False Bow and Stern Waves

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30knots
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False Bow and Stern Waves

Post by 30knots » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:21 pm

Hi all,

Does anyone know why the false waves were painted on both the bow and the stern of the Bismarck ?

I understand the false waves were intended to give the impression of speed to distant observers, who might then miscalculate estimated distances travelled, gunnery ranges etc. but on the stern as well ?

I suppose if they were painted only on the bow then the direction of travel would be a straight giveaway, partially negating the point of any sort of deception, but then why not just have big false waves at the stern only, to try to totally confuse the enemy ?

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Post by Gerard Heimann » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:31 pm

I believe that one of the purposes was to provide a misleading view of the length or size of the ship. The false bow and stern waves depict waves considerably aft and forward of the bow and stern, respectively. With this camouflage treatment on the Bismarck it may have been possible to misidentify it as the Prinz Eugen especially as the 2 + 2 turret layouts provide similar profiles.

Gerard

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Post by 30knots » Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:00 pm

Thanks Gerard

We know the false waves were intended to mislead. I'm not so sure they were intended to provide a misleading view of the length or size of the ship (i thought the dark grey painted sections fore and aft were intended to try to do this).

Of course, they would but i think the intention was the impression of speed. My question is really why both the bow and stern ? The ship can only travel one way.

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Post by Tiornu » Wed Jan 16, 2008 12:28 am

The ship can only travel one way.
Yes, but which way is it going? Imagine peering into a periscope in dirty weather and catching occasional glimpses of the target.

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Post by Bernd Willmer » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:43 am

Hi,

the dark grey stern and bow was to shorten the ships length and thus its size, but later tests and studies on ship camouflage conducted by Kapitänleutnant Dechend in 1942 showed, that dark areas of ships accented these parts of the ship rather than concealing them when viewed from a distance. After these studies bows and sterns were painted light grey or white-grey to shorten the ships length. This worked fine (e.g. Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, etc.).

False bow and stern waves was to camouflage the actual ships speed. These worked fine according to the studies mentioned above.
Bye,

Bernd.

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Post by paulcadogan » Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:52 pm

Hi 30 Knots,

Regarding the false stern waves, remember that at higher speeds (like your name!) ships will churn up a lot more foam at the stern as well. This should be the reason for the added wave at the stern I would think.

And Bernd, that's interesting. I always wondered why there was reversal in shade in Scharnhorst 1943 versus Bismarck and PE 1941. Thanks.

Paul
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Post by 30knots » Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:20 pm

Thanks guys.

For the false bow wave to 'work', the enemy would have to be around to see it. If the enemy was around, i would imagine the ship would be at maximum or near maximum speed, causing a real bow wave. Hence we now have two bow waves.

I know this is all very well from a computer desk and Tiornu makes a very good point, but would anyone like to comment on the 'two bow waves' ?

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Post by Bgile » Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:24 pm

The ship wouldn't necessarily be going fast when a submarine was trying to estimate speed for a torpedo attack. However, the sub probably wouldn't be able to see the bow wave because targets are often hull down to a periscope viewer, so go figure!

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Post by 30knots » Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:51 pm

Thanks Bgile

Of course - submarine attack. My apologies, i was just thinking of a surface encounter.

OK, i am satisfied as to the purpose of these false waves, bow and stern.

Does anyone know why the stern one together with the side 'stripes' were painted out for Op Rhein, leaving only the bow one ?

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Post by RF » Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:16 pm

30knots wrote:
Does anyone know why the stern one together with the side 'stripes' were painted out for Op Rhein, leaving only the bow one ?

Thanks for any replies
Presumably as British warships did not use these types of camouflage it was done as the striping would identify the Bismarck as being German at fairly long range to all other shipping.....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Post by 30knots » Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:05 pm

Hi Bgile,
However, the sub probably wouldn't be able to see the bow wave because targets are often hull down to a periscope viewer
Could you explain what is meant by 'hull down' ?

Thanks

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Post by Bernd Willmer » Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:21 pm

Hi,

I guess he meant that the bow at its waterline could only be seen in a calm sea to a uboat due to its lower perspective. Thus a false bow wave was not hat helpful in foolib a submarine.
Bye,

Bernd.

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Post by paulcadogan » Wed Jan 23, 2008 12:52 pm

I think it's a little more than that Berndt. Because a u-boat's periscope is right at sea level, it would have the shortest possible horizon view. Any target comes into view superstructure first with the hull out of sight below the horizon, hence the term "hull down".

So if a ship is hull down, any hull camouflage would have no effect.

However, I doubt a WW2 submarine would attempt to attack a ship so far away that it is hull down... The chance of hitting would be too small, with the difficulties in computing course and speed etc.

Paul
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Post by Bgile » Wed Jan 23, 2008 2:38 pm

That's probably true Paul. My personal experience was probably at much greater ranges on average than a U-boat would be using. It's possible they could actually see the waterline of the target, at least with initial classification observation. After that they would probably only expose a meter or less of scope.

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