No Swordfish shot down by Bismarck

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.
hellomartin
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Post by hellomartin » Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:42 pm

True RF, although only one plane was significantly damaged. One has to imagine the very heavy seas and a bit of luck had a lot to do with it. What I find amazing about the pilots' account is that Bismarck opened accurate fire on them just five seconds after they broke cloud cover four miles away!

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RF
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Post by RF » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:41 pm

Another way of looking at it..... such a big target (OK weaving at a fast speed) yet so few of the torpedoes found their target, in fact only three in two separate attacks. And the third hit, which crippled the steering, could easily have passed astern instead.

So one success of the flak, in hindsight, was that Bismarck was spared over a dozen more torpedo hits.....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Post by hellomartin » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:42 pm

It seems that the torpedoes hitting amidships did no damage. The armour plate was too thick and, in any case, there was a second layer of plating further inside the ship protecting engines, magazines etc.

The pilots returning from the mission were apparently downcast, believing the attack to have been a failure (as is coincidently true of the fatal Lancaster attack on Tirpitz).

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RF
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Post by RF » Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:34 pm

hellomartin wrote:It seems that the torpedoes hitting amidships did no damage. The armour plate was too thick and, in any case, there was a second layer of plating further inside the ship protecting engines, magazines etc.

I believe the Ballard mission that first photographed the wreck did raise some queries on this.

One point worth noting - the first midships hit did cause Bismarck's first fatality, a petty officer was killed by head injuries from the concussive shock effects of the explosion.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Post by Como83 » Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:30 pm

I think most would agree that prevailing conditions played a large part; scudding low cloud, rain showers, low vis, plus moving ships, helped preserve those slow Stringbags.
Carrier Argus was abeam us at one time, I watched a lot of ratings trying to hold down a Walrus (I think) on that slippery heaving deck; not an easy task. Incidentally, we were on the fringe of that weather system

A Video I have shows clips from the Bismarck incident; one shows a Swordfish and its crew; while one holds the squadron’s lucky black cat, the pilot points out a row of holes in the fuselage, in upper class accents he talks of ‘Showing the Hun what for’. (Good propaganda). In contrast another shows Bismarck survivors leaving a British destroyer, they look very fit, a tribute to them, also to the crew who looked after them.

There was a theory in those days that cannon and larger shells would pass through fabric skin without exploding, just leaving a hole. Well, this did not apply to those 7 Swordfish of ‘X’ sqdn China Bay in 1942 who tried to strike Nagumo’s carriers. Intercepted by Zeros and laden with tinfish, they were all shotdown; those Zeros had cannons.
One of the pilots had actually attacked Bismarck, so he told us one time; there were a few survivors, but I don’t think he was one.

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Post by dunmunro » Thu Feb 14, 2008 5:14 am

hellomartin wrote:It seems that the torpedoes hitting amidships did no damage. The armour plate was too thick and, in any case, there was a second layer of plating further inside the ship protecting engines, magazines etc.

The pilots returning from the mission were apparently downcast, believing the attack to have been a failure (as is coincidently true of the fatal Lancaster attack on Tirpitz).
Actually, the midships hit did cause considerable damage, in that it exacerbated the damage caused by PoWs 14" hit amidships. and led to the complete flooding of the damaged generator room, and an adjacent boiler room, which reduced Bismarck's max speed to 26 knots, IIRC.

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RF
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Post by RF » Thu Feb 14, 2008 1:36 pm

I believe that the increased damage and flooding was caused by the collision mats loosening due to the violent movements of the ship as it combed the torpedo tracks, rather than the hit itself, though of course the concussive effect of the impact wouldn't help.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Post by tommy303 » Thu Feb 14, 2008 8:14 pm

The hit in question was a shallow runner which burst on the armour belt. Judging from similar hits on the West Virginia at Pearl Harbour some damage was likely inflicted behind the armour--armour plate being displaced inwards slightly and causing tears in the shell plating, which probably led to some minor flooding in the outer tanks of the wing compartment. More serious was the severe shock response noted by survivors. Most seriously, the shock response lengthened and widened the tears in the the bulkhead between the flooded port turbo-generator room and the forward port boiler room. This undid all the damage control efforts to control flooding in the boiler room after the 14-inch hit by PoW, and damage control teams were unable to prevent the boiler room from flooding out. Shock response also caused a fire in the main AC power control panel, at least temporarily cutting off the supply of AC power. As this was used by the fire control system--particularly remote power control to guns and directors, it might have caused a sufficient disruption to the heavy and medium flak to prevent coordinated sustained tracking of the enemy torpedo bombers for a long enough period of time to allow a successful withdrawl after completion of the attack. Finally, shock response, in conjunction with Bismarck's violent high speed manouvering did loosen the collision mats forward as already noted.

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hellomartin
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Post by hellomartin » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:54 pm

Tommy, you have a remarkable degree of detailed knowledge. Would you mind letting us know a little of your background?

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Re: No Swordfish shot down by Bismarck

Post by dahlhorse » Sat Jun 21, 2008 6:05 pm

There were bullet holes in some of the swordfish when they returned to their carriers. There are many reasons why Bismarck did not drop any of the swordfish and here are 3 of them; some of these have been mentioned by other members:1. Aircraft are not easy to shoot down no matter how slow they are moving 2.The crew was tired and stressed from no rest 3. bullets will easily go through the fabric covering that the swordfish had so they caused virtually little damage to the swordfish 4. also it is true that the gun directors were set for a faster moving aircraft 5. Luck plays a big part of any combat; I believe the swordfish were very lucky in coming out alive!

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RNfanDan
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Re: No Swordfish shot down by Bismarck

Post by RNfanDan » Sat Jun 21, 2008 8:42 pm

Javier L. wrote:... Albacore torpedo bombers (... were not the best aircraft in the world but surely better than the Swordfish)...
I don't believe the Albacore was much, if at all, better than the Swordfish. Interestingly, I have read that the Albacore was withdrawn from active service, sooner than the Swordfish it ostensibly "replaced".
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Re: No Swordfish shot down by Bismarck

Post by Bgile » Sat Jun 21, 2008 10:16 pm

dahlhorse wrote:There were bullet holes in some of the swordfish when they returned to their carriers. There are many reasons why Bismarck did not drop any of the swordfish and here are 3 of them; some of these have been mentioned by other members:1. Aircraft are not easy to shoot down no matter how slow they are moving 2.The crew was tired and stressed from no rest 3. bullets will easily go through the fabric covering that the swordfish had so they caused virtually little damage to the swordfish 4. also it is true that the gun directors were set for a faster moving aircraft 5. Luck plays a big part of any combat; I believe the swordfish were very lucky in coming out alive!
Fascinating! If only we had learned a lesson from that attack and made all our aircraft with fabric skins for the rest of the war. We'd have been invincible! Think of the lives it would have saved!

Stuart1648

Re: No Swordfish shot down by Bismarck

Post by Stuart1648 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:35 pm

I think wind conditions were important. Winds were reported at approximately 70 mph gusting ;imagine trying to aim with that!

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