Up High Gun Directors

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

Moderator: Bill Jurens

User avatar
30knots
Member
Posts: 122
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:02 pm
Location: Scotland

Up High Gun Directors

Post by 30knots » Thu Feb 21, 2008 11:39 pm

Is it extremely 'lucky' to hit one of these ?

Or can 'good, rapid' fire actually be directed specifically to that area ?

Thanks for any replies

User avatar
tommy303
Senior Member
Posts: 1528
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:19 pm
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Post by tommy303 » Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:05 am

Luck, probably not, but good fortune yes. Most director laying involved lining up the sight with the base of the superstructure and keeping it there, either by a stabilized gyro sight or manually if need be. By using the superstructure base as an aiming point--which in any event might be all of the enemy you would see--one maximized the chances of slight overs still hitting higher up and unders striking the hull at some point. One has to remember that there was or could be some variation in muzzle velocities within a battery, variations in gun alignment, and the guns themselves might not fire exactly at the same time. All this and other factors led to some dispersion, so one did not aim specifically for a particular spot and hope for a hit like a rifleman would. The chances of a director being hit was probably about as good as any other place in the superstructure of equal size.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

User avatar
30knots
Member
Posts: 122
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2007 1:02 pm
Location: Scotland

Post by 30knots » Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:25 am

Thanks tommy303,

Your replies are always very good, i appreciate that.

Qwick qwestion:
Luck, probably not, but good fortune yes.
What is the difference ?

Thanks for any replies

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7588
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Post by RF » Fri Feb 22, 2008 1:34 pm

30knots wrote:.
Luck, probably not, but good fortune yes.
What is the difference ?

Thanks for any replies
Semantics.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7588
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Post by RF » Fri Feb 22, 2008 1:36 pm

I believe that it has been concluded that Bismarck's fourth salvo - the one immediately prior to Hood's destruction - took out Hood's foretop fire directors.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Bill Jurens
Moderator
Posts: 667
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:21 am
Location: USA

Hit on Hood foretop

Post by Bill Jurens » Fri Feb 22, 2008 2:50 pm

In my opinion, the evidence regarding a hit on Hood's high director seems slim -- about the only evidence we have is that Ted Briggs reported that someone else had reported that contact with the foretop had been lost. The reports of falling bodies all were timed AFTER the large explosion.


It seems unlikely to me that evidence of such a hit would have not been seen by Prince Of Wales, who had a number of individuals specifically tasked with watching Hood's superstructure and many other who were casually observing from unengaged side. Whilst a dud passing through might have caused relatively little disturbance, and material passing outboard may have been masked by intervening superstructure, it still seems improbable to me that such a hit would have gone completely unnoticed.

Bill Jurens

Bill Jurens

User avatar
paulcadogan
Senior Member
Posts: 1100
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 4:03 am
Location: Kingston, Jamaica

Post by paulcadogan » Fri Feb 22, 2008 9:38 pm

Hi Bill and everyone,

IIRC, Ted Briggs account states that Bill Dundas saw bodies falling around the time of or shortly after the boat deck hit. It was during this period too that he reports either Captain Kerr or Squadron Gunnery Officer Gregson trying and failing to contact the spotting top. It was more likely Bismarck's 3rd salvo, RF, rather than the fourth, as the third was a straddle.

It is also at this point (5:57 + or -) that Hood's gunnery went awry and her shells began to fall astern of Prinz Eugen. It is also at this point that Prince of Wales noted on her salvo plot "Hood out of action". To me all this seems to indicate something more than just the boat deck fire. If there was an interruption to Hood's gunnery (either due to shifting target right or loss of radar inputs from a hit or even loss of Gunnery Officer Moultrie himself if he was up there) it could have given PoW the impression that the ship was out of action.

I admit that we can never know for sure (unless you guys were able to find and film/examine the spotting top structure when you explored the wreck).

But you, Bill, could say - a 15-inch shell encountering such a thinly built structure like Hood's spotting top would likely pass straight through without exploding - just like some of Bismarck's shells failed to detonate on PoW. That would not necessarily be seen by observers 1000 yards away would it?

So I feel that it is quite plausible that the hit did take place.

Now what about Norfolk allegedly taking out Bismarck's three days later???!! :think:

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man

Bgile
Senior Member
Posts: 3658
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Portland, OR, USA

Post by Bgile » Fri Feb 22, 2008 10:27 pm

Hood's stack gas might make it hard to see a non-explosive hit on her foretop from a ship 1kyds following.

Bill Jurens
Moderator
Posts: 667
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:21 am
Location: USA

Hit on Hood

Post by Bill Jurens » Sat Feb 23, 2008 1:30 am

Either Briggs' account is incorrect, or it has been mis-read. The Board of Inquiry was very specific in asking when falling bodies were observed. This took place after the main explosion.

Could a hit which did not detonate go unobserved? Certainly, but it is likely that even a non-exploding hit would have projected a spray of fragments outboard on the non-engaged side of Hood, and (in my opinion) probable that the glint of at least some of these fragments would have been seen from POW. That being said, it's just an opinion. Certainly the loss of communication to the foretop could have been caused by almost anything. Failures like that were much more common than many people assume.

The POW notation "Hood out of action" is in and of itself indicative of nothing regarding fire control issues because it appears that Hood did not communicate with POW (except to send flag signals regarding turns, etc.) during the action; if the author of the comment had indeed witnessed a hit on Hood's foretop, it is unlikely that this would have escaped the Board of Inquiry. It's most probable that it was a notation made after the explosion, or upon observation of the boat-deck fire, which was apparently at times quite spectacular.

Briggs' testimony, whilst valuable, is not highly reliable regarding incidents aboard Hood during the action. He testified, for example, that Hood had made two turns of 20 degrees to STARBOARD prior to the explosion, and when questioned by the court, repeated the same testimony a second time.

In the final analysis, probaby nobody will ever know. The foretop is gone now, buried or destroyed, and even if found would not likely be in condition to give any clear evidence either way. I think it is fairest to say that a hit in the foretop is possible, but pushing things too far to say it was likely.

Bill Jurens

User avatar
paulcadogan
Senior Member
Posts: 1100
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 4:03 am
Location: Kingston, Jamaica

Post by paulcadogan » Sat Feb 23, 2008 5:19 am

Thanks for your reply Bill.

From what I have read of Ted Briggs' testimony at one of the Boards of Inquiry (Aug 1941) he testified correctly that Hood's first course change was 40 deg to starboard (which took place after sighting the enemy) but his error was that he said her last turn was 40 deg to PORT (not starboard) in that the final turn was actually 20 deg to port. (In fact since Hood made two port turns of 20 deg so maybe Ted's recollection made him merge the two?)

Ted also testified at the Inquiry that "a midshipman" (which would be Bill Dundas) told him he saw "bits" falling from the spotting top, but he (Ted) did not see this. In his book, however, he quotes Dundas as saying the "fourth salvo" seemed to go through the spotting top without exploding, although "bodies" began to fall from it. So "bits" became "bodies". Interesting! So I guess we just conclude Dundas may have seen "something" falling. But again, this was before the final explosion.

It was Bob Tilburn who testified to seeing bodies, including officers, falling after the final explosion, though he couldn't tell from where. It must have been a harrowing and gruesome scene....

Truth be told, different witnesses to the same event often seem to perceive things very differently! So all we can do is try to find the common threads... Not an easy task.....

http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... htm#Briggs

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7588
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Post by RF » Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:49 pm

Bill,

The available circumstantial evidence suggests that something happened to degrade Hood's gunnery control after Hood's third salvo narrowly missed the PE.
If it were the case of a communications breakdown extraneous to the rigours of battle, surely such a well drilled warship would have proceedures in place to alleviate this problem almost immediately? There was no report on Hood's bridge of communications failure.
My impression of the falling bodies - specifically a part corpse in officer's uniform - this was observed some seconds before the fatal detonation - which lead me to suspect that the fourth salvo took out the foretop without detonation and as such would not be easy to notice on a relatively dark morning from POW (which had the rising sun to the leeward of the battle) if the main structure of the foretop did not collapse.
I also recall that the later shell strike on POW's compass platform did not explode but carried on into the sea. It did a considerable amount of damage for a dud, which lends credibility to a non-detonating shell strike on Hood's foretop.

Do you find this line of argument a reasonable interpretation?
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Bill Jurens
Moderator
Posts: 667
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:21 am
Location: USA

Evidence

Post by Bill Jurens » Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:05 pm

I have inserted 'answers' after asterisks inside RF's questions from the previous memo:


RF wrote:

Bill,

The available circumstantial evidence suggests that something happened to degrade Hood's gunnery control after Hood's third salvo narrowly missed the PE.

*** Well, perhaps. What we have is eye-witness accounts, many of which are different, some substantively. ***

If it were the case of a communications breakdown extraneous to the rigours of battle, surely such a well drilled warship would have proceedures in place to alleviate this problem almost immediately? There was no report on Hood's bridge of communications failure.

*** Well, for what it it worth, as I recall Briggs did report to the court that contact with the foretop had been lost. Without my files here -- I am at work right now -- I don't recall if this was associated with the big explosion or not. ***

My impression of the falling bodies - specifically a part corpse in officer's uniform - this was observed some seconds before the fatal detonation - which lead me to suspect that the fourth salvo took out the foretop without detonation and as such would not be easy to notice on a relatively dark morning from POW (which had the rising sun to the leeward of the battle) if the main structure of the foretop did not collapse.

*** I consider this report highly speculative. Briggs changed his story several times over the years, and the headless officer is a relatively late addition. Briggs' story, which has grown more imaginative with the passage of time, now clearly represents an amalgam of the observations of all three survivors. He didn't mention any bodies, etc. at the Boards of Inquiry, and although some claim that this was because the testimony was too gruesome, he could have clearly indicated that material was falling from above without giving details. The court was interested in finding the location of hits. ***

I also recall that the later shell strike on POW's compass platform did not explode but carried on into the sea. It did a considerable amount of damage for a dud, which lends credibility to a non-detonating shell strike on Hood's foretop.

*** I don't see how the amount of damage done to POW's compass platform in any way '...lends credibility' to a hit on Hood, i.e. this strikes me as a non-sequitur.***

Do you find this line of argument a reasonable interpretation?

*** Well, it's not UNreasonable. Speculation is reasonable so long as it continues to be identified as such. The difficulty is that sometimes people end up building 'castles in the air' out of a few isolated bits of evidence (often 'cherry-picked' to support a previously arrived at conclusion), and that before one knows it, what was speculation is hardened by repetition into fact.

My rule -- which I use in my work with the Marine Forensics Panel -- is that in order to be considered reliable, evidence must be both:

a) Clear.

and

b) Corroborated.

Bill Jurens

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Evidence

Post by lwd » Tue Feb 26, 2008 4:10 pm

Bill Jurens wrote:....
The available circumstantial evidence suggests that something happened to degrade Hood's gunnery control after Hood's third salvo narrowly missed the PE.

*** Well, perhaps. What we have is eye-witness accounts, many of which are different, some substantively. ***
...
Didn't some speculate that Hood shifted fire? Wouldn't this result in a short period of degraded accuracy? Not that this is the case just that it's another possible explanation that doesn't require a hit.

User avatar
tommy303
Senior Member
Posts: 1528
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 4:19 pm
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Post by tommy303 » Tue Feb 26, 2008 5:19 pm

That Hood might have been shifting fire is a good explanation, as the moment both Germans opened fire, it would have obvious which was the cruiser and which was the battleship, and it would take a moment or two to begin target aquisition as the German ships were steering independently of each other and not in coordinated squadron formation. The matter of disruption to the fore top depends somewhat on when the report of not being able to communicate with the foretop was overheard--if it was in response to the order to shift fire, then one can assume something was wrong--either due to a hit or a technical fault. If after and at the time of the main explosiion, then it does not.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

User avatar
paulcadogan
Senior Member
Posts: 1100
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 4:03 am
Location: Kingston, Jamaica

Post by paulcadogan » Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:06 pm

I appreciate Bill's reliance on facts that can be established as a forensic scientist and I can understand how speculation can become "fact" over time. But still I think there is value in looking at all the circumtances to try to explain the sequence of events. There is so much that we will never know for sure, including whether or not the spotting top hit actually occured, but it does help to provide an explanation for what happened.

Craving your indulgence, let's go through what IMHO may have transpired:

Fact: Gunnery Officer McMullen in PoW was having difficulty obtaining optical ranges and his type 284 gunnery radar was not operative. PoW missed Bismarck by 1500 yards over.

Speculation: Moultrie in Hood may also have not been getting good optical ranges (master optical RF low on conning tower), BUT might have been getting ranges from HIS radar, making Hood's first three or four salvoes at the Prinz pretty good for range (reasonably established).

Fact:The 284 radar antenna was on the spotting top revoving hood.

Fact: An order was given to "shift target right" yet Hood still fired at the Prinz Eugen

Speculation: It has generally been recorded that the order was given either just before or just after Hood opened fire. It however seems inexplicable that Hood would then continue to fire at the Prinz Eugen for at least four, if not more salvoes, without causing a reaction from the Admiral, Captain and Squadron Gunnery Officer Gregson which should have been overheard by Ted Briggs or Bill Dundas. Could it be that the target error was not recognized until Bismarck opened fire? In many early accounts it was erroneously stated that Bismarck returned fire immediately after Hood's first salvo and before PoW's first. This could have led to an error in the reported timing of the order.

Fact: At 5:55 the Germans opened fire and in about a minute Hood was hit and a fire started on the boat deck. In early British records this hit was attributed to Bismarck's third salvo, which reportedly straddled Hood. Later this was revised to have been caused by Prinz Eugen's second salvo. I suppose this was based on PE's observations and that it took place in less than a minute.

Speculation: According to the Baron, Bismarck fired a 400 m bracket, with part being an over and the base salvo straddling. The timing of this would have been between 5:56-7. This corresponds nicely with Briggs account of Dundas telling him that the salvo AFTER the boat deck hit went through the spotting top without exploding as "bits" or "bodies" started falling from it. It is also when Briggs reports that the captain tried in vain to contact the spotting top. This roughly also corresponds with the timing of PoW's notation on her salvo plot "Hood out of action".

If Hood was in the process of shifting targets and had temorarily ceased fire in order to range in on the new target, was burning fiercely, had possibly lost her radar (which may have given her accurate opening ranges) and her chief gunnery officer due to a shell through her spotting top, causing further delay in reopening fire, one can see why PoW would think the flagship was in serious difficulty.

Fact: Hood did continue to fire at the Germans, but her shells no longer disturbed the PE, neither did they fall anywhere near Bismarck (PoW's spotters saw none).

Speculation: Something had happened to degrade her gunnery ability. The boat deck fire is not a likely candidate. Damage to her spotting top and radar apparatus, though the supporting hard evidence is lacking and otherwise circumstantial, explains it quite well.

But, truth be told, that's speculation and there is no way we will ever know for sure. For what it's worth, there it is....

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man

Post Reply