May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Tue Jul 26, 2016 1:23 pm

Herr Nilsson wrote:Well, Raeder (and Group West) favored Lütjens decision not to return.
That doesn't answer the question...

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Paul L » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:04 pm

Did the KM consider that breaking out through the GIUK gap to be that much harder than trying to maintain a viable squadron in Brest against the increasing Allied air attacks?

I thought that Lutjens orders were to breakout into the Atlantic undetected...So the moment he is shadowed by RN CA he ought to have abandoned mission and retire to the Artic to await another opportunity....just like in Operation Berlin?
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:21 pm

Herr Nilsson wrote: "For Hitler Rheinübung was not very important at that time."
Hi Marc,
it was not, as he was not an "expert" (to use a nice word) of naval warfare.....
However, Raeder was under big pressure, as Hitler required results from the expensive KM capital ships, lying at anchor.

you wrote: "Raeder (and Group West) favored Lütjens decision not to return to Norway."
Of course.
As I said, this would have been an admission that the KM was unable to make use of her large ships to oppose the vital British commerce.

Under these above circumstances, I don't think Lutjens (even if he was free to take operative decisions) could lightly decide to abort the mission, when there were still chances to take the war in the Atlantic. He would have been in a difficult position, as well as Raeder.... :think:


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jul 26, 2016 2:25 pm

Paul L wrote: "...So the moment he is shadowed by RN CA he ought to have abandoned mission and retire to the Artic to await another opportunity...."
Hi Paul,
as per my previous post, I don't think this was a viable solution, due to the pressure of Hitler on Raeder and of Raeder on Lutjens.
Of course, with hindsight, it would have been much better.....
However, due to the incorrect information he had received, Lutjens might have thought he was followed only by the cruisers and that the British fleet was still at Scapa, thus unable to prevent his sortie.....


The KM considered that the only way to pose a threat to British convoys was to deploy a fleet in Atlantic with ships able to attack British heavy escorts. The fact that Brest was under air attack, that the twins were unavailable and that Tirpitz was not ready in May were not considered enough reasons to cancel the plan, as the war was at its decisive moment and Britain could not be left undisturbed until autumn 1941, in order to have everything ready.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Tue Jul 26, 2016 3:40 pm

Hi Alberto,
Of course, you are very right in mentioning those aspects,
However, a critical aspect which shouldn't be overlooked is that Bismarck was mission killed anyway - and could not execute the original anti-merchant mission.... So Luetjens faced a good few months of repairs, if he could make it to France, if he wouldn't be further damaged in Brest, and if he could manage to sortie again somewhere in the future. All unforeseable events and under pressure from seemingly beyond-visual-range enemy radars and growing strength to RN Navy (the Germans knew 2 more KGV battleships were to be operational during 1941).

If he was mission killed... he could have sent Prinz Eugen alone to hunt for merchant ships (which he did historically), while turning back to the Denmark Strait with the handicapped battleship... Getting to Norway, and then to Germany to execute repairs, and then, with Tirpitz and / or other heavy ships, execute a proper breakout , possibly in conjunction with another breakout of Schanrhorst/Gneisenau from Brest... It seems far more logical and appropriate...

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jul 26, 2016 5:51 pm

Alecsandros wrote: "If he was mission killed... he could have sent Prinz Eugen alone to hunt for merchant ships (which he did historically), while turning back to the Denmark Strait with the handicapped battleship... "
Hi Alec,
you are right, but I don't think that repairs to Bismarck would have been a matter of months. :think:
It was well possible to patch the bow holes (not located in any critical area and almost at waterline without dry-docking the ship in very short time), while a bit more difficult would have been the hit under the belt.
However, at worst, it would have been possible to make the boiler room dry by working from inside the ship, to secure the bulkheads and to continue the mission without 1 out of 2 "extra" generator rooms (BS had 4 and strictly only needed 2).....

I think he was hoping to temporarily fix the ship very quickly in St.Nazaire, join PG and continue a raider mission that would have been able, at that point in time, to engage protected convoys, as per the scope of Rheinubung.

At worst, even if Bismarck would have been unavailable for a long time, the concentration of a powerful fleet in Atlantic was at least achieved, without the need anymore to exit the straits passing close to the British bases and being close to the routes of convoys.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:24 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:

I think he was hoping to temporarily fix the ship very quickly in St.Nazaire, join PG and continue a raider mission that would have been able, at that point in time, to engage protected convoys, as per the scope of Rheinubung.
... I doubt that Alberto,
the ship needed to be dry-docked and repaired. Nobody would have left Saint Nazaire without fixing the hull, and there were several holes (forecastle, outer hull, inner hull including Whotan armored bulkhead) , plus the need to replace parts of the boiler room that were flooded. One of the cranes was damaged by the a 14" shell from PoW, as was the ship's catapult. Thus repairs on the Bismarck would have been long and Prinz Eugen was already manifesting engine, propeller and fuel consumption troubles (probably linked to the previous 2 issues), all of which combined to force the cruiser back to Brest without doing any sort of merchant-hunting whatsoever... Luetjens did not know the chain of events that was to be unfolding, but he did knew the engine and propeller issues, as well as the fuel troubles.

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:26 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote: At worst, even if Bismarck would have been unavailable for a long time, the concentration of a powerful fleet in Atlantic was at least achieved, without the need anymore to exit the straits passing close to the British bases and being close to the routes of convoys.
Yes, but with the available info as of Luetjens had it, it also represented an excellent concentration of targets for RAF bombers...

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:49 pm

Alecsandros wrote: "....the ship needed to be dry-docked and repaired.....repairs on the Bismarck would have been long"
Hi Alec,
you are right, for permanent repairs the ship needed to be dry-docked. However to patch her, this was not needed (the holes were not torpedo holes, severely affecting the hull and its structure).
In any case, PoW was dry-docked (after Bismarck was sunk, else I guess the British would immediately have sent her just patched (as she was in Iceland Hvalfjord) against BS again....) and repairs lasted just one month, including the removal of the Bismarck shell for which the hull was cut and open.....

you wrote: "with the available info as of Luetjens had it, it also represented an excellent concentration of targets for RAF bombers..."
I do agree, however, if Germans seriously wanted to move a war into Atlantic against he most vital British interest, risks should have been taken..... else the KM would have been condemned to just play the role of "fleet in being" for the rest of the war (as it was anyway, already after BS was sunk and became evident with "Cerberus"......).


Bye, Alberto
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:13 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
In any case, PoW was dry-docked (after Bismarck was sunk, else I guess the British would immediately have sent her just patched (as she was in Iceland Hvalfjord) against BS again....) and repairs lasted just one month, including the removal of the Bismarck shell for which the hull was cut and open.....
... Bismarck had a different type of damage, and a different structure then Prince of Wales. For instance replacing the inner armor bulkhead wouldn't have been an easy matter... Repairing the boiler room likewise... There were also repairs to be done to the crane, catapult, forecastle...

I do agree, however, if Germans seriously wanted to move a war into Atlantic against he most vital British interest, risks should have been taken..... else the KM would have been condemned to just play the role of "fleet in being" for the rest of the war (as it was anyway, already after BS was sunk and became evident with "Cerberus"......).
Most likely so.
However, again, with the intel available on May 24th: Scharnhorst - in repairs (turbine trouble), out of action for several months; Gneisenau - in repairs following air-launched torpedo in Brest, out of action until Jan 1942. Prinz Eugen - manifesting teething troubles and in need of revisions; Hipper - pending refit out of action until Dec 1941; Tirpitz - in trials; Scheer - in refit (and ordered for Norway as of April 1941); Lutzow - in trials (recomissioning - and ordered for Norway as of March 1941)... Bismarck - damaged, pending repairs...

So , not a single heavy ship truly ready for a sortie... Or ready to support the Bismarck, had her repairs been indeed effectuated quickly...

Not a single heavy ship available to support Bismarck = few , if any prospects of other sorties.

My impression is Luetjens hoped for a massive propaganda victory for passing through the entire Atlantic and escaping the Home Fleet... after destroying the pride of the Royal Navy... However, doing so with a handicapped battleship was ... rather suicidal.

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:19 pm

Alecsandros wrote: "My impression is Luetjens hoped for a massive propaganda victory for passing through the entire Atlantic and escaping the Home Fleet... after destroying the pride of the Royal Navy... However, doing so with a handicapped battleship was ... rather suicidal."
Hi Alec,
aborting the mission without attempting to reach France and to try to pose a threat to British convoys was IMO not a viable option for him and it would have put Raeder and the whole KM in a very difficult position, with severe critics on the real usefulness of the surface fleet.
With hindsight it was possibly better to go back but, as a matter of facts, Bismarck almost managed to get to France and just the very last torpedo of the last air assault had her.

There were many probabilities that BS could not get back as well. There was no way to escape cruisers surveillance in the narrow Denmark Strait (as already experimented, because the course was almost obliged) and Tovey would have waited anyway at the exit with a carrier able to guide him on the enemy and to damage it. In the wide Atlantic, BS chances to loose her pursuers were many more (as it historically happened the night between 24 and 25, until 26) and a loss of contact could well have been irremediable for the British.

I think Lutjens decided that if he had to be blamed for loosing BS anyway, better to be blamed for trying to achieve something than for just giving up his mission. Just my 2 cents opinion, of course.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Wed Jul 27, 2016 5:32 am

Alberto Virtuani wrote: aborting the mission without attempting to reach France and to try to pose a threat to British convoys was IMO not a viable option for him and it would have put Raeder and the whole KM in a very difficult position, with severe critics on the real usefulness of the surface fleet.
That is possibly what Luetjens had in mind, but he was gambling alot. Bismarck was no longer able to pursue convoys - and in need of repairs in a dry dock - and there were no other heavy ships to support her in Atlantic operations anyway. Not until autumn 1941 at best.
With hindsight it was possibly better to go back but, as a matter of facts, Bismarck almost managed to get to France and just the very last torpedo of the last air assault had her.
I thought so for some time, but in more recent times I don't... Bismarck was unlucky on May 26th 21:00, but he was very lucky on May 24th and 25th... Also, after the 15 Swordfishes from Ark Royal attacked, Bismarck was still 1000km from Brest. Ark Royal was at 100km from her, with Renown, SHeffield, and several destroyers. Norfolk and Dorsetshire were coming hard as well.
By May 27th 9:00, the Royal Navy would deliver another Swordfish torpedo strike (12 machines), and execute joint torpedo and gunnery attacks on the Bsimarck, with Renown, Sheffield, Dorsetshire and 6 DDs.
There were many probabilities that BS could not get back as well. There was no way to escape cruisers surveillance in the narrow Denmark Strait (as already experimented, because the course was almost obliged) and Tovey would have waited anyway at the exit with a carrier able to guide him on the enemy and to damage it. In the wide Atlantic, BS chances to loose her pursuers were many more (as it historically happened the night between 24 and 25, until 26) and a loss of contact could well have been irremediable for the British.
It is true - there was no guarantee the BS would get back safely to Norway. But the shadowers were there regardless of the route taken - Luejtens couldn't have known if and when he could escape them. The Denmark STrait was filled with ice floes and was covered in mist throughout the day, so visibility favored an escape. Even in the northern end of the strait, visiblity was very bad - on the way in, Bismarck kept a beacon to her stern, in order for PRinz Eugen to be able to follow in her wake, about 1000m behind.

Getting back thorugh the strait was a 12 hour journey, and from there a 2-day journey to Norway. The Home Fleet could send ships to intercept - but which ships ? Scapa FLow ships, with air recon from Iceland and northern BRitish isles (Oriskannys for example).
As it was, with Bismarck heading to BRest, it was a 50 hour journey. The Home Fleet could send all the ships available in the Atlantic , and some even from the MEditeranean. The amount of ships to be concentrated along the way was substantialy larger in an Atlantic push then in a Denmark Strait push...

That's why, with the acknowledgement that Luetjens must have shared the impressions that you mentioned, I think he was reckless and suicidal in going across an entire ocean with his damaged ship....

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Herr Nilsson » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:03 am

Because this discussion has continued in such a “fruitful” manner during my absence, I think I can spare my comment, that you should read the primary sources.…and – to be honest - it’s really much more fun to read your speculations.
Regards

Marc

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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:11 am

Alecsandros wrote: "Bismarck was unlucky on May 26th 21:00, but he was very lucky on May 24th and 25th..."
Well, if you refer to the Hood explosion, I don't believe it was a lucky hit: when you send a WWI ship without immunity to face a modern battleship, the outcome is just a consequence (possibly Hood could resist other10, 20 minutes but at the end a shell would have find his path to the magazines).
If you refer to the loss of contact, I don't think it was a matter of luck: Bismarck had a plan to cover PG escape and to loose contact. Wake-Walker errors helped, but the chances to get free in Atlantic at night were very, very high as all courses are possible and there were not enough ships/radars to cover all sectors.
The "error" was the long message sent and it was not a matter of luck as well.
The "rudder" torpedo on 26 was lucky, but there had been other 2 "fishes" hitting already and being very "lucky", so not a matter of luck, just probabilities.....

you wrote: "The amount of ships to be concentrated along the way was substantialy larger in an Atlantic push then in a Denmark Strait push..."
Yes, but the immense Atlantic area was more than enough to compensate this numerical difference. In the narrow Denmark Strait the course of Bismarck was forced. Inside the Strait , even loosing contact (as Suffolk lost in the night of 23), it was easy to get it again just continuing on the one route....

IMO Atlantic was much better to loose the pursuers and Lutjens did a logical choice, also trying to continue the mission for which BS had been sent out.
Again, coming back would not have been a great success for the KM, getting to France after sinking Hood would.


Bye, Alberto
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Re: May 24 1941 - Tirpitz v Prince of Wales

Post by alecsandros » Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:21 am

Dear Alberto,
I'm reffering to the situation of the battle of Denmark Strait: Holland was without his 6 DDs and without Norfolk and Suffolk. Holland's desperate attempt to stop Luetjens forced him to attack head on, thus allowing BS/PE to cross his T. (imagine the 6 DDs charging BS and PE... )

DUring the battle, Bismarck suffered small damage. Nonetheless, the 3 hits that were sustained did not cause any human casualties.. (Imagine 1st hit from PoW directly in the foretop, second in the aft command tower, third exactly below the funell, destroying the funnell uptakes.)

Later, BS was lucky to be hit by 1 x aerial torpedo , in a very heavily armored portion of her hull. The same torpedo hitting a few meters below, or some 50 meters behind... and the ship may have lost 10kts out of her already diminished max speed, and be intercepted by KGV/Renown on the night of May 25th.

Later still, on May 26th 14:30, the first strike from Ark Royal stumbled onto Sheffield, attacking her instead of the Bismarck (but with faulty torps).

So I do think BS was lucky... by not being badly hit during the battle with enemy capital ships, by not having to battle with the enemy escort, by not being intercepted by Tovey on the 25th, etc, etc...

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