What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

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Kyler
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What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Kyler » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:27 pm

Hypothetically after the Battle of the Denmark Straits; Bismarck damaged, is sailing to France and reaches safety before the RN can find and sink him.

How would have this changed the war?

Obviously the Bismarck's escape would have been a huge propaganda coup for the Nazi's, but I don't think much more than that. The RAF & USAAF probably would have bombed the ship into oblivion shortly after its escape.

I think the most important question in this scenario, what would have this done to the British Military and the British people. If Bismarck had escaped, I think it would have been a serious psychological blow to the nation. Though it would have probably only have affected the war effort of for a short period of time, but may have allowed to the Germans to take advantage in certain situations.

Thoughts?
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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Bgile » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:15 pm

I think it's hard to say what would have happened. The USAAF wouldn't have been in the picture any time soon, since the US wasn't in the war yet. I think the Germans decided they couldn't sustain the big warships in France because it was relatively easy for the British to attack them.

I suppose you have three ships in the channel dash and eventually two German battleships in Norway. Definitely complicates the situation w.r.t. the Russian convoys.

The British would still use the midget subs and anything else they could come up with to disable them.

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Legend » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:45 pm

The X-Class would be fun to use in Brest... lots of waves! Imagine having to load up in one of those things and sail all the way into the harbor while rocking like country road...
AND THE SEA SHALL GRANT EACH MAN NEW HOPE, AS SLEEP BRINGS DREAMS.

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by paulcadogan » Thu Oct 01, 2009 2:59 am

Short term:

May 27 PM - Bismarck arrives in St. Nazaire to a hero's welcome. Immediately goes into dry dock. KGV & Rodney head for Loch Ewe or the Clyde to refuel leaving Force H on patrol in the Bay of Biscay. PoW heads home for repairs.

May 28 - RAF's 1st bombing raid. (Nightly raids continue thereafter.) Nelson recalled from Freetown to reinforce Force H, Queen Elizabeth or Valiant recalled from Western Med. Repulse, Revenge & Ramillies head for Scapa to maintain watch in the north.

The British objective would be to have at least two or three capital ships ( combinations of KGV, Rodney, Nelson, QE or V, Renown & later a hurriedly repaired PoW) plus cruisers on patrol in the Bay of Biscay (as opposed to one in March - April 1941 when Hood & KGV alternated in keeping an eye on the Twins). Rodney may have been sent off for her refit once PoW was back in service. Sure, only KGV, PoW & Renown had the measure of speed to at least try to compete with B, S& G - but what else could the Brits do?

This would have to be maintained until the effect of the bombing was determined so any move by Bismarck, and/or S & G to return to the Atlantic could be blocked. Once Bismarck was determined to be heavily damaged the patrols might be relaxed, but not eliminated.

Another question is what would the Germans have done. Might the escape of Bismarck have reduced the likelihood of a ban on further Atlantic raids?

in the Med, the Italians might have been emboldened by the weakening of the British forces at both ends.

Just some quick thoughts...

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

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Bgile » Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:16 am

Legend wrote:The X-Class would be fun to use in Brest... lots of waves! Imagine having to load up in one of those things and sail all the way into the harbor while rocking like country road...
Probably not practical, but it's so close to the bombers bases that it doesn't really matter.

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Bgile » Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:17 am

paulcadogan wrote:May 27 PM - Bismarck arrives in St. Nazaire to a hero's welcome. Immediately goes into dry dock.
When was it the Brits blew up the dry dock?

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by mcubed » Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:52 pm

St Nazaire raid was 28 March 1942

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Kyler » Fri Oct 02, 2009 4:20 am

paulcadogan wrote:Short term:

May 27 PM - Bismarck arrives in St. Nazaire to a hero's welcome. Immediately goes into dry dock. KGV & Rodney head for Loch Ewe or the Clyde to refuel leaving Force H on patrol in the Bay of Biscay. PoW heads home for repairs.

May 28 - RAF's 1st bombing raid. (Nightly raids continue thereafter.) Nelson recalled from Freetown to reinforce Force H, Queen Elizabeth or Valiant recalled from Western Med. Repulse, Revenge & Ramillies head for Scapa to maintain watch in the north.

The British objective would be to have at least two or three capital ships ( combinations of KGV, Rodney, Nelson, QE or V, Renown & later a hurriedly repaired PoW) plus cruisers on patrol in the Bay of Biscay (as opposed to one in March - April 1941 when Hood & KGV alternated in keeping an eye on the Twins). Rodney may have been sent off for her refit once PoW was back in service. Sure, only KGV, PoW & Renown had the measure of speed to at least try to compete with B, S& G - but what else could the Brits do?

This would have to be maintained until the effect of the bombing was determined so any move by Bismarck, and/or S & G to return to the Atlantic could be blocked. Once Bismarck was determined to be heavily damaged the patrols might be relaxed, but not eliminated.

Another question is what would the Germans have done. Might the escape of Bismarck have reduced the likelihood of a ban on further Atlantic raids?

in the Med, the Italians might have been emboldened by the weakening of the British forces at both ends.

Just some quick thoughts...

Paul

Good points, your right, if Bismarck had escaped maybe Hitler would have not gotten scared into never really sending any surface ships deep into the Atlantic.

I really think if Bismarck had escaped the RN would have been paralyzed for a short period. With the loss of Hood, damage to PoW, and the massive fleet finding nothing the psychological damage would have hit the RN hard for probably a few months. Probably leading to escalation on different fronts by the Axis, but in the end Germany would still would loose the war. The escape of the Bismarck would be remembered as horrible period for the people of Britain in WW2.
"It was a perfect attack, Right Height, Right Range, Right cloud cover, Right speed,
Wrong f@%king ship!" Commander Stewart-Moore (HMS Ark Royal)

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by RF » Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:31 pm

If Bismarck had escaped to France I don't think it would change anything.

The RN would still hunt down the supply ships, making further sorties more problematic. The RN wouldn't be any worse off than it was.

For 1941 Barbarossa would take up Hitler's attention for the rest of the year, repairs to Bismarck and the twins take the rest of that year.

For 1942 the question of Tirpitz joining forces with Bismarck would concern the Admiralty, but by then the US is in the war so US battleships would be available. For the Germans the problem would be shortage of oil. Either that prevents a German operation into the Atlantic or an operation does take place in which the German ships get caught by British radar and aircraft and being short ranged have to flee back to base, possibly with some of them being sunk.

Allied superiority at sea (or at least on the surface of the sea) is so supreme the German fleet would be no more effective than in WW1. Only the Arctic convoys would be threatened and possibly the battles of Barents Sea and the North Cape would happen on a larger scale, with the liklihood of bigger scale German defeats.

Unless the Germans had naval airpower and carriers I don't see any alternative outcome. And one carrier isn't enough - the Germans would need a carrier fleet.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Djoser » Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:37 pm

Well I think it's pretty clear that Hitler gave up on using the major surface fleet elements in any real way after the loss of the Bismarck, save perhaps to tie down elements of the Allied fleet. Had the Bismarck escaped, the boost to the morale of the Germans and particularly the German navy would have been massive.

If the four big German ships could then have been assembled into a task force somehow and unleashed on the Atlantic it would have been hell to pay for the Allies. The problem would have been to get the all together and intact so they could actually sortie together. Of course had the Bismarck escaped there might have been considerable incentive to make this happen.

The bombers weren't particularly effective against major Axis surface fleet elements in the first years of the war, in the Western theatre--only when torpedoes were used was any real damage done. Otherwise the damage done was more to the morale of aircrew and numbers of aircraft that kept trying to sink or cripple German ships, with high-altitude bombing in particular.

Of course the RN would have done their best to bottle up the Bismarck with major fleet elements, and it would have largely succeeded no doubt, but there could have been chances for the Bismarck to slip out I would suspect. Maintaining two or more battleships watching the Bismarck at all ties, not to mention trying to prevent the other three from joining with him, that would have placed a very nasty strain on the RN, and one I'm not sure they could have dealt with for an entire year running.

In the mid-43 year range and after you'd have the US battleships with their radar-controlled gunfire as a big challenge to the Bismarck and any other associated big German ships. By 44 the Germans wouldn't have had much of a chance I suspect, unless the four big ships managed to take down two or three more RN BB's in the meantime, and worked up a better radar-directed gunnery system. And as has been mentioned, the often vaunted South Dakota class didn't perform so well against what was for all intents and purposes a WWI era battlecruiser during First Guadalcanal. Now if 'Ching' Lee (with his aptitude for gunnery) in the Washington was going toe-to-toe with Bismarck, that would have been some battle!

Certainly the Bismarck escaping wouldn't have won the war, but the naval situation in the Atlantic would have been a lot chancier, without question, for a year and probably longer.

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by madmike » Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:04 am

Ok Bismarck makes Brest,....gets repaired(And by some wild chance is not damaged by RAF attacks),And makes it back to germany with the twins in a channel dash,say early 42, about feb.(thats a lot of luck),that puts the German capital ships all together,now lets say that after 6 months working up together and planning the Germans are ready to try and break out into the north atlantic, By this time the RN has to pull in as many ships as possible to cover anything the Germans might do.Also at this point the US is in the war,so the RN would get a lot of help,NOT only battleship support from the US,but by aircraft and the US navy could take over most of the convoy escort duties,freeing up more ships for the RN to use patrolling the breakout points,If the US navy send 2 or 3 battleships to help the Brits and takes over most of the convoy escort duty.Then life becomes VERY TOUGH for the German navy.The brits would pull as many ships together as they could,battleships,battle cruisers,carriers,god knows how many cruisers and destroyers,Please remember the royal navy was the largest navy in the world at this time, i think all the Germans could really do then would be hit run attacks on the russian convoys.But those convoys would have a much larger and heavier escort force than before.AND on top of all this Hitlers mind is on Russia.A breakout into the atlantic becomes almost impossible,just to many ships and aircraft to try and hide from and once discovered it would be near impossible to escape,And no matter how good the german ships might have been,4 capital ships just cant defeat a fleet of that sort of size and power,and you could bet your last dollar the brits would not hold back in attacking the german ships in every way they could think up.A fleet action between the RN and the German navy is not a option.

just my humble thoughts
NO captain can be held at fault that puts his ship alongside that of his enemys,,,,,,,lord H Nelson RN

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Post by Terje Langoy » Mon Nov 01, 2010 11:38 am

madmike wrote: ... and makes it back to Germany with the Twins in a channel dash ... put the German capital ships together ... break out into the North Atlantic
This strategy is like having the Mountain come to David. Let me elaborate: At the baseline you have 75 pr cent of Germany´s capital ships located at Brest - which happens to be an Atlantic port. These ships represent “the Mountain” whereas the Tirpitz, still eating bratwursts and drinking beer at a tavern in Kiel, could be “David”.

So, first you want to move the Mountain through the Channel gauntlet, then have the lot running the GIUK gauntlet - this in order to merge David and the Mountain on the High Seas. Would it not be easier to just let David come to the Mountain..?

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by lwd » Mon Nov 01, 2010 1:45 pm

The problem was at Brest the German ships sustained repeated damage from air attacks. With an additional battleship there they this is almost certain to continue. Getting Tirpitz there would also be a lot riskier as well.

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Re: What If Bismarck Had Escaped?

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:03 pm

Ciao all,

Bismarck escaping to Brest was not going to change the stategic naval scenario on the Atlantic Ocean, only to make it easier for the Royal Navy to manage it probably, especially if also Tirpitz would have joined in there.

The evident strategic numeric advantage of the Royal Navy compared to the Kriegsmarine in fact would have allowed them to " block " the harbour exit, waiting for them to come out and engage them until the end with the majority of their heavy units well supported by carriers too.

Meanwhile Bismarck was going to be bombed every day at Brest for sure.

If you think about it you can easily realize that Admiral Erich Raeder was right when at the beginning of the war said : " My crew and ships in this situation can only show how to die with dignity " ... and he knew the situation very well.

Bismarck as well as Tirpitz or any " Raider " like the twins ( SH+GU ) or a Panzerschiffe can only hunt for merchant convoys or single merchant ship, when the coverage was allowing them to have chances to win easily, surely they cannot pretend to face the British fleet on a naval battle, the end of such a battle was in discussion at all.

Thinking after WW2 end, it would have been much more effective if Bismarck, with Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, the repaired Gneisenau, all the cruisers and maybe the 2 planned carriers ( Graf Zeppelin and Seydlitz ) well supported and escorted by Luftwaffe on their exits were going to block the Artic Convoys route or at least make it extremely difficult to be managed by the allied.

It was not going to change the course of the war, but at least it was going to be an effective utilization of your heavy units from the Norwegian base and surely the occasion for many local battles for that route between Axis and Allied forces.

It was done partially after, by Adm Donitz, after Bismarck was lost, after Gneisenau and the carriers were abandoned, when only Tirpitz and Scharnhorst were left alone up there with no support nor air coverage, and we all know how it went.

Bye Antonio :D
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Post by Terje Langoy » Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:24 pm

lwd wrote:The problem was at Brest the German ships sustained repeated damage from air attacks. With an additional battleship there they this is almost certain to continue. Getting Tirpitz there would also be a lot riskier as well.
A channel dash plus a new breakout adds considerably more to the risk assessment for the group at Brest rather than heading directly out into the Atlantic from their current location. It will also provide the Tirpitz a better chance to breakout successfully if the British must divide forces. This is not a difficult piece of math.

The objective is not getting the Tirpitz to Brest - it is to gather all of them in the Atlantic. There can be little doubt the proposed movements presents more of a detour for three of the four ships.

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