The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

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Alberto Virtuani
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The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:48 pm

Hi all,
here the transcript of the autobiography of Capt.Ellis (chapter 19) from pag.15 to 20. This way neither a "conspiracy filter" nor a "denial filter" is applied, as suspected. :wink:

I have tried to respect even the format of the original pages, however I beg pardon if for any reason I have done any minor error....
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(to be continued)

Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:53 pm

(follows from previous post)
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Enjoy this reading ! :D


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:34 pm

Wadinga wrote on this (wrong) post "viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6728&start=900#p77035:
"it was concern for Suffolk's safety that caused Wake-Walker to concentrate his force to protect her,
Yes, it's possible considering the PoW. However he maneuvered Norfolk too to keep her very close to PoW protection. :negative:
Why, wanting just to protect Suffolk precious radar, he did not work round to starboard with Norfolk (a very expendable ship, without a good radar) to cover a possible Bismarck maneuver in this direction ? During the previous night, he had acted this way (keeping just a bit too far from enemy.....), but possibly the PoW big guns were too reassuring to leave their protection.... :oops:

you wrote: " does Ellis call W-W "timid""
No, he just says, "for reasons of tact" that W-W postponed the effectiveness of his shadowing (his only D U T Y as per his own choice since some hours......) to the "Security" of his ships. In time of war this has just one name....timid attitude (to be nice).

you wrote: "As you transcribe more of Ellis' late life account you will, I imagine, find the part where he describes his own poor performance due to lack of sleep"
I did find it already, took from Ellis official report, only referenced in the autobiography. Please read my transcript before posting nonsense, in the urgency that you feel to "cover" the shame of this flag officer.


you wrote: "It is the responsibility of any naval officer to create a delegate who can take over in case he is incapacitated"
This just demonstrate that you apparently have never served in the Navy, did you ?
I have, and I know very well that the ultimate responsible on board is ALWAYS the commanding officer. When I was officer of the watch, I remember my commanding officer always ordered to be called immediately in case of any emergency, and it was peacetime......
Wake-Walker could have delegated Phillips for the normal situations while sleeping, but in case of emergency he SHOULD have asked to be awakened from his "incapacitating" :shock: deep sleep. He possibly failed to instruct Phillips (or he requested NOT to be disturbed :oops: ) and apparently Phillips (if he was not asleep too :oops: ) failed to take any logical initiative (e.g. spreading the three ships to cover different directions) to re-locate Bismarck for almost 2 hours......
I can't believe that a responsible officer (Phillips) could evaluate that it was not the case to awaken his Admiral while Bismarck was lost in Atlantic and all the 3 ships were stupidly moving in a single line behind Suffolk as in a naval parade.....
If you don't want to consider Phillips a total stupid, then it's ONLY Wake-Walker's responsibility if 2 precious hours were lost while Suffolk was desperately trying to locate Bismarck again, but in the wrong direction. :kaput:

you wrote: " Since nowhere is there criticism of Wake-Walker's performance there can be no accusation of being asleep on duty."
There was not ONLY because Ellis "for reasons of tact" did not accuse him, taking himself the responsibility of having lost Bismarck.....
I guess, however, that in case of a Court Martial asking "difficult" questions, all this "tact" would have been forgotten.... :lol:


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 loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Cag » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:10 pm

Hi All

Hi Alberto, thanks for posting this I tried to paraphrase it on the engage or not to engage thread due to worries regarding the copyright limitations/infringements.

I think I understand your process here, am I right in thinking that you are trying to link a hypothetical Admiralty critisism and admonishment of Wake-Walker for

a) not shadowing closely enough during the night of the 23rd?
b) not engaging Bismarck during the morning action on the 24th?
c) not adequately using his forces on the evening/morning of the 24/25th?
d) due to this incorrect use of forces causing the loss of contact of Bismarck during the morning of the 25th?

All these hypothetical critisisms would be instigated by the Admiralty if hypothetically Bismarck had not been sunk and reached Brest.

Thanks in advance
Best wishes
Cag.

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by wadinga » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:49 pm

Hello Alberto,

Ellis did not criticise his commander's dispositions at the time. Many years later he writes a new version in which he knew better than his admiral. BTW where does he say that his official report of 1941 is all lies made up as part of a giant conspiracy?

Thank you for acknowledging Ellis reported his own sleep deprived decision making shortcomings in his official report. He merely says Suffolk was short of sleep in this transcription of his late life memories. Another shortcoming of his late life opinions .

Thank you also for your account of your naval experience, but can you tell me how often your commanding officer was awake in chase of a 53,000 ton battleship in visibility down to one mile with no useable radar at 29 knots starting off Iceland near minefields and pack ice for four continuous days? :lol: :D

Suffolk had lost contact many times before and regained it, There was no need for panic.

BTW have you ever been at sea working continuously for four weeks like me? :D

PoW and Norfolk were close to protect Suffolk and her radar. Neither could find Bismarck in the darkness on their own. W-W instructed Ellis to manoeuvre for best radar coverage- he was guide of the fleet. In late life he has thought up an excuse why he knew where he should be, but didn't do it, so he can tactlessly blame W-W. Once W-W lost sight of Suffolk, her poor DR reporting, probably a faulty gyro, would mean W-W would not find her again even if she did find Bismarck.

In May 1941 Norfolk with hundreds of crew was not a very expendable ship. This is not a wargame it's real life.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:16 pm

@Cag:
hi Mr.Cag,
your mentioned "paraphrase" was absolutely correct, as I feel it was my summary to Wadinga in the other thread (Court Martial).
I have just posted it entirely here:
1) to allow everyone to make up their mind, reading the full text and avoiding comments like "conspiracy filter"......
2) to discuss here only the loss of contact happened in the night between 24 and 25, not mixing too many things together.




@Wadinga:
hi Sean,
you wrote: "Many years later he writes a new version....where does he say that his official report of 1941 is all lies...? "
First of all you should have noticed how detailed, precise and lucid is Ellis account in his autobiography. He does not say at all that his report relate dto the loss of contact is a lie, he uses his report and explains what he has not written in it at the time, "for reasons of tact".
Very different is his short account of the DS battle, where his official report (this time it was alie) is NOT even mentioned by Ellis, who accounts a different story, with a very different....distance....and decisions taken re.opening fire. :think:

you wrote: " how often your commanding officer was awake in chase of a 53,000 ton battleship....?"
Irrelevant of course, I remember, being officer of the watch, I had to wake him up when I suspected someone was trying to enter the perimeter of our naval installation. I was wrong at the time (they were young boys playing games close to a military installation :oops: ), but I was congratulated for having done what was required.

If you knew a bit better about military rules, you would not ask these questions as it is clear that having lost touch with Bismarck, the only one entitled to take decisions how to search for her was the Admiral. But he was sleeping and either nobody awakened him (very unlikely, IMO) or he had asked not to be called even in case of loss of touch (severe failure)...... :oops:

As a result, and this is a FACT, not Ellis opinion, the 3 ships were not deployed in time to regain contact. Ellis is not the responsible of the delay....


you wrote: "PoW and Norfolk were close to protect Suffolk and her radar. Neither could find Bismarck in the darkness on their own. "
PoW would have been more than enough to "protect SF.
Norfolk on May 23 took station southeasterly to cover a possible Bismarck turn in this direction (it was executed wrongly, keeping NF too far away, but the tactical idea was correct). SF was left totally alone, without any protection from NF at the time....

Why didn't W-W do the same on May 24 and preferred to stay close to PoW with his ship ? Norfolk had no better radar on May 23 than on May 24 and with 3 ships available, keeping them in a close line is not the best arrangement for shadowing, and this is another FACT, not Ellis opinion. :negative:


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Cag » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:27 pm

Hi All

Hi Alberto, may I ask, is this thread actually to discuss the loss of contact or is it just like the engage or not to engage thread designed to have another crack at Wake-Walker and link it to the morning action etc etc? Forgive my question and my scepticism but every thread started on here seems to be written to enable critisism of one or another of the men involved. It is called the Bismarck forum but the only subjects seem to be Wake-Walker Leach or cover up.

Or if this is a discussion into a hypothetical critisism of WW in reaction to a hypothetical reaching of Brest by Bismarck may I borrow a phrase often quoted in other threads, that it should be put into the hypothetical section of the forum?

Best wishes
Cag.

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:45 pm

W-W had to keep Norfolk and POW relatively close behind Suffolk, or risk losing cohesion of his force amid rather dynamic visibility conditions. Ellis reports that visibility following dusk was about 12,000 yards. Norfolk's Type 286 had a max range of about 11,000 yards and could only see ahead.

Ellis implies that POW's radars were not functioning reliably after DS, and not functioning at all after the exchange of salvos late afternoon. Indeed I take this as probable corroboration of other, proprietary, sources, that POW's radars were not functioning and/or not functioning correctly.

Ellis's account also confirms that Louis Brown was correct in his assessment that the need to rest the Type 284 at intervals and the subsequent relatively long "reboot" times were the main factor in the loss of contact. Suffolk was at the limit of his early model 284's effective range anyway. Although Ellis reported that he could track Bismarck at times to an absolute maximum range of 26,000 yards, most of the time the range required to regain and maintain contact was closer to 20,000 yards.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Herr Nilsson » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:43 pm

How did Ellis know W-W was sleeping?
Did Ellis say explicitly he lost touch in his first signal at 0401?
What says W-W about the times he received the signals and the time he realised how long they had lost touch already?
Does this sound reasonable, if we read his 0511 signal to Scapa?
Regards

Marc

"Thank God we blow up and sink more easily." (unknown officer from HMS Norfolk)

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:48 pm

Dave Saxton wrote: "W-W had to keep Norfolk and POW relatively close behind Suffolk, or risk losing cohesion of his force amid rather dynamic visibility conditions."
Hi Dave,
what is strange is that to keep a force cohesive, in a straight line, could make sense in case your "intentions" are to re-engage, for shadowing only this is just a suicidal move.

The only good radar was on SF but it was the case also during the previous night. On May 23 to 24 night, the visibility was rapidly changing and, in average, worse (see Ellis); however Norfolk was not kept close in line behind SF, she covered (albeit in a debatable way....) a possible escape of the enemy to east / southeast.

On May 24 to 25 night, W-W kept the three ships strictly close one to the other and in a line, to the port quarter of the enemy, leaving Bismarck free to maneuver to the west or to go east after turning to north (as she actually did).


Of course, we can interpret Ellis account as a late justification for having lost Bismarck, but I think his remarks make sense, as the shadowing dispositions of W-W were surely not brilliant.
Ellis' "reasons of tact" are easily understandable, when submitting an official report, if you want to keep your command at sea.....


Finally, in case you are interested to read what Ellis says about the 284 and the need to rest it at times, I strongly suggest you to get Ellis autobiography chapter 19 (where a quite long part is dedicated to radar and to radio transmitting devices/problems on board SF) or just to send me a private message.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Jan 13, 2018 5:54 am

I don't think the night of 23/24 is analogous to the night of 24/25. In the first, in the confines (albeit wide confines) of the strait, the intentions of the enemy and where they were going, were known with a high degree of certainty. In the open Atlantic anything could happen.

With visibility diminishing to 6 miles, not only was Norfolk and POW incapable of tracking Bismarck, but they were incapable of keeping track of the Suffolk and each other as well, if they were deployed beyond visual range of Suffolk. It could soon be that POW and Norfolk are out of touch with the tactical situation and not able to contribute to any tactical situation which may arise, if they do not maintain visual contact with Suffolk. The Norfolk can at least retain radar contact with Suffolk if it is close enough behind Suffolk.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Jan 13, 2018 8:31 am

Dave Saxton wrote: "in the confines (albeit wide confines) of the strait, the intentions of the enemy and where they were going, were known with a high degree of certainty."
Hi Dave,
exactly. Therefore in the Strait it would have been possible (albeit not ideal) to keep NF and SF more close one to another, as there were not many choices for Bismarck to evade.
In the open Atlantic, Bismarck movements were much more free (had fuel not been a problem, of course...), therefore it was not at all a good tactic to keep 3 ships in line, on the same (wrong) side of the enemy.
you wrote: " they were incapable of keeping track of the Suffolk and each other as well,"
In the same way NF was incapable to see SF the previous night, with worst visibility.
She could however keep track of SF via DF bearings as per W-W report (they were "of the utmost value"). The same could have been done by PoW and NF on the 24/25 night, based on the radio messages of SF (that would have been even more frequent in case the force was spread), while covering possible escapes of Bismarck in different direction.

I cannot see any point in favor of this tactics compared to the one used the night before (except if "intentions" were to re-engage, but we know it's not the case), especially after the contact was lost, when the 3 ships did not receive any order until 05:52 and continued to follow SF, resulting of zero value in the search.

I would agree with Ellis, when he says W-W tactic was decided for "security" reasons only, postponing to it the effectiveness of the shadowing.....


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by paulcadogan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:23 am

Hi all!

All the very best to everyone for 2018!

I agree here with the questioning of WW's decision to keep the three ships together on the Bismarck's port beam/quarter. We understand how that came to be after Suffolk came under fire during the detachment of PG, and WW's concern for her security during the night.

But...given the fact that Tovey was approaching from the port side, and if WW felt it was better for his 3 ships to remain in close proximity to one another, why then didn't he move them to Bismarck's starboard side? That way, any move by her to the west, AWAY from Tovey's approach, would be easily detected and even opposed by PoW to push Bismarck back eastwards. If Bismarck decided to break away to the east - at least that would be in the direction from which Tovey was approaching, with a better chance of her being located and intercepted.

Re: Sleep -
One can and must appreciate the serious effect of sleep deprivation on all the officers involved. Grenfell spends a couple of paragraphs discussing this. Decision-making could very easily have been affected - and I do suspect it was. Apparently both WW and Phillips were given benzedrine - an amphetamine - by Norfolk's Surgeon Commander (at about 1 AM) to help them keep going through the night! Imagine! The ship's two senior officers sleep deprived AND on speed!! Grenfell says they both paid the price when it wore off, feeling worse than they did before....

So... while I do think these were consequential mistakes that could have been avoided, I can understand Ellis' complacency with the loss and regaining of radar contact with each zig-zag, and the lack of alacrity when contact was not regained as expected, and WW's lack of appreciation of the tactical positioning of the ships.

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

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:32 am

With visibility dropping to 6 miles, either Norfolk and/or POW deployed opposite of Suffolk is of little value in hemming in the Bismarck. Bismarck likely slips by unnoticed anyway.

When the Scheer passed back through the Denmark Strait in March 1941, it followed closely in the wake of a radar-less British cruiser, during the night. The British never even knew it.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:48 am

paulcadogan wrote: Re: Sleep -
One can and must appreciate the serious effect of sleep deprivation on all the officers involved. Grenfell spends a couple of paragraphs discussing this. Decision-making could very easily have been affected - and I do suspect it was. Apparently both WW and Phillips were given benzedrine - an amphetamine - by Norfolk's Surgeon Commander (at about 1 AM) to help them keep going through the night! Imagine! The ship's two senior officers sleep deprived AND on speed!! Grenfell says they both paid the price when it wore off, feeling worse than they did before....

So... while I do think these were consequential mistakes that could have been avoided, I can understand Ellis' complacency with the loss and regaining of radar contact with each zig-zag, and the lack of alacrity when contact was not regained as expected, and WW's lack of appreciation of the tactical positioning of the ships.

Paul
The German military used Pervitin, which is methamphetamine, excessively for such purposes. By 43 Hitler was reported using it like candy to just get through his day every day. One has to wonder what effect it had on leadership and the decisions made? The German admirals and captains also became sleep deprived during extended operations and were likely on meth. It is well known that American naval officers operated on black coffee and cigarettes during WW2.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/ger ... 01755.html
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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