Questions about Bismarck's final battle

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

Moderator: Bill Jurens

quincey
Junior Member
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:03 pm
Location: Wellington New Zealand

Questions about Bismarck's final battle

Post by quincey » Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:32 pm

Against Hood & POW Bismarck gets multiple hits in quickly enough to sink Hood and Damage POW. Even after the rudder damage she straddles Sheffield. By all accounts her gunnery is very good. But against KGV and Rodney no hits. Now I know that the ship can't manouver and I know that pretty soon she's taking some heavy punishment but does anyone have any theories about why she didn't get at least one hit?

Why was so much of the battle damage to the bow end of Bismarck? My reading indicates Rodney and KGV are on parallel courses for much of the time and passing Bismarck as they travel so wouldn't one expect the damage to be more or less evenly distributed?

Q.

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

Post by Bgile » Wed Mar 16, 2005 6:55 pm

My understanding is that early in the "battle", Rodney and KGV were both off Bismarck's bow. Even so, she managed to straddle Rodney, which is an achievement in itself considering she was wallowing in the sea. Remember, the crew was very tired and morale was very low. As far as I can tell from what I've read, turrets C & D were not even used until after the forward directors were destroyed and control was shifted to the after director.

The after turrets under the after director postion were then able to straddle KGV, but the after director was then put out of action. She was under a deluge of BB and cruiser fire.

Steve Crandell

User avatar
Javier L.
Member
Posts: 135
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2004 3:08 pm
Location: Madrid (España)

Post by Javier L. » Thu Apr 07, 2005 8:35 pm

Hi,

The battle conditions were very different on 27 May than on 24 May.

On 27 May, KGV and Rodney were having difficulties to straddle the Bismarck too at first, and it took them some time. The British ships opened up at 0847 hours and only first hit the Bismarck 15 minutes later (at 0902). Before that, Rodney had been straddled by Bismarck too. So, I don't think Bismarck shooting was that bad, it is just that she faced more guns and the chances of being hit first were higher. and Bismarck could only use turrets Anton and Bruno at first (that is 4 guns) because Dora and Caesar could not be trained. On the contrary, the Rodney had all her 9 guns forward and KGV had 6 of hers. So the first 15 minutes of the final battle was really 4 Bismarck guns against 15 British guns.

In the Denmark Strait on 24 May, for whatever reason, it only took a couple of minutes for each side to get the correct range and straddle the enemy. And the Bismarck was using all her 4 turrets=8 guns against only 6 guns of POWales because the Hood was firing on the Prinz Eugen by mistake or so I am told.

Javi

User avatar
Antonio Bonomi
Senior Member
Posts: 3800
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 10:44 am
Location: Vimercate ( Milano ) - Italy

Bismarck last battle

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Tue Apr 12, 2005 6:53 pm

Ciao all,

BRAVO Javier, you got the situations right !

Ciao Antonio :D

User avatar
José M. Rico
Administrator
Posts: 925
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 10:23 am
Location: Madrid, Spain
Contact:

Post by José M. Rico » Wed Apr 13, 2005 2:03 am

Javier L. wrote:In the Denmark Strait on 24 May... the Bismarck was using all her 4 turrets=8 guns against only 6 guns of POWales
Correct, and after POW first salvo only 5, since "A" turret's no. 1 gun broke down temporarily and could not fire anymore for the duration of the battle.

quincey
Junior Member
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2005 12:03 pm
Location: Wellington New Zealand

Qs about the Bismarck's final battle

Post by quincey » Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:23 am

Thanks that explains well why no Bismarck hits.
Q.

PM Collins
Junior Member
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 3:32 am
Location: Davie, Florida

why no hits

Post by PM Collins » Sun Jun 12, 2005 5:32 am

Javier's description of the final battle is essentially accurate, the Bismarck was essentially out gunned, that with his inability to manuever left him a sitting duck.
I would only add this, for what its worth, while reading Von Mullenheim-Rechberg's book reasearching my screenplay on the Bismarck, he did have KGV in his sights and was, after a couple of salvos ready to deliver, but his fire control station was then knocked out of commission. So it is possible that Bismarck had the range and was ready to deliver on target. I remember him saying how frustrated he was, that he could not deliver what could have been a tremendous blow to KGV.
How ironic that the Third Reich suffered so many unbelievable setbacks. Was it coincidence or destiny. First Bismarck, then Stalingrad, finally D day, one has to wonder who would have won the war had Hitler not been in command of the Third Reich. :D :D :D

joea
Junior Member
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:55 am

Post by joea » Sun Jun 12, 2005 2:29 pm

Hitler or not, I can't see how the 3rd Riech could have one against both the USSR and the USA, or even one of them.

That said, as far as the KM goes, the professionalism of their crews, in the surface fleet as well as the u-boats was outstanding.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7603
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Post by RF » Wed Oct 04, 2006 8:00 am

Javier L. wrote:Hi,

The battle conditions were very different on 27 May than on 24 May.

On 27 May, KGV and Rodney were having difficulties to straddle the Bismarck too at first, and it took them some time. The British ships opened up at 0847 hours and only first hit the Bismarck 15 minutes later (at 0902). Before that, Rodney had been straddled by Bismarck too. So, I don't think Bismarck shooting was that bad, it is just that she faced more guns and the chances of being hit first were higher. and Bismarck could only use turrets Anton and Bruno at first (that is 4 guns) because Dora and Caesar could not be trained. On the contrary, the Rodney had all her 9 guns forward and KGV had 6 of hers. So the first 15 minutes of the final battle was really 4 Bismarck guns against 15 British guns.

In the Denmark Strait on 24 May, for whatever reason, it only took a couple of minutes for each side to get the correct range and straddle the enemy. And the Bismarck was using all her 4 turrets=8 guns against only 6 guns of POWales because the Hood was firing on the Prinz Eugen by mistake or so I am told.

Javi

Ludovic Kennedy gives a slightly different version of events, which is also given by Von der Porton in his account of the final action. Both say that Bismarck turned slightly to starboard to bring all eight guns to bear, so from that I infer that Bismarck was firing full salvoes. It appears that four full salvoes were therefore fired at Rodney, thereafter Mullenheim-Rechberg lost contact with Schneider in the main gunnery control; presumably that was the point of the 9.02 hit on Bruno turret that also knocked out the main gunnery control.

Apart from the sea conditions (which affected British as well as German shooting, as already noted above) the other uncertainty was the physical condition of the gun crews of Bismarck. In this respect the general comment is usually made that Bismarcks crew were tired from being constantly closed up for action for three days. I am not aware of any study of the effect of fatigue and sleep deprivation on the effectiveness of naval gun crews, of whether this was a recognised problem at that time.

Most naval actions (including the Denmark Strait battle) start with the ships crews physically fresh and again apart from the Bismarck I am not aware of any naval action in which an alleged lack of physical condition or
fatigue in the crew played an initial role in the course of the development of the action. If it was the case that Bismarcks' gunnery was adversly effected by the condition of the gun crews that indicates to some extent a command failure - was it necessary for all the crew to be constantly closed up for action without rest?
Ater the DS battle the crew of Prinz Eugen went to first degree readiness, while Bismarck remained at action stations. Possibly Brinckmann was able to order the partial stand-down because Bismarck was between Prinz Eugen and the pursuing three ships (one of them a battleship). But surely Lutjens and certainly Lindemann would have been aware that failure to properly rest the crew would impair their fighting efficiency? Mullenheim-Rechberg and also Adolf Eich touch on these points in their accounts of the events over these three days without specifically appreciating their significance.
Compare that with the comment by Theodor Detmers in his book 'The Raider Kormoran' where he says that while Kormoran was breaking out into the Atlantic (via the Denmark Strait) he considered the distinct possibility of meeting a patrolling British cruiser. He thought that having the guns constantly manned for that eventuallity would be 'too exhausting' - his words - so he didn't have Kormoran closed up for action but held at first degree readiness. The obvious difference here is that Kormoran was not being chased, unlike Bismarck. But Bismarck did have a much larger crew which might imply standing part of the crew down, on a rota basis. It poses the question as to why it wasn't done. Were the senior officers so tired and stressed they weren't thinking straight?

Has anybody any thoughts on this?

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

Post by Bgile » Wed Oct 04, 2006 5:41 pm

How is a hit on B turret going to effect the ship's fire control? Schneider was way up in the foretop. Just a quibble because his position was in fact put out of action at some point.

The ship was in action during the night against the British destroyers. That would make sleep difficult. I'm sure people were trying to sleep at their positions when possible, but the thought that they were going to die soon might make that difficult for many.

Didn't the Baron in his book state that C & D were not in action until he took control of them? I'm not sure about that.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7603
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Post by RF » Thu Oct 05, 2006 6:48 am

Bgile wrote:How is a hit on B turret going to effect the ship's fire control? Schneider was way up in the foretop. Just a quibble because his position was in fact put out of action at some point.

I understand from Messrs Ballard, Kennedy and Grenfell that Bismarck was hit at 9.02 on the far end of 'B' turret, blowing its roof off (Grenfell and Kennedy) and sending a huge sheet of flame all the way up Bismarcks command tower, bridges and gunnery control. Per Ballards book it was suggested this hit must have killed hundreds of German sailors. The underwater photography showed the armoured command tower riddled with shrapnel holes and rents, according to Ballards' experts being due to this hit.
It has been suggested that an 8 inch shell hit from Norfolk right on Bismarcks' foretop at about the same time was responsible for KO'ing the gunnery control, as we have previously discussed, I don't know whether it is true. The severity of the hit from Rodney appears to be conclusive with Ballard and his experts, but again it is only an opinion based on the forensic evidence.



Didn't the Baron in his book state that C & D were not in action until he took control of them? I'm not sure about that.
I haven't read the Barons book, it seems to be very difficult to track down in England.

Post Reply