As a result of Germany’s defeat in World War I, it was agreed in the Treaty of Versailles that the German navy would long be subject to severe armament restrictions. The new ships were not to exceed 10 tons, nor were they to have guns of a caliber greater than 28 cm and, in particular, their destroyers were not to exceed 800 tons. In these circumstances the Germans were rebuilding their fleet, with different light cruisers, torpedo boats and the heavy cruisers Admiral Graff Spee and Admiral Scheer.
In June 1935, with the Nazis already in power, the reconstruction of the German navy was accelerated, within this new policy the cruiser Gneisenau and her brother the Scharnhorst were built. The Gneisenau displaced 31,800 tons, was armed with nine 28cm guns, twelve 15cm guns, 14 10cm anti-aircraft machine guns, sixteen 37mm anti-aircraft machine guns, ten 20mm machine guns and six 53cm torpedo tubes. The Gneisenau was also heavily armored and could reach speeds of 32 knots.
The Gneisenau fought in the Battle of the Atlantic, destroyed several Allied merchant ships and participated in the sinking of the ships HMS Renown and the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious. She was active until 1942 when she was hit during an aerial bombardment while berthed at Kiel. Her reconstruction with more powerful armament was ordered but was never completed, so the Gneisenau was sunk in 1945 and sent for scrap in 1951.
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