Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2 (al

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
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Dave Saxton
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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Dave Saxton » Tue Feb 14, 2012 4:21 pm

Thanks for going to such effort Paul L. It’s helpful, and it illustrates how difficult it is to score hits with artillery fire at sea, even with radar. Duke of York only scored 4 or 5 hits on Scharnhorst in a period of time of 90 minutes at ranges between 11,000 meters and 19500 meters. Only when it later reengaged the dead in the water SH at point blank range did it score the majority of the total hits. While the hits per rounds numbers underscore the point, they can leave us without an deeper understanding as well.

Remember that in naval gunfire you shoot to straddle the target (hopefully) with your mean point of impact (hopefully) centered on the target. Then it becomes a matter of luck if one of the shells from the straddle strikes the target. Hits may be attained but no hits may be attained despite your best efforts and excellent shooting. Other mitigating factors are danger space, dispersion patterns, ranging errors, MPI errors, bearing track errors, and environmental conditions.

Paul C is correct to point out that Ardent and Acasta were sunk primarily by the 6” batteries. What the numbers don’t tell us is that Ardent was hit by Gneisenau’s 6” battery with it first salvo at range of 15,000 meters. However, the Gneisenau did not maintain a sustained fire at either British destroyer only firing at them intermittently. This will cause the number of hits per rounds fired to go down.

This was the case of Hipper’s shooting at Barents Sea as well. In Artic darkness and snow storms, it scored a first salvo hit on Achates from 14,000 meters. However, it did not open a sustained fire on Achates or upon any one British destroyer because of the tactics Admiral Kummetz was employing. It only fired intermittent salvoes over a period of the next Approx. 45 minutes. The admiral was only seeking to draw the British destroyers away from the convoy, while keeping his own ship well out of torpedo range, so the Luetzow and destroyers approaching from the opposite direction could more easily destroy the convoy. When the Hipper opened more sustained fire on the Onslow it scored (IIRC) 4 direct 8” hits firing 6 salvoes from 12,000 to 14,000 meters range. Later it scored a first salvo hit followed by additional hits from over 17,000 meters range once again on the Achates resulting in its eventual sinking. Switching targets, it then quickly scored hits on the Obedient from Approx. 16,000 meters range. All these details are lost if we just look at hits scored per rounds fired.

Another example of the numbers not telling us the whole story is River Plate. Graf Spee’s initial shooting was excellent. At ranges of Approx. 18,000 meters it quickly scored multiple hits on Exeter, more or less taking it out the fight. However, the 6” battery was ineffective against the two other cruisers, because as the Germans only learned after the battle, the director used to target them was damaged by a shell splinter and providing erroneous bearing data. The Captain was forced to keep switching targets with the 11” battery to keep the other targets at bay. Another important factor in the battle was a British shell passing through the Graf Spee’s foretop cutting off the main firecontrol station and the radar set. No longer able to range the enemy with radar it could not maintain its earlier shooting accuracy.

Radar complexities were also a factor in the South Dakota and Washington’s poor shooting at Guadalcanal. When the battleships opened fire east of Savo they fired as many as 14 broadsides with out hitting anything. Washington was actually shooting its main battery at a phantom radar target at 18,000 yards. Of course none of the 42 16 rounds hit anything because nothing but sea water was there. Three IJN warships were indeed at 12,000 yards and the Washington’s secondary battery was firing at them, but once again no hits were scored. After the first two salvos Washington was firing on “Generated Target Data” only. All the radars were incapacitated by the shock of the opening 16” salvos. The radars were still functioning but not registering any targets for the time being. So the guns were being fired on coordinates based on the last range, bearing, and speed feed into the computers.

South Dakota wasn’t firing at any phantom radar contacts, but it failed to score any hits as well. On SD’s radar displays it looked like hits were being obtained (due to the poor resolution for range of the radar sets) and when the targets flickered off the scopes as the enemy destroyers pulled out of radar range (about 16,000 yards), it was assumed that the enemy targets were sinking.

Radar range resolution was also a factor in the shooting at Ayanami. Washington’s firecontrol radars were confused by the shadow of Savo, so Washington was shooting at gun flashes only (which was mistaken for shore batteries on Savo). Most of the hits scored on Ayanami were scored by destroyers Preston and Gwin.
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: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Paul L » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:11 pm

Thanks guys but in truth it was a file I had worked on last year for another forum. The debate was about realistic hit rates in naval engadgements and Adam Tooze words about 'most historical writing being based on opinion rather than fact', where still ringing in my ears. So I dug up my 3 volume Vincent OHara set on naval combat in Med; Atlantic and Pacific and G&D volumes to dig up what details I could find. Since then I have tinkered with it and update when data emerges . I noted some of the files connected to this site are also helpful. I have half a mind to turn it into a catalogue of naval battles, using stats to try and remain as neutral as possible.

I'm not sure about what sank Ardent and Acasta ? I thought the Twins secondaries only got 3 hits in that battle and find it hard to believe that was enough to sink two RN DD?
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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:53 am

Dave Saxton wrote: Radar complexities were also a factor in the South Dakota and Washington’s poor shooting at Guadalcanal. When the battleships opened fire east of Savo they fired as many as 14 broadsides with out hitting anything. Washington was actually shooting its main battery at a phantom radar target at 18,000 yards. Of course none of the 42 16 rounds hit anything because nothing but sea water was there. Three IJN warships were indeed at 12,000 yards and the Washington’s secondary battery was firing at them, but once again no hits were scored. After the first two salvos Washington was firing on “Generated Target Data” only. All the radars were incapacitated by the shock of the opening 16” salvos. The radars were still functioning but not registering any targets for the time being. So the guns were being fired on coordinates based on the last range, bearing, and speed feed into the computers.

South Dakota wasn’t firing at any phantom radar contacts, but it failed to score any hits as well. On SD’s radar displays it looked like hits were being obtained (due to the poor resolution for range of the radar sets) and when the targets flickered off the scopes as the enemy destroyers pulled out of radar range (about 16,000 yards), it was assumed that the enemy targets were sinking.

Radar range resolution was also a factor in the shooting at Ayanami. Washington’s firecontrol radars were confused by the shadow of Savo, so Washington was shooting at gun flashes only (which was mistaken for shore batteries on Savo). Most of the hits scored on Ayanami were scored by destroyers Preston and Gwin.

..... Fascinating interpretation of events, Dave. Upon what do you base it?

B

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Feb 15, 2012 5:29 am

Hi Byron,

Mainly for this stage of the battle I based this post on the BB56 Action Report For Nov 14-15 1942 submitted by Capt. Davis and approved by Adm Lee on Nov 27th 1942. Also the narrative included in Capt Gatch's Damage Report for BB57. The War College narratives done during the war are also useful but they take the wild claims made in the heat of battle at face value and do not cross reference IJN data and actual losses because they could not at that time of course. Hammel's quintessential battle history is valuable source to help tie things together.
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: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:10 pm

To just clarify for any readers that may not be familar with some of the details of this battle, this phase of the battle occured to the east of Savo Island and were against Adm Hashimoto's scout force, which received no damage.

The much more well known phase of the battle against Adm Kondo's main force, including the battle cruiser Kirishima, occured about 40 minutes later to the west of Savo Island and at 8,400 yards battle range.
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: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by sandym » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:37 am

paulcadogan wrote:
Paul L wrote:To sink HMS Glorious the ‘twins’ expended 387 x 11” shells registering only 5 hits plus 1148 x 6” shells, which don’t seem to have hit anything.
Awesome post Paul...but.... didn't the 5.9's sink Ardent and Acasta?

Anyway, here's one than might not be well known but was seriously one sided:

In the Mers-el-Kebir action during the pursuit of Strasbourg, the French sloop Rigault de Genouilly - 1900 tons, 3 x 138 mm guns, 17 knots - was encountered by the Hood, Arethusa and Enterprise and was fired on by all three. Ted Briggs' book claims three hits were scored (by the cruisers?) and R de G turned away but had launched two torpedoes which Hood was forced to avoid causing her to lose some ground in her chase of Strasbourg. Briggs says he saw the two torpedo tracks passing harmlessly astern. (Strange but the info I found on R de G doesn't include torpedoes in her armament!). The damaged R de G was sunk next day by the British submarine Pandora.

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Rigault de Genouilly
What a nice looking ship. Are plans available?

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by RF » Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:13 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:
Another example of the numbers not telling us the whole story is River Plate. Graf Spee’s initial shooting was excellent. At ranges of Approx. 18,000 meters it quickly scored multiple hits on Exeter, more or less taking it out the fight. However, the 6” battery was ineffective against the two other cruisers, because as the Germans only learned after the battle, the director used to target them was damaged by a shell splinter and providing erroneous bearing data. The Captain was forced to keep switching targets with the 11” battery to keep the other targets at bay.
But if the 5.9 inch gun director had remained in full working order would the 5.9's have made much difference? There were only four single mounts on each flank. I had assumed that they were intended for defence against destroyer attack rather than as a principal weapon against multiple cruiser assault. At River Plate could four 5.9's answer a combined battery of 16 six inch guns?

To take another example of four 5.9 inch guns assault, even at point blank range it took over an hour for Kormorans' four guns to knock out the Sydney and even then it wasn't the gunfire that sank the cruiser.
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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Paul L » Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:35 pm

Its my understanding that the 5.9" guns used the same director as the 11" guns used, which is a strange practice since the 4.1" got their own flak directors. This practice remained for all the Nazi ships built. How can the director be able to reliably quickly and accurately plot firing solutions for two completely different ballistic weapons against two different targets and different ranges and headings etc?
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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by alecsandros » Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:53 pm

They had different directors, but the dedicated 5.9" was not working properly. So they had to switch the 11" one...
4.1"guns were AA mounts, so director targeting and shooting makes perfect sense...

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by t-geronimo » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:02 am

Paul L wrote:...To sink HMS Glorious the ‘twins’ expended 387 x 11” shells registering only 5 hits...
Where is this number from?
Reading John Winton, "Carrier Glorious", one gets the impression that the carrier was hit more often.
Form a german source (I guess by Siegfried Breyer) I remember something of eleven or so hits.

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by tommy303 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:28 am

Its my understanding that the 5.9" guns used the same director as the 11" guns used, which is a strange practice since the 4.1" got their own flak directors. This practice remained for all the Nazi ships built. How can the director be able to reliably quickly and accurately plot firing solutions for two completely different ballistic weapons against two different targets and different ranges and headings etc?
On major German ships, the directors could control either the main or secondary armament, although usually one fire control station's directors (normally two per station, and sometimes up to three) were assigned the secondary guns and the foretop assigned to the main battery. The aft fire control stand was nominally held as a reserve should it be needed if fire was to be split between two targets or if one of the other FC stands was knocked out or could not adequately bear on the target. The director was simply that, a director and not the main gunnery plotting instrument--the actual ballistic calculations were done below decks with the main or secondary battery fire control computers depending on which battery the director (Zielgeber) was assigned to.

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by t-geronimo » Fri Feb 17, 2012 2:12 am

So if the main battery finds the correct fire solution and straddles the target, could her data (range, bearing etc.) be transfered directly from the main battery fire control computer to the secondary battery fire control computer? So that they achieve a straddle with these data as well?

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by tommy303 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 4:11 am

So if the main battery finds the correct fire solution and straddles the target, could her data (range, bearing etc.) be transfered directly from the main battery fire control computer to the secondary battery fire control computer? So that they achieve a straddle with these data as well?
Technically, no, not directly from one analog computer to another. Some data could be duplicated and input by hand into the secondary battery computer if the main battery achieved target acquisition. Own course and speed was already being entered by the pitot log and main gyro automatically, but a refined enemy course and speed, and corrected range plot could be input based upon that used by the main battery computer to achieve its straddle. That, together with true level and target bearing from the director controlling the secondary guns, should be enough to produce a rate of change plot for the ballistic element of the secondary battery's computer to utilize and achieve a sufficiently accurate solution to come onto target quickly.

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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by paulcadogan » Fri Feb 17, 2012 6:44 am

sandym wrote:What a nice looking ship. Are plans available?
Don't know how much detail you're looking for, but some basic line drawings are here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bougainville_class_aviso
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Re: Destroyers vs. battleships - Comprehensive list from WW2

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:23 am

RF wrote:but if the 5.9 inch gun director had remained in full working order would the 5.9's have made much difference? There were only four single mounts on each flank. I had assumed that they were intended for defence against destroyer attack rather than as a principal weapon against multiple cruiser assault. At River Plate could four 5.9's answer a combined battery of 16 six inch guns? ...

They don't really have to in this case. All they need to be is effective enough against one target to allow the 11" battery to concentrate on a single cruiser long enough to disable it-one at time in turn- just as the heavy battery had done to Exeter. The constant switching between targets was the main problem, according to what the chief gunnery officer on the scene Paul Ascher later told Baron von Muellenheim.
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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