Action in the Med

Historical what if discussions, hypothetical operations, battleship vs. battleship engagements, design your own warship, etc.
paul.mercer
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Action in the Med

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:40 pm

Gentlemen,
In 1940 the Italian fleet comprising of two Cavour class battleships (12" guns) six heavy cruisers (8"guns) ten light crusers (6"guns) and thirty destroyers put to sea. Against them was Warspite, Malaya, Royal Sovereign and the carrier Eagle plus an unknown number of cruisers and destroyers, this was the action that Warspite hit the Guilio Cesare at around 13 miles causing the whole fleet to turn and run. My question is this, what if there had been a fleet action and what would the result have been?
My second question is this, before the battle of Matapan the Italian Battleship Vittorio Veneto attacked some British cruisers, Warspite and Valiant backed up by the aircraft carrier Formidable went to their aid but the Italian ship turned away. The Italian ship was very powerfull (9x15") so, if we ignore the carrier and leave it up to Warspite and Valiant, what would the result have been if the Vittorio Veneto chose to fight?

Ken Thompson
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by Ken Thompson » Tue Jan 03, 2012 10:18 pm

I think the object of the Italian Navy in 1940 was not so much to win the war but to not lose it in a single day. So they chose to break off.

srgt rock
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by srgt rock » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:30 pm

IMHO throughout the war, the Italians were even more concerned with preserving their major fleet units than Hitler became after the loss of Bismarck. Only the most expendable units fought it out with the British. Therefore, I would believe the continuation of the battle would last only until one or two more additional hits were scored upon the Italian fleet units. It would have been a British victory with greater damage suffered by the Italian fleet.

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RF
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by RF » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:59 am

The Italians never planned for an aggressive war in the Med and the co-operation between navy and air force was poor.

Had the Italians the resources and planned properly they could have started their WW2 campaign by attacking the British Fleet in harbour. If it is at Malta it would of course tie in with an invasion of Malta and on paper the Italians should have a reasonable chance of success - clear the RN out of the Med, take Malta and then concentrate on capturing Suez and supporting operations in East Africa.

The problem for the Italians would be in achieving surprise. The British were aware the Italians were hostile and kept tabs on what they were doing. But an offensive posture properly resourced and carried out with determination was what was needed. What the Italians would have achieved if their forces fought as fanatically as the Japanese would be an interesting question.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

Keith Enge
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by Keith Enge » Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:33 pm

paul.mercer -

In the Battle of Calabria, the chances of a fleet action were hurt by the fact that both sides were covering convoys and were so more concerned with protecting their convoy than mixing it up with the other fleet. My database added the "powers" of the ships involved and gives the Royal Navy about a 7% advantage (the power ratio is 1.071). The Royal Navy has a big advantage in battleships; three BBs with 15" guns versus two with 12.6" guns. This is basically balanced, however, by the big advantage of the Italians in cruisers; six CAs and eight CLs versus five CLs.

The prelude to the Battle of Matapan is usually referred to as the Battle of Gaudo. Both sides had cruiser/destroyer groups that were trying to lure the other side to pursue them back to where they had battleships lurking. A group of three Italian CAs with three DDs traded long range gunfire with the British group of four CLs and four DDs. The Italians were more successful in setting their trap. They entice the British to follow and succeed in leading them to their battleship. The British take some damage as they then flee but are rescued by the arrival of carrier planes as they neared their own fleet.

My database adds up the "powers" of the two groups mentioned above and gives the British a 16% advantage. Of course, if the BB Vittorio Veneto and her four DDs are added in, the advantage swings drastically in their favor. This doesn't even mention the other Italian group involved in setting the trap; three CAs, two CLs, and six DDs.

As for the Battle of Matapan itself, the British have a 25% power advantage so the Italians were wise to withdraw. They had expected German air cover that never materialized and eventually, as a result, suffered torpedo attacks from planes from CV Formidable. The BB Vittorio Veneto took one torp but shook it off. The CA Pola wasn't so lucky. She was disabled and, when other CAs came to help her, they all were devastated by battleship gunfire. The problem was not that the Italians withdrew but that they didn't withdraw earlier and faster. Also, the natural tendency to come to the aid of a mate changed a single loss to a cluster of losses.

paul.mercer
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Jan 10, 2012 8:36 pm

Thanks for your reply Keith, it was most informative.
I take it that if Vittorio Veneto on her own had come up against Warspite and Valiant (whom I understand were two of the best shooting ships in the RN) it would have been a clear cut victory for the RN?

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by Keith Enge » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:23 pm

Yes, in a battle of just those three ships, the two RN BBs have about a 31% advantage, not that much different from the 25% if all of the other ships are added. Valiant is a somewhat more powerful ship than Warspite because she got the prewar refit replacing the old 6" casement guns with ten 4.5" twin turrets; in BB only conflict, this difference is mainly moot. That 31% advantage, however, is a bit misleading because of the immune zone differences. The RN guns have limited elevation and can only penetrate VV's deck at near their maximum range, 28,000 to 32,200 yards. Few hits if any will be obtained at those ranges. Anyway, only the machinery spaces' deck can be so penetrated; the magazines are still safe. To penetrate VV's belt (either machinery or magazine), the range has to close to 9,000 yards. Meanwhile, VV can penetrate their machinery deck at 33,000 and their magazines are 38,000, still not very useful. However, both the machinery and magazine belt can be penetrated at 15,000 yards. Thus, if VV gets and stays between 9,000 and 15,000 yards, she can do considerable damage while taking little herself (ignoring "soft kills"). This 6,000 yard difference in the inner edge of the immune zones is large enough to be usable, especially given VV's speed advantage. It would be tricky, trying to stay in that gap because there are two enemy ships; against only one, it should be quite easy. Against two, VV would have to stay near the outer edge of the gap, ducking in to shoot but being ready to duck back out if one or the other enemy ships turns toward her to close the range quickly. Given those caveats, I would think that, even with the 31% disadvantage, VV could probably sink one of the BBs but probably not do more than damage the other (because she would be running low on ammo) and then withdraw, relatively unscathed. If VV suffered a soft kill, she would just withdraw earlier. This battle would be one of those cases where the immune zone trumps the power advantage.

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by alecsandros » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:29 pm

That assuming VV will actualy hit anything, and not spray the water with her usual 600y wide full-salvos. :D :whistle:

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by Keith Enge » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:44 pm

Nobody hits much at very long range. Actually, VV could shoot pretty well. In the Second Battle of Sirte, fighting in a full gale which severely hindered gunnery, she managed to hit destroyers with her 15" guns.

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by dunmunro » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:58 pm

Keith Enge wrote:Nobody hits much at very long range. Actually, VV could shoot pretty well. In the Second Battle of Sirte, fighting in a full gale which severely hindered gunnery, she managed to hit destroyers with her 15" guns.
Yes, at 6000yds, she managed one hit on Kingston.

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by Keith Enge » Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:40 pm

dunmunro -

There were two more 15" hits on DDs. At 17:20, Havock was hit at 14,700 yards and temporarily left dead in the water. At 18:40, Kingston took the hit at >7300 yards. At 18:51, Lively was hit too (9300 yards). Under the dreadful conditions (rolling, pitching, spray, and smokescreens), this was good shooting. Two CLs were damaged too but not by VV. The weather was so bad that, on the way home, two Italian DDs capsized and were lost.

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by alecsandros » Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:26 pm

From what I've read Havock and Lively were damaged by near misses, which is a different thing from "being hit".

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Re: Action in the Med

Post by Keith Enge » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:26 pm

Since Havock was temporarily disabled by the 15" shell, that is one potent near miss.

dunmunro
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by dunmunro » Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:36 pm

Keith Enge wrote:Since Havock was temporarily disabled by the 15" shell, that is one potent near miss.
A near miss from a ~2000lb projectile can be deadly, especially as it will send out a shower of large splinters, most of which can penetrate a destroyer's hull with ease. Bismarck also caused casualties and damage to RN ships with 38cm near misses and a large shell can cause splinter damage at a considerable distance from the intended target.

Havock's speed was reduced to 16 knots, due to no.3 boiler room being flooded. She was then sent to join the convoy. Lively suffered splinter damage from the base of a 15" shell which penetrated the hull and several compartments. The shell fragment remained in the ship hence the positive identification.

paul.mercer
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Re: Action in the Med

Post by paul.mercer » Fri Jan 13, 2012 10:37 pm

Thanks again for your reply Keith,
One other point, when you say that VV would have an advantage at a certain range due to her being capable of penetrating the armour of the two QE's. I read somewhere that Admiral Cunningham was astounded at the accuracy and rapidity of both Warspite and in particular Valiant at Matapan. So although VV might have some advantage, would not the combined firepower and hit rate of the QE's destroy a lot of VV's upperworks including range finders, fire control systems, turrets etc even though the shells might not penetrate far enough to actually put her in a sinking condition, thereby forcing her to turn away and make a run for it?

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