If Bismarck had made it to France

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

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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:13 pm

Hello RF,

Although the RAF resented any diversion from its attacks on German soil, since the Butt report showed how ineffective those attacks were, the raids which kept all three ships immobilised and ineffective in Brest for nearly a year, were probably a far more efficient use of available RAF strength than killing cows in the fields of Germany.

From the report:
Any examination of night photographs taken during night bombing in June and July points to the following conclusions:
Of those aircraft recorded as attacking their target, only one in three got within 5 mi (8.0 km).
Over the French ports, the proportion was two in three; over Germany as a whole, the proportion was one in four; over the Ruhr it was only one in ten.
As Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everett in The Bomber Command Diaries put it "Sir Richard Peirse was not happy to be taken off the strategic bombing of Germany". Under a directive of 9th March 1941 the main effort was actually against U-boat bases, but "Salmon and Gluckstein" got their share of attention as well. Bomber Harris, as Peirse's deputy, was already formulating his plans for area bombing and "dehousing" (encoffining) of the German civilian population, when he would take over.
Had Bismarck been there, no doubt the above three convoys would have been attacked and destroyed
The RAF would simply have had another big fat target to immobilise. None of the other ships ever got out of harbour to make an attack, as soon as Scharnhorst even went out on trials she was crippled and sent back into drydock.
With Bismarck in Brest, I would expect a much enhanced flak and interceptor protection provided to defend the symbol of the German victory over RN
Instead of going to Russia I suppose? As RF sagely pointed out the same planes can't be in two places at once, but they can bomb Kiel one night and Brest the next. German defenders can't do that.

during the Berlin Operation, Lutjens was forced to withdraw when he was in sight of 3 large convoys, due to the escort of an old, slow battleship. Despite this, the operation was a success.
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sunk and captured all together 22 merchant vessels totalling 113.690 gross registered tons in Operation Berlin taking 60 days to do it and "wearing out" both ships so they needed extensive refits.

If Lutjens hadn't been so timid, there were more than 22 ships in those convoys.

The "success", if there was one, was not being caught, and was negated by being stuck in the rat-trap of Brest for the next year, and to be used by the RAF as a training bombing run.

As one A Hitler said of the trapped ships' predicament:
`a patient with cancer who is doomed unless he submits to an operation. An operation, on the other hand, even though it may have to be drastic, will at least offer some hope that the patient's life may yet be saved. The passage of our ships is such an operation. It must be attempted.'
He had wanted the ships' guns removed for use elsewhere if the ships could not escape, and if Bismarck had been there, maybe she too would have been demilitarised and left to rust. Hence the gamble which was Operation Cerberus, a tactical success yet a strategic withdrawal.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jan 23, 2019 1:51 pm

Hello everybody,

for Mr.Wadinga, the loss of 53 planes and their trained crews was a low price to keep Germans in harbor, still posing a threat to the convoys and obliging the RN to heavily escort them ("fleet in being" effect).
Had Bismarck been there, I expect many more RAF missions and many more losses too... but it's very doubtful RAF could have sunk Bismarck (they couldn't sink Tirpitz for a couple years, despite Churchill's kind requests).
I doubt Hitler would have dismantled a ship that had ruled the RN at sea, sinking Hood and escaping (or even winning against) Tovey.


Lutjens was not "timid" (funny to hear such a prohibited word in Mr.Wadinga mouth, when he always stubbornly refused to see the true "timidity" in his beloved field...), he just obeyed to the orders he had.
Timidity is when you have orders to intercept an enemy ship and you run away during the battle or (worse, IMO) when you avoid to engage.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Wed Jan 23, 2019 4:41 pm

Hello Alberto,

Timid is the word when you have two powerful fully worked-up battleships under your command, and you refuse to engage one ancient, slow, obsolete warrior left-over from the last war. Lutjens was supposed to sink merchant ships, one Hilfskreuzer could have done better.

After all "Any fool can obey orders" - Sir Jacky Fisher

You will be interested to know Middlebrook and al consider it was 127 aircraft were expended over the whole period, on raids against the Brest warships. But then Bomber Command were losing 5, 10 or sometimes 40 a night against German land targets, often for no result. Would you care to calculate how many thousand German sailors, "trained crews" whiled away nearly a whole year in the brothels and bars of Brest, contributing nothing to the war effort.

A "fleet in being" has to be capable of operations and for almost all this time none of the German ships were. Brest was too close to British bomber bases to be a viable base for major warships, just as Portsmouth or Plymouth were too close to the Luftwaffe. Airpower ensured that. Bismarck would have been just as much a prisoner as the others were.

Only by hiding in the frozen north and moving ever further into the Arctic, did Tirpitz survive as long as she did.

Hitler told Raeder he wanted the "Elusive Sisters' guns to do some useful work for the Army, instead of rusting in Brest, unless the Channel Dash gamble was taken. Bismarck didn't "Rule the RN at sea" because you have to own the sea afterward, and deny it to your enemy, not scuttle off to hide in harbour until the enemy comes and gets you in your berth and puts you out of action or underwater.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:50 pm

Hello everybody,
"Timid is the word when you have two powerful fully worked-up battleships under your command, and you refuse to engage one ancient, slow, obsolete warrior left-over from the last war. Lutjens was supposed to sink merchant ships"
No, it is just a very unfair accusation, if you have orders forbidding you to risk your ships against battleships. Lutjens had such orders.

Timid is the word when you do have orders to intercept an enemy and you run away from the battle or intentionally and/or carefully avoid to engage.


The trained crews in Brest were unsuitable anywhere else, as Germany had not many other ship to man. Trained plane crews were much valuable assets for both sides. The mere existence of the twins in Brest was forcing to escort any convoy.
We will never know what Bismarck could have done once in Brest, apparently everybody in Britain was keen she could not get "up to the shores of France".
Bismarck didn't "Rule the RN at sea" because she got discovered, torpedoed and sunk. Had she reached Brest, eluding (or sinking) Tovey, she would certainly have. "Sea control" is another matter than ruling an enemy in battle (as Bismarck fully did at Denmark Strait).


I take note that Mr.Wadinga seems more interested to throw mud to Lutjens than to reconstruct the Denmark Strait battle, where we are all still waiting for his acknowledgement of the "starting point" at 06:00 with distances and bearings as proposed by Antonio (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8335&start=360#p81914)... :kaput:


Bye, Alberto
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by RF » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:18 am

wadinga wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 4:41 pm

Timid is the word when you have two powerful fully worked-up battleships under your command, and you refuse to engage one ancient, slow, obsolete warrior left-over from the last war. Lutjens was supposed to sink merchant ships, one Hilfskreuzer could have done better.
Interesting proposition.

I'm aware of only one instance where a hilfskreuzer encountered an RN battleship - the Atlantis in the Atlantic in 1941 sighted a ''Nelson class battleship'' at night in company with an Eagle class carrier, apparently no escorts. Atlantis wasn't noticed even though the RN ships passed between Atlantis at close range. Rogge noted that a U-boat could have sunk them both (no zigzagging) but he declined to engage ….. his orders were to sink merchant ships, there was nothing about torpedoing battleships or opening fire on a carrier...….
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by RF » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:23 am

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:50 pm

[No, it is just a very unfair accusation, if you have orders forbidding you to risk your ships against battleships. Lutjens had such orders.
Note that Lutjens did go against such orders at the DS battle, indeed further so in not ordering Prinz Eugen out of line.
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:32 am

Hi RF,
agree, but only when forced to an unavoidable action by Holland.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:16 pm

Hello RF,

I think you are being playful :D
I'm aware of only one instance where a hilfskreuzer encountered an RN battleship
I meant- what a waste of resources! 120 days (in total) of sea time of two hugely expensive juggernauts to sink 22 ships, and run away from any battleship-escorted convoys. The only point in sending a two battleship task force out to sink mere merchantmen, was so that any escort could be overwhelmed.
The mere existence of the twins in Brest was forcing to escort any convoy.
Except the French resistance was supplying detailed information on the continuous "state of unreadiness" of all three cancer patients as they lay in their sickbeds in Brest throughout most of 1941.

I'll bet the U-boat arm could have used nearly 5,000 trained men for their new boats commissioning in 1941. But with their ships merely disabled instead of sunk, these men were not available for redeployment, the best possible result for Britain. The only downside was inevitable collateral damage to French civilians from their proximity to these "unwelcome guests".
"Sea control" is another matter than ruling an enemy in battle
Sea control is the whole objective of fighting naval battles. Hiding in harbour subject to frequent air attack, and thus broken down and non-operational, did not restrict British use of the Atlantic at all. The more ships Germany put in the Rat-Trap, the better things would be. Fish in a barrel.

Pocket battleship Lutzow deployed, after Bismarck's failure, for an Atlantic commerce raiding mission from relatively safe German ports and was torpedoed before she even got out of the Norwegian Sea, but at least she commenced an aggressive mission. None of the three German ships in Brest was able to make any aggressive moves at all from the moment they entered that harbour. The escape was a notable tour de force and an huge embarrassment to the British, but an ignominious retreat from the Atlantic battle zone nontheless.

Lutjens' consistently-lacklustre performance compared with officers with initiative, like Marschall, or even his juniors, like Hoffman, has been highlighted often enough in this forum.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:47 pm

Hello everybody,
"Lutjens' consistently-lacklustre performance compared with officers with initiative has been highlighted often enough in this forum. "
If this was the case, it was simply an error and it was not the opinion of the German High Command.

Lutjens was commanding officer of the fleet during 3 notable missions in which losses were always inflicted to the RN:
1) Weserubung (HMS Glowworm sunk)
2) Berlin (22 merchant ships sunk or taken)
3) Rheinubung (HMS Hood sunk)
He was always very careful not to risk his ships (too precious due to the numerical preponderance of the RN at sea) and always got approval from Raeder, despite Mr.Wadinga judgement, having followed his orders. The judgement upon Berlin results was so positive that he was immediately given command of Rheinubung, were he was finally allowed to engage battleships if needed to sink convoys.

Holland was so good to force him to an undesired fight against battleships, that he was reluctant to enter until unavoidable. However in it he got the most important (and quite humiliating) German naval victory over the RN during the whole WWII, annoying as it can be for Mr.Wadinga.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by RF » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:24 am

wadinga wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:16 pm
Hello RF,

I think you are being playful :D
I'm aware of only one instance where a hilfskreuzer encountered an RN battleship
Actually I was placing a literal interpretation on the wording of your post, you may wish to reread it.
I meant- what a waste of resources! 120 days (in total) of sea time of two hugely expensive juggernauts to sink 22 ships, and run away from any battleship-escorted convoys. The only point in sending a two battleship task force out to sink mere merchantmen, was so that any escort could be overwhelmed.
This comment suggests a misunderstanding of the concept of cruiser warfare strategy that Raeder was employing.

Sinking merchant ships was only a desirable by product of this strategy. Recognising that the KM surface fleet could in no way match the strength of the RN Home Feet the aim was to wear it down by attrition and dispertion. The real value of heavy warships commerce raiding was in the efforts it forced on the RN to deal with them, with battleships deployed on convoy escort instead of directly hunting the raiders. This dispertion strategy as in Operation Berlin enabled the Scheer to complete its cruise and get back to Germany unnoticed, it helped Hipper in its raid in the Atlantic and the main beneficiaries were actually the hilfskreuzer as there were less cruisers available to look for them.
The KM surface raiders would never sink enough merchant ships to starve Britain into surrender - that was the job of the U-boats.
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:15 pm

Hello RF,
Actually I was placing a literal interpretation on the wording of your post, you may wish to reread it.
Thank you for commenting on my less than perfect sentence construction. I have in the past been criticised for being wordy and long-winded. I should have observed that in not attacking a convoy and running away from a single old battleship, a hilfkreuzer could have done just as well as Lutjens' two battleships did. On the other hand, as I intended to observe, in terms of general commerce raiding, auxiliary cruisers were much more efficient in terms of resources than using capital ships. As a quid pro quo,you may care to review your spelling of dispersion and allow for the fact that since cruisers are discrete items, one should say fewer cruisers and not "less cruisers".


Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were already in Brest when Scheer approached the dangerous Denmark Strait on her way home. Still, Lutjens' attempts to create diversions were never wholly successful. Running away to Iceland to divert the British, did not save Commander Bonte's destroyers at Narvik for instance.


Since Lutjens would presumably have remained Fleet Commander had Bismarck reached Brest, his career is worth comment again:

-1) from Wikipedia on 3rd September 1939 , Lütjens sailing aboard his flagship, Z1 Leberecht Maass and Z9 Wolfgang Zenker took part in an attack on the Polish ships Gryf and Wicher in Gdynia harbour. Lütjens attacked from a range of 14,000 yards south-east of the harbour. The Poles replied effectively and forced the German destroyers to make evasive manoeuvres and to lay a smoke screen to throw off the aim of the Polish gunners. Leberecht Maass was hit in the superstructure by a 152-millimeter (6.0 in) shell from the coast defence battery at Hel that killed four crewmen and wounded another four men. Lütjens ordered the action broken off 40 minutes later as the German fire was ineffective. Lütjens ordered the group to Pillau to refuel and the Leberecht Maas sailed to Swinemünde for repairs.[21]

0) On 13th December 1939 Lutjens commanded a cruiser group in which both his flagship Nurnberg and sister ship Leipzig were torpedoed by HMS Salmon with long range shots (presumably no zigzagging).

1) Weserubung (HMS Glowworm sunk) Blucher sunk, Brummer sunk, 10 destroyers sunk, Gneisenau torpedoed when he took over from Marschall. Lutzow torpedoed.

2) Berlin (22 merchant ships sunk or taken) Scharnhorst needed weeks of refitting. Pinguin sank or captured 28 ships, a total of 136,642 gross register tons.

3) Rheinubung (HMS Hood sunk) " the most important (and quite humiliating) German naval victory over the RN during the whole WWII, annoying as it can be for Mr.Wadinga." As anybody living near La Scala should know, the opera is not over until the Fat Lady sings. :D

Here is a description from Battleship Scharnhorst by Vuillez and Mordal:
In the German battleships at Brest the champagne corks popped in celebration of this notable triumph and the ship's companies were given extra leave. The victory was exploited to restore the morale of the men, which was flagging during the long months of inaction.


My underlining. But later
That evening, despite the jamming, the BBC provided the Germans at Brest with the first laconic account of what had occurred "At 10:37 GMT the German battleship Bismarck was sunk." At Lanveoc-Poulmic the large buoys swung idly round the swivels of their moorings. Now they would never serve their intended purpose.
Lieutenant Phillipon had already told London about these moorings readied for Bismarck, and his continuous stream of reports informed the RAF as soon as Scharnhorst was ready for trials off La Pallice, Prinz Eugen had already been bombed and could not escort. 15 Halifaxes put Scharnhorst back into dry dock for several more months after she had been found anchored off the inadequate defences at the lesser port. Continuous information from Phillipon and other French heroes, some of whom paid with their lives, meant the British were well informed about the status of the trapped German ships.

When we talk of bravery let us also commemorate the sacrifice of the unknown pilot and crew of the RAF Wellington who landed a bomb in Prinz Eugen's control centre, an instant before their stricken bomber crashed into the quayside.

All the best

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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jan 25, 2019 7:32 pm

Hello everybody,

and despite Mr.Wadinga efforts to diminish Lutjens as a commander, and despite all his "errors", he was promoted chief of the fleet and got the most important victory at sea for Germany, before being sunk by an overwhelming force, fighting to the end....


Bye, Alberto
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by RF » Mon Jan 28, 2019 9:10 am

wadinga wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:15 pm
Hello RF,
Actually I was placing a literal interpretation on the wording of your post, you may wish to reread it.
Thank you for commenting on my less than perfect sentence construction.
It wasn't intended to be, I was responding to a comment I thought had been misunderstood.
I should have observed that in not attacking a convoy and running away from a single old battleship, a hilfkreuzer could have done just as well as Lutjens' two battleships did. On the other hand, as I intended to observe, in terms of general commerce raiding, auxiliary cruisers were much more efficient in terms of resources than using capital ships.
Over a longer time period the hilfskreuzer sank substantially more tonnage than Germany's regular warships - but even then nothing like the tonnage sunk by U-boats. However these two types of surface raider are fighting two different campaigns, the hilfskreuzer are designed for the unobtrusive offensive, with results and effect over time, the regular warships for the more immediate impact in terms of trade dislocation and the much greater resources needed to track them down and deal with them. These strategies should be seen as complementary and not conflicting, especially in combination with the U-boat campaigns and also aircraft.

In terms of economy, the hilfskreuzer certainly were more economic than regular warships; but then as Churchill noted the Germans should have piled everything into U-boat construction as that would have been the most economic use of resources in terms of the shipping that could have been sunk.
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Paul L » Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:38 am

While its true HSK out did surface fleet, HSK were NEVER in a position to attack convoys, which was the only justification for building surface fleet in the first place.

No doubt HSK sunk something like 110 MV & captured another 30+ , allowing their campaign to continue longer than surface fleet. However HSK were always of secondary importance because they were nuisance value at most. Surface ships were capable of very successful solo attacking on convoys averaging 5-6 MV sunk per convoy attack in the first few years of the war. That effect had fear value far out of proportion to the actual attacks effectiveness.

These sortie met with two different out comes. Eight raiders ran free on seas mounting 15 sortie and sunk or crippled 63-66 MV and got home. The alternate out come was 2 sortie that clashing with WALLIE warships , they lost two raiders but sunk BB & crippled /damaged 5 other warships.

The hope was the sheer threat of surface attack would scatter the convoy to make Wolf-Pact attacks easier. There are cases were sequential attacks from air & surface accumulated the effect of the Wolf pact attack, but the only time it really worked as a force multiplier was the Tirpitz attack , which worked even though the battleship never left the fiord. In that regard Brest squadron would always be a threat and since second half of 1941 they were in refit anyway, the RAF only delayed there return to the seas and never going to stop them.
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Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Tue Jan 29, 2019 6:35 pm

Hello Alberto,
and despite Mr.Wadinga efforts to diminish Lutjens as a commander, and despite all his "errors",
Assuming Lutjens had managed to survive and squeeze Bismarck into the Brest Rat-trap, it is interesting to imagine what his future brief might have been. Vuillez and Mordal quote the ridiculous constraints put on the Fleet Commander for Operation Berlin.
The essential mission of the Fleet is to destroy enemy shipping

and later:

In the course of offensive operations against merchant ships any engagement with forces of superior or even equal strength must be avoided at all costs. This also applies if the two battleships should encounter a single enemy ship armed with 15" guns.


Those who think naval warfare is best described on an Excel spreadsheet can waste an afternoon trying to figure what combination of 8" and/or 6" RN ships represents a force of "equal or acceptably less than equal strength" since the mere possession of 15" guns makes a Jutland antique apparently superior to two German battleships.

Even SKL realised such pettifogging "office-genius" instructions were inappropriate for a Fleet Commander undermining his authority at sea, but only retrospectively after Lutjens had run away from aged veterans Ramillies and Malaya. These antiques were adequate against a Hipper or maybe a Scheer but it would be an unequal contest against 18 11" guns.


Without apparently a touch of embarrassment over hindsight, SKL's wash up on Berlin said (according to V & M):



In view of the restrictive nature of the general directives, the C-in-C cannot be reproached for refusing battle. Neverless, on meeting Ramillies the tactics of Scharnhorst's captain were logical in that he tried to draw Ramillies off to enable Gneisenau to destroy the convoy. Consequently the SKL cannot endorse the actions of the C-in-C in censuring him.

As the encounter had shown the orders to be unsuited to the circumstances, the C-in-C should have taken advantage of the return to France of the supply ship Schelstadt, to send a report by her and to demand greater freedom of action.
Only a dour, authoritarian, charisma-free mediocrity like Lutjens would have accepted such ludicrously-specific constraints in the first place. Being called Fleet Commander even in a Fascist authoritarian navy, must confer some freedom of action. Better surely to be beached for infraction like Marschall and retain some integrity, and who should actually be described as the undisputed champion in Kriegsmarine surface actions.

For Paul L The Hilfskreuzer's real problem against a convoy, perhaps only protected by a single AMC, which might be overwhelmed by stealth or guile, was lack of superior speed to chase down scattering merchant ships.

All the best

wadinga
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