Artillery Incident on 23 May 1941, 2044 hours?

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

Moderator: Bill Jurens

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Artillery Incident on 23 May 1941, 2044 hours?

Post by nicpon » Mon May 09, 2005 9:32 pm

Hi All!

I'm just reading War Diary of the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen", which is available on this (kbismarck.com) site.
And I have one question concerning this fragment of the P.Eugen's War Diary:
2044 / 2044 hours-
The heavy cruiser comes into view at port astern at 206° azimuth, and opens fire on Prinz
Eugen. [Underlined by hand by Brinkmann. UR]. The formation goes to flank speed. Prinz
Eugen positions himself according to Fleet order in front of Bismarck. While picking up steam to
starboard of Bismarck, Bismarck has rudder failure. Rudder position is starboard. Prinz Eugen is
able to extract himself from closing further by 40° hard full rudder (which, as a rule, is not
allowed at this high speed).
Why there is no mention of this artillery incident at the description of OPERATION RHEINÜBUNG on kbismarck.com, and on other sources - Baron von Mülleheim-Rechberg's book as well?
Did Suffolk or Norfolk open fire on Prinz Eugen at this time, or not?

User avatar
Ulrich Rudofsky
Contributor & Translator
Posts: 844
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:16 pm
Location: State of New York

Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Mon May 09, 2005 11:31 pm

Take a look at the http://www.hmshood.com site archive. It is not clear to me what happend. It is apparent that HMS Suffolk did not fire, HMS Norfolk was fired on by Prinz Eugen although the excerpt is not clear about returning the fire. Both British cruisers were fired upon by Bismarck with 38 cm shells, but even in Fritz Otto Busch's accounts in his books it is not clear that Prinz Eugen fired. And the quotation below does not mention that the British cruisers returned the fire. It will take some more research; perhaps somebody reading this knows the obvious answer. Also, I will have to check if I translated that correctly :lol:

"2030 on 23rd May
The enemy was met on a closing and opposite course. Norfolk had time to turn away before the first salvo from the 8-in cruiser fell. It fell close on the port quarter and splinters hit "X" turret. I saw this salvo fall and it appeared to me as a broad wall of smoke and water at right angles to our line of fire, and I think that the spread for range and line was very small. On our side of this, the water was pocked with fragments and one complete burnished shell made what I think was its second bounce 50 yards our side of the salvo and ricocheted over the bridge.

Two or three other salvos were fired. I only saw one, and that was very compact and fell astern fine on the starboard quarter when we had turned away and were hidden by our smoke. The range was 12,000 to 14,000 yards." Copied from the HMS HOOD SITE

http://www.hmshood.com/denmarkstrait/
Ulrich

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 » Tue May 10, 2005 12:06 am

Müllenheim-Rechberg does somehow mention this incident on his book:

"It now developed that the jolts caused by the firing of our big guns had put our forward radar out of action and, since the Bismarck was in the lead, our task force was blind to any threat from ahead. In order to overcome this disability and also to have the ship with the heavier guns near the shadowers astern, Lütjens ordered a “number change,” [Nummernwechsel!] which meant that the Prinz Eugen, her forward radar intact, would take the lead. In the Kriegsmarine number changes were routine evolutions: the ship in the rear pulled out of the line and increased speed, while the leading ship slowed down until the overtaking one had taken her place at the head of the line. That was supposed to happen this time, but instead of a routine maneuver we had a little excitement. Lindemann happened to be inspecting my battle station and asking questions about his and that, when he received a report from a talker on the bridge. Hurrying forward, he was confronted with an alarming sight: the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen were on collision course! Without waiting to get back to the bridge, he had his orders to the helm relayed-and the danger passed."

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Post by nicpon » Tue May 10, 2005 1:00 am

well
I've read this fragment of Müllenheim-Rechberg, surely
but it brings even more confusion

first of all
it is about Bismarck firing on Norfolk
(not British cruiser firing on Prinz Eugen)
it's an another/different incident
and every source mention this, evidently

let's have a look into P Eugen's War Diary:
1922 / 1922 hours
Alarm from Bismarck: In direction 340? lateral direction [azimuth] is a shadow. Distance 130
hectometers [13,000 meters]. It is apparently an auxiliary cruiser which disappears immediately
into the mist again. Formation is [obviously] being reported by him. Bismarck opens fire (about 5 volleys) and signals to the formation JD [Fire permission code Jot Dora “Open Fire!"]. Prinz
Eugen has no target. By radar rangefinder II position finding reveals that [we are] dealing with a heavy cruiser running at 27-28 knots, course 195?, since massive superstructures and 3 stacks were observed at the first visual sighting.


and here we have another question:
what time did it happen
19:22 like in P.Eugen War Dairy is
or 20:30 like other sources inform?

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Post by nicpon » Tue May 10, 2005 1:43 am

as one could see
there are few things to establih about this short period of time - 23 of May 1941 evening
because there are so many variances between War Dairy and other sources
1. who was firig on who, and
2. what was the time, and
3. what was the distance, and
4. what was the reason (or main reason) of change in the positions between Bismarck and P Eugen
5. so on, and on...?

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 » Tue May 10, 2005 12:11 pm

I think, I previously misunderstood this message. It was asking about the salvo exchange and not about Bismarck's rudder failure. Sorry about that.

According to ADM 234-509: H.M.S. Suffolk Operations 23-26 May 1941
http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... 9suff.html , the Suffolk sighted Bismarck followed by Prinz Eugen at 1922 hours. There is no mention of firing from any side until 2031, when Bismarck is reported to have opened fire.

According to ADM 234-509: H.M.S. Norfolk's Gunnery and R.D.F. During Operations Against "Bismarck"
http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... 9norf.html , Norfolk was fired upon by the 8-inch cruiser (the Prinz Eugen) and splinters hit "X" Turret. But I suspect however that the "8-inch cruiser" referred above was actually Bismarck since I have not found any German official report or account metioning Prinz Eugen firing on 23 May, and it is well known that Bismarck fired on Norfolk and splinters fell aboard this cruiser.

Then we have Prinz Eugen and Bismarck's war diaries:
http://www.kbismarck.com/archives/bs-ktb.zip
http://www.kbismarck.com/archives/pg-ktb.zip
1922 / 1922 hours
Alarm from Bismarck: In direction 340º lateral direction [azimuth] is a shadow. Distance 130 hectometers [13,000 meters]. It is apparently an auxiliary cruiser which disappears immediately into the mist again. Formation is [obviously] being reported by him. Bismarck opens fire (about 5 volleys) and signals to the formation JD [Fire permission code Jot Dora “Open Fire!"]. Prinz Eugen has no target. By radar rangefinder II position finding reveals that [we are] dealing with a heavy cruiser running at 27-28 knots, course 195º, since massive superstructures and 3 stacks were observed at the first visual sighting.

2044 / 2044 hours-
The heavy cruiser comes into view at port astern at 206° azimuth, and opens fire on Prinz Eugen. [Underlined by hand by Brinkmann. UR]. The formation goes to flank speed. Prinz Eugen positions himself according to Fleet order in front of Bismarck. While picking up steam to starboard of Bismarck, Bismarck has rudder failure. Rudder position is starboard. Prinz Eugen is able to extract himself from closing further by 40° hard full rudder (which, as a rule, is not allowed at this high speed).
According to the KTB entry above the Prinz Eugen came under fire, but again I've never found a British official report or account that mentions Suffolk or Norfolk firing on 23 May.

I think that most probably the only ship that opened fired that afternoon/evening was the Bismarck at 2030 hours. Grenfell, Kennedy, Müllenheim-Rechberg, and others authors agree in that, and do not mention any of the other cruisers firing.

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Post by nicpon » Tue May 10, 2005 1:29 pm

ok
1. Bismarck was firing on Norfolk - this is confirmed by by both sources
but there are differences about time and distance
German War Diary vs other sources:
time: 19:22 - vs - 20:30
distance: 13000 m - vs - much less at other sources (f.e. 6400 m by Müllenheim)

2. British cruiser firig on Prinz Eugen
German War Diary vs other sources:
yes (at 20:44) - vs - no

the fundamental question here is:
how could Brinkmann in his War Dairy place a record that was in oposition with facts (that did not happen)?

let's consider that British could not recognize who is shooting to them - it is possible and explicable
but
Brinkmann shoud for sure recognize if such a fact had happend (if someone was shooting to him)
especially if he puts it in the War Diary!

and it was, by him, the main reason to exchange the positions with Bismarck

and what is interesting Mullenheim mentions the threat from British cruisers as one of the reason of exchanging the positions (the main was Bismarck's radar failure)...
Last edited by nicpon on Tue May 10, 2005 4:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Post by nicpon » Tue May 10, 2005 1:59 pm

According to ADM 234-509: H.M.S. Norfolk's Gunnery and R.D.F. During Operations Against "Bismarck"
http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... 9norf.html , Norfolk was fired upon by the 8-inch cruiser (the Prinz Eugen) and splinters hit "X" Turret. But I suspect however that the "8-inch cruiser" referred above was actually Bismarck since I have not found any German official report or account metioning Prinz Eugen firing on 23 May, and it is well known that Bismarck fired on Norfolk and splinters fell aboard this cruiser.
I think
that all the confusion about who was firing on Norfolk
is caused by the exchane in positions made by Germans

this testimony from Norfolk about enemy’s fire was made after the battle of Denmark Strait
where, as was established Prinz Eugen was on the first position in German squadron
so, in my opinion, this caused the mistake in Norfolk's sailor testimony...

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Post by nicpon » Tue May 10, 2005 2:04 pm

and here, we have confirmation of distance about 13000 m from Norfolk:
The range was 12,000 to 14,000 yards

User avatar
Ulrich Rudofsky
Contributor & Translator
Posts: 844
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 9:16 pm
Location: State of New York

Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Tue May 10, 2005 4:23 pm

It should be noted that time is sometimes difficult to figure out on these reports, because one is often not sure what system is being used, e.g., local time based on longitude [which could differ by hour and minutes] or GMT or German summer time etc.

Also, I wish I could remember were I read it, but occasionally actual shelling and blasts of smoke puffs the funnel can be misinterpreted. Brinkmann does not say anything about splashes, sounds or splinters.

I am just translating the draft copy (100+ pages!) of the OKM review of the entire "Atlantic Mission of the Battlegroup 'Bismarck-Prinz Eugen'."

At 1922 Bismarck fires 5 salvoes; Prinz Eugen cannot acquire the target.

The 2044 hours entry reads as follows: "At 2044 hours the cruiser comes back into sight and opens fire on “Prinz Eugen” (According to the report of the British Admiralty cruisers Norfolk and Suffolk stood in Denmark Strait). The formation goes to flank speed. “Prinz Eugen” moves in front of “Bismarck by order of the Chief of Fleet. During the steaming up on starboard [by Prinz Eugen] “Bismarck” has rudder failure –rudder jammed to starboard – and Prinz Eugen only avoids further closing by hard rudder 40 degrees. At 2338 hours, change in course to 190 degrees."
Ulrich

nicpon
Junior Member
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2004 8:06 pm
Location: Poland
Contact:

Post by nicpon » Thu May 19, 2005 5:21 pm

(...) On board the Bismarck the forward radar instrument (FuMO 23) had been disabled by the blast of the forward turrets. Because of this, Admiral Lütjens ordered his ships to exchange positions and the Prinz Eugen with her radar sets (FuMO 27) intact took the lead...

is there any confirmation of this, in War Dairy or any other document
that radar failure was the reason (or the main reason) of change in ships position?

as we all know
Bismarck had two forward radars (FuMo23)
did both fail?

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

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Thu May 19, 2005 11:10 pm

Ciao Nipcon and all,

a very interesting post.

YES, that was the main reason ( probably the only one ) for Prinz Eugen to exchange position with Bismarck and take the lead of the German Squadron.

If you read PG war diary and in particular Kpt Ltnt P. Schmalenbach report you will find the confirmation at the beginning of his report.

I am sure I have also read this statement somewhere else too on other Official Documents.

Here my personal opinion, the Bismarck radar that got demaged was very likely the one on the top of the main tower , a FuMo 23 ( that because of its more favourable position very high on the water, it was searching the horizon ahead ).

This is the reason why Adm Lutjens wanted the Prinz Eugen to take the lead because the only radar with similar height position was now the Prinz Eugen FuMo 27 on main tower top.

The other 2 Bismarck radars ( both FuMo 23 too ) were positioned on the forward and aft rangefinders, so much lower compared to the main tower top one ( both of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen ), consequently were covering less distance ahead.

Covering the searching sector ahead was vital for the German ships breacking thru the Denmark Strait channel,... and Adm Lutjens knew that very well.

Ciao Antonio :D

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

Post by Javier L. » Fri May 20, 2005 12:20 am

The radar that was put out of action was the one forward on top of the main conning tower, and not the one in the foretop. The reason is simple, the foretop is 30 meters over sea-level and the blast of the forward guns doesn't reach that high with force enough to damage it.

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

Post by Bgile » Tue May 24, 2005 5:38 pm

Javier L. wrote:The radar that was put out of action was the one forward on top of the main conning tower, and not the one in the foretop. The reason is simple, the foretop is 30 meters over sea-level and the blast of the forward guns doesn't reach that high with force enough to damage it.
Do you have documentation of this? If the foretop radar was not damaged, why the position switch.

Also, US Battleships could and did damage their foretop radar with fire from their main battery. I don't know if it was concussion or shock, but it did occur. I don't imagine Bismarck was immune to this either.

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

Post by Javier L. » Wed May 25, 2005 4:18 pm

No, I don't have documentation of it. But it is the most logical explanation. If the foretop radar was damaged then the forward radar would have been damaged too because it was closer to the shock wave of the forward guns. Don't you think? But only one radar was damaged. I then deduce that it was the forward radar.

Post Reply