Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:39 pm

Suppose Bismarck and Prinz Eugen attempt to execute Exercise Rhein by making a "Channel Dash."

Bismarck battlegroup leaves the Bay of Danzig for Gotenhafen for refueling. Concerned about his battlegroup's fuel consumption and the inhernet risks of refueling at sea, Admiral Lutjens opts for a southern breakout. Luftwaffe aerial surveillance of the Denmark Strait and the Royal Navy's home base at Scapa Flow continue as historical. British naval deployments at beginning of Exercise Rhein continue as historical until German naval intentions discovered. Bismarck and Prinz Eugen transit the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal - avoiding the Kattegat and all commercial vessels in the area. Bismarck battlegroup puts into port to top off provisions and time their breakout sortie to pass the Straits of Dover in darkness. Assume continuous luftwaffe fighter escort over the English Channel area of operations. Operational plan will be to transit the channel, refuel at Brest and sortie into the North Atlantic upon refueling. Alternate refueling stop will be Saint-Nazaire if enemy aerial activity over Brest exceeds Luftwaffe's ability to adequately provide effective Combat Air Patrol coverage.

Assuming the above scenario, does the Bismarck succeed in breaking out into the North Atlantic and terrorize the shipping lanes? Or will the British demonstrate, once again, why the English Channel is English?

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by lwd » Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:42 pm

I think she's going to have problems. The mines are stil there for one thing. For another she has to pass the real choke point well after the British are allerted. If at night the Germans will have a hard time protecting her from MTB's and then there are the guns at Dover. In daylight maintaining a CAP over her is a challenging and likely futile effort.

DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:59 pm

LWD,

Thanks for the response - especially since this was my first post.

I'm not certain if I completely understand your response though. In my scenario the Bismarck would avoid the commercial shipping traffic lanes in the Baltic so there would be no chance encounters to tip off the British. The recon overflights would still take place over Scapa Flow and the Denmark Straits. And the British would know through their Ultra intercepts that Adm. Lutjens was taking Bismarck out and would likely repeat his breakout with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Certainly that would be a logical deduction even without sighting the ships. So the home fleet would remain in Scapa Flow until confirmation of the Bismarck's intentions.

Exercise Rhein would take place prior to Operation Barbarossa so Luftwaffe coverage would be greater than it was for Operation Cerberus. Luftwaffe CAP during that operation was continuous and extensive - especially over the Dover Straights - so I don't believe air cover will be an issue. Doubtless French resistance groups will report increased activity around coastal Luftwaffe bases but that could easily be discounted by the British for any number of reasons and wouldn't necessarily be tied to the Bismarck sortie in any event.

The Channel mines are a real (but overstated) risk. Prior to Operation Fuller, the British plan to intercept and destroy German capital ships transiting the channel back to Germany, there were less than 1,000 mines in the English Channel. As the English Channel covers some 29,000 square miles, even mining just the most likely transit courses won't lead to a very dense minefield. I believe during Operation Cerberus the Germans struck a total of (3) mines - and by then the mines were much denser - and none of the mine strikes proved more than temporarily debilitating much less fatal.

I suppose that leaves the British with the Coastal Patrol Torpedo Boats and the remaining destroyers spread along the coastal communities. I think it's fair to say that they weren't particularly effective during operation Fuller and I don't imagine they'd prove any more successful with even less warning and heavily contested skies.

Probably Bismarck makes it through the Channel with light damage but enough to be forced into a French port. Brest is too close to RAF Bomber Command bases and the presence of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would prove an irresistable target. So she's forced further down the coast for repairs. Maybe she can sortie out in short order - only to be intercepted by the British fleet in the Bay of Biscay. Or maybe she stays bottled up in another French port to absorb more RAF bombs. Or maybe she sneaks out into the Atlantic to terrorize a convoy or two...

In any event, thatnks for the reply!

Bgile
Senior Member
Posts: 3658
Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:33 pm
Location: Portland, OR, USA

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by Bgile » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:52 pm

I believe there is exactly ONE drydock on the Atlantic coast which can take Bismarck, right?

alecsandros
Senior Member
Posts: 4000
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:33 pm
Location: Bucharest, Romania

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by alecsandros » Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:15 am

Hello DAP, and welcome to the forum!
Indeed, your scenario is very plausible and I'm thinking why didn't the Germans opt for it.. ?

My only idea would be that they gambled for a few convoy strikes in the middle of the Atlantic, during Rheinubung. They tried to avoid the British homeland as much as possible (and the proximity of the HOme Fleet and bombers) and intercept some un-lucky merchants...

If they would have intended to simply transfer BS and PE from Germany to France, I guess they would have opted for the English Channel...

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by lwd » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:57 pm

DAP wrote:...
I'm not certain if I completely understand your response though.
Well I'm not certain what your uncertain about but will try to clarify and respond.

One of the most important things it that it's my impression that the North Sea was patrolled pretty heavily by both air and ships. Historically Bismarck was spotted by the Swedes and Norwegians as she left the Baltic. There's a good chance that this happens or one of the British subs in the area spots her about the same time. So it's likely the word will get out that Bismarck is at sea soon after she enters the North Sea. At that point alerts should start being posted to both the RN and the RAF. While you are correct that they will likely expect her to head north recon is likely to be increased over the entire North Sea. I think it very likely she will be spotted before she enters the English channel. At that point home fleet will likely put sea and the channel ships prepared to.
Exercise Rhein would take place prior to Operation Barbarossa so Luftwaffe coverage would be greater than it was for Operation Cerberus. Luftwaffe CAP during that operation was continuous and extensive - especially over the Dover Straights - so I don't believe air cover will be an issue.
According to http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/op ... rberus.htm the fighter escort for the twins maxed out at about 32 fighers. This was enough given the route and British reactions. However if the Bismarck is detected heading for the channel the RAF will have more time to organize and attack in the vacinity of Dover. Given a few hours they should be able to mass well over 32 fighters.
The Channel mines are a real (but overstated) risk. Prior to Operation Fuller, the British plan to intercept and destroy German capital ships transiting the channel back to Germany, there were less than 1,000 mines in the English Channel.
The source above implies over 1,000 were laid but that may be a timing issue. There's also the latency as mine fields deteriate over time. Certainly no guarantee of a hit. However if Bismarck is slowed much that means she is more vulnerable for longer and it may allow ships and planes to attack that might otherwise not have.
I suppose that leaves the British with the Coastal Patrol Torpedo Boats and the remaining destroyers spread along the coastal communities. I think it's fair to say that they weren't particularly effective during operation Fuller and I don't imagine they'd prove any more successful with even less warning and heavily contested skies.
But here they are likely to get more warning. Dover is near the far end rather then the near end while the twins essentially ran away from them historically Bismarck will be running into them. The contested skys bit works both ways.
Probably Bismarck makes it through the Channel with light damage but enough to be forced into a French port. Brest is too close to RAF Bomber Command bases and the presence of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would prove an irresistable target. So she's forced further down the coast for repairs. ...
What other port can she make for that is capable of repairing her? That was why the twins were there. Then there's the British sub that was usually sitting off Brest. And the Dover guns. If the weather is better they are likely to be shooting better and again they'll have more warning and be able to engage longer.

DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:20 pm

LWD,

Thank you again for the response and I apologize that I didn't make clear my areas of confusion. The (2) areas that confused me were your responses that : (1) Bismarck passing the real choke point after the British were alerted and (2) that the Luftwaffe maintaining an effective CAP would be a challenging and likely futile effort.

From your latest response it sounds like you believe that the Bismarck will still be discovered while in the Baltic or, at the very least, upon entering the North Sea. Even if the Bismarck is spotted by a submarine upon entering the North Sea there isn't much observed evidence to suggest a channel dash is imminent. The Enigma intercepts the British were reading would still request recon information over Scapa Flow and the Denmark Straits. That plus knowledge of the Fleet Commander and his previous Atlantic break-out would still seem to factor towards a more northerly break-out. But it would have to be a fairly remote encounter by submarine to think anything else. Given the effectiveness of the submarine station-keeping off of Brest I certainly believe that slipping out undetected is a very real probability. So I'm unsure just how much advance warning the British would have received. Certainly there would not seem to be enough information to risk deploying heavy naval units into the Channel area. The Bismarck could just as easily steam North off the western coast of Denmark towards Norway with more sea room to maneuver in than in the Kattegat. And I doubt that there would be any British radar equipped cruisers to shadow Bismarck less than 50 miles off Germany. I cannot entirely discount the coastal batteries at Dover but I can't imagine that they'd be very effective attempting to engage units moving at high speed at night and with relatively little warning. And in this instance, Dover is on the near end of this channel dash. The naval forces (destroyers) located at Plymouth are on the far end. They would have the benefit of the maximum warning time.

Your second point about the Luftwaffe CAP was puzzling in that, during Operation Cerberus, the Germans did achieve continuous CAP over Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Thus demonstrating that it could be done. Further, I would think that there would still be substantial air assets along the French coast (especially in the Pas de Calais area) as this operation takes place before Barbarossa and the great redeployment of Luftwaffe units to the East. Additionally, the Luftwaffe would be intercepting the British much closer to their bases rather than deep over English cities. Their loiter time and rules of engagement would make them much more effective than during the previous Battle of Britain. I guess my point was that the Luftwaffe support would be even more robust and effective than it was during Cerberus and that was already deemed to be a success. It strikes me that the Luftwaffe CAP would be far from a futile effort.

My understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is that the initial mining of the English Channel was to hinder or preclude the German invasion of England. The vast majority of the mines were in English coastal waters. It was really only after the forward deployment of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to French ports that the channel mining began in expected navigation channels and choke points. Certainly it can be argued that the mine density in the channel was much less than it was in preparation of Operation Fuller. But I wouldn't entirely discount a chance encounter with a mine either.

To your point about French ports, I have to admit that I might be misremembering my timeline. I thought that, in addition to Brest, naval facilities at St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux could take heavy units. Though I'm less certain about La Rochelle. I thought I read somewhere (curse my failing memory) that Brest was selected as the primary Kriegsmarine base because it afforded less transit time to and from the North Atlantic shipping lanes - which was vitally important due to how few submarines the Germans had operating in the North Atlantic - and because Brest was deep in the German zone of occupation and thus more reliable in terms of population, dock workers, transportation security, air cover, etc. even though it was strategically closer to RAF Bomber Command assets. I do take your point that there were precious few repair facilities in France but I would say that there were greater repair facilities in France than there would be in a Norwegian fjord.

Anyway, thank you for your response. By reply I'm not attempting to prove you wrong or win an argument but I find these sort of hypotheticals fascinating and simply wish to better my understanding of differing points of view. Thanks again!

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by lwd » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:14 pm

DAP wrote:... From your latest response it sounds like you believe that the Bismarck will still be discovered while in the Baltic or, at the very least, upon entering the North Sea. Even if the Bismarck is spotted by a submarine upon entering the North Sea there isn't much observed evidence to suggest a channel dash is imminent.
Historically Bismarck was sited transitioning to the North Sea by several sources. I see no reason to expect her to get into the North Sea in this case without being sited. That said there are several possibilities as to what her course will be. Let's go counter clockwise from North in enumerating them:
1) Proceed to a Norwegian port.
2) Breakout in to the North Atlantic.
3) Excute an artillery raid on some part of Great Britain.
4) Breakout into the Atlantic via the English Channel.
5) Head for a German North Sea port (Kiel)
6) It's a feint so she heads back into the Baltic.
While some of these are more likely than others all are possible. The result is the British are going to up the altert level and send out more recon. An artillery raid on Scotland is unlikely due to the presence of home fleet. Options 5 and 6 are not as likely to be detected by additional recon but are not as time sensative either. Options 1 and 2 point to inreasing recon between Scotalnd and Norway. 3 and 4 indicate increased recon in the North Sea particularly off England and the Channel. I think there's a very good chance that Bismarck is picked up by the latter well before she's in the channel, indeed an indicator may well be the CAP over her which will likely be detectable by Chain Home.
.... The Bismarck could just as easily steam North off the western coast of Denmark towards Norway with more sea room to maneuver in than in the Kattegat. And I doubt that there would be any British radar equipped cruisers to shadow Bismarck less than 50 miles off Germany.
Cruisers no but panes yes and if she's too close to Denmark she might be sighted by other intellignence assets.
I cannot entirely discount the coastal batteries at Dover but I can't imagine that they'd be very effective attempting to engage units moving at high speed at night and with relatively little warning.
I think it highly likely however that they will have much more warning in t his case.
And in this instance, Dover is on the near end of this channel dash.
A bit of a geographical error on my part however in one sence I was correct. If you look at http://www.scharnhorst-class.dk/scharnh ... berus.html you will note that the alert wasn't passed until the Twins were basically abreast of Dover. In this case I see them getting significantly more warning. Furthermore shore defence batteries are rightly feared by naval forces.
The naval forces (destroyers) located at Plymouth are on the far end. They would have the benefit of the maximum warning time.
There were DD's and smaller craft pretty well scattered up and down the channel. That's one of the problems if they manage to get in range then Bismarck may be forced to avoid torpedoes consuming time and increasing the chance of hitting a mine as well as allowing more forces to get a crack at her.
Your second point about the Luftwaffe CAP was puzzling in that, during Operation Cerberus, the Germans did achieve continuous CAP over Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
Indeed but this was too a large extent due to the lack of warning and prep time allowed for the RAF to prepair a counter strike. As a rule of thumb it is difficult to maintain a CAP that is more than 1/3 of your fighter force. Historically the CAP over the Twins maxed out at a bit over 30 fighters. If the British can scramble 50 fighters to escort a raid the CAP is going to be rendered ineffective.
... Further, I would think that there would still be substantial air assets along the French coast (especially in the Pas de Calais area) as this operation takes place before Barbarossa and the great redeployment of Luftwaffe units to the East.
Indeed but the question is can they get there in time to help.
It strikes me that the Luftwaffe CAP would be far from a futile effort.
I'm not sure I would call it futile. However if you look at the early carrier battles of the Pacific where CAP was often operating over it's own carriers it was usually not effective against a heavy raid particularly if the raid had a decent escort.
My understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, is that the initial mining of the English Channel was to hinder or preclude the German invasion of England.
Take a look at: http://www.seaclimate.com/2/pdf/2_14.pdf
It seems it was much more extensive early in the war than I thought. The U-boats seem to have been one of the major targets if not the major one.
http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Ops-Minelaying.htm
also has some good info.
To your point about French ports, I have to admit that I might be misremembering my timeline. I thought that, in addition to Brest, naval facilities at St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux could take heavy units.
http://www.battleships-cruisers.co.uk/f ... _bases.htm seems to indicate Brest and Toulon were the two main French naval bases. I guess it depends on what you mean by take. I think Brest was the only Atlantic one with dry dock facilities large enough to hold a battleship. The others would be capable of conducting some repairs a mine, torpedo, or significant damage from a near miss would require a dry dock however.
Anyway, thank you for your response. By reply I'm not attempting to prove you wrong or win an argument but I find these sort of hypotheticals fascinating and simply wish to better my understanding of differing points of view.
Actually I kind of hope you can prove me wrong. That way not only do I learn something but what's more I'm unlikely to continue passing at least that part of bad info. My arguments may sometimes seem aggressive but I know I'm far from infallable and rather enjoy debates (as opposed to arguments).

One factor that may be important is when did the British start using radar equipped search aircraft? There were suppose to be three on guard for the twins breaking out but as the document above indicates for one reason or another they were "off line" for the actual dash.

DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Fri Jun 18, 2010 3:35 pm

LWD,

Thanks for the additional information links you provided. In this instance though, I believe they bolster both sides of the debate.

The article on sea mines (and the unintended weather effects) was very interesting. Certainly the number of mines seeded by both sides exceeds what I had previously thought. But the efforts put in to mine sweeping was equally astonishing. So, while I would concede that mines existed in numbers greater than I expected so too were the efforts to remove them. Obviously you aren't going to have minesweepers travelling at 25 knots with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen during the breakout but it's fair to assume that they were sweeping coastally along the anticipated route of breakout as a matter of course. It seems to me that the effectiveness of the minefield will depend greatly on when that area was counter-swept. I believe that the DKM would try to surge their sweeping assests in anticipation of Exercise Rhein. I cannot prove that is what would have happened but it would seem logical. Certainly I cannot imagine that the mine risks would be any more extensive than during Cerberus.

Those darned Dover coastal batteries... Chain Home would have given the coastal defenses warning of the ships attempting to transit the straits - just as they did in Cerberus against the Twins. Although the Germans had become quite effective in their jamming efforts prior to Cerberus, I do not know how effective their efforts would have been in May, 1941. I'll simply assume that they were worse. The real issue then, as it was to prove during Cerberus, is adjusting fire based on fall of shot. During Cerberus the visibility at Dover was just 5 miles so there was no adjustment of fire based on the fall of shot. Likewise, passing Dover at night would also hamper visibility and thus adjusting fire based on fall of shot. Another wildcard would be Luftwaffe interdiction of the coastal batteries. Goering was always keen to "rescue" the other branches of the armed forces so it wouldn't surprise me if "his" protection of the Bismark was extended to include an air strike against the Dover batteries. I doubt that the Luftwaffe would be able to take out the batteries but even a little harrassment could go a long way in disrupting battery accuracy.

To your point about the CAP effectiveness, you made mention of the Pacifc naval air battles and Midway comes to mind immediately. Results for the unescorted torpedo bombers was nothing short of disasterous while the escorted dive bombers changed the entire course of the war. So, having fighter escort leads to a greater chance of success. Absolutely. But let's look at the Battle of Britian. German ME109s escorting the slow Stukas. The aircraft types were too dissimilar in performance to lead to effective escort - and as a reult the Stukas were savaged and had to be withdrawn. I believe that the high-performance of the Spitfires escorting the much slower Swordfish will yield similar results. And flying without any sort of escort is simply an act of suicide - no matter how brave the attempt. Because this operation takes place prior to Barbarossa we are very safe in assuming that the Luftwaffe escort will be even more robust. On the other hand, The units detailed for Operation Fuller in 1942 are the same in May of 1941. Weather and luck (good or bad) may play a factor in determining ultimately how many british aircraft can intercept. I can assume that the numbers will be higher on both sides but I can also infer then the same outcome. The results are the same - only the casulties will be higher.

I thought that the Normandie dry dock was actually at Saint Nazaire and not at Brest. Bordeaux and La Rochelle were primarily used as submarine bases so there could really be only two bases the Bismarck could expect any sort of extensive repairs. Besides, three major capital ships in one port would invite a bomber command visit every day.

During Cerberus, German destroyers and E boats were fairly effective at providing a screen from British destroyers and motor patrol boats. I can think of no reason why they would have proven less so nine months earlier. But who can say? My gut still tells me that, with even neutral luck, Bismarck successfully transits the channel. But then she escapes to where? I fear the historical outcome remains the inevitable outcome...

lwd
Senior Member
Posts: 3810
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2006 2:15 am
Location: Southfield, USA

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by lwd » Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:55 pm

DAP wrote:...Thanks for the additional information links you provided. In this instance though, I believe they bolster both sides of the debate.
That's often the case when the question isn't trivial and one of the reasons for suppling references.
The article on sea mines (and the unintended weather effects) was very interesting. Certainly the number of mines seeded by both sides exceeds what I had previously thought. But the efforts put in to mine sweeping was equally astonishing. ...l. Certainly I cannot imagine that the mine risks would be any more extensive than during Cerberus.
That's hard to tell because there is also the fact that mine fields decay rather quickly. At least I thought so when this came up over on the axis history forum in one of the Sea Lion discussions. I beleive after a couple of weaks you could expect significant numers (a few percent anyway) of the mines in a moored mine field to have broken loose or sunk. Makes the assessment quite difficult. I'd guess looking at Cerberus that Bismarck would have something less than a 50% chance of hitting a mine whether it would be 40% or 10% or even less I'm not going to hazard a guess.
Those darned Dover coastal batteries... Chain Home would have given the coastal defenses warning of the ships attempting to transit the straits - just as they did in Cerberus against the Twins.
I'm not sure they did in Cerberus but even if they did it was too late. In this case however they might give warning well before Bismarck reaches the straits.
.... During Cerberus the visibility at Dover was just 5 miles so there was no adjustment of fire based on the fall of shot. Likewise, passing Dover at night would also hamper visibility and thus adjusting fire based on fall of shot.
I've also seen it suggested that the batteries were told to hold fire so while an air attack went in and by the time they could open up the twins were almost out of range. The batteries were clearlly a threat. How much would depend a lot on the weather, time of day, and the details of the fire control system they were using. None of which I have much knoweldge of.
To your point about the CAP effectiveness, you made mention of the Pacifc naval air battles and Midway comes to mind immediately. Results for the unescorted torpedo bombers was nothing short of disasterous while the escorted dive bombers changed the entire course of the war.
Except it wasn't the dive bombers escort that made the difference at Midway. It was the fact that the CAP had been pulled down to take on the torpedo bombers and no one even spotted the dive bombers until they were pitching over. But the Coral Sea and attacks on Yorktown also point to the difficulty CAP would have in preventing an attack especially an escorted one.
[quote[.. But let's look at the Battle of Britian. German ME109s escorting the slow Stukas. The aircraft types were too dissimilar in performance to lead to effective escort - and as a reult the Stukas were savaged and had to be withdrawn.
[/quote]
That's more a matter of flawed escort doctrine. Of course the RAF at the time may have had the same flaws.
. And flying without any sort of escort is simply an act of suicide - no matter how brave the attempt.
One thing that might play a factor is the RN developed radar guided torpedo bombers rather early in the war. I'm not sure if they were around at this point or not. They would allow attacks in bad weather or at night. They did have them by early 42 from what I've read.
I thought that the Normandie dry dock was actually at Saint Nazaire and not at Brest. Bordeaux and La Rochelle were primarily used as submarine bases so there could really be only two bases the Bismarck could expect any sort of extensive repairs.
You could be correct on that I'm not an expert on the French navy by anymeans.
Besides, three major capital ships in one port would invite a bomber command visit every day.
Two already did and it would mean more AA defence and justify more fighter cover. May or may not be worth it.
During Cerberus, German destroyers and E boats were fairly effective at providing a screen from British destroyers and motor patrol boats. I can think of no reason why they would have proven less so nine months earlier.
Again in Cerberus the twins were past the choke point before the British really were able to react. The MTB's for instance fired at maximum range because the range was opening from what I read. In this case they may have time to be in place and prepair before the Germans get there. Given enough time there's also the chance of using minefields in the attack plan for instance.
...[/quote]
By breaking out in to the Atlantic when she did Bismarck had a decent chance of winning free. If she goes down the channel she's almost sure to meet some resistance. What she will likely meet is not likely to sink her unless she's slowed too much but the expectation would be she would take significant damage. That would force her into a port where she's likely to take even more. It's possible she'd win free this way as well but if the Germans had thought so or thought this path had a better chance of success they would have tried it. I tend to agree with their assessment the chances were better to the north.

DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Fri Jun 18, 2010 7:36 pm

LWD,

I remembered the part about the Japanese CAP wave hopping to mop up the torpedo-bombers at Midway - thus allowing the dive bombers an unhindered attack. I should have been more specific in that their escort prevented interception prior to setting up their attack on the carriers. The second CAP was launching to assume station when the dive bomber strike came in. The Swordfish attacking the Twins came in without fighter escort, jumped by the Luftwaffe the results were entirely expected.

In retrospect, it probably didn't matter which breakout course was selected. The second-guessing, while often unfair to the historical actors, makes these hypothetical no less a fascinating exercise. While I believe that the choice of passage - the Denmark Straits - was more the personal preference of the fleet commander than due to any over-riding military expedience. Clearly, destiny called and when destiny calls we must answer. Bismarck and Hood were destined to happen because who would care if Bismarck ended the war like the Tirpitz. Caged and ignominiously dispatched by an airstrike. Not exactly a Homeric ending.

Anyway, thanks again for your comments and the additional sources of information. I look forward to many more thought-provoking posts.

Warmest regards,

DAP

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7520
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by RF » Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:22 am

The whole essence of Rheinubung was to get Bismarck into the Atlantic undetected. Now we know that that failed, but sending the Bismarck through the Channel really is like presenting a red flag to a bull, its presence will fully alert the British to its arrival there.

Assuming Bismarck can get through the Channel unscathed - a big and very risky if - the British will shadow the Bismarck into the Atlantic and it becomes the target for carrier attacks and battleship interception. Its capability to attack convoys will be greatly reduced as the ship is the hunted, not the hunter.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Mon Jun 21, 2010 6:20 pm

RF,

Given that Bismarck was spotted in the Kattegat one could argue that Rheinubung historically failed right then. Sinking the Hood was a dramatic event but that didn't make the mission a success either. Intercepting and destroying convoys was the mission. But could it have been achieved another way? Suppose Bismarck does clear the English Channel. The British historically pulled as many naval assests as they could to locate and destroy the Bismarck. Granted much of that was driven by a national desire to avenge the loss of the Hood but they certainly couldn't allow a German battleship to operate as a commerce raider. So, who now guards the convoys from the Wolf Packs in a prolonged hunt for the Bismarck? Bismarck remains within the air umbrella of the Luftwaffe in the Bay of Biscay; the British now have to maintain major assests on station to intercept any Bismarck sortie into the North Atlantic. Burning fuel, risking Luftwaffe interdiction. And all the while the Tirpitz continues to work up for her North Sea Atlantic breakout...

User avatar
RF
Senior Member
Posts: 7520
Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 1:15 pm
Location: Wolverhampton, ENGLAND

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by RF » Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:11 am

The wolf packs were not such a major problem at that time - not enough U-boats plus the fact that three U-boat aces were lost at around that time.
Luftwaffe resources in late May 1941 were also being concentrated on the Russian front, with Barbarossa due to start. Does the Fuhrer delay Barbarossa so Bismarck has extra air cover? Not likely.

Containing the Bismarck would not be a major problem for the British - because what they can sink the supply ships in mid-Atlantic and restrict Lutjen's activities in mid-Atlantic.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

DAP
Junior Member
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:24 pm

Re: Rheinubung with a Cerberus twist

Post by DAP » Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:22 pm

RF,
I respectfully have to disagree. There is a reason the German submariners referred to 1940-1941 as “The Happy Time.” The 21 submarines routinely prowling the Atlantic accounted for nearly 2.4 million tons of shipping sunk. The decisive turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic wouldn’t come until 1943.

Also, the Luftwaffe maintained substantial assets in Northern France during the build-up to Barbarossa and well after. You may argue that the highest quality units were transferred to the East and then into the Mediterranean Theater with the lowest quality garrisoned in France and Norway but they were still capable units.

Bismarck as a decoy certainly isn’t as glamorous as Bismarck the convoy raider or Bismarck the battleship that destroyed the Hood but it would likely prove more effective facilitating the destruction of convoys at the hands of German submarines. And not knowing when Bismarck would sortie would require the British to maintain heavy units continuously on station – suffering all of the deleterious effects of prolonged deployment for no real result.

Further, it is quite likely that, if Bismarck is not dispatched prior to December 1941, the Tirpitz will be ready to break-out into the Atlantic.

Post Reply