mounted turrets, six 5.9 inch twin mounted turrets, eight 4.1 inch twin mounted anti aircraft guns and twelve single mounted anti aircraft cannons.
The Tirpitz was a threat to Allied and British convoys while she was operational. It was feared that she would break out from her port to open sea where substantial British Naval forces would be needed to prevent her sinking large amounts of convoy traffic. Whilst she was operational these Allied naval resources had to be kept on hand. In January 1942 she was moved to the Trondheim fjord in Norway. A great deal of Allied resources were expended on the destruction of the ship including many air raids, mini submarine attacks and even the land attack on St Nazaire in France to destroy the only dry dock she could use. After many attempts by the Allied forces to sink her she was moved again in early 1943. She was further damaged by the allies on the 3rd April 1944 after a surprise attack by fighters and bombers from HMS Victorious and Formidable. During these efforts the Tirpitz took a heavy battering, her own smoke defences having failed. The damage was so great the German command decided she was no longer seaworthy and she was towed to a more secure hide away at Tromso Fjord in Norway.
Once at Tromso fjord it was decided to use her as a coastal defence battery with the harbour being made ready to place her in such a position that if hit again she would not sink. This operation was not completed before the final attack on her on the 12th November 1944.
Under the command of Wing Commander Willie Tait, 617 and 9 Squadrons flying out of Scotland (The Tirpitz was at their absolute limit of range) on a clear day and no smoke screen from the Tirpitz, dropped twenty eight 12,000lb Tallboy bombs on her. At least two hit her square on and this time the attack was more than she could take. With direct hits to the hull she started to rapidly flood and list. She then suffered a large internal explosion and capsized. This was the end for the Tirpitz. She now lay keel up with 1000 – 1200 of her 1900 man crew dead or injured. Over the next few weeks a few more escaped though holes cut in her heavily armoured hull.
The ORB reads:
12.11.44 Eighteen aircraft took off from advanced base to attack the German Battleship “Tirpitz”. Weather: Fine at first becoming cloudy. Visibility poor. Fog forming at dawn clearing slowly.
13.11.44 Ten aircraft returned to own base. Confirmed “Tirpitz” sunk. Crews welcomed by ground staffs and the band of the Border Regiment.
14.11.44 Remainder of aircraft returned to own base. Several messages of congratulation received. W/Cmdr. J.B. Tait D.S.O., D.F.C., flew to London to make a broadcast on the attack.
15.11.44 W/Cmdr. Tait returned from London. Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air, visited the station, and lunched at the Officers Mess. He addressed the aircrew personnel in the briefing room in the afternoon. W/Cmdr. Tait returned to London. All aircrew granted a forty eight hour pass. More congratulatory messages received.
My grandfather – Alf Crosby – was a rear gunner in 617 Squadron and was involved in the Tirpitz attack. He kept an account of this in his own flight log. He also flew in Wellingtons and Mosquitoes. He was also involved in the “Dummy” D-Day attack over Pas de Calais.
Thanks to Scott Crosby
My father is Mervyn L. MacKay DFC, Air Bomber with 617 Sqn. Dad passed away 8 years ago. I have created a Yahoo discussion club for those interested in the Dambusters, where photos may be posted and hopefully some old connections may be re forged. If anyone is interested, please email me and I will send an email invitation to join, or you can see the club at
Thanks to Glenn Mackay
Thanks to Andrew Lee
I’m just back from RAF Lossiemouth, and as promised tried to gain some information on the ‘Dambusters’ unfortunately, although I managed work experience and befriended one of the top men in the Sqn. I was unable to gain very much information. What I did gather was just basically that all the logbooks belonging to Guy Gibson are in the possession of 617 Sqn and are situated in their crew room. They have also got a bulkhead belonging to the ‘Tirpitz’, also situated in the crew room. This is mounted on the wall with a newly fitted laser alarm. This was put in as the mission involving the ‘Tirpitz’ was a joint sortie with 9 Sqn. Because of this 9 Sqn want to own a bit of it too so each time they visited Lossiemouth in the past they have ‘pinched’ the bulkhead. Eventually 617 ‘acquired’ it back a few years ago and then fitted the laser alarm around it! I know for sure that you would thoroughly enjoy their crew room as it is basically a mini museum. Even the Flight Lieutenant I befriended agreed that most of it should be situated in an RAF museum at Cosford or similar.
Thanks to Philip Johnston