Color of Bismarck turret tops

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BB_57
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Color of Bismarck turret tops

Post by BB_57 » Sat Jun 04, 2005 4:14 am

I've read that they may have been yellow at the beginning of operation Rheinübung. Can anyone help me on this? Much appreciated!

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Ulrich Rudofsky
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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Sat Jun 04, 2005 11:21 am

Attempts were made to paint the turrets yellow in the morning of 26.5.1941. See survivor report by Otto Maus. It is not clear to me how much stayed on. Maus says the paint on his secondary turret washed off and yellow adhered only to the main turrets.
Monday morning we received orders to paint the top of the turret yellow. The breakers washed off the paint in a short time, and an attempt for a second coat was abandoned. The paint adhered only to the main turrets.
If you are building a model with yellow turrets, the bow anchors and chains should be gone too by that time; they were slipped on 25.5.41 to help raise the bow.

http://www.kbismarck.com/archives/debriefing6.html
Ulrich

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Post by BB_57 » Sat Jun 04, 2005 4:47 pm

Then were the tops normally a dark grey?

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Ulrich Rudofsky
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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Sat Jun 04, 2005 9:08 pm

http://www.kbismarck.com/bism41yellow.gif

My guess would be light gray. But maybe there is someone who knows better. (The Baltic red tops would look dark gray on B&W film especially with a green contrast filter.)
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José M. Rico
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Post by José M. Rico » Mon Jun 06, 2005 4:25 pm

No yellow at the beginning of Rheinübung. Yellow was only applied (if ever) in the morning of 26 May 1941 with the Bismarck in the Atlantic heading for France.

The top of the turrets (flat and sloped plates) was painted dark grey in Hamburg during the winter of 1940-41 and remained like that until May 1941. Prior to Rheinübung, only the top flat plates of the turrets were still dark grey, the rest (including the sloped plates) being light grey.

http://www.kbismarck.com/perfili.html
Last edited by José M. Rico on Tue Jun 07, 2005 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Very informative!

Post by BB_57 » Mon Jun 06, 2005 9:30 pm

So I gather that the turret may never have been red but dark grey. I am building a 1:100 scale Bismarck and working from many ship drawings. Gets a little confusing after a while but very much enjoy everyone's input. Thanks, Bob.

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During Rheinubung the turrets were definitely...

Post by FW_Allen » Thu Jun 09, 2005 1:42 pm

...dark grey on the rectangular top centre panels only, just as Jose has said.

It would appear that Bismarck likely never had red tops. I say this because there is colour footage of the ship (in Baltic camouflage) at the start of her training with dark grey turret tops. The big difference was at that point, the entire tops of the turrets (including the angled roof plates) were painted dark grey.

BTW- The wreck still clearly has dark grey on the top centre panels of her secondary turrets.

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Post by Torpedo Bob » Tue Aug 02, 2005 6:58 pm

I have just bought the New Vanguard/Osprey book by Gordon Williamson titled: German Battleships 1939-45.
There, right on the front cover, is a computer rendered 3d picture of Bismarck with red turret tops on all main turrets and also the six secondary turrets!
Looking through the book I found this passage:
"During their training and trials, both (Bismarck & Tirpitz) used the so-called 'Baltic' scheme of bold black/white angular stripes across the hull and superstructure and with darkended forward and stern hull portions intended to give the impression of a shorter hull length, emphasised by the addition of false bow and stern waves. The turret roofs of the main armament and principal secondary armament were painted red during this period

Unfortunately the book does not provide any references or a bibliography.

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Thu Aug 04, 2005 11:39 am

It seems that the turret top colors are a minor item in the overall brief history of the ship. But I think that the testimony of the survivor about yellow turrets http://www.kbismarck.com/archives/debriefing.html must be accepted with some reservations. Matrosengefreiter Maus is "quoted" as saying the turrets were painted yellow, but he read and signed a summary statement that was written by an officer, and his and the other depositions are not in the surviors' own words and we do not know what the questions were. I sometimes get the impression that the entire debriefing summaries are made into just what Group West liked to hear. Then, the summaries were used extensively in the reconstruction of the Bismarck's war diary.

I have heard that the British sighted the yellow turrets also. Does anyone know a solid reference to that? Or is that more hearsay in a post-war book?
Ulrich

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Post by Javier L. » Thu Aug 04, 2005 1:51 pm

Torpedo Bob wrote:I have just bought the New Vanguard/Osprey book by Gordon Williamson titled: German Battleships 1939-45.
There, right on the front cover, is a computer rendered 3d picture of Bismarck with red turret tops on all main turrets and also the six secondary turrets!
For many years I thought the turret tops were red too. I think that is because I saw many models painted with red turret tops. Maybe the author of the Osprey book made the same mistake? :think:

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Bismarck turret tops

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:05 am

Ciao all,

@ Javier,

you were right Javier !

During Baltic Sea period training Bismarck did had the turrets coloured on Red.

The schemes were painted and some trials been made both for the full top ( including the sloped parts ) as well as the flat surface only of the top main turrets.

So with the so called Baltic scheme ( with the B/W stripes ) Bismarck basically had all sorts of combinations : of Dark Grey ( both full or flat ) and Red ( both full or flat ) and in some cases a mix of it for comparison pourposes.

Very interesting to be noticed is that the guns on the B-Bruno and the C-Ceasar turrets on the final part that goes on top of the turrets under them ( A and D ) were painted on the top parts with the same colour too.

Same thing was done on Tirpitz in Norway thru the various camo schemes both with dark gray and with red.

Different story if we talk Bismarck during Operation Rheinubung and here I fully agree with Jose, Frank and Ulrich.

Talking about the yellow story I have heard that also some British sailors noticed during the capsizing of the ship that the top of the main turrets were painted yellow.
But I have never found anything written about it so far.

It is very important to consider that the painture ( as to me is correctly reported and underlined by Matrosengefreiter Maus ) should have been very difficult to apply on wet surfaces. Due to this reason even if they were able to make it on the main turrets top ( as it seems according to Matrosengefreiter Maus and maybe some British sailors ) it surely never completely dry out allowing the painture to hold strongly were it was applyied.

This can be the reason why even if applyied while sailing ( there are photos of Tirpitz were one can see sailors doing this painting activity as the ship sails thru Baltic sea followed by Admriral Scheer ) it felt off pretty easily leaving there only the Dark Grey that now is visible ( but currently visible only on the secondary turrets that according to Matrosengefreiter Maus were not succesfully painted due to the wet surface ).

Unfortunately we do not have the same evidence of the main turrets flat top surfaces current colour down there.

Due to the above explanation it can be that the yellow ( if ever succesfully applyied ) has gone away too leaving as said only the Dark Grey that was under it correctly applyied many days before and properly ( no wet surface under the painture and time to dry out ), but to me there are some chances that one can still find some yellow there.

My 2 cents of value add, .. I hope :D

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Post by Javier L. » Wed Aug 10, 2005 9:08 am

Antonio, so you are saying that the Bismarck had the top of the turrets painted red at sometime during the Baltic trials? Can you confirm that?

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Bismarck turret tops

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:08 am

Ciao Javier and all,

YES, I confirm that :D

Of course you would like to see evidences, well some can be provided and some not due to copyright or personal collection reasons.

Here you have one available an published :

Pancernicki Typu Bismarck Cz. 3 Pag 23 photo.
Book author and photo owner is Miroslaw Skwiot.
The book is Printed by AJ-Press with ISBN 83-7237-076-1

That is one of the evidences of a trial with 3 turrets Dark Grey and one ( A-Anton ) in red.

In addittion I would like you to make a guess about something else we have available to be seen.

With same Baltic camo scheme Prinz Eugen did some training exercise on the Baltic with Bismarck.
Well there are available colour photos of Prinz Eugen with the red top turrets.

So since that was an air recognition standard scheme for the Luftwaffe and both ships were painted with the same Baltic stripes ( black and white ) scheme just guess which type of top turrets colour should they have been painted.

Remember that during Op. Rheinububg Bismarck and Prinz Eugen basically followed same camo colour changes as it should have been due to same orders received from Adm Lutjens staff.

More, at the end of 1940 also Gneisenau was painted with the so called Baltic scheme with B/W stripes, and Gneisenau did have red top turrets as well ( than Lutzow and some Light Cruisers too ).

So we can assume it was a Kriegsmarine standard scheme for the Baltic area and was with the red tops.

It was the Dark Grey than came in after on Bismarck and Prinz Eugen ( it was already used during Op. Juno by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau ).

Hope my explanation is clear enough.

Ciao Antonio :D

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Prinz Eugen red turrets

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:59 pm

Ciao Javier,

if you want to see colour photos of Prinz Eugen turrets look in here :

http://www.prinzeugen.com/

and you will find confirmations of what I wrote.

As said above there are many other copyrighted ones or from private collections both of Prinz Eugen as well as Bismarck.

Moving into the final yellow, as far as I know nobody has ever seen current status of the main turret tops down there ( only secondary turrets ).

It can be very likely that the yellow paint has run away on themn as well but we do not know.

Just like happened on the swastika's banner both on front as well as in the stern.
It is a fact that those 2 banners were painted over with light grey ( like the Prinz Eugen ones ) and now that paint has gone leaving what was painted under, so the old swastika's the new paint was supposed to cover up.

To see more the effect of the paint leaving a wet surface just look at the photos of Prinz Eugen entering Brest after the mission, almost all the light grey has run away showing partially what was under it.

Hope my logic explanation is clear enough :D

Ciao Antonio :D

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Post by Luca Bevilacqua » Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:21 pm

Hi to all.

I really can not claim to have any first hand material, just some passion.
As a modeller I often searched SMML archives (http://smmlonline.com/).

The best contribution in point of the yellow turret tops debate I recall was from William Aldorfer (0464 issue).
He stated: "
The earliest reference that I have found to the application of a yellow scheme to Bismarck appeared in a letter authored by A.T. Tappman to the editor of Warship Profile 33. In that letter, Tappman states "I also found out from Admiralty records recently that Bismarck's turret-tops were painted yellow for her last sortie." Tappman was not specific about the record to which he referred. I was told several months ago by a credible source that he had seen a copy of a signal sent to the CINC Home Fleet from Admiralty, which described Bismarck as having yellow turrets.

Hans Gally, in Warship No. 35 I believe, states "On 26 May 1941 the turret roofs of the heavy and secondary armament were painted yellow but the heavy seas washed away the colour of the 15cm guns".

In 1979, Squadron/Signal published a book entitled "Kriegsmarine A Pictorial History of the German Navy 1935 - 1945", authored by Robert C. Stern. In that book, Stern makes broad claims about the application of the yellow scheme to KM surface units. That book, which enjoyed wide circulation, may have been largely responsible for the currency that the idea now has.

I addressed the question of the yellow scheme to Paul Schmalenbach, Dieter Jung, and Baron Burkhard von Mullenheim-Rechberg.

In February 1981, I asked Schmalenbach "In preparation for, or during, "Rheinubung", were the main batteries of Prinz Eugen, and the tops of the main and secondary batteries of Bismarck, painted yellow?" In his reply dated 02 March 1981, Schmalenbach said "No".

I addressed a similar question to Jung in February of the following year. His response, dated 17 February 1982, contained the following: "As to yellow parts of guns, turrets, forecastle, this was the aircraft recognition mark for operation "Barbarossa", officially given out on 16.6.1941. So it is quite clearly, that ... Prinz Eugen and Bismarck hadn't this colour scheme during operation "Rheinubung" one month earlier."

An inquiry on the subject to Mullenheim-Rechberg resulted in this reply, dated 06 September 1987: "... no yellow to be seen anywhere. This is confirmed by another survivor who had eventually saved himself from a position halfway up the front mast from where he had seen all the turrets from above. No yellow anywhere - and this survivor has confirmed this to me yesterday once more, over the telephone. From our combined evidence, I think, the idea has to be dismissed."

Mullenheim-Rechberg and Jung both had copies of Stern's book in their possession at the time they wrote me, and were aware of the claims that he had made concerning the application of the yellow scheme.

I have neither solicited nor seen statements from Royal Navy veterans of the Bismarck action on the subject of the yellow scheme, so this avenue of inquiry is still open. I haven't the time or interest to pursue it, but perhaps someone else does. It should be done soon, before much more time passes and takes with it any remaining survivors.


I know this is not first hand nor in any way definitive. Just what I had. Tought it could be useful.

p.s yellow turret tops on models do look great, historically veridicity ... that I really do not know.


Luca

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