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If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2018 4:27 am
by Carpathia
Hypothetically, what would have happened had Bismarck made it to France as it was going to? Would the British have tried to get the Bismarck while undergoing repairs or wait for it to come out again. If the British decided to wait the Bismarck out, would Bismarck have just sat in France not doing anything or try to make another break for the Atlantic?

How would that have affected WW2 in the long run?

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 5:32 am
by Byron Angel
[ 1 ] Bismarck goes right into dry-dock for repairs - she is the most important German warship in port.
[ 2 ] British Bomber Command spends a year trying to destroy her through repeated air raids.

The open question is whether the RN seeks to blockade these four German ships in Brest harbor - mines, submarines, relocation of some number of capital ships + CVs + supporting lighter forces. Can Great Britain afford to commit the necessary force in 1941/1942?

B

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 1:07 am
by kevin32422
I see the Royal Air force giving it plenty of attention, if it can survive that and be in good condition I also see it sitting in there until the Channel dash in which I think it will make it to Germany will maybe some damage due to mines or maybe a torpedo

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:28 am
by Alberto Virtuani
Hello everybody,

a very interesting discussion, possibly more belonging to the "Hypothetical Scenarios".

IMO it's not just a matter of air strikes in France: please keep in mind that the twins survived all the air strikes (despite heavy damages) and the British lost 53 planes and used more than 4100 tons bombs in the vain attempt to sink them... Had Bismarck made for France, her repairs could have been made quite quickly and Germans would have used everything (deployment of Luftwaffe squadrons + enhanced flak defenses) to try to protect her, especially for the propaganda effect of the ship that was able to rule the British fleet.
We have to keep in mind however that, had Bismarck repairs lasted just a while, the German Atlantic network of tankers and support ship would have been anyway destroyed, thus preventing any further attempt to carry a serious merchant war in the Ocean and making unavoidable the "Channel Dash" at the end.


Of course the effect of a powerful "fleet in being" during 1941 in France would have posed huge problems to British traffic, as a single battleship could in no way guarantee anymore the safety of a convoy against BS, SH, GU and PG together. However, the survival of Bismarck wouldn't have changed (nor even heavily influenced) the final outcome of the war, especially after the June invasion of Russia (that "de facto" prevented the Tirpitz from being sent as well in Atlantic) and the US "intervention" at the end of the year.


Bye, Alberto

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 1:13 pm
by frontkampfer
Byron Angel wrote:
Fri Dec 28, 2018 5:32 am
[ 1 ] Bismarck goes right into dry-dock for repairs - she is the most important German warship in port.
[ 2 ] British Bomber Command spends a year trying to destroy her through repeated air raids.

The open question is whether the RN seeks to blockade these four German ships in Brest harbor - mines, submarines, relocation of some number of capital ships + CVs + supporting lighter forces. Can Great Britain afford to commit the necessary force in 1941/1942?

B
If Bismarck had made it to France it would have been the biggest propaganda victory of the war despite what would have happened afterward. Sinking Hood, damaging PoW & evading the RN would have been a major coup!

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 9:15 am
by RF
Had Bismarck made it to France Churchill would have made it the number one target for Bomber Command. As Alberto has commented the chain of Atlantic supply ships would be destroyed and the fuel priorities for the Russian Front would make another sortie unlikely.

What I would imagine is that the US entry into the war might encourage Churchill into a big gamble - a massive seaborne attack with airborne forces and commandoes on the port and dock holding Bismarck, similar to the St Nazaire raid but on a very much bigger scale. Bismarck would have completely eclipsed Singapore from the mind of Churchill, Repulse and POW would never have been sent to the Far East.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 2:56 pm
by ede144
Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:28 am
.
We have to keep in mind however that, had Bismarck repairs lasted just a while, the German Atlantic network of tankers and support ship would have been anyway destroyed, thus preventing any further attempt to carry a serious merchant war in the Ocean and making unavoidable the "Channel Dash" at the end.
If BS would have made it to France, it would be most likely that Hitler would have supported some more raids. The tanker network was destroyed, because they were used to support the U-Boot war and changed to their Enigma key's. The key's used by the surface fleet was more secure and less used and never realy broken.

The Tanker and support ships would have last longer.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:13 pm
by RF
ede144 wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 2:56 pm

The Tanker and support ships would have last longer.
Not necessarily. You don't need radio intercepts to find out where they are likely to be, just a knowledge of the sea and the places most conducive to refuelling and resupply operations. Many supply ships were lost without radio intercepts.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:47 pm
by Dave Saxton
ede144 wrote:
Fri Jan 18, 2019 2:56 pm
Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:28 am
.
We have to keep in mind however that, had Bismarck repairs lasted just a while, the German Atlantic network of tankers and support ship would have been anyway destroyed, thus preventing any further attempt to carry a serious merchant war in the Ocean and making unavoidable the "Channel Dash" at the end.
If BS would have made it to France, it would be most likely that Hitler would have supported some more raids. The tanker network was destroyed, because they were used to support the U-Boot war and changed to their Enigma key's. The key's used by the surface fleet was more secure and less used and never realy broken.

The Tanker and support ships would have last longer.
An important point about the surface forces Enigma. Many histories do not clarify this. For example, most modern histories of the PQ17 disaster mention that the Admiralty became alarmed that Tirpitz would sail based on Enigma decrypts. However, as you point out, the surface forces Enigma was not really broken. Moreover, this was during the period of time after the U-boat Enigma had switched to the four rotor version and it could not be decrypted for the remainder of 1942. Ultra was instead reading unsecure dock yard codes combined with old fashioned traffic analysis. An order was transmitted in an unsecure code to top off Tirpitz' fuel tanks. There is also the question of the Luftwaffe Enigma insecurity and poor radio discipline typically practiced during Luftwaffe operational communications.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:18 pm
by wadinga
Hello Dave,

There is certainly some confusion over:
However, as you point out, the surface forces Enigma was not really broken.
Hinsley states in British Intelligence in the Second World war Vol 1 of Bismarck: " She had made 22 signals to Germany while British ships had been in contact with her, some announcing her change of plans. These signals were not readable at GC and CS until 28th May, after she had been sunk."

This apparently definitively says Bismarck's signals could eventually be read, just not in real or near-real time at this time in 1941. From June 1st onwards the settings material gathered from Munchen and maybe U-110 meant that Enigma could be read very rapidly and that is why the supply ship network was located and hoovered up. Since these ships were carrying fuel oil for Bismarck and Prinz Eugen and not diesel for U-boats, they would have been of very little use to the latter and were surely equipped to communicate with surface ships.

WRT to Tirpitz and PQ 17 Hinsley says in volume 2: "And at 11:45, 15 minutes before the Enigma settings changed at noon, the Tirpitz reported that she would be ready at Rolvsoysund, one of the exit routes from Altenfjord, at 14:30.The decrypt of her signal was relayed to the Home Fleet at 15:17." My underlining.

The decrypt was available within the hour. The agony for Pound was that he was reading all sorts of messages including apparently Tirpitz' signals right up to the settings changes, and then nothing for hours until the new settings were broken. There was a shortage of available Bombes to work on the new settings at Bletchley, since most were allocated for Western Desert traffic at this time.

Did the Tirpitz signal in a lower grade code? Hinsley later goes on to describe how Scharnhorst's report that the weather would make things difficult for her destroyers on 26th December 1943 was received.

All quite vague as one might expect, from cloak-and-dagger people.


To All:

Although this hypothetical discussion belongs elsewhere, this observation should be countered:
Of course the effect of a powerful "fleet in being" during 1941 in France would have posed huge problems to British traffic,
There was already a powerful "fleet in being" for nearly a year in France, and it was completely ineffectual during that time, being eventually forced to retreat ignominiously home to safe havens in Germany and crippled retirement for Gneisenau. Bomber Command made several successful raids in 1941 on Brest and La Pallice, hardly diminishing their main efforts against Germany. It suffered some losses but damaged both battlecruisers severely, requiring months of repairs to become operational, which was almost as good as sinking them and hardly "in vain". Bismarck in harbour with them would just have meant more targets to hit, and less water to score misses in. Raids against U-Boat pens were certainly more ineffectual, and also costly, especially since the bombs in use could not penetrate them.

All the best

wadinga

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:10 pm
by Paul L
Would the Channel Dash still have happened if BS had made it to Brest?

Its my understanding the entire 'Channel Dash' was due to Hitler's disenchantment with Raeder's surface campaigns.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:21 am
by Alberto Virtuani
Hello everybody,

Although this hypothetical discussion belongs elsewhere, this statement must be countered:
"There was already a powerful "fleet in being" for nearly a year in France, and it was completely ineffectual"
The "fleet in being" present at Brest was "too light" and not allowed to attack convoys protected by battleships: 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.
Had Bismarck been there, no doubt the above three convoys would have been attacked and destroyed as in no way a R-class or even a Nelson could have faced Bismarck alone.


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. Any convoy should have to be protected by at least 2 battleships, and this would have posed a huge problem to British traffic, as Bismarck could have been escorted by one of the twins (if the other was unavailable at the time). The efforts of the RAF in attempting to bomb the German ships in France would have caused the loss of many more planes and crews (already 53 planes were lost in the attempt to sink the twins).


As I said, I doubt however that this would have changed the outcome of the war in the Atlantic, after Germany invaded Russia and US entered war. At the end, the Channel Dash would have been unavoidable anyway, IMO, even if large successes could be achieved against British traffic, due to the changed priorities in the Nordic theater for Germany.
However, these are all hypothetical scenarios and nobody knows what would have happened had Bismarck made it to France.


Bye, Alberto

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:46 am
by RF
wadinga wrote:
Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:18 pm

There was already a powerful "fleet in being" for nearly a year in France, and it was completely ineffectual during that time,
wadinga
It was far from ineffectual - RAF Bomber Command was required to divert its efforts from the bombing of Germany to bomb the French ports instead.

It also lead, indirectly, to the raid on St Nazaire.

The effect of the ''fleet in being'' was in the potential threat it posed - not from anything it actually did.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:51 am
by RF
wadinga wrote:
Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:18 pm

Bomber Command made several successful raids in 1941 on Brest and La Pallice, hardly diminishing their main efforts against Germany.
These raids were a substantial undertaking for Bomber Command, which at that time was not the force that it was in 1943 and 1944. It did diminish the raids on Germany - the bombers can only raid one target at a time.

Re: If Bismarck had made it to France

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:55 am
by RF
Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:21 am
Had Bismarck been there, no doubt the above three convoys would have been attacked and destroyed as in no way a R-class or even a Nelson could have faced Bismarck alone.
The orders for Rheinubung specifically gave the Fleet Commander the discretion to do this.