Bismarck´s un ending arguments

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.
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Patrick McWilliams
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Postby Patrick McWilliams » Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:03 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:One thing though: Was 7 knots the best that Bismarck could do or was a desicion to maintain that speed?


Hi Karl,

I seem to recall from the Baron's book that the speed of 7 knots was chosen, after it became clear that the ship was unmanoeuvrable, to offset the effect of the fairly heavy sea and to ensure that the ship remained *relatively* stable.

As to that speed during the final battle, I wonder if it would have been possible (or have made much sense) for Bismarck to go any faster with her list to port and inability to steer in anything but a wide anti-clockwise circle?

Patrick

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Postby Karl Heidenreich » Tue Mar 28, 2006 11:08 pm

Patrick:
I think you are OK, but I didn´t remember that topic; I´ll have to check the baron´s book again. Tell you tomorrow.
Best Regards

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Postby pdfox99 » Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:24 am

Speaking of Bismarck's last battle. Did the Bismarck hit any other ship? I don't recall this in any other discussion. Did he (the Bismarck) make any strikes on King George V or Rodney?
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Postby ufo » Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:54 am

pdfox99 wrote:Speaking of Bismarck's last battle. Did the Bismarck hit any other ship? I don't recall this in any other discussion. Did he (the Bismarck) make any strikes on King George V or Rodney?


The answer to that question can be found there:
http://www.kbismarck.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=414

Sorry for brushing you out of this thread this way but it quickly becomes messy when one adds little sidequestions and side-sidequesions to a thread.

Ufo

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Postby Karl Heidenreich » Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:46 pm

Can´t read the baron´s book last night because I was reading José Rico´s book. He begins it with a unquestionable remark: the Bismarck WAS NOT a heir of the Bayern-Baden Class WWI BB. So, for me that´s enough: Bismarck was a descendant of the Deutschland "Pocket Battleship" Class.
But it´s interesting what José shows about the armour: OK, the Bismarck was armoured at 70% of her total lenght (not an "all or nothing" concept) with an important PC/TC relation, but the designer reduced the width of
the main belt´s armour from 350 mm (of the Schanhorst) to 320 mm. And, after seeing the cross section it appears to me that the armour, in fact, was a bit too shallow. Other ships had it much deeper. I´m intrigued because wasn´t that against the obvious fact that submarines were going to attack such a vessel at the first oportunity? The only disposition in this sense was that the torpedo bulkhead was positioned far from the hull in comparison with Schanhorst. Or was simply that the designers considered all the facts of BB warfare and concluded that it was an OK arragement?
Another thing, about the guns: were the KM really satisfied that her main capital ship had 15"/L47 guns? Didn´t that troubled them, seeing that the British, the Americans and the Japanese were installing 16" guns in their BBs. In an armaments race this things are quite important. By 1941 the Americans were already building their Iowas with superior gunfire.
And them comes the notion of the defective AP shells. I don´t support this idea: the Germans were known as artillery experts with such an important industry and development in that sense (Big Dora being quite an example as the Leopold railway gun, etc...) There is no evidence of unexploded shells, isn´t it? (As a matter of fact I had read that USS Massachussets did fire against the Jean Bart at Casablanca and that a considerable number of shells didn´t detonate).
Best regards to all.

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Postby tommy303 » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:05 pm

And them comes the notion of the defective AP shells.


I would hesitate to call the shells defective, although there were instances of some duds, particularly in base fuzed projectiles which should have gone off but did not. One 38cm and one 20,3cm hits on PoW were definite duds, and two others may or may not have exploded outboard of the ship after passing through structure too light to initiate fuze action. However, duds in AP projectiles were not uncommon during that period and it would appear that in many R&D programs, fuzes were not tested in realistic manners. The incidence of duds in German SAP and AP ammunition does not appear higher than experienced by others. However there was perhaps a high number of low order detonations--generally caused by the fairly small gaines employed in German AP shells which would not always completely detonate the shell filler. This was later corrected to a degree by employing more powerful explosives in the gaine, such as PETN.

All that said, reliability of German AP fuzes seems to have been about average, maybe not so good as a few, but better than others.

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Postby marcelo_malara » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:47 pm

I´m intrigued because wasn´t that against the obvious fact that submarines were going to attack such a vessel at the first oportunity

But Karl the torpedoes run much deeper than the belt, so there is no sense of making it deeper because of them.
What is PC/TC and how is it calculated?

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Postby Bgile » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:55 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:Can´t read the baron´s book last night because I was reading José Rico´s book. He begins it with a unquestionable remark: the Bismarck WAS NOT a heir of the Bayern-Baden Class WWI BB. So, for me that´s enough: Bismarck was a descendant of the Deutschland "Pocket Battleship" Class.
But it´s interesting what José shows about the armour: OK, the Bismarck was armoured at 70% of her total lenght (not an "all or nothing" concept) with an important PC/TC relation, but the designer reduced the width of
the main belt´s armour from 350 mm (of the Schanhorst) to 320 mm. And, after seeing the cross section it appears to me that the armour, in fact, was a bit too shallow. Other ships had it much deeper. I´m intrigued because wasn´t that against the obvious fact that submarines were going to attack such a vessel at the first oportunity? The only disposition in this sense was that the torpedo bulkhead was positioned far from the hull in comparison with Schanhorst. Or was simply that the designers considered all the facts of BB warfare and concluded that it was an OK arragement?
Another thing, about the guns: were the KM really satisfied that her main capital ship had 15"/L47 guns? Didn´t that troubled them, seeing that the British, the Americans and the Japanese were installing 16" guns in their BBs. In an armaments race this things are quite important. By 1941 the Americans were already building their Iowas with superior gunfire.
And them comes the notion of the defective AP shells. I don´t support this idea: the Germans were known as artillery experts with such an important industry and development in that sense (Big Dora being quite an example as the Leopold railway gun, etc...) There is no evidence of unexploded shells, isn´t it? (As a matter of fact I had read that USS Massachussets did fire against the Jean Bart at Casablanca and that a considerable number of shells didn´t detonate).
Best regards to all.


The only shell from Massachusettes that I'm aware of that failed to explode was one that hit a barbette and ricocheted off. The impact popped out the base fuse and the filler. This isn't poor performance at all, and is expected in such a case. There isn't much one can do to protect against the Gs created by a "bounce". Also, please understand that a shell which doesn't explode can still do a lot of damage. There is always secondary fragmentation caused by pieces of things it hits, and those plus the main projectile itself have caused fires and destroyed things in their path. I'm sure the people on PoW's compass platform didn't really notice whether the shell which killed them exploded or not.

Any shell penetrating a turret or conning tower will do a lot of damage whether it explodes or not. Modern tanks don't use explosive projectiles against other tanks - they don't need to, and the other tank usually explodes from it's own ammunition going off.

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Rudder Hit

Postby DHC-5 » Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:30 pm

I want to come back to the rudder hit for a moment. If what we see today on the Bismarck is true. Where one rudder is gone and the second is twisted and jammed into the center screw, controlling heading with the port and starboard screws would be nearly impossible.
If you remove the rudders completely one can steer fairly effectively with the screws. Now take and lock the rudders to port or starboard one will find that steering with the screws is nearly impossible.

If I can fall back onto my aviation background in addition to some nautical experience, jamming a rudder no matter what it is installed on if you do not have enough asymmetrical power to over come the yaw from the rudder you will not be able to control your heading. What we need to know is what force the damage rudder would exert left or right and what force would have been exerted with differential power from the screws. Just some humble observations from a pilot and Bismarck novice.
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Postby Bgile » Thu Mar 30, 2006 2:01 am

I think it's almost certain that a lot of that damage was done to the already weakened rudders when the ship hit the bottom. For example, the stern didn't fall off while the ship was on the surface, either.

Rudder action on a ship isn't nearly as sensitive as it is on an aircraft, but the key to the whole problem is to decouple the damaged rudder(s) so they aren’t turned as much to one side. The Bismarck was in a very serious situation because the sea was fairly high and they tried but were unsuccessful in using divers to correct the problem. If you have a calm sea things would be much easier all around.

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Postby Matthias » Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:33 am

Bgile wrote:I think it's almost certain that a lot of that damage was done to the already weakened rudders when the ship hit the bottom. For example, the stern didn't fall off while the ship was on the surface, either.


Indeed.And there are witnesses, Antonio could report it, that said that while sinking Bismarck capsized showing her aft and the hull, including the two rudders, was practically intact, apart the torpedo dent.
The blockage of the rudder was due to the malfunction of the complex automatic steering gear with which Bismarck was equipped, which got really jammed by the torpedo detonation.
In the newer editions of the Baron's book there's a chapter (Appendix D) included which describes well the situation.
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Postby ufo » Thu Mar 30, 2006 4:13 pm

Matthias wrote:
Bgile wrote:I think it's almost certain that a lot of that damage was done to the already weakened rudders when the ship hit the bottom. For example, the stern didn't fall off while the ship was on the surface, either.


Indeed.And there are witnesses, Antonio could report it, that said that while sinking Bismarck capsized showing her aft and the hull, including the two rudders, was practically intact, apart the torpedo dent.
The blockage of the rudder was due to the malfunction of the complex automatic steering gear with which Bismarck was equipped, which got really jammed by the torpedo detonation.
In the newer editions of the Baron's book there's a chapter (Appendix D) included which describes well the situation.


Oh please – let’s try and keep the big old ship within the range of it’s contemporaries. She (or if you prefer: he) was not an Überschlachtschiff. :negative:

The heavy Kriegsmarine units had an issue with the structural strength of their stern. In the descriptions survivors of Bismarck gave of the repair attempts there is ample evidence for massive flooding of stern compartments. That you do not just get from a “dent”. Ok? She was truly and well hit. Her stern did not just fall of at the seabed. She must have suffered considerate structural failure right from the torpedo hit.
The claim from the survivors that her bottom looked nice and fine always pops out like a jack-in-the-box when it comes to her resistance to torpedo hits. I do doubt that swimming in the water five hundred yard from a capsizing battleship you can recognize if a hull plate is lose, a seem cracked or splinter holes all over a plate. Ok – we do know that she did not have holes like barn doors in her belly – but if she leaked like a sieve or was a tight as on her commissioning day, we only can guess from survivors reports and from extrapolation of damage done to other vessels in similar conditions. And that does suggest considerate flooding.

And – just for the record – no – USS South Dakota would have feared better under a similar torpedo hit because of her tail fins. Though build in for hydrodynamic reasons they would have done well in protecting her inner propellers and she would have probably kept reasonable steering abilities under such a blow.

That does not necessarily say one design is better and the other worse. Warships are compromises, full of trade offs. One design may look much better here, subsequently much worse there.

Tirpitz’ stern was strengthened after the experiences with Bismarck. Let’s just assume they did that not just for fun.

Hypothesis what damage Bismarck’s stern took at what stages can be found in the article:
“A Marine Forensic Analysis of HMS Hood and DKM Bismarck” by William Jurens, William H. Garzke, Jr., Robert O. Dulin, Jr., John Roberts and Richard Fiske
These guys do that not just for fun – they do these kind of analysis for a living. So that is well-researched stuff there. In their article: “Bismarck's Final Battle” the authors William H. Garzke, Jr. and Robert O. Dulin, Jr. even suggest that parts of Bismarck’s stern structure may have broken down onto the rudders blocking them.

OK – that is just a hypothesis but these guys are not amateurs and what they suggest is not just a “dent” in the hull.

Bismarck was a fine ship but she could not fly!

Sorry if I came over a bit rough but I think we should keep this board firm on the ground. :angel:

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Postby ufo » Thu Mar 30, 2006 4:23 pm

Karl – about your points:

You have to admit nearly all of them have been answered in the one or the other thread here over the years.
And - as you pointed out – the answer is in nearly all cases somewhere in the middle.


For the Baden class. Yes – Bismarck was a descendent of the Baden class! The Germans scuttled the High Sea Fleet in 1919. But they did not shoot all the naval architects as well. When the Germans restarted building big ships they had to start somewhere. So they will have build on experience … with SMS Baden.
From one warship design to it’s successor you will find anything between 3o% to 6o% of inheritance. You just can not design a major warship from scratch. USS Iowa carries some (little) traces of USS Texas in her – tried elements that survived the test of time.

And – no – Bismarck was not a direct (!) descendant of SMS Baden. Decades had passed and German shipbuilding had progressed considerably. So elements of the Panzerships and the Sisters went into Bismarck and completely new solutions to problems as well. And all this pile of experience, inheritance, tradition, genius and invention agglomerated to a battleship. But there are elements they did take from Baden because they considered them the best possible solution for a given purpose. Nothing wrong with that!

Other navies may have found more revolutionary solutions to some problems – fine. Some of these solutions turned out to be superior some were rubbish.

Can one leave it at that?



Now about Bismarck’s AA battery you would be hard pressed to find more good than bad.
The use of two types of main AA with the directors only coping with one, was not such a good idea. Well – in war you have to improvise. They did improvise and it did her no good.
The angles of sweep of some of her short range AA where questioned during her gunnery trials but there was no time for a fix. But it was just not quite right. But then again they had to go out and fight not sit and try and try and sit until suddenly a Jeep stops at the naval department and four friendly GIs with submachine guns ask for directions.
HMS Prince of Wales was rushed into battle in much more hurry. Neither side had time for thorough testing and fixing in 1941.


As for Bismarck’s staying power – in a debate printed in a British Services Magazine shortly after the battle a spokesman from the Admiralty states that Bismarck by British standards was over compartmentalized and that in the eyes of the Admiralty a floating hull is not only useless but a bad service to her men as the enemy has to continue shooting, thus killing men when a vessel just does not go down.
Here different navies went for slightly different approaches. One can not deny that Bismarck was beaten by the British ships. That she then refused to go down one may call impressive standing power or unbalanced design – point of view.


Just my two pence ...

Ufo

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Postby Bgile » Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:22 pm

ufo,

I agree with everything you said. When I said her stern probably came off as a result of hitting the bottom I didn’t mean to imply that the design wasn’t defective in that area or that it hadn’t been greatly weakened by the torpedo hit. The problem apparently was that the longitudinal bulkheads didn’t continue uninterrupted into that area, which was welded on the ship. As you mentioned, several German ships had unusually serious problems with damage to that area.

While I agree the US ships have some advantage with the twin skeg design, they would still have a serious problem if the rudders were jammed to one side or the other by wreckage. Depending on the actual situation, the ships might require a tow. Also, the early war US designs, like most others except the Germans, had long outboard shaft runs to their forward engine rooms. If a torpedo hit warped a shaft (almost certain with hits along their length) you could flood a forward engine room due to the failure of intervening bulkhead fittings before the shaft could be stopped. PoW of course was mortally wounded by such a hit, compounded in her case by design defects and errors in drill.

The Midway class carriers and the Montana BB design got around that by running the shafts to the forward engine rooms down the centerline of the ship instead of outboard. The German 3 shaft design also alleviated this problem while creating others.

As you stated, everything is a compromise.

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Postby Matthias » Fri Mar 31, 2006 10:13 pm

ufo wrote:Oh please – let’s try and keep the big old ship within the range of it’s contemporaries. She (or if you prefer: he) was not an Überschlachtschiff. :negative:


Ufo, everything you said is right and condivisible, surely Bismarck was not an Überschlachtschiff, but I'm not saying english torpedoes were unable to pierce his keel.I'm not saying British were unable to sink he. I'm speaking of the eye witnessing of a survivor, who spoke of a practically intact (which If I'm not mistaken means not perfect, but not even destroyed...) stern and fully functioning screws, not of the theories of men that in 1941 were very far from the battle or even not born yet, in the worst hypothesis, and of a mechanical damage of a complicate steering gear we all know Bismarck class ship had on board.And, by the way, I don't think you lived so many shipwrecks so you could evaluate what a man swimming a hundred meters from a ship could see or not.A torpedo leak is not a splinter hole, if you remember Gneisenau's bow pics after being torpedoed during Operation Juno. :wink:
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