How did so many survive?

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beltsman
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How did so many survive?

Postby beltsman » Wed Mar 16, 2016 4:42 am

One that that I've always wondered about is how so many of Bismarck's crew went into the water. With the extreme amount of damage it took, reading that hundreds, and maybe upwards of 1,200+ men were in the water is astounding to me.

- What are the estimates for casualties that never made it into the water (i.e., from pure battle damage)?
- What explains how high this number was? What percentage of crew were below deck during the battle, in "safe spots" so to speak?

Thanks and hello, long-time lurker making my first post.

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paulcadogan
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby paulcadogan » Sun Mar 20, 2016 3:07 am

Hello Beltsman and welcome to the forum.

I'm certainly not an expert on Bismarck's crew and the details of precisely how they would have been distributed throughout the ship during the battle, still it is not hard to figure how you could have hundreds surviving the final cannonade.

If you check this page :

http://www.kbismarck.com/crew/index.html

You will see a breakdown of the areas in which they worked in their divisions, each division being 180-220 men. From that list we see about 600 +/- engineers, technicians and stokers, many of whom would have been working inside the citadel armour, well below and protected from the mostly flat trajectory incoming shells which would not penetrate to those areas. The same would apply to those down in the magazines and shell rooms - add another few hundred.

Then in the upper hull and exposed areas, though casualties were clearly horrific, there were many who survived - like the Baron who narrowly escaped death in the aft main armament director. And remember too that most of the incoming shells were coming from the port side, or off the bow, so those on the starboard side aft would have been somewhat shielded.

So once scuttling orders were given and word spread to abandon ship, all those men started making their way out - and we've read the amazing stories of how many of them made it out of the ship - recalling that about 20 minutes elapsed from the time the British battleships ceased fire until the ship capsized, giving them that breathing space (for want of a better term) to get out and off.

I don't think anyone can know exactly how many were killed outright, how many were alive but failed to get out - trapped by fires, damage, flooding or debris - and how many were actually afloat in the water in the aftermath of the sinking hoping for rescue. But we've seen the photos and I think we can safely say it was at least a several hundred.

Paul
Qui invidet minor est - He who envies is the lesser man

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Sun Mar 20, 2016 9:09 am

Hi Beltsman,
while I agree with Paul explanations, I would not consider anyway a 45% casualties on board, due to shells and torpedoes only, as a surprisingly light one.....

As an example, in very different conditions, on board of the Italian "RM Roma", there were 800 survivors out of a crew of around 2000 (1960 according to estimations, due to the fleet staff being aboard) as a result of the explosion of all the fore magazines, plus the fore engine and boiler room, not even counting the first "Fritz" bomb), with the immediate death of all people in these sections and in the whole tower. I always wondered how so many could survive such an explosion......

Bye, Alberto
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Steve Crandell
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby Steve Crandell » Sun Mar 20, 2016 4:52 pm

paulcadogan wrote:... And remember too that most of the incoming shells were coming from the port side, or off the bow, so those on the starboard side aft would have been somewhat shielded.

...

Paul


I was under the impression that Rodney's short range pummeling was carried out from Bismarck's starboard side, and one or more British cruisers were there as well. From a well known photo of Bismarck taken from Rodey near the end of the battle it appears to me that the viewer is on Bismarck's starboard side. Is that my misunderstanding?

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paulcadogan
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby paulcadogan » Sun Mar 20, 2016 5:51 pm

Hi Steve,

Rodney was initially on Bismarck's port side, but eventually moved ahead of her and meandered back and forth across her bow (so the shells came in from the starboard bow when she crossed to that side - i.e. that was intermittent). I believe that photo was taken at some point during that phase.

Norfolk was firing mainly from the starboard bow or forward of the starboard beam I think. It was Dorsetshire that came in from the starboard quarter and passed up her starboard side, but later in the action, so she fired the fewest shells of all. So the vast majority of the heaviest shells came from the port side.

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Bill Jurens
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby Bill Jurens » Mon Mar 21, 2016 2:46 am

It's worth noting, perhaps, that in many cases the heaviest casualties end up on the UNengaged side. On the engaged side, unless you are hit directly, the incoming round will explode behind you and it's the poor fellows on the other side of the ship that catch most of the resultant fragments of projectile and superstructure.

Bill Jurens.

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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby dunmunro » Mon Mar 21, 2016 5:36 am

KGV's GAR states that she also engaged Bismark's starboard side at about 0945.

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paulcadogan
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby paulcadogan » Mon Mar 21, 2016 2:07 pm

Bill Jurens wrote:It's worth noting, perhaps, that in many cases the heaviest casualties end up on the UNengaged side. On the engaged side, unless you are hit directly, the incoming round will explode behind you and it's the poor fellows on the other side of the ship that catch most of the resultant fragments of projectile and superstructure.


Interesting point Bill! A great example is PoW's compass platform hit!

dunmunro wrote:KGV's GAR states that she also engaged Bismark's starboard side at about 0945.


But Duncan, where on the track chart would that have been possible? Unless Bismarck very briefly veered significantly to port exposing her starboard side.....
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dunmunro
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby dunmunro » Mon Mar 21, 2016 6:07 pm

paulcadogan wrote:
Bill Jurens wrote:It's worth noting, perhaps, that in many cases the heaviest casualties end up on the UNengaged side. On the engaged side, unless you are hit directly, the incoming round will explode behind you and it's the poor fellows on the other side of the ship that catch most of the resultant fragments of projectile and superstructure.


Interesting point Bill! A great example is PoW's compass platform hit!

dunmunro wrote:KGV's GAR states that she also engaged Bismark's starboard side at about 0945.


But Duncan, where on the track chart would that have been possible? Unless Bismarck very briefly veered significantly to port exposing her starboard side.....


IIRC, the track chart drawn from KGV differed considerably from that drawn by Rodney. KGV's GAR states:
About 0945 the enemy who was yawing considerably exposed her starboard side for the first time. Observers noticed at least 3 large fires amidships and a large hole in the bows near the water line. These fires were presumably caused by APC shell which entered the port side before leaving the ship or possibly from ships firing from her starboard side.
At 0952 the enemy was abaft the beam at a range of some 6000 yards.

Phase IV
7. At 0952 KGV was steering 010, the enemy was about green 120, range about 6000 yds, Rodney was to the northward...

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paulcadogan
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby paulcadogan » Mon Mar 21, 2016 7:20 pm

Thanks Duncan! That supports both what Bill said and what I presumed was the case for how KGV would have fired on Bismarck's starboard side. :ok:
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dunmunro
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby dunmunro » Tue Mar 22, 2016 6:02 pm

paulcadogan wrote:Thanks Duncan! That supports both what Bill said and what I presumed was the case for how KGV would have fired on Bismarck's starboard side. :ok:



This chart is from the NSH Battle Summary:

Image

and it shows the two charted courses of Bismarck and how they differ. IIRC, the dashed line is the plot from KGV and you'll see how Bismarck's starboard side was exposed to KGV from ~0945 to 0955.

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paulcadogan
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby paulcadogan » Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:58 am

Interesting, but question - doesn't that meandering track show a very variable speed - at times almost as fast as the British battleships were moving?
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Herr Nilsson
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby Herr Nilsson » Wed Mar 23, 2016 7:47 am

From Rodney's battle map:

Image
Regards

Marc

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paulcadogan
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby paulcadogan » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:13 pm

Thank you Marc. Of course, that makes a lot of sense.
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beltsman
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Re: How did so many survive?

Postby beltsman » Mon May 23, 2016 4:45 am

What was the battle like for men below deck? How much did they know of what was going on? What did shell hits sound/feel like throughout the ship?


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