Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

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Antonio Bonomi
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Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Sat May 25, 2013 3:20 pm

Hello everybody,

a question that often comes to my mind while talking with some friends more expert than me on Royal Navy history.

What was the evaluation the british admiralty did about the Denmark Strait occurrence versus the directions provided by the Articles of War ???

http://www.hmsrichmond.org/rnarticles.htm

Opinions are welcome ....

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

phil gollin
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby phil gollin » Sat May 25, 2013 7:58 pm

.

Totally irrelevant.

"King's Regs" are what you are after.

( Plus, of course, CAFOs, AFO, HFOs, CBs and BRs - PLUS any standing orders from the Fleet or Squadron commander. )

.

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Sat May 25, 2013 8:55 pm

Hello Phil and everybody,

you mean this document ?

http://archive.org/details/kingsregulations01greaiala

Was the above 1913 version still valid on 1941 ?

What do you mean with : CAFOs, AFO, HFOs, CBs and BRs

Thanks ... Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Thorsten Wahl » Sat May 25, 2013 9:20 pm

Antonio Bonomi wrote:Hello Phil and everybody,
What do you mean with : CAFOs, AFO, HFOs, CBs and BRs
Thanks ... Antonio :D


document categories at the national archives
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Sun May 26, 2013 8:26 am

Hello everybody,

@ Thorsten,

many thanks for the explanation :D

@ Phil,

I have done some checks and it seems that the King’s Regulation 1913 were valid into WW 2 and have been later substituted by the Queen’s Regulation later on 1953.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen's_Regulations

Similarly the Articles of War 1757 were still valid into WW 2 and have been later changed on 1957 and 2006.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Articles_of_War

As far as I can read into the King’ Regulation 1913 at section Discipline Generally, on page 225, with reference number 729, it states :

“ The printed sheets containing so much of the Naval Discipline Act as relates to the punishment of offenses, viz., the Articles of War, are to be displayed in an accessible part of the ship, for the information of the ship’s company to whom this portion of the Act is to be read quarterly, together with the last return of court-martial received from Admiralty. “

So back we are to the Articles of War 1757 which apparently were still the valid reference on 1941.

Reading those Articles of War 1757, one can easily associate the reference 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 with the occurrence at the Denmark Strait battle.

Here they are :

http://www.hmsrichmond.org/rnarticles.htm

What I am trying to discover here is which kind of scrutiny have been done by the Royal Navy Admiralty about the Denmark Strait given those reference/regulations in place at the time.


Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby phil gollin » Sun May 26, 2013 9:20 am

.

Read my original answer.

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Sun May 26, 2013 9:55 am

Hello everybody,

@ Phil,

many thanks for your opinion and help.

@ everybody,

according to Sir Ludovic Kennedy ( Kennedy, Ludovic (1974). PURSUIT - The Sinking of the Bismarck. Book Club Associates. p. 212. ) the court martial proposal argument was discussed among Admiral Sir John Tovey, the First Sea Lord Sir Dudley Pound and Sir Winston Churchill ( ironically one of the author of the King’s Regulations on 1913 when he was First Sea Lord ).

In fact it is also mentioned on both Wikipedia links for Capt. J.C. Leach and Rear Adm . Wake-Walker, you can read them as follows.

For Capt J.C. Leach :

“ Despite a proposal to court-martial Leach for breaking off the action with the Bismarck after the Hood had sunk, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his part “.

You can read in here :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Leach ... vy_officer)

And for Rear-Adm F. Wake-Walker :

“ On 23 May 1941 at 7.22 pm the Suffolk sighted the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. After a brief exchange of fire, the heavily out-gunned British ships took cover in nearby fog and tracked the enemy by radar. They maintained contact with the two German ships through the night despite appalling weather, and successfully guided Vice-Admiral Lancelot Holland's two capital ships HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales into position to intercept the Bismarck. The two forces came together in the battle of the Denmark Strait the next day.
In the subsequent battle, Vice-Admiral Holland was killed when Hood was destroyed, and many of Prince of Wales's senior officers were killed or wounded, which left Wake-Walker in command of the surviving ships, Norfolk, Suffolk and the damaged Prince of Wales. He decided not to risk continuing the battle and decided to continue to shadow the German ships, believing that Admiral John Tovey, with powerful elements of the Home Fleet, was approaching.
Wake-Walker stayed in the trail of the Bismarck, but radar contact was lost early on 25 May. Wake-Walker sent Suffolk to search to the southwest, and thus she played no further in the battle. However Norfolk turned east, and was present during the final part of the battle, the following day.
Later, moves were made to court-martial Wake-Walker and Captain John Leach of Prince of Wales. The view was taken that they were wrong not to have continued the battle with Bismarck after Hood had sunk. John Tovey, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, was appalled at this criticism. A row ensued between Tovey and his superior, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound. Tovey stated that the two officers had acted correctly, not endangering their ships needlessly and ensuring that the German ships were tracked. Tovey threatened to resign his position and appear at any court-martial as 'defendant's friend' and defence witness. No more was heard of the proposal.
For his part in the destruction of the Bismarck, Wake-Walker was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire ( CBE) “.

You can read in here too :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_W ... fwar.org-3

So summarizing it seems that :

“ Later, moves were made to court-martial Rear Adm F. Wake-Walker and Captain John C. Leach of Prince of Wales.

The view was taken that they were wrong not to have continued the battle with Bismarck after Hood had sunk.

Admiral John Tovey, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, was appalled at this criticism.

A row ensued between Tovey and his superior, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound.

Admiral Tovey stated that the two officers had acted correctly, not endangering their ships needlessly and ensuring that the German ships were tracked.

Admiral Tovey threatened to resign his position and appear at any court-martial as 'defendant's friend' and defence witness.

No more was heard of the proposal “.

If this is true as I personally believe, anybody can have his own opinion about what happened in reality given the regulations/articles in place.

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby phil gollin » Mon May 27, 2013 9:47 am

.

Simplistically, it does NOT fall within the remit of Articles or War or regulations (although one or more would need to be invoked for a courts martial).

The discussions SEEM to have been on the basis of a discussion of professional competence/best practice. The RN did NOT insist on any particular doctrine, indeed its "Conduct of the Fleet" CB specifically stated that although it was for guidance it was in no way meant to be proscriptive. "Doctrine" (in the modern sense) and the RN of WW2 shouldn't really be associated - commanding officers were expected to know all the documents but NOT be hobbled by them..

Again, simplistically, if you merely followed orders then you almost certainly couldn't get court martialled, BUT you could easily be side-lined or even retired if you had been "wrong". IF you broke the guidelines and things went wrong then, in general, you were only court martialled after an initial inquiry found there was a case to answer (having said that the loss of a ship, or serious damage particularly navigational errors, would almost invariably result in a courts martial even if it was perfunctory to just read the facts into record !).

.

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Mon May 27, 2013 7:35 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Phil,

by writing : " Simplistically, it does NOT fall within the remit of Articles or War or regulations (although one or more would need to be invoked for a courts martial) ".

You mean that those 5 articles did not apply to Capt J.C. Leach and Rear-Adm F. Wake-Walker for the Denmark Strait disengagement ( Leach ) and failure to engage/continue the battle started by Vice-Adm L. Holland only 9 minutes before ( Wake-Walker ) ?

Bye Antonio :D
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In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby phil gollin » Mon May 27, 2013 9:17 pm

.

PLEASE read what I wrote.

Any case would ONLY be taken forward if his senior officers felt that there was a case to be answered.

IF Hood's Captain had survived he (and the Admiral) would have faced a courts martial for losing his ship - I doubt it would be more than a formality, the two inquiries into Hood's loss were important because there were no senior survivors.

.

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RNfanDan » Tue May 28, 2013 2:44 am

phil gollin wrote:.

IF Hood's Captain had survived he (and the Admiral) would have faced a courts martial for losing his ship - I doubt it would be more than a formality, the two inquiries into Hood's loss were important because there were no senior survivors.



I have long understood that an on-board Admiral, issuing local orders for his Flagship's movements on a tactical level --effectively displaced the Captain as commander of the ship. (I Invite correction on this singular point here:_____)

As Captain Kerr in Hood was directly under Holland's orders would he not, therefore, be held harmless for following the orders of his direct superior---even in absentia, had he somehow survived?

I am not challenging, simply asking for clarification. This was a different situation from that faced by a Captain acting under Indirect orders, i.e., not having the Admiral right there on the bridge with him.

Thanks, Phil...
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby phil gollin » Tue May 28, 2013 8:42 am

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At least in the RN the Ship's Captain remains responsible for fighting and manouervring the ship UNLESS the Admiral makes a specific command.

For example ;

The Admiral may say "close the enemy" and for that he will be responsible.

The captain will decide how to close and he will be responsible for that.

That is the normal way things were done (and why squadrons/fleets trained together such that the admiral(s)/Captains could get to understand what was required with minimal signals.

-------------

IF the Admiral said steer x-degrees, proceed at 20 knots and the ship struck rocks then the Admiral (and his navigating officer) would be responsible, BUT the ships captain (and navigating officer, and possibly officer of the watch) would be required to show (at a courts martial) that they had taken appropriate actions to notify the Admiral of the specific danger.

Ideally on battleship flagships there were different bridges for Admirals and Captains, these were normally for operation versus staff duties, during a fight the Admiral would normally join the Captain for better co-ordination.

.

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Tue May 28, 2013 1:14 pm

Ciao all,

@ Phil,

I see your points and agree with you.

My way to see this is very simple, given the regulations and the occurrences :

1 ) There was a battle plan agreed among Adm Tovey and Vice-Adm Holland ( Tovey on the London Gazette ), surely Rear-Adm Wake-Walker was informed either by one of them or both. Capt Leach was informed as he himself declared to Hood board of inquiry.

http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... 6-4352.htm

Ref : " Intend both ships to engage Bismarck and to leave Prinz Eugen to Norfolk and Suffolk = 00.32."

2) The engagement started and the 4 Royal Navy warships were called in action against the enemy as planned. The battle was ongoing the flag/order to fight clearly issued by Vice-Adm Holland.

3) Vice-Adm Holland died on board Hood and Rear-Adm Wake-Walker was supposed to continue the engagement just as the Articles of War clearly define on ref. 10 and 11. Capt Leach could not disengage the battle started ref. 11 and 12 of the Articles of War.

4) It did not happen, and 3 warships against 2 disengaged breacking off the battle/action on going. Churchill was upset about it and asked for a court martial. Probably with Ref. 10,11, 12 , 13 and 14 of the Articles of War.

5) Adm Tovey did not want that to happen and put himself clearly between Churchill and an eventual court martial call for the above reasons.

6) Churchill decided not to pursue them and Adm Tovey and accepted the Adm Tovey solution. Rear-Adm Wake-Walker and Capt. Leach got the 2 medals.

In any case this solution was not liked at all into Royal Navy and we all know what was the "nickname" the british sailors associated to HMS Prince of Wales : " the coward ship ".

Churchill was "forced" by this fact to use the HMS Prince of Wales for the trip and meeting with the USA President F.D. Roosevelt on August 1941.

What was going the real outcome of all this if Bismarck had escaped free on the Atlantic ocean after May 24th, 1941 Denmark Strait engagement.

In my personal opinion nobody was going to save Capt. Leach and Rear-Adm Wake-Walker from a sure court martial for cowardice and disengagement in front of the enemy once called into action. The fact that Bismarck was later sunk by the Home Fleet commander Adm Tovey turned the whole scenario/things the way we know today.

Having sunk the Bismarck Adm Tovey was the "man of the day", … during a war time very critical period, ... and Churchill had to back off his court martial request.

They have to say thanks to the Swordfish guy’s … for having delivered the Bismarck on a silver plate … and also Adm Tovey should join them on the thanks, .. because if Bismarck had escaped to France, ... he was going surely to have some troubles too from Churchill.

There is an evident difference with Adm A.B. Cunningham way to think and act : “ It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition “.

Vice-Adm Holland and the brave crew of HMS Hood contributed to build Royal Navy tradition on the centuries, … for the others I leave the judgment to the future generations knowing the real events …

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RNfanDan » Tue May 28, 2013 3:04 pm

Thanks to both you gentlemen, for this information. I have consulted my Brian Lavery resources for help along these lines, but even with his fine work available, it does not seem to provide the level of insight as you have done, here.

It is appreciated.... :ok:

Dan
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby phil gollin » Wed May 29, 2013 8:48 am

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Antonio,

Two problems.

Once Holland died, then Wake-Walker was free to do whatever he felt was correct (under higher level Admiralty orders) - but remember what I said about NO such thing as the "modern" idea of doctrine in the WW2 RN. Wake-Walker was expected to use his professional judgement and be judged against that.

The situation afterwards really demonstrated the difference between professional naval officers and a politician who had been an Army officer in the Victorian and Edwardian periods - different thought processes.

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