German Intelligence Estimates on RN BB Dispositions

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gflotron
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German Intelligence Estimates on RN BB Dispositions

Post by gflotron » Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:27 pm

I believe German Naval Intelligence estimated the BR Home Fleet had 4 BBs/BCs, but that the Prince of Wales was not yet operational.
-Were they aware that the Malaya was under repair in the US, and that the Resolution and Royal Sovereign were refitting?
-What was their latest count on BR BBs at Alexandria? They had to assume at least 3-4 were still present.
-I read in Ian Ballantyne’s book on the Rodney that the crew was unaware they were headed to the US, but was it a secret in expectant US shipyards?
-Was it assumed that at least one BR BB was always working out of Halifax?
It seems to me that if the entire Fleet Staff was onboard, the location of every British battleship would be of the utmost concern and importance.
Any answers to above would be greatly appreciated

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Dave Saxton
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Re: German Intelligence Estimates on RN BB Dispositions

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Feb 22, 2021 2:37 am

Intel could use three basic tools to retain a fairly good picture of enemy dispositions, especially of major warships; not including the cloak and dagger, and the femme fatale, stuff.

1) Direct observation.
2) Air reconnaissance.
3) Signal Intel.

First, direct observation would be a standard practice for any Intel organization. The Japanese had people observing the comings and goings of warships at Pearl Harbor, and San Diego, and so forth, for example. Norwegian resistance had people watching the fjords, as another example. Aussie coast watchers would observe Japanese shipping and warships passing through the passages into and out of the Solomon Islands area, as another example.

Of course we would not have much of a record of secret agent activity much if at all because, it was secret. How in depth the German espionage networks kept track of warships coming and going to and from ports we don't know, but when American flyers were shot down and taken prisoner they were often astounded by how much information the Germans had on them, right down to their personal lives. However, the head of German Naval Intel was a double agent.

One advantage of Scapa Flow was its remoteness. But the Germans had pretty much daily photo recon flights over such bases. Photo recon Spitfires overflew German bases almost daily as well.

Thirdly, a pillar of Signal Intel is traffic analysis. Traffic analysis involves looking at the volume (or lack there of) and regularity (or lack there of) of communications traffic. One doesn't not need to be able to read the messages to glean much from traffic analysis. Usually, the call signs of particular warships and flag officers could be determined from analysis of their messages overtime, even if the content remains unreadable. Such bits and pieces could be and were combined with radio direction finding, and position fixing.

Being able to read the enemy's mail is even better. The German B-dienst service typically were able to break/read RN codes right into 1944.

We can safely assume, that the Germans had a fairly good picture of British BB dispositions at any given time. A 100% perfect picture is of course an impossibility.
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José M. Rico
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Re: German Intelligence Estimates on RN BB Dispositions

Post by José M. Rico » Tue Feb 23, 2021 4:11 am

gflotron wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:27 pm
-Were they aware that the Malaya was under repair in the US, and that the Resolution and Royal Sovereign were refitting?
Yes they were. The following is an excerpt from the War Diary of the "Seekriegsleitung" dated 6 April, where Malaya is mentioned.
  • "Marine Attaché Washington meldet, daß gesamte Presse in großer Aufmachung Einlaufen beschädigten Schlachtschiffs "Malaya" 6.4. in New York bringt. Schiff sei 20.3. von deutschen U-Boot Mitte Atlantik torpediert worden. (Kesselschaden, 5º Schlagseite, an BB in Höhe Blockhaus etwa 25 Fuß langes Leck in der Wasserlinie, mit Lecksegel abgedeckt). Reparaturzeit auf 1 monat geschätzt."
More about "Resolution" from the War Diary of the "Seekriegsleitung" dated 27 April.
  • "Schlachtschiff "Resolution" nach Funkaufklärung am 19.4. von Halifax nach Philadelphia gegangen und soll im dortigen Marinearsenal repariert werden. Damit befinden sich jetzt bereits 2 Schlachtschiffe und zwei leichte Kreuzer zur Überholung ub amerikanischen Werften"
gflotron wrote:
Tue Jan 05, 2021 9:27 pm
It seems to me that if the entire Fleet Staff was onboard, the location of every British battleship would be of the utmost concern and importance.
Both "Group North" and "Group West" as well as the "Seekriegsleitung" provided Lütjens with the latest Intelligence available (see War Diary of the Bismarck). For example, at 1722 hours on 24 May, Lütjens learned from "Group West" that “Renown”, “Ark Royal”, and the Sheffield had left Gibraltar the previous night. The Germans actually kept a very good track of all the warships entering and leaving Gibraltar during the war, since there were German agents in the Spanish town of Algeciras only 5 miles across the bay. A simple pair of binoculars was enough to monitor everything.

Scapa Flow was different, and the Germans had to rely on air reconnaissance. The last successful observation of Scapa was on 20 May, when they identified 3 battleships, 1 carrier, and 4 cruisers. Unfortunately for the Germans, air reconnaissance over Scapa failed on 22-23 May due to bad weather, and they were unaware that the Hood and Prince of Wales had departed. Imagine Lütjens' surprise when he found them in the Denmark Strait!!!

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