Damage to Bismarck's catapault

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Damage to Bismarck's catapault

Post by Bgile » Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:28 pm

Bismarck's aircraft catapault was damaged by one of PoW's shells, and this apparently wasn't discovered until they tried to launch an aircraft to carry the ship's war diary to safety.

Doesn't this illustrate incompetence? If I'm responsible for the operation of that equipment and there is a hit in the immediate area, I'm going to check it very carefully for damage. I would actually test everything I can, including a dry launch or two. If I find something wrong I will have several days to fix it.

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Post by tommy303 » Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:41 pm

the damage was caused by the shell which struck the captain's launch stored on the roof of the aircraft hanger. A piece of the launch apparently struck and bent and fractured the compressed air line which was used to launch the planes. It would appear the damage was so slight as to not be noticed until an attempt was made to launch the aircraft. Considering the efforts of the DC personnel were centered on the two other hits, it is not really surprising that this was overlooked at the time.

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Post by Bgile » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:19 am

Well, you are entitled to disagree with me, but I'm not talking about DC personnel at all. I'm talking about the person or persons whose job was to operate and maintain that equipment, especially after a hit in it's immediate area which no doubt spread boat wreckage all over the place. IMO it should have been just common sense to test the catapault's operation.

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Post by Ramius » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:49 am

:think: I agree with Bgile that this is a little fishy. Didn't they have quality and equiptment checks every day or so? I mean, don't (most) modern naval vessels do that every day? I am pretty sure that atleast the USN does that. :think: :think: :think:

Although, all the Arado would be able to do is carry the war diary and a few letters, nothing of signifigance to the fate of the ship. This does make me wounder though, why they didn't design the Arado's to carry more than a few 100lb bombs. I see a good naval plane being capable of carrying a torpedo, or a bomb or two that could cause some damage. :think:

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Post by tommy303 » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:50 am

Don't get me wrong, I am not disagreeing at all. And certainly no test of the launching gear was made until the failed attempt to save the war diary.

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Post by Burner » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:03 pm

They did not only miss the damage. They couldn't repair it. The plane fell into the sea.

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Post by Ramius » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:16 pm

1. Didn't they push the plane into the Atlantic after putting holes into the potoons :think: I don't think it unintentionally fell off :negative:

2. I don't know why they didn't have the replacement parts or equiptment to repair the catapult. That just seems very stupid to not have replacement stuff for their machinery...

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Post by 30knots » Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:48 am

Hi All,

I'm finding this quite interesting.

Could you not launch from the catapult either port or starboard ? Surely both sides were not out of action as a result of the one shell hit ?

Noted Tommy303's post about compressed air line being hit. Did this line serve both port and starboard ? IMHO this type of damage can be repaired in a couple of hours. Both ends of the catapult can't have been 'bent'. Struggling to see how this aircraft couldn't have been launched somehow now. Just my opinion though.

I'm probably getting a bit far fetched here (weather conditions etc), but whats to stop a temporary zero speed, lower the aircraft with the crane and let it take off from the water ?

Thanks for any replies

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Post by Ramius » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:07 am

The let it fly on it's own is not a bad idea, but it would probably not get a fast enough speed to take off though :think: The catapult was one piece that could launch from either side I believe, but the pnumatic piping got punctured, so the entire thing was inoperable, no switching sides to fix the problem this time. :negative:

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Post by Tiornu » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:26 am

The sea conditions were far too rough to attempt a water launch. Normally it would be easy enough, but in this case, the plane would've been bounced to pieces.

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Post by Bgile » Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:31 am

Normally a battleship could be expected to have a machine ship capable of fabricating almost anything of reasonably small size that could break. Heck, on one submarine I was on they made a small gear for one of the sonar consoles.

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Post by 30knots » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:08 pm

Correct Bgile,

The machine shop on most vessels i have been on tends to have an extraordinary knack of fabricating almost anything to resolve a situation.

I'm still of the opinion that compressed air line damage could be repaired quite quickly, standard fittings, piping etc.

Of course we don't know the exact extent of the damage. Was one of the survivors not a machinist ?

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Post by José M. Rico » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:46 pm

Here are some excerpts from the last interview with Bruno Rzonca made a couple of months before he passed away in 2004:
Interviewer: What was your work aboard the Bismarck?

Bruno: I had to maintain the Junkers 4 stage air compressors of the catapult on the starboard side. There were two, one on the left and one on the right. I used to switch compressors with my comrade Rudi Römer. These compressors ran a lot of equipment including the four big turrets. I was also in charge of maintaining the catapult, and had anti-aircraft responsibilities if needed. Planes could be launched from either side of Bismarck.
Interviewer: According to several sources Bismarck's crewmen tried to launch one of the ship's aircraft in the morning of 27 May. What happened?

Bruno: The Arado was loaded and ready to take off, but the catapult wouldn't work. We were called to investigate and found that the pressure gauge had no reading for the catapult. We then checked the pressure lines and found some major damage that couldn’t be repaired. We later pushed the Arado plane overboard.

Interviewer: Could the plane have been lowered with the crane into the water and then take off from there?

Bruno: No. The waves were 30 feet high. Too rough for that.
Whole interview here:

http://www.kbismarck.com/crew/interview-brzonca.html

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Post by Bgile » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:47 pm

Wow, that's the first time I've read that. Very interesting!

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Post by Ramius » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:02 pm

:think: I still think that sounds fishy, no offense to Bruno. I think it should have been able to be fixed, and if it couldn't be repaired, then that is a very poor design. :negative:

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