PoW readiness for active service

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu May 02, 2019 1:05 pm

Hello everybody,
pgollin wrote: "you ignored my post"
Right! Bravo!
At last, pgollin has understood that, as promised, I will speak only about the thread topic (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8523&p=83144&hilit= ... pic#p83144). [commentary redacted WJJ]

[Commentary redacted WJJ].

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)

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu May 02, 2019 3:46 pm

Hello everybody,
following the "moderator" redaction... I will re-phrase as follows because I don't want that the redacted key message and link gets lost...

If anyone has anything to add to this discussion (dates are listed here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8523&start=195#p83200), he will be welcome to do so providing solid evidences (material missing, working behind schedule, etc.) that explain why PoW needed more time than KGV to be declared "ready for active service" by her Captain.


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)

Byron Angel
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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Byron Angel » Sat May 04, 2019 1:14 am

"If anyone has anything to add to this discussion (dates are listed here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8523&start=195#p83200), he will be welcome to do so providing solid evidences (material missing, working behind schedule, etc.) that explain why PoW needed more time than KGV to be declared "ready for active service" by her Captain."

With all due respect, I am confused. I thought it had been agreed that the working-up periods of both KGV and PoW had been cut short by circumstances beyond the control of the Admiralty - "Operation Parcel" in the case of KGV and "Rheinubung" in the case of PoW. To suggest that PoW "needed more time" (if we are indeed talking about the ~20 days difference), make no sense to me on that basis. For example, when KGV returned to Scapa Flow after completion of "Operation Parcel", it is suggested that she did in fact resume her working up process as a first order of business (although that was continually interrupted by various operartional alarums and emergencies). How many days, in all, KGV spent working up is really anyone's guess.

We need to be careful about precision of language; otherwise unintended misapprehensions can easily arise. Strictly my opinion, of course.

B

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat May 04, 2019 7:28 am

Hello everybody,
Byron Angel wrote: " ...To suggest that PoW "needed more time" (if we are indeed talking about the ~20 days difference), make no sense to me on that basis...We need to be careful about precision of language..."
I'm sorry we speak of 1.5 months more (see dated here viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8523&start=195#p83200) from commissioning (apparently more or less at the same stage of completion) till "readiness (7 weeks working day and (lately) night according to Brooke and confirmed by Wilkinson) between KGV and PoW. (We need to be careful about precision of...calculations... :wink:) .

Re. the fact that the readiness was so much influenced by the missions, I would say that without KGV ready, any other ship (even a light cruiser) could have carried Lord Halifax to the US: a battleship was not needed, if not to show the flag... PoW case is different as she was one of the few ships able to face Bismarck).

Therefore, while I agree that Leach may have been forced to declare his ship ready (after 4 months from commissioning) due to urgency, Patterson may have received much less pressure (but he declared to be "ready" after only 2.5 months)... In any way, both ships had to train and remediate their guns after their readiness (KGV immediately, PoW after repairs in July https://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chron ... _Wales.htm).

My question still stands: why did Leach resisted so much to declare PoW "ready", imposing a much heavier gunnery training period before running the formal gunnery acceptance trials (in early May), up to the point in time when there was no way to resist anymore?
My explanation (personal opinion, of course, but logical and well supported by subsequent events when in battle and when reporting facts) is that his previous assignment as Ordnance Director made him very reluctant to accept a battleship whose guns he knew had some design problems.
He was not confident in his weapon and this "fear" was "in his mind" during the battle (his own words), with the effect that we know.


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)

paul.mercer
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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by paul.mercer » Sat May 04, 2019 9:51 am

Gentlemen,
As this debate is like others before it, in danger of spiraling out of control despite the best efforts of our moderator to 'calm down' some of the statements, would it be fair to agree that while PoW was 'ready for service' , she was not really 'ready for battle' and then move on to another subject?

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by HMSVF » Sat May 04, 2019 1:50 pm

Byron Angel wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 1:14 am
"If anyone has anything to add to this discussion (dates are listed here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8523&start=195#p83200), he will be welcome to do so providing solid evidences (material missing, working behind schedule, etc.) that explain why PoW needed more time than KGV to be declared "ready for active service" by her Captain."

With all due respect, I am confused. I thought it had been agreed that the working-up periods of both KGV and PoW had been cut short by circumstances beyond the control of the Admiralty - "Operation Parcel" in the case of KGV and "Rheinubung" in the case of PoW. To suggest that PoW "needed more time" (if we are indeed talking about the ~20 days difference), make no sense to me on that basis. For example, when KGV returned to Scapa Flow after completion of "Operation Parcel", it is suggested that she did in fact resume her working up process as a first order of business (although that was continually interrupted by various operartional alarums and emergencies). How many days, in all, KGV spent working up is really anyone's guess.

We need to be careful about precision of language; otherwise unintended misapprehensions can easily arise. Strictly my opinion, of course.

B
For whats is worth I agree. From reading the various posts from different sides of the argument this is what I think happened.

i) I think that POW had a protracted build and was having various issues that lead to her requiring more time to sort out.

ii) I think that Leach was well aware that his battleship his was not ready despite the Admiralty declaring her so. I think that whilst extremely concerned, he knew that he was paired up with the fleet flagship and pride of the RN in HMS Hood which he hoped would mitigate the risks. I also think it maybe the reason why Hood lead and not POW.

iii) I think that the fact that there were still Vickers mechanics on board speaks volumes about the state of HMS Prince of Wales and the continuing issues her main armament.

iv) I take the "report" from Vickers at face value. Turkey's don't vote for Christmas and he was hardly likely to say that POW was a bag of bolts - they had built the guns and mountings.

v) I suspect McMullen was well aware of the potential issues which is why he sent the often mentioned "tell the captain the guns are ok" message during the battle (otherwise it's a very strange signal - why would the guns not be ok).

vi) He was not aware that POW's command structure had just been cast to the fore winds due a shell shattering the compass platform. Eventually the half expected big failure occurs as POW turns away and Y turret jams.

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat May 04, 2019 2:14 pm

Hello everybody,

i) Not proven. All data presented points to the fact that PoW and KGV were almost at the same level of completion when commissioned. However PoW required more time before his Captain declared her "ready".

ii) Leach declared his ship ready only when Bismarck operation made the "readiness" not anymore possible to be postponed. He was not yet confident in his ship, however, having being Ordnance Director and having seen the results of KGV trials. This affected his behavior during the battle (his own report says that).

iii) As said, after KGV readiness, during "remedial work" done on board, most probably Vickers technicians were on board too. The difference is that KGV was in Scapa while PoW was fired at by Bismarck.

iv) They had built both KGV and PoW guns and mountings. The result of PoW trials were considered "satisfactory" despite the defects by the Vickers + Admiralty + Officers of PoW. I agree we cannot listen only at Vickers, but dates and evidences point to KGV to have been rushed out of the door much sooner than PoW.

v) I agree: surely McMullen was aware of Leach's fears and that's why he was "furious" against his Captain and sent the boy: because gun were actually ok and able to carry on until the decision to disengage...

vi) The big failure happened after the decision to break off engagement had been taken. It's written in Leach's report. No point in trying to resurrect in some way the Tovey's incorrect statement of point 19 of the despatches.


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)

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by HMSVF » Sat May 04, 2019 3:03 pm

They had built both KGV and PoW guns and mountings. The result of PoW trials were considered "satisfactory" despite the defects by the Vickers + Admiralty + Officers of PoW. I agree we cannot listen only at Vickers, but dates and evidences point to KGV to have been rushed out of the door much sooner than PoW
The difference is that KGV when rushed out didn't really have any opponents. Both Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had avoided combat with even the old ladies of the RN battleship fleet so any deployment was going to be a leisurely affair with extra time to "run her in". Had she been attached to Force H then you would have a more direct comparison to POW. Acting as Churchill's yacht isn't exactly taxing "active service".

The big failure happened after the decision to break off engagement had been taken. It's written in Leach's report. No point in trying to resurrect in some way the Tovey's incorrect statement of point 19 of the despatches
I'm not saying that at all. What I'm suggesting is that Leach didn't think that his ship was ready, that she had a multitude of issues that needed addressing ideally and that he expected a breakdown as a result. That it happened after he turned away is in which case a moot point as it may well have been the case that he was surprised she had fired as well as she did given her issues and that he didn't want to push his luck. McMullen was "in the zone" and completely unaware of what else was going on.


At the end of the day it comes down to what the opinion is of Leach. We know what the prosecutions case is, we know that the case for defence is. Personally (like most things) the grey truth is probably in-between. I think most if not all judges would take into account that a person who has just seen his bridge are wiped out and survived by sheer luck is going to be somewhat "stunned" to say the least by the experience. God knows what the concussive effect of such a near miss is on the human brain.

Given the available data I don't think any jury could come to a conclusive decision and it would come down to a majority decision which would be in favour of Leach.

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by pgollin » Sat May 04, 2019 7:18 pm

.

Alberto,

Your claim that ".... All data presented points to the fact that PoW and KGV were almost at the same level of completion when commissioned ..." fails as you have not demonstrated the facts, merely quoted dates. You need to provide proof.

Yet again you ignore your obligation to give the reference for the Vickers letter in the Churchill Archive.

.

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat May 04, 2019 8:19 pm

Hello everybody,
HMSVF wrote: "I'm not saying that at all. What I'm suggesting is that Leach didn't think that his ship was ready...That it happened after he turned away..."
I see your point, but had Leach commanded KGV instead of PoW and had he ordered the same 160° hard turn at full speed after the hit in CP, exactly the same "big problem" would have happened. Therefore he "had in his mind" a general problem of the KGV class ships in 1941 and his fears were not justified by the readiness status of his own ship. PoW was not more prone to this problem than KGV (as May 27 demonstrated), thus the "big problem" cannot be used as a justification to say that Leach took the right decision because of it.

HMSVF wrote: "Given the available data I don't think any jury could come to a conclusive decision and it would come down to a majority decision which would be in favour of Leach."
I agree. I have already said that a Court Martial would probably have acquitted Leach, but his career would have been ruined.
Look at Troubridge case: the BofI condemned him, the CM acquitted him (but he had at least the ambiguous orders of Churchill to be used to justify his timidity, Leach had not and Tovey's very generous but incorrect statements would not have been accepted by a serious Court). However Troubridge was never given another command at sea after his absolution.

Of course, Leach would not have been decorated after a serious investigation, while he was, despite he had retreated in front of the enemy....


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)

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by dunmunro » Sat May 04, 2019 8:35 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 8:19 pm
Hello everybody,
HMSVF wrote: "I'm not saying that at all. What I'm suggesting is that Leach didn't think that his ship was ready...That it happened after he turned away..."
I see your point, but had Leach commanded KGV instead of PoW and had he ordered the same 160° hard turn at full speed after the hit in CP, exactly the same "big problem" would have happened.
KGV would have had nearly 100% output (and probably full output from the 5.25in guns) and a functioning type 284 radar and consequently Bismarck would have been much harder hit prior to Hood's loss and there is a high probability that the fatal 38cm round would not have accurate or not fired at all.

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by dunmunro » Sat May 04, 2019 8:46 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 2:14 pm
Hello everybody,

i) Not proven. All data presented points to the fact that PoW and KGV were almost at the same level of completion when commissioned. However PoW required more time before his Captain declared her "ready".

ii) Leach declared his ship ready only when Bismarck operation made the "readiness" not anymore possible to be postponed. He was not yet confident in his ship, however, having being Ordnance Director and having seen the results of KGV trials. This affected his behavior during the battle (his own report says that).


vi) The big failure happened after the decision to break off engagement had been taken. It's written in Leach's report. No point in trying to resurrect in some way the Tovey's incorrect statement of point 19 of the despatches.


Bye, Alberto
So lets take Bismarck in Jan 1941 and compare it to KGV. This is the factor that you don't consider; Admiralty deployment decisions were based upon the then current state of affairs.

point vi}:
Damage to PoW before turning to open range:

The failure of all of PoW's radar systems before open fire.
Loss of output of ~25% 14in output
loss of all 5.25in output after 3 salvos
damage UW aft
damage to main propulsion via funnel hit
Loss of aircraft capability

you keep trying to spin that PoW was fine prior to the turn, but the historical record states otherwise.

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by paul.mercer » Sat May 04, 2019 9:15 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 9:51 am
Gentlemen,
As this debate is like others before it, in danger of spiraling out of control despite the best efforts of our moderator to 'calm down' some of the statements, would it be fair to agree that while PoW was 'ready for service' , she was not really 'ready for battle' and then move on to another subject?
Gentlemen,
I regret that it appears that my plea has gone unheeded.
Now,gathering from the more recent posts we are going to re-argue the former Denmark Strait postings together with the arguments over Captain Leach's culpability and no doubt eventually get back to another previous one about the size of a shell splash!
Have we descended into arguing about any subject just for arguments sake and when we cannot agree, revisit old debates because we are so determined that our views are the only ones that matter?

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat May 04, 2019 9:28 pm

Hello everybody,

I would agree with Paul Mercer, however I see that someone insists in posting statements that are known to be incorrect, and I don't think this is a serious way to discuss in a forum:
Dunmunro wrote: "KGV would have had nearly 100% output (and probably full output from the 5.25in guns) and a functioning type 284 radar "
Speculation based on nothing. We know nothing of KGV output. No ship has 100% output when firing in action and firing fast: PoW was firing much faster than KGV on May 27 (1.9 vs 1.7 salvo per minute, despite the much longer range....). At best Bismarck had an 89% output (104 ordered shots), at worst 83% (112 shots). PoW had 75%: not brilliant, not so bad to justify any "retreat", as the "furious" McMullen judged too.
The 284 radar was functioning, it simply had no time to warm up, having been switched on only few minutes before the engagement due to radio silence (please read again and digest what Dave Saxton kindly explained viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8491&p=82290&hilit=warm+up#p82290). PoW 284 radar worked fine few hours later. KGV radar would have behaved in the same identical way on May 24.

Dunmunro wrote: "you keep trying to spin that PoW was fine prior to the turn, but the historical record states otherwise."
You keep trying to list incorrect things (already proven wrong several times...) just to justify Leach and I will not counter each of them again and again. The only "historical record" saying she was not fine is the intentionally incorrect point 19 of Adm.Tovey's despatches.
PoW was simply in better conditions than Bismarck when Leach decided to retreat, with no hit in the vitals and no fuel shortage (except the one due to her limited range of course...).
Damage was "superficial" or at least "not serious" (for his Captain admission in the transmitted report to his superior + as Adm.Santarini evaluated (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6728&p=79249&hilit= ... ial#p79249): who are we to say the contrary without having any solid argument ?).


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)

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Re: PoW readiness for active service

Post by Bill Jurens » Sat May 04, 2019 10:00 pm

I think it important to take into account the times at which various assessments of damage, on either side, were made. We have -- at least in the case of PoW -- one set of assessments made during the action itself, being made in some haste in the heat of battle from incomplete and probably somewhat contradictory statements, vs a set of assessments made later 'after the smoke had cleared', and more thorough examination(s) could be made. It's important, at least in my opinion, not to intermingle the two.

The same probably applies to Bismarck's damage -- at the time of the action the hit in the bow probably appeared fairly inconsequential. Almost certainly it was only after some time had passed, i.e. well 'after action', that the true extent and significance of the damage to the bow could be appreciated.

The quality of various tactical decisions, etc., can probably only be fairly assessed by evaluating what was known at the time, not on what was, or may not, have only been known sometime thereafter.

I'd once again ask various correspondents to exercise some restraint in order to avoid, as we have seen too many times before, a slow and highly unpleasant escalation of contempt for opposing arguments and posters.

My plan would not to physically lock the thread at this stage -- although it has occurred to me -- but to ask posters to observe a voluntary 24 hour 'time out' in order to allow tempers to cool, and perhaps allow some more careful thinking to be done. This voluntary moratorium would last from 20:00 Winnipeg time, Saturday 4 April to 20:00 Winnipeg time Sunday 5 April.

Bill Jurens

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