Bismarck analysis

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by Bill Jurens » Tue May 29, 2018 1:26 am

Although it is true that the condition (and position) of the wreck precludes any definitive examination of the lower hull, there remains some evidence that scuttling charges were fired and that various and sundry hatches and doors were probably left open as the crew abandoned ship. The wreck is notable insofar as it exhibits few or no large scale areas of structural collapse -- there is, for example, no separation of the bow. This in turn suggests that the hull suffered relatively little from hydrostatic collapse during the first hundred meters of its descent, which in turn suggests that flooding of the lower portions of the hull was more-or-less complete when the ship left the surface. There are other indications as well, but this will do for now...

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by José M. Rico » Tue May 29, 2018 2:40 am

About the ship's scuttling, we have the testimony of Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Gerhard Junack who survived the sinking:

"Somewhere about 1015 hours, I received an order over the telephone from the Chief Engineer [Korvettenkapitän (Ing.) Walter Lehmann]: 'Prepare the ship for sinking.' That was the last order I received on the Bismarck. Soon after that, all transmission of orders collapsed.

As it became quieter up above, I sent my best petty officer to the engine-room to ask for further instructions, but the man apparently perished on his way, for he never returned. I felt compelled therefore to get an answer myself. One last look round to check that all the bulkheads were unfastened, then I sent the crew to the centre deck, giving my chief turbine-engineer orders to connect the explosive charges. Eventually I left with the turbines still moving slowly in compliance with the Engineer's orders.

The lower decks were brilliantly lit up; a peaceful mood prevailed, such as that on a Sunday afternoon in port - the silence broken only by the explosion of our own demolition-charges below."

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by northcape » Wed May 30, 2018 4:30 am

As a matter of fact, KGV was the first one to obtain a hit (ca. 5 minutes after opening). It is another myth that the first hit was the Anton/Bruno silencer by Rodney. If memory serves correctly, KGV obtained a hit at the base of the forward superstructure first.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by alecsandros » Wed May 30, 2018 5:36 am

northcape wrote:As a matter of fact, KGV was the first one to obtain a hit (ca. 5 minutes after opening). It is another myth that the first hit was the Anton/Bruno silencer by Rodney. If memory serves correctly, KGV obtained a hit at the base of the forward superstructure first.
German reports mention that the first hit(s) was/were the one(s) that knocked out Anton and Bruno, at 8:58 or 9:02 (depending on the source).

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by dunmunro » Thu May 31, 2018 2:19 am

José M. Rico wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 2:40 am
About the ship's scuttling, we have the testimony of Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Gerhard Junack who survived the sinking:
."
RN accounts state that Bismarck's list to port increased steadily throughout the action and that by 0940 "...was most pronounced...". Junack stated that a shell entered the port turbine room around 0930 and another shell entered a boiler room between 0915 and 0930, so things could not have been quite so peaceful as all that.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by José M. Rico » Thu May 31, 2018 3:04 am

dunmunro wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 2:19 am
Junack stated that a shell entered the port turbine room around 0930 and another shell entered a boiler room between 0915 and 0930, so things could not have been quite so peaceful as all that.
I don't recall Junack ever saying that, but in any case there is little doubt that the scuttling procedure was carried out.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by dunmunro » Thu May 31, 2018 3:30 am

José M. Rico wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 3:04 am
dunmunro wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 2:19 am
Junack stated that a shell entered the port turbine room around 0930 and another shell entered a boiler room between 0915 and 0930, so things could not have been quite so peaceful as all that.
I don't recall Junack ever saying that, but in any case there is little doubt that the scuttling procedure was carried out.
Battle Summary 5 (1948), Amendment 1, p.23.

There was only 25 minutes between scuttling at 10:15 and sinking at 10:40. The minimum time at Scapa Flow in 1919 was ~60 minutes.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by northcape » Thu May 31, 2018 4:22 am

alecsandros wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 5:36 am
northcape wrote:As a matter of fact, KGV was the first one to obtain a hit (ca. 5 minutes after opening). It is another myth that the first hit was the Anton/Bruno silencer by Rodney. If memory serves correctly, KGV obtained a hit at the base of the forward superstructure first.
German reports mention that the first hit(s) was/were the one(s) that knocked out Anton and Bruno, at 8:58 or 9:02 (depending on the source).
Possibly one would need the gunnery report from KGV. In Tarrant's book (which I think uses these reports, as it describes KGV's gunnery action in detail) it is stated that KGV obtained the aforementioned hit.
I am not sure that there is a German source describing the A/B knockout as the first hit. They for sure mention that hit, and possibly some survivors had the impression it was the first hit. But I would count a gunnery observation report as more credible than scattered survivor observations.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by alecsandros » Thu May 31, 2018 6:53 am

Given the storm, and ranges of the observations, no definitive answer can be given.

Also to be considered is that in the early phase of the battle, KGV was behind Rodney, and her observations were further hindered by Rodney's funnel smoke and main battery gun smoke.
Armor piercing hits are very difficult to spot (remember that during the first battle of May 24th, Prince of Wales did not spot any hits on Bismarck at all, although 3 had been obtained)

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by RobertsonN » Thu Nov 22, 2018 8:17 pm

In regard to some of the points made in post 1 it can be said that they are wrong.

(a) The Bismarck was not intended for operations in the North Sea but for cruiser-type warfare in the North Atlantic. Had it been designed for the North Sea then it would not have had a fuel stowage of about 7450 mt. It could have had a stowage similar to Vanguard and used over 2000 mt for extra armament and or armor instead.

(b) The Bismarck was not a poor sea boat. Paul Schmalenbach in one of 1970s Warship Profile series stated that she was a stable gun platform. While the unprecededly high metacentric height suggests otherwise this was balanced by the very large moment of inertia of the extensive belt armor located far from the rolling axis.

(c) Bismarck was not designed exclusively for short range actions. The gkdos 100 documents consider tactics for a wide variety of ranges giving the type of shell that was best suited against different opponents at various ranges. 30000 m was apparently the limit range for rangefinder accuracy. The Hipper and the pocket battleships were suitable for actions mainly at longer ranges, according to opponent, on account of their weak side armor. The Bismarck with its excellent side protection was recommended for actions between 12000 and 18000 m according to opponent.

(d) The side protection system was tested against 300 kg S1 explosive. S1 was considerably more powerful than TNT, which most countries used as a standard. There was no single conversion between the effect of S1 and TNT (it depended whether energy or water jet effect was used as the standard of comparison) but it was at least equivalent to the 700 lb TNT US standard. It is true that this value was not attained at the ends of the citadel due to the narrowing of the hull.

On the more general question of whether Bismarck was 'a much updated version of the Baden', this is in part a semantic issue. She retained a number of features found in Baden but the earlier ship was a ship of the line whereas Bismarck was a fast battleship in the L23ealpha line of development. And the controversy over AON versus complete protection was nearly as old as the armored ship itself. The very first of all, Warrior, was close to an AON ship. The designs of Barnaby applied the AON principle to an even higher degree, and White swung to the comprehensive principle in the Majestic design. Bismarck was firmly in this latter category. Both systems had their merits according to the type of attack adopted. The enemy was likely to use weapons that exploited weaknesses in a particular ship's protection. But these disputes first appeared in Barnaby v Read and went on intermittently throughout the battleship era and even after. Probably no definitive conclusion can be reached because of the complexity and variety of the methods of attack,

Neil Robertson

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by Byron Angel » Thu May 09, 2019 1:44 pm

Just for the record, Neil - well said.

B

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by paul.mercer » Mon May 13, 2019 8:49 am

alecsandros wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 5:36 am
northcape wrote:As a matter of fact, KGV was the first one to obtain a hit (ca. 5 minutes after opening). It is another myth that the first hit was the Anton/Bruno silencer by Rodney. If memory serves correctly, KGV obtained a hit at the base of the forward superstructure first.
German reports mention that the first hit(s) was/were the one(s) that knocked out Anton and Bruno, at 8:58 or 9:02 (depending on the source).
Hi alecsandros,
Are you suggesting that there is now doubt whether it was a hit from Rodney or KGV that knocked out the forward turrets, I thought that it was generally accepted that it was a 16" hit that did the damage - or did one shell from each ship arrive around the same time and almost at the same place, which I presume is quite possible- and unfortunate from Bismarck's point of view?

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by dunmunro » Mon May 13, 2019 6:58 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 8:49 am
alecsandros wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 5:36 am
northcape wrote:As a matter of fact, KGV was the first one to obtain a hit (ca. 5 minutes after opening). It is another myth that the first hit was the Anton/Bruno silencer by Rodney. If memory serves correctly, KGV obtained a hit at the base of the forward superstructure first.
German reports mention that the first hit(s) was/were the one(s) that knocked out Anton and Bruno, at 8:58 or 9:02 (depending on the source).
Hi alecsandros,
Are you suggesting that there is now doubt whether it was a hit from Rodney or KGV that knocked out the forward turrets, I thought that it was generally accepted that it was a 16" hit that did the damage - or did one shell from each ship arrive around the same time and almost at the same place, which I presume is quite possible- and unfortunate from Bismarck's point of view?
Rodney's GAR suggests that she did not have a valid FC solution early in the action. OTOH, KGV's type 284 radar gave her accurate ranges for the first minutes and after some confusion with Rodney's shell splashes she claimed her first hit at 0854 at the base of Bismarck's forward superstructure
2. This initial range of 25,100 yards was a good effort on the part of 284 and
was the longest range over obtained with the set. For the following few minutes
it seems that difficulty was experienced in the 284 office in distinguishing between
Bismarck's and Rodney's or King George V's splashes, further the operator had not
previously experienced such a large closing rate and continued to look for Bismarck
round about 25,000 yards, However, at 0853 a range of 20,800 yards was obtained
and a double salvo spread 200 yards each side of this was fired. The "A" salyo
straddled and gave the first hit actually observed...

14-in. Hits the effects of which could be seen

One at base of Bismarck's bridge superstructure on the level of the upper deck,
port side, This caused a considerable flash and started a fire which burnt for
quite a period. It is possible that this one may have jammed " B" turret in
training (inclination 80° left)...
KGV GAR
Norfolk claimed that Rodney scored a hit or hits at ~0848 but if true, these hits could have only come from KGV since she had an accurate FC solution whilst Rodney was unable to obtain any optical ranges, early on, and did not claim any straddles until 0858 with salvo 18B.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by alecsandros » Mon May 13, 2019 7:11 pm

dunmunro wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 6:58 pm


Norfolk claimed that Rodney scored a hit or hits at ~0848 but if true, these hits could have only come from KGV since she had an accurate FC solution whilst Rodney was unable to obtain any optical ranges, early on, and did not claim any straddles until 0858 with salvo 18B.
Those times do not match German times, at all.
KGV did not have any "valid " FC solution, neither battleship had a "valid" FC solution for the first ~15minutes of firing (as atested by German survivor accounts). For some time, they didn't even knew which shell splashes they were watching.
Last edited by alecsandros on Mon May 13, 2019 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bismarck analysis

Post by alecsandros » Mon May 13, 2019 7:13 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 8:49 am
Hi alecsandros,
Are you suggesting that there is now doubt whether it was a hit from Rodney or KGV that knocked out the forward turrets, I thought that it was generally accepted that it was a 16" hit that did the damage - or did one shell from each ship arrive around the same time and almost at the same place, which I presume is quite possible- and unfortunate from Bismarck's point of view?
It is unknown.
Most secondary sources mention HMS Rodney as scoring the "spectacular hit" against Bismarck at 9:02, but with the confusion reigning in the first ~ 15minutes from open fire , really anything was possible.

IMHO, a double hit from the same salvo (either from KGV or from Rodey) is possible, and a ricochet hit from a same shell (deflected from Anton into Bruno) is also possible, because of the existing battle geometry at the time (9:02 or so). If a double hit is considered, then I think Rodney is the more likely candidate for such a feat, as she was alternating fire of 4 and 5-gun salvoes, whereas KGV was alternating between 3 salvoes. Therefore the probability of a double hit is higher for Rodney. But all this is just an informed guess...

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