German anti-aircraft cruiser Niobe

German anti-aircraft cruiser Niobe

"Niobe" (ex-Hr.Ms. "Gelderland") was a German anti-aircraft cruiser that served during World War II. She was sunk in the harbour of Kotka in Finland on July 16, 1944.

History

The ship began its history as the Dutch "Holland"-class armoured deck cruiser ("pantserdekschip") Hr.Ms. "Gelderland". After World War I she served as an artillery training ship in the Dutch navy. The ship was seized by the Germans during their invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. "Gelderland" joined the German "Kriegsmarine" under its new name "Niobe". She was in use between 1940-44, first as a cruiser, then as a training ship, and finally as an AA-cruiser ("Flakschiff").

During the great Soviet offensive of 1944 the Soviets tried to finish the war against the Finns, once and for all. The Germans came to aid the Finns and among the material brought with them was the AA-cruiser "Niobe", which was ordered to strengthen the air defences of Kotka, then one of the most bombed cities of Finland. The Soviet Union put much emphasis on finding and sinking the Finnish coastal defence ship "Väinämöinen". Soviet aerial reconnaissance spotted a large ship in the Kotka harbour and decided to attack it with great strength. 132 bombers and fighters took off on July 16, 1944. The ship was however the "Niobe" and the aircraft were met with fierce resistance. Nine aircraft were shot down before the ship was hit by seven bombs and two bouncing bombs (similar to the ones used in Operation Chastise) from two Soviet A-20 Havoc bombers. The guns were still shooting while she was settling in her shallow grave. 70 men were lost.

The "Niobe" was lifted and scrapped in 1953.

External links

* [http://www.netherlandsnavy.nl/Gelderland.htm Gelderland page]
* [http://www.german-navy.de/kriegsmarine/ships/aabattery/niobe/history.html Niobe]
* [http://rafiger.de/Homepage/Artgallery/Historic02.htm Pictures and facts]


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