First hit on Bismarck May 27th

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northcape
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First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby northcape » Mon Feb 22, 2016 8:00 pm

I only have secondary literature on the Bismarck chase and sinking, and in almost all of them the first hit scored on Bismarck during her final battle was described from Rodney, ca. 15 mins after the start of the battle (> 9 am). (The hit which disabled Anton and Bruno).
However, in Tarrant's "KGV5 class battleships" I read that KGV scored her first hit at ca.8:53 (5 mins after open fire) at the base of Bismarck's forward superstructure.

Does anybody has primary literature on the sequence of hits from both KGV and Rodney, and/or is there consensus on that matter?

Thanks!

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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby alecsandros » Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:09 am

There is no consensus that I know of.

Sources vary over the timing of the first hit, from as early as 8:54, to as late as 9:02.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Feb 24, 2016 11:35 am

I agree with Alec re. the lack of a firm consensus here.

The only primary source I'm aware of is from KGV GAR (Gunnery Aspect Report) that states that their first hit was observed at 8:53 from a distance of 20500 yards. I don't know what is written in Rodney GAR and whether the cruisers had already opened fire at that time...... :think:

KGV-GAR-extract.jpg
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Feb 24, 2016 1:49 pm

Hi all,
I just found out in Rodney GAR the first noticed hit. This is timed at 6:02 with (estimated) devastating effects.
The first straddle from Rodney is reported at 8:58.

Rodney GAr extract.jpg
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby alecsandros » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:29 pm

Great finds !

I read the baron's memoir on the final battle today, and he mentions a spectacular hit on 9:02...

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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby Steve Crandell » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:34 pm

If Bismarcks A and B turrets were both put out of action by that hit, her fire would not be come erratic; it would become non existent, wouldn't it? The aft turrets were wooded, and the Baron didn't open fire on KGV with C and D until later.

Also, the Baron would not know about a hit being "spectacular" until he read about it after the war, would he?

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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby northcape » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:37 pm

Thanks Alberto!!

20,500 yard is a large distance in my view, or at least in the upper range of battleship engagements.

So to me, the KGV class was a rather good combination of a stable gun platform, a good fire control, and ordnance accuracy. PoW scored hits quickly at Denmark Street despite poor conditions, and DoY's shooting in the heavy sea at the Northcape was very accurate as well.
If the quadruple turrets would have been less prone to their interlock failures, I think that the ordnance would have compensated the other shortcomings of this class to a high degree, making their fighting value more comparable to their peers like Bismarck or Richelieu.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Feb 24, 2016 8:49 pm

Steve Crandell wrote: "....The aft turrets were wooded, and the Baron didn't open fire on KGV with C and D until later."

Hi Steve,
I'm not sure that the aft turrets were wooded (at least they were not continuously due to the "erratic" course of Bismarck. They became wooded for sure only after 9:30, when Rodney passed in front of the BS. So it is possible that C and D fired alone against Rodney.

In any case the Baron mention that fire control was passed to the aft director "20 minutes after the open fire", so around 9:09. Possibly this would confirm my statement above, (that C and D were not wooded yet) and the timing given by the Rodney GAR.



Northcape wrote: "So to me, the KGV class was a rather good combination of a stable gun platform, a good fire control, and ordnance accuracy. PoW scored hits quickly at Denmark Street despite poor conditions, and DoY's shooting in the heavy sea at the Northcape was very accurate as well.
If the quadruple turrets would have been less prone to their interlock failures, I think that the ordnance would have compensated the other shortcomings of this class to a high degree....."

Hi,
I fully agree with you. I'm not surprised that KGV hit before Rodney, whose guns were honestly not so well renowned in terms of precision.
However, one thing is to hit, one other is to heavily damage your opponent. When the turret problems impacted KGV and the distance decreased, then it was for sure the Rodney to "do the job" with her heavy punch.


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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby paulcadogan » Thu Feb 25, 2016 3:33 am

Wow, thanks for those posts Alberto! The straddle at 0853 is mentioned in the Navalhistory.net chronology for KGV but not the observed hit.

Also interesting is the line before which suggests ranging problems due to the inexperience with the high rate of change of range, but this is described a little differently in the chrono so it is great to see the primary source!

At 0848 hours, with the BISMARCK sailing directly towards the flagship, KING GEORGE V opened fire at a range of about 25,500 yards. The gunnery department at first had a difficult task in obtaining the range because of BISMARCK's head-on approach and the squally weather.
At 0853 hours the operator of the Type 284 radar finally obtained an accurate range of 20,500 yards and KING GEORGE V obtained her first straddle.


So we have some explanations for the long time it took for the British to "get on". Bismarck didn't take long to "get on" Rodney, but she wasn't able to stay "on".

One note of caution though - "observed hits" by the "hitter" without backup from sources on the "hittee" can be notoriously unreliable. Still a straddle means a hit was quite possible.

Paul
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby alecsandros » Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:49 am

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
In any case the Baron mention that fire control was passed to the aft director "20 minutes after the open fire", so around 9:09. Possibly this would confirm my statement above, (that C and D were not wooded yet) and the timing given by the Rodney GAR.




... Rodney's salvo did not take out central gunnery position of the ship, which was in the foretop. That happened at probably 9:06 or 9:08, when a 203mm shell from Norfolk obliterated the foretop. Hence command was passed to the aft con tower.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:21 am

@Alecsandros:
Hi Alec,
yes absolutely. The central direction was therefore able to continue firing on Rodney (even if "erratically" due possibly to C and D unable to bear at certain moments when BS was turning to port without control), until being destroyed some minutes later, with the consequent order to the Baron to take over from the aft director.

He decided (quite logically) to switch fire on KGV that was visible from his position, while Rodney was starting her course to cut the BS route and possibly obscured by BS own damage smoke from the Baron position.


I had the opportunity to look also in the GAR's of Norfolk (open fire at 8:54 from 22000 yards) and Dorsetshire (open fire at 9:04 from 20000 yards), but did not find any reference to a hit at 6:06-6:08 on the fore-top director but this doesn't mean it did not happen.... :think:
Both cruisers were unable to report hits except in the last minutes of the battle (Dorsetshire at 10:02 and Norfolk, without giving any timing, only during the last group of described broadsides, from 62 to 103, so not much before).


Bye, Alberto
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby alecsandros » Thu Feb 25, 2016 9:30 am

... As I understand the reports from Rodney,
Bismarck was firing erraticaly long before 9:06 or 9:08. Bismarck obtained 1 straddle at around 8:52/53, that caused minor splinter damage to Rodney, after which Rodney altered course and no more straddles were obtained.

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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby dunmunro » Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:01 pm

northcape wrote:I only have secondary literature on the Bismarck chase and sinking, and in almost all of them the first hit scored on Bismarck during her final battle was described from Rodney, ca. 15 mins after the start of the battle (> 9 am). (The hit which disabled Anton and Bruno).
However, in Tarrant's "KGV5 class battleships" I read that KGV scored her first hit at ca.8:53 (5 mins after open fire) at the base of Bismarck's forward superstructure.

Does anybody has primary literature on the sequence of hits from both KGV and Rodney, and/or is there consensus on that matter?

Thanks!


The best secondary source for this info is Robert's The Final Action, Warship 28, Oct 1983. Robert's summarizes Rodney's and KGV's GAR with some references to Norfolk and Dorsetshire's GARs.

Roberts states that Norfolk observed hits from Rodney's 3rd and/or 4th salvos fired at 0848 but Rodney did not observe these nor did she claim a straddle. However, KGV's Type 284 radar began obtaining intermittent ranges from 25100 yds and continuous ranges from 21100 yds. KGV opened fire at 0848 at 24600 yds using radar ranges and estimated range rates. Rodney opened fire at 0847 at an estimated range of 23500 yds which was clearly incorrect. If Bismarck was hit from salvos fired at 0848 it seems likely that these hits came from KGV who had an accurate range for her first salvos. Unfortunately there was some confusion in KGV and Rodney regarding salvo timing and it seems likely that KGV was spotting on Rodney's salvos for several minutes and subsequent radar ranges were probably discounted as being possible returns from shell splashes rather than from Bismarck but when the echo became continuous it was obvious that the radar was ranging on Bismarck. At 0853 KGV observed a 14in hit from her "A" salvo (Possibly salvo 8A. Salvos are numbered but multiple salvos fired within each one minute time sector are distinguished by letter, A, B, C... so salvos fired at 0853 would be number 8A and 9B assuming that this is when salvos 8 and 9 were fired.) fired at 20500 yds.

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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:13 pm

Alecsandros wrote:".....after which Rodney altered course and no more straddles were obtained."

Hi Alec,
in the same Rodney document I have posted already above, here you have the 3 near miss from Bismarck to Rodney, and (to my great surprise) the last ones are at 9:22 and 9:23..... well after the Baron director had been put out of action, so I guess when one of the aft turrets (they say X, therefore Caesar...) was firing independently, apparently still with good results despite it was in local control and almost continuously wooded..... but of course distance was already very very short.

Rodney1.jpg
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Rodney2.jpg
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Rodney3.jpg
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Bye, Alberto
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Re: First hit on Bismarck May 27th

Postby alecsandros » Fri Feb 26, 2016 6:38 am

Excellent finds !
HOwever, in pretty much all secondary literature that I have read, the 20ft near-miss and jam of the torpedo tubes is attributed to the only straddle, obtained at around 8:53.

Is this a mistake perpetrated in secondary literature (it wouldn't be the first...), or a correct analysis of the battle ?


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