The loss of contact (May 24 / 25)

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:15 am

Dave Saxton wrote: "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."

Hi Dave,
I agree with you, however, on the previous night, a ship unable to detect the enemy if not within a very limited visibility (less than on 24 /25) was kept far from Suffolk to cover a possible escape in another direction. NF on 23 May had very limited chances to intercept Bismarck (and when she did it was.... PoW), had Bismarck decided to go eastward, but the attempt to cover this direction was IMO correct, even without much chances and executed from a too large distance.

In the same way, on May 24 to 25 night, the other 2 ships without radar should have kept far form Suffolk in other directions, to cover a possible escape in these directions. Yes, Bismarck could have slipped by anyway, but at least 2 circles of 12 sm diameter would have been covered.....



Paul Cadogan wrote: ".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?"

Hi Paul, :clap:
welcome back, missing you.....
Yes, absolutely correct, that's why I wrote about the 3 ships being on the "wrong" side, as Ellis also remarks, with reference to W-W "intentions".
In any case, keeping the 3 ships together in line is IMHO anyway a poor choice, when "intentions" are only to shadow.



Regarding lack of sleep, I don't underestimate it at all, as Ellis recognize himself regarding his own choices, but on NF at least W-W and Phillips could rest alternatively, even if, militarily, the Admiral should have asked to be awakened immediately anyway and should have taken actions before 2 hours.... :negative:



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

Postby Herr Nilsson » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:07 pm

Herr Nilsson wrote: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?


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Regards

Marc

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

Postby paulcadogan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 3:34 pm

Hi again all,

Marc, many thanks for posting that. We all seem to forget sometimes that for some reason which maybe Dave could explain, radio signals could take quite some time from transmission to receipt - even when the recipient was in close proximity! It seems counter-intuitive, but still seems to be reality. It goes without saying that this explains the delayed response from WW.

So...Suffolk did not signal her suspicion regarding Bismarck's move for almost an hour, and it was not received by Norfolk for three quarters of an hour, and the conclusion that contact had indeed been lost was signaled 40 minutes after the first, being received by Norfolk almost half hour later.

Alberto, once again you seems to be drawing a conclusion based on conjecture. You conclude that because WW did not order that he should be awakened - and so he negligently slept through the loss of contact and its aftermath. But how do you know that this was not in place? According to Grenfell, WW was asleep when contact was lost, and for about an hour after.

Contact was lost at 0309. An hour takes us to 0409. This suggests WW was awake and involved when Norfolk received Suffolk's signal. Because of the signal delays, it took over 2 hours for the reality of the situation to become clear.

To me, the problem is one of Suffolk's original delay in making her radio report, combined with the delayed receipt of the signals, not WW's fault.

Regarding the positioning of the ships, we can agree that starboard would have been better. But what about this?

...the Rear-Admiral signaled to Suffolk that she should act independently for the operation of her radar. The other two ships would conform to her movements.
Grenfell.

So Suffolk did have freedom to position herself. At one point Grenfell states she was zigzagging on Bismarck's port BEAM, rather than on her quarter, and this was what was causing the loss of contact on the outward leg. At 0225, Suffolk reported Bismarck's course and speed, but not her bearing. Thus, WW could not have been aware at that time (whenever that signal was received!), of where Bismarck was relative to his ships.

Seems to me that a lot of the responsibility for what happened may have rested will Ellis.... :think: Nevertheless, to me, WW should have moved the ships over to the "right" side (pun intended!).

@Dave - Yes of course! I was also thinking about what it must have been like for Luetjens and Lindemann on Bismarck as I typed!

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

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Sun Jan 14, 2018 3:58 pm

PAul Cadogan wrote: "You conclude that because WW did not order that he should be awakened - and so he negligently slept through the loss of contact and its aftermath."

Hi Paul,
I say just that Ellis stated that, as far as he knew, his former superior was sleeping..... We can trust Ellis or Wake-Walker (as for the distance of SF before the DS battle, we can trust Ellis autobiography or Tovey despatch point 17 or W-W preferred evidence, the Plot.....).
As the distance has been already proved to confirm Ellis autobiography, I now tend to stay with it, instead of relying blindly on "official reports" prepared to justify the conduct of the officers involved, but I do realize that even this autobiography can be a kind of late justification.


"you wrote: "So Suffolk did have freedom to position herself."

Ellis says that as well (see what I have posted) but he added that "both the Norfolk and the P.O.W. continued following me quite close astern and previously he had said he felt he "was handicapped by having the Norfolk and wounded Prince of Wales trailing me closely". Finally he explains that "Let to myself, of course, I would have resumed the correct shadowing station astern of the Bismarck, after the late afternoon action; adjusting distance by sight or by radar so that either enemy ship could break off either to port, starboard or ahead without detection. We had done this all the day and previous night, mostly in worse weather.
As it was, my Admiral had called me over to port, and the enemy movements sucessively broadened the bearing, until it was quite unsuitable for a single shadower. The other two ships, being close to us, contributed nothing
."


Ellis explains, I think, why the responsibility for the choice of the tactic was wrong from W-W, even if he regrets for not having done differently (his responsibility), mainly to avoid confusion maneuvering such a close formation, trailing him. ("Then later, to have led the formation drastically round to starboard after CS1’s 0141/25, risked recurrence of confusion and temporary loss of radar touch recently reestablished").



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

Postby Cag » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:33 pm

Hi All

Hi Mr Cadogan,

I concur with Alberto it is nice to hear from yourself and from Mr Saxon. In his biography Ellis does state there was confusion due to mist, the Madoc etc, and once settled and zig zagging the confusion was lessened (the reason I'm sure you know that Suffolk PoW and Norfolk had to zig zag was the C in C and Admiralty message warning of U boats). The Suffolk rested her 284 on the outward leg and used it on the inward leg and this seems to confirm what Mr Saxon suggested as to the need to rest this rdf unit.

Ellis decided to continue zig zagging and understood that PoW was stationed to protect the only ship using rdf to maintain contact, although he is rather disparaging as to her effectiveness to do that considering her results in the earlier action.

The very sad point I think is that in a discussion regarding the loss of contact the bringing up distances of ships in the morning action, Toveys despatch etc etc (which are irrelevant to the subject matter and which have been answered in other threads) still seems to be happening?

Sadly my fear that this does not appear to be an attempt to investigate the loss of contact but appears to be another attempt to link everything together with point 17 is becoming more and more of a reality. Point 17 has nothing to do with loss of contact, and this unfortunately seems to be just another crack at WW.

It would be difficult not to find some critisism of Ellis, Holland, Leach, Wake-Walker, Tovey, Vian, Dahlrymple Hamilton and even Pound Phillips and Churchill at some point during the operation, but we just at the moment we seem to want only to be critical of Wake-Walker?

Best wishes
Cag.

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

Postby wadinga » Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:35 pm

Hello All,

As we have established, Using Type 284 on a DCT instead of visual methods to hold an enemy, because to be close enough to see might mean almost certain destruction, was an evolving art and Ellis was the one evolving it. It was obviously impossible for Wake-Walker to give detailed orders, so he gave Ellis Carte Blanche. Given PoW's limited gunnery success, both Norfolk and PoW were needed for security and must stay close.

Yes, Bismarck could have slipped by anyway, but at least 2 circles of 12 sm diameter would have been covered


and when Bismarck attacked either wing ship, the others would be too far away to assist.

"Then later, to have led the formation drastically round to starboard after CS1’s 0141/25, risked recurrence of confusion and temporary loss of radar touch recently reestablished"


is a cop out. The RN spent all its time practicing manoeuvring night and day. His sleep deprived brain didn't figure this out until he had thirty years to think about it. (And to confuse the distance he fired at a Sunderland with the distance to the enemy.)

Wake-Walker's objective was to stop Bismarck turning to port and breaking for safety. The longer she was kept out in the Atlantic, steering south, the better the chance of catching her. Tovey didn't want her scared off to the west but letting her cut inside and beat him home was worse. That Lutjens had to go the long way round behind W-W to achieve it, was not a big deal, and dropped him back a few miles towards the pursuers. Positioning Suffolk to starboard would be the wrong side as the easy option was there for Lutjens.

ship unable to detect the enemy if not within a very limited visibility (less than on 24 /25) was kept far from Suffolk to cover a possible escape in another direction.


Norfolk was not kept at any distance to cover anything the previous night. W-W had no idea where Suffolk was (a bearing is not a position) , no idea where Bismarck was, and with only one mile visibility and if Suffolk lost radar lock, Bismarck could have passed between them even if they were two miles apart. All W-W could do 24/25th was head down Bismarck's reported course going flat out and hope things became clear later in the morning.

Everybody's actions can be criticised with hindsight. Personally I think zigzagging was unnecessary. They were travelling at upward of 20 kts and for a U-boat to be in just the right position would be pretty unlikely, but then U-556 claimed she would have had a clear shot at fast moving Force H.

All the best

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:14 pm

Wadinag wrote: "Norfolk was not kept at any distance to cover anything the previous night. W-W had no idea where Suffolk was (a bearing is not a position), no idea where Bismarck was, and with only one mile visibility and if Suffolk lost radar lock, Bismarck could have passed between them even if they were two miles apart "

Hi Sean,
a very interesting new version of the story, I was thinking Norfolk was shadowing covering a possible eastward enemy escape , as reported and congratulated for, instead she was simply lost at sea that night..... :think:
However, W-W report says another story, are you now saying W-W was releasing another false declaration ? :lol:

W_W_shadowing.jpg
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:negative:



you wrote: "when Bismarck attacked either wing ship, the others would be too far away to assist"

here I agree, she would have had try to run away (that both SF and NF had already done successfully the previous night when falling on Bismarck), but the flashes would have alerted the other ships that Bismarck was escaping and where she was trying to go, allowing SF to regain contact....
As I said several times already, in wartime, some risks must be taken to achieve a result.
As Ellis said, W-W was postponing the effectiveness of his shadowing duty to the security of his ships, because he was acting timidly, and he lost Bismarck, completely free in Atlantic.


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

Postby paulcadogan » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:10 pm

Hey guys,

@Alberto: IMHO, Ellis is being a bit disingenuous - he was given freedom to maneuver to get the best use of his radar with the other two ships conforming to his movements. So...having Norfolk and PoW trailing him was "cramping his style"? How?

He put himself on Bismarck's port BEAM. He was free to drop back and gradually position Suffolk on the quarter, or dead astern, or even move to the starboard quarter. The other ships would simply follow where he led. As Wadinga said, the RN was supposed to be pretty good at night maneuvers - the new thing was maintaining contact with radar, but with the 284, contact could have been maintained even when changing position relative to the enemy. So I agree that Ellis' explanation sounds like a bit of a cop out.

@Cag: In relation to resting the radar, don't you think it could have been rested at intervals anyway, while the ship remained in range - say, zigzagging on the quarter instead of the beam?

I totally agree that the loss of contact scenario bears no relation to the DS action. In this situation, it was Suffolk that fled towards the safety of PoW's guns when attacked by Bismarck, bringing herself to the port side of the pursuit. It was WW's decision to keep her there and keep the 3 ships together, but then he gave the lead to Suffolk to maintain contact in the best way she could. With slow (and inadequate) communications things went downhill from there.

@Wadinga: I'm afraid I can't agree with:
wadinga wrote:Wake-Walker's objective was to stop Bismarck turning to port and breaking for safety. The longer she was kept out in the Atlantic, steering south, the better the chance of catching her. Tovey didn't want her scared off to the west but letting her cut inside and beat him home was worse. That Lutjens had to go the long way round behind W-W to achieve it, was not a big deal, and dropped him back a few miles towards the pursuers. Positioning Suffolk to starboard would be the wrong side as the easy option was there for Lutjens.


Bismarck breaking to starboard and disappearing in the open Atlantic was the far greater risk! If she broke to port, and the British KNEW she had broken to port, she would have been steaming into a virtual ring of British warships all looking in the RIGHT direction - WW's 3 ships from the west, KGV & Repulse from the ESE, Victorious and CS2 from the NNE, with Walruses and Swordfish scouring the area as well. Even Rodney was in a position to assist later.

Ellis himself states that after the failure to regain contact he pushed west with Suffolk since that was the more dangerous of the two options.

Grenfell felt this way too, calling the "unilateral" shadowing "distinctly hazardous since it left his (Bismarck's) starboard side entirely unguarded" and that Bismarck could take advantage if she realized "that a way of escape in that direction was open".

In effect, Bismarck did both - circling starboard to the west, leading the British to direct much of their search efforts in that direction, but coming all the way around to port, with the westward British effort opening the noose that could otherwise have been closed had they appreciated that their quarry had in fact gone in the opposite direction.

Hindsight is 20/20, and we have that big advantage. Those men making the decisions back then were under immense pressure while seriously fatigued. I've always felt that the pressure placed on my physician colleagues, having to work long, extended hours while sleep deprived does no good for the patients in their hands. I extend the same appreciation to WW and Ellis.

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Sun Jan 14, 2018 10:27 pm

Paul Cadogan wrote: "having Norfolk and PoW trailing him was "cramping his style"? How?"

Hi Paul,
I think Ellis explains quite clearly what was the problem: once left the astern shadowing position (Ellis says it was W-W to "call" him to port and he was actually conforming to his admiral orders after the afternoon engagement at 18:41, see Ellis official report below), and once lost the opportunity to get back astern of Bismarck during daylight as the order to act independently came from W-W at 01:41/25, it would have been a risk to maneuver such a close formation (including a slower battleship) to resume the best position at night (probably loosing radar contact in the meantime and creating additional confusion: the possible "incident" with the Modoc is a clear example, RN night action preparation or not....).

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I share with you some doubts about Ellis account to be disingenuous and aimed to justify his own failures and wrong decisions, but what he says seems to be reasonable and open to admit his own errors. Even in case he made a mistake not proposing to W-W to resume the astern position during daylight or not resuming anyway the astern position at night, W-W did not correct it, as it would have been his duty. Surely, fatigue was affecting both, but the responsibility stays with the flag officer.



you wrote: "Bismarck breaking to starboard and disappearing in the open Atlantic was the far greater risk"

I totally agree here.


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

Postby wadinga » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:15 pm

Hello All,

Bismarck had been heading south or east of south ever since the Denmark Straits. As soon as Lutjens cleared Cape Farewell to the west he was free to turn to starboard any time liked, albeit still with the pesky shadowers in tow, but away from British reinforcements. But He Hadn't .

From Wake-Walker's point of view, it was clear the objective was to get south and probably he realised looking at the oil loss, somewhat reduced speed etc, east to safety. He gambled on any turn being to port. Lutjens, at the second attempt, went east by going to starboard first.

For an independent expert view of CS 1's success in hanging on as long as he did, expressed privately by Sir James Somerville to his wife in a letter written at the time:
After doing the most admirable and classical piece of shadowing for 24 hours Suffolk and Norfolk lost touch with Bismarck this morning at 3am in the dark.....


He makes no mention of Pound's low priority enquiry about CS 1's intentions. He probably didn't see the signal. If anybody had been sensitive to Admiralty criticism, he would have been after Sparviento and spotted it.

All the best

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:25 pm

Hi Sean,
thanks, a most interesting letter from Somerville. A couple of questions:
1) What is the date of the letter ?
2) Did Somerville have the details of the shadowing in his hands when commenting the "admirable shadowing" or just based it on the fact that for 24 hours Bismarck had been followed ?
3) Do you have in your hands the signal log of Renown ? How can you say that Somerville did not see the "intentions" signal ?


One comment about Lutjens tactic: had Bismarck had enough oil, he would have probably tried to escape running to the West instead of turning back to East, with the risk to be detected by the three ships spread into various directions to find him again (had not Wake-Walker lost precious time while sleeping....).
The disposition of the three ships in line on the port side of Bismarck was an error.


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

Postby wadinga » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:35 pm

Hello Alberto,

Letter dated 25th May from the papers of Admiral Somerville published by the Naval Records Society.

24 plus hours in arctic snow and ice and darkness is admirable. :D

Somerville was aware of Hood's destruction and records his sadness over a former flagship. He doesn't highlight any stroppy signals from Pound. He also doesn't mention anything about the Shores of France, only 11:37B/27.

He also says:

My chief concern at the moment is to get a reasonable amount of sleep tonight so as to be ready for what tomorrow may bring.


The sign of a seasoned warrior! :cool:

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:42 pm

Wadinga wrote: "Letter dated 25th May "

Hi Sean,
many thanks, therefore Somerville had no clue
1) that the shadowing had been done ONLY by Suffolk,
2) that Wake-Walker had taken the wrong disposition of his ships in the evening of 24,
3) that more than 1 hour had been lost after the loss of contact,
etc. etc.


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

Postby wadinga » Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:24 am

Hello Alberto,

Both Pound and Somerville thought the shadowing had been admirable. That's good enough for me.

All the best

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

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:40 am

Hi Sean,
I respect your judgement, while I strongly disagree.

I just wanted to show in this thread that Ellis was not in agreement with you regarding the loss of contact, based on precise facts and dispositions, not on the generic "24 hours shadowing" being admirable.....

The serious errors, timidity and delays with which Wake-Walker managed the shadowing and the loss of contact are clearly described by Ellis words.


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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