Newcomer Seeking Answers

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

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jbhistory
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Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by jbhistory » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:07 am

Hello,

I am newly registered to this forum although I have followed it for many years. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult for me to find credible information on the Bismarck so I have turned here in an attempt to gather some answers for some questions I have had for so long.

My 1st question that I would like some help with has to do with this drawing by Thomas Webb for a William Garzke Article. The Main Battery positions are drawn as quoted "The orientation of the main battery turrets has been corroborated in detail by survivor testimony." I am wondering if someone has any information regarding the accuracy of the bearings of the turrets in this drawing.

Here is the picture
http://www.navweaps.com/index_inro/INRO_Bismarck.php

The reason for why this is significant to me is that if Anton and Bruno are in fact on such drastically different bearings, then it would lead me to believe that both turrets could not have been disabled by a single shell the way it has been suggested. This would lead me to believe that a more reasonable explanation would be that the Main Gun Director and Forward Command being wiped out most likely caused both of the forward batteries to be down due to lack of fire control and command. Obviously at some point, the turrets were hit and disabled, I just don't believe it to be done by one shell at 0902. This theory could also be somewhat reinforced by Rechburgs memoirs where he said he spent significant time trying to figure out where command of the ship was as well. Rechburg said he received Fire Control orders around 0915. This would mean that Bismarcks main battery was without fire control/command for around 10 minutes.

Any ideas or information that could help on all this? Thanks.

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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by Byron Angel » Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:37 am

Welcome aboard, sir.
You raise an interesting question indeed - one that (to the best of my knowledge) has not been closely investigated here, since we have been mainly fixated upon the drama played out on 24 May. Some thoughts and speculation strictly off the top of my head -

> Was the fire of both forward turrets necessarily being directed upon the same target or were they engaging different targets?

> If both turrets were engaging a single target, but simultaneously fell silent after a single particular hit, is it possible that the hit severed or interrupted the FC circuits to both turrets, with communication to one turret having been repaired sooner than that of the other.

I am somewhat skeptical that a single hit could have either destroyed or otherwise disabled both turrets, but I do not totally dismiss it as an outright impossibility; strange things have happened in naval engagements.

Rgds / Byron

p.s. - Please forgive the occasional outbursts of intemperate language that have graced our pages at times. We are doing our best to restore the fraternity and collegiality that has traditionally graced the forum.

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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Apr 21, 2019 2:44 pm

Bismarck's (surface) fire control positions were as follows:

Foretop: Battle station of 1st artillery officer.

Forward computer room below the main armoured deck: Battle station of 2nd artillery officer. This was the "brain" of the central firecontrol system. It was not an exposed location. From this facility, and also the aft location, the turrets and guns could be layed through a remote power control system. Furthermore, this facility was still intact and able to communicate when the Baron was instructed to take over command of the main battery, because the order came from there. This station was adjacent to what was essentially a combat information center/damage control center, which was the battle station of the first officer and the ship was fought from that facility if anything happened to the top side command locations.

Conning tower: Battle station of the 3rd AO. It was customary on Bismarck to direct the secondary batteries from there. However, any of the firecontrol stations top side could direct any of the ship's gun batteries and/or provide data to the gunnery computer centers.

Aft fire control location: Battle station of the 4th AO

Aft computer room below the main armoured deck. Was there a 5th AO?

Additionally, each of the main battery turrets (with the exception of Anton) had optical equipment for local control. The fact that the optical equipment were removed from Anton may be of interest here. If Bruno was disabled, and the forward director locations were also disabled, Anton would be left with no reliable targeting data, unless it received data from either computer room, which would first need to receive range and bearing data from a top side facility. Anton may have been functional but left out of the loop, explaining the loss of forward battery, but Anton still firing intermittently on separate targets at different times. It could not practically exercise local control by itself.
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.

jbhistory
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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by jbhistory » Sun Apr 21, 2019 7:01 pm

Byron Angel wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:37 am
Welcome aboard, sir.
You raise an interesting question indeed - one that (to the best of my knowledge) has not been closely investigated here, since we have been mainly fixated upon the drama played out on 24 May. Some thoughts and speculation strictly off the top of my head -

> Was the fire of both forward turrets necessarily being directed upon the same target or were they engaging different targets?

> If both turrets were engaging a single target, but simultaneously fell silent after a single particular hit, is it possible that the hit severed or interrupted the FC circuits to both turrets, with communication to one turret having been repaired sooner than that of the other.

I am somewhat skeptical that a single hit could have either destroyed or otherwise disabled both turrets, but I do not totally dismiss it as an outright impossibility; strange things have happened in naval engagements.

Rgds / Byron

p.s. - Please forgive the occasional outbursts of intemperate language that have graced our pages at times. We are doing our best to restore the fraternity and collegiality that has traditionally graced the forum.
Thank you for the reply.

1) To my knowledge both of the forward turrets were under the control of 1st AO Adalbert Schneider in the main gun control station on the foretop. He was directing fire on Rodney. If I remember correctly Rechberg mentions that the decision was made not to split Bismarck's fire, so it would make sense to me that if both turrets were knocked out at the same time, then they both should be on similar bearings. On this link it is quoted "Obviously not considering dividing our fire, he continued to concentrate on Rodney." https://www.world-war.co.uk/bismarck_story.php3

2) This is a possibility and perhaps someone could help with this. I do not know much about the layout of all of Bismarck's comm lines and electrical circuits. I do know that the main comm lines were heavily armored and ran from the Conning Tower down into the Citadel. I believe it is the same shaft that Survivor Joseph Staatz used to reach topside.

Perhaps we could find someone who might have some in depths knowledge on this area.

jbhistory
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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by jbhistory » Sun Apr 21, 2019 7:17 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
Sun Apr 21, 2019 2:44 pm
Bismarck's (surface) fire control positions were as follows:

Foretop: Battle station of 1st artillery officer.

Forward computer room below the main armoured deck: Battle station of 2nd artillery officer. This was the "brain" of the central firecontrol system. It was not an exposed location. From this facility, and also the aft location, the turrets and guns could be layed through a remote power control system. Furthermore, this facility was still intact and able to communicate when the Baron was instructed to take over command of the main battery, because the order came from there. This station was adjacent to what was essentially a combat information center/damage control center, which was the battle station of the first officer and the ship was fought from that facility if anything happened to the top side command locations.

Conning tower: Battle station of the 3rd AO. It was customary on Bismarck to direct the secondary batteries from there. However, any of the firecontrol stations top side could direct any of the ship's gun batteries and/or provide data to the gunnery computer centers.

Aft fire control location: Battle station of the 4th AO

Aft computer room below the main armoured deck. Was there a 5th AO?

Additionally, each of the main battery turrets (with the exception of Anton) had optical equipment for local control. The fact that the optical equipment were removed from Anton may be of interest here. If Bruno was disabled, and the forward director locations were also disabled, Anton would be left with no reliable targeting data, unless it received data from either computer room, which would first need to receive range and bearing data from a top side facility. Anton may have been functional but left out of the loop, explaining the loss of forward battery, but Anton still firing intermittently on separate targets at different times. It could not practically exercise local control by itself.
Hello,

I thought that the Forward Gun Station in the conning tower was under 2nd AO Helmut Albrecht and that there wasn't a 3 AO. Instead the 3 AO was the Flak and AA officer. I am not sure if there is a 5th AO. Perhaps we could find information on all of this as well.

The last part is exactly what my theory is. I am thinking that Bruno was knocked out by a hit but Anton was still operable. however due to lack of fire control Anton was not able to effectively target. Perhaps at some point Anton received some target information from one of the Computer rooms and attempted to lay bearing before being disabled. This would explain why the 2 forward turrets were on such different bearings. Of course its just a theory.

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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by Bill Jurens » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:11 am

I can respond only briefly at this point. I’ve worked on these drawings recently. The Webb illustration should not be considered as other than a rough artist’s impression. It’s not a research tool.
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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by jbhistory » Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:52 am

Bill Jurens wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:11 am
I can respond only briefly at this point. I’ve worked on these drawings recently. The Webb illustration should not be considered as other than a rough artist’s impression. It’s not a research tool.
Bill Jurens
Yes I don't consider the illustration to necessarily be accurate. I was wondering if anyone had information as to how accurate the positioning of the main battery is. So based on your knowledge, do you have an idea of what the front 2 main battery positions would have been? And based on your research could you give me an idea of what happened to Bismarck shortly after 0900? Do you think that both turrets were disabled by one shell or do you have another idea perhaps?

Thanks

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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by Bill Jurens » Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:25 am

I am back with my files now, and beginning the catch-up process.

So far as the simultaneous loss of two turrets is concerned, I don't think there is enough real evidence around to come to any definitive conclusion. There are a few anecdotal reports that describe a flash of flame etc. in the vicinity of Anton and Bruno, which suggests -- but by no means comes close to proving -- that a propellant fire was involved.

So far as the magazines go, the geometry is roughly as follows:

The propellant magazines are located on the Upper Platform Deck, with the 95 mm thick armor deck above. The Upper Platform at the point of interest is roughly 7.8 meters above the baseline at this point, i.e. about 2 meters below the designed waterline. The armored deck is about 10.28 meters above the baseline, i.e. about a half-meter above the designed waterline. Bismarck’s draft at the time of the final engagement is, so far as I know, unknown, although it would seem reasonable to assume that the burnt fuel and flooding from previous damage would have roughly balanced out.

The loading space “Beladeraum” for Turret Bruno is compartment XVI 7a.29 located on the centerline between frames 170 and 179. It is served by a propellant magazine also located on the centerline, compartment no. XVII 8.29 located between Frames 179 and 182.33. There is a single door 380 mm wide, opening forward, between the two, plus two propellant-passing hatches and a loading hatch in the overhead.


The loading space for Turret Anton is compartment XVIII 7a.29 located on the centerline between Frames 182.88 and 196.88. It is served by a propellant magazine also located on the centerline, compartment no. XVII 8.30 located between Frames 182.33 and 182.88. There is a single door 380 mm wide, opening aft, between the two, plus two propellant-passing hatches and a loading hatch in the overhead.

The propellant magazines are thus separated by a single essentially un-pierced bulkhead located at Frame 182.33.

Assuming one rules out a single projectile somehow simultaneously piercing the armor of two rather heavily armored turrets, it would seem most likely if two turrets were simultaneously disabled, a propellant burn would have started in one turret, probably via projectile ingress, proceeded downward through that turret, passed forward or aft through the propellant magazines on the Upper Platform deck, thereafter passing upward through the heretofore unaffected turret.
In my opinion, this is unlikely insofar as a propellant burn passing through the magazines, and via overpressure or otherwise penetrating the bulkhead at Frame 188.23 would probably – though not certainly – created a catastrophic explosion before venting could occur. The state of the doors between the loading rooms and the magazines is, of course, unknown, but it is likely they were closed. The direction of the door swings indicates that they were designed to vent from magazine to handling space under overpressure failure, which is – at least in most eyes – the better option.

It is my suspicion that an incoming projectile penetrated the turret or barbette and compromised the loading chain in either Turret Anton or Bruno and that one turret probably burned out first, venting (as designed) upward and overboard. The adjacent turret, though it may have burned out later, was most likely disabled via the destruction of equipment in the turret that was first lost, either through the loss of common components or via inability to access backup equipment. It is possible that a projectile may have penetrated the 95mm deck armor in the propellant magazine overhead, though the tactical situation and the configuration of heavy armor in the vicinity, renders this, at least in my opinion, somewhat unlikely.

The exact final orientation of the turrets during the sinking is somewhat problematical. Only isolated reports exist, and many of these contradictory, unclear, or only general in nature. It might be possible -- at great cost -- to examine the revolving mechanisms of the turrets themselves, which are at least partially visible for examination, or to send a small robot submarine deep into the barbettes, where a very close examination might reveal clues as to where the revolving portions were actually oriented when they failed, i.e. when they slid clear of the main hull. Videotape records exist of a penetration very deep into the barbette of either Caesar or Dora – I can’t remember which – but I have no really clear detailed recollection of what I saw there.

Descriptions of the elevation of individual gun tubes when the turrets failed, where and if they exist, are unlikely to be of other than anecdotal interest, and are probably not really recoverable via examination of the wreckage on the bottom, as most of the tubes are buried in the silt.

I hope this helps at least a little bit...

Bill Jurens

jbhistory
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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by jbhistory » Fri Apr 26, 2019 5:32 pm

Bill Jurens wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:25 am
I am back with my files now, and beginning the catch-up process.

So far as the simultaneous loss of two turrets is concerned, I don't think there is enough real evidence around to come to any definitive conclusion. There are a few anecdotal reports that describe a flash of flame etc. in the vicinity of Anton and Bruno, which suggests -- but by no means comes close to proving -- that a propellant fire was involved.

So far as the magazines go, the geometry is roughly as follows:

The propellant magazines are located on the Upper Platform Deck, with the 95 mm thick armor deck above. The Upper Platform at the point of interest is roughly 7.8 meters above the baseline at this point, i.e. about 2 meters below the designed waterline. The armored deck is about 10.28 meters above the baseline, i.e. about a half-meter above the designed waterline. Bismarck’s draft at the time of the final engagement is, so far as I know, unknown, although it would seem reasonable to assume that the burnt fuel and flooding from previous damage would have roughly balanced out.

The loading space “Beladeraum” for Turret Bruno is compartment XVI 7a.29 located on the centerline between frames 170 and 179. It is served by a propellant magazine also located on the centerline, compartment no. XVII 8.29 located between Frames 179 and 182.33. There is a single door 380 mm wide, opening forward, between the two, plus two propellant-passing hatches and a loading hatch in the overhead.


The loading space for Turret Anton is compartment XVIII 7a.29 located on the centerline between Frames 182.88 and 196.88. It is served by a propellant magazine also located on the centerline, compartment no. XVII 8.30 located between Frames 182.33 and 182.88. There is a single door 380 mm wide, opening aft, between the two, plus two propellant-passing hatches and a loading hatch in the overhead.

The propellant magazines are thus separated by a single essentially un-pierced bulkhead located at Frame 182.33.

Assuming one rules out a single projectile somehow simultaneously piercing the armor of two rather heavily armored turrets, it would seem most likely if two turrets were simultaneously disabled, a propellant burn would have started in one turret, probably via projectile ingress, proceeded downward through that turret, passed forward or aft through the propellant magazines on the Upper Platform deck, thereafter passing upward through the heretofore unaffected turret.
In my opinion, this is unlikely insofar as a propellant burn passing through the magazines, and via overpressure or otherwise penetrating the bulkhead at Frame 188.23 would probably – though not certainly – created a catastrophic explosion before venting could occur. The state of the doors between the loading rooms and the magazines is, of course, unknown, but it is likely they were closed. The direction of the door swings indicates that they were designed to vent from magazine to handling space under overpressure failure, which is – at least in most eyes – the better option.

It is my suspicion that an incoming projectile penetrated the turret or barbette and compromised the loading chain in either Turret Anton or Bruno and that one turret probably burned out first, venting (as designed) upward and overboard. The adjacent turret, though it may have burned out later, was most likely disabled via the destruction of equipment in the turret that was first lost, either through the loss of common components or via inability to access backup equipment. It is possible that a projectile may have penetrated the 95mm deck armor in the propellant magazine overhead, though the tactical situation and the configuration of heavy armor in the vicinity, renders this, at least in my opinion, somewhat unlikely.

The exact final orientation of the turrets during the sinking is somewhat problematical. Only isolated reports exist, and many of these contradictory, unclear, or only general in nature. It might be possible -- at great cost -- to examine the revolving mechanisms of the turrets themselves, which are at least partially visible for examination, or to send a small robot submarine deep into the barbettes, where a very close examination might reveal clues as to where the revolving portions were actually oriented when they failed, i.e. when they slid clear of the main hull. Videotape records exist of a penetration very deep into the barbette of either Caesar or Dora – I can’t remember which – but I have no really clear detailed recollection of what I saw there.

Descriptions of the elevation of individual gun tubes when the turrets failed, where and if they exist, are unlikely to be of other than anecdotal interest, and are probably not really recoverable via examination of the wreckage on the bottom, as most of the tubes are buried in the silt.

I hope this helps at least a little bit...

Bill Jurens
Thank you for this well detailed and informative response. So some follow up questions.

If the turrets were disabled in this manner. Would you lean on this being a defect in Bismarck's design or would you lean more on it being good Gunnery from British Crews?

Also, would you happen to have infomration on the Fire Control Officers and their stations? We know that 1AO Schneider was in the Main Director on the foretop (to my knowledge killed by an 8 inch shell from Norfolk just after 0900). And 4thAO Rechberg was in the Aft Director (knocked out around 0920ish if I remember but survived.) Is there information on where and how 2nd AO Albrecht was stationed and killed? And where/who were the other Artillery Officers?

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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by alecsandros » Fri Apr 26, 2019 5:46 pm

Bill Jurens wrote:
Fri Apr 26, 2019 1:25 am

The exact final orientation of the turrets during the sinking is somewhat problematical. Only isolated reports exist, and many of these contradictory, unclear, or only general in nature. It might be possible -- at great cost -- to examine the revolving mechanisms of the turrets themselves, which are at least partially visible for examination, or to send a small robot submarine deep into the barbettes, where a very close examination might reveal clues as to where the revolving portions were actually oriented when they failed, i.e. when they slid clear of the main hull. Videotape records exist of a penetration very deep into the barbette of either Caesar or Dora – I can’t remember which – but I have no really clear detailed recollection of what I saw there.

Descriptions of the elevation of individual gun tubes when the turrets failed, where and if they exist, are unlikely to be of other than anecdotal interest, and are probably not really recoverable via examination of the wreckage on the bottom, as most of the tubes are buried in the silt.

I hope this helps at least a little bit...

Bill Jurens
FWIW,
Some older discussions revolved around two possible mechanisms through which both forward turrets were simultaneously disabled (at least temporarily, as some reports describe turret Bruno firing one more time at around 9:30).
1) Possible double hit from Rodney or KGV (meaning 2 simultaneous impacts from the same salvo - a rare , but possible occurence, especially as range was probably down to 15 or 16km)
2) Possible glancing hit from Rodney or KGV (meaning 1 shock hit on turret Anton's inclined upper-side, or directly against her top, which ricochetted against Bruno's front, further disabling this one by shock again. There are well known instances of heavy battleship turret being disabled by shock hits all over the WW2 - and at least two instances that I remember concerned projectiles that retained considerable kinetic energy and/or capacity to explode, after the impact with the turret, which was disabled by shock).

The geometry of the battle at 8:58/9:02 would have significantly improved chances of glancing hits, IMHO.

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Re: Newcomer Seeking Answers

Post by Bill Jurens » Fri Apr 26, 2019 7:02 pm

jbhistory wrote:

"If the turrets were disabled in this manner. Would you lean on this being a defect in Bismarck's design or would you lean more on it being good Gunnery from British Crews?"

Neither. I don't think think the Bismarck design was in any significant way superior or inferior to any of the other capital ship designs of the period. How well a given design performed in actual combat largely revolved around circumstance.

There is no evidence that I am aware of that suggests that British gunnery was particularly good or bad during the final action. Even in carefully-controlled target shoots it was not unusual to find fairly substantive differences in results. I am sure that the British were not, except during the very final stages of the action when Bismarck was already disabled, aiming at anything other than the ship as a whole, so the precise impact point of various shells was essentially statistical and random in nature. My examinations of the secondary armament -- the main armament being buried in the mud -- suggests that in what must have been late in the action the British cruisers probably systematically ensured the individual secondary armament turrets were disabled, and probably quite systematically targeted parts of the superstructure as well.

Bill Jurens

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