Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby alecsandros » Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:05 am

RF wrote:POW was different to Canopus because it was a key RN battleship and not expendable and this is the weakness of what Byron has described as the use of selective lines of argument.

... However, with proper manovreing since 5:41, at 5:55, all 4 RN ships COULD have opened fire on the GErmans. They did not, and trying to pardon the cruisers is nice intelectual provocation, but ultimately we have 2 British capital ships getting plastered while 2 other British ships were "watching and shadowing the enemy"...
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RF » Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:12 am

Alberto Virtuani wrote:.....to force a very reluctant enemy (the German Navy during the whole WWII) to accept battle !


I can think of a few cases where German commanders DID initiate battle with the RN and other Allied ships.... such as Langsdorf in the Graf Spee charging in at Harwood's cruisers, Marschall attacking an aircraft carrier and destroyer escort before his lookouts had positively identified the target as a carrier rather than a battleship, Kahler in the hilfskreuzer Thor taking on three RN AMC's one after the other and in boxing terminology scoring two wins on points and a third by a knockout. There was also Ruckteschell in the Michel who tried and missed in his attempt to ambush the Alcantara as it came to the assistance of the stricken George Clymer.
There was also the fiasco from the German point of view of the Barents Sea action, a battle that was initiated by Kummetz to draw off a convoy escort which failed through timidity and false target identification on the part of the German ship commanders.
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RF » Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:35 pm

alecsandros wrote:
RF wrote:POW was different to Canopus because it was a key RN battleship and not expendable and this is the weakness of what Byron has described as the use of selective lines of argument.

... However, with proper manovreing since 5:41, at 5:55, all 4 RN ships COULD have opened fire on the GErmans. They did not, and trying to pardon the cruisers is nice intelectual provocation, but ultimately we have 2 British capital ships getting plastered while 2 other British ships were "watching and shadowing the enemy"...


ALL wars feature mistakes, lost opportunities and ''what if'' situations. Most commanders make some mistakes at some point in their careers. Some blunders were truly spectacular, with Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo heading the list for WW2. Allied commanders including Churchill and Stalin also made some spectacular howlers.

What they didn't have and what we seem to take for granted is that we have the benefit of hindsight. I am always mindful of that when making my posts, others seem less so. There is also the well known phrase about it being human to make mistakes, it certainly is.

Along with everybody else on this forum I could rewrite the history of entire wars by replaying them as a fantasy scenario and getting the decisions right. But when you are the actual commander, the one making the decisions, it is so easy to get caught out by either making a wrong decision or by not making a decision at all when it was needed. How far a commander is to blame depends on the precise circumstances and often on subjective judgement of those who choose to criticise. And those who are dead cannot answer back.

And of course a commander can get criticised as well for getting it right. There is no pleasing some people.
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RF » Fri Dec 20, 2013 7:02 pm

alecsandros wrote:
RF wrote:POW was different to Canopus because it was a key RN battleship and not expendable and this is the weakness of what Byron has described as the use of selective lines of argument.

... However, with proper manovreing since 5:41, at 5:55, all 4 RN ships COULD have opened fire on the GErmans. They did not, and trying to pardon the cruisers is nice intelectual provocation


Its neither intelectual or a provocation, at least on my part. I try to see why they didn't rather than just apportion blame.

That comment doesn't even start to address an issue so far not raised in this thread - could Norfolk/Suffolk together have posed such a gunnery threat to Bismarck that it would save Hood? Even if not could they have then swung the balance in a shoot out between POW and Bismarck? A betting man might have been interested in the odds of all four RN ships getting sunk....

, but ultimately we have 2 British capital ships getting plastered while 2 other British ships were "watching and shadowing the enemy"...


The use of the word ''plastered'' is revealing. So Bismarck had the upper hand against POW as well as Hood? So POW should continue the action to destruction on the chance it could land some telling blows on Bismarck? It might have done that and cause Bismarck to be nailed - but I think it is more likely that Bismarck had already suffered most of the damage it was going to get from POW and that posed the risk to Tovey of having only KGV available to catch up with Bismarck without then exploding.... apply sods law and then when KGV catches up with Bismarck on its own it could get sunk (slowly) as well.

Fortunately for the critics here it didn't go that way - and that was largely down to three people: Leach, Wake-Walker and Lutjens.
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby paulcadogan » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:24 pm

Gentlefolk.... I've been refraining from further comment here because as far as I see it, all arguments have been put on the table, clearly and repeatedly and the discussion is simply circling covering old ground with neither side being convinced. At this point, it has all been WELL argued and what is needed is further information from the war records as Antonio has said...

So now I want to pose a hypothetical but nevertheless related question:

Suppose Hood had not been there? Let's say PoW had gone out on a "shakedown" patrol to Hvalfiord and was there when the alarm was raised of Bismarck being in Norway. Hood and KGV put to sea from Scapa but were 24 hours away when Bismarck and PG were passing through the Strait tailed by WW's cruisers and PoW was in a prime position to intercept.

What would Captain Leach have done, knowing his ship's functional problems? Would he, like Somerville in Renown, have asked for permission to engage? Would he have steered to intercept on his own volition? Would Admiral Tovey or the Admiralty have ordered the engagement? Or would they have ordered him to wait and shadow until Hood & KGV arrived?
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby alecsandros » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:30 pm

RF wrote: could Norfolk/Suffolk together have posed such a gunnery threat to Bismarck that it would save Hood?

Who knows ?
They would have made some impact for sure... how much though... is tough to say... The most important thing would be that at least some of the German artillery would be used against them, thus sparing Hood/PoW of some damage.
And then, 8" hits can be quite dangerous even for battleships (hits on radars/directors...)

Anyhow... I guess Paul is right... we went over this so many times... I'm getting tired...
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby tommy303 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:37 pm

In contemplating what could, should, or was planned to be done in the Denmark Straits, I am reminded of Helmuth von Moltke's famous quote,
no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RF » Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:17 pm

alecsandros wrote:
RF wrote: could Norfolk/Suffolk together have posed such a gunnery threat to Bismarck that it would save Hood?

Who knows ?
They would have made some impact for sure... how much though... is tough to say... The most important thing would be that at least some of the German artillery would be used against them, thus sparing Hood/PoW of some damage.
And then, 8" hits can be quite dangerous even for battleships (hits on radars/directors...) .


What I mean't by asking this question was whether Lutjens would have directed at least Caesar and Dora turrets to fire on Wake-Walker before Hood blew up. My thinking is that unless the gunnery threat was really serious the answer would be no - that only the 5.9 inch guns would be used (if they were in range) which in any case at that juncture would be next to useless in firing on Holland.
The danger is that if Lutjens had been persuaded by Lindemann to continue the action after Hood blew up, and then POW' took more substantiaal damage including turrets knocked out, a much closer ranged Norfolk and Suffolk could suddenly be targered by Bismarck's full 15 inch battery in an attempt to sink them at the much closer ranges, in much the same way as the Italian heavy cruisers were caught out at Matapan.
Last edited by RF on Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby RF » Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:34 pm

paulcadogan wrote:So now I want to pose a hypothetical but nevertheless related question:

Suppose Hood had not been there? Let's say PoW had gone out on a "shakedown" patrol to Hvalfiord and was there when the alarm was raised of Bismarck being in Norway. Hood and KGV put to sea from Scapa but were 24 hours away when Bismarck and PG were passing through the Strait tailed by WW's cruisers and PoW was in a prime position to intercept.

What would Captain Leach have done, knowing his ship's functional problems? Would he, like Somerville in Renown, have asked for permission to engage? Would he have steered to intercept on his own volition? Would Admiral Tovey or the Admiralty have ordered the engagement? Or would they have ordered him to wait and shadow until Hood & KGV arrived?


I notice that the Repulse hasn't been mentioned in this, as what is proposed is a totally different battle scenario.

Tovey would have KGV as flagship, so Hood would not be the lead ship. Tovey would have three ships capable of matching Bismarck for speed to bring Lutjens to action. KGV (as flagship) plus Hood is quite capable of dealing with Bismarck on their own. Add Repulse to the force, with orders to manoeouvre independently so as to get on to Bismarck's opposite flank and the odds swing more to Tovey.
If Leach has the assurance that Tovey can catch Bismarck then POW's overall importance is relatively reduced - if I read Paul correctly what is being suggested is that the risk of losing POW is traded against still having Hood intact - in which case I think POW is more expendible. In that scenario POW could engage Bismarck to the death in order to have a chance of inflicting serious damage on Bismarck so that Tovey can catch Lutjens with his two or three ships. A damaged Bismarck should be a lesser threat to Hood (and Repulse) and make the job easier for Tovey. In both battles - with POW and Tovey it is the KGV's that act as the punch bag for Bismarck and neither of the battlecruisers. That I think would make a decisive difference.

If Norfolk/ Suffolk were in company or close proximity to POW I would keep them out of range - so they can shadow and home Tovey in.
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby alecsandros » Mon Dec 23, 2013 6:28 pm

RF wrote:
What I mean't by asking this question was whether Lutjens would have directed at least Caesar and Dora turrets to fire on Wake-Walker before Hood blew up. My thinking is that unless the gunnery threat was really serious the answer would be no - that only the 5.9 inch guns would be used (if they were in range) which in any case at that juncture would be next to useless in firing on Holland.


That would be difficult to accomplish.
Alltough the 150mm guns had a range of about 18km, in practice they were effective out to 10-12km maximum.
So the threat of the 2 British cruisers could not have been dealt with by using the Bismarck's secondary artillery.
Most likely, the Prinz Eugen would be ordered to engage one of the British cruisers, while at least 1 of Bismarck's main turrets would be directed against the other.

But Bismarck would not open fire with 38cm shells until both British capital ships (Hood and Prince of Wales) woudl have been taken care of [this was standard German practice - to engage the most proeminent threat]

This is why the 2 cruisers would actualy have chances of doing ugly damage to Bismarck. They would have maybe 10-15 minutes of firing against the battleship and against PRinz Eugen....
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby paulcadogan » Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:40 pm

RF wrote:if I read Paul correctly what is being suggested is that the risk of losing POW is traded against still having Hood intact - in which case I think POW is more expendible.


Not really what I was thinking.... I was trying to make the point that the very same arguments we have been making on both sides of this debate would have applied and a decision would have had to be made at some level. The wisdom of that decision, whichever way it went, would have been shown by the outcome and if the outcome was unfavourable for the British then criticism of that decision would follow...

If PoW engaged alone - either by Leach acting on his own or on orders from the Admiralty - and her defects had shown up and she had been driven off with heavy damage or sunk, with Bismarck escaping...we might say that knowing the potential defects and with reinforcements on the way, PoW should have waited.

If she had waited and Bismarck had escaped, we might say that it was a failure to uphold the RN tradition to "engage the enemy more closely."

Damned if you do, damned if you don't....but I daresay that the criticism on the "don't" side would be somewhat harsher! (Yes Alberto! :D )

I left off Repulse because KGV, Hood and PoW together vs. Bismarck could be considered "overwhelming" force - and my main focus was on what decision would be made on PoW acting alone...
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:37 pm

Paul Cadogan wrote: "the discussion is simply circling covering old ground with neither side being convinced"

Alecsandros wrote: "Anyhow... I guess Paul is right... we went over this so many times"

I agree with Paul and Alecsandros: the facts are now clear (thanks to Antonio Bonomi reconstruction) and everyone has made up his own opinion regarding the behaviour of the officers involved.


Paul Cadogan wrote: "Damned if you do, damned if you don't....but I dare say that the criticism on the "don't" side would be somewhat harsher!"

In the RN (in most Navies in the world and in all Armies in the world as well), the criticism for not doing something it is your duty to do, is obviously (and much correctly) harsher !

In the scenario you imagine, I'm sure the Admiralty would have ordered the engagement anyway at least to soften BS before the arrival of the Home Fleet. I also want to think that Leach would have engaged alone the BS on his own initiative in case it was impossible to get in touch with the Admiralty. However I'm not sure what he would have done after receiving the first hit on board (especially if the hit was iso close to him as the one in compass platform)......

Also, I'm not sure WW would have acted differently, had the PoW been alone.....

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby wadinga » Sun Dec 29, 2013 1:45 am

Season's Greetings to All,

It has been suggested that the debate has ground to a halt for lack of factual evidence, but for some there is no need of more:
the facts are now clear (thanks to Antonio Bonomi reconstruction) and everyone has made up his own opinion regarding the behaviour of the officers involved.


I still cannot agree with several of Antonio's ten "facts" most notably those positioning Wake-Walker's ships close enough to intervene. Much of this depends on the plan showing the two vessels' tracks together. It has been implied that this was drawn up as a result of a conspiracy to deliberately misrepresent their location.

I have always pointed out that IMHO neither enquiry was particularly interested in the position of the other ships. The "triangle of doom" presented at the First Enquiry was the result of the casual observations made on the basis of Hood's apparent distance in the mirage-prone conditions. The Norfolk and Suffolk map was presented at the Second Enquiry, but far from being the result of a planned conspiracy, the map is dated 12th August, ie it was only drawn upduring the Second Enquiry, and its presentation by Rowell PoW's navigator is mentioned in the evidence (Question 118). Whilst there are lines "joining" the two cruiser's tracks their significance is not explained, but their presence implies that the tracks are correctly positioned relative to one another. Yet there is no evidence that the ships sighted each other. In fact Suffolk's narrative confirms they had little or no idea where Norfolk was, even at the conclusion of the action.

20. 0638 (B)-0734 (B). Course and speed as requisite for following enemy in general direction 210°, at 18 miles distance, and for working on to his starboard quarter, Norfolk being (from her reports) to port.


And later
1716 (B). Norfolk in sight bearing 076°, 12 miles.
so the two ships could only be linked reliably in position late that afternoon. This two track plan is a hastily put together map, and like the purple annotations on PoW Plan 4 now used to "move" the cruisers closer to Bismarck in Antonio's evaluation, there is no actual evidence these are based on any real information at all. Each cruiser's track is correct but I believe there is no reason to be confident in their position relative to each other.

With all due respect I think the thread should stick to studying the evidence and not get diverted onto alternate scenarios.

Paul C Looking at the high quality Schmalenbach film on you tube I believe PoW fires only forward turrets and the white spot aft resolves clearly as a shell splash- opinion? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU76vVM6lWY

Was PoW nearly head-on to her enemies when these shots were fired? As the Germans describe? Does Rowell's plan need modifying to show this Hard Turn Towards the enemy?

All the Best

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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby paulcadogan » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:22 am

wadinga wrote:Paul C Looking at the high quality Schmalenbach film on you tube I believe PoW fires only forward turrets and the white spot aft resolves clearly as a shell splash- opinion? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU76vVM6lWY


WoW! Sean, I've never seen that so clearly before! You are absolutely right that it looks like a shell splash - you can see other "overs" just prior to the guns firing! A straddle and very likely a hit in there...amazing!

wadinga wrote:With all due respect I think the thread should stick to studying the evidence and not get diverted onto alternate scenarios.


Apologies...but I was really just trying to make the point that the same considerations and resulting debate would have been in play...
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Re: Denmark Strait and RN Articles of War

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:28 am

Hello everybody,

Greetings to all of you ... :D

@ Wadinga,

nice catch my friend ! ... a good quality version but running a bit too fast ... we need to evaulate it on this quality but with more possibility to stop a single pic/fragment of it ... I know I must go to Potsdam ( Berlin ) one day to search for that film, ... and hopefully find the full DS battle film if ever preserved ... and given back to Bundesarchiv.

Here an extract from you film version of what I assume is your new finding :

PoW_new_pics_01.jpg
PoW_new_pics_01.jpg (21.66 KiB) Viewed 50 times


Here some more of it from a different film were you can clearly see the HMS PoW forward and aft turret firing :

PoW_fwd_aft_firing.jpg
PoW_fwd_aft_firing.jpg (46.23 KiB) Viewed 53 times


and after we can see the beginning of what you have found now on better quality :

PoW_fwd_aft_firing_02.jpg
PoW_fwd_aft_firing_02.jpg (42.49 KiB) Viewed 53 times


Moving on " The Plot ", ... which is the Norfolk and Suffolk battle tracks reproduced on a map for the Hood Second Board of Inquiry on August 12th, 1941, ... the one that was used to save RearAdm F. Wake Walker, ... I think you would agree that it is clearly NOT the result of what both Norfolk and Suffolk were communicating being their own positions on the radio messages sent that day, since it was a lot different that the one plotted.

The Plot correct name is : ADM 116/4352 Exhibit A - Drew for Hood Second Board of Inquiry ( Adm Walker ) on August 12th, 1941

http://hmshood.com/history/denmarkstrait/S&Nplot.gif

After having made clear this point which is irrefutable and so easy to be demonstrated at any time, we can explain what has been done.

Suffolk had an error factor on more than 20 sea miles overall, ... Norfolk of only 5 sea miles.

Who drew that plot simply executed on graphic form what somebody was dictating him, and placed with the correction factor introduced the Norfolk and Suffolk tracks were they wanted to end up being each others.
Than with a "magic touch" thay placed the enemy track were they needed to, so in the middle of them and always at the distance they wanted them to be.
This is the truth, and I can demonstate it at any time to everybody.
But since I will be in Kew ( London ) at the Public Record Office ( PRO ) from January 18th, until January 24th, 2014, just looking for more of the original documents hidden for more than 70 years, I can be more precise after my trip about it.

What I need to find out is if also the track itself has been wrongly drew or only the positioning of it on the map for both cruisers.

Bye Antonio :D
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