1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

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wadinga
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by wadinga » Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:36 pm

Hello All,

Here is NEW INFORMATION from the National Archives found recently:

This document is referenced in Rhys-Jones and is a detailed criticism of Holland's attack approach probably written by Lieutenant-Commander George William Rowell PoW's navigator, put off the ship in Hvalfjord for medical treatment to his head injuries. Astonishingly, this opinionated piece by a comparatively junior officer is forwarded direct to 1st Sea Lord Pound by Roger Bellairs, and in part forms the basis of Pound's subsequent observations with Tovey. Pound calls Holland's head-on approach with A arcs closed, fighting with one hand tied behind his back, which "certainly wanted some very good reason". It should be noted that Tovey's own tactical dogma was that a head-on attack was the best, and he was lucky enough to be able to employ it with success, but only because Bismarck was slowed to a crawl and his ships thus had a vast speed advantage, and also the wallowing target's motion made accurate return fire impossible. Pound's criticisms are meant to dissuade Tovey from adopting this approach should he meet an unimpeded Tirpitz in the future.

Those circumstances did not apply for Holland as I argued in my original article. He was forced by circumstances to take the approach he did and came so close to achieving a lethal concentration of force at a decisive range against an enemy under orders to avoid such a situation under all circumstances.

Rowell makes several points later raised by other authors, some of whom called Holland's actions "tactical blundering". I consider this unfair as I said so long ago when I first penned my article.

The covering letter observation, that the author of the criticism was knocked out for 12 hours is at odds with Geoffrey Brooks' recollection that Rowell stayed at his post with a large wooden splinter through his cheek. However there seems to be no other person on the CP who fits the description, and it was Rowell who stayed in Hvalfjord with Esmonde Knight.

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Happy reading

All the best

wadinga
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by dunmunro » Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:42 pm

Thanks so much for that. I found the open fire time for Bismarck especially interesting.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:54 am

Wadinga wrote: "Holland....was forced by circumstances to take the approach he did and came so close to achieving a lethal concentration of force at a decisive range against an enemy under orders to avoid such a situation under all circumstances. "
Hi Sean,
I cannot agree more with your analysis. :clap:

Of course (as an excuse for Rowell) to an officer on board a ship that was not directly involved in Holland's decisions and tactics for the whole night (except for the received orders) and possibly not even fully aware of the actual Hood's armor deficiencies, the approach may have appeared the wrong one. :think:

I'm a bit surprised that Bellairs sent these candid comments to Pound as a "lesson learned".... He should have learned instead 1) not to send any clearly unprotected ship against a modern battleship anymore and 2) to aim to cripple Tirpitz by air attacks instead of counting on the guns only after the May 27 results......


Bye, Alberto
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by dunmunro » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:54 am

dunmunro wrote:Thanks so much for that. I found the open fire time for Bismarck especially interesting.
Rowell states that Hood blew up at Bismarck's 6th salvo and just after PoW's 8th salvo which puts the fatal hit at ~0558. This also fits well with the "heavy hit", felt in the 14in TS, which effected the AFCT:
"During the first action after firing salvo 12, a heavy hit was felt on the starboard side and the director setting mechanical pointer was seen to be oscillating violently."

PoW Salvo 12 = 0559:10, which gives Bismarck just enough time to switch targets to PoW.

We have Bismarck opening fire at 0553:30, firing 6 salvos from then until 0557:30, with the fatal salvo landing at 0558. This ~5 minute interval is also supported by Bismarck's war diary.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:15 am

Hi Duncan,
there is another very long thread here (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7736&start=330) where your above "speculation" has been already discussed "ad nauseam" and dismantled by EVIDENCES (PG KTB, PG gunnery report, film and photos), not by personal and subjective witnesses memories about their perception of timings..... :negative:


Bye, Alberto
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by wadinga » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:56 pm

Hello All,

In Roskill's War at Sea he references a letter from Pound to Tovey dated 19th July in which he quotes Pound as writing
...fighting with one hand only when it had got two............certainly wanted some very good reason.........
Does anyone have more text from this letter? Is there any reference in the Roskill papers to the Pound-Tovey 19th July letter?

Comments from a witness about the timing of open fire have more validity than a guesswork timetable fabricated from untimed film analysis,............ however such a debate belongs elsewhere. These observations by Rowell dated 26th June are consistent with his evidence at the second Hood Enquiry 12th August.

We now have two documented cases of contemporary criticism of RN officers, neither of which are Leach or Wake-Walker. IMHO neither were ever justified and Pound overruled Phillips on the Dalrymple-Hamilton case so he got a gong.
He should have learned instead 1) not to send any clearly unprotected ship against a modern battleship anymore
He did. He already gave Somerville instructions not to engage with Renown alone. Alberto, you have long accused W-W of not sending a
clearly unprotected ship against a modern battleship


in low visibility well inside lethal gun range.

Since Tirpitz would always operate under an injunction similar to Lutjens' ie no combat against a modern battleship, Tovey's only chance would be after a successful airstrike. The Scharnhorst situation of being caught conveniently between two forces was unlikely, especially in weather/light poor enough that destroyers could get in close enough for torpedo success.

Rowell states that D/F was used (we know that from the action chart) and that
the enemy was sighted in the most extreme visibility just where plotted
except we believe the enemy in sight 17 miles was a considerable underestimate since the final ranges "14,000 yds" do not fit with this. Extreme visibility means all parties were estimating things were further away than they appeared.



All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Mar 05, 2018 1:41 pm

Wadinga wrote: "Alberto, you have long accused W-W of not sending a clearly unprotected ship against a modern battleship in low visibility well inside lethal gun range."
Hi Sean,
I never accused W_W of such a thing and I never said PoW was an unprotected ship..... :wink:

If you speak about the cruisers, I do say they should have supported BC1 engagement as well as PoW re-engagement, not engaged Bismarck on their own (keeping a stable course to favor their own gunnery and intentionally closing the range while under German main guns fire....) :negative:


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: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by wadinga » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:21 pm

Hello Alberto,

Norfolk is an unprotected ship, Suffolk is an unprotected ship, either caught isolated at 12,000 yds by Bismarck would be dead meat.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:26 pm

Gentlemen,
I’m not sure where this should be posted as there seems to be a number of topics presently being debated on almost the same subject, neither do I want to reopen the conspiracy theory, however I’m going to risk being ’shot down in flames’ (or, perhaps more appropriately to this forum ‘blown out of the water’!) by posing a couple of questions.
First of all much of the debate appears to be centred around what was either said or written at the time and what was said or written several years later by the various officers involved in the Bismarck episode, so the first question is this. Obviously much of the information has been taken from the official logs and reports made at the time and this has to be viewed in that context, but should recollections made often much later be taken at face value, particularly when the people concerned are no longer young and their memories of events are no longer fresh? Older members may know what I mean when I suggest that recalling past events are sometimes clouded and mixed up by what they did and what they think they did or perhaps should have done at the time. It is easy to recall what you want to recall if you are either writing a book or being interviewed by someone who is going to write one about a particular event that you were involved in, particularly if you are trying to justify your actions.
The second question is this, Captain Roskill was selected to write the official history of the war at sea, using all the information available (or what he was given) at the time, I’m not sure whether he was still a serving officer, but if so, would he have had one eye on the fact that the RN and the Admiralty, like other Services was very hierarchical who did not take criticism of their senior officers and their actions lightly, particularly if it was to be published for all to see? Presumably his work would have been reviewed at a very senior level before publication, so perhaps we should recall the rebuff given to Tovey after his signal about ‘Bismarck’s gallant fight’ which said ‘For political reasons it is essential that nothing of the nature of the sentiments expressed in your signal should be given publicity, however much we admire a gallant fight’, Although it was absolutely correct to say this in the middle of the war, might it be assumed that this sort of view probably persisted in the Admiralty well after its end and that any controversial details or statements might have been vetoed because of it?
In conclusion, if we do regard some of the statements that were made well after the event as possibly being suspect due to memory loss (or other reasons) and that the Admiralty may have not allowed certain points to be published (and I am certainly not saying that this is definite in either case) then the whole truth will probably never be known as all the participants are now deceased, but no doubt the debates will continue!

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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:48 pm

Wadinga wrote: "Norfolk is an unprotected ship, Suffolk is an unprotected ship..."
Hi Sean,
this is not in doubt but I have never said that SF or NF should have engaged Bismarck on their own.....a totally different thing is to maneuver a cruiser to scout for PoW and the HF, getting close to Bismarck, ready to run away at the very first flash.... :negative:


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: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:49 pm

Paul Mercer wrote: "should recollections made often much later be taken at face value...?"
Hi Paul,
your observation is in principle correct, however we have already seen many cases where the official reports (prepared anyway days/months later than the events and that don't have to be confused with the facts recorded at the very time of events) have been written to embellish the story or at least to try to justify the "debatable" aspects of the story.

On the other hand, Ellis autobiography, albeit written years later, was written with the official reports in front of the former SF Captain, with the clear intent to "correct" what Ellis had considered to be wrong in the official reports (like the distance from Bismarck before the DS battle and the real reason why fire was not opened by Suffolk).


Bye, Alberto
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by wadinga » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:30 pm

Hello Paul,
I’m not sure whether he was still a serving officer, but if so, would he have had one eye on the fact that the RN and the Admiralty, like other Services was very hierarchical who did not take criticism of their senior officers and their actions lightly, particularly if it was to be published for all to see?
Roskill was extremely free with his criticism of Admiralty policies and tactics and even political interference in The War at Sea and was congratulated by several veteran admirals for bringing things into the light of day, especially the treatment of Admiral Dudley North.

I'm sure you will make your own conclusions WRT Conspiracy Theorists.
have been written to embellish the story or at least to try to justify the "debatable" aspects of the story.


Ellis autobiography apparently devotes little space to the Bismarck Chase and that which it does is full of errors and excuses for things he could have done better at the time. If this unpublished document had been submitted to a publisher many of these contentious issues would surely have been resolved.

In what was posted on another thread :clap: :clap: :clap: before Alberto decided to hide more than he reveals, Ellis nowhere indicates he is correcting anything.

However this thread is about 1941 criticism of the actions of certain officers and the fact that none has been found of Wake-Walker or Leach. I still find it astonishing that these notes by a quite junior officer were presented straight to Pound. Their naivety is shown by the suggestion that Holland delayed opening fire too long, eg because PoW's guns could range to 36,000 yds they should have opened fire at that range. He also assumed Hood could have made
full use of her high speed
When we know she had no more that a knot or so over PoW.

Rowell notes the "extreme visibility" which is why everybody kept underestimating distances.

It is clear that Pound was not impressed with Tovey's "Head On" attack dogma, and used the points from these observations to try and dissuade him.


All the best

wadinga
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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:24 am

wadinga wrote:Hello All,

Attached is the only criticism of tactics by VCNS Tom Phillips which I found in my initial study of ADM 205/10.

VCNS comments on Tovey's Report and considers Dalrymple-Hamilton should not be favourably mentioned in any communique or be considered for awards


Image


Tom Spencer Vaughn Phillips was not a popular staff officer with many who served under him, and his lack of popularity flavours much of the comment on his later command of Force Z and his responsibility for its destruction. However, this appears to be a case where he is particularly ungenerous to Rodney's captain, since as we can see from the signal log, and even his own comments, the Admiralty sent a series of contradictory instructions to Rodney with regard to their estimate of Bismarck's destination, starting with a contradiction to Tovey's 10:47B estimate based on the faulty D/F plotting. Of course, he, VCNS, never sent the Admiralty best guess location for the D/F position of Bismarck to anybody until far too late either. A vastly more serious blunder.

This analysis by the VCNS was actually done when he had reports and charts to go on, as opposed to any premature opinions he might have formulated based on limited information whilst the Bismarck operation was still on. His criticism is entirely unjustified IMHO for the failings above, and there seems to be some question when Rodney actually turned SE. Phillips says 21:00 whereas Rhys-Jones map shows a turn at 19:00 ie as soon as Phillips' latest contradiction was received and decoded.

In the event, Pound and Alexander ignored this churlish comment and Dalrymple-Hamilton received the praise he richly deserved. Based on very limited information, he had passed over Bismarck's future track not so many miles ahead of her, and with a bit of luck might have intercepted. Of course it was his guns which largely battered the Bismarck to bits later on.

Nowhere in this document is any other officer blamed for any shortcomings during the operation. That means Leach and Wake-Walker.

All the best

wadinga
Gentlemen,
In the above letter Phillips mentions the possibility of Rodney joining up with Renown, even though Renown had be told to keep clear unless Bismarck was heavily engaged through fear of another 'Hood disaster. If they had joined up would that combination been enough to disable or sink Bismarck, bearing in mind that in the final event Bismarck concentrated on Rodney as she was regarded as the more potent ship,so perhaps Renown might have been able to use her 15" without too much interference ?

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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by wadinga » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:43 pm

Hello Paul,

There is a dedicated thread for hypothetical actions, I believe you are currently debating whether a 1907 battlecruiser could beat a treaty breaking heavy cruiser built thirty years later.

You previous contribution to this thread is interesting:

Do you have a comment on:
However this thread is about 1941 criticism of the actions of certain officers and the fact that none has been found of Wake-Walker or Leach. I still find it astonishing that these notes by a quite junior officer were presented straight to Pound. Their naivety is shown by the suggestion that Holland delayed opening fire too long, eg because PoW's guns could range to 36,000 yds they should have opened fire at that range.
All the best

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Re: 1941 Criticism of Royal Navy Officers' tactics

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Apr 09, 2018 5:08 pm

Thanks Wadinga I have moved it to the correct thread.
Re your question, given the hierarchical nature of the RN at the time I think it is quite extraordinary that a fairly junior officer should contact an Admiral and criticize a senior officer even if it might have been sent via the ever higher ranks of other officers (which I understand it was not). I would have thought that that the person concerned would probably been 'On the carpet' for his impertinence! However, if Pound was seriously looking for someone to blame he might well have taken notice of the letter instead of kicking the junior officer up the backside!
Frankly, with all that I have read it seems to me that the whole episode was not handled very well, I know hindsight is a wonderful thing (and of course that is what we are dealing with) but it appears that Holland was forced into opening fire although he had not got to the position that he wanted. Whether PoW, being the younger more heavily armed ship should have been in the lead is a moot point, I think that given the reputation Hood had the Germans may well have identified her as the more dangerous ship (as they did with Rodney later) and concentrated on her from the start anyway, but the decision for Hood to open fire on PE was a serious error, whether or not that made the difference to the outcome will probably always be open for debate!

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