Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

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alecsandros
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Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:51 am

Hello,
I was reading about battle of River Plate the other days, looking for info about the hit % of the combatants.

For those interested, Graf Spee expended 414 x 11" shells during the battle (excluding the salvos fired from 23km while she was retreating) for 9 confirmed direct hits (6 on Exeter and 2 on Ajax) and 3 damaging near misses (2 on Exeter, 1 on Achilles). Battle range was initialy ~ 20km dropping to 7km at some points. Initial hits on Exeter were scored at ~ 16km or so. (hit rate between 2.2% and 2.9% depending on the way it is calculated)

Ajax and Achilles expended > 1600 x 6" shells for 17 confirmed hits (~ 1% hit rate). I do not know the ammo consumption of Exeter. She managed to obtain 2 x 8" direct hits.

Graf Spee suffered some flotation damage, her kitchens were wrecked, and her fuel processing unit was disabled, along with the water desalinisation unit.
Remaining purified diesel was only enough for about 15 hours of travel.
=====

Now, I was considering the following: What IF Langsdorff went to Montevideo for 36 hours, and:
1. replenished his fresh water supply from ashore (so as to not rely on the desalinisation)
2. Tanked up his stores with clean diesel fuel (so as to not rely on the processing unit)
3. Patched up the forward hole in his bow as good as he could.
4. Got his wounded men out of the ship and left them to Montevideo hospitals

This could be done in 36 hours, IMHO...

=====

And then, he could attempt a run for it, towards Africa, and then to Germany. He still had 186 x 11" shells on board, and about 600x5.9" shells.

In front of him, after 36hours, he would have:
- HMS Cumberland, a fresh ship with 8x8" guns, and about 1200 x 8" in her magazines.
- HMS Achilles, with 8x6" guns, less than 600x6" shells remaining, no torpedoes remaining
- HMS Ajax, with 3x6" guns operational, less then 500 shells remaining, no torpedoes remaining

My bet would be that Graf Spee would escape with moderate damage, Cumberland would be damaged and slowed, and Ajax/Achilles would expend their entire ammo supply in 15 minutes and start shadowing the raider.

What do you think ?

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby Francis Marliere » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:49 am

I guess it would be possible, but not easy, to reach Germany.
First, AGS would probably take hits from Cumberland, Ajax and Achilles, and this damage may make the trip more difficult or imposible.
Then, the Allied had some strong naval forces searching for AGS in the South Atlantic : Force K with Ark Royal and Renown off the coast of Brazil, and Force X with Hermes, Dupleix, Foch, Neptune and 3 DD in vicinity of St Paul Rocks. AGS has good chances to be detected by air searches and, if not sunk outright by aerial torpedoes, catched by surface units.
Last, if AGS manages to get through Force K and X, British and French navies have 1 carrier (Furious), 3 battlecruisers (Hood, Repulse, Dunkerque), 4 battleships (Valiant, Warspite, Revenge, Resolution) plus lots of cruisers available to hunt him in Central and North Atlantic. The raider may or may not be intercepted depending on luck, skill and above all, weather conditions.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:55 am

Francis Marliere wrote:I guess it would be possible, but not easy, to reach Germany.
First, AGS would probably take hits from Cumberland, Ajax and Achilles, and this damage may make the trip more difficult or imposible.
Then, the Allied had some strong naval forces searching for AGS in the South Atlantic : Force K with Ark Royal and Renown off the coast of Brazil, and Force X with Hermes, Dupleix, Foch, Neptune and 3 DD in vicinity of St Paul Rocks. AGS has good chances to be detected by air searches and, if not sunk outright by aerial torpedoes, catched by surface units.
Last, if AGS manages to get through Force K and X, British and French navies have 1 carrier (Furious), 3 battlecruisers (Hood, Repulse, Dunkerque), 4 battleships (Valiant, Warspite, Revenge, Resolution) plus lots of cruisers available to hunt him in Central and North Atlantic. The raider may or may not be intercepted depending on luck, skill and above all, weather conditions.

Best,

Francis

... Maybe an escape attempt at dusk would increase her chances of escaping ? AJax and Achilles were low on ammo and I don't know if they would score telling hits... Cumberland may indeed cause heavy damage though...

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby tameraire01 » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:15 pm

Could she get to japan or other neutral territory?
Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. Joseph Stalin

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:51 am

tameraire01 wrote:Could she get to japan or other neutral territory?

... Perhaps to Argentina...

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:41 am

Late Edit: Graf Spee most likely had 306 rounds of 11" ammo left, and not 186... Plenty of firepower to fight the Cumberland...

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby Francis Marliere » Wed Sep 03, 2014 9:37 am

alecsandros wrote:... Maybe an escape attempt at dusk would increase her chances of escaping ? AJax and Achilles were low on ammo and I don't know if they would score telling hits... Cumberland may indeed cause heavy damage though...


I guess that AGS could not easily escape Montevideo without fighting. By day it would be impossible because the British cruisers are faster than him (AGS could make only 23-24 knots because of tired engines and dirty hull). Escaping by night or dusk would difficult because the RN cruisers would guard the only passages where AGS could pass. There are only two options for KsZ Langsdorff : going east, between Islands de Flores / Cumberland shoals and English Bank, or going south then pass either between English Bank and Rouen Bank or Rouen Bank and Cape San Antonio.

Hence, I don't think that a dusk or night escape is a good option for AGS. KsZ Langsdorf knows that he has good chances to be intercepted and that a low visibility close range gunfight with ennemy ships is a bad tactic. At dusk or night battle range, AGS is in danger of being torpedoed and his long range slow firing guns have no advantage against the smaller but quick firing British ones. I guess that considering this facts, KsZ Langsdorf would choose rather a day escape.

In good visibility, the big guns of AGS have an edge over the RN cruisers. However, I am not convincted that AGS could use this advantage. As I already said, AGS can reach the Atlantic via 2 passages, where the RN will surely wait for him. In other word, AGS must force the passage, hence close the range. And closing the range is not good tactic because AGS may not be able to use his after turret and he will soon be withing British 8" then 6" guns range. The more AGS will close to the Atlantic, the more he will take hits, and even minor damage may make the ship unable to reach Germany.

The drama for KsZ Langsdorff is that he has, IMHO, no other choices. The good tactic for his ships (fighting at long range) is not an option for him, because he lacks time and ammunitions. The British Squadron knows that Ark Royal and Renown are incoming. If engaged at long range, they know they don't have to accept the fight. They can just steer evasively and make smoke, and let AGS waste his ammunition. KsZ Langsdorff knows that he cannot loose time because reinforcements may arrive at any time. He would probably be concerned by his ammunition supply. AGS has, as Alecsandros said, 306 rounds left, but I guess thatmost of the remaining projectiles are probably HE ones, that may not be able to penetrate the armor of cruisers.

The situation, IMHO, does not look very well for AGS, but neither for the 3 RN cruisers that may take a good deal of punishment in the affair.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:05 am

Francis Marliere wrote: He would probably be concerned by his ammunition supply. AGS has, as Alecsandros said, 306 rounds left, but I guess thatmost of the remaining projectiles are probably HE ones, that may not be able to penetrate the armor of cruisers.

The situation, IMHO, does not look very well for AGS, but neither for the 3 RN cruisers that may take a good deal of punishment in the affair.

Best,

Francis

... The main issue for the British cruisers is that Ajax has 5 guns out of action, and the remaining 3 guns have about 500 shells to fire. Achilles has 8 guns with a total of ~ 600 shells.

In the previous encounter, Ajax + Achilles expended 1600+ shells for 17 hits, none of which were serious or non-repairable.

I don't see Ajax as a serious combatant with 3 x 6" guns... And Achilles would have ammo for maybe 20 minutes of sustained fire, and that would be it.

The only fresh ship would be HMS Cumberland. But that would be Langsdorff primary target... just as Exeter was.

I realy don't see Cumberland lasting under Graf Spee's fire, especialy because the smaller cruisers would not have the same output (11 guns available instead of 16), nor the ammo load as in the day before (1100 shells vs about 2700).

Graf Spee would probably receive 8" hits - maybe 3 or 4 - and depending on the location of those hits, he might have a chance of escaping, or not.
Cumberland could receive 4-5 heavy hits in return, and would be badly damaged and almost surely with speed < 20kts.

This would leave Ajax/Achilles without ammo, but with good speed, to start shadowing the raider...

Graf Spee herself woul be left with maybe 40-60 main battery shells, and maybe with 20kts speed maximum...

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby Francis Marliere » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:40 am

Alecsandros, I think that a battle off Montevideo would be very different than the historical battle againts Exeter, Ajax and Achilles. In the historical battle, the British squadron had to stop the AGS whatever the coast. They fought as they could against a heavier ship that could make full use of his heavier armament, and suffered accordingly. In the second case, the British ships know that the time is running for them. AGS has to close the range and fight in a bad tactical situation (at short range, which makes him vulnerable to British gunfire - even 6" - and torpedoes). Even with Ajax out of the fight and Achilles low on ammunitions, it looks bad for the German ship.

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:49 am

Francis Marliere wrote: Even with Ajax out of the fight and Achilles low on ammunitions, it looks bad for the German ship.

How so ?
And why would Langsdorff need to close the range at all cost ?

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby Francis Marliere » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:11 pm

alecsandros wrote:How so ?
And why would Langsdorff need to close the range at all cost ?


Sorry if I'm not clear, my English is not so good.

As far as I understand the situation, the british cruisers block the way to the Atlantic. Due to shallow waters, lower speed, etc. there is probably no way that AGS can outrun the RN squadron : AGS must force the passage, hence steam toward the enemy ships.

If AGS tries to fight at long range, to defeat the Brits before escaping, why on earth would the RN cruisers play KsZ Langsdorff's game ? Those cruiser captains were not stupid. They just have to make smoke and refuse a long range gun duel that they are sure to loose. Hence AGS has options :
- the ship stays in the River Plate, waiting for the Brits to accept a fight à 20.000 yards. But the only RN to accept that kind of battle will be Renown, a few days of steaming away (if AGS is not sunk by Ark Royal Swordfishes before).
- the ship tries to npass through the British squadron and makes full speed toward the enemy. In this case, the Brits choose when they exit from the smoke screen, and hence the battle range. That means that AGS will probably fight well inside 6" and 8" (and probably torpedoes as well )effective range. The raider will probably take many hits that may leave him unable to cross the Atlantic.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Wed Sep 03, 2014 12:37 pm

Francis Marliere wrote:- the ship tries to npass through the British squadron and makes full speed toward the enemy. In this case, the Brits choose when they exit from the smoke screen, and hence the battle range. That means that AGS will probably fight well inside 6" and 8" (and probably torpedoes as well )effective range. The raider will probably take many hits that may leave him unable to cross the Atlantic.

Best,

Francis

... In the hystorical battle, Graf Spee took 19 hits, from fully functional and with full ammo supply ships, yielding 16 x 6" guns and 6 x 8" guns with full ammo complement. Ajax+Achilles required 1600+ shells fired to score 17 hits, neither of which was particularly damaging. Their hit rate was ~ 1%, despite battle ranges down to 7km.

In a possible battle for Montevideo, Ajax, Achilles and Cumberland would yield 11 x 6" guns and 8 x 8" guns, with very few ammo remaining for the 6".

Graf Spee's sortie would not allow the British ships to stay in the same place and be blown out of the water. They would require manovreing and staying out of range of the heavy guns. Remember Ajax lost 50% of her armament from a single 11" hit.

I realy don't see any kind of advantage for the British force, as it was spread out along the Montevideo estuary, trying to close all the possible exits. This did not allow them to cover each other to well.

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby Steve Crandell » Wed Sep 03, 2014 1:33 pm

alecsandros wrote:Graf Spee's sortie would not allow the British ships to stay in the same place and be blown out of the water. They would require manovreing and staying out of range of the heavy guns. Remember Ajax lost 50% of her armament from a single 11" hit.


AGS could lose 50% of her main armament to a single 8" hit, right?

Couldn't Ajax shift all of her remaining ammunition to the forward magazine?

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby Francis Marliere » Wed Sep 03, 2014 2:46 pm

alecsandros wrote:... In the hystorical battle, Graf Spee took 19 hits, from fully functional and with full ammo supply ships, yielding 16 x 6" guns and 6 x 8" guns with full ammo complement. Ajax+Achilles required 1600+ shells fired to score 17 hits, neither of which was particularly damaging. Their hit rate was ~ 1%, despite battle ranges down to 7km.

In a possible battle for Montevideo, Ajax, Achilles and Cumberland would yield 11 x 6" guns and 8 x 8" guns, with very few ammo remaining for the 6".

Graf Spee's sortie would not allow the British ships to stay in the same place and be blown out of the water. They would require manovreing and staying out of range of the heavy guns. Remember Ajax lost 50% of her armament from a single 11" hit.

I realy don't see any kind of advantage for the British force, as it was spread out along the Montevideo estuary, trying to close all the possible exits. This did not allow them to cover each other to well.


Alecsandros, the Brits have spies at Montevideo that will tell them when AGS is about to leave port. They also have floatplanes that would track him as soon as he steams out the harbour. Don't forget also that AGS is 8-9 knots slower than the cruisers, due to tired engines and dirty hull. I have no doubt that the RN squadron have time to concentrate.

1% is the average hit rate, with most of shells fired at much more longer range than 7 km. If the cruisers engage AGS at 5.000 yards, I guess that the raider will take many hits. A quick calculation shows that at this battle range, 8 x 8" plus 11 x 6" guns will perform better than the primary and secondary armamemnt of AGS :
8 x 8" guns x 4 rpm x 116 kg/shell = 3.7 t of projectiles per minute
11 x 6" guns x 6 rpm x 50.8 kg/shell = 3.35 t of projectiles per minute
=7.1 t for the cruisers

6 x 11" guns x 2.5 rpm x 300 kg/shell = 4.5 tpm
4 x 5.9" guns x 6 rpm x 45 kg/shell = 1.1 tpm
=5.6 t for AGS

One can argue that British 6" shells may not penetrate AGS armor. That's right, but consider that
- 6" shells will damage unarmored parts of AGS (bow, stern, superstructures, firec controls, etc.)
- German 6" guns don't have very good fire control
- Most of 11" shells will be either HE ones that may not penetrate the cruiser's armor or AP ones that may pass-through without exploding
- Due to his configuration (2 triple turrets), AGS may loose half its firepower to a single hit

Moreover, the RN does not need to blow AGS out of the water. Even light damage (a hit on the bow that pierce a fuel tank ...) may make AGS unable to reach Germany. Thats the reason because I think the situation is difficult for AGS. I you think otherwise, well no problem, we agree to disagree.

Best,

Francis

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Re: Graf Spee trying to escape back to Germany...

Postby alecsandros » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:00 pm

@Steve, Francis

Admiral Graf Spee had a frontal face plate of 170mm KC for her main turrets, with the declined portion at 140mm@60*.
British 8"/L50 had the following perforating capabilities (with shell in effective condition, attacking a vertical face plate with 0 lateral obliquity)
3.5km .... 310mm
5.5km .... 270mm
6.5km .... 241mm
9km ....... 208mm
11km ...... 183mm
13km ...... 160mm
(from here http://www.navweaps.com/index_nathan/Pe ... ritain.htm)

Real life obliquity would almost certainly be worse than that... Graf Spee's main turrets would probably be safe from a complete perforation, but they could be damaged by impact shock.
This happened several times during WW2. Indeed, 1 main turret could be taken out of the battle for a few hours, or maybe more, depending on the severity of the impact and of the damage.

===

The question of 6" guns vs Graf Spee is not that important, IMHO. In the previous battle, from 1600 shells fired, Ajax and Achilles obtained 17 hits. There were several which caused some damage: 1x150mm mount destroyed, 5 of the 6 x 105mm AA guns destroyed, 1 hole forward, 2 hits in the forward main turret (that remained in action).
All of those were repairable within 36 hours in Montevideo, except of course replacing the lost guns...

===

Ajax and Achilles were out of torpedoes and would quickly run out of ammunition.

===

AFAIK, standing orders for Cumberland/Ajax/Achilles were not to engage Graf Spee as it cleared the estuary, but to withdraw to the open sea and concentrate against it there, fighting as a single unit.

===
11" HE hits can take out any British cruiser turret, and any topside part of the superstructure.
===

Indeed, the British, having 19 primary guns from their 3 ships, would undoubtedly hit more often then Graf Spee. However, the rate of hits was not that great as the number of guns would imply.
As Graf Spee's straddles obtained late in the action, at ranges of 22-23km, showed clearly that she was still fully funcitonal and her gunnery was still impressive.

===

I also think it would be a hard fight, but I see Graf Spee as having chances of escaping, because of her size, and force of the main battery, which could disable Cumberland... Ajax/Achilles would pose more of a theoretical threat, especialy in a prolonged battle (where they would remain without ammo). Graf Spee would also have trouble with her ammo, but 300 shells would be enough for some crippling blows to Cumberland, and maybe to Achilles...


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