If Bismarck had made it to France

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

Moderator: Bill Jurens

Byron Angel
Senior Member
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:06 am

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:05 pm

wadinga wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:45 pm
Hello RF,

Thanks for staying on the thread subject, and avoiding becoming enmeshed in irrelevant, impotent rants about other threads :
The experience with AGS in December 1939 is an even better one, as it would have heavily influenced the genesis of the orders referred to.
It may have affected the orders, but its relevance Is questionable I would say. AGS' 11" guns were not matched in performance by any of Harwood's cruisers, so an "equal enemy" would also be hard to define. However in speed terms the Diesels that suited commerce raiding so well, meant Langsdorff could not escape from such ships which had several knots' speed advantage. Running into at least one enemy cruiser is a risk any commerce raider must expect to come to pass sooner or later, and the Panzerschiff were armed and armoured to cope with this.

S&G had guns, speed and armour and each other to rely on and thus clear superiority over any single opponent thy might meet, just as they had when they engaged Renown. Ordering them to avoid any 15" British Capital ship (or pedantically even any monitor) might be valid if the "soldier" in charge were merely an inexperienced junior rating, not a Fleet Commander. When the C-in-C is at sea, and it is not a mere vessel captain as in the case of AGS, Hipper or Scheer, he should demand freedom of action to exploit opportunities, and use his initiative (if he has any).

That SKL said in retrospect that Lutjens should indeed have questioned their "orders", (naughty soldier!) suggests they may have learned by their mistakes, and if any of the Brest ships (perhaps enhanced by Bismarck) had actually gone to sea on an aggressive mission, they might have been given more latitude. Has anybody seen the text of the post-mission washup that V & M quote from?


In the Hipper vs Berwick fight (Dec 1940) , the raider actually ran into a 3 cruiser escort. But unlike Lutjens at least he caused some damage before retiring.

For Byron: The only way for pigeons to avoid wounds completely, is indeed to stay tucked up safely in the Loft. Cooing. Except even that did not work for S&G or PG because the Loft had a leaky roof. Besides...………... navies exist to break things and hurt people, these vessels are supposed to be Hawks, not Pigeons. :cool:


On another matter I agree with both Bill and Northcape "indeterminate" is about right, there is insufficient data to achieve a "correct" answer.


All the best

wadinga
Hi Wadinga,
It all depends upon how one weighs the value of such an asset. Inflicting physical damage upon an opponent's warships is only (IMO) a small part of the equation. One must also take into account the raider's ability, once at sea, to disrupt merchant traffic patterns and convoy schedules and force the opponent to commit forces (which might be put to good use elsewhere) as convoy escorts or as response elements against possible raiding forays. Whether or not it made sense to build such ships is an academic question; the real question is, once built and paid for, how could they have best been put to use.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

B

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7587
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by RF » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:38 am

wadinga wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:45 pm

The experience with AGS in December 1939 is an even better one, as it would have heavily influenced the genesis of the orders referred to.
It may have affected the orders, but its relevance Is questionable I would say. AGS' 11" guns were not matched in performance by any of Harwood's cruisers, so an "equal enemy" would also be hard to define. However in speed terms the Diesels that suited commerce raiding so well, meant Langsdorff could not escape from such ships which had several knots' speed advantage. Running into at least one enemy cruiser is a risk any commerce raider must expect to come to pass sooner or later, and the Panzerschiff were armed and armoured to cope with this.
What I was referring to here was that even minor damage can lead to the loss of the raider, here to an ''inferior'' enemy force.
S&G had guns, speed and armour and each other to rely on and thus clear superiority over any single opponent thy might meet, just as they had when they engaged Renown. Ordering them to avoid any 15" British Capital ship (or pedantically even any monitor) might be valid if the "soldier" in charge were merely an inexperienced junior rating, not a Fleet Commander. When the C-in-C is at sea, and it is not a mere vessel captain as in the case of AGS, Hipper or Scheer, he should demand freedom of action to exploit opportunities, and use his initiative (if he has any).
I wouldn't disagree with the argument here - however Renown was NOT alone, there was a substantial destroyer escort armed with torpedoes. Without these destroyers I think you are right but those destroyers pose a deadly threat if they get into effective range and in a prolonged action can attack from differing angles etc. SKL rightly considered this threat. The attack on Glorious illustrated that point and here there were only two destroyers.
That SKL said in retrospect that Lutjens should indeed have questioned their "orders", (naughty soldier!) suggests they may have learned by their mistakes, and if any of the Brest ships (perhaps enhanced by Bismarck) had actually gone to sea on an aggressive mission, they might have been given more latitude.
The original Rheinubung orders for the four ship operation gave the Fleet Commander the option to engage Bismarck with an escorting battleship while the three other German ships attacked the rest of the convoy starting with the other escort vessels....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7587
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by RF » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:52 am

Byron Angel wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:05 pm
.... One must also take into account the raider's ability, once at sea, to disrupt merchant traffic patterns and convoy schedules and force the opponent to commit forces (which might be put to good use elsewhere) as convoy escorts or as response elements against possible raiding forays. Whether or not it made sense to build such ships is an academic question; the real question is, once built and paid for, how could they have best been put to use.
On operations such as Berlin and Rheinubung the KM was greatly handicapped by a total lack of long range destroyer escorts. Indeed destroyers were never used to attack merchant shipping and it would have been interesting to see what a force of say three longer ranged ''Marvik'' class destroyers could have achieved in place of say Hipper or Scheer or perhaps better still accompanying them. There is of cause the rather less impressive performance in operations later on against the Arctic convoys, but in 1940 and 1941 Allied strength was of a lesser quality. Still it would be interesting to consider if Krancke had attacked convoy HX 84 with three ''Narviks'' instead of Scheer. With Scheer I would expect the entire convoy to be annihilated...… not just five merchantmen sunk.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Byron Angel
Senior Member
Posts: 1012
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2011 1:06 am

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Byron Angel » Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:59 pm

RF wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:52 am
Byron Angel wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:05 pm
.... One must also take into account the raider's ability, once at sea, to disrupt merchant traffic patterns and convoy schedules and force the opponent to commit forces (which might be put to good use elsewhere) as convoy escorts or as response elements against possible raiding forays. Whether or not it made sense to build such ships is an academic question; the real question is, once built and paid for, how could they have best been put to use.
On operations such as Berlin and Rheinubung the KM was greatly handicapped by a total lack of long range destroyer escorts. Indeed destroyers were never used to attack merchant shipping and it would have been interesting to see what a force of say three longer ranged ''Marvik'' class destroyers could have achieved in place of say Hipper or Scheer or perhaps better still accompanying them. There is of cause the rather less impressive performance in operations later on against the Arctic convoys, but in 1940 and 1941 Allied strength was of a lesser quality. Still it would be interesting to consider if Krancke had attacked convoy HX 84 with three ''Narviks'' instead of Scheer. With Scheer I would expect the entire convoy to be annihilated...… not just five merchantmen sunk.
A surprise attack by a division of DDs upon an essentially unmaneuverable convoy in close order anti-submarine formation could have been (IMO) devastating, especially in the early war period when many convoys barely had any real escorts at all beyond a couple of A/S trawlers. The question that comes to mind, however, is what degree of endurance could be expected of DDs operating at sea, as they are notoriously "short-legged". Would re-fueling at sea have been practical? Dunno.

B

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3051
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:52 pm

The Germans used destroyers against some of the early PQ convoys, but they did not succeed in breaking through the close escort. Basically it was a lot of near misses scored by both escorts and attackers and the attacks were not successful at either destroying shipping or dispersing the convoy. If there had been an auxiliary cruiser or other heavier unit present it would have further complicated matters for attacking destroyers.

This lead to an escalation in warship type deployed to northern waters. Germans deployed cruisers to Norway. Although single heavy warships are not ideal for attacking scattering merchant ships, as proven by HX84 example (destroyers are better suited), heavy warships were needed to effectively deal with the escort, so that destroyers could do their thing. It takes both if actually destroying the convoy or a significant portion is the aim. The British deployed cruisers in turn.

At The Battle of Barents Sea, Kummetz sent in his destroyers, planning on using the cruisers from beyond effective torpedo range to deal with the convoys escorts. But he was forced to recall his destroyers when his ship's IFF equipment was damaged.
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.

User avatar
wadinga
Senior Member
Posts: 1864
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:49 pm
Location: Tonbridge England

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Thu Jan 31, 2019 6:38 pm

Hello RF,

I see your points, but respectfully disagree. (Pretty collegiate, huh?)

In an exchange of signals after the Renown action, the German ships could not even decide whether they had been chased off by 2 or 3 ships. The weather conditions were far too wild for destroyers to get into a torpedo attack position, all three capital ships suffered considerable weather damage through driving into the storm at speeds the much smaller escorts could not possibly match. Lutjens may not even have recognised any destroyers existed. He basically ran away from Renown, perhaps initially planning to return later to help protect Bonte's ships after decoying the battlecruiser, but receiving so much shell and weather damage, his ships were effectively disabled and better off heading for Iceland.

One to one fights between a battleship and destroyer in good visibility should only go one way. Acasta was extremely lucky indeed to hit before she was destroyed herself. Against an aware single battleship with freedom of manoeuvre, travelling at 30 knots, the chances of a torpedo hit should be miniscule. Scharnhorst was hit by Acasta through insufficient evasive action on her part, turning back too early on preferred gunnery course . (This emphasises how the one minute duration zig-zags performed by PG at Denmark Strait could not possibly be torpedo evasion manoeuvres, and are far more likely gunnery evasion performed when someone was still shooting at her). The German account of a long range hit from a salvo fired several minutes earlier is more credible IMHO than Seaman Carter's memory of a close range shot. That does not devalue his or his crewmates' bravery. Scharnhorst maintained her distance from Acasta.

The Narviks were over-gunned, top heavy and unstable in bad weather conditions, probably rendering oceanic operations unwise. Larger bunkers to give adequate endurance would have meant something else had to go (fewer guns or less engine power) or instead a much more capable (and thus vulnerable) Fleet Train provided.

Scheer's potential massacre was averted not only by brave HMS Jervis Bay's fight, but also that of the heroic fighting merchantman SS Beaverford, lost with all hands, after a determined resistance with two popguns. She went down after hits by 3 11" shells, sixteen 5.9" and a torpedo. These delays plus darkness, smoke floats and the failure of Scheer's radar allowed further ships to escape.

The Convoy Killer made no time to pick up survivors, but no armchair experts criticise this, as they do Dorsetshire's captain, who did. The heroic crew of the neutral Swedish SS Stureholm voted unanimously, at Captain Sven Olander's request, to go back after the scatter to search for survivors, and saved 65 of Jervis Bay's men.

Instead of salivating over how much "better" the Convoy Killers could have hypothetically done, had they unlimited guns, ammunition and fuel, we should remember the Allied Merchant Seamen whose bravery and sacrifice kept the democracy and freedom we now enjoy alive. Their ships were more than just ducks to be "annihilated" in a shooting gallery. See "If the Gods are Good" by Duskin & Segman for a detailed account.


All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

Paul L
Senior Member
Posts: 317
Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 9:04 pm
Location: Vancouver Canada

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Paul L » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:40 pm

wadinga wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 6:38 pm
Hello RF,

I see your points, but respectfully disagree. (Pretty collegiate, huh?)


Instead of salivating over how much "better" the Convoy Killers could have hypothetically done, had they unlimited guns, ammunition and fuel, we should remember the Allied Merchant Seamen whose bravery and sacrifice kept the democracy and freedom we now enjoy alive. Their ships were more than just ducks to be "annihilated" in a shooting gallery. See "If the Gods are Good" by Duskin & Segman for a detailed account.


All the best

wadinga
People still actually peddle this stuff...sounds like some propaganda doc from the 1960s.

FYI TYPE-34/36 , were originally planned as GTB somewhere between Type 1924 & Type-1939 under NAVAL plan 1932 . Under that same plan they would have built another 1/2 dozen CL between Nuremberg and M-KLASS. These were to work with Panzerschiffe in convoy attack.

The Narvik Tonnage would have allowed production of both GTB & CL.
"Eine mal is kein mal"

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3051
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:01 am

wadinga wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 6:38 pm
These delays plus darkness, smoke floats and the failure of Scheer's radar allowed further ships to escape.
Not exactly. The report indicates that although the radar was affected by shock it could be re-set each time.
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.

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3051
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:29 am

S&G had guns, speed and armour and each other to rely on and thus clear superiority over any single opponent thy might meet, just as they had when they engaged Renown.
Except this was not really clear to Lutjen's in the case of the Renown. The Renown was misidentified as the Nelson or Rodney and he had 9 additional unidentified radar contacts to consider. He thought it was probably the Home Fleet. Still not until after he lost his radar, when the 15" shell passed through his flag ship's foretop, did he seek to disengage.
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.

User avatar
wadinga
Senior Member
Posts: 1864
Joined: Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:49 pm
Location: Tonbridge England

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by wadinga » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:45 pm

Hello Paul L,

Peddle what stuff? That real human beings are killed and maimed in naval battles and that they are real events that happened, and that we are not talking about "annihilating" sprites in video games or playing with toys in the bath? :D

As for emphasising the bravery and sacrifice of men who sailed voyage after voyage in virtually unarmed merchant ships menaced by the Third Reich's selection of weapons, and whose massive contribution to Allied victory did make our comfortable 21st century lifestyle possible, I will make no apology. 36,749 seamen and women were lost by enemy action according to the Wikipedia entry. This includes Indians, Australians and Canadians and probably Chinese but not Americans, Norwegians, Greeks, Swedes or other nationalities. Maybe you should view Wikipedia British merchant seamen of World War II or better still the entry for Canadian Pacific SS Beaverford.

Propaganda? Would you like to live in a world where the Third Reich had won, I suspect not. They were not strong on democracy, freedom and free speech. Their marine personnel exhibited bravery and sacrifice too, and we acknowledge that here, but they were not fighting for freedom or democracy. This site is commendably apolitical but not amoral.

For Dave:

I don't know about Gneisenau's KTB but Scharnhorst's makes no mention of all these other enemies. According to Koop and Schmolke:
05:10 Heavy guns opened fire. Enemy is identified as battlecruiser Renown class.
05:11 Behind enemy ship one or two other targets.
and
05:20 Turned to steer 030T
[Enemy was to west, hence turn away already]
and
05:28 Enemy being engaged to rear by C turret.
Senior Gunnery Officer's Lowisch's report says:
the radar was manned before the alarm and a sweep of the horizon had just been made. The enemy vessel was not detected.
Lutjens didn't waste time identifying his enemy, but headed north pretty soon after open fire. I do him a disservice by saying he retreated to Iceland, it was actually far further north, to Jan Mayen Island, well north of 70N.

If Krancke's radar switched itself off every time the guns fired, it wasn't really much help. He was using starshell to illuminate targets.


All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

User avatar
Alberto Virtuani
Senior Member
Posts: 3438
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:22 am
Location: Milan (Italy)

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:07 pm

Hello everybody,
"I do him a disservice by saying he retreated to Iceland, it was actually far further north, to Jan Mayen Island, well north of 70N."
...forgetting that, doing so, Lutjens made fun of the RN once again, much before Berlin operation, when nobody was able to intercept the twins.

During Rheinubung it took the whole HF + Force H + convoy escorting vessels + combined air recognition + Tom Phillips coordination at the Admiralty to have him... :think:


Had Bismarck made it to France against all the above, Lutjens should have had his own "Trafalgar Square column" in Berlin (instead of the insinuations of "propagandists"). It's a (sad but logical) fact that history is always written by the winners and very few recognition go to the losers, even when deserved.


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3051
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:20 pm

For Dave:

I don't know about Gneisenau's KTB but Scharnhorst's makes no mention of all these other enemies. According to Koop and Schmolke:
05:10 Heavy guns opened fire. Enemy is identified as battlecruiser Renown class.
05:11 Behind enemy ship one or two other targets.
and
05:20 Turned to steer 030T
[Enemy was to west, hence turn away already]
and
05:28 Enemy being engaged to rear by C turret.
Senior Gunnery Officer's Lowisch's report says:
the radar was manned before the alarm and a sweep of the horizon had just been made. The enemy vessel was not detected.
Giessler, who was there aboard Scharnhorst, commented on the Scharnhorst's radar during the Renown engagement post war. He reported that the SH radar was not acquiring targets because the operators had not tuned it properly.

Gneisenau's radar detected and began tracking the British warships at 25,000 meters (Giessler). Whitworth was on course 130 at 12 knots. The Germans were on course 310 at 15 knots. After about 30 minutes, Whitworth adjusted course to 80* and increased speed to 20 knots having sighted the German ships. As the Germans struggled to identify the radar contacts the sun began coming up revealing them more fully to Whitworth on the eastern horizon. The British misidentified the Gneisenau as the Scharnhorst, and the Scharnhorst as the Hipper.

With the range down to 18,600 yards Renown opened fire at 0505. Luetjens altered course to at first 350* and prepared to return fire. Coming back to course 330 Gneisenau returned fire. Using radar ranging, the Gneisenau was quickly on target and scored two 11" hits. The Renown straddled with salvo number 6, but it was salvo number 16 that scored the hit. Some of the RN destroyers began firing and seeing the gun flashes but not the splashes, Luetjens assumed the enemy squadron consisted of at least two battleships.

The Scharnhorst correctly identified the Renown after Whitworth opened fire and SH opened fire at 0510. Scharnhorst straddled with salvo number 5.

After the 15" shell passed through Gneisenau's foretop Luetjens altered course to starboard.
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.

northcape
Senior Member
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:31 am

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by northcape » Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:28 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:07 pm

Had Bismarck made it to France against all the above, Lutjens should have had his own "Trafalgar Square column" in Berlin (instead of the insinuations of "propagandists"). It's a (sad but logical) fact that history is always written by the winners and very few recognition go to the losers, even when deserved.

Bye, Alberto
Alberto, we know already about your agenda. You don't need to demonstrate it on a regular basis.

BTW, am I the only who can't fail to see the irony, that Alberto admires a commander, who, by a combination of bad luck and many wrong decisions (no re-fuelling, breaking radio-silence, demotivating the ship's company) failed at his mission (commerce reading), got the largest and most expensive ship of his navy sunk (together with 2000 soldiers), and by such inflicted one of, if not the, largest strategic defeats to Kriegsmarine in the war?

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 3051
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:49 am

northcape wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:28 pm
largest strategic defeats to Kriegsmarine in the war?
There is no question that the loss of the Bismarck was a catastrophic defeat for the KM. Not only the loss of the ship and the men but also the loss of the experienced fleet staff. Hitler's paranoids became the central themes of the strategic vision thereafter. In terms of developing more effective use of radar, the momentum lost was never recovered. The KM surface forces became chained dogs in harbor with their crews not gaining any significant sea time.

From what I learned, I think the better German Fleet Commander of the war may have been Schneiwind. He never got a chance to prove his prowess, not the least because of the Bismarck's loss.
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.

User avatar
Alberto Virtuani
Senior Member
Posts: 3438
Joined: Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:22 am
Location: Milan (Italy)

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:27 am

Hello everybody,
while I agree about Schneiwind judgement, I cannot agree about Lutjens who would have "inflicted one of, if not the, largest strategic defeats to Kriegsmarine in the war".
The complete sentence should be completed by: "after having inflicted the most humiliating defeat at sea to the RN since centuries, winning a battle in which he was overwhelmed by enemies, using an unconventional tactic and forcing the RN to retreat in front of the enemy". Possibly it is this aspects that annoys more the RN fans...

Regarding my "agenda" (funny to hear such a guy speaking of "agenda" when he has an evident one), I have none, except to admire courage and smartness on both sides, vs the RN fans who believe that all Axis officers are timid, cruel and stupid and all RN officers are courageous, generous and clever. The Denmark Strait demonstrated dumbness, falsity and timidity were well present also in the British side.


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

Post Reply