H-class (1939)

Artist's impression of the H-class in action. Original by Richard Allison, featured in Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II.


With the rearming of Germany following Hitler's rise to power, the Kriegsmarine began rebuilding its surface fleet. Following the successful Deutschland, Scharnhorst, and Bismarck classes, they upped the ante again with the proposed H-class. Five designs were considered, all of which made the Bismarcks look like cruisers. H-39, proposed in the mid 1930s, called for six ships 277.8m (911') long, displacing 52,600 tons, and carrying eight 406mm (16") guns at 30 knots. In July, 1941, H-41 upped the design to 420mm (16.5") guns and 57,000 tons, reducing top speed to 28.8 knots. Hitler said "I want it bigger" so H-42 increased the ship to 305m (1,000') long, and 99,000 tons displacement. H-43 further increased the ship to 122,000 tons, and added another 25m (80') to the length. H-44 pulled out all the stops, increasing the length by another 15m (50'), with a beam of 51.5m (169'), a draft of 12.7m (42'), and a displacement of 144,000 tons. Top speed would have been either low 20s or 30s, depending on final propulsion, and gun caliber was increased first to 480mm (19"), and then finally 508mm (20"). Construction of the ships was paused with the outbreak of World War II, and was planned to resume after the German victory in the War.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: There was never an official name for the class, beyond the design H-designations, though several names have been suggested for use in subsequent years, including Hindenburg, Friedrich der Große, and Großdeutschland. Hitler is recorded as saying he would propose the names of Ulrich von Hutten and Götz von Berlichingen for the ships, the closest we get to an official name.