Big Guns in the Atlantic

Osprey Raid 55 Big Guns in the Atlantic




Angus Konstam

Illustrated by

Edouard A Groult


This 80-page paperback book is the 55th book in the Raid Series of books that are available from Osprey Publications.

Artist Impression Of Brest Harbor Gneisenau
Artist Impression Of Brest Harbor Gneisenau

At the outbreak of World War II the German Kriegsmarine still had a relatively small U-boat arm. To reach Britain’s convoy routes in the North Atlantic, these boats had to pass around the top of the British Isles – a long and dangerous voyage to their “hunting grounds”. Germany’s larger surface warships were much better suited to this kind of long-range operation. So, during late 1939 the armoured cruiser Deutschland, and later the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were used as commerce raiders, to strike at Allied convoys in the North Atlantic. These sorties met with mixed results, but for Germany’s naval high command they showed that this kind of operation had potential. Then, the fall of France, Denmark and Norway in early 1940 dramatically altered the strategic situation. The Atlantic was now far easier to reach, and to escape from.

Graf Spee
Graf Spee

During 1940, further moderately successful sorties were made by the cruisers Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper. By the end of the year, with British mercantile losses mounting to surface raiders and U-Boats, plans were developed for a much larger raid, first using both cruisers, and then the two battlecruisers. The climax of this was Operation Berlin, the Kriegsmarine’s largest and most wide-ranging North Atlantic sortie so far. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau remained at sea for two months, destroying 22 Allied merchant ships, and severely disrupting Britain’s lifeline convoys. So, when the operation ended, the German commander, Admiral Lütjens was ordered to repeat his success – this time with the brand new battleship Bismarck. The rest, as they say, is history. These earlier Atlantic raids demonstrated that German surface ships could be highly effective commerce raiders. For those willing to see though, they also demonstrated just how risky this strategy could be. Covering a fascinating and detailed analysis of the Kriegsmarine’s Atlantic raids between 1939 and 1941, this book will appeal to readers interested in World War II and in particular in Germany’s naval operations.

Adm Hipper
Admiral Hipper


The contents of this book are:

  • introduction
  • Initial Strategy
    • Rebuilding the German Navy
    • Protecting the Sea Lanes
  • Planning For War
    • The Kriegsmarine
    • The Royal Navy
  • The Atlantic Sorties
    • Opening Moves
    • Admiral Marschall’s Sortie with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
    • The Admiral Scheer’s Sortie
    • Operation Nordseetour
    • Kapitan Meisel’s Return
    • Operation Berlin
  • Aftermath
  • Analysis
  • Conclusion
  • Further Reading
  • Index


Raid 55 Map Of Operation Berlin
Map Of Operation Berlin



Raid 55, Big Guns in the Atlantic is a reference book that the reader will enjoy reading.  It starts with an introduction into Grand Admiral Raedar’s strategy. which was born out of World War I, of creating commerce raiders to cut off Britain’s supplies.  Next we learn how Germany circumnavigated the Treaty of Versailles and built their impressive navy.  What is of particular interest is we learn how Admiral Raedar planned on using the surface raiders and keeping them supplied with specially designed supply ships.

After this we look at the sorties of the “Big Guns”.  Each of the sorties covered in the book come with a map tracing its route (as seen in the example above).  The sorties and map with discussion presented are;

  • Admiral Marschall’s Sortie with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau
  • The Admiral Scheer’s Sortie
  • Operation Nordseetour
  • Kapitan Meisel’s Return
  • Operation Berlin

The Naval Historian or Historian, Modeler and Wargamer, will all want to add this book into their library as a reference book.  While a short 80-pages in length, it is filled with interesting and useful historical information.  The Historian will enjoy the pages of historical research that are presented in a well thought out format that is easily understood.  The Wargamer will gain a lot of useful research material for commerce raiding scenarios as they are presented in the book.  Finally, the Modeler can gain useful reference material on ships that were used specifically for commerce raiders and use the photographs as guidelines for creating dioramas.  However, no matter what your specialized interest, this is a well written book that the reader will enjoy.

Raid 55 is an 80-page paperback book on the Big Guns in the Atlantic Germany’s Battleships and Cruisers Raid the Convoys 1939 – 1941 that is available from Osprey Publications.




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(The photographs used in this review are copied with the permission of Osprey Publications.)