Alternate Bismarck Campaign

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ede144
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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by ede144 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 6:18 pm

Seceral Divisions in Deutschsüdwest or Ostafrika would not improve war success. The only way for success was Lettow Vorbecks way. Otoh Konigsberg was neither quality nor in quantity enough to do successful war at sea
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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Djoser » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:50 am

Ersatz Yorck wrote:
RF wrote: I don't think it is over hyped - it really was very important to the British and indeed for the Germans. The British remember lost their premier prestige ship, HMS Hood, so it was a fairly open victory. Rheinubung had major strategic implications - and results, which perhaps neither side expected.
It is over hyped in the same sense as Stalingrad or Waterloo and most other "decisive" battles. It was the symbolic event of a trend changing, but really something that was bound to happen sooner or later. If Bismarck had made it to Brest she would have been bombed to impotence, and the next raider, Tirpitz would have been sunk in a dramatic action, and then we would have had a Tirpitz forum instead. If the Germans hadn't been defeated at Stalingrad, it would have been one in a row of battles only known by East Front aficionados, and the symbolic "decisive" battle on the Eastern Front would been somewhere else where the Germans would have been overconfident and underestimated Soviet strength. If Napoleon had won at Waterloo, he would have been defeated by the Russians and Austrians somewhere else a couple of weeks later (and the British couldn't have taken all the credit).
I'm inclined to agree with RF. There is no way you can state with such assurance that the alternate outcomes would have transpired, without question. The British attempts to bomb major German naval units--even sitting still in port--prior to the Bismarck operation were pretty much a waste of aircraft and trained crews. Tirpitz might very well not have been sunk in a dramatic action--especially if he had been able to combine forces with either or both of the S & G, and/or the Bismarck (having made a similar 'Channel Dash' as took place much later in the war against much more effective airpower than was available in 41). Granted Hitler never did grasp how much less effective his armies were against the Russian juggernaut than he believed, and probably would merely have overextended himself again later.

Had Napoleon defeated the British and the Prussians at Waterloo, the Russians and Austrians would certainly have waited longer than 14 days to confront a military genius of unprecedented ability, commanding an extremely large army greatly bolstered in morale (already quite high before the combined might of nearly double their numbers finally crushed them at the end of a long, hard fought day). Having already defeated two large and powerful armies with one of his own--which he came damned close to doing, and would have done had not his subordinates let him down entirely, not once but three or four times in the three day campaign--it would not have been beyond his ability to do the same exact thing to two more armies a few weeks or months later. There were high French casualties at Waterloo, of course--but the British and Prussians had also suffered horrendous casualties at Ligny and Waterloo themselves, and yet managed to crush the French--finally--only after the French morale broke. And there were many, many thousands of French troops who took no part in the battle of Waterloo, being ineffectually led by Grouchy at the time of the battle. I have a wargame of the battle, in which various alternative compositions of the armies were provided for. The one in which Grouchy united with Napoleon great expanded the manpower--it was a French walkover even opposed to both the British and the Prussians. Had Napoleon possessed those relatively fresh troops, the battering he sustained at Waterloo up until the last couple hours would have been made up for, and beyond.

I agree with you that many of the so-called 'decisive' battles (Stalingrad, for instance) were greatly exaggerated in their effect on the corresponding wars.

The survival of the Bismarck would not have meant the Germans would have defeated Great Britain, of course. I don't think anyone here is saying so. But the strategic effect of an escaped and relatively intact Bismarck reaching port, after taking out what was widely regarded as the best the British had at that time, would have been of major significance. Not to mention the fact that the effect on British morale would have been quite simply devastating...

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by RF » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:45 am

Djoser wrote: The survival of the Bismarck would not have meant the Germans would have defeated Great Britain, of course. I don't think anyone here is saying so. But the strategic effect of an escaped and relatively intact Bismarck reaching port, after taking out what was widely regarded as the best the British had at that time, would have been of major significance. Not to mention the fact that the effect on British morale would have been quite simply devastating...
It would have been presented by the German propaganda as a great victory (because Hood was sunk and POW ''ran away'' as they would put it) while Hitler wouldn't have forbade further Atlantic operations by German heavy ships.
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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:23 pm

Djoser wrote: The British attempts to bomb major German naval units--even sitting still in port--prior to the Bismarck operation were pretty much a waste of aircraft and trained crews.
I disagree. British bombing kept Scharnhorst and Gneisenau out of commission for almost a year, and made the French Atlantic bases more or less unusable for German heavy units. Prinz Eugen was similarly disabled, and there is no doubt that the same fate would have befallen Bismarck had she reached Brest.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by RF » Fri Aug 24, 2012 5:34 pm

This is certainly true and of course the British bombing also caused the Germans to build the U-boat pens, in itself a substantial diversion of German resources.

On the other hand, Bomber Command was faced with a huge opportunity cost in bombing French ports - French civilians were in the firing line, whilst Germany and German cities weren't being bombed in these operations.
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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Djoser » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:05 am

Ersatz Yorck wrote:
Djoser wrote: The British attempts to bomb major German naval units--even sitting still in port--prior to the Bismarck operation were pretty much a waste of aircraft and trained crews.
I disagree. British bombing kept Scharnhorst and Gneisenau out of commission for almost a year, and made the French Atlantic bases more or less unusable for German heavy units. Prinz Eugen was similarly disabled, and there is no doubt that the same fate would have befallen Bismarck had she reached Brest.
British bombing kept the S & G out of commission for the entire year prior to May '41? I don't think so.

I was not talking about '42 to '45, I was talking about the period of time before the Bismarck's sortie. Though granted the effectiveness of air attacks did increase afterward, the S & G were nonetheless able to execute the justly acclaimed 'Channel Dash', despite everything the British could throw at them in the way of aerial attack.

Here is a brief history of air attacks on Scharnhorst prior to May '41, after the action in which the Glorious was sunk, and Acasta hit Scharnhorst with a torpedo, necessitating major repairs:

"On June 11, 12 [1940] Hudson bombers from the RAF attempted to bomb Scharnhorst; they all missed their target. Another air raid, this time 15 Blackburn Skuas launched by the Royal Navy's HMS Ark Royal, followed on 13 June. The Luftwaffe intercepted the raid and shot down eight of the aircraft, though seven made it through to the ship. Only one bomb found its mark, but it failed to explode. On 20 June, enough repair work had been done to permit the ship to sail down to Kiel. Two air attacks followed, but anti-aircraft fire from Scharnhorst and her escorts drove them both back. Reports of British ships in the area forced the ship to seek refuge in Stavanger for two days, before she resumed the journey to Kiel. Repairs were effected over the following six months." (source Wilkpedia--source for article Garzke & Dulin Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II)

They had a little better luck with Gneisenau, and in a later attack on the Scharnhorst--but neither was ever out of commission for a year, prior to the Channel Dash.

"On 6 April, four Beaufort torpedo-bombers attacked Gneisenau in port. Only one of the aircraft attacked successfully; the hit did significant damage to the ship. Gneisenau shipped some 3,050 metric tons (3,000 long tons; 3,360 short tons) of water, which caused her to list 2° and settle lower in the water. The shock force of the explosion also did a great deal of internal damage; fuel tanks were ruptured and electrical systems were damaged. A salvage tugboat was brought alongside to assist in flood control. Gneisenau was put into dry dock for repairs, which were prolonged by further British air raids. On the night of 9–10 April, British high-level bombers attacked both Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. The latter escaped unscathed, but the former was struck four times; 72 men were killed and another 90 were wounded.

While docked in La Pallice on 24 July, Scharnhorst was attacked by several squadrons of Halifax bombers; five bombs—two high explosive 227 kg (500 lb) and three semi-AP 454 kg (1,000 lb)—found their mark. Two 454 kg bomb managed to penetrate both armoured decks, all the way down through the double bottom, before coming to rest on the sea floor; it however failed to explode. The third also failed to detonate. One of the 227 kg bombs penetrated the upper deck just forward of the rear gun turret, and exploded on the main armoured deck. The last bomb fell on the starboard side and also detonated on the main armour deck. The ship listed at 8°, after having taken in between 1,520 long tons (1,700 short tons) and 3,050 long tons (3,420 short tons) of water. Casualties amounted to two men killed and 15 wounded. The following day Scharnhorst arrived in Brest for repairs, which lasted for four months."

They were both ready for the Channel Dash in January '42. As the Bismarck would probably also have been.

Considering the amazing effect the Tirpitz had on Allied convoys and naval planning--while sitting relatively idle in Norway; the combination of the two ships would have been much greater. Especially had they actually been used. As could well have happened, without the damper the Bismarck's loss put on subsequent historical KG naval operations involving heavy units.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by RF » Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:54 pm

Djoser wrote: They were both ready for the Channel Dash in January '42. As the Bismarck would probably also have been.

Considering the amazing effect the Tirpitz had on Allied convoys and naval planning--while sitting relatively idle in Norway; the combination of the two ships would have been much greater. Especially had they actually been used. As could well have happened, without the damper the Bismarck's loss put on subsequent historical KG naval operations involving heavy units.
The only problem for the KM would be fuel shortages, which restricted the availability of Tirpitz and Scharnhorst for offensive operations. Add Bismarck to the equation, plus perhaps also Gneisenau had Hitler ordered that ship to be fully repaired, and the fuel problem is even more acute. But those four ships together would be some threat.....
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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Dave Saxton » Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:48 am

Perhaps I'm being influenced too much by the Tirpitz /Scharnhorst artic ocean hegemony of 1943, but in retrospect Bismarck and Tirpitz could have been best used as the nucleus of a fleet in being, rather than wasting Bismarck as a raider. Consider them together (and then joined by S&G) lurking in Norweigian fjords, supporting destroyers and Hipper class cruisers in theater operations, stock piling fuel reserves, denying an entire ocean to the enemy, staying sharp and getting enough sea time while operating under the cover of, and in concert with, land based airpower; ready to fall on the enemy's cruiser patrols at their whim. Are the RN with all their world wide commitments going to be able respond to this type of long term stress?
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:50 pm

Djoser wrote:
British bombing kept the S & G out of commission for the entire year prior to May '41? I don't think so.

I was not talking about '42 to '45, I was talking about the period of time before the Bismarck's sortie. Though granted the effectiveness of air attacks did increase afterward, the S & G were nonetheless able to execute the justly acclaimed 'Channel Dash', despite everything the British could throw at them in the way of aerial attack.
I was referring to their time in Brest. S&G were never ready to operate together again after they had put in at Brest, chiefly due to bomb damage, and they lay there for almost a year. And the one opportunity they were both ready to move they elected to slink home again, with half trained crews and in a state where they could hardly have conducted an Atlantic sortie. This is the fate I mean would have been likely for Bismarck as well, had she reached Brest.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Djoser » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:00 pm

Ersatz Yorck wrote:
Djoser wrote:
British bombing kept the S & G out of commission for the entire year prior to May '41? I don't think so.

I was not talking about '42 to '45, I was talking about the period of time before the Bismarck's sortie. Though granted the effectiveness of air attacks did increase afterward, the S & G were nonetheless able to execute the justly acclaimed 'Channel Dash', despite everything the British could throw at them in the way of aerial attack.
I was referring to their time in Brest. S&G were never ready to operate together again after they had put in at Brest, chiefly due to bomb damage, and they lay there for almost a year. And the one opportunity they were both ready to move they elected to slink home again, with half trained crews and in a state where they could hardly have conducted an Atlantic sortie. This is the fate I mean would have been likely for Bismarck as well, had she reached Brest.
Maybe we are nitpicking. Certainly the British would have targeted Bismarck before either the S & G, had all three been in Brest. And if they managed to damage Gneisenau pretty badly, they could have done the same to Bismarck. Even if the Bismarck would have been a little tougher to damage perhaps, the Brits would surely have increased efforts after Bismarck sank Hood and got away.

But still, I think you are overestimating the effect of the damage. Both the S & G were both ready to execute the Channel Dash after a few months--not anywhere close to a year. And the Channel Dash was hardly what I would call 'slinking home'. The Bismarck, already having executed a spectacularly effective Atlantic sortie, by no means had a half-trained crew and would have done no 'slinking' anywhere, I think.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by dharma6 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:02 am

The novel that inspired this post, “Golem 7” touches on many of these issues. Sure, the Brits will throw everything the RAF has at her if she reaches Brest, but remember that that port had some of the strongest AA defenses in France. The fate of “the twins” cannot be used as a measure to predict Bismarck’s fate if she reached port safely. As a high priority asset, the Germans may have spared no effort to repair her and get her into operational condition ASAP. The mere presence of that ship in Brest with the Twins would have an immediate effect, as Force H would now be forced to cover Brest, and could no longer escort resupply convoys to the Middle East. All of the “Winston Specials” planned for deliveries to Malta and Egypt would have to be re-routed, or worse, cancelled, and the threat the German fleet posed to the transit lanes would be profound, whether she was seaworthy or not. Yes, Tirpitz had this same effect in the north.

Well…in this novel the Bismarck’s survival does have a serious effect on future history, which I won’t get into here, BUT… The whole novel is about the research team’s attempt to find out why Bismarck was not sunk, and they analyze all the “quirks” mentioned in the opening post of this thread. Then they uncover research that indicates the now famous warning: “Look out for Sheffield” during the first torpedo strike launched from Arc Royal was never given. They immediately want to find out why, and here is a brief excerpt of the initial discussion by the research team:

FROM THE NOVEL GOLEM 7:
“When Force H headed north from Gibraltar the task force actually found itself north of Bismarck’s course to Brest. The hunt began, and this force detached a cruiser, HMS Sheffield, to steam ahead and see if it could find the German ship to the south, with orders to shadow her if she did so. Bismarck was spotted and the carrier Ark Royal launched fifteen Swordfish to go after her with torpedoes. As they approached they were saw a ship below, steaming alone, and thinking it must be Bismarck, they swooped in to attack—but it was Sheffield.”
“They couldn’t recognize their own damn ship?” said Robert.
“Well Admiral Somerville, the Commander of Force H, had ordered Sheffield to close and shadow Bismarck. He informed Ark Royal, but when the coded message came in it was set aside in a pile of signals awaiting translation. The pilots were briefed before takeoff and told the Bismarck was the only ship in the area. By the time the message was de-coded and sent down to the flight deck the Swordfish were already in the air. Ark Royal eventually signaled ‘look out for Sheffield,’ and they sent it out in clear uncoded English, but the strike flight didn’t receive it until after they had already made their attack on the British cruiser.”
“Damn!” said Kelly. “Another case of mistaken identity. Just like that stuff that happened in the battle of Midway. Ever read Miracle at Midway?”
“Sure,” said Paul. “And this was another little miracle right here. The Swordfish come in on attack. Sheffield holds her fire and tries to maneuver. As fortune had it, she was not hit, and a good number of the torpedoes exploded on contact with the water. Others exploded simply by encountering Sheffield’s wake. It appears they had been fitted with quirky magnetic detonators, called ‘pistols’ back then, and when the planes got back to the carrier the pilots reported the misfires, so the British decided to re-arm with older contact pistols for a second go at Bismarck. If these planes had found the German ship instead of Sheffield, it is likely their attack would have failed. But this second spotting error now meant they would be carrying more reliable torpedoes, dramatically increasing their odds of success.”
Maeve nodded gravely, amazed by the way all these small events were holding the tapestry of the whole campaign together. “So we get a bushel of stuff here,” she said—a message delayed ever so briefly results in a second case of mistaken ship identity, and then these quirky magnetic detonators.”
Nordhausen was reading something from his notes and he made as if to say something, but Paul went on with his story. “That’s the first Pushpoint cluster,” he said. “And actually, I think it is the most decisive lever on these events. This incident with Sheffield was essential to the action that followed.”
“I was going to say—”
“Now the second Pushpoint is in the final attack on Bismarck by these Swordfish.” Paul cut the professor off, eager to finish his tale. “They re-arm and another flight takes off. This time they have orders to first find Sheffield again, then follow her heading to locate the Bismarck. This they do, coming upon the German ship to make this last, desperate attempt to stop her so the pursuing British Battleships can catch up. Using the more reliable contact detonators, they score a couple hits. One strikes Bismarck amidships on her heavy belt armor and does little damage, but the second is a proverbial lucky shot that decides everything. It strikes Bismarck astern, damaging her rudder as she was turning to avoid it. In fact, if Bismarck had just maintained course this torpedo would have probably struck her side armor as well and done far less damage. But as it happened, Bismarck turned, and that sent the torpedo right into her rudder. It also damaged a propeller there. Her speed was immediately reduced and she was unable to steer. The mighty Bismarck was now simply steaming in circles with a jammed rudder.”
“And the rest is history,” said Kelly.
“Yes,” said Paul. “The British harass her with destroyers all night, and the following morning the British show up with two battleships King George V, and Rodney, and an number of smaller ships. They were too much for the exhausted crew of the Bismarck to contend with. She was hit several times, and after losing all her main guns to battle damage, the Germans scuttled her. The British thought they had finished her off with torpedoes from their cruisers and destroyers, but James Cameron took an ROV down to the wreck and discovered that none of those hits caused internal flooding damage.”
Robert cleared his throat to get attention at last. “Well I hate to break it to you,” he said “but in the data I harvested with the Arion system there is no case of mistaken identity concerning the Sheffield.” He was confirming the data on the history module even as Paul finished.
The others looked at him, and Paul raised his eyebrows. His gut assumption had been correct, and the professor went on, confirming his suspicions.
“Yes,” said Robert. “That first flight never attacks Sheffield in the altered history. They go right on to strike Bismarck instead. And just as you have indicated most of the torpedoes misfire and they score only one insignificant hit. The German ship shrugs it off and steams on for Brest. By the time the Swordfish get back to the carrier and rearm the worsening weather and darkness force them to call off a second strike. Bismarck escapes.”

… Paul was deep in thought now. The whole scenario has suddenly slipped from his grasp. The history he had been so comfortably navigating, remembering it all from boyhood stories, movies, long hours of war gaming, was now a wild sea of doubt and confusion. Nothing was certain, and the quiet, well riveted facts that he had carried about in his head all these years were all but useless now. But his mind immediately leapt ahead to the next obvious conclusion. He was back to the very same question that had opened this discourse.
“Then what the hell happened to Sheffield?” he said darkly. “If she wasn’t with Force H then our Pushpoint lies with her.”

END EXCERPT

At least they think it does...This is just the first of many scenarios the research team explores in the novel to find out how Bismarck survives. The story winds deep into the campaign: Lutjen's fuel issues, his choice of routes, the engagement with Hood and PoW that never happens and becomes a duel with King George V and Repulse instead. There are loads of live action scenes where the WWII characters are all brought to life and act out the altered history campaign. After they find out what happened to Sheffield, they keep turning up more critical “Pushpoints” as they call them. One has to do with Captain Wohlfarth aboard U-556 and it goes into a lot of detail about his sortie. Another has a lot to do with HMS Rodney, the ship that, IMHO, actually ended Bismarck’s fateful run in what the book now calls "The battle of the Celtic Sea."

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Ersatz Yorck » Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:03 am

Djoser wrote: Maybe we are nitpicking. Certainly the British would have targeted Bismarck before either the S & G, had all three been in Brest. And if they managed to damage Gneisenau pretty badly, they could have done the same to Bismarck. Even if the Bismarck would have been a little tougher to damage perhaps, the Brits would surely have increased efforts after Bismarck sank Hood and got away.

But still, I think you are overestimating the effect of the damage. Both the S & G were both ready to execute the Channel Dash after a few months--not anywhere close to a year. And the Channel Dash was hardly what I would call 'slinking home'. The Bismarck, already having executed a spectacularly effective Atlantic sortie, by no means had a half-trained crew and would have done no 'slinking' anywhere, I think.
I agree, we are nitpicking. But that can be fun too. :wink:

The S&G entered Brest on 22 March 1941. They left in operation Cerberus on 12 January 1942. 10 months, so I would say close to a year is a fair statement.

Crew readiness was a serious problem for the German ships laying inoperable in Brest. There were no opportunities for training, adn after a long time crew proficiency will deteriorate. A part of the crew of Prinz Eugen were sent by train to Germany for training on the Admiral Hipper in the Baltic, but for the S&G there was no similar sister ship available. During Cerberus, gunnery performance seems not overly impressive, despite the hits on the Worcester.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by Djoser » Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:16 pm

Ersatz Yorck wrote: I agree, we are nitpicking. But that can be fun too. :wink:

The S&G entered Brest on 22 March 1941. They left in operation Cerberus on 12 January 1942. 10 months, so I would say close to a year is a fair statement.

Crew readiness was a serious problem for the German ships laying inoperable in Brest. There were no opportunities for training, adn after a long time crew proficiency will deteriorate. A part of the crew of Prinz Eugen were sent by train to Germany for training on the Admiral Hipper in the Baltic, but for the S&G there was no similar sister ship available. During Cerberus, gunnery performance seems not overly impressive, despite the hits on the Worcester.
I'll grant you that crew readiness could have become a problem had Bismarck stayed in port, despite good performance in a successful Atlantic sortie.

But the fact that the S & G stayed in port for ten months does not mean that they were both forced to stay in port during the entire ten month period due to damage.

The Gneisenau was incapacitated during many months of this period, but the Scharnhorst was not sitting there laid up due to damage for the majority of those months. Had the Bismarck disaster not soured Hitler on further sorties of major units, it is likely the Bismarck and Scharnhorst could have sortied again at some point during this time, instead of sitting around in Brest, waiting for the Brits to try bombing them again. Gneisenau could have joined them when not laid up due to the more serious damage sustained.

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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by dharma6 » Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:59 am

I agree with Djoser, though Gneisenau was only making minor repairs in Brest. Scharnhorst was having more extensive work done on her boilers, but the British did not know this. In fact, the Brits believed the possibility of a new sortie by the Twins was very real in April '41, and Kapt Eric Fein aboard Gneisenau was eager to oblige. When British intelligence detected Gneisenau being moved from its berth at #8 dock deeper in the port, they were quite alarmed. On April 5th, 1941, more than a month before Bismarck's sortie, an urgent cable was sent from the Admiralty to Force H at Gibraltar indicating that the big German ships at Brest were being readied for operations: “Consider battlecruisers will probably leave Brest tonight.” This compelled Force H to cancel planned operations in the Med in order to "cover" Brest in the event the Twins made a sortie.

The real reason Gneisenau was being moved was the chance discovery of an unexploded bomb from an earlier British bombing raid, so they wanted her out of danger when the demo teams went in to deal with the bomb, and moved her to a mooring position out in the harbor. When no sortie happened, the Brits decided to "have a go" at Gneisenau now that she was in a position where a torpedo bomber could get at her.
F.O. Kenneth Campbell was to lead a flight of three Beaufort torpedo bombers from a base near Cornwall, though two failed to rendezvous at the target site due to bad weather. Amazingly, Campbell went in alone, and died putting his torpedo into Gneisenau that morning, earning a posthumous Victoria Cross.

This incident is covered in the novel, (Golem 7), as the whole premise of the book is that major historical events are triggered and heavily influenced by by small, and seemingly insignificant mishaps-- happenstance, called "Pushpoints." Had that RAF bomb exploded, they would not have moved Gneisenau from her berthing at #8 dock, and Campbell's attack run would not have found the battlecruiser that morning. It was this fortunate torpedo hit that laid up Gneisenau and prevented the imminent sortie that the British and Force H so feared. Some historians even speculate that Fein was to rendezvous with Lutjens to operate with Bismarck on her maiden voyage, and Gneisenau would have been ready, willing and able to do so a month later if not for Campbell's valor. It was the first of two British torpedoes that were to seal Bismarck's fate. The second would make that lucky hit on her rudders...if Sheffield gets attacked by mistake, giving the Brits an opportunity to rearm their torps with contact firing pistols.

As it was, however, Gneisenau was not available to join Lutjens a month later, or to come to Bismarck's aid in her hour of greatest need. That honor would soon fall to the man who had, indeed, made a solemn pledge six months earlier to keep Bismarck from all harm, Kapt Wohlfarth of U-556.

Wohlfarth sent a whimsical message to Lindemann aboard Bismark in January of 1941 that read: "‘We, U-556 (500 tons), hereby declare before Neptune, Lord over oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, brooks, ponds, and rivulets, that we will provide any desired assistance to our Big Brother, the battleship Bismarck (42,000 tons), at any place on the water, under water, on land, or in the air. Hamburg, 28 January 1941 - Commander & Crew, U-556.’


He got his chance, spotting the lumbering HMS Rodney as it maneuvered to join the fight with Bismarck, but could not act...for lack of a torpedo! They had all been expended in his last attack on a British convoy--another odd quirk of fate in this campaign.

So the point of Bismarck surviving is this.. the threat of possible action by these raiders had a very strong effect on the Brits. Just the very existence of a ship with the capability of Gneisenau in the German order of battle had already forced the British to assign battleships to convoy escort duty. Yes, the German battlecruisers were operating to avoid engagement in raiding situations where heavy British escorts were present, but put Bismarck in Brest with the Twins and all that changes. In that event, a single British battleship on convoy escort duty was absolutely no guarantee of safe passage. The lumbering older British designs may have had good firepower, but they were slow and could not act effectively in a pursuit role. This is why Tovey and the Brits relied so heavily on their fast carriers, cruiser squadrons, and the few fast capital ships they had that could counter the German advantage of speed.

Three German "big boys" in Brest, capable of 30 knots each, would force Tovey to move his fast assets to Force H in the months following Bismarck's safe arrival at Brest. And then, in due course, along comes Tirpitz in the north...

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RF
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Re: Alternate Bismarck Campaign

Post by RF » Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:04 am

Which basically brings you back to the rationale and premise of Rheinubung in the first place.

The only thing still missing from that equation is the completion and availability for operations of the Graf Zeppelin and the Peter Srasser.

Just imagine the scenario - Bismarck and the twins in Biscay ports, while Tirpitz, Lutzow and the two carriers are in Norwegian fjords......
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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