The Bismarck surrender option

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

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:30 am

Hello everybody,
coming back to the Bismarck surrender option,
HMSVF wrote: "Once her main armament is knocked out she is effectively defenceless." (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&start=30#p85025)
Absolutely correct: before the main guns were silenced, surrender would have contradict orders and duty (a concept Mr.Wadinga is unable to catch).

and: "should they have surrendered? "
I think that at this point in time, had the command chain on board been still in place, the ship could have been surrendered without dishonour.
As I have already noticed, Lutjens' last message says that he would have "fought up to the last shell", not that he would have "won or sunk with a waving flag". Just my personal opinion, of course.

However, by 9:30 (when all main guns were disabled), Lutjens and Lindemann were most probably already dead and nobody took this (anyway difficult) decision (only Oels could have).


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:37 am

Hello everybody,
Byron Angel wrote: "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." (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&start=30#p85027)
I absolutely agree: no similarity can be found with the surrender of a ship under enemy fire.



and: "IMO you're splitting hairs in pursuit of an unseemly lawyerly advantage in this case." (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&start=30#p85030)
Here I disagree: he is just venting his frustration for having been proven wrong also on British disciplinary legislation (Articles of War, NDA and King's Regs and Court Martials...), by grossly employing his nationalistic (British-are-better-whatever-they-do....) views and anti-nationalistic (incorrect) comments against Germans and Italians.

A shame anyway in an historical forum.


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

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Bill Jurens » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:17 pm

The discussion is interesting, but we appear to be once again slipping into excessively personal commentary.

Let's all try to turn down the personal heat a little.

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Byron Angel » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:59 pm

Some distinction worthy of note in connection with navies of the Sail Era -
> The great majority of sailors did not know how to swim.
> Life preservers did not exist.
> A ship's boats could accommodate only a small fraction of the crew (assuming that such boats remained seaworthy after an action).
> Hence, up until the time that the crew of a defeated ship was formally taken into captivity by the opponent, they relied upon a floating ship to preserve their very lives.

The naval powers of the Sail Era were more willing to consider "extenuating circumstances" when passing judgment in connection with the loss of a ship in battle - in particular, commanders of isolated ships run down by an overwhelming force were typically forgiven. For one thing, whether British or other nations, good sailors were valuable commodities and would often be recovered through prisoner exchanges.

B

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:23 am

Hello everybody,

I would add to all the correct points raised by Mr.Angel also the fact that sailing wooden ships were extremely difficult to be sunk by gunfire.

The gun shells (balls) were piercing the thick hull with extreme difficulty and, even when they did, the hole would be small (less than the diameter of the ball itself, as wood fibers tend to somehow "fix" the hole themselves) + it is easy to be patched .

The result is that you could have a dismasted ship (or a ship trapped and unable to maneuver anyway), unable to maneuver (thus to fire guns as well, because battery guns cannot be trained much fore and aft), exposed to the fire of another ship.
The "winning" ship could come toward her fragile stern and punish her, firing into the battery deck(s), killing a large number of gunners/sailors (there are cases where a ship surrendered after having lost (killed or woonded) half of her crew) but unable to sink her and to proceed with the rescue of survivors.

The above, plus Mr.Angel points, are the reasons why the "surrender" was more easily "justified" in the Sail Era by the following Court Martial.




So said, Bismarck situation after 9:30 AM on May 27 was quite the same as a "dismasted" sailing ship, whose guns were out of action, but difficult to be sunk ("Cannot get her sink with guns" as per Tovey's message), due to the firing distances combined to her inherent design/actual draft.
She could have been undoubtedly surrendered without dishonour after that time, once without guns and maneuvrability (since the day before).
As I said, however, by that time probably Lutjens was dead already and command chain disrupted on board.

IMO British were unable to stop firing and formally ask for surrender due to their own lack of fuel, bad weather/visibility and U-boats danger.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:14 pm

Fellow Contributors,

At the risk of being accused of being
in pursuit of an unseemly lawyerly advantage in this case.


I am (further) surprised by the idea that the acquisition of the enemy's hardware is foremost in people's minds when they accept the surrender of their opponents. This would be a war as waged by accountants.
Only the surviving crew were surrendered to the mercies of the victor.
"Gee, they have to feed and shelter our personnel at their cost and they don't get the monetary value of the wreck in return - it's like a "victory" in my profit and loss book".

In the age of sail prize money was a significant factor, but that was long, long ago and was irrelevant in the Modern Age . Like the Articles of warres.
How many German warships were actually ever physically captured by the Allies?
They scuttled themselves when they had the chance.
The act of surrender is to unilaterally stop fighting and offer no more resistance, in the hope that the enemy will stop killing your people and take them into captivity. That is the prime objective. That your former enemy will acquire your weapons of war, in whatever form, serviceable or destroyed, is largely immaterial. In ancient history things were somewhat different, the swords, shields and armour would suffer little harm and would be redistributed as "spoils of war", paraded through the streets etc.

In later wars, even to WWII the acquisition of large quantities of personal weapons, say rifles and suitable ammunition, when entire armies surrendered, was significant since they were often supplied to Allies. The Germans found the surrendered 38T Czech tanks very useful and pressed them into service.

A half sunk cruiser somewhere in the South Atlantic as were several of the examples I quoted as surrendering to reduce the further suffering of their crews, was of little or no use to the victors, and if their crews continued to offer resistance in a covert form by scuttling their vessel it was of no significance.

Other irrelevant examples of vessels being scuttled eg Lutzow are included, even though there is no question of her surrendering to anybody are paralleled by the many cases of British vessels destroyed to prevent them falling into enemy hands. After their crews have been taken off by friendly vessels. The objective has been to save the lives of the crew, not leave them in their disabled ship to make some pointless sacrifice for the glory of the flag (or the Fuhrer/ Emperor, whatever).
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
[ Offensive personal commentary deleted. Wadinga is cautioned. WJJ ]
a Commander is not "Master under God". Since his own death is an inescapable risk in action, what a Commander's superiors may think or do to him subsequently should be of little importance. They were not there, they cannot possibly know all the circumstances prevailing, they already gave him the sole responsibility to act. He alone is responsible for furthering the national goal and he assesses whether risk to his vessel therefore the lives of his crew is necessary to further that goal. If his command is no longer able to further that goal in any way, the survival of the men entrusted to him should become his prime concern.

[Inflammatory material deleted. WJJ]

What should be of interest is that during an action against enemies at nearly point blank range Bismarck scored no hits at all against Vian's tormenting destroyers. That torpedoes failed to hit in these conditions is not surprising. However IMHO it is entirely reasonable that it was because Bismarck was wallowing in synchronicity with the waves that her shooting was entirely ineffectual. When a ship is underway, she decouples herself to certain extent from wave action, but when her engines stop, she quickly assumes a motion related to the sea. Whilst Bismarck had a comparatively great metacentric height which many naiively assume made her a "stable" and superior gun platform, even with her great beam, she must as a result of buoyancy react to the seas. The downside of her great Metacentric height in long ocean swells would be a viciously quick rolling motion when stopped or running very slowly and thus not counteracting wave action with her own speed.

Lutjens would have been fully aware of how completely ineffectual his " completely functional armament" had proved to be in the night action when the Baron points out he could see his enemies perfectly. See but never hit them. With the arrival of Home Fleet battlewagons the following day, firing at distances maybe five times as great as those at which Bismarck was unable to hit anything, due to her wallowing and yawing, the Admiral could easily forecast what actually happened. It served no purpose other than to confirm Raeder's gloomy prediction at the beginning of the war. "Dying with Dignity".

The voyage of the Italian Navy from La Spezia towards La Maddallena in Sardinia (ie not Malta) in 1943 and the instructions from a decapitated Italian government which led to it deserve a dedicated thread. Let's open one it the relevant place. Likewise the delay in destroying the ships of the High Seas fleet whilst they still had some perceived value in the Versailles negotiations, and the timely enactment when they lost their value as bargaining chips.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Nov 06, 2019 2:06 pm

Hello everybody,

[Commentary deleted, and a caution issued. WJJ]




Coming to the topic,
Wadinga wrote: "Lutjens would have been fully aware of how completely ineffectual his " completely functional armament" had proved to be in the night action...
[Editorial commentary deleted. WJJ]

What fire against fast moving and turning destroyers at night has to do with an action against battleships in daylight ? Anyway Bismarck fire was not "completely ineffectual", as casualties were caused by her fire on Vian's destroyers while they could do nothing at all with their torpedoes to Bismarck despite she was sailing at 6 knots only...

Rodney and KGV were both straddled on May 27. Direct hits are also a matter of luck, but Bismarck could have still hit (and seriously damage) a British battleship despite her situation: the duty of Lutjens was to fight until it was clear he could not inflict any damage to the opponents.

[Potentially inflammatory commentary deleted. 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: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:27 pm

I am disappointed to see the continuation of a slide towards excessive editorialization and personal criticism of other participants, which in this case required that a caution be issued. If commentary is considered offensive, rather than attempt to retaliate immediately and directly -- which tends only to make things worse -- I would suggest offended participants contact me via private message and/or exercise a bit of patience, as I do not monitor postings on an hour-by-hour basis.

If offensive commentary continues, the thread will be locked, and further action taken as required.

Bill Jurens (as moderator)

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:00 pm

Hello everybody,

as my previous post has been censored and I have been cautioned once again (me only, of course), I will re-post it including the sentence that concluded it, without any potentially inflammatory commentary inside (at least until a personal historical judgemet of RN officers behavior is not considered "potentially inflammatory" under this forum system....).





Wadinga wrote: "Lutjens would have been fully aware of how completely ineffectual his " completely functional armament" had proved to be in the night action...
What fire against fast moving and turning destroyers at night has to do with an action against battleships in daylight ? Anyway Bismarck fire was not "completely ineffectual", as casualties were caused by her fire to Vian's destroyers while they could do nothing at all with their torpedoes to Bismarck despite she was sailing at 6 knots only...

Rodney and KGV were both straddled on May 27. Direct hits are also a matter of luck, but Bismarck could have still hit (and seriously damage) a British battleship despite her situation: the duty of Lutjens was to fight until it was clear he could not inflict any damage to the opponents.

Lutjens had inflicted an humiliating defeat to the Royal Navy before succumbing to overwhelming forces: we should try to recognise who (during this operation, on both sides) did things honourably and who did things in a less honourable way...



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

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:42 pm

Mr. Virtuani:

Please read some of the previous posts. If you do so, you will note that it was primarily Wadinga's commentary that was deleted/modifed, not your own, and that he was the one who was cautioned, not yourself.

Bill Jurens.

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by northcape » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:13 pm

Bill Jurens wrote:
Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:42 pm
Mr. Virtuani:

Please read some of the previous posts. If you do so, you will note that it was primarily Wadinga's commentary that was deleted/modifed, not your own, and that he was the one who was cautioned, not yourself.

Bill Jurens.
"Wie der Schelm denkt, so ist er." (my german-speaking colleagues will understand).

[Commentary in languages other than English may be useful, but can easily be misunderstood by others who are not fluent in that language. I would therefore request that such commentary be accompanied by a free translation into English prior to posting so that the intended meaning is clear. WJJ]

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by HMSVF » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:48 pm

wadinga wrote:
Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:14 pm
Fellow Contributors,

At the risk of being accused of being
in pursuit of an unseemly lawyerly advantage in this case.


I am (further) surprised by the idea that the acquisition of the enemy's hardware is foremost in people's minds when they accept the surrender of their opponents. This would be a war as waged by accountants.
Only the surviving crew were surrendered to the mercies of the victor.
"Gee, they have to feed and shelter our personnel at their cost and they don't get the monetary value of the wreck in return - it's like a "victory" in my profit and loss book".

In the age of sail prize money was a significant factor, but that was long, long ago and was irrelevant in the Modern Age . Like the Articles of warres.
How many German warships were actually ever physically captured by the Allies?
They scuttled themselves when they had the chance.
The act of surrender is to unilaterally stop fighting and offer no more resistance, in the hope that the enemy will stop killing your people and take them into captivity. That is the prime objective. That your former enemy will acquire your weapons of war, in whatever form, serviceable or destroyed, is largely immaterial. In ancient history things were somewhat different, the swords, shields and armour would suffer little harm and would be redistributed as "spoils of war", paraded through the streets etc.

In later wars, even to WWII the acquisition of large quantities of personal weapons, say rifles and suitable ammunition, when entire armies surrendered, was significant since they were often supplied to Allies. The Germans found the surrendered 38T Czech tanks very useful and pressed them into service.

A half sunk cruiser somewhere in the South Atlantic as were several of the examples I quoted as surrendering to reduce the further suffering of their crews, was of little or no use to the victors, and if their crews continued to offer resistance in a covert form by scuttling their vessel it was of no significance.

Other irrelevant examples of vessels being scuttled eg Lutzow are included, even though there is no question of her surrendering to anybody are paralleled by the many cases of British vessels destroyed to prevent them falling into enemy hands. After their crews have been taken off by friendly vessels. The objective has been to save the lives of the crew, not leave them in their disabled ship to make some pointless sacrifice for the glory of the flag (or the Fuhrer/ Emperor, whatever).
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
[ Offensive personal commentary deleted. Wadinga is cautioned. WJJ ]
a Commander is not "Master under God". Since his own death is an inescapable risk in action, what a Commander's superiors may think or do to him subsequently should be of little importance. They were not there, they cannot possibly know all the circumstances prevailing, they already gave him the sole responsibility to act. He alone is responsible for furthering the national goal and he assesses whether risk to his vessel therefore the lives of his crew is necessary to further that goal. If his command is no longer able to further that goal in any way, the survival of the men entrusted to him should become his prime concern.

[Inflammatory material deleted. WJJ]

What should be of interest is that during an action against enemies at nearly point blank range Bismarck scored no hits at all against Vian's tormenting destroyers. That torpedoes failed to hit in these conditions is not surprising. However IMHO it is entirely reasonable that it was because Bismarck was wallowing in synchronicity with the waves that her shooting was entirely ineffectual. When a ship is underway, she decouples herself to certain extent from wave action, but when her engines stop, she quickly assumes a motion related to the sea. Whilst Bismarck had a comparatively great metacentric height which many naiively assume made her a "stable" and superior gun platform, even with her great beam, she must as a result of buoyancy react to the seas. The downside of her great Metacentric height in long ocean swells would be a viciously quick rolling motion when stopped or running very slowly and thus not counteracting wave action with her own speed.

Lutjens would have been fully aware of how completely ineffectual his " completely functional armament" had proved to be in the night action when the Baron points out he could see his enemies perfectly. See but never hit them. With the arrival of Home Fleet battlewagons the following day, firing at distances maybe five times as great as those at which Bismarck was unable to hit anything, due to her wallowing and yawing, the Admiral could easily forecast what actually happened. It served no purpose other than to confirm Raeder's gloomy prediction at the beginning of the war. "Dying with Dignity".

The voyage of the Italian Navy from La Spezia towards La Maddallena in Sardinia (ie not Malta) in 1943 and the instructions from a decapitated Italian government which led to it deserve a dedicated thread. Let's open one it the relevant place. Likewise the delay in destroying the ships of the High Seas fleet whilst they still had some perceived value in the Versailles negotiations, and the timely enactment when they lost their value as bargaining chips.

All the best

wadinga
Hi Wadinga
I am (further) surprised by the idea that the acquisition of the enemy's hardware is foremost in people's minds when they accept the surrender of their opponents. This would be a war as waged by accountants

I don't think that at all. Would the British have had an interest in the German technology as a intelligence coup? Probably but in the event Bismarck ended up a charnel house and a seen of devastation. There could certainly be no repeat of HMS Graph (sorry I can't remember her U number).

My position on the survivors was simply that they wouldn't have been machine gunned by the British and would have been treated well. Ive read many times that ships fight ships as opposed to crew v crew.There are plenty of examples of good treatment, after all "there but for the grace of god"
Lutjens was definitely in an invidious position,as was Lindemann.They have a sense of duty to perform. They also have a crew of 2000. The reality is that they couldn't give up without firing a shot.

My personal opinion is that, from a purely human POV that she had struck her colours once effectively silenced. As pointed out the problem may have been that the men who could order that were mostly dead and those who weren't were below the armoured deck. Of course the other issue is that this whole scenario is reliant on no U-Boats firing on the rescuers. We know now that they would have been safe, but the British certainly didn't and they knew all too well the dangers of stopping to pick up survivors. The "Live Bait Squadron" disaster was only 27 years earlier and well within living service memory...

Best wishes


HMSVF

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by HMSVF » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:32 pm

I've been pondering over similar situations, which is difficult in the age of steam as there not that many and the Bismarck episode was a pretty unique set of circumstances.

Then I thought about the Battle of Coronel. Now this isn't the place for going over the what ifs of the battle itself. Thats a debate for another thread.

But...


Then I thought of HMS Monmouth


HMS Monmouth had actually hauled off and managed to put all her fires out. She had a 10 degree list, was down by the bows and was trying to get her stern towards the sea. Captain Brandt had apparently told Luce of HMS Glasgow to escape rather than try and tow her.


Unfortunately she then ran into a tardy SMS Nurnberg.

From the sketchy evidence we have, Nurnberg closed to close range, lit her up with her searchlights and fired a shot over her.

Her ensign remained raised.


She apparently then turned towards SMS Nurnberg in attempt to ram and it was at this point was put to the sword by the German cruiser.

HMS Monmouth had been battered, she had her fore turret blown off, she was down by the bow and listing. The sea was incredibly rough and the weather dirty. Was Captain Brandt right to continue on discovery and the offer to strike her colours? Whatever opinions held, we know that her entire crew died with the decision he made.

Would the Admiralty of 1914 been understanding to his predicament if he had surrendered?

Well that's an interesting question in itself.

I suspect not given the nature of the British press and the millstone of naval tradition. It was once said of Clowdsley Shovell - who managed to wreck his squadron on the Isles of Scilly, that the only reason he was remembered with affection was because "he had the wit to go down with his ship".



Best wishes HMSVF

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Nov 06, 2019 9:39 pm

Hello everybody,
Bill Jurens wrote: "Please read some of the previous posts. If you do so, you will note that it was primarily Wadinga's commentary that was deleted/modifed, not your own, and that he was the one who was cautioned, not yourself."
I stand corrected and I beg pardon: for the first time (since Mr.Jurens is moderator) also Mr.Wadinga has been cautioned...
After all the times when I have been the only one cautioned (after having been insulted), I admit I don't have any confidence in such a "moderator" anymore.

However, Mr.Jurens is wrong: if he read some of the previous posts, he will note that Mr.Wadinga has been "censored" twice while I have been three times (despite I had been provoked first) and that both of us have been "cautioned".... Am I wrong ?


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:03 pm

Hello everybody,

[Off-topic and potentially inflammatory material commentary deleted. WJJ]


Coming back to the topic, I agree with the content of all the other Mr.HMSVF's posts, especially with the conclusion regarding the millstone of the naval tradition: the tradition that is so difficult to be valued correctly, the same tradition that makes the RN superior to any other Navy in the world (until today, IMHO).


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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