Franz Stigler
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Franz Stigler Channel Dash

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The Channel Dash, (codenamed Operation Cerberus) was a major naval engagement during World War II in which a German Kriegsmarine squadron consisting of both Scharnhorst class battleships, and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen along with escorts, ran a British blockade and successfully sailed from Brest in Brittany to their home bases in Germany via the English Channel.

On 11 February 1942, the Kriegsmarine’s ships left Brest at 21:14 and escaped detection for more than 12 hours, approaching the Straits of Dover without discovery. As the German ships passed through the straits and on into the North Sea, British armed forces intercepted them, and attacks were made by the Royal Air Force, the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal Artillery.

The attacks and bombardment were unsuccessful, and by 13 February all the Kriegsmarine’s ships had completed their transit. In support of the German naval operation, the Luftwaffe launched Operation Donnerkeil (Thunderbolt) to provide air superiority for the passage of the ships.

The Channel Dash remains the only occasion since the Spanish Armada in 1588 that ships belonging to an enemy of Great Britain (other than the Dutch in the Anglo-Dutch Wars) have successfully traversed the English Channel.