should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

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sineatimorar
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should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by sineatimorar » Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:38 am

This is one tactical question I have been researching and I am yet to see any discussion on this. Currently reading book by Baron burkard von mullenheim rechberg. 'A survivor's story'. Very interesting reading.

He gives very good tactical reasons behind the separation with the belief that this saved the prinz from the same fate as the bismarck.

But still it raises some alternative possibilities based on wartime records on how the concentrated AA fire of multiple ships is better than one ship on it's own.

The main question being "Being fully aware that the greatest Danger to the ships was in fact from British Aircraft carriers; Why split forces ? It was not covered by operational orders to split forces as the entire operational instructions related to 'joint' operations"

The 'lucky' hit was exactly that lucky; Two ships means two targets, A splitting of attack formations would have meant a possible 50% less chance of a hit given any one attack and possibly a 40 to 50% increase in downing a attacking plane.

I am interested in what others may think.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by alecsandros » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:13 am

sineatimorar wrote:This is one tactical question I have been researching and I am yet to see any discussion on this. Currently reading book by Baron burkard von mullenheim rechberg. 'A survivor's story'. Very interesting reading.
... It has been discussed that Prinz Eugen needed fuel more badly than Bismarck, and she needed to ressuply fast. Also, Lutjens still hoped to do some damage, and dettached the PRinz to attack some less escorted convoy.

In reality, Prinz Eugen refueled on May 26th, when having only "200-250 tons" of fuel left in her tanks at 6:00 in the morning.

Exactly how did she arrived at 250 tons left, is unclear to me, as the report on May 25th 8:00 mentioned 1145 tons available.
[implying an average fuel burn rate of 40,68 tons/hour]

===
Nonetheless, I also think that the combined operation should have continued, with or without refueling.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Vic Dale » Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:02 pm

Hi to Sineatimorar.

The real problem for Lutjens as far as PG was concerned was indeed her fuel as Alecsandros pointed out and as for the burn rate of 40 tons per hour, that may well have been due to weather conditions and the need to maintain high speed.

Against high level bombing two ships should be more effective than one, but with low level torpedo attacks it would be more than likely that one ship would mask the fire of the other if the attack came from the right direction. I think torpedo bomber pilots will have been made fully aware of this advantage during training when making attacks. If the ships were steaming in close order, they would not have too much room for maneuver and if steaming in open order, the cruiser could be picked off.

If Bismarck was struck by an 18inch torpedo anywhere other than her rudders, she should be able to steam on, but if PG was hit anywhere she would be stopped. Lutjens would then have to consider whether to leave her, or come to her aid.

Detaching PG and thereby dividing the shadowing forces was easily the best tactic. PG could use her speed to make her getaway at any time. She was then free to continue the operation and but for damage to one of her engines she might well have accounted for a number of merchantmen. The squadron was tasked to hunt down convoys, using Bismarck as the heavy weight so that, convoys guarded by battleships could be attacked. The separation from - and in the event loss of - Bismarck simply altered one facet of the operation. There were still plenty of unprotected convoys and lone merchantmen to attack. The use of Bismarck would only have had a marginal effect on the convoy war, since not every convoy could have it's own battleship. At sea, Bismarck could only influence a limited area of sea at any given time and 15" guns against soft hulled merchant ships would be little more effective than 8". Each could only engage a certain number of ships at any given time, so detaching PG to continue the operation, permitted a full half of the operation to continue.

I personally think that deploying Bismarck in this way was one of the biggest mistakes ever made.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Wordy » Mon Jun 17, 2013 1:06 pm

If the Prinz Eugen stayed with the Bismarck and he still got the (un)lucky hit on his rudder would the Prinz have been able to provide a tow for the bismarck if he appiled a cerain amount of power to the screw to try and lessen the effect of the jammed rudder?
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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Vic Dale » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:41 pm

Passing a towing line and holding the tow is tricky enough in reasonably calm water, but in the North Atlantic towing an extremely heavy vessel would be almost impossible. In a force nine gale, the job simply could not be done. At any rate the tow could not be made at more than 4-5 knots and Bismarck had capability to exceed this and shape a course of sorts, under her own power. At 4-5 knots and with towlines continually breaking and taking as much as an hour to pass each new one, the progress over ground would be painfully slow and would render both vessels sitting ducks for submarines and bombers.

Even if conditions prevailed in the open Atlantic to hold a tow, the ships would have to traverse the Biscay which can be a bitch in any weather.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Vic Dale » Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:23 am

I have just found this reference on to events at the Battle of Dogger Bank 1915 Wickipedia;

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Lion's starboard engine was temporarily shut down due to contaminated feed water, but it was restarted and Lion headed home at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) when the rest of the battlecruisers caught up with her around 12:45. At 2:30 the starboard engine began to fail and her speed was reduced to 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph). Indomitable was ordered to tow Lion back to port at 3:00, but it took two hours and two tries before she could start to tow Lion, and a further day-and-a-half to reach port at speeds of 7–10 knots (13–19 km/h; 8.1–12 mph), even after Lion's starboard engine was temporarily repaired.[31]
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

The sea was not rough that day and Indomitable was a very powerful ship, so this may go some way toward illustrating the difficulties which may be encountered when attempting a tow.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by sineatimorar » Sun Jun 23, 2013 8:26 am

I thank you all for your posts. I was not aware of the prinz's fuel shortage. Going on the May 26 refueling and having only 250 tons left. one wonders if the prinz had the tactical range to stick with the Bismarck considering increased usage during attacks?

Further to this I just finished the book mentioned previously and other than putting up four possible reasonings to Luitjens behaviour ( you can easily download a copy from google book) The Baron's view was if the fuel range had been better they could have travelled at 28 knots instead of 20 as they had to so reaching aircover before the lucky shot.

Two question come to mind. What effect on the prinzs range and would have the H force been in a better position to attack considering two british task forces past ahead and behind the track of the Bismarck's during that time period when his position was unknown to the british?

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by alecsandros » Sun Jun 23, 2013 11:13 am

sineatimorar wrote:I thank you all for your posts. I was not aware of the prinz's fuel shortage. Going on the May 26 refueling and having only 250 tons left. one wonders if the prinz had the tactical range to stick with the Bismarck considering increased usage during attacks?
... The Prinz still had 1145 tons left on the 25th of May at 17:00. Considering a rate of burn of 15tons/hour (probably needed to mantain speeds of 20kts - similar to Bismarck), that would have been enough for about 76 hours of sailing, more than enough to reach Brest.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:31 pm

PG was steaming at high speed most of the time. The average speed of PG throughout the operation was 26 knots!

Nonetheless, I have found an interesting issue concerning fuel consumption alluded to by Schmalenbach. This was the extremely poor quality of the fuel taken on by PG from tankers during the operation. The fuel taken on the 26th was shockingly contaminated, with 5% impurities and 2.5% sea water by weight dispersed through out. This fuel had to be filtered. Of the remaining fuel tonnage early on the 26th most of it could not be used because of impurities. Another problem was low specif gravity of the fuel. This means the usable energy (BTUs) per liter was lower, meaning that that they would need to burn considerably greater tonnage of fuel per mile to extract the required BTUs, than would normally be the case.
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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by sineatimorar » Tue Jun 25, 2013 6:13 pm

What about the baron's theory that if the Bismarck had more fuel orginally their transit speed could have been 28 knots? Where in relation to the two main British Task forces would have that placed the German Squadron ? Would have there been a interception on 25 or 26 th ? Remember the brits thought his advance was at 26 knots not 20knot which allowed the. Bismarck to slip between the brits.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Rick Rather » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:50 am

Vic Dale wrote:At any rate the tow could not be made at more than 4-5 knots and Bismarck had capability to exceed this and shape a course of sorts, under her own power.
Is that why he was heading northwest? :?
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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Vic Dale » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:32 am

Hi Rick

As I have said elsewhere, Bismarck could make 10 to 12 knots steering with engines against the rudders, but attempts at repairing the damaged rudders required the ship to head into the sea, so as to lessen the effects of the storm on the flooded steering compartments. Men entering that area were being rapidly knocked unconscious by the in-surge of water, each time a wave hit the ship. Heading into the storm will have taken the pressure off the stern and would have cut the impact of each wave by as much as one third.

When the ship was hit, she made two full circles as observed from Sheffield. Sheffield lost contact due to her having to get safe from Bismarck's guns as she turned towards. Sheffield did not regain contact until an hour later, by which time Bismarck had settled to a northwesterly course. If the ship could make a full turn, there was nothing to say she was locked head-to-the-weather. She could turn off the wind at any time using her engines. Given the balanced silhouette of the ship, had she become weather locked she would have been beam to the sea. Which would have headed her north east, or southwest. That could only happen if her speed had been reduced to one or two knots - anything short of steerage way.

As we can see, during the final battle, Bismarck was able to steer southwest, and then head northwest on being sighted. After that she was able to follow a roughly northwesterly heading. Had she been fixed head to the weather, she would have steered a much straighter course during the battle, making her a much more predictable target.

It is my belief that Lutjens was heading for a U-Boat patrol line so as to transfer the Ships War Diary and possibly so they could intervene in the battle.

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Rick Rather » Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:09 am

Thank you for the considered reply, Vic.
I guess what I'm asking is, if Bismarck was physically capable of heading east towards France and air cover, why did it not do so at best speed?
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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by alecsandros » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:39 pm

Rick Rather wrote:Thank you for the considered reply, Vic.
I guess what I'm asking is, if Bismarck was physically capable of heading east towards France and air cover, why did it not do so at best speed?
She did not have enough fuel on board to reach Brest at 28kts...

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Re: should have the prinz eugen stayed with the bismarck ?

Post by Rick Rather » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:58 pm

alecsandros wrote:
Rick Rather wrote:Thank you for the considered reply, Vic.
I guess what I'm asking is, if Bismarck was physically capable of heading east towards France and air cover, why did it not do so at best speed?
She did not have enough fuel on board to reach Brest at 28kts...
My question was in response to Vic's statement that...
Vic Dale wrote:Bismarck could make 10 to 12 knots steering with engines against the rudders...
...which, apparently, was Bismarck's "best speed" considering its damaged condition.
Just because it's stupid, futile and doomed to failure, that doesn't mean some officer won't try it.
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