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Erich Bey

Erich Bey

German admiral
Erich Bey
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German admiral
Was Military officer Soldier Officer
From Germany
Type Military
Gender male
Birth 23 March 1898, Hamburg, Germany
Death 26 December 1943, North Cape (aged 45 years)
Erich Bey
The details (from wikipedia)


Erich Bey (23 March 1898 – 26 December 1943), was a German admiral during World War II. He served as commander of the Kriegsmarine's destroyer forces and commanded the battleship Scharnhorst in the Battle of the North Cape on 26 December 1943, during which the German ship was sunk. Bey was killed during that action.


Bey joined the Kaiserliche Marine on 13 June 1916 and served in its destroyer arm. Following the end of World War I, he stayed in the navy and continued his career with the rise of the Nazi Party in power in Germany. By the start of World War II was a Fregattenkapitän (frigate captain).

Bey led the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, consisting of the destroyers Z11 Bernd von Arnim, Z12 Erich Giese and Z13 Erich Koellner, as part of Kommodore Friedrich Bonte's force that carried General Eduard Dietl's mountain troops for the occupation of Narvik during the German invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940. In the following Battles of Narvik on 10 April and 13 April, Bey distinguished himself by leading a small group of destroyers in a brave though doomed action against a superior Royal Navy force that included the battleship HMS Warspite.

Bey was awarded with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 May 1940. The next day he was promoted to Captain and appointed commander of the German destroyer force (Führer der Zerstörer), succeeding Commodore Bonte, who had been killed on 10 April in the first Battle of Narvik. Bey then commanded the destroyer screen protecting the ships of the Brest Group (Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen) during Operation Cerberus (the “Channel Dash”) in February 1942. Of the three, Scharnhorst suffered extensive damage, having struck a naval mine laid off the Dover Straits.

Battle of North Cape

Promoted to Konteradmiral (rear admiral), on Christmas Day, 25 December 1943, Bey led a task force consisting of the battleship Scharnhorst and Z29, Z30, Z33, Z34 and Z38 out of Alta Fjord in Operation Ostfront. The first and only surface sortie ordered by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, Bey's objective was to intercept the Allied Convoy JW 55B en route to Murmansk.

Bey's initial force of Scharnhorst and five destroyers was superior to the convoy's escorting British cruisers and destroyers in terms of firepower. However, Bey's flagship was outmatched by Admiral Bruce Fraser's battleship HMS Duke of York which led another Royal Navy fleet shadowing the convoy. Scharnhorst was expected to use her speed to avoid an engagement with Duke of York.

Poor weather, heavy seas and inadequate Luftwaffe reconnaissance, prevented Bey from initially locating the convoy so he detached his destroyers to fan out and assist in the search. However the storm meant that Bey's destroyers ending up played no part in the battle. Bey guessed correctly and Scharnhorst then managed to locate the convoy by herself. In the first engagement of the ensuing Battle of North Cape, while trading fire with the British convoy's screening cruisers, Scharnhorst's radar was destroyed by a lucky shot fired which rendered her blind. Scharnhorst was then caught by the more powerful HMS Duke of York and suffered critical damage before being sunk after several torpedo hits from British cruisers. Of Scharnhorst's crew of 1,968, Royal Navy vessels fished 36 men alive from the icy sea, not one of them an officer.


  • Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939), 2nd Class (16 October 1939)
  • Iron Cross (1939), 1st Class (20 November 1939)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 9 May 1940 as Kapitän zur See and chief of the 4. Zerstörer-Flottille
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