The Bismarck surrender option

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

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 31, 2019 10:24 am

Hello everybody,
Herr Nilsson wrote: "I wonder if Nelson's behaviour on June 22nd 1798 is condemnable. In terms of Alberto's interpretation of the NDA: definitely."
It would have been, had Nelson been aware the sails in sight were French warships.... however, he did not know that and he just made a mistake, partially due to his lack of frigates. It's not my "interpretation": it's the text of the law (in 1798, the "Articles of War") to say that.

Troubridge and Wake-Walker lack of initiative in WWI and WWII could have been considered just such kind of "errors" only in case they did not know that the ships in sight were dangerous enemies.

I guess no decoration was given to Nelson for the "lack" of action on June 22, 1798, however...


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Herr Nilsson » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:08 pm

Well, Nelson simply ignored reports of subordinate captains....and so he didn't know that...

Anyway, searching for the German regulations I found out that the German one (Dienst an Bord=DAB) creates a dilemma. In case of enemy ships would also apply German regulations there was no loophole at all. It was forbidden to strike the own flag (and scuttling was just allowed when all weapons were silenced ammunition was expended) and the only way to end a battle without sinking an enemy ship was that the enemy would strike his flag. So every battle is literally a fight to the bitter end. In any case!

I think it's also remarkable that the German regulation does not know the words retreat and withdrawal, while retreat and withdrawal are common military tactics. The NDA is very similar in this regard: while it speaks about "improper withdrawal" (I think withdrawal of one single ship during a fight is meant) the whole document doesn't tolerate a withdrawal at all. So what's a proper withdrawal according to the NDA?
Regards

Marc

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:15 pm

Fellow Contributors,
Oh yes, I did. Is it you the Mr.Wadinga who wrote
But it is also me who wrote
Indeed death was not the sole punishment for mutiny in the British Navy but..
which has been ignored as if it were not there on the page.

We have to be clear when discussing German not British punishments which von Sponeck is involved.

Hans merely retreated, disobeying orders, using his decision making skills and initiative as a Commander, but he did not surrender. Lutjens arguably also disobeyed his specific orders by engaging British capital ships. Maybe he would have been jailed on return, if his superiors had been bone-headed enough to disapprove of his initiative, (such as it was), since he only really refused action with a damaged enemy, after 06:03, instead of starting earlier (well maybe he did). Although of course Bismarck's track was not recorded accurately in 1941, despite recent attempts to imagine up a substitute.

It was Theodor who promised to fight to Die Letze Granate, but actually didn't and surrendered the 90th Light Division, elite formation of the Afrika Korps. If he had fallen into Hitler's hands presumably he would have been shot.
The military Court correctly gives its sentence evaluating the "extenuating circumstances" (if any)
Although those British cases of mutiny I listed were convened under the terms of the NDA and fully lawful sentences of death were pronounced they were all ignored by the very body supposed to enforce them, many being reduced to only a year in prison. A law ignored because it is obsolete is not a law.
Their Lordships were responsible for the fate of these Naval men, not civil/political elements. They were sentenced to death under Military Law, Their Lordships overrode the sentences of their own courts because the Law was obsolete.
Finally an admission that the law is the Naval Discipline Act (this the Articles of War)
No, the articles of Warres as claimed by Antonio were no longer in force having been subsumed into the NDA long before, the provisions, judgements and sentences of which were ignored by Their Lordships as early as 1919. It seems circular letters, not even integrated into the KR, could disable parts of the NDA without requiring it to be submitted to Parliament for change.
This is the shame of the British side DS
Is as non-existent as when it was proposed here, so many years ago.

It is surprising that Kennedy the Father is held up as a shining example whilst his son is dismissed as a liar and perpetrator of "Fairy Tales" . That is worth investigating in a dedicated separate thread.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:37 pm

Hello everybody,

here a "wonderful" example of Mr.Wadinga refusal to admit his errors:

On October 29 at 1:39 AM Wadinga wrote: "there is only one penalty specified for mutiny, even mutiny without violence. Death." (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&start=15#p84993)

At 8:00 AM, on the same date I demonstrated to him that he was wrong (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&start=15#p84995)

At 5:29 PM he wrote that "Indeed death was not the sole punishment for mutiny..." without explicitly admitting his error (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&start=15#p85000), and he never did it afteward. I guess the words "I stand corrected. Mr.Virtuani is right" are too heavy for him to be pronounced... :wink:



However, let's close here the discussion and let's accept the above as his admission of having been totally wrong about the penalties foreseen for mutiny.


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:52 pm

Hello everybody,

thanks to Herr Nilsson for having clarified about the German disciplinary regulations, that seem to confirm that the duty of an officer was clear enough, making Raeder's directive more or less a kind "reminder" (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&p=84904&hilit=directive#p84904).
Were the ones he refers to in force in WWII and (if the info is available) from when to when ?

Herr Nilsson wrote: " The NDA is very similar in this regard: while it speaks about "improper withdrawal" (I think withdrawal of one single ship during a fight is meant) the whole document doesn't tolerate a withdrawal at all. So what's a proper withdrawal according to the NDA?"
I disagree about this interpretation. Withdrawal is applicable to every "Flag Officer, Captain, Commander or Officer commanding" and thus to a squadron as well as to a ship. Proper or improper is exactly how the "outdated and archaic" laws were already foreseeing situations where the interest of the country (not of the crew...) can be better safeguarded by a withdrawal then by a desperate fight.

This is why I always said that only a BofI/CM could have decided whether Leach retreat was proper or improper: you all know my personal (poor) evaluation.


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:28 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:07 pm

Hello everybody,
Wadinga wrote: "Lutjens arguably also disobeyed his specific orders by engaging British capital ships"
No, he did not, he was engaged by British forces that he could not escape in any way and had to accept the fight.

"Their Lordships were responsible for the fate of these Naval men, not civil/political elements. "
No, as in case of Nebogatoff (when the Tsar graced him...) I'm sure some cases happened in Britain too. E.g. at Spithead, a Royal Pardon overruled the Articles of War and nobody was punished, even if I'm not an expert of British legislation and "royal prerogative of mercy"...

"No, the articles of Warres as claimed by Antonio were no longer in force having been subsumed into the NDA long before"
No, they were included in the NDA 1866 but they were still the "Articles of War", revised already since 1860. They were fully in force, but sentences were pronounced taking into account the attenuating circumstances.

"It is surprising that Kennedy the Father is held up as a shining example whilst his son is dismissed as a liar and perpetrator of "Fairy Tales" "
surprising ? Why ? I don't believe in genetically inherited heroism, rectitude or cleverness, do you ? As a justification for Kennedy son, I would say that having had his father killed by Germans, he could have developed a tendency to see light in one side only....



Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Herr Nilsson » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:34 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:52 pm
Hello everybody,

thanks to Herr Nilsson for having clarified about the German regulations. Were the ones he refers to in force in WWII ?


Herr Nilsson refers to the ones from 1937 which was in force during the WWII.
Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:52 pm
Herr Nilsson wrote: " The NDA is very similar in this regard: while it speaks about "improper withdrawal" (I think withdrawal of one single ship during a fight is meant) the whole document doesn't tolerate a withdrawal at all. So what's a proper withdrawal according to the NDA?"
I disagree about this interpretation. Withdrawal is applicable to every "Flag Officer, Captain, Commander or Officer commanding" and thus to a squadron as well as to a ship.
Ok, yes you right.
Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 1:52 pm
Proper or improper is exactly how the "outdated and archaic" laws were already foreseeing situations where the interest of the country (not of the crew...) can be better safeguarded by a withdrawal then by a desperate fight.

This is why I always said that only a BofI/CM could have decided whether Leach retreat was proper or improper: you all know my personal (poor) evaluation.
That means you do agree, that the NDA isn't defining a (im)proper withdrawal. Doesn't that mean that the NDA isn't the proper law to judge Leach?
And isn't it possible that withdrawals could be considered to be proper without a BofI /CM by simply considering it proper?
Regards

Marc

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 31, 2019 2:43 pm

Hello everybody,

thanks to Herr Nilsson for the info: apparently in WWI the German Disciplinary Regulations were different, while in Britain they were the same since 1866 and till 1957.

Herr Nilsson wrote: "That means you do agree, that the NDA isn't defining a (im)proper withdrawal...."
The "proper" or "improper" judgement cannot be part of the law (as well as the definition of the "Ship of an Enemy which it may be his Duty to engage" download/file.php?id=3595): it depends on circumstances and the final judgement is the prerogative of the Court.

Of course it's possible not to have a BofI or a CM for withdrawal at all, based simply on the judgement of superiors, as it happened, for the well known "opportunity" reasons after the Bismarck Operation final success.

In case of Leach however the "path of orthodoxy" (as per correct G.Rhys-Jones's definition) would have meant automatic Court Martial.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by paul.mercer » Thu Oct 31, 2019 5:14 pm

Gentlemen,
I trust this last post is not going to lead us back to the topic of whether Capt Leach should have been Court Martialed after Denmark Strait!
Personally I think that if either Lutjens or Lindermann were still alive they could have realised that they were in an impossible situation and surrendered then scuttled

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Fri Nov 01, 2019 12:52 am

Hello Paul,

The Stealth Objective in this thread has always been about British regulations and therefore Leach and Wake-Walker, not German ones relating to Lutjens. The refusal to acknowledge or even discuss that German vessels or army formations did surrender or disobey orders despite an implicit and mystical higher regard for the "Military Code of Honour" is indicative of this. Any mention of Axis units surrendering or disobeying orders as an analogy to the choice Lutjens had is immediately hysterically denounced as "nationalistic", even when similar examples of British units are included.
No, he did not, he was engaged by British forces that he could not escape in any way and had to accept the fight.


When Lutjens realised the vessels coming towards him were capital ships (Hood and Prince of Wales) he should have made smoke and immediately disengaged, as ordered. As he previously criticised Hoffmann for not doing during Operation Berlin. Unless it is accepted that the recently-imagined DS track for Bismarck is incorrect and Lutjens did turn away immediately the first heavy calibre shells fell, he disobeyed orders, or more likely froze and failed to issue any significant instructions, until gunnery department annoyance at PoW being unfired at, redistributed PG's fire. The only time he apparently complied with his orders was sometime after Hood's destruction when he turned away from imaginary torpedoes and then continued to run at his highest useable speed away from the damaged PoW. By then he was complying with his orders as even at reduced speed his vessel was still faster than PoW. Previously it had been faster than either.

Later when Lutjens had run out of escape options and it was clear his ship could not even injure enemy ships at only 5 or 6,000 yds during Vian's attacks due to it wallowing and yawing helplessly in Atlantic swells, he might have considered his chances of causing any damage at all the following day to be near zero, and the deaths of 2,000 crew in a Gotterdammerung battle a pointless and nihilistic gesture.
even if I'm not an expert of British legislation
The writer has been claiming to be so for some time see para one above.

There is no indication of "Royal Pardons" in the 1919 cases I mentioned. The Death Sentences were arrived at with full knowledge of any extenuating circumstances and fully in line with the existing law, and were merely ignored by the naval authorities, because those laws were outmoded.
Indeed death was not the sole punishment for mutiny...
Was this statement in any way unclear?
And isn't it possible that withdrawals could be considered to be proper without a BofI /CM by simply considering it proper
Herr Nilsson is of course correct. Raeder's puerile, simplistic directive from the comfort of his office and phrased to mollify a furious Fuhrer gives no option to a Commander who must look into the eyes of the men under his command, holds their lives in his hands and must wrestle with his own conscience. There is no circumstance allowing anything but death before "dishonour". The Commander's power of decision is removed and he is reduced to an automaton.

The muddle over Berlin's instructions to Langsdorff as to whether he could let his vessel be interned has been discussed elsewhere. Raeder's directive was not a "kind" reminder but a cynical refusal to accept the realities of a field commander's position, and a reinforcement that a twisted and evil ideology saw no value in the lives of its servants.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by HMSVF » Sun Nov 03, 2019 2:06 pm

wadinga wrote:
Fri Nov 01, 2019 12:52 am
Hello Paul,

The Stealth Objective in this thread has always been about British regulations and therefore Leach and Wake-Walker, not German ones relating to Lutjens. The refusal to acknowledge or even discuss that German vessels or army formations did surrender or disobey orders despite an implicit and mystical higher regard for the "Military Code of Honour" is indicative of this. Any mention of Axis units surrendering or disobeying orders as an analogy to the choice Lutjens had is immediately hysterically denounced as "nationalistic", even when similar examples of British units are included.
No, he did not, he was engaged by British forces that he could not escape in any way and had to accept the fight.


When Lutjens realised the vessels coming towards him were capital ships (Hood and Prince of Wales) he should have made smoke and immediately disengaged, as ordered. As he previously criticised Hoffmann for not doing during Operation Berlin. Unless it is accepted that the recently-imagined DS track for Bismarck is incorrect and Lutjens did turn away immediately the first heavy calibre shells fell, he disobeyed orders, or more likely froze and failed to issue any significant instructions, until gunnery department annoyance at PoW being unfired at, redistributed PG's fire. The only time he apparently complied with his orders was sometime after Hood's destruction when he turned away from imaginary torpedoes and then continued to run at his highest useable speed away from the damaged PoW. By then he was complying with his orders as even at reduced speed his vessel was still faster than PoW. Previously it had been faster than either.

Later when Lutjens had run out of escape options and it was clear his ship could not even injure enemy ships at only 5 or 6,000 yds during Vian's attacks due to it wallowing and yawing helplessly in Atlantic swells, he might have considered his chances of causing any damage at all the following day to be near zero, and the deaths of 2,000 crew in a Gotterdammerung battle a pointless and nihilistic gesture.
even if I'm not an expert of British legislation
The writer has been claiming to be so for some time see para one above.

There is no indication of "Royal Pardons" in the 1919 cases I mentioned. The Death Sentences were arrived at with full knowledge of any extenuating circumstances and fully in line with the existing law, and were merely ignored by the naval authorities, because those laws were outmoded.
Indeed death was not the sole punishment for mutiny...
Was this statement in any way unclear?
And isn't it possible that withdrawals could be considered to be proper without a BofI /CM by simply considering it proper
Herr Nilsson is of course correct. Raeder's puerile, simplistic directive from the comfort of his office and phrased to mollify a furious Fuhrer gives no option to a Commander who must look into the eyes of the men under his command, holds their lives in his hands and must wrestle with his own conscience. There is no circumstance allowing anything but death before "dishonour". The Commander's power of decision is removed and he is reduced to an automaton.

The muddle over Berlin's instructions to Langsdorff as to whether he could let his vessel be interned has been discussed elsewhere. Raeder's directive was not a "kind" reminder but a cynical refusal to accept the realities of a field commander's position, and a reinforcement that a twisted and evil ideology saw no value in the lives of its servants.

All the best

wadinga


I get what your saying but doesn't the crazy dogma of human self sacrifice mean that Lutjens felt that he had little choice but to at least fire back at KGV and Rodney? I mean as a weapons platform she still had a functioning main armament. Just say that at Jutland HMS Malaya hadn't been able to swap supply from her contaminated tank and dropped speed to a point where she would have been caught by the HSF. I would imagine her commander would have fired everything - including the signalling gun, before going under. HMS Shark did fight to the end with her last 4 incher but the difference between these two examples is that they were part of a fleet action whereas Bismarck was alone, hundreds of miles from safety with no chance of rescue.

Where it (IMHO) opinion it gets slightly cloudier is when Bismarck has been completely pummelled but still has her flags flying. Once her main armament is knocked out she is effectively defenceless. Yes she has what's left of her secondaries but to be honest... So what. She is now an unseaworthy stationary hulk. At this point you would hope that "honour has been satisfied" and the survivors could be taken off when a surrender has been given and accepted. I agree with your point about Raedar (and Adolf) - its very easy to give orders like this from the safety of a warm office. Hitler certainly did exactly the same at Stalingrad, even going the point of promoting Paulus to field Marshall knowing full well that no German field Marshall had ever surrendered in the field. Paulus deserves credit for giving Adolf the 2 fingers and giving what was left of his army some chance (admittedly small) of survival.

Also,the British were not like the Japanese. Surrender wouldn't have meant death marches or building railways through jungle in brutal conditions and with brutal treatment. The Germans would have known this. They scuttled the vessel in any case so there was a recognition that they were finished. The RN were merely rearranging the debris by this point.Its at this point the question should be asked - should they have surrendered? The ship would still sink, they could surely have set off fewer charges to make her sink slower, and destroyed what was left (of anything not pulverised) that could be have been of interest to the RN.


Best wishes HMSVF

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Byron Angel » Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:11 pm

The German navy was really an institution of the 20th century. Whether or not an official Code of Conduct" document existed, the historical record pretty uniformly shows a captain fighting his ship to the very last extremity and then seeking to scuttle her if still afloat. Only the surviving crew were surrendered to the mercies of the victor.

Ships formally surrendered as a consequence of the parent state's formal war capitulation should not be counted in this calculus. It is a different matter.

B

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:31 pm

Fellow Contributors,

Byron's observation:
The German navy was really an institution of the 20th century.
should be split into three parts, The Imperial German Navy, the Reichsmarine and the Kriegsmarine. We have listed several examples of ships that struck their colours from the former, the middle organisation was fortunate enough to avoid such situations and whereas a number of submarines from the latter surrendered, including most notably U-570 which entered British service as HMS Graph, it must be admitted that few major Kriegsmarine vessels formally surrendered.

This statement
The "proper" or "improper" judgement cannot be part of the law (as well as the definition of the "Ship of an Enemy which it may be his Duty to engage" download/file.php?id=3595): it depends on circumstances and the final judgement is the prerogative of the Court.
is of course nonsense, since the only person with the experience and all the information available at the time, to decide about proper or improper action is the most senior commander on the spot. The wording employed by the NDA and its archaic forebears was intended to be used so that the Senior Officer present could use his judgement on his subordinates' actions, not to allow chair-bound pontificators to employ hindsight some time later except to approve his actions. One has to search back to 1702 and the failure of Admiral John Benbow's captains to support him to find the kind of case where this wording was intended to apply.

The idea that improved radio communications mean that some onshore luminary can override the Commander at sea's decisions, when they are in possession of a tiny proportion of the information that the man on the spot has at his disposal would make a nonsense of appointing officers at all. In the modern world of the remote-kill drone we have just that situation, but without the risk to one's own personnel.

Warships engaged and disabled in major fleet actions may keep alive the hope of rescue by their own side, but Bismarck was utterly alone, and her crew had many hours to contemplate their inevitable fate.

Unfortunately the Kriegsmarine's personnel were compelled to swear a personal oath of allegiance unto death to Adolf Hitler and his ideology, not the German state or flag. That ideology demanded nothing less than obedience and compliance. General Paulus supposedly had his own opinion about his options
"Für so einen Schweinehund wie den böhmischen Gefreiten erschieße ich mich nicht!"
He wasn't even that bothered about exactly where Hitler's birthplace was.

In any situation where a military force is ordered to surrender by some political authority the Field Commander still has a responsibility to make his decision whether to comply. He has ultimate responsibility for his command and his men's lives. He is not absolved by any higher authority. In the case mentioned, the Italian Navy was apparently heading for Sardinia to wait whilst a governmental power struggle resolved itself, in case orders were rescinded, but an attack by its former ally, and possession of its destination by Germans rerouted it to the safety of Malta.

Admiral Godroy sensibly demilitarised his French Navy ships at Alexandria in 1940 rather than die with his men in a vainglorious gesture for the Honneur of La Patrie Vichy.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:43 am

How many German warships were actually ever physically captured by the Allies? A couple of submarines that had been crippled and forced to the surface with no hope of escape. How many of those actually taken came about as a result of miscarried or forestalled scuttling efforts? After a captain had taken the decision to scuttle his command, exactly how weighty is the matter of raising a white flag in an attempt to save the remains of his crew?

All the German cruisers at the Falklands scuttled themselves. Bluecher scuttled herself. Koenigsberg, left a grounded wreck in the Rufiji Delta after the crew had stripped her and fled to join Von Lettow-Vorbeck. Emden fought to the last extremity and left herself a grounded wreck as well, with survivors of her crew undertaking an epic trans-Pacific voyage to return home. Lutzow scuttled herself. Graf Spee scuttled herself. Bismarck (arguably IMO) scuttled herself. Whether or not the captain accompanied his ship to the bottom was a matter of his sense of personal honor. The greatest German naval surrender was a voluntary self-internment of the HSF upon the orders of its national leadership. What did the ships of the HSF do later? They scuttled themselves when they had the chance. I don't know about you, but I sense a pattern here.

I love ya, Sean. But IMO you're splitting hairs in pursuit of an unseemly lawyerly advantage in this case.

Byron

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:19 am

Hello everybody,
Wadinga wrote: "When Lutjens realised the vessels coming towards him were capital ships (Hood and Prince of Wales) he should have made smoke and immediately disengaged"
Wrong. He had no choice to avoid confrontation: Suffolk was following him very closely, Norfolk was on his port side and Greenland ice on his starboard side.
Holland would have followed him back into the DS with only 1 knot speed advantage for Bismarck + 2 minutes turning time and loss of speed + the 2 cruisers vicinity....

As I said, Holland was one of the few admirals that were able to force axis ships to a confrontation they could not avoid in any way, a great merit that has been unduly forgotten when he was made the scapegoat for the British defeat.


"The writer has been claiming to be so for some time see para one above"
the "writer" is clearly just more expert than the above "respondr"....not an expert at all...


"There is no circumstance allowing anything but death before "dishonour""
evidently here we have a very different view of military honour... I have to acept Mr.Wadinga "loose" view of military duty concept.


"Raeder's directive was not a "kind" reminder but a cynical refusal to accept the realities of a field commander's position"
ask Herr Nilsson, who kindly posted the content of the German disciplinary rules: Lutjens had no choice as everybody has understood except the "respondent".


"the only person with the experience and all the information available at the time, to decide about proper or improper action is the most senior commander on the spot."
Mr.Wadinga seems to have a view of the Captain as a God without rules: it's not this way: a Captain is God during the action; after it, he has to answer to his superiors (and possibly to a Court Martial) if he had acted against the disciplinary law.....
As officers, we are taught this fact and we are told to be prepared to be judged (by someone superior to us even if not on the spot) for our actions.


"In the case mentioned, the Italian Navy was apparently heading for Sardinia to wait whilst a governmental power struggle resolved itself, in case orders were rescinded, but an attack by its former ally, and possession of its destination by Germans rerouted it to the safety of Malta.
Another false statement:
an order received from Supermarina, not the Fritz bombs persuaded the Italian Fleet to surrender instead of scuttling the ships... anti-nationalistic comments again from this guy, who insists to speak about things he does not know...



Bye, Alberto
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