I'm not certain if I completely understand your response though.
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.
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.
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. ...
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.
.... 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.
... 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.
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.
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.
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.
DAP wrote:...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. ...l. 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.
.... 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.
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.
. And flying without any sort of escort is simply an act of suicide - no matter how brave the attempt.
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.
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