bismark-after torpedo hit

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

Moderator: Bill Jurens

User avatar
José M. Rico
Administrator
Posts: 940
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 10:23 am
Location: Madrid, Spain
Contact:

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by José M. Rico » Fri Apr 02, 2021 7:44 pm

Interesting discussion you guys have here.
One thing that you have to consider when trying to steer in reverse is that Bismarck's stern was already structurally damaged by the torpedo hit (it eventually broke away during the sinking). Steering in reverse for several hours, even if at a very low speed, may have caused the stern to collapse. That may not have endangered the ship's survivability as there was a 45-150 mm thick watertight bulkhead right there in frame 10.5, but surely would have affected the already difficult handling of the battleship, now with a transom stern.
Just some thoughts.

User avatar
wadinga
Senior Member
Posts: 2212
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:49 pm
Location: Tonbridge England

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by wadinga » Mon Apr 05, 2021 1:16 pm

Hello All,

Considering A S-H's proposal, we can summarise its validity:
1 He considers experience with a ship half as long as Bismarck, as somehow comparable to her in terms of shiphandling.
2 Bismarck's crew have to realise the damaged rudder is under the direct effect of the centre screw, and can thus be nullified with its use.
3 When suggesting astern travel, he considers only the increased turning force between the outer shafts due to the movement aft of the pivot point, without highlighting this also increases instability of heading.
4 In doing so he imagines the greatly increased lever and hence turning effect of the wind and weather relative to this pivot point (having been moved aft) can be negated by the minimal drag of an anchor chain dangled over the bow acting as a heading stabilizer.

The Baron dismisses this whole idea as being "too theoretical" in the revised edition of his book, after the proposal was made in the Naval Officer's Journal Issue of June 1967. Since the Baron raises the additional matter of Bismarck's cooling water inlets not being configured for lengthy astern travel, we may conclude he consulted with other experienced personnel before making such a high profile dismissal of a theory proposed by such an experienced officer.

Thinking about this seamanship problem, I have come up with my own concept, which I will "float" in a separate thread, since this thread should be concerned with what actually happened, rather than what could have happened (different German fleet/ different German leader etc).

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

hans zurbriggen
Member
Posts: 109
Joined: Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:15 am

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by hans zurbriggen » Tue Apr 06, 2021 7:43 am

Hello Wadinga,
I respectfully disagree on your above summary (ref. your 4 points) about A-S.H article:
1 - Hessen was 127 meters long and 22 wide, Bismarck was 250 x 36. Length/Beam ratio 6.7 vs 5.7. A-S-H is aware of it and outlines these figures in his article (http://www.kbismarck.com/bismarck-seemannschaft.html)
2 - A-S-H theory is based on twin rudders in place and turned 15° to port. No info was available to him (nor to crew) about the bent rudder. Possibly I was unclear, (sorry for my bad English) but I think I already mentioned that. Only IMHO a single bent rudder would have helped Hessen method.
3 - A-S-H actually outlines that astern motion can make unstable heading and suggested how to stabilise the course.
4 - Same, possibly I explained it badly: not only an anchor chain is used, an entire anchor (with 25 meters chain) is suggested by A-S-H to be used.
Also the effect of wind, of waves length in gale etc. are examined by A-S-H.

The Baron was a (junior) Gunnery Officer, A-S-H was a senior C.O. in Kriegsmarine and a recognised expert in seamanship when he wrote 1968 article. The technicians were consulted by A-S-H (he mentions them in his article) and they assured that Bismarck could run 9 knots astern for long time, therefore the Baron observation, missing reference to any engineering report, is just his evaluation.

Re. Mr.Rico observation, the failure of the entire stern was another variable that could have affected possible success even if AFAIK no cracks nor fissures were reported by the damage control teams and IMHO the stern failed only when ship capsized with forces working abnormally.

The suggested measures could have worked or not, but they were never given a chance, even if could have been tried with no negative impacts.

hans

paul.mercer
Senior Member
Posts: 1017
Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:25 pm

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:56 am

Hi Hans,
Thanks for your last post.
I think that the general opinion in this Forum is that nothing could be done to save the ship, the senior officers were all experienced seamen and no doubt did consider all the available options, but none were practicable in the prevailing weather conditions.
As has already been pointed out it would appear that after Lutyens broadcast of 'Fighting to the last shell' moral was very low throughout the ship right from the Bridge to the Engine room. Without much forward motion ship was rolling and pitching in a heavy seaway and no doubt some of the crew were feeling a bit seasick. Everyone on board knew that the RN were bringing in ships in order to destroy them and the statement written in the 'Barons' book from one crew member "Today my wife will become a widow, but she does not know it" and Lindermann's reply to the engine room "Ach,do as you like" sums up the attitude of all the personnel on board.
With the benefit of hindsight and sitting at home it is easy to suggest all sorts of options that might have been available, but in reality there was no will left to do anything except fight.

Thorsten Wahl
Senior Member
Posts: 777
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:17 pm

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by Thorsten Wahl » Wed Apr 07, 2021 6:38 am

M.R. s account is valuable as he exists. It gives unse some overview about the ship from a "resident".
But in its reliability it appears sometimes as questionable.

He was POW for a longer time, then he was on board Bismarck.
It had been a also very long time until he wrote his book and seemingly there are serious gaps in his memories.

Even his key competence as artillery officer with descritions of firecontrol procedures ...Radar (Funkmess) equipment, appears at best scetchy in his memories.

In the case of Funkmess he relied completely on british reports describing performance...
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7650
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by RF » Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:57 am

paul.mercer wrote:
Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:56 am

I think that the general opinion in this Forum is that nothing could be done to save the ship, the senior officers were all experienced seamen and no doubt did consider all the available options, but none were practicable in the prevailing weather conditions.
We don't really know what was discussed between the senior officers and between the damage control personnel, as the war diary was lost and none of them survived. In particular we have no information on the role and activities of the Fleet Engineer, an officer on the Admiral's staff independent of the crew of Bismarck. What we do know is that they were under considerable stress and had been on constant duty for over two days, not conditions best suitable for clear thinking so again we don't know whether all possible options were discussed.

Another aspect not really touched on with this particular issue but discussed very extensively on other threads going back to 2006 was over whether Lutjens was the best choice as Fleet Commander, would say Marschall or Ciliax have been a better choice? Would a different leadership have come up with different solutions, or indeed have made different decisions such that the fatal air attack never took place?

It is all conjectural and without a ''black box recorder'' such as carried in aircraft cockpits we simply cannot answer the question.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

paul.mercer
Senior Member
Posts: 1017
Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:25 pm

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by paul.mercer » Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:09 am

Gentlemen,
I believe that large sea going tugs were either dispatched or were considered to do so in the hope of towing Bismarck to safety, but out of interest,even if they had got to her before the RN would they have been able to tow such a large ship with a damaged rudder in a heavy seaway and would the RN have caught up with all of them before they got under Luftwaffe cover?

User avatar
wadinga
Senior Member
Posts: 2212
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:49 pm
Location: Tonbridge England

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by wadinga » Wed Apr 07, 2021 1:38 pm

Hello Hans and All,

Equally respectfully, I would point out the Length/beam ratio of the hull, which I refenced at the beginning, is IMHO fairly irrelevant. It is surely the distance between the outer propellers which is quite important relevant to the length of the ship in front of them. I make the distance between Bismarck's outer shafts about 12.6m on a beam of 36m. Very compact. One third of hull beam. Unfortunately I do not have a suitable plan for Hessen but another plan for a three shaft Pre-Dreadnought

http://dreadnoughtproject.org/plans/SM_ ... 100dpi.jpg

shows the props spaced at about one half the ship's beam on a considerably shorter hull (than Bismarck's). So they have a wider base relative to a shorter lever (the ship's hull which they are trying to re-orientate).

What is also significant once windage comes into play is that the side elevation of Bismarck is much larger than Hessen, and therefore wind pressure is far larger, acting sometimes at right angles through a centre of effort much further away from the screws.

If A S-H theory based on the Hessen experiment was based on a single rudder, and was only tested in forward, why would it even be considered for Bismarck's situation, travelling either in forward or reverse?

Even if an anchor and chain is dangling off the bow, its cross-sectional area (hence drag) is relatively small, and once the bow starts moving off left or right the anchor goes with it, with no tendency to haul the ship's head back towards NW.

For a informed opinion from another expert:
The problem with steering with engines is that although one can sometimes obtain a fairly significant twisting motion while the ship is nearly stationary, this is because one can generate large transverse moments by running one set of propellers astern while the other set goes ahead. This can't be maintained at speed, because the net force of the propellers pushing forward on (say) the starboard side, is compensated by the net force of the propellers pushing aft on the port side. If one shuts down the astern shafts to gain forward speed, then steering is lost. If one doesn't shut down the astern shafts, one can't really proceed at any meaningful speed in a forward direction -- net steerageway is residual in nature, i.e. relatively small.

Bill Jurens on the propulsion damage thread

People have a tendency to get "hung up" on the Baron's somewhat emotional (and retrospective) evaluations of a tiny fraction of Bismarck's crew and then speculate that this means there was a lack of effort in trying to come up with attempts that might work. Even the mention of frankly ludicrous ideas like the hangar door side rudder might lead those who have little or no seatime to think that it was because of "lack of will to win" that it was not tried, rather than its complete unfeasibility.

The current attempts to get a towline onto the Eemslift Hendrika involve the vital assistance of helicopters, not available in 1941, and the salvors will not have the RN shooting at them as they attempt to do so. Most accounts suggest all German controlled ships in Western France were unable to even get out of harbour, ie stormbound, let alone arrive in time to be anything more than additional targets themselves.

Al the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

Bill Jurens
Moderator
Posts: 779
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:21 am
Location: USA

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:44 pm

I corresponded with the Baron, who lived here in Toronto, Canada, several times, and talked to him on the phone once regarding gunnery aspects and big-gun dispersion. A very nice gentleman indeed, but -- one must remember -- quite literally a professional diplomat who chose his words very carefully indeed and was careful never to let his guard down. So, although he would never lie, he also told you only what he felt he wanted -- or you needed -- to know. His memory was clearly very selective and he demonstrated a truly remarkable ability to -- when he felt it necessary -- 'dodge a question' . (Perhaps just with me, but I doubt it...)

And twice as smart as your normal individual, easily.

Bill Jurens

hans zurbriggen
Member
Posts: 109
Joined: Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:15 am

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by hans zurbriggen » Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:23 am

Hello Wadinga,
A-S-H says that Bismarck geometry (ship dimensions, propellers distances and diverging shafts) was favourable to steering with engines in astern motion. Also the bow anchor drag is explicitly considered by this expert as sufficient to maintain a stable course 110° with wind and sea state as per May 26 and 27, even with both rudders in place turned 15° to port. Also, he considers wind effect to be able to counter residual rudder action / tendecy of Bismarck to move stern to wind origin, while moving on 110° course.
Re. Mr.Jurens statement (quoted by you), it refers to forward motion. A-S-H came to the same conclusions (stable and meaningful forward motion was not achievable), but he speaks about astern motion. Has anyone seen any published reaction/counter-study to this article ?

Again we have to agree to disagree on final conclusions. I still think (just amateur feeling) there was a chance this theory could work.

Hello Mr.Jurens,
diplomacy may well explain why the Baron (not an expert in seamanship) "understated" A-S-H theory. Possibly, not to "diminish" in any way his superiors on board (who died in Bismarck sinking).

hans

HMSVF
Senior Member
Posts: 285
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:15 am

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by HMSVF » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:16 pm

hans zurbriggen wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:23 am
Hello Wadinga,
A-S-H says that Bismarck geometry (ship dimensions, propellers distances and diverging shafts) was favourable to steering with engines in astern motion. Also the bow anchor drag is explicitly considered by this expert as sufficient to maintain a stable course 110° with wind and sea state as per May 26 and 27, even with both rudders in place turned 15° to port. Also, he considers wind effect to be able to counter residual rudder action / tendecy of Bismarck to move stern to wind origin, while moving on 110° course.
Re. Mr.Jurens statement (quoted by you), it refers to forward motion. A-S-H came to the same conclusions (stable and meaningful forward motion was not achievable), but he speaks about astern motion. Has anyone seen any published reaction/counter-study to this article ?

Again we have to agree to disagree on final conclusions. I still think (just amateur feeling) there was a chance this theory could work.

Hello Mr.Jurens,
diplomacy may well explain why the Baron (not an expert in seamanship) "understated" A-S-H theory. Possibly, not to "diminish" in any way his superiors on board (who died in Bismarck sinking).

hans
I think it only works in the absence of the RN. Yes you possibly could make a course at very slow speed towards France.


But what was everybody else doing?


Even if you get within the theoretical range of the Luftwaffe... What then ? Are they running shuttle runs? How do you keep the bombers over the RN long enough to make them give up the chase?

In peacetime, yes you may be able to sail astern for 300 miles. With somebody shooting at you ? I'm sorry I think its crazy. Its a "on paper we could do this" scenario.

The crew despite being completely knackered (human factors - you cant ignore them) would have known their ship inside out. They would have given it a go. As it was they suffered a blow which was as crippling as that HMS Prince Of Wales suffered of Kuantan 9 months later.

Yes,

POW could have been saved.




Just as long as nobody was fighting back to sink her.

hans zurbriggen
Member
Posts: 109
Joined: Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:15 am

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by hans zurbriggen » Fri Apr 09, 2021 7:37 am

Hello Mr. HMSVF,
not taking into account Luftwaffe bombers, 70-90 sm closer to France (as per A-S-H study) at dawn would have allowed Luftwaffe fighters to protect Bismarck against further torpedo attacks (if fighters were available in sufficient number because of limited time over ship allowed by their range, 460 sm with additional fuel tanks for Bf109).
Battleships (at least KGV surely, Rodney possibly) would have had very soon to retire due to critical fuel shortage (or accept to be towed back after fight as suggested by Admiralty, with potential heavy losses).
Would Renown and cruisers have been risked against a ship that could blow up them with one single hit, after Hood disaster ?
Doubtful whether destroyers could have found again Bismarck and arrange more successful attacks then during night against a ship that could not maneuver but could more accurately fire at them due to less erratic course. Did they have torpedoes left ?

IMHO if astern motion at 7 knots was achievable (I give a chance to A-S-H theory, not a certainty), Bismarck fate was not sealed on may 27.

Re. PoW, who knows whether she could be saved not restarting the turbine whose distorted shaft caused the massive flooding ?

hans

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7650
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by RF » Fri Apr 09, 2021 7:44 am

The proposal for towing KGV came from Churchill, not the Admiralty, Tovey was furious at the suggestion because KGV would have then been a sitting target for U-boats.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

User avatar
wadinga
Senior Member
Posts: 2212
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:49 pm
Location: Tonbridge England

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by wadinga » Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:15 am

Hello All,

Thanks Bill for your input. I expect the Baron was indeed just being extremely diplomatic when he described A S-H's suggestion as "too theoretical". :cool:

I hope you don't mind me quoting your other observation from the same thread:
It is generally impossible (or nearly so) to steer a large multi-screw ship by propellers alone, especially in any sort of wind or sea state. The yawing motion created by the propellers is not really due to fore-and-aft thrust differences -- those these of course occur -- but the distance between the shafts and the divergence or convergence of the shaft lines is usually of minimal (if any) consequence. The main side-thrusts from reversing propellers primarily results from pressure differences on each side of the 'deadwood' which separates the propellers themselves. Basically, the ahead propeller creates a relatively low-pressure region on one side, while the astern propeller generates a relatively high-pressure region on the other. Most of these effects are minimized at any significant speed.
I believe this explanation is far more valid from a marine engineering point of view than A S-H's suggestions, which seem to be more about satisfying wishful thinking for Bismarck's survival than based on his actual experience or real world examples of other vessels.

For instance the USN cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans both had their bows blown off by torpedoes, but with propulsion and rudders almost undamaged would have been prime candidates for sailing 60 or 70 miles or even 300 ?? :shock: in reverse if such a thing were remotely feasible. It would have been desirable to keep pressure off their forward bulkheads if going astern any was at all viable. However they did not and proceeded forwards under their power to harbour for repair. After temporary repairs these vessels proceeded to US or Australian dockyards travelling forwards, as ships are designed to do, since the day they put the "pointy end" at the front.

Needless to say when the USS Pittsburgh had her bow torn off in a typhoon she too steamed forwards to safety.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7650
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: bismark-after torpedo hit

Post by RF » Fri Apr 09, 2021 4:59 pm

wadinga wrote:
Fri Apr 09, 2021 10:15 am

For instance the USN cruisers Minneapolis and New Orleans both had their bows blown off by torpedoes, but with propulsion and rudders almost undamaged would have been prime candidates for sailing 60 or 70 miles or even 300 ??
I know this is going off at a tangent, but can I ask a quick question - HMAS Sydney had a bow hit from a Kormoran torpedo, the bow hours later severing off sank the ship - if Sydney, with rudder/propellers intact had gone into slow astern instead of drifting slow ahead, would that potentially have saved the ship from foundering if she was backing towards the Australian coastline?
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Post Reply