Bismarck Myths

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.
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RNfanDan
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby RNfanDan » Thu Nov 25, 2010 2:30 pm

RF wrote:I am also curious about the claim about ''two hundred dead'' caused by the PE hit on Hood at the base of the control tower. How can we be sure that that number of men were sheltering there? How do we know for sure that they were all killed?


Now I do not want this to be taken the wrong way...I sincerely mean no offense, but it seems to me that answering these questions is a pointless exercise. Whether the men died at that moment or within the next few minutes after the shell hit, the proof of their death is that only three Hood survivors ever came home from the battle.

The rest is pedantic, in my opinion.
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby Djoser » Sat Nov 27, 2010 6:39 am

I see the point you are trying to make--and indeed those men were dead one way or another, within a few moments.

However, what we are trying to do is establish the true combat effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Bismarck--and specifically her gunnery. This is a legitimate historical concern, especially on a forum such as KBismarck...

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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:50 pm

Winston Churchill, who regarded Bismarck as a "masterpiece of naval construction" ordered every available British naval asset in the Atlantic to be put in the hunt and destruction of Bismarck. The Admiralty ordered, after Denmarck Straits, that no single battleship engaged, alone, the Bismarck, but only when numerical superiority was achieved. Even when Bismarck was damaged and un manouverable, the British approached her with two ballteships plus a fleet of lesser ships.

Historically, that's the only circumstance (aside froom the USN preparations to deal with Yamato at Ten Ichi Go) in which those preparations were of such monumental proportions. Of course, it was Churchill and his officers those that evaluated the threat of the "masterpiece in naval construction" represented to the Empire. England just lost 1,100 + men at Denmarck Straits: they knew Bismarck's gunnery was not a "rethorical" exercise or a "formula application" of what a battleship "could" or "might" do, but of what she already did and could repeat again.

Also, that's why Tirpitz remained as a "fleet in being" for the allies in Norway. Several allied capital ships, in numerical superiority as usual, were always "standing" and awaiting Tirpitz to come out. That's why bombers, submarines, and whatever means were used to sink her. That's why they used a "super heavy bomb" to sunk her. They used it because they knew what they were dealing about.

None of what I have wrote here is a "myth", they are historical events.
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby JtD » Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:12 pm

One masterpiece of naval construction got disabled by a biplane and the other destroyed a weather station before being bombed into destruction without ever engaging one of the numerous naval targets in its vicinity.

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RF
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby RF » Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:57 pm

The hinge of fate, is it not?

Tirpitz did actually achieve more than simply bombarding a weather station.....
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby paulcadogan » Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:54 am

What you have here is both sides reacting to the losses they incurred on 24th and 27th May 1941 very understandably...

The trauma caused by the swift sinking of the Hood to the British psyche in indisputable. Naturally any subsequent approach to the ship that accomplished this feat (or her sister) would involve the greatest caution.

The German fear of a repeat of May 27 made them keep Tirpitz under wraps - especially after the actual experience of a potential repeat in 1942 when she got through Victorious' torpedo bomber attack unscathed and avoided a mauling by King George V, Duke of York and Renown. They also knew her psychological effect on the British, and used that to their advantage. Tirpitz destroyed PQ17 without firing a shot, or risking herself. Just the thought that she was at sea and Admiral Pound ordered the convoy's escort to flee and the convoy to scatter - straight into the arms of the U-boats and Luftwaffe.

The myth of invincibility - applied to Hood as much as it did Bismarck (and Titanic and Yamato). Contrary to what many believe, Hood did demonstrate her deadly power - she sank a battleship (of her era) with her very first salvo fired in anger and crippled another (modern and underway) within less than 10 minutes. But the circumstances were such that credit would never be given for this "accomplishment". Bismarck in her turn, exploded (pun intended!) the myth of Hood's invincibility, only to have her own myth torpedoed by an obsolescent Swordfish torpedo bomber.

The myths (i.e. beliefs that are greater than the facts) associated with Hood and Bismarck, however, will never efface the fact that they are and always will be LEGENDARY!!

Paul
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby paul.mercer » Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:17 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:Winston Churchill, who regarded Bismarck as a "masterpiece of naval construction" ordered every available British naval asset in the Atlantic to be put in the hunt and destruction of Bismarck. The Admiralty ordered, after Denmarck Straits, that no single battleship engaged, alone, the Bismarck, but only when numerical superiority was achieved. Even when Bismarck was damaged and un manouverable, the British approached her with two ballteships plus a fleet of lesser ships.


Gentlemen,
The Admiralty might have ordered it, but if Rodney had come accross Bismarck (which she nearly did) I cannot believe that she would not have engaged, the same applies had KGV met Bismarck on her own, the RN does not have a history of running away.

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RF
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby RF » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:25 am

And there was of course that infamous Admiralty inquiry to Wake-Walker about POW re-engaging Bismarck.....
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby Thorsten Wahl » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:35 am

torpedoed by an obsolescent Swordfish torpedo bomber


the swordfish was not the weapon its only the carrier like Submarine, torpedoboat, Destroyer and Aircraft. Only the carried torpedo caused damage to the ship independent from its supporting system,
But In general a faster and/or a more maneuverable and/or a invisible carrier is likely to have the better chances to put the weapon on a certain target.

If the t. hits critical equipment like screws or rudder - even weaponry or watertight integrity is not affected- without help from other ships, any lone ship is doomed.
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby paulcadogan » Wed Dec 01, 2010 1:50 pm

Thorsten Wahl wrote:the swordfish was not the weapon its only the carrier like Submarine, torpedoboat, Destroyer and Aircraft. Only the carried torpedo caused damage to the ship independent from its supporting system,


Hang on there Thorsten.... Bismarck vs. Hood...."the Bismarck was not the weapon, it's only the carrier.... Only the 15-inch shell caused the damage to the ship independent from its supporting system."

The Bismarck with her capabilities of her gunnery crew, delivered the 15-inch shell onto its target and found a weakness in the mythically invincible Hood. The slow, flimsy Swordfish was able with its pilots skill to approach and successfully deliver a torpedo into the "fire-spitting mountain" of the mythically invincible Bismarck and find a weakness.. (and live to tell the tale!)

The weapon's effect is very dependent on its supporting system and the defences of its target.
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby RNfanDan » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:15 am

I think Thorsten's point is being missed here. His response seems directed toward the original poster's emphasis on "an obsolescent Swordfish", as if the Swordfish (the delivery system) was the actual weapon that felled the mighty Bismarck.

In effect, Paul's rebuttal only further strengthens Thorsten's case. Once the torpedo was released --i.e., separated from its delivery system-- the issue of whether or not the Swordfish was obsolescent, IMHO, became rather academic.

If a more modern, faster aircraft, or a submarine, or an MTB had delivered the torpedo to its launching point, it really didn't matter much.

Respectfully,

Dan
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby phil gollin » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:47 am

Karl Heidenreich wrote:
............ The Admiralty ordered, after Denmarck Straits, that no single battleship engaged, alone, the Bismarck, but only when numerical superiority was achieved. ..............



Do you have a reference for that claim ?

.

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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby wadinga » Thu Dec 02, 2010 12:15 pm

All,

Karl will struggle to comply since the instruction was only to Somerville in battlecruiser Renown, Captain McGrigor relayed the message to the crew over the Tannoy that he had Admiralty orders not to engage unless KG V or Rodney were already in action. Hit First, Hit Hard Peter C Smith 1979 This is how Myths are created.

Of course the apparently obsolescent, but actually quite rugged and capable Swordfish WAS the weapon which crippled the mighty Nazi Death Star. Flying conditions were so bad that perhaps only a carrier aircraft with the low take off and landing speeds of the Fairey design could have operated in the prevailing weather. Avengers might have dropped into the sea having failed to reach launch speed or smashed themselves to bits trying to get in over Ark Royal's gyrating round-down at too-high a landing speed. The Swordfish Esmonde commanded stood no chance in the Channel in 1942, but they might have been just the right weapons system in May 1941 in the storm tossed Atlantic and with no fighter opposition.

As for Lindemann quotes, reflecting on the myth of Bismarck's invincibility, I personally much prefer to contrast the end of his commissioning speech " Führer command, we obey! Adolf Hitler, our Führer and supreme commander, Sieg-Heil! (singing of Deutschlandlied, Horst Wessel Lied and last verse of Englandlied.) with perhaps his last recorded words "Ach, do as you like!" Myth Busted!

BTW I wonder whether the bridge hit on PoW was an 8" not a 15". The mast leg hit at virtually the same time (same salvo?) was identified as an 8" from the edges of the hole, and the shell which went through the Compass Platform killed many but caused comparatively little actual damage. It came in through a window. The exit hole is so ragged as to say little about calibre. It may have even exploded in the air ( witness observation) after it exited, more like an HE than an AP whose fuse would probably not even have activated.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:42 pm

wadinga:

Karl will struggle to comply since the instruction was only to Somerville in battlecruiser Renown, Captain McGrigor relayed the message to the crew over the Tannoy that he had Admiralty orders not to engage unless KG V or Rodney were already in action. Hit First, Hit Hard Peter C Smith 1979 This is how Myths are created.


Nevertheless the order was given in an explicit way. We also have PoW actions after DS when shadowing Bismarck with the two cruisers, always avoiding a surface action with Bismarck: closing a bit, firing a bit, and as soon Bismarck answered it went out of range. Obviously in waiting for reinforcements to approach and attack with numerical superiority. I doubt that a battleship captain would act that way without any orders.

As for the shot that hit PoW's compass platform, if it was 8" or 15" the fact remains that PoW was being hit continously after Hood's destruction at 6:00 am. Six shots found their target until PoW disengaged, some of it's guns malfunctioning, into a cloud of it's own smoke. It is tempting to try to minimize this, specially when refering to the agressive Royal Navy's brand new battleship, however I would like to see that, if the same situation is reversed, what would be the opinions of those minimalists of this actions? Very likely they would state, without any doubt, that the German captain knew he would be destroyed so he decided to withdraw, more or less the same arguments that came with the Twins encounter with the British battlecruiser at Norway.
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Re: Bismarck Myths

Postby paulcadogan » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:46 pm

RNfanDan wrote:I think Thorsten's point is being missed here. His response seems directed toward the original poster's emphasis on "an obsolescent Swordfish", as if the Swordfish (the delivery system) was the actual weapon that felled the mighty Bismarck.

In effect, Paul's rebuttal only further strengthens Thorsten's case. Once the torpedo was released --i.e., separated from its delivery system-- the issue of whether or not the Swordfish was obsolescent, IMHO, became rather academic.

If a more modern, faster aircraft, or a submarine, or an MTB had delivered the torpedo to its launching point, it really didn't matter much.


My point was, Dan, that the modern Bismarck with her host of defensive AA, free to maneuver on a wind-tossed sea, could be approached and successfully torpedoed by Swordfish (OK Wadinga, rugged and capable, but still a metal frame covered in fabric!) - three times.

But I do see what you're saying regarding Thorsten's point....yes, Hood was destroyed by a single 15-inch shell, as Bismarck was crippled by a single torpedo, as PoW was a few months later. And it is understood that the rudder and screws are vulnerable on any ship.

But here's a "What if" that I don't think anyone has considered....What if KGV and Rodney had to turn back for lack of fuel - could Ark Royal's Swordfish have eventually sunk the crippled Bismarck on 27 May? Or should I say...could 18-inch aerial toredoes have inflicted sufficient underwater damage to do this? :think:

Karl wrote:
Nevertheless the order was given in an explicit way. We also have PoW actions after DS when shadowing Bismarck with the two cruisers, always avoiding a surface action with Bismarck: closing a bit, firing a bit, and as soon Bismarck answered it went out of range. Obviously in waiting for reinforcements to approach and attack with numerical superiority. I doubt that a battleship captain would act that way without any orders.



Yes Karl, PoW was waiting on Tovey, but this was based on Wake-Walker's orders. The latter was put under some pressure by the Admiralty which asked what his intentions were with regard to PoW re-engaging. He pondered his response for some time, eventually telling them he did not consider she should unless other heavy ships were in contact or if interception failed. Tovey was not happy with the Admiralty signal either. Wake-Walker then put together a plan to try to lure Bismarck towards Tovey by engaging her from the port quarter with Norfolk & PoW then turning to the east, hoping she would accept battle and follow! (Reference: Grenfell) This was just before Lutjens ordered the maneuver to release the Prinz.

BUT during the resulting engagement it was Bismarck that turned away not PoW. When Bismarck attacked Suffolk, PoW opened fire in support of Suffolk and kept firing until Bismarck, the Prinz safely detached, turned away and headed west - away from Tovey. This is what would have likely happened if Wake-Walker had executed his plan. In the second there was just an exchange of two salvoes in the gathering darkness some time after the Victorious' Swordfish attack. No turning away on either side.
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