The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

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wadinga
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby wadinga » Wed Sep 27, 2017 1:01 pm

Hello Antonio,

You still cannot accept the difficulties the "shadowing operation was under, can you?

I would have loved to read ViceAdm Holland and Comm Warrand opinions about it


I expect they were as frustrated as anyone else, when they discovered Bismarck was not exactly where they hoped it would be, but since they achieved interception, they would have agreed W-W had done an "admirable" job. :D Like Pound they were professional seamen and knew both cruisers had done a good job to hang on in appalling conditions. It was almost inevitable W-W's luck would run out eventually, and it was only on the second attempt Bismarck got away.

Snowstorms, fog, therefore visibility often less than a mile. Rough seas, high speeds and extreme manoeuvring and strong currents making DR extremely difficult. Lutjens couldn't shake his shadowers over more than 24 hours pursuit, despite ideal conditions. Without Type 284 Norfolk was running blind. Running blind in the murk took dedication and bravery.

As you now know, WSC was uninterested in persecuting W-W/L during the War (Cabinet meeting and follow-up) despite Pound practically throwing Leach "under the bus" in his interim report to the Cabinet on 26th May. WSC's Chequers outburst on 27th, recorded by Colville, is primarily about Cunningham's actions on Crete.

All the best

wadinga
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Antonio Bonomi
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Antonio Bonomi » Wed Sep 27, 2017 2:33 pm

Hello everybody,

@ Wadinga,

Sean be relaxed, ... what happened before, ... during, ... and after those events is very clear to me now.

I am only looking and " hunting " maybe with your help too, ... on some more evidences and original documents I have listed on some threads, ... just to make the work already done as better as I can, ... nothing else.

Currently focused more on my Tirpitz book Nr. 4, ... and on a 1/100 Tirpitz model ... :wink:

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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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Sep 27, 2017 2:40 pm

Wadinga wrote: "WSC was uninterested in persecuting W-W/L during the War.........despite Pound practically throwing Leach "under the bus" ....... WSC's Chequers outburst on 27th, recorded by Colville, is primarily about Cunningham's actions on Crete."

Hi Sean,
maybe WSC was strategically more worried about Crete, however, in his view, it was not Cunningham who had done "the worst thing since Troubridge turned away from the Goeben in 1914".
Troubridge was sent in front of a Court Martial after the Inquiry for the Goeben affair and, even though he was reluctantly acquitted, he received very critic comments in the Admiralty and from Lord Fisher. He NEVER saw a command at sea anymore.

Apparently WSC was not much pleased after the DS..... :kaput:


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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RF
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby RF » Wed Sep 27, 2017 5:59 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Apparently WSC was not much pleased after the DS.....


Nobody in the RN would be pleased with the DS result, regardless of their view of POW breaking off the action.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:55 pm

Hi RF,
:ok:

However, "the worst thing since Troubridge turned away from the Goeben in 1914" would not be referred only to the mere "result" of the battle, I guess....


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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wadinga
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby wadinga » Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:07 pm

Hello Alberto,

Churchill having a rant in private at his country house is one thing, and the Admiralty "enquiring as to intentions" before later commending the shadowing operation as "admirable" is one (minor) level of criticism.

This message is part of that sent the same day, the 24th May by Field-Marshal Sir John Dill, the Head of the Chiefs of Staff (undoubtedly with WSC and Pound's approval) to a naval officer requiring him to revise his plans because they were not daring enough and not prepared to accept heavy enough casualties:

"if the situation was allowed to drag on the enemy will have the advantage because unless more drastic naval action is taken than is suggested in your appreciation, the enemy will be able to reinforce the island....... essential for the fleet to operate north of the island by day. It is probable that the losses incurred in doing so will be considerable and only experience will show for how many days this situation can be maintained."

Clear instruction- you told us your "intentions" - your plans aren't brave enough, go out and get killed! Pretty threatening ,huh?

The naval officer under threat- why Admiral Cunningham of course! To avoid disobeying orders he had Formidable, Barham and Nubian all badly damaged in the raid on Scarpanto airfield which dropped a few bombs to little or no effect. But disobeying such a direct order would surely have meant dismissal if not a Court Martial.

All the Best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:31 pm

Hi Sean,
I see your point and agree about Cunningham being forced to obey to avoid severe consequences (even if, had the Germans hypothetically lost Crete, without any RN ship operating North of the island, I guess his "timid" behavior would have been judged very less severely than in the actual defeat situation).

However, at the end, we are saying the same thing: on May 24, WSC was furious but already on May 27 the situation had changed.
He was currently facing more urgent and serious strategical issues than to Court-Martial RN officers who failed to do "their utmost" but did not cause much damage; even, with hindsight, they had proven to be right in their choice, from a mere result viewpoint. Had Bismarck raided in Atlantic, causing losses, some consequences would have surely come......

From a pure military viewpoint, however, I agree with his opinion that this was "the worst thing since Troubridge turned away from the Goeben in 1914" and this is not a minor level of criticism.....


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby wadinga » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:13 pm

Hello Alberto,

But since those concerned were never even apparently aware......

this is not a minor level of criticism


Whereas Cunningham had it spelled out for him in an official signal, so WSC's rant was a very minor criticism indeed. :cool:

As you know, no seaborne troops got ashore in Crete, as the fishing boats they had were inadequate. Cunningham offered his resignation after Crete.

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:49 pm

Hi Sean,
I can fully understand that Cunningham offered resignation after the battle of Crete demonstrated that he was right in considering the position untenable and the head of chiefs of staff (who spelled the signal) was wrong (together with WSC, possibly), despite the RN sacrifice. :clap:
Of course, having been right, his resignation was rejected.......

However, he never got any level of criticism in the ignominious and shameful (for a soldier) way that was entirely reserved by WSC to the DS involved officer(s): "the worst thing since Troubridge turned away from the Goeben in 1914" or even by Pound in his Cabinet Meeting words: "The PoW had then broken off action. Whether or not she had been right in doing so could not be judged on the information so far available. ". :oops:

The fact that saved the 3 of them, involved in the escape of Germans into Atlantic, was the subsequent (and not predictable, on May 24) sinking of Bismarck without further losses.


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby wadinga » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:34 pm

Hello Alberto,

I'm surprised you have trimmed the Colville quote when I gave you the full text:

""He berated the First Lord and First Sea Lord continuously, both on this account and because in the Mediterranean, the navy shows, he thinks a tendency to shirk its task of preventing a seaborne landing in Crete since Cunningham fears severe losses from bombing. The PM's line is that Cunningham must be made to take very risk: the loss of half the Mediterranean Fleet would be worthwhile in order to save Crete."


It is clear that Crete was far more important that weekend than Bismarck. An escaped Lutjens might have wandered round searching for convoys like he did in Operation Berlin, still only a potential threat. Crete was actually happening. More than half the Mediterranean Fleet was sunk or put out of action and when the island still fell thousands of troops were killed or captured as well. As many as at risk in the troop convoy.

Cunningham made the same points in his defence as Wake-Walker: the risk to ships and men did not warrant any conceivable positive outcome. The time of pointless, flashy, unprofessional "heroics" like Arbuthnot throwing away his ships and men at Jutland with no positive benefit possible was over.

19:16 24th May Admiralty to Norfolk, Suffolk "Shadowing by Norfolk has been admirable. Keep it up and good luck"


Compliments and encouragement for Wake-Walker but a direct threat was transmitted to Cunningham. No censure As nerves in Whitehall got even more frayed on the 27th, with WSC instructing Wavell to "hurl in" more reinforcements at Crete, when Freyberg the General on the ground had said things were "hopeless" the previous day, Tovey was told to run out of fuel if required. :shock:


All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:57 pm

Hi Sean,
again, I agree that Crete was a severe defeat actually happening and was more important than Bismarck chase (still on-going) in WSC mind.

Cunningham was reluctant to take risks and got criticism but, once ordered, he took these risks, losing half MF. He was in a position to menace resignation despite the defeat at Crete, demonstrating how his judgement was right and having done his duty.
Tovey sunk Bismarck and only after the victory he was in a position to menace resignation in case a Court Martial was called, despite Leach, Wake-Walker and Ellis did not make their "utmost" during the action. Had Bismarck sunk the WS8B making a disaster out of the operation, Tovey resignation would not have sufficed.... :negative:

The difference is clear in the words used by both WSC and Pound commenting the DS compared to the "exortation" that Cunningham received from Dill. These words are shameful and ignominious for any soldier: "the worst thing since Troubridge turned away from the Goeben in 1914" and "The PoW had then broken off action. Whether or not she had been right in doing so could not be judged on the information so far available. ". :oops:

Did Cunningham ever received such a judgement ? :negative:
Just his "intentions" were judged too timid, NOT his "actions"......and for a soldier this makes a big difference.


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby wadinga » Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:10 pm

Hello Alberto,

If it only success or failure rather than effort and performance of duty which determines whether a Court Martial occurs, why wasn't Cunningham so arraigned? Half his fleet was disabled or destroyed, Crete was indeed lost and he inflicted negligible damage on the enemy in return. Are you saying he only escaped because he was "a good boy" and threw his ships away against his better judgement? He had constantly been at loggerheads with WSC and the Chiefs of Staff since it was suggested he expend Barham as a blockship at Tripoli. He and Somerville exchanged commiserations about their bad treatment.

The reality is that although there was some heated rhetoric (especially from you know who) Pound knew Leach and Wake-Walker had done a good job in difficult circumstances, whether Bismarck got away or not. That's why he complimented W-W on the evening of the 24th. The Cabinet Meeting and his interim report given on 26th May were not exactly supportive of Leach* but he was so ignorant of the actual circumstances that he didn't even know if Prinz Eugen was in the fight. *IMHO he should have backed his underling to the hilt, until he knew what he was talking about.

By the 19th June he wrote to Cunningham (according to Robin Brodhurst):

"In the battle for the Bismarck we were both lucky and unlucky, and I cannot remember any 48 hours in which I jumped so frequently from great hopes to black despair. It was a sickening moment when it was reported that the Hood had been sunk, and the partially effective Prince of Wales who had barely got through her teething problems was left to deal with Bismarck alone. There is no doubt Hood with her third salvo got two or three hits on Bismarck......."

(I've lost track, and interest, in whether it is currently alleged Pound was deceived by lies and deception from Tovey and below, or whether he was directly involved and deceiving WSC.) :wink:

It is interesting that PoW was still not getting credit for the hits when the drafts for the staff appreciation were sent to Tovey after the war in New Zealand. In the National Archives I saw the handwritten air mail letter where Tovey lists several items he thinks should be changed, but emphasises PoW should get credit for the hits. Nowhere does he make any mention of criticism of his, or any of his subordinates' actions.

Please remind yourself, no evidence surfaced that a Court Martial was ever considered until 1961. McMullen's recollection is almost certainly second-hand from Tovey conversations. If Colville as WSC's secretary had heard anything, he would surely included it as a follow up to the "Troubridge" recollection. The Cabinet including WSC was so uninterested they never required a follow up report from Pound "Whether or not she had been right ".

These words
These words are shameful and ignominious for any soldier
are only so if he hears them. :D

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:59 pm

Hi Sean,
you know very well how the outcome of an operation influences (unfortunately) the judgement about the participants, including honors and Court Martials. :(
However, should we base our judgement on the results only, Tovey, Wake-Walker and Leach could have had a statue in Trafalgar, close to Lord Nelson. It was not the case: this privilege was reserved to Cunningham, not only for his results but mostly for his actions.


I think Pound would have chosen other words on May 26, in case he was still "so ignorant of the actual circumstances" (as you say). I'm afraid he was already aware of the fact that the PoW had broken off the engagement after having sustained "superficial damages" only (Leach's message sent at 06:25 on May 24....). :negative:


you wrote: (my italic): "These words (are shameful and ignominious for any soldier) only.... if he hears them."

I think that the words or (at least their signification) were indeed brought to their hears, judging from the urgency and smartness with which they all prepared, modified and adjusted their reports and declarations in order to "build" an acceptable (albeit incorrect) official version that lasted for 75 years after......


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby wadinga » Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:36 pm

Hello Alberto,

I'm sorry I thought we were discussing real things that happened in the real world. :D

were indeed brought to their hears, judging from the urgency and smartness with which they all prepared, modified and adjusted their reports and declarations in order to "build" an acceptable (albeit incorrect) official version that lasted for 75 years after......


The reports I read in the National Archives signed by Wake-Walker, Ellis and Tovey give no indication they are falsified. The only indication of Admiralty dissatisfaction at all is Tom Phillips' less-than-charitable view of Dalrymple-Hamilton's actions.

There is insufficient detail in Leach's and Wake-Walker's signalled reports of PoW's damage for Pound to make any realistic assessment in time for his appearance in front of the Cabinet Meeting. There is no mention of the numerous breakdowns affecting PoW's output, only of enemy-inflicted damage. It should have been Pound's responsibility to shield his officers from uninformed criticism by the ignorant who might think one battleship automatically equals another, until more information became available.

Since you like conspiracies so much, I personally speculate Pound may have artfully distracted Cabinet and the PM's attention from giving Cunningham an even harder time over Crete, by staking out a sacrificial goat- Capt Leach, knowing that there were probably good reasons for a sound tactical decision, which would exonerate Leach, if WSC had still got a bee in his bonnet. Which there were. And Winston had probably forgotten all about Leach five minutes after. And besides the Cabinet never followed up.

Cunningham's statue in Trafalgar Square was only installed in 1967. Since he was responsible for a string of victories in the Mediterranean, was in charge of seaborne landings under Eisenhower, took the surrender of the Italian Fleet, then took over from the dying Pound as First Sea Lord for the rest of the war, and even in retirement was a very active member of the House of Lords, he deserves his place in Trafalgar Square. Sinking one battleship, no matter how famous, does not get you this accolade. (And the honour is split with Somerville) :D

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Court Martial for the Denmark Strait

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:11 pm

Wadinga wrote:"The reports I read in the National Archives signed by Wake-Walker, Ellis and Tovey give no indication they are falsified."

Hi Sean,
we can agree to disagree about this point. For me the intentional manipulation of facts in Tovey's despatches point 17 and 19, in the Pinchin's Plot used by Wake-Walker, and all the changes in the declarations are in no way attributable to "innocent" errors.
However, if you prefer to think so, be it..... :wink:


you wrote: "1) There is insufficient detail in Leach's and Wake-Walker's signalled reports of PoW's damage for Pound to make any realistic assessment....2) There is no mention of the numerous breakdowns affecting PoW's output..... 3) It should have been Pound's responsibility to shield his officers from uninformed criticism... "

1) I would say that "superficial damage" is MORE than enough to have doubts about the correctness of the decision to break off an engagement......

2) Which output efficiency are you speaking about ? The already discussed PoW 75% (with 10 guns --> 7 shells/minute) versus the BS 86% (on 8 guns --> 6,4 shells/minute) ? I was hoping this analysis was accepted and this old "tale" popularized by "ignorant" historians to justify Leach's decision was over forever by now.... The output loss (similar to the one of all the KGV class battleships....) was in no way the reason for the disengagement. It became a problem ONLY when "Y" turret jammed.....due to the already taken decision to turn away with the violent turn to port.... :negative:

3) Yes, it should have been Pound's responsibility to defend his men, if he believed they did their duty. Apparently, he did not, both in case of Leach and Wake-Walker (see the Admiralty message re. intentions to re-engage sent on May 24).


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)


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