My first attempt at contributing after many years reading posts on this boards and the HMS Hood website.
There seems to be a circular argument occurring. Personally I think Bill Jurens nailed it with this post....
It is with some reluctance that I enter this discussion, but feel that at this time some comment might be appropriate, though perhaps not welcomed by all.
So far as approaching with "A" arcs open or closed, and based upon the best estimates of the relative courses, positions, and speeds of the vessels involved, a simple Applonious diagram -- sort of "Example 1" in the Maneuvering Board Manual -- will show that the options open to the British, should they wish to cut the Germans off before entering the Atlantic, i.e. should they wish to force an engagement, were really remarkably small. Anyone on the bridge of any of the capital ships involved could have laid the situation out on the maneuvering board and reached this conclusion quite rapidly. It's really only a 'two ship' problem, four ships in two two-ship groups...
I am concerned about the issue of falsifiability in some of the discussions. It appears than an hypothesis has been put forward, that being in essence that the British operations were in some way substantively incompetent, and -- more importantly -- that there was some sort of subsequent 'cover up' attempt to disguise the inadequacies of British command. This strikes me as unlikely on the face of it. Further, if one proceeds along the path that any document which in some way supports this hypothesis represents some revelation of actual truth, while any document which disagrees is part of the alleged 'cover up', then the conclusion itself is forgone, representing what amounts to a self-proving tautological argument. The methodology itself defines the outcome.
So far as the documentary evidence is concerned, my general sense of things is that the outcome of the action at Denmark Strait represented a considerable surprise to the British, and -- although this is rarely mentioned -- quite possibly to the Germans as well. In the heat of the outcome, with the British being delivered a fairly severe beating, and in the process essentially failing to prevent the German breakout into the Atlantic, there was during the immediate time after the action a fair amount of fairly ill-informed bluster and arm-waving going on, the general gist of which was that somebody must have badly mismanaged the British tactical situation. Subsequent analysis proved this to be incorrect, and -- particularly insofar as Bismarck was sunk in the end -- and, although some written commentary remains, most of this knee-jerk reaction was later more or less forgotten. In any tactical situation one can re-examine in hindsight and find that sometimes less-than-optimal actions were taken. All commanders make them, and there is something to be learned from a post-action analysis, but the presence of what can later to have been seen as tactical blunders does not render those in command in any way substantively incompetent.
Regarding the long discussions regarding the errors and alleged falsifications in the track charts during the Bismarck chase, my general feeling is that these issues were, at least after the fact, not really seen to be of any practical significance, and -- particularly with the need to concentrate more on issues-at-hand as the war went on, most of this was not really seen to be very important. As at Jutland, there are many discrepancies to be found in such charts, but -- except in isolated incidences -- the presence of formal 'cover-ups' are rare, and usually of little practical consequence. In the case of the Boards of Inquiry into the loss of Hood, it should be remembered that the thrust of the inquiries was to determine the cause of the loss itself, not to reconstruct the tactical situation either side of the gunfire action itself, and particularly after the loss of Hood, with any great precision. So generalized diagrams, primarily intended to determine roughly where witnesses were with respect to Hood when she blew up were seen to be 'good enough'.
Using them to try to reconstruct the entire action in detail, and finding fault in their precision, is probably a futile endeavor. That's just not what they were made for.
The bottom line, is that I don't really find the case for any substantial and organized 'cover up' in the Bismarck chase, nor any real long-term concerns that anybody on the British side committed anything resembling a court-martial offence to be very convincing.
Hoping this helps, and intended constructively,
I think the problem is that if you set out with a preconceived view you can end up making trying to make the evidences "fit" rather than take them for what they are. Also a lot of the evidence presented to confirm the hypothesis seem to come from secondary sources.Personally I treat secondary sources with suspicions lot of the time you can have a replication of a view or opinion that may or may not be correct - certainly with witness testimony. That does not mean that a witness to an event is lying, demented or infirm. Its just that the human brain isn't always the most reliable when it comes to absorbing and retelling events. One of my favourite topics is The Battle of Jutland, there are many witness accounts that turned out not to be true. For instance a midshipman on HMS Dublin described seeing HMS Queen Mary explode and saw her bow sail on before sinking, he described seeing those in the bridge superstructure. What we now know is that was impossible,HMS Queen Mary's bow was obliterated in the explosion. Another witness described HMS Defence being "blown to atoms".In actual fact HMS Defence is pretty much intact. A witness on HMS Spitfire described seeing a four funnelled cruiser ablaze from stem to stern ,roaring like a furness. The inference was that he saw HMS Black Prince, the problem is that the timings and relative positionsdon't correlate. What I suppose I am trying to say is that witness testimony can be shakey, certainly as time goes on.
If the hypothesis is to be proven fact, then surely hard, unequivocable evidence is required ? At present it all appears a bit "he said, she said". Wouldn't there be a paper trail between the Admiralty,Churchill and those at the scene? Even if some documentation was lost/destroyed there would still be others that were definitive surely? Even if it was under the 100 year rule it would at least exist - like the files on HMS Glorious. Now here was an incident that really did deserve a court martial (for D'Oly Hughes).The files were simply shut off from public reading, but they still exist.
Personally I think Byron was right in his earlier post when he said that this whole issue smells of Churchill having one of his epic strops. The war is going badly in the Mediterranean,HMS Hood has been sunk,HMS Prince of Wales has had to withdraw. He wants blood before he even knows the events. As the days go on his tantrum subsides but the wardroom whispers are doing the rounds in the RN in regards to his comments. I don't think that would put me in the "denier" category. I just think that the case is unproven and relies on circumstantial evidence ,which is not surprising it was 70+ years ago. If you make a big historical statement I personally think you need more than this.
Just my thoughts of course! Be gentle I'm a newbie!