The Battle of Stromvaer

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Terje Langoy
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Postby Terje Langoy » Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:07 am

Unfortunately my primary source author Wolfgang Kähler does not provide number or details of Gneisenau’s expenditure but according to K/S, which appears to present the duel via German sources, Gneisenau never fired base fused HE projectiles. She accounted for 44 x 283 mm nose fused HE and 10 x 283 mm armour piercing projectiles. Scharnhorst accounted for 182 x 283 mm armour piercing projectiles and 13 x 283 mm nose fused HE projectiles. I can’t help but thinking that Gneisenau’s identification error, Renown being sighted and identified as ‘a Nelson-class’ might be a factor contributing to her choice of shell type.

I do agree with your analysis derived from the ever-classical British identification error and hereunder their probable battle evaluation. Scharnhorst being identified as a heavy cruiser may, according to a rookie sense of logic, reduce her value in any immediate threat analysis made aboard Renown as opposed to the other Scharnhorst, commonly known as Gneisenau. So forth we’d have a plausible motive to support the 114 mm hits landed.

Further note of interest is reported range and bearing of the hits recorded aboard the Galloper. Both 283 mm came in bearing green 90 at about 18 000 yards. After sighting Gneisenau Renown increased speed towards 20 knots and, at 0459 hours, hauled right around from previous course 080° onto new course 305° thus bringing her up on a parallel course ‘abaft the beam of the leading German ship’ whereupon she opened fire at a range of 18 600 yards, at 0505 hours. At that current time S&G steamed on a course 310° at a moderate speed of 12 knots, providing similar heading but also a noteworthy difference of speed during the initial phase.

Löwisch’ report states that ‘prospect of hits existed at phase I and beginning of phase II’ which provides a plausible time frame between 0510 hours until 0520 hours, whereas both adversaries presented their beams. Author Brown states that Gneisenau’s foretop hit at 0516 hours occurred ‘at a range of 14 600 yards’ making time of impact for the two 283 mm projectiles a marginal window of opportunity. After Lütjens order at 0519 hours, with S&G steering away from Renown, the latter also turned due north and by doing so eliminated the chances of any green 90 hits during the later withdrawal.

As I’m able to interpret from this, over a period of ten minutes distance between combatants was closed by some 4 000 yards, hence my remark on difference in speed. S&G opened fire at 0510 which would set an approximate range to some 16 000 yards and I’m compelled to believe those two 283 mm hits so forth must have occurred pretty early, possibly during the initial salvos. Taking into account Scharnhorst’s high expenditure of armour piercing projectiles, as the hit aft seem to support, and also the apparently more favourable position of Scharnhorst, astern of Gneisenau and thus presented with ‘more target’ she’s to me a very good candidate to land a ‘green 90’ hit.

Your inputs are, as always, very appreciated.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Sun Aug 23, 2009 7:35 am

Unfortunately my primary source author Wolfgang Kähler does not provide number or details of Gneisenau’s expenditure but according to K/S, which appears to present the duel via German sources, Gneisenau never fired base fused HE projectiles. She accounted for 44 x 283 mm nose fused HE and 10 x 283 mm armour piercing projectiles. Scharnhorst accounted for 182 x 283 mm armour piercing projectiles and 13 x 283 mm nose fused HE projectiles.


That Gneisenau fired mostly nose fuzed HE and only a few AP rounds, while Scharnhorst fired mostly AP with only a few nose fused HE, does make it statistically probable that the two hits, or at least the first one through the hull aft, came from Scharnhorst rather than from Gneisenau. Had Gneisenau been on target with at least a few salvos of HE, then one would expect a large number of splinter strikes from near misses--the British commented on the lack thereof compared to the heavy amount of splinter hits on Exeter from near misses by 28cm shells from GS. To me this would indicate that Gneisenau was possibly not achieving very many straddling salvos with her HE shells. It is possible the two hits were from one or two salvos of AP shell, but as Scharnhorst fired the majority of AP shells directed at Renown, your postulation that one or both of the hits were from her is highly possible.This is further reinforced by the fact that Gneisenau was being actively engaged by Renown's main and secondary armament, leaving Scharnhorst to fire relatively unhindered except by the atrocious weather which seriously hindered her spotting fall of shot (and apparently affected both sides observations).

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Postby Terje Langoy » Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:49 pm

Based on statistical hit probability from shell type expenditure as well as valuable damage reports from HMS Renown and Exeter, (Thanks for providing those, Thomas!) I must admit to have developed serious doubts of the alleged German performance.

It seems plausible that the two 283 mm hits most likely came from turret Caesar aboard Scharnhorst. The aft turret could account for 139 round of armour piercing projectiles fired and also presents itself as the one least affected by failure and breakdown. (Upon that note I withdraw my previous statement that the German turrets had the ‘fortune’ of being trained away from the oncoming seas – as this obviously had a severe effect on the shell casing ejection flaps)

According to commander of turret Caesar, Kapitänleutnant Bredemeyer, he did not ‘observe any hits’ but he did however record ‘four straddling salvos’. Further in Scharnhorst’s gunnery report Löwisch also states that during the sharp turn to starboard at 0519 hours the ‘heavy armament straddled the enemy with a full salvo’ strongly indicating that even without the assist of radar, Scharnhorst's fire was not completely ineffective. The relative positions between the combatants at 0519 hours supports a ‘green 90’ hit though range would be less than recorded in British damage reports.

Commander of turret Bruno claims he ‘saw a column of smoke from a hit rising on the enemy vessel’ but he does unfortunately not say where it was located. Several officers observed ‘a hit in the area of the enemy bridge’ and with the mast located just aft of the bridge it is possible they actually spotted the recorded 283 mm hit at the mast leg. However this can not be stated with certainty as commander Netzbandt, in Gneisenau’s log, also recorded a hit ‘somewhere between bridge and bow’ aboard the Galloper. Such observations must ultimately, as you also noted, be considered of lesser value given the weather and hereunder decreased quality of visual spotting.

Based on current knowledge I do however dare to make the bold statement that Scharnhorst scored both 283 mm hits, possibly during a salvo fired from turret Caesar between 0518 hours and 0521 hours. As always, your inputs are most welcome.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby RF » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:05 am

Terje, can I ask if the reports from the German officers quoted have been formally published, if possible with translation?

If so, can you give me the source?
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Postby Terje Langoy » Mon Aug 24, 2009 2:40 pm

Battleships of the Scharnhorst class - Gerhard Koop & Klaus-Peter Schmolke

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby paulcadogan » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:03 pm

Terje and all,

According to the official Admiralty records - the hits on Renown were attributed to "Scharnhorst's" (i.e. Gneisenau's) third salvo which straddled the ship.
Here's the quote from http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... htm#renown

H.M.S. RENOWN was cruising at about 18 knots off Lofoten Islands ( Northern Norwegian Coast), on the morning on 9th April, 1940. The sea was very rough; during the night there had been a full gale from the North East with heavy and frequent snow storms. At about 0400 there was a temporary and local area of clear vision, and at about 18,000 yds. range RENOWN sighted a large war vessel. At first this was though to be REPULSE, but it was quickly ascertained to be the German battleship SCHARNHORST. It was then observed that she had in company with her a vessel assumed to be the German cruiser HIPPER. Up to this time it is thought that the German ships had not seen RENOWN. The latter opened fire at a range of 18,000 yds. and on a bearing of approximately Green 90; it was about 4 mins. later that SCHARNHORST opened fire. Her first salvo fell ‘short’, the second fell ‘over’, and the third straddled. This salvo caused the hit a the after end of RENOWN, and probably also the hit on her Mast, although it is possible that the latter may have been one of the shell in SCHARNHORST’s second salvo, which fell ‘over’.

RENOWN had also straddled SCHARNHORST with her third salvo of 15”. The first direct 15” hit observed on SCHARNHORST was at the base of her bridge structure. A large column of smoke was seen to rise, and immediately SCHARNHORST stopped firing. Very soon after another 15” hit was observed on SCHARNHORST just abaft the funnel, which gave rise to a large column of smoke. Immediately after this hit, SCHARHORST turned away, whilst HIPPER crossed her stern and laid a smoke screen. RENOWN then shifted target to HIPPER, who turned away as soon as the first salvo was fired. Both enemy ships withdrew at high speed to the North-East. RENOWN followed. Some time later SCHARNHORST fired her after turret, obviously in local control.


Did Scharnhorst open fire simultaneously with Gneisenau? How could Renown be sure which ship hit her if that is the case?

The account does support Terje's timing of the hits received by Gneisenau though. The report also confirms the use of Renown's 4.5's throughout.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:23 pm

It is possible the hits came from Gneisenau's third salvo, as these were ranging salvos, and the Germans preferred the use of armour piercing shell for those as the water columns created were taller and better defined than those with HE.

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Postby Terje Langoy » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:28 pm

My first observations in the Official Admiralty Report would be the following quote:

…it was about 4 minutes later that Scharnhorst opened fire. Her first salvo fell ‘short’, the second fell ‘over’, and the third straddled. This salvo caused the hit at the after end of Renown, and probably also the hit on her mast, although it is possible that the latter may have been one of the shell in Scharnhorst’s second salvo, which fell ‘over’.

Considering Thomas’ comment of armour piercing projectiles being used to improve fall of shot ‘spotting quality’ and from there adding Gneisenau’s type expenditure; 10 rounds of 283 mm AP, we may arrive at the idea of a range ladder being fired at 0511 hours; in three sequential turret salvos. So, if the hit aft aboard H.M.S. Renown were to occur at 0511-0512 hours the conclusion would be that one of Gneisenau’s turrets was on target with its very first salvo. Given that turret firing sequence aboard Gneisenau was executed fore to aft then turret Caesar stands out as the candidate. Turret Caesar was not affected by ‘wooding’ as experienced by the forward batteries shortly before 0513 hours and should be able to maintain good range and thus land further hits or at least near-misses. Second salvo from turret Caesar must have been a HE-salvo whereas even a near-miss should be able to present itself in form of some splinter damage. This is however absent in the damage report of H.M.S. Renown. How could Gneisenau be on target almost at once and then suddenly wide off, some four minutes before the foretop took a direct hit?

I find another quote of this report to be a rather odd piece to the puzzle.

Renown had also straddled Scharnhorst with her third salvo of 15”. The first direct 15” hit observed on Scharnhorst was at the base of her bridge structure. A large column of smoke was seen to rise, and immediately Scharnhorst stopped firing. Very soon after another 15” hit was observed on Scharnhorst just abaft the funnel, which gave rise to a large column of smoke.

H.M.S. Renown opened fire at 0505 hours. Gneisenau returned fire at 0511 hours. So, if the third 380 mm salvo was to land at the base of bridge structure (turret Anton?) causing a cease fire aboard Gneisenau then H.M.S. Renown would have a rate of one salvo fired pr. third minute..?!

A fundamental issue to be addressed in the official report is the repeated identification error. If the British Admiralty, at the time this report was made, were still unaware to the fact that Hipper actually was Scharnhorst then obviously they could not attribute any 283 mm hits to a heavy cruiser sporting 8-inches as main.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby paulcadogan » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:51 pm

H.M.S. Renown opened fire at 0505 hours. Gneisenau returned fire at 0511 hours. So, if the third 380 mm salvo was to land at the base of bridge structure (turret Anton?) causing a cease fire aboard Gneisenau then H.M.S. Renown would have a rate of one salvo fired pr. third minute..?!


Terje, I don't think the report necessarily attributes the Renown's third salvo with the hit "at the base of the bridge". It says she straddled with her third. The hits could have come from any subsequent unspecified salvos.

I'd like to see a minute by minute timeline and a battle map to really get things into perspective.

It's amazing that in some British accounts, found in books and online that Scharnhorst and Hipper are identified as the German ships. I even read an account of a Glowworm survivor who was aboard Hipper and hearing the rumbling of gunfire, was told that they were being chased by Renown!

We were all locked below decks with armed sentries. We were there until the following Friday. The Hipper was on her way to Norway where she discharged the troops she was carrying. Her mission completed, she made for the open sea again.

We had been at sea for quite a time when excitement ran high amongst the Germans. Something was happening and before long came the sound of gun fire. We knew that we were being fired on by the Royal Navy. It gave us all a queer feeling not knowing what would happen as we were shut down below with armed sentries on the hatches. But they told us we would get the chance to get out if anything happened.

HMS Renown was chasing us. However, this was not to be. The Hipper got away as she had a good turn of speed and the weather was in her favour.
http://www.hmsglowworm.org.uk/

So even post-war the British would have had further evidence that Hipper was there, further compounding the error! But how could the survivor have experienced this...or did he make it up??? :think:

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:05 pm

Interesting account by a survivor. He does not say how he learned it was Renown, but perhaps he read the account of the battle between Renown and the twins after the war (or was told when he got back to England) and assumed, since Hipper was mentioned, that was what happened.

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Postby Dave Saxton » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:11 am

Terje Langoy wrote:........that one of Gneisenau’s turrets was on target with its very first salvo. Given that turret firing sequence aboard Gneisenau was executed fore to aft then turret Caesar stands out as the candidate. Turret Caesar was not affected by ‘wooding’ as experienced by the forward batteries shortly before 0513 hours and should be able to maintain good range and thus land further hits or at least near-misses. ......



This would seem to be the case if Gneisenau was shooting using local control. Surely it was shooting with central control though. Shooting partial salvoes, short, long, and straddling, sounds very much like the standard German bracketing procedure for opening salvoes during central fire control when using either optics, radar, or both. This indicates that the initial range measurement and fire control solution was spot on. HE shells although of the same weight were not exactly of the same form, and may of had slightly different flight characteristics possibly requiring slight correction.
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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Wed Aug 26, 2009 5:09 am

It not only sounds like the standard proceedure, but most likely was the standard Einschiessen, and that would normally require central fire control. Very good shooting indeed for the range and visibility conditions. As to the AP vs HE shells, they had the same weight and were designed to range similarly--frankly from a ballistic point of view that would be difficult, and as you say there were probably slight differences in range between the two types. The nose fuzed shells had the same radius nose caps as the AP, but were slightly longer and therefore should have had different ballistic coefficients. The nose and base fuzed HE seem to have used the same cam insert/range table, but the AP seems to have had its own.

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Postby Terje Langoy » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:11 pm

I decided to check whether Löwisch mention any straddles during Scharnhorst’s initial salvos, something he did not. However I did find something very interesting in the action report from turret commander Bruno. According to his report Scharnhorst’s first salvos would not be able to imitate the range salvo sequence described in the Admiralty Official Report at all – since the first salvos from turret Bruno did not go off at all.

I do feel pretty stupid not to have paid any attention to the fact that Scharnhorst’s aft magazines were just about cleared of armour piercing shells during the duel. So forth my previous comment about the difference in expenditure between S&G (10 vs. 189 rounds) must be regarded less valid since Scharnhorst’s forward batteries, as commented above, appears to have been haunted by failure already from the outset. Turret Caesar alone would then account for most of the armour piercing projectiles fired and, as we know, was the only active turret during the stern chase, well beyond plausible time for the occurrence of any ‘green 90’ hits aboard H.M.S. Renown.

Do we dare to conclude that Gneisenau performed a very successful range ladder, sequential turret-salvos, whereas she landed one or two 283 mm hits already with her third salvo? This would provide a pretty accurate time of impact, both hits being landed at 0511 – 0512 hours.

From the Official report:

"...The first direct 15” hit observed on Scharnhorst was at the base of her bridge structure. A large column of smoke was seen to rise, and immediately Scharnhorst stopped firing."

Could this hit have been landed at 0512-0513 hours thus interrupting Gneisenau's good shooting solution?

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:12 pm

Do we dare to conclude that Gneisenau performed a very successful range ladder, sequential turret-salvos, whereas she landed one or two 283 mm hits already with her third salvo? This would provide a pretty accurate time of impact, both hits being landed at 0511 – 0512 hours.


...or a hit with the over through the tripod mast and a hit with the straddling salvo. It is a reasonable assumption, I believe, that Gneisenau's ranging salvos were successful to that degree. As the bracket groups were separated by only 400m, there was only very slight adjustments in elevation for the 400m over, on estimated range, and 400m short salvos of the group. The long salvo could well have sent a shell through the tirpod mast.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby paulcadogan » Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:51 pm

All I can say is that it does make sense.

Kudos are also deserved by Renown's gunnery team during those first few minutes - with sea conditions blanketing her 30 ft. turret range finders, she obviously relied on her 15 ft DCT RF for ranges. She did not, as has erroneously been written elsewhere, have gunnery radar at that time. (I read the account on Bob Henneman's site which also states BTW that the hits on both sides were scored during the second phase of the chase after Renown re-opened fire.)

She would also have been firing 3-gun salvoes as was standard RN practice - left gun alternating with right gun for a maximum of 2 salvoes per minute - if she fired that rapidly under those conditions. So to straddle with her third salvo and land a hit shortly thereafter was pretty good shooting.

Her 4.5's - with 10 guns bearing and their high rate of fire - might make a hit likely. But what about their peformance features under those adverse conditions? Plus, weren't they aimed at the Scharnhorst?

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