Cover up synopsis

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alecsandros
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by alecsandros » Fri Dec 09, 2016 9:35 pm

That being said, I must say in the past months I have viewed and reviewed the known part of Prinz Eugen's battle film. I tried to imagine how it was with the sounds, the wind and heavy sea spray coming around the decks... And with the towering geysers of death errupting around the battleships... only to come crashing down back into the sea seconds later, drenching the ships awash...
And so, back at 6:00:00, a devastating double semi-salvo was unleashed from Bismarck's guns, shrieking through the air and perforating the sea plane at around 6:00:20... also hitting Hood, in the middle of the final turn... Hood exploded with a huge sound, the pressure wave of the explosion being hard felt all the way to Bismarck's decks, and the sound of the explosion allegedly being heard all the way to Reikjavik. Only 800meters astern, Prince of Wales's men must have been stunned immediately, only to be stunned more some 20-30 seconds later when heavy gunfire started errupting around them... they took hits immediately, suffered dead and wounded. Captain in a state of shock, probabbly lifting himself off the bloody floor amongst the carnage... Seeing the Hood was gone. His ship had suffered unknown damage - but presumably heavy - while the enemy was thundering away with all artillery , while having suffered no visible damage. Thus he decided to turn away under smoke, at probably 6:01:30-6:01:45...

The Bismarck must have been seen then and there - at 6:02 from Prince of Wales's observation posts - as a real life Death Star (as one National Geographic documentary once put it), a formidable adversary with unknown - but clearly devastating - armament and targetting systems...

Thus , the mercifull captain took the decision to spare his crew from what appeared as probable annihilation. Unbeknowst to him, the Bismarck was damaged and further damageable and degradable by his own 14" guns...

In this light, I can't see poor Capt Leach as lacking courage, but I do see him as liable for a possible heavy and terrible change of course in the war, by leaving the enemy to cross into the open ocean while he apparently saved his ship.

This isn't to exxonerate him from not pushing through with the orders to destroy the enemy, but it is to lend a more clear context to the fatefull withdrawal under smoke decision... After all, with the flagship obliterated by only a few 380mm enemy salvos, and his own BB taking immediate heavy punishment, he couldn't have hoped to last enough to cause meaningfull damage (or any damage at all) to the Bismarck (the more of which as apparently 8 minutes of firing didn't cause any damage to her).

PS: I hope I didn't make a complete fool of myself ... And hope this post isn't as distorted as it seems to me now reading it the 3rd or 4th time...

Best,

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:13 pm

@Alecsandros:
Hi Alec,
I think your description of PoW bad situation and of Leach decision may be the correct one, even if we will never know for sure what was Leach military behavior during these very few seconds.

However (and this is where the "cover up" or "embellishment" or "sugar-coating" intervened), Adm Tovey was compelled to write to his very demanding Admiralty something different than the plain truth, enlarging by 11 minutes the engagement duration, describing (even before Leach) the disengagement as "temporary" and astutely including within the battle damages (that weighted in Leach decision to break off the action) also the heavyweight, the Y turret jamming.....

In a period of the war when the hardest sacrifices were requested even to the British civilians, it was not acceptable that a RN Captain acted like any average human being when under enemy fire, leaving the Germans, apparently untouched, to continue their mission, while his own ship was only "superficially damaged" (Leach words). That's why a different story was sent to the printers.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by dunmunro » Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:59 am

Cag wrote:Hi All

Hi Alberto, I agree PoW was disengaging, I would suggest that the S shape would also be to attempt to find out what the enemy was doing, following or not as Leach could not know what would occur (he unlike us did not know what would happen next).

Most definitely Y turret was the only one which would not be wooded in any the disengagement and so would be required to re engage if necessary and some sort of vision would be vital.

Fortunately for PoW the Germans did not pursue as Y turret did jam, (as it did on the way back to Rosyth which was also not mentioned in Leach's message) and Leach was allowed to continue the disengagement without a running battle with an ineffctive rear turret, all be it still under fire until 06.09.

Maybe everyone would be happy with putting it in the terms of PoW did temporarily re engage Bismarck twice after temporary periods of non engagement following her temporary disengagement with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen which lasted until joining the Norfolk to shadow the enemy force?

Best wishes
Cag.
Here's PoW at ~0603 as viewed from PE:

https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collec ... 69731.html

In the high resolution tif image, PoW is clearly visible. It is obvious that the S turn was a highly risky manoeuvre that didn't cover PoW with smoke until the final turnaway at 0605. These turns would have also bled off a lot of speed. If Leach's intent was simply to disengage he should have kept turning and forgone the S turns.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Dec 10, 2016 9:06 am

Hi Duncan,
thanks for this photo (timing is around 6:03:30, probably 6:03:25). I must say that I cannot really see any ship in it, just a shadow, while we see the PoW short fall of shots (from the first local control salvo) AND far away (slightly to the right) we perceive the fall of shots of Bismarck around PoW shadow retreating. What we see clearly is the smoke generated by PoW (since 6:01:30 as there is a lot of smoke in the air already) . The analysis of the photo has been done already in 2008 by our friend Paul Cadogan (http://www.hmshood.com/history/denmarks ... adogan.htm, picture #10) and his work is still valid. :clap:

The smoke is clearly going to the right (SW as wind was from NE) and the logical move to hide the ship behind the smoke would have been to turn to starboard to "follow" this smoke screen, as was actually done.....


So said, as Leach (nor McMullen in the GAR) in his 3 messages/reports NEVER mentioned any "S" shape maneuver to try to re-engage, while he was very careful in explaining his "difficult" decision to break off the action just after the hit in CP (6:00:50), there is NO WAY that the "S" was done as an attempt to re-engage: this would have been the first (and final) point in his reports to justify what he did.
Also, Leach NEVER spoke of ANY intention to open range: the turn at 6:01:30 was a disengagement turn, as per Leach admission in all his reports.
Please don't try to say that Leach always "forgot" these "details" :shock: because (for any officer) they are not details at all....... :negative:
I'm afraid that your theory is a pure speculation, not supported by the official documents.

Had it been the case, Adm Tovey would have had no need to invent a different story in his point 19 ("cover-up", "embellishment" or "sugar-coating"), enlarging the duration of the battle and smartly mixing the jam of the Y turret among the battle damages (received before the decision to disengage) to present to Their (demanding) Lordships an "acceptable" story, in a war context that I have depicted in my last post above.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Cag » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:43 am

Hi All

Thanks for that fair assessment Alecsandros, as part of my rather rubbish attempt at the battle map I'm trying to work out how long it took PoW to overtake the sinking Hood.

According to Rowell Hood was on a bearing of 260° from PoW some 900 yds away. I'm still attempting to find PoW's speed to time how long it took to draw alongside as there are witness testimonies that describe the abandonment of the Walrus and the funnel/crane hit as Hoods bows were passing the beam of PoW.

I'm not sure that it can be stated that Captain Leach left the Atlantic to the Bismarck as PoW manoeuvred to disengage not to leave the area completely. Though damaged Leach brought his ship back to join the shadowing of Bismarck and so it can't really be said that he simply abandoned the attempt to stop the Bismarck's mission, that is a little unfair.

If that had been the case PoW would have used her remaining fuel to sail for Rosyth immediately and irrefutable evidence proves this was not the case. As far as I'm aware the battle of the Denmark Strait lasted from around 05.52:30 when the British opened fire to around 06.09 when the Germans ceased fire which is about 16 and a half minutes?

Just as an aside may I remember all those who died Hawaian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Japanese, American and British who weere involved in the opening of the war in the far east and those that died on HMS Repulse and PoW today in 1941.

Best wishes
Cag.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Dec 10, 2016 2:38 pm

Cag wrote: "...those that died on HMS Repulse and PoW today in 1941."
R.I.P. , all the brave sailors who died there.
you wrote: "As far as I'm aware the battle of the Denmark Strait lasted from around 05.52:30 when the British opened fire to around 06.09 when the Germans ceased fire which is about 16 and a half minutes? "
Hi Mr. Cag,
you are right, of course. However Tovey stated that PoW "turned away under smoke" at 6:13.... Correct timing for the turn away is 6:01:30 (thus decision at 6:01:00).... :think: Tovey added 11+ minutes of lonely fight for PoW BEFORE the action break off .
you wrote: "I'm not sure that it can be stated that Captain Leach left the Atlantic to the Bismarck as PoW manoeuvred to disengage not to leave the area completely."
You are right again. It was Wake-Walker who left the Atlantic to the Bismarck, deciding not to not re-engage and finally losing contact.
Capt.Leach decided however to disengage while his ship was in action against an enemy that was very difficult to engage and that could have left him behind forever (he was not aware of the damages sustained by Bismarck). His decision was a very debatable one, in any case.

P.S. I just saw now Alec post here below, and I think he is absolutely right in his analysis.


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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alecsandros
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by alecsandros » Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:06 pm

@Cag
The interception point that Prince of Wales with Hood managed to obtain (or interception area if you will) was a very small area in which only superb seamanship managed to bring the 2 British vessels (presumably from Adm Holland). A little bit more to the north and there would have been no interception. More to the south - unlikely and in fact almost impossible due to the speed at which the Germans were averagely traveling that night (27kts).

So disengaging from the interception area meant just that - leaving the enemy to go further south. There was no speed advantage for Prince of WAles (or for KGV) to overtake Bismarck after the disengagement. Had Bismarck been not damaged (as the info on board PoW showed at 6:00), she could not have been followed by PoW at all (with max speed reduced to 27 then to 26kts).

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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Cag » Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:39 pm

Hi All

I can fully understand your points, the course PoW took after the disengagement does tend to show that it was the intention of Leach to follow Bismarck and not head for home. PoW engines were not disabled and before the damage could be fully assessed/made good the direction Leach took was toward the enemy.

Whether this was to be attempted with the cruisers as actually happened or with other forces or alone the intent was shown that the disengagement was intended to save the fighting efficency of a ship for 'future' use and the ships heading was toward the enemy not away.

If PoW had headed away from the battlefield and kept going then this would have shown no intent to pursue the enemy and would have 'left the Bismarck to continue its mission'.

Please remember that the future movements of Bismarck were unknown and being shadowed the possibility of the same excellent example of seamanship may have brought PoW into a position to intercept the enemy again?

Best wishes
Cag.

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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by alecsandros » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:27 pm

Certainly so,
and very possible that Capt Leach hoped this to happen at the fatefull disengagement minute (6:01-6:02, covered in smoke).

What I want to adress here is that with Bismarck un-damaged there could be no further reengagement, as PoW was withdrawing to the East, while Bismarck was going South-West.

The shadowing done by PoW during the day and the reengagements (2 times) were possible because Bismarck was damaged (a thing not known to Leach at the time of the disengagement).

With Bismarck undamaged, it would be the 2 cruisers mantainig shadowing, and PoW slowly remaining behind, and losing visual contact. Of course, any convergence by KGV/Repulse/Victorious would be impossible...

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:31 pm

Cag wrote: ".....being shadowed the possibility of the same excellent example of seamanship may have brought PoW into a position to intercept the enemy again?"
Hi Mr.Cag,
while I agree with you that this was a possibility, another one is that "PoW disengagement may have brought Bismarck to shake off pursuers (as it happened) and to sink a convoy...." . Both alternatives were possible ones for Leach at 6:01:00......


Bye, Alberto
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Cag » Sat Dec 10, 2016 5:00 pm

Hi All

I agree Alberto, my point was that if we are looking at a court martial for Leach then the very fact that rather than, to put it simply, 'giving up' and sailing away into the Atlantic and home his primary action post disengagement was to head back toward his enemy.

Had he not done this and had he not attempted to remain a 'player' in any possible future scenario, then no doubt Tovey himself would have instigated a court martial against Leach. But knowing as we do the full facts we can see that this was not the case and thanks to shells from PoW the opportunity to participate was available to be taken earlier than later.

I don't think we should say that Leach should now also be condemned for not knowing whether an opportunity would present itself but despite this still heading for the enemy. Then we would be condemning him if he had 'run away home' and for also for remaining and heading back toward Bismarck, the guy can't win!

Best wishes
Cag.

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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by dunmunro » Sat Dec 10, 2016 6:46 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:Hi Duncan,
thanks for this photo (timing is around 6:03:30, probably 6:03:25). I must say that I cannot really see any ship in it, just a shadow, while we see the PoW short fall of shots (from the first local control salvo) AND far away (slightly to the right) we perceive the fall of shots of Bismarck around PoW shadow retreating. What we see clearly is the smoke generated by PoW (since 6:01:30 as there is a lot of smoke in the air already) . The analysis of the photo has been done already in 2008 by our friend Paul Cadogan (http://www.hmshood.com/history/denmarks ... adogan.htm, picture #10) and his work is still valid. :clap:

The smoke is clearly going to the right (SW as wind was from NE) and the logical move to hide the ship behind the smoke would have been to turn to starboard to "follow" this smoke screen, as was actually done.....

Here's a crop of the image showing PoW:

Image

The silhouette of PoW is plainly visible, as is the smoke from her funnels and even the smoke from the boat deck fire and the funnel damage. It seems likely that it was the boat deck fire/funnel damage that obscured the after DCT. It is also very obvious that PoW was not in anyway obscured from KM optical instruments, but she could have been by continuing to turn east rather than doing the S turns.

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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Dec 10, 2016 10:49 pm

Dunmunro wrote: "The silhouette of PoW is plainly visible....."
Hi Duncan,
I must say I'm still very uncertain that what we see is the silhouette of a ship..... :think:
What I see very well are 3 splashes (red arrows) of Bismarck salvo falling close to PoW (green arrow), a huge amount of smoke to the left (blue arrow, that Paul Cadogan identified as "old" smoke from Hood and PoW) and a lot of "newly generated" smoke (yellow arrow) moved to the right of the photo by the wind (violet arrow). In order to hide under her own smoke , PoW had no choice but to turn to starboard, thus the "S" turn, until it was clear that the German gunnery was not a danger anymore and a straight away course could be resumed.
NH69731crop_1.jpg
NH69731crop_1.jpg (79.57 KiB) Viewed 1322 times
Back to the thread topic, despite this analysis of the photo being VERY interesting (and we can open a separate thread to discuss it in full detail), the fact that we can see PoW or not does not change the irrefutable sequence of events: Leach decided to break off the engagement (NOT to open range) already after Hood explosion at 6:00 (see his June 4 explanation), ordered it between 6:01 and 6:01:10 (thus just after the hit in Compass Platform at 6:00:50), the turn away of the ship started at 6:01:30 and was completed at 6:03. No attempt to re-engage was mentioned by Leach (or by anybody else) in any official document, when it would have been a VERY important aspect in order to justify the "unusual" decision.

12 minutes, before the order to disengage, were "added" by Tovey in his point 19 to present to Their Lordships a story that they could approve according to the (always demanding) standards of the Royal Navy and the jamming of the Y turret was intentionally mixed among the other battle damages. The same Tovey had "added" the word "temporarily" to the break off decision already on May 29, when Leach had not yet added his much less misleading "pending a more favorable opportunity"......


@Mr.Cag hi, when I joined this very competent forum, on July 8, 2013 (in the "RN Articles of War" mega-thread), I immediately said that in my opinion Leach did the right choice disengaging ONLY with hindsight. For sure his decision preserved the life of many people on board PoW, and Bismarck was sunk anyway. He was lucky in this sense. However, at 6:01:00 his decision was VERY debatable from a military viewpoint, even if he then continued to follow the Bismarck turning toward the enemy after 6:20 when he was anyway under Wake-Walker orders. At 6:01 he was totally unaware that Bismarck had been damaged and, turning away, he could possibly have left the Atlantic to the Bismarck, lacking the speed advantage (and the endurance) to force another battle. Convoys were at sea and it was impossible to imagine that a swordfish would have delivered Bismarck to Tovey.
An inquiry would have been well deserved while an "embellishment" of the story (or "cover-up" or "sugar-coating") was decided instead.


Bye; Alberto
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Cag » Sun Dec 11, 2016 12:16 pm

Hi All

Hi Alberto, I do understand your point of view. I'm just a little unsure as to what Leach was meant to have done, I understand why you feel you should question him but you do so without offering any alternative.

If he had continued beyond his turn away at 06.02 and fought on, bearing in mind he was not hitting his enemy any more where as both of the enemy ships were repeatedly hitting him would he not quite possibly receive damage that would render his ship incapable of any further participation whether he wanted it to or not?

I am sure that there would now be condemnation of him for such an action, for allowing his ship to be damaged and lost from any future participation without any 'return'.

This, I'm sure you agree, would definitely have opened the gateway to the Atlantic for the Bismarck. But instead we are condemning him for withdrawal before this occurred to enable at least one large ship participation in any possible future action.

I presume we would also condemn him for any attempt to sail for home after the withdrawal and yet we condemn him for turning back toward his enemy which if we look at the maps occurred before joining Norfolk.

We do have the gift of hindsight which Leach did not and therefore the turn to follow his enemy and the joining with Wake-Walker is at the very least proof that the intent was to pursue pending more favourable circumstances whatever and however that may occur, the intent was there as were all future possibilities.

You say he was 'lucky' that PoW gunners damaged Bismarck which allowed him to have the opportunity to reconnect with his enemy. You say that on disengagement he did not know if Bismarck was damaged and in withdrawing he was allowing the freedom of the Atlantic to the Germans.

In other threads you have argued that the PoW was far from lucky but on the contrary she was in fact well worked up? Was Leach lucky or did he ensure his gunnery department were efficient enough to score hits despite the proven low number of hours spent in practice and the continued defect remedy of PoW turrets?

Despite his lack of knowledge as to Bismarck efficiency did he keep his options open by turning toward his enemy or throw them away by heading for home?

I do understand your point of view and accept that viewpoint. I believe you to be a fair man, it is just sometimes I'm afraid it really does appear that Leach is already guilty no matter what he had decided to do, and that the opinion is he blindly ran away in total fear without any thought of future considerations which his testimony and future movements tend to show was not the case, which I'm sure is what their Lordships took into account in their decisions as to his actions.

Please read an account of his actions at Jutland or on December 10th which I'm sure you will see were not the actions of, to put it bluntly, a coward.

Best wishes
Cag.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Cover up synopsis

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:20 pm

Hi Mr.Cag,
I do see your points and I agree on several of your observations: e.g. I always said that Leach was great in preparing his ship in a very short timeframe, allowing her to show a gunnery performance not much inferior to Bismarck one. No luck in this, but Leach did not know about any damage inflicted to Bismarck when he decided to disengage.

Whether continuing the action was wise or not can be debatable, but with a ship still fairly efficient and an enemy apparently untouched, I do think this was his only choice, without hindsight.
I agree that PoW was receiving many hits and from 6:02 till 6:03 she could have been damaged (even seriously). However (with hindsight) at 6:03 Germans turned away for the "torpedo" alarm and after 6:03 PoW could have a great opportunity to inflict serious damages to an enemy whose gunnery was scrambled by the hard turn and possibly with her aft turrets wooded..... who knows? The decision to continue the action coul have ended in any result, we will never know for sure, but any damage inflicted to Bismarck was very important for her subsequent loss.

However there are quite some points in your above post where I'm afraid I (respectfully) disagree:
you wrote: "I am sure that there would now be condemnation of him for such an action, for allowing his ship to be damaged and lost"
No Captain trying to do his duty at any cost would have been condemned by a RN court: even Rear Adm Arbuthnot was posthumously decorated after his blind charge on the enemy at Jutland......
For sure, we all would condemn him, had an undamaged Bismarck sunk a vital convoy on May 25 or 26, when free in Atlantic due to his decision.
you wrote: "....did he keep his options open by turning toward his enemy or throw them away by heading for home?"
I don't even consider sailing to Scapa as a possible option for him. He knew very well he was under the orders of Wake-Walker (since Holland's death) and he could not simply run away (btw I don't think he would have done so even if alone).
you wrote:"we are condemning him for withdrawal before this occurred to enable at least one large ship participation in any possible future action."
As explained by Alecsandros and by me above, there was the possibility that, after that disengagement, no future action was possible anymore.....
you wrote: "we condemn him for turning back toward his enemy which if we look at the maps occurred before joining Norfolk."
It occurred to join Norfolk and to take station behind her new flagship, that at this point in time was closer to the enemy than PoW.



So said, back to this thread topic, I repeat that if your wise observations were considered correct and in line with the RN standards, Adm Tovey would not have added 12 minutes, before the order to disengage, in his point 19 and would not have mixed the jamming of the Y turret among the other battle damages sustained before the decision to break off action, to present to Their Lordships a story that they could approve.

The very existence of this "embellishment" (or "cover-up") demonstrates that his decision was not perceived as 100% correct. Without the need to present a different story, Adm.Tovey would have not been forced to write, to put it bluntly, a lie, corrected by the Admiralty itself on 1948.


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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